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.

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.

End!

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.

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!

Legacy: Family Example of Play

The part of Legacy I get the most questions about is the interface between the Family and Character levels. We’re working on ways of making this more flexible in Legacy 2e, but for the current version I try to stick to two ideas:

1) The Character has de facto control over the Family’s operations.

2) All Family moves should begin with the Character asking Family members to do things and end with the Character being informed of the results.

This way the player’s role in the fiction is maintained and doesn’t cause dissonance. It does have the weakness that it limits what role the Character could have in the Family, but you can still create rebels and apostates by saying that this Age the player only has control of the wing of the Family that actually pays attention to the Character – or just ignore the Family layer if it’s completely irrelevant to your current character.

Getting Started

The situation: Isolde and Karl’s expedition into the wasteland of the robot-filled metropolis discovered a functional power plant – a source of strength and sustenance for the robot hordes. If they can take it out, they have a shot at increasing the size of their Homeland dramatically. Now, they’re back with their families and trying to put a plan together.

Players:

Alex

Family: The Last Battalion (Lawgivers). A surviving remnant of the pre-Fall military, dedicated to protecting the survivors in the territory around their bunker.

Character: Isolde (Sentinel). A battle-hardened tactician, in charge of the Battalion’s Special Forces group.

Chris

Family: Reclaimers (Enclave). A scattered mystery cult who teach secrets of the World Before to those members who successfully hunt down and dissect the aberrant robot beasts.

Character: Karl (Hunter). A rising star in the Reclaimers whose hunts have brought him fame but who takes too many risks for some of the cult’s elders.

Preparation

GM: Let’s start with you, Chris. Which settlement are you heading to?

The Reclaimers are Dispersed – they maintain bunkhouses/workshops in most of the Homeland’s settlements.

Chris: Let’s say I head to the South Circle. It’s the closest to where we left the Wasteland and I know they’re willing to fight.

South Circle was the grand park’s Metro station, and with the tunnels barricaded up, it’s well-defended and sheltered.

Chris: So Karl kicks open the door to the Reclaimer house and drags the dead bot in. Big entrance, you know?

GM: You see two of the Acolyte-Engineers – Skols and Warren – are here. They rush over as they see your haul and start poking the machinery and arguing over what different bits are for. Get 2 Tech from Holding Back Another Fall as they disassemble it.

Chris: I’ll leave them to their fun and head to the terminal to talk with the rest of the Reclaimers. I need to get plans of that facility if we have a chance of shutting it down, so I’ll put some of scouts and scavengers on the search.

GM: Ok, roll for Reading the Wind.

The Reclaimers have a Reach of +2, and added to the dice get a result of 9. Chris gets to pick one thing to learn about the power facility.

Chris: Let’s go with “The perspective of its neighbours” – I want to know the legends the scavengers tell about it.

GM: So your scouts come back having found some hermits in the wasteland and got their stories. There aren’t many willing to go near the plant, but they say its activity has peaks and troughs. During the day, the place is quiet – though still enough bots to be deadly. During the night, though, it lights up and there’s a strange humming noise, and bots from far and wide pour into it and leave at dawn.

Chris: I guess we should strike during the day, then. Wait, An Eye For Details gets me an extra question – what sort of power plant is it? How can we shut it down?

GM: Alright, one of the scouts took down notes of numbers and icons stencilled on the building. After a few days of research, a scribe of the order presents you with their findings. They say it’s a design that creates a self-sustaining fusion reaction that can be throttled up or down but never stopped – if you can disrupt the reaction at all it’ll be super difficult to start it up again, though the reaction chamber will be full of radiation.

Chris: Interesting, interesting. I’ll start planning out an assault.

GM: Ok, let’s move over to the Battalion. Alex, what’s Isolde up to?

