Sunday, March 24, 2013

Castle Ravenloft Adventures and Conversion Thoughts

Let’s take a look at the adventures that come with the Castle Ravenloft game, and see what we can pull from them for this mash-up.

Adventure 1: Escape the Tomb
The basic premise is that a single character, having been plucked off the street by a vampire, finds him/herself in an underground crypt. They somehow know that it is daylight, and have until nightfall to escape, lest Strahd awaken and come for them!
This I can work with, and it presents a pretty good way to give a character just enough experience points to go from zero to first level. Will probably have to take a little extra time sculpting this adventure to make sure it’s not too deadly for 0-levels… but maybe it should be. Of course, Strahd will be changed to one of the Innistrad vampires. Assume as much moving forward with the rest of the adventures.

Adventure 2: Find the Icon of Ravenloft
Here, the idea is that somewhere under Strahd’s castle, lies a chapel which is untouched by the evil darkness of the place. Inside is an artifact called the Icon of Ravenloft, which a local priest believes can be used to defend the town and possibly destroy the vampire lord.
This kind of thing I would prefer to run later on, perhaps at level 3 or 4. The Icon of Ravenloft I would simply change to the Witchbane Orb.

Adventure 3: Klak’s Infernal Artifact
This adventure features a kobold sorcerer, Klak, who has conjured up some infernal magic into an infernal artifact. All manner of chaotic magic has been swirling around Barovia, which has prompted the town elders to ask our heroes to investigate. Klak has a mad-scientist laboratory and everything!
There are a couple of interesting special rules to this adventure. First, when the heroes use XP to cancel out an Encounter Card, the active hero takes 1HP damage. Also, when certain dungeon tiles are drawn (the ones with white arrows), the active hero gets a random power card from among those they didn’t start with.
Not sure how exactly to manifest these things within my system. Gonna leave this one on simmer for a bit.

Adventure 4: Daylight Assault
This one’s pretty basic. The heroes decide to sneak into Strahd’s castle during the day, while he’s sleeping, and steal a bunch of his stuff. Sounds like a recipe for disaster to me. But it can pretty much be run straight, just have to have a decent way to track the time. The board game uses a “time track” which progresses when certain board tiles are placed. Not sure if that’s ideal for this or not. Probably not, but maybe.

Adventure 5: The Final Transformation
Okay, now this one is a bit more interesting. A villager/friend/lover/family member of someone has been bitten by Strahd and is being turned into a vampire. The only way to save him is to venture into the dungeon with him in tow, find a Dark Fountain, and let him drink from it. Unfortunately, he starts acting crazy when monsters are around.
This one is a bit more difficult, just because of the flavor in the Innistrad “Planeswalker’s Guide” articles of how vampirism works there.
Also, it would be way more fun if it was one of the player characters.

Adventure 6: Destroy the Dracolich
There’s a big nasty Dracolich rampaging across the countryside, destroying everything in its path. It is apparently Strahd’s new pet.
I would change this to fit with the flavor of Stensia. Specifically, instead of a Dracolich, it would be the Scourge of Geier Reach.
So that should be fun.
Also, that adventure is not going to be in the dungeon.
However, I do like the part about the phylactery in this adventure, as it fits perfectly with the Dracolich concept. Probably have to do something similar with the Scourge.

Adventure 7: Impossible
This one is nuts. Individual heroes, for some magical reason, assaulting the dungeon alone, and must defeat three out of six possible major villains (not including Strahd).
Perhaps this is a good time to examine the more unique villains from the game. There are six.
The Howling Hag: the Morkrut Banshee is a card from the set that jumps out to me immediately for the Howling Hag. Unfortunately, it’s effect in Magic doesn’t translate all that well to tabletop D&D, so we’ll have to come up with something else. Fortunately, we have Monster Manuals.
The Young Vampire: Didn’t we already save him in adventure 5?
The Werewolf: Werewolves were a major part of the Innistrad block, bringing with them a new mechanic (flip cards), so this fits right in. Picking the right one is going to be the biggest issue, I think. It’ll probably be someone the PC’s know and love and would never suspect of being a werewolf. The only other problem I can think of is that the vampires and werewolves of Innistrad don’t exactly get along very well (though I’m sure there are outliers).
Klak, Kobold Sorcerer: uhh, pretty sure we took care of the little bastard earlier, too.
Zombie Dragon: Yes.
Flesh Golem (uhh, can we just call him Frankenstein?): Extra yes.
And as for using this as an adventure in the game… probably not. It’s a suicide mission. In fact, it’s kind of written that way in the guidebook. When one of the heroes die, you just pick up with the next one who shows up.

