DDAL Running DDAL04 (Ravenloft) Adventures as a Campaign

jayoungr

Legend
Supporter
Problems with "The Broken One" (DDAL04-08)

The timeline up to this point has been vague. DDAL04-02 ("The Beast") seems to take place in early winter, as the fur trappers are still out but a winter storm is on the way. After that, the aventures just take place "in winter" (although sometimes the authors forget this and write as if it's summer). Now suddenly the intro tells us that winter has "refused to yield to spring" (page 7), as if it's already the end of the season, and then two pages later, the burgomaster is worried about feeding the village for "the rest of winter" (page 9).

This is the first adventure in which Scartia Krutz plays a major role, but notes on roleplaying her are in DDAL04-11, "The Donjon."

The description on page 12 says that Luca's house smells like rotting meat. However, the sheep skulls that have been placed there are fresh and should have had no time to rot. Even if Eugen added some older ones, they would most likely have been stored outdoors in the cold. I would replace this description with something like "It smells like a butcher shop in here."

The "Development" paragraph at the end of page 14 says that Scartia Krutz realizes Eugen Adi is on the rampage when she finds "the head of an unfortunate villager." The read-aloud text on page 15 says she shows up carrying "the tattered, bloody body of a child."

In the stat block for Eugen Adi on page 22, the trait "Ravenous Curse" says, "Luca's power comes from the curse he bears."

On page 24, the "Stones" attack for the Mob of Villagers lists the damage as 1d4 with an average of 10. This should be 4d4, or possibly 5d4.

Also on page 24, the stat blocks for the Militiaman and Scartia Krutz have skills in Animal Handling and Survival, which appear to be copied from Luca Barbu's stat block.
 
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jayoungr

Legend
Supporter
DDAL04-07 "The Innocent" & DDAL04-11 "The Donjon"

Both of these adventures had some really great, flavorful stuff in them but were (IMVHO) frustratingly marred by having the displaced-Forgotten-Realms story elements shoehorned in. "The Innocent" has at its heart one of those stories of family tragedy that underpin the best adventures in this series. But the villain is lackluster (he doesn't even have a name!), the orcish archeological dig has no purpose except to say "Hey, there are orcs here," and the half-dragon-half-troll ghost is a serious WTF plot element unless the players happen to have played "Raiders of the Twilight Marsh" (DDEX1-12). And even if they have, it's still pretty random. "The Donjon," on the other hand, has a wonderfully creepy journey through the swamp (the screaming statues are simply great) and a nicely atmospheric if perhaps a little overlong dungeon crawl. But it all revolves around rescuing the leader of a random orc tribe from the Forgotten Realms and doesn't connect to Barovia much at all. So I tried to take the best bits of both adventures and turn them into one really good one. I would say I had mixed success; there are definitely things I would do differently if I were to run this again.

"The Innocent" shows signs of being substantially rewritten from its first version. The NPC summary on page 24 hints at a different, and more interesting, dynamic between Regold, Benedek, Sari, and the Visitor from what is in the finished adventure. Regold, Sari, and Benedek were in a love triangle.* The Visitor also became infatuated with Sari and deceived Regold into murdering Benedek in a jealous rage, but Regold also killed Sari as well (accidentally?). The Visitor then intended to sacrifice Regold in order to resurrect Sari. This is good, juicy stuff, but there's no room for the ghost and the gloves, so presumably it had to be rewritten to work in those plot elements. I tried to restore some of the original storyline by bringing back the love triangle (see the opening scene I added to "The Broken One," for example).

Broadly, the way I combined the adventures was this: I took the opening scenario of "The Innocent" and followed it as far as when the characters enter the Glumpen Swamp. The journey then continues with some selected encounters from the swamp journey in "The Donjon," bringing the PCs to the Tower of the Chained Man and the first level of the maze beneath. That leads to the "Vault of the Royal Dead" section of "The Innocent," where the final showdown takes place. Since both underground areas have a serpent theme, they tie together nicely.

The toughest part was getting the adventure started. Since I had a brain lapse and neglected to give the main villain much buildup in the previous adventure, I opted to use Sergenna Bogarav, since I had already decided to expand her role in the later part of the series. I had her come into town to warn the PCs that she had just done a Tarokka reading, trying to determine the whereabouts of the vampire who had bitten Lela Moslavaric. The cards told her that there was a charlatan posing as a holy man, and that he was a danger to the innocent.

