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Saturday, 2 January 2016

A Shadow of the Demon Lord Starter

Although there is no scenario in the rulebook for Shadow of the Demon Lord, the first RPG released by Schwalb Entertainment following a successful Kickstarter campaign, one of the excellent decisions upon the part of the designer has been to release support for the game—and release it early—in the form of scenarios for the game. This way a gaming group can get playing quickly, even if they are just using the core rules presented in Victims of the Demon Lord: Starter Guide plus the adventure. In addition, the publisher has also released Tales of the Demon Lord, a complete mini-campaign that takes a party of characters from Zero Level up to Eleventh Level. In the meantime, the second adventure is The Slaver’s Lash. The Slaver’s Lash is written by Chris Pramas, the owner of Green Ronin Publisher and designer best known for Dragon Age: Dark Fantasy Roleplaying, Death in Freeport, the first scenario released for Dungeons & Dragons, Third Edition, and Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, Second Edition. Designed for Zero Level characters and players new to Shadow of the Demon, the adventure comes as a four-page, 7.94 MB PDF. It takes place after the Orc uprising and the death of the Emperor that loosed bands of rampaging Orcs upon the Empire, each bent on vengeance, wealth, and power in response to centuries of slavery. One of these bands has entered the Northern reach where it has begun raiding the outer villages and smaller settlements for slaves. When the adventure opens, the player characters find themselves captured by this Orc band and together pulling one of the band’s wagons towards some unknown destination. There is no preamble to The Slaver’s Lash. The players are expected to describe what their characters were doing and where they were when they were captured and this is encouraged by one of the NPCs. This goes some way towards building a degree of trust between the player characters and also between the player characters and NPCs. Of course, they are also expected to find out more about their situation from one day to the next and from one night to the next. Discovering more about their situation is crucial to engineering their eventual escape and The Slaver’s Lash provides lots of information to that end. It also provides situations that the player characters can take advantage of, as well as a wrinkle or two, all presented for easy use by the Game Master. As written, finding out more about their situation is not easy, but is not too challenging. Actually escaping is more difficult, but so it should be. Although it is short at just four pages long, The Slaver’s Lash is a comprehensive toolkit for setting up and running a slave revolt on the road. It ends when the player characters escape and make their way to the nearest outpost of civilisation, but it could be expanded to make the trek to safety a bit longer and a bit more involved. Perhaps the Game Master could adapt Survival of the Fittest, the sandbox that is the first scenario released for Shadow of the Demon Lord, to be run after The Slaver’s Lash. One way to do this is to use the main threat in Survival of the Fittest as a replacement for the secondary threat in The Slaver’s Lash. Although this scenario is generally a straightforward affair, there is potentially one complex scene that involves multiple combatants. One option with this scene might be to get the players involved in running another side as well as their player characters, but otherwise, the scenario is good for throwing a disparate set of characters and forging a party out of them. If there is an issue with The Slaver’s Lash, it is that the ‘trek to safety’ element of the story feels somewhat weak. This may be a problem for an inexperienced Game Master, hence the suggestion that Survival of the Fittest be run as a sequel as that trek. Unlike Survival of the Fittest, this scenario does fully work for Level Zero characters because it does fulfill the need to expose them to elements that will influence their decision in choosing their Novice Path—Magician, Priest, Rogue, or Warrior. It is simply done, but this important aspect of the Level Zero to Level One character funnel is pleasingly included. Physically, The Slaver’s Lash is nicely presented and clearly written. It is succinct and to the point and really does pack everything that the Game Master needs to run it. Like Survival of the Fittest, it has a grim, dark atmosphere that the rules of Shadow of the Demon Lord readily support. Simply a good scenario, The Slaver’s Lash gives a great set-up for your first Shadow of the Demon Lord game.