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Shadow of the Demon Lord
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Shadow of the Demon Lord
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Shadow of the Demon Lord
Publisher: Schwalb Entertainment
by Dario T. N. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 04/26/2018 02:09:05

An interesting evolution of d20 system, more simple in most things, and adding sanity and corruption mechanics, but is the fluff I love. More details here

[5 of 5 Stars!]
Shadow of the Demon Lord
Publisher: Schwalb Entertainment
by Robin L. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 06/18/2017 06:37:31

Wonderfully grim setting with a simple system. The bastard child of Call of Cthulhu and D&D is a true spiritual successor to WFRP.

Loved it.

[5 of 5 Stars!]
Shadow of the Demon Lord
Publisher: Schwalb Entertainment
by Jeffrey B. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 01/13/2017 12:50:34
  1. Delightfully Dark
  2. Easy to learn, especially if you are familiar with 5th Edition Dungeons & Dragons
  3. Tons of player options
  4. While this book is all you need to play it, there is plenty of support material for those who want a bit more

[5 of 5 Stars!]
Shadow of the Demon Lord
Publisher: Schwalb Entertainment
by Earnest C. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 12/31/2016 07:58:11

This was one of the first things I ever backed on on Kickstarter, and it did not disappoint. Amazingly simple, yet complex desgin that does multiclassing right. So many combinations of character options that it is ridiculous. Not only that but the world and it's lore is fantastic. Character creation is swift, combat is unencumbered by flexible rules, and the Monsters and magic in this game can lliterally make your character crap their pants. This game is in regular rotation with both of my gaming groups - in person and on Roll20! Only criticism is the level progression takes a hard stop at level 10, but by the time you get there you'll be such a BAMF you may not even notice, much less less care.

[5 of 5 Stars!]
Shadow of the Demon Lord
Publisher: Schwalb Entertainment
by Christopher H. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 12/29/2016 10:45:22

Super easy but richly simple system for running horror games. Get this

Brain dead easy to come up with games, get players started playing and deliver a fun horror game super quick. Love it!

The book is easy to read and understand.

[5 of 5 Stars!]
Shadow of the Demon Lord
Publisher: Schwalb Entertainment
by Mark M. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 09/18/2016 20:54:17

The cover says it all: if that's the kind of dark fantasy your soul hungers for, then this superb game delivers in gobbets. Combining a lean, clean system with player options which are always expanding without ever overwhelming, and a deep and doomed demon-haunted world, this one-stop book is everything you need to launch a hundred campaigns. Table play is fast and brutal with rules that just stay out of your way, and the story is always rampant with opportunities thanks to ingenious d20 table based prompts sprinkled throughout, from your character's prize possession to the madness that afflicts them.

For our group of old punk rockers and metal heads, this feels like the game we've waited thirty years to arrive. We're hooked.

The panopoly of PDFs expand the game at your discretion; the main book is all you need, but if like a first-time ghoul you hunger for more, then dip in to whatever intrigues you. It's all diabolically good.

[Disclaimer: as Campaign Coins, I liked this game so much we made black metal tokens for it, so I have the honour of being both a fan and a licensee.]

[5 of 5 Stars!]
Shadow of the Demon Lord
Publisher: Schwalb Entertainment
by Marcelino s. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 09/04/2016 00:11:24

I put my reivew in the wrong section to so I'm copy it here.

One of the best games I've played in a long time. I love this game. I love the concept. I love the art. I love the world. I just want a way to buy supplements in bundles because I am lost at how many their are and what I need. I'm not saying I want a lower price just an easier way to get everything. Because of how good the game is I want everything. And I want a hard copy of everything too. I know I'm asking too much. However you guys have a great game and I can't wait to see where it goes.

I love this game. I love that it reminds me of D&D but still it's own thing. I love the feeling of that things are coming to an end and we are fighting to save our world. Howeverwe know our lives will never be the same if we're lucky enough to survive.

I haven't fimished reading all the rules and I will come back and edit this to make it more complete review.

Thank you for making a game that reminds me why I fell in love with RPGs to begin with but doing it differenltly and because you love these games too. I can tell just from reading it that the publishers, writers, and artists are creating this because they love RPGs and they want share. Thank you.

[5 of 5 Stars!]
Shadow of the Demon Lord
Publisher: Schwalb Entertainment
by Gregory S. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 08/11/2016 20:30:51

I like this book as a Campaign Setting idea where players face off against a growing evil in the land that threatens the worlds very existence with Demons and Devils. It is a dark setting that makes a ton of ideas come to mind. However, this game is very similar to Dungeons & Dragons and Pathfinder that all use a tired Class System with the tired concept of linear level-based Class Progression. My problem with this is with the Class Concept itself where characters are defined in a rigid class structure. It is not realistic as when you get better at something, your skill should improve instead of your class as a whole. This concept it lame and tired. Can we get something new and innovative here?!

