Showing posts with label ravenloft. Show all posts
Showing posts with label ravenloft. Show all posts

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Red, White and Blue Rose

June may have been "Blue Rose month" but I have so much more to say and do!

I am going to have a couple of upcoming "Plays Well With Others" coming up.  More details later, but here are some teasers.

First, something that was inspired by my old "Black Rose" game (Blue Rose + Ravenloft) and something that came to me in a flash on a recent run.  Something I am calling "Blood Red Rose".


Blue Rose + Vampire the Masquerade (2nd Edition).

Next is less of a Plays Well With Others and more of a "Campaign Model".
I give you my "White Rose"


Blue Rose + Swords & Wizardry White Box.

This is going to be great.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Review: Ravenloft 3.0

The 3.0 era was on us.  I had just come back to D&D from a long hiatus and to my surprise we were getting a new Ravenloft setting and it was going to be penned by Swords & Sorcery Studios/Arthaus/White Wolf.  Say what you like about WW, they do know vampires.

Ravenloft 3.0 was one of those books I bought in the new 3.x era and I loved how it looked.  I splurged and grabbed the limited edition version from my favorite local game store.


I thought the art was fantastic and loved how well it adapted itself to the 3.0 rules.  But I had already had some experiences with 3.0 and even had pictured up some Swords & Sorcery Studios books and enjoyed those as well. The races were a nice treat to be honest. For the first time I really felt like I could run a Ravenloft game with the likes of gnomes, halflings and especially half-orcs, now rebranded as Calibans and the new Giogoto.



I think though I was expecting more at the time.  SSS was part of White Wolf like I mentioned and I was hoping for some of what made Vampire: The Masquerade so good to be here.  In re-reading it now, so many years later, I find I had unrealistic expectations.  In truth this book is a much better organized and updated version of the 2e Domains of Dread book. The nice thing about Ravenloft (and many of the D&D worlds) is that the plot kept moving along despite edition changes.  Though there is also a nice timeline included so DMs can do what they want.

This book has a black and white interior when most others were going full color.  To me this is a feature, not a bug.  Ravenloft is world of shades of grey and the art here is helps convey this.   The book is a basic campaign guide including the people, the lands and most important for Ravenloft, the horrors of the lands.  There are some new feats and skills. No new spells, but suggestions on how magic will be altered by the Mists.  There is even a section on the Gods of  Ravenloft.

Since most of this book covers the lands, their inhabitants and the Cultural Level of each, there is not a lot of crunch.  Translation: You can use this with any other version of D&D you like.  Even the feats look like they would work well with 5e still.  Even the section on "Fear, Horror and Madness" would work well.

It lacks large foldout maps of the 2e days, but it is a surprisingly good resource to me these days.
Well worth picking up.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Review: Curse of Strahd (D&D 5e)

Quick question. Who played Dracula?

Your answer might depend on a lot of thing from when you first saw Dracula in a movie to your age to what your cultural background is.  I also bet that the choice of actor might also say something about your gaming choices, but I am not getting into that today.
Like Dracula, who keeps coming back from the grave to scare or charm a new generation, Strahd the Vampire and his home in Ravenloft keep coming back for each version of the D&D game.

You can easily buy a Ravenloft product to fit any version of D&D you like.  There have been subtle changes with each round of designers and editors.  To extend the Dracula movie metaphor more, I6 Ravenloft is "Hammer Horror" (Christopher Lee).  2e Ravenloft Domains of Dread (boxed sets and books) were "Bram Stoker's Dracula" (Gary Oldman).  3rd Edition was split between Wizards own Expedition to Castle Ravenloft ("Dracula 2000," Gerard Butler) and the Ravenloft setting from White Wolf/Arthaus (Lestat movies).  4e's board game, Undead books and Shadowfell books were different enough that these are more like the NBC TV series Dracula (Jonathan Rhys Meyers).
This new book is "Dracula Untold" (Luke Evans).

I have converted Strahd to a couple of different systems myself.  I have been playing in Ravenloft, the castle and the land, since the original module came out in 1983.  I played it when it first came out and it is one of maybe three adventures I have run under every version of D&D I have ever played.  Ravenloft has history both in game and in the real world.  It was my world of choice in the AD&D 2e years and the effect it has had on adventure design can't be overstated.   To call it a sea change is not hyperbole.

So the new 5e Ravenloft has a lot to live up too.

I mentioned here back in the Summer that I was going to run the original I6 Ravenloft adventure for my family at Gen Con 2015.  I spent most of July prepping for that, working out Strahd's 5e stats, converting the major magic items, filling in some details.  None of it was hard work really. Again I *know* this adventure like few others.  The hardest part was balancing out what has become the de rigueur method of handling a D&D 5 encounter with the more plot-driven nature of the Ravenloft adventure.   Having this new Curse of Strahd book then would have helped me out a lot.

The new book is a retelling of the same I6 Ravenloft adventure from 1983. On the down side there is not much about the "Demi-Plane of Dread" as we knew it back in 2e.  This is more 4e Shadowfell.  Including it as part of the Shadowfell actually gives the DM more flexibility to be honest.   So that is good.  I did not notice much from the disappointing 3e Expedition to Castle Ravenloft here. So that is also a plus.

The book itself is hardcover, full color, 256 pages. Suitable for levels 1 to 10 for D&D 5.  The "Castle Ravenloft" adventure itself has been upgraded to level 9.

