This just arrived. The book is huge. Like Coriolis huge. Of course it’s gorgeous. I’ve read the PDF and I shrug a lot. But the at heart of it, if I’m being honest, I have such strong positive feelings about this thing.
If I had unlimited funds, I’d have sought out the Kult license a long time ago. And it probably would’ve been a PbtA design, like this is. Aaaand I probably would not have done it how they’ve done it, which I’ll go into at some length when I’ve had time to digest it.
I also feel like I’d really like to run a campaign of it, but not with my regulars because their appetite for this kind of horror is not up to the task.
So it’s gonna be all Legacy all the time around here. Unsub now or forever hold your peace.
Tonight is our first full session of Legacy. Pretty stoked! Jonathan Perrine and I spent some of the morning poring over the minutiae of the moves, specifically how you move back and forth between family and character moves.
I’m relieved to find that it’s actually not that hard to use both move sets! I remember this being a question in my thread last week. The short, better answer than what I said then is, looks like you can step “up” to family moves without formally and fully “zooming out.” It can be like… an interstitial kind of scene. I dig that, and I’m glad we didn’t attempt these kinds of narrative gymnastics on our first session.
One thing I’ve been chewing on a lot is finding the right balance of character-level play and family-level play. I feel like staying up at the family level is kind of too strategic — specifically, I worry that my strategy game fans will want to play at that level and forget about their characters.
Last session, we basically had a very small little “so this is what your world is like” session. They saw the three major families, we saw the gothic monster threat (vampires in this case), and discovered there are opportunities to explore lost underground facilities (where the vampires are). That could be a freestanding thing, yeah? Almost a prequel type scene. Or we can stick to what’s going on, maybe pop back up to the family level to figure out what’s going on, and then get back into the action we left last session. It’s an open question and I’m looking forward to hearing what the players want to do with it.
In any case, I really don’t want this first age to last past tonight. I feel like seeing the passage of time is the secret sauce of Legacy. So I think I’m gonna nudge them toward wrapping up whatever they’re doing so we can advance the setting a bit.
Other stuff I discovered on my reread:
* I really dig the “zoom out” move. Basically it’s a consolation prize for everyone who played a quick character: your own family/character gets to advance a bit when they’re off-screen. That’s terrific, I love it. Makes me want to experiment with the quick character rules tonight, in fact. So maybe that’s where I’ll go: let’s focus on one family and really put this game through its paces.
* Some of the move triggers are kind of hinky and not-PbtA-ish, due to the scale at which things are both triggered and resolved. My eyes keep looking for narrow fictional triggers and that isn’t how moves are written in Legacy. It’s fine, just different.
* One move set in particular I’m tripping over is how Role moves are written. They have kind of … two triggers, because they do two things. One is triggered at character creation, to get the ball rolling on character-centered action for your family. So stuff like how the Rebel role on the Scavenger playbook is about how you think your family is hoarding stuff to the detriment of someone else. Get on that, rebel!
But the other thing Roles are there for is advancement. But advancement isn’t, you know, a thing you chase hard in Legacy. Basically when you’ve seen your way through your role’s purpose — the Elder learning something that shakes their view of the world, when they’re a Rebel; the Hunter taking on a mission to hunt down a dangerous target, when they’re an Agent — then you mark it, advance, and move on to a new Role. Actually there are several ways to mark your Role and they’re scattered throughout the book. It’s an editing thing I wish were tighter, so thank goodness for PDF searches.
Oh and while I wrote this I ran into one more: marking roles is descriptive and prescriptive! If you do the Leader thing while you’re an Outsider, you mark Leader! That’s interesting. Lots of load to stay on top of.
I would say a major feature of Legacy is that there are just too damned many moves for a GM to stay on top of. It’s daunting. I wouldn’t play with players who weren’t good at closely watching their own move sets looking for triggers.
I don’t know how exactly I’ll be interacting with it but I’ve set up the Indie Game Reading Club as a page on Facebook. Feel free to sign up now so when I swing around to posting with more regularity you’ll know where to find me.
My most likely scenario is that I’ll be moving the contents of IGRC to my own website and using the FB page, as well as my MeWe and whatever else I can be bothered to set up, to announce updates and talk with readers.