Level-based systems are not realistic. It puts characters in a limited sandbox of encounters where all they fight is a certain type of monster such as orcs and goblins at first level and then introduce newer tough monsters as they slowly progress to higher levels. This becomes repetitive, boring, and is not interesting. It limits the types of monsters characters can encounter. In a book such as Lord of the Rings or the Sword of Shannara, characters can face really tough monsters such as Ring Wraiths, Demons such as the Changeling, Trolls, or Skull Bearers - even though they are inexperienced. It is lame that you must be of 10th level to fight a giant or a demon. This would make a very uninteresting story if all the inexperienced characters’ faced were lowly orcs and goblins. Level systems also make it impossible to have a high level character roll with low level characters, such as Gandalf travelling with Bilbo, Frodo or Sam. This would be like having Elminster travelling with first level character’s and the first time you threw in a 15th level monster, the first level characters would literally explode from the 50 points of damage they received from the first hit. Instead, if we were making the same book using D&D rules, all the characters would fight are first level orcs, goblins, and kobolds. Such as story is not even interesting in the slightest so why the hell would anyone want to play it? Yet, D&D continually serves up the same screwed up recipe in the form of a crappy level system. There is too big a gap in your abilities as you progress in levels. The difference between a 1st level, 3rd level, and 10th level is staggering. What would a real life representation of a first level character be? Would they be an apprentice? What is a third level character, a journeyman? Taking the same philosophy, what is an expert? Are they 10th level? Is a master 15th level and above? So is Chef Gordon Ramsey a 15th level cook? He can’t be knocked unconscious until you do over 80 to 100 points of damage? This is why levels are stupid. It is better to have Skill Ranks where if a skill increases, it does not increase everything that is completely unrelated to it such as to hit rolls, the damage you can take, your ability to resist damage and so on. Characters level too quickly. After one adventure, where you were gone for a week you advance to 4th level. The difference between a first and fourth level character in terms of abilities is too great. Again, this gets into having higher level characters travelling with lower level characters and why this is a stupid system. Adventures feel like your grinding for experience points. This feels almost like a video game such as World of Warcraft where you are wandering around killing monsters in an area just to level up. If this would happen in a movie or story it incredibly stupid – unless it was in a comedy doing a parody on how stupid this system would be when compared to real life and to contrast and make fun of the silliness. Shadow of the Demon Lord also uses the same lame abstract Armor Class System that Pathfinder and D&D use that makes you more difficult to hit instead of treating armor as Damage Reduction. When I first started gaming and all I knew was the Armor Class System, I thought it was great but after getting exposed to Shadowrun or Fate where Armor is used to reduce the damage you take from an attack, I saw how superior of a system that this was versus the tired ass Armor Class system. Armor does not make it harder to hit you, it absorbs damage or deflects the blow or lessens the damage that you take from an injury. No Parry or Dodge: There is no parry or dodge mechanic. Instead you use the tired a$$ abstract Hit Point and Armor Class system. Again, this makes for very crappy game narrative and bland story telling. It also makes fights less interesting. Instead, we have to make crap up because it is not baked into the rules. Using a Parry and Dodge System makes for more interesting story telling instead of rolling against Armor Class and scoring a Hit or Miss. <<<< BORING! Hit Points are dumb. Stupid that 10th level characters can fall off a 100’ foot cliff and survive 10d6 points of damage and get up afterwards with no effect. They don’t even break arms or legs let alone break their neck. There are no lasting effects suffered from injury which makes for shitty storytelling. Damage has no effect on character until they drop to 0 hit points. They suffer no penalties for being wounded or tired. There is no light, moderate, or severe wounds. No game effects such as being dazed or knocked senseless from being hit in the head with a club or from getting kicked in the balls unless it is by spell effect such as casting confusion or hold person. This means you cannot be descriptive with anything as you just do a point value for damage and have to make up some bullshit to describer it with no real lasting game effect. Again, this Hit Point damage system is fucking lame so why do all games insist on doing it? Class based systems are too limiting: What happens when the game author does not offer the class of character that you envision playing with the skills, powers, or abilities, weapon, or armor loadout that you want to play? Examples that come to mind is the mage who swings a sword, like Gandalf, as the typical wizard can only wield daggers or staves. Soon, a series of supplement is released spanning multiple books that the system becomes unwieldy as characters must try and find the perfect fitting box for the character that they want to play. This causes game delays as people can be indecisive about the character they want to play. I am tired of getting boxed in by the concept of using predetermines character classes. This practice is archaic old school gaming mentality and outdated thinking. What if you wanted to play someone with special powers and abilities such as a mutant or a character like Ryu from Street Fighter that could throw Hadoukens? What do you make him a mage because he is throwing fireballs? This is why class systems are f-bomb bleeping stupid! It is too rigid, discourages original thinking, and lacks flexibility. Vancian Magic System: I dislike the Jack Vance take on magic that D&D and Pathfinder adopted where a magic user must learn spells each day, the same spells that they read everyday day after day after day after day – and once they cast the spell – they forget it. It’s f'in dumb! There are no options for Mana Pools or Spell Point Systems, which is a superior take on magic. Even more interesting would be a two-word combination such as noun and verb or 3 word such as noun, verb, and adjective used to apply a spell effect. This make for more interesting combinations of magic and ways to describe spellcasting in a story. Players can actually come up with combinations that the books have not even taken into account and it would make it a more flexible system than the current system, which is just too rigid. All spells in D&D are the same! Imagine in every book that you read if all mage’s cast magic missile all the time! The same old same old tired spells and formula at work is just not interesting. It’s too restrictive and it does not make for interesting storytelling. Your crappy Vancian system can be an option, but don’t let that be the only choice. No one wants to apply mechanics to change it to something else for their campaign all the time either. That’s why option books never fly as they are not standardized into the core rule books. Rules too cumbersome and unwieldy: Too difficult for a DM to create new monsters on the fly or NPC’s for the players to face. It needs to be able to be done quickly without a ton of effort. DMing is difficult enough already. We don’t need to rummages through a crapload of books to figure out what class to make the bad guy and what feats to give him. This is too rigid of a system. I also wish there was a way to boost damage or generate column shifts from an attack. I score an amazing hit that strikes exactly where I want it to, yet there is no in game effect to simulate this. Fate introduced something cool like aspects that you can throw on someone (as long as you score a high enough hit), then you can kick someone in the balls and they go down in pain. Their hit points are not depleted but they will have a hard time recovering. Or you hit someone in the head with a clumb and knock them senseless and they are seeing flying birdies circling around their head for a short time going tweet, tweet. Again, this is a problem with having a hit or miss system. There is no mechanc for column shifts with the exception of boon or bane which i do like but the author did not do enough with it. There is no in game effects engine to drive the narrative. With all the D&D clones out there and Pathfinder, does there really need to be another bleeping F-BOMB D&D Clone System?!!!!!! This game just feels like more of the same and personally, I don't see why anyone would bother with this! It feels the SAME AS D&D and PATHFINDER! AND GUESS WHAT, THEY ARE TOP DOGS SO DON'T EMULATE THEM! Try something new. Personally, I give this game the finger! Again, I like the idea as a Campaign Setting but I hate the game system. I'm dying to see something new and exciting but this is definately not it.

