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Tabletop RPGSep 29, 2023 4:00 pm CT

What we know about Daggerheart, the new TTRPG by Darrington Press and the Critical Role team

Earlier this year, Matthew Mercer and Mica Burton announced a portfolio of gaming projects designed and developed by Darrington Press, Critical Role’s gaming arm. Anchoring their State of Press was the announcement of Daggerheart, a fantasy tabletop role-playing game designed for long-term campaigns with character progression playing a crucial role to the games structure. This was more of a tease than an announcement as Matt and Mica note Daggerheart is still in development and an official release has yet to be announced.

Lead Designer Spenser Starke explained Daggerheat is a standalone gaming system rooted in high fantasy and intended to be the intersection of gameplay mechanics and narrative storytelling with an emphasis on collaborative roleplay. Starke goes on to say the spirit of the game is about creating emotional connection between players and their characters facilitated through adventures and stories.

A lot of Daggerheart’s finer details are still being worked out as the Darrington Press team continues to develop and refine the system but enough information about the core concepts and gameplay because some lucky folks were able to see a live gameplay preview of Daggerheart at GenCon 2023 in August and provide some early feedback on the game, which seemed overall positive. So if you’re looking for an alternative to your usual TTRPG system like Dungeons and Dragons 5th Edition, Pathfinder, or are just curious about what Daggerheart is, we’ve got what you need to know covered.

Daggerheart character creation

Similar to other TTRPGs, Daggerheart features a variety of classes for players to choose for their characters but instead of going over a rulebook line-by-line to bring a character to life, Daggerheart uses a card-based system for character creation and customization. Players will choose cards to denote their class, foundations, and heritage with each choice having its own unique subset of cards for players to choose their abilities. At level 1, this is how players choose their characters starting abilities. As player’s level up, they’ll be able to choose more cards for further customizations and these cards will stay with the players character sheets

The information we have about character creation is pretty general and a lot of the finer details relating are still unknown. Thanks to the playtest at GenCon, we know what parts of the three-page character sheet looks like and thanks to the interview with Spenser Starke, we have a general idea of how character creations goes:

  • Choose a Class — Classes feature traditional TTRPG classes and the Daggerheart-specific Seraph and Guardian class.
  • Choose a Foundation — Foundations are similar to D&D subclasses.
  • Choose a Heritage — A combination of Ancestry, meant to be similar to D&D races, and Community, where your character is from.
  • Assign Character Traits — Similar to the 6 ability modifiers found in D&D and Pathfinder, these traits will assist the players rolls.
  • Set Hit Points and Hope — Hit points utilize a damage threshold system instead of the standard pool of points.
  • Choose your starting items — Choose weapons, armor, and inventory items based on the players chosen class.
  • Choose your Description — A pool of words you choose to determine the look and feel of your character.
  • Choose your Doman Deck Cards — Each Class has two Domain options to choose abilities from. 5 abilities can be active at one.
  • Background Questions — A set of 3 questions players answer about their character to build their backstory.
  • Generate Experience — A combination of all of the above choices, together they represent your character’s Experience.
  • Choose Name and Pronouns
  • Create Connections — The narrative connections between players, the environment, and the story.

The 2D12 Daggerheart system: Hope and Fear

Daggerheart’s in-game interaction and narrative advancement will revolve primarily around a check-based system driven by two 12-sided dice, or D12s, with one D12 being the “Hope” dice while the other is called the “Fear” dice. When a character is called to do an ability check, they’ll roll both dice and make note of the individual dice values before adding the results together and saying which dice was the higher roll.

For example, if my designated Hope dice rolls 8 and my designated Fear die rolls 5, then I would say I rolled a 13 with Hope. Inversely, if my Fear dice rolls 8 and my Hope dice rolls 5, then I’ve rolled a 13 with Fear. This means there are several outcomes for rolls depending on the difficulty check (DC) threshold set by the game master:

  • Success with Hope
  • Failure with Hope
  • Success with Fear
  • Failure with Fear

You can also roll a “Critical Success” where both your D12s are the same value, at which point you suffer no negative outcomes. There isn’t much information on “Critical Failures” but it’s likely some mechanic exists. Advantage and disadvantage are present in Daggerheart and involves an additional 6-sided dice (D6) roll when prompted — with advantage you can add the D6’s result to your overall roll but with disadvantage you’ll subtract the result.

Hope and Fear in the story

Depending on your check outcome with Hope or Fear, the game master will proceed with the narrative according, inside and outside of combat. Outcomes with Hope generally impact the narrative positively and reward a Hope resource, similar to Sorcerer points from D&D 5th Edition, that you can use to aid your characters actions while outcomes with Fear are the reverse with more negative story and mechanical outcomes. The storytelling style of Daggerheart is meant to be more inclusive than other systems by having player input directly feed the direction of the narrative, though specifically how that happens in conjunction with the game master has yet to be revealed.

Hope and Fear in combat

Details about combat in Daggerheart are scarce but from what the GenCon playtest, it seems like it will be a unique system. Players will start with 6 Hit Points, an Armor score (likely a value combination of Trait points and gear) with three supplemental resource points, and 5 Stress points. Instead of someone’s HP being a number value pool that increases as they level up, players will have a three tiered damage threshold system that determines what happens when a player receives damage. The thresholds seem to be class specific and will probably be decided by a number of factors, including your foundation, heritage, traits, and domain abilities. Stress points seem to be a condition system in lieu of temporary HP but what they are and how they function specifically is still a bit hazy.

When a successful attack happens, (presumably) the game master will roll dice ranging from D6 to D20 and add the total values. The player’s Armor score is then subtracted from this total value. The resulting number is then weighed against the player’s damage threshold to see which tier it falls in:

  • Below the first tier results in the loss of 1 Stress.
  • The first tier is minor damage and results in a loss of 1 HP.
  • The second tier is moderate damage for a loss of 2HP.
  • The third tier is major damage for a loss of 3HP.

One of the main differences between Daggerheart and D&D is how death works. When a player reaches zero HP in Daggerheart, they won’t make any death saving throws. Instead, they’ll have one of three options to choose from:

  • Blaze of Glory — A critical success roll for a character’s chosen final action that ends in their death.
  • Use A Hope to Heal — Spending a Hope resource point to regain HP.
  • Roll Hope and Fear to Live — Roll Hope and Fear against a DC to regain HP and stay alive.

Given Daggerheart’s narrative focus, these three options will have pros and cons but for now we’ll just have to wait and see what those will be.

A lot of what we know about Daggerheart comes mainly from the GenCon playtest so there’s likely a lot more about this system we don’t know. Since it’s still in development, the things we know now about Daggerheart can also change to something new. As it stands, Daggerheart is shaping up to be a new contender in the TTRPG space and will no doubt garner more attention due to the popularity of Critical Role. If Daggerheart sounds like something you want to try out, be sure to check back here for more updates!

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