So, I needed another dark fantasy RPG like I needed a second nose. Between Lamentations of the Flame Princess, Shadows of Esteren, Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, Witch Hunter, various iterations of Ravenloft, and endless stream of well produced contenders in this ring, I could die without seeing another one.
Or so I thought.
Shadow of the Demon Lord is a vat grown monstrosity to be reckoned with. It isn’t so much what is new, but that it is a much needed synthesis of stuff I just wanted all in one game.
It has a branching career based character progression akin to that found in Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay. However, SotDL does it with a bit more heroic focus and makes it more accessible to folks who can’t get into the idea of their character being a dock worker or a rat catcher for a significant portion of the game.
It has cool races that seem familiar but different. Orcs, Changelings, Clockworks, Goblins, and Dwarves are all presented with a twist and, although I normally am really unforgiving about the continued iterations of some of these creatures, Mr. Schwalb did a wonderful job of twisting them just enough to be exciting again. The races also feel very much integrated and not as flamboyant in their presentation as something like Eberron.
It has a fantastic dark and weird setting premise with GM and player options that substantiate rather than just imply. It is also accessible to a wider audience than the EXTREME tone of something like Lamentations of the Flame Princess (which I ADORE, it’s just not for everyone). I mean, when I run it for my players, it will very much be an adults only experience, but Shadow of the Demon Lord can certainly be about the good fight and holding the line at the end of the world as much as it could be a nihilistic, heavy metal romp through all things bloody and corrupt.
The rules are simple but novel and so very, very clean. Although characters advance, you don’t get this feeling that they’re knocking down bowling pins with dragon masks. The feeling of challenge and stakes is intense without being oppressive.
In fact, Shadow of the Demon Lord can actually PROTECT you from insurmountable darkness. Like when I hid between its covers on Christmas Day, hiding from my in-laws…
George Holland is an assistant manager at Games & Stuff and really enjoys a wide variety of RPGs even though it seems he only get excited enough to write these things when their is sufficient blood and awfulness involved.
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