Dishonored roleplaying game review: "The perfect example of how to bring a video game to the tabletop"

Dishonored’s Empire of the Isles would be a truly awful place to live, and the Dishonored roleplaying game shows us why. It’s a fascinating deep dive into a world that’s teetering on the edge of collapse, and it captures the spirit of the video game series perfectly. A clever word-based system translates the gameplay of its inspiration with ease, heavy consequences follow your actions, and it’s stuffed with new details on a grimy, violent setting. This is the perfect example of how to bring a video game to the tabletop.

Industrial revolution

Although it’s not the first IP you might think of for a TRPG like D&D, the Dishonored roleplaying game proves that it’s a compelling match. This is a story set during a brutal industrial age, and that helps it stand out in a crowded market of the best tabletop RPGs. Instead of swords and sorcery, we’re getting gas-lit streets and boats running on whale oil. 

Its mechanics certainly help with that world-building too. The developers have noted that they’re fans of word-based gameplay from other TRPGs, and those ideas are put to excellent use here. Magical powers – or ‘Void’ abilities – aren’t just combat-related or a chance to reroll dice, for example. They can be used to change a ‘truth’ about the situation by immediately tweaking, adding, or removing something from a scene. Making a floorboard come loose to trip an opponent you’re chasing, say. It’s a neat way of emphasising the supernatural edge of Dishonored. Rather than limiting the Void to flashy combat moves or effects, it’s more… ethereal. Sure, you can also mess with time to get extra actions or ‘Blink’ to travel short distances, but that’s just icing on the cake.

Dishonored roleplaying game review

(Image credit: Modiphius)

Dishonored’s ‘Momentum’ mechanics are equally good fun. Using a 2d20 system, this TRPG combines skills with ‘styles’ that allow you to take an action Boldly, Carefully, Cleverly, Forcefully, Quietly, or Swiftly. The scores of both are added together to make your target number, and any dice rolls on or below that number are successful. Get more successes than the activity’s difficulty rating and you gain Momentum. These can then be used to buy extra d20s for skill tests, to influence a ‘truth’ (picking up a vase to smash over the head of a goon, for example), or to ask a question of the gamemaster. It’s an easy, logical system to get your head around – particularly if you’re new to tabletop RPGs or have been out of the game for a while. 

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