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Things are coming along here at Talsorian. Unfortunately there hasn’t been a developer note for a while as we’ve been hard at work and, to be honest, the work has been pretty mundane. Tweaking small things and writing descriptions for weapons and armor.
We have, however, spent quite a bit of time on the relic items in the Witcher RPG. In the video game relic items become the norm after a few levels. Anyone who’s played Witcher 2 or Witcher 3 knows the feeling of going to a smith or a merchant and selling off 2 or 3 titled weapons with magic abilities because you found better. Or, even worse, being gifted titled weapons but already having a better one. To some extent that won’t change but we wanted to make sure that each relic item felt important. To that end we sat down and wrote background for all the relic items we would have in the game. This seems easy but it turned out to be surprisingly hard. Save for swords such as Unicorn and armor like Raven’s Armor there are very few relic items that actually have cannon backgrounds. Swords like Maugrim and Cleaverhood and armors like the Mountain Folk armor have no cannon background and thus we had to create backgrounds for them. We wanted to make sure that when you found a relic item, either through a quest, in a monsters horde or as a plot point the item felt like it was a legitimate reward. Besides giving you an interesting item the relic background hail from all over the continent giving you a feel for the history and tales of the different regions. Even if it’s stats may not be amazing it had some cool history behind it and maybe even the seeds of a quest for your party.
Secondarily, we realized that there were almost no relic items that weren’t swords. As we want to support fighting styles of all types we created some relic weapons other than swords such as axe, polearms and bows. In the Witcher video games we get what’s important to Geralt and Geralt is a swordsman, but there are plenty of people out there who use other weapons and many players who would rather use other weapons.
You can expect many interesting stories and varied relics in the Witcher PNP RPG!
As a side note: A lot of people have asked about the release date of the Witcher RPG. As we are working closely with CDPR we cannot disclose a dedicated release date yet, just as they can’t release a dedicated release date for Cyberpunk.
Witcher Dev Notes #3: Combat in the Witcher RPG
One of the most important things to take into account when writing the Witcher RPG was the combat system. The combat of the Witcher, especially in Witcher 2 and witcher 3, is vastly different from the standard, hack and slash combat of traditional RPGs like Dungeons and Dragons. The combat of the Witcher is constantly in motion. Attacks are immediately deadly and “critical wounds” do much more than just lower your hit points. The way your survive in a battle in the Witcher is to constantly reposition, aim for enemies weak spots, knock them off guard and prepare ahead of time.
As I mentioned before CD Projekt was very specific about wanting the Witcher RPG to be similar to our game Cyberpunk 2020. This meant bloody, viscous and unforgiving combat. However, Cyberpunk relies heavily on guns, (being a dark future game), and gun combat doesn’t translate too well into melee combat especially in the fast paced, frenetic combat of the Witcher. So I set out to make the combat system for the RPG fit the world while still delivering the deadliness CD Projekt was looking for. In the end the combat system is about where I was hoping to get it thanks to three major system tweaks and a major system addition.
The first tweak was to take an in depth look at melee combat. We wanted more granularity to combat in the Witcher. More than just, “I hit him, he misses me, I hit him, he hits me.” In the Witcher RPG, when using melee weapons you have specific attacks that you can use. We took this approach in Cyberpunk as well but because it was relegated to martial arts mostly it didn’t get a lot of play. In each round of combat you can take 2 seperate attacks:
Fast Strikes: You can make 2 fast strikes during a turn. Both are rolled separately and can be rolled against separate targets.
Strong Strikes: You can sacrifice your second attack to make 1 strong strike against an opponent for double damage if you really need to get through tough armor or you want to bet all your damage on one attack.
Pommel Strike: You can strike your opponent with the pommel or heel of your weapon to stun them temporarily.
Sweep: You can sweep your opponent’s legs out from under them to get them on the ground.
Disarm: You can attempt to disarm an opponent.
Grapple: You can grab an opponent which keeps them from getting away and then leads to further attacks you can make.
Throw: Once grappling an opponent you can throw them a distance based on your strength or just throw them to the ground.
Pin: Once grappling and opponent you can pin them to immobilize them.
Choke: Once grappling an opponent you can choke them.
Similarly you have an arsenal of defenses based on the style of your character or what you need at the time:
Dodge: You can simply dodge an opponent’s attack.
Reposition: Similar to the combat roll in Witcher 2 & 3 you can dodge and move yourself into a new position to get behind an opponent or avoid being ganged up on.
Block: If you don’t trust your dexterity you can block the attack which negates damage.
Parry: If you feel confident you can try to parry the opponent, negating the damage and staggering your opponent..
The idea is to give the player options in combat that would make their combat less predictable and less static. With this system people can think about their options, stay in constant motion, re-positioning, striking, tripping their opponents, going for grapples and parrying blades.
