Author: Ben D. Fuller
What do you get when you bring together one woefully unprepared film nerd, two gaming enthusiasts, and one radio show at the largest gaming convention of the year? I’ll tell you what you get, three days of fun! (What were you expecting a better turn of phrase? Didn’t you see the part where I said I was a film nerd?) The trip started out great; I hooked up with Flagoon (the tall one) and Revan (the ginger one) on Friday night for a run through of True Dungeon, a literal live action version of Dungeon and Dragons, it only happens at #GenCon so this is a once a year event not to be missed for the full time gamer. After we left the Dungeon we headed out for dinner. We stopped at “Dick’s Last Resort” where they successfully humiliated us all with their unique brand of customer service.
You won that round Frat guy waiter, you won that round.
After dinner we headed back to the hotel that we shared, because what else screams Con experience more than a bunch of grown men sharing a room. First on the list was our chance to give “Dwarven Miners” a shot, it was my first time playing it, the others had been given a hands on tutorial by the awesome group over at Rather Dashing Games.
Let me tell you, I loved it. I had a great time with it, we probably 10 rounds in the two days that I was there. Flagoon and Revan each had their own copies, so of course I had to pick up one for myself and will now be introducing it to all my friends so that they can buy their own copies. And that’s basically all we did the first the night, keep any eye out for the official DCR review, like I said up there I’m just a film nerd with a taste for gaming.
Day 2 started bright and early for us, with our first interview of the day at 9:30 with the company behind “Battle of the Bulge” for the iPad. I really enjoyed the look of it, unfortunately it’s only out on Apple products and I’m an Android guy so I’ll have to just wait… If you’re reading this Shenandoah Studios, get on it! From there we wandered around the convention hall corridors as we waited for the doors to open, I got to hear about the first two days of the Con. Pretty bummed I missed them sounds like the guys had a blast, you can catch their review later this week on the site.
Going forward I’m going to try and explain what was going through my mind when I finally got into the hall, keep in mind I’m not a gaming guy like most of the people there so this was a whole new experience for me. But don’t get me wrong, I’ve been to conventions before like DragonCon and SLCNerd both of which are geared for the well rounded geek.
I walked into the hall:
1. “I am way out of my league here”
2. “What the hell was I thinking? I can barely finish a game of Monopoly”
3. “Wait, this is kind of cool”
4. "Where is Rather Dashing Games? I want my own copy of the game”- For reference I should have bought it at the end of the day, because I had to carry it around with for the next 8 hours.
5. “I wonder if Revan and Flagoon will notice if I disappear into the Artist Alley” – They did, but it was worth it.
6. “I need to check my bank account, things might get bad”ß at that point I was drooling a little.
So there you have it, my first six thoughts. Pretty great right? Ya I thought so too. So after I got over my initial shock we got started, hitting interview after interview with the practiced precision of a group that had done this before. (See I can turn a phrase if I need too) Around noon we took a lunch break and hit up the Steak & Shake right outside the convention center for so much needed food and a root beer. At least I had a root beer I think the others had milkshakes, how cliché. From there I took my leave of the group to wander the Artist Alley, where I got lost for an hour amongst the drawings and artwork of people that I wish I could call my friends. They had some seriously great stuff there; I’ll post pictures and reviews of each later this week. The booth that really caught my attention though was “Shadows on the Wall” entertainment memorabilia. The ladies and the one guy there were seriously great, they put with my fawning and waffling as I looked through their stash, I ended up buying three posters. Now, I have what I like to call a “collection” but a few (all) my friends refer to as an obsession with posters and prints, more specifically Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. They had some great pieces but not the one that I was looking for, and the awesome staff went out of their way to assure me that they would be able to get one for me in October. At this point I was ready to just give them money. If you ever run across them (they hit a ton of cons, mostly east coast) you need to stop by and see them, and buy something. Then send me a picture of said purchase so that I can drool over it with you.