The first 90 pages or so are some introductions, some background and the updates Castle Ravenloft adventure.   There is an introduction and forward here too. The subtle snark directed at the likes of Twilight in Tracy Hickman's forward can't be missed.  There is a page on how to run a horror-themed game. It's nice, but nothing new and by no means complete.   If you really want to run a horror game find a copy of +Kenneth Hite's "Nightmares of Mine" or Spooky: The Definitive Guide To Horror Gaming.

The book is basically a sandbox, with Castle Ravenloft (the place and the adventure) in the "middle".  It is designed for adventurers from 1st to 10th level.  There are a few really interesting "side treks" including the low level "Death House", the medium level "Argynostholt" and the high level "The Amber Temple".  Death House is available for free from WotC.  So I would grab that first if you are on the fence about this.

Souls vs. Shells
One of the new "features" of this book is the idea that not everyone in Barovia has a soul.  Now if you were playing this as a horror game then this would be a truly frightening concept. The scenarios that are implicit in this are numerous.  Hapless villagers moving through their lives in drudgery, unfeeling save for a pervasive dread.  Or worse yet the same said villagers coming to the PCs begging them to find their lost souls.  Or PCs born in Barovia discovering they are among the "Soulless Shells".   Sadly though as a D&D game I see this only working as an excuse for PCs to murder bystanders.

There are some interesting character options, like the new Haunted One character background.  The iconic magic items like the Sunsword and the Holy Symbol of Ravenkind are here too.  As well as the Tome of Strahd.   The Gothic Trinkets are a really nice touch to be honest.
There are some new monsters too.  The is a fantastic full color tear out map of Castle Ravenloft (roughly 32" by 24") on one side and Barovia on the next.

I think in the end I was hoping for more.  Maybe not so much as a repeat of the 2e Ravenloft Domains of Dread campaign world, but something...more.

There will be a Tarokka deck you can buy later.
http://dnd.wizards.com/products/tabletop-games/rpg-products/tarokka-deck
I think I still have my 2e one around somewhere, but I prefer to use Tarot cards myself.

You can read the table of contents here.
http://tribality.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/01_CoS_TableofContents_4s09.pdf
I got excited when I saw that "Barovian Witch" listed under NPCs and had hoped to see an update to the 2nd Ed "Witches of Hala" but sadly this was not the case.  But it has given me some ideas.

I know. This is Pathfinder, but this is what a witch in Ravenloft could look like.
Ok bottom line time.  Who should buy this and who should avoid it?

Buy this if...
You are a fan of Ravenloft and want to have a complete collection.
You are a fan D&D 5e and want to have a complete collection.
A fan of adventure design and want to see how a 1st ed to 5th ed conversion can be done.
If you are planning to ever run Ravenloft under 5e.
Like the idea of playing in the Barovian sandbox.  This is actually a big one to be honest.

Avoid if...
You are not planning on running the classic Ravenloft adventure.
You are not playing D&D 5e.
Want to do your own conversion of one of the many options out there for taking on Strahd in his castle.

There are no new classes or races.  Not even rules for playing a Vistani.
There are no new spells or rituals either.  This seems like a bigger miss to me.

In the end you have to decide for yourself.  I am certainly not someone that needs tips on playing horror game, nor am I going to run Ravenloft (the adventure) under 5e (already did it) and don't need help converting.  There isn't anything here I could not have done on my or haven;t already done on my own.  But I got it anyway.  Hopefully there will be a sequel for levels 11-20.

Just like Dracula, Strahd can (and will) come back.  There are even details in the book about how it happens.  So maybe a sequel is already in the works?

Now that would be fun!

Monday, March 7, 2016

Ravenloft, Now on DM's Guild

Curse of Strahd is coming out on March 15.  If you live near a Wizard's Premier store you can get your copy now.  With this releaseWotC has also opened up Ravenloft to the DM's Guild.

http://media.wizards.com/2016/downloads/DND/CoS_DMsGuild.pdf
http://support.dmsguild.com/hc/en-us/categories/202531048-DMs-Guild-General-Information

I hadn't really considered doing anything for the DM's Guild.  Not because of the pricing structure, but because it was more restrictive than the OGL, but this might make me change my mind really.

Back in college during the dawn of 2nd Ed I played the hell out of Ravenloft.  For me really Ravenloft and Second Edition are synonymous.  I know my experience is not entirely unique.  Of course back then I was a poor college student; money could go for pizza, beer or D&D books.  Guess which one usually lost.

The result was what we all did back then, we wrote our own material.  Now I will admit that my writing from the late 80s and early 90s was not great. So maybe only 5% of things I did then would be worth publishing in any forum or form.  But some of that stuff I really liked and would like to see it see the light of day.  So to speak.

Time to dive into my archives and see what I have.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Link Roundup

Lots of things going on today. So here are a list of links I have been reading or need to read in detail still.  Thought I'd share.

Curse of Strahd is coming.  Ravenloft was my all time favorite module to play and run. The Demiplane of Ravenloft was my world of choice during the 2nd Edition days.  So I am finding it hard to wait till this new book comes out.  Thankfully my FLGS is a Wizard's Premier store, so I should be picking up my copy this weekend.  But until then here are some things to keep us all busy.
Looks great so far!

The Witch is out. The movie that is. I have been following this film for months, so I hope it lives up to the hype.  So far I pleased with everything I read, though I am not trying to read to much to be honest.  Some of my fellow bloggers have already seen it.
I need to see this movie.

