A big part of Late Legends are the battles. The whole class and equipment system is created to give players a wide variety of choices to approach a battle. This means that the battles are important and you need to design them carefully. A good battle will be remembered as that epic fight, while a bad one is just a boring slugfest that never ends. This section will give you the do’s and don’t on battles.
Set a goal for the battle
Late Legends is largely a battle system, but that does not give you a reason to introduce a battle. It is important to place a battle in the story with a purpose. Players shouldn’t be asking you questions like: Why are we fighting Goblins again? My legend would rather join the bandits, why are we fighting them without the option to do something else?
The group of players has a goal in mind for the story, the battle should be there to achieve this goal. There are two things wrong with the mentality of “this is a monster so it is bad and we should kill it”.
- the first issue is that monsters are always bad. You should first show the actions of a monster and let the players decide if it needs to be battled yes or no. For the most part, they should be initiating this part of the story (unless you run an ambush on them of course).
- The second issue is the killing part. Enemies in a battle do not necessarily have to die. You could do way more interesting things with them if they keep on living. Maybe they cower away in fear for the legends or become an ally instead.
However you slice it, make sure the battle at hand will have meaning for the story and is not just mindless grinding, we got plenty of those already in video-games…
Prep the obvious
So you planned a battle. Here are some tips to start it quickly and fluently.
- Be sure to give the enemy some dialogue. Players will be used to interacting with the world, this will be the same for enemies. Make sure the motivations of the enemy are clear before battle and set the stage correctly.
- Prep the docs and the table. The story will come to a big hold if you just need to place and draw everything right as you would like the battle to start. Make sure you got the sheets and documentation close, and make sure everyone has a position on the map. In this case, nothing beats a well-timed: ‘You guys are up’-moment.
- Prep the first couple of turns. Make sure you know how to approach the first couple of turns from your side. When a battle is starting, you would like to spend little time and get to the action and give your players a lot of time to get into the fray. Ease the players into the encounter, and don’t spend a long time on the stuff you already know. If you’re worried of the time you will roll dice, you could make a list of the first couple of dice rolls per category to speed things up.
Cater the battle to the legends
As a narrator, you know full well what legends would like to achieve. Use this information to your advantage to hit home personal plot points. This will give the players an opportunity to let their legends personality come through in battle. For example: if a player made a backstory for a legend that has a trauma of a big fire, you could introduce this in a battle. So by specifically targeting a legend’s weakness in a battle, you give them an opportunity to role-play, which in turn will let other legends react to that, resulting in a battle worth remembering.
Theodore has a tragic backstory. His hometown was destroyed by a black dragon. He can still remember the specific blue flames that the beast produced, burning the village homes. Nowadays, Theodore is an ancient guardian and serves as the shield of the party. His goal to stop dragons from harming innocent people. In a battle with dragon cultists, Theodore gets hit by the exact same blue fire. Theodore kept his composure very well in the party this specific attack strikes him, as the memories of the past rush through Theodore's mind. He needs to come to his senses and correct this wrong in the world. But he would need the help of his comrades. Another legend in the group, Elise the Storm Paladin, has been keeping a close eye on Theodore. For some reason, Theodore is not clicking with Elise very well. Regardless, Elise is still determined to get on to Theodore's good side. With that determination and a strong sense of justice, Elise sees an opportunity to do good by specifically attacking the cultist that is producing the wicked magic with her strongest skills. After that, she will bolster the rest of the comrades to do the same. "Together they are the strongest".
Start simple with the monster maker
Making the enemies for the encounter involve lots of calculations. In battle, you’ll need saving rolls and a full stack of battle stats. To simplify the creation process we created the Monster maker. Use this to create the monsters you want. Keep in mind the scope of the battle, if you have six different monsters running around, you might want to give them simple skills. The battle should proceed clearly and fluidly.
Some examples of good starter monsters will be added later.
Hype it up
When preparing for a battle, you should also prepare the players for this battle. This does not mean you tell them exactly what will happen or what strategy they should use. This should include a reason why they will be encountering the specific enemy, how strong the enemy might be and what allies might be there to help. Here are some tips on how to do this:
- In a dungeon, you could make the layout so that the monster at the end is teased, crawling around on the ceiling, or a silhouette that is visible in a deep cavern.
- If the group is going to encounter a fierce opponent, litter the way to that opponent with earlier combatants, specific items or damaged scenery of previous battles.
- Give this battle some stakes, if it is an arena match with a big prize pool, you would like to have a big crowd and a smirky opponent that they really want to beat.
- Place hints on strategy, maybe other characters would like you to win the battle as well, and they might inform you of the dirty strategies the enemy will use. This will change the perception of your players on the enemy. Instead of using ‘random, cheap and stupid gimmicks’, you gave the players heads up on what will happen. This will give them an opportunity to strategize around it. All this will make the battle unique, and all the more satisfying to beat for your players.
Prep multiple ends of the battle
When the legends are at the point of winning the battle, it can still take a long time for all the enemies to actually die. Keep in mind that enemies do not have to die to win the battle. Maybe the remainder of the enemies get scared and surrender or just run off. Every living being wants to keep living, so a goblin that is all alone will probably just surrender instead of fighting to the end.
Another battle might leave the legends in a strong disadvantage. Instead of killing everyone one by one (and basically ending the campaign) you could knock out the noisiest legend, and capture the rest. This will end the battle earlier, and give room for a whole other sequence in the story. With the group in captivity, they will need to find a way out, get their stuff, and try again another day.