Thursday, March 4, 2010

Black Rose, Part 1

I had no idea people would like this one so much.  I mean to me it seems a no-brainer.   Let me roll back a bit and talk about why I think so.

I love Ravenloft.  It was *my* world for all of 2nd Ed.  I loved the Gothic horror feel, I loved that there were all these worlds and this was some sort of cosmic dumping ground of evil.  But mostly I loved the atmosphere, there was something about it that was different than all the other AD&D worlds out at the time.  Greyhawk was basically dead, I hated the Forgotten Realms, Planescape was cool but I hate stupid made up slang.
But I had a basic problem with Ravenloft.  A world drowning evil is not always the best one to play in.  Or as I used to say, Ravenloft was great at night, but during the day it was lacking.

Well I put Ravenloft away when I did my great D&D break of the late 90s.  When D&D 3 came out I purchased one of the limited editions Ravenloft core books.  After all it was being done by White Wolf and they know horror.  While it did make me interested in the lands again, the spark was gone.  Besides at this time the Kargatane was breaking up and Ravenloft was not as fun as before.

Then a new game came into my life.  Blue Rose.   In Blue Rose I felt there were a lot of the same things I liked about Ravenloft.  Emphasis on character development and story telling, less on combat.  One by nature the other by choice.  I know a lot of people disliked Blue Rose, but it did give us True 20.  And in True 20 I saw the answer to a lot of the problems I had with Ravenloft.  Ravenloft as an idea was Gothic Horror stapled on to a fantasy action adventure game.  True 20 was systemless.  It was much easier to represent more people with combinations of the Expert, Warrior and Adept classes than the standard D&D ones; or worse the 36 some odd classes we had in the d20 Masque of the Red Death.

Blue Rose also took on some of the same issues that Ravenloft did.  That of being an outsider for one, or working for a cause of light vs. darkness.  People criticized BR's morality, but that is a perfect morality for Romantic Fantasy or Gothic Horror.

In the last couple of years we have seen a surge of books that fall under the term "Urban Fantasy" or "Horror Romance" and even "Chick-Lit".   Typically these books feature a strong willed female protagonist who sometimes makes mistakes but in the end finds her own inner strength.  Sometimes she gets the guy (or girl, or both) all in a world where magic, vampires, werewolves and other horrors are real.  Maybe she is even one of those horrors herself.  Plus many of the authors of those early Ravenloft novels are now "names" in this market such as Elaine Bergstrom, Christie Golden, P. N. Elrod and Laurell K. Hamilton.  Modern urban gothic fantasy is in Ravenloft's DNA.   Blue Rose as a concept supports this type of roleplaying very well.

So I sat down with my Blue Rose book and my d20 Ravenloft book and I started to notice too all sorts of places where they were the same.  So I had this idea, blasphemous as it sounds, to mix in Ravenloft with Blue Rose. I wanted to cast a shadow of Aldea, something is not right any longer. The Queen still holds court, lovers still walk hand in hand, and there are still adventures to be had.   But I had questions I needed to answer. Why has Aldea and Ravenloft "merged"? Or were they always together?
If they merged what was the catalyst? Why now?
What is the effect on the populace with this new influx of evil and dread?

One of the things I have wanted to do is bring Ravenloft out of "mists" and into a real world. Yeah I know that looses someof what makes Ravenloft unique, but I also like the idea of "horror is everywhere" and not needing to go someplace remote to find it.
By bringing Aldea and Ravenloft together I can have "days" and "nights" covered.  Aldea becomes a near perfect landscape with some deep seated malaise over it.  A dark cloud on the horizon.  Or as I call it in my games, "the oncoming darkness"

Here are my first thoughts.

The Races and other Groups
Humans are humans and remain untouched.

I plan to keep Sea Folk for now, but given my Lovecraftian background I will certainly introduce some dark spawn that plauges them. Something like the Shadows out Innsmouth or something.

