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

Remathilis

Legend
There is something I wanted to discuss further, however, and that's the mists themselves. The mist is, by it's nature, pretty heavy-handed. I never quite understood it too much in 2nd edition, since Forlorn is just west of Barovia - "what do you mean, I can't just travel to it by heading down this road? That's what the map shows!" I very much like the way VRGtR handles it, by making all the domains basically just islands. Although, curiously, there are still islands, but whatever.

I'm kind of two minds on this one. In the campaign I just started (first session was good, btw, and apparently I'm mirroring Bleak House more than I'd care to admit to), I'm planning on having them take a steamboat (Sea Wolf) to another domain (Mordentshire, or Richemulot, maybe), but I don't really see a reason why every domain has to be completely isolated from every other domain by mists. It sure does make trade a whole lot more difficult, and I do like to keep my worlds as realistic as possible. So, I might end up having there be some sort of actual map of the place, but with a vague sense of the mists when needed. I don't know. I'm still a ways off from having to worry about that. I think I've got like 4 modules planned just in Souragne, which is where I'm starting.

I will tell you about my journey through Ravenloft. Maybe it will help both your dual personalities. :D

I loved Ravenloft when I first heard about it. I always liked scary stuff, so a setting built around Dracula and the Wolfman sounded right up my alley. I never actually ran Ravenloft (most of the DMs I knew ran their own homebrews, so I followed that trend) but I did do the "weekend in hell" model of grabbing PCs for a few sessions (or a module) and then depositing them home. There were a few times an adventure spiraled out of control (leading to the dread @James Gasik alluded to) but for most of us, it Ravenloft was a bunch of drag-and-drop mini adventures you ran around Halloween.

When Domains of Dread dropped though, the notion of running Ravenloft as a world really came into its own. Up to that point, every Ravenloft product assumed the Mists deposited a bunch of foreigners into a domain and true to form, the first thing they did was look for a way to get home. Kill that Strahd guy? If it gets me outta here! DoD did some of the important lifting for trying to make Ravenloft a setting where natives could adventure in. Unfortunately, it made a lot of OTHER not so great choices that detracted for it (why did DoD need to reprint whole parts of the PHB? what a waste of space!) Arthaus took that idea and ran with it, but ironically, thats about the time I noticed all the cracks in the very premise.

Ravenloft was never designed to be a coherent, rational world. It's a collection of mini nations that have no bearing on each other tossed together into a hodgepodge of geography and culture. Each nation was effectively an island even if borders were touching, and the concept of Ravenloft being a place where trade, commerce, travel, and politics happen felt strained. The coast disappeared randomly on the west, the number and phase of the moon differed from domain to domain; technically advanced societies were only a stone's throw from medieval peasantry, and a nation steeped in magic like Darkon (with demihumans and a D&D level magic) shared a border with Lamordia (where everything was so rational that magic and non-humans were considered myth. Hello; your next-door neighbors are steeped in the stuff)!

Ultimately, it disillusioned me. So much so, I abandoned the idea of ever running Ravenloft. If I was going to do a horror setting, I would pick one that was internally consistent. Innistrad was a contender for more than a hot minute. Lots of horror kickstarters flittered onto my radar. Anything but that amalgamation of mismatched body parts that Ravenloft was. It would be Van Richten's Guide, with the return to "a weekend in hell" style of design, which made me fall in love with Ravenloft again. Gone was the pretense of a functioning economy or geopolitical landscape. In its place was dream logic. Realms that could only exist in the artificiality of pockets lost in the Mist. It was no easier to get from Barovia to Forlorn than it was to get to Souragne, Har-Akir, or anywhere else. Nations did not interfere with each other. Only a few types of people (Vistani, Anchorites of Ezra, and player characters) traveled between domains. I wanted a setting that had consistent internal logic, but I got a setting that told me logic had no place here, and once I grasped that, I fell in love with Ravenloft again.

My experience is unique to me, but my takeaway point is that to enjoy Ravenloft, you must embrace the absurd. It cannot make sense. It runs on vibes, not logic. If you cannot accept it, there are hundreds of excellent horror settings on Kickstarter that do a far greater job of presenting an internally consistent horror setting than DoD/Arthaus did. But you cannot look at Ravenloft as anything other than a soundstage for horror stories and nightmares to play out on. Asking if the world is round and follows a heliocentric model is asking too much; the sun is a prop created by Hollywood lighting to provide the story with a sense of normalcy. Any other attempt to explain it is madness.

