Ravenloft TriumphantRavenloft has a special place in many players' hearts who grew up playing Advanced Dungeons & Dragons in the 80s, including geek journalist David Ewalt. He noticed something interesting:
The possible clue appears 17 seconds into the teaser trailer, when we see a pile of papers that presumably belong to one of the show's adolescent heroes. The shot is dominated by a creepy drawing of a massive, multi-limbed or multi-tentacled monster. But that's not all that's interesting about this shot. Take a look in the upper right-hand corner of the screen. The pile of papers appear to rest upon a book of some kind with a distinctive design running across the top of the page.
That design is from the classic 1983 AD&D adventure, I6: Ravenloft. This is the adventure that retold the Dracula myth through the lens of D&D and brought gothic horror to the game in force – it was also the debut of Count Strahd Von Zarovich. Ravenloft became so popular that it launched its own campaign setting and a series of supplements that spans tabletop, video and board games.
Given that Stranger Things returns on Halloween, the setting is certainly an appropriate one. How Ravenloft will be expressed in the setting is anybody’s guess. That’s not the only mystery.
A Thessal-What?A huge multi-limbed monster is shown in both drawings and in sharp relief in the trailer. Does it have an equivalent in D&D? There’s no direct parallel, but given the diversity of monsters in Dungeons & Dragons there are a few possibilities. Ewalt gives us some theories:
I wouldn't expect characters and locations from the game to literally appear in the series, but maybe there are similar elements, like a toxic fog surrounding the town, or a creature that feeds on the life force of its citizens. Or maybe the young heroes have to gather magical weapons in order to defeat the villain.
Just as Demogorgon was used as inspiration to create an “upside-down world” monster, it’s possible that another D&D critter is inspiration for the beast. Poptart92 postulated on Reddit that the thessalhydra might be season 2’s inspiration (SPOILERS BELOW FOR SEASON ONE):
So after a bit or research I found that the Thessalhydra is one of the family of Thessalmonsters, which are basically hybrid monsters…I found that a Thessalhydra has 8 heads, and that the only way to kill the beast is by removing all 8. of you remove only one, two, or even seven, the monster will simply grow back two heads in the place of each missing head. now remember when the boys beat the thessalhydra in their D&D game, and Mike says "you cut off the Thessalhydra's seven heads, and place them in Dustin's bag of holding." they only cut off seven heads. I believe this is hinting at the possibility that even though they seemingly got rid of the monster, the fact that there are potential monster babies growing inside Will may mean that there will just be an all new, stronger (possibly hybrid) monster, as the metaphorical Thessalhydra simply regrows twice the number of its metaphorical heads.
As Ewalt mentioned, it seems unlikely that a creature drawn directly from Ravenloft would make an appearance. But there is another monster in the Ravenloft adventure that might be inspiration for the giant thing we see in the trailer.
Will The Real Giant Monster Please Stand Up?Ravenloft is about personal, gothic horror, not giant monsters, but there is one creature that might fit the bill: the Guardian of Sorrow. The Guardian of Sorrow is an actual tower, capable of animating the many polearms (limbs?) within it to attack adventurers. The only means the heroes can defeat the Guardian is to destroy a pulsing red glass heart at the top of the tower.
Could the Guardian be the inspiration for the multi-limbed monster we see in the trailer? We’ll have to wait until Halloween to find out.
Mike "Talien" Tresca is a freelance game columnist, author, and communicator. You can follow him on Patreon.