Halloween is definitely not as popular over here as it is in the US, but I just had the thought running a horror-themed roleplaying game in the days around the end of October could be a fun thing to do. Last weekend I installed Ravenloft: Strahd’s Possession on my PC and played it for a couple of hours basking in nostalgia while cursing the wonky controls and way too fast combat. So it’s only natural that the idea to run a Ravenloft game slowly formed in my brain.
I own both the original Ravenloft module for 1E as well as two of the boxed sets TSR relased for 2E: Ravenloft – Realm of Terror and Ravenloft Campaign Setting. I also faintly remember that I picked up the Ravenloft Campaign Setting for D&D 3rd Edition, but I couldn’t find it on my shelf yesterday. So it’s probably easier to rely on the AD&D 1E and 2E material I have in digital form.
There’s only one problem: I don’t like AD&D 2nd Edition that much, and I don’t think I have a copy of the AD&D 1st Edition rules. Since it’s 2017 I could probably use one of the many available retro-clones from Swords & Wizardy to Lamentations of the Flame Princess to run a Ravenloft game, but I am actually not sure how easily I could pull this off. From what I understand most of the D&D simulacra I’ve played in the past are based on Basic D&D and older editions.
I am pretty sure there are people much more familiar with D&D in all its iterations among my readers, so I hope you can help me out a bit. How hard would it be to run Ravenloft with – let’s say – Swords & Wizardry, or are there any other retro-clone better suited for the task? Any advice in this matter is highly appreciated!
This Saturday we had to cancel or regular Titansgrave game, because three of the players couldn’t make it, so I pulled out White Box: Fantastic Medieval Adventure Game, and we quickly rolled up characters for the four players who could make it (yes, I have a pretty large gaming group). I offered the players to roll 3d6 six times and then distribute the results as they saw fit, but they decided to go all old-school and roll “3d6 in order”. This led to some pretty interesting character choices, like the highly-intelligent but not-so-wise cleric, or the all around mediocre fighter. But all these characters are actually pretty viable in a White Box game.
The session itself was 100% improvised. I randomly created a dungeon using some special dice my friend Marcus has brought with him. The world was made up on the spot and I used a lot of common tropes. The adventure started in a tavern, the “quest giver” was a mysterious robed figure, the dungeon was located under the destroyed tower of a wizard who had terrorized the whole area decades ago. It quickly became clear that we were all interested in a light-hearted game. Explaining some old-school concepts to the players I mentioned that the GM is basically God at the game table. So the player who rolled up the Cleric decided to worship St. Michael, a god clearly inspired by me.
One of the player characters fell asleep during watch, which allowed a lucky thief to almost rob them blank. Their unlucky streak continued when they got lost in the mountains and stumbled upon a basilisk. Only a couple of lucky rolls (and a mistake on the GM’s behalf) saved them from a TPK. Eventually they made it to the dungeon where they had to evade devious traps, face numerous skeletons and a pretty nasty Mimic. But in the end, they found the artifact they were paid to bring back.
What this session showed to me clearly is that White Box is a perfect pick-up-and-play kind of game. And if you’re not planning to start a serious campaign, you can easily improvise simple adventures. Because everyone knows the common D&D tropes, no long explanations are needed. The rules-light nature of White Box also has some issues. Mechanically the two thieves in the party were basically identical. This is not a big issue to me, but some more mechanically minded players might see this as a drawback. White Box also makes it very easy to just handwave things away you don’t like, which is something you often don’t dare to do in crunchier systems. Someone really wants to use a sword as a Magic-User? Let him. If you go 100% old-school, all weapons cause the same damage anyway, so it’s mostly a cosmetic thing. Even if you use the damage values given in White Box: Fantastic Medieval Adventure Game, the difference between a sword and a staff is negligible.
Next week I’ll probably run something completely different, but White Box will definitely one of my go-to games in the future. By the way, my friend Marcus also wrote down his thoughts about Saturday’s game in a blog post. He focuses on the random character creation and it’s definitely worth a read!
Yesterday evening I had the chance to run my first White Box game set into the world of the Ultima series, Britannia (or Sosaria as it was known before). Overall I have to say things went pretty well.
The player characters were all humans from Earth, who got lost in a renaissance faire and ended up in front of a gypsie’s wagon. The mysterious woman inside asked them 28 moral dilemmas which determined the characters’ professions.
Yes, I actually took the questions from the Ultima games to determine which Virtue was favored the most by the players. I could have reduced the number of questions if I asked each person seperately and then picked the questions more cleverly. But since I wanted to get the answers in one big swoop, they had to go through all 28. In the end we had a Paladin, a Druid, a Magic-User and Ranger. Continue reading Through the Moongate