Monday 19 April 2021

Romance of the Perilous Land for Beginners

Romance of the Perilous Land: A Roleplaying Game of British Folklore is a fantasy game based around the mythology, traditions and folkloric personalities of the British Isles, published by Osprey Games. In the Perilous Land, where the game is set, Robin Hood rubs shoulders with Sir Lancelot, the machinations of Mordred are met with the valour of the Knights of the Round Table and boggarts, fairies, knuckers, bogies, banshees and other beings from the Otherworld run amok. I've written this primer to help newbies to the game or people who might be thinking about getting into it. 

The Heroes of the Age of Valour

In Romance of the Perilous Land the players take on the role of knights, thieves, bards, cunning folk, barbarians and rangers during the Age of Valour - an era when King Arthur is attempting to unite the kingdoms of the Perilous Land under his banner in order to take on the forces of The Black Lance led by Mordred. 

Heroes are quick and simple to create, but maintain enough depth to have some of the customisation you might be familiar with in games like D&D 5e. Your class gives you a range of proficiencies and skill choices that determine the types of weapons your character can use and what they're particularly good at. Players can select a range of talents, skills, a faction and a background to customise and flesh their character out. There are no races - everyone is human, reflecting the heroes of folklore who were rarely of another origin.

A Simple, Familiar System

The game is somewhere between 5e and the old BX edition, taking inspiration from The Black Hack, Tunnels & Trolls and 5e. If you're unfamiliar with these comparisons, that's cool - all you need to know is that the rules are easy to learn. The main mechanic is to roll equal to or under a given number, usually modified by a difficulty number. 

A World on the Precipice

The rulebook contains the Perilous Land setting and a short history. There are 11 kingdoms inspired by Arthurian locations, each roughly corresponding to a real place in Britain. While Mordred plots the invasion of Camelot from the kingdom of Norhaut another front reveals itself in the form of Morgan Le Fay of the Wytchwood and her Sisters of Le Fay who seek above all else to destroy civilisation and bring about a new age where magic and monsters can roam free. The Black Lance has networks of spies throughout the kingdoms while sympathisers of the Sisters are entrenched in even the highest of courts. Other factions like the Red Magister's and Burning Chapter draw their blades against all that is good, making Arthur's quest to unite the Perilous Land a tough one. 

Monsters, Monsters

British folklore is home to both familiar creatures like redcaps, bugbears and kelpies, and more obscure beasts such as pech, knuckers and fachans. Doors to the Otherworld were opened during the Age of Doom, letting fey creatures run wild, terrorising the populace. The wars of the Seelie and Unseelie Courts of fairies have spilled into the mortal world, catching regular people in the crossfire. Legendary beings like the ancient giant Gogmagog, the terrible Questing Beast and the foul dragon Telerax all provide problems for the allies of Camelot to contend with. I've designed monsters in RotPL to be almost instantaneous to create if you want to stray beyond that roster in the book. A single HD number determines all their scores, including attacks, armour points, hit points and magic points meaning making an enemy on the fly is a simple process. 

Faction Play

Rather than having something like alignments, RotPL has a range of factions players can join. Whether it's the monster hunting Iron Hawks, the spellcasting Fellowship of Enchanters, Robin Hood's own Merry Men of Sherwood or the Knights of the Round Table themselves, each faction has its own goal and ways that it expects their members to act. For instance, the Order of the Fisher King is always seeking magical items that could cure their ailing king, while the Merry Men route out corruption wherever it stands and gives a share of money to the needy. 

Folk Magic

Magic can be used by those who have a natural aptitude. We often call these people cunning folk, enchanters or Wizards. Magic in the game is based on spell points which are spent to prepare or cast certain spells. Cunning Folk can cast any and all spells in the game - there's no learning a spell. However, there is inherent risk in casting spells above your level - go too far out of your experience and things can go badly. Magical effects are more subtle than in most fantasy games to emulate folk magic. This also extends to items, taking inspiration from mundane folk magic items that were actually used, whether you're nailing a kingfisher to a mast for smooth sailing or using a salt pouch around the neck for luck. Legendary items also feature in the game including Excalibur - but it's likely the heroes will get their hands on one of these just once in their lives. 

Valorous Art

Full colour art by John McCambridge and Alan Lathwell brings the Perilous Land to life. It's all pretty stunning.

Top art: John McCambridge. Bottom art: Alan Lathwell

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