Bungie’s Destiny: A Game Perfect For Pen & Paper RPG?

June 20, 2014 by brennon

Bungie have been in the process of making Destiny, a FPS MMORPG in many ways, for a few years now and the time has come for it to enter Alphas testing and indeed in the near future Beta tests. The game looks amazing and you can see some of the awesome vistas and gameplay in the video above. Eventually the game will be out for Xbox 360, Xbox One, PS3 and PS4 (with a PC date a possibility) and while I think it’s going to be an amazing game I think there is even more to be done with this new intellectual property…

The Traveller

The game centres around the mysterious Traveller and it’s power to protect mankind underneath it’s shadow. The people of Earth spread out across the solar system and settled new planets but something happened to bring it all to it’s knees. Now humanity exists in the last bastion city on Earth and you take up the mantle of a Guardian looking to make a difference and claim back what we lost during that turbulent time. It already sounds like the perfect idea for something I’m obsessed with, pen & paper role-playing games.

The Races

Every good role-playing game needs some races for you to pick from and Destiny has three. Three seems to be the magic number with a lot of role-playing games and especially pen & paper ones so see what you think of this trio.

Human (Species)

First you have the Humans, people like you and I. Not particularly special in any regard but considering what’s happened to our expansive empire across the stars it’s not like you’re going to be a push over.

Awoken (Species)

Next up we have the more mystical looking Awoken. The origins behind them are still a mystery at this point but they have an otherworldly appearance and are both sharp and exotic. The inspiration from the race came from looking at Vampires, Elves, Ghosts and Angels.

Exo (Species)

Last but not least we have the Exo who are probably my favourites. These are cold machines given life back during the time before our empire collapsed. They were given strict orders to protect us but as the world fell apart and they were re-awoken they gained personalities and ambitions of their own.

Immediately I think you’ll see some of the cool characters ideas forming in the back of your mind. The back story to Destiny is one rife with possibilities and the different races, with their subtle differences, would be perfect for players to get stuck into. Want to be the everyman and soul of the group, play a Human. Want to take on the role of a more mysterious character then go Awoken and delve into the mysticism of your race. Want to play the standoffish and grim Exo (think a Warforged from D&D) then take up the mantle of the Exo.

Each would certainly lend themselves towards different statistics and paths with affinities to particular classes you picked. Maybe Exo have a hardier constitution because, well, they’re metal, and Awoken are more in tune with their willpower and intelligence due to their elevated status.

The Classes

Of course if you’re doing a role-playing game then you need classes and probably with some forethought the folks at Bungie have designed three archetypes that are pretty much on the money for the likes of pen & paper role-playing.

Guardian (Warlock)

First up we have the Warlock who, as you might imagine by the name, is able to harness the powers gifted to us by the Traveller easier than the other classes. The Warlock is essentially your tabletop fantasy mage or wizard and while light of armour and weaponry is going to be blasted people apart with atomising powers while also searching for clues and hints to our past origins with his or her mind.

Guardian (Titan)

Next up we have the Titan, or if you’re working by D&D classes, your fighter. These guys eschew the need for fancy powers and instead head into battle using brute force. Master of weaponry, wearing heavy armour and with powers that shake the very ground once they’re charged up this is perfect for your brutish no-holds-barred warrior.

Guardian (Hunter)

Last but not least we have the Hunter who fills that slot in the archetypes I keep mentioning of the Rogue. With lighter armour, a bit more dexterity when leaping around with packing sniper rifles, pistols and more this is the glass cannon that so many people love to play. They’re probably that bit better at hacking and unlocking things when it comes to technology too!

So there you have it, the triple threat strikes again and strikes lucky. You have your Fighter, Wizard and Rogue set up for a party and if the Dragon Age RPG is anything to go by that’s all you need. You might be saying ‘where is the healer!’ but that’s something that could easily be slotted into the wheelhouse of the Warlock I reckon.

Alright so we’re now through a little bit of the character sheet. We’ve got your race sorted and we’ve decided on your class. A bit more work and we’ll have your stats down and now you need some monsters…erm I mean aliens to fight.

The Bad Guys

The world of Destiny has no shortage of enemies to fight against and here are a few of them below….





…quite the menagerie of interesting enemies wouldn’t you say? You have your elite and deadly, slightly mysterious Vex at the top followed by the massed forces of the Hive underneath them. Want a selection of cheap but deadly foes to throw at your party of Guardians then that’s the one to go for. Fallen make up the mainstay of enemies in the world it appears and give you access to a range of lower level and higher level enemies to pit against heroes. Last but not least is the highly trained Cabal that might not appear in big numbers but when they do the Guardians know it’s going to be tough.

