Two-year DM, sharing the house rules I made for my campaign

Hi all!

So these forums are kind of quiet and I’m not sure exactly what kind of resource this is, but I thought I’d share what I’ve been doing with Open Legend in terms of the campaigns and houserules created, for all who might be interested.

I’ve been playing Open Legend for over 2 years now. I feel confident it’s the best RPG I’ve ever played; second place might be Chaosium/Call of Cthulhu, but it’s not close. It does just so many things that are smart and correct with this lightweight set of rules it leaves me in awe. I love it to death.

My playgroup is ruthless about new RPGs and has wickedly broad preferences, and they all love Open Legend; five of them have dashed off with it for their own spin-off campaigns. The general pattern seems to be, someone showcases a new setting or campaign, it doesn’t go how they want it to, and then, a few months later, they come back with the same campaign in Open Legend rules and it kicks off perfectly. It’s not just flexible; half the time it feels like Open Legend works better for settings than the RPGs that originally produced them!

That said, I’ve applied a lot of houserules over the past two years, to the point it might not be recognizable to an Open Legend veteran. The setting of my campaign is a Rome-like anarchist metropolis called Meretribia; the plot has been a Pynchonesque yarn of spiraling subplots and sprawling conspiracies, where the players have to dig up the whole social rot of the city before they get to fight the real bads. I didn’t want to just lay a vanilla RPG on top of this setting; I wanted to tailor it with some extra work.

I rewrote the rules in this Google doc, which had all the basics for newer players to review. The setting, if you’d like to peruse it, is here. If you want to adopt my homebrew stuff whole cloth or take it for inspiration, feel free. If you’re more interested in the specific changes I made, here they are:

Attributes: I performed a near-100% overhaul. Part of what bugged me was the names–too many syllables, and is it really a good idea to have a “Presence” and also a “Prescience”? Partly I just wanted a magic-lite urban setting heavy on politics and intrigue, so I retooled the stat system to put more emphasis on rumor gathering and sneaking around. Anyway:

  • Might is unchanged.
  • Fortitude, Logic, and Perception have been renamed to Health, Wits and Senses.
  • Creation, Energy, Entropy, Protection, and Prescience have been renamed to Conjure, Attune, Hex, Faith and Scry. Furthermore, the palette for each one is a little more “folky”, so the powers linked to it are often broader. Conjure now lets you teleport and do other wizardy stuff, Attune lets you heal and do other druidy stuff, Hex lets you turn into bats and do other witchy stuff, and Faith lets you see visions and do other priestly stuff. Scry is the only one basically unchanged.
  • Learning is just gone. I wanted the players’ body of knowledge to be determined by social position and in-game investigative actions rather than numbers.
  • Deception, Persuasion, and Influence are now a single attribute called Sway.
  • Will is now Grit, which captures folk-hero charms and wiles. Grit also includes leftovers from Alteration, which is gone.
  • Agility has been roundly drawn and quartered and is now three stats: Speed (which also encapsulates character speed), Grace (which also involves Presence), and Sneak (which also involves Movement).
  • The stat categories are now Physical (Might, Speed, Health), Mental (Wits, Senses), Extraordinary (Grace, Grit, Faith, Sway, Sneak), and Magic (Conjure, Attune, Hex, Scry).
  • In a similar word-condensing crusade, Fortitude is now Body Defense, and Resolve is now Mind Defense.

Feats: Feats are gone! (They’re a pet peeve I share with my whole gaming table.)

Combat: I leaned hard into the “3 damage / move 10 feet / inflict minor bane” optional rule. In my game that’s just how combat works all the time. I even created a handy chart of all the available power-3-and-lower banes for players to consult every time they miss.

Death and Dying: When you reach 0 hit points, you don’t go unconscious, unless you want to. Whether you’re standing or not, every hit on you thenceforth counts as a finishing blow (or death blow in my terminology). Lethal damage is renamed to “ugly damage” and always gets described in gory detail.

Equipment: I made a table of purchasable goods and services for my campaign organized by Wealth score, to help players at shops and at character creation. I also tooled weapons so their banes are connected directly to type (Forceful, Precise, or Swift), which probably makes them better but also keeps it simple.

Boons and Banes: Tweaked in bits here and there, to fit the setting or help the players. (Some banes I split up by functionality for easier consumption. For example, I renamed Lesser Domination to Fast Talk and Greater Domination to Hypnotise, and listed them as separate banes.)

Legend Points: You get 3 Legend Points at the start of the game, and they refresh every time you level up. You can do more things with them than in the base game: for example, you can put your dying character at 1 hit point, or have them know something they wouldn’t otherwise know, or make up an NPC ally that I then have to make real. This was probably intended to make up for the absence of feats.

Other: If I changed other stuff, it was probably unintentional or frivolous.

I can’t promise that these changes will work for every playgroup. They might not be exactingly balanced, for example. My players don’t really seek out or exploit broken stuff in RPGs, so balance never got a real stress test. But they’ve all improved my own campaign and they only got this way after furious tinkering.

I’d love to hear advice from other DMs on opportunities I should look for or tweaks I should consider. Anyway, thanks for sticking with this hyperlong post to the end, and if you’re part of the Open Legend team, thanks so much for building this game that’s brought so much joy to my whole crew!

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Great to hear that you like OL and that your group enjoys it that much! But I have to say, I doubt that you will get much advice or feedback on here since you’ve modified the base and fundamentals of OL quite a bit. None of us, except yourself, have any experience with those modifications and if it works for your group then you do you, as there ain’t much perspective we can offer in this case. At least in my opinion.

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That’s a serious amount of work - thank you for sharing. :smiley:

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That’s fair mate—I suppose I’m more expecting takes from a general GM perspective than tidbits on the rules where yeah you can only know so much. It’s definitely quite shifted but I do think it’s still in conversation with Open Legend.

I probably came off as more gung-ho than I am about the sanctity of this variant in my playgroup, players still have many complaints and I’m prone to experimenting in any case. I’m definitely curious if anyone else has applied the same kind of homebrew stuff or if it’s mostly add-ons over add-ins.

Rebranding attributes and slightly changing them isn’t the big obstacle here for constructive criticism, although it still changes the balance, as eliminating attributes effectively increases the number of attribute points you have at your disposal. No, the biggest hurdle is playing without feats, as this will drastically shift your table’s experience from mine. Interestingly enough, I’m working on a quick pick-up adventure that also omits feats, so that people only have to diggest the attributes on their first contact with OL.

As for homebrewing, I like to build systems that can be fitted easily on top of OL (you can find some of my ideas on the boards a bit spread out), so it requires minimal work for others to adapt to their setting and campaign. At this point, that’s my favourite part of OL, as I can customise each setting with a new, hopefully not too difficult, addon system to make it more unique in gameplay and in feeling.

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