Alex: Arming up. The Reclaimers can help us with the whole hi-tech stuff, but to take this territory we need strength of arms. You said Karl’s scouting took a few days, right? So once she got back to the bunker and briefed the colonel on the plant she’d have got to work requisitioning arms and vehicles for the Special Forces unit. I’m activating Tooled Up and Looking for Trouble – I’ll exhaust Surplus: Weaponry, Transportation and Reconnaissance, getting me three hold.

GM: Going all in, eh? Ok, so you’re on the parade grounds looking out over your forces. Three dozen soldiers standing proud in haphazard armour they’ve painted to look like uniforms, two jeeps rigged to run completely non-electrically, a half-track with a mounted gun, and a whole heap of weapons. The Colonel’s there with you to send you off. She turns to you. “Looks like a small party, Sergeant. Are you sure this is enough?”
Alex: “I’m quite confident, sir. And there are people out there counting on our patrols – I can’t justify the risk of leaving them undefended.”

GM: She nods and motions for the compound gate to open. She looks back at you. “And, Isolde?”

Alex: “Yes?”

GM: “Come back safe, alright?”

Alex: I nod. “Yes, mother”. Then I motion the convoy to head out.

GM: You drive out, the gate guards saluting as you pass.

Alex: The convoy’s going to head south, swinging by South Circle. Karl, you coming?

Chris: Yeah. Though – we may need to do some way of dealing with the radiation. Do the Reclaimers have anything that would work?

GM: Not particularly – it’s not a common hazard in the robot hunting line of work.

Chris: The Hammer of Thorium still owes us a favour for stopping their meltdown, right? I’ll call that in to try and get some of their protection suits.

In an earlier age the Reclaimers showed a group of A-bomb worshipping cultists how to make the warhead they worship ‘safer’ to live around, and so gained 1-Treaty on them via their Alliance Move.

GM: Sounds good. How does that look?

Chris: I’ll send a local acolyte over to their stronghold, saying that we need the blessing of Thorium for our battle against the False Men. I think that’s their lingo, right?

GM: Sure, roll Access.

A Reach of +2 and a dice roll of 7 gives a result of 9.

Chris: Ugh, not quite enough. I’ll spend that point of Treaty and bump it up to an 11.

GM: That works. So your acolyte makes it out of there with four radiation suits, having had to hand back the holy sign of Thorium your grandparents won from them last Age.

Chris: Ok, less than I would have liked but better than nothing. Want to get this show on the road?

Alex: Sure. You bringing anyone along?

Chris: Yeah, Karl will bring a few other hunters and some Acolyte-Engineers – Skols and Warren, wasn’t it? We’ll hitch a ride on a jeep.

Alex: Alright, let’s get going.

Into the Ruins

GM: It’s many day’s travel to the Plant and it’s hostile territory – especially with three loud vehicles. What’s the plan?

Alex: Let’s go slow and quiet until we’re almost upon the plant. I’ll draw up a route given what we saw last time we were here.

GM: OK, give me a Wasteland Survival roll.

We’re temporarily going back into Character moves – Isolde is leading the expedition and is a dedicated navigator of the wasteland so the GM thinks that makes the most sense. Another option would be to roll Hold Together to see how well the unit handles the trip. It’s perfectly fine to read the fiction and see in that moment if the Characters as leaders or the Family as a group is the most important entity to focus on.

With Isolde’s Steel of +2 and a dice roll of 6 Alex gets a result of 8 – she must pick two out of staying out of danger, staying well-supplied and keeping to the schedule. After some consideration, she selects ‘you don’t get into danger’ and ‘you don’t get delayed’.

Alex: I figure we have to push the jeeps to their limit to get through this terrain and escape the occasional rogue bot. You ok with that supply loss removing one of my Tooled Up hold?

GM: Sure.

Attacking the Plant

GM: So the sun’s dawning as you reach the plant’s perimeter and it’s as the Reclaimer’s scouts described it – almost completely quiet, with a few bots wandering around chewing on power outlets.

Chris: No reason to wait, right?

