Living Steel was the science fiction showcase for the Phoenix Command Combat System. PCCS originally developed as a dedicated set of combat rules to be used alone, or grafted onto the gamemaster’s RPG system of choice.
PCCS was designed to bring a greater level of realism to small arms game combat, eschewing hit points for damage charts intended to replicate in game terms the various wounds a human target would receive. Phoenix Command is remembered for its “crunchy” rules more than anything else. Fans will point out that, while the system has a definite learning curve, game play is smooth thereafter. I admire games that play like reality; I aim for that verisimilitude in our house campaign.
Phoenix Command grew quickly beyond its tight focus on small arms to encompass all the various facets of small unit combat. Living Steel was just one incarnation. Leading Edge Games applied these rules to their adaptations of familiar licensed properties such as Aliens and Bram Stoker’s Dracula.
The production of these licensed games put considerable strain on LEG, as will be seen in the LEGionnaire newsletters at the end of this post. Those 3 LEGionnaires are quite interesting through an RPG history lens. They were quite open about how things worked behind the scenes at LEG.
Leading Edge Games was helmed by Barry Nakazono. (Apparently he really is a rocket scientist, unless there’s another “Barry Nakazono” out there.) At some point, it became a duo, and then a team of people at LEG. David McKenzie had an ever-growing role as Writing and Design, and making Nakazono’s vision work in game, according to the first newsletter. More later.
The company stopped releasing products by 1994.
The game universe of Living Steel is dominated by an oppressive Starguild Imperium staggered by alien invasion. Into the breach steps the characters, fighting the alien occupiers with battlesuits (“Living Steel”) and other high tech gear on the post apocalypse world of Rhand.
Living Steel [BOX SET]
1987 … Barry Nakazono & David McKenzie … LEG 10300
Contains 3 booklets, character sheets, and poster map.
The Box Set (1987) discussed here was replaced by a hardcover volume a year later. The book has some extra material in it, but lacks the poster map of course. Visit my RPG Reference page for LS for more.
The Worldbook, curiously enough, is only called by that name on the back of the box. It’s spiral-bound, 102 pages. Taking photos, I remembered how much I like metal spiral binding for roleplaying games. Lays nice and flat on the table. Graphical presentation, as with all LEG products, is excellent.
The interior B&W art is fantastic. Just from the illustrations, one gets a sense of the game universe of Living Steel. I saw pieces by Toni Dennis and Steve Huston. See the Credits pic above for the full list.
Data Tables and Weapon Supplement
Data Tables booklet is just as it sounds. The High Tech Weapon Data Supplement is more than the title, with discussions of Seven Swords and Spectral equipment, Power Armor rules, etc.
Various views of the ruined world of Rhand.
The box set map, with the folded map from the later (separate) Rhand: 2349 accessory book. Impressive how much LEG improved their products in just 4 years!
LEGionnaire newsletter 1 (Summer 1989) gets right into their announcement of the Aliens license, which “put a big bump” in their production schedule. Task Force Games would handle LEG distribution. Plus a highly detailed essay on who does what at the company.
I’ve sold a couple dozen of these sets over the years; never seen one with the newsletters.
LEGionnaire newsletter 2 (Winter [“early”] 1990)
The second news update was written in March ’90. Still photocopied, stapled sheets, folded into thirds for mailing. #2 goes immediately into their “difficult production schedules” and “frenzy of all-night sessions, churning out writing, artwork, and layout at a ridiculous pace”. Phoenix Command and Living Steel production are taking a hit from work on the Aliens boardgame, Expansion, and RPG book.
LEGionnaire newsletter 3 (August 1990)
Number Three is a LEG with the Aliens behemoth behind them. “…we were not kidding when we said that producing ALIENS was brutal, and we are indeed getting back on schedule.” A LEGionnaire 4 is promised for October. They also talk about their convention appearances.
Character Sheet and Order Form
Bonus photo: Living Steel miniatures
These metal miniatures are NOT part of the boxed set. I don’t have this pic posted anywhere else, so here you go. LEG had several sets of minis available for Living Steel. These are the Seven Swords power suits.
I’ve seen gamers using Phoenix Command rules with the Twilight 2000 Poland setting: TWILIGHT: 2000 (1st Edition RPG Box Set) – Photo Gallery. Living Steel has probably a bit more crunch than T2000, but only a bit.