Lead writer and designer of the upcoming Dark Souls Roleplaying Game, Richard August, has answered one of the most commonly asked fan questions since the game was announced: why it uses D&D 5E rules as a base system. In a recent interview with Wargamer, August explained the team had chosen to use D&D 5E both to optimise combat and because of the greater familiarity of D&D for people trying tabletop roleplaying games for the first time.
“Personally, I think that 5E is a really solid approach because it gives you a lot of options in terms of combat”, August told Wargamer. “When you’re using a sword or casting a spell, [D&D player characters] are designed to be effective against an opponent, and I think that’s something that really works in Dark Souls”.
The decision to model the Dark Souls system around D&D 5E also came from a desire to introduce newer players to tabletop roleplaying games, August added, saying: “We want to invite people who’ve not necessarily played an RPG before”.
And, according to August, by getting new players to learn a system similar to D&D 5E, you also make the rest of the TTRPG world more accessible to them. “I think it makes sense to let people know that if you play this game, you’ll have access to pretty much everything in the RPG market,” he told us.
It’s not just D&D’s big name that August reckons will draw new players to the Dark Souls RPG; D&D also provides a core mechanic that he finds players “intuitively understand”. “You roll a d20, you add a modifier, and you hit”, he explained, arguing this familiarity was “a good thing for a game with an IP as universally beloved as Dark Souls”.
Of course, the world of Dark Souls isn’t all sunshine and jolly cooperation. Asked if the Dark Souls RPG system will emulate the famed difficulty of the videogame series, August acknowledged that, when it comes to defeat and death, D&D 5E is “a very forgiving game”. However, he said Steamforged has made some crucial changes to the 5E system in order to provide some additional challenge.
“One of the ways was limiting your health – it’s not going to go up as quickly. And there’s also Position, our signature mechanic. That makes [health] expendable. It also makes spending health desirable, which means you are more vulnerable. If you want to hack through three hollow soldiers in quick time or kill something in one hit, you’ll need to spend health to do it.”
Magic, too, is a powerful (though limited) resource in the Dark Souls RPG, and we know from Steamforged’s blog posts that this has undergone a complete makeover to better match the world of Dark Souls. Similarly, these blogs introduce the ‘bloodied’ mechanic, where bosses or players with less than half health get bonuses or behaviour changes that make them even more dangerous.
“We’ve attempted to recreate the technical mastery of Dark Souls, in terms of conserving and spending your resources”, August said. “You are going to have to work together and optimise your combinations to take down the really tough stuff, so there is definitely a higher level of difficulty than you would expect in a 5E game.”
Want even more insider info on the Dark Souls RPG? Richard August also talked to Wargamer about “the beast of an equipment section” found in the rulebook. If that’s not enough, you can also learn everything Richard had to say to Wargamer in the full Dark Souls RPG interview.