Shadowed Keep on the Borderlands (PFRPG)

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A ruined monument to folly and ego, the Shadowed Keep stands atop an isolated bluff deep in a mist-wreathed forest. Sacked by marauding goblins decades ago the place was thought abandoned, but shadows now creep among the forest's great boles and footprints have appeared on the single, overgrown track leading to the keep. Travellers have begun to disappear with alarming regularity from the nearby road and the local folk fear some slumbering evil has claimed the ruin as its own.

Dare you brave the terrors of the Shadowed Keep to crush that which lurks within or will darkness shroud the surrounding lands?

Designed to be easily inserted into a GM's home campaign, "Shadowed Keep on the Borderlands" is an excellent starting locale to test the mettle of neophyte adventurers.

"Shadowed Keep on the Borderlands" is designed for the medium advancement track. 1st-level PCs completing all the challenges of the place can expect to reach 3rd-level by the time they have exhausted all the keep has to offer.

This product is a Dual Format PDF. The downloadable ZIP file contains two versions, one optimised for printing and use on a normal computer and one optimised for use on a mobile device such as an iPad.

This product also contains a separate file containing the product’s compiled stat blocks enabling the busy GM to build up a handy library of ready-to-go stat blocks.

For free samples, visit ragingswan.com/shadowedkeep

A Pathfinder Roleplaying Game compatible adventure for 1st-level PCs by Creighton Broadhurst.

Note: The Free version of "Shadowed Keep on the Borderlands" presents the Donjon of Ruin portion of the adventure, along with the full adventure background, introduction, hooks, relevant handouts, and illustrations.

“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.” —Stephen Radney MacFarland
“...it is all about the details in this particular adventure - the whole adventure makes for such an immensely detailed place, the foes and their tactics are so detailed that actually RUNNING the adventure is a blast, especially with all the things to show your players. Even better, the module provides quite a challenge... we had a surprisingly awesome time while clearing out the keep...I'll settle for a final verdict of 5 stars for this very old-school module.” —Endzeitgeist
“Shadowed Keep on the Borderlands is an excellent location-based adventure; not only in design but also in flavour and layout. Every single room within the keep is extensively described and detailed, making the GM’s job much easier, and the flavour of which change or grow as the PCs get deeper and deeper into the adventure, which avoids the feeling of repetitious or mundane. Don’t expect the same old thing when you enter a new room, because you will possibly be very surprised at what you find.” —Aaron T. Huss (Roleplayer’s Chronicle)
“If you're looking for a new module to kick off a 1st level PFRPG campaign, definitely check out Shadowed Keep on the Borderland from Creighton Broadhurst and Raging Swan Press. It has a little bit of everything and an open feel that gives your players room to explore at their pace.” —Brian Fitzpatrick (Game Knight Reviews)
“Following the background is a footnote suggesting how a GM might incorporated the Shadowed Keep into their own campaign, among which is put forth what is probably my favourite part of the module's potential: once the party has cleared the keep, they might endeavour to claim and rebuild it themselves. Given the thorough detail and flavour of the environs throughout the module itself, I love this prospective aspect and feel that it could serve as the foundation for a campaign in and of itself.” —Gozuja

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An RPG Resource Review

*****

Billed as a 1st-level adventure and suitable for starting off your campaign, this is almost a mini-campaign in its own right with the added advantage of providing a place suitable for the party to use as a base if they fancy doing so. There's a lot packed into these pages!

We start with evidence of the mature and ordered design process that typifies Raging Swan Press product in the shape of a set of notes detailing how to understand the anatomy of an encounter. This shows the various components, and then goes through them explaining how to read the details presented and use them to effect. If you like writing your own materials, it's worth studying these to help you structure them effectively, especially if you want other people to be able to run them. Don't be baffled by a stat block or flounder when the party wants to identify what they've found ever again!

We then move on to the background to the adventure. Whilst this is summarised here for the GM, much of it can be discovered by the players either by research and rumour-hunting before their characters set off or through the adventure itself. The keep - whose proper name is Ironwolf Keep, but few people call it that - is situated on a hilltop in the middle of a dense forest, a bit off the beaten track, and whilst the Keep and its immediate surroundings are well detailed, it is designed so that you can drop it into any appropriate location in your own campaign world.

Next comes the introduction to the adventure. There are several ideas that you can use to get it off to a flying start, pick whichever you think will appeal to your party. Once you have them hooked, there are two ways to find out more: a character may roll on Knowledge (local) or Knowledge (history) if he has them to recall some information, or anyone can ask around and pick up some rumours about the place... not all of which are true, but what do you expect of gossip picked up in taverns? Armed with whatever they manage to find out, the party then needs to reach the Keep so there's a section about woodland travel and the dangers that they might encounter... including a bear and wolves, as well as other creatures that may be less friendly. There's plenty of those little details that make the whole thing come to life as well.

This attention to detail continues throughout the rest of the adventure, which falls into four parts: The Watchtower, the Donjon, the Realm of the Blood Moon and the Undercrypt - all parts of Ironwolf Keep itself. In nature this adventure is pretty much of a sandbox with the party free to explore as they please... yet in a neat embellishment there is a 'timeline' of what is going on in and around the Keep, things that will happen irrespective of what the party is doing, but which gives that air of reality - this is a living setting which will carry on regardless of what the characters do or even if they are still there. It's a really nice touch, and something worth considering for your own adventures (or even for adding in to published ones, if that's what you prefer). Yes, the party are the heroes of THIS story, but there are other stories going on around them.

