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D&D General The thread where I review a ton of Ravenloft modules


A suffusion of yellow
Also, can we talk about how heavy-handed these modules are with werewolves? I mentioned this in my review of Feast of Goblyns.

To me, werewolves are a bit like dragons. These aren't mindless killing machines. Well, ok, a werewolf kind of is a mindless killing machine, but the body it inhabits certainly isn't. Point being, dragons in my campaign are clever, and as such, they don't get to be long-lived if they're out there drawing undue attention to themselves. To that end, most are likely going to keep a low profile by killing animals in a distant land. The moment they attack some sort of trade caravan, adventurers are going to get hired to hunt them down. Only the most arrogant of dragons would do that, and those would be short-lived.

A werewolf is going to be the same way. A werewolf is going to kill one (and only one!) person whose close to them. After that, assuming they don't and their own life in their guilt-ridden grief, is going to manacle themselves to an iron bed post every night.

That's what I intend to do with Captain Timmothy in Evil Eye. In the module, he attacks the party. But I think it's just as well-served if he has them sleep on the shore, and he ties himself up in his cabin. The party could hear him at night jerking the chains around, and baying at the moon. Then they get to decide whether they want to continue traveling with him the following day, and certainly puts them on edge. To me, it makes the NPC more sympathetic.

It certainly works for the good werewolf trope,mwhen the tragic human isvresusting the savage beast and locking itself down. Of course the ravenous beast fights to be released and devour - so the PCs sympathy needs to be focussed on how to end the torment and threat, which is its own adventure

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Invisible Stalker (Dungeon #63) ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

This blink-and-you’ll-miss-it module from Dungeon #63 is a “side trek” module that clocks in at just over two pages long and is intended for a party of 1st-2nd level. The premise is simple – a seamstress was recently the victim of an assault by a man who had been stalking her, and in the conflict, she managed to stab him in the throat. Thinking that was the end of that, imagine her surprise when his ghostly voice shows up in her bedchamber. She flees out of her house thinking her house is now haunted, and runs smack dab into the PCs, whom she implores for help in the matter.

There are a couple of trigger warnings here. Of major concern are the implications of rape and sexual assault on the part of Ialgo. You could change Ialgo to being a mugger of some sort, but I’m not sure it has the same gravitas. The stalking could be another trigger warning for people, but that seems less problematic here than the first issue. In the original module, Ialgo is a rogue, which makes sense. In my version, I made him a low-level warlock and gave him the “mask of many faces”, and some spells like invisibility and sleep which make him highly effective as a kind of burglar or spy. With an urchin background, he can also pick locks. It’s also worth noting that in the original module, Ialgo has a Ring of Invisibility. To give this to a party of 1st-2nd level characters would be insane. My solution was to make it a Ring of Lesser Invisibility. It works like the regular ring, but only lasts for 2d4 rounds and only 3x/day – the GM gets to roll this, so that it’s a surprise for the wearer! You could forego the ring, but as warlock get so few spells, this just increases his ability to get away.

Invisible Stalker (get it?!) is a great little module and introduces a villain your party is absolutely going to despise. He has a ton of tricks at his disposal which make finding him exceptionally difficult. It’s not a Ravenloft module, but putting this in Ravenloft, PCs are going to automatically think they’re up against a ghost, when in fact, it’s something far more insidious.

Nightshade (Dungeon #7) ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Let’s hop in the wayback machine to September/October of 1987 for this one. Featuring cover art by Janelle Jaquays (R.I.P.). This module is easy to overlook at just 5 pages. Designed for 1st to 3rd level characters, the premise is simple – a “foppish” nobleman hires the PCs to go and acquire a potion for him. It seems he can’t be bothered with the task as he’s far too busy and is willing to just pay someone to do it. That’s it. Easy money, or so it seems.

The PCs head to the location, but instead find a dead-end. The way into the establishment isn’t well-described in this module. I just made it so that you had to knock on an alley-wall wall three times for a door to appear. Once inside the extra-dimensional space, they can explore the weird house with impunity. In the module, the map for this is just straight-up terrible. I completely redid it and simplified it. You’ll want to integrate it into your world – one of the doors opens into a sylvan forest somewhere far away. You’ll want to plan for that in case the party ends up there.

