The Dishonored Roleplaying Game by DigitalRaven
a single-post F&FOriginal SA post
The Dishonored Roleplaying Game
a single-post F&F
New from Mophidius is the Dishonored Roleplaying Game, the tabletop RPG of the whale punk sneak-em-up video games.
This is not going to be an in-depth read. I bought this game in order to run it for friends and wanted to share my first impressions. I'm sure someone else will be along at some point to do a deep dive, but I'm not the kind of person who can do a 10-post in-depth F&F.
It's a very pretty book to look at, mostly because it's almost entirely illustrated with concept art from the games, and the layout is evocative of the in-game menus. The only new art is a comic-style example of play that... isn't good.
I'm going to skip talking about most of the setting stuff because, well, it's Dishonored. It's got good GM advice (including the X-card), the setting material is decent (including details on the islands not yet featured in the games), each place is broken down into districts with story hooks and applicable factions, it's got a serviceable list of NPCs, and a sample adventure. To be honest, I can't think of anything interesting to say about any of it.
Rules-wise, it's a very odd hybrid of Blades in the Dark, Fate Accelerated, and a mostly-stripped-down version of Mophidius' in-house 2d20 system. The only 2d20 games I have to compare are Infinity and Mutant Chronicles, which are heavy bastards, and this is (mostly) pretty light. Light enough that I'd quite like to use it for those other games, because they're too heavy for my tastes.
The game uses Truths (which are pretty much Fate-style Aspects) to reflect things about people and scenes. They've got less flexibility than Aspects (no free compels, etc.) but in return I find they're easier to use. Truths can be beneficial: either letting you do something you couldn't without it, or reducing the difficulty of a test by 1. They can also be detrimental: increasing a difficulty by 1, or prohibiting doing something you'd otherwise be able to.
Dice-wise, characters have six Styles (literally the FAE Approaches: Boldly/Carefully/Cleverly/Forcefully/Quietly/Swiftly) and six Skills (Fight/Move/Study/Survive/Talk/Tinker). Add them together to get a target number, roll 2d20. Each one under the TN is a success, 1s are crits (count double), meet or beat the Difficulty (0-5, default 1) to succeed. Contests use opposed rolls, highest successes wins.
Extra successes create Momentum, a shared pool that players can spend for various effects - buying extra dice, creating Truths, or asking the GM for more information about the scene (which... why can't players just ask the GM in general?). 20s count as a Complication. Complications can create Truths that make things harder for the players, or they add two points to Chaos (basically the opposite of Momentum).
Characters also have Focuses (narrow specialisations), Talents (think Fate's Stunts), and Void Points, which they can use to fuel their Void Powers (more on that later), reroll any number of dice, and create or alter a Truth.
Character creation involves choosing a concept and a Faction to join (about which more later), selecting Truths (the two basic, plus up to two more Flaws, each of which immediately gives 5XP - the kind of flaw mechanic that I hate). Then set each Style and Skill to 4, mark that you've got 0 out of a max of 3 Void Points, and pick an Archetype.
Archetypes give +2 to 2 skills and +1 to one of two others (e.g. Assassin gives +2 Fight, +2 Talk, +1 Move or Study). You also get +1 to two out of three listed Styles, 8 points to split between two Focuses (min 2, max 6, five are suggested but not mandatory), one of four Talents (though any character can instead swap it for The Outsider's Mark if you want to interact with the special powers bit of the game), some basic belongings, and a contact.
Random thoughts about the rest of the game, in no particular order, and with a lot of my personal opinions baked in:
Normally, one roll is enough to get what you want - take out a guard, get through a door, charm a password out of someone. In big situations or against significant NPCs, the game uses Tracks, which are kinda like specific versions of BitD's clocks - by which I mean there isn't a general use of Tracks throughout the game, they're only used in specific places.
The game mostly uses Tracks for Stealth and Intrigue (social stuff) tracks, but also claims to use them for Faction rank (except that's just a scale) and Bonecharm creation (more later). Stealth and Intrigue do have some rules, but they're both woolier than combat.
Weapons and armour have tags (much like BitD), damage is static, as is protection. Equipment can be upgraded with a bunch of useful features, but each upgrade requires finding or buying Blueprints, in a holdover from the game that really deserved proper thinking about how to adapt rather than clunky dropping it in.
