Revisiting Old Modules

This is a thread for running old modules and sharing about the experience. These can be old favorites, classics you've never tried before, or modules you are running purely to explore the history of the hobby.

I recently started running the Book of Crypts anthology adventure for Ravenloft using 2E AD&D. We just finished the first adventure last week, Bride of Mordenheim. This week is Blood in Moondale. We will be running an adventure from it each week, in order. I used to run adventures from this book all the time in the 90s. Bride of Mordenheim was my go to intro to ravenloft adventure (it's not designed for level 1 characters but it isn't particularly combat focused so you can easily do so, and it gives you much of what Ravenloft is about in a single evening). There were a few other adventures in the book I liked to run when I had new players. But it has been so long since I ran it. Here are some of my thoughts on Bride of Mordenheim and revisiting the book:

1) It is loaded with atmosphere. I tend to put less of a premium on atmosphere these days (just my style of gaming has changed). But it was nice going back and feeling immersed in the mood as a GM. It also opens with a nice, somewhat dreamlike quality.

2) Bride of Mordenheim is the perfect tone. It basically invokes the name of one of the most interesting and campy horror films (I love Bride of Frankenstein), and I think that is a good thing. But the camp actually adds to the horror. Mordenheim is a character who you immediately get as a GM and is so much fun to play.

3) Very different time in terms of how adventures were written. Its the period where I first started GMing (I started running games when the Ravenloft black boxed set came out, and Ravenloft was my first campaign as a GM).

4) The adventure is very structured around expected beats. I.e. The players go to the mansion, go through the front door, go up the stairs, and meet Mordenheim, then stay for the night, etc. It is easy to adapt as the players do different things, but I also think this would throw off some GMs. For this particular adventure, I don't mind the linear structure as I see it as an introduction to both the setting and the anthology. When it does present deviations from this expectation it is normally in the form of a binary: if A, if B. So there are forks in the adventure that can hinge on player choice or on the dice.

5) This was normal for the time, but there are moments that would be very heavy handed for players and GMs today. For example there is a point in the adventure when something must happen no matter what the players do to prevent it (the whole thing isn't like this, but there are moments like it):


7) I forgot how much I loved the anthology concept for adventure models. They can be bad if you buy a whole book and only like 1 or 2 of the adventures, but when done well they can be a nice presentation of the system or setting.

8) Book of Crypts has a couple of setting oddities that were pretty common in the early 90s. There was always a question of how much of the games gaminess exists in the setting for the characters (the Dark Elf trilogy for instance has a scene where a person tells Drizzt 'You know what you are, you're a range' (paraphrasing) and it is meant as a deep moment of insight for his character, because Drizzt didn't know that about himself, but by the logic of the game and setting, it was something true about his nature or skillset. And I recall that coming off very weird (and personally I enjoyed the Dark Elf trilogy, it was just something you saw in D&D books and modules at that time on occasion). This module has that when a character says she is aligned with herself 'and all that is lawful' while asking the players, essentially, what their alignments are (this is done to highlight that you can't detect evil in Ravenloft, so it made sense from a design standpoint, but it feels weird having an NPC talk that way). There is another moment later in the book where a character says "Welcome to Ravenloft". Which doesn't make sense because that isn't the name the inhabitants use for the place (this I don't think was pinned down exactly by the time book of crypts came out: there is a period of Ravenloft finding its footing with that stuff (similar to how the Van Richten books eventually clearly separated text written in Van Richten's voice from text discussing game mechanics, but in the first one, the guide to vampires, Van Richten talks about mechanics----at least in the original printings as I recall).

9) It has been a bit since I ran 2E (did it again a while back for another Ravenloft campaign). I forgot how involved some of the mechanics get. Definitely needs a thorough re-read before running. I'm also going off the mid-90s revised books which is throwing me off (I always used to run it with the PHB and DMG from 1989).

Overall I am enjoying going back to this stuff. I'm running everything as written right now so my players can get a sense of the history of the material (I'm doing this both as a lead up to halloween but also to give them a window into what the hobby was like at the time Ravenloft first came out). In the future if I run it again, I will adapt it more and rework some of the stuff.

