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

Thursday, April 23, 2015

PWWO: A Red & Pleasant Land + Victorian Games

Notice: I am not taking down this post because I feel it is more important to leave it up, but also update everyone on what is happeing now as February 11, 2019. Please see this newer post first.

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:

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.

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?


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.


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
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
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 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.

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?

Web Warlock,
Author, the Netbooks of Witches and Warlocks
The Other Side:
The DnD Community Council:
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 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.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Blogwatch: Psychosexual Ravenloft

Back in the 2nd Ed days my game world of choice was Ravenloft.
I loved all the gothic trappings mixed with heroic horror.  So even though I was a poor college student most of the time, I tried to get everything I could for this game.

Including all the novels.

Jack over at Tales of the Grotesque and Dungeonesque is doing a series of reviews on the Ravenloft novels.  So I have been reading them.  The reviews that is.

I can remember reading Ravenloft novels while in my apartment I shared with three other guys, I remember reading them while giving exams when I was a TA, I remember reading them and feeling guilty about it when I wasn't working on my dissertation.

I don't remember them being quite this bad though.

Oh, I remember that many were not very good.  I remember that in the cases of authors that would later go on to do bigger things (like Laurel K. Hamilton, P. N. Elrod and Christie Golden among others) that they read like, well, young but inexperienced authors.

TotGaD though is not doing your typical review, he is looking at the psychosexual mess that underlies each book.

If you have read these books then you owe it to yourself to read these reviews.
I am enjoying every entry so far and many times I have wished I still had those books laying around.

For myself, I always felt that the Ravenloft books were more akin to a Hammer film; scholcky, over the top, with an abundance of flesh and blood but not a lot of plot.  So I am inclined to see these books more favorably than others might.  That all being said a lot of good points are raised in these reviews that I must have just glossed over.

Honestly though I am waiting for him to get around to Tapestry of Dark Souls.  That thing is train wreck.

Friday, April 20, 2012

R is for Ravenloft: Masque of the Red Death

One of my first exposures to Victorian era gaming was through the Ravenloft: Masque of the Red Death.

Last year I did Ravenloft, and this year given all the Victorian games I am talking about this seems a natural.

Masque of the Red Death was a Ravenloft branded supplement for both AD&D 2nd Ed and for D&D 3.  Both dealt with a familiar; Earth, but one that was darker and magic was real.  It's almost a cliche with me anymore.  What made the first MotRD special was that for the first time you could play "D&D on Earth", in particular Victorian Age Earth that they called "Gothic Earth".

There were a lot of classes (kits too for AD&D 2nd Ed) and I always thought it was some what overkill. Magic was much more limited than your typical D&D game and a lot of the rules (Horror, Fear and Dread) were ported over from the Ravenloft line proper.

I SOOOO wanted to run this game, but it came at a bad time in my gaming career.  I was just about ready to give up on D&D altogether and this was the only thing I was excited about anymore.  Some of my first writing gigs was for the official Ravenloft Netbooks from the Kargatane. A lot of that I have been able to re-use here in fact (Haunted Illinois and the Piasa Bird).

There was such a cool, dark vibe to the game but it did do somethings that irked me.  To many of the bad guys were in fact monsters that looked human; Moriarty was a Rakshasa for example.  Sometimes I like my monsters to be human.  Also there were just too many classes.

I'd love to revisit Gothic Earth.  Maybe under one of the game systems I have reviewed already or even as something for Ghosts of Albion.

Sadly, Masque of the Red Death is long out of print.  You can still find copies though on ebay and at Nobel Knight.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Ghosts of Albion - Haunted Illinois

I was visiting my parents home this past weekend and of course picked up on of the many "Haunted Illinois" books that are ubiquitous in the Central Illinois region.  I thought maybe I'd repost something  I had done for Ravenloft's "Gothic Earth".  This was for a netbook called the "Crossroads of Gothic Earth" done by the Kargatane many years ago.

While this was designed to be used with AD&D2nd ed, it was mostly a fluff piece and can really be used with any Victorian Era horror RPG.



Local Correspondent:
Timothy S. Brannan

When people say “heartland of America” often one thinks of Illinois.  Founded as a state in 1818, but inhabited long before that, Illinois is rich in history and in ghosts.  Former presidents walk the halls of their home or tombs.  It has been rumored that Lincoln haunts the his tomb in Springfield, the capital building in Springfield, and the old State Capital in Vandalia, a place where he had worked as a young lawmaker.  All of this has led to a popular, but  grim saying among Illinoisans, “Abraham Lincoln walks at Midnight.”
Iroquois, Fox and Sioux Indians walk ancient plains, and dead confederate soldiers march to an uncertain doom.  Illinois is a starting point for many in their westward expansion, and a final resting place for others.

