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.