Ravenloft - they very nearly made it to the castle...

When I first held Torchbearer in my electronic hands (later real hands) I decided to throw the rule-set at Ravenloft. Making noises to exactly that effect on this very forum some moons ago. Being a 1e AD&D game that worked well in 1e, quite well in 2e, blew goats in 3e(other d20)/4e, and rocked in Warhammer 2e I was keen to see if TB would give the right ‘feel’ to the adventure. Torchbearer had the look of being almost written for the express purpose of running Ravenloft (1e version of course) after reading the rules.

The verdict…

Hell yeah!!!

I had 4 players new to Torchbearer and really my first major DMing in Torchbearer so some of the rules might have be not quite correct. We did check this forum on the tricky questions.

Being long of tooth I haven’t quite got into this blogging thing, which is a shame in this case, it was hell funny.

I made Barovia a Town and at the behest of Luke no Fog’o’Doom forcing the players to stay. A combination of wanting the save the people of Barovia and greed made the players stick it out. Ok greed, but in the process the villagers would be saved, sort of win-win.

To cut a long story short, by the time they reached the castle via the driverless carriage their conditions were a mix of Afraid, Exhausted, Injured, and Sick. The glass half-full was no one was either Hungry or Thirsty.

So we ended the adventure until we can meet again with them arguing over trying to head back to Town, Camping in the Wilderness, Camping in the Dungeon (i.e. Castle), or pressing on…

Heroes, every damn one of them!

Can’t wait to hear more of this. I would love to run this adventure for my group. Any notes you’d be willing to share?

No problem. What sort of things are you interested in?

Ha. Anything you think might be useful actually. I just got the 1e PDF. I’ve only perused the 2e PDF, but for TB I thought it’d be good to go back to the original. Conversions for monsters (including Straud) would be nice. Treasure conversions from Dnd to TB have been a constant problem for me. I’m curious which encounters you converted to Tests vs. Conflicts, etc.

I’ve read up to the Castle now. I’m curious how you handled Barovia. You said that you played it as a Town. Does that mean that the adventurers left the inn, traveled on the road (maybe Pathfinder test, low Ob for the road, or no Ob if they have a map), and arrived at the Town? Did you throw in a random encounter? Based on your first post and all the conditions you doled out, it sound like you had several. The corpse and and random monster encounters will make great Twists.

I guess looking at it again, it says the trip is 5 hours, and every 3 turns you roll a random encounter; my recollection is that a Turn is ~10 min, so 1 every half hour, or ten random encounters. Man, that’s a lot.

Anyways, enough rambling. I’m curious to hear how you handled it.


Strahd was easy, I made him a Barrow Wight with the following spells:
(1) Thread of Friendship, Arcane Semblance, Lightness of Being; (2) Shroud of Darkness, Veil of the Chameleon.

Might 5 was the important thing, makes finding the Icon of Ravenloft and the Sunsword worth the effort. But without enhancements I wanted them to be able to Drive Off Strahd then later become more of the threat with the ability to undertake a Kill action.

The Town phase had only the availability of Private Homes, Market, Temple and a Tavern (modified encounters as per adventure). All were modified to fit with the adventure - and usually just on the fly. This meant looking at the available resources in the TB rules and deciding if that would work in the run down Barovia. The Temple (i.e. the church in the adventure) location was more a roleplaying/scene setting encounter rather than strictly as per the TB rules on Temples.

Random encounters are quite frequent as you mentioned in the Ravenloft module and the wearing down, but not trying to kill the players, plan of Strahd’s work very well with the TB system. I used Pathfinder rolls to determine the number of random encounter rolls to get to a certain location. I treated the whole of the lands around the castle as ‘an outdoor dungeon’. So from Barovia they traveled to the Vistani and from there the Castle.

The actual real life players are suffering now from the Afraid condition - and that is why I think TB is awesome for this module. This isn’t a hack’n’slash outing, it is a doom laded fight for their very souls!

