Legacy 2nd Edition is now out!

Build a new world in the ruins of the future.

A robotic beetle charges towards a woman, who raises a spear glowing with electricity to fight it.

In the new edition of Legacy: Life Among the Ruins you’ll make your own post-apocalyptic world, control a family of survivors, and tell the saga of your new society over generations. Based on years of feedback from 1st edition, the new edition tightens up the flow of the game, ties characters to their families like never before, and gives you even more tools to create a distinctive and compelling world. Pick it up today!

Key features:

  • From grand strategy to desperate struggle. Shift freely between commanding the movements of spies and armies and fighting monsters in a ruined wasteland, using the fast and dramatic rules of the Powered by the Apocalypse engine.
  • A game of histories. Write the saga of your family over generations and draw on your ancestor’s powers, even as you face the unexpected consequences of their actions.
  • Endless variety. 11 family types and 13 character types create hundreds of possibilities, each with its own meaning for the story you’re telling.
  • Hit the ground running. Start playing today with the included quickstart, complete with five pairs of families and characters, story prompts and a sunless world filled with hungry spectres.

So that was 2017. How did we do?

It’s been a while since I last posted here, eh? With the Legacy 2e Kickstarter a smashing success (#32 most funded in 2017!) I haven’t had much time to keep this place updated, but I thought it might be nice to post a roundup of the year that’s passing.

January-March: What Ho World fulfilment

We started the year off fulfilling the Kickstarter campaign for What Ho, World! and Wizards Aren’t Gentlemen. This went pretty well, with the caveat that the estimates provided to us by Shipwire didn’t include the £2/order packing charge. Ouch. On top of that, I think I over-estimated how many decks to print. We’ve sold about 6 decks a month, and have about 280 left – of which I’d need to sell 215 to actually break even on this campaign. So, again, ouch. The games have been good earners at cons though, and fundamentally I’ve had a lot of backers talking about their fun experiences with the game, so I’m not full of regret. Just things to learn for the future:

  • Be more realistic about the post-crowdfunding sales we can expect.
  • Make absolutely sure how much shipping will cost you!
  • Don’t splurge on adverts – I spent £700-ish on BoardGameGeek ads, when I should have spent more effort building hype for the game before the Kickstarter, posting actual play, etc. Video of your game being played is far far better than any banner advert!

Around this time I was also getting initial feedback on Ghost Ship that showed I really needed to reassess what players would actually do in the game. I’ve got ideas now, but it’s been a long time coming. Hopefully, I’ll have something neat to show you in the new year.

April-June: Two hundred words and thirty thousand people

April was dominated by the 200 Word RPG challenge. We both put together an entry: I made Parasite Vector, a high-octane action game with a body-horror flavour, and Liz made The Holy Mountain, a meditative game about pilgrims uncovering who their fellow travellers really are. It was really fun working to write games that fit under the word count, even if neither of our entries made it to the final set.

In May, we started getting to work on Legacy 2nd Edition. Douglas began his playtests, while I started preparing art briefs for Tithi Luadthong. I also started my Patreon, making one-page RPGs every month to try and continue on the energy of the 200-word RPG challenge – not to mention test my layout skills. Eight months later, there’s quite a collection of games up there:

I’ve started selling them on postcards – check out the store on this site to get your own copies.

Our stall at UKGE!

At the beginning of June, we had the UK Game Expo! It was the biggest convention I’ve ever been to – apparently, total footfall was 30,000 visitors – and I was there tucked in the back row alongside Crooked Dice miniatures and All Rolled Up. Getting used to the scale of the place took some doing, but I made some great connections, ran a fun game of Psi*Run for Games on Demand, and sold a bunch of games. Roll on next year, where hopefully I’ll be part of a group stall with people to chat to during the day and shifts allowing me to take in the rest of the convention.

