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James Iles
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Research scientist, game designer and part-time nerd
Research scientist, game designer and part-time nerd

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So as a bit of a palate cleanser from Legacy work, I'm putting the finishing touches to The Butler at the Threshold - a game of 1930s mystery storytelling in a town built on cosmic horror. Hoping to get a public playtest version out by the end of the week!

This is an evolution of the Hijink System we put together for What Ho World and Wizards Aren't Gentlemen - we've unified the token mechanics into a single type, tied unlocking character moves to accumulating those tokens, and moved a lot of the variation in character abilities to your assets to give those a bit more of a presence on the table. And I'm very excited to test out what we're doing with Locations and the town's doom...
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23/12/2017
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For #FreeRPGday weekend only - grab Weave, Ultranormal Encounters or Transmission Burst PDFs from the UFO Press store for absolutely nothing!
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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!
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!
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Over the last few days, we've survived the space trip from hell, founded a new colony, and watched new species grow from sentience's first glimmers to reality-manipulating powerhouses.

Today we find absolute power facing its doom in Godsend, written by +Tiburce Guyard, illustrated by Jess Taylor (http://jesstaylor.portfoliobox.io/comics) and Tithi Luadthong, co-published by +Modiphius and on sale at +DriveThruRPG

It's the end of days. The signs are everywhere, even if fearful mortals ignore them. The desperate, the lost, the downtrodden call out for aid. And you are the Divinities who will save - or damn - them.

You decide what domain your god represents. Maybe the gentle peace of Death, the balanced scales of Justice, the deep lore of Knowledge?

You describe how your god chooses to appear; the rites and laws and worshippers of their cult; the wonders, shrines and threats that mark the landscape; and the epithet and sub-domain that add nuance to your god.

You also decide your place in the pantheon. Maybe one deity killed you, and that's something you hold over them. Maybe another deity is your spouse and so that you're equal in the pantheon. The leaders of the pantheon can command their lessers but must also heed their calls for aid.

You now have a world of wonders and perils, and a pantheon of deities ruling over it. But the power of a deity is subtle and ephemeral: they can see the strands of destiny and whisper into the minds of their followers, but the oncoming apocalypse needs a more overt intervention.

That's where Avatars come in. Each player also creates a mortal who somehow caught the attention of another player's deity - or stole power from them. Avatars are defined by their Calling: the glorious and destroying Angel, the compassionate Martyr, the rebellious Prometheus, etc.

Alongside the powers granted you by your Calling, you pick a role in your Divinity's faith - Zealot, Heretic, Lost, Hierophant, Sybarite, and so on. Whatever you pick it says something about the faith, your place in it, and what you're hoping to achieve.

Finally, you pick your stats. Avatars have four: Charisma, Valour, Will and Wisdom. But here's where Godsend differs from standard #pbta games: you never roll dice with these stats. Those who wield divine power are not bound by the whims of fate.

Instead, when you trigger a Move, you make your mark on the world. Then pick a number of extra benefits up to your rating in one stat, and a number of calamities to avoid up to another stat's rating. The calamities you didn't pick are left to the GM to use as they desire.

What this means is that as an Avatar you're constantly making world-changing decisions, and telling grand stories of deities and demigods. As you protect cities and drown armies, as you steal the sun and seduce the moon, as you die and are reborn, your Deity must try to guide you

Even gods struggle to oppose the tides of destiny. By the efforts of their Avatar, they can shift their fate towards the world's Salvation - or its Ruin. And when a god's cult becomes strong enough, they can move the world to its next age - one step closer to the apocalypse.

Each time the age turns gods reshape the map, adding cities and monsters and plagues and wonders according to their current fate and their Domain. Maybe their avatars survived the turning of ages and return to the god's service, or maybe the god must choose a new representative?

And avatars can fall, make no mistake. You'll face scheming factions, giant monsters, even Titans that a group of Avatars may struggle to bring down. Or if the story needs a mortal perspective, you can see what it's like to play a god's Apostle fighting in the Avatar's shadow.

