Reading Blood & Bronze by Olav Nygård and Johan Nordinge

I was offered a review copy of the new Blood & Bronze RPG, let’s take a look!

The bookbbcover

The game is available in print and PDF, I have read the PDF version. The text is set in double columns in the common small press format 6×9 inches. As usual I find that the character count per line gets a bit low in this format, but it is not a big issue. It took two sittings to get through the 68 pages of the game, there’s a lot of information crammed into the pages.  The layout is pretty dense, one could probably make a 96 page game out of Blood & Bronze without it feeling thin.

The cover illustration is made by  Adam Moore. There’s a rather nice map over the setting by Sam Perkins-Harbin. And there are a couple of wonderful black and white full spread illustrations by Rich Longmore used as chapter separators.

The game should probably have made one more round with the proof readers, I caught more errors than I usually do. [On Feb 14 2016 a new revision of the book was released that had gone through more stringent proof reading. The version I reviewed was the one prior to this. /W]

The setting

Blood & Bronze is a fantasy game in the sword and sandal genre, set in ancient Mesopotamia. The game assumes that the characters will start their adventures in the city of Sippar on the river Euphrates. The city lies on the border between Akkadian and Sumer influence.  There was recently a great flood which upset much of the world, so there’s plenty of adventure to be had among monsters, demons, gods and sorcery.

The characters are adventurers, searching for treasure to sacrifice to the goddess Ninlil, who in turn will make them rise in the ranks of adventurers.  The premise sounded a bit odd to me at first, but after some consideration it makes perfect sense in a fantasy setting where the gods actually walk among men.

The rules

The rules are on the light side of the spectrum.  Roll basic stats with 2D6, use the stats to derive a rating. The rating is the number of D6s the player should roll for various tasks, dice showing 5 or 6 indicate successes. Then there are bells and whistles added to the basic formula, most of them concerning various ways to get re-rolls, or force re-rolls onto opponents.

The form

The game follows the traditional format where a GM prepares adventures in advance and then run them for groups of players, each of them playing an adventurer. But there are elements of story gaming at play as well, e.g. in combat each attack is coupled with a desired outcome, like tripping the opponent, maiming them, or even killing them. Once a hit is made the opponent has the option of accepting the desired outcome, only if they reject it damage is rolled.


The setting is a bit thin. On one hand it offers more than many other games of similar scope, and the setting material offered is very evocative.  But on the other hand I get the feeling that I should probably hit Wikipedia and read up a bit on Mesopotamia before attempting to run the game. A dedicated chapter about monsters, demons and gods would have been nice considering that it is a historical setting to some extent, that steps outside the commonplace European middle-ages framework that we have established through pop culture.

The rules are good. They seem to go well with pulp style adventuring. While they follow different sensibilities to some extent they will probably feel right at home with most OSR gamers. Trad gamers and indie gamers can probably work within the confines of them and have fun too. That said there are some strange omissions, most importantly there is a section on how to form a covenant with a god, but no mention of why one would want to do this or what the mechanical effects of such an action would be.

The form is very good.  While the text is almost entirely devoid of examples, there is a really nice section with advice for the GM, including a method for preparing and running adventures, something that is usually absent in games of this size. There is probably not enough of guidance for someone who is entirely new to role-playing, but for someone who has played a few games this is very nice.

Will I play it?

If someone else were to run Blood & Bronze I’d jump at the chance to see what they do with it. As a GM I could probably wing something based on the material in the book,  I’d probably feel a bit lost at times though.  But the setting is very interesting, and the mechanics seem a good fit.–Bronze-rules – Blood & Bronze on DriveThruRPG. – Official Blood & Bronze site.

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