Monday, May 19, 2008

New Review of The Phoenix Barony

Matthew M. Slepin, aka the Fiendish Dr. Samsara, (to whom I still owe notes on my as-yet unfinished readthrough of his own S&S RPG, Swords of Fortune) has written a review of David "Grubman" Bezio's The Phoenix Barony for The Phoenix Barony is a campaign setting designed for Labyrinth Lord in an Old School style. That is to say, it's fairly bare bones, with lots of blank spaces on the map for the DM, er, I mean Labyrinth Lord, to fill in. Some would call this "incomplete". Mr. Slepin does not agree:

There are game products that are beautiful and wondrous and nobody can figure out how to play. But The Phoenix Barony wants you to jump in and game it. Further to that end, Bezio zooms in to present a more detailed Adventure Area of some 420 square miles with another hex map. I love this. Its whole purpose is to say, “Roll up a character, put him here, and let’s slay something.” The Adventure Area has a village to serve as a base of operations and a few evocative locations: the Lost Keep, the Fairy Wood, the fishing hamlet of Jub (where all the adult males have mysteriously disappeared), and so on. Enough to generate ideas for several low-level adventures...

Matt also approves of Mr. Bezio's embrace of Labyrinth Lord's light and easy rules when detailing the setting in imaginative ways:

The Phoenix Barony is full of this exploitation of the minimal rules. Consider some of the organizations presented in the setting: The Templars of Irnoch, an order of holy warriors dedicated to the Baron and the Church; the Border Guard of Emralla, flamboyant, rapier-wielding cavalry; and the Bordain Rangers, the self-sufficient horsemen. In more modern iterations of D&D, these would all be separate classes or prestige classes or something. In LL, they are Fighters. What separates them is not mechanics, but description (okay, the Bordain Rangers get one minor mechanical feature, +1 to hit and damage with the lance). Perhaps more unique and delightful are Frunder’s Riders, the mounted militia of a Halfling community who ride giant weasels and toads into battle. No “Weasel Rider” Prestige Class, here. No “Giant Toad Tongue Lashing” Feat. Frunder’s Riders are Level 4 Halflings. Done and done.

It's quick, it's easy, and it's fun. (Gee, think that might be something of a mantra of mine?) Yes, it doesn't give you that deep-down crunch some players crave. But if you're the sort who likes to keep the rules light, the action quick, and the setting imaginative, it sounds like The Phoenix Barony might be worth taking a look at.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I couldn't agree more. When I bought this product it far exceeded my expectations. It is the most "old school" new product I have seen so far and took me right back to the days of my introduction to D&D with The Keep on the Borderlands. David Bezio did a fantastic job and it's good to see him get some recognition.