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.


In Keep on the Shadowfell, the information on NPCs and information in Winterhaven is primarily organized in a question-and-answer format that will help new DMs make sure the PCs get all the information they’re supposed to. As an experienced DM, however, I found the format far too cumbersome for my purposes.

In my experience, I like to have two sets of tools available during these types of information-gathering scenarios: Guidelines for handling how much and what type of information to give out with Streetwise checks and detailed roleplaying notes for important or notable characters. I’m going to start, today, with the Streetwise checks.

I’ve also made a couple of more general changes to the general structure of the adventure. As written, the PCs are generally handed clear-cut quests with simplistic goals: “Kobolds are bad. Go to their lair and kill them.” I’ve generally tried to make things a little less clear-cut. For example, Lord Padraig wants the kobold threat eliminated… but he doesn’t actually know where the kobold lair is. (So the PCs will have to figure that out.)

Similarly, I’ve decided to make Valthrun the Seer less of a know-it-all. I’m actually quite annoyed by this character. “I have valuable information that would help solve this problem… but I won’t tell anybody until the PCs have hit level 2.” So instead of knowing everything, he knows a few things, can research a bit more, and can point the PCs in the direction of somebody who knows even more (Douven Stahl, who’s currently being held prisoner at the dragon burial site).


Any information coming from a specific character can be gained by simply asking the character about the topic in question. (I consider Gather Information/Streetwise checks to be a mechanic which either: (a) Lets a character find out the general “news on the street”; or (b) Get them in touch with a specific character who knows the information. In other words, I tend to use Streetwise checks to introduce the PCs to new characters and jumpstart a relationship with them.)

The residents of Winterhaven seem cautious, even suspicious. They don't seem particularly welcoming to outsiders.
The kobolds have been attacking travelers on the roads regularly. A few weeks ago livestock started being stolen. Just over the past few days, however, several isolated forms have been attacked and destroyed. Those lucky enough to survive such attacks have fled to the village. Eilian the Old, an elderly farmer and local prognosticator, happily tells anyone he warms up to -- by which I mean anyone who buys him a drink -- that this type of raiding has happened before... but he also admits that it's never been this bad before.
They aren't talking about it, but people are worried that things are about to get a lot worse. Farmers from the southern farms haven't been coming to market. Food is running out. Salvana Wrafton, the local innkeeper, denies that there are any problems... but there's a worried look in her eye and a nervous glance towards her pantry.
Gives the same result as a DC 15 "General Inquiry" check, but also: "Lord Padraig might be interested in hearing from runeborns who have an interest in this problem."
They meet Ninaran. The elven hunter seems suspicious at first. "Why are you so interested in these kobolds? You looking for trouble?" But eventually she'll tell them about seeing a "half dozen kobolds or so" by a waterfall to the southeast of town a couple days ago. She can draw them a very detailed map. (See Ninaran's character notes.)
There's a ruined keep on the road to the north -- halfway up the Cairngorms. It's an old Imperial outpost. It's been abandoned for more than a century, I'd guess.
Salvana Wrafton: "The keep? It's just northeast of the village, along the north road. But no one goes that way. Too dangerous! Monsters of all sorts! Ghosts and vampires, I hear. Nothing anyone who values their life would get anywhere near."
Bairwin Wildarson: "You need to be careful if you head over that way. I was traveling on that road on my way back from Wintermist about a month ago, and I saw goblins crawling about in the ruins. I have no idea where they might have come from. We haven't had goblins in these parts in years."
Valthrun: "The keep was built during the height of the Empire of Nerath. Some sort of watchtower. Some say it was to guard against giants marauding out of the Stonemarch, but other sources seem to disagree. Whatever the case might be, the keep outlived its usefulness. It's been a ruin since before I was born. But you've whetted my appetite. I'll look through my library. Check back with me in a day or so."


“The Keep was built as an outpost of the Empire of Nerath, most likely to guard against the giant tribes living in the northern reaches of the Stonemarch. Many such outpost survived the fall of the empire, but not the Keep: Only two short decades after the empire withdrew its influence from this part of the world, the commander of the garrison – a man by the name of Sir Keegan – began to systematically slaughter every resident of the keep, starting with his own wife and daughter.

“Some versions of the tale say that Sir Keegan succeeded – that everyone in the keep was slaughtered. Many such tales claim that this was a sacrifice to a dark god, and that Sir Keegan now lives in a sickly paradise within another world – a reward for his bloody gift of tribute.

But since there is, in fact, a story to be told, I suspect the other version of the tale is probably true: Sir Keegan was too skilled for any single soldier to defeat, but eventually the remaining garrison rallied an organized defense. Although many brave soldiers died, Sir Keegan was slain before his dark work could be completed. Following Sir Keegan’s death, the keep became notorious and the tales grew in the telling. The surviving guards scattered, and with the empire gone there was no one to put the keep back into service. So it was abandoned, feared for a time, and – eventually – more or less forgotten. At some point during the last century, an earthquake reportedly collapsed the upper towers and walls.

Rumors persist of great treasures buried beneath the keep, yet there are few tales of anyone daring to explore the ruins. A popular tale in the area was that old Sir Keegan’s ghost still roamed the corridors beneath the keep, wailing his grief and rage. But even this tale has faded with time, and the story of the wailing ghost is used to frighten children. Although the keep is still considered bad luck by most people in these parts, it has largely been forgotten.”


LOOKING FOR SEER (DC 10) — Valthrun the Prescient lives in the tower near the center of town.

ORCUS (DC 15) — Valthrun: “Orcus is the Demon Prince of the Undead. He is known as one of the most powerful demons in the Abyss — powerful enough, in fact, that he has threatened the gods themselves. He is even known in some texts as the Godslayer. He commands legions of followers, living and dead, and cults dedicated to him are terrifyingly widespread throughout the world. If you’re in search of a true expert, however, you should seek out Douven Stahl. He’s visiting Winterhaven from Fallcrest, and he has gone to excavate a crater just south of the city which he believes to be a burial site of a dragon.”

TRAITOR (DC 20) — (This check is only effective after the graveyard interlude.) Bairwin Wildarson saw Ninaran leaving the village about an hour before the first undead attack. The guards remember that, too, and say that Ninaran told them she was going hunting. But Perrien saw her slipping back into the village shortly after the first undead attack.

DRAGON BURIAL SITE (DC 15) —  There’s a large crater to the southeast of the city. A scholar from Fallcrest by the name of Douven Stahl passed through the village about a month ago. He mentioned something about thinking that the crater might be a dragon burial site. He left the village two weeks ago and he hasn’t been heard from since.


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