Open Legend RPG cover

Open Legend RPG

Since I’ve been back in the tabletop role playing game sphere I’ve had frequent stumbles into a project which piqued my interest, Open Legend. The game was backed by a successful kickstarter back in late 2016, which shipped in 2018 and was put up general sale soon after. After spending some time reading the core rules on the project’s website this past November I decided to put the game on my Christmas list. Sure enough, on Christmas morning the Open Legend Core Rulebook was there for me under the tree. I read it cover to cover.

About the Game

Open Legend Licensed Product
This logo needs to be included in every publication using the Open Legend Community License.

The front cover of the book describes Open Legend as being an “Open Source RPG.” Open source is a concept which originated with computer software. It means the actual code of the project is able to be downloaded, altered, and shared by the end user. Open Legend has created its own license to cover their project, the Open Legend Community License, which does a good job distilling legalese into plain language. The community license permits third parties to use anything that’s part of the Standard Rules Document (SRD) 1 as long as they do several things:

  1. Include the “Open Legend Licensed Product” logo on the cover, front page, or packaging for the product.
  2. Include the Open Legend Community License in legible form in the material.
  3. Not include anything “illegal, slanderous, defamatory, fraudulent, obscene, pornographic, or abusive.”

It’s a rather straight-forward license, and allows third parties to create both commercial and free works without any other restrictions. Unlike some other open source licenses, third parties may also keep their unique additions to the project under strict copyright.

The game is genre-agnostic, and this is not hyperbole. The mechanics for the game remain the same no matter the setting, it’s only the narrative description which changes according to the genre being played. A wizard’s fireball in a fantasy game can cause persistent burning damage, the same effect could be caused by a mutant power in a super-hero game. It’s rather interesting, and ambitious GMs could even decide to span genres in a single campaign.

Building a Character

Character customization in Open Legend is at the extreme end of modularity.


Attribute Dice Table showing scores from 1-10
Attribute Dice are one of the interesting aspects of Open Legend.

There are eighteen attributes in the game, split into four groups: physical, mental, social, and extraordinary. Attribute scores are assigned based on a point-buy system–at first level each character has forty points to spend. The cost for attribute scores is not, however, one to one with attribute points. Assigning a score of three to an attribute costs six points, for example, while assigning a score of four costs ten. this requires a bit more strategic thinking from players as they have to ponder what type of character they want to play. Are they a brute force character with a high penchant for intimidation? Then a player may want to lean into the might and persuasion attributes. Are they a pyromancer wizard? Then they’ll want to throw more points into the extraordinary ability, energy. The possibilities are left wide open and are limited only by player imagination and GM restrictions. To assist players in this process Open Legend provides three attribute “quick builds” to help assigning scores, as well as a number of archetypes as examples to be tweaked.

The benefit ability scores give isn’t static, the way it is in D&D and most of its derivatives. Instead, each score gives a certain number of “ability dice”–from 1d4 for a 1, up to 2d6 for a 5 2.

Ability Rolls

An Open Legend Character sheet for my first build, “Belfran Quartzbeam.”
This is my first attempt at building a pyromancer using the excellent online character sheet using Heromuster.

A character’s ability dice become part of the game’s core mechanic. All actions are handled by a d20 roll, to which the total of the applicable attribute’s ability dice are added. A cool feature of Open Legend is that all dice explode. Any time the highest number on the die is rolled, players get to roll it again and add the new number to the total–and each die can keep exploding, resulting in some high totals.

Each roll can also be given advantage or disadvantage, each notated with a number–like, “disadvantage 3.” This number notes the number of dice added to the ability dice pool. If the number is disadvantage then the noted number of highest die rolls are discarded. If it’s advantage then the noted number of lowest die rolls is discarded.

To see if an action is successful the dice total is compared to a target number. Meeting or beating the target number is a success, while rolling under the target yields one of two outcomes. The first is “success with a twist,” in which the action is successful, but a new wrench is thrown into the works. The second is “failure but the narrative goes forward,” opening a new path for the character to achieve their goals. The combination of a dice-heavy game with a narrative ethos is one of the key charms of the system. It also requires a Game Master who has a reasonable confidence in doing some world-building on the fly so the story continues to flow in a natural way. GMs who aren’t comfortable with improv would be well-served by creating a list of possible twists for failed rolls which fit the adventure.

Actions and Effects

Attacks can be straight-forward “damage attacks” or be used to inflict various disadvantageous conditions on the target though the use of Banes. These can be triggered as long as the character has the required ability score, as marked in the description, and do not do direct damage. While a character may attempt to inflict any Bane for which they they have the prerequisites, most characters will have preferred effects they use which can be listed on the character sheet. The opposite of Banes, Boons, have similar requirements and have their own scale to roll against for success. A character’s preferred banes and boons will do much to help differentiate one character from another.

Powering Up

Further character customization is accomplished by purchasing feats. At first level characters have a total of 6 feat points to spend, which they can be saved for later if a player chooses. Feats can have prerequisite feats or ability scores, several different power levels, and a mechanical impact on the game. They cover everything from intimidation to crafting and offer significant avenues through which a character can be developed.

