Friday, July 27, 2007

Legends of Excalibur (True 20 edition) reviewed

I have to say, it doesn't get much better than a review like this.

It's clearly as close to a "real time" snapshot of someone's opinion of the game as you're ever going to find. And the deeper into the book he gets, the more he likes it. By the end of the review, he's ready to grab some dice and start playing.

Just really the sort of review that makes it easy to get up and go to work the next day, as opposed to following a more lucrative career path (like running a register at a convenience store).

I have finally gotten around to writing a review for "Legends of Excalibur" True20 PDF. I have put in a request on the meta forum to have this product added to the review data base. So it will hopefully be put up soon. In th emean time here is a copy and paste of my review, and let me know any other review data base (such as RPG.net) you would like me to add it to.

Legends of Excaliber is an 84 page Arthurian Legends adventure for the True20 system and done by RPG Objects. This is a review of the PDF product.

This adventure starts out with an interesting treatise on the various traditions of Arthurian Legend. Not sure why this is needed in an adventure, other than it established the "approach" of the modules author to his interpretation of the Arthurian traditions. This takes up two or three pages.
Nice selections of art are used.

Chapter 1 starts with Character creation. Knights receive 10 bonus points to creation to reflect the superiority required of the Knights of the Round Table.

Barbarians receive some interesting back ground and lineage traits are also given. Criminal and Serf lineages are given as base lineages, with traits given based on the background descriptions given by the author. I am definitely feeling a strong "flavor" being laid out for the setting with these descriptions.

Middle Class is then covered. So are "Lesser Nobility/Peerage". Both are given traits thhat are not only beneficial, but definitely help build the flavor of an Arthurian setting. The same with the Noblity lineage and traits.

Now the author covers archetypes, starting with Adepts. Specifically the Druid. The feats and powers are all geared towards making the Druid a "master" of the natural environment. The Enchantress is then given the same kind of treatment. Her feats and powers are geared towards dominating the hearts and minds of men and people.

Hedge Mages cover the roles of Merlin and Morgan Le Fey. The selection of feats and powers does a excellent job of allowing these characters to be closely emulated by this Adept.

The Hermit is the Healer and their selection of feats and powers helps make them very effective at saving people from their injuries. The Priest is also geared to be the same, but also reflects their divine devotions and martial abilities.

We then get into Expert Archetypes starting with the "Fool", who as the author puts it is "part minstrel, part Bard, part actor, part juggler, part tumbler" with everything about him focused on getting those around him to laugh. His large feat selection and skills will definitely aid the Fool in achieving this goal. A fun looking Archetype to play. If you like being a comedian this should do an excellent job in helping you have the NPC's, and your fellow players, laugh themselves sick. Plus the combat feats should do good double duty in helping keep you alive in those "tight spots". Definitely a fun and versatile character to play.

Next we have the Minstrel. They are described as Bards who are trained by the Druids. I find the selection of feats offered for the Minstrel to be very intriguing. Track, Trackless, Mass Suggestion, Suggestion, Connected, Contacts, and well informed being the ones that intrigue me most. Yes, another fun looking Archetype to play.

Then we have the noble, who is wealthy and has a very intriguing combination of feats and skills for combat,riding, being a leader, and diplomat. With other possible applications for the less than honorable nobility. A very intriguing selection for sure.

We are then given the Robber Baron, for the blatantly dishonorable, devious, and greedy personages so popular in Arthurian Legends. Crippling Strike, Sneak Attack, Stunning Attack, and Taunt should clue you in as to how despicable this Archetype can be. Especially when combined with the skills of Stealth,Disguise, Intimidate, and Sleight of Hand. Definitely all the elements needed to play a thoroughly despicable character.

The Skald is my kind of Bard like character. Ready for battle, to cheer up the troops, to inspire them, to convince them they can win despite the odds. Plus the ability to get those important secrets that can swing the tides of battle. Yet another intriguing character type to play.

Next up are the Warrior Archetypes. Starting with Crusaders. Those who go adventuring to recover some lost and needed relic and other similiarly important missions.They are almost as deadly as a dedicated Knight, which is covered next, but with some focus for surviving on your own in less than ideal environments.

Knights are, well, Knights. Death dealing machines riding on horseback. However, a Robber Baron will definitely give them a run for their money. So will a Crusader, if they ever have reason to fight. The only thing lacking is at least a little focus towards leadership. In my opinion anyways. Easy enough to fix, at least.

We then have the Marauder. Another vicious fighter who evokes the frenzied mad man laying waste on the battle field and to the lands around them. With All out Attack, Great Attack Focus, Great Attack Specialization, Frenzy, Sieze Intitiative, and the other feats offered, the Marauder will definitely be a terror on the battle field, in a raid, wherever they unleash their martial prowess and fury.