[2 of 5 Stars!]
Creator Reply:
Thanks for taking the time to review this. I am sorry you were disappointed with the product, but I do hope you give it a try before you completely throw it out as I think you might see some of your criticisms put to rest in play. But in any event, thanks for the purchase and for supporting my little company.
Shadow of the Demon Lord
Publisher: Schwalb Entertainment
by Roger L. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/11/2016 04:56:11

Über eines lässt Rob J. Schwalb, Autor von Shadow of the Demon Lord, den Leser von Anfang an nicht zweifeln. Sein Spiel ist nicht nett. Es ist ein Rollenspiel, dass, ähnlich wie seinerzeit Call of Cthulhu, unter anderem von seiner Tödlichkeit, aber auch von seiner moralischen Zwiespältigkeit lebt. Dies vorausgeschickt mache ich mich auf in eine finstere Welt, in der der Dämonenlord naht!

Die Spielwelt

Shadow of the Demon Lord ist in der Welt Urth angesiedelt, einer dunklen Fantasywelt, bevölkert von Wesen wie Menschen, Orks und Zwergen, aber auch Changelings, also Wechselbälgern, die Feen in den Wiegen der Menschen zurückgelassen haben, als sie deren Kinder stahlen, aus dem Feenreich verbannten Goblins oder steampunkigen, belebten Maschinen namens Clockworks. Besonderer Fokus liegt auf dem Kontinent Rul mit all seinen diversen Regionen. Der Kontinent wird von einem Imperium dominiert, dass sich im Niedergang befindet. Seine einzelnen Glieder sind so divers wie die Handelsregion der neun unabhängigen Städte oder die Jotun-Heimat Blötland. In den Beschreibungen der einzelnen Regionen wird ausreichend Material geboten, um sich ein Bild des Kontinents und seiner Kulturen zu machen, das Korsett wird aber bewusst nicht sehr eng geschnürt, um ein Einsperren von Spielleitern und Spielern in einen allzu engen Kanon der Spielwelt zu vermeiden. Dennoch gibt es einige klare Prämissen, die die Welt definieren.

Während es offen bleibt, ob Götter tatsächlich existieren, ist völlig klar, dass Magie eine allseits bekannte Realität ist. Zaubersprüche und Artefakte sind allgegenwärtig, aber auch wissenschaftliche Forschung entwickelt sich. So sind Schießpulver und Dampfkraft bereits entwickelt und tragen ein festes Steampunk-Element in die Spielwelt. Zudem ist klar, dass es parallele Welten wie das Feenreich oder die Unterwelt gibt, wenngleich kaum ein Sterblicher sie je betreten hat.

Der Verfall ist überall gegenwärtig. Nicht nur befindet sich das Imperium derzeit in freiem Fall, seit der Ork-König den Kaiser ermordet und sich den Alabaster-Thron unter den blutigen Nagel gerissen hat. Auch der Schatten des Dämonenlords droht aus seinem Gefängnis im Nebel zwischen den Welten, aus dem er sich zu entwinden versucht.

Die Regeln

Die Regeln sind relativ einfach. Das Grundsystem basiert auf W20 plus Attributsmodifikator plus weiteren Modifikatoren gegen Zielzahl, hier ist wenig Spektakuläres auszumachen. In der Praxis erweist sich dieses altbekannte System immer noch als nützlich und es benötigt nicht viel Erklärzeit für einigermaßen erfahrene Spieler. Am Anfang spielen Attributsmodifikatoren kaum eine Rolle. Dies verändert sich im Laufe des Spiels, wenn Charaktere Erfahrung sammeln und sich ihre Attribute weiter ausprägen. Der Wertebereich schwankt zu Beginn von 8 bis 12, was einem Modifikator von -2 bis +2 entspricht. In vielen Fällen hat man eine glatte 10, also gar keinen Modifikator. Diese Werte sind durch die Rasse fest vorgegeben, nur einmalig darf eines der Attribute um 1 gesenkt, dafür ein anderes erhöht werden.

Besondere Erwähnung sollte das Magiesystem finden. Immerhin lassen sich Zauber aus dreißig magischen Schulen, also magischen Stilrichtungen, erlernen. Ob Telepathie oder Teleportation, ob Technomantie, magische Musik oder Runen - der Vielfalt der Magie scheinen kaum Grenzen gesetzt. Unter den dreißig Schulen finden sich auch dunkle und verbotene Pfade der arkanen Mächte. Strebt man an, diese zu lernen, so erhält man Korruptionspunkte, die sich ähnlich wie bei einer Chaosverseuchung bei Warhammer auf den Charakter und seine Umgebung auswirken können. Solche Korruptionspunkte können auch durch moralisch völlig verwerfliches Handeln eingeheimst werden. Der Charakter kann durch Korruption von der Dunkelheit gezeichnet werden und weist fortan seltsame Eigenheiten auf, die auf einer kleinen Tabelle ausgewürfelt werden können. Vielleicht besitzt er nun kein Spiegelbild mehr oder redet in einem heiseren Flüstern. Vielleicht erscheinen aber auch die Namen der Götter umgekehrt als blasse Schriftzeichen unter seiner Haut oder es stirbt regelmäßig ein neugeborenes Kind in seiner Nähe.

Ähnlich verhält es sich beim Wahnsinn, denn auch hier können zunächst Punkte anfallen, indem Grauenhaftes beobachtet wird. Haben sich genug Punkte gesammelt, setzt der Wahnsinn voll ein. Auch hier darf gewürfelt werden und die Ergebnisse sind in der Regel keineswegs erfreulich. Denn sie können von Wahnvorstellungen über selbstverletzendes Verhalten bis hin sogar zum sofortigen Herzstillstand führen. Der Warhammer-Einfluss ist hier wieder deutlich zu spüren, wenngleich die Bandbreite möglicher Abscheulichkeiten bei Warhammer vielfältiger und größer war.

