Barrow Keep: Den of Spies, D&D adventure review

By Richard Ruane
R Rook Games

When you were young, you thought the great walls of Barrow Keep would keep you safe. But now you’re coming of age, and you realize how many troubles have been inside these walls all along: duplicitous courtiers, treacherous kin, and puritanical heresy-hunters. How will you protect yourself and your friends?

This 56 page digest thing is a setting for a Keep that deals with political intrigue and the sort. It comes with a 72 page localization pack for OSE, that includes 2 “adventures”, which are more adventure generators. It might be fun to add this in to the Keep on the Borderlands, or as a home base, but as a stand-along thing/setting in which to adventure it seems very lacking.

“Barrow Keep is a low-prep, old-school setting driven by playbooks and adaptable, easy-to-run scenarios.” Well … Kind of. It’s in the Adventures section of DriveThru and it notes adaptable easy-to-run scenarios and playbooks. By which it means “there’s a supplement that comes with it that has 14 pages which contains two adventure generator things.” By which I mean it has a general setup. “An AGENT with a nefarious mission arrives and blackmails, cajoles or convinces someone in the Barrow Keep to become a TRAITOR.” And then there’s some tables. Signs & Portents.Who arrived last week? WHi is the traitor? Who is the Agent? What is the Agents mission? Where does the traitor meet with the agent? Who requests the PC’s help and why? Who protects the agent? And then using all of that you run a scenario. 

It is both magnificent and lame. There’s a degree of specificity in the tables that is marvelous. Rather than be a table that inspires, it basically gives you everything you need to run with it. Thus the scenario springs to life from the generator, fully formed. That’s great! And it’s also a complete waste. If each table has six entries, each of which are great, what do you do the SECOND time around? “Oh, great, who’s the traitor this week?” Imean, how many times are you going to run this Agent/Traitor scenario? Many times designers put these tables in when it would have been better just to lay a scenario out. “Put, MUH OLDSCK00L!” I hear you yelling. Yes, old school has tables, but not for this sort of thing. I’d rather see four one or two page adventures from this, that are thought out guidelines, than I would a few pages of tables. Too much is sacrificed on the alter of reusability when it will probably never/seldom be reused.

As a self-contained setting there’s just not enough here to run with. The extra classes, etc, that localize to OSE imply a romantic/intrigue thing, but I just don’t think that the book has enough in it to justify an entire campaign of that. It implies leveling every 2-4 sessions, but I just don’t see enough adventure here to do that. 

But …

What I do see is a great supplement for the starting town the party is in. Taking, for example, the Keep on the Borderlands, the tables, intrigue, and details in this could provide a WONDERFUL environment to enhance play outside of the dungeon and back in town. People coming. People going. Little mysteries. Rivals, NPC”s that are well detailed and yet terse and mysterious. 

To do this you’d need to mix things up a bit. Create a summary sheet of the NPC”s. As written, they are a little static and need some relationships to other people in the Keep. Doing that, and using the events and tables in the supplement, you’d have ag reat little enhancement to your parties starting/home base locale. It introduces them to the leadership and gets them involved in more subtle plots. 

So, as an adventure, maybe a 3/10. I don’t review settings, but, as a stand-along setting (with airships and plasma pistols, a larger world setting that is never given enough attention to make sense) I’d also give this a low score. As a supplement to your homebase play, though, I think it’s great. I might even say that I would, without hesitation, add a lot of it my Kyshal campaign setting 3-ring binder, from the locations and mysterious to the tables. The two “Adventures” included would be a great thing to spice up home base play as well.

This is $9 at DriveThru. I think it’s worth it as a home base addition. There is no preview. Boo! Boo I saw sir! Shame on you!

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One Response to Barrow Keep: Den of Spies, D&D adventure review

  1. Richard Ruane says:

    Hey, Bryce! Thank for the review. I’ve updated the DTRPG page to fix the quick and PDF previews.

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