Thursday, August 23, 2012
My Ravenloft Remix - General Ideas
Ravenloft, as I've stated before on the blog, is easily my favorite official D&D setting. That said, I think it has got some issues that are easily fixed for my purposes by "remixing" the setting by emphasizing the cool stuff, minimizing the lame parts, and adding a bit of my own view of the Gothic to it.
Here are some main areas I want to tackle:
1) The Mists -- as utilized in the Ravenloft, the Mists represent the worst of the 2e adventure railroad syndrome hard-coded into the setting. The Mists swallow up your character, deposit you at the adventure site, and if you try and walk away from the quest they just keep spitting you out on the railroad tracks. Nope, not on my watch. In my version of Ravenloft the Mists are just a spooky bit of atmosphere. "Sealing the borders" is also getting the axe.
2) Scale -- Ravenloft is too small-scale for my tastes. I'd rather it have sprawling metropolises mixed in with the ramshackle villages and towns; I want it to be a place that has both bustling urban areas and isolated wilderness locales.
3) The Supernatural is Not Necessarily Hidden -- the inhabitants of Ravenloft should realize that they live in a haunted land. Instead of having the folk behave irrationally, as when they never seem to piece it together that this Strahd fellow that rules Barovia never ages and is "replaced" periodically by an identical guy, it's actually a bit more poignant for them to know that they are ruled by a tyrannical vampire. After all, there's not much they can do about that. That said, there will be supernatural and occult dealings that are not common knowledge; these will be uncovered in play.
4) Schemes > Back-story -- I hate the way the Dark Lords are presented in Ravenloft; each one has an over-long back-story that rarely features any gameable information. Instead of having the Dark Lords' interesting bits happen in the past, have them happen in the present by making them active, scheming elements of the world. Give them plans that the characters can get mixed up in and potentially foil.
5) Ravenloft should be Navigable and Geographical -- no more of this "you can only get there through the Mists" nonsense. Ravenloft will instead be a place with known geographical borders and set routes. If you want to sail to Souragne, you get on a ship and do that instead of arriving there mysterious through the Mists. I'm not huge on "verisimilitude," but Ravenloft should feel like a world in motion rather than the exercise of a GM's whim.
6) Use Any Monsters You Want -- Ravenloft usually comes with a list of "Gothically-approved" monsters. Screw that, use whatever monsters you want--just describe them in a horrific way. If you can't figure out how to describe a bog-standard green dragon as a primordial horror from the heart of the unconquered pagan forest...you need to learn more words, son.
In the weeks to come I will present my remix of each of the main domains of Ravenloft done in my Precis, Conspectus format. Feel free to riff off these and make suggestions as we go along. However, canonical arguments will be mocked as tedious and boring.