Forbidden Lands


Should be playing D&D instead
Forbidden Land is an RPG that came out in 2019 and is very much inspired by the D&D Expert rules, but mechnically really hasn't much in common with D&D.

It has hex maps with different movement speeds based on terrain type, assumes a newly accessible wilderness with a few villages, small keeps, and old ruins, and has PCs explore the area and looking for magic treasures while managing supplies and the dangers of the wilds, and assumes that the party is going to establish their own stronghold.
But it's also very different in that characters don't advance based on the amount of treasure they recover, armor reduces damage, and hits decrease the Strength/Constitution score instead of separate hit points. There's no levels and instead characters advance by spending points on skills and talents, and spells are not powered by slots but by Willpower that builds up by the beating that they take from failed skill checks. Damaged attributes heal quickly, but when characters get knocked out they suffer crippling critical injuries that can take many days to heal. The Willpower to cast spells is pretty limited, and there's almost always a risk of magic mishaps, including death.
The wilderness travel rules are more detailed than the vague suggestions in the Expert rules, with stronger mechanical effects for thirst, hunger, tiredness, and hypothermia, and instead of a tax revenue scheme, keeps can be outfitted to produce various goods to supply the PCs, be traded with other settlements, or get used to build more extensions. There's even a simple system for assaulting and defending keeps without having to roll individual attack rolls for all the mercenaries on both sides.

When the game came out I took a brief look at it to see what improvement ideas for B/X it could have and thought it looked very meh. But now that I am looking for something that can do the wilderness exploration and stronghold building idea of B/X and the West Marches sandbox style that it inspired without having to deal with the various peculiarities inherent to D&D, I think it actually looks really quite intriguing.
It's not a B/X clone or OSR game, but rather a different approach to the idea of a campaign.

While the game seems to be quite popular for a game that isn't D&D 5th edition, I've not seen much in the way of conclusions people have drawn from playing it for longer campaigns. I remember once case where someone said it sucks because it's too easy and players easily manage every situation, but he didn't elaborate any further and that very much sounds like the GM just not creating challenging enough environments to threaten the PCs.

Anyone experiences with the game or just opinions?

I think the combat and magic system both look like something that might actually be quite well suited for a Sword & Sorcery type of campaign instead of ye olde generic Fantasyland.


A FreshHell to Contend With
Forbidden Lands has issues. I think it's easy to make characters too strong eventually (it is extremely important that you remember gaining new skills requires a knowledge roll or you get nothing, I forget the exact wording). The combat system works I think but some players just want to whack and not have to worry about the difference between a Slash attack and a Stab attack and whether to Dodge or Parry. Everything from fights to skill checks can reduce your abilities and gear so an OSR sized dungeon crawl isn't going to be fun for anyone.

On the other hand, it does Sword and Sorcery adventuring really well. The hexcrawling mechanics are good (if a bit too reliant on the kind of random tables that get repetitive after many sessions) and the atmosphere is absolutely killer. I think it's the best game I've seen for wilderness survival and non-labyrinth adventure locations. It can emulate Conan or Lankhmar stories easier than any other system I've tried since getting stabbed is always scary and everyone is constantly pushing themselves to do mightier skill rolls.