Find out the latest news and releases for Shadow of the Demon Lord and Godless from Schwalb Entertainment.


I’ve had a few questions about why the game pins the target number for action rolls and resistance rolls at 10. Here’s the thing. Shadow of the Demon Lord does not pretend that your characters are moving through an invisible lattice of numbers, nor does it posit that the game system is always running in the background. Instead, the game is one in which you and your friends tell stories about an ensemble cast of characters and the horrors they face, the conspiracies they uncover, the weird locations they explore, and the challenges they overcome through it all. The rules are there for when something would happen in the story and you’re not sure about the outcome.

This means if your character attempts to climb a wall that has plenty of handholds and he or she is not under pressure, he or she climbs the darn wall. Why? It’s a reasonable outcome and it keeps the story moving forward. Now if your character made the same attempt while being attacked by winged demons that poop blood and fire on you, the outcome is no longer so certain and a roll would be appropriate.

Action rolls assume that a typical person in the world has about an even chance for success or failure. The game nudges it up by 5% to make tasks a bit more favorable and also so you can look at the die when you roll it and know you succeed when you see two numbers on the die. Setting the target number at 10 is also easy for the GM to remember. A GM doesn’t have to remember a stack of different target numbers and recall what target numbers go to which task.

Obviously some tasks are harder than others and other tasks are easier. Enter boons and banes. Each positive circumstance gives you a boon. Each negative circumstance gives you a bane. Boons and banes cancel each other out. Boons might source from talents gained from your paths, assistance from another character, a tool, or a magical effect. Banes can come from afflictions such as being fatigued or poisoned or from environmental and situational factors. Since you don’t add boons or banes, you’re just looking for the highest number on the d6s. The most you’ll ever add or subtract from your roll is 6, so handing out extra boons puts a limit on inflating numbers and keeps the d20 roll important.

Here are a few example situations where action rolls could come into play.

A character attempts to walk across a tightrope

Since most people can’t pull this off, a GM would call for a roll to see if the character can move across the tightrope or make some progress moving across it. The surface’s narrowness warrants one bane. The bounciness of the rope warrants another. And let’s say the character carries a lot of gear, imposing a third bane. It’s possible, but unlikely.

Now, if the character has a profession related to the task, the GM might knock off one or two of the banes. And if that character wasn’t carrying a lot of gear and wasn’t under pressure, the character should probably cross the tightrope without having to make a roll. Why? Because the person knows how to walk across tightropes and is going to make it across unless there’s some environmental effect (wind) or circumstance (the tightrope is covered in mayonnaise) that would make the attempt difficult.

A character attempts to open a lock with a set of lock picks

Most people don’t know how to use lock picks, but a character making the attempt could be lucky. The GM might call for a roll. Assuming the character does not have a profession related to the task, the GM imposes a bane if the lock is ordinary or just rule the task impossible if the lock is superior. A character with a burglar profession or something similar would just succeed on the task—again, because the character knows how to pick locks—if he or she is not under pressure. The character may have to make an action roll to unlock a complex lock or simpler lock if the attempt is made in a tough circumstance.

A character attempts to kick in a door

A strong character ought to be able to kick in the door. Yes, yes, it’s funny the first time a strong character fails to knock open a door thanks to a crappy roll and a scrawny character comes in behind the first character and succeeds on the roll. But after a couple of times, it gets a bit weird. Rather than even dealing with that situation, the GM should rule that the strong character kicks down the blasted door and keep the story going. If the door is secured, then the GM could call for a Strength roll and impose one or more banes depending on how the door has been secured.

Final Thoughts

You roll dice when you don’t know what happens next. Common sense prevails in Shadow of the Demon Lord. If it makes sense that something should happen, then let it. If it doesn’t, don’t let. If it could happen, but you’re not sure, let the dice decide.

SotDL-1My approach to creating adventures for Shadow of the Demon Lord comes from realizations I had while working on and running other games. I like big, chunky adventures just like everyone else, but I realized I rarely ran them all the way through till the end. Sometimes, the players take unexpected directions, requiring me to develop the story in new ways, leaving behind pages of otherwise great content. Other times, the game just falls apart when real life bullied its way into our fun. Rather than pretend life works differently, I stripped down adventures to their essential elements. Here are some broad strokes to show you how I did it.




I don’t plan to release many, if any, print adventures. The digital medium is cheaper on you and on me. Adventures will have a landscape, three-column format so I can fit more on the page. I don’t anticipate adventures running more than 5 pages in length so you can read them quickly and run right away.

Most adventures have the following structure.

Objective: The adventure presents to you what has to happen for the group needs to do to complete the story.

The Situation: The adventure summarizes what’s going on.

The Scenes: The adventure lays out the scenes, characters, and events tied directly to the adventure in concise chunks for easy digestion.


Most, if not all, adventures can be played in a single session that lasts two to four hours. This makes them excellent options for convention games and one-shots, yes, but it makes them great for home games too. Why? I find when I start an adventure and stop before we complete it, saving the rest for the next session, I wind up missing or gaining people, forcing everyone to bend the story to accommodate the new or lost characters. As well, you lose valuable time recapping what happened last time, forget essential events, or misremember them. Groups can get through a page of adventure material in an hour. Hence, the short page counts map well to single-session play.

No Excess

You won’t find  excess in Shadow of the Demon Lord adventures. The adventures tell you what you need to know and nothing more. Descriptions are similarly sparse. It’s your job, as the GM, to strike the right mood for your group. If you want to paint the walls with blood, go for it. The adventure lays out the basics and leaves the rest for you to present in whatever way you want.

Here’s an example of a “room” description (not edited yet, but it’s a taste):

  1. Beastmen Encampment

The beastmen encamped here intend to take Thorpe by force and sacrifice of people to their dark god. The beastmen captured Franz, one of the treasure hunters, not long after he escaped the bloody bones and have kept him a prisoner here. They’ve been cutting on him for a day so far and are eating him alive. He has been too brutalized to be of any assistance to the characters.

In addition to the fomor hunting Delia (see “Survivor”), 4 fomor and 2 gnolls make up the band. They are lax about security and may be easily surprised. None knows about the Shrine and nor do they have interest in it.

They have a few weeks of rations, a barrel of sour wine, an old sword, a longbow, quiver of 30 arrows, and a sack filled with 15 ss, 76 cp, and silverware and other valuables worth about 3 ss, all looted from nearby farms.

Ripe for Expansion

Since adventures are barebones in design, you can easily add to them for a longer play experience. Just add more scenes, more challenges, introduce complications, or whatever you want to thicken the story. Similarly, since you create the connective tissue linking one adventure to the next, it’s easy to clip them all together to form a saga (aka campaign).