Two Years of Legacy

It’s been two years today since I released Legacy 2nd Edition to the general public on DriveThruRPG. As a distraction from the pandemic spreading in real life, I thought it might be worth looking back at this game of hope and community after the end. What went right, and what went wrong? What unexpected joys did we encounter, and what do we plan for the future?

Facts and Figures

So, we started making Legacy’s 2nd edition sometime in the Autumn of 2016. At that point Douglas and I were considering it as a revised edition of Legacy, but as the scale of the changes grew and grew we realised it could be something much bigger. Over the course of 2017 we developed the game, eventually bringing it to Kickstarter in July 2017. The response was amazing – within a day we had blown past our modest £8,000 goal, and eventually closed out the campaign with £62,258 from 1,713 backers.

What did they all pledge for?

A graph of how many people pledged for each kickstarter reward (non-exclusive)
A graph of how many people pledged for each kickstarter reward (non-exclusive).

With the addition of a post-campaign pledge manager, my final budget for the project was £91,700. What did all that get used for? Well, as a result of the campaign we were able to make:

As you can likely tell, we had our work set out for ourselves even with the generosity of our backers bouying us up, and definitely got carried away promising extra bits and pieces. How did it all shake out? Let’s look at Legacy 2e itself.

Final costs: Legacy 2e

You’re likely noticing that writing costs aren’t up there. When this kickstarter launched, I was in full-time work and wanted to put profits from Legacy 2e back into the business. Meanwhile, Douglas was (and still is) paid an agreed amount per book sold. These days, I think I’d budget a fixed amount of wages for myself, and a lump sum for Douglas – this would have made accounting a lot easier down the line.

  • Art: £2224 (14 commissioned pieces, 52 stock art pieces, all from Tithi Luadthong).
  • Layout: £1000 (by the wonderful Oli Jeffrey, who very kindly showed me the ropes for RPG layout).
  • Editing: £1383 (approx. 60k words).
  • Printing: £6000 (2000 copies, 250 of which were deluxe copies bound in faux leather and presented in a durable slipcase).

With all costs combined, the first printing run of Legacy 2e cost £18,380. This was well within my kickstarter budget!

End Results

Fortunes

This project was a significant success that helped put UFO Press on the map worldwide. After paying all costs and fulfilling all backer orders, I had £22,500 remaining to fund future development and pay my own salary. And the long tail of sales has been a real boon! Post-kickstarter sales have resulted in profits of approximately £25k over the last two years, providing a stable source of income for myself and allowing for a second print run of the Legacy corebook.

Of that wide range of additions above, most have turned a healthy profit. Even the Worlds of Legacy books, which have seen slow sales compared to the corebook, have each individually turned a profit and lead to regular royalties for the authors who opted for that arrangement.

Trials

The main misstep I made was the Handout Sheets. Printing a deck of full-colour dry-erase A5 cards at this volume proved very expensive and I misjudged how many of these I’d sell after the kickstarter, with the result that this part of the project was a loss of about £6,000. If you want to ease this loss a bit, you can pick up your own set here 😉

When I made a similar set for the Next World Kickstarter, I learned from this by using a cheaper, UK-based manufacturer and ordering a much lower number of units, with the effect that the Next World Handouts have been profitable.

My other takeaway is that I undervalued the books during the original kickstarter. Selling the 320-page full colour hardback for £30 was below market rates, and the 60+ page Worlds of Legacy supplements struggled to make a strong profit selling for £10 each – or £6 each in the book bundle! No doubt this helped me get so many backers, but there’s a tradeoff there. The great majority of backers bought the book bundle, and so I could have significantly reduced costs by combining the supplements into a single product.

This would have helped get more eyes on the more underappreciated books of the set. Laurence Phillip’s wonderfully weird Primal Pathways and Katherine’s Cross politically-insightful Worldfall have both found it hard to stand out, but I believe deserve just as much appreciation as Godsend or Generation Ship.

Personal Impact

The Legacy 2e campaign made a significant change to my life. Previous projects had brought in enough money to make the book with some spare cash left over, but this was enough to make UFO Press my full-time source of income. That’s been invaluable as I’ve navigated the shoals of my personal life in the last few years, and I’ll never stop being thankful for it. Plus, I’ve been able to take Legacy 2e to a lot of conventions – Dragonmeet, Nine Worlds (RIP), the UK Games Expo, Big Bad Con and more. Having a cool product to sell meant I could fund those trips, see the world, and make some really good friends.

The UK Indie RPG League stall at Dragonmeet 2018
At Dragonmeet 2018 with the UK Indie RPG League.

It hasn’t all been wine and roses. With this unexpected success, I have to fight down the hope every time I launch a campaign that maybe this one could do Legacy 2e numbers too. This led to disappointment, and made it tough for me to appreciate the successes of the Next World project, Mysthea, or Voidheart Symphony. But, that’s a good problem to have.

My distribution agreement with Modiphius also taught me I really appreciate having control of my product’s distribution and presentation. I’m very grateful to them for the marketing and distribution assistance they provided with Legacy, but as of the start of this year I’ve taken those elements in-house. So far, that’s felt like a good move – financially, psychologically and creatively.

The Ages Turn

With two years of Legacy under my belt, I’m very happy with what our creative team achieved here:

  • A gold bestseller on DriveThruRPG , in the top 2.4% of products.
  • Finalist for Best Rules and Best Interior Art in the 2019 Ennies, and for Game of the Year in the 2019 Indie Groundbreaker Awards.
  • A follow-on kickstarter for Legacy: The Next World, funding three supplement books.
  • A Bundle of Holding sale that sold over 1000 bundles and raised $2,121.75 for Mermaids UK.

At this point, I’m happy moving on to other things. The Worlds of Legacy SRD is now live, letting others make their own games based on this system. End Game and The Engine of Life are moving into US distribution, and will hopefully find an audience among the Legacy players there. And Mysthea: Legends of the Borderlands and Voidheart Symphony are getting closer to completion every day. And who knows – as the seasons change and the ages turn, maybe we’ll find our way to making Legacy 3e someday!

