Dishonored RPG, review

This was originally written for The British Fantasy Society.

When first released as a video game, Dishonored was lauded for its open-world gameplay. Now, Dishonored has transitioned from screen to tabletop, and Modiphius has published this new iteration of the game using its 2d20 system.

What initially stands out is how much the setting and tone of the game are foregrounded.  The world of Dishonored appears to at least be heavily inspired by, if not an outright re-interpretation of 19th century London, but this isn’t Dickens’ London. Granted, Dishonored certainly embraces hard times. Grim, dark, and gritty. Corruption is rife, and the PCs need to skirt the strife scattered all over the game’s default setting, the city of Dunwall.  This mood is foregrounded throughout the book, but it definitely serves the setting extremely well.

It goes without saying that if dark and gritty aren’t for you, then this may not be your game. The game’s approach is prevalent, but at times feels overstated. Not everything has to be misery.

Complimenting the gloomy setting are a variety of factions vying for power, influence, and what have you. Each outfit has a hierarchy of power, a reason to exist in the game, and story hooks for using them. In fact, this game boasts a lot of story hooks. Not just for gang conflicts, but for locales as well. In this respect, not only do these options stand out as distinct from each other, but very gameable. 

Additionally, there aren’t a lot of numbers in the system. It relies on narrative devices to move things along. Essentially, the rules promote an emphasis on the story wherever possible. For example, terms such as “Boldly”, “Strongly”, and “Silently”  describe character action(s), as well as how acting a particular way matters. Should you need help seeing the game in action, there is an introductory adventure as part of the text. It’s written in the manner of theatrical productions with numerous scenes and acts driving the story along with a tight, yet very familiar structure.

There are some rough spots that aren’t just aesthetic. Some of the archetypes aren’t really differentiated from each very well, i.e, Explorer, Guide, Hunter, Scout. This whole section likely would have benefitted from a “less is more” approach. By contrast, there should have been a general section for creating content, especially for equipment and the NPC catalogue. Empowering the people at the table to come up with homebrewed ideas would have been welcome.

The full-colour pieces commissioned for this game are fantastic, and the layout is lifted right from the video game. There is also a nice feature that I wish the designers would have built upon more, the examples of actual play. In this game, the designers used comics that had split cells showing the players at the table, as well as illustrations of what their characters were doing. Great stuff and more would have been even better. Normally, with an existing intellectual property, the transition from one medium to another can be rough. In this case, the result is impressive. The tabletop version takes a lot from the video game, but you don’t appear to need to have played Dishonored previously to enjoy this game. Everything that needs to be present for the game is in this one book. The rules aren’t cumbersome, and what is present is fairly robust. There are some areas that felt underdeveloped. However, this game could have been a TTRPG in its own right without ever having been a video game. If you like your games a bit darker, then Dishonored is one you should consider.






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