EPK Review 3_part2: OPEN LEGEND, an Open Source RPG to tell Stories of Legend!

The first part of the interreview about OPEN LEGEND is here! Pictures in the interreview posts are from Open Legend’s homepage and community. At least several of them are, originally, from an artist named Saryth. Brian Feister, the author of OPEN LEGEND, owns the copyrights of the pictures. You can find more of Saryth in Deviantart!

After our first ramblings and the interesting answers of Brian, about his beautiful game, let’s delve a bit into character creation!

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The many attributes (Physical, Mental, Social and Supernatural) have values between 0 and 9 and can let the character perform both mundane and unearthly tasks, like casting spells, mold the elements, resurrect a companion, teleport, create undead, see the future and many others. To each value is associated a die (or more than one) to be added to the Action rolls: the DM sets a Challenge Rating for the task at hand, the player rolls 1d20 + attribute dice and the total has be equal or greater than the Challenge Rating. A very interesting thing is what the authors define as dice explosion: in practice you reroll and add up all the dice that roll their maximum value (4 for 1d4, 6 for 1d6 and so on), with no limits. This lets you make some very satisfactory rolls and even to succeed when the Challenge Rating should be too high for your character! A quite important thing is that, in the spirit of the game, every roll should matter and drive the story: the roll of another character should not immediately counter a failed roll, the failure should bring consequences or some events should follow while the story progresses. You find some examples here but the basic idea is that the Story never stops while the GM interpret the meaning of every roll of Success or Failure. Another interesting feature of Action Rolls is the concept of Advantage and Disadvantage that can be imposed by situations, Feats, Banes / Boons: you roll additional dice that make it easier or more difficult your task. In practice, if you roll 1d20 + 2d6 and you have Advantage 3, you roll 1d20 + 5d6 instead and keep the highest 2d6; if you have Disadvantage 3 you do the same but you keep the lowest 2d6. I find it a nice concept because, even with good numbers and dice, you cannot do something really stupid or careless hoping your dice will save you. If I may simplify: the 1d20 is the true Lady Luck, the additional dice are your character, Advantage / Disadvantage are both situational, powers and, above all, Roleplay!

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A side note for people playing D&D 5th Edition: the words Challenge Rating and Advantage/Disadvantage were chosen way before the publication of 5th Edition manuals 🙂 Coincidence does happen or is it that … no, no, ok, I said nothing! Let’s go with another run of questions!

4)      Brian, do you care to tell us a bit about the soul of this project? What do you consider the strongest points of Open Legend? Which parts are very original, in your opinion?

I think the part of the game that is most original is probably the dice mechanic. Exploding dice are not new, but the idea of rolling a large pool of dice (if you take feats like Attack Specialization you get Advantage, which means you roll extra dice) where you keep only some of them and are looking to keep the highest and increase your chance of explosions is unique. I’ve not seen or heard of it from anyone I’ve talked to thus far (and I’ve talked to ALOT of people).

The game is actually not trying to be very surprising or different. I think alot of games include things that are unique just so that people will be impressed by them, but I think they lack long-term substance to keep people’s attention in the long-run. I don’t want to create unique mechanics just for the sake of making a new game. I want to take and learn the lessons and draw on the best parts of what has been unanimously enjoyed by the gaming community and put all of it into one package.

I think the balance between an emphasis on story and strategy is really the soul of the game. Great games like Dungeon World, for me, didn’t have as much complexity as I want in a long-term campaign. Open Legend is built, very intentionally to fulfill the same goals and desires that gamers currently fulfill with D&D and Pathfinder. I also think that with large numbers of new players coming into the gaming hobby via live streams on Twitch and similar platforms, that there are lots of people who want to get into a roleplaying game, but are not willing to take the time to spend hours studying the spell lists or reading books. Open Legend is a perfect system for these new players because many of the mechanics are shared across different character types, so once you learn the banes and boons, you can have many different character concepts use those same mechanics.

The difference between Open Legend and other popular long-term campaign RPGs is that when you want to do a Weird Wild West campaign setting, you don’t need to spend years re-thinking the rules and mechanics. Most of it is already in place, you just need to add a few interesting twists that are specific to your setting and then you’re good to go. It is my hope that this means Open Legend can focus most of it’s energy on writing new story content rather than worrying about coming up with a new system for every new campaign setting and genre we release.