At this point we were approaching the end of the day, and we were all tuckered but had one last even to hit. A pizza party with some of the great Authors that were there, while Revan and Flagoon went to that I went home and took a nap, in preparation for more Dwarven Miner that evening. ( We played 6 rounds that night, you win Rather Dashing)
Well there you have it; an outsider’s not so detailed review of GenCon2013. Would I go again you ask? Yes, in a heartbeat. I’ll be forever grateful to the guys over here at Dungeon Crawlers Radio for inviting me to tag along, and will hopefully be doing a lot more with them in the future so keep an eye out. Until then, Little Ben is out.
After much anticipation it has finally been revealed who the 12th Doctor will be. There has been much speculation as to who will be playing this iconic role. BBC America did a great job with setting this announcement up quite well by playing the final episode of the 10th Doctor, David Tennat. It was a very emotional way to get this started.
All of us have our favorite Doctors. I am sure there are many of you who are sad to see Matt Smith go. However, if you recall, there was quite a bit of backlash over the choice of Smith 4 years ago. I am interested in see what the overall reaction is to the new Doctor.
With no further ado, the 12th Doctor is………..
For those of you who don’t know, Peter has been in many British shows including Torchwood and a previous Episode of Doctor Who. Show runner, Steven Moffat, said that Peter was up for the role of 11th Doctor, but it just didn’t feel right. Now is Peter’s time.
Interesting side note... Peter Capaldi, was in World War Z and played a doctor for the World Health Organization.... Doctor W.H.O. love it!
Do you think this a good choice?
Magic Item Compendium Premium Reprint (Dungeons & Dragons 3.5)
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
Page Count: 286
Cost: $49.95 ($33.41 at Amazon.com)
Release Date: 07/16/2013 (Originally 3/13/2007)
Wizards of the Coast has done a great job with the premium reprints of Dungeons & Dragons books from past editions. I’ve been especially happy with the adventure collections and the reprints of AD&D 2.5. Having it in my hands now, I have to admit, it’s a wonderful resource for any person who likes to run a Dungeons & Dragons game using 3.0/3.5 rules. Is it necessary? No. After all, it’s missing a lot of basic items, so if you just have the big Compendiums from 3.5 (Rules and Spells) you’re going to be missing out on the common items of all, ranging from simple staves to the mighty vorpal sword or Holy Avenger. So unfortunately, while a fine resource, the Magic Item Compendium is missing a few item and isn’t as complete as I would like it to be.
I have to admit, I was surprised when I saw the Magic Item Compendium on the docket for a premium reprinting back when it first came out. After all, it originally was released in March of 2007 – a little over six years ago. You can find the original quite easily still, and for a fraction of the premium reprint, so unlike a lot of the other premium reprints which were out of print for at least a decade and a half, the Magic Item Compendium reprint feels like it will be a hard sell.
When you first take a look at the premium reprint of the Magic Item Compendium, you can instantly tell the difference between this and the original printing. The original had greenish-blue cover and the art featured a long haired, one-eyed Paladin with a red scroll in one hand and a magic sword in the other. The art and cover design was not very appealing. The premium reprint, however is so much better, it’s hard to put it into words. The cover is bone white with gold lettering and it both looks and feels like a mystical tome. The cover art is simple but amazingly effective. You have a potion with a red stopper and a gold dragon curled around it. The cover also features both etching and embossing, which just makes the book fun to just rub your fingertips across. Had I seen the original Magic Item Compendium back in 2007, I would have derided the cover and not even bothered to look at the contents. With the premium reprint however, I wanted to rip open the shrink wrap and read what lay between the hardcover binding, simply from the cover design. It’s hard to justify paying for just a swanky cover, but if you’re a 3.5 fan and have yet to pick up the Magic Item Compendium, this is definitely the version you want.
