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.
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.