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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
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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.

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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. For examples see the Not Safe for Work trope entry below.


This game provides examples of:

  • 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.
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  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 assassin's guild in the world, you really don't 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… if you're not a slave that is. Then 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 earn characters points in Corruption, eventually resulting in weird and disfiguring “Marks of Darkness” that reflect their tainted souls.
  • 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.
  • A Load of Bull
    • Minotaurs are a 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.
  • 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
  • Not Safe for Work: Examples include Black Magic spells for Crippling Castration and Orgasmatron and several different Path talents working through or requiring intercourse or at least sexual intimacy. Not to mention the ridiculously varied kinds of Body Horror that can be inflicted on or by the characters. It's pretty much what everyone was afraid of during the height of the Satanic Panic.
  • 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. Strength? Check. Gold-lovers? Doublecheck. 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 . 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 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 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, slavishdevotion 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 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...
  • Sanity Meter: Horrifying monsters and shocking incidents can drive a character to madness as their Insanity score increases.
  • Satanic Archetype: Diabolus, the King of Hell. He is an immensely powerful Faerie Lord cast down from the surface world into his own dark realm beneath the earth where he know feeds on the Corruption of mortal souls.
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism: Definitely on the cynical side, though perhaps surprisingly given everything it's much more balanced than you may assume at a glance. Yes, ancient evils stir in their tombs, the large religions are hopelessly corrupt and Rûl teeters at the edge of yet another devastating war that all the important people are uninterested, too apathetic or too incompetent to stop and of course the coming of the Demon Lord promises only doom. "But" despite all this and the innumerable ways and opportunities for characters to go down dark pathsnote  it's also repeatedly made clear that the only way to genuinely succeed is to push against the darkness (be it the Demon Lord himself or a lesser evil) and treat people decently. Literally, because otherwise the characters will eventually just be consumed by Corruption and die. The game freely admits that, yes, this world sucks. Now are you gonna try to do something about it?
  • Snake People: Several different kinds.
  • The Undead: Many, many, many different kinds.
  • The Wild Hunt: These are raids by the Faerie on mortal settlements to abduct mortals both for creating Fauns and to pay the Hell Tithe. It is also one of the signs of the endtimes when the Elves are corrupted by the Demon Lord's Shadow and ride out of the Hidden Kingdoms and reignite the war with the mortal races.
  • Thought-Controlled Power: Users of the Psychic spell Traditions Telekinesis and Telepathy can do this.
  • Will-o'-the-Wisp: Jack-o’-lanterns are malevolent faerie creatures that love to lure travellers to their doom on the moors. From a distance, they appear as plumes of pale fire bobbing in the air, but when approached they transform into orange flames resembling leering faces.


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