Monday, April 6, 2009

Sidetrek 4: Hidden Victims

Before we move on to the final encounter of Keep on the Shadowfell, let's take a quick look at the last of the Dungeon #155 side treks.

This one's called Hidden Victims, and it's an addendum to the Ghoul Warren. It expands on the apparently useless room on that map, by tacking another whole area onto it.

Hidden Victims posits that in the keep's past, refugees from Keegan's mad rampage took shelter down in this area, and then bricked themselves in (hence the room's apparent disconnect from the rest of the level). For some reason they were unable to demolish the wall that they'd made to keep Keegan out, and ended up starving to death down here. Their undead remains continue to haunt the area.

This encounter really frustrates me. It directly addresses several key problems with Keep - the fact that Keegan's story really isn't reflected in any of the printed encounters, the lack of a "lived-in" feel to the entire complex, and the (admittedly minor) issue of the useless room.

Having put those difficulties squarely in its sights, it completely misses its mark. The enemies here are zombies - common zombies, exactly the same sort that the players have just killed fourteen of in the Ghoul Warren and, for that matter, the same sort as in the Crypt of Shadows. Even the most enthusiastic of players are probably tired of this particular undead by now. It's a bit disappointing, too, in that it gives up the atmosphere of vicious monsters living in cramped tunnels and trades it for yet another stand-up fight in a series of rooms.

It's also another encounter that tells rather than shows. The backstory of frightened, starving people is strong, but it's not much use unless the players learn it, and it's simply not apparent on the face of the encounter. From the player perspective, these are just going to be another mob of nameless undead.

Finally, because this is the last time I'm going to get to make this criticism of Keep, I'll say it again here - the encounter is repetitive. The Ghoul Warren is a good area, and the side-trek ruins it by immediately following it with the exact same battle, minus the Ghoul and the Clay Scout. That is to say, it's the same fight without the interesting bits.

That's the last of the side-treks from Dungeon #155. The same issue also features a fairly average article about converting the module to Eberron, and an absolutely excellent conversion to the Forgotten Realms. In case I don't get to doing a specific post on it, the Forgotten Realms one is well worth the time of any Keep DM as its improvements are largely setting-neutral and address many of the module's biggest problems, specifically the lack of NPC depth. Check it out.


Anonymous said...

Unrelated, I know... but what is with the visit counter on this page. 23 people have visited the page and 47 have voted in the web poll.

Or is that I have visited this page 23 times. That's more believable. (But I haven't visitd amongthedust 76000 times or whatever)


Greg Tannahill said...

Visit counter was installed yesterday. It's the number of people who've visited since yesterday.

Actually I'm having some trouble with it - StatCounter is spazzing out about the project number being invalid - so look forward to further exciting developments in the visit tracking system. I'm sure you'll be on the edge of your seat.

Anonymous said...


Oh noes! Now I look bad on the internets.