The second system tweak is healing. While there are some healing items in the RPG such as healing potions and healing magic the major brunt of healing must be done over time. Part of the realistic, violent feel CD Projekt wanted to get in the RPG is that you can’t always just drink a health potion and get all your hit points back immediately. Healing items allow you to regenerate hit points but you still have to stay on your toes until you regenerate. Unlike the video game you can’t get hit points back by eating a ham sandwich or some raw wolf meat. Unless you have a mage or some potions on hand healing is done through R&R.
To really capture the feeling of combat in the Witcher I created a critical system for the game. In the Witcher books the brutality of combat is often underscored and characters never just “get hit”. Bones are broken, arteries are cut and emphasis is always put on how Geralt is able to get by due to his incredible skill, (and high pain threshold). In the Witcher RPG you can score “critical hits” on opponents by rolling a higher attack roll than their defense roll and the larger the difference between your totals the more damaging and hindering the attack is. Low range examples are things like dislocated limbs, lost teeth and minor head wounds with which you can battle on but which impose small penalties and give more feeling of life and danger to a combat. The most dangerous of critical strikes can kill you outright if not treated and always take a piece of you such as dismembered limbs, septic shock and lost eyes. This means that if you have a high weapon skill you know that it will count for something in combat. If a master swordsman fights a peasant he knows he can almost always take the peasant apart with ease. But it also encourages players to weigh their options, and keep on their toes. If their opponent is far more skilled than them they might want to wait and try a more stealthy approach rather than risk broken bones or worse. All critical wounds can be stabilized on the battlefield so the victim won’t bleed out or the like but to fully heal them they must be treated by a Doctor, Priest or Mage and, as with standard healing, they take time to heal.
In the Witcher RPG we want to deliver a combat system that feels as risky, and dynamic as the combat of Witcher 3. Something that stands out and has it’s own feel and encourages players to think before they leap into combat.
Witcher Dev Notes #2: A Sea of Content
When we sat down to plan out the Witcher PNP RPG I wanted to put EVERYTHING in. If it was in the franchise I wanted it in the RPG. As we’ve continued to put the RPG together I have learned a hard lesson. Not everything can be crammed into one book and sometimes you don’t want to cram everything into one book.
When I first began working on the RPG it was before Witcher 3 had been announced and I had just finished playing Witcher 2. I began incorporating everything I could find. I got a ton of content into the first draft of the book. It was then that I started reading the original Witcher series by Andrzej Sapkowski and started truly discovering the depth of the franchise. Instead of writing an RPG based on 2 video games I was writing an RPG based on 2 video games, an entire book series and a comic series. Suddenly it was no longer just Humans, Elves, Dwarves and Witchers! We had Gnomes, Halflings, Lizardmen & Beaver people… Tons of history opened up and really cool characters were discovered! And then Witcher 3 was announced and another flood of content came washing over us! Changes to the map, new locations, new monsters, new gear!
But it all meant one thing. Not everything could be done in the core book for the Witcher RPG. I was told by my boss that the book had a limit and not everything could be put in. Later, when we did expansions and supplements for the RPG we could go indepth on certain subjects, but for now the core book needed to have the things people would need to run a campaign in the Witcher World. As I’ve begun to cut things back I’ve realized that it’s better this way. The Witcher world is rich with lore and background and if I tried to cram everything into one book I would have a book 3 feet thick that would cost and arm and a leg and be overwhelming for anyone who wasn’t already a fan of the Witcher. In the core book for the Witcher RPG you will have:
- A basic background of the Witcher world with a section on what it’s like in between Witcher 2 and Witcher 3, (which is the official setting of the Witcher PNP RPG)
- Character creation information for the most prevalent races and professions
- A moderate number of weapons, armor and bits of gear from the Witcher video games
- A moderate bestiary with at least one representation of all of the monster types in Witcher 3
- Stats for many of the major characters in Witcher 3
- And a list of relic weapons and armor to find on your adventures with a description of their legends.
Unfortunately, with the core book for the Witcher PNP RPG we won’t be giving information on many of the plot points in the Witcher video games. This is because we want to make sure that when we do we can devote the proper amount of time and space to them. We would rather wait and do an indepth supplement on, say for instance, the Wild Hunt, than write a few lines about them in the back of the core book and leave it at that.
In the end we want to make sure that everything that goes into this book feels important and gets it’s full due. Trust me, anything we don’t cover in the core book will be in later supplements. I love this world far too much to let anything fall by the way side.
Cody Pondsmith, Design Lead on the Witcher table top RPG, here! It’s been about a bit since Total Con and we here at Talsorian are hard at work! We got a lot of great feedback and input at TotalCon and it was amazingly fun! So, much thanks to Angelia, everybody at the Con and Jay Libby, (for dragging us away from our computers). But on to Witcher!
