Review – Vikings of Legend (Legend RPG)
Recently Mongoose Publishing released the historical source book for Legend RPG, the highly anticipated Vikings of Legend. The book provides everything to play historical, fantasy or mythical campaign concerning the Northmen.
I didn’t had the chance to compare, but I think the Vikings of Legend book is based on it’s Runequest II equivalent, so it’s possible that it won’t offer a lots of content to those who own that book. On the other side it’s a great book for any Legend player who don’t own that book, and while it1s not a generic supplement as Monsters of Legend or Arms of Legend was, it’s definitely has a lots of things to deliver for even non-Viking related campaigns.
The new Vikings of Legend supplement has a lots of things to offer, both in quantity and quality. From highly detailed information on Norsemen’s life and beliefs, to Rune-carving and the magical items of heroes and gods everything in in this digest sized book. The excellent content is further enchanted by great artwork and a lots of quotes from several Viking saga.
The Vikings of Legend book starts with an about 20-page long chapter about (and titled) The Viking Age. I think it’s offer enough detail to place our own campaigns into the time-line as we wish, and it’s also let us know a lot of about how warfare and politics were solved by the Norsemen. The Viking Timeline table offers a short summary about the major events.
We delve deeper into Viking lore with the second chapter : Viking Life. This is maybe the most useful chapter to run a Viking campaign, as it deals with almost every facet on the topic. Just to mention a few : social structure, the role of women, beliefs, Norsemen hospitality, law and punishment, duels and so on. This chapter also offer some easy to understand new rules for running a stead. From my point of view this chapter is simply perfect.
The first chapter dealing with game mechanics is chapter 3 : Viking Adventurers. There are several differences from the core rules here, but nothing which would make the characters incompatible with each other. First you may choose a culture for your character, which sometimes involve choosing a non-human character. (you could be Viking, Bulgar, or even a Jotunn and Vanir. Then you set your Characteristics and background skills as in the ore rules, however Norsemen are bigger and stronger than the average human. After that you roll for your social rank which determine your starting money and the professions you may choose. From that point the character creation stays the same we used to, except to the option to give the characters Divine Gifts if we play a mythic campaign.
We receive different game statistics for Scandinavians, Western and Eastern Europeans, as well as on Aesir / Vanir and Jotunn as playable characters. Several new skills also expands upon the core rules, including Gaming, Poetry and Skiing, not counting the several new magic skills, but back on them later. There are also several tables to generate background events and good sounding Viking names.
The Viking Equipment chapter contains everything to run the daily business for characters, including currency, trade, and available goods. There are some nice surprises here, as armour and weapons looted from the dead are tend to be cursed. Three new Combat Manoeuvres (2 for shields and 1 for catched thrown weapons) is also included to better simulate Viking combat and to offer more options to players.
After characters and equipment we are back at background information at the Viking Religion chapter. The end of the chapter contains the available and quite powerful Divine Gifts the players may receive during character generation, as well as some brief rules for propitiating gods and spirits. I have to note that there is no Divine Magic and cults in the Vikings of Legend setting, as it would be completely unfitting.
Maybe the next chapter, Viking Magic is where the setting gets the most different from the core rules. There is no Sorcery, Divine Magic or even Common Magic here, which means that counter-spells and magic defences are much more rare. This means that if a magic-wielding character appears he will be a real force to deal with.
The available magic skills including Rune Carving and Seidr which both offers great benefits, but they must be readied well before action. Spa is the magic skill for divination, whic I think is mostly suited only for non-player characters. Shape-shifting on the other hand enables the characters to take the shape of specific animals by donning their skin, which is both a thematic and a useful ability to have. There is also a slightly changed Spirit Magic in the setting which is still very powerful.
The Viking Magic chapter also contain information on magic items, including those which are used by the gods themselves ! I think this part is awesome, and gives a lots of inspirations to develop your own artefacts for your campaign.
Nearing to the book’s end, in the Viking Creatures chapter we could meet both the natural and the mythical critters suited for the Viking setting. While some of the statistics could be off (for example Fenrir seems rather weak compared to others) this chapter is a must-have addition to the book.
The last chapter Viking Campaings offers a lots of great ideas and adventure plots to Game Masters, as well as a list of recommended saga to read which could help to dream up your very own campaign.
While I was already a big fan of the new Legend RPG, Vikings of Legend surprised even me with it’s extensive and excellent content. With the incredible trove of background information, adventure ideas, a lots of connection to mythology and Saga’s as well as to history I’m extremely happy with this book. It’s definitely 5/5 stars.
Zoltán “Cain” Mészáros