What do you do when one of your favorite fictional settings aligns with one of your favorite roleplaying games? You write a short blog post directing your readers to the Kickstarter so that they can take advantage of the Early Bird backer option to get a free GM’s screen on top of the setting book, a compendium detailing the setting’s monstrous menagerie, and a beginner campaign centered on one of the most iconic weapons in the history of Warmachine.
This is not only an opportunity to sink your teeth into the Iron Kingdoms via Dungeons & Dragons, this is also our first real look at the Iron Kingdoms in the wake of the Infernal invasion that saw kingdoms collide, ancient foes join forces against a greater threat, empires falter, and heroes meet their dooms.
I mean, you all know me, I just want to know if the Monastery of the Order of the Fist still stands, but I’m sure some of you are invested in what’s happened to Cygnar, Khador, Llael and Ord after their citizenry was either slaughtered or punted through a massive gateway to a distant galaxy in an attempt to save their souls.
The Kickstarter has already funded, and stretch goals are being fulfilled. Load your magelocks and stoke your boilers. The Iron Kingdoms await.
“At the center of skorne society are unpleasant concepts like suffering, servitude and torture. Some players might not want such concepts expressed openly or in great detail, if at all. It is important everyone at the table is comfortable and having fun, and this might require a Game Master to let some elements of skorne culture take a back seat or be glossed over – or even to omit them entirely. Every group is different, so it is up to a Game Master to respect the players’ tolerances and preferences before showcasing such elements in a game. One group might not have any problem with playing a skorne campaign replete with dark themes, while another group might strongly prefer to omit careers like the Tormentor and the practices they represent. Overall, skorne society is more focused on earning honor and glory than on simply inflicting pain, and a campaign could easily be steered to focus players on achieving greatness for their houses without exploring the darker aspects of skorne culture and philosophy.”
This passage is in the Skorne Empire supplement for the Iron Kingdoms Unleashed RPG. It was written by one of my favourite RPG writers, though I didn’t know that when I read it. It contains what is, for me, one of the most important concepts a Dungeon Master, Game Master, Storyteller needs to understand.
A little background for those unfamiliar:
The Skorne are a race of humanoids from the Warmachine/Hordes setting, whose culture could loosely be described as combining elements reminiscent of Feudal Japan, the Roman Empire, and an omnipresent death cult. They have a rigorous caste system, warring houses actively enslave those they defeat, and much of their culture is built around the desire to have their souls captured and stored in crystalline prisons when they die, rather than having them sucked into the void and destroyed. They are masters of mortitheurgy – death magic – and there are very powerful elements of their society that are built up around the sorcerous power that can be siphoned from the victims of torture and agonizing death.
Frankly, an awful lot of skorne culture is built around practices that are ethically and morally abhorrent. I’ll freely admit that I love the Iron Kingdoms setting and I’m fascinated by the life breathed into the setting by the writing team. The setting has so much depth and character, for so many different factions and cultures, it boggles my mind just how rich the world of the Iron Kingdoms has become over the years. That said, some cultures depicted are, to my mind, much more suited to being antagonists rather than protagonists. There’s little heroic about the Blindwater Congregation, the Cryxian nation is mired in undeath and sinister blood magicks, and we all know how I feel about those filthy Morrowans in Cygnar.
The Skorne Empire supplement is the most comprehensive look into the peoples who marched across the abyss to wage war on the fertile lands of Western Immoren, and while it can certainly be used as a “Here be bad guys” resource, it also presents the rules for a group of players to don the crimson and brass armour of the Empire and play in the streets of Halaak in their own quest for eternal glory (ie, to earn honour and glory sufficient to have their spirit placed in a soulstone upon death). That’s where the above quote comes in.
“Every group is different, so it is up to a Game Master to respect the players’ tolerances and preferences before showcasing such elements in a game.”
Roleplaying groups are often bound by an unspoken social contract. The most recent D&D sourcebook, Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything, lists the following:
You will respect the players by running a game that is fun, fair, and tailored for them. You will allow every player to contribute to the ongoing story and give every character moments to shine. When a player is talking, you are listening.
The players will respect you and the effort it takes to create a fun game for everyone. The players will allow you to direct the campaign, arbitrate the rules, and settle arguments. When you are talking, the players are listening.
The players will respect one another, listen to one another, support one another, and do their utmost to preserve the cohesion of the adventuring party.
Should you or a player disrespect each other or violate the social contract in some other way, the group may dismiss that person from the table.
If you’re doing something that actively makes a player uncomfortable, you’re in breach of the social contract. An exception may be possible if it’s tied to a critical plot point, but you’d best be prepared to deal with any fallout, which could be anything up to and including dissolution of the campaign.
