Welcome darklings. Are you ready to venture beyond the dark mirror to a brutal realm where hope is a twisted illusion? Do you dare look upon the face of cold, indifferent fate? Are you prepared to witness, nay, partake in a dark carnival of gruesome perils so bloodsoaked and despic-
*cough* *cough* *hack*
Sorry, I got carried away there! Let me start again.
This is my first ever Let’s Read, and it’s for a 4e product that holds a special place in my dark, shriveled heart. The Shadowfell: Gloomwrought and Beyond was a boxed set mini-campaign released in 2011 in conjunction with the Essentials Heroes of Shadow book to give emo adventurers a grim playground of dark delights to explore.
The authors were Andy Clautice and Matt Goetz, WotC first-timers, and Erik Scott de Bie, who would go on to work on the very well-received 4e Neverwinter campaign setting.
I think one of the things that makes this campaign setting really interesting is that it doesn’t try to be all things to all people. The materials largely focus on the city of Gloomwrought and its immediate surrounds, giving it a level of detail that brings it vividly to life (er, death?) as a chaotic metropolis full of murderous factions, poisonous intrigue, and vile secrets. And while the included encounter book contains encounters for adventurers from levels 7-23, the campaign setting as written is really gonna shine for early-to-mid paragon tier heroes.
It’s an incredibly atmospheric locale to base part of a long-running campaign in, full of dark secrets to unearth, meaty plot hooks to follow, and conniving NPCs and shadowy organizations who might be allies one moment, foes the next.
The Shadowfell boxed set came with two books: the 127-page campaign guide and a shorter book of sample encounters. It also featured a poster map, with the city of Gloomwrought on one side and an atmospheric encounter map featuring some gloomy city streets on the other. There were also several sheets of punch-out tokens for monsters. Both were done in a flat matte finish which doesn’t seem as attractive as the glossy finish that other 4e products used but kind of makes sense for the product.
Finally, the box also included the DESPAIR DECK, a deck of cards designed to remind players that, yes Virginia, this is the Plane of Shadow, and it isn’t very nice. I’ll talk more about the Despair Deck shortly when we get to that section of the Campaign Guide
Incredibly, as I write this you can still get the original boxed set new on Amazon for $29.90!
Of course you can also get the materials slightly cheaper in PDF form on DriveThruRPG, but these 4e boxed sets don’t stay in print forever, and your money nets you two books, tokens, a deck of cards, and a fold-out map. I’m not trying to sell anything to anybody, but that seems like a pretty good deal to me. If I thought I might be even mildly interested in this stuff, I know what I’d be buying!
A word to the wise, traveler, about **DREAD SPOILERS**. Gloomwrought is a city abounding in dark mysteries that have vexed many an adventurer. For the most part these mysteries are left to your twisted imagination, but towards the end of the campaign guide book a chapter called Dark Threats will reveal not just some stat blocks but a few sinister truths as well. The Keepers keep many secrets, and I'm not just talking about an aura with a radius of 2.
If you want to remain pure and innocent of such fell knowledge, I suggest you do not venture too deeply into this thread without a guide! I shall mark appropriate sections with spoiler tags but not all commentors may be so... accommodating.
And now we are ready to begin.
So fish that skull t-shirt out of the back of your dresser, slap on some black eyeliner, and take my hand as we pass through the veil together and read that most METAL of all 4e campaign settings: The Shadowfell - Gloomwrought and Beyond!!!