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Donovan Morningfire
Donovan Morningfire's picture
At Sword's Point, a review
explorers society, duelists

Okay, not really a formal review, but thought I'd weigh in on this one since I'd been working on something similar a while back.

In short, if you're one of those that think that Duelists are horribly unbalanced, this PDF is not going to improve your opinion one bit.

It starts off with a rundown of duelist weapons, breaking the corebooks tenet of all weapons are equal by handing out a myriad of screwy bonuses if your Hero rolls a 10 during a Risk using a specific weapon. For instance, if you're attacking with a cutlass and you roll at least one 10, then you get to treat every 1 you rolled in the Risk as a 2, while a zweihander loses one Raise but the first time the Hero deals Wounds, they can't be blocked or modified, and a Saber pretty much gives you the effects of the Quick Reflexes Advantage.  About the only useful thing with this section is that it provides a nice clarification of what constitutes a Fencing weapon vs. a Heavy weapon, and I'll be completely ignoring the various mechanical effects of using different weapons; if I want that kind of granularity with weapon selection, I'll go play D&D.  On the upside, at least it's not handing out damage bonuses, but it does little for those folks that feel that Heroes who choose to use Brawling or weapons other than swords are arleady getting the short end of the stick.

Next we get to Duelist Academy Techniques, something I'm familiar with since I did much the same and converted a bunch of 1e Swordsman Schools into 2e Duelist Styles.  Rob took some very different approaches than I did, which is to be expected, but there were a couple cases of where we matched up almost exactly (Durchsetzenburg being one notable example; different name for style bonus, exact same effect).

A number of these new style bonuses are reliant upon spending a Hero Point to get the full effect fo the style bonus, and some of them really read as being of such limited usage that the only reason to take them for your Hero is for flavor, with Larsen being one notable offender in that respect (lose Bash's damage reduction to prevent a foe from using a specified manuever on their next action).  Others are so potent that as long as you know your GM will be providing a steady supply of Hero Points that you'd be a fool to not take them, with Villanova being the top of that list (trade out the standard Riposte for a style bonus that does the same thing but lets you spend a Hero Point to immediately perform a second Duelist maneuver of your choice).

Several of the new style bonuses are really just reskins of previous style bonuses, just using different Traits, which comes across to me as being rather lazy than trying to come up with something interesting or unique.  For instance, MacDonald (the Highlands claymore style) is just Ambrogia using Brawn and Resolve instead of Finesse and Wits, with the added issue of requiring the Hero to be using a Heavy Weapon with one hand instead of both hands (which is the proper way to use a claymore), and Bernoulli is Sabat Gambit that trades out Weaponry for Athletics.

There are some gems, such as Soldano being pretty impressive, allowing the Hero to demolish Brute Squads even faster than a Duelist normally could, which was somethign the 1e version of the school was well-known for.  And while Lucani is a revamp of Eisenfaust's style bonus, it is thematically cool in that you're using Brawl for the damage kicker.

So in summary, this one's very much a mixed bag in terms of overall value.  The purchase price is 3 bucks, but frankly this feels like it should have been a dollar in terms of actual usefulness and originality of the material provided.  Frankly, unless you really have a mad-on for Duelists or are running an all-Duelist campaign, I'd say skip this one or wait until there's a sale and you can get it at a deeply discounted price.

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