May 25, 2023: Foundations

“This is how I go to my happy place.” Photo by Wil Wheaton (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Since I talked about Dungeons & Dragons yesterday, let me ride that wave for today’s post as well.

I started playing RPGs with the D&D red box, and that genesis set the foundation upon which the rest of my gaming life has been built. That box informs what I think of when I speak of “old-school” role-playing, what I think a “dungeon crawl” is like, and what I feel a fantasy RPG is and isn’t, even to this day.

Much has been said about the OSR movement, whether you read the R as Renaissance, Revival, or Revolution. I’m not going to rehash any of that here, but instead, I refer to this quote from business author, Seth Godin:

When we switch media, or time zones, or cultures, or technology, it’s up to us to make the idea what it can become, not simply an unpalatable simulacrum of what it was over there.

Seth Godin, “The Hobgoblin of Fidelity

I bring up these points because I have been working for a while on Project Legacy, a project that has me both excited and full of dread. Unlike the OSR movement, I am not aiming for any kind of return to the “golden age,” nor is it my intent to build “D&D, but better”—you just can’t out-D&D D&D.

Instead, I want to look at my foundations, borne out of that iconic red box, and see what did those rules teach me, what implications they’ve had in my gaming/designing life, and how can I express those foundations with the language I know today.

I don’t aim to build a hack of, a retro-clone of, or even an homage to D&D. I don’t aim to be a part of the OSR in any of its permutations. I do not aim to build an “unpalatable simulacrum of what […] was.” I aim to build something that speaks to what came before in a language that is of the present, something that acknowledges the past, but is a product of the now, and sets a road for the future. I aim to create something that is built from, and in turn, establishes a Legacy.


February 15, 2023: Phases

The Marketplace in Novgorod by Apollinary Vasnetsov.

PROJECT LEGACY features three distinct phases of gameplay that help drive focus to different areas of interest with (ideally) equal attention. Characters will find themselves excelling in one phase, while being competent in the other two, thus giving everyone a chance to shine.

The Exploration Phase is the domain of the Delve attribute, and encompasses the time when characters are out actively exploring and adventuring. During this phase, characters delve into ruins and dungeons, map uncharted areas, travel long distances, and have adventures (planned and unplanned) along the way. In the parlance of most role-playing games, most adventures take place in the Exploration phase.

The Conflict Phase is the domain of the Fight attribute, and encompasses the time when characters are actively engaged in a conflict of any kind. During this phase, characters engage in melee combat with enemies, participate in a heated debate at the symposium, fling spells in a magical duel, or seek to outwit an ancient and complex trap. The Conflict phase is unique in that characters move in and out of it during one of the other two phases.

The Downtime Phase is the domain of the Talk attribute, and encompasses the time when characters are in between adventure and missions, engaging in personal pursuits. During this phase, characters engage in buying equipment, selling or trading items found, researching their next adventure, working on a new spell, training and learning new skills, or building a life.

Generally, these activities happen in most games to one extent or another, but I want to make sure that PROJECT LEGACY shines a spotlight on each of these activities, that a game isn’t all about only dungeon delving, that it isn’t a hours-long combat session, or that it lacks development and growth time between missions. I want to give different characters a stage to do their thing, be it during exploration, conflict, or development. It gives the game some formal structure around which characters can exhert their freedom, and hopefully, create more rounded narratives.

January 10, 2023: OGL

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Over in the role-playing games world, there’s a lot of talk recently about Wizards of the Coast (WotC)/Hasbro’s plan to release a new Open Game License, or OGL. In short, it seems that WotC will be revoking the initial version of the OGL (1.0a) that has been in place since the early 2000s and replacing it with one that is far more restrictive and proprietary (OGL 1.1). The original OGL 1.0a made it possible for hundreds of companies to release gaming material compatible with Dungeons & Dragons, to extrapolate new games from those rules, and release other game systems using the same license. All that could come to an end with the new OGL 1.1, as it would revoke the previous one.

I’m not a lawyer. I don’t know all the ins and outs of the issue yet. I found a decent summary of the situation from someone who is a lawyer over on that I would encourage you to read (Let’s Take A Minute To Talk About D&D’s Open Gaming License (OGL) by Noah Downs). The most salient point to pay attention to is that the OGL 1.0a is a perpetual license, but not an irrevocable license, which means WotC can release the OGL 1.1 with a clause that revokes the OGL 1.0a and replaces it with the newer version, which indeed seems what they intend to do.

What I have to say about this subject is that I’m surprised it took WotC this long to make this move. I love the spirit of the OGL, and its original intent certainly worked to revitalize and expand the hobby gaming market, but it was always the elephant in the room that Wizards was leaving money on the table by letting other people play in their sandbox, especially when Pathfinder, basically a clone of the D&D ruleset, came out and became the powerhouse it is. The closing of the OGL was bound to happen, from a business perspective if nothing else. As my friend likes to remind me, the purpose of a corporation is to make money for its shareholders, period.

What this means for me is that I will be going over my zines that feature the use of the OGL and either revising items to something more generic, or pulling them from sale for the time being until I have a more permanent solution. It also means that my desire and commitment to finish Project Legacy is more solid than ever. I want my own system that I can tinker with and release projects for that doesn’t depend on anyone else’s material and whims.

December 20, 2022: Preview

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I had wanted to have a full playtest copy of PROJECT LEGACY done in 2022, but that’s not gonna be the case. That said, I do have a preview that I shared with my newsletter readers recently, and which I’m now sharing wide.

