Ozaka’s Guide to Legions: Review

Ozaka’s Guide to Legions is the tenth of Chamomile’s guides to everything. I have high hopes for this one for a lot of reasons. Chief among them, I played the titular Ozaka in a campaign. Secondly, and probably more importantly, its focus is around things I’m obviously interested in, “Big” races, skirmish battles, cohorts and minions. IMO the perfect end to a campaign is one where my PC is commanding hordes of forces and hasn’t actually gone into a dungeon in months. Ozaka’s is all about playing a war campaign, and I’m here for it. I’m working off a hard copy for the review with screenshots cropped from the pdf (with permission). You can pick one up at Drivethrough or itch, in physical or digital versions.

Ozaka’s opens with the race’s options, like normal for these books. Unlike normal, these are all races I’d personally consider playing. We start with gnolls, a longtime favorite of mine, and I’m down with them. We drop the fiendish stuff, that I was never a fan of and focus on the lazy berserker stereotype I prefer (it comes back in some of the lore later, but never as much as it is in 5e). Ogres are frankly a little disappointing, but do get to be large sized, and get some damage boosts because of it. Trolls are a tough one. I did a Chamomile Style Giants write up a bit ago. Trolls took the most time and effort, and I’m the least satisfied with them. These trolls have what you want, regeneration, mutations, a pokemon style vulnerability set up, and all that. My challenge was regeneration, and Chamomile’s is probably a lot simpler than mine. His consumption power is pretty fun too. The last entry, Giants, is IMO the big winner. Chamomiles is a lot simpler than mine, and mine is basically letting you play something with a stupid high strength. I think both will appeal to different folks, but I am very happy to have some huge size playable PC options. “I want to be big” just isn’t satisfied by powerful build IMO. I also imagine you’re going to see lots of DMs say No here.

In a martial focused book, the topic of armor comes up a lot. Chamomile spends almost a whole page outlining the problem, but it boils down to there being 3-4 good armor and a dozen or so in the game. The solution presented is pretty solid, and I’ve dabbled in it a few times (in fact K20 uses a similar version). It is nice to see in a published book though. Essentially, each armor type gains vulnerability and resistance to a type of mundane damage. Suddenly Scale and Half-Plate are legitimate options, and your martial player might want more than just a longsword. Afterall, he has to bypass slashing resistance, and might want to take advantage of bludgeoning vulnerability. This chapter also contains some additional weapons, to flesh out the weapon options so folks aren’t lacking for choices in the new armor resistance system.

I would wager the next section is the most common house rule in D&D. Injuries and long-term healing. The problem is simply, that being dropped to 0 HP, you are unconscious and supposedly really really wounded. Until someone comes and spends an action and you’re back at full fighting force. Most rules of this nature usually focus on martials and end up with swordsmen cutting their own arms off or fumbling more often the better at their skills they are. Ozaka’s is different. Instead it builds off the exhaustion rules in 5e. Instead of bleeding out, folks suffer levels of exhaustion. As those levels increase, you will make checks to determine wounds, which may have secondary effects. I think it’s pretty elegant, and the exhaustion mechanics are certainly underused in 5e.

The DMing section for running a war is a lot longer than the player section, since this sort of thing is really a lot of lifting for a DM and not players. This starts with a “why” for the various goblin types, starting with gnolls. They get a twist on the modern half-fiends gnoll take, and a rationalization for the constant aggression, but also a logical excuse for a PC gnoll, which is nice. Goblinoids get a really solid lore for the various types, building out why they might be in caves, and why they might or not be threats in a given situation. Orcs probably get the biggest change to their lore, and it’s sure to generate opinions. Orcs now spring fresh from the aftermath of a battle. So, orcs go to war because it is the only way to get new orcs. It’s certainly a motivation and gives a great reason for the stereotypical orc armies we see in a lot of D&D settings, but it’s also a big departure from most settings I’ve seen. Ogres also get a mention, and it’s nice to see, but pretty straight forward. The big change to me is the interaction between ogres and ogre mages, which identifies the latter as part of ogre society and how a society like that might work.

A book about building and commanding armies isn’t complete without talking about troop types. Tactical Doctrine is a chapter all about what makes up a fantasy army. As always, there is some really insightful details about the costs to outfit a 7th level wizard with battlefield spells compared to the full plate armor for a knight and how that breaks down to unit composition and roles within the army. This detail is carried through the various make ups from units into patrols, companies, cohorts, and legions deliberately walking you through the process to build your own armies.

Wrapping up the book, is the actual guide to mass combat. Its mostly advice around DMing a mass combat campaign, and relies heavily on you having someone else’s mass combat rules (probably MCDM). That’s a reasonable approach, considering the odds that someone who buys this book doesn’t also own it, but as someone who was very disappointed in the MCDM series, I’m still searching for my better option (I wrote a mod/fix for MCDM stuff, but haven’t had a chance to dive deep into any playtesting yet. I’ll probably post whenever I do). The DMing advice in this last chapter though, is highly practical and well reasoned.

Ozaka’s is a solid guide, and I recommend it for anyone curious about fantasy armies, or a DM looking to plan a military style campaign. The squad composition advice alone is worth it, especially for DMs who struggle with coming up with groups of enemies or building the “not in a dungeon” parts of D&D.

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