Things I love about Shadow of the Demon Lord (without having even played it)

Posted on August 2, 2018 by

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I’ve owned Shadow of the Demon Lord ever since a friend on twitter was gracious enough to gift me a copy two years ago, but I’ve yet to play it. That’s mostly due to my group being a little adverse to trying new systems for fantasy, when D&D is perfectly fine for that. When we felt it wasn’t (mid-4e era), we moved on to Dragon Age, and then swung back to D&D with 5e. So it’s a tough sell to convince them to try a new fantasy RPG right now–but boy, I’m dying to try SotDL, and I think I’m close to convincing them to switch for a bit. It reads like it’s so much fun. As a ruleset, it drips with flavor, it knows what kind of game it wants to be, and it’s shameless about it. Its fluff is dark, gritty, and metal as fuck. I’m going to list five things I love about this game, without having even played it.

Core

Metal fucking cover

It’s made for busy people. This may be my top choice as to why I love this game. It knows I’m a bit pressed for gaming time, and it’s designed to work around that assumption. Adventures are light on prep, and short enough to finish in a session or two.

Character advancement is amazing. A path system spanning the entire 1-10 levels allows PCs to be whatever they want, and is partly shaped by the story. If you’re a thief who steals a magic tome, and you want to learn to cast from it, you may choose a Wizard path when presented with the option. It’s that simple. Want to play a shapechanging cleric who dabbles in thievery to satisfy an addiction? Done.

Core mechanic is simple. Challenge rolls? Roll 10 or higher. Attributes modify your roll, along with certain bonuses or penalties. That’s it. 10+, you succeed, and if you fail at something, you can’t try again under the same circumstances. No spamming lock picking rolls until the lock clicks. 🙂

Combat rules are cool. A PC is face to face arguing with an antagonist and his goons, and she decides to swing her sword at him. All the player has to do is resolve her attack, and combat begins. Players get to take their turns in any order that they choose between two phases: Fast or Slow Turns, enemies always act last during both turns. With no hard break in the storytelling to roll for initiative, the narrative just flows into the combat. It reads great, can’t wait to see it in practice.

GM levels you up. The GM decides when to level up a party. Want to experience all ten levels but have limited playing time? Level after every adventure and get there quickly. Or, slow down the pace for an extended campaign. FWIW, the game assumes the party levels up at the end of every adventure. And best of all, the party gains levels between adventures, there’s no stopping an adventure to level up during a long rest.

There’s more things I like than just these, like the implied setting and other mechanical bits, but these are my top reasons for loving this game. I think Robert J Schwalb built a great fantasy RPG, and I’m already hoping for a space opera game using these rules. If I get to play SotDL, I’ll write up a series of posts about the experience.


 

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