Friday, 7 December 2012

Review - Legend Core Rulebook


Legend Core Rulebook

By Lawrence Whitaker and Pete Nash

Mongoose Publishing


I've got a coat.

I like my coat. It's big and warm and it's got deep pockets. Which is great, because at a size of around about A5 this book fits into my pocket quite nicely. I can get a rolled-up file into another pocket with all my notes and sheets in, too. That's all great, because it means I can go to my gaming night without lugging a huge bag over my shoulder.

Legend is a new roleplaying game from Mongoose Publishing that takes the Runequest II rules and makes them non-setting specific. You can use this book for any fantasy setting you wish and adjust the rules to suit. The core of the Runequest rules are here and any fan of that game will instantly recognise it.

THE BOOK

This is a small 8.5 x 5.5 inch 240-page with colour covers ( I have the ‘alternative cover’ version with an illustrated cover) and black and white interior. The cover has a worn leather effect with an image of three adventurers. It’s robust and quite sturdy and is perfect for my coat pocket. The font is small but readable, and the layout easy to follow.

As with all roleplaying games one of the first things I look at is the character sheet and this one is clear, concise and easy to use. It’s small due to the size of the book, but you can download character sheets from the Mongoose website – to be honest, I’d recommend doing that.

The second thing I looked at is the art and, while it is very good, it lacks a lot of imagery. Whole pages can go by with walls of text and no images and this is something I like in a game, a jumping off point that helps to illustrate what kind of game you’re playing. That’s a personal preference, and with a generic fantasy game like this with no set gameworld it makes little difference to the book but I do like my artwork. The art that is in this book is very good, regardless.

Another thing this book lacks is a full introduction to what roleplaying is, and it is assumed that the reader is already aware of the basics of how a roleplaying game works. Even so, while this is aimed at established gamers it’s still accessible by new blood to the hobby – they’ll just have to do some research about the hobby elsewhere.

THE RULES

If you know Runequest, especially Runequest II, then you’ll know this book.

Beginning with Adventurer Creation, the book presents the standard 3D6 rolls for characteristics. This also includes different ways of character creation, from adjusting rolled scores to a points system.

Skills are derived from a combination of characteristics to create basic beginning scores, which can be increased later with skill points derived from the next section.

Cultural Background – Characters can be from a Barbarian, Civilised, Nomad or Primitive background. From each of these you get Skill Bonuses to add to your current skills, Combat Styles to aid you in encounters, a choice of Advanced Skills that don’t appear on the skill list, and Starting Money to spend in the equipment section.

After this you choose a profession, anything from Acrobat to Herdsman, from Sailor to Sorcerer, and through these you attain more skill bonuses, Advanced Skills and possibly Magic. There are thirty professions to choose from across all four Cultural Backgrounds, so you have plenty of options. You also get free skill points to spend as you wish, so there is still a personal touch.

Not only this but players also get the option to create more advanced characters so that they start at a higher level than the standard, enabling a new game to start at a much more epic level of play. They can also have a couple of Hero Points, which act like fate points and help characters out of sticky situations by allowing re-rolls and the like. They can also be spent on Heroic Abilities, explained later.

Next is Community, a set of tables that create a background for your character. This includes tables for Family Ties, Family Reputation and Family Connections. Then you get a Backgrounds section that allows you to roll 1D100 on a table and see what kind of history you have. A brother or sister could have died, or you may have been bullied as a youth. You could be part of an ongoing feud, you might have been press ganged into a military service or you might be the local coward or hero. There’s many options here and it helps to flesh out the character and can encourage roleplaying. As with all the rules in this book, the Background roll is completely optional.

All in all, character creation is quick and easy and we managed to have our characters created in around ten minutes, even using the options. There was a lot of book passing going on so I’d advise using bookmarks to save the places of the different players – it made my life a lot easier, that’s for sure.

The rules are what you’d expect – roll less than the percentile score to succeed. Here you also have degrees of success, such as a Critical Success (rolling less than 10 percent of your skill level), a Normal Success (rolling your skill level or less), a Failure (rolling over your skill level) and a Fumble (rolling 99 or 00).  Skills are modified up or down by difficulty or how quickly they are being performed. Normal skills can be performed by everyone, Advanced Skills only by those who have been trained (although it does allow very slim percentage chance of someone pulling off an Advanced Skill).