Each area of the Keep is described in detail making it very easy to picture in the mind's eye - and so describe it to the players. Further aid is given in a series of handouts including illustrations you can use as 'This is what you see' as the party explores. Throughout, there are various options as to what they can do, with the ramifications explained clearly. These touches would make it easy for a novice GM to run, yet serve to enhance the ease of play even if you are no stranger to that side of the screen. There are opportunities aplenty for combat, but also times when stopping to talk could prove to the party's advantage.

If the party is so minded, once cleared the Keep could make a good base for them, and you could build future adventures around them settling in and then using it as a base from which to explore their surroundings and seek excitement and profit... or they may prefer to loot what they can and move on. If the entire place is explored and cleared, the party should be 3rd-level by the time they are done. And there are plenty of little snippets scattered here and there to spawn ideas for further adventures.

Overall, if you are looking to start a campaign from scratch in a temperate frontier-type setting, this would be ideal. There are even nine pre-generated characters for your players to choose from if they'd rather jump straight into the action than roll up their own, each fulled armed and equipped and ready for play. This is truly a campaign start in a single package.


Just okay

***( )( )

The Good:
* Clearly expressed site-based adventure ready for easy drop-in to an ongoing game.
* Timeline of suggested events helps make the keep feel "lived-in."
* Every encounter includes scaling instructions.

The bad:
* The map is the weak point of this offering, which is problematic in a site-based adventure. It isn't bad, per se, just very routine. One main path through most of the areas, lots of rectangular rooms going off in seemingly arbitrary directions, etc. This is pretty much the sort of map I'd draw if I were making it up as I went.
* Minor editing errors. Some rooms described as having columns show up as such on the map, while others do not. Rooms that are 30' on a side are described as 'small," whereas elsewhere rooms of similar size are referred to as "large."
* Flavor mismatches with "baseline" elements of Pathfinder monsters. For example, plenty of goblin writing. Not a big deal, but something to watch for...

I picked this up based on the strength of Village Backdrop: Fulhurst Moors, which was my first real exposure to Raging Swan. While that product was fantastic, I found this one to be merely okay.

(***--)


Old School meets New School

*****

This review is for the full version of the Shadowed Keep on the Borderlands. I don't review products so bear with me.

Layout and presentation:
Raging Swan uses a standardized layout that at first may seem a bit intimidating due to the sheer amount of detail presented, but once you are used to this level of detail it's hard to go back to less detailed module formats. For each room area there is detailed synopsis of what matters - Area Features: illumination, doors, smaller room features/objects (in detail). Some of the highlights of this level of detail included environmental factors for potential combat (standing in water, etc).

This is a valuable aid for both new DMs and old. Oftentimes veteran DMs may forget situational combat modifiers or things that may make a simple encounter into a more complicated or challenging one - the SKotB lays it all out, so these features and aspects are not forgotten or overlooked.

The Details:
RS does an excellent job of paying attention to details - for their room layouts, terrain and environment features to NPC tactics, motivations. They also handle some meta aspects of their encounter design: Scaling. In every encounter there are notes on how to make the encounter easier or harder by following some simple scaling guidelines. This is a great aid for parties that are less than 4 in number or parties on a faster xp path or optimized for combat.

In some of the major/critical room entries, greater detail is either given as to how players may circumvent challenges (not always by combat) or enhanced details are offered for encounters that warrant enhanced details due to their level of complexity. This is an invaluable aid for new DMs.

Feel:
When reading this module I get the feel of old school AD&D/D&D - with the mechanics and level of detail that did not exist in the earlier days of adventure design - taking the feeling and themes of older modules (mystery, exploration) while combining them with detail that has become the hallmark of superior, modern day adventure design.

Sum:
The Shadowed Keep on the Borderland is an excellent starter module and has built in potential for the DM to expand content that is offered with a few built in leads. It has the ptential to serve as an excellent base of operations for a slightly higher level group - if they can hold it.

The fact that scaling options are build in for each encounter makes it a great tool for players who want to be challenged with tough fights, or for groups that may be newer, smaller or running less combat optimized PCs makes this a good buy. The beauty of the option to scale encounters is that they do not fundamentally change the feel and theme and mood throughout the exploration of the Shadowed Keep.

Raging Swan has captured that old school feel but has put a modern slant on their offering with greater detail, layout, extra DM information and guidelines making this the best of both worlds.

5 out of 5


The Attention To Detail is Amazing

*****

I’m not entirely sure I can offer more than what the other reviewers here have said, except that while reading it in its entirety through this weekend I got quite a rush of nostalgia that few other products this day can emulate. It’s made for our current beloved Pathfinder Roleplaying Game but read and felt just like something out of AD&D.

The fact that you don’t just fight the same types of creatures room after room, the interesting treasures to be found, factions to play off of and secret history to uncover make this a real gem. Not to mention, this book loves the GM. Each room is provided with every conceivable detailed answer to questions a GM or the players may have about the environment.

It’s a dirty, gritty dungeon crawl that offers a dynamic location; with information so well defined as you read you get a complete feel for the major shakers and movers and how they all interact. The only real difference from real early modules where there was absolutely no rhyme or reason why some of the creatures or things would be in the same complex, this not only gives all plausible reasons and explanations but then actually executes it and pulls it off!

