When any fantasy world tells an equally fantastical story, some fans will inevitably wonder what life would be like in this alternate reality. Whether it’s Tolkien, Hyrule or Hogwarts, these realms seem wondrous to the onlooker, at least at first glance. The playtest of the new DIE RPG tabletop takes this a step further.
In DIE RPG, a tabletop system adapted from Kieron Gillen’s eponymous comic, you explore whether this journey to a fantasy life would actually be as fun as it’s made out to be. Like Jumanji, or the original D&D cartoon from the 80s, players take on two roles; the Persona from the mundane world, and their Character in the fantasy one.
The playtest of the RPG certainly plays out like Dungeons & Dragons, with an array of archetypes that define what abilities can be used against the monsters of the d20-shaped world. However, where most characters in D&D would be content to retire in the local tavern, DIE’s Personas are left wondering how to return to the real world.
The twist in DIE is that your GM, whoever is at the reins of the tabletop world, is also playing a leading role in your party – the Persona responsible for pulling everyone else into this fantasy realm. It’s up to your own Persona to decide if they’re happy in this fantasy world, but there’s only one way out, and that’s for every living player to decide to leave. Including the GM’s Persona.
On top of this, DIE’s classes share common themes with D&D but differ slightly on execution. Player characters could be one of an array of classes, including the Dictator, Fool, Emotion Knight, Neo or Godbinder archetypes, each represented by a different dice.
These hark back to familiar templates – the Emotion Knights are the Paladins, while the Neos are more akin to cybernetic Rogues – but are more flexible to allow for your Persona to flourish within them. That’s important, as the GM also decides on each Persona’s archetype.
This also means that every character uses their own exclusive dice, ranging from the d4 to the d12 based on their archetype, while the GM is the only one with a d20. Once the game begins, with the Players controlling the Persona as the Character – which can be confusing at first for some players – there’s a distinct end goal for every character.
DIE RPG can last just a few sessions, or it can go on for months, but the final encounter will always be facing the GM’s Persona to decide if they stay. Each Persona can decide if they want to stay in DIE’s fantasy world, but if they want to leave, they have two options: eliminate the GM, or convince them to join you in leaving.
However, bear in mind that the Personas can’t escape this world unless they all agree to leave – if one decides they’d rather stay behind, then the only escape option for the party is to also kill them.
‘The world is unstable’, dictates the playtest of DIE RPG, which means that all players either have to stay or leave. Or, die. This overarching theme is what enables the duality of playing both in a real-world Persona and as a fantasy Character, with such a conflict always on the horizon.
Moreover, the GM knows what drives each Persona, and they’re at liberty to create a world that seems better than the real one, based on the roleplay aspects that were forged in character creation. I’m more excited to play through DIE RPG as a GM than a player, which largely contrasts to the general consensus of most D&D memes, for this very reason.
You’re not only building out a fantasy world for your players to explore and enjoy, but you’re also tempting them into existential conflict with one another. Plus, you get the biggest dice.
The playtest of DIE RPG is available to play for free, and the comic of the same name is just about to head into its second arc this August.