Revisiting Book of Crypts (Ravenloft)

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BedrockBrendan

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So I started preparations to run Book of Crypts, an adventure anthology that came out for Ravenloft 2E in 1991. It has been many years since I ran any of these adventures. There were three adventures I remember running pretty regularly from it: Bride of Mordenheim, which I used very often as an introductory adventure; Blood in Moondale and The Dark Minstrel. When I've gone back to 2E Ravenloft in the past, I ran stuff like Feast of Goblyns and The Created (the module not the supplement). Because I wanted to do a campaign leading up to Halloween and I was hoping to give my players a glimpse into the history of this line from the 2E era, I thought it would be fun to run Book of Crypts entirely as written, on its own terms.

This week I re-read Bride of Mordenheim and it was fun going back to something I haven't run in a long time. There is also a short introduction on Fear and Horror at the start of the book, which I might get more into later as this is a key feature in many of the Ravenloft adventures (Feast of Goblyns has a similar section). These are just some initial observations. I will post again after I run it next week.

The book is written by Dale Henson and J. Robert King (I loved his Ravenloft Novel Heart of Midnight when I was young). It is edited by Anne Brown, J. Robert King and Jean Rabe.

I used to run Bride of Mordenheim a lot. It is a very good introductory adventure (though it is meant for characters levels 2-4: so not an adventure suitable for 1st level characters). This definitely comes from a very different period in D&D history, and not all the books are the same, nor are all the adventures in this particular book the same in terms of adventure structure. Bride of Mordenheim is very much about getting into the action and there is an adventure that is going to unfold.

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One of the things I like about this opening section and the paragraphs that follow is they do a good job, at least for me, of capturing a surreal dream like monster of the week style adventure (which I do enjoy). It can be heavier handed than I would normally run things, but with Ravenloft I find it works pretty well. I do plan on explaining to my players this is different from how I normally run things and I think they are all pretty good about playing something as it was originally intended.

A good example of some of the heavier handedness would be a moment like this:

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Some of this stems from it being an introductory adventure. I used to use this adventure in a similar way to the Aleena adventure in the in red box. It is a useful way to walk the players through many of the key elements of Ravenloft, and to give them exposure to the fear and horror mechanics. Overall it is very focused on story and atmosphere.

There is more room for choices as the adventure goes on, but it tends to anticipate things in terms of if players do A, if players do B. It can easily be made more flexible, but for my purposes I am going to run it purely from the text.

It is also an interesting choice to start the Anthology with Mordenheim (who is the setting's Victor Frankenstein analog), and to lean into the Bride of Frankenstein as inspiration in the title. It starts the anthology on a very clear note, and one of the strengths of Book of Crypts (at least from what I remember) is its variety of tones. The adventures are all pretty distinct.

Another aspect of this short halloween campaign is I will be using the 2E revised PHB and DMG. Personally I prefer the 1989 edition, but that is difficult for my players to find (the revised PHB and DMG are readily available on Drivethru). This is a system I like going back to on occasion, because it was the main system I grew up playing (I played 1E for a few years prior to 2nd edition being released, but all through middle school and high school we played 2E).
 

Voros

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I've been revisiting a lot of 2e adventures, if I had my shit together I'd be posting my thoughts on a blog or something and the Ravenloft adventures are among my favourites.

Yes, some (but not all) are a little heavy handed and sometimes railroady but that is a pretty easy fix by changing how you run it.

What really appeals to me is the breadth of ideas and tone in the adventures, I also like how they draw on strong, vivid genre tropes which I think really helps engage the players and gives the GM a clear idea of what the adventure is about.
 

BedrockBrendan

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I've been revisiting a lot of 2e adventures, if I had my shit together I'd be posting my thoughts on a blog or something and the Ravenloft adventures are among my favourites.

Yes, some (but not all) are a little heavy handed and sometimes railroady but that is a pretty easy fix by changing how you run it.

What really appeals to me is the breadth of ideas and tone in the adventures, I also like how they draw on strong, vivid genre tropes which I think really helps engage the players and gives the GM a clear idea of what the adventure is about.

Definitely I think it would be easy to adjust the material to make it less railroady (and I wasn't really putting that part out there as a complaint, just so people knew what to expect).

I agree on the vivid tropes. I find a character like Victor Mordenheim so easy to channel as a GM for that reason (and he looks like he is modeled after Christopher Lee, so I always thought of his personality when I played him). I think that combined with the evocative quality of the material really drew me into the setting when I first fell in love with it.
 