Thanks for reading,

Jay

Playbook focus: The Inhuman

For the most part, your rebels in Voidheart Symphony are people who brushed up against the castle in their day-to-day lives, seen its impact on the city, and decided to take up arms against it. The Inhuman comes to the group from an altogether different route – they were created by the castle, whether they’re a minion who went rogue or an ordinary human transformed by its taint. Can the other rebels trust them? And how will they form a new identity for themselves, away from their progenitor?

The Inhuman

The void doesn’t understand you, and hates you for it. I’m not sure I get you either, but I love every second. 

Basics

The Inhuman stands apart from the city, and from the castle. They use their castle-granted abilities to fight back against it, breaking down its hierarchies and channeling the hunger of the void to consume its agents. But their inhuman nature sets them apart from the mortal world. They have trouble blending in with humanity, getting the resources they need to survive, or form strong relationships with new people.

Inspirations: Aegis in Persona 3, Tobias in Animorphs, Teddy in Persona 4.

The Inhuman and the Crew

It’s quite likely that the crew are the most formative people in the Inhuman’s life. They might be the ones teaching them how to be a person, or the people responsible for the Inhuman’s creation in the first place. But what’s the particular dynamic your Inhuman seeks out?

The Moon

Creatures of the castle draw on the primal darkness of the human psyche. As the Moon, you’re a creature of chaos and illusion, nightmares and obsession. You’re the crew’s route into the impossible landscapes of the subconscious, and one of them is particularly obsessed with you for reasons they can’t quite explain. When you hang out, there’s no mechanical effects, but you have free rein to paint the scene in whatever dreamlike, hallucinatory colours you desire. In the city, you can consult your dreams for guidance, but it’s a coinflip – on a heads you learn something important and get a bonus dealing with it, but on a tails it’s distressing. You might choose to get fleeting disadvantage for the next day, but isn’t it more fun to pick ‘realise something uncomfortable about yourself’? And in the castle, you cut loose with wild and chaotic transformations, sprouting wings, tentacles, armour plates and more. The greater your bond with the crew, the more you’ll be able to twist your body to aid them.

Pick the Moon if: You want your mundane shell to house a primal nightmare of chaos and illusion.

The Star

Maybe what you used to be isn’t as interesting as what you might become. As the Star, you’re a creature of untapped potential, and one of the other rebels is helping you find out what that is. You’re a fount of creative energy – when you hang out with someone, you can show them what you’re working on and give them insight into their other relationships. In the city, you can always find an unexpected path. Ask the Architect for insight, and they’ll let you know where would be useful to go next. And finally, in the castle, you can awaken that potential – gaining temporary access to a Castle Move from a playbook no-one else is using.

Pick the Star if: You want to be a bright point of light promising to become something entirely new.

Death

It’s perhaps a cliche that the Death card represents transformation instead of mortality – though if you pick this arcanum, it might represent both. You used to be one thing, and now you’re something else. That could mean you’re a ghost, or an AI housed in a new robot body, or a pet who got too close to the castle and gained a human mind. One of the rebels knew you before all that went down, and you’ll need to reckon with how that affects your relationship. Do they support how you are now? Do you wish you could return to the previous state? When you hang out with another rebel, your questions about their regrets and worries pierce to the heart of them. They can lie, but both of you will know if they do. In the city, you can push people to see how they’re stuck in harmful patterns. The more in tune you are with this spirit of transformation, the better that’ll go for each of you. And in the castle, you can cut out part of another rebel to save their mundane life from their castle-based injuries, or push back the encroaching void.

Pick Death if: You want to transform other’s lives, just as you’ve been transformed.

Moves and Powers

The Inhuman, more than any other playbook, gains strange powers as the Shadow floods into them. Here’s what that lets them do.

Castle Moves

Simple and powerful, Unnatural Form lets you showcase your inhuman body’s strengths – and avoid harm in the bargain. Castle Guide is similarly effective – so long as you’re with them, the group’s attempts to travel the castle always bring them closer to their goal and you spot hidden details about the landscape. Soul Bond lets you become another character’s familiar, tapping into one of their moves and letting you always be there to help them. And finally, Child of Lilith is niche but very cool – when you have an opportunity to destroy one of the more potent minions of the castle, you can instead stay your hand and forge a lasting Covenant with them. Note that unlike other ‘recruit a minion’ abilities, this doesn’t earn you shrouds, and can form a lasting partnership with other castle denizens.

Shadow Moves

You’re already strange – how do you get stranger as the Shadow pours into you? Well, My True Form is a pretty direct route to that, letting you tap into the castle to grow new limbs and organs as your heart desires. Apparition’s Blade is the offensive counterpart, letting you shroud your weapons in the void’s hunger to slice through defences, reach across incredible distances, or whatever extra tag you prefer.

And then there’s the utility powers. With Ghost Eater you can take on the powers of minions you defeat, or sacrifice the consumed minion to hold the castle’s corruption at bay. And with Psychopomp you can use the castle-shard as a gate to far stranger places. Visit the inner landscape of someone’s psyche, the place where dead things go, or even the source of the castle – perfect for a final confrontation.

For your shadow look, you have the opportunity to truly define what your ideal self looks like. Is it more human than your form in the city, or less? Does it reflect your origins, or where you want to end up?

The Mundane World

More that the other playbooks, the Inhuman has a significant choice to make in the mundane world – how, exactly, they blend in with humanity. Are they a Pretender, trying to convince those around them they’re absolutely ordinary? Are they an Interloper living on the fringes of society, doing what they can to use supernatural powers to help humanity? Or are they a Lurker who doesn’t even try to be a normal human, instead presenting as an animal, a haunting spirit, or a fearsome monster? Whichever you choose, you’ll get advantage on checks against one clock and disadvantage on another, as you’re not quite present in society in the same way as other rebels.

Wrapping Up

The Inhuman has a unique perspective on the castle, and a key role in the crew. They can do things no-one else can, and bring their friends along for the ride. Humanity’s so crucial to Voidheart Symphony – finding the joy and beauty in everyday life, and the Inhuman gives you a great vehicle to explore that. You get to throw yourself into society from a fresh perspective, and truly work out who you want to be.

