6 Oct 2014

Iron Kingdoms RPG (Full Metal Fantasy) Year in Review

With the start up of a new Iron Kingdoms Full Metal Fantasy RPG (IKRPG) campaign about to start up with one of my groups with new and old players I started going over the pros and cons of the game system that has captured my attention.

I've been into Warmachine and Hordes for almost as long as I've known my wife - Lady Bear. When they announced IKRPG I was hoping I'd be able to use my slew of miniatures for role-playing as much as I could use it to fight on the pitch. Warhammer Fantasy RPG was a let down in this department even though its still one of my most favorite dark and grim fantasy settings. Also what would be really neat is that they leverage the rules from the awesome table top game...

Then they did that very thing.

Drop the mic - see you after the break.

Kings, Nations, and Gods
by Privateer Press
IKRPG (FMF) or IKRPG for short (which is not short - I know) came out like a cannon shot. First off the book is beautiful and huge. Hard cover, over 400 colour glossy pages, and plenty of old and new art just for the book. It almost takes the first 180 pages to go over the history and flush out all the details that the various army books, game supplements, and campaigns only hinted at.

Now don't get me wrong. Warmachine and Hordes provides huge amounts of detail for the table top game. It's well done and plenty rich but its focus is on the various military conflicts that allow for the table top to be played. The day to day and everything not military was lacking until IKRPG was released. Details in the Kings, Nations, and Gods (KNG) supplement added even more detail, in particular history and politics, I've yet to see in most fantasy settings - not just RPGs. Human and elf faiths (key points for the RPG) are lacking and vague in the table top but they get a huge bump in detail with the IKRPG book.

Yet there are a few challenges with IKRPG - logistically it's hard on the GM and/or the players. Minis are almost a must for the full experience. If you play with miniatures, which are awesome and add another game to use them with, you'll need terrain. Paper terrain is the go to so far and the folks at Privateer Press have been pretty good at building battle maps to play on for some of their published work.

My last PP pick up - Raluk Moorclaw
by Privateer Press
Lucky for those who play the tabletop game, they can use their armies and have a slew of miniatures to pick from for both players and NPCs. Recently my last couple of Privateer Press purchases have been based on IKRPG reasons before I thought of how the new pick up would work with my current list of forces. If you have more than one Warmachine and/or Hordes player in the group - they can also add their selection of miniatures to the roster. Players with Cygnar, Khador, Mercs and Trollblood armies will have more to use but be lacking in enemy/monster miniatures. While those who play Legion, Cryx, and Circle will have plenty of monster/creature miniatures to use in the fights.

Social skills mechanical resolution is very light - which could allow experienced GM's to make the social portions more dramatic (ala White Wolf),or fail and fall short with inexperienced GM's. They and their players who tend to focus on the combat and require a more regimented social mechanic to be in place have a hard time with a more liberal social mechanics.

All the social skills do not have a set attribute. All other skills have one of the 9 attributes linked to the skill. When you roll to perform an action - you roll 2d6 and add the skill rank and linked attribute value. Social skills are free game.

GM's should encourage players to describe or roleplay their social actions and then if a roll is needed pick an appropriate attribute for the social roll based on the players choices. For example you can have a player intimidate an enemy in multiple ways. With PER - The player makes an observation that makes the enemy defensive. With STR - The player flexes some pipes/ or bends a bar with their bare hands while talking. With INT - by using logic to scare the enemy. With PRW - performing a flurish with their weapon while making a demand. With AGL - by doing a Batman, doing something the other guy doesn't notice.

Some of these might require a skill check before the intimidation roll. Using the example - A player wants to scare a mob informant by sneaking up on the poor sucker and to get info from him. I make the player roll the stealth skill versus the mob informant ability to detect the player. The player beats the informant and I allow the player to use their AGI for their intimidation role. If the player would have failed - he would have to intimidate in another way. Using INT - to point out he got closer then he should have, or using PER - to make an observation that the informant is still to far away for anyone to help him in time if things get ugly.

The GM needs to be much more creative with their social encounters and allow player creativity to help them decide which attribute to use in that situation. I as a player threw a knife (making a range attack) near my target's head. I succeeded and my GM allowed me to use my POI (the attribute use to make up my RAT - Ranged Attack roll) in the intimidation roll.

The options are endless as long as players and GM's are open and creative. Player's should accept that there may be more to that social roll than just rolling that appropriate skill. While GM's should be ready to work with the player's roleplaying to pick the right or best fitting attribute.

The last challenge with IKRPG is the pace of release for new products. Now each No Quarter comes out every two months. No Quarter is the magazine that Privateer Press publishes in support of their games. It has previews of new releases and shows hobby tips.

Now this has exploded since IKRPG was released. Almost each issue shows players and hobbyists in great detail on how to convert (modify) a miniature to better represent a character in IKRPG. They show the extra parts (aka bits) a player will need to order or scrounge up. They show where and how to cut/glue the various parts and pieces. They even help out with a slew of painting tutorials.

Other IKRPG content they have includes settings for adventures with fully flesh background and history of areas and the people that live there. Another offering is a two or four page spread on a particular NPC, their background, how to incorporate them into your games - how  they would interact with the PCs, be it enemy, rival, or ally. Recently No Quarter has just came out with no.56 and it has the 4th part of a 6 part campaign. Each issue has a one or two session long adventure that is linked together in an over arching plot. This recent adventure offering is actually a continuation from a previous No Quarter, no. 44.

No Quarter also has the classic offerings of new special rules, extra classes, equipment and the odd monster. All of these are common in the revered Dragon magazine published by TSR to support Dungeons and Dragons. GM's and players always get something new each issue - which is important because between the big releases of IKRPG (Released Sept 2012) and KNG (Released Sept 2013) we only have two other softcover and pretty small books; Urban Adventures (Released Dec 2012) and the recent release of the Monsternomicon (Released Sept 2014).

That's only 4 books in two years.

It's hard for player and GMs to be excited and inspired to play/make adventures when their tools are limited. Lucky Privateer Press has No Quarter jammed with IKRPG info filling those gaps, albeit barely. Also Privateer Press for a period of time was releasing web content on a regular basis. This included a whole monster supplement and releases that came out in thematic arcs over 4 weeks. This included rules, PC options, gear, and always ended with a mini adventure. Also the forums are loaded with resources.

Yet players are crawling up the walls for new material and some players have avoided the game due to the slow release cycle that is a company hallmark when it comes to printed products - No Quarter is not a monthly magazine.

Even with all these challenges - players and GMs will have loads of fun with IKRPG. There is plenty here and the background is simply brilliant. With the constant trickle of support to keep that thirst just on this side of acceptable before being given some of the best printed roleplaying books I've had the joy of picking up, buying, and reading.

My score for the Iron Kingdoms RPG (Full Metal Fantasy) as a whole line of products over the last year is... Four.

Not perfect but worth every dollar and minute you spend on this game. It can be very rewarding and it supports creative game play while being simple enough for newer players and deep enough enough for more experienced gamers.

- Cheers