Thousand Arrows is a tabletop role-playing game about the Japanese Warring States Period, powered by the Apocalypse and currently on Kickstarter. All my years working as a game designer and sensitivity reader, my master’s degree in Eastern classics, and my black belt in Bujinkan budō taijutsu culminated in this game.
I want to bring you something which highlights aspects of samurai life and history you’d never heard of, in a format which teaches you to engage with unfamiliar cultures and historical settings in a fun and gentle way. Please back the game and share it with your friends.
Man…they say life finds a way. In our post Fall world, we have SEVEN families. 5 PCs two NPCs – because the rules say I can add a couple!
The scum of the earth inherited the might of the armies before the fall.
Wonders of the Before are hoarded by military, researchers and the wealthy.
The collapse of societies help contribute to the fall.
The fall was long ago, many do not remember how it played out.
The fall was likely driven by scientific research. The Illuminati know where the origins of the fall is and they also know the Digital Echoes were a factor.
That. That all came from setup, the rules RAW. 100%.
The PC Families Five Fingers of Midas (The Gilded Company of Merchants) Housed in a mountain vault they are the most “together” of the families and EVERYONE trades with them. They are collectors, elegant and all about the open markets. Bon the Thumb of Midas (Envoy) is the family’s leader, he’s expected to bring in new recruits to grow the Family.
The Fakabat (Lawgivers o/t Wasteland) More like Extortionists of the Wasteland! Descendants of cops & robbers they govern by threats and promises and respect. Most families recognize these hired guns as the local law. Max (Survivor) is an agent and has sworn to keep Bon safe. High on the family’s worst criminals list is Vegas. She’s an exile of the Five Fingers of Midas.
The Illuminati (The Enclave of Bygone Lore). These hoarders of wonders are a loud, disorganized family of families. Ruled by the loudest and most interesting they were recently raided by Vegas who kicked their asses and stole quantum batteries from their stores. Jalel (Seeker) is an outsider and is looking for a way into a floating research facility, it is rumored to house various pre Fall wonders.
The Nokk (Pioneers o/t Depths) These nomadic aquatic cyborgs have most of their people under the sea. Ruled by a technocratic council they are the rulers of Atlantis. Thaddeus (Scavenger) is an agent of the Nokk. He works closely with Bon when he’s on land.
The Forsaken (The uplifted Children of Mankind) These designer pets were abandoned after the Fall. These predators are ruled by the strong and have serial codes as names. The lower number signify strength and order of creation. EFTP-007 is a tiger(Remnant) and outsider looking for tech to help increase the declining families numbers.
The NPC families.
Hundred Handers (The Tyrant Kings) Families of veterans that survived the fall are ruled by battle companies in council. They have fought side by side with the Nokk against the Digital Echoes. They have also lost a cache of Doomsday weapons to Vegas and her band of troublemakers. Their lands are settled and patrolled. They know if you crossed their borders.
Digital Echoes (Synthetic Hive) The Guardians of the singularity. Known by their drones and ghost holograms. They have a cold war going with the Illuminati and refer to the Forsaken as ‘cousins’. All the Families have important nodes that belong to the Digital Echoes. No one has dared to unlock these nodes. Everyone knows they could strike at any moment.
We started play at the massive destruction of a town by some large scale weapons discharge. Jalel and “Seven” were en route to the floating research facility which was directly over the destroyed town. They both want access to the facility. They see a lot of fused materials, rock, bone, wood, etc. The area is extremely heated. No sign of attackers. Seven, the only one with comms gear!, tries to reach anyone around and gets a response from a feminine, digitized voice.
“Cousin, we have lost a key to the Cloud facility. Should Vegas get all the keys she will have the weaponry stored there. Will you help us?”
Seven knows this is the Digital Echoes. When their families fought the DE called the Forsaken ‘cousin’.
Thaddeus, Bon, and Max quickly arrive to investigate. Thaddeus cobbles together a sensor and discovers a strong quantum energy signature, they figure the energy discharge came from directly above and past the floating facility.
I hard zoom out at this point. That scene is done and I want them to feel the Zoom Out move, and I broke the rules, I let them all use the move – because we’re learning.
Next game we’ll get into the families, possibly some quick characters as I suspect they will all have different agendas.
I’m pretty sure this First age is all about Vegas and those Doomsday weapons. I wanna talk about that because that shit was Sorcery!
