Legends of Excalibur – Thumbs up!
King Arthur is the center of one of the most powerful stories in literature. The tale has powerful elements of magic, knights, ladies, monsters etc and a great deal of atmosphere. It resounds through our culture for gamers and non gamers in a way that is denied to 'modern' settings. If you or your players have a wish to explore Arthurian Britain in chivalric 13th century Europe this is a good place to start.
I have had a deep interest in this product both for D20 and True20. Its first edition was, for me, one of the big settings for D20. Who doesn't want to have a knight of the table round? I've read a couple of versions of the Arthur story but I always sort of got lost in the size of the tale. By the time I reached the gaming table my head was full of ideas. Yet there was always so much that the players wanted that I hadn't thought through. Legends of Excalibur has really beefed up the material available to me. Charles Rice has done the monumental job of converting the setting and central characters to gaming.
The True20 pdf has 84 pages of material with a clear view of Chivalric 13 century life. It has great maps, historic artwork, and a lot of crunch for True20.
I like crunch.
6 social classes – think background feats etc
Adept – Druid, Enchantress, Hedge Mage, Hermit, Priest
Expert – Fool, Minstrel, Noble, Robber Baron, Skald
Warrior – Crusader, Knight
Marauder – Yeoman
(For more descriptions of the various components, I recommend the review by Treebore)
If you have any experience with the tales of Camelot, the archetypes jump out at you, as does the societal tension in the setting. The struggle between paganism and Christianity is central – this is not necessarily a 'religion light' story. Of course you can always water down elements to suit your game table but Charles has given you something to work with if you want to play a more edgy, historic game. The conflict makes it very interesting to role play. Motives and beliefs for Druid's and Priests, Hermits and Hedge Mages are not the same.
The tales of Arthur were complicated by the biases and experience of real life. Tensions heighten the realism and give the DM material to twist game plots.
True20 is a wonderful fit for the setting. The D20 version has a supplementary honour system but here conviction points can tie effortlessly to chivalric faith. Character motivation and rewards are really well suited for True20. If you have experienced a level of confusion with some of the free form True20 rules, the strength of setting is a welcome structure.
I most liked the close fit of this setting to rule system.
The artwork is very nice and the sample maps are very evocative and solid. They have the authenticity of being real world settings and will improve any historic game. The pdf has a Town, City, and Henge – good examples for your own work.
The writing is well done and the author has a lot to draw from. If you like King Arthur you might have differences of opinion on some of the details but Charles will save you a boatload of work.
My chief criticism is probably in the number of stated out monsters. There are 35 monster descriptions with a good variety but they don't have stat blocks. Most are available in standard monster collections but it would have been nice to see more fully printed. Only the 2 new and original monsters have statistics.
I'd recommend this to anyone interested in an historic setting from the 13th century onwards. It is a tasteful, broad survey with a great framework for you to develop. Both D20 and True20 versions are, of course, very similar. The True20 version is a little shorter because it fits so well.
If you want the magic, romance and intrigue of Arthurian Britain this is a good choice.