That's my take, at least.
 

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Ok, @Bedrockgames and @Mark Hope help me understand, exactly, what I'm missing with Feast of Goblyns. Because I'm just not seeing it.
Well, on a general level, people like different things. I don't think there's anything more to it than that. But OK here's what we enjoyed.

Out of the gate, once the players realised they were heading into the brand-new Ravenloft setting, they were excited to experience it from that perspective. Some of us had played through I6 and I10 but most were new to Ravenloft and some to D&D as well. Once the Mists took them, I explained what had happened and they were ready to buy into the setting conceits.

They were happy to help the jailor deal with the werewolf, then annoyed at him for trapping them. His explanation was that he wasn't sure whether they had been infected with lycanthropy (as it happens, one of them had!). They were very motivated to help Akriel because she was a Gothic Damsel With An Overbearing Father. Several of the players were fans of gothic literature and were super excited to actually be in a gothic tale rather than standard D&D fare.

They refused to have anything to do with the Woodland Encounter and pressed on to the Inn, determined to not be distracted from helping Akriel. I think they suspected the Woodland Encounter was meant to waylay them.

They loved all the stuff at the Inn. By this point they had completely bought into the idea of being in a gothic story and didn't bat an eyelid at the idea that Harkon Lukas owned the Inn - it fitted perfectly into their expectations of what should be happening in this kind of story. Of course Akriel chooses the worst possible place to meet. It would be boring and logical otherwise and decrease the Wuthering Quotient.

Wolfweres ripping holes in the walls and whatnot made for a really thrilling scene. Having monsters stalk them rather than the other way around was something the players very much enjoyed.

The Gorge sequence ended up being really horrific - we had our first death of the campaign here when one character went off snooping on his own. I think giant ravens are really cool, by the way.

I don't know how much of the adventure you have read. Subsequent chapters worked for much the same reason. They retrieved the Crown, gave it to Dominiani, then returned to take it back from him once they realised they had been duped. By this point they were ready for a knockdown fight and gave him one.

Interestingly, rather than the given ending to the adventure, they came up with a better one - to use the Crown's magic jar powers to face Daglan inside the crown and help the Warlord defeat him in a psychic battle inside a misty mindscape. This made for a very satisfying ending so we rolled with that. Their enjoyment of this adventure cemented the group's love of Ravenloft and any time the Mists rolled in, they were more than ready for more of whatever it had to offer.

Different strokes, I guess :)
 

Ok, @Bedrockgames and @Mark Hope help me understand, exactly, what I'm missing with Feast of Goblyns. Because I'm just not seeing it.

I am working on some writing today so I won't have time to go through at the moment in detail with the module and answer questions. But I can try to answer somethings more generally from memory quickly (and will try to get back to this post again when I have more time to sit and review things

I will say, if you don't get it, you don't get it. Sometimes I go to a movie and think it is terrible and I don't buy a particular plot element that someone else bought. That isn't really a problem. You do seem to be taking more of a fine tooth comb to the plot that I or my players would, which again is fine. But I would say I view feast of goblyns as feeling more like 80s horror movie logic like The Howling or The Company of Wolves. @Paul Farquhar mentioned the dream logic and here I think applies. I will also say, if I were running a fantasy sandbox, I might expect the kids of the things you express concerns about to be addressed, but with TSR Ravenloft and Feast of Goblyns in Particular, that isn't what I am looking for on either side of the screen.

And again if you don't like, that is fair, but this is an enormously popular module and one many of us have run multiples times with no real issues like the ones you describe becoming a concern.

The jail scene makes no sense.
"The jailer knows that Jaconos is a loup-garou and is concerned that the party and his men may now be infected with lycanthropy. He will not explain this to the party, however, and they will not have further contact with him for some time. All of the other cells are empty except for the grime and stench produced by past occupants." Why? Why could he not explain this to the party. There's no reason given, other than, the jailer is a jerk, I guess?