And looking at the society from a fresh perspective is something our last playbook is well familiar with. Tune in next time to hear more about the keenly perceptive Watcher!

Playbook Focus: The Icon

The Icon is something of a paradox in Voidheart Symphony. Most of your characters are ostracised by society, pushed to its margins, breaking its mores. The Icon, though? They’re adored.

But that’s its own set of chains – other people are relying on them, their coaches and managers have their own plans for them, and their fans expect them to behave according to their public persona. Will the Icon be able to use their fame to aid the struggle, or will it end up a liability?

The Icon

Photo by Jonathan Chng
Photo by Jonathan Chng

If the void feels overwhelming, just watch me shine.

Basics

The Icon is all about appearance. They’re a perfect distraction, a gleaming rallying beacon, an inspiration to their fellows. But if that perfection is marred – or if they don’t have an audience – they’ll find it hard to face the castle’s slings and arrows. Good job they have allies.

Inspirations: Ryuji in Persona 5, Spider Jerusalem in Transmetropolitan, Tahani in The Good Place, Richard Castle in Castle.

The Icon and the Crew

What’s your relationship to others? Are they your fans, your groupies, your roadies? Or are they the people you can relax around, and let the mask slip for a time?

Strength

The one who would master the world must first master themselves. An Icon who’s aligned with Strength has a strong sense of who they are, and uses that self-image to drive them in excelling at their chosen craft. And what’s more, they’re teaching the other rebels how to find confidence and resilience too. When they hang out with other rebels, they can walk them through their emotional issues and give them a bonus the next time that emotion causes problems. In the city, they find solidarity in the presence of their allies, using weight of numbers to more effectively Make a Stand. And in the castle they can make the ultimate sacrifice, jumping in front of blows that would otherwise take out their allies.

Pick Strength if: You want to be a confident, inspiring beacon, a rock of stability for the team.

Chariot

An Icon following the Chariot is a incredibly driven, a constant force of motion unwilling to allow anything to control their movements. They might be a daredevil athlete, a musician always playing new venues, a streamer working themselves to the bone to build their audience. And that has a cost – at least one of the rebels regularly gives you a place to crash when the stress gets too much. When you hang out with others, you can dare them to do something risky – if they follow through with it, your bond deepens, though if they turn it down the next dare will have to be more extreme. In the city you’re great at getting places fast, dodging obstacles and commandeering forms of transport. And in the castle you can channel your motive power into a thundering charge, pushing them away from your allies and smashing them into the scenery.

Pick the Chariot if: you want to live fast (and hopefully not die young).

The Lovers

And then there’s the Icon who lives in the hearts of others. binding your group together with love and affection. By default, picking this means you’re in a romantic relationship with at least one of the other PCs – maybe more – and so it’s important to make sure that fits the story the group wants to tell before picking this. You help those you love become their best selves – when they hang out with you, you can tell them why you love them and give them advantages when they act in line with that. In the city you can look into the hearts of others, learning more about what they find precious. And in the castle, your love gives you endurance to hold on – getting wounded makes you more effective, though you give yourself an obligation to show your lover(s) what they mean to you.

Pick the Lovers if: You want your love (and matters of the heart in general) to be a major feature of your story.

Moves and Powers

The Icon is larger than life. Their abilities reflect this – making them a glorious rallying point, an inspiring speaker, a paragon of athletic virtue.

Castle Moves

Each of the Icon’s moves plays into their themes of perfection and excellence. Eyes on Me lets the Icon stage a distraction and the drop of a hat, drawing minion’s eyes and giving your allies an opportunity for action. Or if you wish to be more active at the centre of attention, Best of the Best lets you perform impossible feats of strength, grace and endurance, though it might be painful.

Or if the attention of your allies is more important to you, Words of Fire makes you far more effective at rescuing your allies from danger and getting them ready to keep going when you rest. And if boosting your allies is something you wish to do as a side benefit of being cool and stylish, Reflected Glory is a great addition – meaning that any time you roll a 12+ another ally gets inspired and your bond deepens.

Shadow Moves

And when you’re already at the apex of humanity (or so your fans believe), adding the supernatural leads to explosive results. Improvisation is the simplest – if you need a weapon to do something else, just mark a shroud and its perk or drawback is something completely different. Turn a spear into a bow into a beam of light into a lightsaber! Impossible Perfection unmarred by wounds and harm, though it works best if your allies are more roughed up to provide contrast.

And then there’s the effects that let you wield your charisma as a weapon. Steal Your Heart lets you sway the castle’s minions, filling them with a desire to please you even if it’s only temporary. And Audacity lets you get right up in the Vassal’s face, forcing them to get on your level and reveal key weaknesses to you.

For your shadow look, the big question to ask is: are you going to invest more and more heavily in your Icon’s myth? Or are you going to do something different, show the avatar they wish they could have in the real world? A star athlete gaining champion’s laurels, a wrestler’s costume, and an aura of glory is one thing; a demure book author gaining those is quite another!

The Mundane World

The Icon needs to decide what brings them fame. Do they excel in the physical sphere, like the Track Champ or Athlete? Do they make art, like the Author or the Vandal? Or are they trying to build a following around themselves, like the Diva, the Streamer, or the Pundit? And once you know who their adoring public is, ask yourself – who is benefiting from my fame? Who would be hurt if I stopped doing this? Who is going to try to keep me on-brand?

Wrapping Up

The Icon is larger than life, and that gives them a lot of power and privilege. But it’s important they remember that it’s a pretence, that maintaining that facade costs them and costs others, and that they are all too human at their core.

But that’s not true of all the rebels. Next time, we delve into the strangest of our playbooks – the void-spawned Inhuman!

Playbook Focus: The Harlequin

Voidheart Symphony deals with serious things – abuses of power, the grinding poverty, the desperation of living under brutal systems that do not have your best interests at heart, and more. Faced with that, some rebels grit their teeth and face the struggle. Some rally allies into a formidable rebellion. Some look to those that are hurting and try to ease their pain. But the Harlequin? The Harlequin laughs.