It’s what you’d expect – the system is easy to use and intuitive, and pretty robust. You have a great selection of basic skills that makes every adventurer competent, and the Advanced Skills adds a bit of individuality to the character. A solid dependable system. There’s a nice little ‘group test’ idea that means instead of everyone rolling for something, say a Swim skill check, just the character with the highest level in the skill rolls. It makes things quick and easy and helps those with less than stellar scores through difficult situations. There are variations to this, but the basic idea is sound.

The Equipment section I found to be a bit of a strain, not because it’s a bad list but because the size of the book means the equipment tables and descriptions are spread out across about 27 pages. You have everything you need here, but it can be a bit of a chore trawling through the pages, and if the book is being passed around between players it can take longer. It’s not a serious flaw.

Combat is straight forward - each character as a number of Combat Actions that decides how many things they can do in a 5 second round, from striking, parrying, shooting and everything in between. There are a selection of Combat Maneouvres that characters can be trained in which gives plenty of options during battle and allows your character to specialise. This might make it a little complicated at first, what with the options and skills a player has access to, but once you get into the swing of the fight then it’s actually quite easy to manage. If you want to spend a session getting used to it then I suggest using the handy Underlings rules, where you can spend time hacking down faceless unimportant mooks to try out your weapons and skills.

The Magic section covers three disciplines; Common Magic (stuff pretty much anyone can do and are fairly common across the world), Divine Magic (spells imparted to the character by Gods or other powerful beings) and Sorcery (power derived by bending and twisting reality). It’s a generally simple case of spend your magic points and cast your spell, with some rules discerning between each of the three disciplines of magic. It’s quick and easy and the number of spells you get for each one makes choices varied and interesting. The Common Magic is definitely the easiest one to use and takes up no time at all. The amount of magic you have in your game world is up to you, and the three types here cover pretty much everything.

Rounding off with Guilds, Factions and Cults, which give the characters options as far as joining groups is concerned, as well as the benefits of doing so. Then there’s Heroic Abilities that gives you a list of special talents a Hero can pull off by using Hero Points to buy them and spending Magic Points to use them. These abilities range from Dead Eye, which improves your chosen ranged weapon skill for a single shot, to Severing Slash, which maximises the damage your do with your chosen weapon. All good stuff and all earned at later stages in the game so you don’t have to worry about implementing the special rules in your first few sessions.

Then there’s the Gamesmastering Legend chapter, with your usual hints and tips about running games and campaigns, and some extra rules for encounters, travel and weather. Finally, we get the all-important Character Sheet which is useable but, like I mentioned earlier, I recommend you download the character sheet from the Mongoose website or at least blow up the image when you copy it. You’ll need the space.

CONCLUSIONS

Legend is a great game in a nice book. It gives you all the rules you’ll need to create, use and advance a well-rounded character, and there are plenty of options to make each character unique. And that’s what they are – options. There are plenty of extra rules covering special abilities and backgrounds and the like but you do not need to use them; the game doesn’t suffer because you opted to drop Heroic Abilities, or Divine Magic, or the Background table. You can run an effective, fun game with a combination of any and all these rules.

And if you create something that you like, and want to do something with it, the core rulebook is covered by the Open Gaming License rules. Yes, Mongoose have released the rules under the OGL so that everyone can have a stab at spreading and selling their own creations. That is a massive plus for this book.

On the downside, there is no monster or NPC list in this book. There is another book ‘Monsters of Legend’ available that lists plenty of beasties for players to pit their swords against but you’ll not find any in the core rulebook. On the one hand this may seem bad as you’ll have to obtain this other book to have something for the newly-created adventurers to fight against, on the other hand you can quite gladly hand this book to a player to take away with them to read and create a PC and not worry about them going through the details of what they’ll be coming up against.

Also, there’s no real option to create a non-human character although this will no doubt be addressed in future publications. If you’re looking for your standard man-elf-dwarf-short dude options then you’ll be disappointed. There’s nothing stopping you from creating a character and saying it’s an elf or a dwarf, but there’s no solid rules covering race creation.

Finally, there’s no index. I’m a stickler for indexes, especially if I’m in the middle of something in the game and I want to get to a section extra fast. This book could benefit from one.

Legend is a solid, dependable game with plenty of options – you can make it as simple or as complicated as you like. It’s a well-produced book that somewhat lacks in presentation but more than makes up for in content. You may miss the bestiary, but the Monsters of Legend book will make up for that and, anyway, as it’s Runequest at it’s core it’s compatible with most editions, especially Runequest II, so you can lift monsters from those books if you have them.

A good game built on a solid background, with easy rules, options and an OGL license to boot. I can recommend this book.