Open Legend character build from concept to gameplay
As a relatively new staff writer for Nerdarchy.com the opportunity to join my colleagues William C. (aka Professor Bill from Comic Book University), Megan R. Miller, Nerdarchy.com editor-in-chief Ty Johnston and Nerdarchist Ted in a weekly live stream game run by Nerdarchist Dave is phenomenal.
Not without trepidation I quickly agreed. The game is a wholly new system for me, for one, and for another I’d never played a tabletop roleplaying game online before – let alone live streaming!
Open Legend RPG is an open source roleplaying game designed by Brian Feister, who sponsors our weekly live game that streams on Fridays at noon Eastern on the Nerdarchy YouTube channel. The core rules for the game are available for free online here. There’s a multi-genre campaign setting called Amaurea’s Dawn that was created with involvement from RPG luminaries Matthew Mercer and the legendary Ed Greenwood, but for our game we decided to create our own setting.
Part of our world-building involved Nerdarchy Patreon patrons, who voted in a poll to determine the genre of our game. A big part of Open Legend RPG is the community-driven development, so reaching out to our own Nerdarchy community was only natural. The results of the poll were close, with top contenders being steampunk, horror and espionage. Nerdarchist Dave decided to mash them all together and, with input from the players we created a vibrant, exciting world to adventure within.
With Open Legend RPG a new and mysterious system for most of us, and a brand new multi-genre world to awaiting, character creation became an interesting – and ongoing – process. Nerdarchy would like to thank Open Legend RPG and Brian Feister for being a great sponsor for our game, and as a small way to give back we wanted to share our experiences and the character build we’re each following for this intriguing and exciting weekly game.
Character Build Concept
Before we had the first of our two live streamed session zero segments, the idea of an espionage-heavy game really captured my imagination. I envisioned a world of spies and subterfuge, secret encoded messages, guile and disguises. Whenever I create any RPG character I like to have a strong idea of where the character’s expertise will lie and how they interact with the world around them.
I began looking up famous spies from history and came upon Josephine Baker. The story of this jazz age icon, a black woman who served during World War II as an operative for the French Resistance while living there as an entertainer, instantly fascinated me.
With that concept in mind, I followed the easy-to-understand character creation process in the Open Legend RPG rules and wound up with a Presence-heavy character with a few tricks up her sleeve. As an entertainer, she would use her charm and chutzpah to navigate society, with the Idol and Silver Tongue perks and the Pacifist flaw. The mechanics of the extraordinary attributes intrigued me, too. I put a few points into Influence with the notion she had a bit of spy-gadgetry with which to turn invisible – the perfect way to get around unnoticed. Another game framework that I think is very innovative is the equipment creation system. Using those guidelines I armed her with a sort of omni-tool stun-stick. I imagined it had different settings to stun, knockback or paralyze targets.
For an exceptional physical trait, with examples in the character creation rules like glowing red eyes, I described how every time you looked away and looked back at her, she might be wearing a different ostentatious ensemble.
I was all set to go with this character, until after our first session zero when we delved more towards an arcanapunk setting with floating cities, airships and anti-gravity sports. So I began looking around for more inspiration and evocative art to get my imagination working. That’s when I found an image that brought me back to the drawing board for character creation.
Everything about this image captivated me and informed my decisions for a new character build. Since the world contained fantasy elements like elves, dwarves and kobolds, I decided to create a female dwarf character. My enjoyment of strong female characters goes way back to my youth when I fell in love with the adventures of Mister Miracle and Big Barda. The latter became the given name of Commander Shepard for the amazing experience of playing the Mass Effect. That was one tough lady. I chose dwarf because nonhuman characters always appeal to me in roleplaying games, and dwarves are famously tough. Additional influences for the character came from Tank Girl.
Flavor and roleplaying details for the character are all inspired by this image, from the quasi-Russian State of Piatracas that’s the seat of power for dwarves in this world to the character’s artificial arm and self-applied description of herself as “kind of a scuzzy lady.”
