Shadow World Revisited: “Here be NO monsters”

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One of my favorite aspects of Shadow World is the general lack of fantasy “monsters”. Perhaps the early emphasis of the Fenlon Middle Earth campaign set the tone, but both Rolemaster and Shadow World were relatively light on the D&D style monster encounter.

As a younger player strange and unique monsters helped set the tone of wonder, mystery and even fear but as my players got older, introducing a never ending stream of monsters seemed to work the opposite by taking them out of the game.

Yes, the SW Master Atlas contains most of the entries found in C&T and some of the MA references giants, orcs, trolls, goblins but the predominance of core products (written by Terry) are humanoid centric: human and elves. This leaves encounters and combat focused on PC vs NPC and profession vs profession tactics and strategies.

The exceptions of course are the Dragons, Demons and fusion creatures. The fusion creatures: Shard, Xyr etc give SW it’s unique flavor and arguably add a horror element to the setting. These creatures seemed to have been adopted by the Numenera setting.

Compared to other traditional fantasy settings, SW seems very monster-lite. I call it the “Alien” or “Jaws” approach–having monsters that are few and far between leverage their impact on experienced players.

I like it–what are your thoughts?

5 Replies to “Shadow World Revisited: “Here be NO monsters””

  1. One thing I didn’t like about D&D (and the Ice Krals in Quellbourne had a similar problem) was the tendency of introducing new monsters and races in (almost) every module, with inadequate breeding populations and who never appeared again. The best explanation tended to be that you were in a dungeon made by a crazy person. Which only cropped up in certain locations. Otherwise, it made little sense.

    1. The thing abuot the monsters and races I totally agree with. There was also a habit of introducing new spells that I quite liked as it meant that even the biggest rules lawyer didn’t know every spell and every option in the game. I think that is partly where my lov of Rolemaster spell research comes from.

  2. I went from playing in Middle Earth to Shadow World and in both of those monsters played little part. I actually felt, having started in D&D, that the monstrous ecology was too sparse and I missed the monsters.

    Part of the problem was that my GM for shadow world was a seat of the pants GM who never really read the rules or creature descriptions. We fought our way through swathes of demons because they never used their abilities to best effect because the GM didn’t seem to know they had them. We got to the point where I am sure Fourth Pale demons were routine for experience.

    You meet one in my game and it is highly likely to take the entire party apart regardless of your level.

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