Hey Game Fans, we’re going to be taking a closer look at the Open Legend RPG from our good friends at Seventh Sphere Publishing. They’ve just started a Kickstarter to fund their first core book release along with a campaign setting, Amaurea’s Dawn. At around 33K in on their Kickstarter with 29 days to go as of me sitting down to write this, they’re going to have an excellent campaign, and we sincerely hope that they crush their stretch goals. Let’s take a closer look at the character creation system, and some thoughts on the underly mechanisms.
Creating a brand new RPG system is hard. I’ve been playing these games for nearly 30 years, and i try to pay attention to as many new games as i can. I like seeing what new ideas come to the table, and how old ideas get recycled/refreshed/renewed into new and different ways. There are two ends of a spectrum that I look at when i look at a new system. Basically, is this an open rules system, or a closed rules system?
What i mean by that is, are the rules found within this system easy for me to drop into another setting easily, or am i going to have to throw out the wheel to mate this system with these rules? How easy are these rules to tinker with? Can i change one thing without it causing the rest of the system to collapse? A lot of gamer folks like to tinker with the system, or home brew their own rules and options. The ease of integrating these into a system can tell you a lot about how the system was designed.
A game like Open Legend RPG is built with these gamers in mind. The rules are built to support the structure of the story you are telling as a gaming group. You get to decide what various things mean, how they interact with the rest of the mechanics when you, as a gaming group sit down to build your characters and play the game. The setting provides a lot of the driving details about how characters interact with their environment and each other. The rules are simply the bedrock the setting rests on top of.
It’s a neat idea, but it isn’t a new one. There are several role-playing games that utilize a design ethos simiilar to Open Legend (GURPS comes to mind, but so does Big Eyes Small Mouth, Savage Worlds, and the Basic Roleplaying Game). The differences in execution tend to fall along a “Which do the rules serve, the story, or the game?” dichotomy. Depending on which side you prefer, you can pick the game that best suits your needs and wants.
Where i like Open Legend is that it takes a very easy approach to rules crunch in service of creating a rules set that is very story friendly. The rules work in service to telling stories and it enables your players to create compelling, interesting characters to interact with the myriad of worlds you can create as a Game Master. The secondary benefit to that is that if you want to hop from setting to setting (like taking your bad ass fantasy heroes on a journey to a Post Apocalyptic Wasteland or a high drama Space Opera) the mechanics are the same. You have to make 0 adjustments to your characters and mechanics. All you need to do is rename things to setting appropriate equivalents.
The concern i run into when i see a system like this is whether or not it’s actually a universally applicable rules set, or if it can do a lot of different things, but only does a couple of things really well. The second concern is the level of complexity inherent to the rules system. If i am running a complicated setting (like a Space Opera with dozens of races, options, quirks, starships, and other moving parts to keep track of) on top of a complicated rules set, there’s the chance that you and your players aren’t going to want to put that much effort into it. I’ve made characters for a lot of games that i thought were very interesting, but we never ended up playing because the game was just too complicated.
Character Creation is often the best place to see how complicated a game system is. If the rules for building a character are light and friendly, there’s a pretty good chance that the rest of the game is going to be equally light and friendly. You can usually judge a game by its character creation options. Open Legend RPG fills me with a great deal of confidence, and it brings me a reminder of a game system that i really enjoyed.
Open Legend gives you a couple of different methods for picking how you build your character. The first option is quite simply to pick an example character, change the names and details, and run with it. The original Star Wars RPG from West End Games used a template system that worked basically the same way, and that game was majestically fun. All you need to do to play the game is grab a template/example, add a name, and go adventuring.
The second option allows you to customize your attributes to build your character the way you want for your character. Either using arrays of Attribute values, or a point buy system allows you to customize your character’s attributes to exactly what you want. You are the final arbiter of what your stats look like.
Speaking of the statistics, there are four key pools of attributes. Broadly, there are physical, mental, social, and supernatural attributes, each governing a different facet of your character. You can tailor your attributes to the strengths and weaknesses for your character. So far, i have the attributes to be broadly applicable across a variety of potential settings, but i need a little more time with the thinking cap to see if i can find a setting where they don’t work.
The rest of the character creation system encourages story first gaming, and so far have been broadly applicable across settings. I hope that they hit their next stretch goal for the multi-setting equipment options (at the very least to give designers and game masters ideas on wealth across different settings) to provide ideas and information. Next time we sit down with the rules, we’ll be building our very own character for a game of Open Legend. That’s our quick look/thoughts/ideas on the game, and we hope you give it a chance.
You can find the core rules for the game at http://www.openlegendrpg.com/core-rules/00-introduction and you can find their kickstarter at https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/626049486/open-legend-open-source-rpg-and-amaureas-dawn-sett