What is Silent Legions?
Silent Legions is yet another Tabletop RPG by Sine Nomine. It’s a Horror RPG with a style loosely based on the works of H.P. Lovecraft. After saying that, there’s no specific comment of H.P Lovecraft’s Mythos, it’s more portrayed in that style. It’s generally set in a modern period, but could be adapted to other periods if needs be.
As usual with Sine Nomine, it’s a Sandbox style RPG. It’s also mechanically compatible with Other Dust, a Post Apocalyptic RPG, Stars Without Number, a Scifi RPG and presumably Spears of the dawn, although I don’t have that RPG so I can’t specifically comment on that.
Having actually thoroughly read the rules, prepped for a session and actually run Silent Legions, I feel I’m in a place now where I can review it.
As this is OSR and generally OSR is class and level based, like the other Sine Nomine RPGs, it has both.
There’s 4 basic class and they give a nice wide spread of flavor, abilities and in general they’re very flexible. Each class has a set of special abilities they can use based on “Expertise points” which you get 2 of to start with and the number of Expertise points you get increases as you level up.
- Investigator: They could be a P.I. , Detective, whatever really. They excel in investigations and their special abilities generally aid in investigations, giving more clues and insights. They have average Hit Dice.
- Scholar: Scientists, Librarians, Occultists and so on. They are better at magic, knowledge, researching, but have the lowest hit dice. Their special abilities are about enhanced research and general knowledge enhancement.
- Socialite: Politicians, general professions or characters that are more social and like to deal with things via charisma than being a “know it all” or using violence as a solution. Their Special abilities focus on being able to influence people better than other classes. They have average hit dice.
- Tough: Security guards, Soldiers, bouncers, Street cops, whatever. They’re best at combat and surviving combat. Their special abilities are mostly about helping surviving combat.
In general, you could be for example, a Cop and be any of the above classes, depending on what sort of characters you want. So you shouldn’t necessarily associate class with profession, especially as at character generation, you choose a background, which gives skills and they’re not classes related.
Silent Legions, even though it’s mechanically compatible with other Sine Nomine RPGs, it FEELS very different. Like Call of Cthulhu the RPG setting it’s loosely based on, you REALLY don’t want to get into combat as it’s really deadly, so you don’t want to run it like you might run a Scifi or Fantasy RPG. This is due to several reasons:
- Characters just don’t get a lot of hit points, so getting hurt, even punched etc really hurts.
- Weapons have slaughter dice, which means, in addition to rolling for damage, most weapons roll an additional dice and if you roll 6 or greater, you do TRIPLE damage.. which is often fatal.
- Many of the supernatural creatures are immune to slaughter dice due to special abilities etc.
After saying that, I’ve found it feels more like real life where you really ought to seek solutions to problems that don’t involve violence and the players seemed to enjoy it that way anyway, generally seeking to avoid violence, at least in the gaming session I ran.
The combat itself is pretty standard OSR fare. You have a descending Armor class (the lower the better). You roll a D20 and add you Attack bonus (varies by class), weapon skill and stat bonus, add the Armor class of your target and you have to get 20 or greater. It’s very quick, works well and allows the GM and players to add their own tactics and ideas in combat to modify the dice rolls.
Like other Sine Nomine RPGs, the skill system is based around 2D6 and adding a skill rank + stat bonus as appropriate with a target number. It’s very simple, works very well and the skills are very broadly described. I really like this as I can extrapolate skill usage and not get bogged down reading skill descriptions and complicated skill resolution rules. If a character doesn’t have an appropriate skill, you can still use a pure stat bonus if the GM deems it appropriate. I do tend to NOT require skill checks unless there’s a compelling reason to do so, meaning if a character has a skill in something they’re trying, unless there’s a time constraint, an opposed test required or some other reason for a requiring a roll, such as it’s a difficult task, then it’s usually enough to describe usage of the skill well and Roleplay the usage. It keep the game flowing nice and fast and feels more comfortable.
