Punishing video game Dark Souls has inspired a new tabletop RPG, Sword & Board.
Created by indie designer David Lombardo, Sword & Board is based on the gameplay system of Lasers & Feelings, the rules-light RPG designed by Blades in the Dark creator John Harper. The beginner-friendly ruleset has powered other roleplaying games including the Carly Rae Jepsen-inspired Boy Problems.
Sword & Board’s premise draws from the Dark Souls series’ dark atmosphere and scant storytelling, with players controlling characters who are cursed, hallowed or undead as they set out on a grand quest in an unforgiving world. The GM can determine the characters’ goals and ultimate objective by rolling on a table that features nods to elements of the Dark Souls trilogy, such as ringing the Bells of Awakening, collecting the Four Lord Souls and lighting the Primal Bonfires.
The RPG includes additional tables to randomly generate place names and boss names influenced by those in the Souls games, as well as spiritual spin-off Bloodborne.
Character classes are based on those found in the video games, with unique abilities and equipment contributing to a focus on fast play and flexible storytelling over nitty-gritty calculations, as with Lasers & Feelings.
The titular traits of ‘Sword’ and ‘Board’ represent characters’ aggression and strength or defence and reflexes respectively, with players hoping to roll under the former and over the latter to succeed in any given test. Rolls are made with a single d10, with extra dice granted if the character is prepared or an expert at the skill. The number of successful rolls determines how successful the action is.
Reflecting the Souls games’ use of poise in their tight melee combat, players can also gain poise points, which are spent to use their character’s ability and change their current stance to modify dice rolls.
Lombardo released Sword & Board as a free one-page RPG on Twitter, with a PDF version of the game available as a pay-what-you-want download on the designer's Itch.io page.