Reading Krutrök & Sägner – ett historiskt rollspel åren kring 1809 by Linus Råde

On SävCon X I was invited to be on a panel/workshop on game design, a few minutes before the panel started Linus Råde asked me what I thought of his game, Krutrök & Sägner (Gunsmoke & Legends). It had been a more than year since we traded games. My memories of the game were pretty weak, small brown book, blackish illustrations, and not much more.

Now that I’m back home again I thought I’d rectify that lapse. Especially since I actually played the game with the author at a con a few years ago.

The book
Krutrök & Sägner is a 144 page book in A5 format. Richly illustrated by Edelfelt, Malmström and Kittelsen. I assume that all the illustrations are in the public domain these days, I recognize a few of them from old school books. The text is laid out in a two column format and at times it feels like reading a history school book.

The setting
The game is an historical game set in Sweden at the time of the Finnish war, i.e. the one between Sweden and Russia 1808-1809. In 40 pages the reader is given a history of the war and an overview of the Swedish society at the time. There is also a section on folklore, with stats for some traditional Swedish monsters. The folklore monsters are optional, to be used if the players find the historical period a bit dull.

The rules
Character generation is a point-buy system.

The rules are simple, roll under or equal to stat+skill+difficulty with 2d6, fumble on 6/6, critical success on 1/1. There are also simple combat rules, and rules for falling ill and getting infected wounds. The narrow focus on death and disease in the rules give a rather gritty feel to the game.

The form
The form is traditional, a GM (kept in check only by the rules) and a group of players that focus on playing their characters.

The setting is OK, considering the limited space in the book the reader is given enough to work with to run a few games. But a few good adventure/campaign seeds would have been helpful to a GM new to the hobby.

The rules are good, it is a gritty setting and the rules support it well At the same time the rules are simple enough not to get in the way of a good story.

The form is very good. The game assumes a very traditional stance on how RPGs should be played, and it explains how to run such games very well. The section on scenario construction is one of the better I have seen. It is followed by an example scenario following the same pattern, with pre-gen characters for those that want to jump right into the action.

At the workshop Linus talked a bit about his creative process for writing this game. He started with the layout, and then wrote rules, setting etc, to fill the spaces left between the pictures. This explains the very terse section on advanced GM’ing advice, where two out of three ideas are given so little room that I’m having trouble understanding what he is trying to say. Still the advice given to the beginner is outstanding.

Will I play it?
No. The setting feels too much like school to me and the form is not to my liking. – Official site for Krutrök & Sägner

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