DIE: The Roleplaying Game


I just received the pdf for this game, having backed it on Kickstarter. It’s now available for preorder.

DIE: The Roleplaying Game


It’s based on the comic of the same name and by the same creators, Kieron Gillen and Stephanie Hans, which I’d say is just about required reading for anyone at all interested in RPGs. The basic premise is similar to Jumanji or the old D&D cartoon… a group of six teenagers in the 90s are pulled into an RPG world. They’re missing for two years and then five of them return home, unable to speak of what happened to them.

Years later, in their 40s, they wind up going back.

The game follows the same basic premise, but allows you to create different types of scenarios for your characters. Each of the players creates a persona, which is the “real world” person who is going to the world of DIE. The GM and players create a group of regular people who have history together, with all the positives and negatives that entails. This group then gets transported to the world of DIE.

I’ve only just begun to dig into its 416 pages, so I’ll elaborate in future posts. I’ll say at this point, I like what I see so far. The core mechanics seem straightforward and clear, but widely applicable. The Paragons ( classes) are all evocative and spring directly from the comic. Each of the six is connected to one of the primary polyhedrals used in RPGs, and they have special abilities that use their associated dice.

The other thing is that the book looks beautiful. Some of the art is from the comics, but most is new, and mostly by Hans herself, though there are other contributors. The layout is clean and well done from what I’ve seen, and I expect that will continue throughout.

I’ll post more thoughts as I make my way through it, but if anyone else has read or played the game during Beta, please share your thoughts or experiences.

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We have ordered a physical copy. Really curious about this game and am looking forward to diving into it.

Are you familiar with the comic at all?

I’ve not had time to get too far into it yet. But so far, I’m digging it. I’ll have some thoughts posted soon.


I was interested in getting it but due to money issues had to forgo it for now. I have only read the first volume of the comic so far. It is pretty good and I want to read the rest of the series when I can. The "classes" are really flavourful and interesting.
So I am keen to read your insights into the game as you get more into it. I'd also like to hear how your games go if/when you get to play the game.


DIE RPG Review

Okay, so I’ve delved into this book a bit, and figured I’d post some thoughts about the first few chapters.

The book opens with a 6 page original comic that portrays the basic premise. A group of friends who used to play RPGs gets back together after many years, now adults, and play a game. Only they get transported to the fictional world they’ve created.

This is followed by…

Chapter 1- Introduction

This is a brief section that has the typical “What is DIE?” and “What is an RPG?” type stuff. They keep it very brief; the text actually says “Google Actual Play RPG and watch a few minutes of a video. That. That is an RPG.” Then it adds one more paragraph about how an RPG is a conversation, and how players declare actions for their characters, the GM narrates outcomes, and the rules are used when there is uncertainty. This section is refreshingly succinct compared to many other games.

There’s a very brief summary of the classes that you can play. And a brief summary of the contents of the book by chapter, and then a note on tone. The game can be very dark and they suggest you discuss what tone you want to go for as a group, and there may be certain things you allow or don’t allow as a result (one of the classes being a big example, which I’ll touch upon later).

Following that, there is one page of Terminology. A summary of all the terms used in play. I like that this is all on one page, you can easily print it out and keep it handy as a reference. Most of the terms are pretty straightforward, and familiar enough to RPG vets, but there are a few new ones or twists on old ones, and if you have newer players, it’s not a bad idea to print a couple of copies and keep them around the table, or cut and paste into a Discord channel, or what have you, if you’re playing online. For example, the character classes are called Paragons, while the characters themselves are Personas. So when you make a character, you are making the Persona first (for example, Bob the former high school quarterback who’s now a middle aged salesman who’s in the middle of a divorce) and then the class he adopts when he goes to the fictional world is a Paragon.


Chapter 2- Rules

This section goes over character stats and the core mechanics of the game. Characters use the familiar six primary stats from D&D: Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma. Scores range from 0 to 4 in each, with 2 being typical human, 3 being elite, and 4 being pinnacle. Then there are some derived stats that mirror some of the functions of secondary D&D stats like Hit Points and Armor Class, but which work differently. Here they are:

  • Guard- equal to Dexterity, this is your ability to avoid damage and is depleted first when you are hit
  • Health- equal to Constitution, this is your ability to withstand damage and is depleted after Guard; when you reach 0 health, you fall unconscious and may be at risk of death
  • Willpower- equal to Intelligence plus Wisdom, this is your ability to resist emotional manipulation
  • Defense- begins at 0 and can be modified by items and abilities, this is a measure of how hard you are to hit
Following this, they summarize how to determine if a declared action succeeds or not, or if we need to use dice. Here are the steps:

  • If there’s no significant chance of it not happening, it happens. This covers the vast majority of things
  • If the action is absolutely impossible in the established fiction, it doesn’t happen.
  • If a skilled individual brings those skills to bear on a task in a situation with little immediate pressure and little interest in failure, it happens.
  • If the action is a Paragon’s ability which uses its own set of rules, follow the instructions on the Paragon’s sheet.
  • If none of the above apply, you turn to the Core Mechanic.
I like this sequence. I think number 3 is particularly noteworthy; this game is not meant to be a procedural simulation. They don’t want you to roll dice unless there is something interesting at stake.