I thought that would get the PCs looking for Father Onegin and planned for them to find some more clues in his room at the burgomaster's house, but again I bobbled the exposition and they ended up going straight to the forest without getting any of the background info.

*ETA: Or at least, that's one way to read the reference to Regold being "jealous."
 
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jayoungr

Legend
Supporter
Further Notes on DDAL04-07 "The Innocent" & DDAL04-11 "The Donjon"

I actually reached out to the author of "The Innocent" to see if he had any memories to share about the original story. He said that he knew it had gone through substantial rewrites, but he didn't remember much about the original version. He did tell me that the Visitor's name was originally Oblique.

The Bloody Shrine

In my reworking of this story, I introduced a cult of Merrshaulk in place of the transplanted Yuan-ti. The creatures who attacked the PCs at the shrine were cultists who had become supernaturally tough (i.e., they had the same statblocks as the trolls from the original). They wore necklaces of snake fangs as a clue to their identity. I also finally worked in the story of how the original Lady Falinescu was said to be a devotee of the cult, and how her first child, Gyorgi, was whispered to be truly the son of the cult leader.

Making Onegin/Oblique a vampire also helped to explain why Sari and Benedek willingly followed him to this spooky old shrine in the middle of the forest.

Fortunately, my players didn't dig too deeply into the mystery about Sari's gloves, as that part of the story is not really explained. If they had, I think I would say that the physical gloves could not be delivered as long as her ghost was clinging to the spirit gloves. I did make a point of mentioning that her ghost was wearing the gloves, even though they weren't on her body. (It makes sense that she'd need to take the gloves off so Benedek could put the ring on her finger too.) I left out the part about the PCs' gloves being targeted, though, since that doesn't fit with the explanation.

The Sunken Caravan

I kept the encounter with Șomoiog and made him a member of the Moslavaric clan who was searching for the vampire who had turned Lela. If I were running this again, I'd have introduced him earlier, during "The Seer." Șomoiog accompanied the PCs for the rest of the adventure to provide some extra fighting power against the Visitor. I used the stats of a Veteran for him.

The Leech River

Next the players encountered the dead fisherman from "The Donjon"-- only he was an undead fisherman in this case. I think I used the stats of a vampire spawn, which was a pretty tough fight for players at this level. They were still able to take his hip boots after defeating him.

The Black Flowers

The PCs passed by the mound of black flowers as described in "The Donjon" and had a short conversation with Karl Ogbad, the grave keeper. It is the tomb of Gyorgi Falinescu, buried where he died in a riding accident. His mother left money for the grave to be properly tended. This was mostly a social encounter, but I had a note to substitute undead snake skeletons for the crawling claws if combat happened to start. I don't think the PCs asked about Regold or Onegin, but Karl would have mentioned seeing them if so.

The Visitor's Campsite

I ran this as described in "The Innocent," except that I substituted a different note from Regold (see attachment for a facsimile version):

My jealousy blinded me. I cannot live with the guilt. May the spirits of my dear brother and darling Sari forgive me. I have gone to make things right. Fr. Onegin knows the place.​
Regold Durrill​

I had originally planned for the PCs to find this note in his shop, but they didn't investigate the shop before leaving town, so I moved it here. If questioned about it later, Regold would explain that he was convinced that he was going to sacrifice his own life in order to resurrect the two he had killed.
 

Attachments

  • DDAL04-07 Regold Note Crumpled.JPG
    DDAL04-07 Regold Note Crumpled.JPG
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jayoungr

Legend
Supporter
DDAL04-07 "The Innocent" / DDAL04-10 "The Donjon," conclusion

If more combat is desired, you could insert the "Dragon's Skull" encounter from "The Innocent" or the "Skeleton Surprise" encounter from "The Donjon" at this point.

Swamp of the Screaming Statues

Such a great location. The only change I made from the way it is presented in "The Donjon" was to move it slightly so that it surrounds the Tower of the Chained Man, replacing the yuan-ti camp. The first or last of the "Surprises" can be added for extra atmosphere.

The Tower of the Chained Man

I eliminated most of the above-ground contents of the tower, making it simply an empty shell with an incomplete, ruined staircase. I placed the trapped chest from the "Pits of Blood and Bone" section of "The Innocent" here as well, and some guards could easily be added for extra combat. Other than that, the only feature inside was a staircase leading downward...

