Legend is $1
. In fact right now it’s even less than that. Until 18th December it’s 80c.
For that paltry sum you get a 242-page role-playing game including character generation, three different magic systems (Common, Divine and Sorcery), information about Guilds, Factions and Cults, Heroic Abilities (roughly equivalent to, but better than, Feats) and a complete Gamesmastery section. Heck, there’s even tables for Cloud Cover and Wind Strength. It’s released under the Open Game License too, which is always a bonus.
What is conspicuous by its absence is a Bestiary in this tome. But more on that later.
Legend is a slice of history, and a different taste of role-playing to Dungeons & Dragons. Legend is, at the core, the Runequest system brought up to date. That, my friends, is a Very Good Thing indeed. Where D&D is a Fighter, Rogue, Wizard and Cleric entering a claustrophobic dungeon, Legend is a group of brave Celtic warriors wearing kilts and yelling at the top of their lungs in an open field. There’s a raw energy about this system that’s hard to quantify. It’s a game that just bursts out and begs to be played.
Let’s start with character generation.
Legend is an intentionally humano-centric system. Your character is expected to be Human, though further supplements and expansions (beginning with Monsters of Legend, out now) will add new Races to the mix. Rather than being limiting, this is refreshingly liberating. You’re not creating Dwarven Fighter Number 5,154 but a well rounded, unique character. This in one human, out of a million possibilities.
Your character’s stats are STR, CON, SIZ, INT, POW, DEX, CHA. Power (POW) is a measure inate magical or spiritual presence, and the rest should be self-explanatory. For a human, INT and SIZ are rolled on 2d6+6 and the rest using 3D6. Assign as they fall or allocate to taste. If you prefer, there’s a points buy too, and an option to re-roll any result of 6 or less.
Unlike D&D, the number of Combat Actions a character can take is dictated by their stats. There’s no minor/move/standard action trinity here – the average of your PC’s DEX and INT dictates whether they have 1, 2, 3 (or more) Actions. You’d have to be really unlucky to only get one action (the average of INT and DEX would have to be 6 or less – but the optional rule allows stats of 6 or less to be re-rolled) or intentionally designing a character who is huge and strong, but slow. Most characters will have 2 or 3 actions, but that’s enough to differentiate between the clever high-DEX types with flashing blades and the slower, more methodical fighters.
I’ll be talking about Combat another time, but suffice to say Legend manages to be more realistic and quicker to play than 4e D&D, both at the same time. Legend uses individual Hit Locations for Armour and Hit Points so you PC can go into battle clad bolding in a Steel Breastplate then curse his luck at being smashed in the head. Heh.
Legend doesn’t use Classes or Levels. The character’s abilities are shaped by their Cultural Background and previous Profession, then further customized with additional Skill Points that the player is free allocate to any skill. There are four Cultural Backgrounds – Barbarian, Civilised, Nomad and Primitive – and around 30 Professions. Not all of the Professions are available to all Cultures – no Barbarian Alchemists, for example – and all of the classic D&D Classes are present. Alongside Priest, Soldier, Sorcerer and Thief you’ll also find Merchant, Physician, Farmer, Hunter, Diplomat and a whole slew of others. These Professions provide bonuses to some skills and open up certain Advanced Skills so help define the character’s backstory rather than direct him down a specific career path. Your character might have been a Nomad Herdsman once but he’s now an Adventurer, nothing more and nothing less.
It’s up to the GM whether all Cultural Backgrounds are available to the players. A game where all of the characters are from a Civilised Culture would play very differently to one where they’re all from a Primitive or Nomadic one. The available Cultures could depend on the campaign setting; a game set in a Civilised realm with Barbarians to the North and an itinerant Nomadic people (and perhaps Primitive islanders to the west) would give a somewhat traditional set-up.
After the player has chosen his Culture, Profession and allocated his free Skill Points, things get really interesting. You roll for the character’s Family (parents, siblings, aunts and uncles), the Family’s reputation and connections in the community, your allies, contacts, enemies and rivals, any background events (you can start the adventure Blind, or be known as the Local Coward!). This is a system that encourages you to think of your character’s place in the community; he (or she) is not some isolated PC with no history who happened to turn up at a tavern at the same moment as a load of other adventurers, but a character with a culture, a home, a profession, a family and a story to tell.
And that is awesome.
But what of the lack of Bestiary? Doesn’t it make the game pointless if there’s no monsters to fight, even if character generation is great? Well yes, I would have liked even a short list of key monsters (giant rats, wolves, skeletons, zombies, giant spiders, etc) but the game buzzes with so much energy I could quite happily run an all human game for years just using this one book. I could throw together a bunch of thugs, minor bosses, and key villains and run a tightly woven game in the style of Merlin or Game of Thrones. I could take the heroes from dirt-poor wooden stockade settlement to schlepping around vast castles, from outlaw ambushes to knightly tourneys, from politically charged secret wars between Factions to all out Guild Wars.
While there’s no Bestiary in the core, Monsters of Legend ($9.59 until Dec 18) more than fills that whole. Grab it while you can, and I’ll be posting a full review of it in the New Year. Together you get a whole new game for just over $10. Can’t fault it.
Oh yes. Legend is a Very Good Game indeed, so full of potential and promise. One to watch.
And it’s only $1.
(or 80c until Dec 18)