Free League announces Dragonbane, the translation of Swedish RPG classic Drakar och Demoner

Today Free League announced an English version of Drakar och Demoner, the seminal fantasy RPG in Sweden. The original dwarfed D&D in the Scandinavian market during the 80s and remains massively popular still in this day.
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A new edition of Sweden's first RPG Drakar och Demoner, finally in English after 40 years – the Kickstarter begins August 30
We are thrilled to announce the Dragonbane RPG, a brand new edition of Sweden's first and biggest tabletop roleplaying game Drakar och Demoner, now to be published in English for the first time.

Dragonbane / Drakar och Demoner is coming to Kickstarter August 30.
Sign up here to be notified the moment the campaign starts:

Drakar och Demoner was originally launched in Sweden in 1982. Now, we celebrate its 40th anniversary with a brand new and reimagined edition, with one foot firmly planted in the heritage of decades of Swedish gaming and the other in the modern and innovative game design for which Free League is known worldwide.

There has been talk about the "Swedish invasion" in the RPG world in the last few years, with award-winning titles like Mutant: Year Zero, Tales From the Loop, Symbaroum, Forbidden Lands, and MÖRK BORG. Drakar och Demoner is the game that started it all. And now, for the first time, the game will also be available to an international audience, under the English title Dragonbane.

Drakar och Demoner / Dragonbane has art by acclaimed illustrator Johan Egerkrans (Vaesen – Nordic Horror Roleplaying and art books Vaesen, Norse Gods, The Undead, Dragons) and lead game design by Tomas Härenstam (Mutant: Year Zero, Forbidden Lands, ALIEN RPG, Twilight: 2000 4th Edition, and the upcoming Blade Runner RPG). The team of contributing writers include the elite of the Swedish tabletop RPG industry as well as acclaimed historical fiction author Niklas Natt och Dag (1793 The Wolf and the Watchman).

For a glimpse at the fantasy odyssey to come, check out the artwork from the upcoming core boxed set in this newsletter. More details about Drakar och Demoner / Dragonbane will be shared via our social media accounts throughout the weeks leading up to launch.

Drakar och Demoner / Dragonbane is a classic fantasy RPG full of magic, mystery, and adventure. This new edition is designed from the ground up to facilitate fast and furious play, with very little prep time and adventures that are a breeze to run.

Although a toolbox allowing you to tell fantasy stories of all kinds, Drakar och Demoner / Dragonbane is a game with room for laughs at the table and even a pinch of sillyness at times – while at the same time offering brutal challenges for your adventurers.

We call this playstyle "mirth and mayhem roleplaying" – great for long campaigns but also perfect for a one-shot if you just want to have some quick fun at the table for a night. The core set will include at least one complete adventure and we hope to unlock many more as stretch goals, offering a complete campaign to play even in the core game set.
 

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Ethawyn

Explorer
Actually RuneQuest was never that big here as far as I understand it. Yes, Eloso förlag is making a Swedish translation of it (They were the ones that did a Swedish Version of Call of Cthulhu earlier)

You also have humanoid ducks in Kopparhavets Hjältar, which is a spiritual successor to Drakar och Demoner.
Interesting. But DoD spun off of RuneQuest didn't it?

And if not from RQ, whence the ducks?
 

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Jaeger

That someone better
(Personally, I kinda wish they'd done a 2e of Symbaroum rather than the 5e conversion but that would have made a lot less money.)

The 5e version could have been the 2e Symbaroum. (I have it.) But they wussed out, and played it safe...

They could have taken their roll under d20 rules, and converted them to roll high d20 - mapping it over to the six ability scores, AC, and largely Fixed HP, but keeping the player facing rolls.
Yes some of the suggested 'archetypes' would have been made into 'classes', but after level 1 PC's could largely progress the same way. This would also have given them the chance to refine the abilities and correct known OP combinations.

It could have been a great game. Having just enough 5e familiarity to draw in new players, but different enough to give them an entirely different gameplay experience to core 5e.

But they didn't - its just another setting veneer on top of core 5e gameplay.

I'm rather excited for Dragonbane. I've always wanted a streamlined version of RQ for more Tolkienesque fairytale fantasy.

So I do hope that the design/crunch, tends more towards the magic world end of the scale as opposed to full on RQ level crunch.
 

Staffan

Legend
Interesting. But DoD spun off of RuneQuest didn't it?

And if not from RQ, whence the ducks?
Yes, by way of Basic Roleplaying. And after that, ducks became A Thing.

