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Sunday, 21 January 2018

Some More Great Lion & Dragon Reviews

So Lion & Dragon, INCREDIBLY continues to keep climbing back up the Top-10 list of RPGNow's Bestsellers, after the fiasco at the start of the month where RPGnow had booted it off the list altogether. As of the last time I checked this morning, it is now at #& on the Bestseller List.
This is, by far, the best payback.

And if you haven't looked at Lion & Dragon yet, you really want to check it out! You want to see what everyone is getting excited about. Why everyone has gotten to thinking about how to make D&D more medieval. Why a small-press OSR game has managed to hit Silver Bestseller in one month, and climb all the way back up to the top-10 list from a computer "error" that had wiped it off just a couple of weeks ago.

Need more info, though? Check out these two reviews of Lion & Dragon, both posted originally to Google+:

First, from Rikhard Von Katzen:

I'm finally looking over Lion & Dragon in between some prep work for other games. A few of comments:

1) Numbered rules. Yes. This is an old, old practice in war-gaming that very few RPGs do - I have no idea why. It makes finding and referencing specific rules much easier, and briefer.

2) Like Arrows of Indra, the traditional rewrites of old pseudo-Vancian magic is eschewed. This is a good idea, aside from thematic reasons because there is no reason on Earth to keep re-writing near duplicates of D&D. All of the spells and magic items from any version of D&D could be easily imported into any other, and if someone wanted to use them in L&D it would take like no effort. So I am glad the author opted to create his own magic system. Anyone who's dead set on using Magic Missile in their L&D games will have no difficulty doing so, if they have an IQ above 80. Not only does this differentiate the game, it saves us from having yet another repetitive collection of exactly the same information.

3) Critical hit system that's a bit more than just 'dubble damage', another good thing. I am firmly against critical hits that do nothing except double up on damage, since I think this aspect is adequately covered by the fact that you are rolling a damage die to begin with. (You know what a critical hit on a longsword is? Rolling an 8 for damage.)
I personally prefer critical hit systems that are based on hit-location and resistance tables ala RuneQuest, but that would be too complicated for L&D. The system of rolling on a table is a reasonable compromise between that kind of complexity and the pointless dice-doubling standardized in 3.5.

4) I like the different magic items, though I'd prefer less flavor text.

5) Nice art. It is woodcut themed and fairly realistic, which is how I'd prefer it. No bug-eyed hobbits or break-dancing barbarians, thank you.

6) The random trial outcome table is a nice touch, it reminds me of some Judges Guild material I have.
Overall, this system game is a good way for me to make use of my HARN and Pendragon supplements without trying to get people to learn an extremely complex 30 year old game.\

Second, from Stefan Skyrock:

My impressions of Lion & Dragon

I'm done skimming the PDF. I have skipped the parts that are probably just par of the course for OSR games (such as rolling ability scores, basic combat or wilderness survival) and focussed on the things that are unique.

High points:

+ The 400 pound bugbear in the room making L&D unique are of the course the medieval supernatural elements - magister "magic", cleric miracles and magic items. I recognized a few things such as talking heads or mandrakes harvested from where the seed of hung criminals lands, but I also picked up plenty of ideas that were new to me.
Even if you don't use the Lion & Dragon system, or even run fantastical medieval Europe in something other than an OSR system (such as Ars Magica or WoD Dark Ages) there is a lot of gameable stuff to pluck and harvest from L&D.

+ Social status being more than just the amount of starting gold, but a very important trait that governs the character's rights and duties, legal equipment and expected behaviour. I haven't seen game designers paying attention to this since The Riddle of Steel.

+ Primitive firearms! Hand cannons and cannons were an integral part of the era, and I have become sick and tired of uninformed gamers and designers getting their panties into a twist about how introducing black powder and guns would ruin the "medievalness" of their settings. It's nice to see a medieval game that gives primitive guns their rightful place acknowledging their strengths, but also their shortcomings.

+ Thief's Tools for once not being super-pricey, super-rare items that can only be created by the best of the best artisans.
Lockpicks aren't as complex as most gamers believe, and especially not in medieval Europe where rather simple and crude ward locks prevail. It has always peeved me that a class associated with poor petty criminals is expected to need a 100+GM item by default to fulfill one of its core functions.

+ The Trial subsystem. I was getting a very Blacksand!ian vibe from it, with trial by combat and by divine judgement as welcome additions fitting the time.

Things I would do different at my table:

- I like the idea of background skills, but I think they are too little pronounced with just a +1-bonus on a narrow set of rolls. I would probably change it to a d4 or d6 rolled along with the d20, which is very noticeable and also sets a visual reminder on the table that this the character's unique shtick he has grown up with.

- I very much like the idea of the random character advancement tables, but I find the execution too swingy and the results too wildly different in power. I would definitively tweak the tables before using them, either by rolling multiple dice to create a bell curve that makes desirable results more common, or by powering up the weaker results such as skill bonuses. Rolling three times and picking two of the results might also work as a quickfix.

- Scots and Cymri are very place-specific. I would have liked to see some suggestions on how to adapt those two classes to other parts of medieval Europe.
Scots are obviously easy - there are plenty of barbarian peoples on the outskirts of civilized Europe depending on the exact time of the game, such as Vikings, Saxons, Huns, Mongols and so on that can use the same stats.
Cymri are a bit trickier, as their most obvious continental counterpart - Rroma and Sinti - didn't enter the European heartland until the 15th century, and Yenish did emerge even much later.

So, check it out. And if you already have L&D, please SHARE THE LINK everywhere. Let's see if we can get L&D back into the TOP 5!


Currently Smoking: Mastro De Paja Bent Apple + Peterson's Old Dublin

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