A while back, it was announced that Magpie Games would be working on an official tabletop RPG adaptation of the animated martial arts fantasy series, Avatar: The Last Airbender, officially titled Avatar Legends: The Roleplaying Game. We here at TechRaptor managed to get a small taste of what Magpie Games has been working on with some quickplay rules and a premade adventure. Once the adventure had concluded, our players couldn't help but discuss what could happen next, the future stories that could be told, and how well the accompanying systems could help shape those adventures and watch them grow.
The first thing that jumps out is that Avatar Legends puts roleplaying and character growth center stage well over more conventional RPG trappings. There are no classes like Fighter, Bender, or Rogue. Instead you take on certain character roles. The Icon is blessed with a force of personality but burdened by expectations and responsibilities. The Idealist holds certain philosophies very close to heart and struggles to compromise in a turbulent, changing world. The Hammer is direct and focuses entirely on what's in front of them but may find trouble with things more conceptual. It's a tricky distinction that makes a world of difference; it's not what you're going to play but rather who you are going to play.
This even ties to how you set up your adventuring party and overarching goals. Rather than relying on tabletop RPG tropes, it leans a lot more on TV tropes and serialization. The origin story of how the players met and began working together is framed as the “pilot episode,” the group's major focus that drives the adventure is framed as something that either resolves or changes at the end of a “season,” the list goes on. It reminded me a lot of how Aspects work in FATE Core, but with more accessible terms and shorthand.
I was skeptical about how everything would work in practice due to my familiarity with more complex systems, but a lot of that evaporated as I ran our adventure. In short, the PCs were imprisoned on the Fire Nation island of Hari Bulkan the day before the coronation of Fire Lord Ozai. They were caught trying to steal an important scroll containing forbidden knowledge for personal reasons. But shortly thereafter they are released from their cells by a Fire Sage that is having second thoughts about the Fire Nation's rise in militaristic expansion. What followed was a race against the clock with the players figuring out how to escape while trying to lay low during the island's coronation festival.
While the currently available quickplay rules had pregenerated characters, for this preview my group had to make new characters from scratch. Thankfully, everyone was quite game. The party consisted of an airbending Idealist, someone who joined the Air Nomads at a young age just in time for the Fire Nation to attack, marking him as a fugitive; old enough to know some airbending but not enough to earn his arrow tattoos. Next was an earthbending Hammer, a bullheaded himbo (his words, not mine) who had a grudge against a Fire Nation General. Finally, we had an Icon, another earthbender tasked with both environmental preservation of the Earth Kingdom as well as an archivist of important world history.
It took a while to recenter the adventure on these new characters, in many ways it felt more geared towards the premade PCs, but within about fifteen minutes it felt like we were re-enacting an episode from Avatar: The Last Airbender. The Icon distracting Fire Nation soldiers about there being an infestation of bugs in the Fire Lord's garden. The Hammer securing masks for disguises at a stand after an awkward situation with a barker and game. The Idealist using what little airbending he knew to help protect his friends from a unit of komodo rhino riders when things got serious.
My only regret once it concluded was that a lot of the positive points of the written adventure weren't explored due to the antics of the party. Multiple factions of characters packed with difficult moral choices and a testing of the party's principles were either skipped over or truncated due to several bad rolls and fumbles turning the whole adventure into a breezy comedic romp. It's a testament to Magpie Games' design chops that The Forbidden Scroll is their starting adventure for this RPG because there is a lot of great hooks and permutations that can come out of it.
The only system that we didn't get as much mileage out of is the Balance System. The idea is that based on whatever role you've taken there is always a balance of two different principles that will shift and move as situations present themselves. The Icon is pushed between the responsibilities of their role and their own personal freedoms for example. As written, it has plenty of potential for interesting character interactions on emotional and philosophical levels as well as character-driven complications. One of the ways to reset this balance for example is to have your character act irrationally or self-destructive to represent the inner turmoil. That is not a flaw at all on part of the system itself, just in the direction our time with the RPG took. There is still plenty of potential there for those who wish to use it.
In fact, “plenty of potential” is the best way to describe our time with Avatar Legends. It's immediately accessible to younger players who may be more familiar with the animated series than tabletop RPGs. The Balance System, combat and action resolution is consistent with the core themes of the source material. The only things that have me worried can easily be addressed in the full release. As it stands right now, there is a solid foundation in place and I cannot wait to see how Magpie Games builds on it.
Want to try it out for yourself? By hitting the link here, you can access Avatar Legends' quickstart rules. This includes how to create characters, how to set up an overarching story and goal for your group, and even includes a starting adventure and pregenerated characters.