IKRPG5e train of thought: Essence

While the Kickstarter has closed and we’re now in the dreaded limbo betwixt Completion and Delivery, that doesn’t mean we can’t work to fill the void with IKRPG ponderings. If nothing else, we can keep the souls of dead Skorne company as they while away eternity in the void themselves.  PP Faye’s latest insider gave us some insight into character creation with NIall Kain, Thamarite Guile Cleric. While we won’t know the full details until we have books in hand, the cognitive wheels began turning about races and classes and how they’re represented in the newest edition if the Iron Kingdoms Role Playing Game.

5th Edition D&D has been undergoing something of a renaissance over the last few years, expanding options to allow for more creativity with each rules supplement. The most recent, Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything, pertinently opened the door for eschewing racial stat bonuses so that players can more readily represent the character they have in their head. Dwarves are a hardy folk, for example, so traditionally get a Constitution bonus, but what if your character was more bookish, didn’t enjoy quaffing, and preferred the open sky to closed in tunnels and subterranean strongholds? Maybe you want to get an Intelligence bonus instead, indicative of their times spent with their nose in a tome rather than sniffing out a silver vein.

The last edition of the IKRPG addressed this somewhat with the concept of Essences, and per Faye’s Insider it looks like we’re getting an update to 5e D&D to optionally use essences instead of racial bonuses. Faye’s character took the Intellectual essence, granting a boost to Intelligence or Wisdom, along with aptitude in a specific skill or ability, and some optional feats that could be taken as the character levels up.

With the Intellectual essence being confirmed, we can likely expect Mighty, Skilled and Gifted or variants thereof. IK:Unleashed replaced Intellectual with Cunning, but they served a similar purpose. Intellectual (Int/Wis) and Mighty (Str/Con) make immediate sense, but working out a good fit for Dexterity and Charisma could be a little more challenging, there may not be a direct correlation.

What will be very interesting is how Gifted is approached (if it’s included). Magic users in the Iron Kingdoms are few and far between, with Warcasters being elevated to a special place in society by sheer dint of their ability to access magic. Mechaniks and Alchemists have ways to pull of magical effects through mad science, Gun Mages and functionally enchant bullets, but by and large the characters of the Iron Kingdoms are, for lack of a better term, mundane.

This is not to say that they’re not exceptional, but rather than they rely on trained skills and the like rather than any variant of wizardry and spellcraft.  Compare this to the Dungeons & Dragons core ruleset, where every class has access to spellcasting of some sort, either as a core feature (eg Wizard, Warlock, Sorcerer) or through a subclass (eg Fighter/Eldritch Knight, Rogue/Arcane Trickster, Barbarian/Totem Warrior).

Assuming there is a Gifted archetype, will it be a requirement for anyone taking one of the spell-centric classes, and optional for other classes?

The caveat, of course, is that the Iron Kingdoms is a setting for D&D. Just as there are no orcs native to Barovia, halflings are barbaric cannibals in Athas and centaurs are represented differently in Ravnica and Theros, it may well be that players in the Iron Kingdoms may want to consider carefully their choices in character creation so as to fit better with the setting itself. Collaboration between the players and DM to make the pieces fit will be important, but then, it’s always a good idea during character creation, to help the players realize a character concept that will work well with the story being crafted.

We can expect a variety of human options for the Iron Kingdoms, with Cygnarans, Khadorans, Idrians and more, as well as Iosans, Nyss, Orgun, Rhulfolk, likely Trollkin and Gobbers, so there’s no shortage of potential races to play with, and the optional Essences will allow for customization above and beyond the more narrow confines of a genetic stereotype. Exactly how, we’re waiting to see.

If you missed pre-ordering IKRPG: Requiem during the kickstarter, you can still pre-order through Backerkit.  What sort of story will you tell in the post-Claiming Iron Kingdoms?