I picked two NPC factions to add to the creation because I know my players and the RB allowed for it. The Tyrant Kings PB can lose a cache of Doomsday weapons as a Threat Option, so I took it. Then the lawgivers have a rad AF history option “which of you has raised the land’s worst criminal?” The Merchants volunteered. Then that same option says “which of you were victimized by that criminal?” BAD ASS!!!
The Illuminati took it.
And it all clicked. That worst criminal is Vegas, I immediately said. She has those Doomsday weapons. I asked the Illuminati player why them? He replied she stole the batteries from us to power those weapons.
And Vegas was born.
I think we tripped over one thing. Under the history options the wording. Some say: “Which one of you” and many say: “Which of you…”. We took the literal path and let many PCs in where it said “which of you…” instead of just one. This seemed wrong when we got to the “worst criminal” option for the Law Giver, that started as “Which of you” but there should only be one family that raised the worst criminal, not many, right?
I’ll post up our (re-drawn) map and r-map. I look forward to comparing notes with Paul Beakley and his game (maybe even a podcast?!). My folks were pretty stoked afterward and I must say this is pretty fricken great. This’ll be our winter game and I’ll be paying attention about how to present this in a one-shot for con games. I’d want the creation bits, that’s where the magic and buy-in is.
I went all in when I backed Legacy. So I got these incredible cardstock play sheets…that the players are afraid to use!!! I was worried the setup might become bonkers without some restrictions. I voiced veto power at anything that felt zany to me and it all worked out nice. I’m looking forward to running this thing!
We took a crack at starting up Legacy last night. We’re using the second edition rules. It’s gonna be a lot harder to decode this thing than I thought!
We went with two Ruins (standard gritty-apocalypse flavor) and one Echoes (advanced tech/sci-fi) families. The way setup works, the family books you pick set the tone(s) you’ll play in the game. So if you went all gritty then there would be only gritty playbooks, or all Echoes it’d be all sci-fi. The third tone is called Mirrors, which is gonzo shit like crashed starfarers and kaiju hunters. As I read it, you can play with any or all of the tones at once. Our game just has Ruins and Echoes. The tones chosen at family creation constrains the playbooks you pick at character creation. This is fucking awesome.
Camelot (Tyrant Kings Queens) are the de facto political power of the homeland, with scattered villages swearing fealty to the Queen at the center. The Seneschal, the Queen’s advisor, is an Elder (Agent) who goes out into their lands to get shit done. They have a surplus of weapons and land, and they need spies (not enough communication with their own villages), transportation (they have a few horses), and recruits (there are literally less than 10 “knights” prepared to defend a really big area). It’s all ren-faire chivalry dress-up, super weird and fun and primitive, so primitive.
Dawnbreak (Lawgivers) live embedded amongst Camelot’s scattered villages. They’re descended from the last of the US military’s old divisions, with families and identities drawn from that. Old-school defend-the-weak-from-mosters folks in an uneasy alliance with the Camelot folks. Eltee Naomi Delta is a Hunter (Agent) who represents the basic monster-hunting mode of Dawnbreak. They’ve got working trucks and individually can defend themselves well, but need weapons (everything’s patched together), leadership (there are no leaders, just individual badasses) and recruits (there’s like 8 of them left).
Enoch (Enclave) is the sci-fi twist, a tiny, shrinking colony of clones hoping to pull the world up and out of the darkness. There are five clone strains, decanted to always maintain three generations in each of five academic fields. So there’s always an Elder, Ascendant and Child Medic, Historian, Engineer, etc. So that’s a total 15 people in that “family.” Engineer Afriel Child is a Scavenger (Rebel) who thinks the Enochians are hoarding their knowledge to the detriment of the homeland, and has headed out to help Camelot’s population with basic stuff like hygiene and plumbing. Enoch has a surplus of engineering and progress (ie impractical nerd shit) and needs defense, leadership and morale (ie they can’t protect themselves and are one bad raid away from disappearing or collapsing in despair).
So, pretty great setup! Oh and did I mention that the world ended when genetically engineered super-soldiers, which had all developed into approximate models of ancient gothic monsters (vampires, werewolves, zombies, etc.) had brought the world down? The whole setting is crawling with these things, Grim Dawn or The Witcher style, along with a dose of killer robots and the occasional dragon. Because their ancestors seemed to think they could domesticate and weaponize dragons.
