Oh Gods Why am I Reading This Again?
Original SA post
Funny I should read that some of us like reading reviews of games that cause psychological scarring. I've been watching F&F for a month or so before creating my account, just waiting for one particular game to get reviewed. That hasn't happened yet so time to crack open a bottle of my recently-bottled snowberry mead, dust off my PDF reader, and hope I don't remember this tomorrow.
Knights & Legends Tabletop RPG - Oh Gods Why am I Reading This Again?
Before we begin, a bit of history. This "stylish professionally made PDF" (emphasis Julio's) in its current iteration weighs in at 23MB and 60 pages. Large-font black text on plain white or textured grey background. Occasional pictures from Dean Spencer. The first edition had small pieces of black and white art in a few places, weighed in at something like 70 megs, made every single PDF reader chug while rendering (creating an experience not entirely unlike loading naughty pictures over 56k but without the reward halfway through), and somehow made text nearly impossible to select and actually impossible to copy/paste. Second edition added Dean's artwork, ballooning the file size to somewhere north of 200 megs. After being thoroughly mocked on Reddit and elsewhere, the author had Acrobat do what Acrobat does and now readers don't choke as much while loading new pages. Text still kind of just pops in like trees in Virtual Hydlide. It still isn't selectable, though.
Now, let's begin reading this carefully crafted masterpiece set in a place where strategy, combat, religion, and politics all play a role in the world's evolution. A work with a simple yet powerful combat system, featuring all original game mechanics (emphasis, again, Julio's).
There will be no screenshots in this reading - the author may or may not have decided to be a DMCA troll elsewhere on the internet.
Take note of the armored, plump-lipped readhead on the cover. If you're really curious, you can find the book on DTRPG. She'll be making a reappearance in a bit.
K&L doesn't have what would commonly be called a Table of Contents. In its place is an INDEX that serves the same basic purpose. On it are the page numbers of such helpful entries as "Character Sheet Tutorial", "Adventure Sheet Tutorial", "Recapitulation", and separate entries for printer-friendly and printer-unfriendly character and adventure sheets.
Up first is an introduction, where we are introduced to our first taste of questionable grammar and the author's love of commas. Any time you see ellipses, they're added by me and elide small amounts of extraneous text.
The Book posted:
The game is set in medieval Ezora [...]. Populated by Humans, Dwarves, Elves, and Orcs. Each race have its own culture, religious belief, and political agenda.
With a system designed for 2 to 5 players, the roles you pick vary, join friends with a custom built Playable Character (PC), be a Game Master (GM), or Dungeon Master (DM), using the simple and flexible turn based combat system.
Note the singular culture, religious belief, and political agenda. Upon first reading, you might understand that to be the product of a non-native speaker. You would be half correct. The world that play takes place on is very "planet of hats", with each region (mostly correlating to race; there are a few human kingdoms, however) has a unified culture.
And one final bit from the intro: "As a commitment to quality, nothing in this book was added to just fill in blank spaces."
You know. Aside from the duplicated character sheets. And the chapter helpfully titled "Recapitulation" which is... you know what? I'm getting ahead of myself. We'll cover this later.
Finally, the intro wraps up with a disclaimer. In short: "This product is meant for all ages. Keep that in mind before including violence in your game."
Now flip forward to the Human section (if you're one of the poor saps who purchased this) and describe to me the ragged neck skinflap of an orc that is in the process of being decapitated violently by a sword-wielding madman. Or the Dwarf section where an orc is being cartoonishly decapitated (spurt of blood from the stump and all) by an axe-wielding dwarf.
Up next on "Losing my Will to Live"
We're going to learn about some shit that doesn't matter and then find out exactly what an Elvan Vagrant is good at.
The World and Characters
Original SA post
Knights & Legends Tabletop RPG - The World and Characters
Last time I said we'd start off talking about things that don't matter. First up - the maps. There are two of them - a half-page standard map and a full-page map with a few grid lines. Grid lines are generally helpful, no? Not in this case. The key is sorted by map square. Useful if you're going map first and want to find what's in an area. Not so useful if you read a name elsewhere in the book and want to find it. So if you know that Bispo Gardens ("a composition of nomerous pine trees", if you must know) exists but you don't know where they are on the map, you scan the full list until you find it. Ctrl+F sometimes works, sometimes not. The maps themselves are fine, sort of like something I've seen in some of the better online map generators.
Ten dungeons fill up about half the space on page 2 of our key. They're helpfully named "Dungeon #1" thru "Dungeon #10". None of them are defined in any way besides the short one-sentence description - Dungeon #6 is a trap door hidden in the woods near Titan's Landing, Dungeon #5 is just a cave.