The Harlequin

Photo by Christian Wiediger

If there won’t be dancing at the revolution, I’m not coming.

Basics

The Harlequin is a trickster and provocateur. They prick the pomposity of tyrants, keep their ally’s spirits high, and hurl themselves into danger without a care in the world. They’re incredible at throwing their foes off-balance and doing the unexpected, but their weakness is that they don’t have much control over what happens next. They can set the fuse, but have difficulty dealing with the bomb.

Inspirations: Yosuke in Persona 4, Yusuke in Persona 5, Amethyst in Steven Universe, Todd in Bojack Horseman.

The Harlequin and the Crew

What’s the root of your trickery? Are you trying to keep the others happy? Show them a different way to see the world? Or do you just want to see what happens if you throw things into chaos?

The Fool

The Fool sits at the start of the tarot, representing naivete and new beginnings. For the Harlequin, the path of the Fool is one of fearless risk, throwing themselves into danger and the unknown. They’re trusting, when no-one else would be – their starting question establishes that they took a chance on another rebel, trusting them completely. Their Hangout move leads to strange coincidences happening around them, somehow benefiting their friends. In the city, they can gamble on a make-or-break solution to their problems, bringing either great success or terrible woes. And in the castle, when things get to much they can just nope out of danger, with the only question being what perils they’ll have to deal with the next time you see them.

Pick the Fool if: You want to be an agent of chaos who always has a way out – if fate is in their favour.

The Hanged Man

The Fool is a hyperactive force of chaos and uncertainty; the Hanged Man is the opposite, stability and passivity. They challenge the other rebels to stop for a moment and relax a little. Yes, your cause is serious, but if you work yourself into an early grave that’s not going to help anyone. When you hang out with your friends, you can help them with their dilemmas – or at least makes the consequences of their options more clear. In the city, you’re better able to watch and learn details without risking yourself. And in the castle, your stoicism lets you accept the pain your adversaries deal you, spotting their weaknesses even as you get more and more wounded.

Pick the Hanged Man if: You want to be a calm, laconic source of insight and stability. Or, just, you want to play a stoner.

The High Priestess

The High Priestess is a source of intuition, wisdom through unexpected sources, spirituality and mysticism. A Harlequin on this path is an oracle for the team – they might not always make a ton of sense, but their insights often somehow end up pointing people the right direction. You can see the hidden places of beauty in the city, and show them to others when they hang out with you – letting them refresh their trouble gauges when they tend to it. In the city, your dreams are prophetic, letting you ask any one question about future events and getting advantage when you follow them. And in the castle, you push that joy and faith in your heart out into the area around you, warding away the castle’s creatures and protecting others.

Pick the High Priestess if: You want to be a fount of prophecy and vision, a modern oracle slightly perpendicular to reality.

Moves and Powers

The Harlequin excels at playing with other’s expectations and being a wild card. Here’s how those abilities manifest withe the accumulation of the void’s Shadow…

Castle Moves

The Harlequin’s castle moves play into their themes of improvisation, trickery and oddity. Ace Up Their Sleeve is simple but effective, letting them uncover weaknesses in their enemy with trickery and misdirection and use a better stat as they do so. I Can Do That Better makes you an (obnoxiously) effective follow-up act, making sure the action another rebel failed out succeeds in the end. Pratfall is the opposite – making your actions harder but setting up your friends to succeed.

And then there’s Trump Card, an impressive weapon of last resort. Whatever form it takes, it’ll take out an Adversary – no need for Qualities or Strikes, do not pass go. There’s a significant cost, though, as it’s also likely to max out one of your Trouble Gauges and deal you a Deadly Wound in the process.

Shadow Moves

With supernatural power backing up your actions, your tricks become powerful illusions – or even supplant reality. I Was Never Here lets you leave doppelgangers behind as you dodge attacks – and turn the duplicates into weapons. Made You Look gives you the ability to command your enemy’s attention, giving your allies a cheap shot while their back is turned. And Tears of a Clown is incredibly effective at taking off the adversary’s mask, filling their heart with emotion that you can then capitalise on.

And then there’s Wild Card. This is the only effect in the game that lets you reach across playbooks, grabbing some other archetype’s Shadow Move. The possibilities are huge – use a Heretic’s Subversive Whisper to sow discord in the ranks, the Inhuman’s True Form to become an eldritch and terrifying clown, the Idol’s Audacity to get a hotline direct to the Vassal. And each time you Vent and then regain Shadow, you can swap this move out and get a shadow move from another playbook.

The way you form changes as the Shadow flows into you says a lot about your harlequin, too. Are you a laughing, prismatic-eyed, monkey-tailed trickster in a fancy coat? An oracle with a narcotic haze, a shapeless habit, and a will’o’the’wisp glow? A terrifying nightmare jester in colourful motley with a quicksilver mask?

The Mundane World

The Harlequin doesn’t take life seriously. Maybe they’re a Dropout, a Stoner, or living on ‘Independent Means’, trying their best to check out of the stress of regular life. They could be a Class Clown, an Artist, a Dreamer, trying to prick pomposity and show people a better way. Or maybe they’re a Cashier or Temp resigned to a dead-end job – or a Scam(?) Psychic, giving clients spiritual guidance for money.

Wrapping Up

The Harlequin can be many things – a provocateur or a troll, a visionary or a fool, a jester or a miracle worker. But this war against the castle threatens to grind them down – how long can they maintain their smile and their ironic distance? And is there something else under the mask, just waiting for the facade to crack?

And the Harlequin isn’t alone in living a role, gaining power from its dramas and tropes. Check in next time for information on the Icon – a figure of adoration, struggling against chains of hope, desire and expectation.

Playbook Focus: The Provider

You’ll spend a lot of your Voidheart Symphony fighting. Facing down the Vassal’s guards in the mundane world, assaulting their minions in the castle, clashing in pitched battle with their avatar. But revolutions are built on more than violence and conflict – they’re also built on love and understanding and taking care of the weakest among us. Enter the Provider.

