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:

  • James (@jamesciles) 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

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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!

Godsend in depth

Posted Posted in Design Diary, Personal

Over the last few days, we’ve survived the space trip from hell, founded a new colony, and watched new species grow from sentience’s first glimmers to reality-manipulating powerhouses.

Today we find absolute power facing its doom in Godsend, written by Khelren, and illustrated by Jess Taylor and Tithi Luadthong.

It’s the end of days. The signs are everywhere, even if fearful mortals ignore them. The desperate, the lost, the downtrodden call out for aid. And you are the Divinities who will save – or damn – them.

You decide what domain your god represents. Maybe the gentle peace of Death, the balanced scales of Justice, the deep lore of Knowledge?

You describe how your god chooses to appear; the rites and laws and worshippers of their cult; the wonders, shrines and threats that mark the landscape; and the epithet and sub-domain that add nuance to your god.

You also decide your place in the pantheon. Maybe one deity killed you, and that’s something you hold over them. Maybe another deity is your spouse and so that you’re equal in the pantheon. The leaders of the pantheon can command their lessers but must also heed their calls for aid.


You now have a world of wonders and perils, and a pantheon of deities ruling over it. But the power of a deity is subtle and ephemeral: they can see the strands of destiny and whisper into the minds of their followers, but the oncoming apocalypse needs a more overt intervention.

That’s where Avatars come in. Each player also creates a mortal who somehow caught the attention of another player’s deity – or stole power from them. Avatars are defined by their Calling: the glorious and destroying Angel, the compassionate Martyr, the rebellious Prometheus, or one of the 5 others.

Alongside the powers granted you by your Calling, you pick a role in your Divinity’s faith – Zealot, Heretic, Lost, Hierophant, Sybarite, and so on. Whatever you pick it says something about the faith, your place in it, and what you’re hoping to achieve.

Finally, you pick your stats. Avatars have four: Charisma, Valour, Will and Wisdom. But here’s where Godsend differs from standard PbtA games: you never roll dice with these stats. Those who wield divine power are not bound by the whims of fate.

Instead, when you trigger a Move, you make your mark on the world. Then pick a number of extra benefits up to your rating in one stat, and a number of calamities to avoid up to another stat’s rating. The calamities you didn’t pick are left to the GM to use as they desire.

An example move.

What this means is that as an Avatar you’re constantly making world-changing decisions, and telling grand stories of deities and demigods. As you protect cities and drown armies, as you steal the sun and seduce the moon, as you die and are reborn, your Deity must try to guide you

Even gods struggle to oppose the tides of destiny. By the efforts of their Avatar, they can shift their fate towards the world’s Salvation – or its Ruin. And when a god’s cult becomes strong enough, they can move the world to its next age – one step closer to the apocalypse.

Each time the age turns gods reshape the map, adding cities and monsters and plagues and wonders according to their current fate and their Domain. Maybe their avatars survived the turning of ages and return to the god’s service, or maybe the god must choose a new representative?

And avatars can fall, make no mistake. You’ll face scheming factions, giant monsters, even Titans that a group of Avatars may struggle to bring down. Or if the story needs a mortal perspective, you can see what it’s like to play a god’s Apostle fighting in the Avatar’s shadow.
Godsend has a firmer division between layers of play than Legacy, as you don’t control your god’s avatar. That distance adds more negotiation to play, and serves the game’s theme: do you trust your god to bend fate in your favour? Will their blessings be cherished or spurned?

And as ages pass and the world comes closer to the End of Days, will you make the sacrifices your god demands? Will you help them damn the world if they so desire? Or will you reject divine authority and make your own decisions about the world’s fate?


So that’s Godsend: a diceless, philosophical, standalone rpg about devotion, faith and power. Please do check it out, if only for the fantastic art!

Tomorrow, I’ll take you from the high-level, cosmic-scale stories of Godsend to its opposite: the life-and-death struggles of a handful of mortal heroes, fighting back a corrosive supernatural force from outside reality. The blood moon is rising and the castle is calling…

Legacy 2e Handout Sheets spreads

Primal Pathways in depth

Posted Posted in Design Diary, Legacy

Today’s World of Legacy is Primal Pathways, written by Laurence Phillips and illustrated by Juan Ochoa.

Primal Dawn

Primal Pathways begins at the dawn of life. As alien creatures make their first trembling steps onto land, they find ethereal spirits waiting for them: denizens of the Primal Plane, Guardians formed of the raw energy and power of life. Each spirit, focused on one aspect of life, picks a species to uplift, granting them sentience. So your first choice as a player is twofold: what sort of creatures are you, and who was the Guardian who uplifted you?

