A waterbender of the North who refuses to hide behind walls. A firebender who suffered a great tragedy but knows who is really to blame. A scion of great shipbuilders who would much rather create things that helped instead of harm. An outlaw earthbender who has carved a line in the stone and refuses to let any cross it to hurt those behind her. Can they save their part of the world? What stories will they tell? Let’s Meet the Party for the Avatar Legends Quickstart from Magpie Games!
First things first, though: we need to decide when the campaign is taking place, what sort of scope the characters are operating under, what they’re focusing on, and exactly how it all got started…
Era: The Hundred Years’ War
Scope: In and around the Fire Nation Colonies.
Focus: To protect innocent people in the Colonies and Earth Kingdom.
Inciting Incident: Act 1: We learned the frightening plans of Admiral Daihing . Act 2: We destroyed a Fire Nation battleship and drew the ire of its owner, Captain Budai. Act 3: We were saved from Admiral Daihing by Master Umiq, to his detriment.
So, given the era, Aang is still in the ice – there’s no Team Avatar coming to save the day, so our heroes are it. They’re struggling amidst an active colonization and conquering effort, a dangerous and delicate situation – so, pretty typical for the Avatar world. They’ve got an immediate and constant problem in protecting innocent people – note that nationality is not mentioned. They also have a long-term problem in the form of Admiral Daihing’s plans (perhaps an assault on a still-free Earth Kingdom region), both a more immediate threat in Captain Budai and a more overarching one in the Admiral, and ally in trouble whom they owe a debt to. Not bad! So, who is actually trying to save the day?
Changunak of the Northern Water Tribe, The Hammer
Background: Urban Demeanors: Playful
Training: Waterbending Fighting Style: Twin Ice Bucklers
Balance: Force -1, Care +1
Creativity +1, Focus -1, Harmony 0, Passion +2
Playbook Details: Bringing Them Down (Adversary: Captain Budai, Goal: Depose them)
Moves: Walls Can’t Hold Me, Comprehend Your Foe
Fighting Techniques: Overwhelm (Advance & Attack/Mastered)
- What injustice has driven you to use your strength for good? We have heard stories that the Southern Water Tribe has been decimated – others may be content to sit behind our walls of ice, but I am not.
- Who represents the kind of positive strength and force you want to embody? A Fire Nation merchant named Chae who keeps smuggling supplies to the local resistance – you do what you can with what if you have.
- Who tried their best to teach you restraint, calm, and thoughtfulness? Master Umiq, who followed me down from the North even after cautioning against my journey.
- What fragile trinket or heirloom do you keep and protect? A waterbending scroll from Master Umiq.
- Why are you committed to this group or purpose? If I can save people here, that means I’m also saving people back home.
Laran has a way to solve problems with words instead of fists – it’s really impressive!
Zoshur won’t be able to hold their own when times get tough, so I’m going to toughen them up!
Moment of Balance: You can knock down every wall in the world, but balance isn’t found in conquest and destruction. You know some walls need to stand to keep people safe. Tell the GM how you put yourself directly in the path of an inescapable threat to completely protect someone or something from harm.
Changunak hits with the force of an avalanche as the Hammer. Bringing Them Down sees him choosing an adversary and a goal, with accomplishing said goal being a way to mark growth. While Changunak will find it harder to plead with, trick, or comfort or support an adversary he clears all fatigue upon entering a fight with them and can mark fatigue to roll with conditions marked for any combat approach – the more beat up Changunak is, the worse for the adversary.
Walls Can’t Hold Me lets Changunak roll with Passion instead of Focus when he relies on his skills and training to dangerously smash through walls and other obstacles. When Changunak tries to defend and respond against a foe whose Balance principle he knows, Comprehend Your Foes lets him roll with Creativity instead of Focus.
Finally, Overwhelm lets him throw a punch with all his weight behind it: Changunak can mark up to three fatigue or conditions in any combination to force an opponent to mark an equal number of conditions.
Laran Va, The Idealist
Background: Urban Demeanors: Compassionate
Training: Firebending Fighting Style: Fire Staff
Balance: Forgiveness 0, Action 0
Creativity 0, Focus -1, Harmony +2, Passion +1
Playbook Details: Never Turn My Back (Always stand up to bullies, never deny a request for help, never leave a friend behind), Allies
Moves: Whatever I Can, Can’t Knock Me Down
Fighting Techniques: Disorient (Advance & Attack/Mastered)
- What tragedy befell you at a young age? My father, a guard, was killed by earthbenders who were trying to rescue their families from a prison camp.