The Witcher RPG has been in development for a while and I got a great chance to test it out at TotalCon with some fresh faces and show it to some industry professionals. What I learned was this:
Convention players will cook and eat a sentient creature as long as it looks enough like a fish monster…
But in all seriousness, the game I was able to run at TotalCon was a great look into the RPG. I had 6 wonderful, (if somewhat derranged), players who played members of a raiding crew from the Skellige Isle of Spikeroog. We had:
- A dwarven craftsman who believed he was doomed to die since he had escaped death on a previous raid,
- An elven criminal who was the stoic bowman of the party who probably racked up the most kills,
- A human priestess of Freya who spent most of her time out of combat but aided now and again with her Spell Bomb Jars and hazy visions of the future,
- A human bard who had a hell of a time in combat, (markedly bad roll), but made an absolutely amazing roll to convince the enemy captain to surrender,
- And twin human mercenaries, named Hans and Franz, (Who were the best fighters and also the life of the party).
Through the course of the adventure they fought a siren, (which, sadly, killed one of their NPC crew), battled a Nilfgaardian transport cruiser, adopted a captive Nilfgaardian mage, and battled a lamia, which nearly killed them.
It was a ton of fun and everyone had a great time with it. But you probably noticed there were no actual Witchers in the game. That was done on purpose. I wanted to test whether the game could be done and be fun for everyone if there was no Witcher. Obviously Witchers will be playable in the RPG but they are rare and I wanted to show that you could have just as much fun in the Witcher world as a human, elf or dwarf. In the world of the Witcher, Witchers are rare, almost extinct, and while you definitely can have people in your game playing a Witcher it’s much more likely that it’s only going to be one, or MAYBE 2 players. The other players will be other types of adventurers. And I didn’t want any of those other players to feel like they got the short end of the stick. To that end, the Witcher RPG will have 4 playable races and 9 playable classes.
The 4 Races being:
The Humans: Well respected, socially powerful and accepted by society.
The Elves: Sneaky, talented in the wilderness and excellent archers, though hated by society.
The Dwarves: Tough & strong as stone with an eye for appraisal and tolerated by society.
The Witchers: Rare and stoic super soldiers, who are feared by everyone.
Each of these races will give the player 3 abilities or bonuses and a social standing which determines how each faction will treat them.
The 9 Classes are:
Bard: Charismatic entertainers who can befriend anyone, inculcate themselves into societies and worm their way into their opponent’s minds.
Craftsman: Talented artistans who are skilled not only in crafting weapons and armor but also craft alchemical concoctions and can make augmentations to weapons on the battle field.
Criminal: Smooth operators who can crack any safe, take a man’s life with no witnesses and rally gangs around themselves.
Doctor: Calculating physicians who are trained in field surgery allowing them to treat wounds with double the efficiency, or cause grevious wounds with their anatomical knowledge.
Mage: Scheming politicians and manipulators, removed from power and now using their often earth shaking power to escape persecution and get revenge.
Mercenary: Grizzled warriors with ages of combat experience who can calculate their opponent’s moves, take down targets from extreme range and unleash devastating attacks.
Merchant: Canny salesmen who know the power of coin. They can use their knowledge of product to find vulnerabilities in armor and track down cheap suppliers and when need be they can acquire favors & allies to break the competition.
Priest: Men and women of the Gods who use ancient blood rituals to commune with nature, heal the sick and injure or hunt down heathens and burn them with holy fire.
- Witcher: Restricted to those with the proper mutations, Witchers are consummate monster hunters who dabble in mutagenic potions, simple field magic and incredibly deadly sword play.
Each class will have a skill tree that holds special abilities that only that class can acquire. As you progress you can follow each of these branches which will tailor your character into exactly what you want to play.
In the end I want people to have myriads of options for their characters and to have fun, eclectic parties. After all, if 5 Witchers all walk into town, half the town would probably run in fear or bar their doors. Expect more Witcher Notes on a regular basis detailing more of this bizzare adventure to create the Witcher RPG!
Together with CD Projekt Red (CDPR), makers of the mega-hit Witcher series of video games (and the upcoming Cyberpunk 2077), we are pleased to announce an agreement to develop The Witcher Role-Playing Game — the go-to tabletop Witcher experience for pen and paper RPG enthusiasts.
The Witcher Role-Playing Game will allow tabletop RPG fans to re-create an array of characters known from the Witcher universe and live out entirely new adventures set within the world of Geralt of Rivia. Powered by Fuzion, the same ruleset that made Cyberpunk 2020 gain worldwide player acclaim, The Witcher Role-Playing Game will feature a myriad of spells, rituals, and curses; favorite gear and items from the entire Witcher series including a bestiary of devilish monsters players can face during their adventures. The system will provide all the necessary tools to create and play out your own adventures and become everything from a battle-hardened monster slayer to a merchant kingpin controlling a vast network of contacts.
The Witcher Role-Playing Game is currently slated for a mid 2016 release. More information about the system, price and availability will be provided at a later point in time. Meanwhile, watch this space for upcoming Developer’s Notes on this excitng new project!