Illinois is located in the heart of the “Heartland,” bordered by the mighty Mississippi River on the west and the Ohio on the south.  This, combined with rich, flat land and warm, humid summers, produces some the nation’s best farmland.  Since the 1850’s no other state has grown as quickly and as prosperously as Illinois.  Currently (1890) the population is over 4,500,000.

The area was first seen by Europeans in 1673, by two Frenchmen: Louis Joliet, a fur trader, and Jacques Marquette, a Catholic missionary.  Marquette later set up a mission along the Mississippi river (present day Kaskaskia) for the native peoples.  The first permanent settlement built by Europeans was a mission on the Mississippi river in the town of Cahokia in 1699.
Up to 1763 the area had been controlled by the French.  After the French-Indian wars, France gave this part of North America to the British, who soon made it part of Quebec.  This action was one of the causes of the American Revolutionary War.  During the war both Cahokia and Kaskaskia were sites of pivotal battles.  In 1783, Britain surrendered the Northwest Territory, which included Illinois.  In 1809 Illinois became a separate territory.  About this time the settlement of northern Illinois began, centered around Ft. Dearborn on Lake Michigan.
In 1818 Illinois was admitted as the 21st state of the Union.  Kaskaskia was named as its first state capital. This later moved to Vandalia in 1820 to encourage growth in Illinois’ interior.  The capital was later (1837) moved to its present day location of Springfield.  The city of Chicago was incorporated in March, 1837 on the site of  Ft. Dearborn.  By 1850 it was Illinois’ largest city with a population above 5,000.  Chicago became the leading industrial center of the former Northwest Territories.
The Civil War began in 1861 with most of the state supporting the Union.  Illinois sent more than a quarter of a million young men to serve with the Union army.  Among those were General Ulysses S. Grant.  In 1865, after the war’s end, Illinois became the first state to ratify the 13th Amendment to outlaw slavery.
In the years of the Reclamation, Illinois has seen many immigrants from other countries.  Most notable are the Irish, Italians and Poles.  Many ethnic neighborhoods have sprouted up all over Chicago and in some of the down-state areas as well.
The effects of  the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 can still be seen to this day, more that twenty years later.  The fire killed 250 people and left nearly 90,000 homeless.  The city was quick to rebuild and surpass its previous size.
Illinois is set, here at the turn of the 19th Century, to become one of the leading industrial and agricultural areas of the Untied States.

Forbidden Lore
As America of the 1890’s expands ever westward, the forces of the Red Death follow.  Minions that are common in Illinois are most types of non-corporeal undead (Ghosts, Spectres, Haunts).  It is known that there is at least one Banshee on Chicago’s south side and two more down-state.  Many graveyards are prone to have ghouls and ghasts lurking around.  Zombies and skeletons, created by powerful necromantic magic, are usually rare.  No vampires or Liches have been recorded.
Lycanthropes, in particular werewolves and foxwomen, are more common down-state.  Other common minions are Will o’wisps.

Ghost March of Southern Illinois
The Civil War pitted brother against brother.  Nowhere was that more strongly felt than in Southern Illinois.  While Illinois was technically a “free” state, many farmers south of Springfield sided more with the sensibilities of the Confederate states.  These farmers’ fields became the sites of some of the bloodiest skirmishes of the war.
At certain times, sometime after midnight, a ghostly army arises from the mists hugging the ground.  This ragged army of undead are all that remains of a Confederate Army troop sent into Illinois at the height of the war.  The ghostly horde appears exactly as can be imagined; skeletal remains, with tatters of rotting flesh and gray uniforms.  Their weapons, long since spent of ammunition, hang in their hands useless, but serve as constant reminders of what has lead them to this fate.  Occasionally one can find a soldier that faired better than his brothers in arms.  He is not as damaged or decayed, but his young innocent face is no less of a horror than the phantasms that surround him.
It is unknown what prompts this ghastly march or what motivates it.

