Reading Shadow of the Demon Lord: Part 1

shadow-of-the-demon-lordOK. So I picked Shadow of the Demon Lord up at Conception last weekend. Actually, I won it in the raffle at the end, which I appreciated a lot. I had my eye on the game for a while and picked up a bit of the electronic stuff, but the book I had on a sort of wish list for consideration at some later date.

Anyway, I’d been running Symbaroum mainly for the convention itself, so the themes of corruption and doom appealed to me. Shadow of the Demon Lord has this world faced with impending disaster because the Demon Lord’s roving eye has discovered it and Galactus-style that likely spells the end.

In preparing Symbaroum for the con, I had actually looked to various sources for adventure ideas. The core book for the game does a great deal for building up some atmosphere but I needed a bit more. I turned to various sources, including the PDF adventures published for Shadow, Shadows of Esteren, Book 2: Travels, some old copies of Dungeon and Perilous Deeps (a neat supplement for Dungeon World that uses the approaches from The Perilous Wilds to lay out how different people create dungeon settings in a loose, collaboration fashion does up with random tables).

Anyway, Shadow of the Demon Lord seemed to be a good next step for me. I liked the adventures and the atmosphere of corruption.

Right now, I’m about 50-pages in. The game breaks down – roughly – into character generation, rules, GM principles, background and bestiary.

Unlike Symbaroum, the book doesn’t have the old-school-style adventure included. Schwalb Entertainment has opted for a pile of pretty cheap PDF adventures instead. I can see the sense in that because once you’ve run an adventure you likely won’t use it again. Call of Cthulhu 7th edition struck me as odd for this very reason as it includes TWO full adventures, which seems overkill!

I have read a little of the background material and have worked through the some of the character information and basic rules. I’m just at the start of the section on Combat.

Physically, I liked the glossy book, but I’m not as won over by the art as I was with Symbaroum. The layout I’m good with and the level of editing and proofreading also seem fine. I haven’t come across anything glaring.

What I have found worries me a little, because I find the rules trying too hard. I go for a level with games like Symbaroum and Dragon Age where having established a core mechanic you don’t get layers of details slathered on. I know how damage and hazards work in DA or the principles of bonus or penalty dice in Symbaroum – and from there I can work it out for myself.

Shadow has just delivered me a half page explaining how riding a mount impacts character attack options, movement, the possibility of pinning if knocked prone and so on. I didn’t need all that. I have a section about Grabbing to look forward to and I’ve stepped through a page of character conditions. I’m fearful of something a little too much like Pathfinder or D&D, rather than the lighter game I’d hoped for. I understand that Robert Schwalb has a history with D&D, but the introduction makes much of his hope to bring something of his own to the table. I thought his work with Monte Cook Games and Green Ronin might have offered a lighter touch…

I’m not going to make any final judgment yet; I have the rest of the book to read. At the moment I remain open to possibilities and have heard good feedback from people who have already played. Fingers-crossed.


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