From publisher blurb:
Darkest Dungeons is a pen-and-paper role-playing game. It is a sister game to Dark Dungeons and Darker Dungeons.
Like Darker Dungeons, it is based on a specific out-of-print edition of a specific role-playing game which cannot be named for legal reasons. However, this source is a different edition/game to the source of Dark Dungeons and Darker Dungeons.
The systems used in Darkest Dungeons emulate those of a more detailed and gritty system that was originally produced as a set of third-party supplements for the game that Dark Dungeons emulate, but which was later expanded into a full game in its own right. Naturally, this source of inspiration cannot be named here or within the Darkest Dungeons book; but as with the main target of Dark Dungeons emulation you'll instantly recognise it if you have played the original - and if you haven't played the original it doesn't matter and you can enjoy the emulated version in its own right.
Like Darker Dungeons, this system is not a strict retro-clone of its source. Instead it is a blend of material inspired by the source and material taken directly from the System Reference Document (or SRD), published by Wizards of the Coast under a license called the Open Game License (or OGL).
Combat is much more dangerous and gritty than in Dark Dungeons, and even the most powerful characters may still be killed by a lucky blow. Conversely, magic - while more common than in Dark Dungeons - is less powerful than in that game.
The designer has described it as: "Darkest Dungeons was going to be around 50% BECMI/RC emulation, 20% Rolemaster 2e emulation and 30% my house rules.
"Darkest Dungeons is now around 10% BECMI/RC emulation, 70% Rolemaster 2e emulation, 10% 3.5 SRD emulation, and 10% my house rules."