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

Awards Season: Legacy nominated for Best Art, Best Rules, and Game of the Year!

With GenCon fast approaching – and with it, the public release of Legacy: The Engine of Life and Free From the Yoke – we’re entering Tabletop RPG Award Season. This year, we’re delighted to say that Legacy is up for multiple awards!

The Ennies

The Ennies are the biggest award in tabletop RPGs, and we’ve been nominated by the panel of judges for Best Art, Interior and Best Rules. Thanks so much to Tithi Luadthong and Oli Jeffrey for their work building the look of the game, and Jay and Douglas are very happy to see their work on the rules recognised.

The winners will be announced on August 2nd, but before then the general public must vote which nominee they want to win. Please lend us your aid when voting begins!

Indie Groundbreaker Awards

Secondly, the Indie Game Developer Network hosts their own awards – the Indie Groundbreakers. The nominations (announced today) have Legacy in the running for Game of the Year, alongside luminaries like Dialect, Good Society, Familiars of Terra and Night Forest! We’ll see how we do on July 31st.

This is the first time our games have been up for such prestigious awards – we’re excited just to be nominated, and wish the best to all the other products in our categories. It’s going to be an exciting GenCon.

Eras of Play

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!

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: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1549920133/legacy-life-among-the-ruins-the-next-world

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 http://ufopress.co.uk/nwks 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).

Rhapsody of Blood in depth

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!