Tales of Xadia, The Dragon Prince’s officially licenced tabletop RPG, launched on March 29th, offering a digital copy of the core book alongside a suite of web-based tools. The physical book will arrive a few weeks later thanks to shipping delays, but publishers Cortex and Fandom Gaming invited Dicebreaker to preview how the game adapts the popular animated series.
The Dragon Prince follows a group of young heroes as they journey across the world to bring the titular young dragon to its rightful home amid mounting political tensions and the emotional pitfalls of growing up. Tales of Xadia takes place in the same setting but lets players create their own characters within the various societies and cultures of Xadia while the magical elves and the more militant humans prepare for war.
Tales of Xadia establishes a mechanical foundation using Cortex Prime, the most recent iteration of a genre-agnostic, modular toolset first created by designer Cam Banks and more recently acquired by Fandom for its new tabletop branch. Community manager Mellie Doucette led a brief demo adventure that included an explanation of character creation. A classic array of stats - with the addition of spirit, which Doucette described as “gumption” or “wherewithal” - will seem familiar to any Dungeons & Dragons players, but Tales of Xadia places a stronger emphasis on a character's relation to the world than their capacity of killing.
This design principle is evident in two other important character bits - distinctions and values. Distinctions explain someone’s place within society and their formal ties to political entities. For example, Bineta is both a Sunfire Elf and a Knight of Lux Auria, both of which are tools a player can rely on during conflict and roleplay. Values are the ideals that shape how a character views the world and interprets their own actions. All six - devotion, glory, mastery, liberty, truth and justice - will have a die attached that signifies how important they are to the character (bigger dice means more belief) along with a brief statement detailing their outlook. These aren’t stuck on a morel binary - a thief may have the largest die in Tales of Xadia, a d12, assigned to truth because they see it as the most useful and reliable tool in their trade.
In play, characters can evoke the values, distinctions and assets - the category where weapons and more traditional equipment fall - as possible solutions for the problems they will encounter throughout their adventures. Players work with the facilitator to build a dice pool out of the relevant details, and the resulting success or failure will be tied to whatever they brought to bear. Players also have the option to intentionally take a lower die in order to store a Plot Point to use during a more pivotal moment. All of these approaches allowed the Cortex Prime team to translate to the tabletop a show where violence is often the last resort, and one not taken lightly.
“We can focus on sorts of things that are conflicts that aren't necessarily physical battle type conflicts, and there was a lot of that driving the flow of character development on the show,” Banks said. “These were characters who were making extremely difficult choices based on what they felt was right and what they felt was supposed to happen. And sometimes they really didn't get what they wanted out of it.”
Tales of Xadia includes three published adventures at launch that players can use as the beginning of their own homebrewed stories or link together as a larger narrative. A collection of smaller encounters, which Doucette called “fun-sized tales” will be released in the coming weeks as Fables of Xadia and will build on the conflicts and locations introduced in both the show and the core book’s fiction.
The tabletop RPG adaptation falls during the prolonged gap between The Dragon Prince’s third season, which aired in 2018 and the upcoming fourth season. While not originally the plan, Wonderstorm co-founders Aaron Ehasz and Justin Richmond said that Tales of Xadia has been an apt avenue of exploring people and places of the world that can’t necessarily be the focus of the animated show. “We want it to have that kind of relevance and connection on an ongoing basis. So that's to say, there's not a specific plan to be like, “Oh, there's gonna be some Tales of Xadia stuff between season five and season six”, but that would be a very natural expectation if we want it to be connected to the world and real and relevant on an ongoing basis,” Ehasz said.
Platform host Netflix has renewed the show through a seven season run that will reportedly close out the planned story, but no release dates have been provided. That’s likely due to production delays caused by the COVID-19 pandemic but may also be tied to the 2019 allegations of misogyny, professional neglect and gaslighting against Ehasz. Several people left Wonderstorm after sharing their stories, all of which centred on Ehasz’s mistreatment and mismanagement of women at the company.
Tales of Xadia has been an important project for Cortex Prime in helping to create the core of the team’s new digital toolset, including character journals, dice trays and other resources. Fandom Tabletop also handled D&D Beyond, which explains some of the emphasis on developing online capabilities for new licenced TRPGs, but the team said every new release - such as the upcoming Legends of Grayskull game - will expand and refine what’s on offer.
“I think it's kind of gonna help pave the way to continue to make digital first be something that is almost a part of the expected experience for a first class game,” Doucette said. “I don't think anybody's expecting every indie TTRPG to have a digital toolset - that seems very unfair. But I think just for these triple-A games, this should be something that we start to see and expect from everywhere.”