[Ironsworn solo] The Tale of Viktor Nightborn

Dr. Mindermast

Name-Level Psychologist
Validated User
One of the recent threads on solo gaming in RPO introduced me to Ironsworn, a low fantasy RPG which is designed to be played GM-less (solo or with a group), and which can currently be downloaded for free at ironswornrpg.com. After a quick read-through I am very excited about this game, and I thought I'd share my excitement by making my first attempt at a campaign public. So here we are. Though I should warn you, I don't usually get a lot of time for this kind of thing, so posts here are likely to be intermittent.

I only just heard about this game, and I'm guessing many of you are in the same position, so before I start I'm going to take a moment to summarize the basic rules. Ironsworn is heavily influenced by PbtA - any in-game action that requires rolling can be fit into one of the defined Moves, with defined results depending on the roll that are then interpreted in the context of the narrative. The actual rolling is 1d6+modifiers, compared to two separate d10s which are the target numbers. Concluding a conflict or a plot point also requires a move, but instead of rolling a d6, the dice are compared to a progress track that you've been filling out along the way. If the d6 beats both of the d10s it's a strong success, if it only beats one of them it's a weak success, and less than that is a failure. A failed roll, or doubles on the d10s, triggers a random event or plot twist. The book provides a number of oracles to provide inspiration for this, plus repeated suggestions to rely more on intuition than random generators.

One other rule which will deserves mention here, given the importance that the book places on it - Momentum. This is a stat which starts at +2 and can move up or down in response to events in the game. When the score is positive it lets you turn some failed rolls into successes, and when it's negative it can sometimes turn successful rolls into failures.

So that's that for now. Next post will be world and character generation.

Dr. Mindermast

Name-Level Psychologist
Validated User
The default setting of Ironsworn is a sort of post-apocalyptic fantasy - there were mighty civilizations before, and then something happened, and then the survivors fled to this cold, desolate peninsula called the Ironlands. Two generations later, the survivors and their descendants are still eking out an existence in a land that can just barely support them. There are villages and other small settlements scattered around, but nothing bigger.

And then we fill in details in some areas. The book has three suggestions for each, and of course the option to make up your own if you prefer. So here is what I am going with for this campaign:

The Old World - The sickness moved like a horrible wave across the Old World, killing all in its path. Thousands fled the plague aboard ships. The sickness, however, could not be outrun. In the end, those who survived found the Ironlands and made it their new home. Some say we will forever be cursed by those we left behind.
Iron - The weather is bleak. Rain and wind sweep in from the ocean. The winters are long and bitter. One of the first settlers complained “only those made of iron would dare live in this foul place”—and thus our land was named.
Legacies - Before man, before even the firstborn, another people lived here. Their ancient ruins are found throughout the Ironlands.
Communities - We live in communities called circles. These are settlements ranging in size from a steading with a few families to a village of several hundred. Some circles belong to nomadic folk. Some powerful circles might include a cluster of settlements. We trade (and sometimes feud) with other circles.
Leaders - Leadership is as varied as the people. Some communities are governed by the head of a powerful family. Others have a council of elders who make decisions and settle disputes. In others, the priests hold sway. For some, it is duels in the circle that decide.
Defense - Here in the Ironlands, supplies are too precious, and the lands are too sparsely populated, to support organized fighting forces. When a community is threatened, the people stand together and protect their own as best they are able.
Mysticism - Magic is rare and dangerous. Those few who wield the power are truly gifted, but not necessarily trusted.
Religion - The people honor old gods and new. In this harsh land, a prayer is a simple but powerful comfort.
Firstborn - The firstborn live in isolation and are fiercely protective of their own lands.
Beasts - Monstrous beasts stalk the wild areas of the Ironlands.
Horrors - We are wary of dark forests and deep waterways, for monsters lurk in those places. On a moonless night, when all is wreathed in darkness, only fools venture beyond their homes.

Dr. Mindermast

Name-Level Psychologist
Validated User
Okay, the character now.

Viktor Nightborn
(the rulebook states that people don't really use surnames anymore. Nightborn, rather than being a proper name, is a nickname given to Viktor because he was born on the one day of the year that the sun never rises above the horizon. Other children unlucky enough to be born on the same day have the same nickname, or something similar)

Appearance: medium height, thin and wiry, with a gaunt face. Dark eyes, short black hair, short beard. He is dexterous, but not graceful; most people find something just a bit off-putting about the way he moves.