Haunted Cemeteries
Illinois seems to have more than its fair share of haunted cemeteries.  Often these cemeteries are the source of faint apparitions or ghost lights, as in Barrington Cemetery in Barrington, home of the white ghost lights.  Sometimes the activity is more sinister.  Pagan rituals have been seen in cemeteries along the Des Plaines river, northwest of Chicago.  Similar events have happened in cemeteries in Jacksonville, 200 miles to the south.
Hickory Grove in Wrights, south of Springfield, is the final resting place for one unsavory character.  Lying in a small unmarked grave southeast of the cemetery proper lies the body of man who was a doctor and a murderer, hung for the shooting death of a love rival.  It is said that if you stand on his grave you can hear the sounds of a hanging rope swinging in the wind.
In 1841 an unknown man was found hanging in Clement’s Cemetery east of Champaign.  Whether he was the victim of a lynching or a suicide is unknown.  The people removed his body and gave him a proper burial.  Soon after reports came back of the “Blue Man,” a thin wispy ghost of blue that can only be seen in the light of the full moon.
Old Union Cemetery in Dewitt county is considered to be one of the more haunted cemeteries in Illinois.  Its first burial was in 1831.  Located on the stagecoach route between Bloomington and Springfield, Union has become a “favorite” stopping place for the dead.  Like many cemeteries in Illinois reports of ghostly lights
abound.  This place also has areas of extreme cold, even in Illinois’ normally humid summers.  Others have reported feeling sick at certain points.
Also located on a former stagecoach route is Williamsburg Hill, or “Cold Hill,” Cemetery.  When the railroad came, Williamsburg became a ghost town; or rather a town of ghosts.  The cemetery itself is placed on a large, uncharacteristic hill among completely flat farmland.  Among the hundreds of mostly unmarked graves it is said a being wanders.  This spectre is vaguely human in appearance.  It seems to be an electrical field of some sort.  Electricity can be heard crackling in the air around it.  Whether it is a proper ghost or even if was at one time human is unknown.

Haunted Schoolhouse
Bloody Island School in Lime-Kill Hollow was a small one-room school house.  Like hundreds of other schools that dotted the countryside children young and old were sent with pail and slate in hand to learn the “three R’s” from a school marm, but what the children learned here was a lesson in horror.  Two teenage boys, long rivals, stabbed each other to death in front of a dozen screaming children.  Town officials and the kindly young teacher, Miss Daniels, did what they could to clean up the blood of the two dead boys, but try as they might the blood continues to seep up through the floorboards and into the classroom.  The floorboards have been cleaned over and over, and finally replaced, but the blood continues to flow.  Plans are now to close down the school and build a new one.

The Watseka Wonder
Just south of Chicago and west of Indiana lies the sleepy town of Watseka.  Unremarkable, save for what happened one summer of 1877.  Lurancy Vennum fell into a deep coma-like sleep.  When she awoke the 13 year old claimed she could speak with the spirits of the dead.  These episodes began to happen with more frequency and lasted many hours.  During these times Lurancy would speak in different voices and say things that she otherwise would not know of.  When she would awaken she would have no memory of the events.  Her family took Lurancy to best doctors in the state; finally they decided that she was insane and were going to have her committed.
In January of 1878 a man named Asa Roff approached the Vennum family.  He had a story of his daughter, Mary, who had suffered a similar affliction, but had died in Peoria’s State Insane Asylum.  However, Asa believed in his daughter and wanted to save Lurancy from the same fate.  During mesmerism, Lurancy spoke in the voice of Asa’s daughter Mary.
Lurancy then proceeded to speak to Asa about details that only the Roff family would know.  Lurancy (as Mary) lived with the Roffs, with the Vennum’s permission, for three months.  She was able to identify family members and favorite things that only would have been known to the family.
In May, Mary left Lurancy and she asked to be returned home.  She left, bidding everyone in the family goodbye.  She never again experienced any contacts with the spirits, but she would return to see the Roff family on occasion and allow Mary to speak through her.

Haunted Theaters
Murphysboro in Southern Illinois is a quiet town located just a few miles east of the mighty Mississippi River.  This town, known more for its apples and its close proximity to the Shawnee Forest, also has a darker secret: The Ghost of the Liberty Theater.  The Liberty was built at the turn of the century and Emil McCarthy was there.  He started working there as a young boy; cleaning, running the spotlights and other odd jobs.  Sixty years later, Emil was still working odd jobs at the Liberty.  He had developed a drinking problem and a poor attitude over the years, but since he lived in the theater and had such an attachment to the place none of his supervisors had ever fired him.  Any that tried usually met with fatal accidents.  Emil was never suspected; he was usually in a bar or passed out in the city square when the deaths occurred.
When the town decided to tear down the Liberty to put a new theater across town, Emil panicked and seemed to die of a broken heart.  Plans are still underway for the new theater, but people now claim the new site is cursed.  Tools disappear.  Workmen get into accidents.  None have been fatal, but they are increasing in number and magnitude.  All is not quiet at the Liberty either.  Patrons complain of noises, and cold areas.  Management has reported that the curtains will open and close silently on their own.  As the day of the Liberty’s demolition approaches, more incidents are reported.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Dracula: Spellcraft & Swordplay

I think it would be awesome to run a total old school dungeon crawl in Castle Dracula.  Not Castle Ravenloft, with it's puzzles and puns.  Castle Dracula.  It would be a blast.
And what better system to do it with than Spellcaft and Swordplay?