I'm rather excited for Dragonbane. I've always wanted a streamlined version of RQ for more Tolkienesque fairytale fantasy.
The best BRP successor I've played is The Troubleshooters. Here in Sweden, the same company has released three fantasy games using the same-ish system:
  • Järn ("Iron"), a low-fantasy game (it's a magical world, but magic is generally not a thing PCs do) where you play members of a barbarian clan just outside the borders of the Empire. There's a lot of focus on character and NPC relations – the designer has mentioned that a big inspiration was Smallville, with its relationship maps during the campaign creation stage. The setting itself is intentionally vague, so your "barbarians" can be of many different kinds.
  • Hjältarnas Tid ("Time of Heroes"), a very vanilla fantasy game meant as an introduction to RPGs, complete with an intro adventure gradually explaining the rules. Two rule expansions exist: Magins Väv ("The Weave of Magic") expanding the magic rules and introducing different magic traditions, and Hjältarnas Väg ("The Road of Heroes") giving more advanced rules for PCs (e.g. creating new professions, adding in special abilities, more ancestries, and so on).
  • Kopparhavets Hjältar ("Heroes of the Copper Sea"). This is a bit of an odd duck that relies on Swedish RPG publishing history. Back in the day, the main setting for Drakar och Demoner called Ereb Altor. This setting was, by and large, created by freelancers. Because of the way Äventyrsspel/Target Games went bankrupt, most of the actual content for this setting was returned to its various creators, even if the name itself was kept and eventually transfered to Riotminds (who tried releasing an Ereb Altor box using a setting basically devised of their own, and that didn't work out so well as I understand it). However, there were still a lot of people who had fond memories of the old setting, and some of them managed to talk to the principal freelancers behind Ereb Altor and got the rights to use their material, combining it in new ways and with the system from Hjältarnas Tid to create Kopparhavets Hjältar.
I don't know if Helmgast has any plans to release any of these games in English. It would be pretty neat, and hopefully allow them to fund more development of them. If they did, I strongly suspect that Kopparhavets Hjältar would be the thing closest to classic Drakar och Demoner while still using a relatively modern and streamlined, but still BRP-based, system. That said, from a selfish point of view I'd rather have Krille write more stuff for the Troubleshooters – but then again, Kopparhavets Hjältar was developed by other folks from the base of Hjältarnas Tid.
 

aramis erak

Legend
Yes, by way of Basic Roleplaying. And after that, ducks became A Thing.
Early versions of BRP (pre 1982) didn't have Ducks; heck BRP 4E has no ducks. Ducks, within the overall BRP as system are nigh-unique to Glorantha and Drakar och Demoner.

Just flipped through my 1981 BRP from Worlds of Wonder - the only "unadapted" BRP volume until the twenty-oughts

Also note: RuneQuest was the primary fantasy ruleset for Chaosium in 1982 (When DoD was released), with WoW just about to come out; the BRP booklet from 1981 doesn't have any races/species/ancestries... it's all just humans.

Worlds of Wonder comes out the same time frame (1982), and is the 1981 BRP, plus 3 setting books. So, pretty much, given the stated content of DoD, it's not BRP (the RPG) derived, it's RuneQuest derived, both running on the BRP system. (Which said, the first use was RuneQuest...)

Edit to add: MW and BRP don't even list ducks in the monsters...
 
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Staffan

Legend
Early versions of BRP (pre 1982) didn't have Ducks; heck BRP 4E has no ducks. Ducks, within the overall BRP as system are nigh-unique to Glorantha and Drakar och Demoner.

Just flipped through my 1981 BRP from Worlds of Wonder - the only "unadapted" BRP volume until the twenty-oughts

Also note: RuneQuest was the primary fantasy ruleset for Chaosium in 1982 (When DoD was released), with WoW just about to come out; the BRP booklet from 1981 doesn't have any races/species/ancestries... it's all just humans.

Worlds of Wonder comes out the same time frame (1982), and is the 1981 BRP, plus 3 setting books. So, pretty much, given the stated content of DoD, it's not BRP (the RPG) derived, it's RuneQuest derived, both running on the BRP system. (Which said, the first use was RuneQuest...)

Edit to add: MW and BRP don't even list ducks in the monsters...
Huh. I was pretty sure that OG DoD was a translated BRP + the fantasy setting from Worlds of Wonder (Magic World?), and that that's where the ducks came in. But looking at my materials, nope. It is translated from BRP + Magic World though, to the point where the file is divided into two parts where one is the generic stuff and the other is the fantasy bit.