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With Ravenloft especially, I think that the shorter adventures and mini-adventures work so well because it's much easier to maintain atmosphere and narrative focus for shorter arcs. Don't get me wrong, I6 and Curse of Strahd are great and all, but there are plenty of gems in the shorter works (see also Night of the Walking Dead, an adventure I've been thinking about running, updating to 5e and its presentation of Souragne).

With Ravenloft especially, I think that the shorter adventures and mini-adventures work so well because it's much easier to maintain atmosphere and narrative focus for shorter arcs. Don't get me wrong, I6 and Curse of Strahd are great and all, but there are plenty of gems in the shorter works (see also Night of the Walking Dead, an adventure I've been thinking about running, updating to 5e and its presentation of Souragne).

Night of the Walking Dead was one of my favorites to run

(Spoilers ahead)

I ran the second adventure, Blood in Moondale, last night. This one was very interesting to go back to. I had fond memories of it, but recall taking liberties with it in the 90s. Running it again, this time strictly as written, I can see why I would have done so. Presently running it with 3 level 5 characters (a thief, priest and fighter).

Overall I love the tone. If Bride of Mordenheim invoked the classic camp of Bride of Frankenstein, this one got into the camp of monster rallies. But it also was clearly drawing on movies like The Howling. It is a werewolf adventure but features a vampire who can come into conflict with the werewolf, the PCs or both.

And it isn't just campy. It is properly scary at times. It does do a good job of putting the PCs in a situation where they are faced with a lethal foe, but discover another possible threat (and they know what they enemy is capable of because they've been investigating his murders).

The premise is pretty simple: the players are part of a militia, and are with a brute squad dealing with a local werewolf outbreak led by Captain Rapacion (and two other NPCs: Eldon and Ravewood). They get snowed in in a small village called Moondale and are trapped there as the werewolf kills locals. They discover that the werewolf is their captain, who is a loup-garou. They also learn that the innkeeper is a Nosferatu vampire who is living strictly off animal blood because he detests his condition (it is set up so he can join in the final fight against Captain Rapacion).

One thing that is very clear so far, these adventures all serve key functions. Bride of Mordenheim is an introduction and in particular an introduction to the Horror Check. This adventure is about using two of the new monsters provided in the Realm of Terror Boxed Set: The Loup-Garou and the Nosferatu Vampire.

The structure is a bit too linear, even for this time I would say. It is very tightly woven so that there are a number of scenes that the module plans for in advance and there is just so much to remember that it makes the module a little difficult to run (I read it twice, once the day before running, and once the day of, then a quick skim right before as well). I didn't mess it up, but it was a little more stressful to remember all the floating details than Bride of Mordenheim.

The scenes themselves are all well done. I think the problem with it is largely that the boxed text glosses through a lot of decision points to lead the players to the scenes it wants. I think you can see the module itself as just one possible way events could pan out, and run it more freeform, and that would work fine. But the boxed text makes that hard because it will describe things happening over a period of time where players would normally be able to chime in and say what they do (and I think it may even make many decisions for them).

The adventure became a lot more enjoyable when the players forced it off the path and there was no going back to it. Then I just had to adapt, run the NPCs, and let the players decide what they wanted to do and how. They came up with a pretty clever method for determining the werewolf's identity (which killed two birds with one stone because it also revealed the presence of a vampire). That is what shifted the adventure off course, and that is when things got very enjoyable (at least that is how it appeared on my side of the screen: I haven't done a post session discussion with the players because we had to stop right before they were going to confront the vampire).

While the structure might be a little confining for someone running the game now, it is a really good adventure because it has a number of useful elements to it. The characters are all solid for this type of horror. And so long as you know the NPCs, situation, etc, then you can run it pretty free form and it works. You can also draw on the scenes as things that crop up naturally (for example, if you know the werewolf is going to kill someone that night, you can use one of the scenes as a starting point for that event). You can also weave them in where it makes sense. I found it easiest to just focus on the PCs and NPCs towards the end.

This is an example of a typical scene in the adventure:


It is also odd because it is set in a village called Moondale, but no map is provided of the village. There is also no regional map (it isn't clear what the region is, though I think in later products this was set on the island of Liffe). This actually works well and it is something I remember about my 2E days with Ravenloft where what was happening was often more important than the specific details of the place. I used maps, but not every town or location was mapped out in advance. And while running Blood in Mondale, I found not having a map of Mondale to be a plus, not a minus.