Anytime I stat up a character for S&S I have to ask myself the question, could this guy go toe to toe with Conan?  Sort of like what I did with Red Sonja.

Vlad Dracula
Warrior Vampire Lord

AC: 4
Move: 90'
HD: 15 (54 hp)
Attacks: 2 claws (short sword), 1 bite OR 1 weapon as a 15th level warrior (8 + 6)
Special: Fly 40', Climb 40', Blood Drain, Animal Empathy (Improved; Rats, bats, wolves), Dominate, Spawn (Blood or Energy drain), Energy Drain (bite), Alternate Form (bat, wolf, incorporeal gas, improved), Resist electricity, Immune mundane weapons, Vulnerable sun, fire, holy water (treat as 2d6 acid), +2 to all Con based saves.
Treasure: 9
XP: 2400
S: 24 D: 18 C: 18 I: 15 W: 15 Ch: 17

This incarnation of Dracula is the Transylvanian warlord with vampire powers to make him far more brutal than he ever was in life.  He will be surrounded by an army completely loyal to him, though only human, not vampire.

As per the Vampire, Dracula is immune to sleep, charm and hold spells. He may summon 10-100 rats (5-20 giant rats), 10-100 bats (3-18 giant bats) or 3-18 wolves (2-8 dire wolves). Dracula may shapechange into a large bat or wolf, but his hit points remain unchanged. Dracula may also regenerate 5 hit points per round as long as he has fed.

Friday, April 22, 2011

S is for Strahd

As a follow-up to yesterday's post on Ravenloft, I think I want to share some different takes on Ravenloft's most famous vampire, Count Strahd von Zarovich. Master of Baroivia.

Strahd is an interesting character for D&D, or at least D&D back in those days.  This is pre-Drizzt, pre-Lestat (well, Pre-Lestat popularity) and pre-Vampire the Masquerade.  Strahd was one of the first fully realized monsters as a character.  We were given his stats, his backgrounds, his motivations.  We knew more about him that the characters going through the adventure!

Strahd has been considered one of the greatest D&D villains by more than one source (Topless Robot, Dragon mag in it's final print edition).  I think it is because his story, forbidden love turned to dark obsession, is one that resonates with people.  People always want something they can't or shouldn't have.  Most never go to great lengths to get it, and hopefully none go to the lengths that Strahd did, but you can pick up the paper any day and read about someone that came close.

Motives aside, in D&D before you can kill the monster you need to stat him up.  Thankfully you don't have to be a complete obsessive compulsive type to collect everything ever made for Ravenloft (but it helps) to use Strahd in your games, you can go to Wizard's site where they keep Strahd hidden away for just such occasions.

You can see his original 1st Ed stats here,
His 3.5 stats are here,
and in 4e he is found in Open Grave and is a Level 20 solo skirmisher.

Even looking at these you can see some power creep.  Each edition of the rules he had to be more powerful.  He wasn't just a powerful vampire, he had to be the most powerful vampire in the game.  I think that is a disservice to the character really.  Strahd was about power, but that was not everything he was.

I also stated him up for Ghosts of Albion, where I pictured him being played by Timothy Dalton.

Strahd von Zarovich

Motivation: To escape Ravenloft; to be reunited with his love, Tatyana.
Creature Type: Vampire
Quote: "I am The Ancient. I am The Land"

Attributes: Strength 9, Dexterity 6, Constitution 7, Intelligence 7, Perception 6, Willpower 6
Life Points: 98
Drama Points: 10

Acute Senses
Age 5
Attractiveness +3
Hard to Kill 8
Hypnosis 3
Nerves of Steel 2
Magic 7
Magical Philosophy: Necromancy
Protector of Barovia
Scale Walls
Soldier, Officer (Retired)
Supernatural Form (Bat, Wolf, Mist)

Adversary (all other Darklords, monster hunters, rival vampires, some gypsies) 8
Cruel 3
Home Soil
Honorable 3
Love, Tragic
Natural Barrier (Cant leave Barovia)
Obsession (Tatyana) 6
Obsession (leaving Ravenloft) 6
Secret 2 (many, including a tome of his history; locals think he is human)

Acrobatics 7
Art 2
Computer NA
Crime 7
Doctor 2
Driving 2 (Coaches)
Getting Medieval 7 (Bastard Sword 9)
Gun Fu NA
Influence 6
Knowledge 9 (he has done nothing for the last few centuries but read)
Kung Fu 6
Languages 6, though all are "Ravenloft" languages.
Mr. Fix-It 2, limited to dark ages technology.
Notice 10
Occultism 9
Science 4
Sports 5

Combat Maneuvers

Name Score Damage Notes
Punch 12 18 Bash
Break neck 16 36 Special
Sword 13 36 Slash/stab
Sword, bastard 15 40 Slash/stab
Bite (vampire) 14 22 Must Grapple first; no defense action

