R. Talsorian Games, Part 2


Apr 02, 2023
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Part 2 of our interview from PAX Unplugged 2022, with R. Talsorian Games’ James Hutt, continues with The Witcher TTRPG. If you would like to read part one which focused on Cyberpunk Red, check that part out here.

Adam: So I'm really interested in The Witcher RPG. I feel again like I’m going into it like I did with RED. I played one of the video games once. It was becoming more popular, even though The Witcher had existed, you know, way, way longer.

James: Oh, Witcher’s a giant franchise.

Adam: Between the books, between the older, older games before they took off in the mainstream. I mean, I think my introduction to The Witcher was Witcher 3 when it was new.

James: Which was a great game.

Adam: And then there's the Netflix show.

James: You’ve got to play Blood and Wine. Just play Blood and Wine at least. It is the best part of Witcher III.

James: So our adventures in the RPG, Book of Tales is our adventure book. It's a bunch of stories that are connected, and they're all being narrated by Dandelion.

Adam: Okay, that makes sense.

James: Some of them have interesting elements that might not be actually real.

Adam: I was going to ask what name he goes by in the tabletop.

James: Dandelion. We’re working off the video game.


James: So, yeah. There's an adventure in the back of Book of Tales that is set in Toussaint in an area in the game called Fox Hollow. And I got to go into the game and, you know, as Geralt set up the whole thing go, how long is this bridge counted out? Put Geralt down.

Adam: You actually got measurements in the video game!

James: Yep. Measurements in the video game. Transpose the map. It's very close.

Adam: You're lucky that the video game is so attention-to-detail when it comes to that stuff. It’s neat you can use it as a reference.

James: I wanted to very specifically be very accurate to the video game Toussaint adventure with how it works. When you write an adventure, you get to focus on what is the selling point of this adventure and for that adventure it’s accuracy to the video game.

James: It's fun because in in our time period, it's before Witcher 3. It's in between, Witcher 2 and Witcher 3, in the TTRPG. So Fox Hollow has not been overrun by bandits yet. And there's this cool, thriving community that we got to design and put down and then also shroud. And this is how Dandelion remembers this place and since it’s Toussaint he was probably drunk at the time.

Adam: Nice. So you've got maybe a little bit of unreliable narrator.

James: There's a fun amount of unreliable narrator in it throughout.

Adam: I'm just appreciating if we come back to RED for a sec that there might be a little bit of that going on in 2077 as well, because in the book they even say Morgan Blackhand faces off against Adam Smasher on the Arasaka Tower. But Morgan Blackhand is nowhere to be seen in Johnny's flashbacks in the 2077 game.

James: In Johnny's flashbacks, he's the main character. And we should probably have a spoiler warning.

Adam: He's always the main character, yeah. I love Johnny as a character.

James: You feel like Johnny is a little bit like the Doom guy, you know?

Adam: And my question when I watched it and I've just recently replayed the whole game because I just was on a huge cyberpunk binge writing for RED and I was like, “Oh, I'll play the video game again.” How do you go from getting kicked on your ass by Adam Smasher inside the tower to now you're on the roof? There's was a disconnect. And it's like this is the spoiler warning. You didn't just get away from Adam Smasher and end up back on the roof, only for him to knock you down again.

James: It's almost like there's something there he doesn't want to remember. I don’t know what it could be.

James: If you want the lore reason you can buy our books. I believed that answer is somewhere in the Cyberpunk RED core book, but that is a big world spoiler, though.

Adam: I've got conspiracy theories abounding between RED to 2077 to post 2077. The clues are in there.


Adam: But we also love The Witcher! And you know why I love The Witcher, actually. Specifically. Well two reasons. One, I love that they've got that kind of old world feel to the world. When I think about the video game, I think about Velen and there's this line, and I haven’t played it for years, but this one line has stuck in my brain where the Bloody Baron says something like Velen was never a land of milk and honey blah, blah, blah, blah.

Adam: And I go, Buddy, that is the understatement of the century. When you go around the towns and you do some of the quests stuff, the idea that there are old magics in this area and people there obey a different set of rules than everybody in like maybe more developed areas because this is what they have to do to survive, you know, and there are just certain things you do when you live in this area because of these old powers.