Once a again a tip o' the hat to my good friend +Calvin Heighton at Calvin's Canadian Cave of Cool for this one.
It's a "Dragon Wagon" with a surprisingly familiar font.


Is this the conveyance of some mad wizard?  A collector from the future? A Gamma World/D&D crossover?  No idea, but damn if I don't want to do something with this.
Here are some more links of information/pictures.

Need to learn a new language?  Well there is a Chrome add-in that simulates language immersion by swapping out words you read with those of the chosen language.  Which language?  Any language in Google Translate's database.  Trying it out now.

Finally the same folks that brought us the Harry Potter fan film The Greater Good just finished their newest fan film, Severus Snape and the Marauders.  I do love a good fan film!



I have to say the casting of this is spot on.

Monday, January 18, 2016

The Return of Strahd

The news is finally out, Ravenloft is coming back.
I have known about this for a while now from multiple reliable sources but obviously could not say anything.

Curse of Strahd is the next campaign for D&D 5.

http://dnd.wizards.com/articles/news/return-ravenloft

http://dnd.wizards.com/products/tabletop-games/rpg-products/curse-strahd

So yeah...I am REALLY excited about it.

I just hope that Barovia is not relocated to the Forgotten Realms. We all know it is from Mystara!

But in any case this looks great and I can't wait till March 5th!  (Yeah I get new releases 10 days early).



Thursday, August 27, 2015

RPG a Day 2015, Day 27

Day 27: Favorite idea for merging two games into one

I have had a few to be honest.  In fact they get their own label here, Plays Well With Others.

My favorite though is "Black Rose", my mixing of Blue Rose with Ravenloft.

Here are some of the posts from back then.


It was a lot of fun.


Sunday, August 16, 2015

RPG a Day 2015, Day 16

Day 16: Longest Game Session Played

Back in college I went over to my High School DM's house.  He had come down to college where I was because I had talked the place up so much.

We co ran a Ravenloft game, "Dreams of Ravenloft" where basically one of us ran I6 and the other I10.  Anytime the characters fell asleep they would wake up in the other reality.  Not know which one was real or not.

I went over on a Friday afternoon and we played straight to Sunday night.  This was back before cell phones so my roommates had no idea where I was.  So it was only about 56 hours, but it was 56 continuous hours, minus some time for naps.

Can't do that anymore.



Monday, August 3, 2015

Back From Gen Con!

Well another Gen Con has come and gone.
I had a great time.  I got to meet up with some old friends, met some new friends and "met" people in person that I have only talked to on social media.

Wednesday night we played Baker Street with author and designer +Bryce Whitacre.  It was so much fun.  My kids had a blast with it. Expect a full review soon.

Every night we played Ravenloft, the classic I6 module.  I used the fifth edition conversion I found, but I am suspecting now after playing 5e for a bit that 5e characters and bit stronger than their 1e counterparts.

The entry hall of Castle Ravenloft

Strahd's crypt, Saturday night.
We managed to get through the entire adventure over the course of Gen Con which was perfect really.

I even got my original module from 1983 signed by Tracy Hickman.



We got in an RPGA/DDI game as well and a few others.  Most were good, but we also had two clunkers.   ProTip: When you are demoing a game and the one image looks like another, but different meaning image, don't throw your graphic designer under the bus. It makes YOU look bad.

I also got to meet in person John and Matt of ODAM Publishing. I didn't hit their booth in time to grab a book, but the copy they had left looked fantastic.

More on what I did pick up later.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Halfway, Fortunes of Ravenloft and the Foreshadowing

Got in a lot of gaming this weekend!

Saturday the Order of the Platinum Dragon found themselves still stuck in the mists.  They stumbled on to Halfway.  Here they met the Dealer and had the Fortunes of Ravenloft read.  We are not going to play Ravenloft till Gen Con, but I have 5 nights to run it.



I used Tarot cards for the Fortunes (because why not).  I have done that in the past, but I also found this AD&D1st Ed to D&D5 conversion of Ravenloft that also used Tarot cards.
With the PDF out I can print both of these out and run it from those.

Sunday we went "back in time" to the Dragonslayers.  They finished up their exploration of the Barrier Peaks.  Here they encountered, for the very first time, the Illithids.  Something that was not lost on my kids.

The "Order of the Platinum Dragon" characters are all the children or grand children of the "Dragonslayers".   So I am setting up the Mind Flayer threat a generation early.

I know what I have in store for the Order, I just need to figure out what is next for the Dragonslayers.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Castle Amber, Butterbeer and the Order of the Platinum Dragon

Sunday was a humid, rainy day in Chicagoland.  So what better to do than stay inside and play some D&D!

We decided to finish up Castle Amber taking them straight through all the wilderness encounters.  The boys meet Skylla, though true to her rumored appearance in the D&D cartoon she appears as an old woman. They also have no idea that she is evil.


She did help them a bit on where various towns were.  She wanted out of the Averoigne to get back to Glantri.  There is a small problem now, but I will get to that.

The boys decided that the name of their group is The Order of the Platinum Dragon. We celebrated with some homemade butterbeer.


It was quite good, but we could saved time and had the same amount of calories and fat with we had just drank some melted butter with a couple tablespoons of sugar.

The Order managed to dispatch the Beast of Averoigne and The Colossus of Ylourgne. They were able to con and bribe the Ring of Eibon from the Archbishop.  All in all, a really good session.


