Open Legend: Using Attribute Rolls to Imitate Banes & Boons — Environmental Adaptation


Banes and Boons are one of the key core pillars of Open Legend, they are the “spells/abilities” which helps players and storytellers to describe what their characters are doing. Indeed, while we are still in the development stage of the Open Beta, Banes/Boons are absolutely the most discussed group of rules on the Discord servers. Brian and the dev team have done an amazing job to give us a wide array of beneficial and negative modifiers we can use in the game.

And yet, there are many things that are missing. Most blatant among this missing group is the ability to resurrect or bring back the dead in a non-necromantic way. However, another aspect I personally have found missing is being able to adapt to a hostile environment. Whether it’s a space suit in a vacuum, a water-breathing spell to travel to Atlantis, or an eldritch symbol that lets a character survive in a Plane of Fire, this ability is missing from the core rules.

“Now Conrad”, you may cry out, “the designers can’t possibly add every potential ability and supernatural power into this game! That’d be ludicrous!”

And you’d be right. However, written into the core rules and beliefs of Open Legend is the potential to use any and all powers your heart could desire and your mind can imagine. It is the most powerful, and yet most often overlooked, rule in the game. This rule is just a straight out, no kidding, Attribute roll. In my own personal experience, I am equally guilty of forgetting this supremely mutable roll.

Let’s take our Environmental Adaptation “Boon” as an example. Now, we could spend many minutes, hours or days writing and defining an open ability to allow a character to survive in hostile environments. This would, of course take a fair bit of effort and balancing within the current system, as well as using the dreaded “Sustain Persists” rule that nearly all Boons have (this rule essentially limits a character to one active Boon at a time, although there are ways around this). This is not to say it cannot be done, but in the spirit of Open Legend, where story and fun should take precedence over rules, this is a lot of effort and might not even be fun for the players who now have to spend a minor action every round just to not die where they are.

In quietly steps out underrated friend, the blanket Attribute Roll. Let’s say you want to have your players go visit an undersea city for half of a session. Instead of punishing them with continuously recasting a Boon just to survive, let’s look to the player that has Creation “X” (where X is a value of 1 or more) and we ask that player to make a Creation Roll against an on the fly determined number. Let’s say “16". This is equal to a Power Level 3 Boon, one that a player should be expected to make a little more than half the time. If they succeed, they have granted the whole group the ability to breathe under water without making sustain actions. If they fail to meet the number, you can still use the Twisted Success/Failing Forward mechanic presented in the introduction of the rules.

“Now Conrad!” you might yell in frustration, “ this is more powerful than a Boon and breaks the game!”

And you’d be right again, as well as being wrong. One of the key tenants to Open Legend is “Story and Fun Always Comes First”. If your player successfully “casts” the water-breathing ability, the story progresses underwater without any more issue and the group has fun for the rest of the night. If the character does not meet the required, arbitrary number the Storyteller has set forth, then maybe they Succeed with a Twist (everyone sprouts gills, or the casting only lasts until after their first or second combat) and the party has to deal with that. Or possibly it Fails Forward and the story progresses (the caster realizes they need to find pink seaweed to make the casting work, and there is only blue and green seaweed on this beach.)

So in conclusion, you could spend half of your time between each session or during each session trying to create Boons and Banes with full rules, or you can take the Attribute Roll and run with that. Either way works fine, and only you know how to have the most fun at your table. Enjoy your game, and let the dice fall where they may!