Ironclaw is a game made by furries, for furries and about furries. It takes place in a sort of feudal european fantasy setting. Basically Furcadia: The Roleplaying Game. RPG wonks say the mechanics and settings are worth investigating, but look at that cover art. Just look at it. Now stop looking at it you pervert. Jesus.
In all fairness, the 1st edition cover is a bit misleading for the overall tone of the game. The books are rather tame, with artwork akin to early Dungeons and Dragons...as in, of varying and mostly middleing quality. There are no FATAL-esque rules for Anal-Circumference or such degeneracy in sight and the writing stays at a comfortable pg-12 level. All in all, if you hate the stereotypical hyper-sexualized, self-righteous furries but have no problem playing a beastrace in an RPG, you may as well give this game a shot.
...alternatively, the publisher tossed out some non-furry races to use with the game and setting, and the system and default setting survive removing the talking animals, but it's not like anyone has a problem with furry people, right? ...right?
Characters have Traits (can be used for many different purposes), Skills (used only for specific purposes), Gifts and Flaws. Every character has at least six Traits: Body, Speed, Mind, Will, a race, and a primary career. Additional traits, including additional careers, can be purchased. Character generation is point-buy system.
Every trait or skill is measured in dice: d4, d6, d8, d10, d12, d12+d4, d12+d6, ..., 2d12, 2d12+d4, ... In contests, both actors roll all the dice for their relevant skill & any applicable traits. Both parties compare the highest single die in their pools. Ties result in a stalemate unless one actor has more skill dice (not trait dice) than the other, in which case the more skilled person wins. If the difference is more than 5, it is an overwhelming success for the winner. If an actor rolls all '1's, it's a botch that causes additional difficulties to self.
In contests against the environment, the actor would roll traits dice + skill dice vs. the narrator's difficulty dice, usually a pair of dice (2d4 for easy tasks, 2d6 for routine, 2d12 for damned difficult, 3d12 for omgwtf, etc...). Difficulty dice can't botch, for obvious reasons.
Example: In order to ambush someone, you'd roll your Speed trait vs. their Sixth Sense skill. However, you're ambushing Mavra, and foxes can also add their race-trait dice to "Sixth Sense" rolls, making it harder. If she knew something was up, she could also add her Mind trait dice for keeping an eye out for signs (but not Observation, since the "Sixth Sense" skill is already being used).
- If you have fur allergies, you can ditch the anthro animal races and use standard fantasy races instead.
Ironclaw uses point-buy system. Each Trait and skill is rated on the size of the die assigned to them -- dice above d12 spill-over into a second die starting at d4, so d12 -> d12+d4 -> d12+d6.
All characters have a basic six Traits: Race, Career, Mind, Body, Speed and Will. The player assigns each of these dice to these starting traits: d12, d10, d8, d8, d6, d4. By spending build points (or through the use of experience points) you may increase the die for each attribute or skill. Amusingly, absent mechanics, the Race trait is actually a measure of how furry you are: low-Race PCs are basically just human with cat-ears or fox-tails, high-Race characters are barely even humanoid.
Build points can be used for increasing dice for traits or skills, or for buying Gifts (physical, social or esoteric) such as 'great Wealth' or 'Night Vision'. Your character's race may have some Gifts that come with it automatically, but this deducts from the build points you can spend. You can get more buildpoints by purchasing Flaws. Flaws are either external (inflicted on you once per session or every other session) or internal (must be role-played out).
Characters also have skills, which are much more specific than attributes. Notable skills include Hold-Out (the ability to hide things on your person), weapons skills, gambling, and observation. These also have an assigned die (or dice) that are to be rolled when performing this action.
Ironclaw is generally set on the island continent of Calabria, though in expansions there are other continents to visit such as Zhongguo (which is a testament to the developer's creativity, as Zhongguo is the Pinyin transcription for "中国"- or China in Chinese, though it's not like the bar is set all that high). The continent is on the cusp of a change from the medieval period to the renaissance. Swords and armor are still prevalent, but guns and machines are becoming much more common. Literacy is uncommon -- there is no public schooling, but everyone knows someone who can read, and can easily find someone who knows how to write.
