Saturday, September 18, 2021

Answers to 20 Quick Questions: An Iron Kingdoms: Requiem 5E Campaign

My 5E group players have shifted into a simulacrum of the Iron Kingdoms setting's Corvis region and are not that familiar with the setting.  I've been looking around for a suitable introduction or summary as recommended by many luminaries, such as this chap, and found this and that but thought writing my own might be better. 

I've based it on my previous "Answers to 20 Quick Questions for a Twilight:2000 Polish Campaign" article inspired Jeff Rient's original 2011 post. It's not meant to be definitive nor exhaustive and makes good use of existing resources wherever possible. The following abbreviations are used: IK:R5E (Iron Kingdoms: Requiem 5E Corebook), Mn5E (5E Monsternomicon). Links are provided to the Privateer Press website, the Iron Kingdoms Wiki and other resources for additional context or description.

1. What is the deal with my cleric's religion?

Well, if you're human you have two main religious choices - either Menoth and Morrow, with the latter supported by a demi-pantheon of ascended mortal saints known as "Ascendants" that have various portfolios. These two main dieties are akin to Old Testament and New Testament approaches respectively, except just to spice it up a bit instead of a "holy spirit", the formerly human Morrow has a similarly once mortal dark twin sister, Thamar, with her own squad of dark saints referred to as "Scions" that cover the nastier and blacker aspects of humanity (more on her in Q17 below). Iron Kingdoms clerics of these three faiths and their Domains and abilities are detailed specifically (IK:R5E 111-113) with similar write ups for the two main orders of paladins (IK:R5E 119-121). 

Cyriss, the Maiden of Gears, is an ancient power but relatively new as an open religion across those of various races that are mechaniks or have an aptitude with technology and particularly mechanika.

Technically, Toruk the Dragonfather, Lord of the Nightmare Kingdom of Cryx is considered a deity by his human (and humanoid) minions, although exact details of his "priesthood" are yet to be revealed.

For non-human races, there's Dhunia, the incarnation of Mother Earth revered by gobbers, trollkin and the generally "good" and civilised non-human races, or the linked but opposing darker and chaotic entity know as the Devourer Wyrm favoured not only by the Blacklads of the druidic Circle Oroboros but also in often species-specific incarnations by bog-trog (like deep ones), farrow (hog headed orc replacements), gatormen (bayou lizardmen), tharn (think beastmen), the wild bogrin (boggers, uncivilised goblinkind) and others. Both of these gods are served primarily by druids and it's possible they will be more detailed in a future suppkement.

Rhulic dwarves have an as yet poorly detailed pantheon of ancestral founders.

Iosan elves somehow lost the majority of their gods to a catastrophe except for Scyrah, who is the patron of those trying to hold things together and reform their society. The Nyss (wild winter elves), briefly rediscovered their god Nyssor entombed in ice, but many of them have fallen to the sway of Everblight, the corrupting northern ice dragon that has enslaved and blighted many of the Nyss clans. More recently following the Claiming, both remaining gods were slain by a traitor and the Rivening ensued, with all the remaining elven priests going mad and the remaining living elves prohibited from their ancestral lands.               

Finally, the mysterious alien easterners known as the Skorne (sort of the dark elf equivalent for the setting) don't believe in gods despite their literal physical presence in the world but instead follow their own esoteric and sadistic philosophy. They don't have clerics as such but have an unusual caste structure of specialists called extollers. 

2. Where can we go to buy standard equipment?

In the towns and cities, there'll be a general store and probably not only a blacksmith for standard weapons and armour but also a gunshop or two. There will also be an alchemist store, an apothecary and probably even a mechanik (a new tinker style class, IK:R5E 96-101) workshop in most sizable towns. Out in the wilderness, mechanika is less common but herbalism-derived alchemy equivalents and bone grinder items fashioned from wild creatures are more common and fulfill a similar niche. 

The IK:R5E Corebook contains a whole new Equipment chapter (IK:R5E 190-214) including sections for firearms, mechanika, steam armour and warcaster armour. There's a lot of other flavourful and thematic new equipment or variations to round out your character's load out.

