This 14 page book (the last two pages are advertisements, so I don’t count them) provides for a sandbox style adventure setting based on the new “Shadowfell” game environment for 4e D&D. After reading through the 14 pages, I’m reminded of how the 2e AD&D Ravenloft setting was broken down into different domains with masters running those domains. This has a similar flavor, but without the truly dark stylings and ominous overtones of Ravenloft. If I were going to throw my players into a dark and dreadful arena of despair, hatred and hopelessness, I’d go with Ravenloft for sure.
Two pages give the reader the history of the domain and how it came to be like it is. Following this is half a page of how the land looks today as opposed to its more peaceful and glorious times.
Three pages of inhabitants and their statistics follow this. I’ll admit that I’ve never been a fan of 4e D&D. I have the core books (and then some) and I’ve played in a couple of campaigns (which will be my last with this system.) When looking at the stat blocks of the creatures and NPCs, I’m amazed at how powerful the “low level” stuff really is. It seems to me that something with a mere 8 levels would have 89 HP without being a fighter of some type (this particular example is drawn from a druid NPC.)
The four and a half page (or so) detail different locations within the domain and give a hook to go with each one. The hooks are nice, but they don’t seem to be strong enough to really hook a good adventuring group into the story line that is unfolding around them.
The remainder of the book talks about events and how the NPCs act within those events. There really isn’t much to go with the PCs, so the GM really has to work hard to hook in the PCs to get them to become part of the story.
That rounds out the book. Can you guys and gals see what’s missing? Rules. Pre-generated characters. Spells. Powers.
This is not playable as a stand-alone book. You have to have at least the three core books and probably the new Shadowfell box set to go with it.
Grade: C- / Not enough content here to be usable without a $100+ dollar layout. Not a good freebie. It doesn’t entice me to pick up any of the 4e D&D stuff that I don’t already have. It also doesn’t make me want to dust off the 4e D&D books that I have and put them to use.