Shadow, Sword & Spell has been talked about a ton among my friends, especially Jeff and Zach, so when I was offered the chance to get a review copy, I jumped at the chance.
Shadow, Sword & Spell is a humanistic, pulp fantasy RPG, akin to Howard, Leiber and Vance. There aren’t any elves, dwarves or orcs. It reminds me a lot of David Eddings, who I’m a big fan of.
The basic mechanics remind me a little of GURPS, in which you roll 2d12, trying to roll low (compare to GURPS rolling 3d6, trying to roll low). I’ve always liked “roll low” mechanics, and it really seems to work here. There’s also an aspect to the basic mechanic called “degrees of success”. If the target number is 14 and a player rolls a 12, that’s two degrees of success. Now. this works in combat to actually multiply the damage. Its a nice but simple rule that seems like it could be pretty significant. This degrees of success comes into play elsewhere in the game as well.
There’s a cool mechanic in the game for creating a background for your character. You choose a technological level of your civilization (primitive, barbarian, civilized and advanced), then add a modifier, such as decadent, mercantile or sorcerous. It feels a bit like you’re playing Small World in designing civilizations.
There are some very great rules for phobias and diseases, quite appropriate for a medieval game, including such delights as Bloody Flux, hemiplegy, jaundice, morsal, and… what’s that? Lycanthropy and mummy rot!
If you’re looking for a solid RPG that’s lighter on rules than D&D but heavier than Warrior, Rogue & Mage, this could be the game for you. The game feels very old school, and is a really solid game from the guys at Rogue Games.