Legacy: Scarcity vs Adaptation

As I’ve been promoting Legacy 2nd Edition basically everywhere it’s made me really think about what sets it apart from Apocalypse World. It’d be easy to say it’s the family mechanics – that’s certainly the big showcase mechanic. But for me it goes deeper.

Essentially, it’s about the philosophy of the game. Most post-apoc fiction is about scarcity: of food, meds, shelter, whatever. Legacy certainly has some of that – Surpluses and Needs define families. But it’s far more about evolution and adaptation.

See, it’s not like the world ended. It just changed. In ecological terms, the old ways have low fitness for this new environment, but there are new niches out there, ready for whoever adapts to exploit them. Or you can spend effort building a niche for yourself.

This means that families gradually become as weird as the world you’ve created – culturally, technologically or biologically. And who’s to say the monsters of the wasteland remain monstrous? A few generations down the line, ghouls might be your best friends.

So,  Legacy’s wasteland isn’t dusty and entropic. It’s a verdant, vibrant and chaotic, bursting with bright and deadly colours. But it’s a place life can thrive – the question is whether that includes humanity, or if you’ll move beyond humanity to survive.

Anyway, that’s my thoughts for the day. Check out the kickstarter at https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1549920133/legacy-life-among-the-ruins-2nd-edition to learn more!

Want to be a part of the Legacy 2 kickstarter?

With the Kickstarter for Legacy 2e coming soon I’ve been thinking about stretch goals. I want the core game to be mostly done by the time I launch the Kickstarter, so I don’t want stretch goals to add bells and whistles to the book.

Instead, I’m opening it up to others. The main reason I got interested in doing more with Legacy is that Douglas Santana brought me a great new idea with Mirrors in the Ruins – I’m very excited to see what other people might do with the framework!

Here’s my breakdown of what Legacy offers, and where you might be interested in taking it:

What’re the core themes of Legacy?

  • Scale. Each player controls a broader family as well as characters. Action happens on a family scale of hundreds of people and months of work as well as a character scale of individuals taking action over minutes or hours.
  • Ages. You spend limited time at a particular point in history, using your character as a lens to highlight a particular aspect of your family. Between these ages, there are moves to guide how your family evolves or suffers and how the world changes.
  • The world. The players build up a map of the world that informs how dangerous travel can be, what threats and resources are out there, and how the different families and factions interact with each other.
  • History. As you play you make permanent changes to the world and see the unexpected results of previous actions. You can draw on the power of previous characters, create giant mega-projects that redefine the world, and build the world’s saga together.

What are the assumptions of Legacy that you might want to break?

  • Post-apocalyptic: Legacy takes place after a reality-twisting apocalypse, with survivors finding a way to adapt to the new world. Maybe you want to set a hack in a world that hasn’t crashed – a near-future cyberpunk world? Or maybe you want to tell the story of colonists on an alien world, still removed from their support but not due to a cataclysm.
  • A golden age: The World Before had all sorts of strange technology. As you play you’ll find marvels among the ruins you can draw great power from. In your hack, maybe the marvels are created by the characters – the dawn of civilisation, with players inventing farming, medicine and magic?
  • Multi-generation play: Legacy assumes significant time passes between ages – there a few generations or more. In a different context, though, significant time could only be a few months or years. Maybe you’d like to make a hack set during a military campaign like Night Witches, with time skips moving the front towards its eventual conclusion?
  • Tense relationships between families: By default, the families are competing for scarce resources, with peace maintained by a web of obligations and treaties. Maybe you want to see what happens when families are more closely allied? Or maybe you want to put them more directly at each other’s throats?

How to get started

If you have ideas, get in touch and we can start talking through the details. If we’re both excited to move forward with it, I’ll put it on the list of stretch goals. Assuming the goal’s hit, I will offer you feedback, talk through ideas, cheerlead you and give you layout, editing and an art budget.

Once it’s done we’ll sell the game as its own pdf splitting revenue 50/50. You’ll have full rights to give it away, hack it further, and do whatever you want with it, so long as you credit Legacy according to a creative commons attribution-share alike license.

New version of Legacy 2nd Edition out

Version 1.2 of Legacy 2nd edition is now up on the UFO Press patreon!
This release has a ton of new stuff over the previous one. Besides the gorgeous art running through the whole document, we have:

  • Simplified basic moves for Families.
  • Fleshed out Gear of all kinds.
  • Added a 7th Family – The Order of Sworn Hunters, who manage, shepherd and hunt down the colossal beasts of the wasteland.
  • Added advice and examples of play for most of the core moves, with more yet to come.
  • Adjusted game setup to better reflect just how much family landmarks and character roles can do the heavy lifting in making and interesting situation.
  • And more!

    Patrons can get immediate access by following this link https://www.patreon.com/posts/11772553 or you can wait 5 days for it to be opened to the public.

