I must create a system, or be enslaved by another man's. I will not reason and compare: my business is to create.

- William Blake

Monday, June 21, 2021

Shadow of the Demon Lord, session 0 - first impressions

So, I've started my Shadow of the Demon Lord campaign.

Session zero was just talking and building characters. Generating PCs is really fast. You don't have many options; choose your ancestry, roll some dice, and you're mostly done. You start at level 0, so you have no class.

There are six ancestries in the main book: Humans, Changelings, Clockworks, Dwarfs (yes, dwarfs), Goblins and Orcs. It is an odd listing; not very original but not entirely classic. If you're keeping dwarves (yes I call then dwarves) and orcs I'd change changelings (ha!) for elves. But you can get elves in other book... so that's fine I guess.

Humans and clockworks are diverse enough, but dwarves, orcs, changelings and goblins are very similar in all but appearance (all orcs are strong, dumb and ugly, all goblins agile, etc.). Dwarves at least get to pick a favored enemy, which is cool.

Overall, the ancestries feel very Tolkien-ish (or some dark vanilla twist). I'm not crazy about it, but it works well.

Each ancestry gets its own tables. They provide some variation in appearance and background. Then you have professions, personality traits, wealth and "interesting things".

These tables are good, but incredibly uneven. You can end up with a "servant", "A pair of boots that grants you 1 boon on rolls to sneak or a gray cloak that grants you 1 boon on rolls to hide", "a can of beets", "a pungent stench" or a "bizarre fetish".

Also, if you roll 18 on the wealth table (3d6), you start with "a personal servant, a guard, and three horses with saddles". I just made everybody start with "getting by" wealth and let them choose their own "interesting thing" - and it went fine.

Overall... I really like it so far. I might have made some different choices, but the straightforward ancestry, with small pieces of customization seem to strike a good balance between simplicity and options.

The randomness is limited to fringe traits. Your PC might be better or worse, but he or she will never be unplayable, since attributes are mostly unaffected by your rolls.

I could see something similar working very well for 5e or OSR games (well, I have my own solutions).  But let's keep the design stuff aside - for now, I'm playing the game as written.

I'll let you know how it goes!

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