Saturday, February 28, 2009

Dawn of Legends Review

The following review is for the PDF release of Dawn of Legends by Daring Entertainment. The PDF is a superhero setting and system for Pinnacle Entertainment’s Savage Worlds line. I have decided to review the product in two categories, the first is “PDF and Layout” and the second is “System and Setting”. It is important to note Dawn of Legends is not a complete game and requires the Savage Worlds Explorers Edition to play. So without further adieu.

PDF and Layout

First of all, at over 280 pages, the PDF has a lot of work put into it with borders on every page and style of art. The art ranges from comical, like Archie Comics, to heroic, like superhero comics of today and yesterday. Many of the pictures were inspirational for the setting contained in the book. The layout was standard game design with the first half of the PDF comprising player information for the setting, then character creation and setting specific rules. The last half was the Gamemaster’s Section with more rules, detail on setting and NPC statistics.

That being said, the PDF had so much going on in layout, it lagged badly on both the computers I tried it on. I found myself using the “Print Friendly” version more often than not because it would load pages faster. Both PDFs had problems loading pages with charts on them however. I also did not like that the PDF had no index. The Table of Contents did a fair job of making up for the lack. I especially liked having each power with page number being noted in the table. With most of the game rules in the Savage Worlds Explorers Edition, finding what powers do will be the number one reason to open the PDF at the game table.

System and Setting

Now on to the real reason you are reading this review, information on the system and setting. I will go through the book section by section (mostly).

After a forward by one of the creators, the PDF discusses the basics of Neos (DoL’s term for characters with powers). Sections on Neo origins, Neos in the media and Neos and laws are some of the parts of this section. I found the information extensive and really gave a player an idea of what they are getting into with the Dawn of Legends setting. I particularly liked the part about laws and Neos, useful for the game’s setting and templates for homebrew settings.
The PDF then goes into an extensive character generation aid titled “Creating the Backstory”. It starts with 20 questions and then goes into a way to randomly generate answers to those questions with the aid of a deck of cards instead of dice. The creators state Dawn of Legends is about the person and not the powers. The questions and generator really pushes this idea forward. Using them in total or taking character inspiration from them, the player should really know how his character thinks. And it was fun to see what was created by going totally random.

Next is the statistics creation of the character. This section refers a lot to the Savage Worlds Explorers Edition as many of the creation rules can be found there. There are many new Edges and Hindrances for a hero setting; my favorite one was Battle Cape. The game also introduces new Benny rules, a Wealth Rating and die system used to acquire items in game and a Popularity system. I really like the Popularity system as what people think about their heroes is, well, popular in comics (example Watchmen) and is rarely mentioned in hero games I have run except as one or two merits. The system also gives bonuses or penalties based off of the rating.

The game offers creation of Super Teams. Players gain points at creation and can use experience to buy advantages for their team like buildings, equipment and so much more. The Super Team creation is like another shared character being created by the players. A really fun mechanic that aids the comic feel.

The Power system is definitely influenced by Mutants and Masterminds (as Daring Entertainment has products in this line) and players of M & M will find familiar ground here. There is a system to link powers called Networking, and also to create gadgets and aliens. With the number of powers, edges and hindrances, extras and power boosters, the number of abilities one can create is staggering. There are even details for creating new powers. It seems Daring Entertainment has really put work into the system and still keeps to the Savage Worlds motto of Fast, Fun, and Furious. The powers system is more complicated than other SW’s rule systems for other settings, but looking over how they work together, the creators found great ways to meld them.

The only thing I did not like about the powers section was a lack of discussion on how to use power creation for different genres other than the one Dawn of Legends supports. There is also a lack of discussion of what power level starting characters should really be. I just don’t see many Novice heroes for Dawn of Legends.

As I had said, the last (more than) half of the book is Gamemaster material, mostly the Dawn of Legends setting. I must say this is a book in and of itself. Where other publishers make their first supplement a setting book, Daring Entertainment seems to add it to their core book. The section goes into much more depth on information seen in the player’s section. There is also information on other countries’ view of Neos, many setting NPCs and the setting city of Autumn Arbor. The level of detail on the setting is great. There are interesting setting takes on popular comic heroes like Fantastic Four and Superman among others. I must say I loved this section. The material is great for someone looking for the feel of Dawn of Legends to run the setting and also for inspiration on homebrew settings. This is also mostly a system generic area of the PDF as the stats for characters are at the end of the PDF. I like this placement as it makes it far easier to find NPC statistics in play.

For veterans of Savage Worlds, the setting does not come with a Plot-Point Campaign. It does however have an adventure generator. The generator is great for “one issue” adventures but can also give a GM a linked series of adventures with just a little work on their part.

Conclusion

At first glance, the PDF is both beautiful and aggravating, the art style really fits the feel but the PDF has trouble running it. The content however more than makes up for the PDFs deficiencies though. The Backstory generator, Popularity system and Super Team creation rules really aid the players and GM with getting into the Dawn of Legends feel and comic books in general. The options DoLs gives to creating powers lives up to fans of M & Ms and fans of the rare hero. The power system goes way beyond the creation of Superman and Batman and gives the player a good tool kit for creating any powered hero they can imagine. Plus with the way Savage Worlds works, you can easily use or not use any of these rules you want.

The setting material also shines with the great detail the creators put into it. Even without a Plot-Point Campaign, the setting has so many story hooks; thinking up heroic adventures has a lot of help.

Daring Entertainment has a great product in Dawn of Legends. They really seem to understand the hero genre and have put it into the product. I strongly recommend DoLs for fans of not only Savage Worlds but superhero games in general.

2 comments:

bloodshadows said...

Thanks for the review Armos!

The PDF issues are something I intend on tackling soon. The bright side is that a print version is coming!

As for lack of a plot point campaign, we knew adding one would make the book even larger than it already is and we didn't want to dead-end things with a single one. Comics have Sagas all the time, so DoL needed the same thing. So, we'll have multiple plot point campaigns available for free from our site. The first one, Power Play, will be available sometime in March and more will follow.

Thanks again!

Mike Dukes
www.daringentertain.com

The Acrobatic Flea said...

Great to hear a print version is on the way, Mike, my tired old eyes and aged PC can't cope with big and beautiful PDFs, so I shall hope off investing until the print version hits the street.