The Serpentine Stair

This is item C under "The Muddy Maze" in "The Donjon." The fire snakes were not at all challenging for my party. If I were running this again, I'd make them tougher or add more of them, maybe a total equal to double the number of party members.

The Darkened Maze

I was originally going to run the first two levels of the maze in "The Donjon" (the darkened maze and the muddy maze), but the adventure was already running long, so I decided to put in just one level. I cut the trapped holes (they didn't make sense since the Visitor and Regold had supposedly just come this way) and other references to yuan-ti. It's been a while since I ran this session, but I think I added a combat encounter with some guards instead. More fire snakes or poisonous snakes would also work. I recommend keeping the trapped statue as well.

Serpent Portal

At the end of the darkened maze, I added a puzzle door leading into the final area. I used Merrshaulk's Portcullis from the supplement "Deadly Dungeon Doors"--briefly, it's a portcullis that can't be lifted until the two metal snakes winding around the bars are removed, but when you remove them, they come alive and attack.

The Antechamber

I moved this from the "Vault of the Royal Dead" section of "The Innocent" and placed it at the end of the maze the PCs have just navigated. Instead of a tomb, this area is now a temple to Merrshaulk. The bone naga can be encountered here, as in the original version.

Chamber of the Night Serpent

This plays out as it does in "The Innocent," except that the spirit is that of Gyorgi Falinescu instead of Graxxygak. I kept the Visitor's stat block but added standard vampire weaknesses--not that they really were relevant in this situation. When the players killed the Visitor/Onegin, I had him say something like, "You don't know what you're doing! I can stop her!"

I feel like the explanation of what happens with Sari's gloves could still use some work. How is the incorporeal Graxxygak going to deliver the physical gloves to Esmae? However, my players didn't question it, perhaps because the dream encounter in "The Marionette" had already suggested that there was some supernatural element to how the items were obtained and delivered.

Treasure

Since this was such a long adventure, I awarded the magic items from both source adventures to the party. The Visitor was wearing the cape of the mountebank, and he was using the dagger of venom to try to sacrifice Regold.
 
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Shadowedeyes

Adventurer
This is an excellent thread, as I've thought about running these adventures at some point in the future. Knowing about the potential pitfalls, and some ideas to make some of the later adventures more atmospheric is incredibly helpful.
 

jayoungr

Legend
Supporter
This is an excellent thread, as I've thought about running these adventures at some point in the future. Knowing about the potential pitfalls, and some ideas to make some of the later adventures more atmospheric is incredibly helpful.
Thank you! I really do think this campaign is a diamond in the rough, and it may get more attention soon with the new Ravenloft book coming out. Plus, it already contains a nuanced portrayal of the Vistani and a glimpse into their culture.

I look forward to having a post on The Tempter soon, as that is one of the standout adventures in the series.
 

Shadowedeyes

Adventurer
Thank you! I really do think this campaign is a diamond in the rough, and it may get more attention soon with the new Ravenloft book coming out. Plus, it already contains a nuanced portrayal of the Vistani and a glimpse into their culture.

I look forward to having a post on The Tempter soon, as that is one of the standout adventures in the series.
There is definitely some great stuff there. I fell in love with The Beast after reading it, and I think it's a great adventure just on it's own. The Marionette had some good stuff there too, with the Haunted Mansion and the Reanimator/Dr. Frankenstein antagonist. The Tempter looked excellent as well, so I'll gladly read your take on it when you put it up.
 

jayoungr

Legend
Supporter
Opening Scene for DDAL04-09, “The Tempter”

When you return from your excursion to the Glumpen Swamp, you are approached by Scartia Krutz, the sole remaining tax collector for Oraşnou. With tax day drawing ever nearer, she is looking harried and anxious. She asks you to join her for lunch at the Seven Tables, as she has a matter to discuss with you.

Frederick, her basset hound, hovers around her feet, and Scartia feeds him scraps of her lunch occasionally as she addresses you.

“Been doing my best trying to get ready for the taxes, but…” She shakes her head. “I can see what we have left, I can see what we need to present, and I can see that it isn’t going to add up. If we pay Lord Strahd what he requires, we won’t have enough to get us through the winter. If we don’t pay Lord Strahd what he requires--well, we'll have bigger problems than food. And the burgomaster isn’t taking it seriously. There’s an obvious solution that he’s refusing to consider.