The island is split among four major houses, with a fifth controlling the city of Triskellian that is a point-of-contact for the other four. The major house are:
- Rinaldi (vulpine) - Although technically the first major house, their influence has waned as the power of Triksellian's guilds has waxed. Some put the blame on the House's conversion to the religion of S'allumer, which preaches humility and asceticism.
- Avoirdupois (equine) - blue-blooded nobles that brag about their long and ancient lineage, and see the other factions as pretenders and squatters. Honorable almost to a fault, they are too conservative to start fights they aren't certain they would win. Exports food. No currency, not even denarii; it is illegal to pay commoners in anything but barter. (think Teuton knights, like Charlemagne). Currently the most militarily powerful house, but their reluctance to adopt new technologies like firearms, combined with their complete and utter refusal to create any form of centralized administration or merchant class, their days at the top are numbered, especially since unlike a certain other faction of chivalrous, peasant-oppressing nobles, they don't have a grail-loving watery tart blessing them with magical plot armor.
- Bisclaveret (lupine) - rural types that made a clean break from their barbarian past and embrace modernity. They control much of the inland river travel and a lion's share of the island's area, although most of it is forested wilderness. Tried to compete with Triskellian for ocean trade, but got sick of the pirates, slave traders and worse that showed up on their docks; now anyone who docks at Bisclaveret facilities must carry a letter of marque. Exports timber and mercenaries. They have their own coinage, but it is only recognized in Bisclaveret lands.
- Doloreaux (porcine) - the smallest of the major houses. They have just enough farmland for self-support, so they seek to expand their holdings but their neighbours are the Bisclavert on the west and Avoirdupois to the east, so fat chance. What they do have are the most plentiful mining lands on the island, and very defendable territory. They export copper, tin, iron and precious minerals. They use the Triskellian denar for currency and have the most relaxed tax laws, making them a formidable mercantile force to make up for their military weakness. They are the only major power who has not converted to S'allumer (technically the Phelan follow their traditional druidic faith, but the Phelan pretty much only exist because the land they inhabit is not worth the trouble of conquering), instead being dominated by matriarchal, Wicca-esque religion centered around worship of a Mother Goddess.
- Triskellian (mix) - the port-city of Triskellian was established by House Rinaldi, but has come about as an independent force, after the Don's became so impatient with running the place he appointed a Council of Guilds to run the place. It has the island's largest port, and serves as a crossroads for the rest of the island. Citizens of Triskellian call themselves "free" because the Don's abdication means they are not beholden to any noble house -- the real control is in the hands of the Council of Guilds and the Constabulary, although the separation of "high law" for nobility and "common law" for freemen is still observed. The city exports exotic goods, sea trade, crafts and skilled labour, and imports anything it can get it's hands on. The currency is the silver denar (pl. denarii), which is acknowledged all over the island.
- Chevernaise (caprine) - isolationist mountain-dwellers. Not a noble house, but grumpy rurals in the north-east of the island, enough that the Doloreaux and Avoirdupois have to deal with it. Exports nothing, and they are not friendly to outsiders. May or may not have their own unique brand of dark magic, according to their neighbors, although this should be taken with a grain of salt, since said neighbors keep getting their caravans attacked any time they send them through Chevernaise lands.
- Phelan (lupine) - barbarian tribes in the forest wilderness of the north-west. Think ancient Celts, including the legends of druids and berzerkers (in this case, "atavists" who hulk out as if they were real wolves but 6' tall). The Bisclaveret were once Phelan who decided to become "civilized," so there is no love between the two, especially since the founder of modern Bisclaveret systematically wiped out their own Druids, forced everyone to convert by the point of a sword, and tasked the nation's newly-created secret police with rooting out anyone guilty of practicing the Old Way, something that the druids in Phelan have neither forgiven nor forgotten.