Godsend has a firmer division between layers of play than Legacy, as you don't control your god's avatar. That distance adds more negotiation to play, and serves the game's theme: do you trust your god to bend fate in your favour? Will their blessings be cherished or spurned?

And as ages pass and the world comes closer to the End of Days, will you make the sacrifices your god demands? Will you help them damn the world if they so desire? Or will you reject divine authority and make your own decisions about the world's fate?

So that's Godsend: a diceless, philosophical, standalone #rpg about devotion, faith and power. Please do check it out, if only for the fantastic art!

Tomorrow, I'll take you from the high-level, cosmic-scale stories of Godsend to its opposite: the life-and-death struggles of a handful of mortal heroes, fighting back a corrosive supernatural force from outside reality. The blood moon is rising and the castle is calling...
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Today's World of Legacy is Primal Pathways, written by +Laurence Phillips and illustrated by +Juan Ochoa.
Primal Pathways begins at the dawn of life. As alien creatures make their first trembling steps onto land, they find ethereal spirits waiting for them: denizens of the Primal Plane, Guardians formed of the raw energy and power of life.
Each spirit, focused on one aspect of life, picks a species to uplift, granting them sentience. So your first choice as a player is twofold: what sort of creatures are you, and who was the Guardian who uplifted you?
So, maybe you're a herd of armoured elephantine creatures, empowered by the Devourer - the Guardian that favours creatures who consume without pity or remorse. Or perhaps you're a hive of flying, stinging insects, chosen by the Hunter - the Guardian of those that seek out greater and greater challenges for their skills. Or maybe you're a nimble race of tunnel-dwelling scuttling rodents, who draw on the genetic memory of their ancestors as they follow the edicts of the Otherworldly - Guardian of those that seek to understand the metaphysics of the world.
As you begin your game, your species barely know what it means to be people rather than animals. To guide them, you have a viewpoint character - perhaps a Chosen, particularly empowered by their Guardian, or a Magus able to channel the Primal Plane.
As you form new bonds with the other characters and explore this new world, you'll improve your tribe's lot - pushing back the threats that menace them, getting the resources they need to grow and prosper. Or maybe you run into problems, and things go badly for the tribe.
How you're tribe's doing has its greatest impact when the Evolution move is triggered and generations rise and fall. If your mood is high, you can choose between experiencing fortunes or evolving new traits. If mood is low, you can only evolve if you also experience calamities.
Each Guardian has its own tree of evolutions, split into three pathways. Each evolution is another choice from the next tier, giving your creatures new traits, making your people more effective when working together, or giving them entirely new moves. When you pass thresholds in the tree your People reach new stages of development, from Tribe to Realm to State. Making each jump brings new powers and new tags for your gear, but also its own problems. How will your people deal with a new hunger for Alliances, Mass Media, Energy?
And as your People become more and more advanced, maybe they start toying with the fabric of reality with Primal Pathway's new Wonders - The Grand Temple, The Primal Gate, even repeating the uplifiting process on another species with A New Awakening.
So that's Primal Pathways - telling the story of how your People evolve, and how their way of life shifts and mutates as the scope of their society exponentially grows.
But maybe you don't want to be the servants of intangible spirits. Maybe you want to play the gods themselves - or their servants. If so, tune in tomorrow, when I'll be talking about Godsend.
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Check off one more thing to be made for the Legacy 2e kickstarter! Just the Worlds of Legacy box set to go now...
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09/06/2018
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As promised yesterday, it’s now time to talk about Worldfall – written by +Katherine Cross and illustrated by +Claudia Cangini and Tithi Luadthong.

At the start of a game of Worldfall, you have just founded a colony on an alien world. The trip has been extensive and transformative, and the first thing you decide is the politics your cabal of colonists formed during the journey.