I mostly have very fond memories of this module. I found myself a bit disappointed initially running it this time around, because it felt overly structured. However once things opened up, I really quite enjoyed it.

I love werewolf adventures and I love flesh golem adventures. Blood in Moondale is good to have if you are a fan of werewolves (Feast of Goblyns is my goto werewolf module, but this one I drew on a lot as well).

Blood in Moondale also is an adventure that I picked up a bad habit from in my early GMing days. It isn't the fault of the module, I just loved how Captain Rapacion was secretly the werewolf and remember having a number of vampire hunter allies who turned out to be vampire's themselves. Basically I liked the concept too much and overplayed it.

Looking forward to how things end for the party on this one. Will post about the Dark Minstrel next (going to put these thoughts all together on my blog as well)


Against the Cult of the Reptile God regularly comes up as the first recommendation for old AD&D adventures and I've run it twice. And it really does hold up. It's a good adventure. And that in a merket in which nearly all adventures are pretty terrible.

It's not immediately accessible and I had to read the whole thing twice over several years before I felt like running it, and a third time to actually really understand how it works. But the second time I ran it closer to the source, it worked really amazingly.
The secret cult hidden in the town works quite well, but I think the actual reptile lair could really use a stronger cult presence. That's where I want to to see the madmen in robes and the sacrifices on altars and such. The lair is fine as a dungeon, but it could need some dressing up as a temple instead of just being a muddy hole in the ground.
The big flaw with the adventure is that as written it wants to be an adventure for 1st level characters but insists on a boss monster that's way too strong for a first level party, and tries to solve this issue with the worst way possible in the form of a powerful NPC wizard to get the coals out of the fire for the players. Make the adventure for a higher level party or make the big monster weaker, or really anything but that.
I also think that the journey from the town to the lair could be expanded upon, but that's not really something necessary to make the other parts work.

Against the Cult of the Reptile God doesn't make it on the typical list of most famous D&D adventures. But in discussions by people who actually know a lot of old adventures and have experiences with them, it regularly makes the top of the list.
Unlike many other old adventures, it does have a plot. And unlike newer adventures, it's not a railroad. It doesn't have a set of scripted scenes that have an order to them. All the structure there is is that the players have to learn the information about where the strange events in town originate. Going there to kill the big beasty is assumed, but there's not really anything that requires it.
The main issue I had with it was that the last time I ran it was my first adventure running D&D 5th edition and those rules make it trivial to take prisoners. And the adventure doesn't really consider the possibility that the PCs will capture the first cultist that attacks them and question him about what's going on and where his friends are. That is something a GM running this should really think about in advance.


One adventure Id consider converting to 5E and running as a one-shot is Undermountain: Stardock. I ran it when it came out and we had a lot of fun, we even killed Ronnie James Dio. The back story is that one day while we were playing someone made a joke about some musician ICR exactly but this lead to me every so often having the PCs randomly stumble onto confused musicians that found themselves mysterious in the Forgotten Reams. The players always made quick work of them. This particular time the players came to the portal in the crystal maze that led to Stardock. I asked them what order they were going through. The final player said "Im the Last in Line". As they came out the other side, they came face to face with a bewildered RJD. One player immediately made a called shot to chop his head off and rolls a natural 20. So long Dio, no more rocking for you. I might have to pull that adventure out again soon.


This thread isn't in a D&D group, so I'm working on running Land of the Free which is a Cyberpunk 2020 "mega-adventure" from 1994. The current edition of Cyberpunk, Cyberpunk Red, is different enough that I can't just adapt everything on a one-to-one basis. Red advanced the time from 2020 to 2045, and there have been a few changes to the world since then. The biggest one I think is that Netrunners no longer exist in the same form they did in 2020 because the net as we knew it no longer exists. As a result, Netrunners can't just sit at home on their butts while everyone else is doing something else. Even better, Netrunning no longer takes an inordinate amount of time which usually left the other players bored with nothing to do during those scenes.

As far as the setting is concerned, I don't need to do a lot of adapting the adventure. The corporations in Red aren't as powerful as they were in 2020, but they're plenty powerful enough to be a thorn in the PC's sides.

Voidrunner's Codex

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