Notes regarding the development of our games.

Occult Philosophy | A Sourcebook for Shadow of the Demon Lord RPGIf you haven’t yet heard, I’m launching a Kickstarter campaign in November (the 12th) to crowdsource the production for a new and sexy supplement for Shadow of the Demon Lord. So far, I’ve been able to produce a slew of high-quality digital products that shine lights on various ancestries and spots on the map, reveal details about terrifying creatures, to say nothing of the many adventures available for the game. However, Occult Philosophy is a different sort of beast.

What is It?

Clocking in at around 192 pages with about 800 spells, a dozen or so critters, plus twenty to thirty paths, it’s the biggest release for the game since Shadowcame out around three years ago. A book of this size has a pile of expenses, including art, editing, proofing, layout, and graphic design. And, if the campaign does well enough, we’ll do an off-set print run too.


I’m going to make up a few general questions and answer them. In future installments, I’ll get into the nuts and bolts of the book.

Eight hundred spells? Have they been tested?

Yes. I ran a limited playtest with tons of respondents who took the spells out for a spin in their games. From the feedback along with the testers’ insights, I adjusted the design to ensure that they fit the game and work well alongside other spells.

Do spells cover ranks 0 to 5? Do they go higher?

Yep! One of my earliest goals for this book was to reveal magic’s true extent in the setting. Each tradition receives expansions to the basic rank 0 to 5 spells, but also includes a pair of rank 6 spells along with one of each for ranks 7 through 10.

Do we get any new traditions?

For sure. I included one new tradition to bring the tradition count up to 42 (the most important number of all). Madness joins the other traditions, offering ways for you to harness your Insanity and weave it into magic to produce spectacular effects. There’s an Elder Gods vibe to these spells too, and, as a result, raises a few new questions about the game’s cosmology.

How about paths?

Of course! We’re including some guidance for playing characters beyond level 10 (building on the method described in Forbidden Rules). I’m also including a slew of expert and master paths. Expert paths, as usual, ground characters in the setting but also speak to specific traditions or pairs of traditions. Master paths offer alternative takes to mastering the various forms of magic, while also offering options to players who concern themselves with the methods of casting—implements for example.

What about relics and enchanted objects?

I had planned to include a chapter on each, but I ran out of room. I have a product in mind called The Vault of the Demon Lord, which includes new options for enchanted objects, relics, and trinkets. This book gets unlocked as a stretch goal.

What’s your favorite spell in Occult Philosophy?

Hmm. That’s a tough one. I’m pretty partial to them all. Here’s a cool one from the Battle tradition.

God of War                                                Battle Utility 10

Duration 8 hours

Magical power flows into you, transforming you into a god of war. You become bigger, stronger, and far more menacing. Your eyes glow with malice and blood paints your body. Any creature that can see you when you transform must get a success on a Will challenge roll with 3 banes or gain 1d3 Insanity. Until the spell ends, gain the following benefits:

  • You gain a +50 bonus to Health
  • You cannot gain Insanity
  • You make attack rolls with 3 boons
  • Your attacks with weapons deal 5d6 extra damage
  • You impose 3 banes on the attack rolls made by creatures against you
  • At the end of each round, each creature you choose within your reach takes 3d6 damage

Aftereffect You must make a Will challenge roll with 5 banes. On a failure, you gain 3d6 Insanity and take a –1d6 penalty to Power that lasts for 1 week and 1 day. If you would go mad as a result of this Insanity gain, you suffer Battle Madness (see Shadow, page 118) as normal, but the madness ends only on a roll of a 6 and you take 2d6 damage at the end of each round until the madness ends.


What does the Demon Lord himself listen to?

