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Courts of the Shadow Fey $7.33
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Courts of the Shadow Fey
Publisher: Kobold Press
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/23/2020 09:50:55

Originally posted here with more details and links: https://theotherside.timsbrannan.com/2020/09/shadow-week-courts-and-realms-of-shadow.html

What is your favorite edition of D&D? Doesn't matter. This is the adventure you need to try. But I am getting ahead of myself. Let's start at the end, go back to the beginning and work our way back to now.

Kobold Press has been around now for a bit and has put out some really quality products for various version of the D&D/Pathfinder game via the various open licenses available to them.

The Shadow Fey are a race of elves known as the scáthsidhe, or shadow fey. Great name. I wish I had come up with it. These fey are an elitist, snooty bunch, the worse qualities of Elf to be honest and that is what makes them so great. They are not really related at all to the Shadow Elves of Mystara nor the Shadar-Kai of the Shadowfell and not even the Drow of many worlds. But it is easy to see they all live in the same sort of world. If we are to use D&D 4 & 5 terminologies they live in the area where the Shadowfell intersects the Feywild. Or the darkest areas of the Land of Faerie.

The shadow fey are present in a number of books from Kobold Press, most notably their two large monster tomes for 5e, The Tome of Beasts for 5th Edition and the Creature Codex for 5th Edition. Even without knowing much of their background, they are a very interesting race. They look a bit like a cross between an elf and tiefling. So members are elven, but many also have horns. I suppose that a satyr is a better comparison. But it is a reminder, visually, that these are not your Grognards' elves. They can be medium or small creatures.

Courts of the Shadow Fey

This adventure began as a 4th edition adventure for Paragon Tier characters designed to take them from 12th to 15th level. So remember what I was saying yesterday about an entire 4th edition campaign taking place in the Plane of Shadow? Well, this can be a significant part of that.

The adventure was then converted over to Pathfinder (with some little oddities here and there) for characters of 7th level to 10th.

Sometime later the adventure was rewritten for 5th edition D&D, with new art and layout. Still for characters level 7th to 10th.

All three were written by Wolfgang Baur. Ben McFarland aided in the Pathfinder conversion, Dan Dillon helped with the D&D5 rewrite. The first two versions featured fantastic art by Stephanie Law (which makes me want to convert it to Blue Rose!) and the 5e version features art from Marcel Marcado, who captures our two shadow fey sovereigns.

Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition version, 101 pages. Pathfinder version, 130 pages Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition version, 150 pages

This is part adventure and part sandbox, which is really fantastic because there is so much potential here. Much in the same way the D series introduced us to the drow via an adventure, this introduces us to the Shadow Fey. We meet their sovereigns, the Queen of Night and Magic of the Summer Court and the Moonlit King of the Winter Court. These are NOT the Seelie and Unseelie of Earth's Faerie Realm, although there are comparisons. We begin the adventure with the town of Zobek against a backdrop of the King and Queen in their exchange of power. The adventure kicks in when a Priest of the Sun God is nearly assassinated. This has my attention already. Zobek is occupied by Shadow Fey and to find the culprit(s) (who soon make an assassination attempt at the PCs!) the party will need to not only navigate the treachery of the Shadow Lands (Shadow Plane, Shaowfell...) they must also navigate the treachery on the Fey Courts!

One of the key features of this adventure/product is the number of NPCs. This is not a list of names with professions, these are fully stated out NPCs and each version of the adventure takes advantage of the rules being used.

Ok. Pause. At this point, there are several good reasons to get this. There is the mystery. There is the Shadow Plane deal. There are Fey Courts. Plus there are plenty of mechanics involved to aid the GM and Players in navigating the labyrinth that can be high court intrigue. In some ways it makes me happy to have all three versions since I can get different points of view on how to handle different things. Granted the 4e and Pathfinder versions are similar enough to make the differences be system-specific, but the 5e rewrite really gives me a newer point of view. Yes, in each case I am seeing a lot of repeated text. That is what I am supposed to see. What idiot is going to buy all three versions except for me?