Legacy Playtest Session Writeup: 14th June 2017

Beginning the playtest

As it turns out Roll20 is pretty flaky, so I didn’t get to record the world creation setting. Ah well.

The group was me plus five others: Ed, Ellie, Laurence, Stephen and Angel.

Step 1: Broad Strokes

We discussed what sort of world the game was set in – near future earth, far future earth, space station, etc. Stephen suggested something like Numenera – endless civilisations have risen and fallen into ruin, and we’d start the game after the most recent collapse.

Next up is the kind of technology that defined the World Before. We tossed some ideas around and essentially ended up with the Matrix – the people of the world were wired up into life-sustaining pods while their minds experienced a digital paradise. Meanwhile caretaker robots tended the life-support systems and kept the environment in order as the abandoned city around the pod towers slowly crumbled to ruin.

The Fall came as a sudden shock. Ed suggested that some strange digital consciousness emerged on the network, laying waste to the human minds within and twisting the caretaker bot’s programming to its own purposes. The survivors fled the network and were forced to re-adapt to physical existence; meanwhile, the surviving minds in the network seemed to fall under the sway of the digital consciousness, becoming its mouthpieces.

Step 2: Family

With the basic details of the world sketched out, it was time to pick Family playbooks.

  • Ed picked the Lawgivers of the Wasteland.
  • Ellie picked the Enclave of Forgotten Lore.
  • Laurence picked the Gilded Company of Merchants.
  • Stephen picked the Cultivators of New Flesh.
  • Angel picked the Servants of the One True Faith.

Family values

The first part of Family creation is picking stats. Depending on the stat array you choose, you’ll make certain statements about the world.

In turn…

  • Angel decided his Servant’s religion was built around the forces of the Fall, meaning they have poor reach, adequate sleight and strong grasp. They seek truths in the strange ramblings of those plugged into the network.
  • Laurence decided that the Fall was a protracted struggle against extinction.
  • Ed decided that law and order saved mankind from extinction.
  • Ellie decided that the wonders of the Before were widely distributed, and everyone can benefit from the Enclave’s advice.
  • Stephen decided that the fall completely replaced the old ecosystem with something new, as the caretaker robots started working to a new and alien design.

Next, each Family has options for Traditions – who’s in your family, how they relate to each other and what their style is.

The Merchants are something like a noble court made of high-flying and cut-throat businesspeople, wearing high-class but utilitarian trail clothes.

The Lawgivers are somewhere between Paladins and Texas Rangers – cowboys carrying around big books of law. They’re distantly descended from the old forces of law enforcement, but as they’ve dedicated themselves to interpreting the corrupted text files of old legal records they’ve become something of a monastic tradition.

The Enclave are lead by reason, with the main social unit being a master/apprentice tutoring relationship as the master inducts the apprentice in the mysteries of the network and implants the needed technology into them. It’s governed by an elected council, lead by discussion and debate.

The Cultivators have a feudal system; each nutrient vat they control is ruled by its own Baron, who has absolute control over the vat and its workers.

The Servants are structured like the early Christians – scattered congregations in plain clothing with very diverse theology, all working to interpret the utterances of an oracle jacked into the network.

Drawing the map

Next comes Landmarks. Each playbook has options to add to the homeland map so that you build the initial setting together. Here’s the map we made.

Lawrence with the Merchants added:

  • Dorcia: a haven for the rich and powerful that lasted longer than most, and is the Merchant’s new home.
  • The Nux: cannibalistic raiders to the north, that have resisted all attempts at diplomacy.
  • Camp Turgidson, to the south-west: a military complex with a cache of doomsday weapons, built by the Merchant’s ancestors.

Ed with the Lawgivers added:

  • The Basilica: an old courthouse, actually a big server farm where the lawgiver’s ancestors could log onto the network with admin privileges to moderate and dispense justice.
  • To the west of the city, the site of a massacre for the Lawgivers, where they severely underestimated a force of mutant raiders.
  • To the south-east of the city, a jail that held the network’s worst criminals in a private server shard. Its countermeasures have recently shut down, freeing its occupants.

Ellie with the Enclave added:

  • To the far west, a dangerous and unstable power plant.
  • Between the city and Camp Turgidson, a field of wireless antennae. Within the field, strange digital ghosts manifest – some human and some decidedly not.
  • To the south-east, a radio telescope array that first understood the Fall’s root cause.

Stephen with the Cultivators added:

  • Monumental nutrient slurry silos in the city centre, that the cultivators are now rigging to make food for the homeland.
  • A pumping station next to the silos that’s the only source of fresh water.
  • A salt flat to the south of the city, a sign of the terrible drought that’s soon coming as the machines that manage the water cycle go haywire.