Adventure 8: Horror of the Howling Hag
This is one of the more interesting adventures in the booklet, mostly because of the way it’s set up. You prearrange the board in a 5x5 tile square, with a Hero starting on each of the four corners, and the center tile, an Arcane Circle, revealed in the center. The heroes must make their way to the arcane circle in the center to disrupt the hag’s magic ritual.
I think this adventure can probably be run almost straight out of the book, with appropriate modifications for M74 rules, of course. I would add some build-up to the whole thing, of course, but overall it’s fun adventure. Really, the only problem is that it involves multiple characters who are isolated, and the nature of the board means the players would have easy access to information the characters wouldn’t have.

Adventure 9: Gauntlet of Terror
This adventure is quite literally a “hold the gates” type of scenario. The heroes are supposed to prevent 5 monsters from leaving the dungeon and heading for town, and “win” once they have killed 20 such monsters.
This one would probably be quite good every once in a while as something simple to run that doesn’t require much in the way of set-up or even organization. This one also has the added bonus of being easily adjustable to any number of locations, the most important part is keeping the monsters from getting past the heroes. Pretty straightforward.

Adventure 10: Blood and Fog
For this adventure, the situation is one where the heroes become trapped in the dungeon and must find an alternative exit (which is the Secret Stairway tile, hidden some ways down the stack).
This is really the kind of thing that could be sprung on a hero or heroes during any adventure, and really may be better that way.

Adventure 11: Rampaging Golem
Frankenstein’s monster is on the loose! This one is fun because instead of actually fighting the rampaging Golem, the heroes can attempt to find certain items and attempt to calm the monster. Of course, they could just fight the monster. Granted, some of the items enrage the golem, while others calm him down, and there’s no rhyme or reason to which ones do what.
Definitely going to be included as a possible adventure, except in Innistrad these monsters are apparently called “Skaabs”. Or something. (Probably because the previous block, Scars of Mirrodin, featured Golems extensively, and there would be too much overlap in potentially broken mechanics).

Adventures 12 & 13: The Hunt for Strahd
I do like that there are two parts to this adventure, and that the heroes have to defeat Strahd not once but twice to be ultimately victorious. Defeating him at the end of Adventure 12 just causes him to turn to a mist, and lead in to Adventure 13. There are numerous items to collect to help defeat Strahd, and his “bodyguard” needs to be defeated first, which is one of the minor villains already encountered in the previous adventures.
Now, obviously, Strahd is the wrong villain for our world, but this could just as easily be Olivia Voldaren or Edgar Markov instead. As for the items to be collected, I would prefer to have them all being collected over time in several different adventures, as opposed to all at once. So really, this adventure is kind of a little outline for the overall storyline. That I can work with. 

Friday, March 22, 2013

The Nature of Magic on Innistrad

Innistrad, being part of the Magic: the Gathering multiverse, is inundated with magic. In MtG, there is no difference between arcane and divine magics like we are accustomed to in D&D. Instead, magic is flavored by its mana source, of which there are five options: white, blue, black, red and green, the mana of which is garnered from lands like plains, islands, swamps, mountains and forests, respectively. Priests of Avacyn, on Innistrad, would naturally believe their healing and protective magic is granted to them by the angel Avacyn herself. Rather, they just simply do not fully understand the source of the magic. 

This line of thought naturally will cause a change in the way I described magic in my last post, but this is more a thought experiment to see what I can conjure up for this game. 

So, by eliminating the clerical options, and instead expanding with the five different colors of Magic, we are offering the players significantly more choices with their character progression. We'll retain the "have to have used it to acquire it when you level" rule. What this means is that any magical item found in the game will have to have a color identity of some sort. 

I would also propose that when a wizard gains a level, they have to physically make a connection with the land that is the source of their particular color of magic. They cannot cast their spell on their own until they do this! Mana flows from the land, and they must be bonded with it to use it. 

This is the kind of thing that will require a ritual of some sort, of course, each of which would be different depending on the type of mana. 

So, the basics of each of the five types of magic. 

White magic comes from the plains, and is often protective or healing in nature. White magic all about justice and law. D&D's clerics would use white magic. 

Blue magic comes from islands and the sea. It often works on the mind, with illusions and deception. D&D's illusionists would use blue magic. 

Black magic, from swamplands, is as bad as it sounds. It is the magic of death, decay, selfishness and raw power. Black magic is the province of necromancers. 