The Order summoned the Tomb of Stephen Amber and the mists closed in on them.  Normally that is where the adventure ends and they are back in their own world.  Instead when the mists cleared they discovered they are in Barovia.  Well, they don't know that yet, all they know is they are not home yet.

The Sword of Sylarie was not destroyed as per the module. It is half of what will become the Sun Sword.

So up next it is the Order vs. Castle Ravenloft.
Time to grab my copy of Ravenloft and start reading again.  Should not be to bad, I have run this many, many times.

It's going to be a lot of fun!

Thursday, April 23, 2015

PWWO: A Red & Pleasant Land + Victorian Games

The print version with ribbon.
I don't think there are many of these left.
Time for another edition of Plays Well With Others!

A while back I picked up +Zak Smith's vampire-themed Alice in Wonderland mashup (though that does not really describe it) A Red & Pleasant Land.  It is well reviewed and you can read my review here: http://theotherside.timsbrannan.com/2014/12/review-red-pleasant-land.html

What got me at the time is a.) how much I liked it and b.) how much I didn't want to play it under D&D (any version).  I started thinking about Alice, Dracula and this book   I thought that what this book really needs is not a background of fantasy, even the Grimdark of LotFP or DCC, but the prim and proper sensibilities of a more refined time. Victorian England.

Think about it.  I described the country, Voivodja, in AR&PL as Nightmare scape. Not an overt one like say the Hells, but a subtle one, and mostly a chaotic one.  What a better contrast to the streets of fog soaked Victorian London?  After all Voivodja isn't in our world, it's out there somewhere; down a rabbit hole or through the looking glass.  Through a looking glass darkly.  OR if it is, maybe it is an odd mirror.  Page 14 of AR&PL will give you ideas. The difference now is that we are all using the same world. Unless your D&D game is set in Europe of course, then you are ahead.

There are a lot of great choices for games to use this with and each offers something special I think.


Cthuhlu by Gaslight


Cthuhlu by Gaslight is one of the best Victorian era magical games out there. CbG has rules, via Call of Cthuhlu, for dealing with the Dreamlands. This is a good way to get characters from the "real world" to Voivodja.  Now Voivodja could be in our Carpathian Mountains or they could be in the analogue in the Dream lands.  Who knows.
One thing I would suggest is get a good grip on the Sanity rules and how to apply them using AR&PL.  There are things here that could be abused and drive the characters completely insane.  I say use them sparingly; instead focus on the weirdness of it all.  Not the mind bend weirdness typically one associates with the mythos.  Translations of monsters would not be hard.  Though the average CoC/CbG game is more about investigation. There is more doing in AR&PL, even if that doing isn't always combat.  Though they both have that in common.

Ghosts of Albion



I think there are plenty of good reasons to use Ghosts of Albion.  First the there is more expectation that characters will do more in GoA than in CoC.  Again monsters are easy to convert; most are in the Ghosts core book or could be found in any of the Buffy books.  Secondly let's address the elephant in the room.  Zak may not have meant Alice to come off as an ersatz Slayer, but she kind of is.  Or rather the Alice is the trope that the "Buffy" is trying to set up. All I am saying is that thematically they work well together or even as each other.  Alices are not Protectors, but they can be weaker Slayers or Chosen Ones (Army of Darkness) in any case the rules in GoA have it covered.
Alice's would get extra Drama Points (I would say 2 extra at starting).  The leveling up table would be used for every 25 XP gained.  Just allow her to take the appropriate Supernatural Qualities.

The Alice would be a 5-Point Supernatural Quality. I'd have to work out what is in it, likely bonuses to Charisma, Hard to Kill, but some drawbacks too.  Nothing major and nothing more than 5 points.
The more magic-rich world of Ghosts works well for AR&PL too.  And between Ghosts' Supernatural rules, Angel's demon rules and Buffy's vampires you could make every type of vampire in the book and then some.


Ravenloft: Masque of the Red Death


This of course might the best fit.  Ravenloft, Masque of the Red Death is set on Earth in the Victorian era.  It uses the same D&D system as AR&PL. Plus a lot of the changes that LotFP made to D&D can also be found in this book. Specialists are called Tradesmen in MotRD.  While the other two can be "easily converted" this one does not have to be converted at all.  You can even use the Alice as is.
Plus a lot of the strangeness in AR&PL can be explained by the power known as The Red Death.  I would opt for the 2nd Edition version pictured here as opposed to the 3.x update from Arthaus/SSS/White Wolf.   In fact going back through my Masque books I think this might be the one I would use for this.
You could travel the Orient Express and end up in A Red & Pleasant Land.

In any of the above cases I am much more excited to run this than under D&D or a clone.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Strahd Von Zarovich for Blue Rose / True20

True20 might be dead, but that's doesn't mean I have to like it.  So to celebrate the new version of Blue Rose AND the start of my month of vampires here at the Other Side.   Here is D&D's first "Vampyre", Strahd as he appears in my Black Rose games.


