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D&D 4e book review: Thunderspire Labyrinth

Written by Expy - Published on August 21, 2008


  • Book Type: Adventure Module
  • Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
  • Publication Date: July 2008
  • Authors: Richard Baker & Mike Mearls

Dungeon Mastering Rating: 4 red dragons (out of a possible 5)

Thunderspire Labyrinth is a D&D 4th edition adventure for characters of 4th to 6th level. I can be played as a stand-alone adventure or a sequel to Keep on the Shadowfell (you can read the review of Keep of the Shadowfell here.)

» Buy Thunderspire Labyrinth from our bookstore

Hack & Slash rating – 4 red dragons

There is an insane amount of encounters in this adventure module. The only reason it doesn’t score 5 red dragons for hack & slash is that Thunderspire Labyrinth features much more than winding corridors and mobs of monsters. It’s much more than pure hack & slash.

The battle maps are detailed, with small interconnecting rooms and different types of terrain which will turn many encounters into highly-tactical, guerilla warfare.

The non-dungeon-delving part of the adventure mostly takes place in an underground settlement / market square called the Seven-Pillared Hall. I thought this was a cool, original setting that you will be able to use again and again in your campaign.

PC confusion rating – 4.5 red dragons

You might have guessed it: Thunderspire Labyrinth features a massive maze! The maze was built by minautors – which is kinda greek-retro-cool.

The unique thing about this labyrinth is it’s “so convoluted that it cannot be mapped.” The adventure features a system for exploring the maze with or without direction/guide. The system is very simple. In fact it’s simple enough and fun enough that might borrow the concept in my future campaigns.

Since the maze is undescribably humongous PCs will want to go back into its depth for more adventures after you’re done with this module. We all know players like getting lost and into trouble. That’s added value.

Cool monsters rating – 3.5 red dragons

It’s a low-level adventure so the monsters are cool mostly because they’re classic – everybody enjoys slaying mobs of goblins and gnolls. Thunderspire Labyrinth also introduces new monsters, including some Duergar dwarves that would be fun and easy to feature many times over the course of a campaign.

Railroad rating – 3 red dragons

Well, it’s a published adventure so there’s a railroad in there. In 80 pages the PCs have to get hooked and finish the adventure – not much room for complex investigative stories. Ideally Thunderspire Labyrinth works best if it is included in an ongoing campaign. However if you use the module as a stand-alone you’re provided with enough plot hooks and options that the railroad becomes less obvious – let’s say it feels more like an overgrown jungle path than a railroad.

I’m a new DM – is this adventure for me? rating – 4 red dragons

This module is filled with clear information, endless encounters, and an easy-to-run setting. It’s great for new DMs. You have to invest some time to read the whole thing and take notes though – there’s a lot of info in there.

Experienced DMs will also find the setting and encounters useful but might want to modify them to fit an ongoing campaign.

Thunderspire LabyrinthRed dragon rating – 0 red dragon

Come on! Not a single red dragon? Unacceptable!

It might keep the PCs alive though…

Overall rating – 4 red dragons

This is a high-quality adventure. It should save you some prep time. You should be able to reuse many of its elements so it has long term appeal. The monster stat blocks and combat encounters are easy to read and prepare.

All in all one of the best published adventures I’ve read. Could have been the best if it featured a red dragon – I guess I’ll have to suck it up and enjoy playing whatever dragon is in there instead!

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Written by Expy

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Expy is the mascot for DungeonMastering.com and the real mastermind behind Expy Games. He likes to hoard treasure, terrorize neighbors, burn down villages, and tell white dragon jokes..

No matter how fearful the legends claim dragons are, they always end up being defeated in 5 rounds by adventuring parties they encounter. That’s what dragons are – experience points for the heroes in your Dungeons & Dragon party. And this mascot is no different, hence the name Expy.

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D&D 4e book review: Thunderspire Labyrinth, 4.0 out of 5 based on 2 ratings » Leave a comment



9 Responses to “D&D 4e book review: Thunderspire Labyrinth”
  1. Propagandroid says:

    Keep on the Shadowfell pretended to have a story, and it’s an awful adventure (so far, we haven’t made it to the Keep yet)…if Thunderspire Labyrinth is a better adventure for not having one, let’s hope they don’t try again! I doubt our group will keep playing 4e after KotS, so I probably won’t be picking this or any future adventures up.

    Perhaps you can answer a question: I haven’t seen any evidence that Keep on the Shadowfell really attempted to showcase all the different things they said 4e would bring, does Thunderspire Labyrinth have skill challenges, encounter “areas” instead of rooms, or other “4e” things?

  2. Jeremy says:

    I ran the encounters from the Keep on the Shadowfell up to the point where the PCs would most likely head off to the Keep itself, then we restarted our campaign — my players were, at that point, familiar enough with the rules to dump the pre-gen characters and make their own. I started over with them in Fallcrest, and have been fleshing out that environ along my own lines, and once they are experienced enough I’ll be throwing some of the Thunderspire hooks their way — and possibly the leftover Shadowfell hooks, too.