Thankfully because the game is an MMORPG of sorts the enemies have a distinct set of leaders and grunts that you’ll be facing in the video game. That works well when you think about transferring the game ideas to a role-playing game with roles like leaders, brutes, strikers and basic minions all being filled by prescribed types of enemies in the game. I mean one race has a ‘boss’ called a Wizard! What’s not to like about getting one of them onto the tabletop and viewing it as a controller type enemy!

Heading Off On Adventures

So that’s enemies, classes, races and more sorted but there is no pen & paper role-playing game without an adventure to go with it. If you were to translate Destiny to the tabletop then they pretty much planned things out nicely in this regard to. The games locations are set up as Earth, The Moon, Venus and Mars each with their own challenges and different locations to explore.



So you start players off on Earth and the Moon fighting through the remnants of the destroyed world and then when they’re higher level heading to the lunar complexes to find out more. You treat the Earth, or at least certain parts of it, as low level zones for them to fight in and get used to their characters before ramping things up with more difficult encounters off world on The Moon. Not only does our very own planet give you a rich tapestry of options but it would be fantastic for a proper role-playing book to show off what happened to the different countries of Earth and how they’ve changed.

Travel is also a big option in Destiny and I can already see the idea of having your own personal vehicle and maybe even a combined one for everyone being an option that all enjoy. A lot of role-players get a kick out of exploration, finding new loot and killing enemies with a clear goal in mind and Destiny could offer that. You all work towards the same aim as it were so it fixes things like rifts in decision making without sacrificing on character depth and discussion. You are all Guardians and you have a job to do. Works pretty well as an adventure hook.



Then you turn to source books and adventure modules for the future of the game. The main book would include everything you need to get to a certain level and play on both Earth and the Moon. From there you release sourcebooks for Venus and Mars as two different locations for them to visit with their own challenges, new aliens, new environments and more lore fragments to uncover. It immediately jumped out to me that it breaks down so incredibly well and you of course make everything compatible so that if you wanted to take some of the foes from Mars to Earth you could do so very easily and make higher level zones for them to fight in.

The Main Question, Why?

So many of you now, if you aren’t salivating over the game itself, are asking the question of why make a role-playing game for the tabletop out of this when a video game exists? I know what you mean for sure and of course it’s fine to just play the game but the world of pen & paper role-playing allows you to break the confines of a video game world and do something you couldn’t do because the game engine wasn’t meant for that.

The idea and mythos behind Destiny is amazing and I love the background story, the development of characters and the locations they’ve chosen. The idea of a broken civilisation fighting back against innumerable odds is brilliant and the fact that you’re all tied together into one team of Guardians mean you have a clear idea as both a games master and players of what the focus should be. I liken this a bit to Deathwatch from Fantasy Flight Games. You are all Space Marines and you are members of the same order. You can handle things differently but you have a clear task and a focus point for your efforts. This makes the role-playing clean and efficient and every single player is on the same footing after a session or two.

Destiny Guardians

The other bonus to taking something like Destiny and reshaping it for the tabletop is the amount of new players it might drag into the world. How many people actually considered playing Deathwatch because they wanted to BE a Space Marine from their own tabletop game? Loads I imagine, I know I did. The same would probably happen when it comes to Destiny. All those people who played the game getting the chance to play their hero on the tabletop, with friends, and making their own choices not dictated by the game or indeed by a storyline. Instead a GM takes them on a different journey.

There is also a fairly selfish reason for wanting to see this become a tabletop RPG. Consoles are expensive, even the last generation ones, and so is the fee for using their gaming system online once you tot it all up. Instead of paying for all that you buy one book and grab some pencils and dice and you’re away into this world without having to buy the game. It’s clearly not something Bungie would ever really want to do considering they want to sell video games, but I think it would indeed serve to enrich the whole narrative behind the property.

People love role-playing games a lot more than they used to and it’s become a more mainstream thing by the year. It’s not as widely accepted as board gaming is now but it’s on the up. Shake things up and clear the cobwebbed ideas of fantasy D&D in a basement and give people a Triple A intellectual property to play with and I reckon you’d have peoples attention.

So who could make this a reality? I reckon a company I mentioned before, Fantasy Flight Games. They are masters at creating easy to learn role-playing systems and even do nifty things with custom dice and such to shake the format up. On top of that they also are incredibly regular with updates and such so future source books would be on the cards quite quickly.

So there you have it. Destiny as a pen & paper role-playing game. An exciting prospect? Yes. One that will see the light of day? Probably not but it’s nice to dream.

What do you think?

"Alright so we're now through a little bit of the character sheet. We've got your race sorted and we've decided on your class..."

"A lot of role-players get a kick out of exploration, finding new loot and killing enemies with a clear goal in mind and Destiny could offer that..."