Distal, a merciless d20 fantasy RPG

Distal, a merciless d20 fantasy RPG

Distal is a d20 fantasy RPG where the battles scar you, your decisions define you, and each triumph is earned. If you love building characters you can get attached to, or are a GM wanting more meaningful stakes at the table, you'll dig Distal.
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What is Distal?

Distal is a high-fantasy d20 RPG focused on hardships, not heroes. Growth is fueled by the trials you endure during life as adventurers, and modern mechanics support a mix of tactical combat and cooperative storytelling.

We designed Distal from the ground up to be super easy to jump into, build adventures for, and run for you and your friends... while being a deep, campaign-worthy system that you can play forever.

Who is it for?

Distal was designed for players wanting meaningful stakes at the table, and for GMs looking to challenge their players without fear of "ruining" a long-form campaign because of it.

Things we care about...
  • Backstories that are fun to create and relevant to the story.
  • Decisions that are meaningful, and near-death experiences that leave lasting scars.
  • Characters that are expressed mechanically as well as narratively.

Things we don't care about...
  • How many miles you can travel in a day by horseback.
  • The exact number of arrows in your quiver.
  • Tracking the hours you've slept.

What we're funding.

This campaign funds the game's delivery in both digital and hardcover form, with a single, 300+ page core rulebook being the main goal. The biggest hurdle is affording all the quality, real-human art needed to bring the setting to life. The more we surpass our funding goal, the more art that will go into the book.

We're funding the 300+ page core rulebook in hardcover (and digital!)

Learn more about the hardcover, and see example pages further down.

Playtest it now!

Distal has been in playtesting since last year, and you can pick up a stable alpha version of the game for free, right now!

While plenty will change before launch, there's already enough alpha content to run the game from early to mid levels from now until you get the full book in your hands.

  • Alpha Core Rules - Comprehensive rules, character sheets, and necessary tools to play long term.
  • Alpha Quickstart Guide - Five pre-generated characters, pared down rules, and a starter adventure.
  • Beginner's Adventure - An adventure that links off the back of the Quickstart, or can be run separately.

Download all the free material here.

Beyond Alpha
Patreon supporters receive early access to new updates of the game prior to launch, including closed beta testing, which is anticipated to begin Q3 2024.

Join the community Discord!

Design Philosophy

Distal approaches traditional d20 roll-over rulesets with fresh eyes, incorporating modern approaches for common pain points, and funneling our time and energy into the most broadly applicable areas of the game.

Familiar and further.

As a foundation, we don't stray too far from the "everyday fantasy" roots laid by Gygax and Tolkien. We balance a mix of the genre staples you're already familiar with (like Elves and Dwarves,) while pushing into less charted territories that give a distinct shape to the setting.

Worlds built on connection.

The Game Master (GM) helps facilitate the growth of the characters, the world, and the consequences between them. A few deeply engrained systems (like the background generator) develop lasting story elements that both the players and the GM can reference and build upon.

Tactical and streamlined.

From initiative, to turn economy, to character sheet, we've intentionally designed combat to avoid well-known slowdowns in combat, without going so far as to remove to-hit rolls, or oversimplify the way damage is doled out.

Grounded, not gritty.

Distal is not a particularly dark, grim, or gritty setting. We don't want to hack your limbs off, or risk an untimely death every time you turn down an alleyway. Your characters are meant to take shape over the course of a campaign through trials and hardships, much like a sculptor carves away stone to reveal the art beneath.

Intelligent, willing guardians of elven ruins. (art by: Lailamon)

Class and Lineage


Race or species, referred to as Lineage, runs that gamut between familiar genre staples, like Dwarves and Elves, to more esoteric options like the amphibious Atlean, or vibrant-feathered Furie.

  • Atlean - Originally of the sea, the Atlean people were pushed ashore after a lost war with denizens of deeper waters. 
  • Dwarf - Borne of ancient underground empires, many dwarves have begun new lives on the surface to avoid the near constant infighting and oppression of the kingdoms beneath the stone. 
  • Elf - Lithe, timeless, and bound to tradition, the most rigid of ancient elves shunned the outside world long ago in order to keep themselves safe from prophesied tragedies. 
  • Furie - Bearing sharp talons and skin flecked with vibrant feathers, today’s Furie are distant descendants of winged creatures who once lured humans to their death with hypnotic song. 
  • Kinsguard - Humans of a fallen empire, eager to make up for the failings of those who have gone before them. 
  • Tanglefolk - Short-lived and fleet of foot, Tanglefolk were originally visitors from an adjacent plane, and adapted quickly to life in the Distal. 
  • Ulsdotter - A species of half-giants descended from Titans who have collectively lost their memories of the distant past in an event called The Passing. 
  • Wildwalker - Animal-like humanoids bearing fur, claw-tipped hands, and occasionally hooves or antlers, thought to be cursed (or blessed) by ancient woodland gods. 
  • Yvain - While often confused for humans, the Yvain are of elemental blood with three luminous eyes that are commonly kept covered to dampen the stimuli of their inborn planar sight. 

