Legacy: Life Among the Ruins (2nd Edition from 2018) (hereinafter “Legacy”) is a post-apo game by UFO Press. The authors mention as sources of inspiration other role-playing games (of course Apocalypse World, but also Burning Wheel), video games (Fallout, S.T.A.L.K.E.R.), movies (Mad Max) and literature (A Canticle for Leibowitz).
“Factionalism” is even more pronounced in Legacy than in SCUP, described in the first part of this cycle.
What do you do in this game?
Each player chooses two playbooks. The first is the playbook of the Family, a group of survivors of the apocalypse, linked by blood, ideology or a pure twist of fate. In my opinion, “faction” would be a better word than “Family”, but nevermind. The second is the Character playbook, more typical of PbtA (and RPG in general). Legacy includes 11 Families and 13 Characters, with even more in supplements.
The game takes place on two levels (Families and Characters), between which there are smooth transitions (the rulebook uses the terms zoom in and zoom out). At the Family level, players seek to increase their importance in the world by acquiring and using various resources to complete a variety of ambitious projects. At the Character level, the gameplay is more like traditional RPGs: Characters make dangerous journeys, make contacts and alliances, and sometimes – fight. The creators of the game encourage players to ensure that the relations between their Families and Characters are not overly antagonistic.
Each level uses a separate set of Stats and Moves. In line with the PbtA trend, there is a pool of ten Moves common to all Families (e.g., “Claim by force”, triggered whenever a Family tries to take control of a resource by force) and for all Characters (including “Wasteland Survival”, triggered whenever the Character travels beyond the surviving oases of civilization).
In some situations, when making a Move, the player has an advantage – then instead of two, he rolls three dice and skips the worst result. Other times the player has a disadvantage – in that case, he skips the best result.
Resources play a fundamental role in Legacy – from material ones like drinking water, territory and energy to more abstract ones like leadership and progress. The authors of the game reached for a brilliant solution in my opinion, which allows to avoid tedious bookkeeping. The vast majority of resources do not take a numerical value, and for game mechanics, it is only important whether a given Family currently has a surplus or a deficit (need). If the Family has something “just as needed” (the default state of each resource) – this does not affect the mechanics and is not recorded in the playbook.
However, there are four resources in the game that have a numerical value:
- Mood, the difference between the value of surpluses and needs. Mood cannot exceed -3 or +3, if that were to happen, the player must instead choose one of the special effects (negative or positive, respectively) for their Family. It follows that at the same time a Family can have a maximum of 9 surpluses and needs (e.g. 6 surpluses and 3 needs).
- Tech come from before the Fall of civilization, and using one piece gives the Family an advantage to one Move.
- Data, that is knowledge about the world, allows you to increase the chance to obtain valuable information (Family Move “Uncover Secrets”) and add something useful to the world map or give the Character an advantage to their Move.
- Treaties reflect favors one family owes another, so you always keep track of who the treaty applies to. They can be used, for example, to take over a surplus of a resource from another Family. If that other Family is controlled by the player (not the GM), they can cancel this effect by either using up their own Treaty or by making the “Holding Together” Move – this is similar to the solution used in SCUP.
Creating Families and the setting
While creating Families, players draw a map of the world together – each Family playbook asks you to choose 3 out of 9 landmarks, e.g. the player who chose The Lawgivers of the Wasteland can choose a courthouse full of preserved archives, a site of a massacre and a a looted caravan with a mysterious destination. The player also chooses one of three sets of Stats, one of three Doctrines (e.g. Hired Guns, Righteous Vigilantes, Bounty Hunters), lifestyle (settled, nomadic, dispersed), population habits, dress style, governance and previous relations with other Families. The player also chooses two of the five resources (for Lawgivers: weaponry, transport, leadership, defences, recruits) that the Family has in surplus – the others are needs. The player then chooses two of the five unique Moves for that Family, and three options from a wide range of weapons, defenses, means of transport, and personnel (in the case of Lawgivers: investigators, judges, and executors) – these weapons, vehicles, and followers are used on the Characters level. Additionally, each Family has five unique Inheritance Moves for its Characters. Each of the options provides specific mechanical bonuses.
Examples of Families are: the Enclave of Bygone Lore (using technologies unavailable to others), the Pioneers of the Depths (one of their unique Moves is a summoning of sea creatures), and even aliens (Stranded Starfarers) who can, for example, carry out an orbital bombing.
The GM may select several unused Families as players’ opponents. However, he does not manage them like the players – according to the PbtA philosophy, the GM never rolls dice but creates events in response to the players’ actions and the results of their rolls.
After creating the Families, players determine what planet the action takes place on (it doesn’t have to be Earth – some of the available Families are more suited to another planet), how high the level of development was achieved before the Fall, and what caused the Fall.
