Sunday, January 10, 2010

Legends of Steel: A Review

I have been planning on purchasing the Legends of Steel sword and sorcery setting for several months, but it took until Christmas to bring those plans to fruition.

Legends of Steel is the brain-child of Jeff “Evil DM” Mejia, whose blog can be found here. The Legends of Steel setting has already been ported over to the Savage Worlds and Barbarians of Lemuria RPG game systems. I am familiar with both of those game systems, having recently purchased and reviewed Barbarians of Lemuria, and having also purchased the Savage Worlds Explorers Edition and Fantasy Companion. In fact, the Legends of Steel setting is what originally twigged my interest in Barbarians of Lemuria.

The Legends of Steel book that I received is the Savage Worlds Edition (LoSSW). Having read both Savage Worlds and Barbarians of Lemuria RPGs, I now wish I had asked Santa for the Barbarians of Lemuria edition of Legends of Steel, if only because I prefer Barbarians of Lemuria to Savage Worlds.

I should explain at this point that my preference for the Barbarians of Lemuria over the Savage Worlds game system has more to do with my dislike for skill-based RPGs than any deficiency in the Savage Worlds game system itself. As far as skill-based RPGs go, Savage Worlds is considered, by many, to the ultimate skill-based system, and that game system has a shelf-full of related settings and expansion materials to its credit.

LoSSW is, of course, a licensed Savage Worlds product. At 70-pages long, and 8.5 x 11 saddle-stitched, LoSSW is both setting and rules-supplement. The interior is black and white, with a smattering of sword and sorcery appropriate artwork within. The characters depicted on the front cover of LoSSW also serve as sample characters in the final appendix of this book.

Roughly 20 pages of this 70-page book consist of the rules supplement. As it is meant for the Savage Worlds setting, eight of those pages consist of new sword-and-sorcery related “Edges.” I presume those would have been relavoured “Boons” had this been the Barbarians of Lemuria edition of Legends of Steel. The remaining 12 pages of the rules supplement portion provide advice on preparing for and participating in a sword-and-sorcery campaign.

The new Edges in LoSSW are fairly well known. Among the most infamous of those 32 new edges: “Sexy Armor” allowing the character to run around in a chainmail bikini or loincloth but be considered to have chainmail armor, for game purposes; “Just the Thing” allowing the character to somehow always have just the thing the party needs to get out of their current predicament; and “Cannon Fodder” allowing the character to recruit extra henchmen when the need arises. Those new edges certainly complement the sword-and-sorcery flavour of this game-setting.

The next 35 pages of LoSSW serve as a high-level overview of the Erisa game-world. That game world is vintage sword-and-sorcery, as if torn from the pages of your favorite pulp novel or magazine. Jeff gives you enough information regarding each land, city and kingdom in Erisa to whet your appetite, without overwhelming or restricting your freedom to make each location your own. He uses the SWOT format (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) for each entry, which is invaluable as a starting point, while still allowing you to customize this setting. Among my favorite locations: the Moor of the Witch Queen, and the Raven Hills, near Broaq-Nohar, and the Dark Lands near Radu. Both would be ripe for throwing at a party of adventurers!

The last 10 pages or so consist of a introductory adventure and sample characters (using the Savage Worlds character creation system, of course).

Oddly, one of the missing elements of this book is a bestiary. While a bestiary is not required, it has become such a staple of game-settings that it was a bit jarring to discover that LoSSW does not contain one. Granted, any sword and sorcery monsters you may need can probably be obtained from a host of Savage Worlds or other products, including the Savage Worlds Fantasy Companion. But I always figure that a few extra snakes could always be thrown in for good measure, don’t you agree?

One minor comment about the choice of binding. Both the Savage Worlds Explorers Edition and Fantasy Companion are 6.5 by 9 perfect-bound. If I had my druthers, I would love to see the same binding format employed for LoSSW, rather than larger saddle-stitched format, if only to fit more elegantly with my other two Savage Worlds books.

If, in addition to the new edges and rules supplement, you are intending to use the Erisa world, or at least mine it for great ideas for your own sword-and-sorcery campaign, LoSSW is well-worth the $23 asking price. The Barbarians of Lemuria edition is also available as a $15 PDF, along with a $35 hardcover from Lulu. At $35, the hard-cover Barbarians of Lemuria version seems relatively pricey, but if it also contains the bestiary, new flaws, and careers promised in the BoL PDF version, perhaps it is worth it.


Narmer said...

I've been looking forward to your take on this, thanks. I have the Savage Worlds Explorer's Edition too, and I too prefer BoL. I'll have to see if there is a review of the BoL version out there somewhere. And yes, a bestiary would be nice.

The Evil DM said...

Thanks for the review. It's much appreciated. Honestly, the only reason for not including a bestiary is because the Savage Worlds Explorers Edition rulebook had most of the creatures I had in mind covered.

A Paladin In Citadel said...

The Savage World fantasy companion certainly has the monsters necessary to populate Erisa. Presumably, anyone picking up Legends of Steel (SW) will also have the explorers edition and fantasy companion.

Chris said...

Thanks for the review, I just got LoS:Bol and find it quite interesting and can't wait to actually get a game going in the setting. I, like you, also found something about Savage Worlds that didn't quite suit my style. I find the BoL system to be more intuitive and well, I just like it more.
I'd also really like to see the original BoL redone by a professional publisher with new professional artwork, i think it could really be a hit if it had a proper treatment.

Anonymous said...

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