Monsters most foul
There’s lots of guidelines for generic monster templates, abilities etc for creating your own monsters, which is very nice. There’s also several pages with specific creatures, NPCs and so on. In all about 20+ creatures, NPC templates and stuff like that. But really with an OSR game like this, the tools provide a very nice monster generation system for your own needs.
Magic: Grey and Black
There’s essentially 2 types of magic, Grey magic, which is very useful, but potentially corrupting, as it increases Madness when used and will eventually drive you insane and Black magic, which is the most evil and foul and will very quickly corrupt your mind and soul.
Grey Magic in Silent Legions is, as you’d expect quite different than standard Fantasy magic. It’s all ritualised and takes a minimum of 10 minutes to perform and requires various magical accouterments (candles, ritual knives, whatever). There’s a lot of Kabbalistic magic and content associated with the magic and game background in general. There’s also references to Hermetic magic, such as Golden Dawn, O.T.O. (Google that if you’re interested) and so on. However there’s no actual instructions about how to practice actual ritual magic (assuming you believe in that sort of thing), it’s all implied.
There’s 5 “Levels” of magic and the maximum limit you can learn is based on your “Occult” skill. low level magic is not very powerful, but quite useful at times. There’s about 10 spells per level available. You can do things like detect “Kelipot” sort of extra-dimensional places, or alternative realities and so on. Think “Dreamlands” and other extra-planar places like in Call of Cthulhu. There other things like healing (with some consequences) and other things. Higher level magic is more powerful, but has heavier consequences as well.
Black magic isn’t formalised into spells or levels. There’s various tables to generate effects, consequences, general flavor and so on. This magic isn’t available for characters and is meant for villains. If a character tried to use it, they’d go mad very quickly.
These are Special abilities, such as Telepathy, Telekinesis, Body Disciplines and so on. They can be used instantly and generally use Expertise points to use. They can also cost madness to use. I’ve not used them in my campaign yet, but I expect it’ll come up at some stage.
You start out with zero madness points and once you hit 100 madness, you’re irrevocably insane and become an NPC at the mercy of your GM….
It’s somewhat like Call of Cthulhu, but you don’t get a Sanity check, you just get Madness for various reasons such as:
- Seeing a brutal disfiguration, wounds, getting heavily wounded for the first time.
- Seeing supernatural creatures and supernatural things in general, although you can never take more madness than they can potentially deal out. This simulates getting used to the supernatural.
- Using magic and Disciplines.
You reduce Madness by 10 each time you level up, which is nice. It simulates growing confidence in your character as they advance.
You can also reduce Madness by taking weird character flaws, such as a funny ticks, ritualised behaviour and so on. I can see lots of fun RP opportunities using this.
There’s also an optional rule where you can gain insights/abilities every 20 Madness, but they have side effects and some of them are very nasty.
What about actual Gameplay?
I’ve run one introductory adventure based in my local area and I drew on Local folklore to flesh it all out, which in itself was fun to research. It seemed to go well and I felt the players got pretty invested and immersed in the game. They said they enjoyed it and expressed keenness to play again.
Gameplay is fast and smooth, much like other Sine Nomine games. It’s really easy to pick up and run and I noticed the players, having already been playing in my Stars Without Number/Other dust campaign picked up the gameplay quite quickly.
As I expected, combat was deadly. I had a player drop in briefly whilst he was around and he ran an NPC security guard who got involved in an altercation with a possessed woman due to a nasty Slaughter dice roll. His character died horribly, getting his head clawed open and head ripped off.. Avoid combat if you can..
I didn’t follow a Cthulhu style Mythos set up for my campaign, rather focusing on local folklore and injecting my imagination in it. which works perfectly fine for this RPG.
All in all I really loved prepping for this game due to the huge amounts of supporting material, such as tables, advice for Sandbox gaming. running the game was a pleasure and I found I really had lots of time to focus on RP, than having to reference rules.
If you like Investigative, Horror, Sandbox where combat is not the focus, then you will love this.