Bat 20 -- +8 to Crime when hiding
Bite (bat) 14 8 Slash/stab

Wolf 20 -- Double movement; +3 to Crime at night
Bite (wolf) 14 15 Slash/stab
Claws (wolf) 14 15 Slash/stab

Dodge 13 -- Defense action
Grapple 15 -- Resisted by Dodge

Magic 22/24 Varies By spell

Using the Ghosts of Albion rules, Strahd becomes a Protector of Barovia, with the Drawbcak that he can never leave his lands. I upped his occultism and knowledge, but he is not really an occult scholar, just a very well practiced amateur.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

R is for Ravenloft


This might very well be the best module I have ever played, run or mined for ideas. I remember buying this at my then-FLGS (Waldenbooks remember) and then giving it to my then DM and saying in no uncertain terms "run me in this".   I went through it, nearly died, lost a lot of levels and got my ass handed to me many times by Strahd, but in the end I got out, Sunsword in hand.

Since then I have run it many times.  I will go as far as to say it is one of the few modules I have completely memorized.

Ravenloft was TSR's great experiment.  Take the central monster and make him a fully realized character.  Seems odd to ask to do this now, but back then, that was crazy talk.  Gothic Horror in Heroic Fantasy?  Crazy! But it worked.   Sure, Strahd can be thought of as a poor man's Dracula, but he has since become his own monster.

When I got to college and switched over to 2nd ed Ravenlof became my campaign world.  I had everything. All the boxed sets, all the modules.  Everything.  I never got to run it as much as I wanted too, but it more or less became my defacto world.  I even bought most, if not all, the Ravenloft novels.  Looking back it is amusing to see names like P.N. Elrod, Christie Golden, Tanya Huff and Laurell K.Hamilton among the authors.

For 3rd Edition I did get the Ravenloft books from Sword & Sorcery Studios/White Wolf and expected them to do, well, more with it.  I still enjoyed the books, but I didn't get all obsessive about it like I did before.
I also picked up "Expedition to Castle Ravenloft" too, but was fairly disappointed.

With 4th ed, we now have Ravenloft all over the place.  The Ravenloft board-game (which is awesome), Ravenloft as part of the Shadowfell (which is really cool) and now the Heroes of Shadow book which is full of Ravenloft inspired ideas.

Regardless of the system. Regardless of the world around it though Ravenloft is about adding a bit of darkness to your game.  To take that love of Hammer horror and mix it in with the likes of Conan, Elric, the Grey Mouser and Merlin.

I also played Ravenloft using other systems such as Black Rose, a Ravenloft/True20 mix and even tried doing it under Unisystem a couple of times (WitchCraft works REALLY nice for it, but I also like using Ghosts of Albion).

I'd love to run it for my kids someday.  I am not sure how well it would work under 4e, since it is more of a "mood" module than a combat one.  Maybe a one-shot special using OSRIC or True 20 or even Unisystem would work out.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Last night we stormed Castle Ravenloft

Or at least we did in the board game.

I got the Castle Ravenloft board game for Christmas and I had not played it all yet.  The boys wanted to play some D&D last night (so much so they they were each writing their own adventures when I told them I had nothing ready) but I have something like 65,000 courses to work on before the term starts back up on Monday (out that might be a stretch...48,000).   So we compromised a bit.  I pulled out the Ravenloft Board Game.

I knew we could set up it up and run it in under an hour and my boys love the old "Dungeon" game so I figured what the heck.

We had a great time.

The mere fact that one of the characters is blue colored Dragonborn is enough for my oldest.  I let my youngest use the new elf-archer mini I got for him over the weekend to be the ranger.  I played the Dwarf cleric and we went after the Dracolich.  Since I also have the dracolich mini we used that instead of the non-painted version that came in the box.  The game is D&D4-ish and moves really fast.  Game play is about like Dungeon.  The boys loved that the monsters were random and that combat was fast.  We all liked the "build you own dungeon" feel of it too.

The thing that gets me though...why Ravenloft?  Other than vampires, hags some undead and things like that I see no reason why this had to be set in Castle Ravenloft.  I get the dungeon-crawlyness of it, and I understand the desire to tie it in with a Classic product; but the game could have just as easily been the Tomb of Horrors Board Game or Expedition to the Barrier Peaks Board Game.  Frankly, I could swap out Strahd for Acererak and kept everything else the same (hear that WotC, your next boxed Board Game can be Tomb of Horrors and I want a cut!).   Of course their is obvious reason.  I got this pretty much sight unseen and wanted it largely because it was Ravenloft.  Now that I do have I am much more interested in Wrath of Ashardalon and the Legend of Drizzt one coming out in the Fall.

