Game: The Legend of The Steel General (2nd edition)
Publisher: 0one Roleplaying Games
Review Dated: 1st, June 2003
Reviewer’s Rating: 7/10 [ Good ]
Total Score: 7
Average Score: 7.00
The Legend of the Steel General was the first ever roleplaying PDF product. The adventure has been dusted down, edited, corrected and brushed up for a second edition. If you’re a fan of 0one Roleplaying Games cartography then you’ll be pleased with the Legend of the Steel General since it oozes quality maps and if you want a solid, exciting and epic adventure then the download is well worth looking at too.
Epic is a good word for the Legend of the Steel General. There’s a sweeping back story to the plot, gods, armies, magic swords and powerful heroes. There are even original races, feats and spells. In fact, there’s so much going on that if you want to use the pre-written adventure as it’s written then you’ll need to download a copy of Heroes and Magic sourcebook too. Heroes and Magic is free though, so that’s no hardship and I always encourage gamers to grab these quality downloads as soon as possible and while they’re free. If you don’t fancy using the races in Heroes and Magic then it takes just a second to check the conversation table provided by 0one. There’s no juggling of numbers, just using one or more of the core D&D races instead of the ones in the Seven Avengers setting. If you want to scale the adventure, making it harder or easier as to suit your party, then there’s advise on how to do that and for the pit traps to watch out for. If you leave things alone The Legend of the Steel General is suited for 4 to 5 characters of about 1st or 2nd level.
If you leave things alone then, I think, most of the characters will die. Well, maybe. If they’re smart then they’ll scrape though. This isn’t a result of 0one’s game design missing the target, the set of adventures are supposed to be tough. Right at the introduction the reader is warned that the module will require quick thinking and can’t be solved with muscle power alone. The adventures are tough for a reason; right from the outset the low level characters are caught in grand events and as the game continues the characters are further drawn into the chaos of history in the making.
If you’re sensitive to spoilers then shove off. This review will give away the plot.
Half a million Zenith barbarians have the fortress city of Draman Del under siege. This isn’t the first time this has happened. A dark god tried the same thing 8,000 years ago but was defeated by a powerful wizard and Steel General. The defenders know an attack is imminent and have sent for an aged but moral boostingly famous hero called Deathshadow. Deathshadow turns up with his own mercenary company. His magic sword will prove to be important. The Council of War decides its worthwhile trying to persuade the famous Red Priests to help defend the fortress. It’s the player characters who are appointed to take the dangerous journey to the temple and talk to the Red Priests. This isn’t a given, if the players do reach the monastery the Red Priests can quite easily refuse to help. That’s if the characters head off to the monastery, en route they’ll have to win a surreal fight against a shadowy projection of one of the uber-villains. To win that fight the PCs will probably have to fight as one, literarily as one, as a massively multi-classed character wielding a magic sword. It’s a little weird but it foreshadows a tactic they’ll have to employ to defeat the worse undead horror right at the end of the game.
The trip to the monastery wasn’t made any easier by the fact that their guide was slain and maps they could have used were stolen from the fortress’s library. Clearly an inside a job – but I think the PCs will do well to find the time to work out who the insider is, and will do well to do anything about it since the impostor is successfully passing himself off a defending general. They’ll be pressed for time because the fortress city they’re trying to defend is desperately looking for time, trying to buy a day here and a day there so a relief army might arrive in time.
On one such mission in the sewers (there’s always missions in the sewers) the players will/need to come across the an ancient device that looks as if it can be used to flood sections of the city and a diary. Finding a diary in the sewers isn’t as unlikely as it might sound because, with a bit of luck, the players will work out the significance of a painting they saw back in the Red Priest’s monetary. This helpful clue suggests that a legendary hero of old foresaw this current siege and has kept the Steel General suspended in Limbo so that he can come back and fight again. Rather nicely, this doesn’t happen. Even powerful heroes of yester-year can make mistakes and if the characters successfully fight their ways to where the Steel General is “resting” they’ll discover that magic used to preserve him has gone wrong and he only has the energy to let them know where his magical armour is before dying. That’s the loot and magical treasure side of that part of the adventure. I was rather more interested in the idea that three whole sections of the city can be flooded to buy the rest of the fortress city more time and help hold off the barbarian horde. That sounds like a “for the greater good” dilemma to me and I love those. If you’re that sort of GM and you have that sort of group then there’s a meal to be made here. Oh. How do they get into Limbo? That’s where the hero Deathshadow’s magical sword comes in handy.
When (or given the difficulty: if) our would-be heroes make it back from Limbo they’ll discover that the fortress teeters on the edge, the defenders nearly defeated and much of this is due to Gwark, a powerful and unstoppable undead horror. It’s possible that one of the players will decide to have a go with the magic armour and with the magic sword to see if she can take down the Gwark. If they do well enough, are brave enough and if you as the GM are kind enough then the combination of all that magic and good intentions will allow the characters to combine and fight as one. Fighting as one hugely multi-classed hero against a CR17 undead.
I think it’s a good story, the tension and drama is there – much of it from events like assassinations and acts of courage I’ve not included in the summary – and it’s certainly an epic. I think it’s a good adventure, the sections link together nicely and by “nice” I mean in a coherent and clear but not cheesy or forced way. The characters fighting as a single hero; is that cheesy? I suppose it is. A little. It could be a lot worse; the “single hero” certainly isn’t anything like a Morphing Power Ranger. There’s simply a focus character, one where the powers and skills of the other characters unite while the other characters sleep. I’m always a little concerned about adventures that use a focus character, a chosen one or other single hero since it risks alienating the rest of the gaming group. The Legend of the Steel General might be for low level characters but I think it best suits experienced gaming groups. That’s all right; if you’re buying PDF adventures then you’re probably a part of an experienced gaming group.
The Legend of the Steel General tends to suffer in the areas where pre-written adventures always seem to displease me. It’s rare that I find myself actually likely to read aloud the italic text that’s been designed to read aloud; especially the paragraphs starting “You are” or “You enter”. There’s the inevitable problem of what to do if the players stray from the expected path of the adventure, this could get especially awkward given the scope of this story and that there are sequel supplements.
If you’re familiar with 0one Roleplaying Games then you’ll know just how gorgeous the cartography is likely to be. If you don’t then it’s worth checking out the demos, especially if you’re tempted by The Legend of the Steel General. If you don’t have a colour printer then you could easily feel that you’re not getting full value for money from the download. At $8 for 90 pages there’s a bargain to be had at full value for money.