Nerding it up with Legend

“…Legend is built to be understandable, to be learnable, and finally, to be something you can own and change and use without too much fear of making the game go boom.”Legend, page 8.

And that pretty much sets the tone.

If I had to review Legend in one sentence, and it’s my website so I don’t, it’d be this:

“The more I read Legend, the more I’m convinced this is what 4th ed D&D should have been.

Oh, close those emails. I’m not here to tell you 4E is wrong. Or that the fun you had in either 3rd ed or 4E makes you a bad person. I don’t care which one you prefer or if, like me, you think both are dandy. Whatever your position on the matter, you have to admit that the release of 4E caused quite a lot of teeth gnashing in nerdier circles.

And here’s where we come back to talking about Legend. It is the structure of 3rd ed mechanics cast through the lens of 4E’s philosophies. What you get is a slightly crunchy but well-balanced game filled with Big Time Fantasy Heroes and it offers players a dizzying amount of choice without “playing like an MMO.”

I suppose it’s inevitable to compare Legend to Pathfinder, the other OGL-based D&D With The Serial Numbers Filed Off game. They may share the same ancestral DNA, but Pathfinder is a direct descendant of D&D 3.5, with all the good and bad that implies. Legend is a whole new species — a missing link between 3rd ed and 4E that captures the compelling bits from both without the detritus that evolved into the developmental niches of either.

Legend principally uses a d20. All the familiar stats are there with the same ranges and bonuses. You’ve got the same levels. You’ve got skills, races, spells, and feats. Most of your classes are there too. All that 3rd ed stuff. Some of it works a little differently in practice, but it’s all there to the degree that you could easily recreate any 3rd, 3.5ed, or Pathfinder character in Legend. Probably you could do it with 4E too, but it’d require a little more imagination and compromise than the others.

Where Legend really shines though, is in its classes. You’ve got Barbarian, Monk, Paladin, Ranger, Rogue, Sage, Shaman, and Tactician. Notice the complete lack of Fighter, Wizard, Sorcerer, Cleric, and Bard? Don’t worry, they’re contained within the others — you get to choose how to bring them out.

See, each class has three “tracks.” This isn’t like MMO where your class has tree branches of specialization to choose from. No, you’re getting everything from all three tracks. Each one grants you seven abilities that are unlocked every couple of levels for all 20 levels so you’re getting something neat at every level.

Each class tends to have an offensive track so you can hurt things, a utility/defense track to grant you tactical options, and a third track that may lean toward offensive or utility/defense, but in any case it tends to offer “iconic” effects unique to that class.

Some classes are too conceptually large to fit into just three tracks. For instance, the Paladin is meant to cover everything from soldiers to knights to religious paragons to vile demon powered asshole warriors. These classes offer a selection of alternate tracks to build your specific kind of Paladin (or Rogue, or caster).

And yet there’s more!

Multiclassing is quick and easy. Pick your base class, pick a track from another class, now trade one of your tracks for that one, The Guidr wrote about it and here is a link to this site for you to read it. You’re done! Well, almost. Not every track is available for trade, and the abilities of some tracks may be tied to an Attribute that will blow on your base class. But those are minor complications and easily foreseen.

I bet you thought I was done talking about tracks. Oh, man, you are so dumb and wrong!

Racial tracks! You don’t need them to play an elf or dwarf or any of the standard D&D-like races. Nor do you need them to play a non-standard fantasy race so long as whatever it does for you isn’t any more impressive than what’s available to the standard races — and, yes, Legend gives you guidelines for making all new standard races like that. What about the weird shit? Like Vampire? Or Robot?

In that case you’re going to want a racial track. It’s like multiclassing — take a track from your class and replace it with your racial track. That’s it.

Vampire cleric? Done. Robot wizard? Done. Everything D&D should be? Yup.

One last note on tracks. I promise.

Legend provides additional tracks to choose from over and above the three-plus from each class. These aren’t tied to any particular class, they exist only to add yet more variety to your characters. And here, I’m sorry to say, I think is where they screwed up. See, these are mostly magical or supernatural effects to offer thematic spice to both casters and non-casters. Which is cool and all, but one of these tracks appears to be Kamen Rider.

No, seriously. Jump kicking motorcycle riding Kamen Shit Yes Rider.

Which, really, is a terrible design choice. Think about it: your one free muliclassing track choice is already taken because fuck not taking Kamen Rider.

And this is just character creation! I haven’t even talked about the simplified level progression and encounter creation, the class balance, or feats — all improvements over 3rd ed, 3.5, and Pathfinder, and 4E depending on your outlook.

So, yeah. Legend is pretty rad. The game is free, but any money you throw at it goes directly to charity and toward the release of more free content. I cannot imagine why you aren’t downloading this thing already.