The System


In this game the players take turns to tell the story of their Heroes by describing their actions and reactions to situations presented by the GM. He/she is the player responsible to arbitrate the rules, to play the role of all the other characters of the story and to make sure that the Heroes are challenged by interesting enemies, dangers and plots. The game is just a conversation between the players and the GM, in-character or not, telling the story until things become important, dangerous and uncertain and they decide to roll the dice to see what happens next.

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Roll the dice!

When it’s time to roll, grab a bunch of dice from the TRAITS of your Hero: each Trait is rated either as D4, D6, D8, D10 or D12, and you add a die with that many faces to your pool. For example, if your Hero is a DANGEROUS WARRIOR D8 armed with a SPEAR D6 and you roll to make him attack an enemy, you grab a D8 (eight-sided die) and a D6 (six-sided die) and roll em together.

The die that rolls higher sets your Result: if you roll a 7, a 5 and a 3 your result is 7. However, for each other die that rolled a 5+, you add +1 to this result (in this case, you have a 5 and thus your final result is 8!). Compare your result to the Difficulty Rating (DR) that the GM has set with his GM roll (he grabs dice in a similar way as you) and if your’s higher you win!

Effect: size matters

The “size” (number of faces) of the winning die (the one who rolled highest, if there are two or more you choose which exactly) is important because your effect (for example the damage of your attack) depends on it: dice with more faces are considered higher and generate greater effects and damage.

Difficulty Rating, Position & Potential Effect

When you make a roll, the GM sets a Position, a Potential Effect and a Difficulty Rating for your action.
The Difficulty Rating (DR) is the number you have to score to win a roll. It always starts at 8 but is influenced by the GM roll (see below).

The Position of your roll indicates if you are in a situation of advantage in which you can control the outcome a bit, or in a more dangerous or risky situation, where things can go BAD. This is influenced by factors such as being surrounded, rolling against something/someone with a superior “tier” in equipment, technology, or magic, etc.

The potential effect indicates if your action is going to have a “standard” effect (which means that you use your effect die as it is if you win), or if it’s Limited for some reason  (reducing both your effect die and its narrative effect), for example because you are using improvised tools to open a safe, or even if it’s Increased because you have an advantage (for example attacking a sleeping enemy).

GM roll

The DR of a roll is modified by the GM roll, which takes in account in a very simple way of your Position, the Traits of NPCs, hostile Scene Traits, Consequence on your Hero, etc. The GM puts all these things together to create a pool of dice and roll it: the highest scoring die becomes his Effect Die if you lose the roll, and if it rolled higher than 8 its result becomes the DR, if it rolled less but still rolled a 5+ it adds +1 to the DR. Any remaining die that rolled a 5+ increases the DR by a further +1. The final result is the effective DR for the roll.


Another core concept of rolls is the DARK OMENS: all dice that roll a “1” become Dark Omens and create Hero Dice for you and Shadow Dice for the GM. However, if the GM rolled them, they are more to your advantage, while if you rolled them they can be a bit more of bad news for you, changing the situation you are in for worse.

Hero Dice

Hero Dice are the “currency” of the game and represents the potential for extra heroism of your character. They can be used to:
– Add them directly to rolls (with an appropriate narrative explanation) or to add more Traits.
– Activate some of your special abilities (Talents).
– Create some narrative effects without rolling, creating “automatic successes” for some non-opposed actions
– Counter the Shadow Moves (special moves) of the GM’s characters and monsters

Character sheets

If you want to see how a Shadow Lords character sheets looks, click here: Cassandrae Hero Sheet