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The Arcane Library

ShadowDark RPG Core Rules - Hardcover


This is the physical hard-cover print version of the ShadowDark RPG Core Rulebook.  By emailing a copy of your Brain Spice receipt to The Arcane Library, you also receive a free downloadable PDF version!

Check out our entire range of ShadowDark RPG game materials and RPG Dice!

In Shadowdark RPG, you and your group of crawlers use magic, steel, and wits to delve into mysterious ruins, lost cities, and monster-infested depths. Wondrous treasures and long-forgotten secrets await you! But don't let your last torch burn out, or you could be swallowed by the Shadowdark...

Adventuring Party

5E players will find what they've been waiting for: an intuitive and complete TTRPG that serves as a seamless bridge into the heart of the Old School Renaissance.  

Old-school gamers will find a system that is familiar and nostalgic, but with major quality-of-life upgrades that modernize the old-school experience. 

Your legend awaits, crawler. Lift your blade, light your torch, and plunge into the unknown depths of the Shadowdark!


Shadowdark RPG has familiar elements of classic fantasy gaming, but it isn't a retro-clone. A lot of new game design ideas have emerged in the last 50 years, and we wanted to bring our favorite concepts together into a nostalgic-but-new adventuring system.

In this game, torches only last one hour of real time. The characters (and players) must make decisions quickly, or they'll run out of precious light! 

A few other features include: 

  • The four core classes: fighter, priest, thief, wizard
  • A d20-based, roll-high system
  • No darkvision — total darkness is dangerous 
  • Treasure grants XP, and tracking it is dead simple
  • Roll-to-cast spells — magic is exciting and risky
  • Simple distances (close, near, far)
  • Monster morale and reaction rolls
  • Always-on initiative — time is easy to track
  • The six classic stats (3d6 in order) 
  • No skills — just ability checks and advantage/disadvantage
  • Separate ancestry and class
  • Randomized character class abilities — emergent character growth!
  • Low hit points — fast and deadly combat
  • Simple encumbrance (gear slots)

Shadowdark RPG - Gelatinous CubeShadowdark RPG pulls players in faster than a gelatinous cube

Shadowdark RPG Core 

This book is a black, digest-sized hardcover featuring a subtle, silver-ink print of The Ten-Eyed Oracle, the most notorious and feared denizen of the Shadowdark! 

Shadowdark RPG is a complete game with all you need in one tome. It features:

  • 330 pages in a concise, two-page spread layout
  • Full rules for characters, gameplay, and GMing
  • 239 classic monsters
  • 85 iconic spells 
  • 97 mighty magic items 
  • Dozens of robust roll tables for just about everything
  • Handy reference charts on the inside covers
  • Spectacular black-and-white art 
  • Lay-flat, sewn binding 
  • A black ribbon bookmark
  • Chapter markers along the side of the book

Game Mastering

The Game Mastering chapter of Shadowdark RPG is absolutely crammed with advice and roll tables to help you improvise and be surprised alongside your players. 

There are robust generators for traps, hazards, rumors, events, adventures, NPCs, names, rival adventurers, dungeon and hex maps, taverns, shops, and much more.

Shadowdark RPG also features rich, d100 encounter tables for 22 adventuring environments. There are 1,100 unique encounters brimming with kinetic energy!

Shadowdark RPG - Swamp Encounters

The Monsters and Treasure chapters get the same attention to detail. Random generators combined with hundreds of monsters and treasures give you all you need to dive in and let the adventure unfold.

Can I See A Preview?

Absolutely! Download the FREE Digital Shadowdark RPG Quickstart Set here

It has two 68-page guides (Player and Game Master), eight 1st-level characters, and an expansive 1st-3rd-level dungeon crawl, Lost Citadel of the Scarlet Minotaur.

What About Everything Else?

Mini Adventures, Character Cards, a Game Master Screen, and Cursed Scroll Zines are just the beginning!

Shadowdark RPG Complete

Publishing for Shadowdark RPG

We're proud to say that Shadowdark RPG does not use the Open Game License, so third-party creators can publish Shadowdark RPG material royalty and worry-free!

Check out a few examples of the fantastic work by Shadowdark RPG creators:

Sersa Victory - Shrine of the Jaguar Princess
Laurin David-Weggen - Soulblight
Taylor Seely-Wright - Kazad-Mor
Community Spotlight - Jake Savala
  • New Shadowdark RPG Classes, including mighty barbarians, wild druids, and sword-wielding spellcasters, written by Jake Savala:
Expanded Talents - James Mishler

Writing and Design

Kelsey Dionne is the founder of The Arcane Library, a TTRPG publishing company based out of Las Vegas. Her adventure, The Secrets of Skyhorn Lighthouse, is the highest-rated adventure of all time on DMs Guild and has over 130,000 downloads. Her claim to fame is that she once met Gary Gygax when she was a young gamer, and he encouraged her to become a Dungeon Master. She's very glad she took his advice! 

Art Team

Lucas Korte Art

Lucas Korte is an artist and illustrator who works primarily in the underground death metal scene. His international roster of clients include Blood Incantation, Tomb Mold, the Black Dahlia Murder, and many more. He received his M.F.A. from the University of Notre Dame after studying biology at Wayne State University and fine art at the College for Creative Studies. After teaching art at the University of Notre Dame, Korte and his partner moved to Lancaster PA, where they currently reside. Korte is a lifelong lover of early sword and sorcery illustration and Lovecraftian cosmic horror.

Yuri Perkowski Domingos

Yuri Perkowski Domingos - A Brazilian artist and member of Ink Potion Studios. He's passionate about the art of old Warhammer and Fighting Fantasy books. Yuri works with his own pointillism technique and has illustrated for Old School Essentials, Warlock! and many other indie TTRPGs.

Matt Morrow

Matt Morrow has been creating illustrations professionally since 1996. He worked for a computer magazine as an in-house illustrator until 1999, where he crafted hundreds of editorial illustrations. Since then, Matt has been juggling being a stay at home dad with three great kids and working on freelance projects in various areas such as newspapers, children’s books, RPGs, and drawing subjects from hedgehogs to zombies.

Brandish Gilhelm

Brandish Gilhelm - "Strength, honor, and beer." Brandish is the head of Runehammer Games and has published numerous bestselling industry-shakers including Index Card RPG, EZD6 by DM Scotty, and 5E Hardcore Mode

Jessee Egan

Jessee Egan - Kelsey's wife and the true force of nature behind Shadowdark RPG, since it wouldn't exist without her creative direction, marketing skill, art contributions, and encouragement. Also, she makes sure Kelsey remembers to eat during writing benders. 

David Wright-Spaner

David Wright-Spaner - The video and audio visionary behind Shadowdark RPG! David is a vastly talented digital multimedia artist and consultant, voice over actor, and Game Master, as well as one of Shadowdark RPG's very first playtesters.

Abdul Latif

Abdul Latif - A horror and necro-surrealism artist based in Indonesia whose work appears in numerous band logos and album covers in the death metal scene.

Matt Ray

Matt Ray - Matt Ray's iconic pen-and-ink style of classic fantasy illustration has been featured in notable publications across the TTRPG industry, including Back to BasiX, Dungeon Delve, and Old School Essentials.

Mark Lyons

Mark Lyons - Mark's ink illustrations can be found in Old School Essentials and numerous retro adventures from the OSR scene, as well as the comic anthology Strange Stories for Strange People.