The Little Death: Mission 4 for Punkapocalyptic the RPG

The V Reich seeks to wipe out a mutant enclave with an atomic bomb. Who will stop them?

Murder by Numbers details the Correct, their beliefs, their practices, and their true motivations, as well as various ways you can weave them into your Shadow of the Demon Lord games.

For today’s installment of Weird Tales, let’s dive right in and create a character for Shadow of the Weird Wizard. You make a character by making four big choices: attributes, ancestry, background, and identity. Here we go!

Attributes

Strength, Agility, Intellect, and Will provide the foundation of your character and describe areas in which you excel and those in which you don’t. Each attribute has a score, a number from 1 to 20, and a modifier, the score minus ten. The character creation includes a short table with four arrays. You can choose an array on your own or roll a d20 to randomize which array you take. I’m going to just choose 12 (+2), 11 (+1), 10 (+0), and 9 (–1) and assign them, in order, to Strength, Agility, Intellect, and Will.

I also have a Defense, Damage Dice, and Level. This is a starting character, so I’m level 1/2. That might seem like a strange number, but the game uses level for creatures too and creatures can be level 1/8, 1/4, 1/2, 1, 2, and so on. Level 0 indicates a non-combatant.

All characters start with 1d6 in their Damage Dice. Whenever you successfully attack, you roll all your Damage Dice and apply the total as damage to the target. As you gain levels, your Damage Dice go up and you might also be able to divide them into multiple attacks. More on that later.

My Defense equals my Agility score. If my character picks up armored clothing, this number gets a bit higher. So anyway, here’s what we have so far:

Bob the Adventurer

Level 1/2

Strength 12 (+2)

Agility 11 (+1)             Defense 11

Intellect 10 (+0)        Damage Dice 1d6

Will 9 (–1)

Ancestries

The next step is to pick or randomly determine my character’s ancestry. Right now, I’ve designed 20 ancestries that include a mix of the expected folks and a few surprises. Ancestries tell you what you look like, give you a couple of traits, determine your Health and Size, and give you one or more language skills. Since I’m feeling cheeky, I’m going to make an orc. Here’s the unedited entry:


Orc

Many orcs live in extended tribes controlled by religious leaders in the most desolate places in the wilderness. Orcs have fought with other peoples at many times over the years, warring over resources, territory, and insults, real or imagined, and their natural strength and ferocious manner of fighting has earned them their dangerous reputation. Orcs by nature are much like anyone else, but their religious leaders have great influence over them and preach violence and ruin as the paths to salvation. Many tribes come under this dread influence and commit untold atrocities in the name of their dark masters. Orcs freed from the religious tyranny can and do pursue other paths than wanton violence, but the people who speak on behalf of their gods goad them to ever more outrageous acts.

As an orc, you stand 6 feet tall or taller and weigh 200 to 300 pounds. You have brutish features, with a pronounced bone ridge above your eyes, a wide mouth, and overlarge incisors that might be large enough to consider tusks. Many orcs have olive, green, or gray skin, and dark hair, but any coloration is possible.

Health 13; Size 1

Language Skill Orcish.

Night Vision You ignore obscurement caused by shadows.

Sunlight Weakness You are impaired while in areas lit by sunlight.

 

Now that I have chosen my ancestry, here’s what my character looks like now:

Bob the Adventurer

Level 1/2 Ancestry Orc

Strength 12 (+2)         Health 13

Agility 11 (+1)             Defense 11

Intellect 10 (+0)          Damage Dice 1d6

Will 9 (–1)                   Size 1

Skills Orcish

Traits Night Vision, Sunlight Weakness

Background

WW includes ten broadly conceived backgrounds to explain your “story so far.” Background gives you your skills and your starting equipment. I think Bob the Adventurer will have an academic background. Unedited text as follows:


Academic

The mentor who took you under his or her wing opened your mind to the great truths of the world. You studied literature, science, maybe even magic. Your education could have been informal, having a tutor guide your education, or you might have attended one of the great institutions of learning. Thanks to your studies, you know a great deal about many different subjects.

Skills: Learn four skills chosen from the Language or Lore categories.

Starting Equipment: A set of scholar’s clothes, a quarterstaff, knife, backpack, canteen, 3 days of rations, tinderbox, 5 torches, and a writing kit.

I get to choose four skills. Most skills have no mechanics attached to them; they merely describe things you know how to do. Skills subdivide into Armor Skills, Language Skills, Lore Skills, and Weapon Skills. Bob needs to chat up his friends, so I take Common for one skill. I want Bob to be an adventuring archeologist, so I’ll pick up Ancient History and Folklore. And, just for kicks, lets add Carousing. Here’s where we are now:

Bob the Adventurer

Level 1/2 Ancestry Orc Background Academic

Strength 12 (+2)         Health 13

Agility 11 (+1)             Defense 11

Intellect 10 (+0)          Damage Dice 1d6

Will 9 (–1)                   Size 1

Skills Common, Orcish; Ancient History, Carousing, Folklore

Traits Night Vision, Sunlight Weakness

Equipment Scholar’s clothes, quarterstaff, knife, backpack, canteen, 3 days of rations, tinderbox, 5 torches, and a writing kit.

Identity

The identity section gives you a set of tables to help you realize the character you want to play. Tables cover appearance, homeland, personality, outlook, empathy, morality, dependability, relationships with other characters, and religious beliefs. After considering the tables within we’re ready for Bob to go on his first adventure!

Bob the Adventurer

Level 1/2 Ancestry Orc Background Academic

Strength 12 (+2)         Health 13

Agility 11 (+1)             Defense 11

Intellect 10 (+0)          Damage Dice 1d6

Will 9 (–1)                   Size 1

Skills Common, Orcish, Wildspeak; Ancient History, Carousing, Folklore

Traits Night Vision, Sunlight Weakness

Equipment Scholar’s clothes, quarterstaff, knife, backpack, canteen, 3 days of rations, tinderbox, 5 torches, and a writing kit.

Roleplaying Bob is a tall and thin adult orc, who looks pretty normal. He comes from the wilderness (which adds Wildspeak to his list of languages). He doesn’t like crowds, he tends to roll with the punches, he connects with other people, but he doesn’t like to help others unless he has to. He’s good about doing what he says he’ll do. He’s a member of the Church of the High One.

 

 

 

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!