For some time now I have been ranting and raving about Shadow of the demon lord. And every time I do someone asks me "what makes this game stand out" or "what makes Shadow of the demon lord different than game X". Which is exactly the questions I would wonder in their shoes, so I am going to attempt an actual review-ish.
First off, let me try to answer those questions because I think most people looking for a review are really looking for that. Anything else is akin to the "what is an RPG" section everyone skips.
Shadow of the demon lord has a very nimble core mechanic. It's simple, streamlined, and consistent. You roll a d20, for most tasks rolling a 10 is a success (except for combat which is a roll against defense score). Ability scores and a few things will give you small bonuses. Rules, class abilities, and situations can give you boons and banes,
Which are d6s you roll and either add or subtract from the roll. Boons and banes cancel eachother out so you will never roll both together. When rolling multiple boons or banes you add or subtract only the highest die. That is the entire system in a nutshell.
Next thing that stands out is the sheer number of options for the players. There are 6 races in the core and more scattered throughout supplements, which include very 'non-standard' races like clockworks, Changelings, goblins, orcs, dwarves, and humans.
When leveling to level 1 (yes you start as 0 and have to earn level 1) you choose one of 4 novice classes. Which are pretty straight forward fantasy classes of magician, priest, rogue, and warrior.
Reaching level 3 players get to choose an expert class. There are 16 expert classes. Expert classes include paladins, rangers, witch, Druid and more.
At reaching level 7 players can choose from one of 64 master classes. Master classes include assassins, avengers, cavalier, destroyer, defender, exorcist, executioner, hexer and many more. Another option is instead of taking a master class players can choose instead to take a second expert class at level 7.
Although expert paths are grouped as paths of faith, power, trickery, and war. And master paths are grouped as paths of either magic or skill and character can take any class, there are no restrictions.
Players have 30 traditions of magic to choose from. Spell casting is as simple as the rest of the system. Spells often have a 20+ effect that triggers if the player rolls over a 20. One nice touch is sacrificing spells to cast other spells giving some spells more than one way to be used.
There are only 10 levels of advancement in Shadow of the demon lord. And you get something at every single level.
At level 0 characters get ancestry abilities.
At level 1 characters get a novice path ability. At level 2 characters get a novice path ability. At level 3 characters get an expert path ability. At level 4 characters get an ancestry ability. At level 5 characters get a novice path ability.
At level 6 characters get an expert path ability. At level 7 characters get a master path ability. At level 8 characters get a novice path ability. At level 9 characters get an expert path ability. At level 10 characters get a master path ability.
The setting is reminiscent of the Diablo video game and Warhammer fantasy turned up a notch and rated R.
The game has a system for both sanity and corruption. The setting has snippets of technology that really doesn't feel shoehorned in, things like firearms and even technomancy magic.
As far as the products are concerned these books and PDFs are beautiful. Layout, art, and style are gorgeous. The core book has everything you need to play. Rules, character options, monsters, and setting. Supplements add more options and setting info as well as adventures. This week was the release of the 100th product for Shadow of the demon lord. Congrats to Schwalb entertainment!!