Ironsworn RPG
July 26, 2018 1:39 PM   Subscribe

This indie tabletop role-playing game was released earlier this week in print. It features a bleak, lightly-sketched setting, and is touted as being ideal for people who want to play an RPG solo or co-operatively as a group, without the traditional game master. The PDF is free.

A Few Links

An active Google Plus community, with play examples, house rules, and other similar things.

Some information on the game mechanics that inspired these rules, which have been used for a ton of unusual RPGs over the past few years.

Electronic oracles to make some aspects of the game a little easier to computerize.
posted by Alensin (27 comments total) 52 users marked this as a favorite
 
I've been following the development of this game over the past few months, though have yet to contribute an actual play of my own. I find the setting evocative and intriguing, but the actual work of solo RPG-ing is a bit mentally taxing at times. The author is releasing the PDF for free, which can be found at DriveThru RPG, if you prefer to get your RPG fix that way. :)
posted by Alensin at 1:43 PM on July 26


It's an interesting dice mechanic -- I hope I get to try it some time.
posted by Zed at 1:53 PM on July 26


This looks cool. I really like the trend in modern "indie" RPGs to provide systematized storytelling prompts and resolutions, encouraging shared storytelling and improvisation in a way that heavily reduces the need for preparation. Even with well-produced modules, something like Pathfinder still puts the heavy lifting on one player in a way that can be a barrier to entry for groups who would otherwise really enjoy it.
posted by Phobos the Space Potato at 2:14 PM on July 26 [4 favorites]


That icthyosaur vs Viking Longship picture is rad.
posted by Abehammerb Lincoln at 2:31 PM on July 26 [1 favorite]


Phobos, not sure it's modern, but I think I vaguely remember beta testing Theatrix at a con in the early 90s. The players pretty much crafted the story line as it went and the 'director' just handed out jelly bellies as a reward that you could either spend back later to influence the plot or y'know, eat. It was a lot of fun without somehow feeling too much like a over-dramatized LARP. At the same time the game mechanics didn't feel like they were getting in the way or crippling the pacing.

I loved lighter weight RPGs like Over The Edge back in the day, but it seemed like it was much harder to get a group together than for something like AD&D, Cyberpunk 2020, Shadowrun, etc...
posted by BrotherCaine at 2:48 PM on July 26 [3 favorites]


If you don't want to set up a DriveThru account, the PDF is also available as a direct download, and there are a bunch of other downloads on the website.
posted by robcorr at 3:18 PM on July 26 [3 favorites]


I loved lighter weight RPGs like Over The Edge back in the day

Hey, current kickstarter for a 2nd edition...
posted by Zed at 3:52 PM on July 26 [2 favorites]


I've been waiting for this! No one to play it with, but... solo play! Excellent post!
posted by Freeze Peach at 4:20 PM on July 26 [2 favorites]


It features a bleak, lightly-sketched setting, and is touted as being ideal for people who want to play an RPG solo or co-operatively as a group, without the traditional game master. The PDF is free.

Thanks! It looks like it has some interesting ideas. I like the idea of swearing by iron, and I really like the picture of the massive ichthyosaurs swimming under a longboat. Rule-wise, it looks like it's a PbtA game.

I've been known to frequent the halls of OSR, and in those quarters, there are some individuals who are famously hostile to games where the players have agency to control the setting. I happen to strongly prefer traditional RPGs where the GM controls the setting, but I have no problem if there are other people who prefer what are often called "storygames." My lack of hatred is entirely insufficient for those who despise these kinds of games. So very tiresome.

I'm not linking to any of these debates because they are of no value. You just learned everything you need to know, which is basically to steer clear of that nonsense.

Hey, current kickstarter for a 2nd edition...

I believe that's actually the 3rd edition. I'm also a massive fan of OTE. Unfortunately, it looks like they are changing the famously elegant mechanics, and they are leaning in a storygamey direction. Not that any of that stopped me from supporting it. As long as Robin Laws and Jonathan Tweet are involved, I'm good.
posted by Edgewise at 4:27 PM on July 26 [1 favorite]


Rule-wise, it looks like it's a PbtA game.

It does, but when I read:
When you challenge someone to a formal duel, or accept a
challenge, roll +heart.
… my brain interprets that as 2d6+heart, against lower 7 and higher 10 targets.

