Game: Dark Legacies Player’s Guide
Publisher: Red Spire Press
Review Dated: 20th, March 2005
Reviewer’s Rating: 9/10 [ Something special ]
Total Score: 10
Average Score: 5.00
The biggest limitation in Dark Legacies: Player’s Guide is that it is just a player’s guide. Here we have a refreshingly different d20 supplement which dips into what promises to be a hugely interesting campaign world but doesn’t explore further. This, of course, is what a player’s guide will do – there’s enough world information here to make your character.
This is Earth. This was Earth. The planet fell into the Abyss and with the eternal night came a plague of demons. Mankind lost control of Earth, mankind barely continued. When civilisation returned to the planet it was not humanity’s. The cruel and aloof Assar ruled. Dark Legacies is a gritty game and the campaign world is not content with simply being a post apocalyptic setting. An apocalypse came to the Assar too. The Assar fought back against their own apocalypse and although their empire fell they met with some important successes against the demons and persist (as a possible player character race) to this day. After the fall of the Assar all seemed lost and then the Sun returned. The Sun returned to shine over some parts of the world but much is still lost to the Abyss. Mankind was abke to fight back. The First Priest walked the world and explained that it was his God who had brought the Sun back. The First Priest used The Voice and people listened. The contemporary setting for Dark Legacies is some three thousand years after this event, after yet another great war, after the destruction of the Novag’s great city and after the Church has suffered schism and splits.
From the outset Dark Legacies makes some important decisions and, I think, gets them right. D&D’s awfully simplistic, restrictive and black and white alignment system is kicked out. Good riddance. You can’t have a gritty game where you’re never sure who to trust or what to do if you can sense someone’s likely intentions – and perhaps even be resurrected in the rare even of something going tragically wrong. That’s another nice Dark Legacies success; resurrection magic is squished, in fact, the magic system is entirely re-written. Dark Legacies is one of those few d20 supplements that manages to grasp the nettle in hand and drag the system into a “low magic” setting. Magic is hard to cast and can go dangerously wrong. If you’re successful in your spell then you’re only facing damage, pain and the taint of corruption. Magic comes from demons and it corrupts.
There’s no divine magic. Priests replace Cleric as a character class and make formidable use of The Voice instead. The Voice is a miracle working power and at high levels nothing can stop a Priest using it – not even removing their tongue.
The Cleric bowing out in favour of the much scarier Priest is not the only character class swap. We’ve the Arcanist as the only magic user. We keep Barbarian, Fighter and Rogues in the game. There is plenty of scope for each class in game. The Lurker replaces the Ranger and very much more suited to the dark and survivalist nature of Dark Legacies. The Lurker is an ambush specialist with an excellent in camouflage and poison. The last of the new classes is the Soldier. Ah now. Soldier and Fighter? I braced myself to be disappointed but Red Spire Press actually makes this work. The soldier gets a raft of impressive combat abilities when fighting alongside other Soldiers.
What about races? Again Dark Legacies sheds the typical d20 skin and does something new – new and familiar. Fair enough, swapping dwarf with dwerof may seem like a small syntactical change but reading about the dwerofs paints a picture of an intriguing, stalwart and xenophobic race. Of course, there’s the Assar too. There’s no doubt that you can hope to play an Assar and waltz into a village and get a friendly reaction. Briggs are the orc equivalent but horribly more tragic. The Eldrin replace the orcs and still suffer the shame from their role in the last Great War. The shame of Eldrin is directly to the Hybrid race – half Eldrin, half demon. The last race are the Novags – militant, aggressive and technically astute, er, gnomes.
Dark Legacies goes on with improvements. There are some mechanical changes in the book. There are rules for piecemeal armour, for example, in this future Earth you’re lucky to find yourself a full and complete set of armour – unless you’re in one of the armies. There are simply but effective combat rule additions that make fights more brutal. These are the sort of rule observations which aren’t out of place in a player’s guide as they will affect your character generation choices.
As a player’s guide it is not surprising to find skills and new feats. There are new weapons – fairly macabre and grisly designs at that – and new spells. Since the magic system has been so thoroughly re-tooled we do need new spells for Dark Legacies. Although Dark Legacies is a low magic setting I suspect there’s need for more spells.
There’s a specific look and feel to Dark Legacies as well. The rules are nicely and subtly different. The campaign setting is more drastically different but still a nice change. There’s not a world of scope available in layout changes there is a distinct “Dark Legacies” look and feel to the artwork here. Actually, the artwork reminds me of Warhammer 40K.
Dark Legacies has been one of the surprise packages of my shelf. I knew nothing about it before picking it up and having a flick through. I always flick through RPGs before sitting down to the read them properly but there are those rare occasions when the casual perusal is aborted so that I can get on and read the book properly.
I’m looking forward to reading more from Red Spire.