What’s fascinating about feats, however, is the only set aspect of the feat is its mechanical application. The narrative form it takes is left up to the player’s imagination. In making a test character, for example, I chose a feat which would allow the character to inflict a persistent damage Bane on a target. In my mind I was creating a pyromancer, so I determined that the persistent damage he was able to inflict was to set someone on fire and keep them burning 3. I could have also said the character controlled cold or air and could inflict damage using those elements, because my narrative description doesn’t change the game mechanics.

The way character design is set up in Open Legend feels much like digging through a bin of legos. The player knows what they want to do, so they keep digging for the piece they feel will fit their goal. People can build anything their imaginations can come up with, but it takes both patience and practice to learn how the pieces can fit together. It can be intimidating at the start, but once folks get their imagination going creating unique characters can be a ton of fun.

Character advancement

Player Character Level Advancement table
The lack of grinding in Open Legend is a huge selling point for the game.

It takes three experience points (XP) to advance one level, which increases the maximum attribute scores available to the character, but each individual experience point also grants some immediate benefits. Each XP gives the character 1 feat point and 3 attribute points to spend as they wish–again, these can be saved for later so a player can purchase a feat or ability score for which they lack resources at the time the point is awarded.

XP is given out at the GM’s discretion, so players could advance fast if the GM is liberal handing out rewards. As every reward of XP brings benefits to the characters, grinding is not part of Open Legend, and that’s a good thing.

The Rest

The Gunslinger archetype image depicts a character which could be Old West, Steam Punk, or eldritch  version of those genres.
The artwork for the Gunslinger archetype is one of my favorite pieces in the book.

As described above, Open Legend feels like playing with a bin of legos. The game has no default setting and comes with no bestiary. Populating those aspects of the game is left up to the GM–and there is a section in chapter eight covering the creation of NPCs and monsters with which the party can interact. The core rulebook does include examples of special equipment from a number of genres in chapter 9, however, and I think something similar would have been good to include in the NPC section as well.

The artwork in the book is stunning and depicts a variety of genres. The majority of the pieces are full page, but there are also a number of half and third page pieces as well. The suggested character archetypes section has a number of quarter page pieces illustrating what certain archetypes may look like, and these are beautiful.

The core rulebook itself is laid out well, though several of the glyphs in the heading font can be a tad difficult to decipher for older eyes. The colors are bright, and the page has a subtle finish which aides readability. Tables are well designed, and utilize alternating row colors to differentiate one from the another. The text is also littered with callouts which explain different aspects of the game and I found these quite helpful. All in all it was a pleasant book to read, though I do wish it had an index to make searching though it a tad easier. Aside from that omission this 140 page book is rather accessible.


The modularity of this game is its biggest selling point, an enterprising GM or player can create almost anything their mind can come up with using the bricks it provides. At the same time, it might be so open with choices players may feel overwhelmed by its deliberate lack of structure–a classic example of too much choice being no choice at all.

Yet, there is significant charm in being given a set of materials and told, “Go build what you want.” Players can let their imaginations run wild and the game provides all the materials needed for the next element of the build. For me, the feeling of freedom to experiment with character builds, instead of feeling bound to do them “the right way” is most welcome. There is also a nice community of players around the game, and the support I’ve gotten from the project’s discord server has been both friendly and knowledgeable. Folks there enjoy helping new players wrap their heads around the game, which is a nice change from the “Go away, newb” attitude some communities can develop. There’s also a fantastic online character sheet which can help players weed through their options so they can build the character they want to play.

The game is a nice addition to the tabletop roleplaying hobby, and well worth checking out.

Open Legend can be purchased through their store, and a combination physical book and PDF bundle is $40 4. The Open Legend store also has PDF copies of the core book for $20, as well as several adventures and settings books for a GM to use.

  1. The Core Rulebook itself is not open source, as elements like artwork and explanation text are not part of the SRD.

  2. Scores can go up to 10, but first level characters are capped at 5.

  3. Out of context, this sounds very wrong.

  4. Though it is out of stock as of this writing. Seventh Sphere hopes to have physical copies back in stock by February.

4 responses to “Open Legend RPG”

  1. I’ve been a huge fan of OL for years, and it is my go to system for running any high fantasy/tech adventure! Took a couple of tries to wrap my head around all the details, but once it clicked, it worked.

    Currently running a long term campaign about psychic spies during the Cold War, and the system has worked wonderfully with it!


      • No worries! OL did the same for me, getting my imagination going. The first ever solo character I made was an Elemental Summoner.

        While I have nothing against it, I had gotten really tired of just about everyone (companies) putting out Necromancers as the typical summoner or pet class, ranging from video games to even TTRPGs.

        When I saw I could summon creatures based off different stats, I immediately though of someone who summoned creatures of elements depending on the situation at hand. I just pre-made a few types and gave them each a specific strength. Fire for damage, Earth for tankiness and melee control, Water for battlefield management, and Air as a utility. It was awesome and probably the main reason I fell in love with the system.


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