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A Crown of Sorcery and Steel

by Josh Labelle


Web Site

(based on 2 ratings)
1 review

About the Story

Swing a sword, delve dungeons, and explore a warring fantasy realm full of orcs, elves, dwarves, and humans.

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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
Choice-based fantasy game, expansive in scope, April 3, 2023
by ccpost (Greensboro, North Carolina)

I was initially drawn to A Crown of Sorcery and Steel because I adored Josh Labelle's earlier game Tavern Crawler, a shortish Twine game set in an intriguing and distinctive fantasy world that left me wanting more. Sorcery and Steel indeed delivers much more! This is a full-length choice-based game that picks up many of the threads started in Tavern Crawler -- a despotic Queen, a centuries-long war -- presenting an expansive and engrossing story that unspools the rich history of this lushly developed world populated with compelling characters.

The main aim of the game is confronting Queen Nidana, a tyrannical elvish Scribe who abused her deep knowledge of magic to create an army capable of dominating the entire realm. The player (who can choose to play as a human, dwarf, orc, or elf) joins a troupe seeking to unlock a powerful weapon that can end Nidana's reign once and for all. It's a classic fantasy set-up with clear influences drawn from Dungeons & Dragons campaigns -- in fact, the game includes a mode that mimics playing D&D by providing players with indicators about what skills or traits are being tested by various choice options that arise in response to challenges.

All of this is well done and plenty fun for anyone into high fantasy and D&D, but what sets Sorcery and Stone apart is the distinctive world building. This is a familiar fantasy world, but Labelle builds on and subverts fantasy tropes to construct a universe that is all its own. As the game progresses, players learn of the intricate political and social relationships between the various groups of people (Spoiler - click to show)-- the war between the humans and the elves that precipitated much of the present conflict, or how the orcs falsely promised to stamp out a rogue group that once seriously attacked the elvish Scribes -- all of which colors how this diverse party of questers interrelate and understand each other. The growing sense of history, and the different people's motivations for ending the Queen's reign, seep in to the game, informing the stakes of the choices the player is asked to make.

How the game uses magic is my favorite dimension of the history and mythology of the world that unfolds throughout the game. Each people has their own brand of magic, each with its own ethos and lore. How the orcs think about and practice bone scrying is markedly different from dwarven rune magic, for instance. In my playthrough, I developed some level of skill in a couple schools of magic, and the chance to hone my skills in the other schools of magic is a tempting reason to play the game again. Overall, I absolutely loved diving into the fully realized history and mythology of this world, and appreciated every tidbit about significant figures and events from centuries past.

While I really liked how Labelle implemented a D&D-style playing experience in ChoiceScript, my only qualms with the game is that this was perhaps not pushed enough. I appreciated the ability to focus on developing certain traits (e.g. might, stealth, charm, ingenuity), and I felt like these were tested throughout the game in interesting ways. However, there are really only a few scattered opportunities throughout the game to really "level up" in any of these areas, so I had a couple strong skills and others that were essentially at status quo for the entire game. This led to a couple frustrating decision points that depended on having developed particular traits. (Spoiler - click to show)For instance, in Chapter 8, my efforts to both unseat Laz as the pretender to the Vayyan throne and to steal back an elvish tapestry were thwarted because I didn't have sufficient might, charm, or stealth skills.

The tone of the game -- specifically a rather self-serious tone that differs notably from the self-aware humorous tone that characterized Tavern Crawler -- is not necessarily a weakness of the game but did give me some pause. I started this game with some expectation that it would read like Tavern Crawler; while Crown extended and deepened the story initiated in that game in a very rewarding way, it doesn't have a lot of the jocularity and lighter vibe that really drew me to Tavern Crawler. This is a different game seeking to do different things, and there are clear relationships to the earlier game, but the different tone should be noted.

Overall, though, I highly recommend this game, especially for players who love to delve into large, expansive fantasy worlds.

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A Crown of Sorcery and Steel on IFDB


The following polls include votes for A Crown of Sorcery and Steel:

Outstanding Choicescript Game of 2022 - Player's Choice by MathBrush
This poll is part of the 2022 IFDB Awards. The rules for the competition can be found here, and a list of all categories can be found here. This award is for the best Choicescript game of 2022. Voting is open to all IFDB members....

Outstanding Fantasy Game of 2022 - Author's Choice by MathBrush
This poll is part of the 2022 IFDB Awards. The rules for the competition can be found here, and a list of all categories can be found here. This award is for the best fantasy game of 2022. Voting is anonymous and open only to IFDB...

Outstanding Fantasy Game of 2022 - Player's Choice by MathBrush
This poll is part of the 2022 IFDB Awards. The rules for the competition can be found here, and a list of all categories can be found here. This award is for the best fantasy game of 2022. Voting is open to all IFDB members. Eligible...

See all polls with votes for this game

This is version 1 of this page, edited by autumnc on 2 February 2023 at 12:49am. - View Update History - Edit This Page - Add a News Item - Delete This Page