Nightshade, the wizard, is insane. He fought a wizard duel and lost, unfortunately. In the module, you’re supposed to roll on the NPC reactions table to see how he behaves every round (this is a chart from the 1st edition DMG, btw). I changed him such that he perseverates on “unanswerable questions”. I had a whole list which included such gems as “Can you stand backwards on stairs?” and “Why do we cook bacon, yet bake cookies?” Nightshade is also powerful, but he’s not malicious. He’ll employ sleep spells and the like to incapacitate rather than injure. Eventually, the PCs can get the potion from him (it’s already been paid for). Observant PCs can notice the tag on the bottle which reads “Amnesia”.

As the party leaves with their prize, they get trailed by some ruffians who demand the potion. What’s not obvious here is that these are considered the good guys in this scenario. You see, the noble has gotten a young woman pregnant, and rather than be tied down with her, he’d rather erase her memory so he can continue sleeping with other women without having to bear the responsibility for this one. The details are left intentionally vague here, but there are so many ways you can play this out.

When I ran this, I made the woman worse than the noble. She lied to him about being pregnant (word would get out about his scheme eventually, after all), and she cast alter self to become him, where she added herself as the heir to his shipping business, and then straight-up murdered him. You can have a lot of fun with this module by figuring out clever ways of making the NPCs in this even worse than the other one. It’ll keep your PCs guessing. This isn’t a Ravenloft module, but I think it works well because it’s a subtle reminder that the worst things in the world aren’t necessarily vampires or werewolves.

Also, Nightshade makes for a great recurring NPC. In my campaign, potions and alchemy are far more prevalent than magic items, plus this guy makes all the “black market” potions other alchemists won’t dare touch – like amnesia potions and philters of love.

Spottle Parlor (Dungeon #12) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Hailing from 1988, I recognize that this module might be older than some people reading this. Don’t let that stop you from checking out this gem from the Dungeon archives. The basic premise is that a retired old rogue randomly invites the party to join in a game of “spottle”. This is a crazy blackjack-like game involving a toad that randomly consumes dice. The host here also has a few other crazy characters at the table, should the party decide to join in the fun. The core of the game is quite entertaining, but it’s made all the more fun with the crazy cast of characters involved here.

After rounds of betting, eventually the hobgoblin king arrives, and demands the slaves that have been promised to him. Apparently, the game was just a ruse to fulfill a debt that the rogue had made to the hobgoblins. Obviously, PCs aren’t going to take kindly to this, and a fight will ensue.

This isn’t a Ravenloft module, and while I’ve never ran it, it seems to get near-universal praise, so I just have to try it out. You can tailor it very easily to your game by adjusting just about anything it, and it should work just as well. I don’t need to belabor this review with details, and it’s best to just read it and see for yourself. It’s only 9 pages long, after all. It’s intended for a party of 2nd-4th level characters but could honestly be scaled up (or even down) easily.

The Lady of the Mists (Dungeon #42) ⭐⭐⭐⭐

This is not a Ravenloft module, but is very Ravenloft in style, and even references a Ravenloft monster or two. It’s for a party of 6-8th level. Long story short: a sorceress named Lucilla developed a potion of immortality. This made her happy at first, and she shared it with her close friends, but they outgrew their other friends. And then she decided it was a bad idea, and gave antidotes to some of them, killing them, and felt bad about that, and then eventually learned that it wasn’t meant to last forever. Some of her friends also figured that out, and so she’s content with letting nature takes its course. But one guy – the last immortal friend of hers, who happens to be the head of a secret police force has come to try and get another potion to avoid death. The PCs are hired to capture this guy because the king thinks he’s defecting.

Once at the destination, they learn a little bit about the castle where the guy fled to. It’s apparently totally haunted, and anyone who goes there dies. What follows is mostly a perilous journey to the island the castle resides on, getting up the island, and then exploring the castle itself. A lot of is standard dungeon-crawl type stuff, but it is very evocative. Along the way, they gain a few clues about what might have happened here. Eventually, the party meets Lucilla in her “lair” along with her immortal tiger.

I intend to place this in Forlorn, and not far from Castle Forlorn. Both have a similar vibe anyway. It might also be possible to place this castle on the lake described in Castles Forlorn which has a sea monster in it. In this module, there is a rumor of a sea monster, but not one here. Though, you’re certainly free to make one.

I like this module because even though it’s not a Ravenloft module, per se, it’s totally got the vibe of one. The PCs are going to expect some sort of ghost, and in the end, there’s no fight at all (though plenty on the way here). You’ll have to change the politics a little bit, but one could make the secret police the Kargat, and set it in Darkon totally easily. The backdrop for this isn’t super important, really. The guy the module has you chase could literally be just about anyone. You just need an excuse to go this castle. There’s also a fair amount of treasure here. If you run this, you’ll want to spend the time really integrating the NPCs involved (especially the noble the party is hunting down) into your campaign, as the default story is a little weak, and harder to integrate out of the box.