Open Legend Mechanics
Before diving into the nuts and bolts of this character, a huge shoutout must be given to Open Legend community user ucffool, creator of HeroMuster’s Open Legend tools. One of these indispensable tools is the Character Builder character sheet. As you build characters with this tool, it tracks the input and provides customized data on what is available to your character like boons and banes as well as calculates stats like Guard, Resolve, hit points and initiative. It even has links to descriptions of all the powers, which is incredibly handy. I make sure to have this open for easy reference in every session of our live game.
From the get-go, Presence was this character’s forte and five points were invested in the attribute before anything else was done. I imagined this hard-assed dwarf has a big personality and a big mouth, a crusty woman whose strong Presence could spur her allies on.
Then I put three points into Will, with the idea that her toughness stemmed from stubbornness and a refusal to ever quit or give up. Three points went into Fortitude so her physical resilience would match her mental resolve. One point went into Perception to account for her military training and instincts. Finally, I split the remaining points equally between Agility and Might. I wanted her to be competent with ranged weapons like the antique pepperbox revolver stuck in her belt as well as any weapons she could aim, fire and cause big explosions with. At the same time, she would be just as likely to get down and dirty in a scrap with her baseball bat or a steam-powered punch from her mechanical arm.
The extraordinary attributes are very intriguing, and the way they allow for so much variety is very cool, but I could not imagine this particular character doing anything like that. My concept was a tough, former military officer turned disillusioned vet.
Along those same lines I took the feats Diehard and Indomitable Resolve. She would be the last woman standing no matter what. With Guard 18, Toughness 16, Resolve 19 and 32 hit points, I felt pretty good about her survivability. Days later, I watched a streamed Open Legend game that had Matt Mercer as a special guest and had to laugh when I saw that none of the characters had more than 20 hit points and they were around 5th level if I recall correct.
At this point, I had a few questions about how some things works, and I headed to the Open Legend RPG Discord forums for help. The folks there are incredibly helpful – and fast! I asked about boons and banes and got a response within minutes.
I’ll admit, I was still unsure how some of those things worked even after we’d played a couple of sessions. At first I didn’t realize that this character could invoke boons like Bolster and Heal or banes like Provoked or Demoralized because of her Presence score. Once that clicked, I really enjoy the way she “heals” her friends by barking at them to suck it up or “bolsters” them by browbeating them to success.
Aside from the mechanical portions of the build, my favorite part of character creation are the built-in roleplaying aides. Most notably, the character secret. Right off the bat the rules encourage you to come up with a secret about your character that no one else knows. I love this. It gives you a wonderful card up your sleeve to pull out at any moment to make a situation more dramatic. I revealed my character’s secret a few sessions ago and, for me at least, it felt like a special moment.
For the character’s name, I drew on the Russian-inspired elements of this game world’s dwarven people and named her Roz Rakheta. I don’t speak or read Russian, and I know this is a completely separate country but I used Google Translate to find Romanian words that mean Pink Rocket. Roz has neon pink punk rock hair in the style of Tank Girl, and a great appreciation for explosive weaponry.
The Perks and Flaws are a cool game element as well. But, I must admit these sorts of elements in any game can be bothersome to me. In Open Legend RPG they offer great rewards for roleplaying your character. On the other hand, I tend to discover more about characters I create while I’m playing. For example, Roz has Courageous and Fugitive Perks, and Brash and Stubborn Flaws. But when circumstances arise, I don’t necessarily feel like she would act those ways. Also, the Fugitive Perk seems to put undue strain on the GM; I’ve tried to use it several times but it didn’t pan out. That’s not a complaint about the GM. It feels like you’re kind of invoking the ability to disrupt the game.
Streaming RPG Gameplay
The more we’ve played, the more I understand how the rules work, how attributes interact with boons and banes and so on. It is a little disappointing that so few boons and banes are available without extraordinary attributes. This leads me to believe that there’s not a whole lot of noncombat utility for characters without extraordinary attributes. This would be fine, but if the game is light on combat I thought it might get a little boring.
