Ironclaw by CommissarMega
IntroductionOriginal SA post Experience the furry Renaissance in IRONCLAW: SQUARING THE CIRCLE
A fantasy game by Sanguine Productions, Ironclaw's first edition came out in 1999. A while later in 2010, it came out with its second edition, called Ironclaw: Squaring the Circle . Later on, it came out with an expansion to its magic system called Ironclaw: Book of Mysteries . After a further Kickstarter, a China-themed supplement called the Book of Jade was released, itself a counterpart to a similar 1e supplement. This first part will be a bit short, as it covers the first part of character creation (the crunchy stats), and leaves out the second Specis bit because that section is huge and deserves a writeup of its own.
Anyway, the game itself is like Sanguine's other game Albedo- while it does have anthropomorphic animals, these are less for fetishistic purposes, and more for both thematics and mechanics. Different races get different bonuses to their stats and skills (more on that later). From what Night10194 presented, Albedo seems to be mechanically sound, and so is Ironclaw. That said, while Albedo places more emphasis on combat and its realistic consequences, Ironclaw is a little more heroic. That being said, combat is quick and brutal in Ironclaw, and you will need to be properly tough and armoured to save your tail.
Of course, you would never notice it from the initial art:
Sorry about the watermarked pictures, by the way. For some reason, my pdf to jpg converter is moving like molasses, and c/p'ing from the pdf itself looked messy. Me am ungood Photoshopper.
This is not to say the book's art is terrible, not by any means, but the book certainly does not give a good first impression. Don't get me wrong, it's good cartoon art- but as I said above, Ironclaw's less Disney toon and more period drama. The species pictures get the book's atmosphere across a lot better, so in the meantime you'll have to bear with the art a little longer.
Anyway, past the usual "What's a Role-Playing Game?" section, the game goes straight into the basics of character creation, which I appreciate. While I'd definitely place Ironclaw's fluff as the highlight of the game, it's nice to see what you're getting into right off the bat.
First, you have your stats:
Body: Your general health, strength and stamina.
Speed: How fast you move and general agility.
Mind: Your general intelligence and mental ability.
Will: Your determination and resistance to mental effects.
Species: How close you are to your animal nature.
Career: How good you are at your career.
You have a single d4, three d6s and two d8s to distribute among these stats. Honestly, I like the RP potential in making your Career a separate choice, though since your Career is something you'd probably spend a lot of time doing, you'll want a d8 in it as the book suggests, unless you have some specific build in mind.
But even so, there is plenty of versatility in how you can build a single concept. If I may use the book's own example, take a Cat mercenary:
This crazy dude obviously has his d8s in Strength and Species! This guy's an obvious powerhouse, and with his Cat species score so high, he's going to be amazing at climbing, jumping and stealth. His Career skills might suffer, depending on where the d4 is, but if you want a stealthy, durable assassin, he's your man.
This hard-looking bastard's pumped up his Career and Mind, obviously. His player's obviously got some 'grizzled tactician' in mind. Careers often come with their own set of associated skills, so he's not missing any advantage the feral guy above has, but he will have a different playstyle, focused more on conventional merc stuff, though he will always have his Species die if needed.
Anyway, after assigning your stats, you pick a Career (detailed later) as well as a one or two-word Personality. IIRC, you can get bonuses for playing to your personality type, which can include positive virtues and negative traits.
Next, you get 13 Skill Marks to be spent among 26 Skills (max 3 at character creation). Improving a skill does not add more dice, but improves the die. 1 Mark gives you a 1d4, 2 Marks gives you 1d6 etc, all the way to 1d12 at 5 Marks. Only after that do you get more dice (Rank 6 gets you 1d12+1d4, Rank 7 1d12+1d6 etc).
After that, you pick 3 Gifts that will help shape your character, but some have requirements (e.g. To take the White Magic Gift, you need the 'Literacy' Gift and 'Cleric's Trappings' Equipment). Some Gifts also have advantages and disadvantages- Overconfident, for example, lets you take an extra d12 on a roll if you also let your opponent roll an extra d12. That said, the game does provide some genuinely handy tips for Gifts, if you feel overwhelmed, such as Increased Trait (boosts up one of your Trait Dice one step) and Literacy (Reading's important, kids!). Gifts giving a Skill Mark are the only way to go past 3 in a Skill at character creation.