3. Where can we go to get platemail custom fitted for this monster I just befriended?

If by "monster I just befriended" you mean clapped out warjack, and by "platemail" you mean rune plates and 'jack accessories well you're in luck! There's a whole Chapter dedicated to steamjacks (IK:R5E 215-228), supplemented by the section on mechanika in the above Equipment chapter suitable for the steam-powered robots and their warcaster allies.

Steamjacks are integral to the unique flavour of the Iron Kingdoms setting:
A steamjack is a mechanikal construct given the ability to reason by a magical brain known as a cortex. A steamjack does not possess higher- level cognitive powers, but it can execute simple commands and make logical decisions in order to complete its assigned tasks. Throughout the Iron Kingdoms, steamjacks perform various jobs that would be too dangerous, if not outright impossible, for humans.

Steamjacks fall under one of two classifications: laborjacks and warjacks. Laborjacks are relatively simple machines built for physical labor, whereas warjacks are sophisticated weapons of war bristling with state-of-the-art arms and armor. Despite this distinction, the differences between the two types often become blurry. In the modern-day Iron Kingdoms, clapped-out military ’jacks can be found pulling plows after decades of service, and laborjacks are often armored and retrofitted with military-grade hardware by desperate mercenary outfits. 


4. Who is the mightiest wizard in the land?

Although spellcasters are rare, magic itself is not uncommon, although more often than not, it manifests as mechanika (IK:R5E 229):
Magic in the Iron Kingdoms is simultaneously commonplace and spectacular. Most citizens of western Immoren are unable to cast magic themselves, marking those with the talent as rare individuals. No matter their specific area of expertise, spellcasters are in high demand by all manner of kings, nations, and gods. 

Although spellcasters are rare in western Immoren, magic—specifically, mechanika—is not. Mechanika is responsible for the greatest advancements in the Iron Kingdoms and has reshaped war and industry alike. Mechanikal devices are constructed to fulfill a wide array of purposes, whether in the service of massive military foundries churning out weapons of war or for the benefit of independent mechaniks tinkering in their workshops. 

There's no Immoren "Mary Sue" archmage equivalent of Elminster, Tenser or Raistlin although the warcasters (a new IK class with 3 subclasses, see IK:R5E 102-108) and warlocks (not the 5E class, like warcasters for warbeasts instead of warjacks likely to be detailed in a future supplement) that lead the armies of the Iron Kingdoms are considered some of the most powerful casters in the land.

Wizards usually divide on nationalistic lines and variously belong to the Order of Wizardry, the Greylords Covenant or the Maritime Order of the Trident (see below), whereas the rare sorcerors are considered witches or at best tolerated with caution. Bards, other than trollkin fell callers (IK:R5E 109, think barbaric yodellers) are uncommon as are the part caster subclasses. Standard 5E warlocks are rare in the Iron Kingdoms and treated more as witches (IK:R5E 234-235), the equivalent mechnical niche being occupied by the setting specific gun mages (IK:R5E 85-90) or warcasters.

5. Who is the greatest warrior in the land?

Well strong candidates include some of the more famous and experienced warcasters backed up by their battle groups of warjacks, but there's not such an emphasis on "greatest warrior" like there perhaps is in other more standard medieval settings. 

There are two specific orders of monks linked to the churches of Thamar and Menoth, the Way of Deception and the Way of the Fist respectively.

It's worth calling out the gunfighter class (IK:R5E 91-95) and it's subclasses of Pistoleer, Sharpshooter (the equivalent of the 3.5E d20 Rifleman) and Commando

6. Who is the richest person in the land?

Hmmm, that's a hard one but the mercantile coastal nation of Ord, ostensibly neutral to the main conflict between Cygnar and Khador is probably the best place to start as it's merchants trade across the Iron Kingdoms along it's roads, railways and rivers... even to the distant continents beyond.

