So given that I have now been running Iron Kingdoms RPG for the last few months I thought it would be a good time to reflect on how that has been going and what I have learnt from it all?
Iron Kingdoms present perhaps one of the best fantasy settings there is. Now I love Exalted, and Iron Kingdoms ticks many of the same boxes. Both settings while having magic and fantastical technology and creatures, still has a major focus on human societies and how they war against each other. For me this helps with the immersion and believability of the setting. While I still like the Warhammer Fantasy setting, the near constant grim dark of it made it seem hard to feel immersion - Chaos and Beastmen and Orcs and well, well every other fucking race, trying to destroy the Empire. It leaves you wondering how the Empire can field and armies. It also means that the conflicts are really only defined by the conflict between different races, and lacks any credible form of political intrigue, other than the ever constant corruption by Chaos.
Iron Kingdoms also remixes traditional fantasy elements - such as Elves - and removes some - like Orcs - and great a setting that feels wholly unique. It also doesn't try to be a faux middle ages setting, nor a haphazard mixing of different human cultures (again in Warhammer), but creates a setting with a plausible series of discoveries, inventions and evolutions, which then form a final setting that does not try to mimic one set time period in our own world, yet draws inspiration from many.
So Iron Kingdoms is one of two fantasy settings I enjoy. But it has also led to something else - war gaming.
As listeners of the show may know, I have been gaming for 18 years now. It all started with Games Workshop's Warhammer 40,000 2nd Ed, and I basically played every game they brought out between 1994 and 2005. I also worked for GW in a store during my time at university, and so I played a lot of games, taught people how to play them, taught people how to paint, and of course, had to play the fucking lame Lord of the Rings war game. No matter how much one of managers insisted, there was no way in hell I was going to be forced to collect a game I had no fucking interest in.
Now of course towards the end of my stint there I discovered a few other war games - Warmachine, and Rackham's Confrontation. These games really showed what you could do when you really broke down the GW model and did something different e.g. rules for the model came with the model.
But when it came to the end of my time with GW, and the end of my degree, I was burnt out, and so I stopped war gaming of any sort, and instead focused on rpgs.
So 10 years later IKRPG has pulled me back into the wargame, and shown me how a company can still make its game fun and compelling - and cheap to get into.
Of course my first RPG was D&D Classic 18th Edition (yeah I worked out which box it was, and my mother still has it in storage), and so that was a miniature based rpg, but of course after the rpg I ran Star Wars 2nd Ed Revised and Expanded by WEG, and then Vampire the Masquerade Revised. Both of those moved me far beyond the need for miniatures for gaming. I actually thought I was done with using miniatures ever again.
And then the new Iron Kingdoms came along. And I was hooked all over again. Now while I did try and run IKRPG without minis, it seemed a bit like too much extra work, since using minis actually made it easier to visualise where characters were - which is important for thing like back strikes etc etc. Plus the minis also let you really immerse the players into the setting. Why. Warjacks, that's why. While on paper warjacks are already cool, there is something inherently awesome about the steam powered golems in miniature form and how they look on the battlefield. And of course, Privateer Press makes really great miniatures, which a distinct look and feel. Plus I actually paint quite well, so not only do we have great miniatures, but they also look awesome too. Coupled with proxy counters, and a battle mat, and for those occasions where I have planned ahead, scenery for trees, hills, buildings, the game looks great for the set piece fights.
Further more, the RPG runs off the same system as the wargame, and that has proven to be really easy for the players to grasp, and of course the career system and way social skills work, has meant that all characters have something to offer in nearly all situations. The tank is not waiting for the talking to be over, and the noble is not hang back out of combat.
So the end conclusion? Miniatures for rpgs can be great fun, and help with the immersion - especially if the models for the game are distinctive, and if the game doesn't bog down using them. IKRPG doesn't do that. And as a setting, it is more than able to accommodate any number of different story types, be they investigative dramas, political intrigue, exploration, or war stories. I have a long way to go before I exhaust the setting.