I keep hearing nothing but good things about Ironsworn. It seems like the game for soloists to play. I’m not entirely sure why I’ve been sleeping on it for so long, perhaps it’s due to me being busy with other projects or even thinking that, since the game is tailor made for solo play, the need to review it wouldn’t be needed. Part of the reason why I do Solo RPG Voyages is to experiment with playing games meant to be played with other people.
However, after a breakdown by Trever Duvall where he and the creator of Ironsworn not only discuss the game but also stat up Arn Kalapunki for the journey, I figured “what’s the harm in statting up a character?”, and so, here we are.
Having heard of the setting for Ironsworn, it makes me think of John Wick if he was in Winterfell or if he was a Witcher, where the protagonist(s) are characters who have sworn iron vows and must accomplish them, not unlike how assassins in the film series are bound by their word to carry out their contracts. The Winterfell part comes in when you see the setting is a harsh environment where winters are longer and harvests are rougher.
There’s nine regions in the Ironlands, the setting of the RPG, and each one not only has unique features but also a quest starter that you could use as inspiration. I decided to start with the fishing-heavy region that is the Barrier Islands. The quest starter there mentions a spectral maiden who offered the hero safe passage at a heavy cost. Perhaps an iron vow?
Next, there are the Truths. These help set up the background of the Ironlands to give it a unique feel and I like this. It kinda reminds me of how setting up a setting for Spark worked, where you would create three truths based off the setting you (and friends) have made. Each of these truths also have their own quest starters. There’s a ton of them, so I’ll just make a list of the truths I picked for the game.
- The Old World: Savage clans called the Skulde invaded the Old Lands and forced the Ironlanders to move out to find a new place. It seems that my character is going to be of Skulde descent according to its quest starter.
- Iron: The reason why it’s called the Ironlands is because the place itself was very rough and desolate, “only those made of iron can live in these lands”.
- Legacies: These Ironlanders are the first people to settle here.
- Community: And they managed to forge the Ironlands into a home of their own, even if much of the Ironlands are untamed.
- Leaders: Each region has a chieftain, and each of them eye the chance of ruling the Ironlands. A quest starter here has me thinking, since my character has a piece of a crown from the Old Lands and that my bloodline has Oldlander descent as well.
- Defense: Another word for the Ironsworn is a Warden, soldiers trained to help defend their community. There are freelancing Wardens as well.
- Mysticism: The Ironlands is rife with magic, ready for those who wish to harness it.
- Religion: I feel like this could be column A and column C here. The Gods of the Oldlands have abandoned the Ironlanders, but there are new gods who dominate the Ironlands, ready to take any worshippers. My character bears the mark of an Old God. A mark that I do not know yet.
- Firstborn: Turns out that elves and giants live in the Ironlands and they were here first. They do not like the attempts at colonialism that is happening on their lands.
- Beasts: Beasts are commonplace, thus needing Wardens to keep them at bay.
- Horrors: To make matters worse, there’s forces beyond human comprehension that, no matter what the Ironlanders do, will come and kill them all.
Overall, this is a really cool setting and I now have some idea of what to make for my character… Now the question is, how will I go about that?
First, the name. I’m gonna go with something that doesn’t fit the Ironsworn due to the fact that my character is a Skulde. … Okay, this is gonna be silly, but Minne Sota. Next are my stats. I feel like Iron would be my most dominant trait, followed by Heart and Edge.
Like with that Sci-Fi Chapbook RPG, there’s two healths, a physical one and a mental one. Both are at +5. There’s also a supply feature that makes sense given the harshness of the Ironlands. There’s also momentum, which starts at +2.
Next up are the Vows. I have two starting out, a background Vow which will be completed over a long period of time and an incidental Vow which I believe is basically your first quest. I’m not exactly sure if my character should start with vows, since I envisioned the Ironsworn to be basically a rank of people who have trained to fulfill Iron Vows and that’s what separates them from your typical Wardens. My character isn’t an Ironsworn nor even an Ironlander. In fact, her story will begin with her on a Skulde ship. I can see her unwittingly make an Iron Vow with the spectral maiden and that’s how he begins being an Ironsworn.
So, with that, I decide that my vows will be Prevent the Skulde From Destroying the Ironlands, ranked at Epic and the inciting Vow, I feel like it should be at least a Formidable given the heaviness that this spectral maiden’s vow could be. Perhaps she is the patron goddess of the Barrier Islands and requests that Minne show how ironhearted she is by helping the people of the village Prepare for the Long Drought. This seems rather mundane, so it’s ranked as Troublesome.
Next are background bonds. Obviously, I’ll have a bond with my Skulde father, Chief Ragnar. There’s another bond with my Oldlander mother, Princess Solana. The third and final bond will be to my captain for the raid, Ivar. The story with these bonds would be that Ragnar and Solana had a night of passion where she ended up being pregnant with Minne. Normally, childbirth has a high mortality rate for the mother, but she miraculously survived with a healthy baby.
However, it seems that her survival was not without a condition and she became one of the very first Ironsworn, leaving her child at the hands of the Skulde family, who then proceeded to ransack the Oldlands and prompt the people to leave for the Ironlands. The Skulde prepared to follow them into the Ironlands for a follow up attack, with my character being raised to think that my mother either had died or abandoned me (which, I mean, is technically true) and trained under the thumb of Ivar, a stoic yet dangerous captain. This ends up creating a new Vow, one that is more personal: find out where Solana went. This would be Formidable.
Skipping over the debilities (since my character lacks any) comes Assets, which is how my character can be further personalized. Already, I have the Banner-Sworn asset, taking the second benefit. Next two are gonna be tricky, so I’ll read through the asset cards. I decided on a Waterborn Berserker, which fits her character.
And with that, my character has been statted up for a future game of Ironsworn. I really like the Narrativist approach, especially in regards to equipment being just descriptors rather than actual items needed. I’m kinda excited for this… and now I wonder if I should make a character for Savage Worlds… In any case, bon voyage, gamers!