Publisher: Magpie Games (@MagpieOfficial)
I remember watching Avatar: The Last Airbender when it first came out and being just…blown away. A kids show telling stories with such pathos and humanity was something I hadn’t seen before. I mean, that seen with Uncle Iroh (you know the one) still makes me cry. It seemed an obvious setting for a TTRPG but, aside from a few semi-successful homebrew attempts, we had to wait 16 years for an official game set in the Avatar universe.
So, was it worth the wait?
While I can’t speak to the full version of the game, Magpie Games has released a free 56-page quick start document with rules, character sheets, and a full introductory adventure. From what I’ve seen, there’s a lot to like here.
Avatar Legends: The Roleplaying Game (ALTRPG) is a Powered by the Apocalypse (PBTA) game which is something Magpie Games is very, very familiar with. I am so glad a company like Magpie is at the helm of this project. Their success with other PBTA games like Masks makes me confident this game has a definite shot at being great.
Like other PBTA games, ALTRPG is narrative-focused and collaborative. This is reinforced by the game’s baked-in session 0 in which players discuss the scope and focus of the game, as well as the inciting incident that brought the party together. This helps ensure the players have immediate buy-in and is something I wish more games had as part of the rules.
Unlike most PBTA games, character creation features a ton of options for players to craft the exact character they want. Though players are still tasked with choosing a playbook, they can further customize their characters by choosing from a number of trainings, backgrounds, demeanors, etc. It’s also important to note that in addition to benders, players can select options like martial artists or gadgeteers who are balanced to stand toe-to-toe with their magical compatriots.
The variety of moving parts that go into character creation is nothing compared to other complex rules found in this book. Combat consists of players choosing techniques based on their roll, training, and narrative positioning. Players won’t know how many of these techniques they can choose until after they roll which could make combat a slow ordeal given the number of options available. My main worry is that folks might expect the simpler mechanics found in other PBTA games, but ALTRPG includes a significant amount of bookkeeping for the players. For example, players will have to track stats like fatigue, balance, and conditions, all of which shift inside and outside of combat.
As I’ve said, for a PBTA game there are a lot of moving parts and yet the designers’ emphasis on conversation-based gaming can be found throughout the book. Having not had the chance to play this yet, I have to ask: can it achieve balance between its desire for narrative focus and its complex ruleset? If Magpie Games’ other PBTA games are any indication, the answer is a resounding yes.
DISCLAIMER: I do not know anyone involved with this book, nor did I receive anything for free in exchange for this review.