Candela Obscura (game)

Candela Obscura
Creative team
Cover artists
  • De La Rosa Design (standard)
  • John Harper (limited edition)
ProofreadingJacky Leung
Publication information
PublisherDarrington Press
Publication dateNovember 14, 2023
Media type
  • Hardcover
  • Limited edition hardcover

Candela Obscura is a Gothic horror tabletop roleplaying game from Darrington Press based on the Illuminated Worlds system. It is the game played in the Candela Obscura series. The Core Rulebook was released on November 14, 2023.[1]

Premise[edit | edit source]

Candela Obscura is a Gothic horror game in which players are investigators working for an esoteric order called Candela Obscura, which uses its centuries of knowledge to combat supernatural threats. A group of players, or a circle, are sent by Lightkeepers to solve mysteries involving "stranger occurrences" and "dangerous magicks".[2][3][4]

Setting[edit | edit source]

The world of Candela Obscura has technology similar to that of the early 20th century, and most average citizens are unaware of magick, which is separated from the world in which they live by a barrier known as the Flare. However, some magick still permeates the barrier. Most members of the society are not themselves able to perform magick inherently, but rather use infused or otherwise magickal objects. Powerful magick causes a "corruptive force", known as Bleed. Agents of Candela Obscura also have access to the Fourth Pharos, a stronghold on the other side of the Flare containing accumulated knowledge.[4]

Mechanics[edit | edit source]

The game is built on the Illuminated Worlds system, which is focused on arc-driven stories and uses a d6 dice pool system.[2] Under this system, a 1-3 on the dice is considered a failure; a 4 or 5 is a mixed success; a 6 is a success; and multiple 6s are considered a critical success.[5] The most dice a player can roll in the pool is 6.[6]

Actions and related mechanics[edit | edit source]

Actions are skills characters have, such as "Survey". They can have an action score between 0 and 3, with higher numbers indicating more skill. When a player chooses to perform that action, they roll a number of dice equal to their character's score in that action and pick which d6 roll to use. If they have a score of 0, they can still attempt the action: in that case, they role two d6s, and must take the lower value.[5] The actions are sorted into three groups:

  • Nerve: Physical abilities: Move, Strike, and Control.[6]
  • Cunning: Social abilities: Sway, Read, and Hide.[6]
  • Intuition: Mental abilities: Survey, Focus, and Sense.[6]

Players also can have up to three drive in each of the action groups (Nerve, Cunning, and Intuition). Drive is a resource that is spent and replenished. If a player has drive in one of those groups, they can expend one point of drive to add a die to their dice pool for a roll of that type. For example, a player rolling for Control may expend a Nerve drive point to add an extra die.[6]

If a player's action is gilded (which is determined during character creation), when they roll for that action, one of the dice they roll will be a gilded die (represented by being a different color or otherwise clearly distinguished from their other dice). They can choose, rather than taking the highest roll, to take the gilded die roll. If they do so, they regain a drive point. Players can also spend drive to help others in their circle, at the GM's discretion.[6]

A player has one resistance point for every three drive points in a group, and spending drive does not affect the resistance; it is based on the maximum drive the character has in that group. If a player wants to reroll a die, they may spend a resistance point of the relevant type, if available, and reroll the number of dice for that action (not including previous drives or help). If the action is gilded, they reroll the gilded die along with the others. They must use a value from the reroll.[6]

Abilities[edit | edit source]

Abilities are moves unique to a character role. In the full game, there will be a number of available abilities the players may choose, but the Quickstart Guide only includes two per role.

