Adapting Keep on the Shadowfell: The Hook

Keep of the Shawdofell provides three potential story hooks to use a backstory:

  • Your mentor goes missing near the town of Winterhaven.
  • A scholar  hire you to map the ruins of the Keep of the Shadowfell
  • Death cultists have been spotted near Winterhaven and you should investigate.

I decided that none of these felt particularly interesting. The first two just felt dull and the third skips a lot of the exploration and discovery in the first quarter of the module that I felt had the strongest story opportunities. The alternate scenario I crafted was that the players mentor would ask them to deal with a bandit problem in the town of Winterhaven to repay a debt to Ernest Padraig, the lord of Winterhaven. This decision necessitated that I create an actual character for the mentor, he needed to be more than a quest item or a mission generator. Since he is the first character the players will interact with he needs to be real, especially if there is chance her could appear later on to aide the players.

This is the description I wrote for the mentor:

Douven Stahl is an aging paladin with a flowing white beard, who has spent much of his life as a warrior. These days he spends him time teaching those who seek out his instruction in the ways of battle.

I envisioned Douven as kind of a friendly coach, he doesn’t have a lot of information about what’s in store for the players, and he might even be downplaying the seriousness of the situation to try to keep the confidence of his pupils elevated.

Here is some sample dialogue I wrote for him in preparation for the first session:

“Hello friends, thank you all for assembling”

“Today marks an important day in your training, for today is the day I send you out into the world to prove you’ve actually learned a thing or two working with me for so many seasons.”

“You see, I’ve just received a message from old comrade of mine, Ernest Padraig, he’s the Lord of Winterhaven a village about a weeks travel from here, and it seems he’s been having some problems with bandits. I figure a few bandits will be no match for you lot, a good opportunity for you to sharpen your skills, not to mention clearing my debt with Ernest, heh.”

“Winterhaven is a grand old place, I’m sure you’ll find plenty to entertain yourself after you help out my friend, there’s even supposed to be an old dragon’s tomb somewhere south of Winterhaven you might explore.“

[…] was indications for how to actually start the adventure. The module provides a variety of hooks (which I remixed a bit), but there is very little discussion of how these hooks could be presented to the players in an […]