Legend – the RPG

As a mod on Reddit’s /r/rpg “forum,” I had the opportunity to get a preview copy of the Legend RPG, soon to be released by Rule of Cool.

Interesting things about this release:

  • It’s a d20 system aimed to be simpler than 3.5 (and possibly Pathfinder)
  • It’s getting an initial digital-only release
  • All proceeds are going to the Child’s Play charity
  • The target price is expected to be in the US$8-10 region*

Other supplements will follow, and there has been mention of a forthcoming monster manual type book, and they will also eventually see print releases. The preview copy I got had no setting background, other than flavour text of the races, and it had no creatures ready for the GM to use. However, there are a bunch of racial tracks than can be used to generate monsters. More on that later.

So what’s my angle? Well, I personally don’t have any love for the d20 system or any of its incarnations. When my friends moved from second edition to third, I bought the books, balked at the complexity and stopped playing D&D. Of course, second edition started getting pretty heavy when TSR introduced the kit books, but they weren’t a necessary part of the game — it was still possible to play a streamlined game that was more akin to first edition.

Because of that, I never played 3.5. And by the time 4th ed game out, I wanted to play D&D again, so I put up with its crap (which I feel was less crap than 3rd, but still crap). I’ve played a few sessions of Pathfinder, but only with a character around 4th or 5th level, so don’t know how a high level game plays. But the 3 million page core rulebook doesn’t inspire me with the confidence that it’s a simpler game.

The d20 system, to me, is just a heavy system that involves too much dedication, too much math, and too much micro-management. Having too many other hobbies, and a work life, I just don’t have the time to invest in something that is effectively a part-time job.

Legend, however, may just be the breath of fresh air the d20 system needs. Now keep in mind that everything I say is just from a very quick read of the rules, and that the version I read may not be the final product, and I only got a copy last night so haven’t had a chance to playtest it yet… but…

First off, Legend is still recognisable as a d20 system game. It has feats, it has some skills, and all the same attributes you’ve come to expect from a D&D derivative. But it has a bunch of other things which make it stand out.

Interestingly, the core class list is quite different to D&D canon. The races are all standard fare, with the exception that Legend has removed half-breeds like half-elves and half-orcs citing the impossibility or unlikelihood of inter–species breeding. I mean, horses and donkeys may look similar, but they can’t interbreed. What would you even call them? Dorses? Honkeys?** Not right at all.

Right, so the classes are Barbarian, Monk, Paladin, Ranger, Rogue, Sage, Shaman, and Tactician. The last three are all spell-caster classes. The Sage is is a master of arcane knowledge, but this can take the form of a cleric/healer, to a more traditional wizard role. The Shaman draws his power from the energy of the world, so they have a natural power source. The Tactician is more of a battle-mage type class. They are warriors with wizardly powers.

However, these archetypical roles aren’t the end of character customisation. Each class has a few tracks available to it, and it seems that each PC can choose from about three of these tracks (as a side note, the tracks remind me a lot of the soul shards of Rift). In fact, it’s not even necessary for a PC to only draw from their own class tracks. The freedom to choose from most other tracks from any other class, I think, is going to do wonders for character customisation. There are some exceptions where abilities of certain tracks don’t stack with others, but this is usually because they are doing the exact same thing.

So what do these tracks do? Well, D&D 4th edition introduced class “powers.” Martial classes call them exploits, spellcasters call them spells, but every class gets a range of powers and special abilities that they can employ during combat.

Legend has taken a similar approach to this with class tracks. A track is a way of customising a character, and they give the character special powers and abilities. As the character levels up, so do their tracks. Each track has 7 “levels,” or circles in Legend’s parlance. As a track’s circle increases, that opens up new powers and abilities, as well as increasing the bonuses of current abilities. For example, the 1st circle of a Barbarian’s Path of Rage track grants the character 2 temporary hit points per level when activating the rage. The 4th circle increases this to 4 temps per level, 6th circle increases it to 6 temps per level, and at the 7th circle, you are always considered to be raging and gain the 6 temps per level at the start of every encounter without the need to specifically activate a rage. Granted, you won’t get to the 7th circle of Path of Rage until your character hits 19th level, but regardless, I reckon that’s pretty darn interesting right there.

The preview I read had no creature list in it, and whether there will be a chapter added into the release version, or whether they’ll wait until release of the creature book in the near future, I’m not sure. But it’s not a complete loss because there is enough for a GM to work off. It’ll take a bit of prep work, but it’s possible to build monsters or NPCs with the rules as given. And just to add a bit of flavour, there are racial tracks that can be given to PCs, or to build monstrous NPCs. But they could just as easily be used to build regular monsters.

The racial tracks are Demon, Dragon, Sentient Construct, Undead, and Utter Brute. Like class tracks, racial tracks have 7 circles which can be used to bestow extra powers and abilities. The system is open enough that you can play a PC demon or dragon and use the racial track instead of one of your class tracks.

Me likey.

One thing that should be pointed out is that although class tracks have a bunch of spells, or spell-like abilities for spell-casters, that’s not the end of the line. There is a spell list as well. Casters can have a number of spells per day depending on their abilities, and those supplement the powers granted by the class tracks. So while the spell list isn’t huge, it complements the tracks, and no doubt there will be spell books released in the future.

That, in a nutshell is what I’ve gleaned from quickly reading it over. One of the nice features is a quick start guide for simple building of characters. Another interesting thing is that the rules as written seem to make the game open enough to be used in anything from pure medieval fantasy to a techno-fantasy or steampunk setting. There are guns listed in the game, and there are indications within that this is not restricted to a pure Tolkienesque setting.

But on the flip side, as mentioned, there’s no built-in ready-to-run creatures, and there’s no real info on the default setting. There is some quick mention of the world of Hallow, and this is covered in passing by way of the race descriptions, but there’s not enough to run a campaign from.

So I’m hoping that the release version is fleshed out with a few more of these details, but even if it’s not, it’s not a show stopper. Most dedicated GMs build their own worlds anyway, or will modify something published for another system without too much difficulty.

Legend is a damn fine system, and I don’t think it’s going to take much convincing or bribery to get my friends to play it too.

I am, however, looking forward to physical dead-tree editions. No matter how embedded in technology I am, I still prefer books, and this game is one that I think will warrant some shelf real-estate.

* edit: I originally thought this was going to be a free release with a pay-what-you-want going to the charity, but turns out that’s not the case. However, the purchase will include several months worth of supplementary downloadable content such as classes, tracks, and possibly even adventure modules. This tells me two things: Rule of Cool are going to be providing a lot of continued support, and; anything not in the core rules should be fleshed out pretty quickly.

** edit2: I’m getting a lot of email about this. Yes, I know it’s called a mule. I was taking the piss.

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