Voros

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Definitely I think it would be easy to adjust the material to make it less railroady (and I wasn't really putting that part out there as a complaint, just so people knew what to expect).

I agree on the vivid tropes. I find a character like Victor Mordenheim so easy to channel as a GM for that reason (and he looks like he is modeled after Christopher Lee, so I always thought of his personality when I played him). I think that combined with the evocative quality of the material really drew me into the setting when I first fell in love with it.

Oh I agree, I just mentioned it not because of your passing comment just know it is a common complaint about Ravenloft (and 2e) adventures.

I think the whole '2e adventures are all railroads' claim is exaggerated, they produced a mountain of adventures and some are railroads but a lot aren't.

Anytime there is that much content pouring out it is going to be hit or miss.
 

BedrockBrendan

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I think the whole '2e adventures are all railroads' claim is exaggerated, they produced a mountain of adventures and some are railroads but a lot aren't.

I agree here. They were kind of all over the map in terms of structure, and there were a few different styles that I feel were floating around at the time. And in a lot of the adventures its often moments of railroad rather than the whole thing being one. Either way, it is a little hard to judge older products by whatever styles we are playing in the present. One of the things I try to do every time I go back is take them as written, play them the way they were intended and see what value I can extract from it for my future games. It is also fun going back because it really does remind about different things that got you so excited in your early days of gaming.
 

BedrockBrendan

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Had our first session last night. We made it through Bride of Mordenheim. It went well, there was a lost of rust to shake off as I hadn't run 2E in a while.

Here are some thoughts and observations:

The adventure is still fun to run (last time I ran it was probably the 90s), and I particularly like a couple of things about it. I think most importantly, it is specifically designed as an introduction to the Horror Check and it does a good job of that (one of our characters failed his Horror Check and went into a violent rage towards the experiment and towards Victor at the end of the adventure. It is also interesting because it really isn't 'that combat focused. There may be a confrontation at the end, and in my case there was, but even that fight, can easily turn into a conversation that doesn't have to be resolved through fighting. In our case, because one player was lost in a violent rage, fighting happened and reached its inevitable conclusion, but because Mordenheim is mostly disinterested in the PCs and focused on his experiment, he isn't the sort of antagonist whose goal in the adventure is the destruction of the party. I think the GM also has a lot of room to run Mordenheim (and a key NPC they introduce) as he or she thinks is natural based on his entry in the RoT boxed set. It is also very good at establishing mood and works well as an introduction to the anthology of adventures. I like that it goes right into Lamordia and Mordenheim, because it sets a clear tone. In the RoT boxed set Mordenheim is explicitly described as "...Ravenloft's 'Doctor Frankenstein,' loosely based on the character from Marry Shelley's classic Gothic novel....", so they aren't coy about what he is in the setting, so using him in this first adventure provides a pretty stark into to the world and/or to the anthology.

Some of the issues I noticed with it are mostly things related to the structure and presentation. There is the railroading I pointed out earlier, which went well with my group but I explicitly prepared them for things like that (I don't know how it would have landed if they thought this was just one of my normal sessions). I think less of an issue than that though (because the book is pretty clear that it is railroad here, it isn't doing it accidentally so its at least a conscious choice) is some of the details in the boxed text (which generally are quite good) aren't always sufficiently elaborated upon in the rest of the text. As an example there is a moment in the adventure where, if the Players are loud going up a set of stairs, Mordenheim props a chair against the door to the room he is in (from outside the room) and it doesn't explain how he does so while remaining in the room itself (i.e. did he use a secret passage to go in the hall and place the chair, did he use some kind of rope or device to put the chair in place, etc). It is possible in this or in other instances I missed a brief explanation but read it three times and didn't see any. That said, it is fairly easy to extrapolate and were I running it more as part of a normal game, I would have done so, but I was in D&D history mode, trying to run it as close to the intention as possible and so I found that aspect challenging because it wasn't always clear what the intention was. I do think most GMs can adapt pretty easily to these missing details, the only thing is it would be best to consider these parts of the module in advance so your answers all make sense. There are similar issues with things like some of the secret passages that are mentioned elsewhere in the adventure.

