I have read reviews of the setting by friend and fellow blogger, Chuck over at Geek Life Project, as well as by Michael “Stargazer” Wolf. Both of them praised the contents of the book so I was happy to purchase it.
I opened the book (PDF) with excitement, so you can imagine my disappointment when the book didn’t meet my expectations.
I dug the Carousing Table located in the Taverns section. I thought this was cool because I’ve never seen one in a game book before and you’d figure certain settings, such as Freeport would have one (it’s a pirate setting for fuck sake). While it is a nifty little table my favorite carousing tables are by Jeff and Zak. Those are the shit.
The new Edges and limitations on magic are cool. Sexy armor is funny and clever, but there was a small part of me that asked whether it really NEEDED to be an Edge. Why not just have it as an option for players to take? Not everyone is going to want to wear “sexy armor” in the first place. I get why it was done and enjoy it as an option.
My old school mentality kinda stiffened at the “don’t kill but capture” advice. While I agree that capturing is fun and acceptable some of the time (especially in pulp style play) there still has to be the threat o’ death to scare the shit out o’ the players. If the capture option is used consistently, players will roll their eyes as they raise their hands, “Ok guys, we’re getting captured again.. Don’t worry, we’ll be home in time for dinner.”
The city/states honestly bored me. While I am appreciative that the author gave so many jumping off points and kept the descriptions lite (one or two pages) I felt that opportunities were missed. Most of the cities were generic or standard fantasy fare and honestly bland. The cities that fit the genre, and were the most interesting to me, were the lawless dens of sin, or the boom towns. The towns of high art and law and barons and whatnot just seemed to stiff for me.
While there could be adventure in these aristocratic cities- God in a Bowl anyone?- (steal the priceless pubic comb of the sleeping prince from the insane art collector in artyfarty town) I felt that, in some cases, there was a “don’t adventure here because you’ll get caught and are fucked” kinda vibe. That honestly could just be my take on these type of cities, and does not mean people should feel I’m in anyway right.
The first part of the world I got interested and excited about was when I read about the Witch Queen. She nails hunters and woodsman who dare enter her domain to a post and guts them as a warning? Fucking awesome!
Aside: Now I do really appreciate the small blurb on the Witch Queen here, and later in the book. It’s just that. A small blurb. It’s enough to get the GM’s imagination going, but it isn’t a wall of text that drowns out creativity and causes boredom.
While I appreciate the layout and ease of the cities, I felt that there are too many of them. The area just feels too cluttered and domesticated. Yes there should be citystates that are large and opulent and have far reaching power, but having 7 large cities in a 1050 mile stretch of paved road on a continent just seems too crowded. Again, this is just my take on it.
There are parts that I felt could have used a bit more tender love and care. The wilderness sections could have used more description and plot hooks. Each area of the wilderness territory only gets 3 sentences at most and most of it is just generic without giving a real feel of the dangers.
While I can see the influence of Robert E. Howard in the name of the cities and even suggestions for adventure coming from his and other author’s books, I don’t feel that the Legends of Steel gives a robust example of Swords and Sorcery from the world as described. It honestly feels just like any other fantasy world.
Aside: The truth is I have become spoiled, and do not fault the author for this, by really amazing and flavorful worlds, adventures, and descriptions by people like:
I was glad to see that the religion section was brief. I always groan if I start reading and discover that it goes on for 10 or more pages on boring, “this is the god of grain and he likes grain because grain is good and in winter he is sad because all the grain is gone.” However the gods, much like the world, was just bland to me. It is just standard fare. This is sword and sorcery, the chance to shake the mold and do some really crazy stuff. I’d prefer to see gods described like this.
A big question I have to ask is, “where the hell is a bestiary?” Honestly- create a few monsters to show us the flavor of the world. Again, with Sword and Sorcery there should be some truly horrendous monsters that could make even Conan’s colon quiver.
Another area that I felt was lackluster was a complete lack of spell lists. This could have been an amazing part of the book and really showed the flavor of spell casters in a Sword and Sorcery style world. Take the spells from the Savage Worlds book and alter them to give that vicious dark feel. Where are the notes on priests and how they interact with the world? Where are the crazy ass rituals and dark horrors lurking in the shadows? Where is a summoning spell to call forth demons into the world?
There could have been advice on spells like puppet and how evil sorcerers know use them for their own gains. There are tons of S&S tales of sorcerers ensnaring the minds of the weak and rising to power.
The final note is that the price point of $12 is just too high for what is offered. Especially considering you still need to buy either Savage Worlds Explorer’s Edition or the Deluxe Edition.
I get that they want to make money and that they aren’t a huge company with a bunch of financial backing, but they could have released the book for $8-$10 and I wouldn’t have had a problem with that. Just because they are an independent company doesn’t mean it should be costly. Other independent publishers have released some truly awesome shit for $1.
I’m not upset that I bought the book. The new Edges are fun and interesting, but I just wish that the book had gone further and pushed itself into a full and flavorful setting. The author still could have taken a minimalist approach and not oversaturated the reader (which I appreciate that he didn’t), but there really was a missed opportunity here by playing it safe and simple.