The book is divided into six chapters: Armor, Weapons, Clothing, Tools, Magic Item Sets and Using Magic Items. Each chapter gives you a list of qualities or effects to the chapter’s item for a magic effect. Then the chapter moves into specific premade items, for those of you who don’t want to build and calculate your own magic items. Oddly enough, a lot of key, almost iconic powers are missing from these chapters. For example, with weapons you’ll find there is no way to build a Defender, Flame Tongue, Frostbrand and the like, yet you CAN make a permanently blessed weapon. This, to me, is a perfect example of why I didn’t care for Edition 3.5, as it tries too hard to come up with “wacky” or overpowered unbalanced options, but then forgets the core and/or simple ones that made D&D popular and memorable to begin with. I understand they are easily found in the DMG, but the Magic Item Compendium really needed to include some of those iconic powers in the same manner they list all the new ones. This needed to be a one-stop shop, rather than just another weighty tome you carry around just IN CASE you might have a use for it at some point. Most D&D fans would rather be able to have, say, a sword of sharpness and know that, with a certain roll of the die, a limb gets lopped off, rather than to have to keep track of the fact their sword is a desiccating, fleshgrinding mindfeeder with Ghost Strike, and all the different rules, DCs and rolls that go along with it. In an attempt to include every possibility for a magic item, the Magic Item Compendium forgets the most basic and important magic weapons, and also overcomplicated the entire concept of magic items to the point where it feels like all the fun is sucked out of them by this process. I know some people must find having to have a separate piece of paper just to keep track of how to use your weapon fun, but I sure do not fall under that category.
Basically, what I took away from the Magic Item Compendium is that it is for gamers that want to roll-play instead of role-play. It’s for munchkin min/maxing gamers who would rather spend more time looking up precisely how and what to roll (and when) rather than trying to tell a fun story with friends. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it’s not the type of gaming I enjoy. The second edition AD&D DMG has pretty much all the rules you need to make magic items, and it takes up, what, one-thirtieth of the space and works just as well? As does the regular DMG for both 3.0 and 3.5. Now, if you like to design magic items or are looking to supplement a previous list of magic weapons with the sheer myriad of options that the Magic Item Compendium offers, then knock yourself out, as this book works wonderfully as a detailed supplement that is nothing but “100% crunch”, as they say. However, it just doesn’t work as a standalone compendium (which is what the name implies), as it’s missing too much stuff. When you think of a compendium like the rules, spells or Monstrous ones, it implies a book you can just pick up and be the only one you will need for that specific niche. Unfortunately, it’s just not true in this case. I hate to be so negative in this review, as I’ve loved all the premium edition reprints Wizards of the Coast has put out so far, but the Magic Item Compendium just seems to be a mish-mash of well meaning ideas without the necessary common sense to make them stand on their own. I guess when you advertise a book as quote, “collecting the most popular magic items in the D&D game and presents them in one easy-to-reference tome” and its not all there as NONE of the most popular magic items from D&D are in this book AT ALL, I get a little disappointed.
So let’s start back about a year ago when the first trailer for Man of Steel came out, many of us were doubtful. Warner Bros. seemed to have no idea how to adapt any of their DC Comic universe outside of Batman (which was thanks to Chris Nolan), and director Zack Snyder was a known abuser of slo-mo that had just come off the craptastic bomb Sucker Punch. On top of that, the less that is said about their Green Lantern attempt, the better.
Then, as more trailers came out and plot details were revealed, I became more and more optimistic. After the three minute trailer that came out around April, I noticed general anticipation had shifted dramatically in the right direction and continued to build to a crescendo ever since. I got a chance to watch Man of Steel opening weekend. Did it soar…or suck? Minor spoilers ahead.
My thoughts? I loved Man of Steel. This film finally takes Superman in the right direction cinematically, dropping him in a modern world that is in desperate need of a Superman. As great as the Christopher Reeves Superman films were, the last one came out over 25 years ago. We really need to move on.
Thankfully, Warner Bros saw that after the poorly received Superman Returns. Was the film perfect? Not by a long shot. While there were a few moments of levity here and there, like when Clark first learned to fly and during his interaction with Lois after he dons the famous suit, the film does feel a bit too serious and even dour.
Along with that, it would have been nice to see a distinct showcase of Superman’s abilities in use when he was fighting Zod and his cronies. That would have been his edge on these Kryptonians who had little experience with the use of their abilities.
Plus, something that was unanimously an issue with fans was how during Zod and Superman’s borderline demolition of Metropolis, Superman gave not a whit of interest in the collateral damage. That is always a big aspect of Superman, trying to contain a superpowered fight away from the civilians. The causalities must have been in the thousands given how many skyscrapers they knocked over. Even though he stopped Zod, why would the US or any country trust him given how much destruction he and his kind caused across just one major city? Just saying.
