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Review – Living Legends

24 April, 2010

Living Legends: The Superhero Roleplaying Game -Version 1.0- is a 162-page PDF (160 pages if you remove the cover and following blank page) containing the complete core rules written and illustrated by Jeff Dee and published by UNIgames.

The layout is a straightforward design, with a good full-color cover and 2-column layout in the interior organized in an old-fashioned section number, subsection number and so on, so the section on determining starting fame is 2.2.7.8 for example.  The (many) tables are clear and interior art is thematic though all black and white.  The table of contents is very complete and there is an index as well, so finding what you are looking for should be easy.

Living Legends is a superhero game and begins with discussing roleplaying in general and superheroes in particular with for LL superhero is defined as “any larger than life character who regularly performs heroic deeds and is visually distinctive” which works.

Characters are built using a character point system but there are also a wide variety of random tables from everything to powers (in great detail) to place of origin (including lost regions of the Earth, other planets and other dimension!) to profession and even superheroic motivation.  These tables include a fascinating implied setting from the supervillain ruled African nation of Malawi to the Cro-Magnons of the Lost World, Silicoids at the Earth’s core and the Psinax Empire threatening from space.  Sadly, they are all implied with only a few sentences at best to describe them and maybe a racial package deal.

The system is both complex and simple, simple that it is roll a die or dice based on your statistic/skill/power either as a contested roll or against a static target number.  So far, so good.  But what die or dice used is figured through a complex (and unexplained) mathematical formula which is presented as a table form so a power with a score of 4 rolls a d3, while a score of 22 is worth a d10.

Skills are calculated off an attribute and come in two sorts: general and specific.  The skill list is quite exhaustive with around sixty skills, many with sub-skills or variants, which seems a bit excessive for a supers game, but it does give you many options.

The available list of Powers is equally exhaustive and has a wide variety of enhancements and restrictions to allow customization and fine-tuning of power to simulate most powers from the comics.  A few pages of weapons and equipment give some ideas about what can be designed with the power system.

Unfortunately, there is only minimal advice on how to actually organize and run a campaign (though there is a nifty random villain motivation table).  This product provides, as promised, a superheroic RPG but only limited support for actually playing the game.  It seems a solid enough system but making a campaign out of it will take considerable work.

What would be welcome in a Version 1.1: A one-page step-by-step guide to building a character.  A complete walk through of the steps of character creation ending with a completed character for use.  More advice on how to run superheroic campaigns.  An introductory scenario incorporating use of the most important sub-systems, combat especially, with advice on how to do such.  A variety of sample characters for use as templates or non-player characters or both.  Mr. Dee has done all of this before for another superhero game system, so he is capable of such work and if he wishes to see Living Legends be more than a niche product for those who already know both the superheroic genre and roleplaying games it needs such a treatment.

Living Legends errata and FAQ can be found at: http://www.io.com/unigames/ll2.html
While some further background information and characters can be found here: http://www.io.com/unigames/ll/universe.html

Disclosure: As a featured reviewer for RPGNow/DriveThroughRPG, I received my copy of this product for free from the publisher for the purpose of this review.

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