Elden Ring’s success has popularized the “Soulslike” genre and inspired indie RPG designers to make tablet games inspired by Elden Ring.
The runaway success of Elden Ring, FromSoftware’s new dark fantasy action RPG, has introduced new gamers to the “Soulslike” video game genre, challenged the conventions of open-world video game design, and even inspired tablet game developers to make their own indie Soulslike tablet RPGs. This begs the question: what about Elden Ring inspired tablet game designers to create Souls-style game systems, and what exactly makes a good Elden Ring-inspired Tabletop RPG?
Elden Ring drew much of its inspiration from FromSoftware signature line of dark fantasy RPGs, starting with Demon’s Soulscontinuing with the Dark Souls trilogy and Bloodbornethen culminating in the gameplay of Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice. Distinct combat features of Elden Ring such as parrying enemy attacks, wielding special weapon skills, or combining attacks with jumps are refined versions of game mechanics introduced in Demon’s Souls, Dark Souls 3and Sekirorespectively, while original game mechanics such as horseback riding and Spirit Ash summoning were innovations designed to make traversing the game’s open world easier for players.
The main narrative of Elden Ring is a blend of FromSoftware President Hidetaka Miyazaki’s preferred jigsaw-puzzle method of storytelling and the creation myths/world-building details supplies by fantasy author George RR Martin (of A Song Of Ice And Fire fame). The result is a fantasy world both rich in detail and fraught with mystery – a story with gaps players must fill in through speculation and investigation. Indeed, it’s this combination of challenging gameplay and challenging narrative that has inspired so many game designers to rise to the challenge and create a tabletop RPG system inspired by Elden Ring and the old-school roleplaying games Elden Ring was inspired by.
Soulslike RPGs Such As Elden Ring Mesh Well With OSR Tabletop RPG Systems
Elden Ring and other FromSoftware RPGs are similar in many ways to the tablet RPGs of the Old School Revival genre. The fantasy adventurer characters of FromSoftware Soulslikes and OSR tablet RPGs are extremely mortal and frequently pitted against deathtrap-filled dungeons and foes capable of destroying them in just a few hits. To overcome these challenges, players of these RPGs must be careful and observant, pinpointing the weaknesses of their enemies and using lateral thinking bypass certain obstacles. In a FromSoftware Soulslike, characters resurrect when they die, players a chance to learn from their mistakes, while participants in OSR game sessions are encouraged to bring backup characters sheets in case their primary character bites the dust.
Because of the similarities between Soulslikes and OSR RPGs, many of the game designers in the itch.io-hosted “Better Soulslike Tabletop Jam” have hacked the rules of Old School Renaissance systems such as Cairn or Into The ODD in order to create their own Elden Ring/Dark Souls themed tablet RPGs. In contrast to the official Dark Souls RPG built on D&D 5th Edition, the rules of these indie RPGs are minimal, merciless, and designed to encourage both careful exploration and desperate combat.
Elden Ring’s Worldbuilding Inspires RPG Designers To Create Their Own Lore
The stories of Elden Ring and earlier FromSoftware RPGs are designed to be fascinating but ambiguous, gleaned by players from enigmatic cutscenes, dialogue from characters with biased viewpoints, and scholarly descriptions attached to items found throughout the open world. Additionally, the story of Elden Ring leaves many important details up to the player’s interpretation, particularly when it comes to who the “good guys” and “bad guys” of the game are.
Was the Golden Order of Queen Marika and Lord Godfrey a golden age of prosperity for all, or a brutal military regime that crushed dissenters under its gilded boots? Is the “Age Of Stars” ending scenario the best possible ending of Elden Ring, or has it left the Lands Between open to invasion by aliens monsters from outer space? Questions like these have inspired creative works of fan fiction, fevered debates on YouTube comment channels, and even encouraged developers of indie Soslike, Elden Ring-style tablet RPGs to create original dark fantasy settings inspired by specific interpretations of FromSoftware worldbuilding. For instance, the RPG From The Mud, a one-page fantasy game about undead warriors overthrowing tyrants, reframes the Tarnished vs. Demigods premise of Elden Ring as an act of revolution, while the playing card fantasy RPG You Died takes place in a kingdom built on the massive corpse of a rotting giant. These unique worlds, ultimately, mean better spaces for tablet RPG players to game in, making Elden Ring an important modern influence.
Next: Elden Ring: The Shattering Was Even More Brutal Than You Think
Source: itch.io – Better Soulslike Tabletop Jam
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