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[Recruiting 2/4] PbtA Ironsworn - PbP in Ancient Greece


Status Update - 18 Jan 2020


Setting is Ancient Greece. Or a loose analogue of such.

See post #8 for more details.

1. KahlessNestor - Penelope, a healer
2. TallIan - Pallas, a hoplite


It has been a while.

Quite a while.

But recently I have found myself circling around the idea of starting another game. It would go a little like this ...

The System

Ironsworn is a rules lite, low magic fantasy Powered by the Apocalypse (PbtA)[1] game. Very rules lite. And very cooperative. It is based on a Quest driven mechanic to determine the outcome of challenges or tasks. For reasons that will become clear a little later, I think that this looks interesting.

Ironsworn is available for free from Ironsworn - Tabletop RPG. The website provides a nice summary of the game. It is all beautifully produced. You can also download the game from Ironsworn - Shawn Tomkin | DriveThruRPG.com.

The Setting

1. My initial idea was to utilise the setting and background from To Slay a Dragon by EN Publishing. It is a pretty standard fantasy setting, but it provides readymade stage and cast of characters. I have have used it a couple of times before, both with 3.5ED and Dungeon World. You can find materials at To Slay A Dragon

2. Another option is the default Ironsworn setting. Like most PbtA games I have seen, it is little more than an outline. The details are generated with the players during setup and through play. It is, essentially, a fantasy Viking analogue.

3. Finally, Kore: The Kingdom of Harmony, a fantasy feudal Japan analogue that have used previously. I have a soft spot for the setting. From what I have read so far, the transition from vikings to samurai/ronin looks like it would be fairly seamless. But there is probably a bit more work in this option.

The Small Print

I am not a particularly good GM. I feel that all my games up so far have moved very slowly. I am not talking about the rate of posting, but the pacing of the action. Games may have lasted but, to be honest, very little happened. As I am the only common factor in all my games, I feel that the fault lies with me. Hence my interest in the Quest or Progress mechanic.

I am thinking 1-4 players. The posting rate would be two to three times a week. Unfortunately, due to work commitments, there may be a few of periods of 2-3 weeks when I cannot post. I will advise beforehand.

So if you are interested, merely curious, or just want to take about Ironsworn, feel free to post up.


[1] as in born of the Apocalypse World system. Includes games such as Dungeon World, Monsterhearts, etc.
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So, some looks. No real interest.

I did have a run at the system in solo mode. I went with the Kore: Kingdom of Harmony option to see how the game re-skins. I thought it worked quite well.

For those who might be curious I will post the character and game run sheet below.



Name: Shi
Background: Once a Samurai of the House Chikuzen, now a masterless ronin.
  • Edge 2
  • Heart 3
  • Iron 2
  • Shadow 1
  • Wits 1
* 3 [-2]
* 3 [-2]
* 1 [5-1-1-1-1]
  • Current 2 [+2+2Burn(2)+1+1+1Burn(2)]
  • Max 10
  • Rest 2
  • Background: Restore the rightful heir of the House Chikuzen.
  • * Rating: Extreme
  • * Progress +0 []
  • Initial: Transport the house seal to Satsuma.
  • * Rating: Dangerous.
  • * Progress +2 []
  • Progress +0
  • House Chikuzen,
  • Conditions
  • Banes
  • Burdens
  • Total 3
  • Spent -
Assets (Oracle: Theme 88 - Knowledge)
  • Companion: Hound
  • Path: Blade Bound
  • Ritual: Keen
  • Sword [+2 harm]
  • Light Armour
  • Writing set



Initiating Vow: Action 6+3+1=9 Challenge 7&8. Strong Hit: You are emboldened. It is clear what you must do. +2 Momentum.

The rightful heir to the House Chikuzen has been overthrown. In a short but bloody fighting withdrawal between those loyal to their old lord, and those who have sided with his ambitious uncle, the wife and eldest son are spirited away by boat to the safety of her father's house. The remaining loyal samurai disperse, some their homes, some to hills, some to the castles of other lords.

Shi's path lies south, to the castle of Satsuma.

Undertake a Journey [Dangerous] 2
Action: 3+1+1. Challenge 5&1. Weak hit. Reach WP 2 Progress. Mark -1 supply.

The journey across the fertile planes that surround the castle are uneventful. Shi avoids the inns along the way, sleeping in the wild and eating from the supplies he carries with him. Eventually he makes the foothills of the mountains that lie between himself and Satsuma.

Undertake a Journey [Dangerous] 4 [2+2]
Action 2+1. Challenge 2&6. Weak hit. Reach WP 2 Progress. Mark -1 supply.

Shi continues to make good progress through the mountains. But the news of the change in ruler has travelled faster than expected. Shi continues to have to avoid settlements and live of his dwindling supplies. He considers taking time to Resupply, but in the end decides to push on for the time being.

Undertake a Journey [Dangerous] 6 [+2+2+2]
Action 5+1. Challenge 9&4. Weak Hit, reach WP, 2 progress. Mark -1 supply.
Thought: Shi is close to completing the Perilous Journey. This would give him 2 Progress on his Initiating Vow - not enough to consider a Progress move to Fulfil the Vow. He needs to overcome some challenges to Reach a few more Milestones to mark more Progress. The problem lies in the wording of the Vow - it is essentially the same as Undertake a Perilous Journey. I will change it to Deliver the Seal into the hands of the Rightful Heir.

