Keep on the Shadowfell

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Hello

I am currenly DMing this adventure to my players, even though I meant to run Red Hand of Doom.

Is there anyone interested in comparing notes, events, D&D 4th edition rules application and so forth? It sometimes testy to keep playing with the same style as before while applying the new rules.

Thank you!
I'll help you. I plan on us rolling up characters Saturday and starting the adventure, probably stopping once they get to Winterhaven. I'm setting it in the Realms, we haven't played there in many, many years, but I/we aren't hardcore Realms fans. I'm going to mod it any way i like and mostly just use the maps and some predetermined icons from the setting. Including the SpellPlague.

Here's the map i was tinkering with. And yes, i saw the FR adaptation, but i like the adventure as written with Orcus and don't plan on changing that.

IMAGE(http://www.med.unc.edu/~saasha/keep/sword.jpg)



Is there anything i particular you wanted to focus on? I've been trying to flesh out all the characters in Winterhaven with pictures and personalities. We have one player who has never roleplayed before so this is going to be a new experience for her.

For the plot hooks, i was using both "mapping out the keep" and "finding Douvon Stahl." The PCs are hired by a moneylender in Silverymoon to map out some old keep, and to find the moneylender's employee who hasn't been heard from in a while. I was going to leave all the cult knowledge secret to be revealed by Valthrun the Prescient later on, maybe as a prophetic vision of Doom and Gloom that he has.
I'd be happy to help. I began leading a party of 4 (Ranger, Fighter, Paladin, Warlord) through it two nights ago. We completed A1, the Winterhaven RP, A2 (second kobold ambush?), the Burial Site, and the Kobold Hideout with Irontooth.

Here's my take on this as an inexperienced DM: I really blew the first ambush. I chalk it up to 4e gitters. None of us really knew the rules that well, and I wasn't familiar enough with the kobolds (make sure you understand the shifting rules) to make it interesting. The players mopped up the poor things, and the general feeling was "Powers are cool, but otherwise it seems like 3.5".

The Winterhaven RP was fine. No one in my group is huge on RP, including myself. We're trying, but my players were itching for more action, so I moved them right along, but not before resting.

The second Kobold amush is where things got really good! The dragon shields rushed out and flanked the ranger doing major damage. They were followed by the skirmisher and wyrmpriest striking successfully as well. (If you're wondering about the #'s, I've been modifying the encounter levels to align with 4 PC's using the XP bank idea from the DMG. It seems to work quite well so far) Kobold shifting is AWESOME! After a few rounds of hit and run tactics the players were feeling pretty insecure. The fighter was completely distraught, especially because he kept forgetting to mark his target (which allows for an OA if the mark shifts or attacks someone else) so he was rendered somewhat useless. Two dragonshields and 1 skirmisher held their own, with the wyrmpriest pelting them with energy orbs. The fighter actually went down at one point. I also messed up the Dragon Breath power of the Wyrmpriest. I misread it as a close burst instead of blast. Therefore I saved it until he was surrounded at the end of the battle. Unfortunately, his glorious death knell missed. Oh well, there's always next time.

Moving on to the burial site. I should preface this a little. I'm adapting H1 to a homebrew world I'm making on Obsidian Portal. I gave the PC"s the Missing Mentor Hook, but changed it to MIssing Sister for the Ranger character. This battle started out wicked. The Paladin immediately sensed something was up with his Insight skill, so the battle began. the PC's moved in and held their ground with total defense. The fighter in my group is a bit of a cocky MF, and taunted the gnome so I had him fire back. Critical hit! With the high crit xbow! It was devastating. He took 25 dmg in one attack! That was followed up by the two drakes charging him. I screwed this up an allowed OA's for the charge (I've since reread the charging rules, so this is fixed). However, the drakes still took the fighter down. The warlord healed him, and the fight continued. The ranger skirted the melee and hunted down the gnome, scoring a crit and almost taking him out in 1 shot. The gnome fade away power is great, but he missed his next shot becoming visible again. The ranger took him out on his next shot. If you can have the gnome die by the pit. Describing the little guy keeling over the edge is a great visual. The other three PC's were able to take out the drakes and human rabble. Rabble = easy. Drakes = tough. Note their power that gives them extra damage when allies are near. It makes them beasts in melee. NOTE: I did not use the Halfling for this encounter.

Finally, the kobold camp. Only the Ranger used stealth, but it didn't help. I had all the kobolds huddle together protecting the dragonshield aroudn the magic circle, or the slinger in back. I was upset when I realized this slinger doesn't have fire pots. I wanted to set the forest ablaze. Looking back I should've just done it. It really would;ve upped the coolness factor and it would have ****** off the ranger. This battle wasn't all that hard. The party took some damage and used a lot of powers. They all felt that this was the hideout and couldn't understand while the kobolds starting fleeing to the waterfall. I think the term "idiots" was used more than once. Once the slinger screamed out "Irontooth must be warned!" a look of surprise and fear washed over them, especially since all of them but the ranger had used their daily already. The battle inside wasn't too bad. I took out the wyrmpriest and a dragonshield, which took a lot of heft out of the encounter. Still, the Fighter went down twice, the warlord was 1 hp from going down, and Irontooth was an absolute badass. Regarding his Dual Axe power. DON'T let any player tell you that his targets have to be adjacent to each other. He can attack any two targets adjacent to him. Overall, it was a satisfying encounter, and the treasure was a good reward. I changed the Dwarven Chain +1 to Razorarmor +1 to fit with my world (no dwarves). The paladin was hesitant to take it, but once the warlord thought about it, the paladin quickly changed his mind and took it. I think everyone was down to 1-3 healing surges, and most were bloodied. No one had any daily/encounter powers left.

We wrapped it up after that. The players didn't really catch on to the Cult/Kalarel thing at the end. I would make sure they are all paying attention at that point. They were busy talking about Irontooth. I now have to throw in some more clues in Winterhaven to make sure they eventually get to the Keep. I'm really looking forward to running the actual keep. I was thinking of possibly adding some of the rooms from Kobold Keep in the DMG too. The traps in their are great.

