Follow TV Tropes


Tabletop Game / Shadow of the Demon Lord

Go To
Desperate adventures in a doomed world overrun with deranged cultists, terrifying demons, bizarre monsters, and hateful defecation.

"Reality frays as time and space unravel, weakening the laws governing what's possible and what isn't. [...] Threats from beyond the universe intrude, vile demons spawned in the endless Void, hungering for the utter destruction of all things. Where they tumble free into the mortal lands, they bring death and doom to all."
— Introduction, "Shadow of the Demon Lord" Core Rulebook

The Demon Lord comes and it's The End of the World as We Know It. In the mean time though there is adventuring to be done by a heroic party of intrepid adventurers. Well, maybe not that heroic. And not always that intrepid either to be honest.

Shadow of the Demon Lord is the unholy brainspawn of Robert J. Schwalb, co-designer for among many others multiple editions of D&D, Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay and the A Song Of Ice And Fire Roleplaying game. Aspects of all of these bleed together in this game to create a moody, dark and brutal atmosphere in a world headed for doom.

The game's primary setting is the continent of Rûl on the Dark High Fantasy world of Urth, but there is also supplementary material detailing other places in the solar system and an official supplement called Godless with rules for the World of Fire and Blood setting, on a postapocalyptic Science Fantasy world in the same dire situation.

It is also notable for containing some pretty explicit elements not just in lore and flavour, but actual mechanics. You might not want to play this with your 8-year old cousins.

This game provides examples of:

