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Ravenloft (D&D module)

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Ravenloft
Ravenloft I6
Code I6
Rules Required 1st Ed AD&D
Character Levels 5-7
Campaign Setting Generic AD&D
Authors Tracy & Laura Hickman
First Published 1983
Linked Modules
I6 I10

Ravenloft is a Dungeons & Dragons module, coded I6, published by TSR for use with the First Edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons. It was written by husband-wife duo Tracy and Laura Hickman, with art by Clyde Caldwell and maps by David Sutherland III.[1] Ravenloft is considered by many to be one of the finest Dungeons and Dragons modules ever published.[2] Ravenloft was also ranked the 2nd greatest Dungeons & Dragons adventure of all time on the 30th anniversary of the Dungeons & Dragons game.[3] Ravenloft inspired a sequel, a gamebook adaptation and an entire campaign setting which in turn had many spin offs[4]. The original Ravenloft adventure itself has been revised and republished several times.

Original EditionEdit

The format of the original Ravenloft is a 32 page book with a double unattached cover. The outer cover was a display cover in keeping of the style of Dungeons & Dragons module covers of the time. The outer (glossy) side of the inner cover gave a map of the lands of Barovia where Castle Ravenloft and the village of Barovia are located. Maps of the castle Ravenloft were found on the inside of both covers.

The premise of writing this adventure was to take a classic monster, the vampire, which had been so overused as to become trite and mundane and make it frightening again.[5] The plot is loosely based on the section of the original Dracula set in Count Dracula's homeland but also drew on other depictions of Dracula and other vampires in popular fiction. A party of adventurers called to Barovia, a country composed of a small town and surrounding forest overlooked by a massive cliffside castle, and surrounded by a magical choking fog that kills anyone who leaves. Because of this fog no one, except a few Gypsies who have a potion to cancel the fog's effects, have left Barovia for centuries.[6] The master of the castle, Strahd, rules the terrified townspeople with an iron fist, but he holds the key to the player's escape from Barovia. Along the way, the adventurers encounter zombies, wolves, ghouls, ghosts and the far deadlier occupants of Castle Ravenloft itself.

The module originally had a working title Vampyr.[7] The module was tested every Halloween for five years before it was printed.[8] Tracy Hickman had been writing it with the intention of publishing through his company Daystar West. Vampyr was still in draft form when Tracy went to work for TSR; he sold it to TSR to help pay his relocation expenses.[7]

Critical ReceptionEdit

Ravenloft won the 1984 Strategists' Club Award for Outstanding Play Aid[9]. It was exceedingly popular among players and Dungeon Masters for a number of reasons. The classic Gothic fiction setting that in tightly woven plot showed for the first time how the horror genre could be used in D&D.[10] The adventure builds atmosphere by having all the text designated to be read to players written in the style of gothic horror.[11] The innovative isometric projection map of Castle Ravenloft[11] is fondly remembered by a generation from a time when most module maps were just two dimensional.[12]

A very memorable villain, Count Strahd von Zarovich, who has become one of the most infamous in D&D history.[12] Strahd is notable for his then innovative combination of monster and character,[10] and design to be able to use his powers and environment in combination to make him very difficult to kill.[5] Another memorable feature was the introduction of replayability through an in-game Gypsy fortune telling session which randomly determined certain plot elements.[12] For example, the locations or existence of artifacts, as well as Strahd's very motivations, would be determined by real or simulated turn of the cards.[13]

Despite its design innovations, Ravenloft is not totally effective at conveying the atmosphere of horror. It is not in the end gothic horror, but a dungeon style adventure that borrows from the gothic horror genre to add texture and novelty.[11] Receiving 8 out of 10, the module received a fairly positive review in Issue 55 of White Dwarf magazine. It was commented on the random placement of monsters and treasure but the puns were seen as tedious and detracting from the atmosphere.[14]

In 1998 Hickman said "I still believe the original Ravenloft modules were perhaps the best that ever had my name on them."[8]