Yeah, yeah I hear the peanut gallery out there already smirking and saying they thought D&D$ was already a board game...whatever, that argument is old and no longer has any interest to me.  This was more akin to other adventure board games, like Dungeon really.  Plus it was fun.

Looking forward to taking on Strahd sometime soon.  Though I am torn.  If I ever run the original Castle Ravenloft for my boys I don't want the experience to be lack-luster for them.  I mean if they kill Strahd once in the board game, defeating him in his proper element might not have the same weight.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Recycled Adventures

So it is well known that I love the old D&D adventures from the early 80's.  I think they are well done and a lot of fun to play.  I have been playing them with my kids but I have not been able to fit in all the ones I have wanted into our 3.x game.

But I have lots of games.

So here are some of the recycled adventures I have done using other systems and the classic adventures.

Ash vs The Keep on the Borderlands
System: Army of Darkness and Dungeons & Zombies
Module: B2 Keep on the Borderlands

The character get sent back in time to the Keep and need to clean out the Caves of Chaos with a shotgun.

I designed this as a way to play-test Dungeons & Zombies under the Cinematic Unisystem Rules.

Never got to play it all, but the bits I did were a blast.  Characters I created for the game were Xena and Gabrielle (seemed appropriate) and used a version of Indiana Jones I found online.

One day I should run this at a convention.  I think it will be a blast.

The Ghost Tower of Inverness, Illinois
Systems: Doctor Who and Angel.
Module: C2 The Ghost Tower of Inverness

From the intro:
"No one has ever asked why there is a lighthouse between Palatine and Inverness, Illinois.  The closest large body of water is Lake Michigan, over 20 miles away. But it has always been there, quiet.

Till the day the Time Beacon went crazy."

The Ghost Tower of Inverness, IL was an adventure that I had converted for my playtest of Doctor Who.  Outside my town there is a water tower that is painted like a light house.  I thought it would be cool if it were a real lighthouse, but not for ships at sea, but ships in the time stream.  On top was a beacon to warn passer-bys "warning, primitive culture ahead!" Well one day the time beacon goes nuts and start pulling in people from out of their times (an excuse to convert a bunch of Unisystem characters from Ghosts and Angel).  The characters have to go through the tower and shut down the beacon.  Each level of the tower is a different time stream, so I had dinos, Victorian, post-apocalyptic and all sorts of terrible things.  At the top was the control center and the time beacon.  So I converted the original Ghost Tower module and replace the Soul Gem with the Time Beacon.  Part Doctor Who, part Angel, part Ghosts of Albion, part D&D and a dash of Primeval and Torchwood.  It was going to be the first adventure in a new campaign, but I never got it going.  Too bad really.

Ghosts of Albion: Ravenloft
System: Ghosts of Albion
Module: I6 Ravenloft

Ravenloft might be my favorite classic module ever.  Ghosts of Albion is of course my game.  It was natural to me to bring them together.  Ravenloft has that great Gothic feel.  Ghosts of Albion deals with all sorts of magical weirdness, and while it is hard for us today to really understand this, to the Victorians the world was a wild and scary unknown.  Unknown lands were meant to be explored and conquered.  What can be more unknown than Barovia?  Who is to say it is not on the map somewhere in 1840?  Plus you might have noticed that  Ghosts of Albion movies and books all have one word titles, "Legacy", "Astray", "Witchery" and my adventures have followed suit, "Obsession", "Blight", and "Synchronicity".  So "Ghosts of Albion: Ravenloft" also works.
The idea is simple.  The characters are travelling by rail to the east.  Their train suffers some malfunction, and I start the Ravenloft adventure by the book.  I include the mists and Madame Eva and everything.  And that map of Castle Ravenloft is still one of the coolest maps ever made.  One day I'll build a 1" = 5' miniature of it for play.  That would be very awesome.
For this I have bits I am using from the Ravenloft world, WitchCraft RPG and the Expedition to Castle Ravenloft module for 3.x.

I still have more games and more adventures.  I'd like to try some other pairing in the future.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Dracula: AD&D 1st Edition

I have been watching a lot of Dracula movies of late. That has gotten me thinking about how much of a great D&D antagonist Dracula really is.

These differ from my B/X/C stats a bit. Mostly I wrote these many, many years ago.

Count Dracula, AD&D 1st Edition

DRACULA (Vlad Tepes)
ARMOR CLASS: -1 (-4 with dexterity)
MOVE: 12”/18”
HIT DICE: 13 (103 hp)
% IN LAIR: 50%
NO. OF ATTACKS: 2 (by touch or weapon)
SPECIAL ATTACKS: Blood drain*, hypnosis, +4 to hit in combat
SPECIAL DEFENSES: +1 or better weapon to hit
ALIGNMENT: Chaotic evil
Attack/Defense Modes: B,C/J
S: 19 D: 17 I: 17 C: 19 W: 17 CH: 17

*Dracula drains blood at the rate of 2 CON points per attack. He must succesfully attach to the neck of his victim and drain them of blood. His touch does not drain energy levels.