Not to mention a big collection of nine pre-generated player characters using classes and rules from the Core Rulebook and Advanced Player’s Guide. Speaking of stats and crunch, the monsters are all fully statted out so no flipping through the bestiaries, and game rules throughout and provided every step of the way (including the magic detection DC, school and strength of aura for all magic items!).

The whole location feels real, monster tactics and responses to different adventure tricks and attacks are explained throughout. Each location, from the tower, donjon, and the dungeon / crypt levels beneath also have a random detail chart and encounter charts to make them more alive. The maps are not necessarily artistic but pull off the old-school vibe very well and are perfectly functional and easy to follow. Throw in a bunch of good art (including scenes to show the party), player handouts, and potential allies from both rescued folks and monsters and you got an adventure to keep a group of seasoned vets enthralled.

At the same time: beginning GM’s pay attention. You can do little better than this module, that caters so well to organization and provides everything you need to run the encounters in a nice, clear format that’s a snap to navigate. Well done, bravo! I was provided a copy for review.


Adventure publishers, take note! Raging Swan does it right.

*****

I purchased the print copy of the module, so there may be some slight discrepancies between my review and a review based on the pdf. Overall, this is a fantastic module. I will address some specific items here, as the previous reviews by Endzeitgeist and others do a good job covering everything else I might say.
Spoilers might follow, so if you plan to play it just skip to the end.

The generic placement for this module is very well done. Unlike the original Moathouse (from the Village of Homlett/Temple of Elemental Evil series), which was located near a swamp, this one can be located anywhere. And the minor earthquake that affected the underground areas decades ago could still have caused a nearby swamp to be created. This is one of the few "place it anywhere" locations that can really be place anywhere in my campaign world. Speaking of the background notes, I can see PCs falling upon hard times and ending up like the original owners.

The artwork is excellent. I'm a big fan of providing visual references for my players, and this module gives me ample opportunities to do so. The cartography is also very nice. I'm a fan of Billiam Babble's Inked Adventures, and appreciate the hand-drawn maps. As a side note, if you travel over to Billiam Babble's deviantART gallery, he has some pictures of the maps with a parchment background.

There is an adventure timeline that helps GMs create an atmosphere to reinforce the idea that the PCs don't live in a bubble. There are two story hooks the GM can use as great teaching-moments to show that not every encounter has to end in bloodshed (although they will, it's still a good addition). These add story options, and get away from the usual linear-dungeon trope that most dungeons fall victim to. Giving the NPCs personality traits does the same thing, and alleviates the GM from trying to add mannerisms on the fly. I’ve seen this in other Raging Swan products, and it’s a wonderful addition. The GM gets to focus on other things.

Once again, the feeling of an organic adventure is reflected in the random encounters table. Eliminating specific encounters because the PCs already fought them makes perfect sense. Again, I can give the players the feeling that the PCs aren't the only ones running around in the world.

Information for scaling the encounters was also much appreciated. Although each entry seems fairly repetitive, something a lot of published adventures forget is "Repeat the important information where the GM is going to read it.” This is very important, since the GM already has so many things he has to worry about when running the game. I'm a lot more likely to remember what the scaling effects were (or that I can scale the encounter!) when I have that information right in front of me.

I sat in a seminar by Tracy Hickman, where he said "don't ever put 'indecipherable runes' in your description, because the players WILL sit and try to figure out what they say." I encountered this in Paizo's Rise of the Runelords adventure, and my players drove me crazy trying to copy the writing and translating it, since the runes the PCs encountered did actually mean something thousands of years ago. Without spoiling too much, there is an area where PCs can waste a bunch of time (and get attacked by wandering monsters), and it makes perfect sense in the context of the area.

The PCs can get a map as part of their loot, leading them to a further adventure in a lost dwarven hold. I would have like a larger image of the handout, but I'm pretty sure I can enlarge it myself. There is a map of the dwarven hold as well should the GM want one. Hadramkath is one of Raging Swan’s other products, and makes a nice addition here. If the GM wants to direct their players elsewhere, I sense an easy link to "Forge of Fury" or a half-dozen other dungeon crawls. Similarly, the GM can drop it if it doesn’t fit with his game. I wish more adventures did this. Once again, it creates a living world for the PCs to explore. And as GM I am totally NOT railroading the players into choosing their next adventure. Great stuff.

I think this is a worthy successor to the original Moathouse. It improves the original with a non-linear storyline and NPC motivations, capturing the competing interests of those who reside in the Keep (especially the competing interests within the factions!). Overall, each of the additions makes the whole much more "real" than traditional dungeon-crawls.

Well done, Creighton! Thanks for creating such a great product.


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Any ETA on a print version?

Dark Archive

It is pretty unsurprising that this ended up being too long to fit into the regular review section, so here's my take on the Shadowed Keep on the Borderlands:

Shadowed Keep on the Borderlands opens up with several pages dedicated to briefing a prospective GM on how to read and run the material within; from the anatomy of an encounter to the identification of treasure, these segments provide a concise crunchy rundown--and could well serve as cheat sheets for future reference, if one were so inclined. Along with the table of stat blocks organized by challenge rating is also included a rather keen bit of poetry in reference to the Shadowed Keep itself--a nice bit of extra fluff for the adventure!

