Saturday, January 06, 2007

New (sort of) review of Legends of the Samurai

Somehow I missed this review over at d20 Magazine Rack.

Critical Hit
One major good point about the book is its detail. If one thing can be said, Rice definitely did his homework - he includes incredible amounts of information on Japanese culture to allow the players to really get involved with the game. The book also offers up a well-presented way to actually play the stealthy assassin ninja (rather than the plane-jumping nonsense from Complete Adventurer) you know you always wanted to, or the honor bound samurai upholding the honor of his clan at the cost of his own life.

Another cool point is the martial arts. The author introduced, through feats, an entire series of feat chains that allow a devoted player to master a martial art of his choice, which provides all-new combat options and utilities to make battles more interesting.

Critical Fumble
Unfortunately, the major bonus to this game is also its downfall. While the author did a great job including a vast amount of information about medieval Japan, things such as the feats and items are often named in Japanese, and thus can quickly get confused and hard to remember. One feat, for example, is named Muji-shin0jen-Ryu Kenjutsu. What that roughly translates to is Zen Swordfighting. Which one are you going to remember?

Another complaint is the classes. I can't quite decide if they're entirely balanced within the system, but if one tries to balance any of them with material outside the system, it just won't work. The Ashigaru, or common foot-soldier, for instance, effectively gets a new feat as a bonus feat...every level. While they get limited choice in these feats, they are still far more powerful than a standard fighter from D&D. Strangely enough, looking at the classes, every class besides the spellcasters gets a new class feature every single level from 1st to 20th. Granted, some of these are merely improved versions of ones they got previously, but it's still more than any characters from the Player's Handbook can claim.

Coup de Grace
Ultimately, Legends of the Samurai is useful but frustrating. The book has a great amount of knowledge and puts it to good use adding flavor to the world you're playing in, but it's overdone to the point that many feats and different types of equipment may quickly become confused and mixed up by those who don't speak Japanese. Not one I would spend money on personally, but it's a pretty good buy for anyone into the Oriental thing.

Hmmm. Unfortunately he seems to have more negative than positive comments over all (I just clipped the summation, there's more if you follow the link).

The reviewer seemed to suffer from a touch of information overload.

Apparently not EVERYONE started playing Bushido and reading Shogun and watching 7 Samurai when they were in junior high.

Still, a well done review and worth a read.

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