Following the maps is the list of nations you'll see as you get whisked from place to place on your story choo choo.
The first nation in the list is Lindfell, the arid gravel plain that Dwarves call home. Strike the earth ere the worms, spiders, hawks, lions, or coyotes get hungry. This 92 mile wide nation (why that particular stat is needed is beyond me) is home to a mere 6,768 individuals.
Up next, the Human nation of Vancroft. This is the home to the only religion we'll ever hear about. It's got a humid climate yet doesn't really rain much, spans 205 miles, and holds a bit over 24,000 people. Amongst the fauna you may encounter, we've got dragons, foxes, and worms.
Following Vancroft is the not-Japan-expy Human nation of Kenjiwah. On its 18 mile wide island are 2300 individuals who have to worry about seagulls, shrimps, worms, fish, and sharks. The nation is renowned for its unmatched folded steel.
The fourth nation is the subtropical Loriwhyn. Its culture is a mix of all four races and is governed by the only "Elf and Human hybrid" that I've read about. It packs nearly 33,000 people in its 163 miles of width. As far as wildlife is concerned, we've got seagulls, pigeons, wolves, rats, and the ever-present worms, amongst others.
Then comes Khimesh, the arid home of the Orcs. 13,593 Orcs call this hawk, deer, and worm-infested 188 mile wide desert home. There's a bit of built-in fantasy racism here - these abominable and savage tribal creatures are looked down on with disgust by religious Humans, who believe the gods sent a prophet to cleans Ezora of them. We'll be seeing this again in one of the "adventures" should I or someone else decide to cover more of this line.
Finally, the tropical Elvan home of Elmora, its 218 miles of width sparsely populated by 12,794 individuals and filled with monkeys, lions, mountain lions, deer, and worms.
Oh, sorry. Actually finally is a blank location sheet should you decide to... I don't know, make another continent somewhere.
Using some Highly Advanced Mathemagic (noting that Kenjiwah is 18 miles wide and about five of them will fit in a map square), we can determine that the squares are 90 miles per side. So this 8x4 world map spanning two continents is about the size of Arizona and New Mexico smooshed together and contains about a hundred thousand people, at least one dragon, and innumerable worms. And that's your Useless Fact of the Day.
Characters, the creation thereof, and sanctioned vagrancy
A quick note on races. I've tried to be as consistent in my naming as the book but some have probably slipped through the cracks. Races are always capitalized. subbing the standard "Elven" out for "Elvan" usually trips me up, though.
As outlined earlier, there are four races in Knights & Legends. Each has its own set of starting statistics (health, magic, strength, endurance, wisdom, spirit, and speed) which differ between male and female characters, a set of vulnerabilities, and a class list. Each race has a class or two that only it can be. The remainder are shared with other races.
Up first are Humans
. All humans have a vulnerability to fire and ice magic, bewitchment, piercing, and blunt damage. Pictured is a redheaded barbarian dude choking out one Orc and beheading another while a third just kind of lies on the ground.
are vulnerable to bewitchment and blunt damage (but not piercing, probably because of their "ticker skin"). Pictured is a redheaded Dwarf guy with one eye and arms that look like dirty steak beheading an Orc with an axe.
are vulnerable to fire, lightning, and "berserk". Continuing the fantasy racism a bit, Orcs found outside of Khimesh are "the good ones" - deserters, expelled tribesmen, or the offspring of slaves brought to the western world. Pictured is an outdoorsy fur-wearing Orc lady with black cornrows, stone or bone tipped spear, leather-covered wooden shield, and a bearcatbadger companion.
Finally, the Elvan
race. They're vulnerable to fire, piercing, and blunt damage. Pictured is a redheaded petite Elf lady displaying leathery cleavage, wearing knee high toe boots, wielding a hand crossbow, and catching her evil-looking owly companion.
The four races are exactly as stereotypical as you already know they are if you've read any bog standard fantasy RPG made since the '70s.
Since classes may be shared amongst several races, I thought I'd do them separately even though they're interspersed between the race descriptions. They each get bonus attribute points and an attack bonus. The attribute point bonus is sub-10 and boring so I'll only be talking about the unique bits.
Paladins (Human, Dwarves) get a +2 attack bonus vs. evil spirits and the undead.
Warriors (Human, Dwarves, Orcs, Elves) get a +1 vs. everything.
Samurai (Human) get a +3 vs. evil and demons.
Templar (Human, Dwarves) get a +2 vs. evil and magi.
Magi (Human, Dwarves) get a +2 to MP Regen per turn.
Monks (Dwarves) get a +1 vs. evil and demons.
Vagrants (Orcs, Elves) get a +2 vs. female humans.