In den optionalen Regeln findet sich eine kleine, charmante Besonderheit. Der Schatten des Dämonenlords kann hin und wieder stärker auf die Welt fallen und eine Reihe von Zufallseffekten hervorrufen. Diese lassen sich mit einem W20 bestimmen und können gegebenenfalls sogar Aufhänger für ganze Szenarien sein. Mal färbt sich die Sonne pechschwarz, mal rebelliert die Pflanzenwelt und verschlingt Menschen und Dörfer, mal erheben sich Scharen von Untoten oder die Wilde Jagd reitet durch die Lande. Es bleibt dem Spielleiter überlassen zu entscheiden, ob das Event dem Zufall oder dem bewussten Anwachsen der dämonischen Macht entspringt. Ist also der Schatten des Dämonenlords gerade zufällig auf einen Friedhof gefallen oder ist der Nekromant, der sich im Dorf befand, unter den Einfluss des Lords geraten? Es sollte für die Spieler schwer sein, einen Effekt des Schattens aufzuheben und zu bekämpfen. Im Prinzip ist dieses kleine Stückchen Zusatzregel für mich etwas, das den eigentlichen Reiz des Settings widerspiegelt.


Generell ist die Charaktererschaffung recht einfach, macht aber auch den wesentlichen Reiz des Spieles aus. Wie oben bereits erwähnt, stehen dem Spieler auf der Spielwelt eine Reihe von Rassen zur Verfügung. Neben Klassikern wie Menschen, Zwergen und Orks haben uns besonders die Exoten wie die Clockworks, die Changelings und die Goblins fasziniert. Diese ungewöhnlichen Völker spiegeln stark die Atmosphäre des Spiels zwischen düsterem Märchen und Steampunk-Dystopie wider. Ist nun die Rasse, hier „Ancestry“ genannt, erst einmal gewählt, stehen zu jeder Rasse eine Vielzahl hübscher und fluffiger Tabellen zur Verfügung, mit denen man optional die Charaktereigenschaften, den Hintergrund und einige Besonderheiten der jeweiligen Rasse erwürfeln oder wählen kann. Einige Tabellen wie die Bauart eines Clockworks gehören aber nicht nur zum Fluff, sondern zum Crunch, da sie die Attributwerte verändern. Durch die hübschen Ideen, die jeder Ancestry zugrunde liegen, macht das Abarbeiten der Tabellen jedoch sehr viel Spaß.

Dann werden Klassen gewählt, zunächst zwischen Krieger, Magier, Priester und Schurke. Hier zeigen sich die Einflüsse von Warhammer recht deutlich, denn während die Klassenauswahl am Anfang extrem platt erscheint, wird der Charakter im Laufe des Spiels die Möglichkeit erhalten, Prestigeklassen und später sogar Meisterklassen zu wählen. Beide sind in dem Spiel vielseitig und variantenreich. Das Entwickeln des Charakters wird somit entsprechend spannend, was die Tödlichkeit des Spiels umso bedauernswerter macht. Eine Meisterklasse zu erreichen wird damit zu einem lohnenswerten Spielziel.


Shadow of the Demon Lord wird als PDF für 19.99 USD. Für diesen Preis erhält der Käufer ein schönes, vollfarbiges Rollenspiel mit interessantem Flair, das mit einer ganzen Menge an Zusatzinformationen zum eigenen Spielansatz daher kommt, die nicht nur für Neulinge interessant sind. Ich halte den Preis für angemessen.

Eine deutsche Fassung ist in Vorbereitung. Man darf also gespannt sein.


Shadow of the Demon Lord Review CoverLayout und Design haben mich sehr angesprochen. Vollfarbig und üppig illustriert, wirkt das Regelwerk, das mir als PDF vorlag, durchdacht aufgebaut. Das Inhaltsverzeichnis erschreckt erst einmal etwas durch die sehr vielen hier aufgeführten Überschriften, die Navigation durch die fast 280 Seiten gelingt tatsächlich besser mit dem Index.


Shadow of the Demon Lord ist ein atmosphärisch dichtes Dark Fantasy System mit Steampunk-Elementen. Es gelingt dem Spiel, eine eigenständige Welt anzubieten, die zu Streifzügen einlädt. Durch die sehr dunklen Thematiken und die Tödlichkeit der Spielwelt ist dies kein Spiel für zart besaitete Spielerseelen. Mir persönlich gefiel das Spiel sehr gut und ich freue mich, tiefer in die Geheimnisse der Spielwelt vordringen zu können.

Leider fehlt dem Spiel jedoch etwas die Eigenständigkeit. Elemente, die als besonders innovativ gelten könnten, vermisst der Leser. Viel zu sehr wurde auch an einigen Punkten bei bekannten Systemen nach Inspiration gesucht. Gerade die Elemente, die regelmechanisch die Dunkelheit des Settings transportieren sollten, kennt man aus Klassikern wie z. B. Warhammer ausgefeilter und besser. Positiv ist hier aber die optionale Regel über den Dämonenlord und seinen Einfluss noch einmal herauszustreichen. Diese bietet, sofern der Spielleiter davon gezielt und wirklich bewusst Gebrauch macht, einen Aufhänger für überzeugende und stimmungsvolle Spielmomente.

Insgesamt ist das Spiel also durchwachsen, lehnt sich an große Vorgänger an und versucht, vor allem durch Setting und Düsternis zu überzeugen. Ob dies gelingt, wird der Käufer entscheiden müssen.

Der Ersteindruck basiert auf einer einmaligen Probespielsitzung.

[4 of 5 Stars!]
Shadow of the Demon Lord
Publisher: Schwalb Entertainment
by Matias B. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 07/04/2016 14:01:16

Why are you reading? What? You didnt't play this game yet!? What are you waiting for, you useless son of yeti! Well, jokes aside, this game is awesome. It's use d20 but with a beautifil twist that comes with d6 that can add or substract the d20 result. The world is just a Warhammer Old World but if Diablo (pc game) will fuck it: more magic, more demons, more danger, more grim, more insane, more corruption.

