Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Dragon Warriors: British Fantasy from the Dark Ages (well, the Eighties...)

Not Fighting Fantasy

Back in the Eighties Dave Morris and Oliver Johnson wrote the classic British RPG Dragon Warriors. For those of you who have never played it, well you missed out, but it's a rules light fantasy game with a great setting. The world of Legend is an analogue of Dark/Early Middle Ages Europe. The only difference being that the beliefs of folklore are mostly true. Milks gone sour? Goblins. Crofter goes missing on the moors? Trolls. Someone stole your baby? Elves.

This is the first RPG I played. Mostly because I bought it by accident. Book One was cunningly disguised as a choose your own adventure style game book. Or so it appeared to me. I was glad to be surprised. It was a very different type of game book. I still have all the original books. More than I can say about anything D&D related.

The problem with it is that the rules do not fit the setting. This is a dark, low fantasy world but the system supports high fantasy. Of seven character Professions, four are spell casters. The authors played the setting with GURPS rules in their own games, which although Dave Morris has made some references to them on his blog, there is scant information about (what exactly was Tim Harford's Iron Men Campaign?) Largely, I suppose, because the reboot of Dragon Warriors by Magnum Opus was not a financial success, Dave doesn't blog about the game that much anymore. Dragon Warriors now rests in the hands of Serpent king Games but those guys are doing it in their spare time and for not much reward. There is a Player's Book in the works but it's been a long time coming.

No orcs or clerics here
I'd love to play DW again. I'd probably mess with the magic system a bit. For my thinking, magic in Legend (or in any FRPG) should be mysterious and weird. The magic items in the Lore of Legend chapter of Book Six ("The Lands of Legend") are so much more evocative than the Swords +1 in Book Two ("The Way of Wizardry"). For example, the entry for the Hand of Glory states it is fashioned from the severed and dried left hand of a suicide. A candle is then placed in the fingers and bound with human hair. It gives off a wan light that only the user can see and if taken inside a house or castle will prevent any sleeping unranked character from waking up. It can only be extinguished with milk, blood or holy water. Needless to say your 1st Rank Knight isn't going to be finding that under a big pile of gold next to a sleeping dragon. Although if he did, he should probably find a way destroy it.

No comments:

Post a Comment