    All that said, I like Thunderspire much better than Shadowfell, as both a story and series of interconnected encounters. It’s more compelling, has more opportunities for storytelling, and it just makes more sense than does the “bad guy has a plan..STOP HIM!” line of Shadowfell.

  3. Yax says:


    I think skill challenges are meant to be added to the game on the spur, aren’t they? And for encounter “areas” I’m not sure what you mean. But if you mean multiple encounters turning into one big mess when they combine, then yes, you’ll find plenty of that in Thunderspire.


    You’re on it. I agree 100%.

  4. Kane says:

    I started running Keep on the Shadowfell as a way to bring our game into 4E with the plan to change to my own stuff after we got the new rules down. Well, its been about 6 sessions now, and we are still running strong. What this lacked in story, I found easy to add too with alittle more role playing (something 4E could use more of). I picked up the H2 module and have read through it and I am leaning towards running this and H3 (after I read a great review of it over on another website). My group is having alot of fun with the new rules and with our own roleplaying, they even kept old Splug, the prisoner they found in the Keep alive and he has become sort of a doby the house gnome for the group, plenty of rp comedy goodness!

    Modules are never a perfect fit, but with alittle modification and some good rping, they can make a DM’s life alittle easier.

  5. Nebulous says:

    We’ve run 7 sessions through the Keep so far and both myself and the group has really enjoyed it. I’ve made some changes though, and really fleshed out the NPCs of Winterhaven into more interesting people. My group has also adapted Splug as a sort of slave/henchman.

    I’m dropping hints now of Thunderspire and the Bloodreavers so that the transition to H2 will be smooth.

    I don’t really have too many problems with Kalarel being so 1-dimensional, but i might incorporate a subplot that fleshes out his personality some. Why does he hate the denizens of Winterhaven so much? I don’t know.

    I’ve also adapted the campaign to the 4e Forgotten Realms campaign, although it is a loose adaptation. Neither myself or the players are hardcore realms fans, and i’m the only one with real background knowledge.

  6. Mark says:

    I’ve been running KotS for the past 2 months in the “generic” D&D world included in the back of the DMG (Fallcrest and the surrounding area). I adapted some ideas from the optional encounter and Forgotten Realms-adaptation pdf’s available on the WotC website, which worked out well and added some complexity and intrigue to the plot around Winterhaven.

    I also wasn’t too happy with the “no motivation, I’m just doing this because I’m evil” villain, so I adopted a standard movie trope of a good man gone bad to rescue some loved ones. In my version Kalarel is a former good cleric and has some loved ones trapped in the Shadowfell, and the Raven Queen won’t release them. Driven mad by grief, he makes a plan to bargain with Orcus (the RQ’s rival as I understand it). Cue spiral into madness. He discovers information about the sealed rift under the keep, forms a plan to win Orcus’ favor, and goes to work implementing that plan (i.e. opening the rift). Still pretty cliched, but I think it’s better than what’s in the module. Who knows? In the end he might realize what he’s done, and beg the party for forgiveness. Do they kill him anyway? Or do they let him redeem himself?

  7. Kane says:

    We finished up Kots this past session with the return to a quiet Winterhaven. It seems the town has been struck by a raiding band of slavers and have taken some of the woman of the town, including a old pc that one of my players started out running as a second toon, but dropped after we had a new player join us. The Kalerel fight in the keep was one of the players favorites. I played up Kalerel as a single minded mad priest who would let nothing stand in the way of his plans. The fun with the skeletons and the wight added to the tactics I unleashed upon the group. I love having the undead come back to fight again! Kalerel fell to his “death” infront of the rift and was pulled into the beyond, I smell a recurring villan.

  8. Mark says:

    Just a quick update – the party played the finale with a conflicted Kalarel to perfection. They made it through the brutal fight with the Underpriest of Orcus, and then quickly rappelled down the chains and some ropes to the lower level of the temple. Despite numerous blasts from the wight and an evil mage I had added, the majority of the party refused to be split up and went after Kalarel. The 2 spellcasters (a warlock and a wizard) screened for the rest of the party, and dealt with the mage and the wight. All the while they kept up a parlay with Kalarel, initiated by the party’s Cleric of the Raven Queen. After Kalarel was bloodied and his allies dead, the parlay began in earnest.

    The party really earned it, making numerous DC 20 and 25 diplomacy, religion, history, insight and bluff checks, and also roleplaying the interaction with Kalarel to the hilt. In the end they convinced Kalarel of the error of his ways, helped him to undo the damage he had done to the barriers keeping the Rift sealed, and then collapsed and sealed the tunnels under the keep as they exited.

    Afterwards, Kalarel refused to return with the party to civilization, begged a few iron rations, and walked off along the old trade road to the north into the wilderness. Will the party ever see him again? Only time will tell…


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