“There’s an estate near here that belongs to a noble family, the Fidatovs. We could ask them for help-- they usually have plenty to spare in their storehouses. But well, Ivan was involved with Lady Marilena Fidatov a few years ago. He was spending so much time with her that we were all expecting an engagement. But they had some sort of falling-out, and whatever happened, he’s still angry about it. You may remember I suggested contacting her before, when we were having dinner the other night, and he wouldn’t hear of it. Called her a witch and all sorts of worse names when I tried bringing it up again yesterday.

“But while we were talking, I noticed a crumpled letter at the edge of the fireplace, as if he meant to throw it on the fire and missed, and I could just see her signature on it. So when he was out of the room, I retrieved it. Not proud of that, but the situation is desperate. And it’s lucky I got it, because I think there might be a way around his objections. Look at this.”

Scartia pulls a sheet of creased paper out of her pocket and lays it on the table for you to read.

My once-dear Ivan,​

A little bird tells me that your village is in trouble. Not enough food for the winter, taxes due soon … and we all know what Lord Strahd does to those who do not pay his taxes, do we not? As I look out over our storehouses simply bursting with provisions, I can almost find it in me to feel guilty that I have so much when you have so little.​
Perhaps if you were to visit me and beg nicely, I might allow myself to be persuaded to share some of this bounty with you. But after what happened between us, the begging had better be good. I suggest you start practicing.​
Steps have been taken to ensure that my house is not so easily found after the incident, but this map will guide you. I look forward to hearing your best groveling.​
Sincerely,​
Marilena Fidatov​

The back of the page contains a rough hand-drawn map.

“If you visit and pretend that he sent you to apologize, and if you flatter her and butter her up a bit, maybe this will work. What do you think? Will you do it?”

“Don’t want to rush you, but the taxes are due very soon, so perhaps you could leave tomorrow? If you leave first thing in the morning, you should be there by mid-afternoon.”

*********************

Scartia doesn’t know what “the incident” refers to, but she suspects it must be the event that led to the breakup.

I felt this letter was more in keeping with Lady Marilena's personality than for her to be generous to a random commoner.
 

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  • DDAL04-09 Fidatov Letter.pdf
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jayoungr

Legend
Supporter
An Extra Puzzle for DDAL04-09, "The Tempter"

Since this adventure is pretty solid as written, the main changes I made to it were additions. Most notably, I added a logic puzzle centered around getting into the vault. In order to open the door, two items from the art gallery are needed, instead of just one. The clues to figuring out the correct items are in the family history book and in Lady Marilena's journal. I based the puzzle on the video below:



The documents are attached to this message. The final element was a map of the mirror room, which I created in Roll20 with some free assets.

DDAL04-09 Mirror Room Map with numbers.png


The contents of the cases, as appearing on the numbered map, are as follows:

Case 1: Vase
Case 2: Plate
Case 3: Family crest (single star)
Case 4: Family crest (star and wolf)
Case 5: Ring, candlestick, jeweled comb
Case 6: Silver teacup (single star crest)
Case 7: Silver teacup (double star crest)
Case 8: Silver teacup (star and wolf crest)
Case 9: Family crest (double stars)

My players found this puzzle to be pretty difficult. Identifying the right family crest was pretty easy, but they had more trouble figuring out the item to go with it. I'll put the solution under a spoiler tag in case anybody wants to try it!

Vaslav's gift is not one of the teacups, as we know those were the gifts of the first three Fidatovs. Nor is it the plate, as the twin brothers Fyodor and Gennadi were the only ones to have bright red hair. The comb does not appear in any portrait, so it can be surmised to be Lady Marilena's accession gift. The ring appears in a portrait of a young boy, and we know Lord Anatoly was the youngest to succeed to the title, so it can be matched with him. That leaves the candlestick and the vase.

The handwritten notes in the family history state that Lord Sidor built individual display cases for the accession gifts of all the Fidatovs who came before him, but he neglected to build a case for his own gift. That means the vase must belong to a Fidatov who came before Lord Sidor, and the only one whose gift has not been identified is Lord Vaslav. So the vase is his gift, and the candlestick is Sidor's.
 

Attachments

  • DDAL04-09 Fidatov History.pdf
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  • DDAL04-09 Fidatov Journal.pdf
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  • murkwell-puzzle-paintings.pdf
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