STRAHD VON ZAROVICH
Type: 15th level Undead (Adept 4/Expert 1/Warrior 9)
Size: Medium
Speed: 30 ft
Abilities: Str +8, Dex +7, Con -, Int +3, Wis +1, Cha +3
Skills: Acrobatics 18 (+25), Bluff 7 (+10), Climb 8 (+16), Concentration 6 (+7), Diplomacy 10 (+13), Disable Device 2 (+5), Disguise 2 (+5), Escape Artist 2 (+9), Gather Info. 7 (+10), Handle Animal 2 (+5), Intimidate 13 (+16), Jump 2 (+10), Languages 5 (+5), Medicine 4 (+5), Notice 2 (+3), Ride 6 (+13), Search 4 (+7), Sense Motive 2 (+3), Sleight of Hand 2 (+9), Stealth 5 (+12), Survival 7 (+8), Swim 0 (+8), Knowledge (History) 2 (+5), Knowledge (Arcane) 2 (+5), Knowledge (Religion) 2 (+5)
Feats: Iron Will, Menacing, Leadership, Armor Training (Heavy), Armor Training (Light), Weapon Training, Armor Training (Heavy), Weapon Training (Long Sword), All-out Attack, Canny Dodge, Attack Focus (Long Sword), Defensive Attack, Diplomatic, Improved Strike, Dedicated, Influential, Fascinate, Uncanny Dodge, Power (Imbue Unlife), Smite Opponent, Greater Attack Focus, Power (Suggestion), Power (Summon Beasts), Power (Corrupting Shadow)
Traits: No Constitution, Dark Vision (60ft), Proficiency (Natural Weapons), Immunity (Mind Influencing Effects), Immunity (Sleep,Poison,Paralysis,Stunning), Immunity (Critical Hits,Fatigue), Immunity (Fortitude Saves), Unhealing, Healed by Harm (Harmed by Heal)
Powers: Imbue Unlife 7 (+10) DC 15, Suggestion 7 (+10) DC 15, Corrupting Shadow 7 (+10) DC 15, Summon Beasts 7 (+10) DC 15
Combat: Unarmed +18, Damage +8 (20/+3), Longsword +18, Damage +11 (19/+3), Defence +18/+19, Initiative +7
Saving Throws: Toughness +7, Fortitude +5, Reflex +11, Will +10

Not too bad I think.  Poor Queen Jaellin isn't going to know what hit her.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Averoigne via Ravenloft

Chances are we are going to go see the new Dracula movie tonight.  But tomorrow I would like to get in some gaming.  My home group is nearly done with Castle Amber so given the season (and their levels) I want to segue right into Ravenloft.




For those that have played it you know that Stephen Amber send the party back to their own reality once they free him.  But what if he didn't? What if didn't have the power to do that since freeing him also meant letting go of all his power.  Stephen fades, Château d' Amberville crumbles to dust and the party is left standing in the mists.  Where are they to go?

Easy.

Castle Ravenloft.

I have for years talked about the similarities between Château d' Amberville and Castle Ravenloft and the connections between Mystara and the Demi-Plane of Dread.  It is likely that this is all taking place in the Demi-plane of Dread (Ravenloft) or the Dimension of Nightmares (Mystara) where even the Immortals fear to go.

Why do this?

I was thinking about the Doctor Who Series 2 episodes "Rise of the Cybermen" and "Age of Steel".  The Doctor, Rose and Mickey (who had not traveled with them before except for one episode) get stuck in an alternate universe.  Mickey stays behind.
The pay off on this is when we get to the Series 2 Finale and Mickey is back, and not just back, but since he traveled through "the Void" he and Rose are saved from being killed outright by the Daleks and it was Mickey who passed on his time travel energy (or void energy) to the Genesis Ark.

What's the point of this?  Well the reason they went to the parallel universe were not apparant at the time, but paid off in the finale.  From a story arc they all, including and especially Mickey, needed to go to that parallel universe when they did.

My players are in Ravenloft because they have to be.  They needed to free Stephen Amber and stop the Amber family because that gets them to Castle Ravenloft which in turn gets them the Sunsword and the Holy Symbol of Ravenkind.   They are going to need those in the coming darkness.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Amazing Adventures: Plays Well With Others

The best thing, or at least one of the best things, about Amazing Adventures is the fact that it is based all around Castles & Crusades.  So not only is everything for C&C compatible with it, everything that works great with C&C also works for Amazing Adventures.

This means a lot of classic AD&D adventures can be played with little conversions needed.

Ravenloft


I spent some time this past weekend going through the original I6 Ravenloft Module.  Pretty much everything in the adventure is covered in the Amazing Adventure Rules.  In fact things might work out a little bit better.  Imagine your party of world travelling adventurers. You have a big game hunter, a scientist, a gadgeteer, maybe a socialite.  All travelling by train to some dark corner of Eastern Europe.  That is till the mists roll in and train has to stop.  A carriage comes to pick you up and takes you to small village of Barovia where is looks like time has stood still.  People are fearful of you. Soon you learn of the castle in the mountains and the Lord of the castle is inviting you to dinner.

Count Strahd von Zarovich
Vampire
NO. ENCOUNTERED: 1
SIZE: Medium
HD: 14d12 (84 hp)
MOVE: 40 ft., 60 ft. (fly), 20 ft. (climb)
AC: 25 (cloak, ring of protection)
ATTACKS: Slam (1d6)
SPECIAL: Blood Drain, Children of the Night, Dominate, Create Spawn, Energy Drain, Alternate Form, Gaseous Form, Entourage, Electrical Resistance (half), Spider Climb
SANITY: 1d8/1d10
SAVES: M, P
INT: Genius
ALIGNMENT: Chaotic Evil
TYPE: Undead
XP: 10450+14 (10534)

Additionally Strahd can cast spells as an 10th level Arcane Spellcaster (Int based). He is protected by a ring of protection and an amulet that prevents him from being turned.