You have four base classes to start but as you progress through the ten levels (maybe in the future it will extend to more but only Robert knows), you choose again to "sub-class" your character. The amazing thing about this is that the sub-classes are actuall open to any one so you're character can start as a warrior (novice path) are become more wizard in his second class (expert path) choose and then become more cleric in the last one (master path).

The system is really fast and easy. Nothing over complicated but enough to give plenty of options. The magic is omni-present and you have tons, really tons, of options (Traditions) and again you can have a very eclectic and singular set of traditions: forbidden magic, battle magic, water magic and why not: healing magic!

The available material is growing daily and you have tons of Ancestries (races) to choose today: human, dwarf, elves, goblins, halfings, orcs, clockworks, sprites, hobgoblins, centarus, gnomes, vampires, revenant and probably I forgot several more.

[4 of 5 Stars!]
Shadow of the Demon Lord
Publisher: Schwalb Entertainment
by Jared R. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 01/26/2016 14:51:19

I really, really enjoy this game.

The book is gorgeous. The art very much conveys the "dark fantasy" theme of the game.

For the huge size of this book, individual portions of the book aren't over-written. You get bite sized, evocative chunks to digest. Taken as a whole, there is a ton to take in, but it comes to you a bit at a time.

The best explanation I can come up with is that the game feels like a simplified version of what the child of D&D and Warhammer Fantasy 2nd edition would look like. There are modular career paths, health scores, d20 rolls with target numbers. But those target numbers and what modifies those things are very simple to keep track of.

Boons and banes are nice. You have your base roll, which has a target number of 10 or whatever your monster or NPC opponent sets for you, and they you can have a number of boons (+d6 added to your roll) or banes (-d6 you add to your roll). Boons and banes cover so many things simply, from disease to fatigue to being cursed.

One of the most negative things I can say about the game is an odd complaint. There is lots that general fantasy fans will get excited about. So it should have a pretty broad appeal for most fantasy gamers. Unfortunately, the dark fantasy theme "hides" for a chapter or so at a time, and them all of the sudden you have some art, a spell, or some text that is much closer to a horror theme then what you may have been expecting. This may be more or less problematic for you, depending on what you want from the game. You can have a pretty "standard" fantasy game from this, but you aren't going to avoid some vomit, spells that make you evacuate your bowels, or entrails here and there.

Because of the highly modular way that races, careers, and spells work, there are tons of ways to add content that broaden the content, rather than "more of that, but better!"

So if you at least kind of like a horror movie once in a while, and want a fantasy RPG that starts with your characters as kinda nobodies, but not quite as nobody as something like DCC, and allows them to build slowly into exactly what you want them to be, you may want to look into this game.

[4 of 5 Stars!]
Shadow of the Demon Lord
Publisher: Schwalb Entertainment
by Joseph M. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 01/19/2016 11:11:18

Shadow of the Demon Lord is nothing new...and yet a breath of fresh air. How do I handle those contradictions?

At it's core it's a fantasy heartbreaker with dark themes. However for a heartbreaker it's got an impressive pedigree with Robert J. Schwalb working on it. You see Schwalb gets Warhammer, D&D horror done right, and has the chops to write up a functional and very impressive product.

So what makes this old idea in new clothing stand out? Let me bullet point it for you:

  • A TIGHT resolution mechanic that borrows from 5E's advantage/disadvantage mechanic. It's called Banes and Boons. But instead of rerolling dice you add or subtract d6's to your baseline d20 roll. Banes and boons cancel each other out and you are trying to beat a target number of 10. Really, REALLY, easy.

  • Starting Ancestries give you 0th level bonus with a mix of professions and language skills. Just enough to start game as a 0th level newbie! The the mix is nice. I love the Changelings and Clockworks, but it's got most the classic orc, dwarf, etc there. All with nice darker twists. Big play up on fae lords of old and ancient curses. Personally love the Goblins are their quirks are hilarious and disgusting. There is a noticeable lack of elves...because they are really more NPCs.

  • Random character generation tables IF you want to use them...and they are varied enough to be interesting. I just wish there was a online tool to punch out a dozen or so random characters whole cloth using this.

  • Actual class levels add more flexibility and some mild power bumps but are NOT restricted by race or prior class. It's all additive. As you move into novice, expert, and master class levels you can mix and match as ongoing play and actions dictate. Keep using your smarts to solve issues, maybe you are a budding Fighter/Warlock who steals magic from foes using it against them in combat. Eventually becoming an Inquisitor using your magic thieving talents against corrupt casters.

The downside to this advancement is you don't unlock spells, class tricks, etc until you level into them and some players wish to be awesome out of the gate. This game isn't geared for that style of play.

Also keep in mind that there are only 10 levels to the game. Leveling up happens when an 'adventure' is done. Think of it as chapters in the game. And this is driven by the GM. So if an adventure runs long, there might be lulls between level ups and path unlocks. But when advancement does happen it's varied and fun!

  • There is an insanity and corruption mechanic. Insanity is rough, but manageable. Hints at Warhammer and Call of Cthulu and it works here. Corruption is useful but hit or miss. One, gaining corruption is more based on actions of the PC. Think of it in Ravenloft terms. They do evil X, gain corruption Y. The only things that are guaranteed to hit you with Corruption are learning evil magic, using evil artifacts, and doing evil deeds. (murder, demon pacts, etc.) So in the end a lot falls to GM call on this sort of thing, so warn players that actions bring consequences and establish god table protocols on this kinda stuff is all I'll say.

  • Combat is deadly and fast. Early on PC's have very few options to heal or revive fallen allies. And some foes and attacks, well they don't leave much behind to fix. So players will have to be careful early on in the game. Armor only does so much and walking into something like a Dragon's Breath, or Gorgon's gaze is a quick way to end your character. They even have a guideline to give new characters replacing dead ones a potion of healing as a 'sorry'. So death is cheap, happens frequently, and is something to be careful of. I LOVE THIS!