- Who do you hold most responsible for the tragedy? Why? The Fire Nation military; the earthbenders may have thrown the boulder, but the military put him in its path.
- Who helped you through your grief? What did they teach you? An Earth Kingdom boy named Ping. He truly taught me that the propaganda of the Fire Nation is nothing but lies, and that someone has to take a stand.
- What symbol, heirloom, or mark do you carry to remind you of what you lost? My father’s dagger.
- Why are you committed to this group or purpose? No more girls should have to lose their loves ones.
I recognize some of the pain I have felt in Defiance; I’m going to try to help them.
Changunak frustrates me so much when they act without thinking about the consequences!
Moment of Balance: The pain of the world can be overwhelming, but balance brings peace. You bring everything around you to a stop— villains, arguments, disaster—and set the world right. Tell the GM how your compassionate actions end a conflict utterly and completely.
Laran is an Idealist, and that means she’ll be a beacon that draws others in. When she acts in accordance with the ideals chosen as part of Never Turn My Back at a significant cost, someone who witnessed or hears of her actions becomes an Ally in the group’s purpose. Laran can always plead her Allies, can always get them to open when she gets a chance to comfort or support them, and can call on them to live up to their principles as if she had rolled 10+ be erasing them from her list.
Whatever I Can allows Laran to roll with Harmony when she spends time talking to the locals about their problems, learning about their problems and potentially getting +1 ongoing when acting on what she finds out. Can’t Knock Me Down showcases the fortitude and stubbornness needed to hold to ideals: when Laran engages in combat with superior opponents and openly refuses to back down or flee, she can roll with Harmony when choosing to defend and respond for the rest of the fight, but cannot choose to Retreat.
When instead choosing to Advance & Attack, she can Disorient foes by pummeling them, marking fatigue to shift her target’s Balance.
Zoshur Jian, The Successor
Background: Privileged, Military Demeanors: Casual
Training: Weapons/Technology Fighting Style: A spear in one hand and a wrench in the other.
Balance: Tradition -1, Progress +1
Creativity +2, Focus +1, Harmony -1, Passion 0
Playbook Details: A Tainted Past (Source of Power: Business and Industry, Reaching for: Land Ownership), Lineage Resources (High Technology, Cold Hard Cash)
Moves: Black Koala-Sheep, Worldly Knowledge
Fighting Techniques: Break (Evade & Observe/Mastered)
- Who is the current head of your lineage? How do you love and frustrate each other? Lord Shurva, my father. We always enjoyed tinkering with machines together, but he refused to take responsibility for what those machines do, and I refuse to stick to the plans- for the machines and for myself.
- What close member of your lineage wants to revolutionize it? My sister Vabu sees the chance to rule conquered parts of the Earth Kingdom as a chance to extract resources and knowledge to build new weapons.
- What do you carry that reminds you of the place most associated with your lineage? The plans for a new prototype class of Fire Nation war machine.
- What part of your lineage’s identity is important and valuable to you as a person? Our ships allow us to travel all over the world to see new lands and people.
- Why are you committed to this group or purpose? To turn the engines of war into engines of creation.
Defiance has major concerns, fears, or grievances with my lineage – and with me, by proxy.
Laran seems free of their past in a way I wish I could let go of mine; hearing them talk about the future feels amazing!
Moment of Balance: You may never escape the legacy of your family, but balance allows you to learn from them without defining yourself in their image. You call upon a resource of your family to innovate a new solution to an intractable problem, never forgetting who you are in the face of incredible danger. Tell the GM how you knock down obstacles that seem impossible to overcome and save the day.
Zoshur may have A Tainted Past as the Successor to their family, but they’re fighting to make things right with the tools their family has given them. Whether they Pay Homage to gain access through legitimate channels or try a Raid without their family’s knowledge, Zoshur can attempt to hold and then spend resources to gain boons ranging from vehicles to initiations and introductions to money.
Wordly Knowledge granted them an additional Background as well as an additional Training, making them much more narratively versatile (as well as potentially opening up many more Techniques for their use down the road). Black Koala-Sheep lets them roll with Creativity to intimidate or try to push their luck with people from their backgrounds when they behave in a way that shocks and unsettles such people.
They are always looking for a way to Break the war machine their family has helped build – they can mark fatigue to render a foe’s vulnerable equipment useless or broken.
