From Douglas Santana Mota
Let’s talk about running Legacy campaigns.
In two years on intense playtesting, Vitoria’s Cutthroats have played at least 8 campaigns with more than 5 sessions (of average 4 hours), with a total roster of 10 players and two GMs. Of course, the core group is much smaller, 4 players who played only 3 campaigns that exceeded 10 sessions. Our current one has been the longest so far with 16 sessions, 5 Wonder and 7 Ages altogether.
Obviously, some patterns became clear in the development and flow of these campaigns. And I would like to share them with you and contrast them with your own experiences. I hope this discussion helps novice players to find their rhythm and GMs to at least know a bit what to expect. So, just going an extra mile to keep it clear: this is NOT an instruction or a how-to-play article, just a collection of OUR observations on OUR campaigns.
The first Era is obvious and very cemented in our perception: The Era of Troubles, where everyone must deal with Threats generated by History and Backstory. It may take more than one Age and see a couple of Character generations go by until things fall into place. And not every Threat will be neutralized – some will simply be integrated into the Homeland, becoming Factions, environmental conditions and the like. Cooperation tends to be intense in this period as Families simply must struggle to survive, but small betrayals or hard deals might pop up and set the mood for the coming ages. Families must work hard either to win more Surpluses or erase their Needs.
The next step tends to be The Era of Wonders, where Families apply their Surpluses either to solve the remaining Threats once and for all, improve the Homeland as a whole, or simply impose their view on the Fiction. If a GM focuses heavily on Character development, this Era might happen further down the road. It may also be delayed if players are Resource starved – be it because they lacked the drive to search for them or because the GM might have not rewarded them enough with Finding a Surplus. GMs beware! You also don’t want to drown them in Surpluses or else you will suffer a Wonder rush, which will accelerate Fiction too much. In any case, by now players most likely will take the reins of the Fiction and the GM will have plenty of story seeds from the Turn of Ages and Wonders to deal with, which takes us to…
The Era of Heroes. It is ushered by a combination of Families exhausting their Surpluses on their Wonder building efforts and plot hooks generated by the Turns of Ages and Wonders demanding extra attention. In any case, fiction slows down and focuses on Character development as they deal with powerful Factions and new Threats over a much changed and colourful Homeland. Also, with the tools provided by the Wonders and evolved Families, they can now affect change on a deeper level, to the point that the impact of Role fulfilment elevates them to historical (almost mythical, in fact) relevance. Families perform their duties toward the Homeland, deal with their allies and vie for influence at all levels. Wonders are still built, sure, but the Fiction’s focus clearly changes to the Characters’ level.
But what happens when the Homeland matures to the point where the regular person in the Homeland’s streets is not any longer under the direct and obvious strain of the Fall? Surely, your chronicles might never reach this point as your players devastate the Homeland and everything everyone tries to rebuild. But odds are in favour of civic Wonders, such as The Capital or Energy Revolution (and the upcoming Engine of Life’s Transportation Hub and Green Defiance) changing the scenario forever… and for the better! At some point, your group might end up turning the Homeland into a nation, with its own particular shared culture, economy and heroes.
Then what? Is it even within Legacy’s scope?
Definitely! This is The Age of Nations. The Homeland is not enough anymore and it’s time to open up the map and find what now lies beyond the Wastelands. The Age of Discovery is tailor-made to jumpstart this Era, but it just scratches the surface. There is much more out there than just savages and Hostile Grounds! What other civilizations managed to crawl their way up from the Fall? How did they organize themselves? How will you all deal with the shock of finding out these answers? They may seem monolithic in their alien ways, but be sure they are probably a patchwork of different factions glued together by necessity, pretty much like your own Families. From the tension of first contact diplomacy to the despair of all-out wars, every Character can and should play a vital role, counting with their Families’ full support.
(Coming to think of it The Walking Dead TV series has been following along very similar lines, don’t you think?)
The GM now should shape the Fiction to remind the group of the harsh realities and elements of a post-apocalyptic scenario and its threats. But everything should be bigger and the stakes should be much higher: more people, more weapons, more resources, more pollution… graver consequences. And it is still very much Legacy: Life Among the Ruins!
From here on we honestly don’t know, but we suppose the setting should march towards an Endgame. At some point, the Families might have balanced their world towards civilization. Or it is time to face off the utmost reasons behind the Fall on a final showdown where everything hangs on the scales – as our newest supplement, End Game, evokes and implies. A third option is The Race to the Stars, a Wonder from the upcoming book End Game. It’s a great tool to extend the chronicle’s length, by repeating the cycle from Age of Wonders on to a grander scale.
I tend to end chronicles with a strong focus on closing Characters’ arcs, mirroring the developments of the Homeland and their Families – but that is just my personal style. A new and harsher Fall, the surpassing of the glories of Before, the challenges to achieve and maintain the Next World – it all should be felt by a closer look and focus on the Characters. Let them witness and feel they embody the best and worst of their people and times. But go ahead and give them closure. Take responsibility like never before as the Narrator, find out the meaning and an underlying theme from all your stories and conclude it all focusing on these fundamental dilemmas or challenges.
But now, it’s hard not to remember my favourite quote from Frank Herbert’s Dune:
“Arrakis teaches the attitude of the knife – chopping off what’s incomplete and saying: ‘Now, it’s complete because it’s ended here’”.
Have fun and tells us about your group’s experiences!