A land torn asunder by war, famine, and corruption. Through many years of hardship, the people step from their homes to discover a new life. The once mysterious Blood Mist slowly evaporates from the earth, and demons linger throughout the mountains. This is the world of the Forbidden Lands.
A dwarf minstrel, elf fighter, goblin sorcerer, and human peddler approach a small quaint village by the river. A guard gazes lazily at them as they pass by the fortified wooden gate. These aren’t typical adventurers, they are rogues and raiders trying to make a living in a dangerous world.
Forbidden Lands is a tabletop role-playing game from Free League Publishing. It’s a twist on other popular RPG titles where the players aren’t necessarily the heroes of the campaign, but instead are simply trying to survive any way they can.
The mythos and lore of Forbidden Lands is well thought out and detailed. The gods brought their people to a new land and discovered it wasn’t as peaceful as they had hoped. Wars erupted and fighting spread throughout the world. Then a terrible mist appeared and killed everything it touched. Eventually, the mist vanished but the world was changed and portions of it still linger throughout waiting to be discovered by would-be adventures hoping to become a legend.
Speaking of legends, Legends are how the players learn about the world and its people. They are also a way for them to gain experience. Instead of a player not knowing who an NPC is, the game masters might have the characters hear about a legend from NPCs, maps, or notes they find during their adventure. Or before they encounter an area of the person, they roll a die to find out what they know.
Another aspect of Forbidden Lands is the Stronghold. Over time the characters will have made a name for themselves and if they live long enough, they will gain access to their own stronghold. The Forbidden Lands are dangerous and full of deadly creatures, and the characters will need a place to rest. Strongholds are a home base for characters to regroup and restock after returning from an adventure.
However, they are not always safe. The rules contain several random encounters to use when the characters are resting inside their stronghold. Peace is hard to come by in this world and that’s what makes it exciting.
Cultures and Kin
Forbidden Lands contains many cultures called Kin. They range from Human, Elf, Half-Elf, Dwarf, Halfling, Orc, Wolfkin, Goblin. Each one can then choose a profession or class ranging from Druid, Fighter, Hunter, Minstrel, Peddler, Rider, Rogue, or Sorcerer.
There are also skills and abilities based on Attributes. Your character’s physical and mental capabilities are measured in attributes. They are broken down into four categories: Strength, Agility, Wits, and Empathy.
Dark Secret. Akin to Dungeons & Dragons Flaws are Dark Secrets. A Dark Secret is something you did in the past that you don’t want anyone else to know about. It is one of the most valuable resources the game master can pull from when deciding future plot points for your character.
Consumables. In Forbidden Lands, keeping track of consumable items such as food, water, and arrows is an important aspect of exploring. These are tracked by a d6, d8, and d12. Once eating a ration or loosing an arrow, you roll the specific dice and if a 1 or 2 appears you lower the dice to the lower amount – d12 to d10 and so on. After rolling a 1 or 2 on a d6, you run out of whatever it is you used and have to buy more.
It’s actually an engaging way to keep track of your items. Instead of worrying about how many arrows or bolts you have in a given day, you just roll the dice to decide.
Reputation. Being recognized in the Forbidden Lands is something to keep track of as well. Whether you successfully looted an ancient crypt or angered the village leader, your name could get out and reach the ears of powerful people.
This mechanic works by having the player with the highest reputation roll a d6 when they reach a town or interact with an NPC. A 6 means you have made a name for yourself and that person or town knows you, however, if it’s good or bad is up to the deeds you have done. This also works in reverse and the players can roll d6 to determine if they’ve heard of an NPC.
It Takes a d6
Instead of relying on a d20 like D&D, Forbidden Lands can be played entirely with a d6. Weapons and gear have attributes of their own you add or subtract from skills and attacks. You roll to attack and for skills but the damage is calculated by characters four Attributes. You can also go one step further and push any roll for added success or failure.
If you fail a roll and choose to push it you add dice according to certain skills and abilities and roll again. But failing could result in an even worse result than the original roll. While success means you achieve an even cooler result and perhaps do more damage.
Forbidden Lands is one of the most innovative and engaging TTRPGs around. It’s fast-paced and full of history. Exploring feels rewarding and interacting with NPCs and adventure sites is intriguing and exciting. The whole thing can even be played at random without any planning so both the game master and players aren’t aware of what’s going to happen. Forbidden Lands is built for storytellers and fantasy lovers who enjoy diving into the unknown and uncovering new mysteries.
Forbidden Lands is recommended for fantasy fans! It is thrilling, detailed, and full of wonderful and dreadful encounters We give it a 9 on a d10.