Alex: Yup. I make sure the squad’s ready and equipped, and start moving on the compound. First up, I don’t like the thought of fighting room by room. I nod to my heavy weapons guy, Frank, and point at the biggest window I can see. I’m spending 1 Tooled Up hold on ‘force your enemy out into the open’.

GM: Alright – Frank nods, hefts his rocket launcher and fires a missile straight through the window. There’s an explosion that shakes the glass from the power plant’s windows and a loud droning noise starts up as insectile robots pour out of the plant. You see one in particular striding through the horde, towering over the others. Electricity keeps jumping from it to the other droids in bright blue arcs, and the electrified droids seem to be entering some kind of frenzy and smoking.

Alex: I don’t like the look of that. I make a motion at the unit’s sniper to target it. Spending 1 hold on ’Take out a specified target immediately’.

GM: Hah! Ok then, a shot rings out and the thing crumples to the ground, its giant capacitors exploding in a shower of sparks and lightning.

Alex: That should have softened them up. I signal the charge. Chris?

Chris: The Reclaimers are ready to back you up – I’ll let you deal with the straightforward attackers and try to shut down the ones that try anything weird.

GM: Alex, you’re taking the lead, so you roll +Grasp on Claim By Force. Chris, roll +Treaty with the Battalion to help out.

Chris has a +1 forward from his Reading the Wind about the plant. He adds that to his Family’s Treaty on the Lawgivers of +2 and his roll of 5 to get an 8 – the Reclaimers add +1 to the Battalion’s assault but are exposed to danger, retribution or unforeseen consequences.

Alex adds her Grasp of +1 and Chris’s bonus of +1 to her roll of 8 to get a 10. She succeeds at taking the plant, but has to choose a cost.

Alex: Thanks, Chris. I don’t want to get wounded or make more enemies, so I’ll pick that our hold on it is tenuous.

GM: So I reckon your assault is enough to completely drive off or destroy the robots that were squatting here, but more will come tonight if the power’s still flowing. Karl, as the battle’s raging a suicide bot flanked the unit as was about to explode when Warren jumped on its back and tore out the detonator. He stopped the explosion but was crushed when it rolled over – he didn’t make it. Meanwhile, Skols caught a bit of shrapnel to the temple and is still woozy.

The group could have chosen to Claim by Force as soon as they got to the plant, but the Battalion’s precision attacks meant that the fictional consequences they suffered were much better than they could have been otherwise. Positioning yourself in the fiction to minimise your risks is a powerful tool!

Chris: Ah crap, I was relying on them to shut this place down.

Shutting it down

GM: Without the experts, you have two options. You can try to remotely shut down the reactor from the control console, but that’s been rewired and probed by generations of hungry robots. Or you could head directly into the reactor chamber to turn off the reaction manually, but you’d have to trust in the radiation suits.

Chris: Sure, we’ve had casualties, but this is why the Reclaimers came along. I’ll put the suit on.

Alex: Isolde takes a brief break from securing the plant to come and talk to you. “Are you sure you want to do this? We’ve done the hard part of flushing them out – we can hold this place long enough to get support in.”

Chris: Karl pulls the battered and patched helmet on, and through the helmet’s faceplate you can see he’s determined. “C’mon, Sarge, we both know you don’t have enough ammo to last that long. Trust me, I know what I’m doing.” He grins. “And they’ll have no choice but to make me an elder if I pull this off!” Then I pass my bow to Isolde and head to the airlock. “Look after that, alright?”

GM: As the airlock cycles and opens, the room’s filled with a blinding blue light. The bad news is it’s Harm 4 – good news is that your suit’s 2 Armour against this.

Chris: Ouch. I’ll mark off ‘On the Defensive’ and ‘Blood-soaked’. Can’t stay long here. What do I see?