Roles and gear[edit | edit source]

There are five roles, each with specific abilities, and which determine the starting values for action and drive scores. Each role has two specialties. Those marked with an asterisk (*) are available as one of the premade sheets in the Quickstart Guide:[7]

Specialty Primary drive[8]
Role: Face
Journalist Cunning
Magician* Intuition
Role: Muscle
Explorer* Nerve
Soldier Intuition
Role: Scholar
Doctor Intuition
Professor* Cunning
Role: Slink
Criminal* Cunning
Detective Nerve
Role: Weird
Medium Intuition
Occultist* Intuition

Gear is equipment and is chosen during the investigation when needed. Players may choose up to three pieces of gear per investigation. Each player's list includes an option for a bleed detector, a hand weapon, and a bleed containment vial, and their remaining options vary by role.[9]

Marks and Scars[edit | edit source]

Marks are representative of damage taken during the investigation. Marks can be physical trauma (Body), mental stress (Brain), or due to magick (Bleed). A character can take up to three marks in each of these tracks. If they have a full track and receive a fourth mark in the same track, they become temporarily incapacitated and receive a scar, representing a permanent change due to this trauma. This will also clear their track. As the result of the scar, the player will move a point from the action of their choosing and place it into a different action to represent how the character has changed as a result of their experience.[9] Examples and guidance on sensitivity are provided in the Quickstart Guide on pages 8 and 9.

Circle mechanics and advancement[edit | edit source]

Connections are how the different characters in a circle relate to each other.[9]

Advancement is tied into both how much the individual characters achieve of their goals for that investigation, and how much the circle achieved together. When the circle reaches milestones on the illumination track, or when they fill it, they unlock new circle abilities. Character advancement also occurs when they fill the illumination track.[9]

A circle starts with circle members + 1 points in Stitch (heal all of a player's marks), Refresh (restore all of a player's drive points) and Train (grant an extra die to one roll in the next session). These resources only refresh upon completion of the illumination track, and can only be used in between investigations.[9]

Creative team[edit | edit source]

  • Original concept created by: Taliesin Jaffe and Chris Lockey
  • Lead game design and written by: Spenser Starke and Rowan Hall
  • Editor: Karen Twelves
  • Managing editor: Matthew Key
  • Production: Ivan Van Norman and Alex Uboldi
  • Proofreading: Jacky Leung
  • Additional game design by: Christopher Grey, Tracey Harrison, and Taliesin Jaffe
  • Layout: De La Rosa Design
  • Cultural consultants: Basheer Ghouse, Pam Punzalan, Erin Roberts, Christine Sandquist, and Liam Stevens
  • Military & political consultant: Anthony Joyce-Rivera
  • Game Development Consultant: Mike Underwood
  • Additional editing: Darcy Ross
  • Additional eriting: Carlos Cisco, Tracey Harrison, Anthony Joyce-Rivera, Sam Maggs, Mike Underwood
  • Graphic design: Aaron Monroy, Bryan Weiss
  • Artists: Shaun Ellis, Jamie Harrison, Allie Irwin, Amelia Leonards, Lily McDonnell, Justin O'Neal, Sunga Park, Gustavo Rodrigues Pelissari, Doug Telford
  • Map Design: Marc Moureau
  • Cover artist: De La Rosa Design (standard) and John Harper (limited edition)
  • Ancient Fairen languages design and spell design: Stevie Morley
  • Illuminated Worlds game design: Stras Acimovic and Layla Adelman
  • Playtests: Trevor Adams, Kat Alysha, Leon Barillaro, Emerson Boatwright, Kailey Bray, Luis Carazo, Sarah Chaffee, Kenton Chen, Carlos Cisco, Noshir Dalal, Gina DeVivo, Zehra Fazel [sic], Dani Gage, Omaira Galarza, Janina Gavankar, Christopher Grey, Madigan Hunt, Dayeanne Hutton, Erika Ishii, Aabria Iyengar, Taliesin Jaffe, JP Karliak, Erica Lindbeck, Chris Lockey, Surena Marie, Xu Mason, Whitney Moore, Anais Morgan, Omar Najam, Christian Navarro, Zackary Ogle, Carolina Ravassa, Eden Riegel, Saige Ryan, Rachel Seeley, Kyle Shire, Sarah Sommers, Erin Steeby, Alex Ward
  • Developed and released by Darrington Press[2]

