Here’s the first rules preview for Shadow of the Demon Lord.
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Find out the latest news and releases for Shadow of the Demon Lord and Godless from Schwalb Entertainment.
My 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.
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):
- 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).
Here it is, in all its glory. Join the Demon Lord’s Army and burn down your world!
Tomorrow I launch the Kickstarter campaign for my new apocalyptic horror-fantasy roleplaying game, Shadow of the Demon Lord. As you are likely to hear a lot from me over the next 30 days, I’m going to keep this post brief.
I’m using Kickstarter to crowd-source the funds I need to shepherd the game through production. By production, I mean editing, layout, art acquisition, and, of course, printing. The good news is that the writing is done. I just have to pare down the excess to fit a 128-page full-color softcover book. If we fund, the game will be in your hands by the end of the year. To go with the game, I’m also offering a ~20 page PDF that includes five adventures, each playable in a single session, and 36 page or so PDF starting guide that extracts the character creation section to help you and your friends make starting characters quickly.
Exceeding the Goal
I’m offering two ways to make the project bigger and better. First, I’m using Achievements. You’ll find on the Kickstarter page a list of possible achievements that unlock goodies. Each achievement attained gets crossed off the list. At ten, twenty, and thirty achievements attained, the project gets better—a free 4-page adventure for all backers, 32-pages of content added to the rulebook, and a surprise.
Second, I have a bunch of sexy stretch goals that get revealed once we fund. A stretch goal, in case you don’t know, is a level of funding above and beyond the goal. About a third of the stretch goals involve upgrading the rulebook, usually increments of 32 pages and turning the softback into a hardback book—an expensive leap, but well worth it. The rest of the stretch goals involve additional adventures by some of the finest designers in the business and, eventually, additional supplements. I have 2-4 page adventures line up from Ken Hite, Steve Winter, Skip Williams, Rich Baker, Jason Bulmahn, Monte Cook, Chris Pramas, Steve Townshend, TS Luikart, Stan!, Bruce Cordell, Steve Kenson, Shane Hensley, Miranda Horner, Scott Fitzgerald Gray, David Noonan, Cam Banks, Chris Sims, Matt Forbeck, and Ed Greenwood! I’m also offering fiction from Erin Evans, Erik Scott de Bie, Richard Lee Byers, and Elizabeth Bear. And if we do extremely well, higher stretch goals unlock additional print books that include a bestiary, big book of magic, world expansions, and a backer level that lets you get everything in print.
How You Can Help
The best way you can help is to back the campaign. Choose whatever funding level you can and make a pledge. Every little bit helps. Remember, you’re not on the hook for anything unless the campaign funds. Once the campaign is over, assuming it funds, you can choose your rewards and any add-ons you might want—dice, stack of printed character sheets, extra books, and so on.
In addition to backing the campaign, I need your help to spread the word. Raising awareness about the product creates additional backers and additional voices to create even more backers.
To entice you a bit more, here are some profile pics you can use in case you’re too shy to spread the word.
Last, I want to say thanks. Since making the announcement at Geek Media Expo in October, I have had the pleasure of running games at stores and conventions all over the place. I’ve been interviewed and been a guest on podcasts. I’ve gained so many new friends from all over the world who have shown nothing but support and excitement for this project. Thank you all. Thanks for reading and thanks for playing. We’re close to getting this book out the door and into your hands. Let’s make it happen.
The Kickstarter campaign launches soon (March 12th!), so I’d like to show you how easy it is to make a character for Shadow of the Demon Lord. We’ll make a starting character, an individual that does not yet belong to a group and thus has no level. Let’s get started.
First, let’s grab the character sheet.
The character sheet concentrates all your numbers in the middle so you’re always looking in the same place when you need to make a roll or when the GM makes a roll against your character. You can use the outer circles to make notes about what your character owns, talents gained, spells learned, and other bits. You can put this information wherever you want.
I start by determining my character’s professions. Professions were named “skills” in earlier drafts of the game, but I changed the name since these bits are descriptive rather than mechanical. They tell you something about your character. I could choose my starting professions or make them up. I like rolling dice, so let’s do that. First, I roll a d6 and find the result on the profession background table. I’ll do this twice. I rolled a 3 and a 5, giving me a common background and wilderness background.
For the common professions, I roll a d20 and find the result on the Common Professions table. A 17 tells me I can be a painter, poet, sculptor, or writer. The “*” next to this entry means my character knows how to read and write one language I know. I think I’ll choose writer.
For my wilderness profession, a 3 gives me charcoal burner or woodcutter. Interesting. I’m going to drop my writer profession and take whittler instead (it’s like a sculptor). I’ll take charcoal burner as my other profession. I note the results on my character sheet and now I’m ready to choose my Ancestry.
Your ancestry tells you about your people and from where you came. I like playing humans, generally, so I’ll choose the Human ancestry. Looking at the entry, I find out some information about humans in the world followed by a short table to help me come up with a story for my human character. I’m going to roll. I get a 4. I like the idea of the militia and note this on my sheet.
The Human entry also tells me my character’s starting numbers, skills, and talents. I just need to record this information on my sheet in the spaces provided. I can increase one attribute by 1 point by decreasing another attribute. I think I’ll boost Strength by 1 and drop Willpower by 1. After all, my character saw some action and I think he was probably scarred by his experiences. For my Natural Talent, I’m going to increase Intellect by 1. Once I record all the numbers, I can fill in the modifiers for the attributes by simply subtracting 10 from my scores.
A starting character gets a weapon, some gear, and a choice of one special item. I’m going to take a staff and, for my special item, a healer’s kit. I record all this on my character sheet.
I also get a random interesting thing. First, I roll a d6 to find the table and then roll a d20 to determine the thing. I rolled a 6 and a 19. The 6 indicates Table 6 and the 19 gives me the result of “a demanding spouse.” I’ll put this on my sheet as well.
Building your Story
My character is almost ready to play. The final part of the character creation chapter presents guidance and tables to help bring the character to life.
Name: I call my character Hugh. I always liked Hugh the Hand from the Deathgate Cycle.
Age: I roll 3d6 and consult the Age table. I rolled a 9, so it seems Hugh is all grown up.
Appearance: I roll 3d6 and consult the Appearance table. I rolled an 11. That tells me Hugh is average looking.
Build: Again, I roll 3d6 and consult the Build table. A 7 tells me Hugh is a bit skinny.
Background Element: This entry tells me what makes my character exceptional (or not). First, I roll a d6 to see if I had a setback or a windfall. A 2 gives me a setback. I roll a d20 to see what form the setback takes. A 16 tells me I witnessed a crime.
Personality: There’s lots of information about how to build a personality, but I just want to jump in and play. I can roll 3d6 to determine my personality randomly. A 4 tells me that my character is something of a misanthrope. That fits given his career choice of charcoal burner. It’s not the most social of occupations. And the demanding spouse might sharpen my character’s disdain for others.
Having recorded this information on my sheet, I’m ready to play! That’s it. It’s that simple. Here’s Hugh’s character sheet.