Last Friday, I received a preview copy of The Shadowfell: Gloomwrought and Beyond from Wizards of the Coast. I was extremely excited to have been sent this as I love horror role-playing, and The Shadowfell is full of frightening and disurbing opportunities to throw at players.
This boxed set has eveything a DM needs to quickly setup for a session in the city of Gloomwrought and the surrounding areas. There is a 125 page book describing life in The Shadowfell, persons and groups of import (including the Vistani), travel within The Shadowfell and between it and the normal world, and other useful information. Another book provides short missions to enable a group to play in The Shadowfell with only an hour or two of preparation time. A deck of cards gives an easy way to show the effects of spending too much time in The Shadowfell.
To assist with these encounters, the box includes several other items. A full color overhead map of Gloomwrought and its surroundings gives players and the Dungeon Master a general guide to the layout of the city. On the reverse side is a battle map for use with a couple of the the encounters or any custom adventures that you place in the city. Finally, the set comes with high-quality tokens including the named NPCs from the books, minions, and a variety of other pieces for use with the battle map and encounters book.
The cards mentioned above are a unique and innovative way to aid with role-playing the effects of being in The Shadowfell too long. My group used these during our last role-playing session and it worked out well. For instance, the card that my character drew made him mistrust his party members and gave specific ways to play this out. Although, in this particular party, many of the characters distrust each other anyway, so this specific card was easy to work in. Hopefully Wizards of the Coast will make expansion decks with new penalties to constantly keep players on their toes.
Also, as mentioned in my previous article on The Manual of the Planes, Ravenloft is now considered part of the Shadowfell. Since it is much easier to get into and out of The Shadowfell than it has traditionally been to enter and leave Ravenloft, it makes it much easier to do a quick mission or two in the Demiplane of Dread without making it the focus of an entire campaign. I would like to see boxes (similar to how this one is laid out) in the future covering places that have traditionally been set in Ravenloft (i.e. Barovia, Sithicus, etc.). I am unaware of any plans for this in the future, but WotC, if you are reading this, I’d like to suggest Ravenloft domain boxes.
This is one of the best box sets that I have had the chance to experience and is right up there with the Hellbound: The Blood War boxed set for Planescape that came out for AD&D 2nd Edition and The City of Greyhawk boxed set (also from 2nd Edtion). As these are my two favorite boxed sets, this is really saying a lot. Be sure to check it out when it hits shelves on the 17th.