So, maybe you’re a herd of armoured elephantine creatures, empowered by the Devourer – the Guardian that favours creatures who consume without pity or remorse. Or perhaps you’re a hive of flying, stinging insects, chosen by the Hunter – the Guardian of those that seek out greater and greater challenges for their skills. Or maybe you’re a nimble race of tunnel-dwelling scuttling rodents, who draw on the genetic memory of their ancestors as they follow the edicts of the Otherworldly – Guardian of those that seek to understand the metaphysics of the world.


As you begin your game, your species barely know what it means to be people rather than animals. To guide them, you have a viewpoint character – maybe a Chosen, particularly empowered by the Guardian, or a Magus able to channel the Primal Plane. As you form new bonds with the other characters and explore this new world, you’ll improve your tribe’s lot – pushing back the threats that menace them, getting the resources they need to grow and prosper. Or maybe you run into problems, and things go badly for the tribe. How you’re tribe’s doing has its greatest impact when the Evolution move is triggered and generations rise and fall. If your mood is high, you can choose between experiencing fortunes or evolving new traits. If mood is low, you can only evolve if you also experience calamities.

Each Guardian has its own tree of evolutions, split into three pathways. Here’s the Builder‘s. Each evolution is another choice from the next tier, giving your creatures new traits, making your people more effective when working together, or giving them entirely new moves.
When you pass thresholds in the tree your People reach new stages of development, from Tribe to Realm to State. Making each jump brings new powers and new tags for your gear, but also its own problems. How will your people deal with a new need for Alliances, Mass Media, Energy?


And as your People become more and more advanced, maybe they start toying with the fabric of reality with Primal Pathway‘s new Wonders – The Grand Temple, The Primal Gate, even repeating the uplifiting process on another species with A New Awakening.


So that’s Primal Pathways – telling the story of how your People evolve, and how their way of life shifts and mutates as the scope of their society exponentially grows.

But maybe you don’t want to be the servants of intangible spirits. Maybe you want to play the gods themselves – or their servants. If so, tune in tomorrow, when I’ll be talking about Godsend.

Worldfall in depth

Posted Posted in Design Diary, Legacy

As promised yesterday, it’s now time to talk about Worldfall – written by Katherine Cross and illustrated by Claudia Cangini and Tithi Luadthong.

At the start of a game of Worldfall, you have just founded a colony on an alien world. The trip has been extensive and transformative, and the first thing you decide is the politics your cabal of colonists formed during the journey.

Maybe they were the Officer Class, in charge then and looking to keep control now? Or the Workers Intergalactic, the labourers keeping the ship – and now the colony – running and finding solidarity with each other?

The Officer Class
The Workers Intergalactic

Or maybe they tended to the culture of the ship, whether they’re the new religion of the Keepers of the Flame or the anarchist upstarts of the Scum of the Universe?

The Keepers of the Flame
The Scum of the Universe

Together, you build your cabals, making choices about the society of the fledgling colony and the world you have landed on. It’s a strange and wonderful land, bursting with life. What will you make of it? To answer that, you make Characters. Each character is the key viewpoint we have from that Cabal at this moment in time. You could go with a match for your Cabal (a Gasoline Fire from the Scum, maybe?) or something that’s orthogonal, like a Priestex from the Officer Class.

The Gasoline Fire
The Priestex

Your character explores the new world, makes deals with other factions, builds grand art projects and battles for the soul of the colony. As they do so, they’ll win or lose your Cabal points of Reputation – a marker for their influence over colony society. You play in this mode until someone completes Worldfall‘s signature Wonder – the Constitutional Convention. Once it’s completed, you all take turns to choose the colony’s negative and positive liberties. What things does it swear to provide its citizenry? What does it forbid? Each choice comes with its own government institution that you now control, as well as effects on the wider colony. Once you’ve divided them up between you, you move the clock forward a generation – and see what your choices have resulted in.

That’s how Worldfall plays: shifting between the challenges of colony development and the struggle to build a more perfect union. As generations pass, will the colony grow and thrive? Or will it shatter and wither? And all the while, maybe the planet is pushing back: learning more about you, sending its own emissaries to interfere, and try to co-opt you into its own ecosystem. Particularly if someone has chosen to play the Worldsoul – the gestalt representation of life on this planet.