Getting Dracula to your AD&D world should not really be a problem. There are the Mists of Ravenloft, various Gate spells and even the Psionic Discipline Probability Travel. The how is not as important as the why. Why would you want to bring the King of Vampires to your world?

Long ago when playing AD&D 2nd Ed in college I ran an adventure where an Atlantean Mage summoned Dracula and was promptly killed.  Dracula the began his killing spree anew.

I am always looking for reasons to bring him back.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Black Rose, Replies

It's reader participation day at The Other Side.  Here are some replies to my "Black Rose" posts.

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!

Greg: I agree. Aldea is the last bastion of light in an otherwise dark world.  But more importantly to the plot it is something for the characters to fight for, as opposed to fighting against the darkness.  Of course I like the idea of the Dark Lord haunting her dreams.  It can easily be anyone, but the best choice is obviously Strahd.

seaofstarsrpg 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

Agreed.  In order to do this well there would need to be a slow build up of darkness. Punctuated by increasingly dark dreams and nightmares.  There is so much that can be done with this.

 Ka-Blog! 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..
Yes.  Though in most cases I do not want them to fight the Dark Lord of the land, instead maybe figure out how to undermine their power.   In some cases I would want them to "free" the land's Dark Lord, to find out what is the source of the evil and stop it.  Thus freeing the lord to go on to whatever afterlife awaits them while their lands slowly dissolve back into the mists.  I want this to be more of a thinking game than a fighting one.  Not that there won't be fighting. There will.  The big issues are going to need a different tactic.
Like Rhonin said above, Aldea would be a "safe haven" for the PCs, but the mists might not always let them return.

 P. S. 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.

I never had the problems others did with Blue Rose.  I always felt it was like a dreamscape setting.  Yes there was this too-good-to-be-true kingdom with modern sensibilities and an extremely accepting culture.  But everything around them was dark and sinister.  They thing is that is a perfect backdrop for a Ravenloft game.  I am not wanting to do "Grim Dark Blue Rose", I am keeping pretty much everything in Blue Rose intact and I want characters to explore interpersonal relationships.  I want loves and loss and love again.  I think that this is an important part of what makes Blue Rose a good game.  Ravenloft though gives me something else and something that is not wholly incompatible with Blue Rose.  The Dreamscape is still there, but now it is tainted, a blacker on the edges.  This is done to make "Blue Rose" parts of the game shine even more.
The fictional tradition behind Blue Rose is struggling to discover yourself in the world and your own inner strength.  The tradition behind Black Rose would be struggling to discover yourself in the world, beset by horrors, and your own inner strength to defeat them.

BlUsKrEEm said...

I'm very impressed with how well thought out the setting / rules for this idea are. I would play or run this in a heart beat (if my player would give it a chance that is.) Thanks for sharing.
Thanks,  It is something I have been thinking about pretty much ever since I picked up Blue Rose years ago.  I never liked the feel of the d20 mechanics for Modern games, and True 20 seemed to be a better fit.  Likewise I was not thrilled with the d20 Ravenloft, though I did enjoy both Ravenloft and D&D 3 a lot.  True 20 (and Unisystem for that matter) seemed to be a better fit for the kinds of things I wanted to do in Ravenloft.  Same with Blue Rose.

Thaumiel Nerub said...

Idea is good. I personally think, that Blue Rose is way too cheesy for me. Adding a bit "black" to the palette would suit me well. You could concider also characters. They must aswell melt in the world. Otherwise it's just this background story where heroes do their job. Character's must also represent this "Black Rose" theme. Character's aren't necessarily those knights in shining armors or they even could be, but in every character there must be something tragic. Sounds a bit emo, but well, goth is that. Dark secrets, revenge, lust, depression.
I think that usually in fantasy games character's biggest goal is to "win" the plot GM gives for players like killing the evil dude or something. But even if in this Black Rose setting there is that "big evil", I think you could get more out of it, if there is also personal problems within characters. Some might be touched by darkness what is infecting him slowly and he is hiding it realising, he would be Shadowspawn soon (no cure, or it wouldn't be tragic). Knight who was not betrayed but was betrayer himself. Wizard who is eager for power, and knows the best mojo is in evil magic.
They all are heroes, they save the world, but in the same time they are tragic characters and the line between good and evil is thin.
Again, I liked Blue Rose from the start, but I do see why others didn't.
You are correct about the characters.  But I think instead of darkness, the characters need to harbor that self-doubt and humility that is often absent from characters.  Yes it does tend to skew things towards Emo, but I am not trying to play a game full of self-doubts and dark personal secrets.  Characters should be more fully flushed out than a "barbarian, and I hit things".   For example a member of the Royal Guard trying to live up to her father's expectations.  Or a witch, pretending to be something else so she is not discovered practicing "foul" magics, even though she is Light aligned.

