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“A player’s Guide to Legacy Items” excerpts 15 pages from the 300 that comprise AA and contains everything that a Player needs to know in order to receive and use a Legacy Item in play.
Because it fits the theme of this month’s Blog Carnival, and because it’s cool content (IMHO), today’s blog post presents the second half of a two-part excerpt from the ‘Player’s Guide’. This won’t tell anyone everything they need to know about Legacy Items, but it will speak to the concept of making the Loot Part Of The Plot, and – by way of example – illustrate how this can be done. This article will pick up right where we left off…
And yes, there will be an expanded GM’s guide offered as free to purchasers of Assassin’s Amulet – past, present, and future – in the near future.
The Powers of a Legacy Item
Legacy Items have multiple powers, from minor to major, that they grant to the wielder. Initially, the wielder will not even be certain the item is granting a power, so unreliable are the benefits while the character is unbound to the item. When the binding process begins, the character gains access to a more reliable ability, appropriate to the nature of the Legacy that the Legacy Item represents. This advantage is known as the First Inheritance.
As the wielder and Legacy Item bond together, the character levels gained mark the passage of time as the bonding experience proceeds. When sufficient time has passed, the bonding is complete and the character gains the benefits of a power referred to as The Second Inheritance. The power level of the Second Inheritance determines the number of levels to be gained before the bonding is complete, and so on.
At the GM’s discretion, the character may experience flashes of the Second Inheritance in advance of its being reliably available to the character, under circumstances especially appropriate to the Legacy. When such circumstances are present, the GM should roll a dX, where X is the number of levels remaining before the bonding is complete; on a roll of ‘1’ the power may be called upon, once, and immediately.
Once bound to a Legacy, the character gains the opportunity to unlock additional Inheritances as he gains additional levels, presumably while representing the Legacy. There may be many such Inheritances of a minor nature, or few of more substantial power, or some combination of these two extremes.
Base Inheritance rankings
Inheritances are ranked on a scale of 2 to 6. Each increase in ranking indicates the Inheritance is more powerful—roughly doubling with each +1.
A table describing the ranking of specific powers is provided in Assassin’s Amulet. The table offers usable examples but the list is not exhaustive. Powers and restrictions not listed are possible and acceptable, limited only to the GM’s creativity.
Inheritance ranking modifiers
The base ranking of one or more Inheritances are then adjusted by applying Ranking Modifiers, which reflect how well the power(s) express the unique nature of their Legacy.
The GM determines the ranking appropriate to each Inheritance after listing the powers he wishes the Legacy Item to confer.
Total Legacy Ranking
The modified rankings of individual powers are then totaled to determine the Total Legacy Ranking. Most Legacy Items have a total of 16-20 total ranking; some, suitable only for an Epic Campaign, might have as many as 40 total ranks.
The greater the total, the more powerful the Legacy Item will become when the character has mastered the powers it offers.
Valuation of a Legacy Item
The value of a legacy item consists of two parts, which are totaled:
- 20,000 gp x the total ranking of revealed powers;
- plus, if the total ranking of revealed powers is less than 16, an additional 50,000 gp.
A Legacy Item with 8 power ranks revealed has a value of 210,000gp—mostly for the abilities it is already known to confer, plus a lump sum reflecting the certainty that there are more to come.
Until an Inheritance is unlocked, a power only exists as a potential—something the Legacy Item may grant in the future, but which it does not yet bestow. The number of levels a character must gain to receive an opportunity to unlock the next Inheritance equals the modified power ranking of that Inheritance.
For example, if the modified power ranking of the Fourth Inheritance is 3, the character must earn 3 levels before the character can attempt to unlock the Inheritance, starting from the point at which the character had his first opportunity to unlock the Third Inheritance. The character must use the Legacy Item as the primary item of its kind throughout these levels. If the Legacy Item is a sword, for example, it must be the character’s primary melee weapon.
Players should not know how many levels they have to achieve before they get the opportunity to unlock a further inheritance. Nor should they be informed when they have unlocked the last Inheritance of an item.
Unlocking an Inheritance Power requires more than merely achieving the character levels specified. The possessor must also complete one or more tasks, skill checks or quests specified by the GM as the key to unlocking that power. These tests are known as an Unlocking Challenge. After the possessor succeeds at the Unlocking Challenge, the power becomes unlocked and readily available to the character.
As soon as a character qualifies to attempt an Unlocking Challenge, the process of earning levels toward unlocking the next power begins.
Unlocking Challenges are required because they encourage players to roleplay the effects of the Legacy. Legacy Items are powerful, but the price of that power is an influence shaping the character’s opinions, reactions and thoughts. This manifests in game mechanics as a roleplaying requirement.
