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

Extra detail is always nice to have, even if you end up not using it. CoS also has lots of extra details.

Might be worth mentioning that The Howling was still a popular book and movie at the time the module was written. There was a thread a couple of weeks ago on “all D&D is pastiche”, and that is certainly true of Ravenloft. It’s really a setting for players who love those novels and movies.

The last Ravenloft module I ran was more influenced by Scream and similar movies. I think trying to be somewhat contemporary can help if you have players too young to know Hammer Horror and The Howling.
 
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It isn't explained why the zombies here don't attack and eat the humans.
I should probably tackle this one, since it's in the core rules. D&D zombies are meat robots. They don't do anything unless they have orders to do so. They are not your Night of the Living Dead zombies who hunger for brains (use ghouls for that).
 
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TiQuinn

Registered User
The thing that I love about the Kartakan Inn encounter is that it’s also a perfect candidate of a scene that can be pulled out of the module and dropped into another adventure, along with a quality map.
 

Extra detail is always nice to have, even if you end up not using it. CoS also has lots of extra details.

Might be worth mentioning that The Howling was still a popular book and movie at the time the module was written. There was a thread a couple of weeks ago on “all D&D is pastiche”, and that is certainly true of Ravenloft. It’s really a setting for players who love those novels and movies.

Yeah for me growing up, that was The Werewolf movie. American Werewolf in London is also outstanding but the Howling a movie I remember watching as a kid who liked werewolves and loving it. The book is also very entertaining. The Howling film series gets strange after the first film though lol. One look at the cover and the Howling influence is very obvious. For Kartkass, the Howling really fits well.
 

The thing that I love about the Kartakan Inn encounter is that it’s also a perfect candidate of a scene that can be pulled out of the module and dropped into another adventure, along with a quality map.

This is one of the things that is great about the module overall, most of the encounters and sections can be pulled out and repurposed pretty easily. For Example using Dr. Dominiani as an unusual vampire villain (you have his entry, his castle, you have his background connection to Akriel). The Homestead encounter can easily be plunked into any campaign. The Gorge is something I have used a lot. The Crown of Souls is also something you can use without running the adventure and get a ton of play from it. It has a lot of parts you can pull.
 

Yeah for me growing up, that was The Werewolf movie. American Werewolf in London is also outstanding but the Howling a movie I remember watching as a kid who liked werewolves and loving it. The book is also very entertaining. The Howling film series gets strange after the first film though lol. One look at the cover and the Howling influence is very obvious. For Kartkass, the Howling really fits well.
American Werewolf in London is a good model for how adventurers are received when they walk into a Ravenloft tavern.
 

der_kluge

Adventurer
The Price of Revenge (Dungeon #42) ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

This module, for 4th-6th level PCs, takes place in the cold valleys of Valachan. After 4 pages of dense backstory, the PCs arrive from the mists, presumably riding horses. That point is deemed as such both by the boxed text (which is copious) and the young vampire girl who demands one to feed upon shortly after their arrival. Given that this girl is walking around with 6 wolves and is barefoot in the snow, smart money is on just killing her, and at just 25 hit points, it wouldn’t be a tough fight anyway, Nosferatu vampire or not.

Next, the PCs venture into a ruined structure which houses a pungent “middens” in the basement, that is guarded by a geist. This encounter is weird, deadly, and above all, completely unnecessary, except perhaps to instill some sense of flavor around mushrooms and fungus – a recurring theme in the town.

Next, the PCs find themselves in Ungrad, a small town of 1,500 people. Several locations are defined here, including the obligatory room-by-room layout of an Inn, which seems entirely superfluous. The module informs the DM that “Sooner or later, the PCs will visit Awilda”. Awilda is a fortuneteller in town, and the mother of the creepy vampire girl at the beginning that party might or might not have killed. In that encounter the girl tells the PCs to tell her mother that she’s happy, but only if they give her a horse to feed upon. There is no indication of what to do if there are no horses. But the girl doesn’t say who her mother is. We’re told we should schedule a second “creepy encounter” with her so she can direct the party to her mother. Of course, that’s not going to happen if the party has already killed the creepy girl.

There’s a forced encounter with a vampire named Antianetta, and she secretly charms one of the PCs so she can feed on them later. Of course, if the PC (secretly) makes this save, nothing happens, and no one is the wiser. Kudos for the writer not forcing this to happen, at least, like a lot of modules seem to do.