The Provider

Photo by Thiago Barletta

We have to care for each other. That’s the only way this becomes something that lasts.

Basics

The Provider is all about caring for others. They’re the worker at the soup kitchen, the teaching assistant trying to direct limited resources to those who most need them, the kid working two jobs and trying to keep up with school work to provide for a sick parent.

The Provider draws strength from helping others. They’re incredible in a support role, giving their friends the things they need to succeed and rescuing them from danger. Their weakness, of course, is that they’re self-sacrificing – working themselves to the bone to help others, and jumping in front of the blows that would strike their friends. To survive as part of this revolution, they’ll need friends to help share the load and take care of them too.

Inspirations: Shiki in The World Ends With You, Steven from Steven Universe, Cassie from Animorphs, Pluto from Heaven Will be Mine.

The Provider and the Crew

There are many ways to be there for others – here’s the three ones the Provider has available by default.

The Empress

The Empress is the most maternal of the Provider’s options. Your care comes from a place of authority – you make others feel like you know best, and can make them feel safe. Indeed, at least one crew member will start the game knowing they can always come to you to feel supported. The Empress covenant gives you a few useful tools to help with this. First up, your hangout move lets you give the others a project to work on – something that’ll improve their life as they understand it better. Your city move is more intensive care, salving many of your patient’s worries at cost to yourself. And in the castle, you have a spirit of care and protection haunting you, ready to offer you advice and let you know what the best solution is.

Pick the Empress if: You want to create a supportive environment for others, with many tools to ease their pain.

Temperance

Where the Empress is a top-down approach to care, Temperance is more mutualistic approach. You bring moderation, stopping your friends from going too far and bringing them up when they’re feeling low. In the city, you’re particularly good at moderating your own impulses, having a better time when you party with your friends and causing less collateral damage when you vent out the void’s power. In the castle, you can balance out Shrouds or Shadow between yourself and others, pairing nicely with the city move – you can safely vent out your own Shadow points, then bring other’s ratings down when they get too high.

Pick Temperance if: You want to mediate between your friends, and want to be protected against unintended consequences.

The Wheel of Fortune

A Provider following the Wheel of Fortune is frugal and wary, fortified against the shocks and surprises of fate and chance. In good times they stockpile, in bad times they share. They’re always aware of how luck can shift, and their hangout move lets them guide their friends away from danger or towards success depending on the whims of fate. Their city move gives them personal form of karma, building up good fortune by helping others; their castle move lets them reduce their roll results when they’re better than needed to bump failures and partial hits up to victories.

Pick the Wheel of Fortune if: You want to be buffeted against random chance or misfortune, and you’re fine with sacrificing a little now to achieve great things later.

Moves and Powers

The Castle’s power brings self-actualisation and increased strength – it’s fitting that the Provider fights back by using that power to help others.

Castle Moves

When they hit Shadow 1, the Provider has to choose how their drive to protect and nurture manifests. If you’re tempted to go heavy into Cups, you can use your talent for empathy and sorcery by tapping into the Vassal’s desires with Heart to Heart and jumping in the way of attacks with Self-Sacrificing. Alternatively, you can be less direct and lend support to the others, bolstering your Help and Stand With Me attempts with Soothing Presence so that your beneficiary is kept healthy and sane. Or with Mother Knows Best, you can verge on being an Authority, handing out advice that’ll help your fellows so long as they do exactly what you say.

You’ll have a weapon, too. If you’re looking to defend your friends, something with Stun or Hefty will let you push away your enemies and give your allies breathing room – think of a big hammer with Hefty and Brace, or a electric prod with Stun and Grazing. Or if you’re looking to keep your distance and be ready to help others, maybe something with Ranged is what you’re looking for? And then there’s the gear options you can pick from; do you want more protection with hard-wearing clothes, a bow you can use as a backup weapon, or home cooking to better help everyone else when you make camp?

Shadow Moves

And as you accept more of the castle’s powers, you become more active – not just offering advice and helping, but taking direct action against those that’d hurt your friends. Mama Bear‘s the clearest example of this – when your wards are in danger, you can lift and carry any weight for as long as it takes to keep them safe.

Tutor lines up with Heart to Heart, further augmenting Drink Deep by giving the entire party the ability to warp the castle; meanwhile Help to Heal is a great counterpart to Self-Sacrificing and Soothing Presence, letting you get rid of your own injuries when you help others. Finally, Mother of Monsters lets you bring life into the world – crafting a custom-made creature out of voidstuff. They’re more independent and wilful than the minions the Authority can sway over – you’re their parent, not their boss, even if they do love and support you.

The way you view providing and protection will manifest in your appearance, too. Think about the difference between a serene dryad in holy robes surrounded by floral wreaths and a terrifying medusa in bodyguard armour, carrying belts of potions to heal their friends.

The Mundane World

When you’re picking your Role, the question becomes: who do you provide for? Are you a Big Sibling, a Carer or a Parent, looking after someone close to you? Are you a Cleric, a Teaching Assistant or a Tender, shepherding your personal flock? Or are you a Bartender, a Medic, an EMT, helping whoever needs it in the moment?

And how does that manifest in your regular appearance? Are you practical, prepared, worn out? Are you kind, weary, intense? Think about what sort of mood you put out – would someone ask you for help, or even feel like they’re owed your assistance? Or does your look put people off, and it’s a surprise when you volunteer your aid?

Wrapping Up

The Provider is here to help, and they’re crucial to keeping your rebels in the fight. It’s definitely a support playbook, but support is invaluable in this game. It’ll give you more opportunities to nurture your covenants, and let your fellows focus on striking down the enemies. They’re earnest, practical, resilient.

So what about someone facile, impractical and flighty? How could such a creature ever help the revolution? Find out next time, when we look at the Harlequin.

Playbook Focus: The Heretic

Voidheart Symphony is a game of revolution in the shadows of the city. Who better to focus on next, then, than the Heretic?

The Heretic

Photo by Alexander Popov

Burning down the house.

