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Destiny’s confusing lore makes a lot more sense as a D&D game

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Inside Dungeons & Destiny, a remarkable total conversion for 5th edition D&D

Three Guardians stand with their ghosts, weapons at the ready and the stars behind them. Image: Velvet Fang Games

Destiny has been the source of some of the most deeply strange video game lore ever conceived. How strange? Well, like many others I played Destiny 2 for hundreds of hours without ever really engaging with the fact that my player character was an undead superhero spiritually bound to a sentient robotic construct powered by a benevolent yet unknowable ... planetoid.

I mainly just enjoyed the shooty bits.

However, a fan-made role-playing game based on Dungeons & Dragons has given me a window into Destiny’s lore that no amount of Grimoire pages could provide. It’s called Dungeons & Destiny, and I think it represents everything that makes tabletop role-playing games great.

“But wait,” I can hear you saying, “how is it that teams of lawyers haven’t descended on this fan project and eviscerated it like a mob of blade-wielding Fallen?” Well, there is an awfully good reason for that.

Turns out that the publisher of Dungeons & Dragons, Wizards of the Coast, offers something called the System Reference Document. Also known as the SRD, it contains everything you need to play a basic version of D&D. You can download it for free at the company’s website, but it’s not a starter set. Instead, it’s made available to other game designers through the Open Gaming License (OGL). The SRD, via the OGL, provides the free and legal ingredients needed to roll your own RPG. And that’s just what Stacy “GG Kitty” Poor, the creator behind Dungeons & Destiny, did.

Poor also had a very nice heart-to-heart with Destiny developer Bungie to make sure that the tribute to her favorite video game doesn’t veer into dangerous territory. And voila, a game was born.

Right now the only way to get access to the beta version of the complete system is to subscribe to the project’s Patreon, which has been set up to help support the project. But an early version of the Player’s Guidebook, Dungeons & Destiny’s take on the 5th edition Player’s Handbook, is accessible to everyone. Inside you’ll find everything you need to build a character — a Guardian.

What makes Dungeons & Destiny so unique is that it expands the possibilities for who your Guardian can be. There are Awoken, Exo, and Humans aplenty — plus concise and compelling backstories for each of those types drawn from the franchise’s greater body of lore. But there’s also rules for making your Guardian a member of many of the game’s other communities, including Cabal, Eliksni, Krill, Psions, and even the Vex. The video game’s famous classes are well-defined as well, with each variant — Bladedancer, Nightstalker, Sunbreaker, and more — rendered in loving detail.

Is it balanced? Would these characters work well alongside rogues and fighters in a regular game of 5th edition D&D? Absolutely not, and the game’s FAQ document makes that clear. “Some features, mechanics, and monsters of D&Destiny would be terrifying to encounter in a 5e game,” say its authors, and by terrifying I’m pretty sure they mean a total party kill.

But where the Player’s Guidebook truly excels is in the tiny ways that it grapples with the byzantine lore of the Destiny franchise. Rather than papering over those oddities, Poor and her team instead use them as fodder to create interesting relationships between the characters at the table.

There’s no better example of this than the concept of a Guardian’s Ghost, the tiny robotic companion that accompanies players through the video game. From the Dungeons & Destiny Player’s Guidebook:

Before you make your Ghost, think about the kind of relationship you two have. Do you mostly get along, or does your Ghost often question why it chose you? Additionally, decide with your [game master] and [the other players at the table] how Ghosts will be role-played, if at all. Will everyone make their own Ghost, or will you be assigned a random Ghost another player made? Will you make your own Ghost, but another player at the table plays them for you? There are a myriad of interesting dynamics and options for you and your fireteam to explore!

What follows is a menu of sorts, filled with quirks and affects that you can give to your ghost. There’s also a deluge of carefully crafted rules. How do Ghosts store things in their memory? How do they retrieve them for their Guardians? How do they interact with the environment around them? How do they bring the player character back to life, and when? And where do they go when they disappear?

After it connects itself to you for the very first time, your Ghost gains access to a small pocket of extradimensional space attached to your person. Your Ghost can choose to use either its action or bonus action to enter or leave the pocket backpack on its turn, if it is within 5 feet of you. Your Ghost cannot be harmed while within its pocket backpack, and only your Ghost can enter or interact with its own pocket backpack.

If you ever die permanently, your Ghost is removed from the pocket backpack immediately, and cannot reenter it.

A Ghost’s interaction with the outside world is limited while within its pocket backpack. It can still communicate with you, and it can interact with signals. A Ghost can read an incoming broadcast, for example, or speak over a local communication network, but if a Ghost wants to interact with a physical object, it must exit its pocket backpack.

After reading through the Player’s Guidebook, not only do I have a good understanding of how Dungeons & Destiny works mechanically, but I also have a better understanding of what’s been happening in the video game for all these hundreds of hours that I’ve been playing it.

This total conversion for D&D, this epic exploration of lore, isn’t merely a vehicle for creating fun fan fiction at the table. It’s a way of laying out an entire universe on the page, tracing a line not only through its existing themes and interconnections, but inspiring the creation of even more. I don’t often dream while I sleep, but if I were to dream about Destiny I think it would look an awful lot like what was running through my head as I read through the Player’s Guidebook.

You can find more information at the Dungeons & Destiny website, and support its creator on Patreon. There’s also a thriving community on Reddit, with plenty of resources for 3D-printing your own Guardians and enemies as well as recreations of classic Destiny locations compatible with virtual tabletops like Roll20.

Update (Aug. 16): The full-color version of the Player’s Guidebook for Dungeons & Destiny is now available to download as a PDF free of charge. It includes new interior illustrations, as well as a textured page treatment to bring it in line with professionally published books by Wizards of the Coast. The PDF includes permission to reproduce the document for personal use.

“I speak for the whole dev team when I say, we love Destiny,” said creator Stacy “GG Kitty” Poor in an announcement on Reddit. “The game is absolutely amazing and gets better season after season. There’s been no small amount of troubles and setbacks with making D&Destiny, and if we weren’t passionate about the source material, we would have stopped and dropped the project a long time ago.”

They also published several sample page spreads.