Is this what you are looking for? If not please be more specific, and I'll do what I can to help. I'm interesting in hearing other people's experiences with KoTS and tips to run it.
wow, mistr, how long did you guys PLAY? That's a long game in my book, like a 6 hour session. Although i would have dragged out the roleplaying in Winterhaven considerably, because i enjoy that sometimes.
Encounter A1 was actually Sunday night after we made characters (I was too eager to try out the new powers...). Tuesday night we did all the rest. The session ran from 7:15 to 10:00 at which point the warlord left, but we carried on for another 2 hours. It was a long session indeed, but everyone was having fun. People were pretty tired at the end which would explain why they missed the whole Cult hook.

As for RP, if you have any tips I'd love to hear them, especially how you run it in Winterhaven. As I said, I'm learning the skill as I go.

All in all, everyone love 4e so far. They can't believe kobolds are so badass. I can't wait until I get to throw some orcs at them. The only character I'm not sure about is the warlord. It doesn't really seem that effective, but maybe it's too early yet.
Roleplaying tips (non-exhaustive of course):

A) You have to have a smidgen of theatrical flair in you, which means sometimes you have to act silly in front of others for the sake of the story. I'm not great at it myself, but it's the best way to generate truly memorable NPCs.

B) Give NPCs short hooks. A habit, or a saying, or a smell or anything. Focus on that hook and the PCs will remember that character. You don't need it for everyone of course.

C) Pictures. It says a thousand words. Here's what i did for my NPCs: years and years ago (near start of 3e i think) i copied a crapload of artwork of Wizard's site and printed it. When i need some NPCs i turn to this stack of stuff and pull out pics that look appropriate. Alternatively, you can just find some of your own online.

Lots of times a character's face or expression will tell you a lot about roleplaying them.

IMAGE(http://www.med.unc.edu/~saasha/keep/npc1.jpg)

IMAGE(http://www.med.unc.edu/~saasha/keep/npc2.jpg)
Thank you guys for your answers!

Mistrlittlejeans, yes, this is more or less what I wanted.

We started to play the adventure last week, with the pregenerated characters. We couldn't wait, event though the Italian version of the Palyer's Handbook (many of my players don't raead English)was to come out the same day! We got excited by the idea of finally know what was all that fuss about 4th edition...

We passed the evening talking first about the rules and then describing the characters: I let all players describe their PC, both as a character and as in rules term. Even though this might seem a little "marketing-like" (you know, brainstorming sessions and the like), we quite enjoyed it and it was the right opportunity for some of them to digest dragonborns and a female dwarf!

We then played the fist encounter on the characters' way to Winterhaven. I am setting the adevnture in my homebrew world, Shallan (if you master some Italian, do join us at www.shallan.it), so I changed some of the basic information and followed the "Ominous Signs" hook. After a noncombat encounter (my invention) with some merchants and their guards, the players went through the first encounter. It was awesome! I really enjoyed it, even though I had to check all the statistics and try to remember all that stuff about the kobolds. We stopper at one o'clock delighted with the game.

Last night we played the second session and I must admit some problems started to arise. A tiefling warlord joined the group, eith the "Missing Mentor" hook. The players wanted mainly to look around in the city, the cleric attracted by the temple and the wizard by the strange tower (the one inhabited by Valthrun, of course). The fact is that probably I was wrong in not giving them a strong motive to be in town. They are looking for the evil cult, but they seemed distracted, more interested in flirting with Ninaran (I belive I did a good job, I think they completely misundestood the elf) and trying to get information from Salvana Wrafton (but not the right ones, if you get what I mean). We didin't move to A1 or indeed to A3. The players enjoyed a lot the role-playing, some of them even told me that this kind of role-play was what they were looking for. But I believe the pacing is wrong, they should become bolder, more in the game rather than in the setting, if you know what I mean. I own I am the kind of DM you might describe as "storyteller", but I think that if you want to enjoy KotS the pacing must go faster.

What do you think?

P. S. Sorry if you find some mistakes, I am writing in a hurry as I am waiting for my buddies for our last D&D 3.5 campaign!
Last night we played the second session and I must admit some problems started to arise. A tiefling warlord joined the group, eith the "Missing Mentor" hook. The players wanted mainly to look around in the city, the cleric attracted by the temple and the wizard by the strange tower (the one inhabited by Valthrun, of course). The fact is that probably I was wrong in not giving them a strong motive to be in town. They are looking for the evil cult, but they seemed distracted, more interested in flirting with Ninaran (I belive I did a good job, I think they completely misundestood the elf) and trying to get information from Salvana Wrafton (but not the right ones, if you get what I mean). We didin't move to A1 or indeed to A3. The players enjoyed a lot the role-playing, some of them even told me that this kind of role-play was what they were looking for. But I believe the pacing is wrong, they should become bolder, more in the game rather than in the setting, if you know what I mean. I own I am the kind of DM you might describe as "storyteller", but I think that if you want to enjoy KotS the pacing must go faster.

What do you think?

From you wrote here, it sounds like you and the players had a lot of fun roleplaying in Winterhaven, and roleplaying is a HUGE problem that people are blaming for 4e D&D. They are saying the game is all about combat and nothing else, and that it cannot accommodate anything besides killing.

I would take a step back as a DM and look at what's happening. Are the rules getting in the way of roleplaying opportunities, or are these opportunities playing out cleaner because of a lack of rules to get in the way?

What i think is that you should try and enjoy the town of Winterhaven and the myriad people in it. What your PCs do outside of combat is one of the joys of a roleplaying game after all, not the predictable swing of a sword or burst of magical fire that any videogame can simulate. There are going to be HUGE swaths of KotS where they'll have no choice but to fight...and fight...and fight some more...