    open/close all folders 

    Tropes A-F 
  • Alien Sky: Urth is orbited by Tarterus, the Prison Moon, which is apparently significant larger than our moon and has a perpetually storm-wracked atmosphere lit by flashes of red lightning, dense enough to completely obscure its surface.
  • All Trolls Are Different: Of the big and brutal kind. The Trolls were an ancient people almost as old as the Faerie. Millenia ago they waged a devastating war against them for dominance over Rûl and in the process they created among others the giants as Bioweapon Beast.
  • Antagonist Title: There are many demons in this game, but only one Demon Lord.
  • Apocalypse How: The titular Demon Lord is set to break down the boundaries between Urth and the Void as he has done with thousands of worlds before, resulting in untold death and destruction at least on a Planetary scale, but the exact nature and extent of his apocalypse are intentionally left vague. He will supposedly devour all souls in the process though, which would definitely kill most of the humanoid species, so at least a Class 4.
  • Awful Truth: So, so many.
    • All Urth afterlives are terrible, even the supposed heavenly ones.
    • Faeries and trolls are actually demons from a previous attempted invasion of reality that were cut off from the Void and transmogrified into less terrible beings by the genies.
    • Mortals were originally created from another batch of demons by the genies to fight against the faeries.
    • Most of said genies were driven insane by the strain of these acts or are too busy being merged with the barrier between reality and the Void where the Demon Lord dwells to do much to help individual worlds against its Shadow.
    • ...and this is just a sampling. Then again, every single one pales before the truth about the origins of the Demon Lord and its hordes...
  • Awesome, but Impractical: Abbadon the Warfather, one of Diabolus' mightiest Greater Devils, wields a massive iron sword despite his Cold Iron weakness, for no reason other than proving just how much of a hard-ass he is.
  • Beast Man: Various types, explicitly originally created/mutated by the power of the Demon Lord, with many types including the weak and cowardly but still dangerous in numbers (and there are a LOT) goat-headed Fomors, the aggressive wolf-headed Wargs, and the brutish, hulking Minotaurs.
  • Black Magic: Spells belonging to the Blood, Curse, Death, Demonology, Forbidden and Necromancy Traditions are considered Dark Magic and cost Corruption to learn and cast.
  • Bloody Bowels of Hell: In some places. Combined with Fire and Brimstone Hell.
  • Brain in a Jar: A player character can become one at 7th level via the Brain In A Jar Master Path.
  • Cast From Hitpoints: Destruction Tradition spells also deal damage to the caster and Demonology spells require a fresh blood sacrifice every time.
  • Class and Level System: In this game characters begin with a Novice type and choose Expert and Master options as they level up.
  • Cold Iron: Physical contact with iron weakens faeries and can even disrupt some magic cast by them. This weakness is shared by Devils, because they are also fae.
  • Cosmic Horror Story: As it stands, there is no way to effectively repel the Demon Lord and his forces. The best anyone can do is delay the inevitable.
  • Crapsack World: Naturally. Aside from all the supernatural nasties both indigenous and invasive to the world, there is also plenty of mundane ways that can ruin/end your life on Urth, including but not limited to war, religious fanaticism, disease, famine, the criminal element, taxes etc. etc.
  • Crystal Dragon Jesus: The New God, a light and healing focused god, whose clergy claims that he is "the one true god" and seeks to oust most other faiths from their territory.
  • Dark Fantasy: Even Darker and Edgier by the subgenre’s standards.
  • Dem Bones: Everything from the basic animated skeleton Boneguard over the towering Bone Machine to Skeletal Steeds.
  • Demon Lords and Archdevils
    • One Demon Lord and has a posse of Demon Princes.
    • On the Devil side of things, there are Diabolus and his Greater Devils.
  • Demonic Possession: Some Demons and Spirits can do this and there are several Paths with talents centred around getting possessed, having others possessed or possessing others yourself.
  • Devil, but No God: Hah, good one; that would be an improvement. That's because not only is the New God Diabolus in disguise, but also the Demon Lord is Capital-G GOD.
  • Deus Est Machina: The Cult of the Cog God, a minor religion of chiefly clockworks focused around improving the lot of clockworks in Rûl. There is also the Machine God, a dark parallel to the benevolent Cog God, who drives the living to mutilate themselves and others in pursuit of mechanical perfection.
  • Dhampyr: A playable ancestry. Nobody's quite sure how they came about, seeing as "the seed of vampires is as cold and lifeless as their blood"note . They are generally slightly weaker than vampires and possess lesser variants of their abilities and weaknesses (they are weakened by sunlight, but not hurt by it; they gain power from drinking blood, but not to the extent a vampire does etc). They are also noteworthy for being supernaturally attractive.
  • Eldritch Abomination: Every single demon is some type of this, with the Demon Lord the worst of them all, of course.
  • Evil Makes You Ugly: Even minor Marks of Darkness incurred by Corruption from a character’s transgressions can disfigure them.
  • Evil Makes You Monstrous: Major Marks of Darkness will inflict hideous deformities on characters who accumulate enough Corruption through their vile deeds,
  • Evil Smells Bad: Certain corruption effects put the “rank” in the phrase “rank corruption”.
  • The Fair Folk: Faeries are immortal beings that inhabited Rûl long before the advent of the mortal races. They come in all kinds of shapes, sizes and opinions about mortals. The most malevolent of Faeries are better known as Devils.
  • Fauns and Satyrs
    • Fauns are not Faeries themselves, but either the mortal result of Interspecies Romance or children who grew up in the Hidden Kingdoms and were transformed into half-Faerie by the magic of the place. They are a playable ancestry.
    • Satyrs on the other hand are male Fauns that have stayed in the Hidden Kingdoms for such a long time that they transformed into full Faeries. Like their inspiration from classical myth they are almost single-mindedly occupied with the pursuit of hedonistic pleasures. They even play magical pan pipes. Faun player characters can become one with a dedicated Master Path.
  • Fire and Brimstone Hell: In some places. In others it's Bloody Bowels of Hell.
  • Flesh Golem:
    • The Chainbound, a mass of corpses tied together in a vaguely humanoid shape by chains and fused together in undeath by necromantic energies.
    • Compare and contrast the Promethean, which is classed as a construct instead.