If you know me at all, you know I have a great love of metal. Even as a guy wandering around, blinking in wonder at the horrors of being 40+, I refuse to give up my music and I will listen to growls, screeches, blistering guitars, and thundering drums until Father Death comes to fetch my soul to the Underworld. A few weeks ago, I assembled a list of inspirational books,  and had a few requests for my musical inspirations. I am, if anything, accommodating. The following list is metal only—death, doom, black, technical, heavy, whatever. I enjoy other music too (really, I do), but the focus here is on the hard stuff and stuff that influences me when thinking about the game. I’m only highlighting one album per artist, so if you like, explore the music. And, for Pete’s sake, support the artists.

Let’s do this:

Marrow of the Spirit by Agalloch

Tales from the Thousand Lakes by Amorphis

Slaughter the Soul by At the Gates

Bathory by Bathory

The Satanist by Behemoth

Heavy Breathing by Black Breath

Heaven & Hell by Black Sabbath

Grand Morbid Funeral by Bloodbath

Sect(s) 777 by Blut Aus Nord

Those Once Loyal by Bolt Thrower

Gin by Cobalt

Ylem by Dark Fortress

A Blaze in the Northern Sky by Darkthrone

Sunbather by Deafheaven

Human by Death

One by Demiricous

Tyranny of Souls by Bruce Dickinson

Monotheist by Celtic Frost

Last in Line by Dio

Indecent & Obscene by Dismember

Black Masses by Electric Wizard

Mafia by Fleshgod Apocalypse

Carving Out the Eyes of God by Goatwhore

Colored Sand by Gorguts

The Word, The Flesh, The Devil by In Solitude

The Infernal Storm by Incantation

Majesty and Decay by Immolation

The Number of the Beast by Iron Maiden

Das Seelenbrechen by Isahn

Screaming for Vengeance by Judas Priest

Them by King Diamond

Violent Revolution by Kreator

Southern Storm by Krisiun

The Ruiner by Made out of Babies

Wormwood by Marduk

Blood Mountain by Mastodon

De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas by Mayhem

Don’t Break the Oath by Mercyful Fate

Obzen by Meshuggah

Spine of God by Monster Magnet

Blessed are the Sick by Morbid Angel

Buried in Time by Mortuary Drap

The Light at the End of the World by My Dying Bride

Monumentomb by Nominon

Cause of Death by Obituary

Cosmogenesis by Obscura

Watershed by Opeth

The Plague Within by Paradise Lost

Rage for Order by Queensrÿche

Theogonia by Rotting Christ

Foulest Semen of a Sheltered Elite by The Ruins of Beverast

Irreversible Decay by Saille

Passage by Samael

Einsamkeit by Semen Datura

Chaos A.D. by Sepultura

Skandinavisk Misantropi by Skitliv

South of Heaven by Slayer

Epitome of Torture by Sodom

Dark Ages by Soulfly

Monoliths & Dimensions by Sun 0)))

Apocryphon by the Sword

Blissfucker by Trap Them

Likferd by Windir

Celestial Lineage by Wolves in the Throne Rom

The Beast by Vader

A Fragile Kin by Vallenfyre

The Wild Hunt by Watain

Witchkrieg by Witchery

The Great Cessation by Yob

Last week, on Twitter, I was asked if I was ever going to talk about Shadow of the Demon Lord’s “Appendix N.” For those of you not in the know, Appendix N comes from Advanced Dungeons & Dragons’ 1st edition Dungeon Master’s Guide, which listed all the works that influenced the game’s design. The books Gary Gygax included ranged from the familiar to the obscure, making it difficult to track many of them down. Reading them, I found, gave me insight into not only the mood and tone Gygax was chasing with D&D, but also provided explanations for why things worked they way they did in the game. I know I wasn’t alone in digging into the books during my stint as a designer on the 5th edition’s design team and we sought to recapture much of atmosphere those books imparted on game.

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Demon Lord’s Companion: A Sourcebook for Shadow of the Demon Lord RPG

Demon Lord's Companion for Shadow of the Demon LordAs the Demon Lord’s influence creeps across the land, it touches more people, awakening in them crippling dread, tempting them to commit unspeakable acts, or to rise up and take a stand and fight back against the spreading darkness. In the end times, all must choose a side, to save the world or watch it burn.