Adam: And two, I love that the witchers are scholars. A lot of fantasy settings are like here are your monsters, here your heroes, here are your weapons. And you will smash these things together. And there is that in The Witcher. But there’s so much more.

James: And that's half the battle.

Adam: Like, for example, Ciri in The Witcher 3, isn't fully Witcher trained so she doesn't have signs and she doesn't have the same kind of magical powers, but because she's been trained a little bit in like the herbalism and the lore, and the lore is huge, like knowing who your enemy is, she can do things like put oils on her blade to hurt them. There are multiple paths of how do I confront this particular monster. I love that singular aspect about the Witcher more than anything.

James: Definitely! In the tabletop role playing game, there's a lot of that preparing for the hunt. I love that we get to enshrine that in the mechanics. I'm a really big fan of the level of detail we go into in that book to just to make sure that you feel like you're in it, like you should prepare for this fight.

James: And another thing, it's related I think. You don't have to play a Witcher in the Witcher TTRPG.

Adam: I was going to ask about that.

James: You can play a merchant, you can play a noble, you can play all the characters that conveniently Geralt keeps around him for world flavor like a bard or a mage. And that combined with the non-Witcher perspective of the world, as well as getting the Witcher perspective, I think lets you play those parts that you didn't get to look at in the video game.

Adam: I definitely think there are some fun aspects. Like what if I wanted to take the Witcher setting and run and all mage game? And I think with the Netflix show you start to get a hint of because they have some dedicated mage scenes.

James: Boy are you going to be happy when I remind all of the people reading this article that Tome of Chaos is a magic focused supplement book. It's giant, it's chunky, it's full of new spells. I got to put a demon in Witcher canon. You can do Goetia with the rules in this book. You can do all of the crazy splicing-style experiments.

James: Things that the more nefarious science minded mages do in the Witcher setting. And what else? We spun out Druids as their own thing outside of priests. They're their own thing now. And then we filled the hole in Priest with a clean new one third of a class and druids get this whole new sect.


Adam: So let me ask the obvious question. If I don't have a witcher in my group of players, how do they know how to beat monsters? Well, I assume mages know how to deal with some monsters because they've got a lot of study.

James: You’ll be fine. Trust me. Sure mages do a lot of study into monsters. They'll do experiments on monsters.

Adam: Let's say there's a town and something's plaguing the town and they don't know what it is. They've got to figure it out.

James: I will say “there's something plaguing the town” is just one adventure type.

Adam: Sure. That's just the first one that came. Probably the most common example.

James: Exactly. And that adventure type is perfect for giving the witcher character a star moment, because that's kind of what they do. There's no reason why a mercenary couldn't go kill the same thing a witcher could. And in fact, when a witcher is not a handy, they probably do.

Adam: So there may be some self-taught monster hunter mercs out there.

James: Yeah! I mean, in the time period of in-between Witcher 2 and Witcher 3 there aren’t that many witchers running around. There is not always a witcher to take care of things.

Adam: They're at a low point going into the Witcher.

James: Yeah. There's not always a witcher to solve the problem. And sometimes you don't want to get local militia to handle it and get losses. So what do you do? You raise a bunch of money and find a mercenary.

Adam: And if that doesn't work, I guess you have to hire another one.

James: Right? But I know merchants are great. You can play as a craftsman.

Adam: You can be going after material rather than hunting a monster.

James: Exactly. Plenty of reasons to interact with the monsters. They could be incidentally there while you're trying to do something else as a merchant.

Adam: Incidentally, monsters aren't the only monsters.

James: Yes. Yes, there's also plenty of plenty of monstrous men roaming around.


Adam: I always love that about a setting. I mean, it's a bit obvious in cyberpunk as you've just got these giant things called megacorporations full of humans doing questionable things. You've got gangs on the street doing questionable things. It's more behind closed doors in The Witcher.

James: There’s a noble class which is quite nice because you get to change the way your party is interpreted in a social setting. You get to play with all those high society ideas in your game from the from the jump. Because if you've got a noble in your Witcher party, they’re not just a bunch of unwashed sword wielding problem solvers.

James: I like that having a social character allows you to play a campaign that is more social.

Adam: Much more so than, say, having an Exec on your team in RED because the edgerunners could always disguise themselves to get into an area if they needed to.

James: Edgerunners have to work with corps just as much as they have to fight against them. They want to fight against them, right? Sometimes working with a corp can be a great way to get at another corp.

