Tuesday, December 14, 2010

My favorite campaign setting: Iron Kingdoms!

My favorite roleplaying setting is the Iron Kingdoms (IK) campaign setting by Privateer Press. Originally a series of adventures released in the early days of 3rd Edition Dungeons & Dragons, later releases expanded it to a full-fledged setting that really pushed the limits of the d20 System (for those unfamiliar, this is the system that D&D uses). What makes the IK great? Let me tell you.

Iron Kingdoms Character Guide: Full Metal Fantasy, Vol. 1   Iron Kingdoms World Guide: Full Metal Fantasy, Vol. 2 (Dungeons & Dragons d20 3.5 Fantasy Roleplaying)  Monsternomicon V3.5 (Iron Kingdoms d20 3.5 Fantasy Roleplaying) 

The Iron Kingdoms is set in the land of Western Immoren, a land where nations war upon one another with swords, guns, magic and warjacks. What is a warjack, you might ask? It's a magical steam-powered robot. That takes orders from a wizard. In power armor. Seriously... digest that. The IK is a world that isn't quite steampunk (it's too fantasy for that), but melds the elements of an industrial society with a world evolved from the medieval fantasy default of standard D&D.

One aspect of the flavor I love is Mechanika. Mechanika is the fusion of magic and technology, and yields some interesting results. What that means for the adventuring heroes is that most over their magic items will be battery-powered... yes, you heard correctly. You're going to need to recharge accumulator (magical "batteries") to make your magic sword work. Of course, standard magic items exist; they're just rarer, and making them can attract unwanted attention from otherworldly beings.

I ran a campaign set in this world for about 2-3 years, and I loved it. The setting is also shared with a couple miniatures combat games (Warmachine and Hordes), so there is a lot of supplemental material to draw on as sources for conflicts in the world. I used these to create the feeling that while the PCs were definitely heroes, the world was much larger than them and that wars were raging around them. Good times. I recommend taking a look at this world. Good starting points are the Privateer Press site for the Iron Kingdoms at http://privateerpress.com/iron-kingdoms or by picking up the recently released PDF of the hard-to-find Iron Kingdoms Character Guide from http://paizo.com/. Enjoy!

Want to hear about someone else's favorite setting? Why not check out Cool Factor 5, our friend's excellent gaming blog.


  1. Iron kingdoms sounds like a lot of fun. I like the inter-meshing of fantasy and technology.

    So I'm mulling this over, and I have a hard time separating great settings from great GMs, but I think my favorite setting of all time was Fifty Fathoms, for the Savage Worlds system.

    Fifty Fathoms is set in a Caribbean-like world filled with sailors, pirates, and privateers from various parts of the Earth who were lost at sea and found themselves in a place where the age of canon and the myths of magic collide. It was interesting to bring together characters from different historical backgrounds. I played an English sailor bent on vengeance against a French sharp-shooter who'd murdered his true love; probably the most memorable character of the bunch was the right-hand man of Ponce de Leon, who found himself in that strange world possessing a mysterious ability to control water and bring forth healing from it. Had he found the Fountain of Youth at last?

    I loved the balance of elements. Much like Iron Kingdoms, there was an interesting intersection of technology and mysticism, and a lot of really neat setting-specific rules like for sail travel. Our party found ourselves at one point becalmed to the point that we were only moving as far in a day as our underpowered wind-mage could push us.

    Perhaps one of the things that helped me was that I was as much in the dark as my character! I was careful never to read any of the setting information in the book, so all I knew was what the GM told me. I didn't know what monsters might be capable of; I didn't know what sort of people inhabited the various islands. It's like that rare treat of going into a great movie having never seen so much as a trailer.

  2. JT,

    Thanks for sharing that! That sounds like a great campaign. I really like the Savage Worlds system. It seems pretty simple and conducive to fast-paced action, as well as not being burdensome to getting in the way of good roleplaying. It is sad that the only experience that I have had with it was a terribly scripted adventure that kind of poisoned the well for it with most of the people I regularly game with. Anyway, that sounded like a great time!

  3. Alright I tried to post a comment on this one before so here goes again. :)

    Iron Kingdoms is one of my favorite worlds to play in. It manages to have a grit to it and an edge that most fantasy worlds can't accomplish.

    That Fifty Fathoms setting sounds pretty cool. I agree with you, JT, that playing in a world you know almost nothing about is a rare treat and a lot of fun.