Shadow of the Demon Lord is a roleplaying game of dark fantasy—a genre that weaves elements of horror into a fantasy world. In the game, you create and play characters struggling to survive in a land sliding toward oblivion, a place infested by demons, roaming mobs of undead, strange magic, unhinged cultists, and all in the ruins of the last great empire of mankind. If you love Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, the Ravenloft and Midnight settings, Joe Abercrombie’s The First Law series, Glen Cook’s Black Company books, or heavy metal music, then this is the game is for you.
The game takes place in a world standing on the brink of the apocalypse. What is the cause? Who is responsible? The Demon Lord, of course! This being of staggering power and boundless evil authors the catastrophes blighting the landscape. Each new horror released reflects the Demon Lord's approach, the touch of its shadow, and its growing hunger for not only the planet but the entirety of all things. Although near, the Demon Lord remains outside the cosmos, rattling the cage of its prison as it strains to escape the Void to visit catastrophic destruction to your world.
The apocalyptic tone is on a dial. If you don’t want to blow everything up right away, tune it down low and the game plays fine as a less perilous, dark fantasy roleplaying game. But if you are inclined to crank up the volume, the game provides several catastrophic templates you can use to model how the world is falling apart. These templates represent the Shadow of the Demon Lord; wherever the Shadow falls, chaos and upheaval are born. The Shadow might loose global pandemics, famines, droughts, earthquakes, demon princes to stomp across the countryside, the living dead, and other world-spanning disasters and threats.
The game system helps you tell interesting and exciting stories. To make this happen, the game system is easy to learn, plays fast, and requires little preparation to play. All these ensure both novice and veteran players can enjoy the game together. Here are a few ways the game met its goals:
Easy to Learn: The GM decides if a character’s action happens, doesn’t happen, or might happen. If it might happen, a roll of the die determines the outcome. You use the core mechanic to resolve any task, whether you're punching a demon in the face, trying to kick down a door to get away from that demon, or dodge the vomit it spews from its mouth.
Your character develops with the story. Each time your group completes an adventure, the group's level increases. Each increase adds cool stuff to your character. You might learn spells, a trick with a weapon, or some thing else that might help you survive. All benefits you gain come from the paths your character follows. The first adventure you play through helps you decide the first path you will choose. If you spend a lot of time fighting, you might become a warrior. If you cast a spell from a tome bound in human skin and barbwire, you might become a magician. At higher group levels, you choose additional paths that might extend previous choices or take your character in all new directions. You can choose any path you like so you can play the character you want to play.
Plays Fast: Stories (adventures) are playable in one game session lasting from 3 to 5 hours. Stories are short, covering about one page per hour of expected play. You can also complete a typical campaign (a string of 11 connected adventures) in 11 game sessions. The core book has rules for playing characters up to level 10. This means that if you meet once a week for a 4-hour session each time, you can complete your campaign in about two months. That’s six campaigns a year!
The benefit of short campaigns is that the game lets you tell more stories, create more characters, and experience more of the game's options. As a player, you’re not locked into one character for one year or longer. You can have several. And, as a Game Master, it is possible to run a complete campaign in a compressed time span. Best of all, the campaign brevity gives other interested members of the group a chance to become the Game Master.
Little Preparation: You can make a starting character in about 5 minutes. You make one big choice, note the information on your character sheet, and you’re ready to go. And a Game Master can prepare for a game in the time it takes to read a couple of pages of text.
If you'd like more information about the game design, please visit schwalbentertainment.com. There, you’ll find news about the game, design diaries, and much more!
The game’s complete and ready to move into production. I spent most of 2014 writing, designing, testing, developing, and putting the game in front of hundreds of people. Now I need your help getting Shadow of the Demon Lord into the hands of my editors and then into layout, through printing, and onto your gaming table. It’s ready, but I need your help to make it happen.