Now, what worked?
First off, Krypton does explode so we can all relax there.
Let me also say that the reimagining of Krypton was amazing!! This is very different from any other iteration of that planet on or off screen. I can’t say how much I was relived to not see the same ice sculpture with the dome a top it. Finally we get to see Krypton as something more. The technology is very advanced, liquid metal at times in ways that are reminiscent of The Matrix. Even the little details such as the family crests are fantastic. Apparently, they made over 300 different family crests for this film. All the political intrigue and coups prior to Krypton’s destruction really worked for me, partially due to Michael Shannon and Russell Crowe owning the scenes they were in together. I could have stayed longer on Krypton before its explosion, but obviously the story was about Superman.
And Henry Cavill IS Superman. He’s everything a fan could hope for in a new Man of Steel. The character doesn’t need to be dark and gritty just to adapt to modern times. However, I like how we see Clark choose to become Superman instead of getting brainwashed for 12 years by his bio daddy. Along with that, Clark is still finding his footing in this new role, and Cavill embodies that loneliness and confusion in the earlier parts of the movie perfectly.
I was at first hesitant about Amy Adams as Lois, mainly because of the huge age difference and that she looked more like a Lana Lang than a Lois. But she worked for me very much, a tough as nails woman who’s good at her job but still has an overwhelming knack for getting into trouble.
Michael Shannon owned as Zod. He was not a caricature, but a man who was literally made from birth to be a soldier. His sole purpose is to protect Krypton. Anyone who gets in his way is an obstacle that must be removed. Antje Traue worked wonderfully as Zod’s right-hand Faora, not saying much but delivering ass-kickings when needed.
All the supporting cast worked for me, too. Russell Crowe and Kevin Costner added gravitas as Clark’s two fathers, though I could have done with a little less of the constant hammering home of Clark’s greater destiny. Lawrence Fishburne could have gotten a little more to do as Perry White, but I’m guessing we’ll see that in later films.
I did like how the Superman name came to be in this film. Lois was about to name him that before the Army rudely interrupted. But the name got bandied about given the S on Clark’s chest, which is the family crest of House El and stands for Hope.
A big change that I enjoyed but might irk long-time fans is how Superman and Lois first meet. Not to spoil this, but it actually makes a lot of sense given the modern day context of the movie. I mean, Lois IS a Pulitzer Prize winning investigative reporter and not an idiot.
Another smart choice David Goyer and Zack Snyder made was how all the other Kryptonians in Zod’s crew didn’t adjust so quickly to Earth’s Sun (unlike in the show Smallville). Zod, when his protective helmet gets damaged, is overwhelmed at first by all his enhanced senses. And other than Zod, who worked to master his new powers, all the other Kryptonians could only Hulk-leap to get where they were going instead of flying outright.
Superman having trouble fighting Zod and his soldiers at first made perfect sense as well. For one, from what we can tell, the Superman in this film had never really used his powers in a fighting capacity before Zod arrived. Two, he has never encountered any person as strong as him, let alone several people. And three, Zod and his officers are all trained soldiers bred from birth to be the best, whereas Clark is not. This made for very interesting fight sequences in both the battle of Smallville and Metropolis.
And of course, the final battle between Zod and Superman. Other than the potential collateral damage that I had issues with, this fight made the destruction of New York City in The Avengers look like a minor earthquake. I’m glad we finally got to see Superman fighting a superpowered foe and the devastation that could occur because of this. Which leads us to how the fight ended.
PROCEED AT YOUR OWN PERIL.
Superman kills Zod. Now, everyone knows that Superman has a very strict no-kill policy. It's as distinct as his red underwear (which is sadly missing from his suit this time around). However, Zod had nothing left to live for after Superman foiled his plan. So he forced Superman’s hand by trying to barbeque some innocent civilians with his heat vision. Despite Superman’s pleas for him to stop, Zod refused. So Clark had no choice in the heat of the moment (no pun intended but it stays) but to kill him.