The Demon Lord’s Companion reveals new options for players and Game Masters alike, providing a host of new options such as:

  • Faun and Halfling ancestries
  • Six expert paths including the psychic and mountebank
  • A dozen master paths such as the blackguard, martial artist, and Alchemical Items, Forbidden Items, Marvels of Engineering, and new Potions
  • New rules for creating gear and using vehicles
  • Alchemy, Demonology, Telekinesis, and more new traditions of magic
  • Magical places, relics, new creatures, and more!

An essential addition to the Shadow of the Demon Lord line of products, the Demon Lord’s Companion is bound to take your games into darker and stranger places!

A Deeper Look into the Demon Lord’s Companion

Content for Shadow of the Demon Lord was never a problem. I spent the time leading up to the Kickstarter campaign designing, testing, redesigning, massaging, and doing all the work I needed to do to get the game as close to editing-ready as I could so I wouldn’t have to spend time during production to fill out the book—the last thing I needed was pressure to create on top of everything else. I wound up with enough material to fill another hundred pages beyond the 272 that made it into the book. (And, by the way, 272 was never the plan. I set 256 as a hard limit but we discovered during layout that we needed the extra pages to include all the content, despite my meticulous estimations and we still had to leave out a few pieces of art that I’m sure will make their way to you in future products.)

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Is the core mechanic based on a d20 system?

It is. For all non-attack tasks, your target number is 10. For attacks, your target number is the score of the attribute or characteristic used to resist the attack. The game increases/decreases difficulty with boons and banes. For every positive circumstance, you roll a boon. For every negative, you roll a bane. Boons/banes are d6s and they cancel each other out. You add the highest of your boons or subtract the lowest of your banes from your d20 roll.

I chose the d20 as the task resolution die because it’s familiar, most gamers have it, and it works exceptionally well with the rest of the system.

Will you share a bit about the resolution system, combat mechanics, magic and perhaps some snippets of text describing places of interest and/or other game lore?

How are you handling health?

Characters have a Health score. It indicates the maximum damage a character can take. So, if you have 12 Health, you can take 12 damage. When damage = Health, bad things happen to you. If you ever take damage equal to your Health in one shot, you die.

Presenting Health and damage in this way lets the game system move Health up and down without having to add different kinds of Health (temporary Health, negative Health, or any of that weirdness). The vigor spell increases Health by a couple of d6s. Being targeted by the spell doesn’t change your damage total, rather it changes how much damage you can take. Similarly, if your Health drops due to being drained by some unspeakable monster and it falls below your damage total, you would fall unconscious and face the “bad things.”

I thought about a wounds system a lot–being a WFRP guy and all, but I landed on the above since it helps the game meet the accessibility goal. This said, when your character is incapacitated (damage = Health), you have the option to take a wound. A wound removes some damage in return for getting a memento from the injury, you lose a finger, hand, eye, or something similar.

Is there going to be a critical hit system? If so, will you be using the mechanic like in SIFRP where the target can choose to take a critical hit to reduce HP?

There are no universal rules for rolling a 20 or a 1 on a d20. The 20 and 1 are numbers like any other. They do not guarantee success or failure.

However, three novice paths have talents that trigger on a roll of a 20. Warriors, for example, deal extra damage. Rogues can take an extra turn. Priests hand out boons to other characters that attack the same target. As well, all spells that resolve using attack rolls have special effects on a roll of a 20.

While I very much like critical hit systems, I decided for this game to leave them out, partly to keep the game streamlined and to keep them in check when there are several combatants in play.

Is Shadow of the Demon Lord good for convention style play? What about Online play? That is a one shot 3-4 hours in length. For higher level PCs, can these be created quickly?

Hell yes it is. This is a perfect game for convention play! At Winter Fantasy, new folks created expert characters in 15 to 20 minutes. In fact, one sitting adventures is what this game is all about.

