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

Mikal wouldn't object to being manacled to the bed while he slept if he knew it was for his own protection.
How would the PCs do that, since they don't know what the threat is? And here is a historical note: Manacles are agonisingly painful, no one would willingly agree to wear them.
at least who isn't going to try to steal it from them once they acquire it?
That's kind of the point of "stronghold" gameplay. The players can expect to have to defend it.
One does have to work around the curse of the castle, since the "owner" of the castle can never leave, which means one of the PCs will have to be stuck there forever.
Maybe they have an NPC ally who could become the keeper, or one of the players decides they want to semi-retire a character and start a new one? It's nothing insurmountable if the DM and players want to take the campaign in that direction.
 

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CapnZapp

Legend
Feast of Goblyns ⭐⭐
Lol, lemme stop you right there.

If you're going to approach all these with the the expectation these modules will make sense, as if the game was Quasi-Medieval Life Simulator, you're gonna get a whole lot of disappointment.

It's like reviewing Pirates of the Caribbean and saying "it was unrealistic and people behaved illogically" thus completely missing the point.

Of course the woman won't simply hire the heroes when she can instead pretend to be a damsel in distress and also insert a McGuffin into the plot. 😋

Also, if you expect gender equality or sensitive handling of traumas you don't know anything about the era these modules were written in. Things that are hot button issues now simply were not controversial then. More, they simply weren't issues at all back then. (They weren't just unproblematic issues - because that implies someone evaluated them - they weren't issues at all)

I'm not saying it's wrong to care about these things. I'm saying it's futile to hope for sensitivity back then. It wasn't that men chose to be insensitive. It was that the issues weren't problematized at all, at least not by the general population and definitely not by the predominantly young males that were the expected audience.)
 
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TiQuinn

Registered User
Also, if you expect gender equality or sensitive handling of traumas you don't know anything about the era these modules were written in. Things that are hot button issues now simply were not controversial then. More, they simply weren't issues at all back then. (They weren't just unproblematic issues - because that implies someone evaluated them - they weren't issues at all)
I’ve been seriously enjoying this thread as a walk down memory lane and being a huge Ravenloft fan, being able to go back and evaluate all these old modules with today’s eye especially for anyone wanting to update them for a modern game, something that I have done on some adventures. It’s kind of been the point.
 

I’ve been seriously enjoying this thread as a walk down memory lane and being a huge Ravenloft fan, being able to go back and evaluate all these old modules with today’s eye especially for anyone wanting to update them for a modern game, something that I have done on some adventures. It’s kind of been the point.

I think there is updating modules for todays style, but I do have to agree with @CapnZapp on this, the context was entirely different. Also the Feast of Goblyns review gets basic information about the adventure wrong (I pointed out one or two of these). Which wouldn't be an issue but some of those errors serve as foundation for the critiques. Not saying these are perfect or free from some of the problems identified. But expectations were very different, the way we approached running a module and the amount of work one put into preparing for them was different.
 

Also to be clear I think @der_kluge has done a service providing these updated reviews. So wasn't trying to say they were deeply flawed or anything. I just think @CapnZapp raises points worth talking about because there are a lot of assumptions at work in how these are being evaluated and I don't know that it is entirely fair to evaluate a module written in the early 90s by all the gaming standards of the present
 

It wasn't that men chose to be insensitive. It was that the issues weren't problematized at all, at least not by the general population and definitely not by the predominantly young males that were the expected audience.)

One thing worth pointing out here because I feel it often gets overlooked or forgotten. While it wasn't the case with Feast of Goblyns, many of the Ravenloft adventures were written by women (I think Lisa Smedman is a contender for most prolific Ravenloft module writer): Anne Brown (Ship of Horror), Andria Heyday (Co-wrote the black box, wrote the Ravenloft novel to sleep with evil under her pen name, wrote the bulk of the Darklords supplement--including House of Lament, the Three Hags,etc), Teeuwynn Woodruff (Van Richten's Guide to Fiends, Van Richter's Guide to the Created----one of the best supplements the line put out), Lisa Smedman (Castles Forlorn, Adam's Wrath, co-wrote Hour of the Knife, The Awakening, Co-Wrote Death Ascendant, Death Unchained), Laura Hickman (co-wrote the original Module and the House on Gryphon Hill), Cindi Rice (co-designed the Shadow Rift). And that isn't getting into the editors.
 


