We couldn’t have a St Andrew’s Scottish themed set of articles here on Geeking Out without checking out at least one suitable roleplaying game supplement. And in that respect, think we would struggle to find a more appropriate offering than Wallace, a relatively new product from Earl of Fife Games.
So what is Wallace?
I picked up the PDF from DrivethruRPG a couple of months back via EoFG’s adventures (CLICK HERE). There are a growing number of community publishing groups for games I play, and the Earl of Fife name crops up a fair bit. With a new system on the way, a suitable connection for the current Geeking Out theme and a similar Fife connection (I’m a Fifer but Earl of Fife is actually across the pond), it’s a perfect time to tuck in.
I’m going to assume that you might have heard of the Scottish ‘hero’, but rest assured that this isn’t some Mel Gibson tribute. Instead, what we have here is a self-contained sandbox adventure and campaign primer for those interested in the Wars of Independence. Intended primarily for the Heroes & Hardships d10 RPG System, which you can pick up the trial set for at pay what you want (CLICK HERE), there’s more than enough in here to get your teeth into, regardless of your system of preference.
Clocking in at fifty-odd pages, this is a slim book but deceptively weighty in content. Wallace is well laid out in traditional two column format and generously illustrated throughout. Technically full colour, most of the images are ‘pencil’ or monochrome and this suits the tone and feel perfectly in my mind. Rather than garish or questionably coloured heraldry, we instead see a variety of styles that evoke the realistic setting which is intended.
The book starts with a brief history of the road to rebellion and some points on what this book is and, importantly, what it isn’t. Whilst the intent is to play out the events at Lanark all those centuries ago from the perspective of the Scots involved, this is not an exercise in Anglophobia. Similarly, you may wish to try and stick to as much historical accuracy as possible (which might be tricky with the events at Lanark), or you might want to paint your face blue and scream ‘Freedooooooom!’ at every opportunity. Ultimately, that choice will be for your group to make, but it’s a fair point that this is broached here.
So why Lanark?
Interestingly, as with much of our history, the actual details can be more than a little murky. Despite a love of history, my knowledge is effectively that of an amateur reader. True, my shelves are stocked with everything from the Neolithic through to WWII, but given we’re talking over 4,000 years, so it’s hard to be well versed in everything. I should therefore be honest and say my knowledge is fairly limited. Wallace manages to do a good job of getting the basics delivered quickly and succinctly, but is honest about the limitations of our knowledge.
So, despite being such an influential character who would have major repercussions on the political landscape of the time which would reverberate and shape conversation even to this day, the early years of Wallace are not particularly well established. The fires of insurgency which would set a nation ablaze started in a small town in Scotland with little major significance. Questions remain unanswered as to a large number of specific details which means this is ideal territory for those wishing to roleplay out said events. One could try to maintain a level of historical accuracy, or as previously suggested, you could crank up the Hollywood History dial and dramatise to your heart’s content.
Aside from the introduction to the castle at Lanark there are a number of characters and stat blocks introduced here. Whilst the information is going to be useful for anyone, the stats, owing to the system they are tied to, might not be as easily converted. Of course, it’s not going to take over long to establish the key skills and equipment that you might want each of these folks to have in your system of choice.
The main bulk of the book contains the adventure and story centred on the events around Lanark Castle itself. Broken down into three acts, it is designed with a fair bit of freedom in mind (no pun intended). Building from seemingly unconnected events and goings on to the culminating attack there’s a lot of reading required for any would-be GM.
I’m not saying that as a bad thing, far from it. As a sandbox adventure, this is well presented and there are plenty of options available to ensure that whatever the players chose to do, there’s a fair bit of coverage to help. However, as a non-linear story, it’s not simply a case of being able to skim read the synopsis and follow A to C through B. A lot of thought and effort has clearly been put in here and I enjoyed the read.
Every group is different, but I would think that one of the biggest challenges would not to allow things to spiral into the banal. With the potential to explore and investigate every little facet, it’s good to see some background clocks ticking and cogs whirring to keep things moving. Perhaps not one for the novice GM to jump into then, but there are links to actual plays from the team which might help those seeking it.
Rounding out the book is a setting primer including things like additional characters and important events as well as a simple timeline. There’s obviously a huge amount of literature one could mine for extra detail but Wallace does an admirable job of giving the right amount of hints and tips to get you going.
Strictly historical roleplaying would not necessarily be my go-to, but I like what has been done here. For those with a passing knowledge of the Scottish Wars of Independence interested in a new roleplaying setting this will be a perfect introduction. Even for those well versed in the history, the premise and author’s ideas on the events at Lanark might prove an enjoyable read. For everyone else, with a bit of work, one could transplant this castle to any fantastical land of your imagining and follow the events with fictional flare and magic.
Definitely one I was happy to have picked up and looking forward to seeing more from the Heroes & Hardships engine.
The writer of this piece was: Adam Brown
Adam Tweets from @brother_rooster