7. Where can we go to get some magical healing?

There are plenty of clerics and paladins (particularly of Menoth and Morrow, not so much Thamar) as well as of the other faiths, druidic healing, and even alchemical / arcane healing. However. healing magic is a bit different in the Iorn Kingdoms (IK;R5E 229):

"...healing magic has its own drawbacks. The gods of Caen grant healing magic to their clergy as normal, but the process of being healed by a divine or arcane spell is not pleasant. Wounds do not simply vanish without a trace, nor do diseases disappear with no lingering effects. Simply put, healing magic in the Iron Kingdoms leaves scars, both physical and emotional.

Healing magic should be treated as a sort of “fast-forward surgery” that causes recipients to feel the sting of every set bone and every bit of mended tissue. Diseases and poisons must be physically extracted from the afflicted, dissipating into harmless sludge on the ground after being sweated out through the skin or violently expelled from the body.

Healing spells have no additional in-game effect beyond what each spell already does, but a character who has suffered years of injuries healed in such a manner should bear the same scars as one who took the time to recover from each injury naturally. If a grievous wound, such as a severed limb, has been healed magically, the scars should look unnatural and should be a source of regular discomfort to the healed individual.

The process of magical healing is not without a cost to the spellcaster, either. The exact nature of this toll varies from one instance to the next but often involves reliving the pain of healed injuries, having vivid dreams of torn muscles and ligaments, and experiencing other sympathetic reflections of injury and malady. These consequences do not have specific in-game effects, but many magical healers are dour individuals who bear emotional scars from their work. GMs who use rules that measure a character’s sanity might consider frequent use of healing spells as a possible trigger for descending into madness, for instance..." 

As a result, there are a lot fewer standard healing magic items, particularly in the cities where mechanika and alchemy predominate. Out in the wild, more traditional herbalist-based magic healing items are more likely but regardless of region, the above effects apply.

8. Where can we go to get cures for the following conditions: poison, disease, curse, level drain, lycanthropy, polymorph, alignment change, death, undeath?

Poison and disease can be addressed through alchemical, clerical or medical means but note that even magical cure is not quite as straightforward as noted in Q7 above:

Diseases and poisons must be physically extracted from the afflicted, dissipating into harmless sludge on the ground after being sweated out through the skin or violently expelled from the body. 

Clerics of Thamar are particularly known for their knowledge of these afflictions and curses, whether sought out to remove them or more commonly to *bestow* them on enemies... 

Curses from bestow curse and similar spells or effects are handled as usual. 

Level (or energy) drain isn't really a thing anymore in 5E nor was it ever a big part of the Iron Kingdoms original bestiary either. even the iconic Deathjack and Pistol Wraith have been given alternative powers.

Death is usually permanent in the Iron Kingdoms (IK:R5E 229):
The mortal souls of the Iron Kingdoms are a precious commodity in the afterlife. The gods of Caen utilize the spirits of their followers to wage endless war both in life and in death. The gods safeguard the spirits of their faithful in Urcaen and rarely grant the living the divine power to return the slain back to life.

The following spells cannot be prepared normally in an Iron Kingdoms campaign: raise dead, reincarnate, resurrection, revivify, true resurrection, or any other spell that returns a slain character to life. Characters capable of preparing one of these spells must make a pact with their patron deity in order to do so, often at great cost to themselves and only if the individual being resurrected is more valuable to the deity on Caen than in Urcaen. This exceedingly rare event often goes generations without occurring—and even then, only in the direst situations. 

There's no cure for lycanthropy per se. The majority of lycanthropes are warp wolves that willingly serve the druidic Blackclads and are dedicated to the Devourer Wyrm faction (Mn5E 158).
Although the exact origins of the warpwolf are not widely known, the secrets of its creation lie with the blackclads of the Circle Orboros, who oversee the rituals whereby those who would undergo this transformation are fed a magical elixir. Individuals who ingest this elixir are forever changed. There is no known “cure” for those who become warpwolves. Instead, they find the transformation happening more naturally over time, and eventually they completely lose the will to resist changing into their bestial form. 
Polymorph and alignment change is less of an issue in 5E in general these days and there are no specific Iron Kingdoms changes to account for.

