Simple Reviews: The Shadowfell – Gloomwrought and Beyond

I’m really tempted to just say “Bravo Wizzards” and sign my name at the bottom for this review. If you haven’t guessed by now, I really like this product. My initial reaction to sitting down with the Shadowfell box set was excitement at the idea that other settings might get the same treatment. If Eberron, Forgotten Realms, Darksun, and even some of the default setting worlds got box sets in this vein it could really breathe some much needed life back into the published campaign worlds.

Small scope big hit: So why am I so enamored with it? Well I’m glad I asked my self that. The presentation is well thought out. Wizards has taken a small chunk of a large setting and fleshed it out. The Shadowfell Gloomwrought and Beyond looks mostly at Gloomwrought and just a bit of the Shadowfell. Why is that good? Because trying to pack something as large as a campaign setting into one small book can be rough; if you don’t believe me look at the Manual of the Planes. That book is a mess of information and just does not hold together well. A setting so vast smashed down into that small book was just too much. This was a valuable lesson learned from the Manual of the Planes that was used to benefit the Shadowfell box set, a medium sized setting book written about a small section of the campaign setting. If each published world setting could be enhanced in this same way I would go back to DMing using WotC’s worlds.

Encounters: The smaller scope isn’t the only thing I laud about this set. The inclusion of an encounter book, set up much like the hardback Dungeon Delves book from 2009, was brilliant. Each encounter in the book is a one shot, so they can be dropped into an existing campaign if a party is making a quick crossing, or they can be strung together to create a fun delve-style adventure for those looking for some quick Shadowfell action. The encounter book is 31 pages of encounters that includes monsters and set-up maps. I think including some pre-written encounters is a great way to give some DMs and players an introduction to how things in the Shadowfell work.

Maps, Tokens & Cards: The box set is rounded out by a poster map of Gloomwrought, which has a usable 1″ grid city tile map on the back. I’m a sucker for maps and poster maps of countries and cities are like crack for me. Any detailed visual aid I can use to give my players a more immersive story experience makes me excited. I treat my maps like heirlooms though, so the tile map on the back of Gloomwrought is wasted. I would hate to mar that beautiful poster map by playing with minis on the back of it.

I’m a minis guy but I love the fact that WotC is including tokens in their box sets now. Giving DMs the proper tools goes a long way to creating better experiences. The Shadowfell set is packaged with 82 tokens, more than enough to get a campaign off the ground. There is also a card deck called “The Despair Deck”, which is a fun way to work in the lethargic hope-sapping properties of the Shadowfell in a random way.

Box Set Weak Box: My one major complaint about this box set is the fact that the box is so flimsy. It’s a top opening box that is clearly not designed to be around in a year or two. When I think ‘box set’ I tend to think of the 4e Monster Vault, or the Dungeon Masters Kit, or back to the 2e Dark Sun box set, many of which are still around and in good condition. Why do I desire a sturdy box? It’s mostly a personal preference– when I buy a product as a set I want to keep it together. I would like to store the books, maps, tokens and cards together so I will always have the box set in my collection and not just a few free floating books, some tokens mixed in with my other tokens, and some cards somewhere around here. To me it feels more like a box set when it stored and used as a set. I wouldn’t avoid future box sets because of this but the flimsy box is the one thing that keeps this product from being a 10 out 10 in my book. (That is, if I gave numerical scores.)


  • A 128-page campaign guide
  • A 32-page encounter book
  • Gloomwrought poster map w/ 1″ city tile map on the back
  • 82 double-sided monster tokens
  • The despair deck

Who would enjoy this:

  • Players who love the Shadowfell or darker campaign settings
  • Fans of published campaign settings
  • Those goth kids who love the Raven Queen
  • DMs looking for fleshed out cities with character

Who would not enjoy this:

  • Jerks
  • Those who are uncomfortable with the undead
  • Guys who demand that nothing can be as cool as their home-brew world
  • Anyone anti-published setting
  • Anyone who hates pure awesome in a box

I think this product is amazing. I don’t really have much more to say.

Part idiot. Part old man. All geek. Thadeous can't think of anything interesting about him self right now. Know this though if he could it would be creative and funny as well as thought provoking.

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About Thadeousc

Thadeous can't think of anything interesting about him self right now. Know this though if he could it would be creative and funny as well as thought provoking.
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