The Root board game is being adapted into an RPG, but it’s not like D&D

Dungeons & Dragons is hot right now, seeing a surge in popularity brought on by the game’s 5th edition as well as real-world gaming experiences like Critical Role and The Adventure Zone. Even former video game developers are jumping into the action, creating “5th compatible” campaigns and raising millions on Kickstarter. But while the d20-based system that powers D&D can be a big deal in mainstream circles – that even includes the National Football League – it’s not the best choice for every scenario.

Independently produced role-playing games are also flourishing, giving designers plenty of choices on how to repurpose their own mechanical systems for new creations. It helped a publisher, Magpie Games, do something unusual. It’s transforming the popular board game Racine: A game of strength and law in the woods in an RPG, aptly named Racine: the role-playing game, and it won’t be based on the 5th edition rules that underpin D&D. Instead, it will be fueled by Revelation.

Image: Kyle Ferrin / Magpie Games

The original Root board game, released in 2018, is strange. It’s an asymmetrical wargame where cuddly creatures fight for control of a fantasy forest. But while the work of artist Kyle Ferrin makes the intricate war game appear as something of Target’s toy aisle, the game itself has more in common with much more addicting war games. In fact, its mechanics are loosely based on the COIN games started by former Central Intelligence Agency instructor Volko Ruhnke.

There are four main factions in Root – the Eyrie dynasties, the Woodland Alliance, the Marquise de Cat and the Drifter – and they all operate very differently from each other. The Woodland Alliance is essentially a nationalist group of revolutionaries fighting against an occupying force, the Marquise de Cat, who came from outside the woods to impose their own rules on their native inhabitants. The Eyrie dynasty, on the other hand, is a monarchical regime trying to revert to past glories. Meanwhile, the Drifter is literally just that mighty, backstory, adventurous raccoon, perfectly capable of teaming up with any or none of the other factions on the board.

Written like this, it’s easy to see the parallels to the real-world wars in Afghanistan, Colombia, and Cuba – all settings for other more specialized COIN games. Corn Root has been widely acclaimed for purposefully classifying serial numbers found on historic international conflicts.

According to Ferrin, it was a very intentional choice.

The cover of Root: The Roleplaying Game

Image: Magpie games

“We were always very careful early on not to make any sort of cultural or racial equivalents,” Ferrin told Playserver. “So it’s not like, ‘Oh, the birds are England. ” Nothing like. […] The example I always use when we talk [with fans at conventions] is the Woodland Alliance. When you play as the Woodland Alliance, you can feel like Robin Hood, but for anyone playing against them, they should feel like al-Qaida. It should seem like the worst thing to deal with. “

As a result of this very conscious effort to avoid any parallels with our real world, Root is almost entirely devoid of backstory. The game itself contains almost no “fluff” or elaborate narrative content to set up its conflict. It’s a game without a story.

When Magpie Games co-founder Mark Diaz Truman first met Root, he was amazed. As a fan of existing COIN games like A distant plain, he knew the mechanics intimately. But it mostly resonated with the Drifter, the lonely figure moving in the background and something entirely new in the COIN genre.

“I was doing quests and stuff,” Truman said, “and I had one of those moments that was just like,“ This would be a really cool RPG. […] There’s a whole world here, and the fable part makes it less gloomy and gloomy! ‘ Because we’re not big fans of gloomy, gloomy, gloomy endless darkness. “

The rules behind D&D would have been a great choice, given their popularity. The problem is, the framework behind the original role-playing game is deterministic. Each role of the dice determines whether players succeed or fail in their attempts to impact the world. Does your Wanderer strike Bird Eyrie with the sword? Roll a d20 to find out. Then check yes or no.

What Magpie Games needed instead was a system that allowed players to roll the dice in an effort to add depth and color to the world itself, to lean on the frame. harmless created for the original board game and impose its own storyline on top of it. . That’s the game, and that’s why Magpie opted for Powered by the Apocalypse (PbtA), a design framework created by Meguey Baker and Vincent Baker.

“The reason you roll the dice in Powered by the Apocalypse is not to decide whether you succeed or fail,” said Truman, “but to decide the momentum of narrative uncertainty.”

In Racine: the role-playing game, players will play their characters from what is called a Playbook. This is not a pre-generated character in the traditional sense, but rather a type of character. A short brochure-style handout details a few key stats, including charm, cunning, finesse, luck, and power. But a playbook primarily details the nature of a character’s personality, what motivates and motivates them, and the connections they have to the world around them. It also details their “moves,” which are the feats players will use to impact the game world around them. Truman’s calls move the basic building block of the entire game.

“There is a movement […] who will say something like, “When you’re trying to cheat on an NPC,” Truman said, giving an example from the Vagabond playbook. “And the stakes of this movement are all part of the movement. […] When the movement kicks in – when you roll the dice – it’s going to take us in different directions. It’s not just about succeeding or failing. It could succeed but at a cost, or fail but with this opportunity. Or maybe it failed, in which case the GM just says what’s going on.

Instead of showing up in a dungeon and dealing with the monsters inside by whatever means necessary, players from Root will essentially be the pose of the dungeon and its inhabitants while they are playing the game. By engaging in a given quest, which is only loosely described by the game master, the actions the characters take – the results of their dice rolls – are what will really create the story and give the factions of the world their true motivations. And just like the original source material, all character models – all playbooks – have different powers.

Ultimately, it is the PbtA system that allows Racine: the role-playing game be just as asymmetrical as the wargame it was based on.

Cover of Root: The Tabletop Roleplaying Game Quick Start Guide.

Image: Magpie games

“It’s not about whether you have skill points, or whether you have a plus five or a plus three,” Truman said. “It’s about whether your character is positioned in the world to be a pickpocket. If you’re a pickpocket, you roll [a particular move]. If you are not a pickpocket, you give it a try. You take a giant chance. You are tempting fate.

“This whole idea of ​​Powered by the Apocalypse is not a binary set of interactions,” Truman continued, “but instead of a set of narrative moments that turn into new narrative moments. For stories like Root, […] binary success or failure, I don’t think, is a good mode of play. I think a good mode of play is to find spaces in which uncertainty breeds momentum, and that momentum then gives the momentum. adventure of choices that really, really matter. Like, do we put the cats in charge or the birds in charge? Either.”

A first version of Racine: the role-playing game is now available for free on the Magpie Games website. The final game will go on sale as a PDF on December 15. Pre-orders of physical products, including Basic book and additional additional material, also begins December 15th. Retail availability is expected Jan. 26.

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