Ten reasons you should try Forbidden Lands

Forbidden Lands is a survival fantasy game from Swedish publishers Free League. I’m a big fan! You can read my full review here, but in the absence of something new today, I thought I would give you ten reasons to play this game.

1. Quick character creation

In Forbidden Lands, you choose your kin, profession, age, skills, and talents. You can even do it randomly using the Legends & Adventurers booklet.

2. Weapons aren’t all the same

It can be hard to get excited about weapon choice in D&D. A flail, a battleaxe, and a longword all deal 1d8 damage. In Forbidden Lands, a flail has longer range, a battleaxe can knock an enemy to the ground, and a longsword can block enemy attacks.  

3. Armour as damage reduction

Armour Class is a convenient abstraction, but it can feel counter-intuitive. I much prefer the way Forbidden Lands handles hits and misses: armour doesn’t help you avoid a blow, but it does soften it, sometimes quite considerably. Plate armour, for example, is almost impenetrable.  

4. Ability scores as hit points

I’ve always disliked the way a character in D&D is just as effective on 1 hp as they are on full hp. It just . . . feels wrong. In Forbidden Lands, you have four attributes, and when you fail rolls or take damage, you lose attribute points.

5. Crits are gruesome

In D&D, a crit is just double damage (occasionally triple). In Forbidden Lands, critical injuries are much more interesting. There are five tables for what can go wrong, and they include rolls like ‘ruptured intestines’, ‘gouged eye’, and ‘crushed skull – your adventure and your life end here.’ Gnarly.  

6. Spellcasting is risky

I’ve always liked the idea that magic should be powerful, but dangerous. You are meddling with forces beyond your control, and if you overreach yourself, the consequences could be disastrous. Forbidden Lands handles this really nicely.

7. Journeys are interesting

The 5e rules for overland travel are kind of all over the place. In Forbidden Lands, journeys are integral to the game, and the party must work together to navigate, forage, make camp, and keep watch. There are even rules for fishing!

8. Stronghold rules

I will admit that this isn’t necessarily my favourite part of the game – I’ve always been more interested in what’s happening to the adventurers – but if you’re into that kind of thing, Forbidden Lands has it built into the core rulebook.

9. Cool art and layout

Not necessarily a mechanical point, but Free League’s books are always a pleasure to flick through. I particularly like the beautiful dungeons and adventure sites, which are isometric perspective and evocative.

10. Play without a GM!

The next Forbidden Lands book, the Book of Beasts, has rules for solo adventuring. I’ve been lucky enough to have a peek, and it’s an intriguing premise. You can play by yourself (perhaps to generate your own fiction) or in a small group, using cards and dice rolls to determine what happens next. No GM required!

Have you played Forbidden Lands? Do you want to? Add your thoughts in the comments below.

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