Ironsworn: Starforged

I wrote about the sci-fi successor to the fantasy tabletop RPG Ironsworn in the Week on the Web newsletter a few months ago. Starforged has now been officially releases in digital form, with pre-orders for the hard copy being taken as well. The worldbuilding for this game looks fantastic, and its influences are an enticing mix of sci-fi fantasy universes.

Inspiration comes from the quest-driven stories of The Mandalorian, the lived-in aesthetic and fantasy-infused trappings of the original Star Wars trilogy, the workaday exploits of Firefly, the isolated horror of Alien, the mysticism and faction politics of Dune, the retro-tech and desperation of Battlestar Galactica’s modern reboot, the cosmic mysteries and class struggles of The Expanse, and the gonzo adventures and fantastic locations of Guardians of the Galaxy.

The gaming engine is based on Ironsworn, which took elements from the Apocalypse World rules. I used to play a bit of Dungeon World (based on Apocalypse World) and really appreciated the story-driven mechanics. The rules are lightweight and flexible and designed to drive the fiction. You don’t get bogged down into detail about how something is going to work. The rules are easy enough to let the play and the story flow.

One of the more unique aspects of Starforged is the different modes of play:

  1. Guided: One or more players take the role of their characters, while a guide moderates the session.
  2. Co-Op: You and one or more friends play together to overcome challenges and complete quests. A guide is not required.
  3. Solo: You portray a lone character driven to fulfill vows in a dangerous world.

The variety of game modes and the fact that you can play with fewer people ratchets up the value of this game. Did I mention the PDF is only $20 and the full color hardback 404-page book + immediate download of the PDF is only $40? Honestly, the purchase would be worth the illustrations and intriguing settings alone. Gorgeous artwork by Joshua Meehan gives the player an immersive sense of the world which they will be exploring. It is gritty and innovative and ready to be expanded by the player’s imagination. It certainly shows the direction of the game has been shaped by some of the recent Star Wars TV series we’ve been enjoying.

My oldest is off school for the summer and is trying to learn the arcane rules of the Star Wars: Force and Destiny RPG, so we’ve got a bit of competition. Although I’m happy he is finally picking up the book we got him for Christmas, and it’s getting used, I’m a little concerned that the complexity of the rule set for that game will keep it from being — you know — fun. I have much more confidence in the variant of the Apocolypse World engine that Starforged is using to provide a good basis for fun and engrossing gameplay. Maybe we can each learn the systems for our respective games and do a little comparison testing. I can think of worse ways to spend a few summer days.

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Robert Rackley @frostedechoes
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