Ducks weren't added until DoD version 2. They were clearly lifted from Runequest though, much like the later rules for hit locations.
 

I don't know to what degree, if any, Free League will change it. Magic has been treated somewhat differently in different editions. This is how it worked in classic Dragonsbane: Each spell is its own skill. Spells have a difficulty level of 1 to 4, which determine either your starting skill in the spell if you start with it, or how costly in time and money learning it is once the game has started. Level 4 spells are off limits at start. Spells can be cast at different power levels, which make the spell more powerful but also more costly and difficult. Casting a spell costs 1 magic point per power level, and casting at a power level above 1 gives a -10% penalty to the skill check (or -2 in a d20-based version). A character has as many magic points as their Power ability score, which is usually rolled on 3d6 for a human.

The Expert rules, as well as the editions released in 1991 and 1994 mostly went with the same setup, except spells were split into multiple schools (originally 6 in the Expert rules, expanded to 13 in various additions, and then collapsed down to 3 with multiple sub-schools in the 1991 rules), and their difficulty level was replaced with a "school value" serving more or less the same role but with more granularity. The school value acted as a prerequisite: you needed to have the appropriate school at at least that high a skill level.

Generally speaking, wizards weren't very good in classic Dragonsbane, because getting anywhere took TONS of XP. With various accessories, there were a ton of theoretical variety, but since each spell was its own fairly expensive skill, and critically failing a spell could have really bad effects, the game really didn't lend itself to strong magic.

In some versions, being a wizard also required passing a test for having the talent for it. You needed to roll (Intelligence + Power)% or lower on d100.

As I recall, Riotminds' first edition had a much different magic system (much like everything else about it was different). I don't recall much of it since I never played it after reading their rule book, but as I recall wizards got hugely inflated Power stats, and casting spells cost a significant chunk of it but was mostly automatically successful. Spell knowledge in this variant was more binary – either you know a spell or you don't.
Thanks for the breakdown :)
 




Ulfgeir

Hero
The ducks is a staple in Drakar och Demoner. And what can I say, we have a thing for Donald Duck here in Sweden, so I guess that is why they keep popping up here and there. ;)
 


Bilharzia

Fish Priest
Ducks are very much part of RuneQuest from the beginning in 1978, they are in the rules as a creature and intelligent playable character.
 

Based on this quickstart, there is nothing to do in combat but roll to hit? None of the pregens has an active ability to do something with (just reactions, or sneak attack you always want to use anyway)...

Why is pushing marked as an optional rule? That just seems like they don't trust their own design.

And they have halflings even though they already have ducks? Why
 
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Banesfinger

Explorer
The quickstart looks like a 'lite' version of D&D 5e (right down to the 'death saves' rule), but using roll-under d20. I like some of the interesting differences (pushing rolls seems to be a better version of 5e's inspiration; Armor acts as DR, active defenses like Dodge/Parry). Magic looks skill-based and powered by Willpower points.
Somewhat like a mash-up of 5e and GURPS Fantasy.
What is not apparent in the quickstart is how advancement is handled? Is this a skill-based, level-less game? How is experience handled? Do skills improve through use (i.e. RuneQuest) or through session points (i.e. GURPS)?
 

Fenhorn

Explorer
The quickstart looks like a 'lite' version of D&D 5e (right down to the 'death saves' rule), but using roll-under d20. I like some of the interesting differences (pushing rolls seems to be a better version of 5e's inspiration; Armor acts as DR, active defenses like Dodge/Parry). Magic looks skill-based and powered by Willpower points.
Somewhat like a mash-up of 5e and GURPS Fantasy.
What is not apparent in the quickstart is how advancement is handled? Is this a skill-based, level-less game? How is experience handled? Do skills improve through use (i.e. RuneQuest) or through session points (i.e. GURPS)?
It is a BRP d20 roll under system, not a 5E system. Some rules have been inspired by other games, like the push mechanics obviously comes from FLs own YZE-games. There are things that has been inspired by d&d of course (like the death saves, although they are not the only one using that), but the the roots of the game is based on the early (80s and 90s) editions of the game (and they where based on Chaosium BRP and Magic World). It is a skill-driven system, not a level-system so you increase skill levels and you could also learn new abilities, most likely with some sort of points that you earn throughout your adventures.
 




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