The Genesis of the Game

Anyone who’s been following me for the last few years probably knows that I’ve been tinkering with a family-friendly version of Shadow of the Demon Lord. Work began on this not long after the Demon Lord clawed its way out of my head and at first, I had planned to go the easy route: scrub out all the dick and fart and poop jokes, drop in a new setting, clean up the rules in a few places, and then push go. But what would have been the point, really? You can play Shadow of the Demon Lord without it being fantasy Evil Dead or something far more serious and darker. I put the tone on a dial on purpose so you can crank it up to Kult levels of nasty or down to the point that you’d almost expect to find happy halflings chewing on pipes, singing songs, and following Stormcrow along the road to adventure.

Add to this that I built the system to deliver horror. The game was supposed to be hard. Adventures challenge your characters and death happens. Can you imagine a version of Texas Chainsaw Massacre in which everyone survives and has a laugh after unmasking Leatherface? Demon Lord can accommodate groups who want more Scooby Doo than Hellraiser, but that all takes a fair bit of Game Master involvement.

The Road Ahead

Making the next cool game was not going to be as simple as a bit of spit and polish. It was going to take a fundamental redesign of the underlying math and a rebuild of everything to match. That’s a lot of work, yes, but surely it shouldn’t have taken this long, right? Right. I shopped this game around to audiences at conventions over the last few years in one form or other. It’s been called Shadow of the Witch King, Free Companies of Four Towers, Shadow of the Mad Wizard: and there have been an untold number of tweaks and changes to nudge this product closer to the finish line. During this time, I have released another game, continued to support Demon Lord, and enjoyed all the curve balls life has had to throw my way. But I have made progress. Am I done yet? Not quite. But I’m close.

I still need to deal with expert and master paths, and run them through testing. Some of you will get to help with that. Others will have to wait. Sorry. I’m not Wizards of the Coast or Paizo. But I’ll be showing off stuff here in the coming weeks and months and you’ll have a chance to participate in the discussion on Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, Discord, and wherever else you say glowing things about me to strangers in the internets’ tubes.

The World of the Wizard

This is already longer than it should be, so let me give you a snapshot of what the setting’s like and then we’ll move on with other posts about specific aspects of the game. The changes I made and the reasons for those changes.

  1. Civilization has grown and fallen at least twice before. The first place it fell is a faraway place known as the Devastation. It’s a place of nightmare, fire, and death. Don’t go there. The second place is the Old Country, which was dominated by the Great Kingdom. Unfortunately, the Lord Commander of the Paladins murdered the Pontifex of the High One, burned the Cathedral of Hope, and ended the royal line. These actions plunged the kingdom into a civil war that’s still raging. Not the best place to hang your hat.
  2. People flee the Old Country in droves, seeking refuge in a place known as the Lands of the Weird Wizard, a mysterious, eccentric, bearded fellow whose reckless use of magic has made these New Lands rather strange and mysterious. It’s not an ideal place to rebuild, but it’s the best hope anyone has. Best of all, the Weird Wizard hasn’t been seen for years and is thought to have withdrawn to the Clockwork City, which rises from a blasted, shattered plane, under a sky that burns and in which drift chunks of rock crawling with weird things. 
  3. Your characters are among the refugees looking to start again having escaped the troubles in the Old Country. You likely begin in the Borderlands, a stretch of territory that forms a band between the Old Country and new and set out on expeditions into the unknown to blaze a trail for settlers. You might battle strange monsters, explore old ruins of faerie cities, broker peace with orc tribes, find treasure, and, maybe, eventually, become renowned enough that you can carve out places for yourselves to rule.

That’s it for now. More to come. Hail!