Night People are the easiest to deal with since their creation is basically to fill that game playing niche of half-orcs. But they also serve other purposes as well, as a constant reminder of the dangers of dark magics and in the case of good and noble Night People, to remind the players and characters that you cannot judge a person by their birth. In all these regards they are nearly identical to the Ravenloft Calibans.

Both games describe these ersatz Half-Orcs much in the same manner. They are products of dark sorcery; they are feared, hulking brutes. I will use the Night People racial modifiers from the BR Core and the backgrounds of both races into one since there is no conflict between them.

Roamers will be replaced by the Vistani from Ravenloft. There is just so much information on the Vistani that it makes sense to use them in place of the Roamers. I will keep the Roamer name, that is what native Aldeans still call them. I will still use most of the information on Roamers from the World of Aldea book, in particular the sayings. Where they contradict is simple. The Vistani are a large group with many Tasques, something that is true for one in not true for the other. Or true depending on where they are. Or, let’s face it, neither group is very forthcoming with information to the giorgios. I have to decide whether or not to use the “Half-Vistani” race. In the Vistani lore there is ample evidence that these children are different than their full blooded cousins. And not using them robs me of a plot device where a young half-blooded Vistani goes on an epic quest to discover “her father’s people” and ends up discovering herself instead. Plus I love the Tarot work on backgrounds. So I will see if it can be adapted to use the Tarokka deck. Maybe when adventures get ready to go on their first epic quests a Vistani vardo comes to town and reads their fortunes to them (using the Ravenloft rules) and then shows them their character (Blue Rose rules).

Vata are still more or less Elves, or more to the point, the Sidhe of Aldea. Ravenloft has elves and half elves, but not a lot of them. My solution then is to go with Blue Roses’ idea and have all the Elves (Sidhe, Vata) be extinct. I have not decided with domains to pull in, but I have figured out that the Ravenloft Domain of Sithicus was the last Vata/Elf country before they were destroyed. Now it is a sad, haunted land.
I might remove the Vata’an and Vata’sha as races and instead use a feat to represent “Vata Touched”. Still thinking about that one really.

Dwarves, Halflings and Gnomes exist as rumors or fairy tales only. They might have existed somewhere in the past, but no longer.

More on the lands and bringing these worlds together later.


Rhonin84 said...

The land that the Queen rules over is the last bastion of light besieged on all sides by the encroaching darkness, all of her allies are gone defeated in the wars to stave off the darkness.

Her dreams at night are haunted by a figure that is intoxicating and terrifying, this Dark Lord wants her for his queen, it's a dream that she has had for some time and the fortune tellers tell her that she has lived this before....

Just a thought with some imagery for you to chew on!

Alex Osias said...

I'm not that familiar with Blue Rose (I was more intrigued with the True 20 aspect), but I understood the romance influence on it.

I am a fan of Ravenloft, but was always stymied by:
- what the PCs do during the day time (sleep, I suppose); and
- isn't it monotonous to know that the big bad is someone you can't defeat (because he's a dark lord) and you live on his land?

The merging of the two gives some space for PCs to retreat and recuperate, and allows greater contrast when PCs must fight the dark lord on his own turf...

great stuff!

Anonymous said...

Very interesting, sounds like a good match.

Though I think I would make dark dreams and nightmare a constant sub-theme in this campaign.

Shane Mangus said...

This is a very cool idea. Personally, I never gave Blue Rose a proper chance. In hindsight I should have taken a harder look at the system, and over looked the problems I had with the background of the game. Ravenloft has always been a favorite of mine. I especially liked Masque of the Red Death, and felt it was a stroke of genius when it came out. Of course I could never get anyone to actually play it. Looking back at it now, MotRD was ahead of its time. Anyway, this is a great post. Keep em coming!

Dr. Theda said...

We always enjoyed the realm of the Mists....
My favorite "Dumping Ground of Evil....."...