Iron Gauntlets Review


In the late 1970s and early 80's there was a profusion of RPGs unmatched until the dawn of D20 OGL. The difference being that in the earlier renaissance each game came with an entirely new mechanic. Many of these games were amalgams of other systems where authors stuck things together that probably shouldn't have gone. During that bygone era, this game would have rocked.

Iron Gauntlets

By Brett M Bernstein

from Politically Incorrect Games

$7.50 for PDF download from

116 pages, some color, includes "disposable minis" and "Dungeon Rooms" samples.

Chapter 1: Characters

Players determine their character's race from the standard fantasy choices, plus centaur and goblin. These may require certain gimmicks or backgrounds and provide other stipulations or benefits.

Using guidelines determined by Race, players choose backgrounds, which again may require or prohibit certain gimmicks or adjust costs for skills. Backgrounds include Cavernfolk and Cityfolk, but there are 12 to choose from covering almost any reasonable backstory.

Now up to 3 Gimmicks are selected (in addition to racial or background gimmicks). These are advantages and disadvantages, which will add to or subtract from ability points. Included are "dark vision" and "Childe of Gods". One that I personally like and contains huge potential for abuse is "Cursed Relic". Sort of a "signature gear" that cannot be lost/sold/etc. but has drawbacks.

Next up is vocation. This is more dignified than "class" but that's what it is. There are 17 choices including mason, merchant, and prophet. Some of these require that certain backgrounds or gimmicks were taken.

Now 5 abilities (fitness, awareness, creativity, reasoning, and influence) are assigned values from 0 to 6 from a pool of about 16 points. The about is based on the number and sorts of gimmicks taken. Up to 4 points of flairs may be applied which are sub-attributes. There are two or more for each and as long as the plusses and minuses work out, its all good. The Luck ability is rolled for (how appropriate) and wizards will need to assign points to crafting.

Finally skills are selected using a pool of 30 points. Skills must have a value of 2 to 8. The skills are grouped by governing ability and there are only about 60 altogether, so it's not quite as daunting as Gurps frex. There are also styles, which allow groups of skills to play off one another.

Chapter 2: Task Resolution

This is why I read gaming books and where this one fell short. The quick version is roll (attribute)d10, add up how many are less than or equal to your skill, and compare to a target number (2 for combat, usually). There are assorted ways to increase or decrease target numbers and number of dice rolled, but that is the gist of it.

Chapter 3: Equipment

This is pretty pedestrian. All the standard fantasy things are here, without the double-ended axe. This section also includes a useful bit of thought regarding "brews" or potions, application, and times to affect the target.

Chapter 4: Magic

Would you believe that Iron Gauntlets contains not a single magic system? It also contains not 2 or 3 systems, but there are 4 (count'em 4) magic systems within this game: Crafting which is wizardry as we all know and love; Divinity or religious spell casting; Totemic or ceremonial magic, and Essence magic which amounts to Chi.

In addition to the 4 types of magic, they are all very open-ended allowing for a broad range of effects. Unfortunately, this openness makes it very beginner unfriendly. The addition of a chart of common spells would have gone a long way.

Chapter 5: Bestiary

The bestiary is far from comprehensive, but gives a decent range and provides abilities and gimmicks for those creatures. I'm not fond of their being grouped by class of critter (Common Animal, Droll, Behemoth, etc.) but it is only 10 pages, so this listing can be overcome in a pew seconds.

Chapter 6: Behind the Scenes

This is the usual array of stuff the Director (IG GM) needs or wants to make his gaming easier including treasure tables and adventure ideas.

It also contains what I consider to be the worst idea within this game and that is the character advancement section. Skills may be improved by gaining 20 experience points in a skill. An experience point is gained by succeeding in a task with a difficulty of 4 or more. This means that to increase a skill you must either have an attribute for that skill which is 4 or better, or use Luck for extra dice, then succeed at a skill of difficulty 4 or higher. Because combat is normally a 2, you must ensure that your foe has an advantage, before you attack, then hope all your dice succeed. The result is that Skilled characters with high attributes will advance faster than the untrained, until the limit of skill 8 is attained.


If you like Class-based systems, this is better than D20.

If you like Gurps-y advantages and disadvantages, this is OK.

If you like Ars Magica spell systems, this is a good thing.

If you like elegant task resolution, look elsewhere.

The writing was exceptional. I found it easy to read and despite the clunky mechanics, I do like this product. I am also fond of the Politically Incorrect Games name and acronym.

Whutaguy, can you explain why you think this is better than D20?
and detail some more about the magic systems and flavor of this whole thing?

+1 to zipdrive's questions. I've stuck pretty close to the D&D through d20 path out of sheer convenience so it is the one with which I have the most experience and frustration.

The Iron Gauntlet advancement system is interesting. From what you described it isn't surprising very few followed. Good food for thought.

I'm also interested in your favored task resolution system if you have one for comparison.

First off, I am not a fan of d20 in general. That said:
More classes/vocations. Yes I know that with supplement and prestige classes and all the other optional crap there are probably more D20 classes, but out of the box, this is a larger number than most.
Gimmicks are more universal than feats.
More logical Magic. In AD&D, a 5th Level mage can cast fireball, but might not be able to light a lantern without tools.
Broader spell range. Wizards are able to change details of spells more freely.
Smoother skill progression. Instead of reaching X experience points and increasing ability in x+(int bonus) skills, gaining a feat and or attribute, improved saving throws and combat bonus, all at once, it progresses in a little less clunky manner, with skills you use improving faster than ones you don't.
In essence, it is my opinion that, this game surpasses d20 for player variability.