Angel with the Servants added:

  • The Anasteseos: A shrine at the entrance to once of the pod towers, where the last preacher of the end times was killed.
  • The Evangelica: A temple of those that worshipped the agents of the Fall.
  • A point to the north of the salt flats where a prophet of doom first emerged from the wasteland, claiming to be the dead preacher reborn.

Making history

The Family History section was next, with everyone working out what obligations each Family owed each other. This produced a lot of interesting connections – here’s a sampling.

  • The Cultivators rely on the Enclave to provide knowledge and the Lawgivers to provide protection.
  • The Enclave thinks the Merchants have the greatest minds of the homeland.
  • The greatest criminal of the Wasteland came from the Enclave, and in their meddling freed the prisoners from the jail to the south-east and stole information from the Merchants.
  • The Lawgivers saved the Merchants from extinction at the hands of a band of raiders.
  • The Servants view every other Family as Righteous, with the sole exception of the Merchants (who they deem Corrupt).

Doctrine and Lifestyle

Each Family had two choices: one move based on their personal philosophy, and one based on their distribution across the homeland:

  • The Enclave give people extra bonuses when they heed their advice on projects and know the cultural significance of any artefact of the Before they encounter.
  • The Servant’s representatives can find safety in any settlement so long as they provide others aid, and have churches that provide refuge in each of the Homeland’s settlements.
  • The Lawgivers can spread word someone’s Wanted, ensuring no-one shelters them, and can ask the GM questions when they encounter a scene of violence.
  • The Cultivators can culture multiple batches of crops at once, and inherit traits from the species they tame.
  • The Merchants get the first pick of the goods brought into their settlement and can convince people to perform any favour as payment instead of barter.

For their lifestyle, the Lawgivers and Servants are distributed across the settlements of the Homeland, while the Merchants are settled in Dorcia, the Cultivators are settled in the nutrient silos in the city’s centre, and the Enclave are settled in one of the southernmost pod towers.

Resources and Moves

Finally, we get to the resources each family can bring to bear.

The Enclave, named The Transistors, have a surplus in Defences and Knowledge, but need Recruits, Leadership and Culture. They have deep knowledge of ‘the magic and artifice of the glorious past’, and medical treatments able to heal any artifice (regeneration tanks powered by solar panels).

The Servants, named The Singulars, have a surplus of Culture and Recruits but need Leadership, Land and Safety. They seek bodily ascension into digital paradise and can sacrifice their health and leadership to get mystical power in battle.

The Lawgivers, aka The Justicars of the Word, have a surplus of Weaponry and Transport but need Leadership, Defences and Recruits (following their terrible recent defeat). They’re committed to persecuting those above the law and are fanatically against bending the law to give people lenience and can brandish their authority to recruit a gang of locals to fight at their side.

The Cultivators, aka The Open-Handed Ones, have a surplus of Progress and Land but need Culture, Trade Goods and Medicine. They can sacrifice progress, land or trade to make drugs, crops or livestock, and can genetically engineer themselves over the ages.

The Merchants, aka the Fountainhead Commerce League (FCL), have a surplus of Barter Goods and Contacts but need medicine, recruits and culture. They have a stock in trade of luxury drugs and venoms, books and instruction manuals, and mementoes of the Before and they’re skilled at assessing the worth of things they find.


With that, family creation was over. It was really fun, and I can’t wait to get started playing in the world we built together.

Takeaways from the playtest so far:

  • World creation remains fun, and instantly gets players invested. The landmarks and stat declarations have definitely added to this.
  • Treaty assignment can get a bit complicated; maybe a relationship map or chart could simplify things?
  • I don’t think we need another step to add drama to the starting situation; family creation seems to cover that entirely, though it might be good to set up the process to naturally introduce NPC factions and settlements into the world.

UFO Press June Update

The last month was pretty great for UFO Press:

Legacy 2e

I launched the playtest for the second edition of Legacy! We’ve got some feedback already and it’s shaping up very nicely. If you’d like to grab the files and take a look, head here.


I launched the UFO Press patreon, dedicated to funding monthly microgames with a side order of early access to game drafts. I’ve just posted the game for June – Ghost Writer. It’s a two-player game about a digitally resurrected author and the publishing house forcing them to complete their final work.


We went to the UK Games Expo! It was my first time at any event of that size – apparently, it’s in the top 3 biggest board games conventions in the world, bigger than Origins. It was an absolute blast manning the stall, although pretty tiring. Huge thanks to my stall neighbours from Crooked Dice game design studio – they were great company, and their minis look very cool.

As well as selling a healthy chunk of games to customers, a number of UFO Press products are on their way to Leisure Games in London and Stratagemma in Florence. If you’re in their area and want to check out our games in person, go take a look!

