Magpie Games has a multi-year license from Viacom CBS to develop “the roleplaying game based on Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra.
It’s a game without a name, at least one that’s been shared yet, and so you might see various shorthands for the Legends RPG in this one article alone.
The name isn’t the only challenge for Magpie Games; both The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra are shows and settings with sincere fan interest and are known for progressive strides on inclusion.
In a Dicebreaker interview, lead designer James Mendez Hodes and CEO Mark Truman spoke about the importance of getting diversity right in the RPG as well.
Geek Native has been lucky enough to get some questions to Truman, who has been kind enough to answer. Not that that access helps up predict what fans might end up calling the Avatar RPG.
Can you describe the world setting that Avatar and Korra stories use, especially as it might work for a tabletop RPG?
Both shows are set in a fantasy world inspired by real-world Asian and Indigenous culture. In the setting’s early history, four nations live in precarious harmony: the Water Tribes at the North and South Poles, the vast Earth Kingdom, the Fire Nation’s regimented and hierarchical islands, and the Air Nomads who follow herds of flying bison between four great mountain temples. Individuals from each nation can manipulate an element—water, earth, fire, or air—through the power of their own breath, expressed through the practice of a distinctive fighting art, a practice known as bending. Over the course of history, a warrior-sage called the Avatar has been born and reborn into each of the four nations in turn. The Avatar has a deep connection to the spirit world and to their predecessors in the cycle of rebirth, as well as the unique power to bend every element whose martial style they master. They are a spiritual, martial, and political authority tasked with keeping the balance between all four nations, as well as between humans and spirits.
The roleplaying game allows players to engage with any of five eras in the history of this world, delineated by the Avatars of each era. Players may meet the four nations in tense equilibrium (Avatar Kyoshi), as they Fire Nation militarizes and prepares for world conquest (Avatar Roku), the years before The Last Airbender in which Avatar Aang was trapped in ice (100 Years War), the peace following the war (Avatar Aang), or the modern era in which industrialization and multiculturalism shape the world (Avatar Korra). Each of these eras gives fans a different set of conflicts to engage, as their young heroes work to make the world a better place…no matter what problems the world faces in their era.
The announcement for the game makes mention of characters being built with playbooks. Can you confirm the Avatar RPG will be a Powered by the Apocalypse game?
Absolutely! We’re very excited to build the game using the Powered by the Apocalypse (PbtA) engine. We’ve spent the last few years designing and writing games using PbtA—including Bluebeard’s Bride, Masks: A New Generation, and Urban Shadows, and more—and we think it’s a perfect fit for this setting. PbtA games are easy to pick up, new player friendly, and focused on social conflicts and character-driven consequences instead of combat feats and hit points. The world of Avatar is filled with hopeful, interesting heroes grappling with difficult situations, and we are excited to make a game that helps people tell those kinds of stories!
Are there any learnings from Masks on Powered by the Apocalypse, or anything else for that matter, which you feel is relevant for this new game?
Definitely! Every PbtA game we produce informs the next. For example, Masks: A New Generation—our game of young adult superheroes—is a huge influence on our work with this game. Brendan Conway, the creator of Masks, is one of the core designers, and we’re drawing quite a bit of inspiration from the way Masks invokes superhero teamwork, flexible powers, and the themes of the young adult genre. That said, each implementation of the PbtA engine is a unique construction, and we’re excited to create a game that uniquely gets at the themes we love in AtLA and TLoK!
Will people be able to play as an Avatar? Is the involvement of an Avatar a defining element of the story?
While the Avatar is obviously a really important figure in each of the shows—and the novels and comics!—we want players to feel empowered to tell stories in which their characters are a bit more equal in terms of spotlight. We expect most groups will play without the Avatar among the main cast of characters, and we’re excited to see every player character have an equal chance to have a huge impact on the world.
At what point in the story will the RPG pick-up or will the group be able to pick?
The game will feature all five major eras documented in the existing shows and comics—one era for each of the primary Avatars (Kyoshi, Roku, Aang, and Korra) and the hundred-year period in which Aang was entrapped in ice. We’re creating setting and game materials that allow groups to drop into any one of those periods, essentially giving them the option of focusing on the part of the world they find most interesting. We’re really excited to see people jump into the world in whatever era they think has the conflicts they want to focus on.
Can you tell us a bit more about Republic City? What does that supplement offer?
We’re still early in the process, but the Republic City supplement will focus on the conflicts and setting specific to Republic City. Many adventures in AtLA and TLoK focused on travel and meeting new people (and new conflicts) but one of the joys of Korra’s adventures in particular was the way that Republic City offered endless adventure in one place. We think Republic City is a fascinating location to set a roleplaying game, and we want to offer robust mechanical and setting support for people who want to set their game in the United Republic of Nations.
What about The Spirit World supplement? What’s in that and can groups make much use of the Spirit World without it?
Again, this book is a ways off, but we want to have a resource for people to make use of the Spirit World in their games—and we know the corebook has a lot to cover already! Obviously, we’ll include some information about the more mystical elements of the setting in the corebook, but we feel the Spirit World demands a much more thorough and thoughtful set of materials than we can possibly squeeze into the main book. We’ll have more information about exactly what’s inside down the road, but you can expect more setting materials, Spirit World-specific rules, and probably a few playbooks!
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