Reprints and New VersionsEdit

Master of RavenloftEdit

In 1986 Ravenloft was reworked as a gamebook, Master of Ravenloft, #6 in the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Adventure Gamebooks series. In the book the reader plays the role of Jeren Sureblade, a high-level paladin, who must defeat the evil vampire Count Strahd von Zarovich in his dangerous home in order to save a young girl from becoming one of the undead.[15]

The House of StrahdEdit

House of Strahd lr

House of Strahd module cover

In 1993 the module RM4 The House of Strahd was a revision and expansion of the original Ravenloft to include rules from AD&D 2nd Edition and the Ravenloft, Realms of Terror campaign set. While still credited to the Hickmans and based on their original work, they had nothing to do with the revising which was done by Bruce Nesmith. This module is 64 page book with a fold out map. While the layout has been redone, much of the original text and artwork is reused with additional art by James Crabtree and a new cover by Dana M. Knutson. The module was recommended for levels 6-13, with the main revised version for characters level 11-13 but also the option to play more like the original with the slightly revised level recommendation of 6-8.[16]


Silver Anniversary editionsEdit

Ravenloft Silver lr

Ravenloft Silver Anniversary edition cover

In 1999, the 25th Anniversary of Dungeons & Dragons, two separate versions of the Ravenloft module were released. The first was a simple reprinting available in the Dungeons & Dragons Silver Anniversary Collector's Edition boxed set, with the only difference from the original being a slightly different colouring on the maps and a silver anniversary logo on the bottom left of the cover.[17]

The second version released in 1999 was the silver anniversary edition of Ravenloft released exclusively through the RPGA.[18] This version was updated for use with 2nd Edition AD&D and in the form of a 48 page book.[19] It used part of the cover artwork of the original module but with a large distinctive silver border and prominent central placing of the silver anniversary logo. This version contradicts itself as to whether it is for character levels 5-7 or 11-13, but as it uses the more powerful version of Strahd from House of Strahd, the latter is probably correct.[20]


Expedition to Castle RavenloftEdit

In October 2006, Wizards of the Coast released an updated and expanded version of the original module for the Dungeons & Dragons v.3.5 ruleset in a 226-page hardcover, entitled Expedition to Castle Ravenloft. This returned the adventure to its roots stripping the demiplane setting of the Ravenloft campaign.[21] This expanded version was designed to be able to run a mini campaign for about 20 sessions taking characters from level 6 to 10, with options for instead running long (8 session), short (4 session) or single session adventures.[22] It includes suggestions for incorporating the adventure into an existing generic, Forgotten Realms, Eberron or d20 Modern campaign, but makes no mention of using in a Ravenloft campaign setting.[23]

Videogame VersionEdit

The Spires of Ravenloft is a module for the video game Neverwinter Nights based heavily on the original version of Ravenloft and available for free download.[24]

SequelsEdit

Ravenloft II: House on Gryphon HillEdit

Ravenloft's success eventually lead to a sequel module in 1986, Ravenloft II: House on Gryphon Hill, coded I10. This sequel was also credited to the Hickman's but Tracey had already left TSR before work on it was complete. While following the Hickman's outline for the module, most of the writing was done by David "Zeb" Cook, Jeff Grubb, Harold Johnson and Douglas Niles, each working on their own section.[10] While designed to run as a sequel for those who completed the original Ravenloft this module could also be run together with the original intertwining the two plots.[25]

Ravenloft Campaign SettingEdit

Main article: Ravenloft

In 1990 TSR based an entire horror-themed AD&D campaign setting on the module. This campaign setting is also called Ravenloft, although the first version was actually titled Realm of Terror under a Ravenloft logo. The Ravenloft campaign setting has been published in several editions and a large number of modules, supplements and other spin off have been released. The campaign setting moves Barovia from an unamed location to a demiplane, an alternate dimension called variously "Ravenloft" or "the Demiplane of Dread". Barovia is the central and, chronologically, the first of many cursed lands to have been moved from their original location to this demiplane.[26] The description of Barovia and Strahd generally match that given in the original module.[27] While the I6 Ravenloft module is not explicitly mentioned in the any of the Ravenloft campaign setting sets, the timeline given suggest that the campaign settings are set a couple of hundred years after the events of the module played out.[28]

Spin OffsEdit

The three Ravenloft video games and twenty novels are spin offs from the campaign setting rather than the original module. However two of the novels have a particular connection to the Ravenloft module. The first Ravenloft novel Vampire of the Mists by Christie Golden (1991) and I, Strahd by P. N. Elrod (1993) both, from different perspectives, tell the history of Strahd, Barovia and Castle Ravenloft in a way that is generally compatible with the storyline of the module.