The other bit of setup, and I think it’s one of Legacy’s many killer apps, is the A Quiet Year style shared-map creation game. Each family book comes with three sets of three Landmarks. Players take turns adding landmarks to an actual drawn map and tying it into the growing fiction. You also add other implied setting stuff, like where your Family is based (your Lifestyle choice on the Family playbook, so like the secret underground lab the Enochians live in) or villages (implied by the Tyrant King book) and so on. We ended up with plenty of very cool interlocking map bits and lots of implied threats, both internal and external.
Actually playing the game was rough sledding. We didn’t have a lot of time, about 90ish minutes, but I wanted to carry out their first session advice, which is to have all the focus characters working together to help each other out. I assumed that meant character play, not family play. Okay, no problem: Enoch’s rebel grrrl, Afriel, is at the outskirts of Camelot with another young clone patching up the sick and injured, Camelot’s agent, the Seneschal, is in the same village dragging unwilling soldiers into The Queen’s ranks, and Dawnbreak’s agent Eltee is following a lead about mysterious monsters that have been predating the village.
It took us a little bit to find our character footing and figure out how to start making rolls. Legacy leans far less on rolls driving the action the way Apocalypse World does, so we started with a lot of talky-talky play where they’re just doing things. But they want to get shit done and they want to roll dice and make moves and they want firm outcomes rather than just, you know, talking about shit. Happily a Friendly Face roll (Afriel goes looking for an old friend in the village) finally coughed up a 7-9, so I had the old friend turn out to be in the throes of turning into a vampire, with the rest of the family either dead or, in the case of their 12 year old daughter, already turned. Some action, some defending, we got to make some rolls and finally felt out what character moves, at least, feel like.
The Character Move list feels short, and covers very few things. Like, the game likes it when there are “devices.” That’s cool but there’s also a thing where if you Fiercely Assault one of your successful-roll outcomes is “you scavenge something valuable, gain a device.” So the GM should expect that, if folks want to play with the Unleash Power move and use a device, they may very well go to Fiercely Assault to make that happen. Or Wasteland Survival, which can also cough up devices. The game’s various reward cycles are still obscure to me but we’ll learn them.
My big takeaway is that the fact that Legacy looks like PbtA makes me go looking for all the conventional affordances I find in many other PbtAs. But Legacy is a funhouse version of that model, with moves that aren’t organized where I expect to find them (as Christian Griffen pointed out in another thread, the “please tell me things” move is in the family moves sheet, with a different tell-me-things move listed as “peripheral” for reasons I cannot fathom), broken up across two different modes of play, and not really strongly colored with genre flavor. Sometimes they’re skills-y, sometimes they’re fiction-trigger-y, sometimes they’re the first move in an economic cycle you need to fire off (gain a device, earn a Surplus, etc.). That last bit, firing reward cycles, feels like most gameplay-important to me.
Moves in Legacy feel big. As in, they have really broad triggers and really broad outcomes. Mostly it’s self-evident: getting out of trouble is Defuse and starting trouble is Fiercely Assault and talking to folks is Find Common Ground. So I guess it’s more accurate to say the game does bring genre flavor but it’s not the adventure-in-the-wasteland genre so much as the community-organizers-in-the-wasteland genre. Which isn’t a genre we really understand or can fall back on outside experience to model. But the moves all aim at that vibe, and that’s neat: you Find Common Ground and Defuse and Call for Aid. If Apocalypse World is a meditation on the application and consequences of violence, Legacy treats violence as one of many tools in the toolbox of building and defending your community.
Unfortunately we did not get a chance to get through any of the Family moves. Another killer app of Legacy if you don’t know: there are two moves sheets and two modes of play, and when you’re in one of them (Character or Family) you have access only to your character’s moves and the Character Moves sheet. And that feels weird as fuck, to be honest, as my brain goes scrabbling around for Apocalypse World affordances. If I want to roll a “please tell me something” move, that’s at the Family level, as a council of your faction’s leaders hash out what they know at a very 40,000-feet abstract level. If you want families to work together toward some cause, well, that’s Conduct Diplomacy and that’s not something an individual character does. I suppose you could set up that roll in the fiction via the character-level Find Common Ground move, but the scales are intentionally separate.