Basics

The Heretic is here to bring it all down – every corrupt authoritarian, every cruel system, every watchdog more concerned with the status quo than justice.

The Heretic’s strength is independence – they’re very difficult to pin down, and skilled at operating on their own. They’re also extremely resourceful, great at cobbling together something useful in the nick of time. One weakness is that they tend to run hot – they can find it very easy to accept more and more of the castle’s power, and become vulnerable to its coercion.

Inspirations: Beat in The World Ends With You, Kanji in Persona 4, Elliot in Mr. Robot.

The Heretic and the Crew

Your revolutionary fervour doesn’t stop you playing an important role in the crew – but as always, you have a few choices for what this might be.

The Devil

A Heretic that takes after the Devil is following the path of Lucifer, constantly pushing against society’s codes and trying to shake people out of comfortable – but harmful – ways of being. They enjoy pushing other’s boundaries – but have to be careful to make amends if they go too far. Their abilities let the Heretic burn bright but burn quick, whether that’s by hugely boosting the rate at which they accumulate power in the castle, or casting aside mundane obligations that are weighing them down. Their Hangout move lets them do this to others, but they have to be careful that they respect what the other rebel wants out of the interaction. But, in counterpoint to all that, they have to pick which of the other rebels comforts them when this rock and roll revolution gets too much – they have a soft side that at least one other character has seen.

Pick the Devil if: you want to grab as much power as you can get, and help others do the same.

The Magician

The Magician supercharges the Heretic’s resourcefulness, giving them skills and tools that can blow through problems in this world or the void’s. They’re a practised and skilled individual, such that another rebel depends on their talents to get by. In the mundane world, they have the drive to pour everything into a project, impressing others and speeding the project’s completion. In the castle, they can perform literal magic, improvised rituals that can create impressive and freeform effects. And they can share these talents with the other rebels, teaching them little tricks and skills that’ll help them during the investigation.

Pick the Magician if: You want to have an answer to every situation.

The Tower

A Heretic that follows The Tower has been through absolute ruin, and after another rebel helped them put their life together they’re fearless in confronting the castle’s pressures. The skills they learned at rock bottom help them push themselves now. When they would max out a trouble gauge and be taken out, they can get a second wind to keep going. In the castle, they can get great power at a cost – automatically succeeding at a move without having to roll, but taking a deadly wound. But their Hangout move presents a challenge to their fellows – if they respect what you’re looking for your bond can grow much stronger, but if they provide unwanted assistance (or don’t take you seriously) it’ll cause problems down the line.

Pick the Tower if: You want to survive and endure, no matter what.

Moves and Powers

As the Shadow flows into them, the Heretic becomes what they always wanted to be – an avenger ready to bring down the castle and its servants. Each of their moves plays into their themes of mobility, independence and disruption in different ways, letting you pick what kind of spanner in the works you want to be.

Castle Moves

First up, Free Running. As a Heretic, you do your best work when you’re free and mobile – this helps greatly with that, letting you keep momentum as you move and avoid your enemies as you do so. You can chain multiple Flow Like Water attempts together so long as the dice favour you, or turn that momentum into a successful Dodge and pull your enemies out of position.

And if you take Hey, Asshole! you can get great use out of that momentum, because your opponent will definitely want a piece of you. This move makes you an excellent antagonist, getting under the skin of your enemies and forcing them to deal with you. The better able you are to understand them, the more you can mess with them, disrupting their attacks and weakening their defences.

But maybe you want to lever your understanding in other ways. Radical Empathy lets you get under their skin by showing mercy, getting valuable information on your true target and even recruiting them to your side. The void’s creations aren’t inherently evil – we’ll see that when we get to the Inhuman – and a Heretic that heavily invests in this move can end up building a whole shadow revolution in the castle.

Finally, Resourceful helps the Heretic always have an answer to the situation, even if it might be a little lacking in places. No matter how hard-pressed you are, a rifle through your pockets will turn up something.

Shadow Moves

And as you gain shrouds and your Shadow rises, your Heretic’s toolbox will unfold. If you’re focuses on mobility and up-front antagonism, Shadow Step and A Shadow Like a Mirror are ripe for use. They’ll let you dart around the battlefield from shadow to shadow, and leave duplicates behind that let you play a shell game with your true position. If you’re focused on getting under your enemy’s skin, Subversive Whisper is incredible – so long as you get the drop on their minions you can sow discord in their ranks. And Avenger’s Resolve keeps you in the fight as your friends fall, encouraging you to hurl yourself into danger early because you know you’ll be able to recover.

And your appearance will change, too. Will you become a terrifying outlaw hurling promethean fire flanked by pyrotechnics? A macabre punk performer with a skull face and your own illusory backing dancers? A shadow-twisting assassin revelling in your ideal gender and daring haters to gaze on your gorgon visage? Find out in play!

The Mundane World

The Authority is guaranteed to have a relationship with power, and so is the Heretic – but in a very different way. Every one of their roles puts them in some kind of opposition to society’s rules. Your main question, then, is whether you fight for a cause like the Activist and the Thinker, push against society’s laws like the Hoodlum and the Thief, or try and find safety for yourself and others like the Runaway and the Scene Mom.

There’s also the question of how that’s all reflected in your mundane appearance. Do you wear your work uniform grudgingly, defiance in your eyes? Do you stand out with clashing fashion, daring others to comment? Or if your identity is hidden away from others by a mask or other concealment, who will you reveal it to?

Wrapping Up

The Heretic is a fire you can’t stamp out, the whisper of a better world in the back of your mind, a lighthouse pushing back the darkness even as they burn themselves as fuel. What will you do with yours?

And tune in next time when we look at someone completely different – the nurturing, empathetic and resolute Provider.

Playbook Focus: The Authority

As the Voidheart Symphony kickstarter ticks along, I’ll be writing in-depth analyses of each of the character options you have available to you. First up, the Authority!

The Authority

Building a better kingdom.