Gladiators (Orcs) get a +1 vs. humans and beasts.
Ex-Slaves (Orcs) get a +2 Endurance bonus vs. humans.
Shaman (Orcs, Elves) get a +2 MP Regen per turn.
Hunters (Elves) get a +2 vs. dragons and beasts.
Assassins (Elves) get a +1 vs. everything.
Note, everything we've talked about has been combat related.
Also note the gendered stats.
Also also note that Vagrant is a player class and exists to attack human females more better. That's definitely something I haven't seen before. Innovation!
You get... four of these? Pick them as you see fit. Consulting the character sheet tutorial, Freddy gives four to Valery. They're not really described elsewhere. I guess Freddy could have cheated.
Super abilities are split (about 75%/25%) between "spells" and "abilities".
Spells cost MP. Some do combatty things besides dealing damage like launching people into the air, blinding enemies, bewitching enemies, or causing enemies to lose a turn. Since the only actions you get in combat are "physical attack", "magical attack", or "use other type of super ability", however, I'm not entirely sure how to use them or what kind of effect something like blindness is supposed to cause. A few representative items: Holes of Haunted Ice, The Forbidden Invocation of Meteorites, The Pit of Time, and Haunt Killing.
Abilities have a cooldown instead of costing MP. This may be the only unique mechanic in the system - you roll a number of dice equal to the cooldown, decreasing a die step with each, but don't add your strength to the total. Cooldown 2? d20 + d12. Cooldown 5? d20 + d12 + d10 + d8 + d6. And a few more representative items: Knuckles of the Amethyst Moon, Chop of the Twenty Blades, Silent Thunder. These names almost seem like someone had heard of (but not seen) The Book of Weeaboo Fightan Magic and thought they could do better.
Hey, wait. Those are super attacks, but we don't even know how to do regular attack yet. You see, basic combat rolls aren't covered until the Combat Tutorial wherein Valery Fireborn, covergirl, sample character, and vampire bondage enthusiast (in about three supplements' time) fights a dire wolf. "How did she find herself in this predicament?" you may be asking. Quite simple. "Before moving on, let’s imagine a scenario where Freddy’s character, Valery Fireborn encounters a Dire Wolf while performing a random task for someone."
Actually they just stand there and gaze into each other's eyes. Someone forgot to do the actual tutorial part of the tutorial. Anyway, attacks are just a d20 roll plus an attribute (Str for physical, Wis for magic) minus an opponent's attribute (End for physical, Spi for magical). If the target is vulnerable to the attack, double the d20 roll. Whatever you end up with is damage. Yeah. Every attack hits. It might just not do any damage to your non-armor-wearing ass. Innovation! You decide who gets the first blow by comparing Speed. Just straight comparison. Highest goes first. Got a tie? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ The book is silent on the matter.
As part of the combat tutorial, we're given an overview of the attributes. We've already talked about the sole uses of all of them. It turns out that Agi has a hidden secondary use - it increases your stealth success rate. The only problem with that? There are no rules for anything that doesn't involve inflicting damage upon your enemy. To quote the book:
The Book posted:
Attributes were carefully designed to insure they were all meaningful to a player’s character, by keeping focus on what matters.
Rephrased, the focus appears to be "inflicting pain on enemies and causing damage to my liver."
We skipped the character sheet tutorial to get here but it barely warrants covering. If you've seen a mad lib and a scantron, you can do it. Write down your stock attributes (except for health - there's no space for that on the character sheet; hope you've got a good memory. Or you just deface the sheet with your digits). Add points from your class. Write down your class bonus. Pick some super abilities. Write down your money if you had any. Pick a type of armor and weapon, which matter not one iota as armor and weapons won't have stats until about three supplements from now. Fill in the dots for your body type, various personality traits (rather than a sliding scale, these appear to be check boxes - you're an introvert or extrovert, you're grumpy or nice, you're honest or a liar), your religion, and your moral code. It's all for RP which is generally fine but every single mechanic we've seen has involved hitting creatures with your physical or magical beatstick. It's like a weird combination of almost-OSR and CRPG.
Speaking of the character sheet tutorial, it contains the first refutation of the book's claim that "nothing was included just to fill space" - it contains a third copy of a blank character sheet. The filled sheet at the end of the tutorial, I can get behind. Three copies of the same sheet in a PDF where I could simply print the same page multiple times, however?
Next time on Everything's Badly Written and the Points Don't Matter:
How do we design adventures? What kind of loot can we give out? What does an enemy stat block look like? (Hint: Do you have expectations? Lower them, please. Lower. Looower.)