Defiance Yonten, The Guardian
Background: Outlaw Demeanors: Harsh
Training: Earthbending Fighting Style: Rock Armor
Balance: Self-Reliance +1, Trust -1
Creativity -1, Focus +3, Harmony 0, Passion +1
Playbook Details: Protector’s Burden (Ward: Zoshur)
Moves: Furrowed Brow, Martyr Complex
Fighting Techniques: Divert (Defend & Respond/Mastered)
- What pushed you to assume responsibility for the people you care about? Who else would? There’s waiting and listening, but sooner or later you need to act.
- Whom have you protected for so long…but maybe doesn’t need you anymore? Jasper, my adopted ‘little sister’ from my now disbanded group of outlaws – that cudgel of hers hits as hard as a rock.
- Who used to be in your circle of trust before they betrayed you? Rui. Sold us out to the Fire Nation patrols to line her own pockets.
- What tattered garment or adornment reminds you of those you protect…or failed to protect? A headband that used to belong to Lilac Song, the one who didn’t make it out of the ambush.
- Why are you committed to this group or purpose? I can’t protect everyone, but I can protect the people who might be able to.
Zoshur is my ward – they need me to have their back, end of story.
Changunak looks like they’re more than capable without my help; I’m glad some of us can take care of themselves.
Moment of Balance: You’ve sworn to protect the people you care about, but balance is about finding your own place in the world as well. You know what you’re capable of accomplishing, and you step up to show the world your unique strength. Tell the GM how you put your own life on the line to defeat a villain or danger that seems unstoppable.
Defiance is a Guardian, steeped in stewardship and sacrifice. Protector’s Burden defines someone in particular whom she keeps safe (starting with a player character, although that may change in play). Defiance’s ward can always call on her to live up to her principles, and finds it easier to do so, and any time her ward marks a condition Defiance must mark fatigue or a condition as well. At the start of each session she can generate a certain number of hold with a roll – boosted if her ward usually listen to her and so on – that can be spent to take 10+ to protect them, track them down, or figure out what they’re doing.
Furrowed Brow gets her Focus to +3, the highest stat in the team, making her the resident expert at the Defend & Respond approach. Martyr Complex feeds off of Protector’s Burden and the strength of Defiance’s principles: if she has a total of 8 between marked conditions, marked fatigue, and her highest principle’s rating, she receives +1ongoing to all moves.
Divert continues the synergy as Defiance steps into the way of blows intended for allies: when any ally within reach suffers a blow during an exchange, Defiance can suffer it for them, dealing an additional 1-fatigue if she is also getting to Retaliate during the same exchange.
This is definitely one of those Meet the Parties that’s a way to take a review from surface level to a little more in-depth. My first thought has to do with the nature of the Quickstart itself in relation to unique abilities. I get why Magpie Games stuck to just a single Special Technique from each playbook, as they’re going to be useful regardless of what Training the character picks. I think I also understand why they didn’t include any Training-specific Techniques – it’s potentially quite the bag of worms to open.
I do think, though, that it was a mistake not to have any Bending-specific, Weapon-Specific, or Technology-specific Techniques included in the Quickstart. It’s possible that one of each would have been enough, just to show off a little bit of what each Training would get to call its own, as well as letting Quickstart players explore what it’s like to learn, practice, and master new Techniques. I say possible because we don’t entirely know what those Techniques will look like, so it’s something of a guessing game. I’m not super worried about this long term, but taken just as a Quickstart it’s a bit of a miss.
Second, I love all of the questions I had to answer. There’s a ton of worldbuilding to be done between the era/scope/focus, the inciting incident, and the playbook questions, and by the end you have a ton of character flavor – I particularly like the items you generate – and a pretty populated cast of NPCs established. I think I kept things here pretty simple, and you could certainly go into more depth as well, but it’s a solid demonstration.
Third, I really like how the nature of Approaches means that having a diverse party stat wise is going to make it a stronger group. Defiance is the master of Defend and Respond, Changunak is at the forefront of Advance and Attack, and Zoshur and Defiance excel at Evade and Observe. By the nature of the stat spread each can also perform well with another approach, and aren’t that bad at the third, but it emphasizes how they’ll best function as a team.
Will Changunak, Laran, Zoshur, and Defiance succeed at protecting the innocent threatened by the Fire Nation’s imperialism? Will they thwart the Admiral’s plans? What will they learn along the way? As always, that’s for you (and your dice) to determine!
The Avatar Legends Kickstarter will go live on 8/3/21.
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