Finally, you pick a name. For verisimilitude, I'd suggest reading the fluff section at the back first, then come back with a name and character concept. This is followed by a personal motto, which also provides RP chances. Since Ironclaw doesn't give you XP based on the critters you kill, following your motto and personality (basically, playing your character as something other than a murderhobo) is very important.
Next time, my second most-favourite part of the game, Species! This might take a while, though- there are a lot of species and and don't think I'll have a lot of time this week. But have some of my favourite pics to whet your appetite. The Wolf might be a little thanks to a glimpse of sideboob, but that's what you get when the picture is of Cletic-themed WOAD-WEARING BERSERKERS
Look at them, they're so happy!
Now THIS is Chivalry The word 'chivalry' comes from the French word for horse, 'cheval'.
Awww yeah, some unsuspecting continent is going to have the shit explored out of it by this suave Don.
Woad. Wearing. Barbarians. Fuuuck yesss.
P/S: I will not apologise for any animal-themed puns I may or may not have intentionally made/will make.
Character SpeciesOriginal SA post Contents:
Character Creation: Species
Ha-hey, guess what, folks! That's right, it's time for more
Character Creation Part 2: Species
In Ironclaw, your species plays quite an important role in how you should play your character. Even details like whether they're diurnal/nocturnal, or their diet can have an impact in how you play; after all, being stuck in a cabbage field isn't going to help a hungry lion.Certain abilities also only recharge once your character has gone through their natural cycle (so nocturnal PCs recharge their powers at night, diurnal ones in the day etc.) Each species has the following stats:
Species: The name of your base species; in some cases, you can play variants.
Description: A short description of that species' stereotypes.
Diet: What they eat.
Gifts: Apart from your three starting Gifts, you get an additional 3 Gifts from your Species.
Habitat: In certain cases, you can roll your Species die as a bonus die when you're in your preferred Habitat.
Include [Species] Dice: Three Skills where you can add your Species die to a roll.
Senses: When trying to Observe something with these senses, you can roll your Species die.
Weapons: Your natural weapons.
One thing you might notice reading the descriptions is that how the races are portrayed often don't have any relation to what their Skills and Gifts are. On one hand, this can be annoying, and immersion-breaking at first; why say shrews are easily-influenced mobs when they have a Will bonus, after all?
But then again, wouldn't it actually be more realistic this way? Sure, they're actual different species, unlike humans, but the game takes place in an age where what you are isn't as important as what you do . Besides, it would be boring if every bat was a scary-ass motherfucker, and mice were all shrinking cowards. It also helps cut down on special snowflakes- a truly noble-hearted weasel would be unusual, yes, but not Drizzt-level.
Anyway, enough of that- time to find your spirit animals! This art, by the way, is what sold me on the game.
It's amazing how studying some beans could herald greater changes than sticking swords in kings. I actually like this one- sure there are plenty of asskicking pictures to come, but Ironclaw chose to open with aardvark Gregor Mendel.
Of course, you can say that they wanted to stay true to the aardvark's fluff, but considering that there are races with the 'Coward' Gift shown doing badass things, I can't help but feel this was intentional.
Find a job you like, and you'll never work a day in your life. And these two aren't working.
Seriously, look at them! So happy!
She will break you.
That poor tiger doesn't know what's going to happen to him- nor will he remember. Boars also make up the majority of House Doloreaux , one of the setting's major noble families/nations.
I sense a hilarious romatic comedy-adventure incoming!
"Hard work is its own reward," they say. Wonder if they believe it.
It's hard to do Chaotic Neutral without being Chaotic Randumb, but artwise at least, I think this carries it off well.
You'd think that animals with keen eyes would be able to see through this trick better, but nooo.
See? This is what I meant by stats not matching up with the pictures. Deer have 'Coward' as a gift, yet this dude will hold that wall 'til Doomsday.
Joking aside, Coward can actually be a very good trait, even for a fighter. I'll get to that when the relevant section comes up.
Aw, don't bully the poor little Dhole . Ah well, at least it isn't as bad as the donkey's.
Where some poor man is taken by a bitch and a sonovabitch
Man, that poor donkey. Every other race is at least doing something in their art, sometimes even something
Grey foxes are the majority members of House Rinaldi , a once-major noble family that has since fallen into ruin.
