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!

Guest Post: Talking Legacy

Douglas Santana Mota, main author of the upcoming Mirrors in the Ruins, wanted to talk a little about the lessons he’s learned running Legacy. More GM advice is one of the regular requests I get for a revised version of Legacy, so I thought I’d give him a place to talk. Take it away, Douglas!

Running With Mirrors tinyWe all look for novelty and quality, to experience something truly different. But sometimes when we find it we end up overwhelmed by the unfamiliar and fail to relate to it exactly because it doesn’t fit our preconceptions, our usual shared experiences.

Legacy offered me this novelty like few others games before. But I must confess: my first session blew. Really, it stunk. I narrated and we played like any other game from our shared experience. It wasn’t enough. It wasn’t right. So, I experimented and developed procedures to make the most of Legacy epic-friendly rules and singular pace. Here it is the little I learned so far:

Family First

Let’s start with the obvious: who are Legacy’s protagonists? The families, right!? After all, they remain Age after Age as the linchpins of your story. So, try starting your sessions with a round of Family moves. Once all the rolls are resolved you will have enough immediate plot threads to weave into Character scenes. Let them lessen the damage of a failed Family roll… or just feel its effects on a personal level. Drop them in the thick of action of good Family rolls too, putting their abilities to good use and greater effect.

From this Family-centered beginning you can then explore the Characters and their motivations and inter-relations, just as in any of your favourite and familiar games. But as soon as the Character Scenes feel somehow resolved, don’t dally and shift focus right back to Families.

  • Tip: remind and encourage players to Lend Aid. It will make framing scenes with Characters in a group that much easier.
  • Tip: teach your players that Character actions focus in minutes and hours, while Family focus in days and weeks.
  • Tip: always remember that Characters serve their Families… and not the other way around.

Resources Tell Stories

There’s a reason Surpluses and Needs are in the History section of Family Playbooks. Give them some thought: who does your Family have to get Revenge from? What happened so they need Medicine? If you have a Surplus of Leadership, tell us about who these leaders are.

Connect these threads with other Families’ too and a whole recent backstory will unfold. Exploit it for maximum effect. Moreover, let’s say a Family Erases Progress to save a failed Claim by Force roll. Ask the players what kind of sacrifice had to be made by the Family to justify in Fiction this move. Make it relevant. Make it personal. Engage other parties. Powerful scenes lie hidden in these simple Resources moves.

Factions Have Faces

It’s important to populate the Homeland (and the Wasteland) with memorable faces so that Characters interact with a rich and varied supporting cast. Pay attention to variety and going outside stereotypes, so your cast is not only comprised of the leaders of their factions and settlements but also warleaders, firebrands, lawmen and priests in surprising combinations; say, the barbaric raiders’ priest or the warleader of the scientist enclave, and so on.

  • Tip: you know you want them to be fearsome, beautiful, wise, etc. but what makes them so can be easily prompted by the players, increasing collaboration and immersion.

Legacy Scope

Think of History with a capital H. Your players’ Families are the proto-nations of the future, the building blocks of a new world. The sessions and scenes might have lighter tones, but never forget they should be relevant and charged events, such as brutal conquest of the New World, the Apollo program and the space race, or WW2, with all its dramatic consequences, epic conquests and failures, bitter rivalries and surprising betrayals.
Even small skirmishes should have high stakes – imagine that people studying about them in the far future should be surprised that so much was decided by such meagre forces. Every Tech found should point to a discovery as important as penicillin or the astrolabe for whatever is left of Mankind.

Lastly, consider if our species is on the verge of collapse or extinction – and paint this theme in stark strokes. Otherwise, if the Homeland people is simply stranded somewhere, answer what have happened to everyone else in the world or the universe; where are they and why have they not yet sent sorely needed rescue?

  • Tip: after the Turn of Ages ask players how the events of the previous Age impacted in their new Characters lives. Where were they when pivotal events took place? Have they ever met the previous Character?
  • Tip: remember important victories and achievements through holidays and festivals in future Ages. Monuments to alliances, resistances, triumphal returns and victories celebrate Characters and their deeds, keeping perspective of the importance of their actions.

