Iron Kingdoms mixes Warhammer’s battles with D&D’s roleplaying in an RPG fans of both hobbies shouldn’t miss
Why you should take a trip to the steampunk setting.
If your gaming group has been craving a balance between Warhammer’s wargaming and Dungeons & Dragons’ roleplaying, Iron Kingdoms might be the game for you.
The fantasy RPG launched into its newest edition in 2021, entitled Iron Kingdoms: Requiem, a campaign setting built on D&D’s 5E system from Wizards of the Coast. In some ways, it’s a homecoming for the Iron Kingdoms setting, first created by Privateer Press in 2001 through a trio of scenario books titled The Witchfire Trilogy that used the 1.0 d20 System seen in Dungeons & Dragons’ third edition.
The 2013 Iron Kingdoms had little-to-no healing, making fights lethal and the game potentially alienating for traditional RPG fans.
In 2001, at the first installation of the ENnie Awards, which recognise achievements in roleplaying game design, Privateer Press’ Witchfire Trilogy books took home four wins, including Best Art (cover and interior), Best Setting and Best Publisher.
The books launched Privateer Press as a business, and the success of the company’s first outing led it to eventually spin off its own Iron Kingdoms universe to create a tabletop wargame called Warmachine, along with a line of metal and plastic miniatures.
Privateer Press took a stab at re-releasing Iron Kingdoms two more times: first under Wizards of the Coast’s Open Game License in 2004, then by springboarding off its own Warmachine rules for miniatures battles in 2013, with an entirely self-contained version of Iron Kingdoms called Full Metal Fantasy.
The 2013 version substituted D&D’s 20-sided die for two six-sided dice instead. You would roll 2d6, add an applicable stat, then compare the result to an opponent’s stat. It was nearly identical to Warmachine’s combat and relied heavily on miniatures, which aren’t generally needed in modern D&D. There was also more emphasis on combat in general; while most tabletop roleplaying games usually have a form of healing, the 2013 Iron Kingdoms had little-to-no healing, making fights lethal. To some extent, this could be alienating for traditional RPG fans.
In 2020, Privateer Press brought Iron Kingdoms back to the d20 System, announcing Iron Kingdoms: Requiem on Kickstarter. It blew past its $100,000 goal with nearly $600,000 raised.
The newest edition of Iron Kingdoms is without a doubt its best, transplanting a wealth of miniature sculpts and amazing artwork into a terrific scenario book.
The end result is a beautifully illustrated and wonderfully fun book of character classes, races, equipment and monsters that showcases all of the experience that its creators learned from over the years.
The newest edition of Iron Kingdoms is without a doubt its best, showing how Privateer Press recognised the popularity of D&D and how it could transplant its wealth of miniature sculpts and amazing artwork from the Warmachine years into a terrific scenario book.
Iron Kingdoms: Requiem requires the fifth-edition Dungeons & Dragons Player’s Handbook to play; not just because it uses the 5E system, but because some character options make use of specific skills or spells from that rulebook. It’s a relatively small hurdle, and past that Requiem offers some terrific 5E character creation choices, including seven races, five classes and 16 subclasses.
Players can also make use of the setting’s iconic steampunk robots, called Steamjacks, as well as a host of industrial revolution-style equipment and weaponry, like steam-powered armour or magic-infused firearms. Indeed, it’s the quasi-19th-century Europe-analogous setting that really sets the Iron Kingdoms apart from other 5E settings.
While steampunk itself - an aesthetic dipped in the industrial revolution, with airships and railroads, a la Final Fantasy VI or Dishonored - is something of a fad, Iron Kingdoms wears the trappings with style and goes beyond to present a fleshed-out universe. The world of the Iron Kingdoms is rich and detailed, with hundreds of years of history and culture in the pages of the Requiem campaign book.
While steampunk is something of a fad, Iron Kingdoms wears the trappings with style.
This is a world you would actually want to visit if it existed in real life, despite - or maybe even because of - the dangers. For example, here, with no further context, are some of the things you can find in the Iron Kingdoms:
- Imps that live in wine casks and ale barrels who love to party, but will belch inebriating gas if they’re threatened with a bad time
- A coastal military outpost where docked ships are hoisted into the air by giant chains to hang on a cliff, protecting them from raiders
- Zombie sharks with lawnmower blade jaws, tentacle appendages and coal furnaces for hearts
- A nation of xenophobic elves born without souls who have jet-black eyes and tattoos covering most of their bodies
Those wildly imaginative creations, and others besides, have led to the persistence of the Iron Kingdoms setting. It also informed Privateer Press’ ability to create some unique miniatures for Warmachine over the years, and allowed fans of that game to delight in being able to use their collection for an entirely new gaming experience.
Perhaps most importantly, player support is alive and well at Privateer Press. The company has been consistently putting out new content, including free downloadable scenarios for Iron Kingdoms. Paid expansions include Borderlands and Beyond, a book that delves into the more remote areas of the world, and Nightmare Empire, which focuses on the undead, dragon-blighted pirates of the southwest island nation of Cryx.
While the future of the game is uncertain after the recent OGL drama at Wizards of the Coast, players can still enjoy the roughly half-dozen books and other smaller supplements released for Iron Kingdoms to date, combining the best of its miniature wargaming-driven art and style with the solid dependability of D&D’s 5E system.
Check it out, muster a group of friends together and let your steampunk fantasy flag fly.