Many people hated that, but I loved this moment. Superman just killed the last remnant of his race, and hates himself for it. Henry Cavill’s reaction made that scene much more powerful. Plus, for people complaining that Superman is so perfect, he had to make a very real choice between the lives of civilians or the last of his kind. Superman chose Earth. Either way, I hope that we see the ramifications of Zod’s death ripple through the next Superman films. And, to go full geek on all of you, Superman hads been forced to kill a few times in the comics, mainly Zod.
Now that Man of Steel has come out and is cleaning house at the box office, my questions is what’s the plan? One of my biggest issues with how DC/Warners has handled their comic properties is not having a clear plan. As of right now, we know that Warners is fast-tracking a Man of Steel sequel with both Zack Snyder and David Goyer returning. Other than that, we hear Warners is developing a Wonder Woman movie or considering a Flash film or wanting to do a Justice League film in 2015. However, they have not revealed any type of release strategy for their DC Movie Nation.
Having a clear plan and sticking all those milestones is one of many reasons why Marvel has been so successful in their Shared Cinematic Universe.
The Monday after the first Iron Man film broke bank, we got a three year release schedule from Marvel. DC/Warners needs to show us what the road is to Justice League, and deliver on those dates.
Right now, they’ve grabbed the public’s interest in a larger DC Universe. Now they need to take their time, not rush into Justice League yet, introduce us to some characters other than Batman or Superman, and make movie magic.
I've been doing some soul searching and coming to grips with the loss of Matt Smith (in spite of it not happening yet) and I think it will weigh up there with the loss of David Tennant. Then I was like, "Wait a minute. They were able to finagle the story to allow for the return of Tennant, could they do it for Smith?!" This launched a theory I have in my head that I have to run by fans that will include some River Song worthy spoilers. If you are familiar with the statements made by John Hurt not too long ago about his character's role in the 50th, then you have nothing to fear. Otherwise, be warned...
Okay, so Hurt spoiled that his character, "The Doctor who broke his promise" will indeed be the "true 9th Doctor" and the storyline will have something to do with the Time War. So what does this have to do with 11 and how can he still appear on the show? Stay with me here because I'm about to pull a lot of Who logic, and it could get wibbly wobbly in this piece.
If I had to guess, I would say the inclusion of Tennant and Rose are specifically to help remove Clara (who is signed on for season 8) from the Doctor's time stream and back in the time line. Simple enough, following that logic you could remove 11, as well, and send them on their way, right? Wrong. Seeing as 11 entered his own time stream (something a time lord must never do) I'm guessing there's a fair bit of nastiness that completely prevents him from leaving his own timeline. Plus, let's not forget that he is regeneration number 12. If you don't hold onto the theories that his regenerations from River passed on, then he is in all respects dead to rights after this death.
So what if 11 wasn't The Doctor who regenerates?! He would forever be trapped within the timeline and able to appear at any moment to save the day (much like Clara). Tennant of course is now half human so he wouldn't be the one to change, but of course who better than "The Doctor Who Broke His Promise" aka true Number 9 with three regenerations on standby to take on the continuation. There are some parts of The Doctor's memories that I haven't quite worked out yet and how that would work...but I'm sure the Tardis holds a memory bank of the Doctor's thoughts so he could be brought up to speed. Ultimately it would ensure Smith would have the option to return if he wanted. I dunno. Is my theory too crazy?
The fun and versatility of the Dungeon Command series has made Flagoon and Revan huge fans of the game. Not only is the game wonderfully fun, but the good folks at Wizards of the Coast have included monster cards for each of the twelve monsters in each kit so you can repurpose them as foes in D&D Adventure System games like Wrath of Ashardalon and Castle Ravenloft. Also these great looking minis can be used in your table top, pencil & paper game as well!!
But with all those choices, the straight Dungeon Command game is quickly becoming one of our favorites. In Dungeon Command you don’t have to worry about the luck of dice rolling in your favor, It comes down to pure strategy when going up against another commander’s mind. The action is quick and bloody and there is plenty of attrition. In Blood of Gruumsh, there are a half dozen types of Orcs to choose from – druids, chieftains, drudges, archers, clerics, and barbarians – as well as a boar, wereboar, an owlbear, and a big, mean, and nasty Ogre.
