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Critical Role RPG Daggerheart opens its public playtest, giving you the chance to try the D&D rival for free

Ahead of the beginner-friendly fantasy game’s release in 2025.

Image credit: Darrington Press

Daggerheart, the fantasy RPG from Critical Role studio Darrington Press looking to offer a more beginner-friendly alternative to the likes of Dungeons & Dragons, has launched its public playtest. The open beta gives you the chance to create characters and try out the upcoming RPG’s original dice system and card-driven gameplay before its planned full release next year.

Daggerheart was announced last summer as a brand new roleplaying system and setting from lead designer Spenser Starke, creator of instant-message mystery Alice is Missing, and Darrington Press, the game label founded under immensely popular D&D actual play series Critical Role. Critical Role DM Matthew Mercer is listed among the co-designers helping Starke to refine the fantasy RPG’s world and gameplay.

Daggerheart aims to distil the fantasy adventure of D&D and its ilk into an approachable modern system, swapping the classic d20 for two 12-sided dice that represent two key traits of Hope and Fear. The dice combine with the use of separate cards to form characters’ domain, ancestry, community and subclass, each offering a unique selection of traits and skills. Spells, too, are detailed on cards, helping players to quickly know how to perform them.

Daggerheart lead designer Spenser Starke tells us about the upcoming fantasy RPGWatch on YouTube

After over a year in development and limited playtests run at events such as US convention Gen Con last year, Daggerheart has now opened its public playtest for anyone to try it out for themselves. The playtest includes a work-in-progress - yet still comprehensive - set of rules for making characters, adventuring as player and running or homebrewing games as a GM, along with an introductory adventure including five pre-made characters for those looking to jump straight in.

“Daggerheart is not a finished product yet, and in order to get there, we need people to play it and break it. No, seriously!” Starke made clear as part of the playtest’s launch, timed with a live playthrough by the Critical Role cast on the series’ ninth anniversary. “This phase of playtesting will help us gather the much needed information from you to create the best game possible, and we need your help to do that.”

As well as being available as a set of digital PDFs, the game’s rules and a character creation tool can be accessed via online RPG toolkit Demiplane. Some local stores in the US will also be running playtesting sessions over the coming months.

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Matt Jarvis avatar

Matt Jarvis


After starting his career writing about music, films and video games for various places, Matt spent many years as a technology, PC and video game journalist before writing about tabletop games as the editor of Tabletop Gaming magazine. He joined Dicebreaker as editor-in-chief in 2019, and has been trying to convince the rest of the team to play Diplomacy since.