Expedition to the Barrier Peaks


If Hammer Horror is not to your liking then change the location to the deep jungles of South America or Africa and replace the castle with a crashed spaceship.

Expedition to the Barrier Peaks is one of the odder adventures out there, and certainly one of the most fun for my money.  The high tech works just as well on the characters of the Pulp era as they do on quasi-medieval fantasy.  But AA offers something a bit more to the mix.

First off I replaced the Mind Flayers in the adventure with a malevolent type of Grey.  When the adventurers arrive the ship is just waking up and will soon begin it's conquest of the world.  The Pulp Era though predates "saucer men" by a few years at least in the public consciousness.  Compare for example the serials of the 30s vs. that of the 50s in how aliens were depicted and treated.
If you want pure pulp action then replace the creatures in the modules with the various Lovecraft Mythos monsters found in the book.  Mind Flayers afterall have a vaguely "Cthulhu-ness" about them anyway.  Fill it full of shoggoths and Spawn of Shub-Niggurath. The plant spawn make for good vegipygmies.
Add more fun and have it so the ship had crashed into the Earth 65 Billion years ago and have all these dinosaurs in stasis.  That is of course until the ship systems start to wake up.

The Isle of Dread


A monster romp on a tropical island. The Isle of Dread has far more in common with the 1933 King Kong than it does with fantasy swordplay.

The Amazing Adventures core book already has a number of dinosaurs (and the d20SRD has more) and monsters that work well with this adventure.  Plus going by steam liner makes much more sense for our Pulp Adventurers.   Isle of the Dread is essentially a "Lost World" sort of adventure and that fits the Pulp story telling perfectly.

What About Guns?
Ok so our intrepid Pulp adventurers will fight vampires, aliens and dinosaurs. Unlike their fantasy counterparts they will be armed with guns instead of swords.

This is not a problem.

As we have seen in movies time and time again a gun is not very effective against the undead.  A pistol is about as effective (pro and con) as an arrow against a rampaging dino or giant beast. And in Barrier Peaks? Well they have the chance to find "ray guns".  So guns may not really give the character the edge you might think.

I am sure there are others that would work equally as well, but these are the big three genre-bending modules with roots near the pulp era.  In any case there is enough here to keep your players happy for a while even if they played these classics in the past.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

#RPGaDAY Day 10, Favourite tie-in Novel / Game Fiction

#RPGaDAY Day 10, Favourite tie-in Novel / Game Fiction

Well...I don't really read a lot of the tie in fiction.  I read the Dragonlance books when they came out. I read the Gord the Rogue books too.

But I guess I read the Ravenloft books more than anything.  Yeah I read all of them.
It is interesting to note that some of the authors of those books would later go on to do bigger and better things.
Christie Golden, Elaine Bergstrom, Laurell K. Hamilton, Tanya Huff, P. N. Elrod, Gene DeWeese, and James Lowder just to name a few.

It's funny but I swear I catch some "Ravenloft-ism" in the Anita Blake books (Laurell K. Hamilton) and in a few of the short stories of P.N. Elrod.

These books were sometimes the only gaming interaction I got it while I was in grad school and had almost no time to play.

Not much about any of them stick out all these year later.  I did rather enjoy "I, Strahd", "Tapestry of Dark Souls" and "Death of a Darklord".
The Azalin ones were cool for the Greyhawk ties but I felt the Lord Soth ones were weak.  No fault I think of the author, but trying to cram Soth into Ravenloft was a haphazard idea.


Monday, May 12, 2014

Review: Masque of the Red Death and Other Tales (AD&D 2nd)

A couple of caveats. I love Victorian RPGs.  Also, I primarily reviewing the PDF release.

Wizards of the Coast and their partner DNDClassics.com has released the latest PDF from the TSR/WotC back catalog, this time a product I know very, very well.

Masque of the Red Death and Other Tales is nominally released under the Ravenloft line and you will need one of the Ravenloft core books to be able to play this along with the AD&D 2nd Edition rules.  However if you know the AD&D rules well enough you might be able to get by.  The premise of the game it rather a simple one. What if the Dark Powers from Ravenloft found their way to Earth?  Well...I should state out and out that they never actually say that, but imply it rather heavily.  The is a dark, malignant force controlling things on Earth, known here as The Red Death, and this Earth of the 1890s certainly has a lot more in common with Ravenloft.

Pretty much from the time it was published to the onset of the new 3rd Edition rules, Masque of the Red Death was my campaign world of choice.  I still played AD&D2 in Ravenloft, or rather, I ran AD&D2 in Ravenloft, but the lines between Ravenloft proper and "Gothic Earth" became very, very blurry.

For this review I am going to talk specifically about the PDF and only discussing the original boxed set format when appropriate.

To begin with we get five PDFs in this package. These correspond to the four books and the DM's screen.