So, that’s Worldfall. Please do check it out! And if getting into the mindset of weird, alien life appeals, tune in tomorrow when I tell you about Primal Pathways.

Worlds of Legacy now out – plus Generation Ship in depth.

Posted Posted in Design Diary, Legacy

The Worlds of Legacy are now live! Check them out at our store – I’m very excited by the variety in these books, and the work my authors have put in. In celebration, I thought I’d dive a bit deeper into each of them in turn. First up – Generation Ship by Aaron Griffin and illustrated by Tithi Luadthong.

In Generation Ship, you’re trapped in the bowels of a titanic machine and the machine is freezing to death in the void of space. You aren’t meant to be here. You shouldn’t even exist, as your ancestors were meant to be unfrozen when the ship reached its goal. But still, you live.


So, what do you do? You have a family of fellow passengers, who have carved out ling space in the ship’s guts. Maybe they’ve set up algae tanks to feed the community. Maybe they protect and revere the still-unfrozen. Maybe they’re maintenance bots, jolted out of the programmed-in behaviour.

Your family has goals, friendly factions, enemies and needs. And that’s where your character comes in. They’ll delve into the ship’s tunnels, make threats safe, find the legendary ship systems, and restore – and control – them.

That’s the work of generations. Each generation the society on the ship changes, and you pick a different character type to show a different side of your family. Maybe a wise Advisor, a lethal Soldier, or even the void-empowered Touched.

So you’re telling the story over generations of how society survives and adapts to this hostile environment, and how your family repairs or claims control of one of the ship systems – the bridge, the dropships, navigation, sensors. What happens when you’ve fixed them all? Well, you face a final decision – where do you land, and what flaws are you willing to accept from your new homeland to finally feel the earth under your feet?

Of course, there are more stories you can tell once the ship has landed and the colony as formed – but that’s a different game. Maybe I’ll tell you about Worldfall next.

Coming Soon: Worlds of Legacy

Posted Posted in Design Diary, Legacy

With Legacy out now and physical books on their way, it’s time to talk about what’s next. We’ll be returning to Legacy’s post-apocalyptica soon, but first up we’re doing something new: Worlds of Legacy.

The Worlds of Legacy

Each one is a brand new setting for Legacy by a new author, bringing new playbooks, moves and ideas for your game. They’re slim books but pack a lot of ideas in there. Each of them draws on Legacy’s faction and character gameplay, and lets you tell a story over generations, but the stories you’ll be telling are completely different. I’m currently looking over the final art and texts for all five, and I’m really excited to share them with you!

Primal Pathways

 

Champions of The Otherworldly, one of the Guardians

First up is Primal Pathways, written by Laurence Phillips and illustrated by Juan Ochoa. Each player controls a species enlightened by an otherworldly Guardian and must guide the growth of their civilisation and the evolution of the creatures, from the dawn of sentient life to the development of cities, nations and more.

Your Guardian might be the Devourer, the Builder, or many more; your character might be an Emissary, a Chosen of their Guardian, or one of four other playbooks.

What I love about this book is the evolution mechanics Laurence put together: the many diverse traits let you create some really weird civilisations (Ambulatory slugs! Parasitic and carnivorous plants! Spiders building cities in a jungle canopy!), while the evolution trees each Guardian provides let you radically change your species as the ages turn while remaining true to its primordial origins.

Generation Ship

The Keepers of the Long Sleep venerate the still-sleeping saviours of humanity.

Next we have Generation Ship, written by Aaron Griffin and illustrated by Tithi Luadthong. Long ago, your ancestors boarded a starship that’d take them to a new colony under a distant star. Frozen in rows hundreds deep, they slumbered through the centuries – until something went wrong. Woken up too early, you must now scavenge and survive within the bowels of a slowly-dying ship.

In this game, your families are organisations within the City that the Awoken have formed in the ship’s tunnels. Your playbook could be The Alliance of Agronomists, bio-engineers keeping the ship fed; The Maintenence Collective, autonomous bots gone far from their original programming; or maybe The Throng of Pleasure, those who tend to the City’s vices. Your character, meanwhile, might be a Diplomat skilled at making the disparate factions work together; a Sleeper, a newly woken remnant of the ship’s original builders; or The Touched, who has made contact with the void outside the ship and has drawn strange power from it.

