Dragonbane Tabletop RPG Review –

In many ways, role-playing for me personally feels like a bygone era. An echo of something I did during most of middle school and high school. We sat in my parents’ garage, met at someone’s house who was already out of the house, and at one point we even rented a room in the middle of the woods for a few days and nights of fantastic gaming. Role-playing was a way to socialize and escape the teenage thoughts of school and everything else that life revolved around in the 1990s. It was incredibly fun, and damn nerdy in so many ways.

Mutant, Neotech, Western, Chock, Eon, Star Wars…? The list of role-playing games I’ve experienced and played for hundreds of hours is long. They are all associated with so many memories. But nothing more than Drakar och Demoner, or Dragonbane in English.

Dragonbane Tabletop RPG Review

The version I received at home is the eleventh edition. The first came in 1982 and it was with the fourth edition, published in 1987, that I dove into this world myself a few years after its release. The green box is synonymous with an extreme amount of memories. Orcs, elves, dwarves and most importantly: taking on the important role of game master, became a big part of my interest, along with all the fantasy books I devoured. That, being a game master, was a role I really embraced and took extremely seriously. That’s why it was quite fun when, after high school, I met a new group of players who already had one, and could instead create a character and participate in the adventure from the other side of the table. It is also mostly in the role of game leader that you usually get the rulebook and become familiar with it, and many days of reading are usually needed to learn all the information.

Despite all this curiosity, it is now 2023 and the package from Free League, which has owned Dragonbane since 2021, is a mighty one. The focus is obviously on the heavy, beautiful and well-stocked base box, but we got some extra goodies that you can buy separately. A cardboard game main screen, quick rules for those who can’t be bothered to familiarize themselves with the much more in-depth rulebook (or just have a handy way to look up something specific) and there were also a few extra dice.

Dragonbane Tabletop RPG Review

Free League decided to use Kickstarter to realize the project with a new edition. They set a goal of SEK 100,000, ended up with a total of 7.6 million and we can thank the huge amount and the more than 11,000 who contributed to make this possible that the box is so full and well produced.

Before we dive into all the content, it might be good to have a brief summary of what role-playing games are. In short, it is a story presented by a game director to a group of players. They role-play characters and make choices in the story. Skills and traits are on their sheet and dice (preferably hidden for immersion) are made to see if you manage to use one of your skills, or when there is a fight. If you want (but it is not necessary) there is also a game plan and small figures to represent the environment and it then looks more like a classic board game. There are both advantages and disadvantages to this – it can be easier to get an overview and can be used to show what a labyrinth or cave looks like, for example. But for us, we almost always played without visual aids and let the story take center stage. Having a game leader who is familiar with the role-playing game and its rules is important, but it is even more important to have a stable story that the role-players can experience. Having a group of dedicated players is also central, but how serious you are about actually playing your character can vary, and often a group thrives on dynamics and different types of roleplayers. Mostly it’s friends meeting and you soon realize what kind of player everyone is. However, if you manage to create a compelling story, on its own or as part of a larger campaign, you have something good to build on.

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Because at its core, the story is everything I associate with role-playing games. As a stable base, there’s a thick rulebook that’s obviously very good if you, especially as a game director, familiarize yourself with it, so we’ll talk about that first. Many role-playing games have completely abandoned the format of everything coming in a box, but Free Leauge gives us one where all the contents are neatly collected. The rulebook is a 122-page stapled book, detailed with many beautiful illustrations. It is a delight to read for those interested, and everything is described clearly and thoroughly. The box also contains a campaign in a 116-page booklet. A complete campaign with eleven different adventures that you can go on as a group until the last final adventure in the book. It is also possible to choose an adventure here and play it as a stand-alone.

Dragonbane Tabletop RPG Review

The box also contains a map, a role-playing form, cardboard figures with small plastic pieces to attach them to, and two stacks of cards. The cards are a visual aid that I can appreciate. There are ones for treasures, among other things, and it feels more fun to have one than to write down on a piece of paper that you found some gold coins, for example. To then flip through the rulebook and take some of its contents, you have to get a lot of nice illustrations, to get familiar with how everything works technically and at the same time learn what kind of system that Dragons and Demons use.

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It goes through everything from creating a character. You choose your race, which refers to human, halfling, dwarf, elf, etc. Then you enter your class where everything from bard, hunter, magician and thief can be found. A long section deals with battles and magic also gets several pages. At the end of the book there is a section called “Beastarium” that deals with the monsters that inhabit the world. Besides those in the title of the role-playing game, there are ghouls, griffins, harpies, giants and more. All with descriptions and tables of their characteristics. There are many tables, and it is good to be able to look them up quickly and use them as a resource. The book is divided into sections, making it easy to browse quickly to a specific line.

Dragonbane Tabletop RPG Review

The content is fine, but if I could find something small to complain about, a game master screen and the quick start rules booklet could have been included. At least the latter, or a simpler version of the screen. Here I would probably just get a homemade screen for the game master, although the one you can buy has lots of tools on the inside and a very nice illustration on the front.

The fact that the basic package comes in a box feels luxurious at a time when many role-playing games are a book you have to buy and then buy everything extra. The only downside to this that I can see is that you can’t customize the content yourself in the same way as buying things separately, but at the same time it’s an insanely affordable package. Everything also breathes quality, is deep in just the right way, has matching dice and ready-made characters in case someone doesn’t want to make their own. The fact that it also comes with a huge campaign in a booklet that’s a few pages thicker than the rulebook is also fantastic, and after reading through the adventures it offers, there’s no doubt that there’s also a lot of room for a game master to come up with his own imagination, but at the same time have something bigger to lean on.

Regardless of whether you have previous experience and knowledge of this role-playing game, or are just getting into it now, Fria Ligan has created an edition that in every way feels like an echo of previous editions, but also feels modernized and nicely polished. Dragonbane is in every way a true classic for those of us who have delved into this type of entertainment before, but works just as well as a gateway to an absolutely fantastic world. As a role-playing game, it takes inspiration from many of the best in the fantasy genre and gathers all the content into a truly beautiful and rich treasure chest.

Score : 9

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