Book I is the main Masque of the Red Death book.  It is 130 pages of a high quality, OCR scan.  Some the images are fuzzy, but I feel that is more due to the source images rather than the scan itself.  The scan comes in at just over 35 meg.
We begin with an overview of what this campaign guide is about.  I might be mistaken, but this is the first official AD&D product to take place on Earth.   This followed up with a history of Gothic Earth.  Things began to go downhill for everything around 2700 BC when Imhoptep (yes, same as the Mummy movies) began experimenting with darker magics.  The next dozen or so pages bring us to the present day (1890s).  The history is a fast read and I would not ignore it. It sets the tone for the entire game.
Chapter II details character creation.  There are different methods used than the PHB to reflect that characters are not your sword wielding barbarians of a bygone age.  So characters are more average.
There are rough parallels to all the classic AD&D classes, Soldiers, Adepts, Mystics, and Tradesmen.  The AD&D Proficiency system is used here as well.  Interestingly the system seems make more sense here (since skills are really what sets characters apart) but also shows its wear and tear.
Money and Equipment is also detailed in Chapter IV.   Interestingly this one of the few Victorian era games where the default currency is listed as American Dollars rather than Pounds Sterling.
It should be of note that this also the book that adds guns to AD&D2.  Quite a number of guns are detailed here as well.
Chapter V covers magic and you really need the Player's Handbook for this section.
Chapter VI covers the changes to combat.
Getting back to what really makes this special is Chapter VII An Atlas of Gothic Earth. I should point out at this point that the large poster sized map that came with the boxed set is not included here.  It gives a brief overview of the world.  This section is done much better in the full fledged product that shares it's name.
The first Appendix covers various character kits.  If you remember 2e at all, you remember kits. Quite a few interesting ideas are detailed, but you could also do these with the base four classes and good roleplaying.
Appendix II covers some villains of Gothic Earth. There are plenty of old favorite here and some new takes on old characters.  Though I will admit the one thing that still gets on my nerves is Moriarty re-done as a Rakshasa.  In my games he was human. And yes, Dracula is there as well.
And finally Appendix III covers adventuring in Gothic Earth.

Book II is an adventure in 3 parts by future Pinnacle Entertainment head honcho Shane Hensley and featuring the rock star of Gothic fiction, Dracula.  The advantage of this PDF over my boxed set copy? I can print this out and make changes to it. Yeah it is a good adventure, but I can't help but feel it is a pastiche of Hammer and Stoker's original work.

Book III is a Jack the Ripper adventure, Red Jack. Unlike Moriarty's change into a supernatural creature, this adventure make "Jack" into something more mundane.  Normally I would be fine this, but the name of the adventure itself and some of the elements BEGS it to be tied to the old Star Trek episode The Wolf in The Fold and Redjac.

Book IV is the Red Death, an adventure based around elements of the Edgar Allen Poe story.  Some details have been changed and added, but the spirit is the same.  Again, I am tempted to make the main antagonist, Prospero, the Prospero.

Book V is the DM's screen.

Again I'll point out that the large poster sized map is missing.

Once upon a time this boxed captured my imagination like no other game.  This PDF makes me want to crack open some 2e.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

30 Day D&D Challenge, Day 11: Favorite Playable Race

Day 11: Favorite Adventure I Ran

So many here as well.  Since I am limiting it to D&D I think I am going to say Ravenloft, I6.  I have run it a number of times and each time it gets better and better.  Plus it is a lot of fun and I love all the gothic horror trappings.


Sunday, June 9, 2013

Ravenloft / Glantri connection

This post might not be all that interesting (I know the WRONG way to start a post) but I have been digging up some old information on an old campaign I ran at the end of the 2nd ed era.




Many, many years ago while I was still deeply involved in the online Ravenloft community I postulated that Barovia, the home of Strahd in Ravenloft, is a domain taken from the Known World of Mystara, and Glantri in particular.
I was very active on the old MYSTARA-L and RAVENLOFT-L listservs.

Here is a post from 2001 where I talk about it.  This might be the first time I even mention it.
http://oracle.wizards.com/scripts/wa.exe?A2=ind0108a&L=mystara-l&P=5201

Hold on a sec I have my combined Ravenloft-Mystrara-Greyhawk Time line here.

Now keep in mind that Ravenloft has funky time.  So Ravenloft uses the
Barovian Calendar (BC) and the present day is 751 (according to the books)
or 753 (according to the kargatane).  That would make it 1,346 AC.  On *my*
time line.
This also coincides with 1,370 DR in the Realms (but who cares about that!).

I am correlating my dates based on the "fact" that the two Blackmoors are
the same in Greyhawk and Mystara and were destroyed at the same time,
possibly splitting Mystara and Oerth (and D&D from AD&D!).  Then I use
Azalin from Ravenloft since we know when he entered the mists and when he
was a king on Greyhawk.

Barovia is founded in "an unknown world" in year 1 BC, or 596 AC.  So what
areas were still ripe for conquest or settlement then?
Strahd is born in 299 BC (894 AC)
The "Tergs" invade Barovia 320 BC (915 AC)
Strahd pushes them back 321 BC (916 AC)
Strahd kills his family, Barovia is "cloned" and sucked into the demi plane
351 BC (946 AC).

So the world that Barovia is from, never knows it is gone since an exact
copy with out people is left behind.  Well, some of Strahd's family remains.

800 AC to 1000 AC is a fairly well documented period of time.

Castle Amber (X2) has some amazing "Ravenloft like" elements.  After all,
Old Averoigne *IS* from Gothic Earth! ;)
As does the Glantri Gazetteer.
Other modules from Mystara also have a very heavy Ravenloft feel to them,
more so than other worlds ("Death's Ride" anyone?)

There is an adventure where the character go to the Prime Material Barovia
around 740 BC (or 1,335 AC). Barovia of this time and place is rules by a
"King Strahd".

If I go with my "Holy Lands of Glantri"  future Time line, 1,335 is a blank
period of time for me. A time between the "true" kings in which a regent sat
on the throne.  It was an attempt by the mage guild to bring back the rule
of the Princes.  They had assassinated the true king and his heirs, but one
escaped not to be "discovered" again till 1,496 AC.