The adventure also assumes a specific course of events. It is pretty easy to adapt if things go in other directions but there is also an art to running an adventure structured like that when the players go in other directions. As an example the adventure assumes the players take a straightforward approach to entering Mordenheim's mansion (they go up the hill, in through the front door, and up the stairs where they meet Mordenheim for the first time). This is perfectly fine, but our party thief, expectedly, climbed the walls and looked for other points of entry. Neither the adventure nor the cardstock entry for the mansion in the boxed set give you the kind of precise details that make running that easy. It is still entirely manageable, but because it is so structured around anticipated flow of events, I think it might be challenging for some GMs to adapt and it might be hard for them to decide on the fly key details about the mansion. However that said, this adventure and the mansion are very far from dungeon crawls and not really meant to be map centric. So it isn't a huge deal in my mind. Just stuff to consider as players will try all sorts of things and the GM needs to have some rough ideas going in or be very good on their toes.

There was also, I believe a somewhat substantial error in the text. And this error has caused me to misunderstand an important aspect of it. I always believed there was an unnamed servant (an Igor like character in the adventure) because of the following passage:

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Again many details in the adventure's boxed set are not cleared up in the text that follows so I just assumed there was an assistant character and would give him a name. I also assumed he was helping Mordenheim throughout the adventure (it kind of helps explain some of the things Mordenheim does). But one of my players suggested that "another man" might have been intended to refer to the man's other eye (maybe it was meant to be "the other eye" "another eye"). Or perhaps the text is correct and it refers to an assistant. I read three times through the module and don't recall seeing any other references to a helper (I could be wrong as by the third pass you can sometimes miss details due to familiarity). And I don't recall mention of it in Mordenheim's entry in the book: though to be fair I only read that once in preparation for running it.

One thing it does do is provide forks where different outcomes are specified based on different choices or results. They do tend to be binary, but it is nice having those in there. They are also not inconsequential. The different outcomes can be very meaningful.

Overall I enjoyed running this. I think it is best run in a creative way where you take what is presented as a most likely scenario but try to keep things open so that the players don't feel like they are being led from one event to the next (and I think the intention is this is meant to be the most likely scenario). May have more thoughts, which I will post later. If not, next entry is Blood in Moondale.
 

BedrockBrendan

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(Spoilers ahead)

I ran the second adventure, Blood in Moondale, last night. This one was very interesting to go back to. I had fond memories of it, but recall taking liberties with it in the 90s. Running it again, this time strictly as written, I can see why I would have done so. Presently running it with 3 level 5 characters (a thief, priest and fighter).

Overall I love the tone. If Bride of Mordenheim invoked the classic camp of Bride of Frankenstein, this one got into the camp of monster rallies. But it also was clearly drawing on movies like The Howling. It is a werewolf adventure but features a vampire who can come into conflict with the werewolf, the PCs or both.

And it isn't just campy. It is properly scary at times. It does do a good job of putting the PCs in a situation where they are faced with a lethal foe, but discover another possible threat (and they know what they enemy is capable of because they've been investigating his murders).

The premise is pretty simple: the players are part of a militia, and are with a brute squad dealing with a local werewolf outbreak led by Captain Rapacion (and two other NPCs: Eldon and Ravewood). They get snowed in in a small village called Moondale and are trapped there as the werewolf kills locals. They discover that the werewolf is their captain, who is a loup-garou. They also learn that the innkeeper is a Nosferatu vampire who is living strictly off animal blood because he detests his condition (it is set up so he can join in the final fight against Captain Rapacion).

One thing that is very clear so far, these adventures all serve key functions. Bride of Mordenheim is an introduction and in particular an introduction to the Horror Check. This adventure is about using two of the new monsters provided in the Realm of Terror Boxed Set: The Loup-Garou and the Nosferatu Vampire.

The structure is a bit too linear, even for this time I would say. It is very tightly woven so that there are a number of scenes that the module plans for in advance and there is just so much to remember that it makes the module a little difficult to run (I read it twice, once the day before running, and once the day of, then a quick skim right before as well). I didn't mess it up, but it was a little more stressful to remember all the floating details than Bride of Mordenheim.

The scenes themselves are all well done. I think the problem with it is largely that the boxed text glosses through a lot of decision points to lead the players to the scenes it wants. I think you can see the module itself as just one possible way events could pan out, and run it more freeform, and that would work fine. But the boxed text makes that hard because it will describe things happening over a period of time where players would normally be able to chime in and say what they do (and I think it may even make many decisions for them).