If I had a specific bit where I feel most unsure, it’s how and when to move from character play to family play. But maybe more than that, it’s how much of either I should expect to engage in. Is Legacy 50/50? Is it mostly families and the little character vignettes? Or is it mostly characters, with family moves basically serving as downtime type activities you’d find in Blades in the Dark or Mutant: Year Zero? The book doesn’t really address that and I assume it’s up to the players to feel that out for themselves.
One neat trick the game has is that there are moves called Zoom In and Zoom Out, which procedurally transitions folks from one focus to the other. That’s neat. There’s also a catchall move that stirs the pot called In Want. I kind of wish we’d started play with one of those rolls.
Because Legacy is such an odd duck compared to games more firmly in the Apocalypse World family, there are things in the book I felt were missing or under-explained, particularly for people coming from the parallel reality of PbtA. I think they’ll mostly work themselves out, but learning how to play this game is gonna take unlearning how we’ve played other games that look similar but are by no means comparable.
Your first Age is supposed to be short, so I’m thinking we’ll just make some Family moves and then move the clock ahead to the next Age. I feel like a lot of the game will reveal itself when we do those two things, and then we can start thinking more about how to get the moves and the play levels to start interacting. I’m reminded a lot of the earliest games of Sagas of the Icelanders I played, where I had no idea what to do with the game’s Fate economy or how to really leverage the man/woman moves split. Honestly Legacy feels a whole lot like that, with Resources instead of Fate and character/family moves being the place to look for fruitful tension.
It’s been too long since I wrote a post because my head is full of fragments instead of cohesive thoughts. Roll 1d10 and consult the table below for a synopsis of today’s hot take from the Indie Game Reading Club:
1. In my next space adventure game I’m naming the ships after Pokémons. This is free trader Snorlax, calling anyone…mayday, mayday.
2. I’m pretty sure I could run World Wide Wrestling with mechs as the playbooks.
3. Because every cyberpunk RPG out there sucks in the same way, I’m taking a page from Johnstone Metzger and done one up where you only have two stats: Cyber and Punk. Literally everything you do leans on one or the other of those, 3:16 style. Hope you enjoyed my 200 word RPG entry.
4. I take way more creative and emotional chances running and playing at cons with once-a-year friends and randos than I ever do at home. There must be a way to recapture that.
5. Canon nerds are the literal worst but they are legion in gaming. I was brainstorming with Bret Gillan about how you could actually leverage player mastery over canon, rather than living in fear or despair of it. I feel like it needs to operate different than the Dungeon World Spout Lore or Burning Wheel Wises stuff, where players make up “facts” whole cloth and then roll to test its truthiness. I’m talking about, like, Glorantha or Star Wars supernerds who want to bring that shit in and/or show off their big brains.
6. Probably half of the roleplaying Kickstarters I get I have no interest in by the time they arrive. Currently that’s Kult, which just shipped to me (it should arrive next week).
7. How is there not a licensed Dinotopia RPG? (Yes I know I’m not the first one to ask this, and yes I Googled and found someone poking at it this year as a homebrew. Still.)
8. Homebrew followup: dirty word in storygaming, tolerated in conventional play, celebrated in the OSR. This is one place where the OSR is doing so much better than indie. There’s a weird fixation on professionalism and playtesting and Kickstarting in the storygame space. I think I can track it (EDIT: the fixation to professionalize) back to The Forge. It’s not the worst thing but I do think it’s gotten in the way of more freewheeling design efforts.
9. Tonight we start Legacy, second edition. Gosh what a gorgeous production it is. One thing that jumps out at me is that, between the world books (with more coming out via the current Kickstarter) and the SRD, it’s feeling more like an adjunct parallel branch of PbtA. It’s kind of the Pathfinder of PbtAs in a way, right? The move set feels fundamentally different than the Apocalypse World move set, prep feels related but not really the same (fronts but no clocks!), and the big/small picture split is a fundamentally different approach to how Blades and Scum do it with their downtime phase. I have no idea if it’s fun or not!
10. Roll twice and combine hot takes.
EDIT: Click on the image because now they’re trimming the max height of images. This fallen world.