Monday, March 25, 2024

Review: Daggerheart Open Beta

The open Beta of Daggerheart has been released. For those of you not in the know, Daggerheart is a new fantasy roleplaying game being put out by the popular D&D streaming group Critical Roll as a replacement for D&D.

Over the last 2 weeks my Sunday night game tried it out. The first game was session zero, where we built characters and tried to figure out the rules. The second session was actually playing the game. I want to be critical of this game because there is a lot that did not work for me, however I am going to pull my punches here because it is an unfinished product that may well improve in the final presentation.

Things I didn't like:

The 2d12 game mechanic just seems awkward, I am not sure why they chose 2d12 over 1d20 or even say 2d10. This awkwardness is magnified by the fact that the GM uses a 1d20 for combat. This is weird because it puts the monsters on a flat probability but the characters are on a curved probability. I honestly do not see how this adds anything interesting to the game.

There is no initiative system, no way to lock down whose turn it was or who could do what and when. Combat was a mess until half way through the GM implemented a turn order so no one missed the opportunity to take a turn. This game incentivizes show boat players and marginalizes less aggressive players.

Characters seemed bland, special abilities were highly situational and reminded me of D&D 4th Edition, which is not a good thing. One of my fellow players commented that had we not announced our classes to each other, he would have had no idea what classes we were actually playing.

The Fear and Hope mechanic had a lot of potential, but it honestly fell flat. During the game, I did not generate a single Hope and accounted for 2/3 of the Fear generated during the session. Virtually all of that Fear was used against other members of the party, I was not impacted by the fear I generated and that was frustrating for the other players. Everyone else in the party had a plethora of Hope, but nothing to use it on because their abilities were all situational.

There were layers of needed complexity, such as the severity of the hit determining how mach damage was taken rather that just rolling the damage directly. Evasion/Armor/Armor slots along with Stress being used as extra Hit Points, served to slow the combat down to a crawl.

Things I did like:

Players are incentivized to engage with the game. The more you engage with the game the more chances you have to generate Hope. Players who do not engage with the game tend to have less options available to them over the course of the game.

I liked the Advantage/Disadvantage mechanic, adding a 1d6 to the roll when using Advantage and subtracting a 1d6 to the roll when using Disadvantage has a much larger impact on the game than just rolling 2d20 and taking the better roll.


This game does not really work for me all that well. I prefer a unified dice mechanic and the 1d20 flat probability works well for that. Using 2d12 just seems arbitrary to me and unnecessarily bunches up rolls into the 12-14 range making rolling high maddeningly rare. Characters were underwhelming and shy quiet players are quickly pushed to the background. Unless something changes dramatically, I don't see myself playing this game in the future.