Undertake a Journey [Dangerous] 8 [+2+2+2+2]
Action 2+1. Challenge 3&6. Burn Momentum to cancel one challenge. Momentum reset +2. Weak hit, reach WP, 2 progress, mark -1 supply.

Reach Your Destination. Counts as Reach a Milestone for Initiating Vow [2 progress]
Progress 8. Challenge 10&1. Weak hit: Arrive at destination but face an unforeseen hazard or complication. I am thinking for some reason Shi is denied entry into the castle. Maybe to avoid conflict with the powerful House Hakata. But I will Ask the Oracle just to see: Why are they denying Shi access to the castle? Oracle: Settlement Trouble: 84 In the Crossfire. So it is - House Hakata which supported the overthrow of the rightful heir to House Chikuzen, is in Satsuma.

Passing through the town of Satsuma, Shi is disturbed to see a couple of house retainers bearing the Hakata mon in the streets. Shi moves cautiously to wards the castle. At the gates are the usual ashigaru of the House Satsuma. But also, a couple of ashigaru of House Hakata idling nearby. Shi considers pressing on and presenting himself at the gate for an audience with on of the House Officials. But presence of House Hakata makes him nervous. He needs to know more about what is happening inside the castle. Shi decides to bid his time for the moment, and see what he can find out.

Gather Information: Roll + Wits.
Action 4+1 Challenge 9&7. Miss. House Hakata learns of Shi's presence in Satsuma.
Pay the Price: 47 A new foe is revealed.

Shi's efforts lead to an introduction to one of the Court Officials of House Satsuma. Shi knows the name, the man was a member of the party that came for the wedding of the Daughter of Satsuma to the adopted son of Chikuzen. A meeting is arranged outside the castle for late in the evening. A Satsuma house retainer leads Shi to the meeting place. But along the way they are intercepted by three bushi in plane robes. They form a loose circle around Shi, while a fourth remains in the shadows.

"You are not welcome here ronin. There is left nothing for you in Satsuma," growls one. The on in the shadows says nothing but his clothing as obviously Buke. The others, Shi thinks, are probably ashigaru muscle.

Samurai: Dangerous (2 Progress, inflict 2 harm)
Progress: 8 [+4+4]
Three Warriors (Pack): Formidable (1 progress, inflict 3 Harm, Battle Hardened, Scarred)

"You hide in the shadows, bearing no Mon and refuse your name," responds Shi to the one in the shadows. I would take you for a samurai, but your behaviour would shame your ancestors if you were. A samurai would stand down his thugs and face me himself.

Compel. Roll + heart.
Action 2+3. Challenge 6+4. Weak Hit. +1 momentum [3].

The man in the shadows is silent for a moment. "There is no advantage to me to do so. Unless you were to swear to depart Satsuma immediately once I have beaten you."

Shi nods his agreement. He shifts position and waits. Quietly he begins the mantra to the spirit ancestors that reside in his sword.

Draw the Circle: Roll + Heart.
Action 4+3. Challenge 10&2. Weak hit. Grant First Strike for +1 momentum [4]. Gain +1 momentum for Blade Bound [5].
Keen: Roll + Heart
Action: 5+3. Challenge 4&4. Strong Hit. +1 Harm.
Clash: Roll + edge.
Action 1+2. Lose Ritual. Challenge 2&10. Weak hit. Swordmaster: Burn Momentum for +2 Harm. Momentum 2. Inflict 5 [2+1+2] Harm. Progress +10 [10]. Endure 2 Harm [3]. Endure 2 Stress [3]

The man in the shadows is fast. The spirits of those slain by the blade surge forth from the depths driving a splinter of fear into Shi's thoughts. He pushes it aside. Shi takes the blow rather than give up his position and lose momentum. He needs it. Turning momentum into power he counters. Shi is not as fast as his opponent, but he is a swordsman. The blow is devastating. Time to end this.

End the Fight. Progress Move.
Progress 10. Challenge 8&5 Strong Hit: Foe is no longer in the fight.

"He still lives," growls Shi to the three remaining men. "Are we done here?"

Which definitely sounds like a question for the Oracle.


I think so.

I like the fact that it is classless. That said, based on just the 45 basic assets, there are 14,000+ combinations. Even if 90% are suboptimal, that still leaves 1400 variations.

But the real appeal is the way the game engine is designed drive the narrative progression.

I am going away for a month. I might take this one with me to play if I get any downtime. If I do, I'll post up the run sheet when I return.



I am going to open this for recruiting and see how we go.



Setting Options (in no particular order)

1. Kore: Kingdom of Harmony (feudal Japan analogue)
2. Ironsworn default setting (viking analogue)
3. To Slay a Dragon (standard fantasy)
4. The New Argonauts (mythic greek analogue)

The System

Ironsworn is a rules lite, low magic fantasy Powered by the Apocalypse (PbtA)[1] game. Very rules lite. And very cooperative. It is based on a Quest driven mechanic to determine the outcome of challenges or tasks. For reasons that will become clear a little later, I think that this looks interesting.

Ironsworn is available for free from Ironsworn - Tabletop RPG. The website provides a nice summary of the game. It is all beautifully produced. You can also download the game from Ironsworn - Shawn Tomkin | DriveThruRPG.com.

The Rough Plan

1. Pick a setting. Rough out some details.
2. Generate some characters. Create some ties.
3. Press play.

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