Oct 31, 2013

The Horror of it All

When thinking about Dungeons and Dragons, especially so close to Halloween, I naturally think less  of epic campaigns and warriors defeating great evil, and more of the classic things and got bump in the night.

In the early days of D&D, few probably thought of the game through such a radical re-imagining--sure there were the classic creatures like werewolfs, mummies, and vampires, along with a plethora of other undead filling up the various monster manuals.

But that all changed when TSR release Ravenloft. A module by Tracy Hickman (of future Dragonlance fame) and his wife Laura. The module is a radical departure from standard crawls, offering a haunted house, in place of the ubiquitous dungeon, and offering a vampire antagonist who is a fully fleshed out character with backstory and personal motives. Any while much of Strahd may look, at first glance, like a swipe on Count Dracula, he can be so much more, and most importantly, he was so much more than the standard vampire of the D&D rules.

I6 (the module code for Ravenloft), would go on to be a classic. It spawned a sequel module Ravenloft II: The House on Gryphon Hill, as well as being the inspiration for an entire setting, the "Demiplane of Dread", also under the Ravenloft name (which included books, comics, game products, and computer games). The original module itself has been reprinted and updated several times and was the basis for the successful D&D board game, Castle Ravenloft.
Oh, and a little Dragonlance trivia: Strahd has two brothers, Sergei, and another named... Sturm, the same name Tracy would later use for the tragic knight, Sturm Brightblade.
So this Halloween, after all the trick-or-treaters are home with their bags of candy, I'll be kicking back in a comfy chair to spend some time re-reading this classic piece of gaming history... with all the light on.

Happy Halloween!