If I enjoy a video game enough to actually complete it, then I’m unlikely to stop thinking about it after the credits roll. Instead, I’ll find some like-minded fans, and try to find a way bring what we loved about that game to our tabletop game sessions. And so, when I resolved to run something akin to Dark Souls and Bloodborne, I checked out every game I could get my hands on that felt like it was shooting for something similar. Of course, if I don’t find exactly what I want in other games, I’ll happily reinvent the wheel, which is why I’m working on Exhumed (whose latest draft is available via my Games page). Still, I enjoy reading games almost as much as I enjoy making and playing them, so my hunt for Dark Souls-inspired games continues. I periodically see people asking online for recommendations along these lines, and I figured I’d collect the ones I know of here.
I’m not entirely sure what to call these games. Embers of the Forgotten Kingdom describes its genre as “Soulsian,“ or “Souls-like,” and I’ve also heard Souls-esque and Soulsborne. (I tend to favor soulslike because it reminds me of ‘roguelike,’ for better or worse—just as awkward and opaque, but also just as apt!) Whatever you call them, I’m always glad to read and play new ones, from faithful fan works to professionally published games that go off in new directions, each offering elements that can be repurposed for use with the others. As my (truly amazing) sister in law—formerly the manager of a comics and game store, and now the brains behind MLG Game Consulting—once explained to me, such games don’t necessarily compete with each other. Rather, as more appear, they build a shared genre that improves visibility (and sales) all around.
I imagine there are even more games I haven’t yet found in addition to these, and if you can think of one that’s not listed here, please feel free to send it my way! I’m limiting this blog post to ones already familiar to me, but I’d sure like to be familiar with even more down the line.
The Official Dark Souls TTRPG technically breaks the rule I just established—I don’t read Japanese, so I can’t claim to be familiar with it—but it seems a worthwhile exception. From the little I’ve heard, it has “stamina dice” you allocate for attacking versus defending, randomly rolled background memories you cross off your sheet when you die, rules for making a map using poker cards, and optional rules for no table talk, only communication by gesture (ha). Here’s hoping for a translation someday.
The Cold Ruins of Lastlife is a setting for Dungeon World. Each player controls an undead being in a ruined world, gradually trying to build a new world from whatever memories they can recover, or by blazing a new path. (Personal note: I played 10 sessions online through Gauntlet Hangouts and loved it, and have used materials from it in my Exhumed playtests.)
Embers of the Forgotten Kingdom opens with an introduction on what characterizes the “Soulsian” genre, and goes on to present a system-agnostic setting, scenario, and characters for a Dark Souls-inspired adventure. Work is underway on rules supplements with stats for a number of different systems.
Fragged Aeternum is a Bloodborne-inspired setting using the Fragged Empire rules. Players control monster hunters (in stylish coats and hats) who return to life after death, trying to combat evil and help humans find their way to a better afterlife (or at least avoid going to the worse one themselves).
Rhapsody of Blood is a Bloodborne- and Castlevania-inspired variant of the “Powered by the Apocalypse” game Legacy: Life Among the Ruins. Each player controls a family line who sends their monster hunters into an castle full of monsters that appears once a generation. (Personal note: I got to play a kindhearted beast-man who embraced an evil chalice to protect his friends from themselves, accepting his role as the castle’s next regent—and then I got to play his son, a generation later, sworn to kill him.)
Tomb of Mercy is a deathtrap dungeon for D&D 5th edition (with additional Dungeon World style character playsheets) about trying to send off an ark colossus to save the last souls of humanity from the legions of Hell. Sersa Victory might be the most prolific designer producing soulslike stuff right now: Keep a lookout for the Necropolis of the Mailed Fist and Testament of Malice releases on the horizon.
Undeath: A Dark Tales RPG sees characters awaken from death without memory, and move forward into a world where they must collect souls to survive. It uses its own d20-based system.
Unpublished fan hacks & works in progress
Dark Sigil (formerly Die and Die) and Night of the Hunt are hacks of Dungeon World adapted to run Dark Souls-inspired and Bloodborne-inspired games, respectively. Both are works in progress with plans for a polished release in the future, currently undergoing extensive playtesting.
Dark Souls Dungeon World Hack offers additional adaptations to Dungeon World to play Dark Souls.
Dungeons & Dark Souls provides rules to play Dark Souls using the D&D 5th edition rules.
Exhumed is my own work-in-progress, set in a world where the gates of the underworld hang open, demons roam free, and the souls of the unwary end up traded as coin. As of this writing, it’s primarily based on the rules from Into the Odd.
Iron Gates is an “Alexandrian Dark Souls pointcrawl,” still a work in progress as of this writing, as described across multiple posts on the Coins & Scrolls blog. (Personal note: I found that blog’s posts on boss fights handy in my Exhumed playtesting.)
Yarnham Shadows is a hack of Urban Shadows set in the Bloodborne universe. It is especially notable for expanding beyond the combat focus of the original game, instead building on the dark, political world only hinted at in the game’s scattered lore.
“The real blog post starts here”
Know another game you wish were on this list? Leave a link in the comments!