The Legacy carried by a Legacy Item is as much a part of the personality of the wielder as any other. It need not be dominant, but it must not be secondary.
The GM and the player should agree on the nature of the personality effects of the Legacy when reaching the point where character can no longer discard the Legacy Item (unlocking the Second Inheritance).
The GM should formulate background elements prior to this event to serve as the foundation for this influence, and use the binding period to give the player—and the character—fair warning in-game of what lies before them.
One of the major reasons for the binding period (during which the character is not committed to the Legacy) from a metagame perspective is to facilitate a considered decision in this matter.
The GM defines the Legacy and the powers it grants. The player determines how that Legacy will shape the character.
The GM must enforce these mutual decisions, and should review the actions and decisions of the character each time a character levels up to ensure the Legacy is being properly reflected in the character’s behavior.
This does not grant the GM a veto over the choices of the player; however, it does require him to point out that failure to act appropriately will have consequences for the character, up to and including the possibility that the level just gained will not count toward unlocking the next Inheritance. In this respect, the Legacy is not unlike an alignment restriction or the code of behavior to which a paladin should adhere.
Unlocking a new Inheritance Power is akin to an end-of-year exam in the subject of “behavior appropriate to the Legacy.” It is not enough to overcome whatever Unlocking Challenge the GM places before the character with a skill roll or a battle; the manner of the solution is as important as the answer itself.
Unlocking challenge difficulty
Assassin’s Amulet contains a procedure for the GM to use in determining exactly how difficult a challenge the character must overcome in order to unlock an Inheritance. Unless it is important to the specific Legacy, there is no requirement for the character to solve the problem or defeat the challenge unassisted by other PCs.
In general, it is fair to say that the difficulties increase with successive Inheritances and with the power level of the Inheritance that the character is about to attempt to unlock.
The challenge should consist of a mini-adventure or subplot whose length and difficulty reflects these factors.
Depending on the player and his inclination and ability to contribute to the overall metaplot of the campaign, the GM may permit the player to assist in the design of this mini-adventure/side-quest/subplot, or may spring it on the character blind. It may form part of the ongoing plotlines within the campaign, or it may be a side-quest completely divorced from those plotlines.
GMs should bear in mind it is not enough for the character and his companions (if any) to overcome these purely mechanical challenges; the roleplay component is just as essential, and the design of the Unlocking Challenge should provide an opportunity for that roleplay.
Impact on characters
When discussing these notions with playtesters, the question was posed whether these challenges should be real events, with substantial impact on the lives and history of the world and the affected characters, or whether they should take the form of dreams or illusions with no external effect.
Opinion on this question was divided. Some argued the training during the bonding stage had established a precedent, while others took the position that, since the Legacy and its powers were real, if metaphysical, so should the challenge be, and that enforcing some impact on the outside world of the character coming to represent the Legacy was appropriate.
While each GM is free to rule on this matter as he or she sees fit, a consensus eventually emerged in the aforementioned debate:
- Whenever possible, the GM should undertake to make the challenges real, with real impact on the game world.
- Where this is not possible, the Legacy will twist the perceptions of the possessor (but not his companions) to make events seem relevant. For example, making the population of a town appear to be bugbears, trolls or other race appropriate to trigger Legacy-derived behavior.
- If this is also not possible, only then should the challenge take place entirely within the confines of the character’s mind. In this case, the GM should enlist the assistance of the other players at the table.
There is an important distinction between these options which deserves emphasizing. With the first two alternatives, there are genuine risks, and hence there should be genuine rewards and consequences, especially to the characters not wielding the Legacy Item. In the third case there is no risk—a character who is killed simply wakes up from the dream—so there should be no rewards beyond the unlocking of the Inheritance or not.
That means the character should gain no experience points for success, just as he loses nothing in the event of failure; his sole reward is the activation of the next Inheritance, his sole punishment for failure the lack of activation of the same.
Furthermore, the GM can interpret the middle ground as imposing circumstances that make an encounter more difficult. If this is the case, he may offer additional rewards.
The Effects of a Legacy
Legacy Items are high-fantasy plot devices that have been designed to be sufficiently manageable and flexible to operate even in a low-fantasy world.
By virtue of the ‘fingerprints’ that significant actions impart onto the game world, they form a different type of connection between the campaign history and the contemporary gaming environment, a new set of plot threads the GM can weave into an existing tapestry.