While I think many of you other criticisms are reasonable differences of viewpoint on plausibility. I think your critique of the jail encounter is probably the weakest point in your original review. I already responded to it in an earlier post so I won't get into that here, but on this point, I think the jailer is a quickly sketched character are we are meant to assume he is being self-centered and not wanting to risk exposure. If he tells the PCs they are more likely to refuse. It just seems like a fair think to expect from a throwaway NPC. Would it be cool if we got more details on this guy? I suppose but it is also a very long module so for something this minor I don't mind needing to read into his reasoning.

The Alley scene makes no sense. The PCs could find a way to break out of the jail, so we're instructed to place the scene anywhere we want. But if the PCs are actually in jail, then we're just supposed to believe that Akrial puts on a performance in the alley behind the jail where she somehow magically knows that there are PCs there who might be sympathic to her story and are listening?

I think this is more about mood. Again 80s horror movie logic. I think the scene works. It definitely captures that feel. There is something cinematic about them overhearing this stuff. In terms of why she is specifically there, I actually agree with you this is a place the module could have provided more information about. The reason why I say that is one of the key concepts in the module is the wandering major encounter (which is all about running NPCs as living characters). You are meant to do that with Akriel. I think it would have illustrated this aspect of the module better had it explained things a bit. But I also think that is fairly minor. She is the daughter of the domain lord so probably knows a lot about what is going on in town, some out of town weirdos in the jail could easily attract her attention. And I am sure by peoples' description of them, she would have a good sense of their capabilities. That said, @Paul Farquhar I think gets the point here which is this is the standard quest give you get in many modules, especially at that time.

Akrial's Tale makes no sense. Akriel's story is insultingly stupid. Every review of this I've read online (and there are entire threads on Kargatane devoted to this) changes her story into something more plausible and, at the very least, believable. She's in love with Dr Dominiani in Gundarak, and the only thing that will help her plight is a magical crown. Are you kidding me right now? I should have given this review 1 star for the phrase "fraught with danger" alone. lol

There's nothing terribly askew with the "Woodland Encounter", but it adds nothing to the overall story. Though this, too, stretches believability. The PCs save a house from a wolfwere then, "The family will insist that the PCs accompany them to his farm where they can plunder whatever they desire in return for their aid." I mean, if my neighbor tried to kill me, and I only survived because random strangers showed up and saved me from them, it's only logical that I would suggest that the random strangers go next door and loot with impunity.

The Kartakane Inn is a mess. I don't even know where to start with this thing. Firstly, why are we here? Harkon, whom Akrial would very much like to avoid, I assume, is known to frequent this place. Harkon has a permanent room here. Akrial knows this. Why, exactly does Akrial want to come here so she could be so easily found out? Why are all the rooms of the inn detailed? The PCs have no reason to explore the entire place. There's even a room called "The Killing Room". Seriously? I'm starting to think this module was written by a 12-year old. The wolfweres here torment and possibly even kill the PCs for fun. "It is obvious that you could utterly destroy the entire party here, but that is not the object in a Ravenloft game. You should be trying to terrify the players." This is, of course after one of the wolfweres in the tavern picks a fight and "He will then fight until he (or the PCs) is slain." Did I mention that the GM is supposed to have wolfweres just burtst through the walls into the PCs room at night to further torment them? The module gives 5 (five!) different ways the woflweres can enter their room where they can just attack them with impunity, and even if the PCs flee the wolfweres are free to just stalk them all night long for fun. DM torture porn. No player is going to enjoy any part of this.

Into the Gorge. Evil giant crows. Really? The PCs can attack Radaga's spy tree, which starts a battle with 8 goblyns, and if that fight isn't enough of a problem, then Radaga can have them fight - and I sh*t you not - 180 skeletons. After that, there's a giant ribcage prison which curiously contains 13 humans, 10 zombies and 2 ju-ju zombies. It isn't explained why the zombies here don't attack and eat the humans. What's next, cats and dogs living together?

If I read any more of this, I'm likely to go insane. But please, for the love of Strahd, tell me why you love this thing so much. What am I missing here?

If I have time I will get into this stuff in detail. But a lot of your complaints sound like very subjective reactions to the material. Which is fair. But i mean if giant evil crows are a problem for you, I don't know, they don't seem so terrible to me.