Just my thoughts, for what it's worth.

Zikadik
I agree. If your players are happy roleplaying, then great. There's alway more combat to come. It sounds like you guys are doing a better job of bringing Winterhaven to life. Thanks for the Zik, I've been adding portraits and some traits on my wiki site, but I need to be better about showing these to the players while we're playing. That means a little more prep time finding photos before we game.

Magnificat, it's funny that you mention Valthrun's tower. I read another review of KoTS where the DM said his group spent two whole session sneaking into and exploring the tower because they were sure that the evil cult was based there. Hopefully, you won't have the same problem. As for getting the group into the "game" as written, my advice is to let them roleplay into it. Have some of the wonderful characters they've meet ask them for help with the kobolds - maybe their farm or a relative's farm has been attacked. You could always up the ante and have Padraig offer them more $$$ too.

Next time my group meets, I'll be trying to wrangle them into visiting the keep. The hooks for that don't seem that strong, especially if they aren't cult-hunting.

If you guys like, check out my site http://www.obsidianportal.com/campaign/homeland

i'm eager for tips, advice, whatever. It's a homebrew world with a lot of basis on the fluff from the DMG and KoTS. I'm using a lot of the same names, places, etc.

One more thing Magnificat, to pick up pacing t ry using cut scenes. I did this later in our session since I could tell people were tired but wanted more blood. For instance we went right from the Burial site to the Kobold Hideout. I just did a brief description of the short travel and then the run up to the base. I don't think my players minded. Only bad part was the NPC they rescued from the Burial Site is the Ranger's sister, and they never asked her anything. (I was hoping for questions about the dragonbones, why she was captured, etc.).
On published adventures I always go through and write up the NPCs in my own words, giving them more detail and a trait or two that I can use not only to personalize the adventure to the campaign/gaming group but to also enhance roleplaying. For example, here is my write-up of Lord Padraig:

Lord Padraig: Level 3 Human Warlord (Unaligned). A tall, broad-shouldered human whose duty seems to weigh on him heavily for he looks weathered - tired even as he looks around with dreary eyes and leans forward with slouched shoulders. Salt-and-Pepper hair and a somewhat scraggly beard show that his appearance is not a high priority for him. Lord Padraig is an adequate ruler but has been distracted of late as his oldest son, Ernest the II, has been deathly ill the last two months. Sister Linora has been unable to treat the sickness and whispers in town say that young Lord Ernest lies but a few days from death. To complicate matters, his wife Inva, has also started getting sick. Lord Padraig has three other sons: Balvic (14), Andrin (9), and Carn (7). Balvic is in the neighboring town of Fallcrest where he is seeking aid for Ernest the II while Andrin and Carn try to help their father in his daily duties. Traits: Distracted, tired, impatient. Motivation: Cure for his son, tired of his duty as lord of a backwater town.

I'm using a lot of the Eberron adaptation of the adventure and I plan on having Sal the doppleganger responsible for poisoning young Lord Ernest the II as well as Lord Padraig's wife. Sal plans on impersonating Inva, killing Lord Padraig and his other sons and then establishing himself as ruler. Once his rulership is in place, he will bargain with the nearby gnoll tribes (mentioned briefly in the adventure in that they sometime raid Winterhaven) to be his "militia" and Sal will then have setup his own secure little lordship.

I have detailed each NPC in the adventure like this... each with a description, some history and traits. I include some motivation or a goal for each NPC and then use that information in how they interact with the PCs.
I have detailed each NPC in the adventure like this... each with a description, some history and traits. I include some motivation or a goal for each NPC and then use that information in how they interact with the PCs.

Thank you Relic for sharing your experience.

The funny thing is that I focused on the lord's family myself, envisaging a scene in which the characters meet Pardraig's wife in the manor courtyard playing with her childers. I wanted to be just a role-playing ecounter and nothing more (no useful information to be having from the young lady of the town) but I depicted in my mind very vividly.

I believe you are all right when you sort of say "follow the wave". If it is mainly role-playing the kind of game that it is going to establish, then be it. Zikadik is right when he says enjoy the town of Winterhaven and the myriad people in it. True. It is though necessary to work a little more on the NPCs, as Relic did with Pardraig. I meant to write on our forum a little description on all of them, just a reminder for the players. I'll stretch out those descriptions.

Out of curiosity Relic, what is your description of Ninaran? She's turning out a major player in Kalarel's game... one of the characters trusts her completely (the dragonborn paladin! For god's sake, the dragonborn paladin!) and even asked her to meet the next day after the meeting the characters agreed on with Pardraig (in which he airs them for the kobold thing).
I've fleshed out the characters in some small ways, though not as extensive as Relic. Well, some of it is in depth. I generally let the pictures tell the story while flipping through them and listening to some music. Hey, it's all part of being a DM!

Lord Padraig had a young son who is dead, killed by marauders recently. His wife, Lady Cynthia Padraig, is mad with grief and won't let their youngest daughter Krista out of her sight. Cynthia is armed at all times with a knife and is beginning to frighten Padraig, who compensates by drinking deeper into his cups at Salvana Wrafton's tavern. To complicate matters, Salvana is a lusty woman who is in love with Padraig and wouldn't mind seeing the wife leave town. Salvana's lustiness (and she's not a s-lut necessarily) could have an influence on a charismatic PC.

IMAGE(http://www.med.unc.edu/~saasha/keep/sal.jpg)

IMAGE(http://www.med.unc.edu/~saasha/keep/cyn.jpg)

Now, these are just the random pictures i had in my Big Book of NPCs. When i saw the dagger in the womans' hand, it created the story idea of a protective mother who is bordering on insane. Salvana is pretty hot, and she has the trait of also being extremely ****-retentive and clean, going as far as sweeping under the tables while people sit there and getting angry if they don't put their beers on coasters. This anger might also mask flirtatious activity, i dunno. We haven't made characters yet, we do that Saturday.