Read our previous posts about Dungeon Command to get a better understanding of the game play and keep in mind that, while you can play the game with a single faction pack, Dungeon Command is intended to be played with a faction pack for each of the suggested two to four players. Blood of Gruumsh is in stores now so go pick up your copy today!
Diminutive Jedi master rumored to be first of several characters from Star Wars universe in line to feature in his own spinoff film.
An iconic figure he is, beloved of generations of children and adults alike. Now Yoda is rumored to be getting his own spinoff movie as part of Disney's new series of Star Wars films.
News of the diminutive Jedi master's elevation from supporting character status comes following the announcement of a new trilogy of Star Wars films after Disney purchased all rights to the series for $4.05bn last October.
The studio announced last month that Star Trek director JJ Abrams will take on the first movie, Episode VII, and screenwriters are already in place to take on the two subsequent installments. However, there have also been regular rumors that Disney plans spinoff films in a similar vein to the plethora of character-based superhero movies that have emerged in the past few years under its wholly-owned Marvel Studios banner. Now it looks as if Yoda could be coming out of retirement as part of plans put in place by new LucasFilm president Kathleen Kennedy.
"The first standalone film is going to center upon Yoda. At this stage, specifics are sparse, but Kathleen Kennedy is putting together a Star Wars slate.
"I've also heard tale of a Jabba story that Lucas has floated to some of his buddies. But word is Yoda is first."
Yoda featured in all three of the prequel movies, though in the last two he was depicted in CGI rather than in original puppet mode, much to the chagrin of some older fans. The character was voiced (and controlled for the classic trilogy) by Frank Oz, the former Jim Henson collaborator who also brought Muppets such as Miss Piggy to life. It is not known whether the 68-year-old, who has made a career as a film director in recent years, is in line to return to the role.
A Yoda movie could potentially throw a spanner in the works for Disney's previously announced plans to set the new Star Wars trilogy after 1983's Return of the Jedi. Were the Jedi master to appear in his own movie before turning up in the new trilogy, it would require some serious recon work, because Yoda died in that film. Nevertheless, the series has shown in the past that death need not be a barrier to returning in a future installment. Despite being killed off in the Return of the Jedi, Alec Guinness played Obi Wan Kenobi in two more Star Wars films.
I recently was invited to play in a new gaming group and it was just my luck that they were playing the new Iron Kingdoms RPG. So for the last few days I have been reading through the new Iron Kingdoms Core Rules book graciously provided by my GM for the purpose creating my character and learning more about the game.. And I have to admit I have been smiling from ear to ear all the time.
The new Iron Kingdoms Core Rules book is a 358-paged full-color hardcover book which contains all the rules and background needed to run games set in the Iron Kingdoms campaign setting. As expected from a Privateer Press product the production quality is extremely high. Artwork and layout are on par with what you’ve seen in any of the WARMACHINE products. It’s a pleasure just to leaf through the book and enjoy the artwork. Yes, it’s that good.
The first section of the book (about 100 pages) focuses on the world of Caen in general and the area of Western Immoren in particular. You get a detailed description of the history of the Iron Kingdoms, the cosmology and an overview of life in Western Immoren. By the way, some of you might not have heard of the Iron Kingdoms before, so let me give you a short introduction: The world of Caen is not your regular fantasy world. Yes, there are the typical fantasy races you’d expect and yes, there is magic, but Western Immoen (which is the area the game is set in) also went through an industrial revolution, which led to all kinds of mechanical marvels like Steamjacks (coal-driven golems), trains, steam engines and firearms. The nations of Western Immoren which are also called the Iron Kingdoms were formed after the successful rebellion against the evil Orgoth Empire who had conquered the area four centuries earlier. Nowadays the Iron Kingdoms consist of the human nations of Cygnar, Khador, Llael, Ord, the Protectorate of Menoth, the dwarven nation of Rhul, Ios, the homeland of the elves and the hostile island nation of Cryx. The Iron Kingdoms are ripe for conflict and there are countless opportunities for adventures.
