Friday, April 4, 2008

The World of Broadsword

Since we last reviewed Broadsword, I felt that now would be a good time to look at the new add-on, The World of Broadsword in which Mejia which expands on the original product, continuing the barbarous rampage across an entire world, ripe for the picking. It includes a section on new advantages, a bestiary, an overview of the major cities and features, and a new adventure. Compared to the original Broadsword, the writing is more sober, factual, such I see no need to invite my barbarian guest commenter's back(they left after they found out that I had no wenches).

The advantages are fully in the spirit of the cinematic sword swingers, there are six new ones for your players to chew upon. I personally would have liked a few more, perhaps by cutting a picture or two from the bestiary section they could have squeezed some more in. That leads us to the Bestiary. It's not inspired but you do get all the stereotypical monsters, animals, and creatures that one is expected to encounter, along with a blurb on their special abilities if necessary. One thing that I have a love hate relationship with in it is that what it tells you is essentially, how hard it hits, and how hard it is to kill. On the one hand it means that if your PCs want to interact beyond "I see it....I SMASH IT IN DA HEAD!" you'll have to make up those extra stats. On the other hand, if your players are going for the whole barbarian ethos; chain mail bikini wearing, over-sized musclebound, or swearing by Crom, then 9 times out of 10 it is going to be "I see it....I SMASH IT IN DA HEAD!" There's some black and white art here for the various monsters(though animals and common enemies such as skeletons don't rate having an illustration, and I don't blame them for that decision, everyone should know what those look like without needing it sketched out) with varying levels of quality, but it gets the job done. Anyways, it's a pretty necessary and well done portion if you're going to be playing Broadsword with the 1pg rules(will definitely cut down on prep time), but nothing spectacular.

On to the world section. Now this is where the product really shines. Each major city gets an overview, and then a SWOT analysis(strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats). As a GM, one of the things that has always bothered me is where to draw the line on how much the PC's should know as 'common knowledge' versus what they need to ask around for. Give them too little, and all they do is head to the tavern to wait for something to happen, too much and there's no incentive for them to ask around. This covers that nicely, the overview gives enough that you won't have befuddled PC's wandering around aimlessly if you let them have that much info, and the SWOT gives you plenty of things to tell them about if only they dig a little bit deeper. Not to mention that it essentially gives you 4 or 5 plot hooks for every city. Heck, even if you just hold up the map, close your eyes, and point, you'll have half a dozen adventures that you can delve into at the nearest city. The location section is a little bit sparser, but still gives plenty of mysteries and adventures that your PC's can stick their noses into. Though personally there are some locations that I would have preferred to be treated almost like the cities in their descriptions(e.g. The Moors of the Witch-Queen? The Tribes of the Sikkar Plains? I could definitely see a page worth of info on each). There's also a small section on the gods, which is nice, but personally if I were to GM a game in the Broadsword world, I'd just as soon drop in a pantheon that has a little more detail than what's given.

The River Pirates of the Belsa is the new adventure. And I have to say that Mejia really knows the tropes, we have all the ingredients to put this firmly in the sword and sorcery genre. The witchy woman with her leopard right out of a Frazetta painting, the dashing rogue, trials by fire, treachery and backstabbing, and to top it all off, an ALLIGATOR PIT! Campy and cheesy, perhaps, but does it set the tone of the adventure nicely? You bet. The other thing that I especially liked about it was that there was a section devoted to the major characters that the PCs would be interacting with, I thought it a nice touch and something that I wouldn't mind for other RPGs to adopt(since many just give you a stat block and make you infer their motives by their actions).

At $4, this is another beer and chips money purchase. But in fact, I think this will appeal to a larger audience than the core Broadsword ruleset can. Just drop in your favored system and viola, instant game world. Forgive me, but I think the best analogy is that it's like cooking semi-homemade. With the World of Broadsword you're getting the bare bones(well, actually you get bones and major organs) of a setting that you can fill in without having to search out the relevant passage. You don't have to devote hours and hours trying to draw out and create your own world, or else spend a bundle of cash to buy a setting book(which you'll then need hours to read through), in order to have a coherent and consistent world for your players to explore. And I think that's a very valuable thing, gamers are looking for ways to keep the time needed to have fun low, that's why I feel that systems like 1pg games and Savage Worlds are becoming more popular, we've got busy lives and being able to run a pick-up game with a few friends on 10 minutes or so of prep time is great.

The key here, is recognizing what you're getting and what you expect from it. Don't expect a work of art or minutiae filled tome of knowledge, do expect a pre-made world with enough detail in the SWOT analysis of the major players to let you jump in headfirst and not have to overly worry about inconsistency. Which is something that I think both GM's and players will appreciate highly. All in all, if you need a world, and don't want to spend the big bucks or long prep time, maybe it's a one shot game or you just don't have the free hours, then the World of Broadsword is the way to go.

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