I follow Paper and Dice’s interesting blog “Writing and Rolling“, which mainly reviews creatures (including possible campaign hooks) and provides conversions of creatures from older rulesets to 5e. A month ago he very kindly branched out and posted a detailed review of Ragnar’s Keep.
He has put a lot of effort into it, which I really appreciate, and I heartily recommend you read it (and while you’re there you can have a look round at his other posts). There’s also a discount link in his post if you are inspired to buy the module as a result, although it expires at the end of 2019, so there’s an updated link below.
I’m not going to repeat the review here, but I’d like to pick out some highlights and respond to some of the points and queries.
Overall it’s a very positive review – he likes the detail in the rooms and characters, and rightly recognises Heroic Maps‘ awesome battlemaps (available separately, with a discount if you buy the module).
As he notes, while the descriptions of the rooms and characters are generic, aimed to be usable with any fantasy RPG using a setting similar to mediaeval Europe, the characters also have 5e stat blocks. That seemed the version with the widest appeal, but I’m interested to know you would find other stat blocks useful – in particular BECMI/Old-School Revival (OSR)? Please let me know in comments or through my Facebook page.
He also comments that it seems rich in magic items for a low-level setting. I tried to equip the characters as adventurers and think about the level of magic they might have by then…although my original experience is with BECMI/OSR as a teenager and a lot of my instincts come from there.
He likes the new magic items. Kudos to him for spotting that the scales are designed as a poor-person’s Identify for a group that doesn’t have access to it – this exactly described my campaign group, so to let them start working out what they had (in particular the potions) without making it too easy I came up with this item which will identify a few small items per day. So when I was equipping the castle it seemed a nice opportunity to bring it in.
He pointed out that some of the stat blocks are pretty similar – in particular the three 4th-level fighters – and suggested that these might be usefully combined into a more generic stat block with the minor differences highlighted for each character. Useful feedback for next time…
His biggest gripe with the setting was the detailed back story – and looking back at it I can definitely see his point. The back-story and history of the land is too specific for fitting into a generic campaign. It comes from the campaign where I originally used and developed the castle, but for a generic module it is actively unhelpful. All it really needs it “this is a castle overlooking a river”, and possibly with “where the trade route leaves the river and heads off overland” for the future expansion of Ragnarston.
In particular he dislikes the colonialist aspect to the history – and he’s absolutely right about it being unnecessary. In retrospect it was a mistake, and I’m thinking of rewriting the module to remove it.
I think he also objects to the nobility/commoner tension, although it was very typical of Europe at the time I based the setting on. Personally I think these tensions add interest by providing clashing factions and opportunities for politics and playing people off each other, so I’m inclined to leave this in the next revision, but feel free to either ignore them or to just treat them as two different factions without the “overlord/minion” aspect.
Thank you very much to Paper and Dice for putting the effort into this review, and I thank him for the very thoughtful response. He has made some very good points which I think need to be addressed, so I am now planning to revise the module, in particular to remove the unnecessary back-story and to make it more generically placed.
In the meantime, just ignore the back-story and replace it with the setting from your campaign.
And if you don’t yet have Ragnar’s Keep, the discount I gave Paper and Dice expired at the end of 2019, so you can get it for the same $2 discount ($5.95 instea dof $7.95) by using this link instead.