GM: There’s the reactor assembly – a globe suspended in the centre of this huge, multi-story room. It’s glowing bright blue and the light’s pulsing painfully. There’s all sort of cables and pipes going in and out of the sphere, attaching to various places on the room’s walls.

Chris: I mutter curses about those superstitious idiots and their shoddy protective gear and start working out what needs to be sabotaged.

GM: So you only have enough time for one approach: do you want to break whatever you can, or work out a controlled way to shut it down?

Chris eyes his Force of +2 and Lore of +1.

Chris: The second one… probably sounds better for everyone involved. Let’s give it a go.

GM: Ok, roll for Defuse with Lore.

A Lore of +1 and a roll of 3 is not enough!

Chris: Well, shit.

GM: Yeah, it’s not good. You’re scanning over the pipes and cables, frantically trying to find a way to shut it down, but you’re getting woozy and it’s hard to focus. You find yourself staggering and stumbling. Take another 2 Harm. Maybe you have time to get back to the airlock?

Chris: No, I don’t think so. Even if my lore has failed me there’s always smashing. I’m going to mark my Dead box – even as I die I make one last strike, destroying whatever killed me.

GM: Yeah, that’d do it. Want to describe what happens?

Chris: Sure. I always have more weapons, right? There’s a blast arrow still in my back quiver – probably shouldn’t have brought that in, but too late now. I tear open the suit, grab the arrow, and start climbing the cables. I climb on top of the reactor, and smash the arrow into it where the cables and supports are holding it up. I’m thrown away by the explosion, as the reactor falls to the floor and crumples apart in a second blast.

GM: Alex, how’s Isolde taking this?

Alex: I’ve been watching tensely on the plant’s monitors. As Karl starts climbing it I’m already running to the airlock and I’m putting a radioactive suit on as the explosion happens. I try and open the airlock – maybe I can still help?

GM: The generator’s gone – the airlock isn’t working. Maybe you could push it open with Force?

Alex: No, I can put two and two together – if there’s no power he succeeded and he wouldn’t want me risking my life for nothing. I say a prayer for Karl, then go to the roof and launch a flare so the Battalion know that the mission’s succeeded.

GM: Yeah, you’ve definitely seized claim of this plant and this territory.

Alex: Good. I’ll leave the troops to secure this place and head back to the farmland – I have to deliver Karl’s bow to the Reclaimers.

Chris: Thanks – I’ll pick that bow as Karl’s Relic.

With a section of the city made safe and the Homeland greatly expanded, the group decide it’s time for a Turn of Ages…

Any questions or comments? Want an example of another mechanic? Let me know!

Legacy: Character Example of Play

One of the things I’ve often been asked for with Legacy is an example of play. It’s been a while, but I finally made time! This example focuses in on character mechanics and combat – I’m also going to write up some family-level play.

Machine dawn

Here’s the initial situation. Our party of characters is travelling through the wasteland, here a ruined city that stretches from horizon to horizon with only the parks and greens a safe zone from the mechanical nightmares that feed from the city’s power grid. After a long day’s journey they find a reasonably safe place to camp – an overgrown public square, with good sightlines on the surrounding buildings and a still-functional fountain providing fresh water. Aware of the threats night may bring, they’ve set up a guard rota to keep watch.