So we have all that, and we have not gotten into duels of honor (there is a dueling system!), various factions jockeying for control, and how the PCs fit into all that. New creatures. New demons! New magic. Survive a duel? Dude...you are not going to survive diner!

The Pathfinder/4e versions are a little basic to look at since the was the start of Open Design/Kobold Press. But Stephanie Law's art is so great to look at that I don't care. The 5e version is several orders of magnitude better in terms of design. The art is still wonderful but I miss Stephanie Law's vision.

This is one of those adventures where I always find something new with each reading. I have been pouring over this for the last three weeks and each time I am blown away by the shear potential that lays before me. I feel like I need to reread my history of the Tudors to get my courtly machinations down correctly, but this book certainly helps.
The party's climax comes with gaining an audience with the Moonlit King himself! What happens? There are many potential outcomes and possibilities.

If I ever run a Shadow themed campaign then this is at the top of my list. If I ever run a pure 4e game, then this is at the top of my list.

I plan to steal ideas from this for other adventures even if I run it as is.

I purchased all three of the PDFs just have them. It is that much fun. Also whenever I feel the need to run it I am likely to grab the Print version of the 5e rules. Though I might instead print out the PDFs and collate them so that the material I need/want is where I want it. Use colored sticky tabs for various plot points.

For example, if I were to merge these with other fey related products then maybe I would consider Autumn and Spring courts here instead of Winter and Summer. Why? The shadow fey are creatures of well, shadow. Half-light and half-darkness. I am reviewing this on the Autumn Equinox, half-light, half dark. I did this on purpose. If I use the Summer and Winter courts for the Seelie and the Unseelie then these could be the Spring (Queen of Magic) and Autumn (Moonlit King) courts and little it lost. In fact, much is gained. Most of my players, thanks to years of Ghosts of Albion, have come to expect certain things out of the Fey courts as I run them. Dangerous to assume really, but still, they do. By renaming these into Spring and Autumn I can change those expectations. And it gives me four equal and competing courts.

Regardless of which edition you choose, there is a great adventure/sandbox/resource to be had here.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Courts of the Shadow Fey
Publisher: Kobold Press
by Darren P. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 10/04/2015 08:19:42

Rather box product. Nice presentation as usual. Huge potential for adventure. On the down side, the authors vivid imagination makes the plot very complicated and a bit intimidating for the DM (or maybe I am just a bit thick!)



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Courts of the Shadow Fey
Publisher: Kobold Press
by Brian F. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/25/2011 15:53:14

Atmosphere is important in gaming. Those little hints, whether physical, verbal, or even musical can set the stage for a good gamemaster like nothing else in the world. But with only a few exceptions, it’s rare to find a book for a roleplaying game, whether a rulebook, setting, or supplement, that does the same thing.

Wolfgang Baur and the design crew from Open Design have done it again with Courts of the Shadow Fey. Billed as “A 4th Edition Adventure for Levels 12 to 15,” I think it should be used as a template for any book seeking to describe not just a setting but a campaign leading a party of powerful adventures into realms unknown. From the beautiful cover from Stephanie Law and the poetic quote from Lord Byron’s “So We’ll go No More A-Roving” on the first page inside, I was in the mood for some fey magic… And as with all trips into faerie realms, I did not come back the same as I entered.

Without a doubt, there’s always been something magical about the world of faerie. Baur and his kobold helpers managed to take the light and dark of the faerie courts and twist them to make a different statement. This is the Realm of Shadows, a place of halfways and no absolutes. The two courts of Winter and Summer make nobles in the mortal realms seem pale in comparison, seeking stability in their immortality in an unstable place. When you add in the fickle nature of mortals’ brief time upon the stage, there is much there to enrage the immortal courts… The Moonlit King of the Winter Court does not take kindly to agreements broken in some petty revolt for rule of the Free City of Zobeck. When the fey come to claim what the King believes is theirs, things start to go off the rails.