Adam: What would you say about working with nobles in The Witcher?

James: Huh, I don’t know. I think that's a different roleplaying situation.

Adam: A little bit more political, maybe?

James: It's political. That's why Nobles also later in the game get to have a cool estate and home base things that they can modulate.

Adam: Oh my gosh, I love that! I used to love that back in Second Edition D&D that was the thing that players got once they got to a certain level.

James: If I keep talking about this stuff I should say where you actually get it because it's not in the core book. You have to get Lords and Lands.

James: It's a great GM screen. The game's crunchy. You might want a GM screen, but it also comes with a booklet full of content because we didn't want to just sell you a GM screen there. We bundled it.

James: We have the core book, of course. Everything you need to play. It's our dungeon master’s guide, our monster manual and our player’s handbook. We also have a witcher’s journal, which is an expanded bestiary.

Adam: Okay, excellent. I feel like that’s a must-own right there. I feel like with monsters being such a big deal in the Witcher, that’s number one. I mean, unless you really like to make your own monsters, but as a professor of mine used to say, why reinvent the wheel?

James: Right? Right. Plus, the monsters are so specific that it’s nice to get the full version of them.


James: We've also got a Book of Tales, which is our adventure book for The Witcher TTRPG and Tome of Chaos, which is our focused magic, big magic book, and then Lords and Lands, which is the screen and a booklet of content including our nobles.

James: Oh, and Q Workshop makes amazing dice in The Witcher TTRPG Essentials Dice Set. I want to mention that.

James: You need a D10 and you need a bunch of d6s. Like all R. Talsorian Games. I do not know if we will ever touch another type of dice. Why would we? D10, I mean, can be turned into a d100, big tables, all kinds of things. And sixes produce those lovely average curves.

Adam: And you talk about that when you talk about weapons and armor.

James: Oh yeah. And I can modulate those average curves however I want in different ways. There is really no reason that you should have to fix that.

Adam: I think the D10 hits a nice balance of critting a fair amount, and you'll also have a fair amount of hilarious fumbles and critical moments without being egregious.

James: I like that. I like to ask people what does a 16 mean?

Adam: What does a 16 mean?

James: 30, 40, 20? When you're already 20, What is a 16?

Adam: Depends on the DC, I suppose.

James: With less sides of the die you get more. It's easier to tell off the top of your head when you roll it. I realize that you've done a good job or realize that oh no, you've done a bad job and very quickly. You don't have to do a math step in between seeing and understanding.

Adam: I like it.

James: And because the fun is in the understanding step, you get to the fun faster.

Adam: I have to say, as a GM, as someone who's got to keep it all straight, I appreciate that the DVs in the system are just like 9 is whatever, you could probably do with your eyes closed. 13 is like you need a little bit of practice, but it's fine and 15 is like, you're a professional. And if it's if it's like every day and they're not under pressure, they should just get a 9 without having to roll.

James: Right. I would recommend that people not role nine unless there's modifiers associated that are making it worse. That's a good point. It's a GM skill to know when the player can do it without rolling.

Adam: I know one of my players goes, “Hey, I want to do this.” And I think, “Oh, gosh, what's the DV? I didn't think ahead of time to put the DV for all that.” Okay, well, is it professional level? Is it not? With the reference material in here I can very quickly come up with a reasonable roll.


James: Have you used the GM screen?

Adam: I don't have the GM screen. I haven't GMed in person for over three years.

James: Wow. I know the GM screen is great at that.

Adam: Thank you for your hard work. I haven't even seen the GM screen and I already say thank you because that is what a GM screen should do. I want to be putting that in here.

James: We call it Skip the Flip. It’s got the whole critical injury system too.

Adam: So I run everything on the app and the app is unbelievable. Tell me, is there a Witcher app yet? You know, is there going to be?

James: I can't answer that question.

Adam: Okay, fair enough.

James: Anyway, have any last questions?

Adam: I do not. I'm officially out questions. Thank you for taking the time to talk with me!

If you like what you've read here, you can check out The Witcher on R. Talsorian's site here. Like Cyberpunk RED, there are also a ton of free DLC goodies you can grab at their download center. However you choose to play, there's plenty to love, and keep an eye in the future for our full review of The Witcher TTRPG!

Adam Factor