It’s close to dawn. Isolde, a Lawgiver Sentinel, is on watch.
GM: Isolde, it’s about halfway through your watch. What are you doing?
Alex, playing Isolde: Hmm… I put my camo netting up over the camp at the start of the night… can I have used Citadel of Dust at the same time?
GM: Sure.
Alex: Ok. Now I’ve got everything in place I’m probably trying not to draw attention. Let’s say I’m sitting a short distance away from the main camp, keeping an eye out with my binoculars.
GM: Right. So you’re sitting there, scanning the surrounding city, and as the light of dawn hits a building on the west side of the square you spot movement.
Alex: I take a closer look with my binoculars – what do I see?
GM: The first thing you see is some solar panels, rotating towards the sun. As they lift up you can see they’re welded like wing cases to a beetle-like body, easily two metres long. As the machine leaves its dormant state you see a camera array push out of the front of the body and start glancing around.
Alex: Shit. Does it see us?
GM: Not yet – the camouflage seems to be working. But you spot its cameras focus on something else – an overgrown shape a few dozen metres from you. You hear the drone of rotors starting up…
Alex: Can I quickly move to the shape?
GM: Yeah, it’s still warning up. You’ve got time.
Alex: Great. What do I see?
GM: Brushing away the vegetation it looks like an old junction box. There’s a faint light of LEDs behind a battered panel.
Alex: Ah, crap. Right, I’ll try to shut this down – maybe if there’s no power this thing will leave us alone. I pull of that panel and start tearing out cables.
GM: OK, sounds like a Defuse with Lore.
Alex rolls, and gets an 8 – she’s bought some time. She picks ‘It’s only a temporary reprieve’.
Alex: Well, that’ll give me some breathing space. I quickly head back to the camp and start waking up the others. I’ll start with Karl.
Chris, playing Karl (an Enclave Hunter): Huh, what?
Alex: I bring him up to speed.
Chris: Karl mutters an oath to the Good Machine and picks up his bow – no time to get armoured up.
GM: There definitely isn’t – as you pick up the bow you see a flash of electricity from the junction box and the sound of buzzing rotors immediately fills the square. The bug-machine launches itself from the roof and into the air.
Alex: Has it seen us?
GM: Not yet, but it’s pretty much certain it will by the time it gets to the junction box.
Alex: OK, I’ve got a plan. Karl, get into a good position for a shot.
Chris: Karl nods and quickly climbs a tree.
With A Shadow in the Wind there’s no risk of Karl being spotted doing this.
GM: OK, as the bug comes down to land you see its camera-head focus on the camp and it suddenly changes direction. It’s coming straight down through the trees towards you. What do you do?
Alex: I prepared for this. I’ll spend one of my hold for Citadel of Dust to blunt an enemy assault, stopping it in its tracks.
GM: Cool, what happens?
Alex: Remember that nanofibre rope I found a while back? I strung it through the trees, and as the bug comes flying down I reach down and yank it taut creating a web to catch the bug in.
GM: Hah! Okay, so the bug smashes into the rope. Branches and machine parts rain down, and then the machine falls to earth with a crash. It quickly rights itself, but you can see one solar panel’s been torn off. Its camera swings around, searching for its foes. What do you do?
Alex: I’ve got to keep it contained. As its cameras swing by us I’ll lift up my shield to catch the light and draw it to me.
GM: It takes the bait, and its rotors roar as it surges towards you. Holding Back the Tide?
Alex: Yep.
Alex rolls +Steel (with a +1 from her shield). She gets an 11.
Alex: That’s two options then. I’ll go with no harm coming to me, and no harm to those I defend. I’ll leave it to Karl to actually fight this thing off.
GM: Alright, you’re able to parry away its mechanical limbs as they rain down on you, though you can feel your arm going numb. Karl?
Chris: I’m in place, I’ve got a good shot, I’ve prepped my arrows. Time to destroy this thing.
Karl’s bow has the tags Ranged, Silent and Hi-Tech. As he’s definitely established his ability to engage with this enemy in the fiction, he can roll Fiercely Assault with the intent to hurt the enemy. He rolls +Force and gets… a 5.
GM: Your arrow flies down, and Isolde raises her shield just in time to not be blinded by the flash as it fries the thing’s circuits. But somehow the bug isn’t stopped, and while you’re recovering, Isolde, it surges forward and pins you to the ground.
Chris: Wait, it’s still confused from my attack, right? I’ll use Call For Aid – even on the ground, Isolde should be able to capitalise on that.
GM: Yeah, alright. Isolde?
Alex: Alright, I’ll stab up into its guts with my taser (melee, nonlethal). Roll +Force… that’s an 11!
Chris: Brilliant, that’ll raise me up to the 7-9 result. As Isolde hits it from below I’ll use the explosive arrows to just devastate this thing. Let’s go with ‘Savage, terrifying harm’ – I want this thing dealt with.
GM: OK, it’s completely mangled! For my two picks, I’ll go with… taking harm appropriate to the enemy, and the situation is destabilised. Isolde, it got a few good hits in while you were pinned – take 3 harm – and those explosions aren’t exactly subtle so other things in the city will start moving towards you.
Alex: Ouch! Even with my armour that’s 2 harm. Let’s go with… Bruised and Angry. I need my energy for whatever comes next…
Chris: Yeah, let’s tear down the camp and get out of here.