  • Technology is not feared or repressed in the setting, technomancers, gears, guns! They are all there but are not more impressive against demons than conventional sword and magic. It's just another valid option. If you wish to NOT use these in your version of the setting or game they can just as easily be ignored.

  • Magic is a huge grab bag of styles and effects. However they are short lists of themed spells. Air, Earth, Fire, rub shoulders with Runes, Necromancy, Technomancy, Divination, and darker art. Each 'type' of magic has a Master class path associated with it. There is on average 8-10 spells for each path. Enough to specialize, but it does force PC's to mix in some other paths of magic if they focus on being a caster exclusively. There is a robust mix of utility and combat magic. And the spells are short and non flowery in description. None of them feel like they would dimish a non-caster as they gain skills and gimmicks of their own with each class level. The only difference being in the weird creative solutions that magic offer. (Like using gusts of air to steal something, or illusions to win over a noble, etc.) So the magic system doesn't overshadow practical skill use.

  • The canned setting for the game is very functional. Rul is a fallen empire slowly coming apart at the edges as monster and corruption within eat at it. Add to that the Demon Lord (it which goes by many names) pushes against the world from the Void seeking to consume it and all the souls within.

This functions as a very sketchy backdrop but has enough fluff and story bits to build on. The empire used magic to turn jotuns into Orcs (a playable race), the devils below are actually dark fae?, some of the gods might be powerful fae creatures or worse, cults are everywhere, there a prior ruins of old civilizations that had fall ins with the Demon Lord or their own hubris and fell. Etc. The core idea is it's a dark fantasy setting sitting the looming shadow of the "END OF DAYS". The game doesn't say it's doomed, in fact PC's are one of the few factors that can turn the tide and save the world, or buy it more time.

What the setting does do however is give a GM a toybox to play with. Something to show the kinds of setting SotDL can be used to build/ Kul is patchwork but a solid one. It doesn't take much to redress elements of it, or expand on others to build your campaign.

  • The rest of the book is solid plot building advice, setting agnostic advice I might add. And a good mix of how to handle insanity and the dark influence of the "Shadow of the Demon Lord". This little mechanic is a massive plot shift, an event or power acting over the world that is a horror filter adding drama and problems for the PCs to deal with. Imagine the SUN turned black but slowly burning the world to cinder! Stuff like that.

  • The bestiary at the end of the book is tight! Lots of deadly, mean, and vicious critters. Enjoy it! Mechanically they are all functional but tend to eat unprepared PCs for breakfast. I'd LOVE an expanded bestiary, but it seems right now the author is focusing on setting specific material based around a theme that matches that location. (See the recent Desolation book.)

For the price it's a steal. A fast, aggressive, useful semi-tool kit that is very dark and moody while also having fantastic and weird mixed in. There is also a LOT of subtle and not so subtle jokes mixed in. (Look at the random 'interesting things' tables for examples.)

So, to say I was blown away by the book is to put it mildly. It's nothing new, but a total breath of fresh air in an era of similar titles.

[5 of 5 Stars!]
Shadow of the Demon Lord
Publisher: Schwalb Entertainment
by Thomas B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/01/2016 01:28:43

Six Points:

  • Combat is dangerous and small bonuses - to hit and to damage - can be huge game changers. Very much a game of "play it safe and smart" at low levels (especially 0).

  • The Paths are great, as they are so varied, and you are free to take whatever makes sense for your character's story, and not what you have meticulously built your character for.

  • Corruption and the Weird Magic effect of The Shadow aside, magic feels too safe. Corruption can be avoided pretty easily as long as you don't use certain types of magic, and don't grossly abuse the magic you do have, and the Weird Magic effect may never appear. The setting just feels like magic should be more dangerous than what it is.

  • The setting is more about "feel" than "detail", and I consider this to be a good thing. No lists of details or NPCs, just a broad overview that you can then do with as you will.

  • The rules do straddle a weird line between "here's a rough guideline on how to do this, go nuts" (hint: it probably involves Banes or Boons) and "draw your line of sight from the appropriate vertices and here is the number of enemies your heroes should fight each level". Now, I lean towards the former, by far...and if you want to ditch some of the more detailed rules, there's not much to stop you, but it's a weird divide in places. Most importantly, the rules cover a lot of ground, then give you ample tools to fill in the rest of the blanks as needed. (Hint: it probably involves Banes or Boons.)

  • The Ancestries are great, and cover less common ground (like Clockworks and Changelings), to putting twists on old standards (Humans are what you expect, mechanically, but read their descriptions very closely) Dwarves kind of standing out as being pretty much exactly what you're used to. And oooooh the random tables. I love just rolling up the various random tables and making all of it make sense. That's perfect for me and my mindset.

I was super thrilled with my experience running this. I'd love to run it again with a better handle on it now. It will not replace Savage Worlds or D&D 5e for me, but it does a great job of scratching the grimy and gritty fantasy itch, preventing me from needing to run out and buy me a Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay Edition, or hack and fold Savage Worlds or D&D to the point that it accomplishes the same thing. It's dark, it's dirty, it's terrible and it's glorious. Jump in, don't be self conscious and just roll with it. It's a good game that provides a lot of little tools to do what you need to out of the box, with a ton of adventure support to boot.

For my full review, please visit

[5 of 5 Stars!]
Shadow of the Demon Lord
Publisher: Schwalb Entertainment
by Customer Name Withheld [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 12/13/2015 17:02:19

So I've been talking about this book with one of my gaming buddies, and decided that my PM's informative enough to share with the world. As of right now I read all but one chapter of this baby, so I feel that I can give a better overview of the game (or as far as someone who's never done actual play experience).

Overall this game is very much a dark fantasy with Dungeons & Dragons and Warhammer Fantasy elements. It's not as D&Desque as a retroclone, but elements appear here and there like some suspiciously similar spells.

Dice Resolution

In short, the resolution system is D20-based. You roll a D20 for most tasks and add relevant modifiers. In some cases it's versus an attribute of a character (like the Target Number to hit an opponent is their Defense). Most non-opposed checks are a Challenge Roll, which is a D20 with modifiers, and the Target Number is always 10.