The adventure became a lot more enjoyable when the players forced it off the path and there was no going back to it. Then I just had to adapt, run the NPCs, and let the players decide what they wanted to do and how. They came up with a pretty clever method for determining the werewolf's identity (which killed two birds with one stone because it also revealed the presence of a vampire). That is what shifted the adventure off course, and that is when things got very enjoyable (at least that is how it appeared on my side of the screen: I haven't done a post session discussion with the players because we had to stop right before they were going to confront the vampire).

While the structure might be a little confining for someone running the game now, it is a really good adventure because it has a number of useful elements to it. The characters are all solid for this type of horror. And so long as you know the NPCs, situation, etc, then you can run it pretty free form and it works. You can also draw on the scenes as things that crop up naturally (for example, if you know the werewolf is going to kill someone that night, you can use one of the scenes as a starting point for that event). You can also weave them in where it makes sense. I found it easiest to just focus on the PCs and NPCs towards the end.

This is an example of a typical scene in the adventure:

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It is also odd because it is set in a village called Moondale, but no map is provided of the village. There is also no regional map (it isn't clear what the region is, though I think in later products this was set on the island of Liffe). This actually works well and it is something I remember about my 2E days with Ravenloft where what was happening was often more important than the specific details of the place. I used maps, but not every town or location was mapped out in advance. And while running Blood in Mondale, I found not having a map of Mondale to be a plus, not a minus.

I mostly have very fond memories of this module. I found myself a bit disappointed initially running it this time around, because it felt overly structured. However once things opened up, I really quite enjoyed it.

I love werewolf adventures and I love flesh golem adventures. Blood in Moondale is good to have if you are a fan of werewolves (Feast of Goblyns is my goto werewolf module, but this one I drew on a lot as well).

Blood in Moondale also is an adventure that I picked up a bad habit from in my early GMing days. It isn't the fault of the module, I just loved how Captain Rapacion was secretly the werewolf and remember having a number of vampire hunter allies who turned out to be vampire's themselves. Basically I liked the concept too much and overplayed it.

Looking forward to how things end for the party on this one. Will post about the Dark Minstrel next (going to put these thoughts all together on my blog as well)
 

BedrockBrendan

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I ran the third adventure in Book of Crypts on Friday: The Dark Minstrel.

This is one I used to run all the time, largely because it is easy to do even if you don't have the book once you know the information. So if I was at a friends house and we all wanted to play D&D but I didn't have my Ravenloft material, this adventure was a good option.

The basic premise is quite simple. The players arrive in Claviera where they receive an invitation from Baron Lyron Evensong to attend a banquet at his mansion. Once there they feast and then are brought to his study where he plays a song for them on a harpsichord. After finishing the song, he explains that they are all trapped in the room for the next 100 years (and investigation confirms that the room is surrounded by void). The Baron doesn't want to hurt the party, he just wants them to keep him company for the 100 years night. They soon find out he is a spirit, and seemingly impossible to defeat. The players must find the Baron's weakness so they can defeat him and escape.

I quite like the premise and basic structure of the adventure. Playing it again, even decades later, I still really enjoy this aspect. It essentially takes place in a single room, so it is role-play heavy and an extremely confined investigation. The players can learn more about the situation by talking with the Baron, by reading the books on his shelves and studying features of the study. It isn't particularly difficult, I've never had a party that failed. But it is still quite fun.

The Baron is a pretty interesting character and I am realizing it fits a pattern so far with the adventure: many of the villains see themselves good and the designers take pains to create moral grayness within the parameters of the objective D&D alignment system. Obviously this is true for lots of evil NPCs, its just clear there is a conscious choice to play with this aspect of alignment in Book of Crypts.

This was always an interesting feature of Ravenloft. You can't detect Good or Evil in the demi plane, but good or evil still exist as part of the alignment system and cosmology.

Baron Evensong is something of a musician vigilante, seeing himself as extremely moral, to the extent that he acted as judge, jury and executioner for transgressions he perceived in others. He is a very enjoyable NPC to play. He sees himself as Lawful Good, when in reality he is Neutral Evil. I thought this was a good use of an alignment system that can break down under scrutiny (describing an NPC as NE but who stating they believe themselves to be LG is an easy feature to latch onto when running the character). In that respect he is walking a similar line to Dante in Blood in Moondale (a vampire who is presently CN and striving to be good by not drinking the blood of people, but rather drinking animal blood), and Victor Mordenheim as well.

