RPGs about factions pt. 3 – Worldfall and Free from the Yoke (ENG)

(Polska wersja)

Legacy: Life Among the Ruins, the subject of the second part of this cycle, has many followers – games from the Worlds of Legacy series. One of them is Worldfall, a game about building a colony on a planet that is also an intelligent, conscious being. The rulebook is only 66 pages long and is based on the assumption that the players know the Legacy rules. The author, Katherine Cross, points to Star Trek, Eclipse Phase and Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri as sources of inspiration. Personally, I also think of Isaac Asimov’s “Nemesis” and “Cibola Burn“, the fourth volume of the Expanse series.

As in Legacy, each player controls the Cabal (seven to choose from) and a Character (also seven). The rulebook clearly states that regardless of the number of players, all Cabals are in play.

Most of the Cabals are social or professional groups. As in Legacy, each has several unique Moves, for example, Envisioneers can teleport up to five characters from the colony to any place on the planet (or vice versa) once per session, and Worker’s Intergalactic can strike.

The first (out of two) page of the Workers’ playbook

The most remarkable Cabal is Worldsoul. One of their unique Moves is manipulating the weather to support or harm the colonists.

The available Characters include:

  • The Proconsul who, thanks to a moving speech to the people, can obtain a resource for their Cabal,
  • The Hero of the People who can make his Cabal change its doctrine or lifestyle,
  • The Ecomancer who can communicate with the local form of life.
The Ecomancer’s playbook (this is all!)

Surprisingly, Worldfall does not provide Quick Characters.

As in Legacy, the campaign in Worldfall is divided into Ages, and the Cabals can undertake Grand Designs. What sets Worldfall apart is the creation of the colony’s constitution – the event that ends the first Age of the campaign. The constitution of the colony consists of positive liberties such as universal health care and negative liberties such as the prohibition of body searches and confiscation of property. Each of them has significant narrative and mechanical consequences. The Cabal, which is the first to gather specific resources (reputation, barter goods, culture, art, data), convenes the Constitutional Congress and selects two positive and two negative freedoms from a wide pool. The Cabal, which took second place in this race, has fewer delegates to the Congress and chooses two positive and one negative freedoms. The third and fourth Cabal choose one liberty (positive and negative, respectively), and the others do not influence the colony constitution. This rivalry is important because some liberties, in addition to global effects, also give special bonuses to the Cabal that took them (reflected in having the control over a specific public institution).

The constitution, however, is not written in stone. Revolution, one of Legacy’s Wonders, in Worldfall gives access to an additional Fortune, namely the constitutional revision. It means that the Cabal which successfully carried out the revolution gets one positive and one negative liberty.

I haven’t had a chance to play Worldfall yet, but I think this solution pretty well reflects the interplay between economy, politics and law.

The advantage of Worldfall are numerous references to science fiction classics such as red shirts or “Many Cabal members die to bring you this information”.

I think the campaign in Worldfall will last shorter than in Legacy, because there are fewer Characters here, and in addition, Cabals and Characters have fewer unique Moves.

Okay, what if you like the Legacy concept but prefer fantasy to post-apo or sci-fi? In this case, you can reach for…

Free from the Yoke

Jay Iles and Fyodor Kasatkin, authors of Free from the Yoke (hereinafter Yoke), drew their inspiration primarily from the history and mythology of Rus and its neighboring lands, from Scandinavia to Byzantium and the Great Steppe.

According to the game’s assumptions, the ancestors of the Characters lived in a land resembling the early medieval Slavic land. The land was conquered by the Empire (which, depending on the players’ decisions, may resemble, for example, the Holy Roman Empire, Byzantium or the Golden Horde). Years later, the inhabitants managed to free from the yoke (hence the title of the game), but the new era brings new challenges…

As in Legacy, each player controls a House (selected from eight available) and a Character (selected from six available). In Yoke, the players draw a map together. For example, a player who has chosen the Brethren of the Sea Serpent draws a coastline and one object each from ancient times, imperial occupation, and the present day. In the case of ancient objects, the player has a choice: a decaying island fortress, accessible only during low tide; a great circle of standing stones, now out at sea; the Empty Pens, once the home of giant sea serpents rode by ancestors.