Thair Coalstriker has a gimp leg from birth, which has prevented his career as an adventurer. He is still sore about it, and pounds his hammer on anvil all day long fantasizing about killing goblinkin, muttering his threats and curses while he works.

I won't do this for everyone because the PCs probably won't even TALK to everyone, so some of it will have to be done on the fly, which is simultaneously the hardest and most rewarding part of GMing any game system, making stuff up on the spur of the moment to accommodate the players actions and words.
This is sort of OT, but does anyone know if the Virtual Table Top will allow a way to share artwork? That's a massive part of my gaming style, that and music which i'm sure the VTT won't allow. You got to hear each other talking.
Can somebody give me a bit of advice?

As a GM I've just bought Shadowfell and been reading through the adventure (can't wait to play it with my players tomorrow) and I noticed on Kalarel it says "AC22 (see also Shadow Form, below)" - I've flipped back and forth through the booklett and can't find anything about this mysterious Shadow Form.

Also am I reading it right where it says kobolds can shift 1 square as a minor action, that they could do that AFTER they make their attack move? So they could move into combat, attack, and then shift away from combat?
Can somebody give me a bit of advice?

As a GM I've just bought Shadowfell and been reading through the adventure (can't wait to play it with my players tomorrow) and I noticed on Kalarel it says "AC22 (see also Shadow Form, below)" - I've flipped back and forth through the booklett and can't find anything about this mysterious Shadow Form.

Also am I reading it right where it says kobolds can shift 1 square as a minor action, that they could do that AFTER they make their attack move? So they could move into combat, attack, and then shift away from combat?

From the official errata:

On page 78 Kalarel has "(see also shadow form below)" listed next to his armor class, what is this?

Kalarel does not have this ability, it should be ignored.



Yeah, the kobolds can shift away from combat as a minor action, which makes them very dangerous. They can also shift into flanking positions and mob attacks very easily.
Zikadik, that is very funny! In my KotS Salvara is a middle-aged woman keen on making the most of it from the merchants and adventurers passing through Winterhaven. She's always smiling and prjecting an image of good humour and solidarity, even she couldn't care a straw about her customers! Virae, the female dwarf fighter of the party, is convinced Salvara is her friend but the hostess is actually everybody's friend! She didn't really help Virae when she asked about some cult activity in the area and rather gossiped about a little incident occured in the market place the day before (something I made up: on their way to Winterhaven the players met a merchant and his son, very angry about the treatment they received in town. I meant this as a noncombat encounter). It is interesting to note that some players think that tavern's owner MUST be friendly to the players! Out of curiosity: where you thinking about Bree Van de Kamp from the Desperate Housewives TV series when you created Salvara and Lady Pardraig? There's a Bree Van de Kamp halo to them!
As for Lady Pardraig, she is a fine youn woman, very much attached to her four sons. The characters will meet her the next day (they are resting at Wrafton's right now) playing in the manour court with her two younger childres. She will just nod to them and might become interested in their concerns later on. Her husband is a member of the Order of the Gryffon, instituted by King Aryad when he and his wife, Queen Charlotte, established the Kingdom of Valgard more than 20 years ago. I set KotS in the northenmost part of the kingdom, close to a mountain range. Pardraig was one of Aryad's squires and when he got the crown made it the ruler of Winterhaven. In my KotS he is not suffering under any tragedy... but he may come in handy later, when some of the characters might getting interested in the Order.
I am still undecided about Ninaran... what do you suggest?

As for your second question... I don't know. I strongly hope so. Besides, the thing is still not working.

PaulusAugustus, indeed they can. As far as I've undestood the rules, it's their trademark (otherwise shifting is a move action). So they can stick together and the Dragonshields get their +1 bonus on attack rolls (per kobold ally adjacent to the target). Remember it's impossible to shift in difficoult terrain (foliage near the road in "On the road" and A1).
Yes Kobolds are officially awesome now! And don't forget Paulus, about the Kobold Dragonshields extra shifting ability when enemies move/shift adjacent or away from them. That will throw your players for a loop the first couple of times, and it makes the fighter's combat challenge very important.

All of this character detailing is great. I used the Salvana has a thing for Lord Padraig as well, though hers is more of a desperation thing in my game. I also like the idea of using Padraig's children to link the story to Fallcrest, as I foresee moving things in that direction eventually.

Magnificat, can you expand on your use of Ninaran? I basically followed the book and had her blow off the NPC's, especially after my fighter got ****** and spilled a mug of ale on her. Now I feel like I've wasted a great opportunity. Oh well, they'll be returning to Winterhaven soon enough. Maybe I'll have Ninaran kind of suck up to them, apologize for being so rude, etc. That'd be a little suspicious, don't you think? Although, I think i'll play to their egos and have her take the "awestruck groupy" approach to the new heroes.
I haven't done anything for Ninaran yet aside from her picture. She's sort of an androgynous elf who doesn't look unpleasant. I haven't decided how i'll play her up, but she'll be in the tavern the first time. She might feign interest in the party so she can report back to Kalarel.

You know, i hadn't really thought about how much detailing the NPCs needed in this adventure. Sure, it's fun, but it takes some work.
Magnificat, can you expand on your use of Ninaran? I basically followed the book and had her blow off the NPC's, especially after my fighter got ****** and spilled a mug of ale on her. Now I feel like I've wasted a great opportunity. Oh well, they'll be returning to Winterhaven soon enough. Maybe I'll have Ninaran kind of suck up to them, apologize for being so rude, etc. That'd be a little suspicious, don't you think? Although, I think i'll play to their egos and have her take the "awestruck groupy" approach to the new heroes.

