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!
We 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:
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.
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.
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.