The setting for Ironclaw is supposed to be low-to-medium magic,
so the wizard-types are pretty gimped. While this is disappointing for most knigh/tg/uys and ca/tg/irls, at least it's not dominating the game like every other system out there. The magic powers in this game can sometimes be rather broad, especially with spells like create/destroy elements. As a result, a clever roleplayer can pull some amazing left-field shit on a GM who's not expecting it. Of course, this assumes the GM is running a roleplaying-based game where the player can pull dirty tricks out of combat. The average player is probably lucky if his enemies think to run from a fight because most GMs like to make all their badguys suicidal derp goblins, though (for example, a good GM understands that, on a dry day, a create fire spell could sow enough confusion and panic to really tip the scales of a fight. An average GM just assumes that if the fire isn't doing direct damage then it's a pointless nuisance). So basically, Ironclaw's magic is gimped in straight, mindless combat at the lowest levels, but pretty damn ridiculous with a little bit of thought when it comes to actual problem solving.
The fluff describes why sorcerers are so rare: magic used to be even more broken than the Mystic Theurge class in D&D 3.5. (Wait, so completely gimped and not broken at all?) (Broken doesn't just mean powerful, it also means flat-out unbalanced.) There were three or four immortal kings called "Autarchs" roaming around and basically using the world as their playpen. Once the Autarchs finally fell, everyone breathed a sigh of relief and the arts of magic were feared and hated for centuries. Magic knowledge wasn't just lost but exorcised from public knowledge. In recent years magic was picked up again, but it is still mistrusted and in its infancy. All this is for the sake of realism (stop laughing) in what is supposed to feel like a pre-renaissance Europe.
The magic system comes GURPS flavoured, with each wizard having an inventory of practiced rote-spells, bought in "lists." Spellcasting is like any other skill roll, using Mind dice + (wizard career dice) + skill dice, and must buy a separate skill for each unique spell. Spellcasting uses up a personal resource of "magic points." Once a magician has raised their skill level for casting a spell to match the spell's power level (becoming an "adept" at that spell), the magician no longer needs to roll each time to see if it fizzles. (ie.: Level 1 spells are easy right away, but Level 3 spells you need to go d4->d6->d8 before you stop rolling to see if you fumble it).
The starting book mentions four flavours/careers of magic:
- Elementalism, the easiest, is your typical LIGHTNAN BOLT! LIGHTNAN BOLT! spells. Starts out as generic conjuration & evocation pew pew type, but wizards eventually have to specialize in one of the four classic elements.
- White magic, your typical holy miracle stuff, only available to members of the church. Abjuration and heal spells.
- Green & Purple magic (one flavour, two colours) is your bardic type stuff, with enchantments & charms, little bit of divination.
- Thaumaturgy feels more like a D&D magic-user class, with the heavy academics, metamagic and supernatural stuff.
- Outside of the core rulebook, there are a number of pagan traditions that are not widely available outside of their native priesthoods. Of these, the most widespread are Druidic Magic, which is practiced by the druids of Phelan, and the Blessed Ways, which is only really accepted among the worshipers of Lutara, the mother-goddess of the Dolareaux. Unlike most other forms of magic in the game, The Blessed Ways have very few actual limits, but in a nod to a number of real life magical/religious traditions (most notably Wicca), using it to harm others tends to cause it to backfire on the wielder threefold. There is also Charisms, which are extremely rare divine powers wielded by some saintly members of the Church.
There's also Atavism, which is when the furries get all tribal and shit and stop pretending to be half-human. It means being a scary fucking beast, but also means being a dumb animal; you always add your own Mind dice to the difficulty dice against any Atavist power you're trying to pull off. Almost all of these powers give you some serious RIP AND TEAR shit. Even the passive advantage makes you a scary customer: any effect that would make give an Atavist the "confused" condition gives them the "berzerk" condition instead.
Ironclaw on /tg/
Mostly used as bait by furry trolls, but it has been praised for being a decent system, and also for having a cover ripped off of Slayers. Probably deserves better than its premise will ever allow it to achieve.
If you see a 73mb Inquisitors Handbook for Dark Heresy on /rs/, odds are you will end up with this. Don't act surprised.
Ironclaw/Furless - In case you didn't catch the link at the second paragraph.