Recently, we confirmed DARK SOULS™: The Roleplaying Game — coming to pre-order from February 8 — is a standalone tabletop roleplaying game that uses the 5e engine (that’s the fifth edition engine of the world’s most popular roleplaying game).
But it’s not the 5e you might be used to.
Over many months and conversations that went well into the night, we cut 5e to ribbons before reanimating it by the bonfire.
DARK SOULS™ has always been close to our hearts. Our aim was to keep what felt most familiar and intuitive about the 5e system, but give it a new life altogether with signature DARK SOULS™ mechanics that would capture the authentic spirit of the video game.
Without giving away the details of every new mechanic in the game, the sneak peeks below should give you some insight into how we’ve brought this new tabletop roleplaying world to life… or undeath.
This is, mechanically, the biggest change DARK SOULS™: The Roleplaying Game to the standard 5e ruleset.
In DARK SOULS™, you have your health, and you have stamina. Health measures how close you are to death, and stamina tracks the energy you’re expending on making attacks. Conserving both is essential to success.
Now, 5e doesn’t have anything resembling stamina — and introducing it would require an awful lot of bookkeeping for players and Game Masters (GMs) alike.
Instead, we decided to amalgamate the two into a single value. We call it Position.
Position measures your character health, but it’s also a resource you can spend to tweak a dice roll, or to use special abilities gained from your character class or equipment.
Position goes up gradually, as you increase in level, but it’s always finite, and generated randomly at the start of a battle. Using it allows you to do some pretty amazing stuff — but it also makes you vulnerable. Spending it is a big decision, and mastering its use is extremely difficult. Just as it should be!
Oh, and you’re not the only ones with Position, either…
When bosses are injured, they get even more dangerous.
Everyone who’s played DARK SOULS™ knows the dread of that moment when, as a boss’s health bar hits half or lower, their behaviour shifts.
Bloodied simulates that nail-biting experience on the tabletop. When a boss is reduced to half their starting Position, they gain new abilities — some of which are particularly formidable.
It’s not all bleak, though. Due to Bloodied, your characters will also get a few little bonuses when they’re suffering… it’s not much, but it might keep you going that little bit longer.
The Vancian magic system used in 5e is well-known, but it’s definitely not suitable for a DARK SOULS™ game. So that’s gone entirely.
In its place is a flexible new system drawn directly from the video game, to eviscerate your foes and empower your allies!
A magic-user has attunement slots, and each spell takes up a certain number of slots. Spells also have a specific number of casts.
These spells, miracles, and pyromancies can do some pretty spectacular stuff, but some require Position to cast or to accentuate their effects — so using them is a delicate balance.
Death… and Rebirth
Finally, there are no death saves in DARK SOULS™: The Roleplaying Game. You hit 0 Position, and you’re dead.
Until you respawn by the bonfire, of course.
You’ll have lost all your collected souls — yep, sorry, levelling up might take a bit longer — and there’s a significant risk you’ll lose part of yourself.
That brings us to one of the major themes in DARK SOULS™: The Roleplaying Game — the gradual erosion of humanity.
You’ll begin your campaign with a character concept. Each time you die, you risk parts of yourself being whittled away, leaving you a husk. A mindless hollow.
And a quick note: if, during a combat, half of your party dies, then the whole party fails. And wakes up, at a bonfire, soulless and needing to start all over again…
…So, there you go. Without giving too much away, a tour through some of the major mechanical modifications made to the 5e system to make it that little bit tougher, that little bit more bleak, and that much more DARK SOULS™.
Good luck out there. You’re going to need it.
DARK SOULS™: The Roleplaying Game will be available to pre-order from February 8, 2022. For updates, join the mailing list here.