I think the take away from all of this is players in a Black Rose game would need to spend quite a bit of time thinking about who their characters are, what are their hopes and fears, and then ask the important question of "when the Queen calls on you to fight the darkness how will you respond?"

The other half of this though is also finding players that would want to play this style of game.  My kids are too young really to do this now and my semi-regular group might not find this all that interesting.  Plus we get a full amount of horror RPGing in with our Ghosts of Albion games.

Maybe I should try it as a one-shot someday.  Or use it as a prototype for some other games I have in mind.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Black Rose, Part 4

What sort of stories do we tell in a this mash-up of Romantic Fantasy and Gothic Horror?

Well lets start with the obvious.  Evil is out there and it needs to be stopped.  In the Gothic Horror tradition, the evil is always more powerful than the heroes and rarely if ever fully stopped.  Black Rose would to follow suit. The evil is out there and it must be stopped (because that is what heroes do) even if the odds are stacked against them.

In Romantic Fantasy and in Blue Rose in particular, we expect there to be more character driven plots than monster of the week ones.  Not to say we can't do both, but the plot must be focused on defeating the "Evil", whatever it might be, but at the same time growing the characters.

So what are the games about then?

I could start with the death or injury of the Golden Hart.  This is the catalyst that brings the characters together.  I think more so than any other game I would want the players to spend a lot of time telling me who their characters are and what they want.  Riches and Glory are fine for most D&D games, but for Black Rose, I think there needs to be something more.

I would then spend some time slowly building up the lpot elements.  Have encounters with the Vistani/Roamers, or even a run in with a wrongly accused Night Person/Caliban/Half-Orc.  Yeah that is a little cliched I know, but I think there is value in going over some of these tropes that make up the game.

Of course plenty of undead for the characters to fight, though not names dead.  In Ravenloft back in the 2e days the authors really took the time to, pardon the pun, flesh out the monsters.  A wight was not simply a monster from a barrow, it was an ancient warrior that was once a human and some of that human might remain.  Vampires are not just high level threats (they are)  but also characters in their own right.  Blue Rose/True 20 supports this type of play since all monsters are built as characters more or less.

So what is the ultimate goal?
"Defeat evil" is too vague to build a campaign on.  I think the first step is to find out who tried to kill the Hart and find out way the land is creeping into darkness.  These are related of course.  The ultimate goal then is to discover that the Dark Lord Sayvin is not dead (sort of) and behind all of this.  To do this there would need to be a lot of exploring of the lands to gather information.  The heroes would be the lone bringers of light and justice in a world creeping into darkness.  Sounds like it has a cool 70's genre vibe to it.

In Ravenloft there is no chance the heroes could defeat a Dark Lord.  In Black Rose though, I might let them. Or at least Sayvin.  But they can't do it with combat alone, given the feel of Blue Rose, there needs to be something more.  Something that the characters have to do to show growth and ultimate sacrifice for what they believe is right.   Not sure how to do that one yet that doesn't involve railroading the players.

If it works it would make for a great campaign only game, where after defeating the Dark Lord Aldea is pulled back into the light.  I think that is a good ending.  It's not a fairy tale one, the Queen is still a widow and the deaths that happened are just as real as before.

I think one thing is obvious.  I would have to include Strahd.  I would also like to see Azalin, Harkon Lukas and some of the other Dark Lords.  I would avoid the ones that are too far removed from the Quasi- Renaissance Europe.  I would also have to figure out how the weakening of the barriers keeping them in their own lands would work out.  Some of these Dark Lords hate each other more than anything.  That is a good place to put the heroes in between.  Maybe it is the presence of Aldea that is weakening the laws of Raftenloft.  Sayvin did not complete the ritual 100% (and he is still trying) so Aldea was not pulled all the way into Ravenloft.  That has the borders of the lands become weaker and maybe the Dark Lords want to use that as a means out.  Certainly Azalin would.  Strahd is more concerned with finding his Tatyana, so maybe this freedom is something he is only using to get to her.  All the time Sayvin is making attempts on the Queen's life, but only during the night when he is active.

Lots of potential here I think.

I picked up Troll Lords Tainted Lands in hopes that it might give me some ideas.  But they seemed to have taken Ravenloft and ran in the opposite direction than I want to go.  Too bad really.  But I think there are still some ideas I can use here.

Now to find a group that would want to play this.