Edge 2 Iron 1 Heart 1 Wits 2 Shadows 3
Health 2 Spirit 5 Supply 4
Momentum +7

Total XP 0
Spent XP 0

Background vow: somehow destroy the Horror that marked me at my birth (Epic)
Inciting vow: bring my mentor's ashes back to his home village (Dangerous)

My home village of Whiterock
My older brother, Henet

Ranger (Path)

  • When you Gather Information or Secure Advantage using your tracking skills or your knowledge of wilderness/animals, add +1 and take +1M on a hit
Cutthroat (Martial Focus - requires dagger or knife)

  • When you are in a position to Strike an unsuspecting foe, (a) add +1 and take +1M on a hit, or (b) inflict +2 harm on a strong hit - choose before rolling
Shadow-Walk (Ritual)

  • When you obscure yourself in shadows, roll+Shadow. On a strong hit take +1M. Also get one reroll when you Face Danger, Secure Advantage, or Gather Info by hiding or sneaking. On a weak hit, as above but -1 Spirit.

Three knives
A spear
A hatchet
A bow
A breastplate of hardened leather
A gray wolf-pelt cloak
Warm clothes and boots
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Dr. Mindermast

Name-Level Psychologist
Validated User
Sweet! I'll be watching this. Thanks for trying out Ironsworn.
And thank you for writing it! And also for throwing in the "rodents of unusual size" reference; that kind of thing is always appreciated.

Anyway, enough teasing. On with the game...


Oleg Nightborn died one week ago.

He had been an older man, and of frail constitution. He had spent much of his adulthood wandering the Ironlands, or at least that was what he had said. Three years ago he had arrived in Whiterock, and that was when he found Viktor and took him under his wing. He had taught the young man that it was his responsibility to take the power the darkness had given him and wield it to protect his people against that darkness. Even if his people might never thank him for it.

On his death bed, Oleg had given his protege one final task - to return his ashes to his home village, many miles to the west. Viktor had sworn an iron vow to his mentor.

And now the time was here. There had been the funeral, and the fasting and prayers, and the mighty pyre. Now all that remained of Oleg Nightborn was in a wooden box. It was finely carved, suitable for the man; Henet had done well with that. The box was now stowed in Viktor's pack, along with the supplies that would hopefully help keep him going for the journey.

Viktor hugged his brother, gathered his belongings, and walked out of his own village. Thus began his saga.
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Registered User
Validated User
And thank you for writing it! And also for throwing in the "rodents of unusual size" reference; that kind of thing is always appreciated.
Hah. You're the first to comment on it. Thanks for noticing. I actually have "Princess Bride References" as an item in the index. Sadly, there's only two of them.


Oleg Nightborn died one week ago.
Beautiful start. Looking forward to it.

Dr. Mindermast

Name-Level Psychologist
Validated User
Hah. You're the first to comment on it. Thanks for noticing. I actually have "Princess Bride References" as an item in the index. Sadly, there's only two of them.
No one ever expects Princess Bride references. The gamer's main tool is Princess Bride references. And butchered Monty Python references. And perhaps also- wait, let me start over.


Enough intro - it's dice time. The story starts with Viktor traveling to another village, so that's Undertake a Journey. Decent distance but no major trouble expected, so I set the rank to Dangerous and roll+Wits, +1 for departing from a community with which I share a bond.
1d6+2+1=4, vs challenge dice of 7 and 10. First roll of the game and it's a failure. This bodes well...
I don't really know what makes sense for a consequences at this point, so I roll on the Pay the Price table - 14, "You are separated from something or someone." -1 Momentum is probably also fair.

The day was sunny, and fairly warm - about as good as Viktor could have hoped for as he started out west through the Havens. He took in the sights, and the sounds, and the feeling of peaceful solitude that was different from anything he ever had in the village. It was shaping up to be a pleasant journey, circumstances notwithstanding.

Around midday Viktor decided to stop for a small lunch. He had been walking for some time through a wooded area and found a nice clearing. He set down his pack and his spear, then walked off a short distance to relieve himself. When he returned, the day was spoiled. Someone, or something, had apparently gone through his pack and scattered his supplies around the clearing. After a moment of frozen panic he rushed to pick up what he could find and figure out what was left and what was gone.

Rations, check. Spear, bow, and hatchet, check. Bedroll, check. Finely carved box of ashes...


Dice time again - let's see if the mysterious thieving bastard left any clues here. Tracks, ideally, which lets me bring in my Ranger asset on this Gather Information roll...
1d6+2+1 = 7, vs 2 and 2 - strong hit plus Ranger benefit will balance out my previous Momentum loss.
Doubles on a strong hit means some new opportunity or other positive twist. No ideas, so let's see if the oracles can help me out here. 40 on the Major Plot Twist table is "A more dangerous foe is revealed."