    Tropes G-O 
  • God of Chaos: Though not technically a god as per the definition of the word for the setting, the Demon Lord definitely qualifies, being an Eldritch Abomination cosmic force of entropy and destruction. Exposure to his Shadow can cause many to Go Mad from the Revelation.
  • God of Evil: Yet again the Demon Lord, being an Eldritch Abomination Omnicidal Maniac and Maker of Monsters, some of which could easily qualify as well.
  • Gorgeous Gorgon: Somewhat justified. The Gorgons were created by the Witch-King from his many brides who were selected from among the most beautiful women in the world. They are also The Ageless, one of the main perks of the transformation.
  • I Don't Like the Sound of That Place: Boatloads of them.
    • The Desolation: a vast desert in the north of Rûl. The mysterious and evil empire of Gog came from here, but all that's left now are cursed ruins and droves of The Undead.
    • The Kingdom of Skulls: an enclave of dark mages and their subjects in the frigid south created by The Dark Lady, the lover of the Witch-King. Even if you discounted the harsh climate, depressing landscape, near total lack of arable land, intense magical corruption and hostile natives, you'd still have to be afraid of the hordes of centaurs constantly warring with the Dark Lady's forces.
    • Azūl, the City of Death: Founded by the Witch-King and not so coincidentally home to the Black Hand, the most powerful assassins guild in the world, you really don't want to be caught out after dark in this place.
    • Qif, the City of Blood: world Blood Sport capital of Urth, the people here are all about that Bread and Circuses with the highest gladiator to civilian ration anywhere. It's actually not much worse than most other large cities… unless you're a slave that is. In that case it's way, way, way worse.
    • Dis, the City of Chains: Speaking of which, Dis is the world slave capital, the primary transfer market for slavers everywhere.
    • The Spider Wood: Being a Hungry Jungle filled with various kinds of Giant Spider bordering the Desolation is generally enough to make a place truly awful, but the Spider Wood goes a couple of steps further with its intense demonic corruption and cannibalistic Spider People.
  • I Know Your True Name: As of the "Power in a Name" supplement speaking a creature's true name allows characters to summon and somewhat control them, even if they are dead.
  • Karma Meter: Committing acts of depravity and using Dark Magic earns characters points in Corruption, eventually resulting in weird and disfiguring “Marks of Darkness” that reflect their tainted souls. Rack up too much Corruption, and not only do you get a penalty on interaction rolls with those around you, but you die upon becoming incapacitated, sink through the Underworld and go directly to Hell.
  • Lighter and Softer: The Shadow of the Weird Wizard game uses the same rule set but with a focus on more family-friendly Heroic Fantasy.
  • Light Is Not Good
  • Lizardfolk: They are the descendants of an advanced fallen civilisation of reptilian humanoids. Aside from the crocodilian "regular Lizardmen" there are several variants.
    • The solitary Dragonmen are larger, stronger and more ferocious than other Lizardmen. They even resort to cannibalism and have an acid Breath Weapon.
    • A Horned Devil is able to shot blood from its eyes to blind opponent, obviously being based on the American Greater short-horned lizard.
    • The Indigon is a Lizardman reminiscent of the Reptilian Conspiracy type, passing for human in the right light. It also has a patagia membranes under its arms like a flying lizard.
  • Mad God: The Demon Lord's hatred and hunger for the myriad realms of existence outside the Void is quite beyond insane even by divine standards, and it is by far the mightiest being of the setting.
  • Magical Native American: The Woad, the descendants of the ancient First People, are this mixed with a dash of Pictish.
  • Messianic Archetype: Astrid, the prophet of the New God. After receiving visions from the New God she gathered disciples and travelled the land preaching his message of peace and purity. Then she was assassinated by her enemies and her body fed to dogs. The religion that emerged from her teachings afterwards declared her to have ascended to the New God's side.
  • Mummy: the preserved bodies of the Witch-King's enemies used to trap their soul and deny them reincarnation.
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast: Out the wazoo, naturally.
    • The Demon Lord combines it with I Have Many Names: The Hunger, the Shadow in the Void, the Dark Between Stars, The Unspeakable One, just to mention a few.
    • Abbadon the Warfather.
    • Diabolus, Lord of Seven Flames.
    • Ithritonus the Flyfather aka Baalzebul.
    • Thanatos aka Father Death.
    • Many of the Witch-King's high-ranking servants used aliases to hide their true name so it couldn't be used against them and included such pleasant fellows as The Dark Lady, Ruiner, Tempest, Poison, Abomination and The Unborn