SO, given my time line, I'd say Barovia is/was a principality of Glantri.
Granted this is not conclusive evidence, but it fills the holes I have.

What else do we have?

Warlock.
--
Web Warlock,
Author, the Netbooks of Witches and Warlocks
The Other Side: http://www.rpghost.com/WebWarlock
The DnD Community Council: http://www.dndcommunitycouncil.org/~nbownw
Yeah I was still going by "Web Warlock" online all the time is a vain attempt to keep my academic persona (Timothy S. Brannan) seperate from my gamer geek one.  Finally I said screw it and embraced my inner and outer geek.

There is more here and elsewhere.  With James Mishler online now I should ask him what his theories were.

Here is something I posted years ago that I can't find the original of online anymore.  Though it was quoted at Dragonsfoot.  I have the original Word doc here at home still.
Barovia is from Mystara
While Ravenloft may be my favorite game world, it is not my first. No that (dubious) honor belongs to Mystara. So here is how I have used my two worlds together. We really don't know what world Strahd's homeland came from. Other lands are clearly defined as being from Oerth (Greyhawk), Toril (Forgotten Realms), Athas (Dark Sun) or Krynn (Dragonlance). That leaves both Barovia and Mystara obvious by their absence. So. I speculate that Barovia is a darker version of one the Principalities of Glantri. Of course this long before the Princes ruled. We know that from the adventure "Roots of Evil" that the original Barovia still remains on it's home world. Well Glantri has a principality called Boldavia that is surprisingly like Barovia. It is possible that they were nieghbors, but when Strahd and his Barovia was pulled into the mists, the lord of Boldavia took over the unprotected Barovia.

There are plenty of other clues of a Ravenloft-Mystara link.

The classic module, X2 Castle Amber, takes place in Glantri and the module reads like a proto-Ravenloft setting complete with mists and lands being pulled into demi-planes. X2 was based on the writings of Clark Ashton Smith, one of Lovecraft's inner circle, and both writers have contributed a lot to what makes up D&D and Ravenloft today.

Glantri has a very European feel to it. It is higher tech and higher magic than most of the other lands on Mystara and there is definantly a darker edge to it. Since Ravenloft also uses psuedo-European cultures, the ties fit rather nicely.

Demi-Plane or World
Ravenloft is a demi-plane. Or so they tell us. But this has never been a satifactory world for me. In my mind this only emphasizes the "weekend in Hell" feel of the world. So. With the latest edition of the Ravenloft rules, I have decided that Ravenloft is in fact it's own world. Granted it is a haunted world, but not much different than the "World of Darkness" of White Wolf. This has certain advantages for me. Worlds are easier to deal with. I can have a place that can seem real to it inhabitants and give me a reason to have native players. Plus if I want, I can use my Call of Cyhulhu, White Wolf, or Witchcraft RPG stuff to modernize the world, or give it a future. This is what I liked best about Gothic Earth. With 3E Ravenloft I could do a Gothic Mystara or a Gothic Oerth.

Personally I rather move the lot to Earth. But that is a topic for another time.

Plus this helps bring other ideas from the Ravenloft-list into line for me. Ravenloft has a mostly human population, but there are monsters. So a world can support a larger ecosystem. Monsters can run about. Another idea is move the mind flayers, Illithids, to the moon. This give them a more alien feel and ties in very nicely with Lovecraft. Plus I have the new d20 Call of Cthulhu book sitting on my self next to my Ravenloft one. So I am sure I can get something from their unholy union.

Another idea to flesh out this "world" is to use some of the new d20 products out there. Sword and Sorcery studios has some great books, like the Creature Collections and Relics and Rituals. The Scarred Lands of those books has the dark and gritty feel I like to inject into my games. I also have a few good official Wizards of the Coast products that also make a nice addition. Monsters of Faerun is a good example.

The Dark Powers
Who or what are the dark powers and what do they wnat? That is question that has been bugging players and DM of Ravenloft for a long time. We have had some clues. They could be evil outsiders, or gods. Or they could be Good and Ravenloft is a prison. Or maybe they started out as good and became evil. Who knows. The truth be told. I don't deal with them much in my games. While I dislike the idea of Ravenloft being a giant roach motel of evil, I also like to keep the players and the Dark Lords in check.

Plus there are the Dark Lords. Very powerful, not very mobile. I like to use a bit more flexibility with my Dark Lords and Powers. Granted this has not always worked out as well as I would have liked. But I'll keep experimenting. Normally I like to take a page out of the Masque of Red Death and not have Dark Lords at all. Or rather, they are there, but they are significantly weaker when they leave their area of control.

No Dragons?
How is it there are no dragons in Ravenloft, a Dungeons and Dragons game? Well I have added them. Yes they are evil and there is even a Dragon dark lord. The realm is Draconis, and it is also from Mystara. It is currently an island. It too has it's roots in Glantri. You can download it from PlanetADnD.com. Draconis.

If I continue the world metaphor then there are plenty of places for Dragon Dark Lords and Dragons. While Draconis is based on Glantri, it has it roots in the mystical "Dragon Isle" of so many fantasy stories, including the tales of Michael Moorcock's Elric.

BTW I still have Draconis laying around here somewhere.  I reused large portions of it for my Dragon Ilse in my kids 3.x game.

I'll have to see what else I have laying around.
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