Monday, October 26, 2015

Ravenloft for Halloween

Halloween is coming once again, and this year I finally got to DM the legendary I6 Ravenloft module, the one that started it all.

At first I wanted to run it using the original 1st edition rules, but I've never played that edition and for time-frame reasons (too much to read and learn) I've decided to go with 5th edition, which is the edition we're currently playing. I also wanted to play it as a 1-shoot since we're currently in the middle of another campaign. But some of the players begin to ask when we'll be starting it, and because I've been wanting to run this classic a good 10+ years ago, I've decided to savor the pleasure of having Strahd play cat and mouse with the helpless PCs for more than one session.

And indeed I'm savoring it. Castle Ravenloft it's a beauty and the myriad of paths the players can take makes it really alive. Also the Fortunes of Ravenloft add an extra level of excitement to the gaming sessions (not to mention the re-play value).

On top of that, I'm using ambient music and sound effects! Right now in using the DMDJ app from Blueface Games. One of the player's was so into it, that when they got to the gypsy camp and I said they see and hear people playing gypsy music, he turned to me and said "play the music then, on your phone".

Another thing I'm doing (although my player's haven't realized that yet) is that I'm involving the player's in a more direct way to the adventure.
I got the idea from a post by Mike Shea in, but instead of using the random Fiasco-style relationship generator, I thought of some ways to tie my players even though I didn't know what characters they were making (after all they are my group and I know their general character preferences).
Two of my players were going to play, for sure, a female character. So this was the first big change, instead of using Ireena as the reincarnation of Tatyana (Strahd's tragic love) I was going to use one of the female characters. I just needed to wait and see which fitted more. Turns out one was an elf and the other a human, so the logical choice was the human. I can't wait for the moment when they get into the room with Tatyana's painting and see she looks just like the cleric of the party.
And this is the kind of ties I used to connect the characters to the adventure in a more intimate way. I present them here as a list:
  • One of the characters is the reincarnation of Tatyana.
  • One of the characters is the reincarnation of Sergei.
  • One of the characters is the fiancĂ© of noble girl Ireena.
  • One of the characters has been send by his religious order to retrieve a holy artifact from Castle Ravenloft (the Holy Symbol of Ravenkind).
  • One of the character's is a disciple of Dr. Rudolph van Richten, and is sent by his teacher to find and ancient book that has vital information about the terrible vampyr creatures (Tome of Strahd).
  • One of the characters has a heirloom passed to him by his father, a sword of no special properties, apparently (the Sun Sword).
  • One of the characters has a black opal medallion, a gift from his mother. The missing peace for Strahd's evil artifact (in case this is his goal). 
Now remember, I didn't make them roll for this, I hand-picked them according to the most fitting characters. In my current game it was like this: there are only two human characters, male and female, so they are the reincarnations of Tatyana and Sergei, no-brainer. A noble half-elf is the one betrothed to Ireena, although he's only met her once when they were kids (as nobles their marriage is an arranged one). The dwarf cleric of acolyte background actually has the bond "I would die to recover an ancient relic of my faith that was lost long ago." and I didn't even knew it when I told him his order sent him looking for an ancient artefact! The half-elf warlock was the perfect choice for the van Richten's disciple, his player is all about secret dark stuff, so he chuckled in joy when I told him he was looking for the ancient tome. A half-elf paladin is the one holding the heirloom sword, and I'm actually planning on switching the original Sun Blade from to a Holy Avenger! And finally, the half-elf fighter holds the black opal jewelry, a souvenir of her long dead mother.

I must admit, it's been a while since I saw my player's so excited, they didn't want to stop playing, and one of them told me he can't wait for the next session. All of this gets me all excited too.

And because of that, I worked on this battle map of the Ravenloft Catacombs for print and use with our minis. And as a treat for Halloween I share it with you guys so you may print it too! Happy Halloween!

You can dowload the full-res file here.

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