They had come together at the ford of the Trident while the battle crashed around them, Robert with his warhammer and his great antlered helm, the Targaryen prince armored all in black. On his breastplate was the three-headed dragon of his House, wrought all in rubies that flashed like fire in the sunlight. The waters of the Trident ran red around the hooves of their destriers as they circled and clashed, again and again, until at last a crushing blow from Robert’s hammer stove in the dragon and the chest beneath it. When Ned had finally come on the scene, Rhaegar lay dead in the stream while men of both armies scrabbled in the swirling waters for rubies knocked free of his armor. – A Game of Thrones, by George R.R. Martin
With HBO’s A Game of Thrones Season 8 coming to a controversial end, I thought it seemed appropriate timing to post a review of Green Ronin’s A Song of Ice and Fire: A Game of Thrones Edition – Adventure, War, and Intrigue in George R.R. Martin’s World of Westeros. Regardless of your opinion on the T.V. show, A Song of Ice and Fire RPG is primarily based on the written works of George R.R. Martin, and generally occupies (at least for the core books) a time period prior to the current events of the show. An aside, if you are gearing up for tomorrow’s HBO finale, a great way to catch up on lore, theories, and Easter eggs is by tuning in to New Rockstars’ YouTube channel. In my opinion, they have the best break down videos, not only for A Game of Thrones, but also a number of other popular movies and shows, like Star Wars and the Avengers.
Alright, about the RPG – First, a little information straight from Green Ronin:
For years, readers have thrilled to the saga of Westeros as told in George R.R. Martin’s best-selling A Song of Ice and Fire series. Now you can tell your own tales of the Seven Kingdoms and play the game of thrones in A Song of Ice and Fire Roleplaying from Green Ronin Publishing. This is a brand new roleplaying game, custom designed to reflect the realities of Westeros. Play is centered around not just characters but noble houses. This provides a ready-made rationale for adventures and helps focus the campaign.
The game has two core books. The first, A Song of Ice and Fire Roleplaying, provides the rules. It covers everything from character and house creation to intrigue and mass combat. A Song of Ice and Fire Roleplaying won the 2009 Silver ENnie Award for Best Rules. The second book, A Song of Ice and Fire Campaign Guide, describes Westeros in lavish detail, providing full details on all the major regions and principal players of the game of thrones. Supporting the two core books is Peril at King’s Landing,an adventure to help you kick-start your campaign.
Fans were able to get their first taste of A Song of Ice and Fire Roleplaying on Free RPG Day (June 21, 2008). On this day Green Ronin gave away thousands of free Quick-Start rules for the game at participating retail stores. Now we’ve released a free PDF of the Quick-Start as well. This 32-page booklet gives you a taste of the rules, six pre-generated characters, and a short adventure so you can try the game out. The Song of Ice and Fire Quickstart won the 2009 Gold ENnie Award for Best Free Product.
The Roleplaying core rulebook by Robert J. Schwalb is 320 full-color pages packed with beautiful artwork, game rules, and lore. The depth in which the book explores the lore of Westeros makes a purchase of this book worth every penny. Deep discussions of the noble houses, regions, and people of the continent occupy every page – the book even includes a large, detailed color map of Westeros. The Campaign Guide includes a closer look at the campaign setting, with detail on some of the regions of Westeros (and an awesome map of King’s Landing). After the original prints of both The Campaign Guide and the Roleplaying guide, Green Ronin published A Game of Thrones Edition, which is essentially a deluxe version of the original books. This version includes all the original core rules, all known errata at the time of printing, two adventures, and new illustrations throughout the book.
My main criticism of the print versions of these books is that the chapter delineation occupies the top-right corner of each page, making quick reference somewhat difficult. I prefer a layout more like that of Paizo’s Starfinder core rulebook, which has a chapter delineation that spans vertically on the right side of each page, making quick reference a breeze. That being said, the overall layout is very reader friendly. Each page is sectioned with clear headers and color-coded blocks of text and states.
The game is based on the Chronicle System, and Green Ronin offers a large number of compatible materials to add to your game experience. This system takes a little adjustment if you are a player rooted in the modern popular d20 systems of D&D 5e or Pathfinder. However, this RPG operates much like you would expect with the PCs playing a single leveling character and the game master playing the Narrator, controlling the world of Westeros as everyone moves though scenarios called stories. The world is a gritty, low-magic, sword-and-shield world. Any fan of the books or T.V. will feel very comfortable this familiar setting.
Much like you could expect, the characters are based on House, role, and background. Included in the Roleplaying core rulebook is also a list of intriguing archetypes based on the Westeros universe. Outside of combat, the game unfolds via the Narrator (GM) through story-like events. Punctuating this narrative are moments of brutal, dangerous combat that can fundamentally alter the game for the PCs.
If you are looking for a high-fantasy world, much like that of D&D 5e or Pathfinder, this game is probably not for you. However, gamers looking for a harsher grind through a bleak, dangerous campaign, will find a home with a Song of Ice and Fire.