The Alexandrian

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Keep on the ShadowfellSPOILER WARNING!

The following thoughts contain minor spoilers for Keep on the Shadowfell. If you don’t want to be spoiled, don’t read it. And if you’re in my gaming group then you definitely shouldn’t be reading it.


I’m not using the default adventure hooks for Keep on the Shadowfell because I feel they give away too much of the mystery before the adventure even starts. Basically, one of the ways in which I want to enrich this adventure is to give the PCs more freedom and more initiative. And the way to do that is to give them some mysteries to explore and some problem solving. The default adventure hooks, in general, short circuit this process by jumping them either blatantly or directly to the solutions.

Instead I’m using the following set-up and hook for the adventure:

You are known as rune warriors. Each of you was born with a runic birthmark somewhere on your bodies. The runes are believed to be marks of the gods or the fates, and under ancient Imperial Law, it was required that the runeborn be given into the care of the Order of the Rune. The Empire is gone now, but the Order still seeks out the runeborn.

You are members of a balatek. You were raised together, trained together, and prepared against the day when you would journey forth into the world and use your unique gifts and talents to fulfill the Order’s mission.

Historically, the Order’s mission has been to “help the common people”. But since the Empire’s fall, the Order has been forced to find many different patrons throughout the world. (To a large extent, the Order has fragmented just like the remnants of the Empire have fragmented.)

Which is why, as a young balatek, you find yourselves seeking Winterhaven – a tiny village on the edge of civilization. The last heir of a minor noble family has died. The heir’s great-uncle, Sir Caliban, was a knight banished for transgressions of the chivalric code. Mystic divinations indicate that the knight’s son – the current heir of the noble house – lives in Winterhaven.

You traveled more than a thousand leagues, but your journey had only just begun: It took you many months of questioning, in city after city and village after village, before you finally found someone who knew of the village of Winterhaven . They described the village as “lying in the shadow of the Cairngorms”. The ancient and (as you discovered) wildly inaccurate maps the Order had given you indicated that the Cairngorm Peaks lay even further to the west.

Now, at last, you are drawing near to your goal: You are on the King’s Road (although there has been no king in these parts in living memory), traveling west towards Winterhaven.


After using the On the Road: Kobold Brigands ambush to jump-start the adventure, read the following:

You continue down the King’s Road to Winterhaven. After another mile, you see smoke on the horizon. A little while later you round a corner in the road and look down into a clearing: A small farmhouse has been burnt to the ground, its ruins still sending a trail of smoke into the air.

Over the next few miles you see several more isolated farms like this one, all destroyed.

Abruptly you find yourself at the end of the King’s Road: It crosses a north-south road and then runs up a broad hill that holds a walled village that must be Winterhaven. The village is nestled in the southern foothills of the Cairngorm Peaks. The walls are weathered stone topped by defensive palisades.

To the south and the west you can see rolling farmland with small, thatched homes fronting a small pasture or crop. Beyond the farms lie dark woods and, to the north, tall mountain peaks.


Winterhaven Area MapI have modified the map found in the adventure so that it can be used as a player handout without spoiling the adventure.

However, there is a problem with this map: According to the module, this village has a population of 977, mostly farmers living in the surrounding area. But where are the farms?

FARMS: There are a couple dozens farms in the area immediately around Winterhaven (primarily to the south and west of the city). However, most of the local farmers are located about five miles southwest of the city.

TRADE: There is a large city (Fallcrest) about a hundred miles distant along the King’s Road to the east and a smaller city (Wintermist) on the banks of Lake Wintermist on the road north out of Winterhaven. As a result, the village is something of a natural nexus for trade — the farms from the south; the fishermen from the north; and the craftsmen from Fallcrest all naturally at the crossroads in Winterhaven.


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