Once past the mechanical introductions, we're off to the background behind the adventure at hand--describing the rise and fall of former adventurer Valentin Ironwolf and his efforts to form a fortress to serve as hearth and home. During the pursuit of securing the safety of such for his family and holdings, Valentin's campaign ultimately led to his downfall as retribution roused among his enemies was visited at last. This development lends to the presence of the Blood Moon goblins still lingering about the fortress to this day--as well as other bits of intrigue to come.

Following the background is a footnote suggesting how a GM might incorporated the Shadowed Keep into their own campaign, among which is put forth what is probably my favorite part of the module's potential: once the party has cleared the keep, they might endeavor to claim and rebuild it themselves. Given the thorough detail and flavor of the environs throughout the module itself, I love this prospective aspect and feel that it could serve as the foundation for a campaign in and of itself.

An opportunity for a freshly formed party of adventurers to acquire a fortress of their own early in their careers is a rather cool one--and acquiring the necessary networks and resources to truly bring the keep into full swing could easily provide the foundation for many forays and adventures. To this same vein, a GM might also incorporate any number of product from among the Raging Swan stable for tribes, random encounters and the like to yield plenty of fun, flavorful adventure material for more of a sandbox-styled campaign. Excellent!

Information comes up next--both for running the module in a general sense and for providing hooks for a prospective party's allure. Lore checks for the keep are present, as are rumors to be gleaned from gather information attempts--both welcome elements. Among the reasons for their direction to the keep, I found the most interesting premise to be the pursuit of a pair of maps located somewhere within the fortress which might lead adventurers to the dwarven hold of Hadramkath. Said maps are also included as very cool player handouts, a nice bonus!

Next we find a ready reference for the wilderness territory surrounding the keep, including random encounters and terrain considerations to utilize throughout the woodlands. Stat blocks are presented for the encounters herein--while the premise also lends itself handsomely to the Random Woodland Encounters from Raging Swan as well if one is so inclined (though these would better serve after the completion of the keep if you'd rather not make adjustments to the encounters within. )

A brief overview of the keep follows, describing the different areas which serve in turn as the sections of the adventure ahead; much like the Moathouse to which the Shadowed Keep pays homage, each of these areas of the keep holds its own theme of sorts--with a different variety of encounters, obstacles and flavor to be discovered by the adventurers. A nice evocative piece of artwork is provided here to set the tone as well, along with a player handout which displays an overview of the keep's surface layout (available both with and without labels!)

Finally, the last segment before we enter the meat of the adventure itself offers suggestions for further adventures upon its conclusion. Here, the claiming of the keep is presented as one possible option (one which I am quite fond of, at that) as well as delving of the myriad caverns deep below the fortress, pursuit of the previously mentioned dwarven hold and an eerie chasm found within the under-crypts that might also be plumed.

With these segments drawn to a conclusion, we're off to the heart of the matter--the adventure itself. Shadowed Keep on the Borderlands is comprised of the Watchtower of the Bandit Queen, Donjon of Ruin, Realm of the Blood Moon and the Undercrypt--and each of these sections provides a nice variation of challenges and encounters to present to an exploring party.

During his writings regarding the creative process of the module, author Creighton Broadhurst noted one of his goals being to present segments for every flavor of character to have a chance to excel at--and this is something which certainly shines through as you traverse the environs herein! Let's take a look at each of these areas and see just what they have in store. SPOILERS AHEAD: If you're a player apt to play this module, I suggest skipping from here to the conclusion of this review!

In the first stroke, the Watchtower is where you'll find a group of (mostly human) bandits holed up in their pitched struggle with the other denizens of the keep for control of the fortress. Running the gamut of the tower proves tight and quick, with small encounters which can quickly chain into their neighbors--calling upon reinforcements or falling back to their fellows depending on how battle pans out.

Gaining entry to the tower can be accomplished in a variety of fashions and beyond simply bashing one's way in through the front door and raising the alarm, a party might elect to try and scale the tower's exterior or even attempt to bluff or strike a more diplomatic entrance into the bandits' midst. Presented in the module are suggestions for how these approaches might pan out, along with appropriate DCs and reactions--a very welcome touch for easy reference.

One of the things I liked about the bandits on the whole is that they are offered with a variety of tactics and approaches to each area in which they fight. Rather than simply slugging it out with the PCs and fighting to the death, the bandits will topple tables and other furniture for impromptu cover and attempt to impede prospective 'invaders' while rallying with their fellows; if things turn ugly, many will vie to get out with their lives and lend a nicely organic feel which pervades throughout many of the encounters in the Shadowed Keep.

Each area of the tower includes a detailed breakdown of elements in the room and how they might be utilized either in or out of combat; as an example, the tables might be used for cover if hid behind or a higher ground advantage if leapt upon. Within the tower the party may also discover a pair of prisoners from whom further information, a replacement party member or additional support in assaulting later areas might be plied.

Firean Maiethil is the so-named 'Bandit Queen' of the watchtower, a half-elven fighter/cleric presented with some interesting flavor; I'd have personally liked to see her 'built' a bit differently as far as feat selection and the like, as some of the picks for her abilities in my opinion leave her a bit wanting as the 'boss' of the watchtower. These tweaks are easily affected to suit your particular style, however--and like all the encounters in the module, there are options presented to raise or lower the difficulty she presents on the fly.