Basically, I am still undecied about her. I followed the adventure book myself, so she was in the inn having a mug of ale. I described her as an elfmaiden with a "eladrin-like" air to her... aloof and vague, beautiful but with a strong body, with a iron gaze and beautiful brown hair. The dragonborn paladin was immediately attracted to her and accosted her (she was sitting besides the fireplace, even though it's june in the game as well and no fire was blazing). She was at first not so nice to the character but then he spilled out everything, asking her if she noticed some strange activity in the area. So she got worried and decided to play the hero part herself, showing to the paladin two red marks on he right arm that she claimed she had procured fighting a giant spider whereas they are the result of a wicked ritual she perfomed together with Kalarel. The paladin asked her to meet the next day in order to tell her everything that will pass among the characters and Lord Pardraig.
So, as you see, right now she's acting like the adventure book suggests, with some strokes of personality that let her become one of the main NPC last session.
So, what shall I do? I can use her at the last moment, when the PCs are confronting Kalarel and she shows up as Kalarel's agent or she might live an epiphany and betray Kalarel later on in the adventure... what do you suggest?
So, what shall I do? I can use her at the last moment, when the PCs are confronting Kalarel and she shows up as Kalarel's agent or she might live an epiphany and betray Kalarel later on in the adventure... what do you suggest?

Hmm...shades of gray. Maybe she's not evil but misguided? It's a cult after all, and they're known to masterfully throw the wool over one's eyes.
I didn't allow her to be at the bar at all. I thought it would be far more interesting if she is misguiding the PCs as they travel around the region... :evillaugh
Hmm...shades of gray. Maybe she's not evil but misguided? It's a cult after all, and they're known to masterfully throw the wool over one's eyes.

I was thinking exactly along these lines while biking this morning. In my world elves are seen as savages and half elves as bastard children by humans. Therefore, Ninaran is not treated well in Winterhaven, but she can't live with her elven family either. I'm thinking she might be the bastard daughter of Lord Padraig, from before he was married. She doesn't so much join the cult as offer to help them to get back at her unsuspecting father and the humans that mistreat her. I was planning in my head the graveyard scene where she raises the undead. At that point she would realize that she was dealing with a very evil cult (something that goes completely against her part elven nature) and freaks out. I'm thinking the PC's will find her hiding somewhere in the graveyard if they defeat all the undead. Ninaran will be too distraught to resist interrogation and will spill a lot of info if needed. Depending on how the Pc's treat her, she may befriend them or become a recurring villain (meaning, escape from the Winterhaven jail).
I was thinking exactly along these lines while biking this morning. In my world elves are seen as savages and half elves as bastard children by humans. Therefore, Ninaran is not treated well in Winterhaven, but she can't live with her elven family either. I'm thinking she might be the bastard daughter of Lord Padraig, from before he was married. She doesn't so much join the cult as offer to help them to get back at her unsuspecting father and the humans that mistreat her. I was planning in my head the graveyard scene where she raises the undead. At that point she would realize that she was dealing with a very evil cult (something that goes completely against her part elven nature) and freaks out. I'm thinking the PC's will find her hiding somewhere in the graveyard if they defeat all the undead. Ninaran will be too distraught to resist interrogation and will spill a lot of info if needed. Depending on how the Pc's treat her, she may befriend them or become a recurring villain (meaning, escape from the Winterhaven jail).

Great idea. I think i'll steal that myself. ;)
Thanks, a little exercise is always great for getting the blood and creative juices flowing.

Magnificat, I"m going to borrow some of your description if you don't mind.
Magnificat, I"m going to borrow some of your description if you don't mind.

Please do! Let me know how's going!

I think I will spend some time considering Ninaran, I do not want to blow it off. I think she may become a very interesting character and the recurrent villain sounds very interesting to me. Are you sure she's a half-elf? It seems to me she's an elf... well, I played her as an elf, so there's nothing I can do right now... ;) But I think she's elf and an elvish recurrent villain concept is even more interesting...
Yes Kobolds are officially awesome now! And don't forget Paulus, about the Kobold Dragonshields extra shifting ability when enemies move/shift adjacent or away from them. That will throw your players for a loop the first couple of times, and it makes the fighter's combat challenge very important.

From the official errata:

On page 78 Kalarel has "(see also shadow form below)" listed next to his armor class, what is this?

Kalarel does not have this ability, it should be ignored.



Yeah, the kobolds can shift away from combat as a minor action, which makes them very dangerous. They can also shift into flanking positions and mob attacks very easily.

Cheers, thats very helpful! I was looking for the errata but couldn't find it for 4E.

I also hadn't thought about moving the kobolds into flanking positions using the shift, but then again I only bought the new rule books earlier in the week and the adventure this morning. I'm really looking forward to tomorrow now. Got one of the player's characters rolled up, coincidently a paladin of the Raven Queen. I suspect he's going to love the plot, then.

However I have two characters wanting to be wizards... I think i'll try and maneuver one of them into being a warlock o.O
Cheers, thats very helpful! I was looking for the errata but couldn't find it for 4E.

Here's Wizard's official errata thus far. http://www.wizards.com/default.asp?x=dnd/updates

En World has more. I don't recall seeing anything that important on either.

You're also right about Ninaran being an elf. I guess I just came up with the half-elf thing to go along with other story plans and eventually it became reality for me.
Thanks, everyone, for the awesome roleplaying advice and reflection you've posted here; it'll be really useful as I continue DMing this adventure.

I'm really liking the story elements - the tragic fate of Sir Keegan, the vibrant NPC portrayals of the folk of Winterhaven, etc. I'm also planning on stealing a lot of the additional story/flavor elements from the Forgotten Realms adaptation, to further infuse some badassery and dread into the story.

But, looking at the main dungeon-crawl portion of the adventure: there's one skill challenge, one trap/hazard/puzzle room, one optional skill challenge running simultaneous with the final battle...

And like fifteen tactical combat encounters.

Yes, D&D (and esp. 4E) is an extremely combat-oriented game, good, fine, I'm glad. But I can easily see us getting bored with fighting our way through two more furious melees against the kobolds, much less fight #7, 8, 9... down in the Keep.

