Is DS a roleplaying game? It’s a question I’ve heard a few times now. The answer is very simple: no… and yes.
No, DS is not designed to be an RPG, and never was. It lacks any specific guidance or suggestions for a DM and differs from a pure RPG in the structure of what it includes and how this is presented. It was always intended to be a board game, and that’s what it remains.
What is a roleplaying game anyway? Having designed DS as a board game and without thinking about how you’d use it as an RPG, I started thinking about what made it not. And, having thought, I don’t think there’s much, if anything, to stop you.
It’s been many years since I did any roleplaying, so I may be (= am) out of touch with what is considered normal these days, but the principle can’t have changed all that much. It’s about playing a role and telling a collective story, and a competent GM and players should have no trouble at all in using Dungeon Saga as a springboard for adventuring in the fantasy world of Mantica. In fact, thinking back to the early days of RPGs, what’s included in the box (and especially the Adventurer’s Companion) is a far greater source of plot hooks and guides than many early systems started with. Try playing T&T, for example. Even D&D was very spartan when it started.
You will have to use your imagination, and you won’t get spoon-fed with pre-written adventures. However, you should remember that pre-written adventures aren’t generally aids for good roleplaying, they’re useful crutches for the time-poor DM, and products to keep companies solvent. Having played many systems and more adventures than I can recall, I can happily say that none of my personal top 5 moments in RPGs were pre-written. To be honest, I’m not sure I can think of any really good moments that were. The whole style of gaming is about imagination, and DS provides all the hooks, hints, plot ideas and springboards for adventure that you need. It’s really down to the GM to make a game from that, and that’s more about his skill than anything I’ve written or not.