PROJECT LEGACY Preview – Section 2: The Characters

Click the link above to read 95% of the section on character creation. I left a small part out cause I’m still working on it, but otherwise you have there the first draft of the character creation process. If you have any feedback, or if you create a sample character, please leave me a comment below!

I hope you enjoy it. My goal is to have the game ready and out in 2023.

September 30, 2022: Magic

Photo by RODNAE Productions on

I’ve been writing the Magic chapters of Project Legacy for the last month, and it’s made me think hard about what I like and don’t like about magic systems in role-playing games in order to decide what I want in my own game.

It’s been eye-opening how pervasive a magic system is in a role-playing game; even if you’re trying to keep it simple, as I am, it still touches a hundred other areas of the game and rules, tending to spiral out of control. I am making the conscious choice of modeling my magic system on that of the big fantasy role-playing game because I want familiarity and compatibility, and although I am simplifying a lot of the processes that go along with the said magic system, it still means I’m dealing with schools of magic, and spells, and caster traditions, and so on. Since it’s a design choice, I am leaning into it and giving things my own spin, which is its own kind of fun, but admittedly it has made this section of the book a chunky one.

For a brief moment, I thought about taking magic out completely, but it’s a trope of the genre, and I enjoy it, so it stayed. Now I just need to finish this section because I’m going crosseyed from writing about spells and magical items and arcane traditions.

September 08, 2022: Range

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Today I want to talk about range and distances in Project Legacy, spurred by this tweet I came across on my timeline:

Distances in Project Legacy, at least at the micro level (macro, or overland, distances are different), are handled this way as well. Although I’m still writing down the specifics, as it stands right now we have the following ranges:

  • Personal
  • Near
  • Long
  • Extended

I have rough measurements in mind for what each means, but for now, let’s not go into that detail. I think the descriptors tell well what each range encompasses. Characters in a conflict can move one range per turn (there are exceptions), and anything you’d care about to know how far it can reach has its range expressed in these terms (e.g. short bow – near range, long bow – long range, crossbow – extended range).

Project Legacy is very much theater of the mind. And that’s because that’s my preferred way to play adventure games.

I’m sure there’ll be some tweaking along the way, but abstract descriptive distances and ranges are here to stay.

September 01, 2022: Toll

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In Project Legacy, classes are called Professions, each one a type of “job” an adventurer typically performs. Each Profession gives a character access to some skills, stunts, and guild membership, and it also defines their toll. Based on what each Profession does, characters each have something they must contend with, a side effect of doing that job that little by little wears on the character. After all, you don’t get to be a soldier who regularly fights and kills other creatures without that taking a toll on your psyche.

Each Profession—Bard, Cleric, Explorer, Soldier, Thief, Wizard—has its own toll they must contend with, each created based on the type of activities the Profession performs, and the type of issues they struggle with. Toll is one of the aspects of Project Legacy I’m most excited about as I think it will lead to interesting and dramatic situations at the table, and encourage players to stretch their characters beyond only doing the typical things they would normally be good at.

August 27, 2022: Heritages

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One of the things I’m doing with Project Legacy is looking to the past while trying to put a different spin so I can build going forward. When it came to the issue of fantasy races, I decided to go with the less problematic term of heritages, and hopefully avoid issues that have come up with some of the legacy games in terms of racial profiling and archetyping.

Project Legacy has six core heritages which I believe give a good spectrum of options for character creation. Some are direct descendants of the legacy races, including Humans, Elves, and Dwarves, while the others bring a little something different to the table. Even the legacy races, when written up for Project Legacy, have different spins on them to contribute to worldbuilding and allow me to stretch my creativity. It also gives me a chance to move these heritages away from their stereotypical expressions from four decades of role-playing games.

The heritages in Project Legacy do have certain abilities that are unique to each people, but I wanted to make sure that I avoided the issue of “all dwarves are this” or “all elves are that” which quickly becomes a slippery slope towards profiling. Heritages do have abilities unique to each, but there’s a spectrum of choices, with more surely to come in the future, allowing each heritage to have certain features unique to them as a people, but individuals to be different.

Will I hit my mark? I certainly have the wisdom learned from seeing all that has happened with other games and how game design has evolved over the years. I’m striving to, and I hope I will.

August 24, 2022: Own

Photo by Tirachard Kumtanom on, added text by me.

Last week, Wizards of the Coast announced their newest iteration of D&D, and released a playtest document with a preview of where the changes are headed. Having *just* gotten interested in D&D 5th Edition, it makes me chuckle that the next “edition” got announced, because of course, although at eight years since 5e’s release, I knew it would be coming sooner rather than later. Even if Wizards isn’t calling “One D&D” a new edition, that’s semantics; 6th Edition is coming.

As a player, I thought, “Ok, cool.” As a creator, however, I thought, “It is time once and for all.”

I want something that’s my own. I can love other systems, support them, and want them to do well, but I want something that’s my own. I want my own game, my own system that I can control, build up, create for, shape, and direct without the business decisions of other companies affecting me. As a game designer and creator, this is also a goal that I’ve had for years, one that it is time to fulfill.

That’s Project Legacy, the game I’ve been writing for the past few months, based on thoughts, ideas, theories, beliefs, and practices I’ve been marinating on for close to two decades. Everything I’ve ever done as a gamer, everything I’ve ever designed as a game designer, it all has led to Project Legacy, and in turn, Project Legacy will be the foundation for me to build going forth.

I know better than to give dates, but my goal is to have a playtest document ready this fall that others can look over and start putting through the paces.

It’s time for me to own my legacy, and leave a legacy of my own.