The Saving Throw
Keep on the Shadowfell 10.10.2008
Saving Throw's review of Keep of Shadowfell.

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Keep on the Shadowfell
published by Wizards of the Coast reviewed by Martin Drury
96 pages, 2008, $29.95
Story 4
Enjoyability 4.5
Adaptability 2
Intelligibility 3.5
Review Scoring

   Keep on the Shadowfell has the distinction, or perhaps curse, of being the first Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition product. The product includes an adventure, a set of quick-start rules, and a set of double-sided battle maps designed for use with Dungeons & Dragons miniatures, all contained within a folio designed to keep the materials safe and easily accessed. Unfortunately the folio seems to be made with weak card stock and the adventure and quick-start rules with easily damaged magazine paper. Apart from the paper quality, the design of the materials is very flashy and very slick.

Of course the construction of the materials is only a small part of the equation. The adventure is written to take five characters from first to third level, and introduces several key elements of the new edition as would be expected. The story is one told time and time again in fantasy gaming: a servant of an evil god attempting to re-open a dormant portal to an otherworldy realm, in this case, the Shadowfell. However, with the new 4th Edition rules, the adventure is far from stale.

The adventure is balanced well, giving player characters a chance to try out both the combat and skill systems of the 4th Edition rules. The mix of opponents will require the players to make use of many different strategies when fighting, and the traps and puzzles are well thought out too. Stat blocks for monsters and NPCs are presented in a much more easily read format than in previous edition adventures, making the key information needed by Dungeon Masters readily available as well.

The two remaining materials, the quick-start rules and battle maps, are sure to disappoint. On the one hand, the battle maps repeat some maps that were presented in the 3.5 Edition, leading to feelings of deja vú. The quick-start rules have issues as well, mainly the fact that they are somewhat skimpy and a large number of errata had already been published when Keep on the Shadowfell was released.

The adventure itself is well done, but the numerous issues with the other materials drag the overall package down. Nonetheless, it is a good first try for a 4th Edition product, but far less than what one would expect from Wizard's team.

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