After the Watchtower we have the Donjon of Ruin, a sizable structure which turns from bandits to a variety of vermin inhabitants (the largest of which being a mated pair of web-spinning spiders). The Donjon also boasts traps and even the haunting presence of Valentin's now ghostly son--presenting a rather sad scene to come upon and an opportunity for evocative roleplay. Deep within the Donjon is The Demonic Door, a fairly cool trap, before a fight with a necrophidius--potentially quite nasty for a low level party!

On the whole, the Donjon really oozes a lot of flavor throughout its environs; the evidence of what once was is found in every room and helps to paint the image of Valentin's rise and fall within. While much of the area is spent on exploration rather than encounters, there is much flavor to be found as a party proceeds. Einar's ghost presents a very compelling quest for the party to recover and lay to rest the bones of the Ironwolf family once and for all.

One of my favorite things about the Donjon is the hall in which the giant spiders are fought: since said spiders are up in the rafters, players are presented with a bit of a challenge to reach them--but might do so by climbing the tapestries or lifting one another via the chandeliers, a fun little extra element. I also enjoyed the atypical traps presented here, as most low-level modules stick with the standard pit fare; in particular, the booby-trapped door at the entrance is apt to be a surprise. The necrophidius certainly serves as a 'boss' for the Donjon and as said, might be rough!

Next we delve into the Realm of the Blood Moon, a tribe of goblins one might recognize from other Raging Swan product; I'll start off by saying that this section of the keep has an especially cool layout, map and environmental element to it which really help it to shine during exploration. To add to this, the section's opening even includes a table for random 'dungeon dressing' to further flavor areas as they are explored. Cool!

As the Blood Moon tribe has had an ongoing feud with the bandits above, they are well-used to skirmishes and defending what they feel to be their territory; tactically this means that once a party of adventurers begins to engage the goblins, they will quickly begin to make attempts to rally with their brethren--as well as to alert Ruknar, their fiendish ogre warrior chieftain, in order to rebuke the incursion on their realm.

Once again there are interesting tactics and methods to the encounters presented here; rather than a fight-to-the-death slog-fest as so often plagues early fights in a campaign, the goblins attempt to mire adventurers with tanglefoot bags and other elements, target obvious spellcasters and defensively retreat and regroup to better face their invading foes. Players will need to be swift, decisive and very careful with tackling the Blood Moon tribe or else they can very quickly find themselves in over their heads.

Among the encounters presented in the cellars of the fortress beyond the goblins you'll also find a pair of gnolls (on a mission from the Bleached Skull clan, a potential future adversary for a party), bugbears, and even the infamous gelatinous cube makes an appearance. There are also some unexpected hazards, such as an unstable well--as well as an interesting twist by way of the goblin Sar who would like nothing more than to overthrow Ruknar and may seek to enlist the PCs in achieving such an end.

Ruknar, his son Razogen and the pair's entourage are a fierce fighting force together and sure to provide a stout challenge for most low-level parties; as the 'boss' of the Realm of the Blood Moon segment, Ruknar is a beastly brute of a fellow who utilizes the unbreakable fighter archetype and a large falchion to devastating effect. Be prepared for an extremely tough fight with Ruknar, especially if the other Blood Moon goblins are able to rouse him into reinforcing them in an earlier battle during the tour of the cellars! Ruknar is a brutal boss--and a good one.

Finally, the last part of our round through the Shadowed Keep is the Undercrypt--and as one can imagine, here is where the flavor turns an eye towards the undead. As with the Realm of the Blood Moon, there are additional dressings one can roll at the beginning for extra spice to the areas ahead--while the undercrypt itself is comprised of broader chambers in comparison to the tighter confines of the floors above.

Right from the entrance we establish that this section is full of surprises--a long pit with murky water hiding a pair of fast zombies to assail anyone unfortunate enough to end up at the bottom. Further on, a caryatid is discovered in a columned hall which will doubtlessly startle most adventurers--and if that weren't hazard enough, the ceiling might collapse in said hall as well. This latter hazard is presented nicely with details from round to round on how it can progress making for another fun bonus in play.

Once the PCs have made their way past pit, sludge, column and collapse they're into the crypt itself which is presented with one of my favorite pieces of art in the module, depicting a cleric whirling a swinging censer about as if it were a meteor hammer against skeletons as vapors trail. But wait--it isn't just artwork: herein is a chained silver battle aspergillum, filled with holy water and ready for use. How often does this implement ordinarily get to see play? Awesome!

Here the party will fight skeletons, among which are a Grave Chill variety--a re-flavoring of the burning skeleton template presented herein and fitting perfectly with the presentation of the scene. If the players emerge victorious, there are some nice bits of flavored treasure to find. Beyond, the last remaining area of the crypts joins both halves--the chasm of ebon depths.

From the chasm a fight with a shadow can be found, somewhat of a 'boss' to the crypts--but the real challenge here is the corruption within the chasm itself and the eerie black waters therein. The exact execution of the necrotic corruption is left up to the GM, with several suggestions presented here--but resolving the source of such is apt to bear the party rewards and doubtless be a desirable measure if they have designs to call the keep home!