Some of these I did already address if you go back and look at my first response (pretty sure I got into the woodland encounter for example). That is one I will be happy to get into more detail on when I have more time though as I consider it a standout moment in the module

On the Kartakan Inn again I would point to the Howling. This is like the scene where the wolves are coming after them relentlessly and totally in control of things. I don't think the point is to kill or turn the PCs into lycanthropes (though that can certainly happen). It is more about slowly revealing the horror that they are surrounded by werewolves. One thing I will say is, fair if you don't like it, but this is probably the singular most popular thing in the module and perhaps even in the game line from that time (the Kartakan Inn is something I regularly used in my campaigns because it is such a cool location).

Honestly to me it sounds like this adventure isn't for you though
 

They loved all the stuff at the Inn. By this point they had completely bought into the idea of being in a gothic story and didn't bat an eyelid at the idea that Harkon Lukas owned the Inn - it fitted perfectly into their expectations of what should be happening in this kind of story. Of course Akriel chooses the worst possible place to meet. It would be boring and logical otherwise and decrease the Wuthering Quotient.

This ties to something about the sound stage and dream logic for me. I like classic shaw brothers movies and those are langley done on sound stages. It produces an atmosphere similar to hammer or universal. And things follow more of a play logic (which I think connects a bit to gothic because Castle of Otranto was so heavily influenced by Shakespeare). Drama is more the priority so people are where they need to be to hear something, plot elements are more obvious and simple, more interesting is better than boring, etc.
 

The Gorge sequence ended up being really horrific - we had our first death of the campaign here when one character went off snooping on his own. I think giant ravens are really cool, by the way.

The gorge has been something that has worked well for me every time. I have even taken the gorge section and fitted it into other campaigns in different settings and systems and gotten real good reactions from it. I think especially when you have that fabian art to help guide your sense of place there, it just works.
 

The Kartakane Inn is a mess. ....Why are all the rooms of the inn detailed? The PCs have no reason to explore the entire place.

Not addressing the criticisms but the reason for this is Feast of Goblyns is not just a module, it is a setting supplement. It is basically one part adventure one part Kartakass setting guide book. The Inn, Harmonia, Skald, etc, these are locations that you want information on in other adventures that happened in the domain
 

TiQuinn

Registered User
I think some folks are blessed with players who can tolerate a lot and automatically get the Gothic vibe. Other players will need more. Luckily that is totally possible in Ravenloft with a bit of work on those old modules or by crafting your own, no different than one would create their own dungeon for Greyhawk or their own world.
 

I think some folks are blessed with players who can tolerate a lot and automatically get the Gothic vibe. Other players will need more. Luckily that is totally possible in Ravenloft with a bit of work on those old modules or by crafting your own, no different than one would create their own dungeon for Greyhawk or their own world.

Every group is different. It may also be an age, regional or generational thing. I often played in groups of players who also ran games themselves, and many of my groups have been rotating GMs (where someone runs a campaign and then after a while maybe someone else runs one). But generally I play with players who are open minded about these things. Also most of the people I played with in my age range generally were familiar with hammer, universal and would have had some familiarity with gothic novels (they may not have read them all, but they likely read Frankenstein and Dracula). And we all watched most of the same horror movies. If we played Call of Cthulhu, we all knew what we were in for. If we played Ravenloft we all knew what we were in for.
 

der_kluge

Adventurer
Not addressing the criticisms but the reason for this is Feast of Goblyns is not just a module, it is a setting supplement. It is basically one part adventure one part Kartakass setting guide book. The Inn, Harmonia, Skald, etc, these are locations that you want information on in other adventures that happened in the domain
Specifically why I gave it two stars, instead of just one. :)
 

Not addressing the criticisms but the reason for this is Feast of Goblyns is not just a module, it is a setting supplement. It is basically one part adventure one part Kartakass setting guide book. The Inn, Harmonia, Skald, etc, these are locations that you want information on in other adventures that happened in the domain
Yep - this turned out to be very useful to us because one PC ended up becoming undead because of Campaign Reasons and wound up back at the Gorge. The other characters mounted a rescue mission into Ravenloft when they were much higher level so all this added detail came in very handy.
 

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