If you’re like me, then you are a sucker for old school on-the-frontier dungeon crawls. Shadowed Keep on the Borderlands is more than an homage to those days of yore. It plays and expands on the theme with intriguing characters, compelling stories, and cunning encounters. There is such a wealth of adventure packed into this ruined little keep that it will keep your players engaged session after session, and keep them coming back for more. So make a run for the junk food and pop, come up with pithy character hooks, don’t forget to buy a 10-foot pool, and always keep your wits about you. It’s that kind of adventure and more.
Full disclosure. I’ve known the author, Creighton, for a long time. We worked together back in the Living Greyhawk days, and he was always a skilled, dedicated, and passionate adventure writer. I’ve seen some amazing things from Creighton, back in the day and at Raging Swan Press, and this adventure is his best yet. No pressure, chap!
You’ve heard the story before. There is an abandoned keep, bandits, and the promise of treasure. Some would call them clichés. I like to call them pillars: Exploration, combat, and reward. I’m not alone in this, though we can quibble about the details. Ah, pillars; they are all the rage right now…we have not seen this much enthusiasm for them since the time of the Prophet. But this isn’t just a rehash of paragraph-long room descriptions and a random assortment of fun low-level monsters. I’m going to rain some minor spoilers down. If you are a GM looking for more information, keep going. If you want to play this thing, run along. But before you do, it’s awesome. Go buy it for your GM and have them run it.
This is the SPOILER space for you fuckers who are just scanning for SPOILERS, but pretend you’re not when you find one. SPOILER!
It also has the ever elusive pillar of story. I think that’s what the kids are calling it these days. And not blah, blah story. I’ve always admired Creighton’s grace with story, here he shows a brilliant economy for storytelling. Evocative, to the point, and often visceral without any damage to his voice.
So you can strike out fast and loose or you can research the area and its history. Either way you’ll come across a disturbed bandit queen that struggles with goblins for control of the crumbling keep. The PCs are in for the wild ride as they will no doubt disrupt this cold war with sword, spell, and wit. There are histories to discover, tricks and traps to outsmart, and monsters to kill. At the same time each encounter has verisimilitude—the ether twin of certainty and rationalization, one of those holy grails of RPG design.
There is also some truly awful shit in Shadowed Keep on the Borderland, and I mean that in the best possible way. From the aforementioned bandit queen, a deeply scarred apologist of her own hate–a nearly a sympathetic character, but a better tool for carnage and betrayal. To the fiendish ogre chief of the goblin faction, a fellow that, “has lived the good life—plentiful women, loot and battle. He is content.” His favorite pastimes: fostering concubine competition and eating those who dare plot against him. This is my kind of fella!
I’m wondering why these two aren’t wrapped up in some wildly dysfunctional relationship. You’ll have to excuse me. I’ve been watching bunch of Shameless.
Too raunchy for you? Wuss! But don’t worry. Deeper down there is an awful pit full of undead who merely want to quench the light of the living. In general, Shadowed Keep on the Borderland is easily played a series of deadly encounters with little dressing, but delve deeper into the work, and complex relations, amazing detail, and drama unfold.
I think one of my favorite features of this adventure is that you can plop it down nearly everywhere. I have grand plans to use it in my upcoming Carrion Crown campaign.
Okay, okay. I’ve shed my unusual curmudgeonly ways to gush about something, and a friend’s adventure at that. I like this thing. If you don’t, you can say so. But say why. I think you’ll either come off as lying or think I’m full of shit anyway. The first I can stand in small doses. Even if you are correct in the second case…meh.
And now for something completely different.
I’m working on a personal project and I need your help. I want information for a side project. I’m going to do some persona modeling. You don’t know what persona modeling is? You’re going to like this game. It’s roleplaying at its finest. Well at least character creation at its finest. Just hang on for the ride.
I think one of the problems with the modern tabletop market is that they are using antiquated by thorough numbers from the 3.5 launch. I think the market has changed. Hell, I know that the market has changed. But I need data, and I want it in an unusual way.
I want you to describe your gaming group as it stands right now. I don’t care where you post it. It can be here, on Facebook, on ENWorld, wherever. What do you play? How old is everyone? Describe the personalities and relationships in the group. What is your group’s play style? Do you like this play style? How often do you meet? Any other defining traits? It can be as brief or expansive as need be, but this should be from your experience; from your circle of friends and gamer acquaintances. I’m not looking for any armchair brand managing here or sugar-coating. I want your ground-level experiences. The nitty-gritty. If need be, a brutal assessment. Change to protect the innocent. If you don’t do this, you’re the reason why we can’t have nice things.
Just for shits and giggles, everyone should start “Dear Neogrognard Letters.”