Hunting the Monster in Ironsworn

Although fighting is an integral part of Ironsworn, the game does not reward fighting and killing mechanically, as there are no experience points to gain from winning fights. Losing them on the other hand can be quite painful. A more sophisticated approach to fighting monsters than just beating them into a pulp can be used to hunt them down, fight them, and gain experience at the same time.

As with everything in Ironsworn, it all starts with the Iron Vow. Depending on ones truths, the character might be required to make the most solemn speech, cut himself, or sing in front of the whole village with his love interest in the audience. A daunting experience, so make it count. A simple “I’ll kill the monster” won’t cut it. Think about the problem for a moment. Why do you want the monster gone? Is it troubling the villagers? All of them or maybe just the maidens? Do you or someone else want something from the monster, like a secret or a possession? Make that the base of your vow, like: “On the blade my grandmother bestowed on me, I swear to wrestle the Cup of Stalagmite from the Golden Wyverns hands!”

Whether you want to kill the beast in an epic battle, or you are playing a thief whose daggers will probably only be able to clean the Wyvern’s nails, your vow can be fulfilled either way.

Think about the vow

Make it open ended and about the goal behind hunting the beast.

To make a successful hunt, preparation is needed. That concerns the hunting character, who might have to fill the supply, health, or spirit tracks first, and it concerns the player even more. Answering a few questions about the beast first will lay the ground for a satisfying hunt.

  • How large is it?
  • Mammal, amphibian, mystical?
  • What is its character like?
  • Why is it so dangerous?
  • Where are its weaknesses?
  • What is its motivation?

A reference like the Witcher bestiary can give a lot of inspiration and information.

At this stage one might already know, how to approach the beast. Maybe a special weapon is needed, maybe one needs to steal its security blanket to make it leave the lair and search for it. If not, give it a thought or two.

Think about the beast

Give it some depth by thinking about its motivation, background, appearance, and weaknesses.

Now it is time to start the hunt and finally gain some experience. A formidable to extreme foe sounds quite right for having a nice evening of monster stalking. It also means, one has to mark progress eight or sixteen times to reach the magical number of eight progress boxes at which fulfilling your vow has a good chance of succeeding.

Making that many milestones requires two things:

  1. A story to carry the hunt along.
  2. Opportunities to mark progress.

Story elements can be drawn from the preparation and the oracle, no problem, and milestones can be tied to moves quite neatly by having the character find out everything we prepared above.

  • Gather Information
    • Uncover the beasts secret.
    • Discover its weakness in the local library.
    • Search for tracks in the Wild Forest.
  • Find an Opportunity
    • Listen to the beast telling its tragic story to uncover its motives.
    • Reach its lair.
  • Compel
    • Have the Night Watch help you surround the lair.
    • Make the librarian give you the key to the forbidden section.
  • Secure an Advantage
    • Prepare the magic bow.
    • Set a trap using a sheep.

As you approach the final battle, it’s crucial to gather support. This could be in the form of allies, weapons, or valuable information that could give you an advantage in combat. Such resources could either enhance your strength or diminish the beast’s power by reducing its difficulty. Remember, there’s no rule against using both strategies simultaneously for optimal results.

Transfer the preparation into the game

Let your character do the foot work. Use the game’s moves and your information from above to reach milestones on the way.

The grand finale will be within reach in no time. The last moves could be Face Danger, Compel, or a full-fledged fight for which the character should be prepared by now.

Afterwards you have the opportunity to clean up a bit by fixing what ever the monster did, punish the evil settlers who caused the problems in the first place, or help them to secure their village against similar beasts.

Now it’s time to Fulfil Your Vow.