Only then do the players choose the Character playbooks. In each case, the player chooses one of the three sets of Stats, looks, backstory (prior relationships with other players’ Characters), and two out of five unique Moves for that Character (the sixth available Movement is the Inheritance Movement, one of five depending on the selected Family).
The player then chooses the Role that the Character has in the Family – Leader, Agent, Rebel, or Outsider. Character development takes place when a Role is changed and consists in either increasing a stat or taking another unique Move. The Character that has performed all the Roles retires or dies.
Examples of Characters include the Envoy (one of his unique Moves is an attempt to persuade multiple groups to form a temporary alliance), the Reaver (can infiltrate outposts), the Scavenger (can hide in ruins).
Each Character also has a unique Death Move, e.g. a Hunter can kill or destroy whatever inflicted a fatal blow to him.
Through the Ages
Legacy authors anticipated a situation in which it would be difficult to justify the simultaneous presence of all player Characters in a given scene. Considering that each Character comes from a different Family, it would be difficult to justify their presence, e.g. at a secret meeting of the management of the given Family. In such case, players can create the so-called Quick Characters, the creation of which is greatly simplified compared to the “main” Characters. Quick Characters’ abilities depend largely on their Role and the Family to which they belong – they make use of the Inheritance Moves. After the scene ends, players can return to their main Characters (who in the meantime can change Roles in the Family or get 1 Technology, Data or Treaty), and Quick Characters become NPCs (although there are no obstacles for players to temporarily control them again in the future). In my opinion, this is a fantastic idea to avoid a situation where some players have nothing to do for part of the session.
Legacy distinguishes itself from other systems by the scale of the campaign, both spatial (it can cover the whole country or even the world) and time (it can cover years or even centuries). For the latter reason, Family is more important here than a Character who can die quite easily (Characters are comparably fragile as in SCUP) or die of old age when the action times shift. For the same reason, the game is not very good for one-shots. On the other hand, it allows campaigns potentially much longer than SCUP and other close relatives of Apocalypse World.
While Characters are fragile, that doesn’t mean there is nothing left of them. When a Character dies or retires, the player chooses one of their Moves and creates a relic associated with that movement. Any member of his Family with this Relic can make this Move, even if the new Character has a different playbook.
Whenever players choose to make a time skip, each player makes a Move called The Age Turns and, depending on its result, selects a certain number of Trials and Fortunes that occurred between one Age and another. All Trials and Fortunes have positive effects (e.g. the possibility of taking another unique Family Move, sometimes also from another playbook) and negative effects (usually a need of some resource). In addition, players can choose to change the Doctrine or lifestyle of their Families, and update the map.
In addition to the usual struggle for survival, Families can engage in one of the Grand Designs (otherwise known as Wonders, though this term is poorly suited to revolution or total war in my opinion). Each of them requires the use of a surplus of five resources, e.g. rebuilding a telecommunications network requires science, artisans, engineering, trade and progress. Each Grand Design gives a permanent bonus to whoever completed it, and also triggers The Age Turns with a unique pool of Trials and Fortunes.
As in Apocalypse World and SCUP, the GM creates Fronts, or NPCs, organizations and phenomena that will cause great damage to the game world if not stopped in time.
Quickstarts and supplements
UFO Press also released two free Quickstarts for Legacy. Each of them comes with a ready setting, Families and Characters. After the Quickstart storyline is exhausted, you can continue gameplay with the full game rules.
In Titanomachy, the action takes place on the jungle-covered planet of Hekaton. The characters live among the ruins of the colony destroyed by the unexpected attack of the natives – colossal titans. To survive, they must fight the titans or try to come to an agreement with them.
In Non-Compliant, the action takes place in post-apocalyptic Utah after an alien invasion. Some Characters vegetate in the desert, others are aliens’ slaves. Together, they are preparing an uprising against the invaders. They don’t have much time before their enemies destroy everything from orbit…
By the way, after “Dogs in the Vineyard“, this is another time when I come across Utah in RPGs 🙂
Yet another Quickstart, Hordes of the Endless Night, is included in the Legacy basic rulebook. The characters live in a world where the sun has ceased to shine and wraiths have emerged from the darkness.
There are also supplements to Legacy, such as The Engine of Life or End Game, containing additional rules, new Families, Characters, Roles (respectively – Prophet and Traitors – also available for Characters from the base game), Wonders, and Quickstarts.
Playbooks of Families and Characters from the basic version of the game, as well as Titanomachy and Non-Compliant can be downloaded for free here (under the Download demo button).
In my opinion, of all the games discussed in this cycle, Legacy is the most extensive, the best polished and the most beautiful.
Do you know any Legacy-dedicated Facebook groups / Discord channels / subreddits?
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