Basics

The Authority knows that they’re not just up against individual bad apples – they’re fighting a pervasive system of oppression and control. That’s more than one person can fight, so they’ll need a movement. And if there’s a movement, someone needs to build it, guide it, lead it. Only temporarily, of course.

The Authority’s strengths are leadership, control, and insight into other’s actions. Their weakness is that their abilities largely benefit their allies instead of themselves – isolate them from their followers and supporters, and their ability to resist the castle drops dramatically.

Inspirations: Morpheus in The Matrix, King Mob in The Invisibles, Makoto in Persona 5.

The Authority and the Crew

Like every playbook, the Authority has three options for their crew covenant, all focusing on the question: what does the crew mean to them?

The Emperor

If you pick The Emperor, you’re in some way a formal leader of the group. Indeed, at least one of the other rebels works for you in some way!1 The Emperor gives you plentiful tools to help the others, so long as they accept your authority. When they spend time with you, you can offer them the support of your organisation to aid their projects, giving you some measure of control over their project’s outcome. In the city, you can keep the castle’s influence at bay, so long as you are willing to reject all the ways society has defined you. And in the castle, you can give up an opportunity to hurt a foe in order to blunt their claws and control their actions.

Pick the Emperor if: you want to guide the other rebel’s actions and be an insightful leader.

Justice

If you pick Justice, the group is instead your tool to redress great injustices and bring the powerful to account. Even before your story started, you had helped at least one other rebel escape an injustice – or bring vengeance to one who had wounded them. As a part of the crew, you give the others insight into the pulse of the city. When they spend time with you, they can look through cases or meet those experiencing injustice, and learn more about the actions of their opponents. In the city, you can appeal to the better nature of those sworn to protect society – forming an empathetic connection to them instead of relying on your status. Finally, in the castle, you can pull your group together in a collective effort, using an adversary’s crimes to spur your fellows into action.

Pick Justice if: you want a set of tools to help you uncover injustice, and set the world to rights.

The Hierophant

Finally, if you pick the Hierophant, your authority is spiritual, philosophical, academic. You provide advice and support to the others, and when they hang out with you and ask for your advice they’ll find it extremely helpful if followed. As a Heirophant, you’re a member of a prestigious group – maybe a think tank, an order of clergy, an artist collective. When you use this group to open doors in the city, it helps you overcome slander against your reputation, though failure here can harm the group. And in the castle? You’re far better able to understand the metaphysics of that place and to understand what the artefacts there mean to the Vassal, and you gain insight into the castle’s layout every time you use your will to reshape it.

Pick the Heirophant if: you want to be respected and respectable, acting in an advisory role.

Moves and Powers

Once you defeat your first Vassal, and seize their power for your own, you’ll have moves to pick from. This is another chance for you to define what kind of authority you’ll be. Will you concentrate on augmenting your ally’s actions by knocking the foes off-balance with First in the Fray and making effective plans with Tactical Genius? Will you instead exert control over your opponents, guiding their actions and laying traps with And Next You’ll Say…? If you do so, remember to make your predicted action something that’ll benefit you in some way so that their choice is lose/lose for them and win/win for you. Or, will you be a generalist and grab Inspiring Healer, passively benefiting your allies whatever you succeed at whatever else you were doing?

And as you gather shrouds and raise your Shadow, what will you then become? Your Shadow look will help you define what the ideal of authority looks like to you – a divine intercessor? A cosmic scholar? A being of elegance and beauty with mirrored eyes and haute couture? Feel free to define and redefine your image of authority, as your shadow waxes and wanes.

And then there’s Shadow moves. The Authority who leads from the front will get plentiful use from War Cry to stay in the fight, and the Authority who enjoys commanding the battle can use Just You and Me to trap the opponent and Heroic Intervention to disrupt their ability to hurt the other rebels. Finally, Voice of Command lets you flip the castle’s minions to serve you instead – fighting alongside you, helping you offscreen, or acting as sacrificial armour. You may note you can only use this ability once per delve, but it says nothing about the minion stopping serving you if they happen to survive. Whether they fade away with their Vassal’s defeat, or linger as your own minion from that point on, I leave as a matter for you and your Architect!

The Mundane World

Finally, there’s who you are in the mundane world. Across your options for your role and your contacts, there’s a tension – you are certainly in control of something, but you’re very likely not in definite control of it. You may have rivals trying to undermine your authority, greater powers offering you training or power so long as you serve them, students and apprentices seeking to learn from you.

And as for your particulars – are you scrappy and overworked? Pristine and authoritative? Ruthless and waving your authority round like a badge? What challenges will you face as an authority marginalised because of their gender, sexuality, race, religion? Or, alternatively, what challenges will you face as an authority trying to push against society’s orthodoxy when you’re precisely the kind of person it supports?

As you play, try to work out what it is that you’re building. Is it a movement? A school of philosophy? A corporation? An organisation? How will you feel the call of the Void, as more and more people owe you their fealty? How will you nurture the World, if doing so means accepting that your authority is specific and limited and you need to learn from others?

Wrapping Up

So, that’s the Authority – the different directions you can take the playbook, and the questions it’ll ask you as you play. Remember that you can check out the Kickstarter here, and download the newest release of Voidheart Symphony from my itch.io page.

Tune in next time, when we’ll be looking at the chaos to the Authority’s order: The Heretic!


1: It’s important to note that the questions you ask the others when picking your crew covenant can be answered by more than one rebel!

Voidheart Symphony: Looking for writers!

Hey folks!

First, the big news: I’ve just uploaded a new version of Voidheart Symphony. Version 0.3 tightens the system by which rebels gain and lose points in covenants, as well as giving incentives to raid the castle to improve your mundane life. It also makes the wound system simpler, removing harm so that every blow moves the fiction along. Go check it out!

Secondly, I’m looking for more people to write for the book. It’s a game about resistance to structural oppression and prejudice, so it really deserves more than one person’s perspective on the book. If you’re interested, here’s the details:

How to Apply

I’m looking to hire writers to provide pieces in three general categories (see below). If any of those categories appeal to you, send an email to jay@ufopress.co.uk with the subject line ‘Voidheart Writing – [your name]’ and your pitch(es). You’re welcome to send in as many pitches as you like, and I’d appreciate also knowing any prior writing credits you have, if any. Application deadline is October 20th.