I’m currently running a D&D game set in Barovia, home of Count Strahd Von Zarovich. This is the gothic horror setting for D&D otherwise known as Ravenloft. It’s dark. I mean, it’s one thing to go strolling through a dungeon and thwarting skeletons and goblins. It’s another thing to burst into a puppet theatre where the audience is ceramic dolls that all turn to stare at you, and one of the villagers is up on the stage strung up like a marionette with meat hooks through his joints.
In playing through the campaign there have been multiple times where I’ve seen my players pale or be taken aback by some of the descriptions I’m firing at them. They’ve been troopers, but you can bet that I’ve checked in with them multiple times to make sure they’re okay with the tone of the campaign, because – and here’s the crux – games are meant to be fun. I want them to end the sessions feeling like they’ve accomplished something, learned something, or even just done something cool. I want them to have experiences that can have them thinking “Hey, remember when…” some time down the line.
They’re the protagonists. If you’re having fun, but they’re not, you’re doing it wrong. You need to consider your approach, how things are portrayed, how much agency they have as players, so on and so forth. Conversely, if they’re having fun but you’re not, that needs to be addressed too.
D&D, IKRPG and other RPGs are all about collaborative storytelling. While the DM may have the index and the major plot points, it’s the players who are filling in the minutiae. Everyone should be able to enjoy the experience.
Were you online when we were graced with the digital presences of Will “I collect honey!” Hungerford and Oz “I am not a monster!” Schoonover, delivering the 2020 Keynote? We’re on the cusp of Warcaster, we’re in the aftermath of Oblivion, we’ve seen the coming of Gallamaxus as new friends and foes join the Monsterpocalypse, and of course, the Keynote – our sneak peek into Privateer’s plans for the coming year – had a few surprises for us as well.
You can watch the Keynote here:
Some neat things to note:
Iron Kingdoms: Requiem
The Iron Kingdoms RPG, reborn using the Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edtion ruleset. I love me some classic IKRPG, but bringing the setting fully into 5e compatibility means potentially opening up the setting we love to a much wider audience, and with Matt Goetz – hands down one of my favourite writers/designers in the RPG industry – working on the project, I am very keen to see Requiem in my grubby little hands.
Bear in mind also, this will be a huge insight into the world of the Iron Kingdoms after the Infernal invasion. The events of Oblivion and the Hengehold Scroll were a major upheaval for Western Immoren, and we’ve all had a lot of questions as to the state of the world, and the fates of those left behind after the Cyriss gate closed. If the amount of lore and background for the setting in Requiem is anywhere near the quality that we got with IKRPG Full Metal Fantasy and IKRPG Kings, Nations and Gods (and of course, IK Unleashed) then we’re in for a hell of a treat.
Our primary source of alternate sculpts and concept reinventions, Minicrate has been putting out some excellent alternates through its subscription service. Some sign up for the six month stretch and get the VIP bonus model, others cherry pick the models that appeal most. The Keynote has given us a peek at 6 of the next year’s models, but of those shown in the video I think my personal favourites are Winter Watch (alt Pyg Lookout on a Polar Bear cub) and Fiona from the Black Lagoon (alt Fiona the Black as a mermaid).
I mean, there were no Menites in the list, but that doesn’t mean a few others won’t find a potential home in the Gdaycave…
The Draken Armada are coming in full force, with three new monsters and six new units – but we’ve known that these guys were incoming for awhile (even if we had no idea about Gausamal). What caught my eye was the Zerkalo Bloc, a cold war era style heavy metal foe from an alternate Earth. When I watched Pacific Rim, Cherno-1 was my favourite Jaeger aesthetically, so the concept renders definitely caught my eye.
On top of that we have the announcement of the Legion of Mutates – Anthropomorphic animals, including elephant men with rocket launchers – and the Masters of the 8th Dimension – geometric beings that defy physics and our understanding of biology. Now, I’m a commited Destroyers player, so I’ll pout a little that the Mutates are Protectors, but those Zerkalo’s will look awfully nice marching alongside my Mollocks…
The Keynote has announced the fourth faction for Warcaster, the first non-human faction – The Empyreans. The ancient alien masters of the Hyperanuion, they’ll follow the standard templating of the other factions – Solos, Units, Light and Heavy Warjacks – but the similarities largely end there. Armored carapaces with bonus tentacles, some of the Empyrean models don’t even bother with such gauche mundanities as legs and arms.
