Ancestries in Shadow of the Demon Lord
With the edited manuscript in and Tales moving through production’s guts, it’s time to start showing off the first mechanics heavy supplement for Shadow of the Demon Lord. Today, we’ll take a look at the two ancestries joining the ones presented in the main rulebook: the Faun and the Halfling.
Choosing the Ancestries
When I launched the Kickstarter campaign, I had a dozen or so ancestries designed. I knew I would have to pare down the list to fit them into the final rulebook, but it wasn’t easy pulling out incarnations, cambions, and kickass jotun. The ancestries I chose to include in the main rulebook made the cut for the roles they played and to set up how I was going to introduce the rest. I had to include humans—designer bias, plus they’re a good gateway to the game for newcomers. I wanted a traditional fantasy people and most people like dwarfs. Changelings preview the nature of faerie in the game, as did the goblins. I included orcs for a guy named Joe and to demonstrate the sorts of twists I was putting on iconic fantasy folks. Finally, clockworks were just too damned cool not to include.
For the Demon Lord’s Companion I had room for two ancestries and I chose fauns and halflings to make their appearance here. If there’s a unifying element for the DLC, it’s that it covers uncommon options. Fauns and halflings, for various reasons, are not likely to find themselves embroiled in the struggle to stave off the end of all things and the ones who do are pretty darned special.
Fauns occupy a place between humans and faerie, tending to appear when the two people mingle or when fey magic spreads into mortal lands. Here’s an excerpt from the DLC:
“Elves and the other fair folk withdrew from the mortal world long ago, but in their wake they left behind humans altered by contact with the immortal faerie. Chance encounters with the capricious and mercurial fey shattered lives with madness, broken hearts, and in some cases, offspring. Centuries later, the influence of faerie can still be felt in the deep wilderness, where doorways yet stand to the Hidden Kingdoms of Alfheim, Niflheim, and other magical realms populated by immortals. In such fey-touched places dwell fey-touched creatures—some true descendants, others warped by magic—known as fauns.
Animal Features: People can mistake fauns for beastmen, and for good reason, since fauns combine human physical traits with those of goats. Unlike beastmen, which are mortals corrupted and twisted by demonic influence, fauns owe their distinctive appearance to traces of faerie blood in their veins or, at the very least, the influence of faerie magic on the body. The connection to the immortals gives a faun shaggy legs with cloven hooves and small horns sprouting from the forehead. Faun features combine the traits of human and animal, reminiscent of both but belonging, truly, to neither.”
Mechanically, fauns are timid and quick. They scare easily, but when frightened, they are hard to catch.
Here are some of the faun talents:
Quick Step When you use an action, you can move 1 yard before or after the action, provided your Speed is greater than 0.
Skittish You make Will challenge rolls with 1 bane.
Of all the ancestries, halflings were one of the most difficult to make. The problem was not coming up with interesting mechanics. Rather, I had a hard time justifying their inclusion. At one point, I went to a fairly dark place with halflings, turning them into gluttonous, incestual criminals infesting the cities of the Empire like vermin. I got a fair amount of pushback on the presentation during early playtesting (blame Bob), so I abandoned that halfling, smuggling a bit of the older design into the goblin, and came up with something a bit more familiar.
Here’s a bit from the book:
Pragmatic Courage: Halflings understand how the world works better than most. They believe this life is but one of many, and they have embraced this truth in a way that makes them almost impervious to fear. Such fearlessness makes halflings suited to exploring dangerous places, since doubts and misgivings don’t get in the way of getting the job done. Being unmoved by fear does not mean halflings take ridiculous risks, but they don’t fret when they have to do a dangerous task.
Without fear as a distraction, halflings can focus their minds on whatever goal they set for themselves. They are less likely to make critical mistakes and can usually catch themselves before a situation goes sideways. Others interpret this phenomenon as uncommon luck, favor from the gods, or something else. The halfling reputation for good luck leads some dark souls to keep halflings as lucky charms, and some twisted folk believe halfling luck lingers even after death.
Building on the story, halfling courage bends favor to their advantage. Here are the two talents all halflings get:
Good Fortune Whenever a creature within short range rolls a 1 on any die, you can use a triggered action to discard the roll and let the creature to roll the die again.
Uncommon Courage When you become frightened, you can use a triggered action to make a Will challenge roll. On a success, you remove the affliction.
I opted to make Good Fortune something halflings could hand off to other characters as I wanted to broaden the utility of the talent and make these guys more useful to the group. Also, I like the idea of a mad faerie riding on a palanquin carried on the backs of a dozen charmed halflings who give their luck to their master/mistress. Also, now you know why your character has a mummified halfling, right?