Deadly on land as well as at sea. (art by: Graey Erb)


Each class is distinct to the setting, and aims for specific, instead of broad. Classes aren't bound to traditional archetypes, and grow to fit your personal playstyle through equipment choice and diverse progression options.

  • Berserker - Bloodthirsty frontline fighters that do their best work when on their last legs, wielding the adrenaline of battle to defy the opposition.
  • Cutpurse - Backstabbing rogues who strike from the shadows, denying their opponents any advantage.
  • Embergut - Spellcasting conduits of the Plane of Fire, walking the knife’s edge between power and control. 
  • Falconer - Rangers that rely on their bond with an aerial companion to track, distract, and strike at prey.
  • Ferryman - Shepherds of the dead and dying that bend the will of restless souls to suit their needs.
  • Jester - The unassuming bodyguards of politicians and royalty that befuddle opponents with unconventional tricks.
  • Justicar - Heavily armored protectors fueled by a higher calling, acting as a shield of the faithful and crusher of the heretical.
  • Magister - Voracious pursuers of arcane knowledge that harness it with an intelligent calculus that few can rival.
  • Oracle - Weavers of planar threads gifted with visions of the future, and the ability to shape it.
  • Strategist - Masters of the battlefield that rely on thorough planning and intelligent decision making to stay one move ahead.

Planning for battle is preparing for victory. (art by: Graey Erb)

About the Hardcover

We're huge advocates of accessing information quickly, organizing it logically, and providing tools to onboard your table of players more easily. Our hardcover design helps facilitate this.

A Two-Sided Rulebook

Whether you memorize page numbers, use bookmarks, sticky notes, or bend page corners (please stop), we've all felt the pain of tracking down information in our player manuals.

One way we're addressing that is by dividing the book into two sides.

  • One side for prep - The information you use before or between sessions (lore, character creation, etc.)
  • One side for play - The information you need during a session (rules, reference tables, etc.)

It's an unorthodox approach, but great for finding information quickly -- just flip the book, and you're there.

Less sticky notes, bookmarks, and bent page corners. Find information easily.

Example Pages
Here are some examples of how the interior of the book looks (before final art and layout.)
(Open them in a new window for full-size.)

Example spread of the Atlean lineage.

Close-up on an Atlean lineage page.

First page of the Background generator.

Example page from the Contacts generator.

Example page from the Strategist class.

Pledge Levels

Every pledge gets us closer to an even more amazing game.
Click on a pledge to learn more about it, or click here to see all the pledge levels in detail.

Group Deals

Get a pack of 4 hardcovers at discounted rates!

Early Birds get a Free Print!

Back a physical edition within the first 48 hours and receive a free Temple Grizzly print!

Free print for physical Backers within the first 48 hours!



When to Expect It
When the campaign completes, we'll begin the closed beta testing process (which Patreon members can gain access to), be moving forward with layout, and acquire the remaining art needed to complete the project. The project is already pretty far along, and we anticipate Backers will receive the final version in digital form during Q4 of 2024 or Q1 of 2025, and hardcover versions no later than Q2 of 2025.

We'll continue to send communication via campaign updates all the way up until the products actually ship. We want to make sure you're aware of any difficulties, setbacks, and updates to our schedule and fulfillment. You can expect to receive an information update at least once a month.

We will charge shipping via the Pledge Manager when the product is complete, which is anticipated to be Q4 2024, or Q1 2025. International Backers are expected to cover VAT taxes, and final shipping costs will be sent out at that time. Check out the FAQ section for additional information.

Estimated shipping costs based on weight of a single hardcover and region.

Regional Limitations (Digital-only)
We won't be able to deliver physical goods to the following countries, but digital is totally fine: Belarus, Brazil, Russia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, and Afghanistan.

Third-party Support

Homebrewers, content creators, and supplement developers are welcome!

Third-Party Support
The goal for this initial project is to give Distal a solid foundation to build upon, both officially and through third-party. Post-launch, we'd like to develop an open license for this product (or choose an existing one that works for our needs,) that gives third-party creators a way to create and sell supplements without splitting royalties.

MÖRK BORG is an inspirational example of how to do this well: https://morkborg.com/license/

Distal is built in such a way that designing new classes, monsters, and settings should be easy to do while maintaining the balance of the game (if that's your thing.) One of our goals is to supply reference documentation that accelerates the process, and brand guidelines to help you keep everything above board.

Thank you!

Hey there, I'm Michael Henderson, better known as Wrel by most folks. I'm the solo author, designer, and jack-of-all-trades on this project. Making amazing things to share with others is my lifeblood.

You can find me at the following places:
YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/warpathwrel
Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/wrelplays
Patreon: http://www.patreon.com/wrel
Twitch: http://www.twitch.tv/wrel

Feel free to reach out!
More from excited folks.

Learn more about Distal from some folks on the interwebs.

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