One of the big things in this game are Boons and Banes. Instead of tracking a bunch of modifiers from spells/class features/etc, most effects grant you either of these. Each Boon/Bane is a d6, which can add to your D20 number. However, for multiple dice only the highest result is used (so rolling a 3, 5, and 1 for 3 boons would apply +5), and boons and banes cancel each other out on a 1-1 basis.

Overall I like this. Most modifiers tend to come from your Attributes (which are like D&D ability scores), and from what I've read Boons and Banes are far more common. It's easier to keep track of and to grasp than forgetting if muddy ground imposes a -2 or -4 penalty on graceful maneuvers and such.


In this game there are six playable fantasy races: humans, changelings, clockwork, dwarves, goblins, and orcs. They share much in common mechanically with their D&D counterparts, in that they determine inherent abilities you start out with as well as a common cultural backdrop. However, the assortment here is quite different enough from the typical Tolkien mold in that elves and halflings are absent (they exist, they're just not playable) but goblins and orcs are choices.

One's ancestry determines starting stats, but there are sample tables for rolling traits. Some of them are optional, but some are required such as the shape of your clockwork PC.

Humans are the most numerous and versatile race. Not much different than many other fantasy humans.

Changelings are creatures made of dirt, twigs, wood, and other such things masquerading as mortals. They are literally the "swapped-out fairy child" from folklore, and as a result are feared and distrusted in many lands. They have the ability to steal a person's likeness and are vulnerable to iron.

Clockwork are the ones I find most interesting. They are sapient constructs who don't necessarily need to take a humanoid form depending on their intended function. They have pretty high defense scores due to natural armor and don't need to worry about poison, age, and other living maladies, but have low starting abilities.

Dwarves are folk whose arrogance once challenged the gods, and as such were cursed to lair underground and hold its precious minerals. Like their D&D counterparts, dwarves are physically hardy and gain bonuses to attacks against certain races they have enmity with (giants, orcs, troglodytes).

Goblins are refugees from the realms of Faerie and tend to occupy bottom-rung jobs in mortal society nobody else wants to do. They vary widely in appearance and tend to have obsessive personality traits others find repellent, such as storing animal body parts in jars or eating only candy. They are agile and naturally sneaky/

Orcs were once a race of slave-soldiers for the Empire of Caecras, but after a rebellion they earned their freedom and now one of their own sits upon the throne. Unsurprisingly they are very strong and make for good warrior PCs but start with more Corruption than the other races, meaning their soul is more at risk when making pacts with fell powers.

Overall the races are short in write-ups, and while some of them are geared towards certain roles I like the fact that the options feel quite appropriate for a dark fantasy setting.

Level System

Shadow of the Demon Lord only goes up to 10th level, and PCs start as level 0 characters. PCs level up whenever the GM tells them to. However, the suggested advancement rate is rather fast, with the group as a whole gaining 1 level per session. The designer intended for the arc of beginning adventurers becoming great heroes and going against civilization-ending threats at the upper echelons. Assuming a weekly game, the average SotDL game will take 2 1/2 months to complete.

Now, every level you gain something significant.

1: Choose a Novice Path 2: Additional Novice Path benefits 3: Choose an Expert Path 4: Gain the advanced benefits of your Ancestry (your "race" in D&D terms) 5: Additional Novice Path benefits 6: Additional Expert Path benefits 7: Choose a 2nd Expert Path or a Master Path 8: Final Novice Path benefits 9: Final 1st Expert Path benefits 10: Final Master Path benefits or 2nd Expert Path benefits equivalent to Level 6 choice

SotDL's Paths are its classes. The Novice Paths are the typical Mage/Priest/Rogue/Warrior, but the Expert and Master Paths are the equivalent of 3rd Edition D&D's Prestige Classes. They vary widely in tone, and there's a lot of them too. 16 Expert and 64 Master Paths to choose from! They range from things like an Artificer who creates odd devices and trinkets, a classic wilderness Ranger, a druidic Woodwose who can take plant form, and such.

Best thing of all is that none of the Expert/Master Paths have prerequisites! You can mix and match to your heart's content for all types of character ideas. Of course, many Paths are more suited to certain combinations, but I like the idea.


Magic in Shadow of the Demon Lord leaves me with mixed feelings, although the good parts slightly outweigh my reservations. For one, it's sort of like Vancian magic, in that you can only cast spells a certain number of times between rests before running out of juice. Spells are grouped by tiers (0 to 5) instead of levels as a measurement of power, and your Power attribute (raised via levels in magical Paths) determines what tiers you have access to as well as how many times you can cast every spell you know of various ranks between rests. For example, a Magician with a Power stat of 2 can cast every 0 rank spell they know 3 times, every 1st rank spell 2 times, and every 2nd rank spell 1 time.

Magic is split up into 30 Traditions representing facets of reality or concepts. Fire, Nature, Destruction, Necromancy, etc, with 11 spells for each. One must learn a Tradition in order to use spells, and you start out with the 0 tier spells. New Traditions and spells can only be learned via leveling up in a magical Path or via discarding a Level 4 Ancestry trait, and you either have the choice of learning a Tradition (and gaining its 0 level spell) or learning one spell for each Tradition you know.

Although it's encouraged to be broad early on than specialized, SotDL avoids the D&D problem of clerics switching out spells for every occasion and rich wizards using the gold to scribe dozens of spells into their spellbooks. Funnily enough, the complete spell chapter is only around 30 pages in spite 330 spells: this is because most spell entries are very short, and most effects are fixed and not modified by one's Level or Power stat.

Also, I noticed a short supply of long-duration/permanent and save-or-lose spells. Most spells are 1 hour duration at most, and the offensive spells tend to create horrible effects once the target reaches 0 Health (freeze beam solidifies and shatters, disintegration turns to dust, etc) in keeping with a Warhammer-esque bloody dark fantasy.

