(P)Review: Mongoose Publishing – Training Guide (Shield Maidens)

Training Guide
Training Guide is a core rulebook for the Viking cyberpunk RPG Shield Maidens, written by Alison Cybe and published by Mongoose Publishing.
By Aaron T. Huss

Learn more about Shield Maidens here
Find other Shield Maidens posts here

Training Guide has funded via Kickstarter; this review is for a preview copy of Training Guide.

Shield Maidens is an inclusive fantasy cyberpunk game set in a land of Norse mythology (i.e. Yggdrasil but propelled along a timeline that goes beyond the mythology told throughout history the book refers to as neo-Viking). Players take on the role of the female/transgender/non-binary shield maidens… which to me seem like a badass cyberpunk version of Valkyries, pitted against the forces of the Empire of Fenrir. The game is unapologetically pro-LGBTQIA+, trans-positive, pro-feminism, and anti-fascism and pure awesomeness! Training Guide is effectively the player’s handbook of the game and includes an overview setting guide (not a full gazzetteer; just a setting guide). It is literally all a player ever needs to play the game.

One of the trends I love in the tabletop role-playing industry is seeing publishers push the envelope of settings and concepts to areas that either never existed before or never received as much attention. Shield Maidens is one of those RPG; it takes Norse mythology and the tree of life and answers the question “What would happen a couple thousand years later?” You get some badass tech, an incredibly oppressive governing body, and the neo-incarnation of the Amazonian/Valkyrie warrior! What can go wrong? Actually, judging from the potential adversaries in this game, I guess a total party kill could happen… but we won’t worry about that (at least the events leading up to it would create many memories). And don’t overlook the setting; Yggdrasil is nothing like you would think with a healthy cyberpunk facade. Take a city and build another city atop of it where an underground is built-up that harbors any manner of mutated lifeforms.

Training Guide is a cautious book that only gives you enough to be excited about the game and the setting along with all the mechanics you need to become a PC. The setting guide gives you the high-level, almost textbook-like details of the setting. This includes a look at the different worlds, locales important to the players, and the inhabitants (good or bad) one may encounter. From here, you launch into all the mechanics – character creation, rules for throwing the dice and resolving conflicts, cyberpunk goodness, some amazingly cool weapons, and the a great delve into what it means to be a shield maiden. The artwork is amazing, the layout and formatting are perfect, and book itself covers everything I would think important to the players. This may seem like a n0-brainer, but when you create a setting and mechanics that have never been seen before, the reader/player cannot visualize what’s being described based on previous experience… because there’s nothing like it that I know of. This means the book not only needs to explain things, it needs to help you visualize the setting for all games to come.

The mechanics are powered by a simple 2d6+modifier, roll-over target number system. The modifier is based on an attribute and skill, very similar to a skill tree that you would see in video games. Nothing revolutionary here, but it’s simple enough to prevent you from getting bogged down in mechanics. I have a feeling the GM guide will focus on role-playing over rolling dice to keep the story moving along. We’ll have to wait and see… :)

If you’re looking for something new, then really don’t look any further. Check it out! Although you’ll have to wait until it’s released as this is a preview… Sorry! If you’re a fan of Shadowrun, Star Wars, or Warhammer 40k, I also suggest checking it out for a similar experience but with a new, exciting theme!

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