This week, I did something quite out of character: pledged for a gaming Kickstarter, and not at the "here's a dollar" level... This is unusual, and marks only the third time in the past decade of gaming that I've jumped in to fund one of these things. But which product has sucked me in, and why?
Well, it's very-veteran-game-designer Rob Schwalb's Shadow of the Weird Wizard, an "evolution" and seriously tone-shifted successor to the Shadow of the Demon Lord RPG (SotDL). When SotDL released years ago, and since then, I liked much of what I heard about its design and experience in play: a d20 system, but streamlined and lighter than 5e, while still offering a fairly tactical experience in combat (some have said a more tactical experience than 5e). It is often described as filling that middle ground between games like 5e/Pathfinder and OSR games or Dungeon World.
However ... SotDL also released, judging by things I've read, with an almost puerile insistence on being ludicrously grimdark, in which grimdark isn't grimdark without enough potty humor, so that the whole thing might seem a bit like a parody of a black metal album as recorded in a junior-high bathroom. Hmm. Well, I wasn't really interested in inhabiting that space at the table, or in sifting through everything to weed that tone out.
But Schwalb eventually announced that he was working on a more 'family friendly' edition that would apply some lessons-learned while making the game feel a bit more like a 'normal' fantasy RPG. That sounded better - and after several multi-year delays, the thing is finally coming together!
There is a "quick play" document available for free on DTRPG that offers a taste of things. Note, however, that a few things here don't seem too clearly explained (I'm hoping that the final edits in the actual game book make this much simpler). Veterans of the 1st game consistently describe the game's ease of use and play, however. And the sample scenario already shows that when Schwalb says "family friendly," he does NOT mean "sucking all the maturity and gritty violence out of fantasy." Oh, no. Nope. Nay. Just ... no need for genitalia falling off mid-spell, and so forth.
Why am I excited about this new game, and about the Kickstarter options?
+ that middle ground between OSR and 5e-level games, as noted, is an important one; I've never really landed solidly with the available options, even though it sounds great for my normal gaming group.
+ SotDL - and now SotWW - offer wild character customization. Not via PF2e's myriad of feat choices as you level up, but through a more streamlined system of choosing Novice, Expert, and eventually Master 'paths' that are a bit like sub-classes. This lets you deeply specialize or go broad with various character styles to suit your tastes and the story that develops across campaigns. I can imagine telling those players who've enjoyed Pathfinder 2e that "this game can create literally millions of possible character configurations."
+ I am optimistic enough about this game's potential that the Kickstarter offerings really proved tempting. SotDL (in)famously was supported with a plethora of little .pdf supplements - to the extent that many people felt it was costly and scattered to keep up with over time for those who didn't fund the original KS. The Weird Wizard Kickstarter is going very well - it's currently at about 1,000% funded - and they just yesterday unlocked a key stretch goal that will include print-on-demand AT COST codes to make most of the initially planned supplements available in print, "for the cost of glue and paper" - plus shipping (tho you have to back at least at the $99 USD level to benefit from those). There are so many cool supplements already unlocked, from a major bestiary expansion to 30 pre-written mini-adventures as well as campaigns, class options, etc., etc.
Anyway - I still love me some gnarly OSR gaming, still love the dynamism of PbtA gaming, and still feel that Pathfinder 2e offers the best tactical combat RPG system I've ever run - but ... dang, I'm tired of feeling like prepping the world around the next set-piece PF2e fight is an engineering schematic problem! I am hopeful for exciting things with SotWW.
Passing these thoughts along for any not already aware of this option. Happy gaming!