"Being able to work with the team at Arkane to bring the world of Dishonored to life as a tabletop roleplaying game is something all of us on the RPG team have enjoyed immensely. The video games have become a favourite of many because of the world’s rich history, lore, and environments, as well as its cast of unique characters that are beloved by fans. The game’s focus on the freedom of player choice and the balance of order and chaos make it a perfect setting for a tabletop RPG.
"Dishonored represented a rare opportunity, giving us the chance to work together with a mix of talented people in a genre we truly love. The game falls into territory we’ve always striven to reach, a magical blend of crafted storytelling and improvisational gameplay made possible through simulation. We’re proud of the resulting game, but working on the project itself was also an experience that marked our lives forever in the best possible ways. Dishonored was a special project, influenced by our favorite stealth games, first-person shooters, and role-playing games. In addition to the combat, stealth and mobility mechanics, the collaborative design of the world will always remain a moving creative milestone for the people involved. We are deeply grateful to the team that made Dishonored and all those who supported our efforts, including our families and friends. Lastly, we’d like to thank the players, who transported themselves to Dunwall and who continue to enrich the place through their participation."
—Raphael Colantonio and Harvey Smith February, 2014 regarding the Dishonored videogame
What’s Different in Dishonored 2d20?
You might be asking yourself ‘what have Modiphius done differently with 2d20 this time?’, as its well known we like to custom tailor our house 2d20 System to each of our games, to make sure the mechanics work for the tone, themes and feel of the setting. Dishonored is a game that always allowed you options in how you solved problems and completed missions, and put a focus on stealth, intrigue and favourability among factions as well as interesting and lethal combat. We wanted to make the system as easy, fluid and simple to use as possible, while giving you all the narrative control as gamemasters and players to create interesting adventures. Regardless of if you’re a long time RPG gamer or a fan of the videogame that wants to take the leap into exploring the Empire of the Isles on the tabletop, the rules are easy to learn, easy to manage at the table and the most streamlined version of 2d20 we’ve developed yet.
The core of 2d20 still works the same as it has done for previous games. You add two elements of a character together and aim to roll equal to or under that target number on two twenty-sided dice. This time around, we decided to have Styles and Skills to represent your character’s attributes. Skills represent what they can do, such as Fight, Move, Talk, Tinker, Study and Survive. We kept these broad, with the ability to cover all the aspects you might need. Styles are about how your character approaches those skills in the moment, Boldy, Carefully, Cleverly, Forcefully, Quietly or Swiftly. You might decide to Move Quietly to sneak past a guard, or perhaps you’re in a rush to reach your destination and decide to Move Swiftly instead to gain speed over stealth. Not only does this mean that every time you call out what you wish to roll to achieve your goal, you perfectly describe for everyone exactly how you want to achieve it, but it means you can focus on the story, putting description right into your hands, making it easy to weave your narrative, whether you are a veteran at roleplaying or completely new to describing how your character goes about their adventures.
Building Unique Characters
Along side your skills and styles, you can select focuses and talents as well as an archetype to shape your character into more than a cookie-cutter guard, assassin or scholar. These range from giving your character specialist knowledge in a subject, to supernatural abilities or even the Outsider's Mark itself, allowing you to harness the powers of the ever-mysterious Void.
Chaos and Truths
Threat has been renamed here to Chaos, to reflect the well-loved video game mechanic that changes the world based on your actions. Consequence and balance are key themes in Dishonored that Chaos and Momentum are perfect for. We’ve stripped these back compared to other editions of 2d20 to make it as fluid and simple to use as possible. Truths come into play as ways to describe the environment, circumstances or objects that might be important, allowing you easily see which parts of a scene might be of interest, a danger or affecting the goings on around you. It makes describing the story a part of the mechanics, with the ability to change, negate and bend those truths to your favour, or against it.
Tracks are something we’ve always used for stress in 2d20, but this time around we’ve extended this mechanic to add suspense or a tangible way of marking progress in other areas. If you’re pulling a heist for one of Dunwall’s notorious gangs, you might use a Stealth track, showing how alert your opponents are and how close to success or failure the mission is, knowing that just a few more failed rolls might fill the track and alert them to your plans. If you’re trying to gain favour with an aristocratic faction, you might use a Faction track to follow your progress and how accepted you are becoming into their circles. Favour with one faction may even reduce and hinder your progress with another faction, dropping you down their Faction track. Even personal goals for your character can use Progress tracks, allowing you to work with your GM to set clear milestones that your character must reach to achieve it, making it easier for a GM to plan out character arcs within an adventure, and for players to know just how close their goal is to their grasp. How much you use tracks completely depends on your group, so you can be as detailed as you like in how you use them.
Quick, lethal combat is somewhat of a benchmark of the Dishonored games. We’ve done away with challenge dice for damage in this version of 2d20, with weapons doing a base amount of damage instead, which can improve with talents and item upgrades. This streamlines combat, meaning that situations move at a faster pace, with more danger of injury with every blow. Choose your targets and moments carefully, as your choice to Fight Boldly or Fight Quietly can be the difference between a silent take down in a dark alley, or an all-out brawl on the streets of Dunwall.
What about the setting?
Outside of what we’ve done with the rules, you might be wondering how much of the setting and characters we’ve talked about in the book. The answer is: as much as we possibly could. We have detailed write ups both about locations and history for all of the main cities in the Empire of the Isles, from the streets of Dunwall to the shores of Tyvia. You can find plot seeds throughout all of the setting chapters, from potential adventures involving the famous Blade Verbena, to plots to tangle you in the politics and intrigues of the Empires criminal gangs, aristocracy and Imperial family. We have write ups for all of your favourite NPCs of the Dishonored games, as well as a number of potential allies and antagonists for you to use. We wanted to allow players and gamemasters to choose their favourite parts and people of the Empire of the Isles and explore them in as much depth as they wanted, and give them all the lore and history to provide a living, breathing environment for their adventures.