How are stories (Adventures) set up? How does the system interface with such adventures i.e. I heard something about dials to up the apocalypse?

Adventures are two to four pages long. They have little tech inside them and instead point at things in the core book. The Shadow mechanic (apocalypse) layers over the adventures so you will be able to run them with any Shadow or no Shadow at all.

How mature are the adventures that you and the other writers make?

I’d peg adventures at PG-13. Could see going up to R for violence.

How easy is it to stay up NPCs and adversaries?

Pretty simple. The game include guidelines to help you. In short, creatures have the mechanics they need to have to do their thing.

Will there be combined stories to create campaigns?

As for connected adventures, I plan to release strings of 11 adventures in the future. We might even get one with a higher stretch goal!

Are the story packs or the fiction going to be grouped into their own big PDF? What about a physical book?

TBD. I’d love to say yes.

Does Shadow of the Demon Lord a have a default/static setting or is it a sandbox?

There is a setting but it is loose to allow a wide range of styles. The Worlds of the Demon Lord books will give you the tools to play in variety of settings; from Mad Max to sci-if.

Can you tell a bit more about the setting of the Empire ? Or is it explained in the core book?

Sure thing. The core rulebook zooms in on a frontier province of a Empire in ruins. The book details the region in broad strokes to allow customization, while zooming in on specific areas where adventures might take place. The Northern Reach, the default setting, is a landscape littered with the ruins of an ancient faerie kingdom. To the north lies the blast wastes of the Desolation, from which stumble hordes of undead driven by the Tomb Kings and dark magic from the Black Pyramids that drift across the sands. A string of crusader states forms a bulwark against the undead, and hold back the tide for now. The Empire, torn apart by an uprising of the slave soldiers (the orcs), spreads to the south.

Before the uprising, the Empire was taking the first steps toward industrialization. So you’ll see factories, at least one locomotive, pistols and rifles, balloons and zeppelins. Injecting magic into technology allows for clockwork people and other, fantastical “technomancy” elements.

Characters start at “Level 0” – what does this mean exactly?

Starting characters have no level. The first adventure explains how and why the characters come together as a group. Upon completing the adventure, the group forms at level 1. All characters in the group gain benefits from level 1. At this level, characters choose a novice path and gain the level 1 benefits from that path. At level 2, gain level 2 benefits from novice path. At level 3, everyone in the group picks an expert path and gains benefits for that level and so on.
Starting characters have two professions, which act like descriptors, and not much else.

Can we get a bit of info on how clockworks are going to operate? Will they be fairly autonomous, like warforged? or will the have parameters (like protect humanity), or somewhere in between like most Star Wars droids? Can they go mad? Or is it more like a virus in the system? Do they heal as biologicals do, or is it a repair system unique to them?

Clockworks are autonomous creatures that have two states: creature and object. They have keys in their backs that they cannot reach. The key is assumed to always be turning. When you roll a 1 on a d20, your clockwork character winds down at the end of the round and becomes an insensate object until another creature uses an action to turn the key. There’s plenty of flexibility in their form and appearance and personality. Clockworks are created by stealing souls from the Underworld and binding them to mechanical bodies. The souls usually have no memory of what happened to them. As creatures, they heal as creatures. As objects, they can be repaired.

Advantages include armored body (respectable boost to Defense), immune to poison, disease, fatigue, and aging. Plus no need to breathe, eat, or drink.

How many careers/paths are there?

Roughly 12+ Ancestries, 4 Novice paths, 24 Expert Paths, 76 Master Paths.

Why there are more experts than novices (And more Master than experts)?

Main reason is ease of entry into the game. at level 1 you have to make a choice on your first path – if there were 72 novice paths to pick from that choice would be very daunting. As it stands with 4 the choice is pretty easy. The game also is designed to become more complex (more toys to play with) as you go up on level, so with more toys comes more options (paths).

