Eras of Play

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Design Diary, Legacy, Play Advice

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!

Preorder Legacy: The Next World today!

Posted Posted in Design Diary, Legacy

How would you react if your world changed overnight? Would you look for causes of optimism, and hope for a better future? Would you try to find safety, certain that the worst is yet to come? Or would you celebrate the death of the old order, and try to forge a new path for yourself in the next world?

Following a successful Kickstarter, we’re in the process of making three new books for Legacy:

  • The Engine of Life. A book about hope, art, culture and the prospect of bringing new growth to the wasteland.
  • End Game. A book of dire monsters, horrific powers, and stories of desperate survivors fighting back against a final end.
  • Free From the Yoke. An adaptation of Legacy to political fantasy in the vein of Game of Thrones, REIGN or Birthright, with a Slavic-inspired twist. Check out kickstarter updates for details on magic, politics, rules to keep things medieval and playbook options.

We’ve now opened up preorders on BackerKit – if you’d like to get your own copy of any of these books in PDF or hardback, get all three in a full-art slipcase, or pick up some of the goodies from the Legacy 2e kickstarter, go check it out!

Hostile Waters 3 – Titanic

We’re back! Sorry it’s taken a while – being scattered across three different time zones made it hard to organise a session, not to mention running the Kickstarter for Legacy: The Next World. If you missed that, we’ll be launching a BackerKit pledge manager running until late November, so there’s plenty of time to get on board.

In this episode, we continue the exploration of the derelict, city-sized ship. Eva finds the truth behind her hoard’s messages, Feligus discovers a new way of making music, and Cpt. Wilkes gets his hands dirty. And deep underwater, Lima Sierra comes back online and learns the true dangers of the depths…

Taking part:

  • Jay (@jayciles) as the GM.
  • Laurence (@sarkyfrood) playing Feligus Vasp, Elder of the Ascendant Ensemble (Eternal Masquerade).
  • Dave playing Cpt. Eva Stern, Scavenger of the People’s Fleet (Pioneers of the Depths).
  • Thea playing Cpt. Wilkes, Agent of the Aerial Board of Control (Gilded Company of Merchants).
  • Douglas playing Lima Sierra, Machine of the Acanti (Stranded Starfarers).

Thanks for listening!

Cover art by Tithi Luadthong (portfolio).

Hostile Waters 2 – Protoplasma

Welcome back to Hostile Waters! Following our delving into the mysteries of Cliffside, we zoom out to see what the character’s Families are getting up to. Witness research and medicine, trade and diplomacy, and infiltration of an ancient ruin prowled by mechanical guardians.

Also – we’re currently raising money for new books for Legacy. If you’d like to add new playbooks to your game, change things up with new rules and approaches, or get a quickstart adventure to kick off your campaign, check the Kickstarter out before it ends September 13th:

Taking part:

  • Jay (@jayciles) as the GM.
  • Laurence (@sarkyfrood) playing Feligus Vasp, Elder of the Ascendant Ensemble (Eternal Masquerade).
  • Dave playing Cpt. Eva Stern, Scavenger of the People’s Fleet (Pioneers of the Depths).
  • Thea playing Director Seraphine Blake, Envoy of the Aerial Board of Control (Gilded Company of Merchants).

Thanks for listening!

Cover art by Tithi Luadthong (portfolio).

Legacy – The Next World now on Kickstarter!

Apologies for the commercial content, even if it’s Legacy-related!

Legacy: Life Among the Ruins – The Next World is a crowdfunding campaign to fund our next print run. Bring hope, despair or liberation to your games of Legacy: Life Among the Ruins with three new books: The Engine of Life, End Game, and Free From the Yoke. Visit for more details!

Hostile Waters 1 – Cliffside

Welcome back to Hostile Waters! In our first episode of actual play, we meet the aeronautical entrepreneurs of the Aerial Board of Control, engage in negotiations with the miners of Cliffside, run into meteorological distress in a hot air balloon,  and discover a dark secret deep underneath mountain and waves.

