Friday, 4 January 2019

[Review] Forbidden Lands

"Did you hear the story of the Forbidden Lands? Beyond the mountains, beyond the mists of the north? Once, it was called the Ravenland, our promised land. These days, strange creatures haunt those valleys, beasts that should not be, for the land is cursed...."
(Forbidden Lands, Player handbook p.5)

This review will be focused on yet another title from Free League Publishing.
'Forbidden Lands' is the name and RPG hex-crawler adventuring is the game!

We are in a vast Blood-mist ridden continent of Ravenland.
The Bloodmist enslaving the lands for centuries has unexpectedly vanished and for the first time in very very long time travellers dare to explore their surroundings.
Now there is a possibility to visit that far reaching village of not yet known inhabitants, to explore those ancient ruins in the distant, dwell in those forgotten dungeons and learn by exploration why things went as they did.
Thee are not heroes or kings, but rogues and villains searching for truth ,destiny or loot and gold or perhaps all of the above ?
Ye are not good nor evil, but people of the Forbidden lands.

Forbidden Lands was born as a stretch goal whilst running a Kickstarter for a artbook , representing one of the living legends in Swedish Roleplaying history Nils Gulliksson.
He has illustrated RPG games as far back as i can remember with excellent results.
Needless to say the stretch goal was reached with good margins.
(Androidistica willl get back to that book , promise!)

What do we get then in the 'Core Boxed Set ?
The two most eye-catching items are the GM Guide and Player Handbook.
The faux-leather backs on the GameMaster Book and Player Handbook is top notch quality.
Proper premium paper used to print the pages in the books accompanied by the illustrations of Nils Gullikson himself makes Forbidden Lands a genuine package .
Solid binding used to keep the pages tightly fit with the strong backs of the GM and Player Guide.
In the GameMaster volume there are three complete adventure sites included , so you can get your campaign going from the start.

Also included in the core box is a large map over the Forbidden lands. (Full color, double sided print for extensive usage )
The Hexagonal overlay represents areas to explore, and with the map comes stickers to be used as markers for graves, fortresses and other landmarks.

We also get a sticker sheet , for using to mark down adventure sites, graves and so on .
There is a "Legends and Adventurers" booklet included as well. The booklet helps you in creating player-characters, their backstories , tables with possible enemies, events and lots more to kick you off quickly, if you dont want to spend too much time on setting up those details.
By opening the box, it all looks very promising .

What about the game system then ?
The gameplay uses custom dice, as in previous titles like "Mutant Year Zero".
We have our  4x Base Dice, 3x Skill dice and 2x Weapon dice.
There is also 1 x D8 , 1 x D12 and 1 x D10 used as artifact dice.
Yes, we are talking Custom engraved dices here, sold separately and beautifully designed.
They are not essential to be able to play the game, any T6 sets will do .

So what about the actual mechanics of creating your characters ?
As in traditional RPG:s all players get to choose Kin, Profession and Age for our player characters.
Once that is settled we have to divide a given number of points on attributes.
The Player Characters are built upon Attributes, Skills and Talents.
Attributes being the core properties describing you characters form.
Strength, Agility, Wits and Empathy.

We also have skills for each player, depending on what gets inherited through Kin and Profession .
There are a number of 16 skills to marvel upon.
Talents : those are also in some cases inherited through your characters age, kinship and profession.
Each character also gets to choose a personal "Pride" .
This should be based on a past event, a certain ability or or something else.
Pride can be activated when failing a skill roll, but once used it is dicarded and a new "Pride" has to be selected for the next game session.
We also have to choose a "dark secret", an experience from the past that the GM can use to build the storyline with , and it can even generate experience points at the end of  a game session.
The player guide has some suggestions on a few but it is up to the player and GM to decide what to choose.
Once were all done with the above it's up to gear your characters and decide relationships between the party of characters.
This is all done during the first game - gathering , together with the GM.

There are two campaign books available "Ravens Purge" and "The Spire of Quetzel".
Both titles are packed with legends, adventure sites and events to throw in your lovely stew of  slaying enemies, looting and learning legends of the land.
Ravens Purge is available for purchase from Free Leagues webshop , The Spire of Quetzel was available in the Kickstarter campaing and might be available later from Free League as purchaseable.

You can also add up your experience by purchasing the Card Deck :
The cards can be used for artifacts, manouvers and and mounts in the game.
There is also the Gamemaster Screen, a great help for any  GM. Awesome graphics by Alvaro Tapia for the players to marvel upon and the inside of the screen containing useful quick reference tables to be used while playing .

Event driven exploration comes to mind, with a looming main story humming in the background.
All material, GM and Player handbooks is written meticulously.
There is a lot of material on everything involving the game .
Even though being packed with stuff to get going, encouragements are made in the text to go your own way in creating legends, adventure sites and events.
Be creative, it is fun!
On the Free League forums, players have already contributed with a lot of good stuff to add to your adventuring, make sure to check that out as well.
New stuff is added by the awesome players and GM:s already enjoying Forbidden Lands.

You can go as epic as you want from the start or go step by step into exploring the surrounding villages and ruins building your campaign as you go.
Casual RPG with epic possibilities is what this is.
Created by true professionals in the genre.
Free League has once again created a player-driven -storytelling masterpiece.

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