The Core Mechanic is pretty simple. You roll a number of d6s equal to the relevant Ability. So if you’re trying to lift something or hit someone with an axe, you’d roll d6s equal to your Strength score. For each Advantage you may have (high ground, surprise, etc.), you roll an additional d6. For each Disadvantage, you lose a d6.

Success is indicated by a 4 or higher on any die. If there is a Difficulty involved (such as a creature’s Defense Score) you subtract that number of successes. If any remain, you succeed.

When you roll a 6, it can trigger a Special, which are bonus effects that can come from Paragon abilities or from equipment. You get to pick which Special you apply if you have more than one, and you can apply one for each 6 you roll. For example, if you wield a rapier and roll a 6, you can trigger the Special “restore 1 Guard”.

The text then moves on to some basics of combat, like turn order and range. Characters act in order from highest Dex to lowest. When there is a tie, the GM decides who goes first, with the suggestion that they alternate from Paragon to NPC and back. Pretty simple.

Range is broken into four ranges: Melee, Close, Medium, and Far. On a player’s turn, they can take one Action and also Move. You Move from one range to the next; so if you are Medium range from the doorway, you can move to Close range with one Move. If you like, you can spend your Action to Move again, and move two Range bands. This is a simple system that I’ve seen in several games, and I’ve never had a problem with it before, so I expect it will work fine in DIE.

Attacking involves rolling a dice pool for your relevant stat; Strength for Melee and Dexterity for Ranged. Each 4 or higher that you roll, after removing successes for Difficulty, is a Hit. A Hit reduces Guard by 1, or Health by 1 if the character has no Guard remaining. Each Hit that reduces Health is called a Wound.

There are a couple of special cases here. If a character attacks and scores no Hits, and the target could conceivably strike back, then the attacking character instead takes a Hit. If the attacking character rolls some Successes, but they are negated by Difficulty leaving them with no Hits, the next person to attack the Target does so with an Advantage.

The rules then talk about how to apply some “Fail Forward” techniques; success with cost, partial success, and complications. They also offer ideas on how to handle certain situations as requiring a specific number of Successes, and allowing multiple characters to roll and counting all Hits towards the total. They specifically cite Clocks from Blades in the Dark and the Resistance System from Spire as the inspiration for this idea. Finally, they suggest how to use Situational Specials to give scenes some thematic flavor. So if the battle is atop a cliff, something like “Special: if this hit inflicts a Wound, the target falls off the cliff.” This can be used as needed to create situations that are unique to a given scene.

The final section points out that more advice on GMing DIE comes later in the book, and sites Apocalypse World by Vince and Meg Baker as a major inspiration. I like that these inspirations are mentioned openly and at specific points in the text.

The next chapter gets into the Paragons and their abilities. Each one has specific mechanics associated to them, and works differently in play. There’s an introduction about Paragons and how they work, with a summary of each, and then it goes into detail on each of the six Paragons.


Chapter 3- Paragons

There are six Paragons, though only five are meant for players. The sixth, the Master, is reserved for the GM (though there are optional rules on how to make the Master a PC). Each of these classes is associated with one of the classic dice used in RPGs. The Paragons and their dice are:

  • Dictators (d4) are artistic diplomats who manipulate emotions with horrific magical words.
  • Fools (d6) are swashbucklers, rushing into danger and relying on their supernatural luck to survive.
  • Emotion Knights (d8) are warriors who feed one sacred emotion into their arcane, sentient weapons to devastating effect.
  • Neos (d10) are techno-magical rogues, stealing the elusive Fair Gold to power their cybernetic gifts.
  • Godbinders (d12) are clerics who prefer to make deals with their gods to get miracles.
  • The Master (d20) are reality controlling game magicians, reserved for the GM.
Each is described in detail over many pages. Each entry gives you a basic description, suggestions on why someone would want to play that Paragon, what stats are important to each, what gear they get to choose, and so on. Then it explains the special abilities of each Paragon, those they start play with, and those they gain by advancing a level.

The book then discusses how to handle character advancement for both a short two to four session game, or for a longer campaign. It’s also explained that you can tweak these methods to suit your preferred pace and type of game. There are ultimately 20 levels, but it’s suggested there is rarely need to go beyond level 14 or so, which is about what the characters in the comic ended as. They can become quite powerful the more abilities they gain.

