A rules set bearing the name “Iron Falcon” is going to be eyeballed with great caution where I live. What is this? Some kind of Panzer-game playing out in the first half of the 20th century spearheading towards Stalingrad and Baku?
No, it is nothing of the sort. It is another retro-clone-type RPG harking back to the earliest D&D versions.
So what makes it different?
In a nutshell, it is not OD&D, it is Greyhawk D&D. It takes not the first three Little Brown Books, it takes them plus Greyhawk. (And here we have a likely explanation for the name, for isn’t an Iron Falcon something like a grey hawk?)
Surprisingly rare are the rules sets that combine weight and cost of items in one table. For some reason that seems too much for most game designers. Not for Iron Falcon: Right there on the equipment pages, it puts them all neatly together. Even more so, it combines weight, cost, and damage stats of weapons into one single table – a feat that is almost unheard of.
As stated, we have a Greyhawk. Weapon stats already hints at the next item: Variable weapon damage like in later editions. The system takes target size into account, as in the Greyhawk supplement. Daggers are less effective against a giant than against a human. Slings, on the other hand, are more effective against larger foes. (Hello, Goliath!) The same goes for swords.
Spears, especially, become very versatile here, depending on use against charges of big or small, or in offense. Their greatest strength is against charging big boys.
Add to that variance in character abilities. Fighters d8, Wizards d4, Thieves d4: The Hit Dice of these characters are like in B/X, not like in OD&D. The carrying capacity of characters is changed by their STR value. Weaklings can carry fewer coins (-100) than hulks (+500). Also Like in Greyhawk.
Same with the spells: Greyhawk spell selection, albeit sorted differently, and Greyhawk items like the “Bag of Tricks” that lets its wielder pull animals from it, and the “Bag of Holding” and its ugly cousin, the “Bag of Devouring”, and in general an overwhelming selection of rods, wands, girdles, rings, and magical weapons: Like Greyhawk itself, it carries the game from the dominance of steel and into the realm of heroic fantasy.
Neatly put together: The choice of font is simple and straightforward. Easy to read, clean and clear, nothing like the weirdo-typesets that give so much character to the actual original rules. But a revisiting of the rules should not try to emulate the look, it should emulate the spirit. So out with the odd, in with the crisp.
It has half-elves. That is a negative in my book, but you may like it. I think non-humans are best left non- and not demi- or whatever, so I like my elves (and orcs) to be incompatible with humans of all sorts. But Greyhawk has half-elves too, so there we go.
Races can be different classes and have different max levels related to their class, which seems fair, keeping the different level-up thresholds in mind.
Iron Falcon has an attack matrix, which is noticeably different than the OD&D attack progression. Namely, faster. Where Zylarthen characters take longer to become deadlier combatants, Falcon characters, especially fighters, race up the ladder in leaps and bounds.
While Greyhawk has some weapons with two attacks per round, though, Iron Falcon simplifies things by allowing only one.
And there we have it!
That’s Iron Falcon in a nutshell.
It is missing Strongholds, Domain Play, and Jousting.
These elements of Arthurian style High Medievalism would have to be pulled from the 3 LBB or from Full Metal Plate Mail or Delving Deeper. To balance that out, it has a lot more magic items, treasure, and monsters, and the monsters complete with variable damage depending on whatever weapons or appendices the monsters bring to bear – already very close to the later stats of B/X with only some minor differences.
Picture by Jean van der Meulen on Pexels