  1. warrior (novice) is a guy who fights a lot. Champion (expert) is a guy who fights for a cause, while Paladin (expert) is a guy who fights for his god, an Assassin (expert) is a guy who fights with specific tactics, and a Spellbinder (expert) is a guy who fuses his weapon with magic to fight. Going on to Master could focus these even more – or could broaden your skill set… depending on what you want to do and what you have done in your story so far.

Where can I find add-ons?

Add-ons are two-thirds down the main page under the banner “Add-Ons.” Simply adjust your pledge amount to reflect the items you want to add.

Are you using a pledge manager? Will I be able to add items after the campaign through the Pledge Manager?

Yes, and Yes. I will be using Backer Kit.

While I see that fulfillment for print copies of the book appears to be set for December, is there any chance that PDFs will go out sooner than that?

The PDF of the rule book goes out to backers when we send the book to the printer. It should be August or September. The rest of the PDFs will follow as soon as they are ready!

Will there be printed bonus materials?

If we unlock enough of them to compile into book form, I can see adding another backer level to deliver the product. We already have a substantial amount of additional content, with the Demon Lord’s Companion, however. But, the stretch goal content won’t come out all at once and instead will follow the book’s release at a regular rate. In short, I’m considering options.

What are your plans for the GM Screens?

First we have a sexy handmade GM screen that is/was available as a limited edition Hidden Cultist backer level (currently sold out). There is also a $12 add-on for standard GM Screen. This tri-fold screen measures 16” across and stands 4.5” tall. Finally, I plan to release inserts for a customizable GM screen. (…), Yes, it will be available as a PDF also.

Do I need something more than the books available here?

You need dice, but everything else you need to play will be included in the main book.

What color are the dice? Are there choices? How many do you need for the game?

The dice pack include a black or smoke gray d20 plus one white (boon), one black (black), and one red (damage). One d20 and three d6 should cover you.

Are the unlocked bonus PDFs exclusive to this Kickstarter? Or will they become available for purchase (say, through DriveThruTPG for instance) after release?

Everything unlocked by stretch goals, except for The Disciple of the Demon Lord Expert Path and the Exclusive Adventure will be for sale after the Kickstarter through DriveThruRPG, RPGnow, and other outlets.

Tell me about the Disciple of the Demon Lord Expert Path?

The Disciple of the Demon Lord Expert Path is a Kickstarter exclusive path that will not appear in other products. The path functions like other paths, but it is far larger as it will infect your character with demonic power, awaking a wide range of weird features and capabilities.

Is the Character Sheet really going to have enough space for spellcaster characters?           

No there is not enough room in the ‘magic’ area for a pure spell caster to write every spell and all its info and we knew that going into it. We wanted a simple page design. We are currently working on an additional “magic” sheet that may or may not be included in this KS but will be available at some point.

What are your plans regarding 3rd party licensing. Do you plan on having an open policy, a closed policy, or something in between?


When playing with the Worlds of the Demon Lord expansion, Do the guns change the combat too primarily ranged or is melee combat still viable?

Melee is still very viable given the scarcity of ammunition.

If you grab the “all settings” add-on, you’ll get the Worlds of the Demon Lord expansion?

Yes. As will the Unspeakable Things and the Grand Grimoire.(possibly the 200k stretch goal…maybe???)

Are the all of the ancestries applicable to the settings in the Worlds of the Demon Lord expansion?

You can use whatever ancestries you like in whatever setting we do. The scorched Earth setting of World has room for orcs, goblins, jotun, and clockwork.

With World of the Demon Lord being unlocked will any of the Adventure packs from the stretch goals be in that setting?

The Worlds of the Demon Lord expansion includes one adventure for the setting and many adventures can be adapted for the world by just changing how you describe them. But. BUT. I think we’ll do at least one set in the world. And we can always do more, later.

Will the Unspeakable Things and the Grand Grimoire (and possibly the 200k item) will have similar print options if unlocked?


Is there a way to get a signed copy?

I plan to sign the hell out of the physical copies. For free even!