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Origin Stories are the main subject of the latest Kickstarter update for the Divinity: Original Sin board game. By the looks of it, they'll introduce some extra roleplaying opportunities for your characters and result in certain unique encounters. And beyond that, the update touches on the upcoming playtest and the game’s journey to release.
Here’s the video part:
And the text bits:
Hello and welcome to Kickstarter Update 26!
Our main focus today is on the Origin Stories. There’s a huge amount for us to delve into there, including a chat with the stories’ lead writer, Dylan ‘Tavern Tale Teller’ Birtolo himself. He talks us through the development of the Origin Stories, the vast and fantastic changes that have occurred between iterations for Playtest 3, the mechanical shifts, and the compelling reasons behind those major improvements.
For those of you who haven’t played Divinity: Original Sin II, over the course of the game there were a huge amount of overlapping story layers. The individual experience of a character in our Origin Stories was woven throughout the game's main narrative. There was a sense of shaping the character with choice and consequence. There was complexity and intimacy. We want to transpose that exact experience into the boardgame.
Initially, when we began the project, we wanted to tell a new story that would be fresh for veterans of the video games as well as people new to Divinity. However, this resulted in the stories not integrating with the characters’ reason for being on Fort Joy. There was a significant separation between your personal story and the adventure you were currently on - presenting more like a backstory rather than in-the-moment action.
What we’re doing going forward is grounding the Origin Stories in the Prison Island of Fort Joy, and, even more importantly, in their characters’ motivations. The emphasis is on present choices, action-oriented gameplay and storytelling anchored in strong, compelling personal adventures that blend seamlessly into the main goal: to escape the island alive!
The entire network of choices that the party makes can now be influenced by the Origin Stories. The Red Prince might be looking for a lizard dreamer to further his quest, but Fane may tug the party in another direction, hunting for secrets of his long forgotten past.
To enhance the experience while giving a sense of challenge and danger to your personal quest, each character now has a potential mini-boss encounter linked to their story. These minibosses are unique and special encounters that may or may not come up depending on the choices you make along the journey. Your quest is unique, reactive, and will have a reward at the end tailored to your character’s choices.
Your decisions will have solid, tangible outcomes that should satisfy, and perhaps also tantalise you. You may ask: ‘Could my story have turned out differently?’ and the answer will be a definitive “yes”. For example, without the undead Fane in your party, you won’t have the remotest chance of meeting Fane’s particular miniboss. But how you play Fane may also differ from how another might play him. Those choices will be reflected in the potential rewards you can gain. Replayability is very important to us, and with this level of complexity and variability, you’ll have a host of reasons to return to Fort Joy, either as the same character, or as someone completely new!
The main choice within each character’s story should be viewed as a turning point for the evolution of their character. You, the player, decides what that character views as the most important thing to them. Do they value a selfish outcome, or a selfless one? Are they a vagabond or a paragon? Are they something else, something gray and in-between? With this new version of origin stories, you have an objective, and personal growth centered around that purpose. Your story affects the present, and is rooted in the here-and-now, and will also very much affect the future of the character you play as.
Just to give you a sense of how instrumental these changes we’ve made are to the game, we’ve added approximately 60 new cards to reflect the choices you make and the actions you take. Tangible rewards that will help shape your character.
This upcoming playtest delivers the game in its full form, with all its myriad bells and whistles included. Initially, when we displayed the game on Kickstarter, there was already a real sense of realising the world of Divinity - specifically the island of Fort Joy - within the analog platform of a boardgame.
With additional time for playtesting and development, we’ve made huge improvements over this last year. Playtest 3 will also include the first fully designed Rulebook. Players will get the chance to use our new Status Effect appendix at the end of the book - essentially a few hyper-detailed pages to be used as a quick and easy reference for the games most engagingly complex system.
All being well, Playtest 3 will be the penultimate playtest. It's been quite a journey so far, and we’re excited to see what our playtesters think of the game now that it’s close to its final form, and now that we’re near to our journey’s end. Here’s a summary of some of the major changes we’ve made to the game thanks to playtesting last year:
Firstly, we expanded player options by adapting how leveling up works. Players now have a wider range of options when leveling up their character and now have a great deal more freedom when it comes to versatile skill choice. We’ve also added an additional skill to each skill school (12 in total) to give you a real variety of approaches. Continuing that theme of expansive choice, we tweaked and added some more talents to the game. Lastly in this area, we implemented a brand new set of items to increase your build variety.
Difficulty & Balance
We made some significant changes to how we handle the difficulty of the game. During playtesting, we discovered that the power curve was not as finely tuned as we wanted it to be. Some fights were a little too savage. Other battles were unintended pushovers, particularly in Act 3. We want those climactic moments to be spine-tingling, hair-raising affairs! So we increased the overall strength of late game bosses, changed how memory works, and adapted how merchants can be found and interacted with. All so we can better predict the strength of the party and have a much smoother difficulty curve.
Easier to Play & Understand
Divinity Original Sin the Board Game combines a multitude of easily grasped, richly complex systems. Crucially, playtest feedback indicated that understanding how status effects and elemental interactions work can become a little challenging. We’ve used all of our playtest data to change not just how we teach the game, but also how we equip our players so they can be extremely confident in how they interpret the rules. As a result, the rulebook will be filled to the brim with examples and appendixes that will equip players with all the tools they need to wrap their heads around the interactive systems of the game.
As you can see from our interview with Dylan, Origin Stories have undergone huge changes in the past 4 months. Originally they were quite individually focused and narrow. Now, they’re woven into the main adventure while also anchored in the characters’ personal goals. Along with Origin Stories, we’ve increased the amount of tag interactivity that you’ll encounter during your adventure. From Nobles to Barbarians, every tag has broadened to give you a larger variety of opportunities to show who your character is, and how they conduct themselves in the heat of conflict as well as in the throes of wilderland exploration. Fate in the form of dice rolls will be the deciding factor in the success of these tag-based interactions. Will your nobility involve you expressing yourself eloquently, or will you become tongue-tied before the vagabonds you’re speaking to? These moments have been added into the wealth of location cards, and into the Storybook as well.
While all of this has been going on, our team of artists have been continuously crafting literally hundreds of fully rendered pieces of artwork. Everything from panoramic locations to skill cards, to bosses and to Origin Stories - every piece of art is being sketched and transformed to the standard you’ve seen in our previous updates. We’ve also used the time between playtests to recontextualise, reshape, and most importantly improve a lot of our miniatures. We’ve been very conscious about using the extra time we have as the art is proceeding and playtesting is happening to add detail and alter poses, making the minis the very best they can be!
On The Horizon…
Next Update, we’ll have something never seen before to show you. A brand new component we’ve been developing and we’re using in Playtest 3. This has been brewing in our designers’ minds for the last few months and it’s really going to make your play experience during combat a whole lot better. Josh has come up with and assembled the prototypes we’ll be showing, and in our next update we’re going to unveil those for you now that they’ve reached the end of their development.
As for Playtest 4, it’s there to be a final touch-up in which we add that extra layer of polish as the art wraps up before the game goes to print. During both playtests, art will be flowing in, and we’ll be sure to show you examples of that, of sculptures and miniatures, and of course all of the data and information we learn from Playtest 3.
Stay safe, and thank you for reading!