Dungeons & Dragons campaigns that are housed in other fictional universes are usually pretty cool. If you want a robust, fiddly ruleset, then D&D is very useful. Reddit user SnicklefritzSkad has built up a Dark Souls story inside of D&D, and it is very, very excellent.
In D&D, there is a difference between the rules and what’s called a “campaign setting,” or the world in which the story you are playing (your campaign) takes place.
Instead of Greyhawk or the Forgotten Realms, which are more standard D&D campaign settings, SnicklefritzSkad has simply taken the fiction and world of the Dark Souls games and placed the campaign they are running in it.
It’s not just visual details, character classes, or spell names that are being adopted from Dark Souls in this case. As explained in the thread, SnicklefritzSkad is basically concepting up a Dark Souls sequel in the way they are tying the tabletop campaign to the stories told in the video games:
Well over a million years into the future from Dark Souls 3 (not including the final boss of the second DLC which takes place around roughly the same time period), the entire world was conquered by a God Emperor known as ‘The Lictor’ who harnessed the power of soapstones to travel to other worlds and conquer them as well.
There’s more there, too, including the fact that The Lictor has linked the fire while being under threat by a mysterious sea-dwelling creature called The Visitor.
To put it bluntly, this is extremely my shit. Ancient rulers, inhuman conflicts, and age-old troubles are why I got into Dark Souls in the first place, and I’d be lying if I told you that these ideas aren’t always at the heart of the campaigns that I run as a DM myself.
Also, there’s a distinct hint of Gene Wolfe in all of this, and that’s the kind of thing that gets me excited about fantasy storytelling.
If it were just a cool story, then this wouldn’t be all that interesting, but SnicklefritzSkad has also created some altered rules for D&D and posted them (and the rationale for making them) in the r/DnDBehindTheScreen community where Dungeon Masters talk craft.
These rules are explicitly designed to support the fiction of Dark Souls within the rules framework of D&D, and they include several key alterations like
“Gold and XP have been combined into souls. Souls can be used to purchase items from merchants or used to level up at a 1:1 conversion rate to XP.”
“Resting at a bonfire will reset all enemies except for special ones like friendly NPCs and Bosses. Resting at a bonfire will count as a long rest and will reset all daily actions, powers and spell slots.”
“Every single item will have an accompanying item description that will give lore on the world and information on the item for its use. Players that learn all the lore will become ‘DMs favourite’ and will not only get inspiration for making lore speculation but also vital information on enemy/boss weaknesses and hidden loot.”
In short, SnicklefritzSkad is shooting for close to a 100% recreation of Dark Souls within D&D. On one hand, it appears to be truly fantastic and an impressive feat.
On the other hand, keeping track of everything that a Dark Souls video game would track is incredibly tedious, and I applaud anyone if they can truly make this kind of system work in practice.
In either case, I admire the effort and the fidelity to the design goals of Dark Souls. Now I just need to see if someone in my D&D group wants to fight the same 15 zombies over and over again in the dead far future of Lordran.