  • Our Angels Are Different: Angels are actually devils assuming forms their victim considers ideal or beautiful in order to pose as servants and messengers of whatever god their quarry believes in. They target overly pious or zealous people to attempt to whip them into a religious frenzy and lead them to commit evil in the name of their religion. The concept of angels as divine messengers is entirely fabricated by agents of Hell.
  • Our Demons Are Different: Demons are manifestations of the Demon Lord, taking apparently random forms from whatever matter is close by when they enter reality, and act as his agents in the reality of Urth, making them both Eldritch Abomination and creations of an evil deity.
  • Our Dwarves Are All the Same: Also a playable ancestry. Strong and hardy? Check. Gold-obsessed? Check. Hard-drinking? Check. Miners and blacksmiths? Check. Massive Subterranean Halls? Check. Long-Lived? Check. Use Runic Magic? Check. Place great stock in their ancestry? Check. Although it's written dwarfs, not dwarves.
  • Our Elves Are Different
    • They are representative of the Inhumanly Beautiful Race varietynote  and counted among The Fair Folk. They live in their Hidden Kingdoms, are ruled by a Faerie Queen, are The Ageless and can have Pointed Ears, animal features or be Alien Geometries from certain angles. Due to their innate magic they always appear as alluring or intimidating as they like. However they suffer from the Immortal Procreation Clause and their numbers are still dangerously low due to a devastating war thousands of years ago.
    • While regular Elves fill the niche of the High/Wood Elves, the Darklings, a tribe of Elves who sided with the First People against the Edene invaders of Rûl against the order of Titania and were exiled and driven into the service of Diabolus, represent the Dark Elf variety.
  • Our Genies Are Different: The Genies were the first creations of the Demiurge, the first creation of the being originally known as God. They created much of the multiverse, but in order to do this, they had to take substance and form from both the Demiurge and from God itself. By the time they were done, the Demiurge had broken into many pieces that became the Demons, with God itself being reduced to a being of madness, hatred and a desire to undo all that had been done by the genies, becoming the Demon Lord. The Genies sealed their creation off from the Void where the demons lived in order to keep the demons from destroying everything, sacrificing a good portion of their number. The demons that remained in creation when it was sealed off from the Void were turned into Faeries and Trolls by the genies in a bid to de-demonize them and keep them from trying to destroy them and everything else, but it got so bad that they had to take demons from the Void and turn them into mortals in order to oppose the two races they had created. This came with a price, as doing this drove many genies mad, reducing them to nearly mindless beings of pure will and impulse.
  • Our Goblins Are Different
    • Goblins are a diminutive tribe of outcast faerie, no two of which look alike, but they live in the world of mortals, ostensibly because of how disgusting they are. Just to give an idea: a Goblin that never ever bathes can in many situations easily be the more sanitary option of two Goblins. note 
    • Hobgoblins on the other hand are all physically perfectly identical, since they are Clone Army created by the Faerie to make up for their small numbers. They are also all Hermaphrodites to allow for procreation amongst themselves and have a chance to turn into the The Berserker during combat. They are also the only true Faerie that isn't The Ageless, rarely living past their 30s.
  • Our Minotaurs Are Different
    • Minotaurs are a very strong variety of Beast Man, created by the Demon Lord's taint.
    • Void Bulls are a particularly powerful variant of Minotaur empowered by the Demon Lord.
  • Our Nymphs Are Different: probably the ultimate inhuman beauties. May sometimes even spill over into So Beautiful, It's a Curse, because all of them are so beautiful that any living creature sees one, regardless of their actual preferences in such matters, is quickly driven into mad, slavish devotion to her, if they are not mentally strong enough. If one of those creatures happens to be a troll...
  • Our Orcs Are Different: These were created as Slave Mook Super Soldiers for the Imperial military by subjecting Half Giant prisoners of war to horrific Black Magic experiments.
  • Our Vampires Are Different: Another creation of the Witch-King. They drink blood, are immune to many effects normal folk aren't and get burned by sunlight. A new vampire is created when one feeds their blood to one of their victims. The also have a Superstition, an object of Absurd Phobia that weakens them just by being in their line of sight.
  • Our Werebeasts Are Different:
  • Our Zombies Are Different: Aside from literal Zombies, there are Grave Thralls, Animated Corpses, Barrow Wights..

     Tropes P-Z