Blade of the Iron ThroneDecember 11, 2013
For years and years I’ve been telling folks about the amazing, out of print, Riddle of Steel. I finally saw that apparently folks released Blade of the Iron Throne, which takes 90% of the RoS engine, and adapts it to pulp sword and sorcery.
Passions, which are the renamed version of Riddle of Steel’s Spiritual Attributes, are the driver of the game. Your character has goals, relationships, ideals they believe in, and when they are acting to further or protect those things:
a) the GM gives them another point in that Passion
b) they get to roll extra dice equal to that Passion
This is only the first part – the second part is that you then spend down those Passions to permanently give improvements to your character. So the best way to power game is to roleplay, and roleplaying IS the method to power gaming in this system.
Riddle of Steel had initially allowed players to add multiple Spiritual Attributes to any action which encompassed all of them – but in Blade, you are limited to one. I’m guessing they weren’t as big of a fans of the uber-ing out of characters, which is about the only change I’m not a fan of.
The tactical combat system is fun, has depth without requiring deep mastery to use, and is fast – it also doesn’t use a map or minis either.
There’s basically 3 ideas which run the system:
Combatants have a dice pool which represents their skill at using a particular weapon or fighting style- these dice will be used over the course of two exchanges before the pool is refilled. The core of gameplay is trying to figure out how much to commit and which maneuvers will be the best use of the dice you have… and getting your opponent to commit their dice poorly.
If a weapon has reach advantage (the longer weapon if you’re on the outside, the shorter weapon if you’re up close), each range difference is a die penalty to the disadvantaged side to attack. Smart positioning puts you in a situation where you can take bigger risks in offensive maneuvers because the enemy won’t have the dice to hit back.
Unlike a lot of games, “initiative” here doesn’t mean taking turns in a given order, if you have initiative, you are the attacker, and you can keep doing attacks as long as you keep the initiative. If the defender manages to defend with more than a tie (that is, getting at least 1 success more than you), they take the initiative. This can be a big deal, because if you can take the initiative after the enemy has over committed, they’re basically left open for a serious counter strike.
Wounds tend to hit hard and fast, and few characters take more than a couple before being incapacitated enough to not be effective in a fight.
Setting and Imagery
So the game is built on pulp sword and sorcery… which means problematic parts too. Mostly there’s the offhand comments about wenching or that men are mighty and women are voluptuous.
Most of the default setting civilizations are described as people of color by their physical descriptions – but even though you get stuff like stand-in-Egyptians as an “Enlightened” culture, you also get stuff like “dusky skinned” or the asians as literally described as “yellow skinned”…
So, you’re not going to be reaching or having to revise to have heroic POC in this game, you’re just going to sometimes wince at the language in the setting chapters at places. I feel like I have to give the representation 3/5 for doing much BETTER than I expected, and sadly, still much better than a lot of rpg settings out there despite the issues.