Humanity will be receiving some new toys as well, with the coming year’s wave introducing vehicles – the Razorbat (Marcher Worlds), Interceptor (Iron Star Alliance), Scythe (Aeturnus Continuum) and the Zenith (bringing the Empyreans in line). Each will have weapon hardpoints that welcome different armaments, much as the warjacks do. They also look super cool.
Warmachine & Hordes
With such a strong focus on Warmachine leading up to and through the Infernal invasion, it’s time for Hordes to get some love. We saw a bunch of new models for the Legion of Everblight and the Trollbloodsm, as well as some merc/minion models such as the Death Archon. The Grymkin will also receive some new models, including the blasphemous Defiled Archon, and Isiah the Dread Harvester, their pumpkin-headed dragoon who can turn his own victims into Dread Rots.
While Hordes factions will be enjoying a little time in the limelight, Warmachine won’t be completely ignored, with the Retribution of Scyrah expanding into House Ellowuyr. Thyron and his Swordsmen have reinforcements incoming. The Crucible Guard will also receive new models, including Major Aline Benett, a Rocketman Warcaster.
Riot Quest is entering its second season, with the Wintertime Wasteland kickstarter live as we speak. A new map, a new block of looters, all of which will be compatible with both Warmachine and Hordes, including the baby Gorax. Maybe he’ll be a companion model for the new Boomhowler? Pure speculation on my part of course. The core set gives us a new melee-centric Boomhowler, a new Black Bella, a post apocalyptic Yuri the Hunter, the Nyss sorceress Yssylla, the aforementioned baby Gorax, Shivers.
The new edition Riot Quest will add a slew of new heroes, including the first dual hero, Dez (from the Mayhem block) with Gubbin (also from the Mayhem block) loaded into a mortar. The Man-o-War Bulkhead will add some serious armor plating, while Bumbles the bear is adorably lethal. Major Benett – the Rocketman Warcaster mentioned earlier – will also be released as a Riot Quest model. For Kickstarter exclusives, alternate sculpts of some of the original Mayhem heroes will be available.
While there’s no new Menites in the immediate winds, I can acknowledge that other players need new toys too, and I can appreciate the novelty of having more things to set on fire with Feora the Forsaken. Also, gimme two of those Interceptors ASAP…
I can’t stress the importance of a good diet with enough leafy greens and fibre. The cities of the Iron Kingdoms aren’t known for their amazing feats of sewer engineering and water purification, so do you really want to be known as a Black River Irregular? … … What? Black River is not a reference to polluted waterways? Irregulars is in the military unit sense? Oh… well, I guess that makes more sense. New expansion time, kids! The Undercity is Privateer Press’ cooperative board game where a group of mercs fight ne’er-do-wells in the belly of Corvis. I’ll confess, when the main set came out I was hoping to see the characters from Richard Lee Byers’ Murder In Corvisand I was a little confused to only see Milo and Gardek, but with the new Black River Irregulars expansion for Undercity (also compatible with the upcoming Widower’s Wood), we can put the whole gang together.
Alright, at this point you’ve endured three photodumps so far – Pennsic, GenCon (assorted stuff) and GenCon (Cosplayers and peeps). Now let’s look at some games and some of the displays, including shots taken from the painting competitions – well, the models that were in the cabinets when I walked by. I will make a note here, I was exceedingly disappointed by Wyrd Miniatures and their miniature display. Their booth was large and spacious and well appointed and well stocked and… the miniature displays they had on the walls of their booth were unlit, and with a black background pretty much ensured that anyone trying to take pics of the models on display ended up with a photo of their own reflection and not much beyond that. Bah. Finding an entire hall of VS System players cheered me up though, including giant standee of Jennifer Walters.
She-Hulk Smash! Breaking the fourth wall before Deadpool even existed, fighting evil with her brain as well as her brawn, the sassy lawyer has long been one of my favourite comic book characters.
And now, the freaking monumental task of sorting through all of the GenCon pics and splitting them up into thematic photodumps! It’s entirely possible I’ll give up part way and just have a massive collumn of photos with no commentary, or possibly even with whatever happens when my sleeping face rolls over on the keyboard… I MAKE NO PROMISES!
In the meantime, pics from GenCon 2016: The Random stuff! You’ll get the Cosplayers and Games in the next two photodumps.
It all started at Ninja Steve’s place, where the Admiral (otherwise known as Mrs Ninja Steve) presented me with two awesome gifts – a notebook bearing my SCA device, and a water bottle with the LH Astrolabe! Wot wot!
