Spring is in the air, the sun was (momentarily, all too briefly) blotted out by the moon, and I am back again with another post on all things tabletop in this week’s GYGO post.

Before we dive into the news: Palestinians still need help, whether that be in aid or raising awareness about the situation in Palestine. If you find yourself in a position to donate monetary relief, consider the Palestine Children’s Relief Fund or donating eSims to the people of Palestine here.

Mass Effect, Don’t Starve, and Shin Megami Tensei Tabletop Adaptations

Adaptations of popular media to the tabletop space are nothing new—from the Jaws board game to Fury of Dracula (one of my personal all-time favorites and one that helped me ease into more complex games), these adaptations often offer an entry point for fans of their respective franchises to dip their toes into tabletop gaming (and offer a foray into new untapped market for corporations to leverage brand power, of course). That said, it does feel as if there are a plethora of tabletop adaptations of pre-existing media cropping up left and right. Out of the bevy of adaptations to choose from since my last roundup, here are some highlights.

Mass Effect is becoming a cooperative tabletop game, designed by Modiphius Entertainment, a studio primarily focused on adapting pre-existing properties to the tabletop world. Little is known about the game, but we do know it will feature miniatures of iconic companions from the series (I may buy the game solely for the Tali miniature). When I hear “cooperative” and “Mass Effect” in the same sentence, I can’t help but imagine the stellar multiplayer component of the third installment (which, amusingly, is the game the tabletop is based on). The game promises to have consequences, both good and bad, for player decisions across sessions, much like a legacy version of other popular board games.

Don’t Starve, a game I have yet to survive longer than a week in, is being brought to the tabletop space by Glass Cannon Unplugged. I’ve covered Glass Cannon Unplugged’s games before—it’s hard not to when the studio is entirely devoted to bringing video games to your gaming table, from a Diablo TTRPG to a Dying Light board game. Like the actual game, the tabletop version will be largely random, with a focus on procedural exploration, resource gathering and, well, not starving. The game will reportedly have a Kickstarter this year. Out of all the franchise board games I’ve covered, this is the one I’m least pessimistic about. The progenitor of all modern survival games feels like it may make an effective leap between gaming mediums (I’m thinking Betrayal at House on the Hill for an analogue of a highly-lethal, procedural exploration game). However, tabletop games necessarily need an end goal, and the end goal of the video game is rather non-existent: you succeed in not starving, and you do it all again the next day.

Shin Megami Tensei – The Roleplaying Game: Tokyo Conception is both a mouthful of a title and releasing in Q3 2024. The system promises to faithfully and meticulously recreate the world of Shin Megami Tensei III Nocturne while being an accessible system to all skill levels. Curiously, the press release mentions “Talk Flowcharts,” conjuring an image of more structured social encounters with potential adversaries compared to the no guiderails structure of social encounters typically associated with TTRPGs.

Critical Role’s Daggerheart in Open Beta

Darrington Press, the tabletop imprint of Critical Role Productions, has announced an open beta for their high fantasy TTRPG, Daggerheart. The open beta began on March 12 and will be continuing for the foreseeable future, as a full release is planned some time in 2025. Materials can be found on the game’s website as well as DriveThruRPG. Daggerheart is, ironically, a direct competitor to the game that launched Critical Role into stardom, Dungeons & Dragons, as both systems are high fantasy power games centered on getting stronger and dealing death. The game boasts a card-based system where Class, Ancestry, and Community form the backbone of a person’s character. The system uses a unique Hope system to bump rolls up, prevent death, and altogether serves as a precious, limited resource that strikes me as similar to the luck system in Monster of the Week or expending willpower in Vampire: The Masquerade. A first impression of playtest materials by Polygon’s Chase Carter can be found here.

Level Zero Actual Play? Sign Me Up.

Speaking of Actual Plays, an all-queer team will be playing through the D&D 5th Edition Wild Beyond the Witchlight campaign. The show is titled Of Witches & Wilds and will see its cast beginning at the dreaded level zero—completely undifferentiated from the stock standard masses. The first episode airs on April 10 at 7pm ET. Level Zero is, in my experience, a mechanic that is rarely explored in 5th edition D&D and is criminally under-utilized. By beginning at level zero, players (and in this case, the audience) get to experience the tumultuous period that leads to their character taking on the archetype of a certain class. In a system that revolves around power fantasies and doling out gratuitous violence, witnessing a murder machine as a hapless puppy before their prime is ripe for narrative intrigue and character development—at least, I think so. As somebody who deeply enjoys dis-empowerment in TTRPGs centered on power fantasies, I may be a little biased in this regard, so take my enthusiasm with a grain of salt.