Sherwood: The Legend of Robin Hood
by Dan Repperger
Anyone that’s listened to our show, attended a con, or gotten out from under a rock within the past year is probably no stranger to Savage Worlds. It’s a flexible, easy to learn system, and you can dive right in with nothing more than the pint-sized Explorer’s Edition. The game has no setting, giving you the freedom to plug in whatever world you fancy, whether from a supplement book or your own imagination.
I was just given a copy of one such setting book, Sherwood, a Robin Hood adaptation by Marc Gacy and Wil Upchurch. It was released several years ago for d20, and as of a few weeks ago, it’s been ported over to Savage Worlds.
I approached this book with some trepidation. I’ve never been a big fan of RPGs that are too narrowly tied to one story. I enjoy playing in a variety of settings, but I don’t like being led about for the sole purpose of shaking hands with famous people and fawning over their exploits. I’ll happily play in the Star Wars universe, but I don’t care to play through a Star Wars movie.
This book is called Sherwood, so obviously it gives ample space to the specific characters and general archetypes of the famous tale. Most of the plot ideas assume you’re playing swashbuckling rogues that lurk about the woods. And, yes, there are stats in there for Robin Hood and Little John.
However, the book also provides a fairly lengthy look at historical, 13th century England. There are well researched sections on culture, geography, knightly orders, religion, and economy. There are charts for period gear priced in pennies, shillings, and pounds.
They also offer some new rules (I’ll get back to those shortly) that help characters pull off the acrobatic antics we’ve come to except from this sort of story. Sure, they’re important to Robin Hood, but they could also work for any swashbuckling adventure.
Make no mistake about what this book is for, but even if Robin Hood’s brand of adventure isn’t your thing, you could still cherry pick some goodies for any game in this time period or genre.
Whatever you’re using this book for, the authors explicitly encourage you to run a different sort of fantasy game. This game is about intrigue and derring do. It’s about taking bold risks for the right cause, not taking gold from dead orcs. You may be doing heroic things, but they’re occurring in a relatively normal place.
Speaking of which, one of the first things you’ll notice missing (and rightly so) is magic. There’s an optional section at the end for working in the occasional werewolf or conjurer, but those are presented in the context of period superstition, and players are reminded once again this isn’t a typical fantasy game.
The closest thing I found to a fantastical class in the main rules is an engineer/inventor. They can make odd devices, similar to what you produce with the Alchemist skill in D&D. Nothing that’s exactly magical, but their work is a bit more wondrous than technology of the day would allow.
Sherwood includes some modified rules that enable — even encourage — swashbuckling adventure. Most of these rely on Agility, which will probably be the central stat for most characters. For example, a variety of acrobatic maneuvers have been provided, each reduced in difficulty to a simple success. And if you achieve that success, you can toss in a bennie to buy it up to a raise (Savage World’s version of a critical success). So it’s easy to leap onto your horse from a rooftop and do it with style.
While the Robin Hood story has been told in many ways over the centuries, the version we’re most familiar with is relatively lighthearted. In keeping with that, characters are allowed to use a variety of improvised weapons (table legs, candle stands, your friends). They can also use any weapon to deal non-lethal damage at no penalty, so your sword can slap down the Sheriff instead of running him through.
Obviously no Robin Hood themed story is complete without an archery contest! Sherwood has rules for that as well. Characters pop off arrows, rolling for a particular target number, their level of success determining which ring they hit. Yes, you can even try to split someone’s arrow. GMs are also presented with variant rules for a speed shooting contest.
In terms of production value, the book is well organized and easy to read. The art is of professional quality and draws from both modern and archaic sources. There’s no index in the back, which is a little disappointing, but at 62 pages long, I’m not sure the book really needs one.
Overall, I found Sherwood to be a solid setting book that offers everything you’d need to play this time period and genre. Anyone that’s a fan of Robin Hood — or just wants to run fantasy that has more style and intrigue than elves — should check this out.
Want to learn more about Sherwood? Read on…
- Atomic Array: Episode 014: Sherwood
- Game Cryer: Review by Chris Perrin
- Fear the Boot: Sherwood: The Legend of Robin Hood
- The Game’s the Thing: Episode 048
- The Gamer Dome: Sherwood Adventure at DDX
Or drop by RPG Now to pick up a copy today.