With that, we've covered the areas of the keep and found a variety of encounters, obstacles and challenges within. Each offers up the potential hooks to additional adventures to spiral off from the Shadowed Keep environs--whether the party elects to claim the fortress as their own and seek to rebuild it or simply to pursue the mysteries and threats discovered branching from within its walls.

We're not done with content yet however: following the Shadowed Keep is a collection of nine pre-generated characters which each boast a quality portrait. A cleric, fighter, rogue, illusionist, oracle, witch, ranger, a second fighter and even a magus are included and ready to play. After this are player handouts and finally a section with the artwork throughout the module collected together closes out the remainder of the book.

Overall: Shadowed Keep on the Borderlands is a whopper of a module and comes packed with illustrations, maps, player handouts and reference materials. With the final copy I'm also happy to see that everything is nice and smooth on the editing front as well--a good amount of time went into such a big production! Formatting is great and there is a remarkable amount of sheer information to work with throughout the adventure; I can't stress enough that this would be a fine foundation for an entire campaign.

I'll take an aside to say that Creighton was nice enough to provide me with a review copy of Shadowed Keep a fair while back to give it proper runs--and my endeavor to do so culminated into a pair of games, one at the table, and one via VTT; it was interesting to me to find the divergences in each group's approach to tackling the keep's differing segments, their order of direction and so on--but in both cases, the two different parties had a blast and as a GM it left me keen to utilize the material as a springboard for a grander campaign.

Finally, the point I'd like to leave in the forefront is this: Shadowed Keep on the Borderlands is a fine example of an adventure which is a labor of love and the flavor and style to be found shows this well. Beyond these reviews, you can check out Creighton's development journals and session recaps; this is a grand, fun adventure and deserves high marks and recommendations alike.

It likely comes as no surprise, but I definitely give the Shadowed Keep five stars and feel any group's apt to have a good time with it, be they long-time veterans at the table or players new to such adventures. Now start working on that stronghold supplement!

--------------------

Thanks for the good times Creighton and I am encouraged to see that the pitched in elbow grease on editing helped! You're obligated to work on that stronghold supplement now though--going to need at least a ninety page product from you to renovate and run the newly acquired keep on the borderlands. ;)

Sovereign Court Raging Swan Press

Alan_Beven wrote:
Any ETA on a print version?

Hopefully within two weeks!

Liberty's Edge

Congrats Creighton! Sounds like the final version of this is awesome!!!


Reviewed here, on DTRPG, posted about it on Lou Agresta's RPGaggression and sent it to GMS magazine. Sorry about the delay, irl-issues and technical problems conspired to keep me from posting this earlier.

Liberty's Edge

Wow, Endzeitgeist and Gozuja! What amazing and in-deapth reviews!

I've been going through the adventure myself over the last day or so and I have to agree - it's pretty darn great!

Sovereign Court Raging Swan Press

Thanks everyone for the reviews! I really appreciate it.


Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Gozuja, I'm curious, did you try and post your review in the reviews section, or did you compare it to the listed limit on words/characters? I ask because it seems like it should fit.

RPG Superstar 2011 Top 8

If we're going old school then I can't wait for the Raging Swan barroom brawl supplement to stage a barfight in the local tavern where the PCs will meet for the first time before they travel off to the Shadowkeep. After that, let them get mixed up with the Cultists of Havra Zhoul. Now if I could just convince my players to play more!

Sovereign Court Raging Swan Press

John Benbo wrote:
If we're going old school then I can't wait for the Raging Swan barroom brawl supplement to stage a barfight in the local tavern where the PCs will meet for the first time before they travel off to the Shadowkeep. After that, let them get mixed up with the Cultists of Havra Zhoul. Now if I could just convince my players to play more!

John, did you spill my pint?

;-)

Why yes, I have just rolled on the Brawl Trigger table...

RPG Superstar 2011 Top 8

Creighton Broadhurst wrote:
John Benbo wrote:
If we're going old school then I can't wait for the Raging Swan barroom brawl supplement to stage a barfight in the local tavern where the PCs will meet for the first time before they travel off to the Shadowkeep. After that, let them get mixed up with the Cultists of Havra Zhoul. Now if I could just convince my players to play more!

John, did you spill my pint?

;-)

Why yes, I have just rolled on the Brawl Trigger table...

Sign me up for Random Barroom Encounters.

Sovereign Court Raging Swan Press

Funnily enough, that was the original title of Barroom Brawls!

Sovereign Court Raging Swan Press

Just to let you know that Raging Swan has published the first web enhancement for Shadowed Keep on the Borderlands. This enhancement presents a party of adventurers the GM can use as allies, rivals or foils to the PCs. Each member of the party is fully stated out at 1st- and 2nd-level and comes with notes on their background, personality, mannerisms and so on.

You can download the enhancement for free.


Great additional support! I'm also glad to read that "Shadowed Keep" is doing as well as it does!

Good reason to write more adventures, hmm? Perhaps a spiritual successor to Retribution? Or a TRIB(E)al warfare scenario?

Sovereign Court Raging Swan Press

I am plotting a module that will be more like Retribution than Shadowed Keep in that it will be more story-based than dungeon delve focused. I'll be working with John Bennett on it - and I'm looking forward to it immensely!


Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Campaign Setting, Card Game, Companion, Modules, Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Tales Subscriber; Pathfinder Comics Subscriber

You are on a roll Creighton, keep it up!

