Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Tommy's Take on Knights & Legends



After this game came to my attention on The RPG Pub (my online gaming hangout of choice), I decided to give it a peek, see what's inside.

TRUTH IN GAMING JOURNALISM DISCLAIMER: I did get a comp copy of this via the RPGNow featured reviewer program. This review will contain affiliate links, through which purchases may provide me with a portion of the sales.

JUST THE FACTS:

  • 60 pages.
  • Currently listed price at the time of this writing is $4.00, marked down from $7.99. I'm not sure if this is the "standard" PDF price, or if it's temporarily on sale. No indicators on the RPGNow page about a currently ongoing sale.
  • PDF has no bookmarks or table of contents, but is searchable.
  • The game requires the full complement of standard D&D polyhedrals: d4, d6, d8, d10, d12, d20 & d100.
WHAT'S IN THE BOOK: The layout is pretty pedestrian. Looks a lot like a no frills OSR book, just in color with a grey background. Two world maps are provided at the beginning of the book, one with a grid and one without. A list of locations follows the gridded map (complete with grid locations), each described with a one line descriptor. For instance, Harpy Valley states that, for years, it was the home to creatures such as harpies and succubi. There are also 10 numbered dungeons (such as Dungeon #8: Underground ruins located on Crow's Island).

There are six countries, each given a page of description, with climate, geography, fauna, a brief history and the coat of arms. The setting is very much a minimalist design, focusing purely on key details.

 The game presents four races: Humans, Dwarf, Orcs and Elves, and each has several stats: Health, Magic, Strength, Endurance, Wisdom, Spirit and Speed. Each has a paragraph descriptor and set of vulnerabilities (Humans are vulnerable to being Bewitched, but Orcs are vulnerable to Berserk effects).

Everyone records the base stats listed for their race and sex (males and females have different base stats), and then each character picks a class from the 5 options listed for each race. There is some overlap, such as Dwarves and Humans both able to be Paladins, Warriors, Templars and Mages, but Humans having Samurai as an option, while Dwarves can be Monks. Elves and Orcs share some of those options (Warrior is present for every race), while having some unique choices of their own.

After picking your class, you are given a set of attribute points (based on class) that you can spend on the stats indicated by the class (Warriors can boost their Strength, Endurance, Wisdom or Spirit, but Hunters cane boost those and their Speed). Then each class has a bonus, such as Elven Vagrants getting a bonus to attacking human females, or Paladins having attack bonuses against evil spirits and the undead.

A list of spells and abilities follow, and the character sheet says you can pick a maximum of 4, but there is no guidance on this, so I presume that can class can take any spell or ability. The spells list a Magic Point cost, whereas the abilities have a "Cool Down" in number of turns. These are also all very vaguely defined: Assassin's Strike says it ignores defense, and that's easy enough to adjudicate, but Invocation of  Charisma increases a target's charisma for 30 seconds...which is unusual, because there's no charisma stat anywhere.

Damage is a contested roll: The attacker rolls a d20 and adds Str (physical) or Wis (magic attack), and is resisted by End (physical) or Spi (magical attack), with leftover damage being applied to the health of the target. So, if I'm reading this correctly, no attacks ever "miss", they just deal damage or don't. If a target has a vulnerability to the type of attack, the d20 roll is doubled.

Special abilities are different: You roll dice, based on the cooldown, counting down from d20. Yielding Devil has a cool down of 5, so you roll a d20, d12, d10, d8 and d6, and the total result is compared to the opponent's End, with any leftover damage applied to Health. From there, I presume, it builds back up and isn't usable again to until you hit that d20 threshold.

Adventure design is covered under the "Adventure System Tutorial", which says every adventure should be balanced on three factors: Entertainment, Spoils and Action, and stresses that you should keep adventures short and sweet so as not to bore your players or burn them out for future games. In fact, it says that adventures should only 1-2 hours long.

An armory follows but, as you may have guessed from the combat system, there are no stats, since all damage is based directly off of your Strength plus a d20 roll. A list of magic potions and items are also present, such as the Elixer of the Gods, which can heal the entire party's Health, or the Aegis Draught, which can grant 1 attribute point.

A "bestiary" is also provided, but all they have are an Affinity and a one line description. No stats are provided, aside from the lone sample of a Dire Wolf provided in the combat chapter, though it does helpfully mark four monsters as "Boss" monsters for you, and the Summary page gives you a range for each Stat when building monsters, which should be based on the number of playable characters. For instance, your dragon's strength should range from 5 to 25, Health from 10 to 150, and so on.

A handful of Support Classes are listed in the "Add-On Content" at the back of the book, which can be combined with an existing class. These include Musician (available to all classes) and Beastmaster (which is only available for those who follow "the path of the magic arts"). Taking a Support Class (with GM discretion) provides more Attribute Points and a new, non combat Trait.

This section also adds Selective Targeting, which is a fancy name for Called Shots, which can be used to lower an opponent's Str, End or Spd, depending on the body part targeted.
Three 2 page Adventure Sheets are included, which are small maps combined with the appearing enemies, and lists of treasure present.

The book ends with the Shadow Lords Prologue, which is apparently an adventure prelude with a hero chained to a wall and given four choices as to how to react, with scripted reactions to those actions, and then a fight with an enemy that suddenly appears. This section notably tells you to turn the page to make up stats for the enemy, but the next page is a blank page of Enemy Sheets. There is a Shadow Lords campaign, so this presumably leads to that from here.

SIX POINT BREAKDOWN

  • I like that art. Has an AD&D 2e feel, which is what I got into gaming with. 
  • A "never miss" combat system is a little unusual, but not unheard of. Street Fighter: The Storytelling Game used a similar system and it worked fine. Basic weapons have no actual effect is a little weird, though.
  • The world is definitely not an intricately detailed land of adventure, but it probably doesn't need to be. Especially if I'm only running 1-2 hour sessions.  
  • The monster guidelines are ridiculous for a game that has 7 stats. If it's a simplified, rules lite system where monsters are defined by a single stat or a die type, or AC/HP/Attack bonus, then fine, but this doesn't fly, IMO.
  • I don't need intricate world building, but the lack of context is bizarre, at best. Why do Vagrants get a bonus against female humans? Why do Elvan (not a typo) females have higher Strength and Endurance, but lower Health than male Elves?
  • I haven't read the Shadow Lords Campaign yet, but the Shadow Lords Prologue feels like the worst kind of false player choice railroad you can imagine, when you have four choices and literally only one of them does *anything*.
CONCLUSION: There's some decent ideas here. The art is better than the layout. The adventure advice and monster creation advice are pretty laughable. I don't mind the light world building, but the lack of context for the details is maddening. Same with the unclear writing on some of the abilities (like how a non existent stat can be boosted, and why it would need to be since all the adventures are just dungeon crawls anyway). The game professes to be Dark Fantasy, but none of the mechanics or setting material (such as it is) supports this in any way. For that matter, there are no Knights to speak of, nor any advancement (aside from the above mentioned magic item) that would indicate "Legends", either. If you're a sucker for picking up indie games, it might be worth it, but I can't offer much recommendation beyond that.




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