Why the Gloomhaven RPG uses board game cards, not dice

Isaac Childres, designer of board games like Frosthaven and Gloomhaven, explains why the Gloomhaven RPG won’t use the same dice as DnD.

Gloomhaven RPG decks not dice - a curse deck modifier card from Frosthaven

The upcoming Gloomhaven RPG will rely on decks of modifier cards rather than RPG dice, designer Isaac Childres can confirm. Childres, the mind behind the Gloomhaven and Frosthaven board games, tells Wargamer: “I’m personally just a little tired of the d20 system”. “It’s kind of a lead on that for random resolution of stuff.” “I think there are better, more interesting ways to approach that”, he adds.

Gloomhaven: The Role Playing Game will be crowdfunded in a massive multi-product Backerkit campaign from publisher Cephalofair. This launches on June 20, but a landing page has been in place for some time now. It’s from this page we learn the Gloomhaven RPG aims to uphold one of the company’s core values: “minimise randomness and reward player savvy”. Considering Gloomhaven is widely considered one of the best board games of all time, it’s not a mission statement to sniff at.

It seems replacing DnD dice with a deck of cards is one way Childres plans to achieve this. “We do use a combat modifier deck, which is similar [to dice], but it’s a lot more customisable, which I think is important”, he tells Wargamer.

“We’re still using the same core system from Gloomhaven for combat [in the RPG], which is, in my opinion, much more interesting than just ‘attack, roll the d20, and let’s see what happens’.” “It puts a lot more control into the hands of the player in terms of what they can do”, Childres adds.

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“There are a lot of RPG systems out there, but they all seem to rely on dice”, Childres continues. “We have the modifier deck, which acts like dice but in a better way.” “I know it sounds like sacrilege, but for me, flipping over a card from your modifier deck is just as exciting as rolling a die – there are so many different things that could happen”, he adds. “But maybe I’ve just been playing Gloomhaven too long.”

Many tabletop RPGs use the d20 dice system, but Dungeons and Dragons is the best-known title under this umbrella. Childres tells Wargamer: “we don’t just want to create a D&D clone”. “We want to do our own thing and create our own worlds”, he says.

But despite steering away from D&D and all things dice-y, Childres cites the world’s biggest roleplaying game as his main muse when creating the Gloomhaven RPG. “I think D&D is the main inspiration; playing D&D has been an inspiration for me and Gloomhaven in general”, he tells Wargamer. “I was a big fan of fourth edition, and I think you see that a lot in the original design of Gloomhaven.”

You can find out more about the Gloomhaven RPG on the Cephalofair website and the Backerkit landing page.

Already itching to roll up a character for the Gloomhaven RPG? It’ll help to be familiar with some of the Gloomhaven classes you can already play in the board game. Or, if you’re itching to roll up another kind of RPG character, here are the DnD classes, DnD races, and DnD backgrounds you can choose from for your next 5e build.