Night Swarm (Dungeon #61) ⭐⭐⭐

Night Swarm isn’t specifically a Ravenloft module, but given that it pulls heavily from Ravenloft sources, and has the general vibe of a Ravenloft module, it should be. It’s designed for parties of levels 5-7. The events take place in a swamp. If the gap in levels weren’t as great, this would be a great segue off “Night of the Walking Dead”, which already takes place in a swamp, but alas.

The party finds themselves at an inn where the innkeeper learns that his nephew is deathly ill and implores anyone to seek out the herbalist, Lyman. Lyman lives outside of town, but also happens to be a vampire. He can shapechange into a swarm of mosquitos (I hate him already!), but otherwise presents as a nice old man. If the PCs agree, they can fetch him, and he comes back to town. On the way back, there’s a battle with harpies, just because.

That night, the PCs have a crazy dream (because one of Lyman’s victims – a young girl named Brigette) summons them into her dream. But why only the PCs get sucked into her dreams is super weird, and not explained at all. Wouldn’t she bring her parents into a dream if she’s going to do that? Fortunately, I think, this little scene can be completely skipped. The following day, the PCs are tasked with finding the cause of these strange bug bites that have taken several lives.

The module jumps to a point where the PCs go to Lyman’s clinic, which is a little weird, considering they don’t really have any reason to investigate him at this point? In true 2nd edition fashion, we’ve given a room-by-room description of the place, but the PCs have no reason to barge into the place or search the rooms of all of Lyman’s employees. But even if they do, there’s nothing here to implicate him or them. In fact, outside of these random dreams (which don’t really help much either), there isn’t anything implicating the herbalist as being the source of the mosquito bites.

During the 2nd night, Lyman decides to attack the party in insect form, and in the battle, they can smell the faint aroma of herbs they previously smelled on him. Off to his cottage they go! What follows is a straightforward delve into a small dungeon complex beneath his home with the usual fare one finds in modules of this era. His followers assault the party as they near the cottage, and then there’s a fight with him at the end of his complex. Afterwards they can free the prisoners (including Brigette) and return them safely home.

I want to like this module, but it’s just razor thin. A mosquito-swarm vampire is very interesting, though. The “dream power summon” thing is superfluous, however, and frankly, nonsensical. If Brigette has this ability, why doesn’t she go into her parents dreams to let them know she’s still alive and being held against her will in Lyman’s cottage? For this module to have any hope of being interesting, there needs to be a red herring or two. Clorisa, one of Lyman’s henchman, can cast summon insects. If Lyman were smart, he’d have her cast that on townsfolk while he’s in the vicinity to create a rock-solid alibi. In fact, you could just give her a Staff of Swarming Insects and have her just target random people from the shadows with it. Maybe have her target a specific person in town she doesn’t like, and target people with the insects near them, in order to divert the PCs attention towards those people. That would make this a much more challenging, and interesting adventure (and of course, drop the harpy fight, and the random dream sequences) and you might have a solid adventure on your hands. Lastly, Lyman has apparently only been in town for about a year, which explains the sudden rise of mosquito-related deaths. But where did he come from, and did he bring his evil henchman with him? You’d probably want to resolve some of those questions, too.

Peer Amid the Waters (Dungeon #78) ⭐⭐⭐⭐

There’s nothing very Ravenloft-y about this module, but it doesn’t not work there. In true Dungeon fashion, this 8-page module could be about 4 if they got the point quicker. Be that as it may, the general premise is that the party chances upon a woman coming out of the water near a lake shore. The woman is a charmed human servant of some nixies. If the PCs agree to hear what she has to say, she introduces them to the Nixie leader, Mhartryn. She explains to the PCs that a strange portal appeared in the water and sucked in some Nixie children that got too close. Furthermore, a group of Nixies and human slaves that were sent in also did not return.

If the PCs agree to this little caper, the Nixies can provide them with the necessary magic to survive underwater. The backstory to this portal is a little long-winded, but basically there’s this Egyptian tomb filled with riches for this concubine named Othaey. One of the priests who helped bury her included one half a magic bracelet that would allow him to teleport into the chamber, thereby robbing the tomb of its wealth without anyone being the wiser. Things happened, and he lost the bracelet, and it got passed down from generation to generation, when the Nixie children ended up finding it, and inadvertently said the command word, activating the bracelet. There, it sucked a bunch of the lake into the portal, along with the children.