I'm wondering if anyone has any specific advice or thoughts about trading out or heavily modifying some of the combat encounters in the Keep portion to provide a little more variety?

For example:

We've so far run the two introductory kobold ambushes and the interlude in town - I've already given some serious thought into ways to convert the final pair of battles vs. the kobolds into a more roleplay-heavy section.

I've decided the kobolds (apart from the Wyrmpriests, who are devoted followers of Orcus) have a more complex motive for opposing the party than the adventure's stated "they fear Irontooth more than death" justification; instead, I'm turning away from a common D&D fallacy and deciding that the kobold brigands are not, in fact, a band of childless bachelors.

Instead, Irontooth and Kalarel (with the aid of the fanatical Wyrmpriests) have captured and kidnapped the kobolds' females and hatchlings, and threaten to kill (or worse, sacrifice to the Shadow Maw) the noncombatants unless the kobolds continue to keep the roads closed.

This can be revealed to the players obliquely in a note they find at the dragon burial site, and then more directly (if they're smart) by interrogating a kobold in the battle outside the waterfall lair (or at least, if anyone speaks Draconic, some sort of wheezing last-wishes death gasp by one of the fallen Dragonshields or somesuch).

If the players are smart and resourceful, there should be enough information available (perhaps by returning to town) to figure out where the noncombatant kobolds are being held.

So - when the party enters the final fight, they'll have already fought three separate battles against kobolds, and it's probably getting a little old. We can spice up the final battle by offering a chance for the players to creatively dissuade (via a skill challenge - diplomacy, bluff, intimidate, nature) the kobold warriors from continuing to support Irontooth and the Wyrmpriests - by convincing the kobolds that the adventurers can protect them from Orcus and Kalarel's wrath. If this succeeds, the kobolds will stand aside and let the PCs handle the goblin and the Wymrpriests; or possibly even help out, taking the Wyrmpriests out of the equation and letting the PCs focus on Irontooth (which makes for an easy, but very different, fight).

So that's my idea for the Kobolds subplot - I wanted to share it, get some feedback, and most especially hear any similar revisions people had thought of for the later segments in the Keep proper - the undead, the goblins, the hobgoblins?

Thanks for reading.
Skeolan - That's a great subplot. Personally, I was planning on moving through KoTS fairly quickly so we could get to the meat of the campaign involving the world I'm building. Besides, my players did all three kobold encounters and loved it. That said, I really like your style. I was thinking of adding some more skill challenges anyways to shake things up a bit. I thought of using Splug, the goblin captive, as a challenge. In my homebrew world goblins have been enslaved by humans in the human cities of Fallcrest, Hammerfast, etc. The idea of enslaving goblins is spreading as slaves are a cheap form of labor, especially when you need to build fortifications quickly to keep the monsters out of your point of light. I was imagining a diplomacy/intimidate/bluff based challenge in which the PC's gather info about the keep and maybe make a friend in the mean time. Of course, they may just end up killing poor Splug.

I like your kobold encounter idea. It seems like it would be a difficult challenge to win. Don't forget about the skill challenge at the very end - trying to stop the rift opening ritual. I plan on playing that up, possibly introducing the Big Bad, or decoy Big Bad, right then and there. Also, you could always snipe some of the cool traps from Kobold hall in the DMG and make them goblin traps. I particularly like the skull-skull game room.
"H'okay, h'ere goes!

One day the adventureing party decides these kobold sons of reptiles are goink dyoowwwn..."

That was an interesting session. Three hours went over REALLY quickly. The party of a Dragonborn fighter, a Eladrin Wizard and Warlock and a Half-elf fighter took themselves to the second combat encounter and almost started a brawl in the tavern until they got side tracked by the local ales (named "Grey Stout" "Stinking Cheese", "Old Bishop", and, as ideas started to fail me and I plucked at the first thing that entered my head, "Badger's Arse").

I think the biggest comment from the party was how "beefed up" the kobolds were. For now I wasn't throwing in anything in to really flesh out the background and just let them get on with the adventure.

More In Depth

1st kobold ambush - Party made it through largely intact due in part to a lot of fluffed attack rolls from the kobolds. Fighter forgot to mark targets, Paladin forgetting to challenge targets, Warlock forgetting to curse targets. Got them into town and advised they might want to read their class features again.

Winterhaven - Minimal roll-playing in the town, really basic interaction with NPCs, even forgetting some characters were there until they replied to their questions by "butting in" to the conversation. Some fun was had at the tavern though, mostly due to the paladin-player trying to be a smartarse.

2nd kobold ambush - Party found this encounter a lot tougher. Again the fighter and Paladin did not mark their targets (even after another reminder) but the Warlock remembered her curse which gave them an extra edge. The battle turned when the wyrmpriest was defeated by blows from the wizard's flaming sphere and the paladin's "on pain of death" ability, both rolling very high and dealing continuous damage. The priest was knocked to -2 health and the PCs managed to stabilise the dying enemy (a natural 19 from the Warlock)

We ended the play at that point so I believe we'll have an interrogation to start the next session with.
Here's another skill challenge I thought up using Ninaran.

After the graveyard fight, the PC's most likely will turn in Ninaran, or else Lord Padraig and the Regulars can show up, just as the PC's finish off their boney enemies. This can go two ways: 1)Ninaran, distraught and frightened, confesses to the PC's. 2)She claims to have been visiting her mother's grave when the skeletons starting crawling out of the ground. Either way, she hugs one of the PC"s begging for mercy if she confessed, or thanking the PC's for saving her. Unknown to the PC's, Ninaran plants the directions to the Raise Dead ritual that Kalarel gave her on the one she hugged. Her next action is to blame the PC's for the events that transpired. The challenge is for the PC's to get the public (namely Lord Padraig) to believe their story and not hers. This will be based mostly on Diplomacy, Insight, Bluff with Nature, History, Arcana as options too. If the PC's succeed, Ninaran is locked up or lynched. If they fail, the PC's are locked up and have to escape, and clear their names if they wish. I thought I'd make it a fairly easy challenge (4 successes before 4 failures).