Things are wrapped up with the Yeoman. He is the archer, hunter, and all around woodsman, with a nice selection of feats and skills to help insure he is good at what he does.

Wow! Reading through this definitely has me strongly desiring to play in the world of King Arthur!

Now we go on to background info for the setting, including feats and other powers to help evoke an even stronger feel of the Arthurian Legends. These many pages (about 30) cover many aspects, such as geography, locations, write ups of key figures (King Arthur, Accolon, Mordred, and at least 21 others), the kingdoms of Europe in the times of Arthur (15th century time frame, I believe, is the timeframe the author chose), special druidic Henge's, major and lesser. All the background knowledge you'll need to have to run a rich Arthurian Campaign.

Then on page 47 we finally get to the "adventure" part with info about specific adventure locations. It starts with a general over view of towns and then gets into the particulars of a town called "Caerleon", with a nice map to accompany it. With 12 key locations given for the key location elements of the adventure.

With all the awe, majesty, and wonder of the Arthurian legends brought back by reading all the previous material I am ready to get into the adventure!

I do like how the author takes the time and effort to describe the day to day basics of life and commerce in the town, and in general. It will definitely help further PC immersion into the world of Arthur.

We are also given a nice sample city. Its an obscure city called "York". Again the author goes into the bare bones of points of interests and the back ground day to day stuff that will help me fill in all the blanks with my own imaginings.

The author also gives us a sample Henge, to help add even more dimensional elements to the setting, and to help us have consistancy with Henges. This is on page 53 to 54.

We are then given a sample ruined castle called "Tintagel". The castle only Uther and Merlin were able to "defeat". When you see the map it should be obvious to anyone what a challenge this castle is and why.

After this the author goes into using Quests as the main adventure seed, Breaking it down into the 3 main components. Set-up, Complication, and resolution, giving very solid advice as to how to flesh out these elements to become the adventures for your players.

We are then given two sample Quests, The "Invisible Knight" and the "Mechinations of Morgan:.

The first is meant to be a short-medium length "Quest", while the second is meant to be a Medium-Long "Quest".

On page 59 the author goes from "Quest" to "Campaign". Basically its tips and advice on how to do a long term game. Solid stuff for people who need, or are looking for, that kind of inspiration. Very solid guide lines for setting up and running a campaign. The author even goes into the importance of "Interludes", "Supporting Cast", "Recurring themes", and "Resolution". He also goes into ideas for keeping characters important to the story alive, especially to the Arthurian Legends themselves. We don't want Lancelot dying too early, etc... these are ideas other than DM fiat. So read them. They are good suggestions.

Next are "Campaign Adventures", set up based on the legends of Arthur, starting with Sir Ektor, with a nice map of his lands, then the "War of Ascension" with Arthur's drawing the "Sword From the Stone". Which is actually far more interesting of a scenario than I would have come up with. The "Wolf Lord" adventure is next. With Cameliard as the setting. A guess thats the "old English" word for "Camelot". Either way, nice maps, solid set up advice. Very good stuff. Good "supporting cast" write ups all throughout.

The author wraps up the adventure section with more solid advice on converting published adventures to the Arthurian setting.

The next 10 or so pages go into more of what I like to refer to as "flavor items". Its starts with rules for Jousting and conditions of victory. It wouldn't be "Arthurian" without some good jousting contests or battles.

This is followed up with "Supernatural Items". You guessed it. Thsi is where the author gives us his interpretations of the magic items of Arthurian Legend, such as Excalibur, The Dragon Helm, Gawain's sword, Calatine, the "Holy Grail", the Scabbard of Excalibur, and about 5 other items.

The remaining 5 or so pages are the Bestiary. Write ups for Centaurs, Cath Paluc, White Hart, Ogres, Pegasus, etc... Most of these are not full stat block write ups, but a paragraph or two on how these creatures fit into and can be used in this setting. With some recommended mechanical adjustments here and there. The 84 page PDF then concludes with the obligatory OGL statements.


My over all impressions.

As you can probably tell by the tone of my review and how it changes, the more I read the more I warmed up to this. IT does a great job of using True 20 mechanics and solid advice to help anyone bring the Arthurian Legends to life at their gaming table. All the art selected is very good, and relates to the content of this PDF. The maps are very nicely done, clear, concise, gives me the info I need to know, and none of them are "battle maps".

I failed to notice any spelling or grammatical errors. I'm not saying there aren't any, just that I failed to catch any that may exist.

I found the writing immersive and very compelling to run a campaign based on this material.

So since this does everything I want such a product to do, has solid layout, very nice maps, excellent art that supports the content, I'll give this product a 5 out of 5 stars.

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