Of Warjacks and Warlords: A Review of IK: Kings, Nations and Gods By Dulio12385

Posted: February 3, 2014 by pointyman2000 in Articles, Roleplaying Games
Tags: , ,

Dulio from my gaming group took some time last year to review the Iron Kingdoms RPG corebook. Today we’re putting up his second review, this time for Iron Kingdoms: Kings, Nations and Gods, the setting supplement for the Full Metal Fantasy RPG.

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Last year I reviewed Privateer Press’ Core rulebook for its Iron Kingdoms RPG and one of the principal concerns I raised at the time was the scarcity of faction-specific steamjacks. At the time of its release players could only utilize four kinds of steamjacks, and only two of them were proper fighting machines of the poorest sort. This deficiency was severely glaring because like it or not the Warjacks are the setting’s claim to fame and more to the point it failed to actualize the game’s premise of being able to play the most iconic profession of its successful tabletop wargame counterpart; the Warcaster.

Thankfully with the release of Kings, Nations and Gods last year, this problem appears to have been thoroughly remedied. This voluminous book explores each of Immoren’s six human kingdoms in great detail, dedicating a chapter each to laying out their histories stretching all the way back to the pre-Orgoth era, geography, culture, economics, politics and even indigenous ethnic groups. This standardization of information is much overdue as up until now, for the past five or so years, much of the background lore of the Iron Kingdoms has been disjointed and scattered across dozens of ancient OGL 3.5 edition books, No Quarter magazines and wargame faction books, some of which contradicted one another.

The book’s approach to the subject matter is highly commendable, with each kingdom being portrayed as a living organic nation in its own right, shaped by history, necessity and strife to arrive in their current incarnations, which is a welcome improvement as opposed to simply being portrayed as exaggerated caricatures of their real world cultures (Llaelese as effeminate Franco-Italians, Khadorans as goosestepping Russo-Fascists, etc). Particular praise goes to the chapters detailing the histories of Llael and Ord which had always played second fiddle to the four main factions of the tabletop wargame but have paradoxically always wound up as the main battleground in almost every war in Immoren’s sordid history. The Protectorate section is also worth noting as it does much to move the Menites away from the simple lunatics with a flamethrower stereotype while showing that the Morrowans are not completely the force of good as they claim to be.

Just as the book engages in copious amounts of world building so too does it expand upon the game’s mechanics, detailing a whole slew of new player options at the end of each kingdom’s chapter. New weapons, professions, abilities, spells, charters and of course, the long awaited stars of the show, warjacks that are unique to each faction. A little over a dozen new chassis are provided in the book along with a plethora of equipment and subsystems enough to realize almost every warjack in the Iron Kingdoms and just about quite anything a player could conceive short of the tabletop game’s unique signature machines and the Colossals themselves.

The book also introduces new concept called “careers” which are faction-specific packages pertaining to their iconic units such as the Man O’War, the Storm Knight, the various arcane orders and even the horrific Doom Reavers. Each career requires that players select from a predetermined pairing of professions in exchange for which players receive various alterations to their base professions such as altered ability and skill choices, alternate equipment loadouts and/or unique spell lists. The last touch in particular introduces a good level of verisimilitude to the warcaster and other spell casting professions, defining them even further along their faction’s unique predispositions. For example Khadoran warcasters tend to use spells themed around ice and personal might while those of Menoth are themed around fire and zealotry.

All told the new faction-specific mechanics make the choice of each character’s ethnic background all the more important and encourages the formation of like-minded parties along faction lines thereby, at least in theory, making a GM’s job easier in organizing adventures.

In conclusion Kings, Nations and Gods is a welcome addition to the Iron Kingdoms lineup. The writing is detailed without being cumbersome and the new career mechanics serve to add a layer of distinction between characters without having to add an excessive number of professions to the mix. I hope in the coming expansions the writers would disentangle themselves from the approach used in Urban Adventures, which added a truckload of seemingly superfluous professions just for the sake of doing so, and follow this track instead especially when taking up the non-human factions.

I only have two issues with the book; Again there is the conspicuous use of recycled art which I maintain should never ever be done regardless of production costs since customers don’t ever get to recycle their money while my second point is more an issue of timing; Why was this book not released alongside the Core Rule book? Why did we have to nearly an entire year to be able to actually play in the whole of the Iron Kingdoms?

That said, if you like the Iron Kingdoms RPG buy the book, it opens up whole new vistas for play and hopefully its the first step in the right direction for the young RPG.

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A Short Addendum:

As a parting comment to Privateer Press, I’d like to say that much as everyone hates Wizards of the Coast for cocking up a number of its games of late it must be acknowledged that their procedure for releasing a Player’s Handbook, DM/Setting Guide and Monster Manual simultaneously with every edition of Dungeons and Dragons has proven merit. Said approach gives game masters a broad base of tools to weave adventures for players without need for other specialized supplements. In contrast at this point Iron Kingdoms feels like a toolbox missing the hammer and half the screwdriver set.

At present the game is unduly focused on the military side of things while totally neglecting its original stated premise of having smaller independent adventures exploring Immoren which is outright impossible considering there is no Monster Manual from which to draw even basic wild life like a guard dog to pit characters against, let alone iconic beasts like the Argus, Gorax or the Titan, or even a system for creating booby traps or wealth pegs for higher level games. Point of fact I cannot run the Witchfire trilogy at all given that all the monsters in that adventure module have no stats in this current system.

As a combat game Iron Kingdoms stands tall but as an adventure game it still falls flat. This ultimately begs the question of why bother leaving the tabletop wargame for this RPG? So please for the love of god Privateer Press move up your release schedule and complete the game already. We need a Monster Manual pronto!

And NO! Ogrun women with lipstick do not make good subjects for artwork.

Iron Kingdoms: Kings, Nations and Gods is now available in PDF format from RPG.now for $41.99 or roughly Php 1,890.00

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Comments
  1. John Till says:

    It also irritates me to no end that they eliminated utility spells (aka non-combat spells) from the new game. If I ever run IK, I may just reverse engineer the whole thing for Fate using the Fate Freeport Companion.

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