Undead in the iron kingdoms are... different. Creepier for a start. Rather than typical mindless zombies and skeletons, there are thralls produced by either dark necromantic magics from Thamar or the necrotech of the Nightmare Kingdom of Cryx. There are free-willed undead as well, the most notable being the iron liches of the Dragonfather's armies.

9. Is there a magic guild my wizard belongs to or that I can join in order to get more spells?

Actually, there's a couple, depending on your nationality and aptitude that are availabel as backgrounds (IK:R5E 127-155)

Cygnar is the nominal home of the Order of Wizardry (IK:R5E 129-130), although there are also branches in Ord and Llael. There's a decent No Quarter article on different factions or cabals within the guild. They are noted for their scholarly approach, hubris and chapter houses in major cities.

Khador's equivalent is the Greylord Covenant (IK:R5E 131) are more militant inclined and have major chapter houses in the larger Khadoran towns and secret facilities in other nations.

The Navy of Ord is the base of the sea mage's and magus-at-arms of the Maritime Order of the Trident (IK:R5E 139) characterised by their love of wandering but also their patriotism.

Llael doesn't have an eqquivalent but is the nominal home of gun mages which have at least three known "orders" - these are treated as subclasses (IK:R5E 85-90) rather than backgrounds however and are not "guilds" as such. They are the Order of the Arcane Tempest (mainly Cygnaran), the Order of the Thorn (Laelese) and the Order of the Lone Gun (independent). 

In addition, the Order of the Golden Crucible is the equivalent to the guild of alchemists and is primarily based in Llael and to an extent Ord during their exile from the recent occupation of thei home country.

10. Where can I find an alchemist, sage or other expert NPC?

First off, alchemy is a big deal in Western Immoren, so much so there's a whole new non-spellcasting alchemist character class that differs somewhat from the standard 5E artificer subclass, with three subclasses: Combat Alchemist, Synthetist, and Rogue Alchemist (IK:R5E 76-84) and a mainly Llael based guild known as the Order of the Golden Crucible.

For sages, there's the one and only Professor Viktor Pendrake, the setting's non-magical narrator and equivalent to Elminster and the like from other worlds. Well if you believe his stories that is... There even used to be an Adventuring Scholar prestige class in the original 3.5 d20 iteration and the in-house 2nd edition RPG ("Warmachine lite") version that was directly inspired by him, but this appears to have been dropped from the 5E version or is yet to make an appearance in a subsequent supplement. 

11. Where can I hire mercenaries?

Boy, have you have come to the right place! Did you not realise there's still a war on? Actually several wars effectively speaking, the whole region is in chaos in many respects.

Mercenaries are an integral part of the Iron Kingdoms and are available as a starting character background (IK:R5E 140-141). There so common there's even a whole ruleset in Warmachine for adding mercenaries to various army lists as auxiliaries and many colourful characters... in fact, rather than have standard factions, IK:R5E introduces adventuring companies and a mercenary charter is a very legitimate option for a player group, along with a pirate crew amongst other suggestions.

There's a whole section on Adventuring Companies actually (IK:R5E 156-173) which is great.

12. Is there any place on the map where swords are illegal, magic is outlawed or any other notable hassles from Johnny Law?

Probably the Protectorate of Menoth to the south, the bastion of the Iron Kingdom's Old Faith equivalent. Those guys are pretty intense to be honest and make Gideon (from the Handmaid's Tale) look like a pleasant holiday destination at times. Technically they're not meant to have warjacks or even an army thanks to the treaties, but they do anyway. 

13. Which way to the nearest tavern?

Down the street. If you want a particular dive or nefarious den of n'er do wells then the chaotic criminal port of Five Fingers is where you want to head for. Good luck and keep your wits about you!

