Encounters in Legend follow a fairly straightforward set of rules to help everyone at the gaming table have an interesting and enjoyable experience. If you're planning to be a Game Master for a Legend game, this chapter is your best friend. The rules here are a tool to help you build challenging encounters that won't overwhelm your players or leave them with nothing to do. If you are new to role-playing games or just want to get familiar with how to play a character in Legend, feel free to pass over this chapter and go back to it at some point in the future.
These rules are designed to help you run a Legend game that reflects our understanding of balance and game design. Sometimes, your group will prefer a somewhat different game, and it's okay to tweak and modify these rules to fit your group's preferences. However, we can't always predict the results of house rules, and significant changes in encounter difficulty can break a campaign very quickly, so we urge you to cooperate with players in doing whatever is best for your gaming group as a whole.
While on the general topic of rules and our advice to GMs, it’s important to mention that not everything in the book is meant as a hard-and-fast rule. When evaluating the suitability of tracks and feats for your group, consider that sometimes the default descriptions of abilities are not the only way to describe abilities. We tend to think of the mechanical rules with clear effects to be a sort of "crunch:" hard and difficult to change without altering the balance of the gameplay elements they govern. The descriptive elements of those rules are a sort of "fluff:" soft and more easily altered since what they affect is your own perception of the gameplay elements "in-character." For this reason we tend to encourage "refluffing" or changing what these descriptive elements look like to your group as you see fit. For example, the I Am Ten Ninjas track, as written, is themed as a somewhat lighthearted and irreverent take on what a ninja-themed character would need to sneak around. On the other hand, in a game focusing on wizardry and intrigue, the mechanics of that track could easily model the art of shadow magic.
It is also possible that you might view this book as the law as far as you’re concerned, with the mechanical rules being unchangeable and the standard fluff immutable. If your group prefers to play with such strict adherence we don’t object to that either. However, regardless of what the book may say we encourage you to do whatever you think best for your group’s enjoyment of the game.
Level and Power
One of the inescapable aspects of a level-based game like Legend is the fact that after some number of levels, the creatures that used to be a threat (or would be a threat to lower-level characters) are no longer a viable threat in any quantity. There is no reasonable number of Chihuahuas that is large enough to meaningfully threaten a healthy adult human. In our world, this doesn’t really come into play in human=versus-human confrontations because the "level gap" never grows that big – a teenager with a Saturday night special may not have much chance against a trained soldier, but there’s still some theoretical chance of the teenager winning. But if gaining a single level is to give any noticeable benefit at all, gaining 10 levels is going to add up to an unstoppable advantage. Practically speaking, we have designed Legend in a way that a difference of 5 levels between two creatures brings capabilities and numerical advantages into play that give the higher-level creature a functionally-insurmountable advantage. There are still fluke cases, brought on by exceptional luck or particularly unequal circumstances, but the smart response is flight, not fight.
The most important aspect of this design decision for GMs is that the game literally changes every few levels. Between 5th and 9th levels, some form of increased mobility (including short-distance teleportation, flight, wall-climbing, and bursts of extreme speed) becomes available to practically all classes. Practical weapon ranges increase as a swordsman becomes adept at darting back and forth in the face of enemies equipped with ranged weapons. And crippling or disabling spells and special attacks begin to enter the scene, adding a new kind of threat to many battles.
In some games, this progression is a great thing. If your players expect to start out as humble farmers and then be hurled on a heroic arc that ultimately makes them dragon-slaying saviors of the entire realm, then you want big changes in your game as time goes on. Creatures that could terrify the PCs into submission or outright flight should eventually become viable targets for the PCs’ vengeance.
In other games, you may want things to stay more or less static in terms of the PCs’ capabilities. If the atmosphere of your game is one of mystery or horror, it simply isn’t helpful for the PCs to have dramatically new capabilities after only a few game sessions. Assuming that the players want to play such a game (something any group should agree about), consider drastically reducing the rate at which the PCs gain levels or simply not giving level-ups at all. The PCs should still gain resources, but in this kind of game the PCs should probably not access the geometric power increase that leveling up grants.
When it comes to portraying a variety of settings, Legend is a tough contender to beat. From campaigns focusing on criminal organizations within a magical modern day Tokyo, to typical high-fantasy kingdoms of wonder, a campaign can have a variety of themes. Within whatever theme you choose for your campaign, it’s important to retain diversity to keep the game fresh. While one could simply throw thousands of axe-wielding orcs at your players, after the first thirty identical chop-mongering mobs, your players would probably feel a little tired of executing the same tactics to deal with similar enemies.
Thus, spicing up your campaign by presenting the party with different challenges is key to keeping your campaign memorable and holding your players’ interest. Staying within a campaign’s theme is surprisingly easy however when you take into consideration Legend’s track system, and the extreme versatility it provides when creating new encounters. Combined with the assistance of a variety of mooks, you should be able to keep your battles diverse and entertaining. For example - orcish tribes can have more than grunt-ish warriors. Sages wielding eldritch powers, shamans commanding the elements of nature, and even monstrous tamed beasts may all be incorporated into the PC’s struggles against the orcish hordes. Not to mention any number of possible enemies that may be related to the orcish threat. Utter Brutes and Undead and Demons, oh my!
Now while the examples listed are of course fine for that theme, you could take very similar mechanics and describe an army of skeletons led by evil necromancers and elemental mages and supported by demonic juggernauts to smash through fortifications, opening the way for the undead horde. It can be as simple as a changing the way one describes the effects and abilities used for each monster. With just a bit of imagination and ingenuity one can do plenty with any theme, given that they can express what they need to convey it.
Encounters and Encounter Design