Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Some thoughts about Shadow of the Demon Lord

This here's an honest cover.

I got sold on Shadow of the Demon Lord in the space of about fifteen minutes by some fellow on Discord. These are my thoughts from the initial read through.

The art sells the premise

There are some great pieces in there. All of them do a good job at emphasizing the grody, grimy, gritty nature of the game. Strong, consistent art direction is always an A+.

The mechanic changes are a fresh of breath air

Of note:
  • Your modifier is the stat minus 10. No muss, no fuss.
  • The target number for everything that is not an attack is 10.
  • Boons and banes are a fine system to factor in everything else.
  • Insanity and corruption mechanics are nice and simple to use.
  • Advancement is done via group accomplishment, rather than by combat or treasure. I like this as a change of pace, and it's especially nice for a game where characters might undergo radical changes upon leveling up.
You may notice a running theme here. This game is simple. It is easy to grok. You could teach the mechanics to a small child or a complete newbie and they will understand it.

So about that class system... 

Highlight of the entire game, as far as I'm concerned. Each template (ancestry, novice class, expert class, master class) grants you traits at a specific level, and so there's no overlap. There are also no requirements for taking on expert or master classes outside of narrative ones - hand your sword-and-board warrior a letter and a "yer a wizard", and it's not going to hurt your warrior skills.

There are 30,336 ancestry / class combinations possible in the core book

Six races, four novice classes, sixteen expert classes, sixty-four master classes (plus the remaining 15 expert classes if you want to double up). In the core book.

The fact that I mention this in a positive light (instead of "harumph it's so bloated and unwieldy") is the greatest sign of how easy and human-understandable the class system is in this game. It's nice, it's easy, if you want to be a thing you can just go and become the thing.

You can be a witch, who is also a robot piloted by a soul scraped out of hell. And then become a bard.

There are lots of good random tables

Schwalb knows what's up.

The setting is a light touch

It does what it needs to do, which is provide a framework. There's enough to get inspiration a-rolling, it's generic enough to fit into whatever setting you're already using, and the system is flexible enough to easily homebrew as you see fit. Win-win-win.

Look at this fucking map.

It's beautiful. It's fucking beautiful. It does everything I want to see out of a fantasy map, namely:
  • It is visually interesting (the hide, the blood, the  style of it all)
  • It's filled with evocative names that make me the player / GM want to fill it out.

Female dwarves have beards

It's not mole people, but it always makes me happy to see this.

By Jove, they actually went and did it, the absolute madmen!

The bestiary has generic templates for animals, demons, and monsters, arranged by size. Never thought I'd see the day.

The character sheet fits on one page

Glory glory Hallelujah

Final Notes 

This is a damn fine looking game and I want to run it.

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