Taking part:

  • Jay (@jayciles) as the GM.
  • Laurence (@sarkyfrood) playing Feligus Vasp, Elder of the Ascendant Ensemble (Eternal Masquerade).
  • Douglas (co-author of Legacy) playing Lima Sierra, Machine of the Acanti (Stranded Starfarers).
  • Dave playing Cpt. Eva Stern, Scavenger of the People’s Fleet (Pioneers of the Depths).
  • Thea playing Director Seraphine Blake, Envoy of the Aerial Board of Control (Gilded Company of Merchants).

Thanks for listening!

Cover art by Tithi Luadthong (portfolio).

Hostile Waters 0 – After the Flood

I hope you enjoyed Red Moon Rising! This is the start of Hostile Waters, a new campaign run in Legacy: Life Among the Ruins 2nd Edition. We’re also incorporating material from the next two books: The Engine of Life and End Game. This session is just an initial world setup and family/character creation, but please listen if you want to dive deep into our world!

Also: apologies for the audio quality. Our recording solution crashed halfway through and I needed to go with a backup. Don’t worry though – we have a better solution in place for the next ep.

Taking part:

  • Jay (@jayciles) as the GM.
  • Laurence (@sarkyfrood) playing Feligus Vasp, Elder of the Ascendant Ensemble (Eternal Masquerade).
  • Douglas (co-author of Legacy) playing Lima Sierra, Machine of the Acanti (Stranded Starfarers).
  • Dave playing Cpt. Eva Stern, Scavenger of the People’s Fleet (Pioneers of the Depths).

Thanks for listening!

Cover art by Tithi Luadthong (portfolio).

Topple titans and fight for the fate of the world in HARDER THEY FALL

Posted Posted in Design Diary

A game of epic battles and world-shaking blows played with dominoes:

Now live on Kickstarter!

When I got an email from Kickstarter about their Quickstarter initiative, it sparked my imagination – I’d really like there to be a room in the ecosystem for short-form, simple campaigns, in addition to the labours of love years in the making.

Over the past few weeks I’ve put Harder They Fall together in a flurry of design, playtested it, constructed an initial layout and I’m pretty proud of it. It fuses together my love of epic battles between titanic foes – kaiju and titans and mecha and gods – and my love of no-prep storytelling games, borrowing heavily from the works of Epidiah Ravachol and Vincent Baker, as well as from Subset Game’s Into the Breach.

If you’d like a light game about titanic combat, want to see how I’ve incorporated the physicality of dominoes as well as their numeric value into a resolution system, or just want to watch an actual play video of combat between a kaiju, a god and a ragtag band of heroes, check out the Kickstarter page!

The Butler at the Threshold: public beta!

Posted 2 CommentsPosted in Design Diary

I’ve been working on this for a while, but I think The Butler at the Threshold is ready for feedback!

It’s a card-based storytelling game about the inhabitants of a strange, provincial 1930s town trying to find success and happiness while cosmic horror uncoils around them. It’s meant to be played over the course of a few hours (from character creation to final doom), with 2-5 players.

It’s based on our previous Hijink system games (What Ho World and Wizards Aren’t Gentlemen) but pretty comprehensively refined and simplified, with a bit of Archipelego III thrown in. We’re hoping to kickstart it sometime this year (pretty soon if we get a lot of feedback), to try and raise money to have it printed in a small board game format with multiple card decks.

Here’s the files:

Character Cards
Location Cards
Asset Cards
The Core Rules
Goal Cards
Doom Cards

If you played the game and have feedback, questions or reactions, please get in touch!

Rhapsody of Blood in depth

Posted Posted in Design Diary, Legacy

Day 5 of our journey through the Worlds of Legacy takes us to our final destination – the monster-filled castle of Rhapsody of Blood, written by me and illustrated by Adrian Stone.
Rhapsody of Blood came from a simple idea: that the generational action/adventure stories of Castlevania and Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure could be a great fit for the multi-generation stories we were telling with the Worlds of Legacy. From there, I had my goal for the game: cinematic action in a supernatural gothic horror setting, mixing in the awesome boss fights and battle against corruption you see in FROM Software games like Bloodborne and Dark Souls.