Time Lapses

Conventional games always surprise me with the amount of pain, horror and shock characters undergo on a daily basis. I remember that Pendragon was the first game I read where there would be longs periods of regular life in between adventures, keeping adventure events wondrous and strange, and pregnant with long lasting consequences. Legacy benefits from the same approach due to its broader scope.

Regarding Turns of Ages, I recommend one of two options: first, you have frequent Turns with shorter lapses of time for a very dynamic Family story, where you end up with veteran Characters who may have lived through more than one Age. The other option is longer lapses of time between Ages with Turns somewhat rare, for a grander tale of epic Character choices and drastic Family development. You can even change from one to the other over the course of your chronicle, to emphasise different moments and dilemmas. Always decide as a group the length of time in between Ages.

  • Tip: make use of relations between Characters from one Age to the other. Say you have a Promethean, who created next Age’s Borg. Or a Hunter who lived long enough to become an Elder. Or a powerful Remnant, who keeps coming back, Age after Age.

Hands on Maps

During the setup, tell players to draw on the the elements from the world Before, signs of the Fall, and settlements. This is a hands on and engaging activity, so no mysteries here. The map is probably the GMs best friend to set up a good Legacy chronicle.

  • Tip: instruct them to show in boundaries the growth of faction’s power and influence.
  • Tip: re-draw maps as the Ages Turn, changing the scales to show the extent of new territories claimed and discovered.
  • Tip: use colors to highlight shifting alliances and the weight of Treaties.

Legacy: Finding the Drama

While players in Legacy have plenty of ways to proactively chase their plots and change the world, it’s helpful as a GM to have ways of introducing adversity and opportunity into the character’s lives. Here are some places to find inspiration in Legacy.

First Session

The procedure laid out in Chapter 1 builds a world for your game to happen in, and provides you as GM with the following resources:

The World Before

The ideas you develop for the World Before give you as a GM a general aesthetic for the Tech the characters find, but it also gives the characters an idea of the sort of miracles they can find in the wasteland. When a problem they’re facing could be solved by something within the World Before’s remit, remind them that there could be devices out there able to fix their issue. Reading the Wind and Wasteland Survival are great for planning out and performing these scavenging expeditions.

The Fall

You’ll have a general idea of what your Fall looks like and how the monsters it created manifest. The twisted spawn of the Fall can nearly always be introduced to add pace and danger to a scene (when you feel things are going slowly or someone rolls a miss on a move). Its contaminating effects can also be a source of longer-term plots: threatening the player’s power base or their allies with the Fall’s corruption can be a great way to send people out into the wasteland in search of a cure.

A Looming Threat

The group will have made up a looming threat that will define the first Age of play. As something that has recently come to prominence and is affecting every Family, it’s a great way to get the characters together initially as they work to find a solution. As the game goes on they may split off to pursue their own business, but to begin with this gives you a way to keep everyone together and focused on a single issue.

I’d recommend you plan the looming threat out using the Front framework of Chapter 6, so that you have a range of ways in mind for this to cause issues for the players. The Homeland is sufficiently fragile that any major threat can threaten it on political, technological and military fronts, and making this true of your Front means that all characters can have something to do in addressing it. In later Ages, you can be a bit more flexible with this: a Front that’s comprehensively military in the threats it presents can give a distinct tone to the Age, and the world should be developed enough for problems in other spheres to arise organically.

Family Objectives

Each family looks at their Needs and History and creates a single Objective their family is trying to pursue. If the looming threat is your A-plot – what brings the characters together and sets the tone for the first Age – these Objectives are the B-plot, and are your opportunity to highlight each Family’s situation and ways of doing things. For each Objective, try to link its solution to a location in the wasteland or an NPC settlement in the Homeland so that you can use this Family’s B-plot to detail your settling and plant the seeds for future problems or solutions.

As The Age Turns

In new ages, you’ll have other resources to draw on for your dangers, opportunities and dilemmas:

  • Trials and Fortunes often present a situation that has had some initial effects but is still unresolved. For example, a Family might have been savaged by a monster from the wasteland and must hunt it down, or found a wondrous resource that has provided some intial benefits but needs further work.
  • Enemies and dangers found over the course of the previous Age may still be around, grown and changed in their own way to present new threats.
  • Each player names something new in the wasteland that could be a risk to their Family (or a valuable thing to try and seize).
  • Each Family puts together a new Objective. As already discussed these can be very useful for you.