How Disco Elysium Went From Homebrew D&D Campaign To Digital RPG

Before becoming one of the most critically acclaimed video game RPGs of all time, Disco Elysium began with its creators’ D&D campaigns.

the story of elysium disk takes many unpredictable twists and turns, but the game’s creation itself resulted from a strange journey from punk music to a homebrew Dungeons & Dragons game. Coming from a background of playing d&dfollowed by a heavily home-brewed take on the system, led Robert Kurvitz and the team at ZA/UM to create the studio’s critically acclaimed debut game, and elysium disk pays homage to RPGs like d&d as a result. ZA/UM’s isometric RPG, which uses an original system and setting, captures the tabletop RPG experience more elegantly than many other video games adapted directly from TTRPGs. elysium disk raised the bar for video game RPGs, and its evident roots in tabletop gaming are a key piece of what makes the game so unique.


Given the game’s complexity and the maturity of its subject matter, it is clear that elysium disk is more than a traditional d&d campaign adapted into video game form. The ZA/UM team has credited political theorists like Friedrich Engels and Karl Marx, as well as countercultural music like punk, for inspiring the subversive politics and working-class themes of the game. Sources as far reaching as Disco Elysium’s Twitter feed-inspired dialogue boxes helped shape the one-of-a-kind RPG. A game that deals with heavy themes of addiction, loss, and trauma, in the midst of a web of politics and murder, is a far cry from the traditional stories of heroes setting off to slay goblins and loot dragons. The game pokes fun at conventional heroic fantasy RPGs like d&d with its Wirral 3rd Edition books, a fictionalized caricature of d&d, that can be used in the Martinaise book store. Despite the game’s quality placing it closer to the realm of legitimate literary importance than most tabletop RPG-inspired media, Disco Elysium’s creators consistently credit the role d&d had inspired their masterwork.

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In an interview with The EscapistKurvitz said the Estonia-based ZA/UM team had no game development experience prior to elysium diskand that they spent their youth “smoking cigarettes, wandering the gray Eastern European architecture, and playing Dungeons & Dragons.” Many elysium disk players have noted the tabletop connection, although elysium disk pays homage to non-d&d TTRPGs more than Dungeons & Dragons. Per the interview, Kurvitz became familiar with TTRPGs through a “bootleg” Finnish-language version of d&d, which inspired the group to create their own rules and setting. The skill check-focused system of elysium disk bears more resemblance to games like Call of Cthulhu or Vampire: the Masquerade than d&d, however, perhaps showing the liberties Kurvitz took with his homebrew rules.

Disco Elysium Embodies A Uniquely Idealized Version Of Dungeons & Dragons

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Like many players later who delve into the tabletop RPG hobby’s more mature, horror-themed games, d&d served as Kurvitz’s entry point into the hobby. If elysium disk is at all an accurate reflection of the group’s tabletop campaigns, they obviously distanced themselves considerably from the combat-heavy fantasy heroism of d&d. The fact that punk music and politics were also major influences on Disco Elysium’s development comes as no surprise, based on the game’s subject matter. Dungeons & Dragons still deserves credit for being more than Kurvitz’s first brush with the tabletop RPG hobby: Kurvitz also praised the influence of the video game Planescape: Tormentwhich showcased d&d’s strangerside. Many veteran gamers view elysium disk as a spiritual successor to plane escapeone that outdid prior similar efforts like Torment: Tides of Numenera.

plane escape has more common traits with elysium disk than Baldur’s Gateor any of the more traditional d&d-based games. Planescape’s free-form approach to problem-solving, offering solutions beyond combat, as well as the amnesiac protagonist, are all present in elysium disk. The planar hub city of Sigil, Torment’s setting, was replaced with ZA/UM’s original world. though many d&d settings have decades worth of sourcebooks and novels to draw their lore from, the world-building accomplished in a elysium disk rivals any published RPG campaign setting. Given the depth of the unique homebrew d&d campaign setting of Elysium, which combines supernatural elements with complex politics and an eclectic mix of archaic and modern technology, many fans have inquired whether the ZA/UM team will ever publish their own tabletop RPG. Kurvitz confirmed a tabletop RPG based on the Elysium setting is in the works, under the working title You Are Vapor.

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Not every player who completes elysium disk will be reminded of their own tabletop RPG sessions, since the game embodies a level of Game Master skill that is uncommon. Few GMs running d&d make such clever use of the skill system, offering information beyond simple sensory awareness granted by Perception checks. Disco Elysium’s hero leverages Drama, the game’s analogue to d&d’s Perform skill, both to lie and to recognize lies and theatricality in others. The Authority skill, closest to d&d’s Intimidate, lets the protagonist recognize power structures and hierarchies, as well as exorcising his own aura of command. The game embraces a “fail forward” mindset, where even gamers playing with Disco Elysium’s recently added Hardcore Mode will find that failed skill checks offer alternate paths to advance their investigation. elysium disk is admittedly a labor of love from its numerous developers over countless hours, but its myriad dialogue branches and secrets embody both a well-prepared DM, as well as an extremely adaptable one, creating an idealized version of what the tabletop RPG experience can offer.

Disco Elysium Is The Latest In A History Of Works Adapted From D&D Games

Disc Elysium Protagonist

Disco Elysium’s art director Aleksander Rostov confirmed in an interview with the hollywoodreporter that “the world-building behind the game grew out of Dungeons & Dragons role-playing sessions that we had as teenagers.” There are many works outside the d&d brand that have a similar origin in tabletop gaming. George R.R. Martin’s Wild Cards series was inspired by his superhero tabletop RPG campaign, and numerous other fantasy authors like Scott Lynch and R. Scott Bakker have done the same, turning their tabletop RPG campaign experiences into a series of novels. the Lodoss anime setting, which foreshadowed d&d‘s critical role and similar products, was first popularized through Japanese-language transcripts of d&d sessions. elysium disk is one of the most acclaimed media products to spawn from a d&d game, proving that the imagination and creativity that goes into Dungeons & Dragons can have benefits that last long after the dice and character sheets have been stored away.

Next: Why D&D Took 30 Years To Rerelease The Spelljammer Campaign Setting

Sources: The Escapist, The Hollywood Reporter

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