Still, magic is very versatile, and the Priest and Mage have the most customization due to the Traditions in comparison to the Warrior (who gets boons and bonuses for combat stuff) and the Rogue (who gets some nimble-based attacks and can learn magic as well via a choice of class features, albeit at a slower pace). However, it's not as bad as D20 D&D, and since there are Expert and Master Paths dedicated to specific magic styles and traditions, making an effective gish isn't very hard.


The setting takes place in the lands of Rul and the Northern Reach. Basically there are tears in reality known as the Void, the dominion of demons who leak out into the mortal realm and other worlds. However, the Demon Lord is unable to fully breach such tears, so it works through agents and foul worshipers to wreak evil in the worlds. The Demon Lord gains power via the consumption of souls, and seeks to envelop all of reality.

The setting chapter takes a big picture look, focusing more on broad regions and countries than individual cities and towns except for capitals and the like. Problems and plots are explained more as broad strokes than local occurrences. In short, the bullet point tropes are:

The Caecras Empire (the most powerful country in the world) is undergoing civil unrest, as the orc soldiers rebelled and now their leader sits on the throne. Many provinces are now declaring independence for fear of an orcish invasion.

Faerie are a thing, including two of the PC races being such. Elves, trolls, and even devils are fey (the last ones tasked with hunting down souls). The more powerful ones tend to be amoral and capable of giving form to concepts (like wearing a child's laugh as a cape or some such).

The east has nine plutocratic city-states with their own themes: a mostly-empty city devastated by plague, a city which deals in slavery to feed its Colosseum entertainment industry, a city with freedom of religion which causes all manner of crackpots and wicked cults to operate openly, etc.

The two main religions are the Old Faith (druidism and pantheon of primal concepts as deities) and the Cult of the New God (fantasy Christianity with woman Jesus). The New God's followers are everywhere, but they have a holy theocracy which has an Inquisition dedicated to hunting down evil spellcasters and servants of the Demon Lord and other foul things.

It's an early industrial setting, where there's still medieval tech but guns are becoming more common, and some of the more prosperous cities might have a clocktower or train.

Amusingly I've noticed that in spite of the PC races being well-suited to dark fantasy, and the elves are amoral fey, there are still halflings in the setting although not as a PC race. They're much like typical fantasy halflings except they're related to humans and have a rather powerful "luck" ability which allows them or an ally a reroll if a die of any kind is a natural 1. They're actually not reclusive at all and tend to be present in some human lands, which makes it all the odder that they're not a PC choice.


The final chapter comes with nearly 40 pages worth of stat blocks for monsters and NPCs, as well as simple templates to simulate Paths like a troll witch who uses curse magic.

There's a lot of both classic and original monsters to fight, and there's some generic "monster" or "undead" stat blocks to act as a framework for PC animal companions, summoned monsters, and for the GM who needs simple horde minions.

An interesting thing I've noticed is that in regards to damage/health scale, things don't seem too out of whack. For comparison, a starting-level or low-level PC or monster may have around 13 to 25 Health. It's very rare for an NPC or monster to have 100 or more health barring some "end-game" boss enemies. Given the class features of Paths and some beneficial spells, I've seen damage bonuses to attacks and spells range from 1d6 to 4d6, with some of the more powerful spells doing something like 7d6+10 damage. Base mundane weapon damage tends to range from 1d3 for light stuff like daggers to 2d6 for warhammers.

I admit that I have not crunched the numbers, but from a guesstimate I can see combat not taking a tortuously long time unless you have a lot of characters to control through the round or something.


While it's rather long (278 pages) it's short in comparison to other non-rules lite RPGs (Dragon Age and Numenera are about 400 pages each, Mouse Guard is 320, Vampire the Requiem 2E is 321). It comes with a bestiary of dozens of foes, a setting overview, dozens of character customization choices, and 300+ spells in spite of that. Where many other books which do the same would have 200+ more pages.

What I don't like is that the magic system still has some Vancian influence, and how you can't do minor things all day long like in many other RPGs or Pathfinder/4E/5E. The options for mages are still greater than solely non-magic paths, although multi-classing/gishing in this game's easy so that takes a bit of the bite off. I think that having halflings at all was a poor choice, and there's no free quick-start or SRD: the quick-start costs $6.66 and includes the first two chapters, enough to start at 0 level but misses out on the Paths and Magic, which I think are the major sellers for showing off the game.

In short, I'd recommend it. I think it does enough things different to set it apart from other fantasy RPGs, and there's still cool choices for all types of character concepts for a dark fantasy feel and then some.

[5 of 5 Stars!]
Shadow of the Demon Lord
Publisher: Schwalb Entertainment
by Martin G. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 11/10/2015 12:45:06

Like many gaming groups, my group has a difficult time getting together for gaming these days. Moves, jobs, family have limited our time together. When we first learned about Shadow of the Demon Lord via the Kickstarter campaign, we were excited about its concept of short sessions, after which characters leveled up. So far it has worked perfectly for our group (we use Roll20 as a platform for the game).

The mechanics are pretty simple, being a d20+modifier compared to a target number, with the addition of a boon/bane system that adds a simple way to modify the test without having to reference a table of modifiers (although these are sometimes defined if you want to use them).

Character creation is a blast with random tables for each Ancestry (race). We used them for our group and came up with some pretty interesting combinations. And the Path system makes for many, many character combinations. Kind of like classes for D&D, but you get to make new choices at 1st, 3rd, and 7th level.

We've come across a few quibbles with the rules, being the stalwart rules-lawyers/power-gamers we are, mostly with things that are not clearly defined (like item sizes/material hardness) or path limitations (like Priests being very limited in their magic tradition selection).

Overall the artwork and layout are good and the game contains just about everything you need to play. I say just about because it doesn't include any adventures. There are guidelines for adventure ideas, but if you want something pre-packaged, you'll have to pick up one of the adventures available separately (like Tales of the Demon Lord which covers levels 0 through 10).

I really recommend checking out this game.

[4 of 5 Stars!]
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