Every region in the game has a bunch of Factions you can be a part of. The problem is that they're all presented neutrally, assuming the players can align or join any of them. Which is a problem when they include clearly villainous organisations like "The Abbey of the Everyman" and "The City Watch". The whole idea of making an open-ended game in the setting leads to allowing the players to be members of the villain groups, which is frankly stupid.
Factions are supposed to have a Code, playing to which gives a character Void Points. Except none of them have a code spelled out; each has a rough description but what that means and what playing to it looks like is down to the GM. Earlier in the book, the way the Code is described makes it seem like a defined thing that's part of the faction write-up. No such luck.
Factions also have Ranks, between 4 and 6 per Faction. Early in the book, the text reads "Each time you climb up a step in your faction's reputation track, you'll find yourself with a new set of powers to take advantage of." Except those 'powers' are never actually defined, half the time they aren't even alluded to in the rank descriptions, and are again thus entirely up to the GM.
It's all well and good calling the Factions out as important, but when you're hanging important mechanics off them, they need to be able to bear the load. It'd be better to have fewer player-facing factions and define the Code and powers of each Rank, which I intend to do before running this.
Focuses deserve their own section. Every character has at least two, rated between 2 and either 5 or 6 depending on what bit of the book you read because Mophidius hasn't met a mechanic it can't fuck up with shitty editing.
When a Focus applies to the roll, it increases the critical value by 1 - any die showing less than the Focus generates 2 successes.
So far, so fine. Except there are thirty-five of the fucking things. When the rest of the game has worked hard to strip things back to six Styles and six Skills, having so many things to choose from is jarring, they make rolls clunky - now you have two target numbers to choose from! - and they mostly seem to be in the game to have a traditional skill list in what is otherwise a fairly light game. They're also needed to smooth out the dice math, but that speaks to an issue with the core of the game, which I can't be fucked to analyse.
When I run this, Focuses won't have ratings. Pick two from your Archetype to start with, each one gives an extra die. Boom, done. This makes them a bit more useful, yes, but also much simpler and closer to the structure of the rest of the mechanics.
Bonecharms and Powers
Bonecharms are kinda interesting? The game includes common, corrupted, and black bonecharms, with a selection of basic and advanced powers, plus drawbacks for corrupted ones. Corrupted are supposed to have advanced powers, except the section on basic powers notes that corrupted ones can have them. Editing, innit?
Everyone can use bonecharms, up to one per max Void Points (so three for a starting character). There's suggestions of using a Track if you want to make Bonecharms, but it's literally "each box is a task the GM thinks you should complete".
Like Blueprints for equipment, Powers are lifted and shifted wholesale from the video games, with almost no thought going in to adapting them to a tabletop RPG.
The way it works: when you take The Outsider's Mark, you work with the GM to select a suite of 12 abilities - six active, six passive - chosen from among 11 active and 9 passives in total. These are everything you can get. You start with "the basic form of" one of the 12, and buy the others with Runes, which you find as items in-game.
Your starting power is one "with a cost of no more than 2 Runes". Which is a strange thing to say, since none of the powers have listed costs. The section on "Learning and Enhancing Powers" takes two paragraphs to say that you can spend one Rune to gain any of the powers in your 12 that you don't already have.
If you're wondering what it means to enhance powers, or what the 'basic form' is that you have when you pick The Outsider's Mark, join the fucking club. Whoever outlined the section clearly didn't bother spelling out what the powers needed to be in order to line up with the text of the talent. If I'd done that when I was a line developer I'd have been shot, and rightly so. It's just plain lazy, but then, the same can be said for this entire section
Personally, I think the Outsider powers material is garbage. Runes offer an orthogonal advancement track to XP that's only available to Marked characters, and is accessed by finding items in-game. Not only is it offering more powers for buying a single Talent, you still advance in every other fashion at the same rate as every other character! That's just fucking lazy design.
A better system would involve Runes having some benefit to characters without the Mark, in order to give them a reason to be in the world, and to give everyone a reason to want them. It should also cost XP to use a Rune to gain a power - 10XP (maybe +5XP per two powers already known, round down) to learn, 5XP to enhance it. Characters can only have six powers total, out of the 12 possible. Each power would have a basic level plus 1-3 enhancements, to allow specialisation.