The second section of the book (about 70 pages) is all about characters. Character creation in the IK RPG is a pretty straight forward process but allows for a huge variety of different characters. You start by choosing your character’s race (Human, Dwarf, Iosan (Elf), Nyss (Elf), Gobber, Ogrun, and Trollkin). After that you pick one of the four archetypes: Gifted, Intellectual, Mighty and Skilled. Each archetype grants the character with a special ability (like an additional die on melee damage rolls in the case of the Mighty) and allows the player to pick once from a list of benefits (like Photographic Memory or Genius for the Intellectual). Archetypes also play a role when it comes to picking careers. Each character gets to pick two careers. Some careers have prerequisites (like Gifted only or Human only), but aside from that you’re free to mix and match.
In my opinion the career system is a stroke of genius. It takes the best aspects of class systems but none of the inherent problems. Class systems have the advantage that they make things much easier especially for new players like myself. But often classes can also be restrictive in certain ways. The careers in the IK RPG provide the character with a set of skills, abilities, spells (if the career allows spellcasting) and starting gear. Each career also comes with a list of skills and abilities a character following said career can learn in the future. By combining two careers you basically get a huge number of different combinations that allow for a wide variety of character types. You want to play a noble mage? Then combine Arcanist with Aristocrat. Your perfect character started out as a priest but decided to join the military instead, why not combine Priest and Soldier? The following careers are in the book: Alchemist, Arcane Mechanik, Arcanist, Aristocrat, Bounty Hunter, Cutthroat, Duellist, Explorer, Fell Caller, Field Mechanik, Gun Mage, Highwayman, Investigator, Iron Fang, Knight, Mage Hunter, Man-at-Arms, Military Officer, Pirate, Priest, Rifleman, Soldier, Sorcerer, Spy, Stormblade, Thief, Trencher, and last but not least Warcaster.
After picking your career you get to increase your character’s stats (each member of a race starts with the same stat profile) and then you can apply some finishing touches. What I like most about the system is that character creation is very quick and quite straightforward while still giving the players access to a huge variety of character concepts. The Character section of the book also contains an extensive description of all the skills and abilities and gives examples for target numbers with each skill.
Then after creating your characters the party comes together and picks from one of the available Adventuring Companies. These companies not only provide a theme and some special benefits, they also give a reason why the characters are working together. Choosing an adventuring company is of course optional and subject to GM discretion, but it’s another idea that could help players and GM to get into the game quicker.
The third section of the book covers the rules of the game. I have to admit that I was actually surprised that the general rules section (including combat rules) is just about 30 pages. Skill rolls are done by rolling 2d6 and adding the relevant Skill Level and Stat. The result is then combined with a target number set by the GM. The game gives examples for appropriate target numbers for all the skills, but an experienced GM may basically use handwaving to come up with target numbers if he or she wishes to. Especially when it comes to non-combat actions the crunch level is surprisingly low.
Things get a bit more complex when combat is involved and the Iron Kingdoms RPG shows its kinship to the WARMACHINE miniature game here. If you have played WARMACHINE or HORDES before, you should feel right at home. The rules recommend that you use miniatures and a battlemap for combat, but there are also guidelines for people who prefer not to. Ranges are given in both inches (for miniature play) and feet, which is something I wish other games would have done as well (D&D 4th Edition I am looking at you!). Explaining all the various combat rules would probably be beyond the scope of the review. If you wish to get an idea of what combat in the IK RPG looks like, check out the WARMACHINE quick start rules which are freely available on the Privateer Press site. As you would expect from a combat system based on a miniatures game there are rules for every situation and there’s not a lot of room for GM fiat when it comes to combat. The combat rules are also a bit more crunchy than I usually prefer but it’s definitely less complex than games like D&D 3rd Edition.
One aspect of the combat rules I like a lot are the Life Spirals. In the case of simple NPCs the game usually just uses Vitality points to track damage. But in the case of important NPCs and Player Character the Life Spiral is used. As you can see to the right each character has a life spiral with 6 branches grouped into three aspects tied to the character’s main stats: Physique, Agility and Intellect. Whenever a character takes damage, you roll a d6 to determine where you start marking off Vitality points. Are there no more unmarked Vitality points in the branch, you move to the next one clockwise. If all Vitality points are filled the character succumbs to his or her wounds. So what’s the deal with the branches then? When all Vitality points of a branch are filled the character suffers from the effects listed next to the Life Spiral. A crippled physique reduces a characters STR by two for example. It’s not as elaborate as other systems, but quite effective.
