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Kobold Press’ new RPG is DnD 5e “with teeth”

Kobold Press says Tales of the Valiant, a D&D like TTRPG launching on Kickstarter, is an epic but challenging version of 5e that comes “with teeth”.

Tales of the Valiant 5e with teeth - Kobold Press art of a screaming Lich

Tales of the Valiant, a Kobold Press “remaster of DnD fifth edition” launching on Kickstarter, has gone by many names during development. It was first introduced to the world as ‘Project Black Flag’, with the tabletop RPG’s official name revealed later on. Now, ahead of the crowdfunding launch on May 23, lead designer Celeste Conowitch tells Wargamer that Kobold Press had a third name for the game: “5e with teeth”. Conowitch says this name comes from a game that’ll add more challenge and high fantasy epics to the familiar RPG system.

Tales of the Valiant is an RPG system that uses D&D 5e as its foundation, replicating and revising many of the features Wizards of the Coast made usable through a Creative Commons licence. It’s its own game, but the system promises to be fully compatible with DnD books. While Kobold Press’ title was in development as early as summer last year, the world first heard about it during the height of the DnD OGL scandal, when proposed changes to Wizards’ third-party licences threatened to change how companies like Kobold Press operated.

While Conowitch says one of her big goals was “to make sure 5e stays playable on people’s tables”, Tales of the Valiant isn’t a direct replica of D&D. “We’re giving it a fresh coat of paint”, she tells Wargamer, “because 5e has been out a while, and we’ve definitely cultivated a lot of great ideas about what we would like to see in the next iteration of the game”.

Tales of the Valiant 5e with teeth - Kobold press image of monster stat pages from Tales of the Valiant

One of the major changes seems to be a big increase in player (and monster) power. “We’re probably best known for our Tome of Beast series”, Conowitch explains. “And our DnD monsters are renowned for being a little more challenging, a little more heavy-hitting, and a little more mechanically interesting than some of the alternatives out there – so we’re really carrying that feeling into [Tales of the Valiant].”

“We want this to really feel like a high fantasy, challenging, epic experience all the way through”, Conowitch adds. “That’s the idea – with teeth – amping that challenge, amping that heroic struggle.”

As Uncle Ben once said, with great power comes a greater need for balanced combat encounters. Kobold Press has openly shared the public feedback to its initial Project Black Flag playtests, and many responses showed concerns about over- or underpowered mechanics. Tales of the Valiant still has plenty of playtesting to do during its crowdfunding campaign, and Conowitch tells Wargamer balance is still a constant consideration.

Tales of the Valiant 5e with teeth - RPG book photos from Kobold Press

“Something we’re keeping in mind is our characters are, right out the gate, definitely more powerful than fifth edition’s”, she says. “I think people are getting more used to powerful characters, so they would be upset if they didn’t start a little more powerful in Tales of the Valiant, which feels like a new game.”

“So they’re getting a little more punching power, and we’re having to balance our monsters to make sure they can bring the pain the heroes are dishing out”, she adds. “It’s a constant balancing act, and that’ll probably be the majority of the fine-tuning right up until the game’s in editing.”

The Tales of the Valiant Kickstarter will offer two core rulebooks. The Monster Vault is the game’s bestiary, while the Player’s Guide includes Kobold Press’ take on DnD classes and DnD races, with 13 classes available alongside a range of lineages and heritages. Backers will gain access to additional playtest material during development, along with a range of stretch goals and add-ons.

For more info on Tales of the Valiant, here’s an interview where the designers discuss the challenge of adapting DnD.