Shadow of the Demon Lord – Observances

Five total strangers got together and played Shadow of the Demon Lord for Roll20CON. Only one player was experienced with this system. Including me, the game master, It was a first run for all others. Now we all have traveled down the RPG road many times and our Roll20 skills and equipment were satisfactory but there is always that wondering on how this is going to go.

The session was a total success and here, from actual experience, is a GM lessons learned about this game and its material.

Easy to Learn – Before I run an RPG system, I will read through the core manual about 3 times and then I still have some doubt. I didn’t this time. I checked on some things that are usually gotchas to me and they were as I expected. It was a very easy system to pick up for player and GM alike.

Deep Level-0 Characters – Players get to pick the important stuff. Still get to roll for some randomness. Come out with a very personal and interesting Level-0 character. All without the hubbub of an ability generation scheme discussion & decisions or “GM over the shoulder rolls”. This was a hidden gem that I didn’t know how much I liked until we flew past that point that is usually a pain in the butt.

Boons and Banes and Beat a 10 – I now underestimated what a slick tool this really is. I think I underestimated it at first. We used it. It made sense. There were no arguments about it. I learned quickly that it was so adjustable and simple that we could use it for soft moves as well. At one point, a character wanted to slide across the table and jab his dagger at the monster for his attack at the end. “Make an agility check to see if you get a boon or a bane on your attack roll.” BAM! A soft move (using a Dungeon World term here). No game balance was (or could have been) thrown off. It made sense for the fiction. It pleased the player that their character had more input into their own more complex move. It was then that I understood an elegance in this system.

Initiative System – In only a 2.5 hour session, we got in four combats. That is on the high end with my other games. I am pleased with that. My lesson learned here is that I need to do a better job of tracking it with Roll20. This is something that we just need to be more comfortable with. We understood it. We did it. It just wasn’t as smooth our first session. All on us. When I say “us” I mean me.

Level Up – “Wait, I told you to level up and walked away from the keyboard for like five minutes. What do you all mean you are ready to go?” – Nuff said!

Creature Diversity – Even the 4-5 different low levels monsters we fought put up for very different challenges. The zombies were hard to kill but could be taken out with head shots (high attack roles). The large spider had a mechanic that let it skitter away when approached. That felt very spidery. The creature catalog is where I like things to be very different and they are.

Modules are packed with more than you think – If you have ever gotten your hands on a SotDL module, you will find yourself looking at about four pages of text. Don’t be deceived, there is a lot of stuff here. In the Kickstarter exclusive module, In Need of Killing, I ran it for 2.5 hours. I added only a couple of things inspired by the module but because this was a one-shot, I skimmed some other items. The group just got to their second room in the main section. These four pages, if done right could easily cover 3 short or two long game sessions. Much is easily expanded on.

I have a good feel for this system now and would enjoy running it some more. I always suspected this to be a good system but now I know it is.

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