So let’s talk about what that work would be (and @der_kluge has been doing so), let’s not just treat the subject as “well, it was a different time.” There’s value in those modules, potentially.

My point is there is actually value in going back to historical modules and running them on their own terms, not simply updating them for 5E or for a more current style of play. That is how I have approached them.

They can also be updated of course. Most of the updating I would do though is in fairly simple things like reducing some of the railroading, fleshing out areas not well explained, and just expanding the material in general. Something like Feast of Goblyns, I would say can be run straight with little issue. But probably the best way to use Feast of Goblyns if you want to get the most out of it for your current campaign, is canabalize it for parts and use it as a setting supplement. Pretty much all of the locations are useable (I have taken most of them and plunked them into campaigns using completely different systems).

When it comes to how we approached them back in the day, you had to read each module 2-3 times. It was also very advisable to use post it notes, make modifications where needed to fit the module to the events of your current campaign, etc. The biggest problem I have found with Ravenlfot modules going back to them are: 1) railroading (this was just part of the era) and 2) mistakes or oversights that lead to confusion. On 2 they put out way way more content back then (tons of modules and supplements for multiple settings, plus bucket loads of novels. I think a lot of little details got missed in many of the 90s models that could make them more of a challenge to run. However I remember being quite accustomed to bumping into these oversights and making the necessary adjustments. I noticed this was especially the case in Book of Crypts when I ran it. Still it had some great adventures in it. Bride of Mordenheim is certainly a railroad. But if you engage it on those terms, it does hit a highly dream-like gothic atmosphere that works nicely (I think if yo u do this though, you need to explain this fact to the players before hand, which is what I did). There are a couple of other very solid adventures in there, couple of stinkers and some that have pretty odd errors (I wrote a review here a couple of years ago). Also a lack of consistency in the setting. They kept going back and forth on certain things, like what the world of Ravenloft was called by the locals.

One thing I will say, if you use the 90s models, you are much better off using the 2E system. I know a lot of peopel don't want to play with this one. But I have run the 90s material with later editions and with 2E. The difference is night and day. Those old modules are definitely intended to be run using TSR era rules (and it highly impacts the feel if you don't use them). Also this is so much less work than adapting them to newer editions
 

Remathilis

Legend
I think there is updating modules for todays style, but I do have to agree with @CapnZapp on this, the context was entirely different. Also the Feast of Goblyns review gets basic information about the adventure wrong (I pointed out one or two of these). Which wouldn't be an issue but some of those errors serve as foundation for the critiques. Not saying these are perfect or free from some of the problems identified. But expectations were very different, the way we approached running a module and the amount of work one put into preparing for them was different.
I think criticism of such material inevitably leads to a defensive posture from its fans. That is to say, if X is problematic and I enjoy X, therefore I am problematic. That is a false bit of Aristoltian logic: you can enjoy something and acknowledge its faults. You can look at the Merchant of Venice as both an amazing literary work, a commentary on beliefs at the time, and still acknowledge the antisemitism in it. Or to appreciate Lovecrafts Mythos while understanding his racist and eugenic beliefs. We can walk and chew gum at the same time.

The horror genre has changed a lot since the 90s. Likewise, RPG adventure design has changed. I think it is both fair to look at the old stuff both as a product of its time AND to see how the concept fails to hold up to modern scrutiny (and in some cases, even past scrutiny). It does not belittle the author's intent to say "how could we do this better?" (After all, that's the point of the "Enhancing X module" threads).

So yeah, maybe we can both appreciate a module and think it's a little too much of a railway, there are a few too many women stuffed in fridges, and maybe that part with the steamboat isn't really needed.
 

So let’s talk about what that work would be (and @der_kluge has been doing so), let’s not just treat the subject as “well, it was a different time.” There’s value in those modules, potentially.
Calling out the issues and considering how to deal with them is fine. It’s constantly sounding surprised by them which seems kind of odd. You can’t really consider these modules without context.

It’s like being surprised that Doctor Who from the 60s has bad special effects.
 

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