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Just What is Ironclaw?

Updated on July 17, 2013

A Brief Overview

Essentially, Ironclaw is a Fantasy tabletop RPG made by Sanguine Games with anthropomorphic characters. It takes place in a world similar to our Renaissance Europe but with a slightly different timeline and widespread use of magic. It also has Disney-like animal people (also known as "funny animals") running about instead of humans.

Not to say that it can't be run in a different timeframe or with non-animal characters. It is very open-ended in many ways especially in what genre of adventure can be run ranging from swashbuckling action, to political intrigue, to gothic horror and so on.

It's easy to pick up and easy to run but still has plenty of material allowing it to cater to several different players and campaigns.

The Good

  • Not very time intensive to set up. This game requires very little prep time to run. Player characters are a breeze to make and non-player characters are even simpler. Most things are easy to adjudicate on the fly making Ironclaw something that can be readily played by the seat of your pants.
  • Plenty of options. Quick to make doesn't mean "shoehorned". There are several well organized character options for making characters allowing for a wide variety of play styles even within the same campaign.
  • Motivation beyond power-lust. During character creation, players are asked to come up with a basic personality, motto, and set of goals for their character. Players are then rewarded by having their characters be stronger when doing things that fit their personality, earn extra experience points when they follow their motto, and gain new abilities when they accomplish or reach milestones in their goals. This ensures that players will do things because that's what their characters would do instead of doing things just because that would earn them more loot.
  • High production values. Ironclaw is a gorgeous book with plenty of well drawn pictures, classy borders, and appealing fonts. The setting material is very richly detailed as well and there is plenty of comic strips strewn throughout the book that help explain both setting and mechanics in entertaining ways.
  • Easy to learn. Peppered throughout the book are little hints, tips, articles, and sidebars written to help ease rookie players learn the game in addition to the aforementioned comics. The rules for using skills, building characters, and invoking various special abilities are all very clear cut and laid out as well. This makes Ironclaw easy to learn both as you read and as you play.
  • Combat that matters. Instead of using set amounts of "health points" Ironclaw combat is played out by inflicting more and more grievous injuries on opponents. How hard you hit determines whether you inflict something minor like the Reeling (can't avoid attacks as well), or major like Injured (is much more vulnerable to damage). This accumulation of wounds leads to a system where every blow means something.

The Bad

  • Price tag. Ironclaw can be rather pricy with the core book running anywhere from 30 to 60 American dollars depending of if you go for the PDF file or printed hardcover and supplements usually cost about half of that each. There is a Player's book and Host's book that are essentially the core book split in two that can be purchased for half the price but it's best to get the whole thing in some fashion.
  • Unusual rules. While most of the rules are easy to learn they're very atypical for a tabletop RPG. Most roleplaying veterans will be tripped up by the lack of health points or character classes as well as the simplified rolling mechanics.
  • The whole "animal person" thing. The Ironclaw system doesn't really have a "human" group to play as and that can be alienating for some people.

How to Get Your Group to Try It

Firstly, make sure that the premise isn't going to be a problem. Framing the talking animals elements as being like a Disney movie or Sly Cooper game can help a lot and things like The Three Musketeers and Assassin's Creed 2 can help you sell the Renaissance setting.

After that you can let the book talk for itself a lot by pointing your fellow gamers toward the informative comics and classy species write ups. Play a quick session or two to see what's welcomed and what's not and try things out with Ironclaw that other systems faltered at. And above all, don't be afraid to change whatever doesn't suit your group's tastes.

Be good to yourself and those you love. This is AccidentalHipster signing off.

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