Assuming all has gone according to plan, the PCs end up at Awilda’s house (if they care to go), where they can witness her having a stroke. If the party can administer some healing to her, she can survive long enough to deliver a cryptic riddle involving someone taking her daughter, and that they need to get the roses from behind a gargoyle. After this, she dies. Apparently if the party has no cleric, and can’t heal her, or they fail a medicine/healing check, she dies. And then the quest is over. Thanks for playing. Also, they can loot her house and collect her entire life savings of just over 3 gp. Should have invested in that 401(k), Awilda.

The PCs then go hunting for these elusive gargoyles, and apparently only one guy in town knows anything about a creature resembling that description, and the PCs are expected to basically spend the entire day questioning townsfolk until they find this one guy who has this information. After this, another contrived encounter with another vampire – this time the husband of the other one, and the town’s mayor, Felix Hoyer. Felix uses his ESP ability to scan their minds for what they know, which at this point could be next to nothing, especially if they let Awilda die, for example. The encounter isn’t consequential.

That night, the creepy girl (who the party totally didn’t kill the first time they met her), raps on the windows at the inn where the party is staying and asks how her mom died. She tells them that her mom won’t be happy until Felix is destroyed.

Afterwards, the PCs encounter Antianetta again, who attempts to feed on the PCs during the night. This can lead to a combat encounter, but ultimately, she flees if it doesn’t go her way. In what must be the weirdest editorial decision ever, these encounters are all listed in the room description for Awilda’s house. Because after this, we continue to move into descriptions for more buildings in the town. Truly bizarre.

Incidentally, the meeting hall is described as having “quite a few” gargoyle statues on the ground level. Curious that only one guy in town remembers this. Two secret doors later, the PCs can find the necessary crypt, where they can find a special white rose growing inside. Upon leaving, they encounter a fight with a dozen wolves.

The Hoyer residence is detailed, but small. The PCs can soon find their way into the crypts, where they can defeat the two vampires and the magical white roses are powerful (though temporary) items that can help with this process.

There’s nothing terribly askew in this module, though it’s just not very good, and extremely one-dimensional and kind of predictable. There are quite a few places and ways where this module could completely go sideways, and the PCs could end up just aimlessly wandering around not knowing what to do. The girl at the beginning is interesting, but it’s not immediately made clear who her mother is, or why the PCs should even care. Using the girl as a plot device feels incredibly forced, and if the PCs kill the girl (and there’s really no reason why they shouldn’t), the quest is basically over at that point, since there would be little incentive to go visit the Vistani mother who could give them the clues about what to do. And the dying Vistani woman (who dies and then is forever dead) feels like such an overused trope at this point that it couldn’t possibly have any real impact here.
 

If your players insist on being murder hobos and killing everything they encounter, you need to put some completely innocent (but vaguely suspicious) children in their path. And if that doesn't deter them they are clearly irredeemably evil and are taken by the Dark Powers to be NPC dark lord prisoners.
 

TiQuinn

Registered User
If your players insist on being murder hobos and killing everything they encounter, you need to put some completely innocent (but vaguely suspicious) children in their path. And if that doesn't deter them they are clearly irredeemably evil and are taken by the Dark Powers to be NPC dark lord prisoners.
Killing a vampire that demands to feed on one of your mounts in the middle of a forest is being a murder hobo?

It just sounds like a very weakly written adventure. Requiring the party to not kill the obvious vampire child at the beginning of a module in order for said module to continue is unfortunately fairly typical 2e Dungeon adventure design (in the worst way). It just sounds kind of uninspired.
 
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der_kluge

Adventurer
Killing a vampire that demands to feed on one of your mounts in the middle of a forest is being a murder hobo?

It just sounds like a very weakly written adventure. Requiring the party to not kill the obvious vampire child at the beginning of a module in order for said module to continue is unfortunately fairly typical 2e Dungeon adventure design (in the worst way). It just sounds kind of uninspired.
Thank you, this 100%. Add in "she's barefoot in the snow" and "Surrounded by 6 pet wolves" and you've got yourself a villain absolutely deserving of being removed from the domain.

Normally when the writer does this kind of thing, they say "If they attack this NPC, immediately roll a powers check", but this one didn't indicate that, probably for the very reason you just indicated.

But even if they don't kill her, she doesn't tell you who her mother is, which means the party is just in for a very boring city exploration until the DM starts force-feeding them clues about where they need to go. And even then, ultimately this boils down to "Party goes to a new village and ends up killing two vampires." There's nothing to see here. Move along. :)
 

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