Showing posts with label Daggerheart. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Daggerheart. Show all posts

Thursday, March 14, 2024

Daggerheart Open Playtest Beta: Intro and Character Creation

 The minds behind Critical Role have come up with their new Fantasy RPG and honestly, it has some things going for it.

Daggerheart Fantasy Role-Playing is now in Open Beta Playtesting and you can grab a copy for free from DriveThruRPG or their website

Galapa by Jessica Nguyen
Galapa, one of the new Ancestries. Art by Jessica Nguyen

I began reviewing it yesterday and quickly decided to take the plunge to print out the entire 375+ page playtest document so my kids and I can try it out.

You can see the DNA of many systems and games here, which they acknowledge.  I have not read a bunch, but there is a very interesting world here and one I think many will like to play in.

I know most of my readers are "old-school D&D" so I'll say this. If there is something about D&D 5 you dislike chances are good it is here and turned up to 11. 

That all being said there is a really interesting game here. 

That's a lot of pages. Daggerheart playtest

Will this game be a "D&D Killer?" too early to say. I mean we didn't see Pathfinder taking D&D's throne when 4e was out, but then it happened. And when was the last time an RPG Playtest made the pages of Business Insider the day of release?  Do not underestimate the fanship of Critical Role, who, in their nine years, has only seen their popularity rise. Sooner or later, Hasbro will do something boneheaded again, like the OGL or maybe even AI art, and people will look for more options. 

One thing is for certain, the crew at Critical Role will make the game look great to play. Cases in point, they have already produced some videos for it. 

I am watching the One Shot now, and the game looks fun. The feel is a solid fantasy RPG. Their enthusiasm is infectious. 

Character Creation

I have gone through character creation. It will be faster once I know the system better, but it is still very fast. There are a lot of options. LOTS. If you are the type that looks at D&D 5's choices of species and shakes your head then this will not be the game for you.

Daggerheart is a Class and Level based system, so that will be familiar to most; especially what I perceive as their main target, D&D 5e players. 

Classes and Heritages

So, there are nine classes, each with two sub-classes (Foundations) and 18 ancestries. Like I said, there are lots of choices. Watching the "How to Make a Character" video is helpful here, but I just dove right in. That's how we did in the 1980s! The video shows Travis Willingham of Critical Role rebuilding one of his Campaign 3 characters, Bertrand Bell, in this game.  I can relate. 

Each class has two "Domains" and these overlap. These help decide what sorts of powers, abilities, and spells they can take. For example "Arcana" is magic and is the Domain of Druids and Sorcerers. But Sorcerers are also "Midnight" which is sneaky, shadowy stuff and also a Domain of Rogues. 

You choose a Class, then a Foundation (which gives you benefits), then your first-level powers/abilities.

Choose your Heritage (Ancestry and Community) which gives you yet more powers/abilities. There are nine Communities. Think of these as being like your background. 

So where are we? We have 9 classes, 2 foundations, 18 ancestries, and 9 communities. So 2,916 combinations at level 1. 

There are Traits, which line up more or less with d20/D&D abilities. 

Damage Thresholds are bit like HP, with a tracker. Damage gets deadly really fast.  Oh and damage to you also damages your armor. 

A note about Death. This game has a great rule that I might steal for my home games. 


I like the whole "Embrace Death and Go Out in a Blaze of Glory." You die and stay dead, but you do it with style. Oh, it also seems that coming back from the dead is rare and not at all easy. When a character does, they permanently lose one point of the Hope resource.  I have not talked about the Hope and Fear resources yet. But they are spent like Drama or Hero points depending on the situations. These use the oft-neglected d12.

You choose your abilities/powers/spells based on your Domains. The feel is similar to some of the choices for characters seen in D&D 4e.

There are Background questions. They are optional, but they are fun.

Experiences are fun. These are bits on your background that you can use a bonus to your Hope roll. These are figured out in Session 0 and work best if they complement (or aggravate!) the other characters.

Connections are similar. This has a solid Blue Rose feel to it. 

Character creation is fun and would work best during Session 0 with your group. 

Larina Nix in Daggerheart

Of course, I am going to try this with my Drosophila melanogaster of character creation experiments. There is no witch class here, so the first thing I need to do is figure out what her class is. 

While the playtest materials give me plenty to create a class (and the videos use them) there are other options. One is the Character builder at the Daggerheart Nexus at This is what I did for my witch Larina. 

Looking through my options here and with the playtest I am opting for Sorcerer over Wizard. Larina knows things, but they didn't all come from books (which she loves) plus I like the idea of the Midnight Domain for her, so she is a Sorcerer. For her Foundations (subclasses), I gave her Primal since her magic needs to feel a little old and a little wild. Her ancestry is human, and in this reality, she is Loreborn to tie into her connection to reading and books. 

Background I can skip over since this not with a group yet, but I do want to cover her Experiences here. For her +2 Experience I went with "I understand that! (Magical Scholar)" so she can spend a Hope die anytime something magical needs to be explained or figured out. For her +1 Experience, I went with "Wait, I need to read this (Seeker of Magical Secrets)" to cover that sometimes her curiosity overrules her common sense. So that +1 to her Hope die would be great in situations where she is trying to read a magical inscription on a tomb wall while avoiding getting hit by a mummy. 

For my Domain Cards (yes there are cards, but also slots on my sheet) I took one Arcana and one Midnight out of my choices of three each. I wanted to try a balance of the two. 

The effort was fast, really fast. And I am pleased with the results

Daggerheart Larina 1 of 3
Daggerheart Larina 2 of 3
Daggerheart Larina 3 of 3

Yeah, I am quite pleased with this character and character creation. But the proof is in the playing.

So now, after reading, making a character, watching some videos, and retweaking the character, I'll try my hand at making a character from the start again to see how long it takes. For this I will do my other active character Sinéad.  She is also a sorcerer, but I want to see how different two characters of the same class can be. Then I'll also try her as a multi-classed Bard.

Sinéad in Daggerheart

In D&D Sinéad is a half-elf Magic-user (Sorcerer)/Bard. Now her history is very, very much tied to the Forgotten Realms. So unlike Larina, her home is a very integral part of her. It will be interesting to see how that works in a game like Daggerheart.

Sinéad in Daggerheart

Ok, that took about 4 minutes. While I can get into the details, suffice it to say that this worked well for me and I was EASILY able to capture the concept here that this is character who can't control her magic and is working on figuring out how.  She isn't a bard yet. But that also fits in well with my starting concept of her.  For her item, Family Heirloom, I have it as her father's lute.

In Daggerheart, you can multi-class starting at the 5th level, so I am going to try that. When Multi-classing, you choose one of the two Domains of the second class. I rather like that. The Bard Domains are Grace and Codex. While Codex would be great for the added magic, concept-wise, Grace is a better fit.  She also chooses one of the Foundations (Subclasses). For Sinéad, I picked Troubador so she can get some game advantage from her lute.

Sinéad in DaggerheartSinéad in Daggerheart
Sinéad in Daggerheart
Sinéad in Daggerheart
Sinéad in Daggerheart

Level 0 to Level 5, plus making screenshots? 25 mins.  A PDF export would be nice here.

So, despite Larina and Sinéad both being Sorcerers in Daggerheart, they do look and feel different.

There is a lot to try out for this game and I am looking forward to seeing where it goes.