RPG Superstar 2011 Top 8

Creighton Broadhurst wrote:
I am plotting a module that will be more like Retribution than Shadowed Keep in that it will be more story-based than dungeon delve focused. I'll be working with John Bennett on it - and I'm looking forward to it immensely!

Me too! Creighton's been a great mentor to have as I enter the world of freelance game design so I'm defintely excited to get to work on an adventure with him.


I will be buying this as soon as the print edition is available. All of your products have been great so far so I am sure this will be great also. Keep up the quality standards. Some of us appreciate it.


Bought this, took it and had it bound at kinkos fer 10 bucks.
My players are lovin' it so far.
Keep up the good work!

Sovereign Court Raging Swan Press

Thanks very much!(But if they enjoy it too much, I clearly didn't do my job properly!)

;-)

Sovereign Court Raging Swan Press

PathfinderFan64 wrote:
I will be buying this as soon as the print edition is available. All of your products have been great so far so I am sure this will be great also. Keep up the quality standards. Some of us appreciate it.

Don't forget when you do that it's part of Raging Swan's Free PDF program. You can claim free PDFs up to the value of the print version just by emailing me!

Full details are here.

Sovereign Court Raging Swan Press

Raging Swan Press has just released the second web enhancement for Shadowed Keep on the Borderlands. This enhancments contains all the maps for the adventure in a variety of formats (as presented in the module, without grid and without grid or labels).

You can grab it here.

I hope you find it useful!


How are we looking on a print edition??

Sovereign Court Raging Swan Press

Alan_Beven wrote:
How are we looking on a print edition??

It's up at Amazon for pre-order and releases April 19. It's just taking a little longer to work its way through the supply chain.


Has anyone given any thought to a suitable location in Golarion for this adventure? I'm just wondering if anyone has placed it in Paizo's campaign setting, or given thought to doing so.

Contributor

The March Hare wrote:
Has anyone given any thought to a suitable location in Golarion for this adventure? I'm just wondering if anyone has placed it in Paizo's campaign setting, or given thought to doing so.

Keeps on borderlands, shadowed or not, would probably do well in the River Kingdoms or Varisia. :)


I made a battlemap for approaching the Shadowed Keep for use with VTT software. It is located here and just the rather large full size download.


Creighton Broadhurst wrote:
Alan_Beven wrote:
How are we looking on a print edition??
It's up at Amazon for pre-order and releases April 19. It's just taking a little longer to work its way through the supply chain.

I have it in my hands in print edition. A fine piece of adventure writing indeed.

Sovereign Court Raging Swan Press

Alan_Beven wrote:
Creighton Broadhurst wrote:
Alan_Beven wrote:
How are we looking on a print edition??
It's up at Amazon for pre-order and releases April 19. It's just taking a little longer to work its way through the supply chain.
I have it in my hands in print edition. A fine piece of adventure writing indeed.

Thanks very much indeed - I hope you enjoy it! (Don't forget if you've got a physical copy you are eligible for some free PDFs.)

Sovereign Court Raging Swan Press

demontroll wrote:
I made a battlemap for approaching the Shadowed Keep for use with VTT software. It is located here and just the rather large full size download.

That's awesome!


Is there a follow up planned for the dwarven hold map?

Contributor

Print and bundle preorders now available!

Sovereign Court Publisher, Raging Swan Press

Paizo have just let me know that they've sold out of physical copies of Shadowed Keep on the Borderlands! I've just put another order in with my printers and the situation should be resolved at some point next week.

Thanks to everyone who has purchased a copy. I much appreciate the support.


Kryzbyn wrote:
Is there a follow up planned for the dwarven hold map?

I'm running a party through Shadowed Keep. I'm making the dwarven hold map point to Forge of Fury and taking them there next.


Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Campaign Setting, Card Game, Companion, Modules, Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Tales Subscriber; Pathfinder Comics Subscriber

Just received my print copy, and WOW, this product is AWESOME! I think it just became my official goto 1st lvl module.

Well done Creighton, well done.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

"Likes" Elorebaen's post. (Sorry, I was just on another website! :D )

Sovereign Court Publisher, Raging Swan Press

Elorebaen wrote:

Just received my print copy, and WOW, this product is AWESOME! I think it just became my official goto 1st lvl module.

Well done Creighton, well done.

You've made me very happy. Thanks very much for the kind words; I'll be drinking a beer in their honour tonight!

(I don't suppose I could talk you into doing a quick review for Shadowed Keep could you - I'd love to quote it on the module's webpage).

Thanks again.


Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Campaign Setting, Card Game, Companion, Modules, Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Tales Subscriber; Pathfinder Comics Subscriber
Creighton Broadhurst wrote:
Elorebaen wrote:

Just received my print copy, and WOW, this product is AWESOME! I think it just became my official goto 1st lvl module.

Well done Creighton, well done.

You've made me very happy. Thanks very much for the kind words; I'll be drinking a beer in their honour tonight!

(I don't suppose I could talk you into doing a quick review for Shadowed Keep could you - I'd love to quote it on the module's webpage).

Thanks again.

Have two beers! You deserve it. *grins* Super busy atm, but would be happy to in the future.

Sovereign Court Publisher, Raging Swan Press

You talked me into it - I'll have two!

Thanks very much - jolly decent of you!