GMs can use Legacy dreams as a conduit to additional game world background, revealing past events and campaign briefing material as it becomes relevant. This offers an advantage for roleplaying by sheltering players from the omniscient awareness of the past conferred from a more substantial historical overview, while presenting the information to them when it becomes important.
Furthermore, the existence of Legacy Items implies a connection and cohesion to past events and primal conflicts that can serve as motivation and a source of plotlines, a metaphysical backdrop of which contemporary events are a modern consequence. They not only imply high-fantasy cosmic conflict, but they can place it at arm’s length from the campaign, permitting the GM to enjoy the best of both worlds.
The effects and implications of a Legacy Item extend far beyond the immediate consequences upon the campaign. They can provide a vehicle for a wider narrative, enriching the campaign and making possible stories that would otherwise be beyond reach.
Contemplate a vast historical conflict between two ideologically opposed forces such as Good and Evil, Order and Chaos, or even Centralized Authority versus Liberty and Independence.
For convenience, we will abbreviate all such conflicts as Left versus Right. These two forces, Left and Right, fought a war-to-end-all-wars in the distant past, with no clear winner. The extreme adherents of both causes battled each other to the point of annihilation. However, the Legacies of these ideologies lives on, forming a central spark that drives the evolution of the societies that have arisen from the ashes. This shapes those cultures, drawing those more sympathetic to one side than the other into alliances and coalitions, until two factions once again emerge, one the embodiment of Left, and the other of Right, each wielding their respective Legacy Items. Then once again, the two sides will clash in the latest incarnation of their never-ending conflict, seeking to resolve the irresolvable, until both are again destroyed, and the cycle starts anew.
The clash between these two forces is high-fantasy. However, any other point in this cycle of never-ending conflict can serve as a background template for mid- or low-level campaigns possessing the scope of the high-fantasy concept without the baggage.
This is but one of many ways Legacy Items can connect past with present to enrich a campaign. Any philosophy, ideology or point of collective identification, if held strongly enough, can perpetuate itself beyond its history into a contemporary game era by using a Legacy Item as a vehicle.
On a character
Legacy Items provide a method for character development in-game beyond encounters. The impact of the Legacy on the character—from a bias to an abiding influence that must be constantly battled to a complete consumption of the original personality—offers a choice to the player, in consultation with the GM.
No matter how limited the change, every character possessing a Legacy Item should be marked in some way by the burden. He will see that which no living eyes have apprehended, hear sounds from an age long past, experience events from long before his time.
These might have little relevance to the contemporary era or be directly relevant. They might reinforce character flaws or teach wisdom, or both. At best, a Legacy Item should be a mixed blessing.
There is always a downside, some price to pay, for possession of such a powerful object. The character is the focus for incomprehensible and implacable forces from a different time who sees the world in absolute terms; the character should feel the impact of these circumstances.
Not everyone leaves a legacy
It follows from the rarity of Legacy Items that most groups do not leave a Legacy. No one knows the exact combination of obsession and circumstance that create one. Some have even speculated that an epic magic of unprecedented ability has propagated through time from the distant future (since there is no evidence such a spell has been cast in the past). Perhaps he tried to ensure the survival of a specific Legacy, and was indirectly responsible for the creation of all the others as a side effect.
Analyzing, encountering and destroying a legacy
Legacy Items are artifacts for the purposes of Mordenkainen’s Disjuntion and similar spells. They are magic items with reference to Detect Magic and similar spells. Only powers that have been Unlocked, plus the next Inheritance to be unlocked, can be analyzed using Identify and similar spells.
That makes them difficult to destroy. Only unbound Legacy Items can be destroyed and it is an epic task akin to the destruction of the One Ring. The safer course is to lock the item up somewhere, place guardians and traps around it (self-sustaining ones if possible) and then try to eliminate all knowledge of where it is hidden—to create a dungeon, in other words. One could even create more such depositaries with no exceptional treasures and scatter them around, just to make it harder for anyone searching for the Legacy Item to pick out the right one.
Nevertheless, the majority of Legacy Items encountered in a game should be encountered in the hands of an NPC. A GM should never permit a PC a Legacy Item during character creation without careful thought.
There’s still more information contained in the full player’s guide, which will be available free to prospective purchasers of Assassin’s Amulet very shortly.
It includes rules on Reshaping and breaking bondings – something I’m sure you’ll all be very interested in knowing about!
I hope this two-part preview has been both inspiring and enticing.
And now, back to the big news:
Assassin’s Amulet is now available!
The price is just US$20 and you can pay using Paypal, or most major credit cards, including AMEX, Visa, or Mastercard.
Just head to the Legacies Campaign Setting site and you’re on your way!
We hope you enjoy it!