I meant to write about this sooner: the relative heaviness of Legacy.
The game has a lot going on: two layers of play (zoomed in to characters and zoomed out to families) with some fuzziness as to when you’ve fully focused on one or the other. Everyone has two playbooks (character and family). Eventually — I’m hoping my players will start thinking about this tonight — they’ll take on Wonders, mega-projects you can do to radically reshape your setting.
The move sets are broken up into “basic” and “peripheral” moves, both on the family and character sheets, but honestly after a couple sessions the division seems arbitrary. There’s also some overlap between moves. Example: are you defusing a tense situation or forging a path across precarious or dangerous terrain? That was our big one last time, as the characters tried to make their way out of a treacherous vampire-infested highrise in the ruins.
The typical basic move load of a PbtA game is 8 or 9 moves. I haven’t done a comprehensive audit, but looking at stuff I’m most familiar with:
Epyllion has 9, and they’re super simple. Probably the tightest move set I can think of.
Apocalypse World 2E has 8, with a couple one-off or moves-that-trigger-moves type things. And then all the minigames: road war, battle, etc. I gotta say, I don’t super-love the dramatic uptick in rules in 2E but I very much appreciate that those move sets are minigames that get invoked at specific times (rather than being moves to watch for at all times).
NIght Witches has 6 day moves and 6 night moves, which never overlap. There’s also a couple brief/debrief trigger things that I don’t really think of as “moves.”
Cartel has 9 moves, plus the stress subsystem and the whole heat thing, which is a separate minigame.
Monsterhearst 2E has 7ish — I don’t personally think of XP rules, healing, conditions etc as “moves” so much as “rules.” They’re not things you put your hands on, as a player, to achieve your goals.
Sagas of the Icelanders really just has 2 moves that are common to women and men (tempt fate and look into someone’s heart) plus various necessary procedures (harm, scars, campaign play stuff), but really the meat is in the Man and Woman lists, each of which have 4 moves. So probably the “simplest” but also asymmetrical.
Urban Shadows, which I had previously considered the “heaviest” PbtA on my list, has 8 basic moves, 4 faction moves, and both the Debt and Corruption subsystems.
Okay. With me so far?
Setting aside what I think are arbitrary divisions between “basic” and “peripheral,” Legacy has 8 Family moves we regularly use, and 9 Character moves we’ve regularly used. Those aren’t the full counts; I’m leaving out procedural kinda-not-move moves like what happens when your Mood goes high or low, how to heal, all that stuff.
Given what feels like good play (so far), being able to move between both modes of play and even occasionally blending those modes, means keeping 17 options in your head at all times! And that does not include playbook, role, and family options — happily just one of each for everyone so far. And it doesn’t include any of the GM-facing stuff (zooming in and out, tooling up, the in want let’s-stir-the-pot move, the turning of the Age).
Mostly the game feels playable, at least from where I’m sitting as facilitator. I do find myself spending a lot of time guiding and suggesting moves for players to make to Get Things Done: think about lending aid! Don’t forget those Treaties you have! Do you want to call for aid? Don’t forget to spend your debt and tech! And so on.
Probably the one big shift I’ve needed to make is to simply stop looking for descriptive move triggers during play. Like, there’s just no way for me to keep all four Role moves for all three characters in my head at all times: the players absolutely must track whether they’re triggering those moves (and therefore advancing). I still heavily rely on players declaring moves they’re making rather than observing the fiction for moves being made. That’s not a mode of PbtA play I like — I think the prescriptive/descriptive move technology of conventional PbtA games is a family-wide killer app — but given the extraordinary interplay of mechanisms here, it’s just necessary.
On the players’ side, jeez, I have no idea how empowered, or not, they’re feeling about all these options. It feels like a lot to stay on top of.
It’s funny: I did not eyeball Legacy as “complex” when I first read it, nor do I even right now, knowing better! I look at a list and thinking, well 6 moves seems pretty simple! Except for these other four moves. And the other play mode and its moves.
I’m kind of reminded of Masks as well, looking over all these moves. The Masks basic moveset is just 8. But! There’s also the entire block of stuff having to do with team mechanics and manipulating Influence (strings-y type things). It makes me wonder if making, like, all the rules “moves” is actually the best way to go. I mean I don’t know! I’m working on some elaborate games on my end as well, and I deeply fear the ever-growing rat’s nest of interconnected procedures that seems to spawn in every direction.