Steel & Shadow
The Steel and Shadow Campaign
Steel & Shadow is both a fantasy campaign setting and a low-magic game system, pitting plucky but fragile humanity against strange beasts and mystical horrors beyond their understanding.
Some core assumptions about The World may differ from other campaigns:
Heroes are Extraordinary Humans
The PCs of the S&S campaign are never intrinsically magical or wondrous demi-humans. A traveling party in S&S is not a menagerie of strange races, capable of altering the world around them with mere utterances of arcane words, but a group of people who’ve decided to leave their mundane lives behind and take up the mantle of the adventurer.
Live And Die By Your Wits
The S&S campaign recognizes that adventuring is not only a matter of physical endurance, but also psychological fortitude. An adventurer at he end of his Wits is no more able to carry on than an adventurer at this end of his hit points. Threats in the campaign may attempt to leave our heroes shaking in their boots. No guts, no glory!
Magic Is To Be Feared
Magic in the S&S campaign is the stuff of stories told to children around the hearth, but it is very much real, if also quite rare. It is definitely not, however, of the realm of humanity. Mystical beings and beasts alike are infused with the very Shadow of creation, and the mundane folk who come into contact with them run the risk of losing their Wits. While the village leader may have once encountered an elf who meant her no harm, she remembered the experience as beautiful, mesmerizing, but terrifying.
Steel & Shadow uses the Points of Light worldview: villages, towns, and the rare cities are bright specks of civilization in a dark, dangerous world. The average person has never seen what lies over the next hill beyond the farms, the rangers who dare explore the forests for game stick closely to the periphery, and trade caravans only travel by day, on the most well-worn roads, under the protection of whatever forces can be mustered. Luckily for you, though you are not an average person!
In addition to these core assumptions, several rules mechanics may be new to players of other game systems. While greater detail is provided in the relevant sections of this guide, a few key examples are noted here:
As referenced before, players have a Wits score that can go up and down, like their Health score. Encountering the magical or terrible can threaten your Wits, and you will lose less (or none) with a successful Wits check. Try to keep your Wits about you.
Adventurers use the Hero Points system to take extra actions, add bonuses to rolls, reroll bad results .. and even cheat death. Heroes are a fated sort, and receive a very limited pool of hero points as they advance in level, complete deeds or sometimes via feats.. (Villains and monsters do not have such luck, and will never have hero points.)
Gone are the days of tabulating item weights to calculate encumbrance! No longer shall we have the vagaries of wondering where an item is stored upon your body! Steel & Shadow uses a simplified, size-based container slot system to handle inventory, with slots based upon your strength and modified by your armor.
In S&S, players do not have an overall Armor Class. Instead, players have a Defense score, which indicates their ability to avoid blows, and a Damage Reduction (DR) die provided by their armor. For example, an adventurer wearing hide armor who is struck by a goblin’s crow feather-tipped bolt would roll a d4 and reduce the damage by that amount. A zero would indicate a glancing blow that caused no loss of health!