In the dark horror-fantasy of Shadow of the Demon Lord, players fight to survive in a world beset by fiends and wracked by a looming demonic apocalypse. And the people creating it are some of the best designers and writers in tabletop gaming.
The beauty of a dark fantasy setting is that it lets you lean on familiar fantasy tropes (fighters, priests, rogues, and spellcasters), but you can twist and warp them, do away with cliches, and find fresh new angles. The setting for Shadow of the Demon Lord is a place that's falling apart. The Demon Lord himself has arrived to conquer (or just destroy) this world, and everywhere his shadow falls is a breeding ground for chaos and madness.
The Kickstarter explains the game's inspirations pretty well:
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.
There are some things I like about the game: it's pretty streamlined mechanically, but there are optional systems you can add if you want more complexity; you can adjust how apocalyptic you want things to be, from "something wicked and several of its cousins this way comes" to "apocalypse right now"; adventures are designed to be played in a single four to five hour session; entire campaigns can be played in about two months.
But the absolute best thing about Shadow of the Demon Lord is who's involved in creating it. First of all, the game's designer is Robert Schwalb, who has had a hand in many excellent RPGs, but most importantly (to me, anyway), he designed the Song of Ice and Fire RPG for Green Ronin. That is one of my favorite RPGs of all time, and it does a wonderful job of integrating rules and setting. The design intelligence in that game has me very interested to see what Schwalb will do for his new game.
The Kickstarter campaign's stretch goals (several of which have already fallen) include a larger core rulebook, adventure packs, fiction packs, and setting gazetteers. The list of authors is incredible: Monte Cook, Erin M. Evans, Bruce Cordell, Chris Pramas, Ken Hite, Steve Winter, Miranda Horner, Steve Kenson, Rich Baker, and more. Short of writing out a CV for each of them, trust me when I tell you I've never seen a finer collection of designers and authors. I don't tend to be this effusive about a game that's not even out yet, but Shadow of the Demon Lord looks pretty amazing.
All art by Ivan Dixon except cover image by Svetoslav Petrov.