The adventure itself is very well done in terms of providing lots of things for players to do. The bulk of the investigation revolves around the book shelf (though other clues exist) and I rather like the system for dealing with it which is as follows:

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If the players roll anything but a 9, 10 or 11, they find books that might be interesting but don't help with solving the adventure. It generally takes an hour to skim through a given volume. If they roll a 9, 10 or 11, then they discover books such as the Baron's personal journal, a book of his poems and a book about imbuing musical instruments with magic. All of these three categories of book provide crucial details for solving the adventure. There is a similar section in the adventure dealing with sculptures in the room.

The riddle to solve is that the Baron's spirit is tethered to his harpsichord due to a spell he had cast upon it that went awry. If the players destroy the harpsichord, the mansion crumbles and they are freed.

By far this was the easiest adventure to run in the book to this point and I think it very much has to do with the simplicity of the adventure premise and the how easy it is for the GM to manage the clue finding (due to how it is organized and how elegantly it is presented).

All that said, there are some issues with the module, as with some of the other adventures around railroading and heavy handedness. Here is a good example of one such moment. The invitation the players received was cursed and whoever read it suffers phobias that do psychic damage until the players go to the mansion:

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And the introductory hook is especially difficult for the party to avoid:

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It is very evocative, and I like the way they bring music into the players being drawn into Evensong's domain, but it may be a concern if you want the players to have more freedom to choose not to go on the adventure or to approach the adventure from different paths. However, for monster of the week style play, I think it works well. I just made a point of telling my players in advance that these adventures would be run in a different style from my usual approach to play.

I did find a notable typo in this adventure where the Baron's name is misspelled in a key header, but otherwise it was free of any errors I could discern. I do recommend this adventure with the above caveats. I think it is useful for GMs to help them develop certain skills. Running an NPC in a room with the PCs for an entire adventure is much easier than it sounds, but it is probably something people might find daunting or challenging at first. Luckily the Baron is stark enough that I don't think this is much of an issue, and the Baron has a strong built in motivation (to keep the PCs as his guests to ward of loneliness and boredom) and the players have a strong enough built in motivation (to escape the Baron's curved room so they don't die of old age), that I think it is fairly effortless.
 

Voros

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Sounds like a simple but fun premise. Added this to my wishlist, too bad it isn't POD yet.
 

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Sounds like a simple but fun premise. Added this to my wishlist, too bad it isn't POD yet.
Same here. I found some scans of the artwork and it is gorgeous. I want this book!
 

BedrockBrendan

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Sounds like a simple but fun premise. Added this to my wishlist, too bad it isn't POD yet.

I would have liked them to be POD as well. I believe I do have a copy of the book somewhere in my house, but I ended up using the scans on Drivethru. They were quite useable (some of the scans can be hit or miss in terms of blurriness). I ran the whole campaign so far using PDFs for all the relevant books (Black Box Set, PHB and DMG, Book of Crypts). I do have print copies of the black box (both the boxed set form and the POD form, and the PHB and DMG) but I found it more convenient to not even pull them off the shelf and just stick with my PDF reader.
 

BedrockBrendan

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I ran the next adventure in Book of Crypts: The Cedar Chest. I've always liked the title of the adventure for some reason, and it has a great backstory, but it is also one of the entries in the book that I had issues with as a GM. This will have some spoilers.

Again this continues with an almost monster of the week approach (though all of these adventures can be weaved organically into a campaign when the players happen to be in the right place or through other adaptations). The premise is the players, after having been in the port town of Armeikos for a few days are approached by the captain of the constabulary, Jovis Blackwere, who asks their help solving a series of murders by a sadistic killer. As the players investigate they discover that the killer is using one of them as his host, murdering people when the player character falls asleep (and using a Sleep spell on the rest of the party). The killer is Erik Spellbender, an aging wizard who wanted immortality but lacked the power to become a lich so kludged together his own phylactery with a cedar chest and by using Magic Jar on the player character in question. The players must find out which of them is the host, and discover the cedar chest which contains the necromancer's heart so they can stab it.