Hope that vaguely helps,

Sounds amazing. So glad to hear that you went ahead with this. Can’t wait to hear more!

This sounds fantastic. A couple more quick questions (thanks, by the way for the detailed answers): 1. Were the Pathfinder tests made to get from one location to another with the MoF being the subsequent number of random encounters, or were they just straight up rolls to see how many random encounters there would be? 2. Just to get my geography right, you have the Castle, Vistani Camp, and Barovia as isolated locations, the rest is basically a massive outdoor dungeon with tons of random encounters (Twists)?

Sounds like hours and hours of fun. I can’t wait to do this. Cheers.

Will do. I’ll try to write a narrative of the events to date. At very least it will serve to show that TB works as well for fantasy-horror as it does traditional old schooling dungeon crawling. I would go so far as to say the conditions system allows levels of tension in the players that straight HP’s fail to capture and even the Critical system of say Warhammer doesn’t emulate.

TB, once you get the hang it, keeps the players focused on the game and not the mechanics, vital in an adventure such as Ravenloft.

I most pleasing thing for me as a DM is to see the players engaged as a group and all ‘in the game’. I’m not the spring chicken I was in my RPG heyday so long sessions are not usually the thing these days, but we started at 9:30 am and finished at 4 am - given one of the players had to work starting at 6 am it shows the level in investment the players had in the game.

Will attempt a story version of events soon…


I broke the adventure up into its ‘encounters’. So we have:

b Meeting the Vistani at some random tavern[/b]
I linked this in with a normal town event after the Under the House of the Three Squires intro in the TB book. Was good to get the players use to the system and feel of play before unleashing Strahd on them. They did really well in the 3-Squires adventure and were riding a high (note none have played Ravenloft before). So when the gypsy turned up with a note wanting heroes to save a village and get paid large sums of cash they were quoting the movie Aliens “There are some colonists daughters that need rescued from their…” (you get the idea). The woman in the group didn’t par-take in this btw. Oh how things changed in attitude once the mists (non-toxic) rolled in.

(2) Finding the real messenger

After the squeaky gates and them finding the real messenger I threw in some wolves to keep them on there toes.

b Barovia village[/b]
There is an awful movie called The Monster Club (The_Monster_Club) that has a short story about Human-Ghoul hybrids. Awful movie aside the feel for Barovia is perfect. Once the setting was conveyed then I let them enter a Town phase (modified as above)

b The Church[/b]
I thought that the lost souls and wrecked priest deserved more game time than a simple Temple provided so this was played out extensively. The priest did help with some conditions however and provide a few more adventure hooks.

b Trip to the Vastani[/b]
Pretty much a skill rolls to minimize the number of encounters.

b Madam Eva[/b]
Used the card readings as per the adventure and let the results dictate Strahd’s Instincts (see TB was made for Ravenloft).

b Trip to Castle[/b]
As per (4) really until the crossroads and the driverless carriage.

b The Castle[/b]

I forgot to say how I handled random encounters. I used the rules from the Ravenloft adventure and then allowed TB Skill rolls to attempt to influence either the actual nature of the encounter or even to avoid the encounter completely. Usually I would, after rolling an encounter, hint at the nature. For example, they hear the howl of wolves getting louder. Then they would look at their skills and decide how they wanted to approach the encounter.

Hope that makes some sort of sense? Had lots of different approaches, which were more to do with avoiding once the conditions started piling up! Skills were used in very interesting ways by the end encounters close to the Vastani camp I must say. Then again rightly so, the party must have looked less heroic and more like they had been run over by that stage.

Neat! Sounds like YOU have good instincts.

Also, I’m jealous of that marathon session!

This is all awesome information. I can’t wait, like Luke, to see a narrative summary of all of this. It will really put everything into perspective. I think I understand your method now. You basically ran the encounters like the module, and then test results could influence the encounter type or bypass it completely. I can definitely see how after a few conditions start piling on, the characters will change tactics! I also like the touch of the wolf encounter before Town to “introduce the party” to Ravenloft/Barovia. Very nice.