Sovereign Court Publisher, Raging Swan Press

Thanks very much for the review DM Jeff. I much appreciate it and I'm jolly glad you liked Shadowed Keep on the Borderlands.


Wow that free other PDFs policy for print buyers is awesome! I just understood it now, before I though you'd get a free PDF of the book if you bought a print copy say at amazon.

Sovereign Court Publisher, Raging Swan Press

I'm glad you like it and hope you make use of it. I'vecfound that people like the flexibility of the offer. That can buy (say) Shadowed Keep on the Borderlands and then get a half dozen Dungeon Dressings (or whatever) completely free! Everybody wins!


Any chance an upcoming RS adventure will be a sequel; the Lost Hold of Hadramkath?

Sovereign Court Publisher, Raging Swan Press

Not at the moment (although you are not the first person to mention it). It might end up in the works for late 2014, but I've got a couple of things I really want to write first!


I think I mentioned to you that Forge of Fury makes a workable substitute with a little level tweaking, but it would be nice to have something Raging Swan built for it.

And since Paizo isn't into dwarven delves, the market is pretty under-represented.

Dark Archive

Hate to resurrect an old thread, just re-read the module (which is fantastic) and I had some questions.

Creighton - I know that the Shadowed Keep is not placed anywhere on the Lonely Coast, but if you were to place it - where would it be?
I was thinking about placing it around 15 miles north of Oakhurst, in the hills/bluffs west of where the map is marked "The Tangled Wood". That or near the Twisted Gorge - though I would consider that area a little more dangerous than the original Caves of Chaos in B2 so I would want it a little closer to civilization and thus easier for a low level group to hit (first).

I'm just curious to see where you would have it placed in "your" LC region.

Also, would you consider re-releasing the Shadowed Keep as an expanded module paired with the Twisted Gorge, or just with a laid and detailed environs area/mini-campaign?

I know the strength is "you can drop the keep anywhere" is an aspect of the SKotB, but I think you do an excellent job of writing environs books and a wider super-module/campaign (SK and environs or SK and environs + Twisted Gorge) would be epic!

RPG Superstar 2011 Top 8

Auxmaulous wrote:

Hate to resurrect an old thread, just re-read the module (which is fantastic) and I had some questions.

Creighton - I know that the Shadowed Keep is not placed anywhere on the Lonely Coast, but if you were to place it - where would it be?
I was thinking about placing it around 15 miles north of Oakhurst, in the hills/bluffs west of where the map is marked "The Tangled Wood". That or near the Twisted Gorge - though I would consider that area a little more dangerous than the original Caves of Chaos in B2 so I would want it a little closer to civilization and thus easier for a low level group to hit (first).

I'm just curious to see where you would have it placed in "your" LC region.

Also, would you consider re-releasing the Shadowed Keep as an expanded module paired with the Twisted Gorge, or just with a laid and detailed environs area/mini-campaign?

I know the strength is "you can drop the keep anywhere" is an aspect of the SKotB, but I think you do an excellent job of writing environs books and a wider super-module/campaign (SK and environs or SK and environs + Twisted Gorge) would be epic!

I've been bugging Creighton to do a Twisted Gorge megamodule as well. Maybe one day! Speaking of Oakhurst, Raging Swan's newest module, Against the Cult of the Bat God, releases Thursday, 04/24. Set in the village of Oakhurst, it's a 5th level adventure (scalable up and down for 6th and 4th) that you could run after the Shadowkeep. I also recommend Road of the Dead, a 3rd level module set in the Lonely Coast. I ran that one in my Kingmaker campaign and my players really enjoyed it (it also began their irrational fear of water).

Dark Archive

I was just re-reading Road of the Dead today, excellent mod. Feels like an anthropological dig meets sword and sorcery. I will run it, just trying to put down some details about the Lonely Coast.

And yes, I will pick up your mod Against the Cult of the Bat God.

In this industry there is no such thing as shameless self-promotion!

So since you're already posting here -
Was there any one particular module or story/movie that would serve as a good example of what you're trying to do with Bat God? Or better – is there a specific source that inspired you (besides wanting to write a module)?

RPG Superstar 2011 Top 8

Auxmaulous wrote:

I was just re-reading Road of the Dead today, excellent mod. Feels like an anthropological dig meets sword and sorcery. I will run it, just trying to put down some details about the Lonely Coast.

And yes, I will pick up your mod Against the Cult of the Bat God.

In this industry there is no such thing as shameless self-promotion!

So since you're already posting here -
Was there any one particular module or story/movie that would serve as a good example of what you're trying to do with Bat God? Or better – is there a specific source that inspired you (besides wanting to write a module)?

The beginning of last year, Creighton contracted me to to write the last three villages on the Lonely Coast- Bossin, Hosford, and Oakhurst. At the time, he already knew that he wanted to do a module set in Oakhurst and knew that I had been itching to write one. I had a choice between a Bat God and a Snake God, so I choose the Bat God (liking bats more than snakes). Creighton had already done some of the legwork by describing the village in the Lonely Coast campaign book but he let me put my own spin on things.

I did read my copy of Against the Cult of the Reptile God as inspiration to get a feel for the original but other than that, I just kind of wrote within the framework that Creighton and I had setup in the Oakhurst supplement, expanding from the initial ideas set in there. We knew that we wanted a creepy, horror vibe so that's what I went for.

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