Why Only Two Religions in my King Arthur Pendragon Character Creation Booklet

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Or… why do I only have one type of Christianity in my King Arthur Pendragon Character Creation Booklet?

There are two broad parts to my answer: one is Setting, and the other is Mechanics.

But first, some historical context:

  • KAP 1st ed. had virtues for Christian, Pagan, and Wotan faiths.
  • There was no 2nd ed.
  • KAP 3rd edition had Christian and Pagan Virtues. The 3rd edition supplement Knights Adventurous added Wotanic and Judaism as faiths with virtues.
  • KAP 4th edition stapled together the pages from the KAP 3rd core rule book and Knights Adventurous, so the religious virtues found in the book are identical to those two books.
  • King Arthur Pendragon 5x is the first edition to introduce British Christianity as a set of Virtues and bonus distinct from Roman Christianity.

The Christianity in the 1st, 3rd, and 4th editions used the virtues that KAP 5.x uses to Roman Christianity.

I bring this up to point out that the introduction of British Christianity is a new notion, and I believe has a mechanical bump as described further down in this post.


SETTING
For a game of King Arthur Pendragon I simply don’t care about tensions in the Church and which Christianity might be right or not right. I understand it may be historically interesting to some people… and in another game I might find it compelling. But for I want to focus on, the nitty-gritty theological tensions of Christianity in a game about Knights is something honestly wouldn’t know what to do with.

Will my game’s Player Knights really care about the distinctions between British Christianity and Roman Christianity? I can’t image the Players caring, and I certainly won’t be introducing it as a theme or concern in the game… so why add the extra version of Christianity.

Besides the lack of interest, there is also this: The text of KAP has always been at pains to point out that the split between Christian and Pagan Knights is not there to provide fodder for religious feuding. It can devolve into violence between Knights for the very bland and repetitive reasons.

For me, the fact there were two religions in the core (3rd and 4th) rules were to provide variety for the Player Knights and the Traits. That’s it. I literally have no interest in religious conflict in my game.

Instead, I am very much interested in the Religious Virtues as ideals that provide tension within the Player Knight. How do you live by Christian Virtues (Chaste, Forgiving, Merciful, Modest, Temperate) when your job is fight and kill, to watch your friends die by your enemy’s hands, and have a sword at your side that you can always draw to resolve your anger or jealousy when someone wrongs you?

The text of the game has always made explicit the notion that the game is about how hard it is to live by the ideals of the setting (whether Religious or Chivalrous), and that is the notion I want to mine with the game’s religions.

Having two versions of Christianity muddies the waters and begs the question, “Which one is right?” and removes us from the internal struggles of the knights and puts the focus on theological debates and religious war… which isn’t in Le Morte D’Arthur and has little interest for me in this setting.

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MECHANICS

The British Christianity makes it easy to hit both the British Christian Virtues and get the Chivalrous bonus.

Chivalry requires high values in the following (a sum total of 80):

  • Energetic
  • Generous
  • Just
  • Merciful
  • Modest
  • Valorous

Keep in mind that most Knights are going to have Valorous Traits of 15 or higher, so they really only need 65 or so points. With five more Traits to go to reach 80 points, each remaining Trait only needs an average of 12.5 points for the Knight to get the Chivalry Bonus.

So here is how the three Religious Bonuses break down:

Christian (earlier editions of KAP) / Roman Christian (KAP5.x) Virtues are:

  • Chaste
  • Forgiving
  • Merciful
  • Modest
  • Temperate

Which only lines up with two of the Chivalry ideals (Merciful and Modest)

Pagan Virtues (all editions of KAP) are:

  • Energetic
  • Generous
  • Honest
  • Lustful
  • Proud

Which only lines up with two of the Chivalry ideals (Energetic and Generous)

British Christianity (KAP 5x) Virtues are:

  • Chaste
  • Energetic
  • Generous
  • Modest
  • Temperate

Which lines up with three of the Chivalry ideals. (Energetic, Generous, Modest)

Sustaining both the Religious virtues and the Chivalric ideals should be difficult, in my opinion. Not impossible, but difficult.

While getting 80 points isn’t impossible, those points are going to come at the cost of raising Religious virtues to 16+. Remember that it takes to raise points either through checks or spending Winter Phase experience. Significantly, there are only so many points a Player can distribute each Winter Phase. At some point a Player will have to make decisions about what areas his or her Knight where his Knight is going to really excel.

However, I suggest that the nature of the British Christian virtues cuts down on this tension far too much. By having three of five religious virtues line up with three of six chivalric virtues, the mechanics make it much easier for a British Christian to sustain being a Chivalric Knight.

I understand there are a lot of reasons one might want to have distinct British Christians in the game, and I understand the logic of having some faiths having an easier time of sustaining Chivalry at the same time… but giving my first set of points about Setting above, for me it simply is a no brainer: If the Players, and the Player Knights, and myself as the GM do not care about religious tension between two types of Christianity, then there is no reason not to be a British Christian, and thus Roman Christianity falls by the wayside, so why have two types of Christianity?

Further, I want it to be difficult to sustain religious ideals alongside Chivalric ideals. I think that is very much a part of the structure and purpose of the game. Life is hard, ideals are hard, and mixing them all together is really hard.

I believe the addition of British Christianity might have had something to do with why Greg thought he had to make Chivalry harder in recent years. (He was toying around with raising the number of Trait totals above 80.) But the fact is if you take British Christianity out of the mix, it actually is a lot of work to get all those points high enough for both bonuses.


So, that’s my thinking on the matter.

I’m not dictating it to anyone, or expecting anyone to come along on my ride. But it is thought out, with actual reasons. And that’s why I returned to the Religious Virtues found in the earlier editions of the game.

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4 thoughts on “Why Only Two Religions in my King Arthur Pendragon Character Creation Booklet

  1. I also like this approach . I have some players whol’ve experienced earlier versions a bit and i think this will make life easier for all of us. It focuses on what i always saw as the main tensions in any arthurian story that I enjoyed. Well communicated.

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