Back in 2004, Privateer Press released an amazing RPG called “Iron Kingdoms.” Unlike most RPGs, Iron Kingdoms was built around fantasy world where mankind did not always have access to magic and the arcane. By the time humans developed the ability to wield magical powers, civilization had already progressed to the point of robust cities, strong commerce, steam locomotives and even firearms were all commonplace by that point.
A buddy of mine, BurrowOwl, ran a game for the better part of two years with our weekly game group, set in the Iron Kingdoms. The setting was great to play but one major thing lacked: supplemental material. For whatever reason, Privateer Press simply had not put forth the resources to further develop the Iron Kingdoms RPG franchise. It seemed to be pretty successful and, some say, the company was too busy creating their line of Warmachine/Hordes (aka: Warmahordes) tabletop miniatures wargame line, to compete with the highly successful Warhammer 40,000 product line.
Regardless of the reason, there was a lack of world-building material published by Privateer Press, with the exception of a paid subscription to their “No Quarter” magazine. Over time, the bulk of issues were about their Warmahordes line with little-to-nothing about the RPG. This all changed when, over the summer, Privateer Press demo’d the reboot of the Iron Kingdoms RPG, “Iron Kingdoms Full Metal Fantasy Roleplaying Game: Core Rules,” at Gen Con 2012. The full-color, 359-page updated core rulebook sold out on the first day. The demand was so high for this RPG, that Privateer Press bumped up the release date from, I believe, mid-October to early September, and by October 2nd, the book was sold out on the manufacturing level.
Luckily, I pre-ordered my copy from Miniature Market and, while it took forever and a day to actually arrive, I was not disappointed.
As I mentioned, the book, in its entirety comes in at a hefty 359 pages. In the introduction, the creators acknowledged the support of “old fans” and make sure to declare that they will be expanding the IKRPG product line:
More books and supplements will come in the future that will delve deeper into the major kingdoms of western Immoren, present new rules for warlocks and warbeasts, explore the non-human civilizations inhabiting the forest and mountains, and describe the ancient civilizations that predate mankind.
After the introductory pages with notes on the reboot of the RPG, plans to expand the product line and so forth, the following 94 pages focus entirely on the history and lore of Immoren, the religions of the countries and the peoples who inhabit the world. Next, the book details how characters are created. You first select your character’s race (Human, Nyss, Trollkin, etc.) and archetype (Gifted, Mighty, etc). After race and archetype have been selected, you choose two occupations for your character, which determine their abilities, military and occupational skills, and starting gear. On a related note about creating things, there is a 28-page chapter dedicated to Steamjacks!
The new movement and combat mechanics both please and annoy me. Traditionally, RPGs have operated on a common set of nearly-universal mechanics: movement is done using a map with either hexes or 1-inch squares. Each square typically represented and in-game distance of 5 feet. With the reboot of the IKRPG, the mechanics are made to mirror their wargame rules: Gone are the 1-inch squares and hex maps and in are the little rulers to measure a character’s movement in 6-inch increments. The plus side to this, as I see it, is someone like myself who does not have a lot of disposable income, can functionally handle a visual, hands-on combat situation with any surface in my house without needing to buy or print special paper surfaces with hex or squares.
This would be a good place for me to state that, while I’ve read a lot of the book, I do have three kids and a little uninterrupted time to sit and read a 359-page book in its entirety. Our group has also not yet rolled characters and started playing, so some of my opinions may change once actual attempts to play through it have been made.
There are several downloads on the Privateer Press web site, for things like printable character sheets and ‘jack sheets.
So there you have it – my excited-yet-slightly-ignorant review of the Iron Kingdoms Full Metal Fantasy Roleplaying Game: Core Rules. BurrowOwl is starting to pull together a story arc so hopefully in the near future, I’ll be able to post updates on how this rebooted Iron Kingdoms RPG handles during actual game play.