But in this game it means 1d6+heart, against lower 1d10 and higher 1d10 targets.

It's an interesting twist on the system. I'd love to see someone run the numbers to see how the probabilities of success are affected.
posted by robcorr at 4:46 PM on July 26 [1 favorite]


The “strong preset narrative outcomes based on scoring” in indie RPGs goes back at least to My Life with Master, and a few other things of that era. Always happy to see things like that pop up still.
posted by curious nu at 5:33 PM on July 26


I believe that's actually the 3rd edition.

So it is, my bad.

If my back-of-the-napkin coding is right, here's odds for typical PbtA:
-4 Miss: 91.7 Weak hit: 8.3 Strong Hit 0.0
-3 Miss: 83.3 Weak hit: 16.7 Strong Hit 0.0
-2 Miss: 72.2 Weak hit: 25.0 Strong Hit 2.8
-1 Miss: 58.3 Weak hit: 33.3 Strong Hit 8.3
0 Miss: 41.7 Weak hit: 41.7 Strong Hit 16.7
1 Miss: 27.8 Weak hit: 44.4 Strong Hit 27.8
2 Miss: 16.7 Weak hit: 41.7 Strong Hit 41.7
3 Miss: 8.3 Weak hit: 33.3 Strong Hit 58.3
4 Miss: 2.8 Weak hit: 25.0 Strong Hit 72.2
5 Miss: 0.0 Weak hit: 16.7 Strong Hit 83.3
and here's Ironsworn:
-4 Miss: 96.8 Weak hit: 3.0 Strong Hit 0.2
-3 Miss: 90.8 Weak hit: 8.3 Strong Hit 0.8
-2 Miss: 82.3 Weak hit: 15.3 Strong Hit 2.3
-1 Miss: 71.7 Weak hit: 23.3 Strong Hit 5.0
0 Miss: 59.2 Weak hit: 31.7 Strong Hit 9.2
1 Miss: 45.2 Weak hit: 39.7 Strong Hit 15.2
2 Miss: 33.2 Weak hit: 43.7 Strong Hit 23.2
3 Miss: 23.2 Weak hit: 43.7 Strong Hit 33.2
4 Miss: 15.2 Weak hit: 39.7 Strong Hit 45.2
5 Miss: 9.2 Weak hit: 31.7 Strong Hit 59.2
posted by Zed at 6:05 PM on July 26 [4 favorites]


Zed: I imagine momentum does some interesting things to the odds, since you can use it to cancel out challenge dice. It seems to give more narrative control than in some other games, though I don't know how that works out in actual play.
posted by Alensin at 6:09 PM on July 26


Hi! designer here. The back-of-the-napkin math above looks good! Here's it is in table and chart form.

It's a bit of a shallower curve than standard PbtA, more centered on weak hits through most of the curve, and reduces the impact of a single +1. More importantly, it ties into the momentum mechanic.

The combo of 2D10 and the D6 also let me play with some dice outcomes. For example, matches on the D10 have meaning, while rolling a 1 with some assets (character abilities) trigger a certain effect. And, I find that the mechanic just creates a fun bit of tension that I don't get from 2d6.

Thanks to the post author for the mention. Happy to answer questions if there are any.
posted by Shawn Tomkin at 7:21 PM on July 26 [33 favorites]


Heya, welcome to MeFi!
posted by cortex at 7:28 PM on July 26 [3 favorites]


Interesting! The setting has a vaguely North-of-the-Wall feel to it that's intriguing, if a little grim.

I love the timing on this post because I was just considering trying to do some Skype based role-playing after bingeing on the McElroys' (so much goofier) The Adventure Zone podcast. I and my prospective partner are pretty inexperienced at pen and paper RPGs, though. Do you guys think it's the sort of thing that would be friendly to beginners?
posted by col_pogo at 7:57 PM on July 26 [1 favorite]


Thanks for that explanation, Shawn! It's a clever system.
posted by robcorr at 8:50 PM on July 26 [3 favorites]


> robcorr:
"If you don't want to set up a DriveThru account, the PDF is also available as a direct download, and there are a bunch of other downloads on the website."

