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Avatar Legends: The Roleplaying Game
Publisher: Magpie Games
by Ezekiel K. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 10/30/2022 22:11:45

I'm a kickstarter backer and I've been GMing a semi-regular game for about seven months, completing one full season and being a player here and there. There are people who've put more time in this game than me, but there's not that many lol. I also happen to be among those who are Trekkie levels of invested in the Avatar franchise. Basically, I'm in the exact target demographic for this game.

The Good It 100% captures the feel of the shows, comics, and books. The entire game is structured around the concept of "Balance," the inner struggle each character faces between two conflicting principles. At any point, the GM can shift your balance a step towards one principle which pulls you away from another. What this leads to is a tightrope walk where you always keep your PC's traits in mind otherwise you risk going overboard on one side and fundamentally alter your character in the process.

It is super accessible for new players. My campaign consists of two D&D 5e veterans and a friend who needed me to explain what a TTRPG even was. Funnily enough, the newbie player has consistently been able to understand and engage more than the couple who've been playing these games for years. Here's my personal theory. The two D&D players have had all the "D&D things" drilled into them so innately that they kept on approaching the game like they were heroes on a mighty quest and everything happens "the D&D way." Meanwhile, my newbie player was approaching the game like collaborative Avatar fanfiction. She was just trying to be a decent person in the world we created and it went perfectly. I constantly tell people about the time that my friend who had never played an RPG before yelled at a racist and changed her character at her core. It was incredible.

The artwork is gorgeous. Full, two page spreads for every chapter. Clever uses of TV show material. It's got it all on that front.

Running games feels GOOD. Everything is built around character advancement so the players always leave satisfied with clear start, middle, and ending spots in each session. Starting a campaign and building characters is a incredibly fun experience because all the players are involved in everything. Just by going off of the included campaign worksheet, we were able to make a story that perfectly set up the group to work as a team and there was a major conflict that took signifigant effort to overcome. The players even snuck in a team mascot with a pig named Dumpling. It's hard to find areas where the players aren't entirely involved. But if that's not your jam...

The game is very open to large scale planning. There's very little restrictions on what you can plan for between sessions. Once a thing is introduced to players, it should be locked in but you can get really in-depth with your planning. No joke, I tried mapping out where the pig would go if she got lost in the mail and I ended up finding plot hooks about systemic racism and police brutality. By the end of my first season of my campaign, I had an absolutely stupid amount of complex relationships and intrigue mapped out on a flowchart. ...Or you could just make it all up. Powered by the Apocalypse games are very firmly in the "GM must be good at improvising" camp of RPGs and this is no exception. Sometimes. you'll encounter some fringe case where there's no rule for it (or you just plain can't remember where it is in the book). Take a page out of the OSR playbook by sticking with "Rulings, not rules."

The Bad The combat suuuuuucks in my opinion. Seriously. In theory, it's supposed to operate like a bunch of quickly calculated risks depending on your position, stats, and objectives. In reality, it's by far the most clunky and boring thing in the game. It takes forever to get through a single turn which, in the fiction, is actually about five seconds. There are literally seven whole steps you have to go through for every action you can conceive of in combat. Seven! Even my player who loves strategic combat disliked it. My group started dreading it so much that they were avoiding fighting anyone. Good for roleplay, bad for fun. Eventually, I ended up homebrewing the combat out entirely with my own system that's worked a lot better. That said, your milage may vary. I've heard a decent amount of praise for the combat from some people.

The book is organized weird in my opinion. For a player, they only need to read about half of the (rather lengthy) book. So why is it that all the chapters that are exclusively for GMs are placed so that players have to read every other chapter? Trying to find specific stuff is a nightmare sometimes, especially as a player.

It can be a little difficult to understand what you should be doing as the GM if you're not familiar with PbtA games. I personally would've liked a little more guidance on when to do stuff and I still find myself BSing my way through situations sometimes. If you're ever lost, just remember that you can screw with your player's character sheets a lot more than in other games.

The Other AL heavily relies on improv. I love that stuff but you might not.

There's not a lot of extra content beyond the Wan Shi Ton's Adventure Guide supplement. It's not necessary but there's not a lot to really sink into.

Speaking of extra content, the game has a different license than other Magpie Games titles meaning it is very hard to find homebrew content that is actually allowed. My aforementioned combat modification got removed instantly when I shared it to the Discord even though several people were hoping on using it in their games. (Free playtesting, yay!)

TL;DR If I could give it a 4.5, I would. I freaking love this game but when it sucks, it sucks HARD (see combat). It's easily my favorite game to lure new people into RPGs because of the pure dedication people have toward the franchise, myself included.

[5 of 5 Stars!]
Avatar Legends: The Roleplaying Game
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