What follows is a short little dungeon crawl, but with Egyptian-themes and of course, it’s all underwater. Inside the dungeon, the party gets to deal with an undead leopard and an actual mummy. The idea of a mummy floating underwater is hilarious. The level range is 1-2, and honestly, how many 1st-2nd level dungeons feature underwater combat? That’s what I thought!

The Sea Wolf (Dungeon #55) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Lisa Smedman wrote several Ravenloft modules. This is another one. This one was originally slated to go into Chilling Tales, since it includes Van Richten. It didn’t make the cut and got put into Dungeon instead. Fortunately, his inclusion here feels arbitrary and can be easily removed. The module is intended for a party of levels 4-6 but given that there’s literally a single combat with a single (checks 5e SRD) CR 3 creature, a 4th-6th level party won’t be challenged by this at all. Plus, those levels introduce some spells that might make solving some of this a bit easier. The fog supposedly inhibits a bunch of these spells anyway, but just lowering the level would make that a non-issue. I would run this for something like 2-3 instead.

The party joins a steamboat ride. Because there’s a steamboat involved here, it’s a large reason why I’m choosing to set my campaign with Renaissance-era level technology. A steamboat doesn’t make much sense in a typical medieval setting. But I digress. After traveling for a bit, the boat encounters an impassible fog, and decides to drop anchor, rather than risk hitting shallow rocks they can’t see. Also, the module reminds the DM that they should “constantly remind the players of the chilly and oppressive atmosphere.” Um, ok.

Sea Wolf is the name of the module. The actual boat is called the S.S. Bonniville. Incidentally, “S.S.” stands for “Steam ship”. You could name the ship the Sea Wolf, which would be ironic, honestly. We’re given a layout of the ship, and what might be excessive amounts of detail regarding that. But that’s OK. We’re given ports of call and destinations, but all of that is inconsequential to the adventure. Feel free to change it to suit your needs.

The crux of the module revolves around a pair of twin ladies – Antoinette and Yvonne. Yvonne is a werewolf and murders several people aboard the ship. To further complicate matters, the twins are only listed in the ship’s registry under Antoinette’s name, and always have a rock-solid alibi. A police inspector is aboard the ship hunting for a murderer. Yvonne had killed a man in the prior city, and a witness overheard the female killer asking him to board a ship with her. So, the inspector has good reason to believe that she’s on board. Conveniently, he’s compiled a list of all the female passengers. It’s not a long list.

How the PCs meet the inspector is a little random. But if there are any female PCs in the party, the inspector would very much like to interview them. That would be a very easy way to have them interact with him. The inspector is the first to die on the ship, and perhaps the captain will ask the PCs to help solve the case for the sake of the innocent lives on board. One easy way to do this would be to have information regarding the PCs abilities on the manifest. The captain might want to know if people are capable of casting magic, for example, and so they could be singled out this way easily enough.

This module is good, but a little complex. There’s a lot of moving parts here. I would recommend creating MORE female passengers on the ship and keep an index card detailing all of them. You’re also going to want to have a very strict order of events, and to know where everyone is at all times. I think it would also be great to create 1-2 more red herrings here, and maybe even some other nefarious individuals the party could be suspicious of. It might also be necessary to create more murders than what the module has detailed in case the party can’t zero in on her fast enough. Also, given enough time, the entire crew is going to get restless and agitated if they’re just sitting in open water for long periods of time. The captain will surely give the PCs some sort of financial incentive to hurry their investigation along.

“Whom Fortune Would Destroy” (Bleak House boxed set; adventure #1) ⭐

Bleak House is a boxed set containing three separate books, totaling about 256 pages and a few maps. The first book, entitled “Sea of Madness” details two adventures – this one, “Whom Fortune Would Destroy” and a second one entitled “The Baron”. The module is designated for 5th-8th level characters. Regardless of whether the PCs start in Ravenloft or not, this adventure starts on a ship called the Blue Dolphin or, if you don’t want your PCs aboard a boat that sounds like the name a vibrating sex toy, feel free to rename it. This ship inevitably sinks into the ocean in a bad storm, and the PCs are “rescued” by a ship called the Mercy which is – and this isn’t a joke, manned entirely by cerebral vampires. Because vampires aren’t edgy enough, apparently.

