Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Review of Keep on the Shadowfell

I'm very excited to see positive reviews for Keep on the Shadowfell hitting the net. Here's one from If you're interested in trying out 4th Edition D&D before the full rules are published next month, why not try this module? Not only does it provide quick start rules for the game, it is the first in a series of loosely connected modules.

Though not required to have played any previous module to enjoy a later adventure, discerning DMs will have the opportunity to pick up storylines in later modules that first debuted in Keep on the Shadowfell.

An excerpt from gamingsteve's review:
The module comes with a comprehensive set of quick-start rules for both the players as well as the DM (the DM rules are more comprehensive and cover more topics, as you would expect with a ruleset for DMs). If you are familiar with D&D and the rules to 3.5, then picking up 4th Edition should be a piece of cake.


John DiFrancesco said...


Played KotS last night with my group. We did RP-lite and I just gave them the hooks and dumped them straight into the first encounter. When they got to Winterhaven I just summarized the results of their conversations with townsfolk and gave them the three adventure sites. (Not because the RP information wasn't good, but because we wanted to get straight to trying out combat rules.)

Overall, I think the adventure itself seems very well done, apart from the fact that it's also the 4th Edition preview.

My only real quibble about the adventure itself is that there are no stats for the armor or weapons the PCs loot from fallen enemies (e.g, the Kobold Dragonshields' shields that are described as looking like individual dragon scales). I could reverse engineer the weapon damage from the stat blocks, but not armor/shield stats, for example. Similarly, there's no info on the cost of lodging, food, or a list of equipment that's available in town. It refers to the PHB which, of course, isn't out yet. (Psst - how about a Web Enhancement?)

Regarding the new rules: The whole group really enjoyed 4e combat. More options, more movement, more tactics! And the kobolds' "schtick" is great. It will be fun to discover each new enemy's schtick and then devise strategies to deal with them. And with each party bringing a different mix of powers, those strategies may vary from party to party.

As a DM, I love how much easier it is to run encounters and not get bogged down in minutiae. The two-page encounter format is great.

And most importantly, it's still D&D. At no point did I think, "This is fun, but it isn't D&D."

Even a couple of my players who were either skeptical or had not read anything about 4th Edition picked it up quickly and really enjoyed it. They're all hooked.

Everyone at WotC deserves a big round of applause for what so far looks to be a very profound improvement in the game.

There may be some quibbles about balance or this power or that feature, but overall the fundamentals of 4th Edition are looking very good.

I can't wait for Amazon to ship my boxed set!


Bruce Cordell said...

Thanks John!

Glad you and your group enjoyed themselves. I agree, when this process started 3+ years ago, I knew we had to come up with a game that was truly fundamentally better than a game people were already
happy with, or we were done before we'd even started. I'm very glad to feel, viscerally, that we managed to pull that off (with a lot of pain and long weekends in the process, but there you go; hard work is part of success).

Unknown said...

I'm gearing up for putting my gaming group through this on Thursday; the impressions we get from it will determine whether 4th edition is a 'buy' or 'pass' for the group. Since everyone owns a shelf sagging with 3rd edition books, nobody's all too happy at the thought of replacing them all, but from what I've read in the module so far I'm fairly confident that everyone'll be happy enough to go for 4th.

The only catch I've found thus far is an inability to find anything in the module about illumination and low-light vision. I can't find anything about the effects of dim lighting on combat, how things with low-light vision are affected vs. those without, or the light provided by sunrods/torches and how long they last before burning out. Those details might be nestled away in a sidebar that I just haven't found yet, but they are a bit important when fighting in a dark ruin.

Anonymous said...

Hi Bruce!

As part of getting-out-of-the-house and away-from-the-kids once in a while, I've joined a gaming group mostly comprised of some of Chas's coworkers and their friends. Guess what we decided to play first! Yup. KOTS!

We've played two sessions, and I think it's great. I really like using minor actions, and the combat sequences have been fun, fast-paced, and harder than we expected, which is good.

Kudos to you and Mike!

Tammie Ryan

Bruce Cordell said...


I have few doubts you'll enjoy 4th Edition ;-).

For illumination, just treat as 3E until you get the books, that'll get you through.

Tammie, glad you're enjoying it! I ran it for Monte and some of my other high school friends and amped up the encounters just slightly, and just avoided TPK! That would have sucked ;-).

Anonymous said...


I was excited to see that you were to write the first adventure for the new edition (again).

I love the adventure, and now that we have the core books, my friends are looking to me to run our first 4e adventures. I plan on running the adventure in the DMG, followed by Keep on the Shadowfell.

Although I really dig the adventure, I am disappointed that it didnt' come with a player's guide, similar to The Shattered Gates of Slaughterguarde.

So, I'm hoping if you could tell me if the next adventures in the series will include a player's guide, and how connected are the adventures?

Do they take place in the same area, are there any reoccuring NPCs?

I'm going to pick up H2 as soon as it comes out, but I'm just looking for a little insight of what's to come.


Casey Jacobson

Bruce Cordell said...


Glad you liked H1!

I don't believe H2 has a player's guide, though it does come in two booklets, but both are for the DM.

The initial H, P, and E modules are designed to stand alone... but if you have played other adventures in the series, you'll find points of connection along the way, but that'll be a fairly light touch early on, perhaps more obvious as the adventures progress.