Wednesday, June 9, 2021

Has Anyone...?

Has anyone ever played I6: Ravenloft as written, using the AD&D system?

Clearly, the adventure module was extremely popular. And I have no doubt there was a time when people used to sit around the kitchen table reading boxed text to each other and eyes didn't "glaze over" (I know there was a time for me and my gaming buddies when this was the case). 

But did anyone run the adventure proper, as written, using the wandering monster tables, the dictated motivations (and tactics) of Strahd, the paltry treasure, poisonous fog, and the labyrinthine castle as an insert into their normal campaign world?

And, if so, did the players LOVE it?

I'm just curious. As I mentioned before, I never had a chance to play Ravenloft when it was first published: my DM ran it for our playgroup when I was out-of-town one weekend. The reports I recall hearing were more about the antics of the players (bickering with and killing each other) and I think (if I remember correctly) they simply got fed up with adventure and decided to leave (poison mist or no) after frying Strahd with a lightning bolt. Which is to say: they hand-waved a lot of the thing. None of them gushed about it, or spoke highly of it, or offered to re-run it for my benefit...nor did anyone ask me to run it for them. It made extremely minimal impression (as far as I can tell) on our group of kids aged 12 to 14.

I'm not going to fault anyone their nostalgia...not when I've spent years of wallowing in my own, here on Ye Old Blog. But I am curious, because (as I commented to Dennis in my last post) I'm not sure I've met anyone who's played the adventure and "loved" it. Maybe the love comes from DMs who enjoyed the novelty of the thing? I don't know...and I am curious.

Please feel free to leave your comments. I promise I won't judge you for what you enjoyed thirty years ago. 


  1. (First time poster, Hi!)
    I was a player in it, inserted into an ongoing campaign, in ad&d 2nd ed, back when we were 14 or 15 years old. So it had been out for a while by then - this would have been '95 or '96.

    It did not make all that much of an impression, beyond TPK:ing our group of characters we had been playing for quite a while.

  2. I played under AD&D 1st ed when it first came out and I LOVED it.

    I have ran it under AD&D 1st ed, 2nd ed (House of Strahd), 3rd Ed and most recently under 5th Edition.
    I have also run it under my own Ghosts of Albion,CJ Carella's WitchCraft and the True20 Blue Rose system about 11 years ago.

    I love the adventure, warts and all, and typically have a lot of fun with it.

    But I also run and play in a lot of horror games.

    Ravenloft, I6, is best thought of as Universal Horror sets with Christopher Lee's Dracula. Like those set if you kick the wall too hard you will discover the stone is really plaster and paint. So don't kick the sets too hard and enjoy it for it is, a lite romp through D&D Transylvania.

    This is Saturday Afternoon Horror on TCM. Not Friday Night Horror on Shudder.

    1. Well, of course it is!
      ; )

      Thanks, Tim. I know you’re a fan of the setting.

  3. I guess I'll post this here instead of on the previous post.

    I did run I6 once when I was still in Japan, but after I got married, so about 14 or 15 years ago. But I didn't run it "straight" the way you describe. I used BECMI instead of 1E. And it was intended as a one-shot with PCs custom made by the players for the module (and a little higher than the suggested level range), but I kept the monsters and treasures and stuff as listed in the module.

    We had fun with it, but there was a near TPK towards the beginning (but luckily the lone survivor had gotten a ring of 1 wish at the start, so wished away the attempt to leave the castle and the rest of the party getting fried by the four gargoyle-dragons.

    Strahd won in the end. One PC was captured and Strahd took her likeness, and since this happened at the end of the penultimate session, I arranged with the player in secret to run Strahd in the final session.

    Several PCs died, others were taken over by Strahd, and Strahd managed to escape Barovia with his coffins and grave dirt with the surviving PCs' help.

    Everyone had a blast.

    But if I'd thrown this into a running campaign as is, I doubt it would have been so much fun. The module is pretty much designed to be run on its own rather than plopped into a campaign, IMO.

  4. I would suggest running the castle as an encounter ruin filled with random creatures and thieves after some other hero group have killed Strahd.

    1. @ Sean:

      That's actually a pretty awesome idea. Another one I thought of was to run it FIRST as a "one-off" with pre-gen characters, THEN allow the PCs to try it again using their "real" characters (in similar fashion to Thulian Echoes).

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  6. (another 1st time poster!) I played it back in the late 90s - we loved it then, it had a real atmosphere to it - bolstered by background music, etc. Some stuff was funny - I remember fireballing some curtains Strahd was hiding behind, and seeing the count run off in flames... and I just played I6 again this year over Zoom with the same group after some 20+ years. It was great! Turned out to be my friend's first time at DM'ing, too, and it went well. He ran it pretty much by the book - there were a number of times when the party was really up against it - paladins failing saves vs. vampire charms, dilemmas over what to do with Strahd's victims in the castle (leave them or take them with us?), having to find a defensible place to camp out (we couldn't get back to town?), and setting watch - nighttime in the castle was the worst! We were pretty lucky managing to turn banshees and worse...

    We found the Deck of Many things, with one of the other guys getting some wishes - we used those to reverse the level drains we suffered. The level drain was the worst, really scary, and I think one player rage-quit after one of the vampire brides got him. All in all, it is a good module - when you're in the castle, the party is free to use whatever tactics they want, and we did (we went through the backdoor of the castle, skipped Strahd's welcome reception!). So yeah, all the players in my group loved it back in the day, and after playing it this year. We used Ad&d 2nd edition.

    1. @ David L (thanks for commenting!):

      That sounds pretty groovy. And it reminds me quite a bit of my own group's approach to the adventure (based on my remembered hearsay...I wasn't there). Except that we had a drow in the party that got on everyone's nerves (and was eventually hurled off a high parapet).

      I'm wondering if maybe I should just run the thing "straight" to see how it plays out...

  7. I've never run any module completely straight/RAW/as is. I've never read those Text Boxes verbatim and honestly didn't realize you were meant to until several years after I started playing.

    Why would you do that? How would that not be boring?

    I've only run I6: Ravenloft once, using Villains & Vigilantes. Yep, you read that right. Strahd Von Zarovich became the Vampiric Villain 'Count Gothic'. Castle Ravenloft was his headquarters, a recreation of his family's castle in the old country.

    1. Now THAT is old school Marvel-style supers…Blade the Vampire Slayer vs. Drac, Cap versus Baron Blood, etc. Nice!

  8. I ran it once with my high school friends shortly after it came out. We didn't really have a campaign as much as a string of homemade dungeons interspersed with the published adventures. I have very little memory of the actually running anymore, but I'm fairly certain we enjoyed playing through it at the time. I have no idea if we would now.

  9. Hello: I came for -

    Wait, wrong blog...

    But while I am here, I have not played the system, but only heard about it. Seems as though I am where you are at by hearing (or reading) word of mouth that everyone likes 16: Ravenloft. Been looking at different TTRPG systems at how they handle horror with their mechanics, so I might as well give Ravenloft a quick look.

    Oh, first time blogger here. Really like your articles on Killing Gods.

    1. @ Dave:

      Oh…thanks. Appreciate the positive feedback.

      I’m currently working on the final article in that series, but I’ve been pretty busy the last few days.