14. What monsters are terrorizing the countryside sufficiently that if I kill them I will become famous?

Given the whole area is in a state of constant war and shifting allegiances (see 15 below), this isn't as straightforward as it seems. Most of the opponents (at least in civilised areas) are humans or humanoids with complex motivations and morality. Having said that, there's a couple of "evil until proven otherwise, and even then probably just pretending" opponents out there and their minions:
In the wilder areas of Immoren, there are indeed monsters and beasts - there was even a Monster Hunter prestige class in 3.5E, but this has been partly retrofitted into the Vigilant (IK:R5E 123-124) ranger subclass although it may well reappear in some form for a later supplement.  

15. Are there any wars brewing I could go fight?

Yes, pretty much everywhere at the moment to be honest. This is a game based on the twin / interlinked wargames of Warmachine and Hordes after all...

This overview from the Privateer Press website should give you some idea of the situation. Other than that there are various novels and short story collections to give more specific details beyond the flavour text in the supplements.

16. How about gladiatorial arenas complete with hard-won glory and fabulous cash prizes?

Hmmm, not so much. Your best bet is probably an illegal prize fight in the Undercity of Corvis or in the port of Five Fingers, as presented in "The Pendrake Encounters: Bite Club" (spoilers for players). The oddly sophisticated yet somewhat barbaric Skorne (see above) might go in for that sort of thing a bit more admittedly but they are way off to the east usually unless serving in their forward army.

17. Are there any secret societies with sinister agendas I could join and/or fight?

So, you could secretly be a Thamarite, a follower of the Dark Twin of Morrow. Oddly, despite being considered "evil" in many ways, the Thamarites act as a vital mirror to the teachings of Morrow and remain accepted as it was their goddess that struck the deal to bring the magic into Caen that helped defeated the Orgoth invaders. They even form a signficiant part of the Order of Illumination, the tripartisan organisation that also includes Menite and Morrowan members dedciated to combating the new threat of the Infernals of the Nonokrion Order.

18. What is there to eat around here?

Most of the typical fare. Out in the wilds sure things get a bit... wilder.

Of course, you could always just chew on some fine cigars. Everyone seems to have them around here, there's even a whole No Quarter magazine article on it...

19. Any legendary lost treasures I could be looking for?

Well, there are old Orgoth artifacts littered around in ruins that weren't fully destroyed by their scorched earth retreat or by the wars. Note that most of these artifacts are if not cursed, hideously evil in proportion to their power level - wielding or even just finding one may have lasting deleterious consequences...

20. Where is the nearest dragon or other monsters with Type H treasure?

The nearest *dragon*? Are you completely insane? 

Iron Kingdoms dragons are next-level epic, demi-god like creatures. You have been warned.

The nearest you want to be to an *actual* Caen dragon is as far away as possible and for Toruk the Dragonfather, that's probably Urcaen or preferably another plane entirely (note that planar travel is very restricted in the Iron Kingdoms so it's probably a moot point). I'm not even kidding here.

Friday, September 10, 2021

Collected Riverine Resources & Modules (*Updated*)

This is a growing list which I'll add over time, and I welcome suggestions...
(this is a revision of an older original post with further initial ideas on riverine adventures)

The following RPG products provide useful material for a river-borne campaign, some have formal reviews or I have discussed / may end up discussing in separate posts as required.

Rivers and River Encounters PDF

    This excellent resource is really the only one of its type in terms of being a general treatise on riverine encounters.

Death on the Reik (WFRP adventure)

    • River Life of the Empire booklet (WFRP 1e) - the essential resource 
    • The Enemy Within: a Companion (TEWAC, fan creation) has a section for DotR
    • My "River Life Encounter Generator" based on DotR1e (Google Docs spreadsheet)
  • "Chapter II: Life & Death on the Reik" (WFRP Companion 2e)
  • The Cubicle 7 version of WFRP / 4th edition has a revision of The Enemy Within including:

Other notable riverine adventures:

  • Rivers of Blood (DUNGEON #89) - Slavic riverine adventures why not?
  • Dolm River (Labyrinth Lord) - somewhat silly if truth be told but hey, it's OSR and Bryce rates it LOL...

The following threads and articles/posts are also of interest: