But maybe those days are back? Because a friend of mine has gone to the trouble of pirating the Iron Kingdoms rule book to run a game. As we all know, I am basically anti-pirate for common-man reasons. But I have a troubled relationship with enjoying the fruits of others’ piracy, in that apparently I will do it.
New fantasy RPGs are seldom as awesome as I want them to be, because we have D&D. Therefore, each new fantasy RPG must answer the awful questions of every dichotomy: How is this different from the precursor?
And the answer in fantasy RPGs: Not very. A student of the form can point to the differences, but to non-students, the differences range from negligible to non-existent.
(Bizarrely, 4th edition D&D was its own distinguished counterpoint in this regard, being markedly different than previous versions of itself, though not demonstrably better.)
Iron Kingdoms is sort of interesting in that it has advanced knock-off provenance. Born of the 3rd edition piggyback rush that also richly benefited Green Ronin and Goodman Games, it is literally a D&D clone, down to the DNA.
But its clothes were different enough to garner a following. Using their Witchfire trilogy gains, Privateer Press launched Warmachine, a miniatures skirmish game that faced the same dichotomy issue with the superbly established Warhammer from Games Workshop. How is it different? Not very.
Meanwhile, Warhammer has its own RPG history, and Privateer’s contender is a reasonable mishmash of D&D and WFRP and related games and terms and ideas and ephemera. It acquits itself about as well as one of these games can vs the dichotomy question. It’s only slightly different. Elves and dwarves and swords and spells? Got it.
That’s not even a knock on the game. If it doesn’t have elves and dwarves and swords and spells it might not be a fantasy game. If you can’t compare it to D&D, then it might not be an RPG. It’s just that your new thing never gets to be fresh.
But I’m polyamorous when it comes to games, and I am a student of the form. I got me a gun-wizard dwarf and we’re playing around with it. I expect to have fun, even if it’s not very different fun.