Legendary Games, What They Produced and Learned in 2021, and 2022 Plans

How was your 2021? For Legendary Games, Publisher Jason Nelson states it was their "literal best year ever." In 2021, there were quite a few wins and at least one opportunity to transform into a better gaming publisher. When game historian Shannon Appelcline shares LG’s history in his Designers & Dragons series, it’ll be one of the (ahem) legendary reads. In this interview, Jason Nelson talks about LG’s 2021 products, their Kickstarters, and their 2022 plans.
Legendary Games Logo.jpg
EGG: Thanks for talking with me about last year and your upcoming projects. In 2021, Legendary Games’ focused heavily on 5e, yet you still had offerings with Pathfinder options. Can you share a breakdown of LG’s 2021 production schedule?
JASON
: We did focus on 5E, following the market (not just for gamer eyeballs and dollars but also after-Kickstarter sales into distribution), but we also made a lot of investment into the various -finder systems. Looking back at 95 products for the year here’s how it broke down by system:
  • D&D 5E: 32 products (5 free)
  • Starfinder: 22
  • Pathfinder 2E: 20
  • Pathfinder 1E: 11 (1 free)
  • System-neutral: 8 (1 free)
Some of those products were short PDFs, just a few pages. Others were 20-40-page, bigger 70-100+ page supplements, and a few were giant 600-page adventure paths. We like to have a lot of diversity in our product offerings, so we’re hitting every point on the spectrum. We also have TWO Patreons, the Legendary Loot Patreon for 5E with new content every single day or the Legendary Games Patreon for Pathfinder and Starfinder, including our ongoing project code-named “Corefinder” to create a refined, streamlined, and improved version of the Pathfinder RPG.

2021 LG KS Offering - Legendary Adventures- Epic 5E.jpg

EGG: In 2021, Legendary did a seven in-house Kickstarters (including EN World’s own Mike Myler’s Legendary Adventures) plus supported one more. Let’s talk about Boricubos: Latin American Monsters and Adventures, your most funded Kickstarter of 2021. It was for 5e and Pathfinder 1e and 2e. Can you share some of the history for this project?
JASON
: As for Boricubos, that pitch actually came directly from Miguel Colon. He’s a talented author and designer who had worked on a bunch of our other projects, including under his former pen name of “Michael Ritter.” He had an idea for a campaign setting that would draw from the Taino myths and legends of his Puerto Rican heritage and he brought it up to me. I liked the idea, as too much of what had passed for Latin American-flavored gaming content over the decades was pretty much a thin pastiche of Aztec/Mayan mythology, sometimes with a dash of conquistadors for spice. Leaning into the mythology of the pre-Columbian inhabitants of the Caribbean sounded cool, and it also happened to be around the same time we had been rolling out a series of themed bestiaries. We already had done Mythos Monsters, Sea Monsters, and Asian Monsters, and it felt like a Latin American Monsters bestiary would be a perfect pairing.

A lot of our fans play 5E, but a lot of them play Pathfinder as well (both versions), and on our previous monster books we had fans asking if we’d be making Pathfinder versions of those. We hadn’t done that before, in part because a lot of the monsters we were doing already had Pathfinder RPG equivalents. That was much less true with the Latin American creatures. There were some in Pathfinder 1E and some in Pathfinder 2E, but not a lot, so we saw it as a perfect opportunity to create a set of bestiaries for all three systems with creatures probably unknown to most fans of the game. It also was a chance to work with a great team of nearly 20 Latin American authors and artists from many countries and cultures to get their insights and creative talents to make things that really represented that heritage well.

EGG: For Boricubos, do you have any impression of how many backers selected the 5e version versus the Pathfinder 1e version versus the Pathfinder 2e version?
JASON
: I’d have to pull the numbers to make sure, but I think it was probably around 65% 5E, 20% Pathfinder 1E, and 15% Pathfinder 2E in terms of where people made their primary pledges. It gets a little more complicated when you add in people who pledged for more than one system, which a lot of people did (meaning the total percentage of who got what would be over 100%, counting the overlaps), but I think for a bit of “napkin math” it probably was somewhere in that neighborhood for primary interest.

2021 LG KS Offering - Asian Monsters (5E).jpg

EGG: In March, Legendary issued an apology for the Asian Spell Compendium. Can you talk about why that apology was necessary and if it had any impact on how you created and positioned Asian Monsters and Boricubos?
JASON
: We had created that book initially back around 2015 for Pathfinder RPG and hadn’t seen any negative feedback on it in the six years that followed. However, as we converted it for 5E and released it this spring, it struck a different nerve with the gamer-sphere. I got up in the morning and some of my LG folks had evidently been having a heated discussion about it for hours (I’m in the Pacific Time Zone; many of our contributors are on Eastern time). I looked at the general tenor of the conversation out there and reached out to several of the commentators for their thoughts in more detail and made good connections (even met up with one of them in person on a trip to Canada earlier this year).

People were hurt, mostly in the sense of feeling like “here we go again” when they saw our product, or more to the point that saw the ad copy for the book and took issue with the spell names in it. I don’t know that anyone who critique the book actually read the book, but the fact that spells existed called punji pit and marvelous chopsticks set off a cascade of red flags that reminded them of every stereotype that’s been thrown at them in fantasy gaming and beyond. Here was another white guy clumsily messing around with a culture he didn’t understand and wasn’t a part of, making a Panda Express Chinese food menu version of real-world culture and magic. The another part is key there; just the most recent example of clueless privilege and inauthentic Orientalism. The essence of it felt wrong to people, and they didn’t like it, and they let us know it.

I said, “Okay, I can understand that.” The first thing we did was not only pulled that product but also deactivated all of our Asian-themed product (created years ago as companion pieces to go with Paizo’s Jade Regent adventure path), with the exception of a few books that had Asian creators. Secondly, we sent out an apology for the impact of the product. There was certainly no intention of doing harm or stereotyping, but impact is what it is regardless of intention. I taught elementary school for a few years, and there’s a stage of developmental psychology that is essentially “wish-fulfillment” morality; if you didn’t mean to do it then to your 6-year-old moral understanding it really is as if you didn’t do it at all. But I’m not 6, so an apology was required. But an apology is also not enough; you put your money where your mouth is.

We deactivated the products pending further opportunity to do more extensive cultural review of them. Besides sidelining our Asian products, we also delayed the launch of our planned Asian Monsters Kickstarter and solicited paid cultural consultants from many Asian cultures to work on the book and we got a lot of great feedback that made the book far better than it would have been otherwise. We also worked with several Korean creators to incorporate a set of creatures that were not in the original version but definitely helped balance out the book. We also included explanatory sidebars for several creatures that gave more information about the cultural context of their inclusion. Overall, it made Asian Monsters a much better book, period, but it also was a manifest example of doing the work. We listened became better creatives as a result.

2021 LG KS Preview - Boricubos- The Lost Isles Preview PDF (5E).jpg

EGG: Related to that question, the second half of 2021 saw campaigns for Asian Monsters, Boricubos, and Mother of Monsters, each creating content outside of the typical Western European fantasy setting. For these projects, Legendary went out of your way to make sure you had the right creators onboard. Can you talk about your efforts to create inclusive projects?

JASON
: It’s like the old saying goes, learn better and then be better. You have to put in more legwork to find people with different backgrounds than your own. You can’t just rely on the old networks that you used to use. LG has incorporated a diverse team of contributors from different ethnocultural backgrounds as well as from LGBTQIA+ communities, and that’s a good thing, but in any field you don’t just score a touchdown, spike the ball, and go home. The game keeps going on as long as you’re in business, and you always keep working to learn better and to be better, to dig deeper and to grow wider.

Word of mouth does help, as does reaching out and talking to people directly and taking recommendations. For artists, using country-based searches on things like ArtStation and DeviantArt was certainly a help to find candidates, but then you still have to work out what artist styles are—from anime to 3D photoreal to watercolor impressionist to pencils/line art to heroic painted—and to figure out if you can come together on timing and price. Sometimes everything clicks and sometimes it doesn’t, but you can’t just reach out to one or two people and quit. Keep digging.

The other thing is being willing to try out new folks. Legendary Games’ calling card in its early years was that everyone who wrote for us were experienced Paizo freelancers for Pathfinder RPG, so if you were getting products from us, you were getting them from the same people who had written something like 75% of Paizo’s Adventure Path adventures and tons of their rulebook and softcover material. There’s still some truth to that, but at the same time if you are only dipping from one well there’s only so much water you’re gonna get, and it’s mostly gonna be the same water. Paizo themselves has worked hard to diversify their talent pool and to keep bringing in new voices; I’ve written around 80 products for them but not nearly so many in the past few years, because they have a lot more options now than they did in the early years. LG has to do the same, and we have, and we will.

2021 LG KS Preview - Mother of Monsters Free Preview PDF (5E).jpg

EGG: Looking ahead to 2022, what are Legendary’s plans?
JASON
: We’ll be continuing our regular ongoing production cycle of new classes, monsters, magic items, spells, and more for 5E, Pathfinder 1E and 2E, and Starfinder. More of our Legendary Loot Cards, each with around 80 magic items for 5E. More classes for Pathfinder 1E and 2E. We’ll also have another relentless march of killer Kickstarter projects in the new year, including:
  • Faeries: A huge bestiary book with well over 200 fey and fairy tale creatures for 5E, plus a ton of player and GM material for incorporating fey into your campaign, including fey romances, fey bargains and more!
  • Ultimate Treasure: We actually had this on the docket for late 2019 but Life Happens and the book is heading to layout soon. It has nearly 1000 magical and alchemical items, as well as technological treasures, treasure-themed monsters, treasure tables, magic item cards, and more!
  • Mechanical Monsters: It’s exactly what it says on the tin, with all manner of mechanical menaces of wheels and steel, cables and cunning, including androids, cyborgs, robots, and technomagical hazards!
  • Planar Monsters: We’ve just started this one going, and at the moment it might be a single omnibus book of planar creatures or a series of bestiaries for each broad category (celestials, fiends, elementals, and oddballs from beyond).
  • Conquest: Rage of Wyrms: This adventure saga has been slowly percolating in the background for a few years and we are aiming to get it up and launched this year.
  • Martial Class Codex/Magical Class Codex: We’ve created a metric ton of class expansions for Pathfinder RPG over the years, and we are aiming to codify and combine them into a set of massive compendia perfect for your Pathfinder game!
  • Corefinder/The Legendary RPG: Last but not least, we hope to have our refined and streamlined OGL version of Pathfinder RPG ready for playtest this summer.
EGG: Thanks for talking with me. I look forward to talking with you in the future about your other projects. Where can fans follow Legendary Games?
JASON
: You can find us any time on:
Thanks for having us on and all the best to all of our friends and fans in 2022!

Egg Embry participates in the OneBookShelf Affiliate Program, Noble Knight Games’ Affiliate Program, and is an Amazon Associate. These programs provide advertising fees by linking to DriveThruRPG, Noble Knight Games, and Amazon.
 

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Egg Embry

Egg Embry


Jaeger

That someone better
including our ongoing project code-named “Corefinder” to create a refined, streamlined, and improved version of the Pathfinder RPG.

By Pazio's own admission they never fixed the underlying issues with 3.x when they did PF1e.

They basically just layered an employee's house rules on top of the OGL. And those rules leaned into the featapalooza design that 3.x had become..

“Corefinder” - Actually sounds very interesting, IMHO it is the direction Pathfinder should have gone from the beginning.

But unfortunately I think that it is a concept that is about 10 year too late to gain any real traction.
 

J-H

Hero
Any updates on when 5e Kingmaker is going to come out? It's a Legendary production and seems to be late.
 



LegendaryGames

Adventurer
Publisher
Any updates on when 5e Kingmaker is going to come out? It's a Legendary production and seems to be late.
We turned in all of our work to Paizo almost two years ago (March 2020), then did a few extra pieces a couple of months later. It's been percolating through Paizo's production system ever since, and that's something we have no control over.

To the best of my knowledge, those books are now at the printer and are expected to release sometime around March or April of this year.
 

LegendaryGames

Adventurer
Publisher
By Pazio's own admission they never fixed the underlying issues with 3.x when they did PF1e.

They basically just layered an employee's house rules on top of the OGL. And those rules leaned into the featapalooza design that 3.x had become..

“Corefinder” - Actually sounds very interesting, IMHO it is the direction Pathfinder should have gone from the beginning.

But unfortunately I think that it is a concept that is about 10 year too late to gain any real traction.
That may well be true, but what we've checked out thus far indicates there's enough of a market for it to make it worth doing. We'll see how it all shakes out.
 


J-H

Hero
We turned in all of our work to Paizo almost two years ago (March 2020), then did a few extra pieces a couple of months later. It's been percolating through Paizo's production system ever since, and that's something we have no control over.

To the best of my knowledge, those books are now at the printer and are expected to release sometime around March or April of this year.
Thank you!
 

Jaeger

That someone better
That may well be true, but what we've checked out thus far indicates there's enough of a market for it to make it worth doing. We'll see how it all shakes out.

I readily admit that as just a random guy on the internet; I have no clue about your financials. And it is very easy to tell someone what they should do with time money and resources that are not your own!

As much as most RPG companies would love to have PF2's sales numbers, It is pretty clear that not as many made the jump from PF1 to PF2 that Pazio would have liked...

There is no doubt that 3.5 D&D still gets played, and there are still plenty of groups that have stuck to PF1. If you think Corefinder can hook enough of them to "upgrade" to a more streamlined experience of what they already know; You don't have to make Pazio sales numbers to be profitable.

Best of luck.
 

Aldarc

Legend
By Pazio's own admission they never fixed the underlying issues with 3.x when they did PF1e.

They basically just layered an employee's house rules on top of the OGL. And those rules leaned into the featapalooza design that 3.x had become..

“Corefinder” - Actually sounds very interesting, IMHO it is the direction Pathfinder should have gone from the beginning.

But unfortunately I think that it is a concept that is about 10 year too late to gain any real traction.
It sounds like Corefinder could metaphorically become the Mythras or OpenQuest to Paizo's "RuneQuest." It's difficult for me, however, to see a streamlined version of Pathfinder that doesn't dance in 5e/PF2's design space or suffer from some of 3e's well-recognized underlying issues.

Green Ronin's True 20 System was already a stab at trying to streamline the d20 System and turn it into a generic toolkit. It was my game of choice for a while, but it ultimately collapsed under the weight of archaic 3e-era style design.
 


Jaeger

That someone better
It sounds like Corefinder could metaphorically become the Mythras or OpenQuest to Paizo's "RuneQuest." It's difficult for me, however, to see a streamlined version of Pathfinder that doesn't dance in 5e/PF2's design space or suffer from some of 3e's well-recognized underlying issues.

I think the whole point of 'Corefinder' is that they are going to fix the underlying issues of 3.5/PF.

It doesn't matter if they go into the same design space as 5e, because they are going after the current groups still playing 3.5 and PF1e that haven't moved over to 5e or PF2.

IMHO Pazio went in the wrong direction with PF2, but it's very easy to play backseat driver with other people's businesses...

The trick would be making it still broadly compatible to 3e/PF1e stuff after all the fixes...


Green Ronin's True 20 System was already a stab at trying to streamline the d20 System and turn it into a generic toolkit. It was my game of choice for a while, but it ultimately collapsed under the weight of archaic 3e-era style design.

d20 systems don't work well as toolkits IMHO if they maintain the class/level escalating HP dynamic. They are far better made into dedicated games.

IMHO for 3e based systems to work - they need to drop the featapalooza ivory tower design that was always 3e's Achilles heel.

True20 still kept the featapalooza. So it came, and went...
 
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Aldarc

Legend
I think the whole point of 'Corefinder' is that they are going to fix the underlying issues of 3.5/PF.

It doesn't matter if they go into the same design space as 5e, because they are going after the current groups still playing 3.5 and PF1e that haven't moved over to 5e or PF2.

IMHO Pazio went in the wrong direction with PF2, but it's very easy to play backseat driver with other people's businesses...

The trick would be making it still broadly compatible to 3e/PF1e stuff after all the fixes...
Best Wishes Good Luck GIF by reactionseditor


I'm somewhat skeptical that those underlying issues can be fixed while also being compatible with 3.5/PF1.

d20 systems don't work well as toolkits IMHO if they maintain the class/level escalating HP dynamic. They are far better made into dedicated games.

IMHO for 3e based systems to work - they need to drop the featapalooza ivory tower design that was always 3e's Achilles heel.

True20 still kept the featapalooza. So it came, and went...
True 20 had a barebones class system (i.e., Warrior, Expert, Adept) with no escalating HP. (It was also transparent about the underlying math, so you could create new customized classes.)

I don't think that featpalooza in itself is necessarily bad, as in the case of True 20 talents/feats it amounted to essentially picking your class features, which was fantastic for powers and talents. Where it suffered in particular, IMHO, was the nature of those feats.

True 20's feats and such came from 3e D&D and its design philosophy. It was dealing with ridiculous 3e-era feat trees like Ambidexterity/Two-Weapon Fighting/Improved TWF/Greater TWF/etc. or Point Blank Shot/Precise Shot/Far Shot/Rapid Shot/etc. Or to quote a recent comment from @Crimson Longinus in another thread:
I really hate the 3e style fiddly and specific low impact feats in style of "Three times per day, if the moon is waxing, you get +1 to attacks of opportunity using glaive-guisarme."

I want build choices that are big and impactful and say something about the character.
3e D&D had the sort of feat chains that felt like you needed 3-4 feats in order to tie your shoes at a basic level. While the True 20 system completely gutted D&D's magic system for M&M style powers - which I loved - it still kept the 3e OGL materials in terms of feats, saving throws, skill points, BAB, etc.

So the streamlined elements from 3e found in True 20 seemed to philosophically rub against its non-streamlined or innovative elements.

Unsurprisingly, Green Ronin's AGE System may be True 20's spiritual successor, though I would still love to see another take on True 20 with more contemporaneous game design philosophy.

But anyway... Corefinder.
 

MaskedGuy

Explorer
Lot of 1e problems isn't just "math was bad" and annoying feat trees. Though that is majority of it. I still think that "five step, full attack dance" is quite frustrating thing along with caster over poweredness by utility itself rather than just math.
 

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