Let me know what you guys think
I like it, Jeans. I really like it. I think I might use it or a variant thereof, though I suspect the "Planting the evedence" would be more in character of a spy or agent.
Out of curiosity Relic, what is your description of Ninaran? She's turning out a major player in Kalarel's game... one of the characters trusts her completely (the dragonborn paladin! For god's sake, the dragonborn paladin!) and even asked her to meet the next day after the meeting the characters agreed on with Pardraig (in which he airs them for the kobold thing).

Note: I am using the Eberron variant for Ninaran where she is killed and replaced by a shapeshifting dusk hag under Kalarel's employment.

Ninaran: Dusk Hag Archer 3 (Evil): Ninaran was an elf huntress who was given the task of keeping an eye on the region around Winterhaven by the druid sect of Oask (unaligned/evil nature sect based in Fallcrest with the goal of restoring populated areas to wildlands and feywild). She had Winterhaven pegged as a fairly unobtrusive settlement with little impact on nature. Every couple of weeks Ninaran would make stops at the local inn to hear any gossip and news; the locals still consider her an “outsider” and very little attention or conversation is directed at the elf. Now, however, Ninaran spends a great deal of time in the drinking room as she is really the Dusk Hag, Tesfaye.

Tesfaye had been living in one of the underdark tunnels that connects to the Shadowfell Keep. During the initial exploration of the Keep Kalarel came into contact with Tesfaye and convinced her to become a spy for him. Tesfaye agreed… not because of the money offered but because she wants a mate… a strong male whom will give her a strong child. Thus, Tesfaye began exploring ways to enter Winterhaven without arousing suspicion and encountered Ninaran who was out scouting the nearby woods. A small unmarked grave, a dead elven woman, and a shapechanged Tesfaye later, Tesfaye had the perfect disguise to impersonate to not only play spy for Kalarel but also seek out a potential mate.

Tesfaye, as Ninaran, appears as a mature elf woman, with a tightly braided pony tail and sharp elven features. She has a lithe, athletic body and is comfortable with the wood-crafted, angular bow she carries upon her back. A large hunting knife is strapped to her waist. She will be rude and to-the-point with female PCs but with male PCs she will be flirtatious and will ask male PCs to join her for a drink as she tries to get more information about the male PC to determine if he is “mate material.”
I like it, Jeans. I really like it. I think I might use it or a variant thereof, though I suspect the "Planting the evedence" would be more in character of a spy or agent.

I agree. As written she is a spy/agent, and this skill challenge fits best with that idea. However, as I plan on running it (see above posts) Ninaran agrees to help Kalarel because she has a lot of angst against the people of Winterhaven. She knows next to nothing about the cult itself, because if she did she would be horrified. The scene at the graveyard is exactly that. Once she raises the dead she realizes that she is in way over her head and that the cult is using an ancient, evil power. She freaks out and out of sheer fear she attacks one of the skeletons she raised, and cuts and bruises herself in the process. The PC's hear her screams as they enter the graveyard. After the battle, they find her hiding and in tears, frightened out of her mind. At the same time the sounds of Padraig and the Regulars entering the graveyard are heard of the PC's conversation. Ninaran panics thinking she's caught, but also sees the perfect opportunity to frame the PC's, so she plants the note. This doesn't mean she's going to continue to drink the kool aid. Rather, she's sick inside for what she's done. I thought this could lead to a potential reconciliation with the PC"s at a later date.

The major problem with her case is that the PC's were outside when the dead first rose, correct? Ninaran uses the magic summoning circle, saying the PC's performed the ritual then teleported outside of Winterhaven. This would allow the PC's to use the Arcana Skill to identify the circle and gain a +2 bonus (DM's best friend) to their next Diplomacy check. Likewise, Valthrun would be a great ally for this challenge. If they've befriended him he would be a valuable witness in their defense since he could easily identify the circle, or at least that it's not for teleportation. In my game Valthrun is obsessed with studying the ancient, forgotten eladrin race (which my players are), so if they reveal their true identities he will come to their aid.

Another option would be to give the PC's a chance for an alibi. Assuming they've already been to the Keep at least once (as written in the adventure notes), why not have a Winterhaven resident meet them before they entered? I was thinking Delphina Moongem would be picking wildflowers by the keep when they enter. Then, if they're smart they single her out at the "trial" for their alibi. A diplomacy check seems the easiest for this, but I can see other options as well.

I thought insight would be good for picking up on the town's general bad opinion of Ninaran, or to play to Lord Padraig's good side. Bluff is obvious. They could make anything up about themselves or Ninaran. I figured if they succeed a bluff, they get a success as normal. If they fail, they get a failure and a penalty on their next check (-2 of course). I'm still thinking of ways to use Nature, History and maybe Perception. But as I said before, Diplomacy, Insight, and Bluff will be the major skills.
I'm just going through the adventure as read so far, not going to start tinkering with it until I've come to grips with 4th Ed and all it's nuances. Though after a couple of near-death experiences, I'm going to scale the combat encounters down a little bit and maybe knock the fighter threat and paladin challenge into the respective player's heads.
I ran my first session on Friday. Started off with the FR tavern intro. Part was a dragonborn paladin, dwarf cleric, human warlord, tiefling warlock, and eladrin ranger.

First encounter went fairly well. They liked the idea of minions going down in one hit, but not being able to tell which were minions and which weren't. I also liked that fact - particularly when encounter powers were spent taking out a minion.

Second encounter (the first kobold ambush) was a great encounter. The shifty nature of the kobold dragonshields quickly annoyed everyone, but they started working together right away so that after a dragonshield shifted away from one attacker, someone else could handle it on their turn.