Luis Carazo played in "numerous" playtests.[10] Sam Riegel was involved in the earliest playtests for the game and served as the unofficial "breaker" of the game, playing a former major league baseball player. Robbie Daymond was in another early playtest that Taliesin ran.[11]

Production and release[edit | edit source]

The idea for the setting of Candela Obscura was cultivated in 2018 by Taliesin Jaffe and Chris Lockey from ideas of "Call of Cthulhu: Shadow of the Crystal Palace" (OSx32) and came from Taliesin's love of cosmic horror.[12] Marisha Ray came up with the name Candela Obcura after playing around with the Fresnel lens and looking up the unit for measuring the visual intensity of light sources (candela).[13] In August/September of 2022, Critical Role Productions was experimenting with various board game systems that would suit the Candela Obscura game. Spenser Starke was brought in on this project to give his take on the situation, which led the production into the development of Illuminated Worlds system. The Candela Obscura book was finished in July 2023, while the company was still shooting the second chapter of the Candela Obscura series.[14]

A quickstart guide and a How To Play video, featuring Starke, was released on May 25, 2023 alongside the premiere of the Candela Obscura series.[15] The "Dressed to Kill" adventure in the quickstart was run at GenCon 2023 in the following August.[16] The Core Rulebook, in final stages of development at the time of the quickstart release,[17] was scheduled to be released near the end of 2023.[2] In November 2023, it was announced that the Core Rulebook releases on November 14, 2023.[1]

The pages of the quickstart guide are filled with in-character notes and drawings from members of Candela. Most were created by concept artist Shaun Ellis during the worldbuilding process, but his handwriting was replaced with a font.[18]

During the development, the creative team decided to exclude the map of Oldfaire from the final version of the book. The map was intended to be covered by a transparent map of Newfaire, which would have simplified the navigation between these two regions. The designers decided against mapping out the region of Oldfaire to give gamemaster who run Candela Obscura more freedom to create their own versions of this ancient city.[14]

Media[edit | edit source]

ISBN Released Publisher Format Price Ref.
November 14, 2023 Darrington Press Standard edition hardcover $39.99 [1]
November 14, 2023 Darrington Press Faux leather limited edition $59.99 [1]

External links[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Coming Nov. 14: Candela Obscura Core Rulebook in Standard and Limited Editions!
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 Candela Obscura on the Darrington Press official website
  3. Hype! Candela Obscura – Our New Horror TTRPG Show Premieres May 25th! on
  4. 4.0 4.1 Candela Obscura: Quickstart Guide, p. 3.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Candela Obscura: Quickstart Guide, p. 4.
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 6.4 6.5 6.6 Candela Obscura: Quickstart Guide, p. 5.
  7. Candela Obscura: Quickstart Guide, p. 6.
  8. "Critical Role reveals Candela Obscura character classes" (November 1, 2023) at Polygon.
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 9.4 Candela Obscura: Quickstart Guide, p. 7.
  10. Rowan Hall (@TheRowanHall) on Twitter: "The exact right reaction to all things @Luiscarazo 🖤 He played in numerous Candela Obscura playtests and always comes to the table with absolute brilliance. He is going to ASTOUND everyone in Chapter 2" (July 23, 2023). (backup link)
  11. "San Diego Comic-Con 2023: Making Candela Obscura" (Mx18) at 37:12.
  12. "San Diego Comic-Con 2023: Making Candela Obscura" (Mx18) at 1:33.
  13. "San Diego Comic-Con 2023: Making Candela Obscura" (Mx18) at 9:50.
  14. 14.0 14.1 Critical Role (critical_role) on Instagram: "CO:2 - Spenser" (October 30, 2023)
  15. Play Candela Obscura With Our New Quickstart Guide! on the Darrington Press official website
  16. Come Play Games at Gen Con! on the Darrington Press official website
  17. "Spenser Starke Is Bringing Cinematic GMing To Candela Obscura Chapter 2" (August 28, 2023) at TechRaptor.
  18. Shaun Ellis (Shmaba) on Tumblr // Shaun gives behind the scenes on the creation of the set (May 29, 2023).