The first (out of two) page of the Brethren’s playbook

In addition to the geography of the land, players also create its history. For example, the player creating the Brethren of the Sea Serpent decides, inter alia, about whether the Brethren fought or cooperated with the Empire (each option means different bonuses, it will also affect the Brethren’s relations with other Houses and the Arbiter, more on whom in a moment).

Other available Houses are, for example, the Horselords of the Steppe, the Glorious Merchant Republic or the Church of Forgotten Lands, who came with the Empire (probably more or less resembling Christianity).

The available Characters are the Bogatyr (Hero), the Vagabond, the Loremaster, the Ambassador, the Scout, and the Factor.

The Factor’s playbook (this is all!)

Yoke also has an important element absent in Legacy, namely the Arbiter (controlled by the GM). The Arbiter is the most powerful force in the land after its liberation from the Empire. Players choose one of the three forms it can take:

  • Legendary Warriors who led a rebellion against the Empire and now have military control of the land.
  • The Guardians of History, who prevented the cultural assimilation of the inhabitants of the land under the rule of the Empire, and now ensure the observance of old customs.
  • The Land of Ancestors: the choice of this form of Arbiter assumes that the ancestors of the Characters were abducted by the Empire, and after many generations their descendants managed to return to their homeland, which, however, has undergone profound changes in the meantime and the Houses and Characters are de facto immigrants in it.

There are also five Great Projects in Yoke, but unlike Legacy, they are not undertaken by the Houses but by the Arbiter. Projects include Expansion, Grand Construction, or the transformation of society. Each Project has two tracks: Progress and Doom. Depending on which one fills first, the Project succeeds or fails, which triggers The Age Turns.

The Houses can solicit and support the Arbiter in his Projects or act against him, which has a huge impact on the gameplay – both on the story and mechanics levels.

Whenever a player moves an action from the House level to the Character level (zoom in), they decide whether to call for help from the Arbiter’s agents (there are five of them, each with a unique set of Moves). Depending on this decision, as well as on the circumstances of the scene, other players can play as their main Characters, Arbiter’s agents or Quick Characters.

Arbiter’s Agents are powerful, this one reminds me of Procopius of Caesarea

Free from the Yoke is theoretically a standalone game, but in practice, without knowing Legacy, it can be hard to understand how some elements are supposed to work. The artwork is a mix of Emily Cheeseman’s comic book-style illustrations and public domain paintings (unfortunately not signed).

One of the paintings – maybe someone will identify it?

The game’s great disadvantage is that its handouts – available here (under the Download demo inscription), although they reflect the atmosphere and possibilities well, are full of errors and deviations from the main rulebook.

For example: in the Factor’s playbook inserted above, we can see:

When you Prepare and Provision, add a tag to your gear or raise your Companion’s Quality by 1 for each Coin you spend.

This is clearly a remnant of the earlier version of the mechanics, because the main rulebook states:

When you Prepare and Provision, you may add a free tag to your Followers or Outfit.

(In the final version, Coin is a resource with no numerical value, but only a state of surplus or need, which in my opinion is a very good solution).

Fun fact: fans hacked Yoke into Rokugan, the setting of the Legend of the Five Rings (in the description of the film you will find a link to Google Drive with materials).

What do you think about the games featured in this series – SCUP, Legacy, Worldfall, Yoke? Did these posts encourage you to play any of them? Or maybe you can recommend others with interesting solutions regarding the organization and intrigue between them (other than Blades in the Dark)?

See my RPG – 2020 summary, too!

I also invite you to my fanpage! In addition to information about new posts, I plan to share various curiosities unearthed in the depths of Facebook.

5 thoughts on “RPGs about factions pt. 3 – Worldfall and Free from the Yoke (ENG)

  1. I found this mini series very interesting and well written. Thanks for sharing!
    I didn’t play any of those games, but I’ve been intrigued – especially by Legacy – for quite a while.

    Liked by 1 person

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