I built Shadow of the Demon Lord’s path system to give you the flexibility create and develop characters you want to play. If you haven’t yet picked up the game (and why the hell not?), the path system is easy to learn. As your group gains levels, you make three big choices. You choose a novice path at level 1, an expert path at level 3, and, finally, a master path at level 7. A path operates as a bundle of benefits distributed as your group climbs through the levels. The benefits, informed by the path’s story, help you portray the character while also expressing how characters that belong to the path most likely operate.

In many ways, the path system recalls the class and level systems of other games, but with an important difference. Rather than lock you into one concept, in which you can see exactly how the character will develop over time, Shadow of the Demon Lord lets your character develop organically and in response to developments in the game and the needs of the other members of your group.

So at each choice point, you decide if your character continues to develop in the same manner that you previously chose, such as warrior that becomes a fighter (expert) and later a weapon master (master path). Or, you might let the story dictate your journey. Your warrior could  become a wizard after discovering a tome filled with magical secrets or an oracle after an encounter with a god-like supernatural being. The system never penalizes you for your choices since you’re always getting something from the ones you already made. Novice paths grant benefits at four levels, expert paths at three, and master paths at two. So even if you want to be a badass with a sword, you can dabble in different pursuits without sabotaging your character’s effectiveness when the spells start flying.

The freedom to choose how your character develops over time has several additional benefits. It lets you experience more of the options and thus more of the game. You might not start with spells, but there’s no reason you can’t learn a few later after you become more comfortable with the game. It also ensures greater replay value from the various path choices since it is the combination of paths that make characters distinct. Your favorite archetype might be the ranger. Well, if you go into ranger from the warrior path, you have one play experience, but if you come into it via rogue or priest, your play experience changes dramatically. Furthermore, it allows characters in groups to share path choices and remain distinct from one another. Two assassins in the group may share some talents, but if one is a magician and the other is a warrior, they play very differently from one another.

The reason for spilling all the words about paths is to look ahead at path options I chose to include in the Demon Lord’s Companion. As I mentioned earlier, I had a fair amount of material left over from the initial design. The expert paths that made it into the main rulebook all hit the right notes for the Northern Reach and were broadly conceived enough that I could see these options cropping up in other settings and regions coming out down the road. The paths I held in reserve and that ultimately made it into this sourcebook were the ones that filled narrower niches. Not everyone wants psychics running around in their horror-fantasy games, for example. But others were paths whose mechanics needed a bit more finesse, more development on my end before I was ready to release them into the wild. In the end, I opted to include the following eight paths in this sourcebook.

Expert Paths of Faith

Path                      Description

Shaman                Shamans commune and bond with unseen spirits to gain aid and power.

Warden                 Mighty protectors of the natural world, wardens draw strength from the land to destroy its enemies.

Expert Paths of Power

Path                      Description

Elementalist         Armed with the power of air, earth, fire, and water, elementalists attune to elements to gain their properties.

Psychic                 Psychics use their mental power to fuel magic.

Expert Paths of Trickery

Path                      Description

Mountebank         Consummate scoundrels and tricksters, mountebanks use deception to gain the upper hand against their enemies.

Sage                      Scholars without peer, sages rely on their wits and learning to overcome challenges.

Expert Paths of War

Path                      Description

Mystic                  Harnessing the power of the soul’s energy, mystics escape the limitations of body and mind to attain enlightenment.

Swashbuckler       Cunning and daring combatants, swashbucklers overcome foes by outwitting them.

 

Illustration by Jack Kaiser

Illustration by Jack Kaiser

Elementalist

Elementalists harness the fundamental forces underpinning reality by manifesting them within their bodies. Attuning to air, earth, fire, or water lets elementalists empower spells and enhance abilities with the elemental energy. While attuned, elementalists display minor changes to their appearances—air manifests as a everpresent breeze, earth manifests as the flesh becoming like stone, fire as blazing eyes, and water as dripping moisture.

Elementalist Story Development

d6              Story Development

1                 You learned the secret name of a genie and compelled it to teach you the secrets of elemental magic.

2                A sylph with whom you fell in love taught you your talents.

3                You discovered your techniques after extensive study of an elemental tradition.

4                You were present for the breaking of a powerful artifact, and the magic released changed you.

5                You fell from a great height, were caught in a burning building, nearly drowned, or were trapped in a cave-in. The experience changed you.

6                You discovered an ancient ruin abandoned by elementals. Residual magic there transformed you.

Level 3 Elementalist

Attributes Increase two by 1

Characteristics Health +2, Power +1

Languages and Professions You can speak another language or add a profession.

Magic You discover a tradition or learn one spell.

Elemental Attunement You can use an action to become attuned to air, earth, fire, or water. You remain attuned to the element until you use this talent again, you become unconscious, or you complete a rest. The benefits of this talent depend on which element you choose, as follows:

Air: When you get a success on an attack roll, you can blast the target with wind. The blasted target must succeed on a Strength challenge roll or be moved 1d6 yards in a straight line in a direction you choose. If you attempt to move the target up, into the air, the target makes the roll with a number of boons equal to its Size (minimum 1).

     Earth: When you get a success on an attack roll against a target standing on the on ground, you can cause rocks and debris to hamper the target’s movement. The hampered target must succeed on an Agility challenge roll or be slowed for 1 round.

         Fire: When you get a success on an attack roll, you can cause flames to erupt from the target. Each creature within 1 yard of the erupting target must succeed on an Agility challenge roll or take 1d3 damage.

         Water: When you get a success on an attack roll, you can cause water to surround the target and pull it toward you. The pulled target must succeed on an Agility challenge roll or move 1d6 yards toward you and fall prone.

Level 6 Elementalist

Characteristics Health +2

Magic You discover a tradition or learn one spell.

Forceful Attunement When you use the Elemental Attunement talent, you can release a burst of elemental energy that explodes in a sphere with a 2-yard radius centered on a point you can reach. The benefits of this talent depend on which element you choose, as follows:

         Air: Each creature in the area other than you must succeed on a Strength challenge roll or be moved 1d6 yards in a straight line away from you in a direction you choose.

         Earth: Each creature in the area other than you must succeed on an Agility challenge roll or fall prone.

         Fire: Each creature in the area other than you must succeed on an Agility challenge roll or take 1d6 damage.

         Water: Each creature in the area other than you must succeed on a Strength challenge roll or become slowed for 1 round.

Level 9 Master Elementalist

Characteristics Health +2, Power +1

Magic You discover a tradition or learn one spell.

Superior Attunement You gain additional benefits from being attuned to an element, as follows:

         Air: You have a +2 bonus to Speed. If you have discovered the Air tradition, the bonus increases to +8.

         Earth: You have a +1 bonus to Defense. If you have discovered the Earth tradition, the bonus increases to +3.

         Fire: Flames swirl around you, lighting the area within 5 yards of you. Whenever you take damage from a melee attack, the creature that attacked you must get a success on an Agility challenge roll or take 1d6 damage. If you discovered the Fire tradition, the damage increases to 2d6.

       Water: You have a +5 bonus to Health. If you have discovered the Water tradition, the bonus increases to 15.