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Friday, 12 February 2016

A Sanguinary Sacrifice

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—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 seventh adventure to be released is The Apple of Her Eye.

The Apple of Her Eye is written by Steve Kenson, best known as the designer of Mutants & Mastermind and co-designer of Blue Rose, both RPGs being published by Green Ronin Publishing. It marks a shift in the scenarios for Shadow of the Demon Lord in that, it is written for Novice characters, that is, characters of First and Second Level who have selected their first or Novice Path—Magician, Priest, Rogue, or Warrior. As it opens, the player characters are on the road approaching the village of Avelton whose prosperity is based upon its thriving apple orchard and the cider it ferments from its annual crop. They hear a cry of help from this orchard and when they go to investigate they discover a young boy tied up. The mystery at the heart of The Apple of Her Eye is this—who tied the child up and why?

The Apple of Her Eye is primarily an investigative scenario in which the player characters attempt to get answers out of the recalcitrant Avelton villagers. There are lots of NPCs here for the Game Master to portray—and if he is so inclined play up his best (worst) Mummerset accent, since this does place next to an apple orchard and does involve cider—before the village’s secret is revealed and confronted. To be utterly clear though, this secret is a raging cliché and will be familiar to anyone who has read or watched a story about the strange fertility rites of them there country folk. Yet the fact that the plot to The Apple of Her Eye is a cliché does not matter because it is well written and because it showcases how ordinary folk are forced to survive in world that lies under the ‘shadow’ of the Demon Lord and the choices they are forced to make.

Physically, The Apple of Her Eye is a seven page, 8.75 MB PDF. Bar the front page, all of this is text. The scenario itself is well written with plenty of detail. Given that it begins with the player characters on the road, this scenario is easy to run after the events of Survival of the Fittest or The Slaver’s Lash—if not both. The Apple of Her Eye can be played in a session or two and does a fine job of turning a cliché into a horridly bucolic scenario.