Maybe they were The Officer Class, in charge then and looking to keep control now? Or The Workers Intergalactic, the labourers keeping the ship – and now the colony – running and finding solidarity with each other? Or maybe they tended to the culture of the ship, whether they’re the new religion of The Keepers of the Flame or the anarchist artists of The Scum of the Universe?

Together, you build your cabals, making choices about the society of the fledgling colony and the world you have landed on. It’s a strange and wonderful land, bursting with life. What will you make of it? To answer that, you make Characters. Each character is the key viewpoint we have from that Cabal at this moment in time. You could go with a match for your Cabal (a Gasoline Fire from the Scum, maybe?) or something that’s more orthogonal, like a Priestex from the Officer Class.

Your character explores the new world, makes deals with other factions, builds grand art projects and battles for the soul of the colony. As they do so, they’ll win or lose your Cabal points of Reputation – a marker for their influence over colony society. You play in this mode until someone completes Worldfall‘s signature Wonder – the Constitutional Convention. Once it’s completed, you all take turns to choose the colony’s negative and positive liberties. What things does it swear to provide its citizenry? What does it forbid? Each choice comes with its own government institution that you now control, as well as effects on the wider colony. Once you’ve divided them up between you, you move the clock forward a generation – and see what your choices have resulted in.

That’s how Worldfall plays: shifting between the challenges of colony development and the struggle to build a more perfect union. As generations pass, will the colony grow and thrive? Or will it shatter and wither? And all the while, maybe the planet is pushing back: learning more about you, sending its own emissaries to interfere, and try to co-opt you into its own ecosystem. Particularly if someone has chosen to play the Worldsoul – the gestalt representation of life on this planet.

So, that’s Worldfall. Please do check it out! And if getting into the mindset of weird, alien life appeals, tune in tomorrow when I tell you about Primal Pathways.
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Now they've been out for a day, I thought I'd dive a bit deeper into the Worlds of Legacy. First up - Generation Ship by +Aaron Griffin and illustrated by Tithi Luadthong.
In Generation Ship, you're trapped in the bowels of a titanic machine and the machine is freezing to death in the void of space. You aren't meant to be here. You shouldn't even exist, as your ancestors were meant to be unfrozen when the ship reached its goal. But still, you live.
So, what do you do? You have a family of fellow passengers, who have carved out ling space in the ship's guts. Maybe they've set up algae tanks to feed the community. Maybe they protect and revere the still-unfrozen. Maybe they're maintenance bots, jolted out of their programmed-in behaviour.
Your family has goals, friendly factions, enemies and needs. And that's where your character comes in. They'll delve into the ship's tunnels, make threats safe, find the legendary ship systems, and restore - and control - them.
That's the work of generations. Each generation the society on the ship changes, and you pick a different character type to show a different side of your family. Maybe a wise Advisor, a lethal Soldier, or even the void-empowered Touched.
So you're telling the story over generations of how society survives and adapts to this hostile environment, and how your family repairs or claims control of one of the ship systems - the bridge, the dropships, navigation, sensors. What happens when you've fixed them all? Well, you face a final decision - where do you land, and what flaws are you willing to accept from your new homeland to finally feel the earth under your feet?
Of course, there are more stories you can tell once the ship has landed and the colony as formed - but that's a different game. Maybe I'll tell you about Worldfall next.
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Want to play Legacy in a crumbling starship, a newly-founded colony, a monster-ravaged medieval land and more? Go check these out, with thanks to +Katherine Cross, +Laurence Phillips, +Aaron Griffin, +Tiburce Guyard, +Claudia Cangini, +Juan Ochoa, and many more!

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Want to play Legacy in a crumbling starship, a newly-founded colony, a monster-ravaged medieval land and more? Go check these out, with thanks to +Katherine Cross, +Laurence Phillips, +Aaron Griffin, +Tiburce Guyard, +Claudia Cangini, +Juan Ochoa, and many more!
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