Another thing I like a lot is the Injury Table you roll on after a character has been incapacitated. The long-term effects of the injuries the character sustained can reach from death (on a roll of 3 on 3d6) to being scarred or even crippled. The table in my opinion perfectly fits into the somewhat gritty feel of the Iron Kingdoms setting.
The next chapter in the book is about Magic. In the Iron Kingdoms there are two kinds of magic traditions: will weavers and focusers. Will weavers use their own willpower to harness arcane energies while focusers tap into the ambient magical energies around them. As a Gifted character you have to choose between those traditions. Will Weavers are a lot like the spell casters you know from other games, while focusers are a bit different. They can use their arcane energies to control steamjacks and also use their magic to boost attack and damage rolls (even for non-magical attacks). The book contains a quite extensive list of spells and each Gifted career has its own spell list. The only thing that bothers me a bit is that the spells are very combat focused and the spell descriptions are extremely short. Some more fluff texts would have been nice there. But this is nothing that couldn’t be remedied in later books.
Gear, Mechanika, and Alchemy are the topics of the following chapter and again it’s one of the highlights of the book. The gear list covers everything your character could ever have dreamed of from a simple knife to Warcaster armor and the iconic Iron Kingdoms Great Coat. The rules for creating your own mechnika like mechanikal weapons or armor are another highlight of the book. For a lot of people (including me) the mechanikal marvels of the setting were what made us fall in love with the Iron Kingdoms, so having some crafting rules at our fingertips is a huge thing! The section on Alchemy starts by giving us some information on the origins and usage of Alchemy in Western Immoren and the rules needed to create Alchemical items in-game. There are basically sixteen primary ingredients alchemists can buy or gather which can be used to mix several alchemical items including grenades.
The next chapter is all about Steamjacks, probably the most iconic aspect of the setting. Steamjacks are mechanikal constructs, not unlike golems in other settings, that are given the ability to think by a magical brain called the cortex. Steamjacks are usually powered by coal and can be commanded by simple spoken commands or by a Warcaster through telepathy. Steamjacks are used in all parts of Western Immoen. There are Laborjacks built for physical labor and the more elaborate military Warjacks. The chapter describes the components of Steamjacks in detail and provides rules for assembling and updating your own steamjack. In addition to that additional combat rules for steamjacks are given, which are – not surprisingly – based on the WARMACHINE rules for steamjacks. There are also rules for steamjack development. Yes, your Warcaster’s steamjack can get better over time and even develop a personality. Thumbs up!
The last chapter is on “Full-Metal Fantasy Game Mastering”. Luckily it doesn’t try to give you game mastering advice you have heard thousands of times before but focuses on what you need to successfully run a game set into the Iron Kingdoms. There are guidelines on how to create NPCs, how to design encounters and the book gives you some advice on what kind of scenarios and campaigns to run. Last but not least some tips on how to play without miniatures are given.
The book concludes with a very short bestiary that looks more like an afterthought than a proper bestiary, a couple of useful (and very good-looking) sheets and an extensive index.
Overall the Iron Kingdoms roleplaying is exactly what I hoped for when I first saw the Privateer Press booth and information on Iron Kingdoms RPG at Gen Con this last year. The production value of the book is top-notch, the career system is pure genius and the background chapters are the most in-depth look on the Iron Kingdoms I’ve read so far. The combat rules are a bit on the crunchy side, but because of the compatibility to the WARMACHINE rules, veteran WARMACHINE players should have no trouble getting into the RPG as well. The only disappointing aspects of the book is the very short bestiary and the lack of an introductory adventure. Luckily Privateer Press already provided an expanded bestiary as a free PDF on their site. The Iron Kingdoms RPG by Privateer Press is definitely a must-have for every Iron Kingdom fan!