Master at Arms: Legionnaire is a short 8 page d20 pdf and the 14th product in Blackdirge Publishing's Master at Arms series. Each product in the series focuses on a specific weapon and builds a prestige class, often with historical background, based on the use of that weapon. This product takes a look at the short sword, and in particular the quintessential historical wielder of the short sword or gladius, the Roman legionnaire. This product is compatible with the revised d20 core rules.
Master at Arms: Legionnaire follows the standard format of all the products in the series, coming with a standard cover including some good art by Jesse Mohn. The same art is also used once as interior art, amongst a few minor pieces that are largely standard to the format of the series. Like all the products in this series, the product is professionally presented, with good layout, editing, writing and general organisation. The mechanics is strong, and there are some useful design notes included to detail the origin of most of the mechanics and tie it in nicely with the historical background presented. Overall, another splendid presentation job from Blackdirge Publishing.
This product presents a new prestige class built around the short sword. In this instance, the prestige class is the legionnaire, a wielder of the gladius which is akin to the short sword as a stabbing sword. The legionnaire is one of the more famous warriors of the ancient world, renowned for combat prowess, discipline, endurance, will, and superior equipment and tactics. The legionnaire was one of the key features of the Roman Empire that allowed the empire to conquer vast territory during its prime.
The product starts with a brief introduction to the history of the legionnaire, by describing weapons, tactics and features of this superior infantry warrior. This gives a good, albeit short, and very useful overview of the legendary legionnaire, allowing those unfamiliar with this Roman warrior to place the prestige class into perspective and add some flavor. The legionnaire prestige class, like other classes in this series, is built to follow the historical character fairly well. It encompasses aspects of the Roman warrior well, for example, endurance (Endurance feat requirement and the ability to improve carrying capacity), discipline (Iron Will feat, and an ability that allows the warrior to resist certain effects), combat proficiency (a range of good abilities and feats), and versatility (by including Profession (soldier) as a required skill).
As a warrior focused on the short sword the class gains improved ability with its use in the form of feats, synergy abilities with the fighter class, and several new abilities that make short stabbing and piercing thrusts with the short sword much more deadly. The prestige class fights effectively with shield and short sword against two-handed weapon wielders, and can deliver very deadly blows to the body. The class is well built with good flavor, and forms an interesting and balanced representation of the Roman legionnaire. I wasn't particularly fond of one or two of the mechanics, but that's largely because of the massive damage mechanic used that gets slightly modified for one of the legionnaire's abilities.
As per usual, the last part of the pdf details a new NPC that uses this prestige class, in this instance a fiendish character with devil ancestry. The write-up is as usual excellent, with good background and flavor and strong mechanical exposition. The NPC will make a useful and interesting villain or even ally for a d20 fantasy campaign.
Overall, I liked this product. It provides a flavorful and useful class that builds strongly on the historical basis for the Roman Legionnaire. The prestige class will fit in well with an organised military unit that forms part of a larger campaign world. Whether this concept should've been built as a base class rather than a prestige class is a matter for debate, particularly given that the legionnaire in most fantasy games will be a commander type (higher level, given the entry requirements) rather than an infantry and to a certain extent disposable warrior. The NPC is very good, and something that I can see easily being used in many games. Very good product, once again from Blackdirge Games.