And as you play, you’ll be working towards your final arrival – seeking out the ship’s key systems, working out how they’ve gone wrong, and claiming them for your Family. Each activated system – from the Astrogation Arrays to the Dropships – gives your family particular advantages so long as they claim them, and brings you all closer to your final arrival at a place you can call home.

Worldfall

The Officer Class

Of course, getting to a new planet is only half of the struggle. When you arrive, what sort of society will you all build?

That question is the heart of Worldfall, written by Katherine Cross and illustrated by Claudia Cangini and Tithi Luadthong. It’s a game of political sci-fi in a new colony, with each player controlling an ideological cabal within the colony’s society. You might be the Officer Class, still clinging to their ship-borne authority in this new society; the Guardians of Eden, attempting to understand and protect the ecosystem of their new home; or the Scum of the Universe, agitators, provocateurs and artists partying on the fringes of society.

The Gasoline Fire

Worldfall is a game of reputation and favours. As your character deals with the colony’s problems – the Hero of the People winning fairer wages for the workers, the Gasoline Fire burning the midnight oil to create age-defining artworks, the Flag pushing back over-aggressive wildlife – your cabal will accumulate political capital they can use to get what they need. Defining all that is your Constitutional Convention – a brand-new Wonder that sets out the freedoms your colony enshrines in law and responsibilities it enforces. As you play the constitution mutates and changes, to match your colony’s expansion.

Godsend

Jess Taylor’s amazing cover!

Let’s depart from the shores of sci-fi, and head to a mythic land. A land where gods bicker in their heavens. Where their avatars face down armies single-handed, and where the end of days is fast approaching.

In Godsend, written by Khelren and illustrated by Jess Taylor and Tithi Luadthong, you’ll come together to tell a story of faith and despair in a mythic age. You’ll make your divinity – maybe a domineering god of Knowledge who’s the head of the Pantheon, or a conniving Trickster deity who everyone keeps at arm’s length. Then you’ll make an avatar – for another player’s god. Maybe you’re an Angel, sent by them on a mission? A Pandora, mother of monsters? Or a Prometheus, who has stolen power from their god and must somehow deal with their wrath?

Avatars carry out their god’s will.

Godsend is bringing a lot of interesting things to the table. First, you’ll have a built-in relationship with two other players: you’ll be the god of one, and the avatar of another. Second, it’s entirely diceless: as rulers of fate, it’s fitting that you’re unconstrained by random chance. Instead, your stats determine how many good things happen when you use your divine abilities – and how many calamities you avoid. Finally, you will fill your map with grand civilisations to lay low, armies to challenge, monsters that can rampage – escalating in scale and drama as the apocalypse approaches.

Rhapsody of Blood

The Holy Church stand firm against the darkness.

Every generation the blood moon rises, and the castle exalts a villain with its dark gifts. They shall command its legions, use its powers to twist reality, and seek the godlike power of the unholy grail.

In Rhapsody of Blood, written by me (James Iles) and illustrated by Adrian Stone, you are the ones here to stop them. Your bloodlines have fought the castle since its first emergence, and that legacy has granted you endless tenacity, strange powers, or unbreakable faith. Together, you will root out the wards of the castle where they have infested the mundane world, slay the acolytes of the castle’s regent, steal their dark power for your own and banish the regent and the castle with them.

But the castle is immortal, and the blood moon will rise again. As generations rise and fall, what tales of heroic action and gothic bloodshed will you tell?

The castle’s Regent sends their minions out to blight the land.

Look out for more details in the coming weeks as we get closer to these game’s release!

Red Moon Rising 9 – Ascension

It’s time for the finale of Red Moon Rising!

In this session, Zithar discovers a new use for their satchels, Julia makes a final sacrifice, Hector falls prey to fatalism, and Alexandria reaches a new level of communion with her spirit.

Thanks so much to the Gauntlet community for hosting these sessions, and to my players. Keep an ear open for what we’re playing next! As for Rhapsody of Blood, it’s now at the printers – look for it going on sale by the end of May!

Red Moon Rising was hosted by James Iles (@jamesciles), with Hector played by Jesse Larimer, Zithar played by Tomer Gurantz (@tgurantz), Julia played by Derek Grimm, Alexandria played by Aaron DeRosa (@OrderedPlace), Isidor played by Maria Rivera (@thoobn), and Cygan played by Ellen Saxon. Originally recorded as part of The Gauntlet Hangouts.

Cover art by Tithi Luadthong (portfolio)

Intro/outro music is “Space (Full)” by Andy G. Cohen

Background audio provided by Tabletop Gaming Audio