Good GMs don't need more than this
Original SA post
Knights & Legends - Good GMs don't need more than this
The update title this go round is a paraphrased version of what the author said in response to criticism.
I'm going to make a bit of an exception to my "no images" thing and include a map.
Here we have the entirety of the adventure sheet tutorial. I can make a few guesses but they would probably be incorrect in some way. Just guessing, but green probably represents unlocked doors and red is likely doors tied to a switch. They can't be secret or locked doors as nowhere have we been informed on how one might locate or unlock them. The numbers appear to possibly indicate the intended path through this dungeon.
Traps? What do those do? How do they work?
Enemy encounters and a boss fight? No guidelines on suggested enemies?
Interactive Object? The fuck? Having read several of this game's supplements, I'd be tempted to suggest that this is a pile of cloth with nothing in it or a pit toilet or something.
Treasure Room and Treasure Chest? No suggestions on what they contain?
Things for stabbing, preventing stabs, healing stabs, and things to stab
You ready for some lists?
Me neither. But I've made a commitment so let's go. Every table from here on out has three columns - Name, Price (or Affinity for the last), and Description. Up first, the armory.
The armory is a suggestive list, feel free to create your own!
We've got a listing of various types of arms and armor. Daggers, katana, bows, axes, swords, metal and leather armor, robes, clothing.
What's the difference between an iron sword and a damascus sword? About 60 Kescs and an immediate breaking of the lore. Iron swords are "brittle and require constant sharpening." Damascus are "the finest grade of steel, folded over 8 times by Vancroft's blacksmiths." But I thought Kenjiwah was renowned for its folded steel...
And that's the armory. Nothing makes it easier to shank your enemeies or shrug off damage. At least until the supplement that adds "Advanced armor stats
" and special weapons.
The next list - inventory. HP and MP potions. "Elixer of the Gods," a slightly weaker health potion that heals your entire party. "Icaru's Draught" for a short levitation effect. "Devine Wings Ale", which is just beer but somehow more expensive than an actual health potion. A box of chocolates. Some of the items are marked "Quest Item" and thus don't have a price. At least some of these have some sort of mechanical effect.
The Inventory list doesn't have to end here, feel free to create your own!
And the final list - enemies. The description column doubles as an indicator of which creatures are boss monsters. No numbers to be seen here.
The Enemies list isn't limited to those displayed here, let's get creative!
The last section before we get into the "add-ons" is titled "Recapitulation". It's the ToC again, but with a descriptive sentence for each section. Oh, and sample enemy stats. Because this is where one looks for that sort of thing. Here's that bit in its entirety.
A foe's vitals should be drafted according to the number of playable characters in the game.
Health: 10 ~ 150
Magic: 1 ~ 35
Strength: 5 ~ 25
Endurance: 5 ~ 25
Wisdom: 3 ~ 25
Spirit: 3 ~ 35
Speed: 2 ~ 15
Higher Stats should be reserved for bosses only. Don't be afraid to go over the threshold should you believe it is needed.
Yeah. Balancing is hard, so let's have the GM do it all.
Finally, there are a few add-ons. Because changing page numbers is hard, I guess?
Will Never End...
That sounds like a threat.
The first add-on is a short list of "support classes" that you can, get this, add on to your character. Each gives 1 or 2 attribute points and a trait (enumerated right about now).
Musician: Get above a 40 on d% to... use persuasion and charisma.
Illusionist: Get above 50 to use distraction and confusion.
Martial Artist: Get above 50 to use a debilitating special move.
Acrobat: On a 40+, you're agile and flexible.
Beastmaster: Control and manipulate on 50+.
Gods, the beastmaster is OP. 50% chance to make a pet at will, as opposed to the acrobat's 40% to... do that handcuffed jump rope trick?
Following the support classes is a short list of new features. Selective targeting nets you a 50% chance to break someone's limb, reducing Str, End, or Spd by 1. Two limitations are also provided - the beastmaster's OP ability is reduced to one beast at a time for a max of 5 minutes or 2 turns (turns haven't really been defined; surely they're not two and a half minutes each...), and the acrobat may only jump 1.5 feet higher than normal but may jump off walls.
Totally worthwhile additions.
The final add-on is a selection of dungeons. The dungeons themselves are similar to the one I shared earlier but they at least have suggested enemies (though you must still come up with their stats) and treasure.
We wrap up the book with a very short CYOA section that gives us a hint of things to come (namely, you may make choices in the published adventures but those choices never change the story in any manner).
And there we have it. K&L in its entirety. I would suggest staying away, unless you've got a group that'd be okay MST-ing bad games. Its one and only claim to fame is the Misogyny class and that's really not something anyone needs to experience.