However you handle advancement, there is an advancement map for each Paragon. It is made up of a series of triangles (this is the shape of an unfolded d20, actually). You start with one ability, and then begin to move up the chart, selecting the ability of any adjacent triangle. Here’s an image:

So it creates some choices for you along the way. Each triangle has an ability in it, different for each Paragon. How you make your way through this pattern is up to you.

Each Paragon also gets to raise a stat by 1 at levels 3, 6, 9, and 12. Each Paragon also has a unique special ability gained at a level specific to that Paragon.

So let’s get on with it! I’ll summarize each of the Paragons in their own post, starting with The Dictator!



The Dictator is a kind of nightmare bard. They influence people with their Voice. When you create your character, you have to select one of eight emotions that you can influence: Ecstasy, Admiration, Terror, Amazement, Grief, Loathing, Rage, and Vigilance. You also have to craft some telltale sign that you are using your power (there are some suggestions to inspire). You can use your Voice to control people, or to attack them.

It’s interesting that this class is described first because it is one of the more complex ones, perhaps the most complex. It’s also suggested that during character creation, there should be a discussion about whether the Dictator can use the Voice on other PCs. The default assumption is that the Dictator can use the voice to attack other PCs, but not to control them. It’s up to each table to decide how they want to handle this.

When attempting to use the Voice, you roll a Charisma dice pool, plus the Dictator’s d4. However, this roll is calculated differently. The d4 indicates the number of successes you get. Then, any successes from the d6s can adjust the total up or down accordingly. The higher the number of successes, the stronger the emotion is felt by the target. There are 6 degrees, and if you get high enough to equal or exceed the Target’s Willpower score, then they submit entirely to the compulsion. If you were attacking them instead, they either die or are incapacitated, at your whim.

If you don’t exceed the Target’s Willpower score, each degree gives a Disadvantage (-1d6) to any action taken against the compulsion. If you instead attack them with the Voice, they would suffer a Disadvantage on any attacks for each level of the emotion. Targets can spend their action attempting a Wisdom roll to resist, with a Difficulty equal to half the level of the emotion, rounded down.

When you’ve used the Voice on a character, you pass your d4 to that player. In order to use the Voice again, you must reclaim the d4, which you can do instantly, but that frees the previous target from your compulsion. You can attempt to affect more than one target, but doing so removes a Success from your roll for each additional target.

One risk whenever you do this is that if you roll a Critical Failure when you use the voice (meaning the d6s show no successes, and at least one of them shows a 1) then you cannot remove the emotion from the Target. You’ve permanently broken someone.

There is also a more subtle use of the Dictator’s d4. Without using the voice, if subtle manipulation is at play, the Dictator can include the d4 as part of the dice pool. In this case, the number on the d4 can be added to any one d6.

This Paragon is all about removing agency from others. It examines through play what that would actually mean, and the impact it would have on people. There are recommendations throughout to discuss consent and how this class should work in play, and to revisit this regularly throughout play.

As the Dictator advances, they get to add new emotions to their repertoire. They become reviled by many due to their controlling nature, but they also may acquire henchmen and followers along the way. They can manifest the monster within and alter their form much like a werewolf or a vampire, gaining some physical benefits. They can learn to influence larger groups of people. They ultimately can take control of one of the realms of the world of Die entirely.

At level 4, “Live at the Witch Trials” happens. This means that their reputation as a Dictator has become strong enough that there is a bounty on their head, and hunters that are seeking that bounty. You must decide why you are hunted (simply being a Dictator is enough, but you can be more specific) and you also have to determine why you are still alive. Are you protected by a powerful patron? Are you the member of some guild that protects you? Something else? What does this protection cost? These choices will give the GM some material to work with to make your life complicated.

The Dictator is interesting for sure. The comic focused heavily on the Dictator character, and I can see how one could lend itself to a primary character. They’re certainly not the most straightforward character, but use of the Voice can be potent with a creative player. You’d probably need to consider what players may be (or maybe more importantly, may not be) suited to play this class. They potentially hold a lot of power in the game world, and a lot of possibility to steer the narrative. Having a player who realizes that and can manage it is important.

From a more technical standpoint, I’d almost have liked one of the other Paragons to be described first, but that’s a minor quibble. One other complaint, and this is throughout; some of the special abilities you gain with an advance allow you to pick from a list of options. Those abilities and the options they allow don’t have much differentiation in the text, and so it can be easy to miss that you’re looking at a specific ability or one that’s meant to be selected from a list. Again, minor quibble, but a quick fix like underlining the main choices and not the options would have fixed it.

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