I’m going to spare you the details of this incredibly ham-fisted choo-choo train of a railroad, but suffice it to say, this section of the module tells you everything you need to know about this adventure: “If the heroes have learned any of Mercy’s secrets, they place the DM in a tricky spot. After all, if the characters know the truth about the ship and its crew, they’ll likely see it their duty to destroy as many vampires as possible, take the ship, and then make for another port.” Wow, you think? What follows are 5 paragraphs explaining how (heaven forbid!) the PCs can’t actually have any freedom to do this, that it’s all a very terrible idea, and what the GM should do to stop the PCs (and I quote) “from derailing the adventure.”. Wow.

If the PCs are unruly, they might literally be nailed shut into coffins and drug into phase 2 of this railroad. I can practically taste the tears of my players at this point! How delightful! :/ The second phase of this is an insane asylum ran by the darklord of the domain, Dr. Heinfroth. It’s admittedly a cool idea, but the execution is just abysmal. What follows is basically pages and pages of DM torture porn, but eventually, the PCs will be given a key by a mysterious benefactor - oh, of course, it’s Van Richten. They can use this key to facilitate an escape, but it’s never intended to be easy, and ultimately resolves into a battle with Dr. Heinfroth, whom the GM is instructed to flee from the battle if it turns against him. Because even after all that, we can’t have the PCs feeling like they’ve accomplished anything. No. Just, no.

“The Baron” (Bleak House boxed set; adventure #2) ⭐⭐

While I’m here, let me go ahead and summarize “The Baron” for you: Van Richten has a bad dream, therefore the party should go and kill a vampire for him. Yea, that’s pretty much the module. It’s mostly just a dungeon crawl into a tower to find this vampire and kill him – but WAIT, the party doesn’t actually get to do that. They get to witness Van Richten do that, while they fight off some psionic abomination. As if Van Richten wasn’t Mary Sue enough. “The key here is drama”, the adventure tells us, “… the Dungeon Master should decide whether he wants to allow the heroes or Van Richten to deliver the death blow to [the vampire]”. The author does attempt to save himself a little bit by warning that the PCs “must feel that it was their efforts that brought down [the vampire]”. Oh, thank God.

I almost – almost, mind you, gave this three stars because of the inclusion of ghost bears. I mean, that’s cool, but even ghost bears can’t save this trainwreck of a module. The hook is stupid, and it's mostly a mindless dungeon crawl, but you might be able to reuse the map for something actually interesting.


The premise is simple – a seamstress was recently the victim of an assault by a man who had been stalking her, and in the conflict, she managed to stab him in the throat. Thinking that was the end of that, imagine her surprise when his ghostly voice shows up in her bedchamber.
How did the rogue survive being stabbed in the throat?

James Gasik

We don't talk about Pun-Pun
Oh man, does D&D handle actual wounds poorly, lol. Some of the adventures I'm running have NPC's dying of wounds but still able to gasp out final breaths (or, in the case of The Inheritance, penning a last will and testament while bleeding out from an arrow!).

The players questioned me about a NPC dying in my last session, and all I really could say is "NPC's are built different." I mean, I try to square the circle when I can, but things are going to get hilarious when the Cleric gets revivify. Or speak with dead. "Pohl the Thief gasps out his final words, talking about a key and a map..."

"I cast revivify! Stop dying!"

"Ah, in that case he sits up and tells you exactly what's going on."


Oh man, I've seen that in a couple of places in these modules - someone is dying, and the text says "nothing the PCs do will save them" - like, seriously? You really expect me to buy that? It's so ham-fisted and dumb. I hate it.

I'm going through Castles Forlorn at the moment. Gonna take me a bit. I should have those reviews up in a day or two.

James Gasik

We don't talk about Pun-Pun
It wasn't written for 5e rules remember. Revivify and yo-yo Healing Word had not been invented, and the 2nd edition Ravenloft setting rules nerfed Raise Dead.
Well sure, but we still had Cure Light Wounds. If a PC drops to 0*, they're unconscious and bleeding out. If you're able to talk, you're obviously at positive hit points.

*Or just dead, depending on what version of the rules you go by.

So someone being able to gasp out their final breath, or perform a few final actions and then keeling over is a complete segregation of narrative and gameplay mechanics. Just like "the villain has a knife to the NPC's throat and threatens to kill them" when a knife is unlikely to do enough hit point damage to kill most people.

I mean, yes, obviously, the rules should take a backseat to these kinds of events, but it's still jarring when it comes up and you realize that all your magic and power to preserve life is suddenly negated by "Cutscene Power"!

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