Di­vin­ity: Orig­i­nal Sin II

Rolling D20s and killing Goblins in Game Mas­ter mode


PC, PS4, Xbox One

Di­vin­ity: Orig­i­nal Sin 2 de­fies be­ing pi­geon-holed. It’s a co­op­er­a­tive, sto­ry­driven ad­ven­ture where you can craft your own ori­gin and watch as the world re­acts to it. Get into a fight and it be­comes a tac­ti­cal, turn-based RPG where abil­i­ties and magic can be com­bined with the en­vi­ron­ment. It’s elab­o­rate, and sys­temic, and you can play as a gi­ant lizard who talks to an­i­mals. And now it’s a plat­form for cre­at­ing dig­i­tal table­top ad­ven­tures with you as the Game Mas­ter in a new mode ex­clu­sive, for the time be­ing at least, to the PC ver­sion of the game. “Game Mas­ter mode is a tool to con­trol the game and pretty much ev­ery as­pect of what you’re do­ing,” Lar­ian Studios founder Swen Vincke tells us. Think of it like a mas­sive toy box packed full of maps, mon­sters and mag­i­cal arte­facts that can be wo­ven to­gether to cre­ate table­top RPG cam­paigns.

The mode is some­thing you can dive right into with very lit­tle ex­pe­ri­ence. Imag­i­na­tion and the abil­ity to spin a yarn are more im­por­tant than any other skills. Se­lect a cam­paign map, pop pins in it to de­note im­por­tant lo­ca­tions, add some flavour text and you’ve al­ready got a good foun­da­tion. From there it’s a mat­ter of pick­ing out ar­eas – forests, tombs, inns – that can be filled with ob­jects and characters, and then link­ing them to­gether with cus­tomis­able vi­gnettes.

Sim­plic­ity and ac­ces­si­bil­ity seem to be key. “Very early on we made the de­ci­sion that we weren’t go­ing to put any script­ing in it be­cause I think that’s a mis­take that oth­ers have made in the past,” Vincke says. “You can’t script a cam­paign and adapt it to any­thing play­ers come up with. So we gave Game Masters sto­ry­telling tools.”

In­stead of re­ly­ing on scripts, GMs have com­plete con­trol over their cam­paigns, chang­ing or adding to them on the fly. NPCs can be pos­sessed, play­ers tele­ported, and ob­jects dropped in at any time. To move the story for­ward, new vi­gnettes can be put to­gether with Choose Your Own Ad­ven­ture op­tions while play­ers fight Goblins, or whole new ar­eas can be pre­pared while the party ex­plores an aban­doned mine.

GMs can pause the game at any time, as well, to as­sist with their cre­ative en­deav­ours. “Paus­ing is a tool we gave to the Game Mas­ter to stay in con­trol,” Vincke tells us. “One of the big­gest chal­lenges we had was to make sure the GM is in full con­trol be­cause the mo­ment they lose it, it’s all over for them.”

So when our party de­cides that we wanted to fling an oil bar­rel down a well and then drop a flam­ing Goblin on top of it, Vincke briefly pauses the ac­tion so he can make a few changes to the dun­geon be­neath us, adding smoke and fire, hid­ing our move­ments from the beasts dwelling in­side the cav­ernous den. All of this could have gone badly if we’d rolled poorly, which we of­ten do. Our rogue sets fire to a whole for­est by step­ping on a trap thanks to a crit­i­cal fail­ure. Curse that D20.

As well as be­ing sto­ry­tellers, GMs can also play the role of ad­ver­sary, con­jur­ing up tricky com­bat en­coun­ters and tak­ing di­rect con­trol of the party’s en­e­mies in­stead of leav­ing it up to the AI. We watch with dis­may as Vincke, chuck­ling to him­self, crafts an arena out of two col­lid­ing ships in a storm. He makes a group of mer­ce­nar­ies, pick­ing their mag­i­cal abil­i­ties, and then coats the ships in oil so that one spark will set every­thing aflame. It doesn’t take long for the whole place to start look­ing a lot like Hell. Thank­fully, his sense of fair play takes over, and af­ter a cou­ple of rounds he puts out the fires, rea­son­ing that the heavy rain will be able to douse them.

It’s mo­ments like this that cap­ture the spirit of table­top RPGs – the idea that it’s not merely about hav­ing the tools to de­stroy play­ers, but also hav­ing the tools to cre­ate in­ter­est­ing and fun sce­nar­ios that feel prop­erly re­ac­tive. And it’s also handy to be able to turn a par­tic­u­larly cheeky player (we’re say­ing noth­ing) into a chicken.

While these cam­paigns are sur­pris­ingly easy to put to­gether, and Vincke ex­pects that play­ers will de­sign their own and then share them on the Steam Work­shop, there are also plans for pre­de­fined cam­paigns. Even if you don’t have the time to craft your own epic ad­ven­tures, you’ll still be able to ex­pe­ri­ence Game Mas­ter mode. And judg­ing by what Lar­ian has shown off so far, you’ll def­i­nitely want to do so.

“One of the big­gest chal­lenges we had was to make sure the GM is in full con­trol”

Gi­ant spi­ders, green oozes and angry goat­men – the sta­ples of any good Game Mas­ter’s ar­se­nal

ABOVE Make your own maps, im­port them from your favourite games or just use Lar­ian’s – there are plenty

Game Masters can take full con­trol of en­e­mies in a bat­tle, or just let the AI han­dle it while they pop out to make a cup of tea

TOP LEFT Con­ver­sa­tions with NPCs can play out with the Game Mas­ter wing­ing it, putting on silly voices on the fly.

ABOVE Rolling a crit­i­cal fail­ure can have fa­tal, of­ten explosive, con­se­quences. Never trust your D20s

LEFT Pre­pared Game Masters can cre­ate vi­gnettes for con­ver­sa­tions or scene in­tro­duc­tions with cus­tom art and dia­logue choices

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