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D&D 4e book review – Keep On The Shadowfell

Written by Expy - Published on June 26, 2008

Overview

  • Book Type: Adventure Module
  • Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
  • Publication date: May 20th 2008
  • Authors: Bruce R. Cordell & Mike Mearls

Keep on the Shadowfell is an adventure module for a party of 1st level characters. It is also an introduction to the 4th edition of Dungeons & Dragons and can be played without the core rulebooks, thanks to premade characters and a simplified set of rules.

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Hack & Slash Rating – 4.5 Red Dragons

The adventure is composed of over 20 combat encounters – yes, you read that correctly 20 combat encounters. All encounters are broken down and easy to use thanks to short stat blocks and clear combat tactics for the monsters/NPCs.

Six battle maps are also provided so you can easily illustrate and run some of the tactical encounters.

The rallying point of this adventure is a small town called Winterhaven. So you’ll have some non-combat scenes for your PCs if they get tired of killing stuff.

Originality Of The Storyline Rating- 2.5 Red Dragons

You won’t dazzle your players with your creativity if you run this adventure as your main campaign quest – but I’m on record saying you should never use pre-made adventures as your main storyline. So no surprise here – I’m biased.

However the adventure is broken down very well into hooks, scenes, and interludes so you can easily change any part of the story. It kind of makes up for the boring “Evil Cleric And His Evil Cult Open Evil Portal” plot. That was the plot of the very first Dungeons & Dragons game I played in some 15 years ago.

Time Saver Rating – 3 Red Dragons

If you run your own original campaign idea and use this adventure as a side-quest, or if you just use the combat encounters, then this is a great time saver. If you want to run it as it is, then you’ll have to read through all adventure – an experienced DM can probably do better in the same amount of time. It’s not that the quality of the content is low, it’s that you can skip a lot of the boring details when you create your own scenes. For example, I don’t want to know that there’s a 10% chance that the Winterhaven stables will have a horse for rent. That’s useless to an experienced DM in my opinion.

But…

I’m A New DM – Is That Adventure For Me? Rating – 5 Red Dragons

The title says it all. If you just want to give the 4th edition rules a quick try this could also be for you.

Long Term Appeal Rating – 1 Red DragonBuy Keep on the Shadowfell

Well, once the adventure is over, it’s over! There is a villain re-usability factor – bad guys always come back!

Affordability Rating – 3 Red Dragons

You can find this book new for under 20$ and used for even less at some stores. Not bad.

Red Dragon Rating – 0 Red Dragon

Not a single red dragon in this adventure? I know the PCs are level 1 but you can always find a way to throw a red dragon in there!

Overall Rating – 3.5 Red Dragons

The overall rating for Keep on the Shadowfell is a respectable 3.5 out of 5. The product matched, and even exceeded, my expectations.

Update: You can now read the review of Thunderspire Labyrinth, the next adventure in this series

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Written by Expy

Meet Expy The Red Dragon

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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 Comments

13 Responses to “D&D 4e book review – Keep On The Shadowfell”
  1. CzarAlex says:

    I obtained a copy recently and as a new`ish DM, I am excited to run the quest(s) with my PCs. Even though the included pre-rolled characters are a great help for those PCs that do not yet have 4th edition hardware, or are hesitant to invest in the system without trying it first, I’ve already had some players roll up their own. I completely agree with the 5 RD rating for it being great for new DMs. Everything is clearly stated in the book and info is easy to find.

  2. Francois Beauchemin says:

    Hi Yax,

    I’m currently DM’ing the module with my group which never played 4th.

    To get the most out of the module, i changed a few things
    -made them from the adventurer’s guild in the DM’s Guide town (name which i can’t remember now)
    -all three missions where given to them since they where in the region (find cult, find explorer, map the keep)
    -added 2 other encounters (thanks monster manual for the premade encounter groups for kobolds) before winterhaven
    -added loot (firebeetle glands, stirge’s claw and draketeeth) when hard (dc20) nature checks where passed, they got a few silver per item from the merchant and blacksmith

    They did 3 encounters going in, went to winterhaven and met all the npc’s and just rescued the explorer from the dragon burial site. I let them loot a few dragon bones for the old man in the tavern because he wanted a proof there really was a dragon burial site

    I will add a wounded guard which will arrive to winterhaven later in the night. He will tell the PC’s that Kobolds attacked an outlying farm. I will put tracks to lead them to the kobolds lair (skill challenge).

    After all that, they will have a vision/dream of undead breaking through the mirror (looted from the burial site) and moaning Orcus and Kalarel. They will finaly head down to the shadowkeep to finalise that quest. But before getting there, they will sight a black dragon very far in the north following a path. That’s my hook for the “Treasure of Talon Pass” (which i got for free at a comic book store which had the Free RPG day). For Kalarel, i’ll have him turn into a ghost/spirit so he can escape before the PC’s kill him. Yay for recurring villains !

    I think i’ll also have the Orcus cult in Talons Pass, but i will need a bit more work on that one.

  3. Issac says:

    I love that you gave the first module adventure of Fourth edition a 3.5 rating. Irony is sweet.

  4. Fishercatt says:

    I just kind of wish it didn’t have such a stupid title.

    “Keep on the Shadowfell”

    You’ll never sell t-shirts with that slogan.

    It should have been:

    20 Combat Encounters!!

    Now THAT’S a title!

  5. Russell says:

    Well, being rather anti-4E I may be biased. I’m playing this as a character not as DM. Its been enjoyable if you like hack and slash. There’s been no roleplaying, but that may be due to the style the DM runs.

    I am running the 1E module C1 “The Hidden Shrine of Tomoachan” with 3.5 rules and its been much more fun. Puzzles, traps, unusual creatures and location. Man I miss AD&D.

  6. Yax says:

    Thanks for the comments everyone.

    @Issac: I hadn’t even noticed I gave the first 4e product a rating of 3.5. Hehe.

  7. Darkskeleton says:

    I totally agree with you on this review, NO RED DRAGONS WHAT ARE THEY THINKING THE FOOLS!?!? T.T

  8. Kurtis says:

    Although I am a little anti 4e, I have purchased Keep on the Shadowfell. In my humble oppinion, it is a fair begining adventure for players new to Dungeons & Dragons. However as a DM, I find that the adventure lacks originality, although I give it a 1.5 for creativity. I would have to say that after reading it, if I wanted to use it in a campaign I would have to tear it apart and use bits and pieces to build a side adventure.

  9. Mike The Merciless says:

    My group is currently going through this one, and I’m playing a Dragonborn Warlord. This is actually my second character. The first one was a pregenerated Half-Elf Cleric of Bahamut that was one of a series of pregens that were somewhat poorly generated in the first place. We were four players in an adventure better suited for five or six, and our first encounters were punishing. Perhaps our DM didn’t adjust the encounters, but we were working hard to learn the game, learn to employ effective tactics.

    With the pregens, we were able to get to the Kobold lair, and though we culled out enough of the Kobolds (all but the two major leaders), only one got out alive.

    We picked up from there with new characters, and we’ve been doing much better. So far, though, I think this adventure is somewhat “blah.”

  10. Leucis Aurboda says:

    Hey, does anyone know if the published version of this includes Dungeon Tiles for the maps and tokens for the monsters? I’m considering running this for my first group (we’re all rookies, even me) but I only have the PDF version you can get off the WotC website.

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