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5)      These are very interesting advantages, in fact. Actually I think I could write an entire module where players wake up in Wild Wild West, then the next time they wake up they would be in a full fantasy realm, then they would wake up … ok you understood the concept 🙂 It is nice to use the same system for many different settings. But I tend to digress and I am talking to myself, oh well, Gandalf explains it so well … Back to the game. Brian which parts of OPEN LEGEND are, in turn, a bit “weak” or requiring some development?

The only thing I feel the game is missing is a way of “tying characters together”, something that Dungeon World does a great job at with its “bonds”. But we’re fixing this. Currently in development is a system of “Perks & Flaws” which will cover things like “I have a background as royalty / merchant / criminal”, but also racial perks like “Elven eyes”. These perks are also things that can be developed over time or given out by the GM as rewards that are tied to the story arc of a campaign. You might gain the “Noble” perk and become a noble on a small local level when you save the town and earn the local ruler’s favor.

We also have the “flaws” side of things, which creates a system where (at the GM’s discretion) you can gain Fate Points when you role-play your character’s flaw in a way that is detrimental to you. It won’t be more than once or twice per session, but flaws can be used to enhance the storytelling aspect of the game.

Right now, the game is very open and freeform in terms of the story, so I think this area is the only thing I’d change, bringing in a bit more of an element where you can choose thematic perks and flaws that have a real impact on the gameplay when you’re at the table.

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6)      I look forward to see these changes and the Fate Points, in your interesting, Roleplay oriented, meaning. Now, about the system of rules, did some games inspire you? About the “exploding dice”: this concept reminds us a bit of the Wild Die in West End Game D6 system or the Bonus Dice in some FASA games (e.g. Earthdawn and Shadowrun).

Exploding dice have been around forever. For me, personally, I’ve spent most of my years playing D&D rather than other systems. One system that has always fascinated me is Deadlands.  It uses both dice pools and also exploding dice. The concept of exploding dice in Deadlands was inspiring to me and I think that’s where it initially came from. The thing that always bothered me about  other exploding dice systems is that the more powerful you become the more narrow your average dice roll is. If you roll 10d6, then VERY often your roll is going to be between 30 and 40. Some systems “count successes”, meaning that if you roll X or better on one of the dice that counts as once success, but for me, I prefer to do the numeric total. I like hit points, I think people understand and can relate to them so I wanted to stick with something more familiar. Defense scores in the game are also similar, averaging between 10 – 20 to start.

So, in Open Legend, when you roll Attribute 9 (3d10) with Advantage 5 (5 extra dice), you roll the base d20 + 8d10, but you’re keeping the highest 3 d10’s. This means that it works the opposite of other dice pool systems. The bigger your dice pool, the greater the chance for a very high roll, as opposed to the average becoming increasingly narrow in it’s range.

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7)      Yes, as I commented before, it is not because you have the dice that you can quit to roleplay and use strategy, otherwise you will probably fail! About failure, we probably missed some important points in our quick review, if so, we do apologize and you have here the possibility to rectify our errors. Do you want to add something more about Open Legend?

I think your questions have been great. I think the only thing I would add is to mention my upcoming Kickstarter campaign which includes both the first printing of the Core Rules as well as Amaurea’s Dawn, our very exciting campaign setting which includes some amazing writers like Matthew Mercer (the GM for Critical Role on Geek & Sundry), Ed Greenwood (Creator of the Forgotten Realms), and John Wick (Author of 7th Sea RPG). I could go into alot of detail, here but I think I’ll keep things mysterious for now and let people get inspired by some of our amazing artwork that they’ll see in the Kickstarter campaign. Join our mailing list at http://eepurl.com/b7W-Kz to get notified about our mid-October campaign.

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Wow! Reading all these names my roleplay senses are tingling! It could be also a nice end for the interreview but it is not 🙂 In the next episode there will be a lot of new info about people revolving around Open Legend, a part for Brian off course and projects of today and of the future, like Amaurea’s Dawn!

We hope you enjoyed it and within a few days you will read the last of Open Legend story! Stay tuned and see you soon to EPK Review 3_part3&last.

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