So, here’s the pitch: once a generation, the blood moon rises and an evil castle from outside the universe breaches our reality. It uplifts the most prideful or monstrous villain in the area as its Regent, and reshapes itself to their whims as it begins blighting the world.
You are members of mystical bloodlines, able to sense the castle’s taint and fight it back. Maybe you’re Legendary Heroes, drawing on a legacy of honour and sacrifice; Magi, transmuting the castle’s corruption into safer power; or the Hidden Hand, profiting from fighting evil.

Each generation, your bloodline will have particular cause to raid the castle. Maybe their relics have been pillaged, or a group of mortals they protect is under attack, or a beloved outsider has been kidnapped, or they see a chance to right an ancient wrong. Each player uses these options to define this era’s castle, and their entry points. Maybe your breach method is sneaking into the castle’s servants quarters, or teleporting into a pocket realm within it, or kicking down its front door.

You send your explorers into the castle depths, each with their own specialities. Maybe the ever-prepared Packrat, or the ferocious Slayer, or the Bonded – aided by a strange spirit that stands and fights beside them.

They need to work together to survive: to help with that you track your Covenants with the other explorers. Maybe you’re rivals, or lovers? Maybe one of you is helping the other with a sickness? Maybe you’re both religious? Whatever form it takes, your covenant will tell you what you can do to strengthen it, and how you can betray it for power. When you have a covenant with someone, you’re better able to help them and can summon them to fight at your side even if they’re far away – or dead.

Together, you’ll travel through the nightmare corridors of the castle, face down its minions and traps, draw on places of power, and learn more about the Regent. At the apex of each ward of the castle lurks one of the Regent’s Acolytes, playing some role in their dark plan.

When you enter battle with an Apostle, the system brings in a set of Confrontation Moves. You see, Apostles don’t work like normal enemies. Each is defined by three Qualities – packages of thematically-linked abilities.

And you can’t just attack the Apostle and deal damage – they’re far too powerful for that. Instead, you must search for openings, whether through baiting your foe out of position, pushing them onto the back foot, or spotting a weakness in their fighting style.

Once an opening has been identified you strike at the foe. If successful, you strip away one of their Qualities. If they’re still alive, they may counterattack, activate new Qualities, or fall back and fight more defensively. If it was their last Quality, they’re dead.

With each Acolyte that falls, you get closer to taking down the Regent. But you also grow in power yourself, absorbing the contamination of the castle. As your Blood rating grows, you unlock new abilities and advance your stats, but you also get closer to losing control.

And when you’ve faced down the Regent and they’re dead at your feet, all the power the castle was gathering for them is still waiting there, an unholy grail. The explorer most contaminated with the castle’s blood can take the grail and change the world. But there’s a cost: if you take the power, you’re the next regent of the castle. Maybe the GM takes control of your character? Maybe you’re the GM for the next generation? Up to your group. But this ensures that each castle follows on from those before, as you confront past sins. Meanwhile, your Bloodline is growing in fortune or suffering terrible trials. They’re there to give you respite as you explore and help you protect the mortal realm, and also create continuity between generation.

So – that’s Rhapsody of Blood, a fully standalone game of castle-raiding and reality-twisting contamination. You can pick it up now in PDF from DriveThruRPG, or very soon in softback from Modiphius. Go check it out – I’m particularly pleased with the layout I put together. Or if you need a bit more convincing, why not listen to our Actual Play podcast?

An example two-page spread.

Looking to the Horizon

That ends this tour through the Worlds of Legacy, but we may travel again. If you have an idea that brings Legacy’s multi-generation, wide-scale gameplay to a new setting, get in touch and we can talk. Especially if you don’t fit the standard RPG writer cis/het/white/male mould!