This is intended as a 'teaser' for the full Shadowed Keep on the Borderlands adventure, but contains quite a lot in its own right. There's certainly enough there to let you decide if this adventure is for you and your group of players... reading through it certainly makes me want for more!
As is common to Raging Swan Press product, there's a very logical and ordered approach, starting with an extensive analysis of how encounters are designed and presented as well as their customary page on how to read a stat block correctly. This advice dispensed, on to the adventure background - and this is the background to the WHOLE adventure, not this cut-down version. It tells the history of Ironwolf Keep, known these days as the Shadowed Keep and why it now stands ruined. Although of itself very detailed, its surroundings and location are left vague so that you can put it somewhere convenient within your own campaign world. You just need a handy hilltop surrounded by dense woodlands to put it on.
Next come some hooks to get the party interested - choose whichever seems best to you - and some rumours and information that they can pick up if they ask around before diving in to the adventure proper. The next part deals with the approach to the Keep, which is somewhat off the beaten path. This provides opportunity for some woodland travel, enlivened with the presence of a bear, some wolves and other potential dangers.
Once the Keep is reached, there's an overview description along with a nice sketch (which is repeated in the handouts section so you can show it to the players easily). Likewise there's a sketched plan with both marked and unmarked versions. Before launching into detailed descriptions of locations there is another nice touch: a timeline of what is going on in the Keep and vicinity. It's intended that this should run irrespective of what the party are doing, a neat reminder that life goes on no matter what they might do, even when they are not there at all!
There are notes on how to use the timeline as well as ideas for further adventures (most of which assume you have played the full adventure, not just explored the surface ruins presented in this version). Then come the detailed descriptions of the above-ground part of the ruined keep, a section entitled Donjon of Ruin. There's a fair bit to explore... indeed, this could make an adventure in its own right! It's quite amazing to have this much detail in something intended as a free taster for an even bigger adventure. Each location is covered in considerable detail, all laid out clearly making it easy to describe the location to the players and administer whatever events take place there.
As an adventure, this would prove an interesting interlude, as the introduction to an even bigger scenario... well, it certainly makes you hungry for the rest of it!
Return to Shadowed Keep on the Borderlands (Free Version) page.
Reviewed: 30 March 2016