Originally posted at: http://diehardgamefan.com/2012/08/30/tabletop-review-castles-crusades-the-goblins-of-mount-shadow/
The Goblins of Mount Shadow is the first full length adventure we’ve seen for Castles and Crusades in some time. For the past few months, they’ve just been working on the lackluster episodic content Adventures on the Powder River. What makes this latest release all the more interesting isn’t that Goblins of Mount Shadow is the start of a brand new adventure path, but because it’s outside the usual Castles & Crusades default world. The adventure is heavily steeped in Celtic lord and Dark Ages folklore, making the adventure really stand out. The adventure does claim it can be dropped into any fantasy setting with ease, but considering just how Celt-oriented this is, I beg to differ. That said, the adventure is very well written and a lot of fun. I found it to be the best Castles & Crusades adventure in a very long time and anyone using the system will definitely be able to make a campaign out of this and have fun doing so.
The Goblins of Mount Shadow is designed for two to five characters ranging between levels 1 and 5. That’s a pretty big spread so DMs will want to really read over the adventure and see where they want the PCs to be at level and power wise before running this. I have to admit I strongly disagree with the notion of playing this adventure with Level 1 characters. There are night hags, an undead giant and treants in this which can kill a low level character in a single hit. You’re definitely better off doing this adventure with Level 3 to Level 5 characters unless you want a Total Party Kill.
The Grey King has risen. This mysterious being has united the tribes of the Dark Fey and, under his command, they are completely wiping out human villages. The player characters will come across ghost town after ghost town, completely bereft of life. Only after an exhaustive search will they find the Grey King’s keep and then the real challenge begins: sneaking in to the castle and slaying the lord of the dark fey. Of course, The Grey King has a super secret evil plan under way and unfortunately PCs won’t be able to stop it.
Like most Castles & Crusades adventures, the emphasis here is on roll-playing instead of roleplaying. This means there is very little narrative and a crapload of fighting. I honestly don’t think the people that write adventures for this system playtest them before hand, because players will have to kill at least a hundred creatures before the adventure is through, many of which are far too powerful for the low levels this adventure is supposedly designed for. First level character should not be dealing with undead giants, a legion or sorcerers, night hags, or hellhounds. There simply is no way for them to survive the sheer numbers or the fact the monsters out power them in every way. Combined, the adventure is guaranteed to slaughter low-level characters, which again, is why is strongly suggest the team be at least third level before undertaking this adventure. It’s exceptionally well done but the level range for what can get through this is so off, it’s shocking. The adventure tries to balance things out by providing a lot of opportunities for extremely powerful magical items, but to me this makes things worse, not better. Characters should face challenges appropriate to their levels, not high level monsters while earning items you normally don’t see until 9th+ level. 3 swords at first level just seems insane to me. If you’re giving Level 1 characters scrolls of fireballs, wands of lighting bolts, and cloaks of invisibility, then where do you go as they get higher? Fighting gods and arming them all with vorpal swords by the time they are Level 5? I know Castles & Crusades adventures tend to be Monty Haul hack and slash affairs, but as I keep saying, this is a wonderful adventure, but not for first level characters. It’s insane what you are fighting and how much loot you get while doing so.
Now with that paragraph of negativity out of the way, let me reinforce that this is one of the better Castles & Crusades published adventures out there. You have a wide range of enemies, a nice high fantasy storyline, and bits where the players have to think things through instead of charge in with spells and weapons going every which way. As well, there is a positive to many of the enemies being far too powerful for the suggested character level, and that’s the PCs will have to learn that discretion is sometimes the better part of valor – almost like encountering something in a Call of Cthulhu adventure. Playing through The Goblins of Mount Shadow should take multiple sessions just because of all the combat, making this a great value for the amount you purchase it for. By the time the adventure comes to a close, you and your friends with have dispatched one of the more memorable enemies to come out of Castles & Crusades and yet somehow….this is just the beginning.
The Goblins of Mount Shadow seems to be a wonderful start for The Crimson Pact adventure path (although I’m sure that name will change), but Adventures on the Powder River started off nicely too and the last few pieces have been lackluster at best. Still, I have hope that this is the start of a really well done adventure path. With some great art, a rich setting and some memorable foes, Goblins of Mount Shadow will be a great way to introduce your friends (or even yourself!) to the Castles & Crusades system. Just remember not to start off at Level 1.