Tuesday, July 11, 2023

Review: Shadowdark RPG

 Much like Deathbringer, Shadowdark is a variation on D&D 5E designed for players looking for a simple fast playing game. My problem with Deathbringer is it played very flat, meaning there did not seem to be any depth of play, much like the original version of D&D. A fighter was a fighter was a fighter, sure you could play them slightly differently and use different weapons, but at the end of the day, there was no real variance.  The author of Deathbringer is working on an expanded version, but I suspect this is a low priority for him and so it may be years before we see a real product.

While Deathbringer could be printed out on a single sheet of paper, Shadowdark is a full blown RPG with no dependencies on any other games. The Shadowdark book contains everything you need, ancestries, classes, spells, magic items, monsters, the whole 9 yards. So right off the bat, Shadowdark is the better game. The Quickstart rules for Shadowdark can be had at;


The Shadowdark core rules contain 6 Ancestries, Dwarf, Elf, Goblin, Half-Orc, Halfling and Human. This sounds all good and well, pretty standard fantasy RPG races, except for one small thing. None of them have darkvision. In fact darkvision is not a thing in this game. The only defense against darkness is natural light, torches or lanterns. In either case, they only last 1 hour of real time, not game time, real time, and once the lights go out, no one can see anything. That is except for the monsters, who are all dark adapted and can see in the dark just fine. This builds an interesting resource management aspect to the game, because the characters can only carry so many torches or so many flasks of oil for the lantern. This means the players have to plan out their excursions. They cannot take a long rest after every combat, because a long rest costs the characters 8 torches, or they have to build an actual fire, which has its own problems, especially in dungeons where there is little or no air circulation.

The game has 4 base classes, Fighter, Priest, Thief and Wizard. There are plenty more available online and creating new classes is pretty easy, but honestly, I am not terrible sure that is necessary. I have always felt the 4 core classes are pretty much all that is needed. Although, something I would probably house is multi classing, because it does make character building more interesting and allows the players to make characters more like the movies and books. One of the more interesting aspects of the game is, as the characters level, rather than getting set in stone powers and abilities, they get a 2d6 roll on a talent table. Rolling a 2 gives you an extra powerful talent, rolling a 12 lets you choose any talent off the table or gives you a +2 to distribute to you attributes as you see fit. 3-6, 7-9 and 10-11, give you a mixed bag of talents. The player will only ever get a maximum of 5 rolls off the table, assuming the game goes to 10th level, enough to get an interesting mix I think.

Another interesting aspect of the game is no saving rolls of any kind. All spells are roll to cast, which means every time the character casts a spell, the player must make a spell casting check against a DC of 10 + Level of the spell. If they succeed, the spell goes off normally, if they fail, nothing happens and they cannot cast the spell again until they have completed a long rest. There are no spell points or spell slots, the character can cast the spell over and over, until they fail a roll. This helps keep the focus on lower level spells, because they are easy to cast and players will tend to save the high level spells for when they absolutely need them instead of wasting it on three kobolds because they think its funny.

Overall, I think this is a solid game. If you have played any of the modern itinerations of D&D, this will be familiar to you. However it has been stripped down for speed and ease of play. Combat should not be bogged down with endless choices and because the torch is burning and no one wants the torch going out in the middle of a fight, players are motivated to expedite their turns. I am giving this one an 8 out of 10. I really want to play it.

Shadowdark Torchbearer Class

 I made this class up as a joke. This class is meant to be terribly under powered without being totally useless. The two use cases for this class is first as an NPC the GM wants to be able to improve over time. The second is when you, as a player, roll some really crappy attributes and your GM is making you play the character anyway. Lets be honest, when you roll 7, 9, 8, 14, 7, 10, there is no way you are going to be successful as a serious character, so you might just as well lean into the sidekick thing. If you actually use this class for an actual character, I cannot be held responsible for the results.

Legal Information:

Fonts. Old English Text MT by Monotype Type Drawing Office used under license, Montserrat designed by Julieta Ulanovsky, Sol Matas, Juan Pablo del Peral, Jacques Le Bailly, used under Open Font License, Old Newspaper Types by Manfred Klein used under license.

Shadowdark License. This product is an independent product published under the Shadowdark RPG Third-Party License and is not affiliated with The Arcane Library, LLC. Shadowdark RPG © The Arcane Library, LLC.

Layout Template. By Taylor Seely-Wright.

Wednesday, July 5, 2023

RE: Mastodon

 I shutdown my Mastodon server today. My main problem was getting feeds from a diverse set of other servers. The Fediverse is cool and interesting if you have an account on one of the larger servers, however, if you are on a small self-hosted server, it is very difficult to find interesting content. My feed was pretty flat, with posts coming in slowly and it was pretty much the same stuff over and over. Over the weekend, this got me to thinking that this cannot be all there is to Mastodon.

On Sunday I submitted an account request to dice.camp, an RPG centered Mastodon server. Today, I received my account and transferred over the more interesting accounts that I followed. Low and behold, within minutes my feed was exploding with content. On the one hand, I was excited to finally see what Mastodon was really about. On the other hand, I was sad in the realization that a small server really stands no chance of replacing Twitter for its users.

My opinion at this point is, setting up your own Mastodon server is a waste of time unless you intend to provide service to a few hundred friends. Otherwise you are going nowhere fast. Your best bet is to join an already well established server with a few thousand accounts. You will not regret it.