I don’t believe in asking for spec work, and I don’t want to privilege people who have the money and free time to write extensively without being paid – to that end, I’d ask that you please keep each individual pitch to 75 words or below.

If you have a pitch for writing that doesn’t fit any of these three categories, feel free to include it! Just make it clear in your pitch email that it’s a separate thing.

Payment

Each piece of work will pay at a rate of £0.10/word, to an agreed-upon word count. Half of the money will be paid upon receipt of first draft, half upon receipt of the final draft.

Work Categories

We’re looking for write-ups of three things:

Contacts

A friendly NPC for the players to make contact with, work with, and bring into their revolution. About 300 words. Covered in the book PDF – p. 68-91. Important details to cover:

  • An arcanum.
  • Description of the character and their life.
  • Ideas for how they can help the rebellion.
  • How the castle can cause trouble for them. 

Here’s an example.

Vassals

The antagonists that the rebels will be fighting against. About 500 words. Covered in the book PDF – p. 98-100. Important details to cover:

  • Mundane role: The position of power they’re in, and how they’re actively making the world worse.
  • Drive: Their core motivation and impulse – why they accepted the castle’s power to begin with.
  • Plan: What they’ll do if they’re able to fully channel the castle’s power.
  • Tier: How important they are in the castle’s hierarchy, and how they’ve used its power to gain and empower minions in the waking world.
  • Reveal: How they can become involved in the rebel’s lives.
  • Shard aesthetics: What their shard of the castle looks like. Its halls, its minions, its treasures.
  • Qualities: What they can do in a fight. I’m happy to collaborate on this with you – the basic requirement is three clear ideas of strengths they can bring to bear.

Here’s an example.

Cities

A place a play group might set their game. Preferably, a city you’re based in or have lived in – or a fictional city drawing on those elements. About 1000 words. Important details to cover:

  • What’s beautiful in this city? What makes it worth fighting for?
  • What are some of its neighbourhoods? Cool places for the rebels to live, work, visit.
  • How do the castle’s vassals move in this city? What are some ways Vassals might channel the castle to cause misery and enrich themselves, at each tier of vassal?

Guilds of Mysthea

It’s 11 days until we open up the #MystheaRPG kickstarter! Last week, I talked about the different heroes you might play in this game. This week, I’ll talk about the factions those heroes might come from.

While I’m talking about these, Legacy 2e fans might spot some changes. First, we’ve streamlined: every Guild has a core move that they must take, and offers their Hero one of two character moves. This ensures your Guild always does what they say on the tin.

Second, we’ve expanded the political system, while removing the bean-counting of Treaty. Now there’s four states: Influence, Alliance, Dominion and Conflict. Each Guild has ways of getting Influence, and ways to twist the knife in wartime.

You decide how much you’re in thrall to your parent guild back home, gaining more bonuses as you accept more of their control. If you want self-determination, you’ll lose those bonuses one by one, until the scales tip and you’re in charge.

But enough about politics! Time for Guilds. First up we have Lusma, the Guild of Faith. In a world as weird and screwed-up as Mysthea, why not worship the source of the cataclysm? All the better if that faith lets you protect others.

Next there’s Kaetur, Guild of Soldiers. The Guilds were given power as the conquerer-King Ahatis grew bored of governing, and Kaetur share his verve for battle. They’re intimidating, brutal, and well-equipped, but vulnerable to politics.

Magista is the Guild of Scholars, and the source of the Qoam technology that revitalised Mysthean civilisation in the wake of the cataclysm. They’re obsessive, eccentric and even blasphemous, but their creations are miraculous.

If Kaetur provides security and Magista provides technology, Varorin provides bureacracy. The Guild of Merchants keep the Kingdom’s economy moving, while their artisans, musicians and artists provide the upper classes with beauty.

The last of these Guilds is Volarees, Guild of Nobles. The first true Guild, Volarees formed to maintain the status and fame of the noble houses of Ilvash. These days, they draw on that fame for power, but must take care not to overreach.

So that’s the ancient Guilds of Ilvash. But remember: our story is in the borderlands, far from their shining city. Next time I’ll tell you about the Houses who make their home here, who may not be happy to welcome the Guild’s venture…

Heroes of Mysthea

Hey folks,

There’s three weeks to go until the Mysthea Kickstarter launches! Today, I thought I’d give you a tour of the Heroes: the main characters of your story in Mysthea: Legends of the Borderlands.

About Heroes

Your Hero is your main avatar, and your tool to push the city’s fate in the direction you wish. They’re partly defined by their Guild, and partly their own creature. A Varorin warrior and a Varorin bard both bear the mark of the Guild of Merchants, but one might use their training to find only the greatest weaponry while the other might use their trade as a storyteller to learn interesting rumours. As your hero gains experience, they’ll move between different roles in the Guild. If they survive long enough they may become a Champion, more powerful than any Guild.

Your Hero enters play with strong ties to the other characters. These covenants will bring you together even when your guilds are feuding, and let you achieve heroic deeds and strange Qoam workings together. Each covenant is themed around a particular core: Childhood, Travel, Army, Disaster, etc. When the core of one of your covenants is relevant, you can draw on them for strength. When you betray that bond, you weaken or lose it. A hero with no covenants left is pitiful, unable to take on new roles in their Guild. On the other hand, a hero with strong covenants is tied firmly to that relationship and can predict how others will be affected by their covenant core.

Finally, Heroes can die, or retire, or move on to greater things back in the Kingdom’s heartland. The game is built to let characters leave a final mark on the narrative, triggering a powerful Death Move. Once you’ve fallen, other Heroes may build a memorial to you, and those who pay respects there may use one of your abilities – even years after your death. You’ll make a new character, of course, and can use their different perspective to explore a whole new side of your Guild.

Hero Options

We’re providing nine different Hero types in the book – though you’ll have the chance to put your own ideas forward during the Kickstarter. Here are your options:

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