Friday, October 22, 2021


A little Friday action that I wasn't expecting to do. What do ya' know: I got a good night's sleep for a change (about eight hours) rather than waking up between 2am and 4am as has been happening the last week or two.

[stress affects everyone different]

Have spent most of my "free" hours the last couple days researching Clallam county, Washington...specifically the geography and history around Port Angeles, which I intend as the site of my "new Ravenloft." Lot of good stuff there, though I will probably end up filing the serial numbers off (or, at least, slightly modifying) many of the proper names. I don't generally bother doing this in my actual "home campaign" but when publishing for others, I don't want to run the risk of offending (for example) the indigenous people of the region who will be taking the place of Ravenloft's menacing gypsies.

Just picture a castle
overlooking the sea...
The more I dig into it, the more I am really enjoying the creation process. My father was born and raised in Port Angeles, his siblings and most of my relatives on that side of the family still live thereabouts. We used to visit the Peninsula once or twice a year when I was a kid, and there's something about the region that still calls to me...the grey, wet, windswept coast, the high bluffs, the dense forests looming over the highways. 

I don't get the opportunity to get out there as much these days (doesn't help the relatives are all estranged, each for a different reason), though we did get out there a couple times over the summer. West of Sequim, it really doesn't appear that much has changed the last 40 years...which is yet another reason the area is GREAT to replace "Barovia." Probably The Wreck Tavern (once owned and operated by my grandfather) is still out there...though I wonder if my uncle is still running it.

Of course, it's not lost on me that Forks, Washington is in county Clallam...I have a second (third?) cousin that lived in Forks and what I heard about the town wasn't...mmm..."complimentary." But that was back in the 20th century (maybe the tourist trade drummed up by the Twilight trade has spruced it up?). Regardless, my population totals and distribution are based on the 1880s and Forks was just a dairy farm in the middle of the woods back then...that's not going to be the site of a castle and town. No vampires out that way in MY world. Werewolves, maybe. Lots of werewolves.

Working on the "math" of the Ravenloft encounters, I become more and more convinced (if I wasn't already) that this was originally designed as a LOW LEVEL adventure...probably for characters levels 3rd to 5th. Run in the B/X system, nearly every encounter circles around 4 hit dice. The "iron golems" in area K78? I'm just substituting Moldvay's Living Statues, Iron (page B37) for the pair. They are *ahem* also four HD creatures. 

The real stinker of an encounter are the four small red dragons, who should absolutely destroy ANY party because of their breath weapons (18 hit points each x four = 36-72 automatic damage, depending on saves). It should probably be viewed more as yet another railroad plot-block (like the mist that auto-kills PCs leaving the town) since they only attack parties trying to leave the castle (*sigh*). Interesting that dividing those little dragons' 18 hit points by 4.5 would give you 4 hit dice. Hmmm...

Even the new "Strahd zombies:" four hit dice. For me, there's no reason to do this: the "severed body part" thing is cool, but it's just color, and one can simply double the number of zombies encountered. What's the problem with normal zombies? Is it just the need to have them "turn as mummies" (in order to FORCE PCs to fight them and thus experience the cool color of severed zombie parts attacking?)?, that's not necessary. Even the auto-destroy of a 5th level cleric (assuming I'm reworking this for levels 3-5) only affects 2d6 hit dice of zombies.  Make sure there's enough left over (on average) that a few will need to be dispatched in the usual (sword-swinging) fashion. No nerf, everyone wins.

Converting the giant spiders to B/X is a little tricky because (surprise!) the monster is more specific in Moldvay than the abstract version found in the MM. Fortunately, black widow spiders are native to Washington State, so putting giant ones (3 HD, but deadly poison) in Clallam county makes perfect sense.

SO...things are coming together. I *do* want to add a flesh golem to the monster list (because for the horror trifecta there's that need to reference Frankenstein) but the monster as written for AD&D is a little too tough for that 3rd-5th level range in B/X. Dropping it's damage to 2d6 per punch makes it better (though the special defenses are rough) and I'll probably go with that. But then, should I be adding a mummy? A creature from the Black Lagoon? Where does the madness end? 

[probably with the coven of witches in the upper tower]'s all fun stuff. My vampire is a countess, not a count. The werewolf in the dungeon is a 5 HD pack leader, desperate to get back to his people. The flesh golem is kind of a Ser Robert Strong bodyguard type, though I haven't decided if he is a former husband, lover, or son (or sons) of the countess. The zombies make for cheap servants and soldiers that don't ask questions about the castle's goings ons. And the people of the town, far from being terrorized by their ruler (and needing to be saved) are in on the secret, feeding outsiders to their monstrous liege lord in exchange for being left in relative peace. 

It's fun. I like it. And (for whatever reason) it feels very Port Angeles to me.

[a quote from my father: when asked why Port Angeles has"issues" that it does, he responded "Well, what I've observed from most small towns I've visited (in the USA), people are pretty big into their religion. But folks out in Port Angeles, well, they never really took to religion." Personally, I always suspected it might have a little something to do with being a town full of sailors, but whatever. For my purposes, it's vampire country]

All right, that's it. Hope everyone has a great weekend.


  1. FYI in the 2nd Ed version of Ravenloft, "House of Strahd" the four red dragons were replaced with four gargoyles that happen to look like small red dragons.

    1. Ha! That’s a pretty good idea. I *like* the idea of stone statues menacing the party members, just not the original execution (because it would probably end in a massacre even for 7th level PCs).

      On the other hand, that 8 gargoyle chamber in the next chamber is another massacre that needs to be toned down…too many multiple attacks.
      ; )

    2. If you want some other ideas for "fixes" the AD&D 2nd Ed version House of Strahd is on sale. $3.50 for ideas to mine is not too bad really.
      Could you come up with these on your own? Yeah, of course. I find the encounters are little better here.

    3. Just finished checking out House of Strahd. It refines the original a bit (removes Madame Eva's stats for example...good enough, since she doesn't actually DO anything) tweaks a couple treasures and encounters, but it's still pretty crappy.

      Interesting that they have the "original" box text that isn't actually "original" but a suggested tweaking for playing with lower-level PCs as "originally designed"...many of these have been scaled DOWN from what they originally were, an admission (to my mind) that I6 had a LOT of poor mechanics for its original level range. At least they corrected some of the blatant (mechanical) errors.

      Sorry,'s just not very good.

  2. I still have my original copy of the the Ravenloft module, but have never ran it or played in it.

  3. When I ran Ravenloft in BECMI years ago, I had the players roll up higher level PCs than the module called for. Those four dragons still caused a near TPK, and the lone survivor had rolled up a ring with one wish, which they used to undo the encounter. It's pretty brutal.