My hobbying commitment (and subsequent blog updates) have gone through a patchy period as I have simply got burnt out by my larger standing GW projects. A brief break by spending some time on smaller projects is in order and this has fortunately coincided with the release of Rangers of Shadow Deep.
RoSD is a self-published solo/cooperative fantasy skirmish campaign from Joseph A. McCullough, the author of Frostgrave – a game which I am already a big fan of. At its core RoSD is a tweaked version of the d20 based system used in Frostgrave blended a with RPG-lite skills & campaign progression system. In terms of mechanics the Rangers sit somewhere between the Frostgrave Wizards and Frostgrave Captains – they are generally more physically imposing that Wizards in combat, but also have some single use spells and ability buffs which behave like the Captain ‘Tricks of the Trade’ abilities. A Wizards’ warband members in Frostgrave can be brutally disposable since they have no experience progression for them, but in RoSD there is some potential for them to improve & advance (although they do so much more slowly than Rangers). The RoSD vibe and narrative is very much like the assembly and questing of the fellowship in the Lord of the Rings and there are plenty of nods to classic fantasy. The core mechanics are easy to learn and quick and swingy – so well suited for fun narrative play.
RoSD is $20 for the PDF or $30 for the print on demand + PDF copy, which can seem a hefty price tag until you realise that there is over 200 pages of content, including: Core rules, Ranger character generation rules, Companions, Treasure & Experience, Bestiary, an introductory campaign consisting of 3 two part missions and then the first proper campaign consisting of 9 linked scenarios.
So other than d20s, measuring tape and the core rules, what are you likely to need? A small pool of figures to represent a Ranger for each player and a number of companions, but no more than 8 figures in total – there is a sliding scale for how my companions to include based on the number of players. If you were playing solo then you could potentially have Ranger + 7 companions, but if you were playing with 4 players then it would be a Ranger + single companion to each player. Most fantasy wargamers or roleplayers should have this covered easily.
Other than the Rangers and their companions, you will need a bestiary of monsters which should be found in most typical fantasy miniature hobbyist’s collection: giant rats, giant spiders, gnolls, ghouls & zombies, etc. There are no official miniatures for the game, but obviously the Frostgrave range are an intended default option as well as GW’s Lord of the Rings range since they are a good fit for the aesthetic. That said just about any figures from any range should be good so it makes for an excellent excuse to dig out old unfinished projects from the hobby cupboard or pick up interesting odds and ends from different ranges.
On the surface then this would seem to be cheap buy in and that would be correct up to a point – the one ‘gotcha’ here is the terrain requirements. While most games take place on a relatively small board space (3’x3′ or 2.5’x2.5′ set-ups are common), the terrain is highly specific and pretty different in each scenario. If have access to appropriate club terrain or an extensive fantasy/medieval terrain collection then you should be fine, but if you don’t then expect to be potentially spending a few hundred pounds on terrain or a lot of hobby time scratch building. You will need to be able to cover villages, woodlands, scrublands, rivers, bridges, fords, encampments and interiors of larger buildings. You could probably do this relatively cheaply using 2d paper printed options to keep cost down, but it wouldn’t half as impactful and would loose some of the miniature wargaming feel IMHO.
I have plenty of left-over or abandoned fantasy miniatures from random projects which I intend to repurpose for RoSD and I am really looking forward to future campaign releases.