Finally, I had loads of interesting conversations with publishers, distributors, designers and other industry figures. Watch this space for developments to come…

Upcoming Projects

  • Work’s ongoing for Legacy 2e: we’re targeting a kickstarter in late Summer/early Autumn, though we’ll see what’s right for the game. We want to get this right.
  • Ghost Ship is on the backburner at the moment – playtesting showed the game was kinda split between the memories-and-AI side and the freebooting-Firefly side, so I’m trying to see if I can reconcile them or focus on the right one.
  • We’re hard at work finishing our designs for The Butler on the Threshold, the Lovecraftian variant of What Ho, World and Wizards Aren’t Gentlemen. We’re considering a small crowdfunding campaign just for the print run – will talk to backers about it.

Legacy 2e: Know Your Role!

The relationship between your family and your character is Legacy’s big unique thing, but it’s distinct enough from the standard mode of RPGs that it could do with more support than 1e provided.

One of my priorities with the 2nd edition is to provide you with more tools to describe that relationship – how your family impacts your character, and how your character affects the broader family. To this end, each character in Legacy 2e has a family role: Leader, Agent, Rebel or Outsider.

Welcome to the Family

The first thing this does – and maybe the most useful – is that it locates your character in the family’s organisation.

Leaders are those that guide the family. They might be…

  • An Elder bringing every opponent on board with their plans.
  • Hunter leads the family’s troops to take down a target.
  • A Scavenger making sure every need for food or water is met.

Agents are those sent out from the family on a mission. They could be…

  • A Survivor acting as someone’s bodyguard.
  • A Firebrand infiltrating a group to bring them down.
  • An Envoy sent to negotiate a truce with a faction.

Rebels work against the Family’s orthodoxy. They could be…

  • A Sentinel fighting a threat that doesn’t endanger their own family.
  • A Firebrand trying to make amends for the unintended suffering their actions have caused.
  • An Elder seeking answers when they learn something that overturns their dogma.

Outsiders are only nominally a member of the family. Something’s set them apart – exile, strange beliefs, mutation, or something else. They could be…

  • A Remnant who’s rejected baseline humanity to pursue their own evolution.
  • A Hunter banished after they killed the wrong person, fighting to clear their name.
  • A Survivor who’s decided it’s time to move on.

Working Together

The second effect of your role is that your character applies a particular modifier to family moves. To get this effect, the character has to be one of the family members who participated in the action. This gives you a concrete idea of the impact your character has on the family’s

This (hopefully) gives you a concrete idea of the impact your character has on the family’s efforts and if players have incentives to place their characters in the midst of the family-scale story you can easily zoom into their actions when you want to move to the character scale.

  • Leaders put the family before themselves. If a move tells you to gain a need or to erase a surplus, the Leader can instead take 3-harm (ignores armour).
  • Agents are experts at navigating the wasteland. Your family’s agents can either make a journey twice as fast or travel unseen through a faction’s territory.
  • Rebels have many allies outside the family. They can call on a contact to improve the outcome of a move by one step, but the contact’s faction gets 1-Treaty on you.
  • Outsiders have strange tools or skills. If they help with the move get +1 to the roll as if you’d spent Tech, but their strange practices will colour the move’s results.

You can accept the help of characters from other families if they offer it, but their family automatically gains 1 point of Treaty on yours.

Changing Perspective

Your role isn’t set in stone, either. When you hit particular triggers in the fiction, you move into a new position. In general:

  • When you begin directing, guiding, or bearing responsibility for a group of Family members, you become a Leader.
  • When you accept a particular task that’ll take you out of the Family’s holdings, you become an Agent.
  • When you realise you and the Family have different priorities or values and start pursuing yours, you become a Rebel.
  • When you reject the Family or do something that pushes them away from you, you become an Outsider.

I’m also testing out playbook-specific triggers. For example, here’s the Firebrand’s:

  • When you lead your Family against a greater oppressor, mark Leader.
  • When you infiltrate a group to bring it down, mark Agent.
  • When your actions cause unintended harm, mark Rebel.
  • When your family betrays your creed, mark Outsider.

I’d be interested to know if people think these are too limiting.

Role Advancement

These roles have taken the place of Advancement in 1e; when you switch to a particular role, you mark its box, get +1 to its associated stat, and reveal something about the fiction. For example, when the Firebrand marks Agent (by infiltrating a group to bring it down) they get +1 Steel and say one person who trusts them already, while the GM says one person who suspects.

Another thing I’m testing is unlocking new moves: each new role a character takes on marks a box. Once all are marked, you get a new move and clear out marks. You can switch back and forth between two moves, but that won’t mark more boxes. I think this should give players an incentive to give their characters narrative arcs, but it may mean players pinball between roles very unsatisfyingly. Let’s see what playtesting says.

Thanks for reading – in thanks, here’s an example of our new character playbooks!