I modified the third encounter (the second kobold ambush) to remove the ambush element. Encounter still went well. Bloodied a few of the party members. Knocked the cleric out twice. He hasn't quite figured out yet that he can't melee beside the paladin as effectively as the paladin.

The RPing in Winterhaven was minimal but still went well. They're following the looking for a cult hook, and any NPC they encountered the Eladrin flat out asked "Are you in the cult?". That part amused most of us.

All in all I think everyone's happy with 4e. Since one of the players was listening to the PA/PVP podcasts without realizing they were playing KotS I'll have to change some things up so he doesn't figure out everything right away, but I had planned to do that anyways. I'm using my own world with my own deities, so I've already replaced the whole Orcus element with an actual deity from my homebrew, and thrown in an extra dungeon to get them to level 2 before they tackle the Kobold Lair encounter.
So far With my party we played for 2 sessions and because it was a test drive for 4th edition we followed a very casual hack and slash module. So far the only challenging combat was the one with the Irontooth. The only non combat encounter we had, was with the Winterhaven's lord and they manage to get more money from him (300 gp).
I added some plots to the game; give a reason for why characters meet up together for this adventure. The plots are long but I ll try to explain in few words.
Dwarf : REVENGE
Halfling : Save his body who went missing
Wizard : Discover and document whats left from the Keep
Cleric : Solve the great injustice that acquired in the keep
Paladin : A holy sword is calling him
Warlord : Help the Raven Queen by destroying Orcus' activities.
They all hear the call of Pelor Priest and join up.
I wanted to point out something our group encountered.

In part 1, the second encounter can be very deadly.

Our group went in with 4 of the 6 pre-mades. We have the fighter, the cleric, the warlord, and the wizard.

We didn't spot the ambush and the kobolds all hit on their first attack sequence, then shifted back.

The wizard dropped his encounter and his daily power, and only took out one target with Sleep. The kobolds managed to immobilize one the fighter and set the the warlord on fire. The shift in, dogpile mob bonus, shift out made quick work of the party. The cleric dropped on round 3, the warlord, the fighter and wizard dropped on rounds 4-5. We expended all our action points, most of our dailys, stuck together, focused fire and still had a party wipe.

We walked away with the following:

To hit bonuses are huge.
Monsters in a typical encounter may have:
Greater numbers.
More hit points,
Higher attack bonuses
Higher sustained DPR
Higher defenses.

Statistically, the players are at a severe disadvantage. They players were striking with a +7 to hit. (+9 with combat advantage which was difficult to obtain due to the double-shifting). On the other hand, it was simple for the foes to mob a single player character and obtain +10 to hit or higher.

The only thing that comes close to balancing the fight is:
Daily powers.
Extra healing capacity.

I'm going to re-run the battle and see if I can get different results.
Rerednaw, the party I took through the adventure noticed similar things. In the words of the paladin player: "Woah, they really BUFFED UP the kobolds!" and after about a half hour of hitting a dragonshield "Is it not dead yet?"

In my view, the new character abilities can give the PCs an edge on the attack (your fighter mark targets and they get a -2 penalty to all attacks that don't target the fighter, if the paladin remembers to challenge targets then they also recieve the -2 penalty to hit but also take damage when an attack doesn't target the paladin, the warlock deals extra damage on cursed targets and together with rangers gets a +1 bonus to hit on ranged attacks if she is the closest member of the party to an enemy) more so than the daily powers, which seem to be "Boss killers"

Also, looking at the way the rules are worded seems to suggest that it is geared woards less encounters-per-day than older versions, and more on having maybe one or two large encounters per session. Which on the offhand could make dungeon crawling last weeks (in game rather than IRL, depending on the size of the dungeon) at a time and create a "Baldurs Gate" approach (Oh, we encountered some kobolds. Better set up a camp and have a prolonged rest so we can survive the next encounter!)

Personally I think using 3 dragonshields in the second encounter, each having 3x the hp of the hardiest PC, added with a buffing the wympriest was just plain nasty. I wonder how many DMs player parties suffer TPK during that one? I almost did. Two characters did actually drop, but they forgot about their second wind so I allowed them to take it as an interupt. Bending the rules, I know, but necessary at the time.

I think my players came away from the session with the following words burning in their ears: "learn your character class features!"

Run through again, see if you get a wipe again. If you do, just do what I'm going to do and tone down the encounter a little. Maybe take a few HP from the kobolds or lower their AC/to hit bonus.
Needs more interaction with the villain Kalarel!

I think the module needs more of the villain after they find out about him.

I have two suggestions.
Right after they meet Sir Keegan and either speak to him or overcome him. Kalarel could show up and speak threats to the party and maybe even send more skeletons from that area at them. He could say "Ahhh you now opened the one area I couldn't go" Maybe because of the holy protection of Bahamut. He could say "Sir Keegan served his purpose well and will be taken care of by Orcus lord of the undead" in an evil way. Then he could use his rod of Orcus to teleport away to the portal. He could even maybe say something threatening about the town that might make the PC's go back.


The other time he could show up and do something really evil is during the encounter when Ninarin lets loose the undead in the graveyard. Kalarel could be there raising the undead and also have the young elven flower collector girl hostage. He could then kill her in front of the PC's. That will get them to hate him a lot. Maybe even then he could raise her as undead. He could then again use his rod to teleport back to the portal.
Rerednaw and Paulus - you guys make some great points. It sounds to me like Rerednaw rolled some great dice for the kobolds. For me that encounter was a challenge, but not nearly as deadly. I couldn't hit a thing with the kobold slinger (I really wanted to use the sticky pot and the fire pot!), but the dragon shields were pretty tough.

From what I've read about 4e, a balanced party should be able to get through more encounters than in 3.5. If your group is using a Baldur's Gate approach I think something is wrong. There's no reason they should be able to handle a few encounter (3-4/day) on average. Paulus's advice to learn class powers is probably the best advice out there. Once your players know how to use their characters as well as you know how to use the kobolds I think they'll be fine.
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