Review: Stoneburner - A Solo Friendly Sci-Fi Dwarven Adventure
Welcome again to Croaker's RPG Corner, where we review and talk about Solo RPGs. Today we are reviewing a game from a friend of ours, Fari RPGs. So sit back, grab a coffee, and enjoy this review.
Disclosure: I was provided a review copy of Stoneburner for this review. It was not 100% complete, so certain things I mentioned may be a tad different.
"I, Farin Ironjaw, stand before you all to tell the tale of what I have seen in those cold, dark tunnels. There are demons there that would scare the soul right out of you. There are dark magics that can rip an unsuspecting dwarf in two. But yes, there are riches unimaginable, only if you are brave enough to take them."
Far away, in the distant stars, a battle is being fought. Dwarves battle demons in the tunnels of cold, dark asteroids. They do it for glory, they do it for plunder, and they do it for their communities. In Stoneburner, by Fari RPGs, you'll play one of those Dwarves as you trudge your way through asteroids and tunnels, and hopefully to the riches they hold.
Stoneburner is a solo-friendly Role-Playing game by Fari RPGs. Writing, design, and layout by René-Pier Deshaies-Gélinas and Illustrations by Galen Pejeau. The game is kickstarting on 11 April, so be sure to save it now and pledge when you are able to.
What do you need to play?
"I step into the cold, dark corridor with my shield in my left hand and my shotgun in my right. The old kooks said there were demons in these mines. Maybe, maybe not. But I'll be sure I'm prepared."
Stoneburner is a traditional RPG in what you need to play it. You'll need your set of dice (D4, D6, D8, D12, and a D20, so the standard set). You'll need the rules (did I mention it's being kickstarted?), a character sheet, either digital or printed, and finally, you'll want a journal or some other way to keep track of your gameplay.
The setup is pretty standard for lots of solo RPGs, so hopefully, it will be easy to set up.
Could you play this on an airplane? Yes! I would recommend you have digital versions of everything (character sheet, PDF rules, a dice roller, etc.), and you would be able to play on a laptop easily.
Design and Feel
"There it is! An actual demon. Flaming, with horns, and running on four legs. By the gods, the stench is awful. By the gods of my ancestors, I will defeat this thing and lay claim to the riches here."
Now, this is where Stoneburner really shines. The art by Galen Pejeau is simply amazing. From the front cover to the character art, every piece of it jumps out at you with its color and evocativeness.
I particularly like the comic at the start of the book. It gives you an upfront sense of the game and what to expect.
Beyond the art, the layout does a great job of giving you the feel of a Dwarven culture that has evolved to travel the stars. Lots of runes scattered about.
Character and Setting Creation
Character creation is done in five steps and is laid out well.
First, you choose a kit; this is your character's class or type. There are five different classes, and each is vastly different than the others. For example, The Striker is a soldier type that uses guns and elemental magic to cause damage. And The Spellwinder is a wizard-type class. I picked the Stanchion, which is a paladin-type heavy warrior with a religious background.
Your kit gives you starting abilities, items, and backgrounds.
Next, you roll for your Dwarf name. No looking up online generators, as the name generator is built right in, and it's pretty fun. Here is a random name I just made right this second, Daktar Bronzeoak, pretty cool, right?
You then set your pronouns and refine details for your character, which are roles for personality types, body types, quirks, and what they look like.
There you have a Dwarf! But where will they adventure to? The setting of Stoneburner is a pretty cool place to adventure in. In this sci-fi universe, the fantasy races have made it to space. You have Dwarves, Elves, and Humans, along with demons and other things.
Your character will be exploring the mines of the Long Belt, a string of hundreds of asteroids that contain riches, opportunities, and dangers. You actually build the Long Belt sector by sector by throwing a handful of different types of dice on a piece of paper and seeing how they land. Where they land and what number they land on will give you the makeup of the sector.
"Shotgun trained on the demon, I pull the trigger. Flames light up the dark walls as the shells smash into the demon. But it doesn't stop or go down. It keeps coming. I put all my strength behind my shield and brace for impact."
Based on Breathless (a previous game from Fari RPGs), the base system of the game is simple but powerful. The kit you pick gives you different dice sizes for different stats. A D10 for what you are best at, down to a D6 for what you are not great at. When you do something that is risky or the outcome is uncertain, you roll the dice according to the appropriate skills. A 5+ and you do it pretty well, a 3-4 and you do it but have a minor cost, and a 1-2 you fail at it, and you get hit with a major cost.
There are more rules for combat, loot, abilities, resting, etc.
Included are rules for solo play, which our solo RPG community appreciates. There is good advice in there for the game and solo RPGing in general.
How it Ends
"The Demon is dispatched. It was a tough battle, and my scars may never completely heal, but I am victorious. The riches I find here will fund the construction of our settlement and propel my clan into the tombs of the mighty!"
Like any open-ended RPG, there is no real 'End' per se. You could play Stoneburner as long as you want, discovering new asteroids, new demons, and riches. While not an endpoint, a major goal for your Dwarf is to build up their clan, and you can do this by finding wealth and using it to upgrade your home settlement.
On the reverse side, exploring asteroids, fighting demons, and tangling with other clans is dangerous. If your character takes too much stress, you could be taken out or even die. Be safe out there, Dwarves.
Should I Buy this Game, and Who is it for?
As I always say, there are thousands of games you could play solo, so why should you back Stoneburners on 11 April?
Are you a fan of fantasy and/or Sci-fi? Well, the cool thing about Stoneburner is it combines both into a single setting. You play a Dwarf, and you may come across a wandering Elf or a Human trader.
Do you like base-building games? Stoneburner has rules for creating a base, expanding it, and gaining benefits from it. The more time you spend constructing your settlement, the more benefits you'll receive from it.
Do you like games where you get to explore as you go? Stoneburner is all about exploring and discovering as you go. What will be in this abandoned facility or those Asteroids? You'll have to go in there to find out. Maybe you'll find riches. Maybe you'll find ancient artifacts with great power.
Do you like highly thematic games with a well-built Universe to play in? Stoneburner has a great feel and theme to it, built-in mythologies, and really great character classes. On the flip-side, if you like a game with infinite levels of choices around the setting, character creation, and style of game, it might not be for you. Consider looking at Starforged instead.
Thanks for reading this review and be sure to save and back the upcoming Kickstarter on 11 April!
Want to read a bit more about René-Pier of Fari RPGs creator of Nomadic, Breathless, Dash, Charge, Stoneburner, and Firelight? Check out this interview I did with him last year!
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