As for the magic:
Crafting is calling upon the forces of magic to make changes to the world or perceptions of it. The mages will controls effects.
Divinity is calling upon gods/devils to aid your efforts for their cause. The divine entity controls the effect.
Totemic is animal magic (druids in Diable 2 if that helps). Mostly for nature and supernatural dealings. It is more ceremonial taking longer with less quantifyable results.
Essence is more mind over matter and physical self discipline. Results are very short term and more of the "WOW! Did you see that guy punch through the steel door!" type things.

Whutaguy, can you explain why you think this is better than D20?
and detail some more about the magic systems and flavor of this whole thing?

still waiting for a comment relating to the flavor of the system/implied setting.

More logical Magic. In AD&D, a 5th Level mage can cast fireball, but might not be able to light a lantern without tools.

That isn't 'more' logical. It just follows different logic.

There's no such thing as more or less logical. Either a proposition is logically correct (i.e. it is provable to be true from the base axioms within the system of logic in question) or it is not correct. (Well, aside from Gödel propositions whose truth values are indeterminate from within the system, but let's not get into that).

What you're really saying is that you prefer the logic system of Iron Gauntlets magic to that of d20. As we can't really discuss the relative 'realism' of various systems of magic, we have no metric by which we can claim that one or the other system is 'better', other than our purely subjective notions of how magic ought to be.

- Spock out

The flavor is pretty generic fantasy. Similar to raw D&D. IG does not include a world setting, but the range of skills and magic available are in a similar vein. I have not PLAYED the game, (I plan to shortly) so cannot really compare the relative power level, but at a glance seems pretty first level. I don't know how advancement compares either.

There are a couple world books for IG available through PIG. One is Steampunk Musha which I have reviewed and should appear on Gamegrene shortly.

The experience system is a bit out there. I see what they were trying to do, but think they suffered from poor execution. This may be from trying to stick to a simple method, but the result is like a dvorak keyboard.

As for favored systems. I am a fan of Gurps. It is a simple, consistant method with a decent probability distribution. It includes a method for comparative successes.
For longer term tasks (more than single action) I think Aftermath from FGU excells and have written a conversion for that system to be used with Gurps. Pyramid ( subscribers can read "The Task at Hand" in the archives there.
Older AD&D, and Palladium last time I played anything they wrote did not have simple systems. Different dice to determine success at different things. Similarly they were not consistant, dome things required high rolls to succeed and others required low (to hit and non-weapon proficiencies to name names). The single die for success gives a flat distribution, 2 dice gives a triangle function, and 3 gives a bell resulting in a more normalized result. I do play in a homebrow system using 5d4 for resolution, and any rolls below 9 or above 15 are exceptional. FWIW d20 did pick up the simple and consistant parts. For personal preference, I prefer summing dice to comparing X dice to target number (shadowrun, WoD).

I Hope all of this helps.
As a side note, I was just at and see that they have changed their name to Precis Intermedia Games. Apparently they aren't at politically incorrect as they thought they were. There is also some free content there. Unfortunately, not much of it touches these topics. There is an optional rule where overkill (successes beyond what is needed) results may be used as experience for skills.


Raw D&D sounds pretty good. I am looking forward to hearing how it plays, especially as I don't have a group to try it with. Heh.

Thanks for the other input too. I'm moving "Take a Look at GURPS" higher on my to-do list.

Talking of GURPS, I have to admit that while I have several books in my possesion (3rd ed: Basic rules, space, supers, religion , timetravel, timetravel adventures and 4th ed: fantasy) I've never actually played. It always seemed to me too much work learning all the rules well enough to build an adventure out of, and then to teach it to other people....and combat seems complicated.

And the notation of 1d+x annoys me...why can't they use proper language and write 1d6+x, huh, why? (yeah, I know).

If anyone wants to come over and run a game, I'm willing to play, though :)

Gurps Lite is 32 pages and available for free at:

Basic combat is not particularly complicated.

GURPS Combat
1. Attacker: Roll 3d6 and compare to modified skill
2. Defender: If Attack succeeds, roll 3d6 and compare to chosen defense.
3. Attacker: If Defense fails, roll damage.
4. Defender: Subtract armor value from damage. Bleed.

d20 Combat
1. Attacker: Roll 1d20, add/subtract modifiers, and compare to Defenders Armor.
2. Attacker: If attack succeeds, roll damage.
3. Defender: Bleed

The real differences are:
1. the modifiers and they are really quite similar (and optional in gurps)
2. The gurps defender gets a dice chance to not take damage
3. Gurps armor soaks up some of the damage.

Incidentally, all gurps skills are resolved as step 1.

Nothing irritates me more than playing Exalted and rolling 27 dice and counting 7s and coming up with 11 successes and then having the defender roll 35 dice and count 7s and come up with 10 successes and then rolling 1 die plus my magic power in damage and then the defender's soak of 7 reduces the damage so that my supreme fireball of unholy doom does 1 point of damage, which causes a light Bruise.

but can I roll d8 instead...or a d4... I love the funky dice!

I'm certain that you could, if properly motivated arrange some other arrangement of dice. Off the top, I'd say (1d4+1d6+1d8) or (2d4+1d10) would give similar results. Or for that matter and 3 dice that total 18.

Submitted by zipdrive on Thu, 2007-01-11 05:06.
but can I roll d8 instead...or a d4... I love the funky dice!