Some will immediately notice a potential issue with this adventure. I think it is entirely fine to have a wizard using a PC as a host to commit murders (just as a PC who doesn't know they have lycanthropy can be an interesting development). The problem with this set up, is it imposes a backstory on the player that they just have to accept and I find that always makes it weird (even back in the 90s when I first ran it, it was a little odd). When the player discovers that they are the host, they learn about the history of Ejrik (there are other places in the adventure where these details can be uncovered as well). Among the details they learn are that they went hunting skeletons that were attacking a local village, and that these skeletons were bait set up by Ejrik:

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The above is taken from Ejrik Spellbender's entry in the back of the adventure. This is what the player learns about themselves when they discover they are the host. It is a great premise, but it creates a situation where the GM has to effectively say "this happened to you some time ago". I prepared my players for this sort of development, and they are pretty good about rolling with things, but I've had players who do not like this at all. However it does offer up alternatives to this at the start of the adventure, including using an NPC:

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Again, I think the premise is really good. I love the way the necromancer uses magic jar but it goes a bit awry (he only has control when the host sleeps for example, and he wants full control). Another issue that emerges is the timeline, which the adventure isn't especially clear about, and that is going to be a problem because the when and where is enormously important here. The players are investigating recent murders, but there are also crimes that happened six months ago and it just doesn't do a good job of explaining if these older crimes were committed by the PC or not, and if so, how (given that they could have been hundreds of miles away). It also does require the GM to puzzle through the initial backstory and figure out how that would have worked based on where the player character was at the time (for example if the players only entered Ravenloft weeks ago).

The mystery itself is good, at least the points of investigation they provide. One issue here is they give you a few key places fully described, but also say the adventure is open and allow the players to explore the town. It provides a town map which is very good, but the GM will need to do more work if they want further exploration to be meaningful (I think given that the adventure is ten pages, this is fair, but I would have liked to see some clever method like they had in the Dark Minstrel adventure for doing a larger exploration on the fly (even if it was just some bare bones notes).

In terms of mood and atmosphere, I think the adventure works well. A lot of the boxed text can be lengthy and if the GM falls into the trap of letting the boxed text guide the adventure, then it can be stale. If you just run it straight down, without fully exploring the points where it says let the players explore freely, then it can be a bit railroady, and because I am running these this time around as written, it felt a little linear (importantly this isn't how it would normally be run though). The players did end up breaking that linearity by getting leg shackles and shackling themselves together (which forced Ejrik to go in an unexpected direction).

I do like how it lays out the clues. The points of investigation it does provide are well done, and they are highly cinematic as well. One thing it does right is basically tell the players at the first point of investigation that one of them is the host. So rather than have to slowly figure that out (which I think would be how most writers would have handled this adventure) its out in the open and the real mystery is figuring out which one of them is the host. I really like this decision because I think it makes the adventure work much better than if they have gone the other way. I also like a lot of little details in the adventure. For example that they picked the name Blackwere for the captain because he seems to be filling a similar role to Rapacion from Blood in Moondale and it tends to get the players' suspicions up if they've been through that adventure. And then there are cool locations like this one:

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Liked everything here from the home that is a "hoary, old galleon" to the woman's name: Sinara Doom (sounds very Thulsa Doom to me). Also the names over all are a good mix of sounds, which helps when trying to fit this backstory to different settings, places and worlds.

This is one entry where I am honestly on the fence. I think the core idea is wonderful. And I love the idea of a cedar chest with a necromancers heart in it that needs to be destroyed. I think the adventure has some really great parts. I think it does make good use of its ten pages to covey a sense of place. But I feel it really needed to make weaving that backstory in much easier, and it could have provided some more details (again space being a considering even something like a list). It also really doesn't tie together things like a bundle of clues the players acquire at the start of the adventure (pieces of paper with notes at the past five murder sites----these needed little more explanation in my opinion).

One thing I am also noticing about the NPC entries is many of them have very inflated stat blocks (multiple high scores, etc). I vaguely recall this might have just been how many NPCs were done back in the day but there are a few where it really feels like they shouldn't have as many high stats as they do have. This might just be personal preference though, and I am not sure which method they used to generate these stats, or if they merely assigned them (which I think is a fair way to do things for NPCs, I don't think they need to be rolled, it just feels a little off if important characters always have many very high stats. At the same time, I get the reasoning and the temptation to give NPCs 18s, 17s, etc.

All that said, I think different people will have different reactions to this one, and I do think it still provides a solid evening of entertainment. When I ran it last night, I think we finished it pretty neatly in about a little over two hours.
 

Yeti Spaghetti

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Adapting a Book of Crypts adventure or two for my Cryptworld campaign next year is high on my list.
 

Yeti Spaghetti

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Are you finding it an easy or challenging process?

