Forbidden Lands – Introduction

I am going to try another “Where I read…”, to force myself to go through the two new PDFs I just got from Fria Ligan. As a Kickstarter backer I got earlier alpha PDFs, which I thought I’d read enough to try a game. That I was floundering during the session proves it’s different enough from Coriolis to deserve a more thorough reading.

So, I am going to go though this chapter by chapter. I have plenty of time before I start a game – our first scheduled session is in November, and I am not even running that one. But if I don’t discipline my self now, time will run away with me, and I’ll be leafing though it the night before we play.

The PDFs I am reading here are from the files that went to print. Meaning when the books come out, this is the content they will contain. The books will come as a boxed set, in the traditional Swedish RPG size, so they will look a bit different from US sailed hardbacks.

I am going to post chapter by chapter, every day if I can, but we’ll see how successful that ambition is. Let’s start with the introduction to the players book.

I always sigh when I read the introduction chapter of most RPGs. Indeed I often skip it, too much trite fiction and “what is an RPG?” style explanations get me down. I am pretty sure I sighed as I began the fictional piece that start the introductory paragraph. This is a game that features men, elves, dwarves etc, and I gave I reading that sort of fiction, oh, over 30 years ago.

But this manages to be different. It’s short, for a start. Yes there are the usual made-up names, and affectations of great histories, but it gets to the point:

Adventurers. Treasure hunters. Scoundrels. Not heroes, far from it, but men and women who dare travel the land as they choose and make their own mark on it, unbound by any fate or story set for them. They hunt for ancient treasures, they fight whomsoever gets in their way, they build a new world for themselves on the ruins of the old.

They are the raiders of the Forbidden Lands.

This quoted section is about a third of the fiction, which I hope highlights how short it is, and readable. But it also very firmly puts the game in context. This is what YOU will be playing.

A section called “What do you do?” explains that your party will explore this land, discover adventure sites, seek eleven gems (a cross promotion of the optional campaign) and, if you survive long enough, maybe build a stronghold. That’s reinforced by the rest of that chapter, which explains you won’t be sent on missions by some great Lord, rather to are relying on yourself, and your companions, to survive and prosper in a land once deadly and still very dangerous. In describing the Ravenland setting, the chapter makes clear, without actually saying it, that this is a post-apocalyptic landscape. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t our world made into a fantasy world by an apocalypse, it’s a fantasy world that had its own apocalypse, from which it is only just starting to recover.

Though if that doesn’t float you boat, it says the rules will work with any setting.

I am also impressed by how to play section which, even though it goes over the basics like character sheets and dice, manages to inspire rather than bore this veteran gamer. I particularly like the box out which succinctly describes the phases of a game session. This shares space on the page with another highlight, the obligatory “we’re not going to be sexist section”, which drives that particular point home in a manner totally in keeping with the story:

Forbidden Lands takes place in a faraway fantasy world, not our own world’s past. Therefore, we are not bound by the norms and hierarchies of our history. The monsters of the Forbidden Lands do not differentiate between men and women, and neither does the Blood Mist.

I really think they have done a bang-up job of explaining how this game differs from other fantasy RPGs for experienced players, introducing us all to the world itself, while introducing the whole concept of RPGs to neophytes. In this year when D&D has sold more copies than ever before, when there are more new players than ever, Forbidden Lands in a game I would actively recommend to newbies and old-hands alike.

And that is before the chapter even gets to the section called “What is a role-playing game?” which unusually is the very last thing in the chapter! I’d almost argue that it doesn’t need such an explanation, but it’s mercifully short, and contains some vital reassurance:

The advantage of roleplaying games is also their challenge – the freedom to create the story yourselves can be overwhelming. But Forbidden Lands contains plenty of exciting events, places and people you can populate your story with, and very specific tools for the GM to use.

Colour me impressed so far. Of course all this was originally written in Swedish and translated. And they are some obvious artefacts of that translation – “during ten generations” for example, rather than “for ten generations”, but that charms rather than annoys.

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