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.
I recently purchased this download to complement my current obsession with pdf terrain. This set consists of the same types of walls that exist in the Walls of Rakes Corner, but these files are layered, so you can choose different rock textures if you wish. Brown stone, gray stone, and red brick are available, along with additional textures like cracks, postings (flyers/posters), rust, and lanterns.
Gates and doors (both opened and closed) are also provided. Color saturation is decent, but not horrifically intense, and I've been able to print off quite a bit without killing my color ink cartridge (I have an HP 5150 inkjet printer).
My first project involved using these walls to surround a country cottage. I must say I was very happy. Simple, straightforward construction, with one little hiccup: folding the ends of the walls was tricky. Initially I was going to give the product 4 stars because of this, but I have so many cool ideas on what to use these for, I had to bump it back up to 5 stars.
The walls are 1/4" wide, so the tabs at the ends are small and fiddly. It took a couple tries to get something that I was happy with, but I ultimately decided to just sandwich a piece of foamboard between the cardstock and trim off the end tabs. The ends of the walls are hidden behind corner posts anyways, so the piece still looks great and has a little more strength.
One slight downside with this plan is that the foamboard is 3/16" wide, so if you look closely you can see where the upper side of the wall meets the top is slightly concave. It's so small though, that no one I've shown the model to even notices it.
For cutting, I use a hobby knife and a metal straight-edge. These walls (indeed, all of the models I have from Dave's Games) are simple enough that robo-cutter files aren't really needed.
Dave Grafffam Models are my first introduction to the world of cardstock terrain, and they certainly won't be the last. I've already purchased his Maritime Building pack, along with the Medieval Walls set (which match these walls, although they are 3.5" high, with walkways and watchtowers to boot!