Castle Shadowcrag
Written by Wolfgang Baur
Open Design System
95 electronic pages PDF format

Iíve heard of the patron system before but havenít heard a ton of feedback. The users quickly pipe up that they enjoy it and there must be some level of success as itís continued past the first adventure. Having heard about the new adventure upcoming, I half-jokingly said that Wolfgang needed to send the staff reviewers a copy of his latest and behold, it was sent.

So what do you get for your patronage? Castle Shadowcrag is 95 pages of adventure. One odd thing about the formatting is that it has three blank pages, pages 2, 8, and 94. Nothing terrible about it but removing the pages might make the file smaller. Having adobe myself, I removed the pages and printed it out on the old double sided Samsung printer. No problems. The book is packed with bookmarks and reading over them shows an impressive list. This is not JUST an adventure, but like some of the more fondly remembered ones, introduces new gaming bits that can go beyond the adventure.

The cover art is an impressive piece. If the previous adventure cover is this solid looking, Wolfgang needs to put some shots of the covers up on his web site so that people can see them. Interior art is not as impressive. Iím a big believer in the use of art despite my growing distaste for WoTC products; Iíve almost always enjoyed the professional level of art. In this regard though, I think about 99.9% of PDF productions have a long way to go unless theyíre print products that are also sold as PDF.

Maps are solid. We have a full color full-page map of the castle and itís nearby locations. This map could be larger as when itís printed out, the text is a little small. There are several up close maps of the castle and other adventuring environments. I have been getting a little spoiled by maps in some products where theyíre meant for use out on the table top at the old 25/28mm, but the quality of these maps in terms of viewing, is high.

Book isnít as bad as some WoTC/AEG/White Wolf products in terms of editing, but couldíve used another pass. A few misspelled words whose origins looked pretty clear, a few game stats that seemed off, but I didnít notice anything repeated as being off. For example, one NPC showing that itís a fifth level sorcerer is actually 8th level, but the CR and spell lists are for the 8th level. One thing I noticed was that the stat blocks are inconsistent. For example, some will list under the Initiative score whatís providing the bonus, others wonít.

The book is broken into four parts. The adventure is not a simple hack and slash feast. It is not something that you should read through once. It is an intricate adventure that the GM should read over several times and mark up as appropriate and insert notes as to how things are progressing.

The book relies on a few different themes. One of them is fey. Not my biggest fan support area. Never a big fan of the whole Seelie and Unseelie court. Those who are will enjoy the opportunity to battle against the shadow fey and to see how alliances in the past lead to corruption in the future. Another one is the realm of shadow. Another one is time travel and how the events the players witness and partake in will change the adventure as they progress through it as well as how various NPCs will react to them.

There are a lot of opportunities for role-playing. There are a lot of opportunities for exploration. There are a lot of opportunities for combat. Players will get to see how their actions in the past, indeed how things at Castle Shadowcrag came to be originated, as well as influence those actions to a different era.

The players will travel through shadow and time, and their actions will be reflected in some subtle ways, such as how the winter garden appears, as well as in what the patrons of the castle are like.

In terms of New Monsters, they may not be new to everyone. Wolfgang makes generous use of the plethora of d20 material by selecting appropriate monsters. He uses the PDF medium to bring us not just their combat block statistics (like say WoTC in Red Hand of Doom), but also a full write out. Itís a case where illustrations for each monster wouldíve been nice too. Included are stats for the shadow fey (CR 3), and stained glass golem (CR 9). Separate from the new monsters are updated monsters like the angel of death, and black skeleton among others. Two of my favorites from my old Shackled City campaign, the shadow creeper and shadow stalker, courtesy of Tome of Horrors one by Necromancer games.

One bonus is pregenerated PCs. Not something Iíd be concerned with, but given the nature of the product, itís not like page count in and of itself is the only master. Players looking over the characters should beware that these are no optimized characters by a long shot. For example, Svendbjorn is a 10th level paladin who wields a Warhammer for the old 1d8, and while he has full plate mail +2, he doesnít own a normal shield of any kind and at 10th level, an AC of 20 could be improved with at least a medium shield. Players will probably want to quickly customize them before play. There are a total of six pregenerated characters.

In terms of worth, itís hard to say based off of the adventure alone. Part of the pleasure of the patronage project is actually getting your input into the adventure and reading the various design journals. In terms of listening to the patrons, Wolfgang lists the patrons, as well as shows a few places where the patrons input affected the adventure. Things like that have worth beyond the adventure.

In terms of future adventures, this one doesnít tie up everything nicely as the author leaves several potential threads that the GM can weave into further adventurers depending on where he wants the party to go in the future.

Castle Shadowcrag is an intriguing adventure that takes things out of the dungeon while allowing for all the things that make D&D an entertaining game. Itís design impressed me enough to dig out older adventures like Empire of the Ghouls and prompted me to join the Open Design.