The group quickly packs up and heads out into the city. Another day in the wasteland begins…

Want to see more?

If there’s any other mechanics you’d like me to cover, or have any questions about this post, let me know in the comments below!

The Fifth Season and a perpetual apocalypse

I’m currently reading NK Jemisin’s The Fifth Season – winner of last year’s Hugo Award – and it’s excellent if exceptionally grim. The basic gist is that it takes place in a land constantly wracked with extreme geological turmoil. Society has been shaped by the constant pressure to survive, such that people count the regular eruptions that make the world uninhabitable for months or years at a time as a fifth season that just happens a bit less regularly than the other four.

Every bit of civilisation is geared towards preparing for the next Season, from constant maintenance of food stocks and fallow land within a settlement’s walls to strict organisation of the population into castes so that everyone knows and is prepared for their role. Inexplicable artefacts from long-gone DeadCivs scatter the landscape, underlying how long this turmoil had been going on for.

Reading this, I couldn’t help but think of Legacy. It wouldn’t take many edits to replicate this setting in-game: the main thing that would need to change is the idea that each turning of age represents another step towards building a new civilisation. In a Fifth Season-inspired game, each Turning of Ages would instead be a Season of turmoil and danger in which each family has to retreat to safety and trust in their supplies, and there would be no question of escape from the Fall.

There’s another thing the book does structurally that for me really underlines the constant danger of this world. Its story jumps between three different time periods, and in each you know that the safety and community the characters find won’t last as you’ve seen that it’s gone in the later periods. I’m still tossing around ideas for how you’d create a similar effect in-game, but you could maybe jump around at each turning of age rather than progressing linearly forward. After one age you might look a few centuries back, after the next age a couple of generations later.

Now this does cause issues for things like homeland map keeping and a sense of achievement/advancement, but there are some ways around that:

  1. Start with the assumption that the map will be wiped clean after every Age, except for the artefacts of the Before that you uncover.
  2. Assume that knowledge gained can be lost, and knowledge lost can be retained. That way you can advance your family and take those stats into the next age even if it was chronologically far in the past – it’s simply that your family in the present is rediscovering old glories.
  3. If the Apocalypse is ever-present, I’d give everyone a new basic move based on sensing its movements to demonstrate that awareness of disaster is a constant part of their mindset. For example, people in the Fifth Season have sensing organs in the brain that let them detect tremors in the earth and incoming eruptions before they happen (with the implication these were engineered in when things had only just started going south). You could add something like a hyper-awareness of astronomy if your problem was solar flares, or the ability to, say, read the psychic maelstrom that occasionally ramps up and drives outsiders to madness. In The Fifth Season some people can use the sensing organs to manipulate the earth and shape volcanic activity – maybe rewrite some moves of the Remnant in your game to fit the tone of the apocalypse.
  4. Focus your play agenda on either experiencing all the different ways communities have tried to survive or coming to an understanding as a group on the cause of the Apocalypse and a way of fixing it. This may help provide some direction, even as you jump around the timeline.
  5. Maybe don’t decide when you start an age where it falls in the timeline – let that grow organically as you pick through the ruins of prior ages and create the things later generations will find only fragments of.