First-Time DM - Keep on the Shadowfell


First Post
I am an old 2E player that has decided to put together a game among old friends. We will be running the keep on the shadowfell module in order to get a feel for the game, then everyone will reroll and we will do a full-fledged campaign (likely the scales of war adventure path). I have been reading as much as I possibly can, but I am making this post to solicit tips - both for a rookie DM, and anything pertaining to this module in particular. I want to ensure fun is had by all. any help is appreciated. oh yes, one other thing. my party is going to consist of 6-7 players rather than the standard 5, so any tips on tuning encounters and keeping things moving are greatly appreciated. thanks in advance!

log in or register to remove this ad


First Post
KotS is quite a grind. As in, a mind boggling abount of combat. I would consider trimming some of the encounters. Another thing to keep in mind is that most of the enemies are melee-only, and there are chokepoints aplenty, which leads to boring, static fights.

From just reading through the first half of the Scales of War adventure path, I would seriously advise against running it as a rookie DM. With rare exceptions, the "adventure path" consists of barely connected adventures consisting of barely connected encounters. The highlight of the adventure path is the wonderful epic battles that spring up. WotC has a good eye for making interesting combats. Unfortunately, it will take dozens of hours of deciphering what exactly the plot is, and much more to communicate it to the PCs in a coherent way. You WILL have to provide 50%+ of the content for Scales of War.

I've heard very good things about War of the Burning Sky (hosted here!), but I haven't had the opportunity to look through it better.

depends, what you expect from a published adventure. KOTS is not that bad, free and partially revised.

As a ADnD 2nd edition adventure DM in 3rd edittion and 4th edition, i expect you to make fun out of everything. Just play it like you would play any adventure with roleplaying and such inbetween those encounters. 4e is great for this.


There are lots and lots of positive threads around about improving the module. As it stands my main suggestion would be to consider trimming a combat here and there if things get too slow.

Also, if you have a hardcopy definitely download the revised PDF from Wizards. It has a few key changes that are really good.


First Post
The big thing to worry about with KotS is the battle against Irontooth. In general, 4E emphasizes defenders (Fighter/Paladin/Warden/Swordmage/Battlemind) being "sticky". That is, keeping enemies near them and attacking them. However, in the combat versus Irontooth, being sticky will get a defender cut down very quickly. It's a sort of "gotcha" moment, and by the time groups realize it, usually the damage is done. I'd make sure to emphasize he does better when he doesn't move (ie, running around makes him unbalanced or some such).

I'm running Scales of War right now, and while there are some threads between the modules, I'm finding I have to fill in a lot. I've somewhat heavily modified the meta-plot to make some of it make more sense. One big thing that I didn't realize going in is that Overlook, and not Brindol, is meant to be the PC's base of operations. Looking back, I would just use Overlook as the setting for the first adventure.


Consider running War of the Burning Sky; I'm sort of prejudiced, but I think it's a great adventure path for new players. Far more roleplaying-oriented than some other options you might have.


First Post
We will be running the keep on the shadowfell module
Well, there are free counter sheets available for that module if you don't have enough minis.

Here is a really nice set of counters made by Claudio Pozas
H1 - Castle Of Shadows - Fiery Dragon |

If you like video games, here are some ready to print counters copy and pasted together.

Hell on the subject of free, the module is available as a free download from wotc.

Dungeons & Dragons Roleplaying Game Official Home Page - Article (D&D Test Drive)


First Post
I'm running this adventure for two separate groups right now and here's what I did with it.

1. Printed off the revised PDF from WoTC - as others have said, the revised version does have some cool modifications, which the module kinda needed IMHO.

2. There's a thread somewhere on here, with a link to another website where somone "The Alexandrian"(?) wrote about 7 essays about what he did with various parts of the module and I've borrowed/tweaked many of his ideas.

3. I agree with the other posters that there's just too much combat in the adventure, as written (again, IMHO, but I feel sure my groups would get bored with the adventure, with no modification at all). I sliced off some of the rooms of Level 1 of the Dungeon and I substantially rewrote Level 2, placing fewer encounters but ones that I feel are more suitable and 'atmospheric' encounters there, that I think/hope will be more enjoyable for my groups. I also replaced the magical items provided in the adventure with items suitable to the characters in my group.

4. Another thing I did was to create new "boxed text" paragraphs so that I could give the players much more meaningful/atmospheric room descriptions than the module provides. Obviously, I had to create completely new boxed text for the second level, since its almost a 'new' dungeon compared to the one thats in the book. The author generally seems to have concentrated on describing the monsters in the boxed text, and gave scant attention, in my view, to the room descriptions.

Best of luck with it.



5ever, or until 2024
KoTS is meant to be the 4E version of an old school dungeon crawl. This means, yes, lots of combat. If you were doing 2E realms with Greyhawk, FR, or a classic style homebrew and like fighting, probably ok. If you were running a more story oriented game and liked that, could be a problem.

The strengths:
Winterhaven: simple homebase with just enough to keep it interesting,
The Postermaps, if you have them,
Monster stats right there! (this is true for all WotC 4E stuff)
The little classic touches here and there
(not quite as strong but) The backstory and the ways the players can learn about it

Fight, fight, fight. If you are playing frequently and like a tactical game, this might be a strength.
No so much story...outside the deep backstory...this is very much "location based" (though stuff does happen outside the main dungeon) again, this can be a strength
The hidden master. Also sort of old school (and pretty common in general) you players will learn about the main bad guy, but won't meet him till the end. And he won't do much till then.
More classic, then original: I thought the module had some nice little touches, but not really a breakthrough in any sense.

If, back in the day, you would run old modules and adopt them by putting in more story and maybe cutting back on the hack and slash a little, its the same thing here. And ya, the fight with the kobolds at there homebase, deadly.