Of course, the party gets drawn right into the middle of it as the battle begins between the fey and the mortal realms…

For the rest of this review, be sure to check out Game Knight Reviews here: http://www.gameknightreviews.com/2011/02/book-review-courts-of-the-shadow-fey-by-wolfgang-baur-open-design/



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Courts of the Shadow Fey
Publisher: Kobold Press
by NB N. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/24/2011 20:17:30

I got the hardcopy of this as part of the beta program. The quality is pretty good. The cover is a nice glossy stock with good color. The pages are black and white, but still printed nicely. The adventure is nice for a paragon 4E group. What I like about it is that it isn't only the typical go here and finish this quest type scenario. They integrate a prestige or social standing system where you gain audience with more important people based on your achievements. It gives a good incentive to do more than just beat people up and to organize skill challenges for social interactions leading to a meeting with the Queen of the Shadow Fey. This is something a bit different than many adventures and there is still plenty of hack and slashing to be done. Overall, a nice supplement.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Courts of the Shadow Fey
Publisher: Kobold Press
by Richard G. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 08/12/2010 13:43:40

This is the third 4th Edition adventure from Open Design - the first two were Wrath of the River King and Halls of the Mountain King - and is probably my favourite. Like Wrath, this adventure has the fey centre stage but the tone here is much darker as the shadow fey (or scathesidhe) replace the eladrin that dominated the previous module. Shadow demons and demonic cockroaches rub shoulders with black-hearted fey, eye golems and even stranger beings.

This isn't really like other D&D adventures - the action begins in the city of Zobeck before heading down the Shadow Road and into the Shadow Realm where the Courts of the Shadow Fey are waiting to be discovered by the PCs behind veils of illusion. Once they've done so, the sandbox nature of the adventure can span several months of game time as the PCs get involved in political intrigue, seduce courtesans, hunt magical birds and duel arrogant noble fey in order to advance in status and gain audiences with the Queen of Night and Magic and the Moonlit King.

This adventure has 100 pages of densely-packed text, cool art and great maps. Highly recommended.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Courts of the Shadow Fey
Publisher: Kobold Press
by Luke W. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 07/28/2010 15:29:13

Ever since D&D4e came out, there has been one obvious hole in the product line up. That is adventures written by writers who know and respect 4e's design, yet aren't afraid to use that design to push the baseline with engaging stories, open ended plots and a variety of encounters and NPCs. Its been 2 years now and Courts of the Shadow Fey seems to have broken the drought.

The adventure is substantial covering three levels of advancement at Paragon level. The story easily fits into the PoL setting (or any D&D setting) yet provides a detailed and evocative sub-setting with the Fey Courts that is usable by itself. The writer has a deep understanding of faerie lore which he melds with D&D very well.

The adventure is broken into a number of acts with clear entry and exit points.However, the inside of each Act is very open. PCs will find themselves engaged in a variety of tasks during the adventure from courting Fae maidens, dueling Fae knights and blackguards on misty clifftops, investigating foul murders and slowly earning the status necessary to interact with (and to some extent to even perceive) the most mighty of Fae lords and ladies.

The presentation is superb. Visually, the book is top notch with high quality black and white art that is appropriate to the text and atmospheric. The maps are polished and reminded me of Andy Law's great cartography. The layout is dense. I could have seen the same text easily fill 144 pages and include more white space.

The presentation of the mechanical aspects is also superb. The encounters are embedded in the text rather than seperated out like in WotC adventures, though they are still clearly identifiable. I found that this helped integrate the encounters into the plotlines and add to the sense of narrative continuity. There is also many useful writer's insights. There are new subsystems that work well with 4e's existing systems such as status and even a chase, without reinventing any wheel. This adventure is usable with 4e as written, so no DDI issues will arise.

Finally, the writer also provides some interesting alternatives, like optional stats to boost damage and reduce HP of monsters in a systematic way to cut down combat. I can see this as being especially appealing to those 4e player that will attracted to the strong narrative style of this adventure.

Overall, this adventure is what 4e has needed since it came out. For those that like 4e but are disappointed by prewritten adventures, check it out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
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