Saturday, November 12, 2022

I Ran a Shadowdark RPG One-Shot



Our regular DM had to work late and only about half of our group could make it so I ran a Shadowdark RPG one-shot last night. What drew me to ShadowDark were several features:

1) After playing a lot of Shadow of the Demon Lord versus DnD 5, I've come to enjoy rolling damage with few if any modifiers. I think it speeds things up at the table.

2) The Difficulty Classes are clearly given and they map to straight-forward percentage chances and range from 9 to 18.

3) Ability Scores drive the game and "skill" gives a PC Advantage on a Check.

4) It uses Ascending AC and a unified roll high system.

5) Spellcasters have to roll to cast a spell and as long as they succeed they continue to be able to cast that spell until they fail a check and it lost for the rest of the day. This also means that if a "Saving Throw" is required it is merely an Ability check by the targets.

6) Random Class Abilities, called Talents in ShadowDark, are gained as a PC levels on class-specific tables.

7) The game is easy to House Rule.

I think the adventure was a hit and my players, who are most familiar with 5E, grasped the mechanics faster than they did with Hyperborea 3E.


I made a 5th Level Witch, Warlock, & Knight of Ydris regenerated characters from Cursed Scroll 1: Diablerie!

My intention was to combine two adventures from Goodman Games' Chained Coffin for Dungeon Crawl Classics however, about three minutes in the PCs threw me a curve ball. They were hired to take the corpse of the son of a powerful member of the local Syndicate to a pool in the middle of the Nightwing Forest to resurrect him. Tancred Locke, however, was a real bastard and the PC's decided they didn't want to help him come back. Luckily, I had a bit of side stuff planned, including a meeting with an anthropomorphic raccoon with bifocals named Theodocious Took, who ended up becoming a forest spirit who could take over the body of any creature that ate his current body or who put on his bifocals. 

A good deal of the adventure, initially, was Theo promising them a place to live while the PCs discovered creatures whom Theo had grifted. We had a small combat that went well and the spellcasting system performed even better than I expected. Since this was a one-shot, the group's Witch ended up using various Forest animals as agents, spies, and assassins to eliminate and take over the Locke Syndicate. It got kind of absurd but the end, but we were all laughing a lot so I consider it a win.

Because our group is so heavily invested in 5E, I have trouble justifying an older version of DnD or its clones because at the end of the day they are all very similar in what they do. While I don't know that I could this group to switch to it over 5E long term, it is a game that I hope to use with some newer players in the future. 

I really like the blend of old school and new school that Shadowdark RPG offers and I look forward to the Kickstarter for it coming in March of 2023.

If you like any of the system choices I cites above I think you will love this game. If you appreciate streamlined designs and don't have a set favorite DnD-Adjacent game I think this game is for you. While I prefer ShadowDark over say B/X DnD, Old School Essentials, or Hyperborea 3E and I do think you could find things to add one of those game, I don't know for sure that you will find it that useful, but since the QuickStart is free and the Cursed Scroll 1 offers a great dungeon you can't really go wrong picking both up.

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