Nice. Hoping someone would come up with this. Cheers!
posted by Samizdata at 10:40 PM on July 26


> Shawn Tomkin:
"Hi! designer here. The back-of-the-napkin math above looks good! Here's it is in table and chart form.

It's a bit of a shallower curve than standard PbtA, more centered on weak hits through most of the curve, and reduces the impact of a single +1. More importantly, it ties into the momentum mechanic.

The combo of 2D10 and the D6 also let me play with some dice outcomes. For example, matches on the D10 have meaning, while rolling a 1 with some assets (character abilities) trigger a certain effect. And, I find that the mechanic just creates a fun bit of tension that I don't get from 2d6.

Thanks to the post author for the mention. Happy to answer questions if there are any."


Also welcome to you, Shawn! Always lovely seeing a creator show up here! (It happens surprisingly often, from journalists to musicians).
posted by Samizdata at 10:42 PM on July 26


I was researching RPGs recently and saw this recommended somewhere, not had time to dig into it yet but will definitely be doing so now
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 12:40 AM on July 27


Interesting! I'm going to look at it from the point of view of online asynchronous play (that is, play-by-post, like you find at www.storium.com or www.myth-weavers.com). The usual mechanics-heavy tabletop rpg's do PbP very poorly, and the few successes I've had were all with rules-light storygames where players had a lot of control over outcomes and setting - so I'm excited for the possibilities. Am bookmarking that download site now! :)
posted by Mogur at 5:15 AM on July 27


I've been following this for a little while, too, and I think it looks rad. It reminds me of this Reddit user who has put together their own homebrew system for playing D&D solo (here's the thread) which is really impressive.
posted by Rudy Gerner at 6:12 AM on July 27 [4 favorites]


Also welcome to you, Shawn! Always lovely seeing a creator show up here! (It happens surprisingly often, from journalists to musicians).

Thanks! I lurk every so often for the content, so I figured it was a good time to toss my 5 bucks into the hopper.

Interesting! I'm going to look at it from the point of view of online asynchronous play

You might want to look at Rolegate (https://www.rolegate.com) for async play. It's a new site, and there are a few Ironsworn community members who really love it. I haven't used it yet myself, but it seems like a slick platform.
posted by Shawn Tomkin at 6:13 AM on July 27 [3 favorites]


Oooh, I've been looking for a solo RPG like this for a while. And it looks Settlement Iceland-inspired right while I'm in the middle of an Iceland obsession phase! (I visited there in June.) Excellent. Thanks Shawn for providing it free!
posted by capricorn at 7:50 AM on July 27


And, I find that the mechanic just creates a fun bit of tension that I don't get from 2d6.

I love the speed and simplicity of the typical PbtA 2d6+stat+modifiers (with modifiers being relatively rare and having more than one modifier very rare). But I've also wished for something with a little more business to it.
posted by Zed at 9:21 AM on July 27


I've been playing with this all weekend, because wheee, solo mode.

It's not entirely clear from the manual (or at least the rules summary) that you're to consider Secure an Advantage or Face Danger instead of Clash as alternatives in combat when you don't have initiative. A better set of "When you..." statements would help clarify how to choose between moves. Like, "When you try to avoid harm by blocking, dodging, or yielding ground..."

No fireballs, no inventory, little room for munchkining.

I really like that combat and quest completion is a process of building up opportunity for a narrative flourish rather than just burning down a pool of points. RPG health point systems always feel rather like Monopoloy to me, (and not at all in a good way). I like that the completion system rewards taking risks that could lead to complications or new quest prompts, although I suspect that could could explode if someone were to roll too many weak hits.
posted by GenderNullPointerException at 2:28 PM on July 30 [1 favorite]


It's not entirely clear from the manual (or at least the rules summary) that you're to consider Secure an Advantage or Face Danger instead of Clash as alternatives in combat when you don't have initiative. A better set of "When you..." statements would help clarify how to choose between moves. Like, "When you try to avoid harm by blocking, dodging, or yielding ground..."

Thanks for giving Ironsworn a try! I do go into some detail on this in the manual ("Other moves in combat, pages 85-89), but the text at the bottom of the combat page in the moves handout could be better stated. I like your phrasing, in fact.
posted by Shawn Tomkin at 3:43 PM on August 1


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