KotS can be a little dry with all its combat encounters - I haven't looked at the revisions, but I've heard they help. So be sure to inject some RP elements into it and don't be afraid to tweak the whole thing. I used it as a framework and it was great.

Coming straight from a 3e game I found DMing 4e to be a challenge, very subtle changes. Not sure how it would be coming straight from 2e to 4e. And there is the greater emphases on the grid and tactical combat, my only complaint about 4e is how difficult it can be to switch from grid to grid-less combat using the powers model.


First Post
I found the Forgotten Realms version of KotS added a very cool element to the game. Bairwin, Winterhaven's successful merchant is a shadow cultist in Kalarel's pay. There is a church beneath his store. Also you can swap out Hobgoblins for Shades and Cultists and add some variety to the hobgoblins fought in the Keep.

I stole some of Lost Souls ideas (check out his AWESOME thread called something like Sandboxing in the Nentir Vale) and had the Mayor of Winterhaven being bribed by Bairwin to turn a blind eye. They held his prized and dearly loved racehorse as ransome (hidden in the Elf Rangers cabin... agh what was her name??)

I placed a half-elven paladin in Winterhaven brooding over a half empty cup of wine. He refused to talk until the Pcs brought hin the Mirror (found in the burial site). He was a paladin of the same order of those that fell under the curse of the keep. He awaits a sign to follow, desiring to clean the keep of its dark legacy and restore honour to his orders blemished name. Bringing him the mirror set off a skill challenge (which even included a good old fashioned arm-wrestle) in order to gain him as an ally. It also required the pcs to find more about the history of the Keep and thus hook them into the story.

To the keep itself I added some haunting effects. Any PC that failed a S.Throw vs Fear during any kind of rest would roll on a d100 table and something spooky would happen to their PC. They'd have to make an appropriate insight check or take some penalty (like losing a HSurge). Failing 3 in a row made things worse. succeeding 3 in a row resulted in inmunity forever. some of the spooky things were ghostly scenes from the terror that had happened when the keep fell to the dark influence of the shadowfell.

I had Bairwin try and buy the PCs off after their success with Irontooth and the Kobolds. 'I'll pay you just to leave. Just touch the statue of Shar and swear you won't interfair'

I had dark shadow creatures sneaking into their rooms at the inn in an attempt to find the mirror and the mayor took the body of the dead paladin (killed by Irontooth) and brought his body back to life in the cultists temple... when they refused to touch the statue of shar... well guess who showed his dead and bloated face!!!! Not to mention that evil elf ranger setting Bairwins shop on fire above them so their escape route was cut and thick smoke billowing down the stairs!!!

We had a great time withthis module. Just needs to be brought to life with your own variety of herbs and spices!


As a player in this module, I found the following:

The kobold ambushes working up to an encounter with the kobold boss felt pretty natural.

The kobold boss turning out to be a goblin didn't make a lot of sense.

The goblin working for some sort of cult dedicated to raising undead didn't make a lot of sense.

The final bad guy signing all of his orders didn't make a lot of sense, nor did all his minions keeping the signed orders around.

How lame the final bad guy's spy was: no sense.

The portal containing some sort of hideous tentacle monster... no sense there either.

Finally, there were very weak ties between this adventure and the next.

I found that the amount of combat wasn't too bad. If you find that combats are going slowly, swap out soldiers for lurkers, brutes and artillery wherever you can.

Mostly the adventure needs a facial: the mechanics are good, the fights are pretty good, but nothing fits together with any coherence.


Consider running War of the Burning Sky; I'm sort of prejudiced, but I think it's a great adventure path for new players. Far more roleplaying-oriented than some other options you might have.

While KotS can be a lot of fun, an experienced DM is best to squeeze it for what it's worth, and slice out what's not so good (which can be a lot). I kind of agree with PirateCat, if you haven't started the campaign yet, i'd REALLY go with War of the Burning Sky. I have not run it, nor will i run it (i too far into 4e to start a new campaign unless it's Dark Sun) but from what i've seen it is excellent AND fun to read. Something that can't quite be said for WotC modules so far.


First Post
thanks again for all your comments. the first night went really well. i ended up with a group of 7 players (1 leader, 1 controller, and 5 strikers). we did spend a lot of time in combat (3 encounters completed and the group has not yet made it to Winterhaven lol).

the group decided to capture one of the kobolds in the first encounter and learned of the goblin leader Irontooth. they decided to go dispatch Irontooth on their way to winterhaven. I tried to give them a way to avoid the second kobold ambush before they got to the lair, but they walked right into the fight anyways.

in the fight outside the lair, the groups assassin died (like the for real negative bloodied value dead) to a hail of javelins from the minions. this wasn't intentional, but was pretty damn funny. he will be playing a new character that the group will hopefully rescue from inside the lair in the next session.

i didn't have a lot of backstory going in, but since we actually played a session, i've gotten tons of ideas, mostly from questions asked by my players, and actions they took. we now have a kobold fighter NPC in the group, who's loyalty has been won over by the group's warlord.

the player's didn't really seem to mind spending 95% of our 7-hour session in combat. i did my best to give very colorful descriptions of each and every player's turn. i also did my best to make natural 20's and 1's extremely entertaining. our avenger gets to roll just about all attack rolls twice, so she had a lot of crits!

i really like the idea of using the framework of this module as a launching point to building a sandbox campaign in the nentir vale. my only fear is if i will have enough time to give it the attention it deserves (or more importantly to give the rest of my life the attention it deserves).


First Post
i've also read a bit of the campaign guide for wotbs and signed up as a subscriber so i can look at the modules. i presented this module to my players as sort of a practice run, after which we could reroll and start over with something else, or possibly just continue if everyone is loving it.

Dungeon Delver's Guide

An Advertisement