I haven't tried yet, but I don't think it would be difficult. One issue that I found, though, when I started doing a conversion of another Ravenloft adventure is the number of encounters typically thrown at a party in AD&D. Since healing is a slower process in Chill/Cryptworld, throwing a bunch of monsters at PCs is probably not the best idea. But I think the adventures in Book of Crypts typically are lower on the encounter quotient, if I'm not mistaken.
 

BedrockBrendan

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I haven't tried yet, but I don't think it would be difficult. One issue that I found, though, when I started doing a conversion of another Ravenloft adventure is the number of encounters typically thrown at a party in AD&D. Since healing is a slower process in Chill/Cryptworld, throwing a bunch of monsters at PCs is probably not the best idea. But I think the adventures in Book of Crypts typically are lower on the encounter quotient, if I'm not mistaken.

They are pretty low. Generally Ravenloft encourages low encounters, but it varies a lot from module to module. I think in most cases, unless the encounters are connected directly to the adventure, in any cases where you had too many encounters you can take them out without affecting things (in Book of Crypts there are hardly any encounters though).
 

BedrockBrendan

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I got to the next adventure and decided not to run it, but run something original that was tied to the party background instead (we have been using small periods of down time so the players can connect with people via letters and other messages: one player is forming a church, the other forming a thieves network). The next adventure would have been Corrupted Innocence, which introduces the Ermordenung, which are monsters from Boritsi who have a deadly touch. I wasn't especially comfortable with this scenario, because the antagonist is so young (and for that kind of monster it just feels a little off). So instead I took the kernel of the idea, a child antagonist, and had them contend with a flesh golem creation of the man who they came to Ravenloft with.

In their backstory, they came to Ravenloft because they were helping a man named Aristanos, from the Fellowship of Promestus excavate ruins in a land far to the north. Aristanos was using them to resurrect a Sertori (sort of like Divine Sorcerers) named Luna Haunch. The attempted resurrection of her is what drew everyone into the mists, but they all came at different times. The players were initially ahead of him (I have been playing with the mists and time a lot). First they went to Mordenheim's Mansion and had a confrontation before moving through Darkon and into the misty borders where they eventually ended up in Mondale. But Aristanos arrived in their wake, reaching Mordenheim just as he was reforming from his confrontation with the party. Aristanos had the body of Luna Haunch with him and became fascinated with Mordenheim's ideas (instead of confronting Mordenheim like the players he befriended him and learned some of his methods). He then travelled through Darkon seeking the party (which the players caught wind of through their thieves network) and made his way with some Vistani into the misty borders.

The players received a message asking for help. His name was Simon of Tarthal and he was an early disciple of the cleric player (who had planted the seeds of a church). But it was clear there was a time discrepancy as the players have only been in Ravenloft for months but Simon was building a church in their god's name for years. His people had been beset by evil creatures and they needed help.

What the players did not realize was this was a trap set up by Aristanos. His backstory here is a bit involved but the basic gist is he found a new home, and conducted experiments. One of them was his own child, Chavi, who had passed away (again the time discrepancy is important here). Aristanos had married one of the Vistani who guided him through the mists and together they had Chavi. He raised her by making her into a flesh golem and sending her to find the party. However, she was evil and carried with her a doll golem (one of Aristanos early experiments) whose bite turns people into Goblyns. She reached the land that Simon of Tarthal had built his church in and the domain welcomed her as its new lord. Very quickly she turned all the people into Goblyns and eventually all the members of the church (except Simon who managed to kill himself first). Simon had been penning a letter to warn the cleric player (they had been having correspondence) not to come to the church. However, Chavi wrote a replacement letter pleading for the players to come help.

So the adventure started much like Corrupted Innocence, with Chavi setting the players up by feigning an attack by an evil treat. The party rescued her, she convinced them that she was looking for a vistani encampment in the area and they took her with them to the church. While she waited outside, they investigated the church grounds, eventually stumbling upon Simon, with his original letter, only to find themselves surrounded by 10 Goblyns.

Here I had forgotten how powerful Goblyns are. The party is 7th level, and I rolled randomly to determine the number of Goblyns. But they fairly easily took the players down (two were disfigured by the Goblyn's feasting), and were sparred because Chavi's goal was simply to capture them and send the party to her father in his domain. When we ended the players had woken up inside a wagon as prisoners, presumably a Vistani Vardo.

I think at this point, because they were captured, which I wasn't expecting as an outcome, I am going to skip the rest of Book of Crypts and continue with their adventures in Aristanos' domain.
 
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