Dishonored is a beloved series of first person stealth action games. The rightful heir to the Thief throne, the series exists as two main titles, and the excellent standalone Death of the Outside. There just isn’t that much Dishonored, and for fans of the series, that’s really a shame. In those three titles, developer Arkane Studios managed to cram in so much lore, world building, mysticism, and characters that it’s hard to not want to spend more hours sneaking through alleys and dodging plague rats—all to the distant drone of “Drunken Whaler.”
I hadn’t really considered Dishonored for a tabletop roleplaying setting, but in hindsight, it’s obvious. The lore is just incredible. Whether you want a game set within Dunwall, in the Empire of Isles, or even the greater world at large, Dishonored has traditionally been full of political intrigue, mystery, supernatural powers, and an enigmatic being known as the Outsider who likes to meddle from time to time. The Dishonored Roleplaying Game gives you the opportunity to do a deep dive into the Dishonored world.
The world of Dishonored isn’t exactly like ours. It’s instead set in an alternate, universe that isn’t quite steampunk. The book describes it as “gaslight fantasy alternate universe” but that’s not nearly descriptive enough. The main energy source comes from whale oil, and there is a lot of religion and mysticism involving whales—like the powerful charms that are carved from their bones that can bestow powers. And if you’re noticed by the Outsider, you may be granted his mark—and given supernatural powers, like the ability to possess animals, become like smoke, or entice rats to swarm and devour your enemies.
If you’re familiar with other games from Modiphius, then you’re probably familiar with the 2d20 system. A lot of what you’ve probably seen with the 2d20 system before exists in Dishonored but some of them work a little differently than you might be accustomed to. That’s because Dishonored Roleplaying Game really emphasizes shared storytelling even more so than some other tabletop roleplaying games. Through the use of Void Points and momentum, the player is empowered to affect scenes, and even the reality of the game, in ways that usually only a gamemaster/dungeon master could.
Many other 2d20 mechanics make their way to Dishonored: Roleplaying Game, but with a different name than you might be used to. In Star Trek Adventures, also a 2d20 game by Modiphius, Void Points are essentially determination, contests are called opposed tasks, etc. Again, if you’re familiar with the system, moving over to Dishonored won’t be too difficult to translate—but there are some neat twists that make it worthwhile to pick up the book. The rules are organized particularly well, and concisely. But the real value comes with huge amount of lore included.
I played through the Dishonored games and loved them—but even I didn’t realize just how many layers of complexity there is inside the city of Dunwall and beyond. Not only is iconic Dunwall detailed in all of its ghettos and boroughs, but so are many of the surrounding cities, and even more beyond. The Dishonored: Roleplaying Game rulebook has a wealth of locations, characters, and the story hooks to help keep you going.
Stealth is emphasized in the Dishonored games, but the freedom of tabletop makes stealth centered gameplay one of many endless possibilities. If you want to play a character like Corvo Attano—the assassin main character of the Dishonored games, it’s possible. There are even special rules for stealth approaches to situations. But so are so many others roles you can take. You can be part of a whaling fleet hunting sea monsters, a member of the brutish Dunwall City Watch, or a soldier that defected from another country that came to the Empress Isles for a new start. Combat, social conflict, and more are possible without the limitations of being a video game.
The Dishonored Roleplaying Game core rulebook is essential for any gamemaster who wants to run this particular flavor of 2d20, but if you’re a player there’s a lot to gain from picking it up. Not only does it give you the rules you need to play, but it’s a valuable reference to the areas, cities, organizations, and people you might encounter as you adventure.
The book’s presentation—layout, and in particular, the art—is top notch. I love the illustrations. They fit the video game’s art style, and work as a perfect view into the world of Dishonored. It sets the flavor and tone of this world. Most of the pictures are just gorgeous, and I would happily hang them up in my home.
Dishonored Roleplaying Game is a new favorite. Its setting is familiar enough to jump right into, and just different enough to be interesting. Its world is full of an incredible amount of possibilities for gameplay and story—from supernatural abilities powered by The Void, to political intrigue that threatens the Empire of the Isles. Oh yeah, and lots of rats—at least during the plague times. Grab some friends, two twenty sided dice, and ask yourself, what do YOU do with a drunken whaler?
Dishonored Roleplaying Game is available on Modipius.net and drivethru RPG digitally
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