Well, someone's having a grand old time. These guys are usually minor Rinaldi nobles.
No more fucks left to give. Goats form the Chevernaise, barbarian tribes who are constantly warrign with the Doloreaux.
And here we see one of the few depictions of interspecies attraction; Ironclaw doesn't go into detail about that sort of thing, thank God, but it's nice to see that species ain't a barrier. Should've been in this case though
Fuck yeah, Horses! I firmly believe the reason horses were made the main faction of House Avoirdupois was because of the 'Chivalry' pun, and I will not have anything said against ot
Seems innocent enough- until you realize that the slogan behind him means "Let them hate, so long as they fear."
Yeah, this picture's pretty much the perfect one for the lions. Lionesses also seem to be quite empowered ladies- just like real life!
Most notable thing about this entry is the mention of Atavists; this refers to a mechanic which I'll get to later.
With their prehensile limbs and tail, Monkeys can be surprisingly versatile. Also, are monkeys full-blown herbivores? I thought primates in general were omnivorous.
Look at that mouse crusader on the right. Some poor dude's going to get smote before the day's done, I think.
Depending on your game, I can see the Otter as being very useful, or somewhat gimped. True, there isn't a lot of min-maxing when it comes to species, but the Otter's Gifts are somewhat situational.
Yeah, look at this smug bastard. The world's his to conquer, it just doesn't know it yet. The globe also seems to show a continent very much like the Americas...
I need to know- how do they get armour on?
Some editing problems with the text here, unfortunately. But who cares when we got a badass bunny over here?
Because if you look the part, might as well play it, right?
Go on, look me in the eye and tell me this isn't awesome, go on. Yeah, I know it's awesome.
Ravens are seen as creepy, and they like, or at least don't mind that. To be honest, it's kind of sad if you ask me.
Aw, come on guys, let the poor rhino enjoy his drink!
Ironically, their Increased Will trait means that shrews should actually be less likely to turn rioters. Also, shrews have poisonous bites? Learn something new every day, I suppose.
Man, I wonder how those pies smell like. Must be good, if the kids in the back are any indication.
Some birds build nests. Other birds have vision.
Man, better hope you've got a good reason for being there. Dude looks arcane- no, eldritch , belike!
Damn, that's one ice-cold cat. Dude's raising his hat, and she's just all "Talk to the stripes, peasant ."
Aw, come on marm, the bear's not the only one at fault!
Oh my, I do believe I have the vapours! *flutters scarf*
I don't know why I bothered with the other races (except maybe the horses), because odds are you're all set on playing these -as hell guys. Those woad-painted wolves are part of the barbarian Phelan tribes- but wolves also form the majority of House Bisclavaret , the most technologically advanced faction in Calabria. Those guys are also famous for their kilts, and between being woad-clad Celts as well as musket-toting Scotsmen, it is obvious that wolves are objectively Ironclaw's best species, no arguments
Thoughts on Species:
This is definitely my favourite section of the book, thanks to the very evocative art. Not only do they give a good impression of the time period, but they also let you see that a PC can be more than just their species. Cowards like deer and mice can actually be mighty warriors (and the mechanics do support this), while big muscly dudes like cattle and donkeys don't have to be beefy warriors. I can just imagine that in a lesser game, wolves and foxes would of course be the warrior types, while rats and mice would be thieves etc. Ironclaw though? Nope! Again, what you do is far more important than what you are, though the latter does help.
Another thing I like? All the animals look quite realistic, even if sometimes their head hair might seem a little humanesque. There aren't any sparkledogs, no rainbow-coloured foxes, no winged wolves and shit. These animal dudes actually do look like animal dudes, and it's sad that HSD has to resort to that kind of Mary Sue bullshit when Ironclaw shows that no, you don't need to have six wings and twelve dongs on your centaur-dragon hybrid to be badass. I mean, just look at that weasel! He's fabulous, he's cool, he's obviously doing something awesome, and he doesn't need to look like furry Sephiroth to do it.
So yeah, that's the species art of Ironclaw. Next up, classes and skills. I think I might want to skip over to the fluff sections after that before getting into magic and stuff, though. First, because the fluff is really good, and also because some sections do either introduce or reference stuff that is related to the fluff. No use talking about the light spells of S'Allumer if you don't know what that is.