NotesEdit

  1. While not credited in the module text, a signature "David Sutherland III" can be seen in the bottom left corner of each of the maps (Hickman & Hickman 1983:Inside Cover). Also David Sutherland is acknowledged as the designer of the original castle maps in Hickman & Hickman (1993:2), Rateliff (2004) and Cordell & Wyatt (2006:1).
  2. Winter (2004) describes it as "one of the most popular adventures TSR ever published.
  3. Mona, Erik; James Jacobs (Nov 2004). "The 30 Greatest D&D Adventures of All Time". Dungeon 116: 68-81. 
  4. Melton, Gordon (1994). The Vampire Book: The Encyclopedia of the Undead (1st ed.). Detroit, MI: Visible Ink Press. pp. 852. ISBN 0-8103-2295-1. http://www.visibleink.com/title.php?id=41. 
  5. 5.0 5.1 (Winter 2004)
  6. (Hickman & Hickman 1983:6)
  7. 7.0 7.1 "Ongoing Research: Daystar West Vampyr". The Acaeum. 2006-05. http://www.acaeum.com/library/research.html. Retrieved 2007-03-11. 
  8. 8.0 8.1 Varney, Allen (1998-08). "Profiles: Tracy Hickman". Dragon #250 Vol. XIII (No. 3): 120. 
  9. Schick, Lawrence (1991). Heroic Worlds. Buffalo: Prometheus Books. pp. 102. ISBN 0879756535. 
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 (Rateliff 2004)
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 (Rolston 1984)
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 (Cordell & Wyatt 2006:1)
  13. (Hickman & Hickman 1983:4)
  14. Morris, Dave (July 1984). "Open Box: Dungeon Modules" (review). White Dwarf (Games Workshop): 18-19. ISSN 0265-8712. 
  15. (Blashfield 1986)
  16. {Hickman & Hickman 1993)
  17. "Intermediate Series (I1 - I14)". The Acaeum. http://www.acaeum.com/ddindexes/modpages/i.html. Retrieved 2007-03-05. 
  18. (Lease 1999).
  19. "Ravenloft (Silver Anniversary)". TSR Archive. http://home.flash.net/~brenfrow/rp/rp-rave.htm. Retrieved 2007-03-05. 
  20. rizzard; Catman Jim (2005-02-21). "Ravenloft:silver anniversary , what level of play?". http://boards1.wizards.com/showthread.php?t=382972. Retrieved 2007-03-16. 
  21. (Weise 2007:1)
  22. Adventure Options (Cordell & Wyatt 1006:17)
  23. Adventure Hooks (Cordell & Wyatt 1006:19)
  24. Watamaniuk, Jay (2002-08-09). "Neverwinter Nights: Module Profile - The Spires of Ravenloft". Bioware. http://nwn.bioware.com/players/modprofile_spires.htm. Retrieved 2007-03-09. 
  25. Appendix 3: The Dream of Barovia (Hickman & Hickman 1986:41)
  26. {Nesmith 1990:8)
  27. {Nesmith 1990:63)
  28. The timeline (Nesmith 1990:9) includes two dates that appear to refer to the original module. A date of 470 is given for the agreement between Strahd and Madam Eva, and 58 years later in 528 "Powerful heroes assault Castle Ravenloft and perish" which would correspond with the original modle that described Madam Eva as an "old woman" (Hickman & Hickman 1983:11).

ReferencesEdit

also republished in 2006 as Vampire of the Mists: The Ravenloft Covenant. Wizards of the Coast. ISBN 0-7869-4124-3

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