A new tabletop RPG based on the popular Image Comics series DIE has launched a new Kickstarter campaign. Rowan, Rook and Deckard has officially re-launched the Kickstarter for DIE: The RPG, a new tabletop RPG based on the popular comics series DIE by Kieron Gillen and Stephanie Hans. Rowan, Rook and Deckard originally launched the Kickstarter last year, but cancelled it citing high shipment and production costs. The game itself is based off of a “beta version” designed by Gillen and will also feature new artwork by Hans. Backers will receive a digital copy of DIE: The RPG with a $25 pledge or a physical copy with a $50 pledge.
ComicBook.com spoke with Gillen and game designer Grant Howitt via email to get more information about DIE: The RPG, its challenges bringing it to print, and future plans for the game.
ComicBook.com: What were the challenges of adapting a comic book that’s about the complex relationships we form when playing games into a game itself?
Kieron Gillen: It’s all the challenges, and that’s the fun of it. Thankfully, that’s what games are really good at. Working out how to explain how you can make your own DIE at home with your friends was 100% the point of the . A lot of my work is about trying to democratise creation and remind people of that power which lies inside each of us. It’s not that hard. Creation is magical, but the magic is inside all of us.
The core of DIE is basically that of the comic – a group of messed up humans get together in the real world, sit down to play a game, make characters and then are transported to a fantasy world and transformed into those characters. When there, they face a world which echoes their hopes and fears back at them, and then they have to all decide to go home or stay. The challenge was writing that into a structure which was flexible enough that every single game could be different, while ensuring it would land every single time.
The key thing for me is the first stage of the game – Persona Generation, where we make our real world people. This is done just by answering questions, individually and as a group, which defines who you all are. This serves two purposes. Firstly, It’s the material which the GM then mines as you go to a fantasy world. Someone talks about their strained relationship with a distant parent? Expect an echo of that domineering parent to appear in the fantasy world. Secondly, it lets the group really know who they are.
That’s one thing which strikes people in DIE – that if you describe it, it sounds weird – playing a roleplaying game about people playing a roleplaying game – but it practise the role-playing is absolutely instinctive. Hell, even easier for people than a traditional fantasy game. We don’t know what an Elf feels like. We all know what it is to be human and hope for something else.
Does DIE (the RPG) feature any new lore about the world of Die? While the comic did a great job of balancing worldbuilding with plot, I feel like there were still bits of that world left to explore?
Gillen: There’s some, certainly – you want to know more about the Fair or the Fallen or even DIE itself, and you’ll find details here. You want to know about details of how the various classes work? We have lots and lots. But this isn’t like a traditional licenced RPG book. This isn’t about providing extensive details of what Stephanie and I did with our DIE. It’s about giving you the tools to easily make worlds which reflect the hopes and fears of your own group. It’s your DIE. Showing how easy that can be is very much the exercise. It will simultaneously feel like DIE, while also be yours.
That said, readers of comic will know where these stories are happening. Beneath the realm of 13, there’s an endless number of worlds, in pretty little eggs. Each game of DIE makes one. So, in a real way, all games of DIE are canon.
Down the line we may do some more with details of the main DIE world – but I suspect that’ll follow if we do a sequel to DIE the comic. Even then, we’re much more interested in you lifting the cool iconic elements of the comic and doing something with them.
What changes were made from Kieron’s open beta version of DIE The RPG?
Grant Howitt: We cut a lot of it! Nothing fundamental – at the heart, it’s the same game, polished and refined and made clearer. We wanted to bring our expertise in writing RPGs – especially the sort of action-leaning storygames that we’re good at, and which DIE RPG certainly is – to the manuscript and help Kieron sound more confident. When we first saw the completed manuscript it felt like he was trying to justify his design choices in the text with asides and apologies, and like, mate, they’re good design choices! They justify themselves! Kieron’s an incredible writer and we wanted to remind him of that.
Aside from that, Chris and Zach and I have spent hundreds of hours going through the text and filing off the rough mechanical edges, tidying up edge cases and smoothing out the play experience. Then we set Will Jobst on it as a proper capital-E Editor, and they’ve been great in tightening up the sentence structure and clarifying the intent. And we asked Kienna Shaw and Lauren Bryant-Monk to take a look over the core elements and the Dictator class in particular, because their work on safety tools has been fantastic and DIE deals with some pretty emotionally difficult subject matter, so we wanted to make sure that we weren’t exposing players to dangerous levels of bleed. In short: it was good before, but it’s even better now.
Are there any plans to support DIE The RPG with additional material beyond what’s found in the core rulebook?
Howitt: Bloody hell, let us release the corebook first! We’re going to see how it goes and discuss it from there. There’s definitely room for more stuff, for sure.
Is it necessary to read DIE (the comic) to understand DIE The RPG?
Gillen: Nah. That’s been a fun part of the playtesting. In the first games, the comic wasn’t even out, so everyone was in the dark. As we progressed, my groups have tended to be a mix of people who know the comic, to those who know a bit of it to those who know not it not at all. The groups in the Beta more broadly have been all manner of stuff. Playing the game first is absolutely as fine a way into DIE.
I actually tend to think of the comic and the game way as two lenses of examining DIE. As in, it has a reality outside of the work, and through the multiple viewpoints you gain a more complete picture.
It’s also telling that when developing the game and writing the comic, ideas bounced between them freely. It was never me trying to adapt one to another, really. I was trying to do the idea as well as I could in two separate forms. There’s lots of examples of ideas which originated in one, and then crossed over to the other. For example, the secret of the Fallen came from the game, not the comic.
How has the Kickstarter campaign for DIE changed since the initial launch last year?
Howitt: Lots! We’re much more confident where we are now, and I think that’s reflected in the campaign. The global paper shortage is still fairly hellish and it’s compounded by the ongoing supply line issues, but we’re in a more comfortable position now and should be able to handle a campaign of this size and impact without causing ourselves massive problems. Aside from the editing and rewrites mentioned above, we’ve also had time to secure a lot more artwork from Stephanie, so we can show you that and get everyone excited.
Kieron – do you feel that DIE The RPG is a unique project (due to how it explores the relationship between players and games) or is there a chance that we could see more of your work adapted into tabletop games in the future? Is there a Wicked + Divine RPG in our future?
Gillen: You never know. I suspect I wouldn’t be doing the adaptation for them if so, but equally, you never know there. A lot of them are just completed works, and I’d rather see what other folks did with them. There’s an excellent hack for Monsterhearts to make it run WicDivian scenarios, for example. I’d love to see something like that expanded into a full game.
For me, when the DIE book is released, I suspect I’ll be more likely to make a few more games of my own, entirely unconnected from anything else. There’s a few on my Itch.io page already. I’ve always been a bit of a dabbler in design, so I’m very into throwing more things out there. Also, I’m excited to see what other people do with DIE. A big part of DIE was me wanting to write enough to get to a place where other people can write and create and play there. We’re here now, so seeing what happens next is absolutely what I’m most excited by.
More information about DIE: The RPG can be found on the game’s Kickstarter page, which will remain open through June 10th.