Thursday, July 7, 2011

Thoughts on running Keep on the Shadowfell

There are plenty of reviews out there of the first 4e adventure, and most of them (the fair ones) are accurate (the paper sucks, the layout is odd, the map sheets are nice, the adventure is so-so, etc.). This isn’t so much a review of the module, but more my thoughts on running it.

First, and most importantly - It’s fun! Over the 4 all day sessions we spent playing KotSF we all enjoyed ourselves immensely. I still maintain that 4e is Dungeons and Dragons!

Second - The adventure, as written, needs a little work. Not a lot, but some tweaking is definitely in order. Luckily the Alexandrian’s modification combined with Myrhdraak’s H1 Orcus Conversion supplement both do a a lot of the heavy lifting. That does add to the prep time needed, but I think it was worth it.

Third - My Chessex Battlemat was invaluable! While dungeon tiles and Hirst Arts make for much more attractive battlegrounds, the Battlemat is quick and easy, which helps keep things moving along at a good pace. Along with this, I’m glad I took the time to presort my minis for the game. Being able to just grab a bag of orcs or goblins or undead saved me from having to dig around the box. I wish I had done that for the first two sessions. Live and learn, and now that they’re all sorted I just need to keep them that way.

Fourth - The Pacing - We squeezed in the entire adventure, minus one side encounter (Alexandrian’s attack on Lord Paldrig’s Mannor) over 4 days of playing. Total game time was probably around 24-28 hours. There were times we were all rushing, especially toward the end of each of the days. Unfortunately this means that when we got to the final battle we were all tired. I had planned on playing Kalarel as your typical over-the-top, moustache-twirling, cape-flipping cartoon villain. By the time we got there, with the clock ticking down, and my throat feeling raw, I had him chant in a dark language the entire battle.


Cory and Alex even commented with surprise that he didn’t launch into some sort of BBEG monologue. Stupid me, I didn’t take their cue and run with it. Months later, I still am kicking myself over this. I resolved that when we got to Thunderspire, I wasn’t going to hold back with the outlandish characters or the funny voices, and BBEGs would get played up.

tl:dr - Keep on the Shadowfell is fun, I still like 4e, ham it up with NPCs, battlemats and sorted minis are useful.


  1. So, having actually played a lot of 4e and ran it as well, do you feel it is more streamlined and easier to learn than the older editions?

  2. Yes, conditionally.

    I do think that the system is more streamlined than older editions, and I can see it being easier for the WoW generation to learn. Especially if they pick it up on their own.

    On the other hand classic D&D, or even AD&D (1st edition) isn't too hard to figure out, especially with a mentor.

    And I actually haven't played it yet... I've only been the DM... I want to play!