However, there is a benefit to this I discovered: roleplaying opportunities! Since our group are all members of a cell of operatives for a vast network of conspiracy theorists, and all the other party members have these amazing abilities, my character began to wonder why she was selected to be in this group. She can’t manipulate magical energy, read minds, absorb energy or anything. What good was she?
Her character secret gave me the answer. In our game, the world is divided between 13 different cities that all float in the skies far above the ground – if there even is a ground! No one has ever been to the surface in recorded history…or so most people believe.
Roz’s secret is that she was on several expeditions to the surface as part of dwarven black-ops ordered to guard teams of researchers. During one of these expeditions, things went terribly awry. Everyone was killed in a disastrous scramble to return to and escape in their airship, except for Roz. Unseen enemies slaughtered everyone else. She barely made it, losing her arm and portions of her torso, nearly dying.
The dwarven military gave her a prosthetic mechanical arm and she was told never to speak of what had happened. She became suspicious and mistrustful of the State and the military, eventually being honorably discharged. She fell in with a dwarven resistance group sometime later (her Fugitive Perk).
Because I’d saved some Feat points from initial character creation, I floundered for a bit on what to do with them. At the time, because I didn’t fully understand the rules or know what our game would be like, I figured I’d hold on to them.
After gaining some experience, I decided to invest some points into Perception. I felt like her time in such dangerous situations might have given her a good degree of alertness. I also gave her the Feat Boon Access to Precognition. Instead of an extraordinary way of predicting the future, I think of it has her trained instincts on whether a course of action is good or bad.
With more experience, I got another Feat, Boon Access to Barrier. The kobold engineer in our group is a genius inventor, and I spoke with the player, Nerdarchist Ted, about it. Together we came up with the idea that his character could have tinkered with Roz’s arm to give it some extra abilities. This also fit with my idea that she was tough and would protect her teammates no matter what, so that she wouldn’t lose any more people in her unit.
Lastly, after playing a few sessions and reading forums, I concluded that the openness of Open Legend RPG extended to giving your character’s Actions cool-sounding custom names to describe them. So instead of her baseball bat attack, the character sheet has Batter Up! Her bowie knife is a Slice of Life, her unarmed attack is a Piston Punch and in honor of Cactus Jack her revolver is Bang! Bang!
Fans in the live chat and comments implored me to speak with a Russian accent, too. In my home game I like to use different voices but doing it live online was a little intimidating. I spent a few hours watching some videos and practicing though. When it came time in the live game to speak in character, I nervously began. But it was a pleasant surprise that I got into it and the camera didn’t bothe
r me one bit. My accent is atrocious I’m sure, but it’s fun and a great indicator whether I’m speaking in character or as a player.
Going forward I may revisit an idea I had for the Companion Feat, in the form of a semi-sentient tank as an homage to Tank Girl. The idea of a large construct like that with it’s own peculiar personality sounds really fun. I spoke with Nerdarchist Dave a little bit about it, suggesting that it could be used at his discretion. That way it wouldn’t be weird to have a huge tank with Roz at all times, but if the GM wanted it to show up occasionally it would be a fun device to employ.
The more that we play and I explore the Open Legend RPG system, the more I discover bits of nuance that help this game shine and create a unique experience. The rules and the way Nerdarchist Dave runs the game gives us a ton of awesome opportunities for roleplaying and storytelling. It’s a fantastic experience collaborating with everyone involved to create an exciting, unique story together.
I am very grateful to Nerdarchist Dave for including me in this game and of course to Open Legend RPG for sponsoring our adventures![amazon_link asins=’1785853562′ template=’ProductCarousel’ store=’nerdarchy-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’706d3cdf-49a8-11e7-aa6b-b5c09c5b1b74′] [amazon_link asins=’0252074122′ template=’ProductCarousel’ store=’nerdarchy-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’7e573fc0-49a8-11e7-8d26-95151371506e’] [amazon_link asins=’B00CY05A3G’ template=’ProductCarousel’ store=’nerdarchy-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’979ef654-49a8-11e7-be0d-5ff2f3415cb8′]