What does this all mean? Let's find out in the next post...
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Dr. Mindermast

Name-Level Psychologist
Validated User
The tracks were easy enough to find. It looked like whatever left them was a bipedal creature, larger than a man, with clawed toes. Viktor followed deeper into the woods, moving quickly so he could catch up with his thief. Then he heard the roar, and he slowed down.

Viktor continued to creep forward until he reached the crest of a low hillock. Down below he saw the source of the roar. It was a bear rearing up angrily, standing twice as tall as any other he had ever seen. Behind it was another hill, with what looked like a cave entrance - the monstrous bear's den, presumably. And on the ground in front of it knelt a troll. It had one arm up in a defensive posture, clawed fingers fanned out, and the other arm wrapped around a finely carved wooden box.

Viktor's first thought was that if the troll had stolen Oleg's ashes, then it would be enough to let the bear kill it and be done with it. But then it occurred to him that the box would still be laying here, and no matter how long he waited he would risk having to deal with the giant bear himself. Better to take that one out of the picture first, then deal with the troll after.

The bear roared again, and the troll cowered. Viktor ducked behind a nearby tree, readied his bow and an arrow, and aimed carefully at the bear. With his past hunting experience he had a fairly good sense of where its weak spots should be, if such a beast could be said to have any weak spots. Another second to be sure, and then he loosed the arrow.

Secure Advantage, with a bonus for Ranger: 1d6+2+1 = 7, vs 1 and 5. That's a strong hit, which gives me +1 on my following action, and +1 Momentum thanks to Ranger.
The combat rules say that I should start with Enter the Fray, which is about positioning rather than attacking. However, it's important to know whether or not I have initiative moving forward. I'm going to rule that I make an Enter the Fray roll for that purpose, but the actual "action" that is happening here is a Strike or Clash, depending on the EF results. My Secure Advantage bonus will apply to the latter roll, since that makes narrative sense.
I'm striking an unaware target without warning, so I get to roll+shadow for EF. 1d6+3 = 4, vs 3 and 10. A weak hit allows me to take initiative or gain Momentum. I choose initiative in this case.
Strike: ranged attack, so roll+Edge, plus the bonus from aiming. 1d6+2+1 = 4, vs 7 and 9. And my Momentum is only 5, so that won't help me here. FFS. Time to pay the price again. No need to roll this time though - I think I know how it's going to go for the moment.

The bear swung one of its huge claws at the troll at the exact same moment that Viktor fired. As a result his arrow hit the inside of the bear's paw instead of anywhere important. This didn't hurt it much, but it did attract its attention. The bear turned toward Viktor, roaring again. The troll immediately took advantage of this distraction. It took off running,trying to get around behind the bear, and as it moved it changed its skin color to camouflage with the surrounding forest.

Dr. Mindermast

Name-Level Psychologist
Validated User
Bad situation keeps getting worse, but let's see if I can at least stop that progression. Rulebook says Face Danger is the move to use when I want to bravely run the hell away from combat. Doing it with speed or agility is roll+Edge, so...
1d6+2 = 5, vs 6 and 10. As usual, the dice really don't like me.

Whatever fantasies Viktor had had about a heroic struggle dissolved in an instant. He turned and ran back through he forest, hoping that his elevated position and the scattered trees would be enough to slow the bear. They weren't.

Elder bear inflicts 4 harm, and I roll Endure Harm.
1d6+1 = 4, vs 3 and 10.

* * *

When Viktor came to, it was dark out. He was sore all over, but especially at his sides, which had at least stopped bleeding. Oh, he had been bleeding.

Gradually the memory came back to him. He had run, and the bear had caught him and thrown him, and then... then he had come to, here, in the dark.

His pack had apparently flown with him. His belongings were scattered all around him. Nothing important was broken, as far as he could tell. That was at least one small blessing. And there was plenty of wood around for lighting a small fire. And a comfortable clearing, not too far back, but far enough away from the bear. Hopefully.

Make Camp. 1d6+5 = 9, vs 6 and 6.
I'll choose both of the healing options, at the cost of 1 point of supply, and the +1 Momentum so maybe that will finally do me some good.

Viktor had sworn a solemn vow to his dying mentor, and he had not done well getting started on it, to put it mildly. It seemed his frustration had clouded his judgment about how to proceed. But now he had some food in him, and a pleasant fire. He meditated on the dancing shadows, and thought about how he would find that troll tomorrow, and exact revenge. Or at least get those gods damned ashes back.

So what's the special result from the doubles on that roll? We'll find out next time.
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