Adventure Review: Shadowed Keep on the Borderland by Creighton Broadhurst and Martin Tideswell for Raging Swan Press

Sometimes all you need to kick off a new campaign is a good adventure. Something with some twists and turns, well-defined encounters, and a path that your players can stray from when they need to wander. Though the occasional railroaded plot is ok, I like having a bigger sandbox to play in, and Shadowed Keep on the Borderland offers a nice combination of both.

Built for Pathfinder and designed for 1st level PCs, SKotB has a lot to offer. Not only do you have a main idea that can be dropped into just about any fantasy setting easily, but you get a series of connected areas: The Watchtower, The Donjon, the Realm of the Blood Moon, and The Undercrypt. These five areas offer various challenges to the PCs as they try to put things right in a place troubled by restless spirits and a history.

Really it’s the history that sells the story. It’s a tale of a hero who tried to build a home and make the surrounding lands safe for his family and builders. But as with all tales of heroes with good intentions, things seem to fall apart over time. The goblinoids he fought valiantly to eradicate crept back in. As Creighton says in the background, “looting the corpses of the fallen earned him little coin.” Not nearly enough to pay his workers and finish the job. And eventually his enemies banded together to crush him.

What’s left of the keep is a partially completed, dilapidated ruin, abandoned for decades or so it was thought…

From there, the GM gets all the pieces in the box to play with – maps, NPCs, monsters, and most of all… motivations. Each group wants full control but knows their limitations. Bandits claim the watchtower. Goblins in the donjon. Ogres in the cellars. And beneath them are dark mysteries waiting to be explored.

Designed for four 1st level PCs, I think it would be a fun challenge to complete as a player. The mix of encounter levels the deeper the characters get offers a nice mix of combat and skill challenges with some roleplaying thrown in as well. Though it seems a bit combat heavy in spots, I think the combats offer plenty of variety to keep them fast in places and offer serious tactical challenges in others. And I don’t know many gamers that aren’t ready for a good fight or two in every session!

Each encounter is presented as a collection of sections… An overview followed by “Tactics” offering tips on what any attackers will do if threatened (if any exist for the encounter); “Area Features” describing things like light levels, furniture, treasure, etc.; tips on “Scaling the Encounter” to make it harder or easier for your players; and stats for monsters or NPCs the PCs will encounter. The fact that Creighton includes the scaling section makes it very easy to see this being used with a variety of different groups – some quite experienced and others new to the game.

What I really like however is that every area is well conceived, with maps, straightforward encounter descriptions, ready-made descriptions for GMs to take and adapt or read verbatim… maps, player handouts, and more are included as well to round out various quests and discoveries. Having all of the descriptions, extras, and stats in one place makes this the solid first part of a campaign that can lead to multiple outcomes.

If you’re looking for a new module to kick off a 1st level PFRPG campaign, definitely check out Shadowed Keep on the Borderland from Creighton Broadhurst and Raging Swan Press. It has a little bit of everything and an open feel that gives your players room to explore at their pace.

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