Module H1: Keep on the Shadowfell is the first 4th Edition D&D product to hit the stands, coming out two weeks before the core rulebooks do. As a result, it has the burden of not only being a good module, but to be an ambassador of 4th Edition to the gaming world. This module is the first experience most people will have with 4th Edition. If it's a bad experience, 4th Edition will be a tough sell. Thankfully, H1 is (mostly) successful on all of these fronts.
Physically, the product design is interesting. Rather than a book proper, it is more of a Trapper Keeper style design. Inside the folder is a 16-page "Quick-Start Rules" booklet, an 80-page "Adventure Book", and 3 double-sided poster maps. At first I wasn't so sure about the format, but I have become a convert since learning how easy it was to keep the module, maps, and my own adventure notes together. Now I am hoping this will be the new module format for 4th Edition!
As for the content, the "Quick-Start Rules" contains some rules explaining the basics of the new edition and five playable characters. The rules section is pretty sparse; with only six pages, it really doesn't contain any more than you need to run the module. Nevertheless, it was an interesting peek into the new rules. The five pre-generated characters round out the remaining ten pages. They include a dwarf fighter, a halfling rogue, a human wizard, a half-elf cleric and a dragonborn paladin. All of them include level up information up to third level. The individual powers are described in full detail on the sheets, making them pretty easy to just grab them and run with minimal instruction on the new rules. Seeing them in action they seem to be a pretty well-rounded bunch, and everyone got a chance to shine at the game table.
The "Adventure Book" devotes the first 15 pages to a (slightly) more comprehensive set of quick-start rules intended for the Dungeon Master. The remainder of the book is devoted to the module itself. The adventure itself has a serviceable if slightly stereotypical plot. However the main point of it seems to be to show off the new combat system. The designers obviously tried hard to grab a pretty diverse group of monsters to throw at the party. Since a large part of this module is to "show off" some of the new features of 4th Edition D&D, I think this was probably a wise choice. My only complaint is that it did not include a little more in the way of skill challenges and the new social encounter rules for the players to deal with. That would probably of pushed the page count over the edge though.
As for how it acts as an "ambassador" to the new rules... I can only say that for my group it did great! Everyone seemed to have a good time at the table, even some of the players who were not looking forward to 4th Edition. After running the module, everyone in my group seems willing to give 4th Edition a chance. Which is really all you can ask for.
Coming soon, either here or on Lords of Tyr, will be the recap of what happen when I ran H1 for my regular gaming group.