Although I've been in the RPG hobby since the early 80's I was never keen on D&D itself, so that the whole OSR thing largely passed me by. However, I do enjoy RPGPundit's blog and YouTube videos, and appreciate his barbed mockery of the SJW entryism current in the RPG hobby. So I decided to buy Lion and Dragon as a gesture of support.
Of all the Pundit's games L&D appealed to me the most because of his pitch of it being “medieval authentic” with a magic system based on actual occult tomes. I flatter myself that I know a lot about medieval England and Europe, and I dabbled in occultism as a youth. So either L&D would be right up my alley, or I'd have the knowledge to identify over eager self-promotion on the Pundit's part.
Physically the hardback book I received is a quality product. The design of the book makes a virtue of the publisher's relative lack of funds compared to larger RPG publishers. Rather than trying to compete with a slick, highly produced design style, they've made use of a lot of suitable public domain art, old etchings, woodcuts, illustrations from old editions of occult books, as well as some commissioned pieces which are in a similar style. There's quite a lot of art, and it all looks good, and the simplicity of the layout and design recalls a Victorian or Edwardian design aesthetic, which while anachronistic for the C15th, does fit the game's attempt to be authentic to a real world past.
The mechanics of the game are obviously derived from old D&D, but tweaked to give a game which is set more in the real medieval world rather than the modern-day-in-medieval-fancy-dress which has always been the assumed default in D&D. One of the things I always disliked in D&D's class-and-level system was how characters quickly become superhuman, their inflated hit points allowing them to shrug off an axe full in the face from a great big orc. L&D starts characters at level 0, advancement restricts HP inflation, and there's a nice table to roll on for permanent physical wounds. It's not as tidy a nod to realism as d100/Runequest, but in terms of a D&D based game it's great stuff.
Although the game makes explicit the social order of the medieval world, including gender roles, I was slightly disappointed that the setting wasn't actual medieval England but a fantasy simulacrum Dark Albion, the subject of a previous Pundit book. However, transferring the content to the real medieval world would be easy for any GM with the right background knowledge. This is made easy because Albion is very close to a real medieval nation, which comes through especially in the magic system which is the real gem of the book. Clerics work miracles, all of which are strongly of the sort associated with actual saints and their relics in the middle-ages, and Clerics are assumed to be agents of a monotheistic faith which the book calls The Unconquered Sun but can easily be run as the Catholic church. It occurs to me that an L&D game with the players as Clerics during the protestant reformation would make an interesting campaign.
Wizards no longer blast Magic Missiles around with abandon. The L&D magic system is based on ritual, and is drawn heavily from magical beliefs of the time, when alchemy was science and what we term “supernatural” was seen as just one aspect of an all-encompassing natural philosophy. This is the Magic User as Faust, or even Roger Bacon, rather than Gandalf. The magic section is both extensive and fascinating, and clearly well researched – I only discovered after ordering the book that Pundit classes himself as a practicing occultist and it shows. Although my copy of Abramelin is long since gone, it is obvious from the magic system in L&D the Pundit knows his stuff.
I suppose the best compliment I can pay this game is that I actually want to run it, despite my historically lukewarm attitude to D&D. The powering down of characters, real world societal assumptions, and especially the excellent magic section, make L&D the D&D the teenage me really wanted – if only Pundit had worked for TSR circa 1983 my RPG life might have been very different!