Saturday, September 1, 2012

Reviews: Iron Kingdoms RPG

Oh man, my preview copy the Iron Kingdoms RPG arrived on my doorstep last night, So let the review begin. (Note: Today's review will be a quick glance review, looking at the very basics, as I need to read it to absorb the game...Continue watching as I will continue to review the product.)

I remember seeing the first Witchfire Trilogy, and being enthralled by a setting with guns and steamjacks. I was instantly hooked. I know a lot of people don't like guns in their fantasy gaming, but to me, it's about the setting, any rules can be used for any setting, yes, in  a Tolkien-esque generic fantasy setting, there's not really room for guns. But if the setting is designed around the inclusion of guns, by all means, let there be guns!

The release date has been upped to September 19th

First glance: It's a gorgeous hard-cover book utilizing a partial gloss/flat cover with this above iconic image (the actual artwork on the right, not the logo) wrap-around. The book is over 350 pages, beautifully illustrated with new images, and reprints from the d20 version of the game and I assume the miniature games (Warmachine and Hordes) as well, artwork too good not to be reused. The inside cover is a full color image from the cover with no words, to let you view the amazing cover art that Néstor Ossandón created. I really enjoy looking at the architecture rising above the group. The layout of the book makes sense, and is easy to read. I enjoy the sidebar illustration, and the lamps gives you a color coding to let you know what section you're in without making it feel like it was designed for 8 year olds.

After the initial compulsory introductory pages, consisting of a quick blurb about the origins of Iron Kingdoms, and the "What is a Role-playing game?" section. Thereafter it dives right into ...

Chapter 1: History of Western Immoren
40 pages of History. History really makes a setting, without history you just have a boring setting with no basis, so 40 pages worth  provides plenty.

Chapter 2: Life in the Iron Kingdoms
52 pages about life in the Kingdoms, from coinage, to faith and churches. Each kingdoms gets a blurb about what life is generally like in the Iron Kingdoms and beyond, including Cryx, Ios and Rhul. Different human ethnicities are covered as well as the various races. Language, law, travel, and the overview of different types of magic are glossed over, as magic is fully covered in a later chapter.

Chapter 3: Character Creation
Here's where the the game alters course from its d20 roots. Utilizing an engine based upon the miniature games. I will get more into this later, but I really like the mix and match archetype/careers, they're doing. It makes a 3 tiered system; taking 4 archetypes (gifted, intellectual, mighty and skilled), and combining it with a choice of two careers (some of which have requirements - such as race, gifted arcehtype (for caster types), or may only be chosen as a starter career).  The Careers are as follows: Alchemist, Arcane Mechanic, Arcanist, Aristocrat, Bounty Hunter, Cutthroat, Duelist, Explorer, Fell Caller, Field Mechanik, Gun Mage, Highwayman, Investigator, Iron Fang, Knight, Mage Hunter, Man-at-Arms, Military Officer, Pirate, Priest, Rifleman, Soldier, Spy, Stormblade, Thief, Trencher, and Warcaster. So you can see from this vast array of careers, by choosing two at creation you can really create a plethora of concepts. Perhaps you wish to play an Alchemist/Soldier or a Pistoleer/Pirate, the choices while not endless are definitely expansive. All told, the character creation chapter which includes skills, feats, and the races, covers 90 pages of real estate, about 25% of the book. Each career has a related illustration, very nice.

Chapter 4: The Game \
The basic system, based upon the Warmachine rules is a 2d6 base system, add stat and skill modifiers, this makes it a system which uses a small pyramid curve, where small modifiers can mean a big difference in success. Combat, Movement, initiative, etc, are all covered, I will go into this more, later in the week.  The game section is all of 30 pages in length, making it a fairly simple system.

Chapter 5: Magic
While many different traditions of magic exist, the rules are crunched into 20 pages of material. Only two actual types exist, will weavers and focusers. 10 and a half pages are jam packed with short listed spells, many of which are drawn from the miniatures game.

Chapter 6: Gear, Mechnika and Alchemy
The meat of almost any game lies in the stuff, covering 50 pages, this chapter gives plenty of stuff for characters to play with.

Chapter 7: Steamjacks
Well in this chapter you can fully make out the miniature wargame in the system. Each steamjack has a damage grid which looks suspiciously like the one in the wargame. But, as the Steamjacks aren't player characters, I don't see that as a bad thing, it just makes them a special type of monster. I think the coolest part of this section is the exploded views of the different steamjacks!!

Chapter 8: Gamemastering
A short section on gamemastering.

Appendix A: Bestiary
A Sample Bestiary, containing 6 monsters, 5 plus human, the most dangerous monster of all. I like the stat blocks of the monsters and I like the lack of hit points int he game, using a small triskell like hit matrix called a life spiral. (more on that once I figure out how it works)

Appendix B: Gameplay tools (which I expect will be available for download after release)
These are a Steamjack sheet, a 2 page character sheet and a game master encounter sheet. Nicely done, graphically sound landscape sheets.

Appendix C: Templates
2 pages of templates, blast, wall, spray and 2 different sized wreck markers.

And finally a 6 page index