Let’s go on a wild adventure! No, no, put away your hiking boots and bug repellent, we’re going on a wild adventure of the mind, so to speak. Yes, there’ll be bugs and hiking, but there’ll also be gators and pigs and tatzylwurms! Doesn’t that sound amazing??
Yes, we’re talking about the latest supplement for the Iron Kingdoms roleplaying games, Wild Adventure, for Iron Kingdoms: Unleashed. This month you can get your hands on new gear, new abilities, new careers, and a complete new adventure for your feral characters to try to meander their way through before getting eaten by a Thrullg. Let’s take a gander, shall we?
Not so long ago, in living memory, Michael G Ryan and Matt Goetz had an idea to run a serial adventure for the Iron Kingdoms Full Metal Fantasy Roleplaying Game (hereafter referred to as IKPRG) through the pages of the esteemed No Quarter periodical. It was a bold endeavour, and I say that as someone who strives to ensure there’s new content here on Lost Hemisphere five days a week. I comprehend their pain… but they did it. No Quarter #59 saw the last chapter of Immortalityprinted for your reading and gaming edification.
Of course, I made a deliberate point not to read it, since I held out hopes of an IKRPG campaign being run locally wherein I could participate as a player, but then those cheeky sods at Privateer Press just *had* to publish the whole series as a single volume, which of course triggered my collector instincts, and then – just to be rude – they added three extra scenarios to the campaign. I mean, really, guys? Sigh… fine… 😉
Immortality tells the story of a Khadoran gone bad. A renegade Greylord is on the brink of achieving eternal life and becoming more powerful than any mortal should be. It’s up to your team of intrepid adventurers to intercede and stop the madness.
The tome is very well laid out and considerate of a variety of party types. For example, the first two scenarios – Spirit In Steeland Dead In The Water– are geared expressly to introduce a non-Khadoran party to an adventure that’s heavily rooted in Khador, while if your party are already all Kossites, Iron Fangs, and other sons and daughters of the North, you can kick things off with Undeath Metalinstead. This kind of planning and layout is a hallmark of Privateer’s roleplaying supplements, and opens up the gaming experience to whatever your party is. You’re not shoe-horned into playing characters from a particular region, of particular classes, whatever – the option is there for your GM and players to exercise their full creativity in party and character creation.
Things start off with wierdness out of the gate as our heroes investigate an attack on a fishing village, only to discover that a rogue warjack is much more than it seems, and the taint of necromancy is in the air. What happened to Bowden Haightly, and why is the Order of Illumination so interested?
Over the next several chapters the campaign will lead the players into Khador, into conflict with the Convergence of Cyriss, through a murder investigation, battling through railyards, into a ghost town, through medical laboratories filled with all manner of grotesquerie, and more. Toss in a mad alchemist, Paladins of the Order of the Wall, a gaunt horror figure known as the Crimson Man, oh, and let’s include the Circle Orboros as well…
Immortatlity kicks off a brand new team of players with 0 XP and leads them on a rollicking adventure through the north, crossing national borders and ticking off multiple factions as they attempt to rein in the mad greylord and keep their own heads in the process. If you’ve been looking for a way to kickstart a campaign to engage your players and help them develop their love of the Iron Kingdoms setting (and maybe their hatred of Khador, because Menoth wills it), this may be the supplement for you.
Oh, and if you’ve got all the No Quarters, remember: there’s three brand new scenarios in the collected volume to expand on the adventure 😉
The Iron Kingdoms RPG series has consistently impressed with its high quality publications and aids. Full Metal Fantasy started it off, followed by Urban Adventures and Kings, Nations & Gods. The Unleashed Adventure Kit broke new ground with models and tiles accompanying its introductory scenario, establishing a new baseline for roleplaying in Western Immoren by adding directly to the gameplay experience as well as introducing a new level of savagery to the tabletop.
Now we get to ramp it up that much further with the IK Unleashed Game Master Toolkit and the IK Unleashed Catacomb Tiles.
Well once again we are making a role playing character from the Iron Kingdoms, however this time we are going to make a character from Unleashed! It is an interesting system, adding a bit more wildness to the already established Iron Kingdoms role play setting. It is perhaps not entirely appropriate for younger players given the rather graphic and gruesome abilities that some of the character classes have.
So let’s get this process started!
Step 1. – Choose a Race! First step is to choose a race. This will define your characters stats, Archetype choices, languages, height, weight, and any of your races special abilities. One critique here is that Trollkin have significantly more options in terms of race restricted character classes. This may be something you want to consider when starting your character creation process. However don’t let that stop you from playing another race, there are lots of interesting choices for everyone.
In our example we are going to choose Gatorman (Well Gatorwoman actually).