Savage Worlds players: have you ever wanted to swing from a rope and drop kick a guy, steal from the local sheriff or maybe save a Maid Marion or two? Really? Then Sherwood: The Legend of Robin Hood, an Official Savage Worlds Licensed Product by Marc Gacy and Wil Upchurch is for you. Sherwood lets you do all that while capturing the man, the myth, and the legend that was Robin Hood with the Character Concepts, Edges, Tricks, Skills, and everything else you need to create 13th Century English outlaws.
The folks at Pinnacle tend to do a pretty good job when they vet their Official Licensed Products, so once I saw that seal, I set my expectations pretty high. However, given the subject – a swashbuckling setting, even one with the history of Robin Hood – I lowered the bar. A lot. Still, I thought this book was very good. The writing was engaging and obviously thoroughly researched. Even the historical parts were interesting without feeling like an info dump. I was not quite ready to go off and steal from the rich and give to the poor, but I was more than a little tempted to crack open my Savage Worlds Explorer Edition.
The book is divided into two parts: “Heroes of Sherwood” covers everything you need to build your charming rogue or merry man, and “Swashbuckling Adventure! Setting Rules” provides the extra system rules and setting information. This setup is pretty straightforward, but what makes it unique are the bits of campaign advice scattered throughout the text. I feel like I have a better idea of how to play the game because of them.
Gacy and Upchurch packed a lot into Heroes of Sherwood. The descriptions of the Character Concepts, especially the Knave and the Man-At-Arms were particularly interesting. Both managed to sneak short treatises on class mobility in 13th Century England into their write ups. Still, the highlight of character creation has to be the Engineer Concept and the rules for its Arcane Background.
An Engineer is exactly what it sounds like: an architect or builder who has the capability to create cool inventions to help out the local band of jolly outlaws. I just wish the rules did not come right out and say the Engineer should not be able to build anything too impressive during a campaign. I’m thinking siege engines with lots of ropes for Robin Hood to swing and stab from. Is that too much to ask?
The Acrobatic Maneuvers section would probably stand head and shoulders above the rest of the book if it were not so short. There are eight Agility Tricks, things like Swinging Attack and Running Up Walls, which players can employ to confound foes. However, there were too few Tricks and they all centered on melee combat. Perhaps I am just too in love with the cartoon, but I wanted to see some bow Tricks like shooting an arrow with another arrow or spinning an arrow Wanted style or something like that.
Also, Gacy and Upchurch deserve a lot of credit for how well they present a tome’s worth of setting information. They were more than happy to admit they took some liberties with history to make a game that felt real and was fun to play, but at the same time, reading the information was actually fun. It was cool to read about the daily life of the peasant, the knight, the monk, and the noble and to see the problems which might drive them all into living la vida outlaw.
Even the lengthy bios about Robin Hood and his band of thieves, though packed with information gleaned for several texts, was organized in such a way that I enjoyed reading it. Still, despite their length, I wish Robin and his men had been featured more prominently. Sherwood barely mentions them until the section in which they are statted out. While this is hardly a brief discussion, if the game is called Sherwood, we should get to see more of the people who live in Sherwood.
With that said, there was only one section that left me with a distinct “Hrmm?” feeling: the section on adding mythological creatures into your Robin Hood campaign. The text makes the argument it would not have been complete without the inclusion of things like ghosts, fairies, leprechauns, werewolves, dragons and the rules to add them to a campaign. I will admit, I am not an expert on Robin Hood, nor English history, but I am at a loss to understand the need for these chapters. I know Robin Hood: Price of Thieves had a witch and the cartoon was all talking animals, but Robin Hood has always, to me, been a tale of rebellion with some cool fight scenes thrown in for fun.
I realize this is pretty nit-picky, but it continues to stick in my head as just being out of place with the rest of the text. I cannot see Robin Hood, Will Scarlet, and Little John going after a dragon, despite the fact they could feed the poor forever from its hoard.
All in all, Sherwood lives up to the standard set by the Savage Worlds License seal it bears. The artwork is all very authentic looking and it helps set the feel, there is a great amount of information, and Sherwood is obviously something Gray and Upchurch were passionate about. Anyone who likes role playing during the 13th Century should buy Sherwood and Savage Worlds players who want Swashbuckling in their game definitely should go for it. All in all, it is a worthy addition to the Savage Worlds line.