Divinity: Original Sin - The Board Game Update #24

Following a recent playtest, we get a new Kickstarter update for Divinity: Original Sin - The Board Game that presents us with some stats and explains how those stats will affect the game’s design going forward. In short, the developers are now looking to make the status effect system more intuitive and the game’s difficulty more customizable. They’re also planning to implement a number of origin stories.

Here’s how these new features will work within the context of a board game:

Hello everyone and welcome to Kickstarter Update number 24!

Round 2 of playtesting has finished, and we’re delighted with all the rich feedback we received from playtesters. Particularly exciting were the playtester suggestions that pointed us toward areas of the game we can fine-tune and improve. This is a great step forward from Playtest Round 1, where bigger, broader issues came up. It’s fantastic to see players enjoying that overall experience as they adventure through the dangerous and intriguing setting of Fort Joy.

As Playtest Round 2 wrapped up, our campaign complete questionnaires began rolling in. Since this is our second playtest, we now have a comparison showing our progress between tests based on player feedback. We were thrilled to see improvements in our players' interest and involvement with the story, as well as a general improvement in the game's presentation as the artwork continues to improve.

We’ve also found that the perceived level of gameplay complexity has decreased. This is to be expected as we continue to improve the rulebook and reference sheets. We’re also confident that this will continue to improve as we introduce the first iteration of the official rulebook and tutorial to the next round of playtesting.

During an insightful roundtable discussion with playtesters, they explained that they loved the depth the Status Effects brought to the game. Enemies skirt campfires, gain the Warm Status, and a player character lobs the skill Fossil Strike at them. Enemies are coated in oil and the campfire explodes, engulfing them in searing flames. What’s not to love?

However, it's clear that Status Effects continue to be the most difficult design concept for our players to grasp. And we can see that in the data too[...]

We want the Status Effects system to be clear, intuitive, and satisfying to master. To do that, we’re adding a specific section of the rulebook with plenty of step-by-step examples, so you won't have to rely on a reference sheet. This is something the official rulebook will help greatly with, and we expect it'll make it much easier for our players to understand some of the more complex interactions with Status Effects when Playtest 3 rolls around.

Origin Stories

You play as a protagonist, or, to put it another way, as the one who plays the chief part in the drama of the game’s story. That’s exactly how we want you to feel as you stride and sleuth and wage terrible, intimate war across the prison island of Fort Joy. We want you to feel like the center - the hero - of your own unique journey. Because while not all characters may change, some crucial, fundamental quest draws you, the protagonist, onward with blade unsheathed into the jaws of doom.

One of the challenges we’ve faced in implementing the Origin Stories is this: how do we stoke up those adventurous feelings in players? Playtest Round 2’s feedback gave us insight into how exactly players want to advance their stories, both narratively and, very importantly, in a mechanical sense as well. The game is full of choice and consequence, you beat the butterfly wings and a tornado of consequence begins to dance in the distance. As the primary agents of the drama in this story, we know players want there to be clear communication about how their choices directly impact the world of the game.

For Playtest Round 3, we’re conveying fun, easily comprehensible story beats while also introducing mechanical rewards specific to each character. By doing that, we ensure that the trajectory of the adventure for players is very clear. Take Lohse, for example. The charismatic performer washes up on the shore of Fort Joy and - like all our characters - must eventually escape. In the meantime, Lohse has her own personal goal to achieve: a clearly illustrated objective and a path to that objective. A malevolent spirit menaces her mind, and Lohse is hunting for information about this entity. If she can do that, perhaps she can confront her dark passenger and then escape Fort Joy into the sweet pasture of freedom.

There’s lots to discuss with Origin Stories, and how they’ll add color to the alchemical mixture of your experience in the game, so expect them to get their own update soon!

Power Curve

The final third of the game is full of variety in terms of how players choose to resolve their adventure. However, as playtesters in Round 2 entered their endgame, some found that battles were swinging back-and-forth, with some fights being too easy and others being overly difficult.

The thing is, the various ways you can compose your party, the loot you find, the enemies you encounter and the path you take all have an effect on your experience in the final third of the game. We want the balance of the game’s difficulty to scale smoothly from beginning to end, and while some variance is expected, we want to tighten the ends of that bell curve and ensure a fun experience no matter the journey or build a party takes. So in reaction to the variability of player power, we’ve tailored a few new mechanics into the rules.

Firstly, you’ll be able to assign your skills using your Memory statistic just before battles. This is a subtle, but significant, change to the rules that means players can adapt much more actively to the circumstances of the upcoming fight. If you feel you’ll need higher protection against enemies in a battle with low mobility, swap out Phoenix Dive for Defensive Stance.

The new memory system is reactive and allows you to plan each encounter right before your character leaps into the fray. It also rewards those tactical players who enjoy filling up their pool of available cards with Skills from a bunch of different Skill Schools, creating their own powerful hybrid character.

Secondly, we’re increasing the stockpile of merchant supplies so you’ll have more access to Common Item potions, bows, blades and wicked wands. In addition, merchants will have a wider stock of crafting materials that can be combined with what players pluck from the crafting bag. Playtesters adored the crafting system, but occasionally felt overstocked with materials that couldn’t be combined. Our changes to how merchants work mean that players won’t run into this issue, and we can eliminate any discrepancies plaguing individual character builds. This ensures you’ll be perfectly equipped to tackle those challenging endgame combats.

These changes to Memory and merchants mean we can more easily estimate the overall strength of your adventuring party closer to the end of the game, and therefore be better equipped to fine-tune the difficulty of those epic Act 3 combats to match.

Last But Not Least

In addition to everything we’ve talked about here, we’re shaking up terminology to make the language of the rules easier to grasp. For example, Abilities are now Skill Schools made up of Skill Cards. Locations are now made up of Area Cards. Lots of small changes designed to increase clarity and understanding.

For Playtest 3, we’re stretching and shifting the accordion structure of Level Ups so that players will spend less time in the lower levels and more time in the higher levels. This means that you’ll have a larger amount of time to experiment with your suite of Skills across the full length of the game.

Your progress with Source should be a rewarding experience, and during playtesting we’ve seen it's rare for players to unlock some of the later Source features on their adventure. This hasn’t been for lack of trying, so as a result we’re integrating more ways for you to grow in power as Sourcerors. We want you to be able to tap into your innermost arcane reservoir and do exciting and cataclysmic things.

Lastly, some players found it difficult to find the Nemesis and Haunted Keep expansions. We’ve made sure that the expansions are now very easy to locate, though we doubt you’ll find these nightmarish locations so simple to conquer…

That about sums up everything that’s been going on with us. As always, thank you so much for your support. Make sure to be on the lookout for future updates. We have a lot of irons in the fire, and we’re extremely excited to show you how the game is progressing and getting better all the time.

Stay safe, enjoy the Holidays, and see you all in the New Year!