I'm massively hung over and I've already clearly put more thought into the powers system than the one in the book.
Excuse me while I remove myself from the pool of people Mophidius will ever hire, by being honest about the state of their book.
As I've called out elsewhere, and is only to be expected from Mophidius, the editing is absolutely fucking atrocious. I know it's expected, but it's actually painful for me to see a book be released in this half-finished state. I don't care why the editors and developers let the book out to the public when it's clearly unfinished, but I hope they're embarrassed. I spent years as a developer for Onyx Path, I know how hard it can be, but I'd only give a book this bad the OK after a serious brain injury. Hell, I put more effort into my posts here.
The errors cover both what I think of as developer/line editor work - making sure various rules work in the ways they're described, that the mechanics mesh, and core elements don't have the structure of candyfloss - and copy editing, such as sections having the wrong titles and spelling/grammar errors. It's embarrassing that this text got as far as layout without a whole lot of these issues being called out. It makes the game feel like shovelware, thrown out because they got the licence and has to produce something rather than lose it.
Which is a pity because it's also clearly something that's got a lot of potential and that I'm sure everyone who worked on is proud of and wanted to make as good as it can be.
Despite my gripes, I want to play this game. Let me be very clear about that. This isn't a hate-read, this is what stood out to me as I went through it. If someone proposed running it straight from the book, I'd happily sit down and enjoy it. Dishonored TRG has enough potential that I want to run it, and I have friends who are familiar enough with the video games to want to play. That's why I've noted what I'd change throughout, along with my gripes.
As I said near the start, it feels like a hybrid of FAE, 2d20, and Blades in the Dark. and that's a good thing. I really enjoy it as a system! But someone who really should have known better has glued in some of the worse bits of Shadowrun: Anarchy, and that's gonna have to be excised before I can run the game.
Is it disappointing? Yeah, kinda. I'm sad that it isn't better, but that's because there's so much potential. I pretty much want to turn what's in the book into a finished product.
It's that or I go back and write a not-Dishonored supplement for BLACK SEVEN.
I'm making past-me a liar.Original SA post
The Dishonored Roleplaying Game
a single-post F&F
I'm making past-me a liar.
In a first for a Mophidius game that I've bought, I got an email on Friday announcing a new version of the book. Turns out the new version has enough changes that I'm minded to cover them here rather than leaving people with my initial impressions which were coloured by issues that are now fixed.
The new version comes with a four-page errata document so I can figure out what's changed. That starts with a half-page mea culpa from the team, including the email address to send further questions/typos/errors to, with a note that they'll keep issuing updates as the book doesn't go to press until the end of April. I appreciate that.
Most of the changes are relatively little (fixed ability titles, fixed ammo costs, and the like), but some stuff that I either called out or had to read through the book several times initially to get.
The first major change is that the game makes explicit that characters start with a maximum Void Point capacity of 3. This took me some rummaging to find previously. This makes it clear that this is a flexible quantity that can change (and firms it up as something to hang rules off). A very useful clarification
Players can also now spend Void Points to set a single die to 1, giving them two successes. The updated text says "rolled a 1 with a Focus, even if you don't have one that applies)" which is daft because the Focus doesn't matter — any die showing a 1 is two successes. Oh, Mophidius. Even when you issue errata your editing is shit.
Also, it turns out you clear all Stress at the end of a scene. That's useful — until now the game didn't have any rules for healing outside of taking negative Truths.
Focuses are actually capped at 5, even in chargen.
Powers are a lot cleaner. references to basic forms of powers and enhancing them are gone; instead, powers are simple yes/no choices. Each one does now have the number of Runes needed to learn it listed. A bit is added about what Runes look like and how to handle players wanting to buy them.
As a result? Most of the editing gripes I had are gone. The update doesn't change the (to me) unnecessary complexity of Focuses, nor does it firm up Factions. The powers, however, now do exactly what you'd expect. I'd have liked the fixes to go the other way (giving each power basic versions with enhancements), but that's practically impossible for a book that's in this stage of development, having already gone through layout. I know what I want to change, but now it feels like I have a complete text to build those changes on — I don't have to make up basic rules (healng, powers) just to play.
Ultimately, this updated version is what the game should have been when it was released. Kudos to Mophidius for getting an update out just a week after the first version went on sale. One suggestion: maybe do this shit before releasing the game next time?