Thoughts on Open Legend

I ran an Open Legend one-shot for my group this weekend. We’ve been playing Pathfinder, but I’m looking for a system to replace it. I was considering 5e when a backer update for Open Legend caught my eye. I read the book, and I liked what I saw quite a bit. It felt like a mashup of the things I want out of a game with the things my players want out of a game. That’s not to say there weren’t things I disliked, but those are almost all things I can address in house rules.

Before I ran the one-shot, my group had some concerns about combat. I was a little worried that it would be too crunchy. The list of boons and banes is pretty big, so I worried that it would be difficult to know everything that you could do. My players were worried about how lethal combat would be given the way damage works. After the one-shot, I’d say we were right to feel that way, but neither were big issues in practice.

The list of boons and banes is indeed quite big. We got by well enough with just the common actions that were written on everyone’s character sheets. Towards the end, people started experimenting more with their abilities both in and out of combat. I like that. I hope to see more of that when we start a full campaign. One complaint I do have about banes is they can sometimes feel a little confusingly written. I had some trouble fully grokking persistent damage at first and how resisting it worked until I noticed the note at the end that you can still resist it normally.

Combat itself was more of a mixed bag. My players’ concerns about hit points were unfounded. While it’s possible to get dropped quite quickly, the requirement that you take a killing blow to die makes it unlikely for someone to die unintentionally. It’s not impossible (persistent damage is nasty in this regard), but it helps keep combat dangerous without being too deadly. Lethal damage is definitely serious business. The next time we play, I think we’ll use a tactical grid. It fits my group better, and the system would work better for us with it. I plan on changing up the XP system and tweaking the legend point economy a little bit in my full campaign. I had a good discussion on the community forums about my tweaks. I like keeping XP as the reward for contributing to the story and legend points for keeping it interesting. The one tweak I am making to the legend point economy is with my goals mechanic: if you complete both goals, you get a legend point. I think the legend point economy will be just generous enough to give people a reliable source of legend points, so that they use them regularly. We can make adjustments if it doesn’t.

I also experimented with a few things in this one-shot. I pulled from Apocalypse World for my threats and threat moves. I think that went mostly okay. I’m going to try expanding that to my Pathfinder campaign next. I did have some trouble with defaulting to failing forward instead of giving my PCs success with a twist, so I will have to do better at that. One thing I did differently for my NPCs and PCs was to give them an impulse. I think that worked really well. One of the players picked the druid pre-gen, and he gave himself an impulse I was able to compel quite nicely towards the end of the session. I also gave NPCs single-word personality traits, but they seemed less useful in practice.

Overall, I’m pretty happy with Open Legend. The community seems pretty nice, and the system works really well for my group. There were definitely some things I did wrong when we ran, but those are easily correctible. I do look forward to getting the boon and bane decks I picked up as an add-on to my pledge. Being able to give players a card with the effect on it should be really helpful for them. We had to dig around on the website just a little too much.