July-September: The Grand Kickstarting

Promotion for Legacy 2 began in earnest at the end of June, and I experimented with broadcasting my playtests. Getting used to OBS and video editing proved to be its own challenge, but the resulting videos were invaluable when it came time to build hype for the Kickstarter. It also highlighted how I’d been designing with the assumption players would have physical playbooks in front of them, and how that could cause problems playing online. The group was lovely, and posting the videos online meant that far more people than just the playtest group could give me feedback on the game. Certainly something I’ll repeat for future games, though I may not put as much effort into the video component. I’m not sure it added anything of value to the audio.

On the 25th of July, the campaign launched… and by the 26th, it was funded. So began a series of smashed expectations that are continuing to this day. Not sure I can offer wise insights yet, with the game yet to be printed or shipped, but I’d point the Kickstarter success to:

  • Great art. Tithi’s art is incredible and evocative, and supremely eye-catching. I do wish that I’d commissioned pieces for the Kickstarter’s key art, as three other games using the same stock art hit KS at the same time, but following What Ho, World! the budget was tight. There’s a three-way balance between art quality, price, and exclusivity – don’t avoid using stock art, but be aware of the non-financial costs.
  • Transparency. I had a full text of the game available to play at the start of the campaign, recorded playtests and constant communication. Maybe I went a bit overboard with the updates, but I’d definitely recommend over-communicating over under-communicating.
  • Quickstart! I put together a 20-page PDF that communicated the key features of Legacy: a fantastical and weird post-apocalypse, multiple scales of play, and the sweep of history. Then I gave it away for free and got it featured as DriveThruRPG’s free product of the week. If you can do something similar, it’s definitely well worth it.
  • My Customers. I put a lot of effort this time around into hyping up people who had played Legacy 1e. I communicated with previous backers, talked about the game at conventions and on podcasts, and generally got the game lodged in people’s minds as something that was happening.

July was also Game Chef. I’d seen iterations of this competition come and go over the years, and always managed to miss it. I may have been running a Kickstarter, but that was no reason not to write another game! This year, I had a game idea that perfectly fit the competition elements: BordersYarnEchoSmoke, and Cut. That game was Weave, and ended up a finalist! I’m really happy with this game – the arts and crafts sector of nerdery is criminally under-supported in RPGs, and the game produces gentle stories of travel and culture that emergently get people talking about appropriation, local culture and tourism.

August was Nine Worlds Fanfest. It remains a singular convention – nowhere else I’ve been to has been so friendly, welcoming, accommodating and nerdy. A highlight was definitely the panel I put together on getting into RPGs, which included wisdom from Pelgrane‘s Kat Tobin, Black Armada‘s Joshua Fox and Becky Annison, and Rowan, Rook and Decard‘s Chris Taylor. I ran a stall for a day, which again had pretty good takings – especially Weave, whose small PoD print run arrived just in time for the convention.

September was dedicated to dealing with the aftermath of the Kickstarter. Post-KS funding on PledgeManager allowed us to unlock those last few stretch goals, bringing Katherine Cross on board our writing team alongside Khelren, Laurence Phillips, Fyodor Kasatkin and Aaron Griffin. One thing I could have done better was the diversity of my team: out of the 14 writers, artists, editors and layout pros only five were women, and three of those were brought on thanks to stretch goals pretty late in the project. Something to be aware of at the planning stage for the next project.

October-December: Head down and working

Which takes us up to the present. For the past few months I’ve been writing Rhapsody of Blood, my gothic action hack of Legacy inspired by Castlevania and Bloodborne. It’s now in a playtestable state – grab the main text and the playbooks if you’re interested!

We also began work on The Butler at the Threshold – the cosmic horror take on What Ho, World!‘s light-hearted farce. Liz and I have hashed out how we’d like to change the core mechanics and what sort of abilities we want players to have. Have some card previews, and look forward to full rules soon!

Finally, we celebrated the first birthday of our son. Being a parent changes your view of the world, even just through sleep deprivation, and it’s exciting to imagine where we’ll be at in a year’s time. It’s been a strange year – lots of ups and downs, even ignoring the world outside, but UFO Press is still going strong and poised to do orders of magnitude better than before once Legacy 2e drops. Looking forward to seeing what 2018 brings!

Happy new year,

James Iles

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.