Red magic, of the mountains and highlands, is chaotic and full of unfettered emotions. It is often manifest in flames. 

Green magic, from the forests and woods, is the magic of nature. The druids of D&D would use green magic. 

Choosing a color of magic at one level does not preclude a mage from choosing a different color at another level (as long as they have experience using magic of the particular color). It does, however, mean they will have to forge another bond with a different type of land. Gaining a level in a second color will not be difficult. However, the third, fourth, and fifth will be. There is a chance the land will reject a mage, and the ritual fail. 

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Microlite74/D&D Adventure System Mashup: Innistrad

Okay, we got a lot going on here, and a lot of it is subject to change as I move forward with tweaking and gameplay, but here are the basics we'll be working with for the M74/D&D Adventure System Mashup set in the Magic: the Gathering plane of Innistrad. *Really, really need a better name for this project!*

We are using the basic Microlite74 rules for this game, with some tweaks to fit the setting.

Players start as 0-level townsfolk in the province of Stensia, on the plane of Innistrad, under the rule of bloodthirsty vampire families. The game is set on the Magic: the Gathering plane of Innistrad. The characters all begin as townsfolk in the dark province of Stensia, a province ruled by vampires.

The Voldaren Estate, home to Olivia Voldaren, is the primary location for adventure in this game. The haunted dungeons beneath the estate are in a magical state of flux, and only vampires and their servants can navigate them without getting lost or trapped inside. There are two other major vampire strongholds in Stensia: Markov Manor and Castle Falkenrath. Adventures can certainly take place in these locations as well.

Player Characters
0-Level characters require 10 experience points (experience points, or XP, are explained below) to advance to 1st level, whereupon they gain a class.

0-Level Characters begin the game with the four basic attributes, determined by rolling 3d6 and arranged to taste. The four basic stats are Strength, Dexterity, Charisma, and Mind. Each stat has an ability modifier equal to the score, minus ten and divided by 2, rounded down. For example, a score of 15 would have an ability modifier of 2 (15 minus 10 is 5, which divided by 2 is 2.5, rounded down is 2). The roll bonus for each attribute is used for skill rolls of different sorts.

There are two other basic stats every character has. These are Armor Class and Hit Points.

Armor Class is a measure of how difficult it is to hit a character. Armor Class is equal to 10 plus the Dexterity Modifier plus the Armor Bonus. If a character wants to hit a monster, they must roll a number on a D20 that is greater than their foe’s Armor Class. That particular roll can be modified by a character’s ability modifier, explained above, for different stats depending on the action undertaken.

Hit Points are a measure of how much “damage” a character can take before they are knocked out. A character has hit points equal to their Strength attribute. We prefer to think of it more as how many “near misses” you get before a brutal, mighty (or lucky) blow knocks you out. After all, you only get so many close calls.

What class a character becomes depends on the actions they take. There are four different basic classes from which characters can acquire skills. 

Warrior. To become a warrior, a character must bash monsters!
Rogue. To become a rogue, a character must be sneaky and demonstrate fine motor skills.
Cleric. To become a cleric, a character must find an item that allows them to channel their faith, typically a holy symbol of some sort, and successfully use it in the name of their god.
Wizard. To become a wizard, a character must find an item that allows them to cast spells, be it a spellbook, a magic wand, ring, or staff, etc.

There are further variants on the basic classes that can be acquired as the game progresses. Specialty wizards, paladins, rangers, bards, etc are all options if the player wishes to pursue them. For the most part, it simply requires walking the walk. If a warrior or cleric, for example, decides their fate is to be a paladin, it is up to them to become a paladin, to acquire the armor and weapons and pronounce their faith.

These variants are limited only by the player’s imagination. Special abilities of classes can be discussed with the DM and should be based on D&D sourcebook material.

Most of the action will take place in the dungeons below the vampire strongholds of Stensia. The tile-placing dungeon-building method from the D&D Adventure System is ideal for this, as it allows the DM to focus on creatures and goals, rather than endlessly drawing out maps.

Each newly placed tile will present a potential problem for the adventurers. There is a chance of monsters rushing them from the darkness, traps being set off, and a variety of other environmental hazards to navigate.

Leveling Up and Experience Points

We will use the standard M74 rules for leveling, with a few tweaks of course.

All characters begin as Level 0 townsfolk. Experience Points are gained for defeating monsters, completing quests, and spending gold. Typically, a monster will be worth a number of experience points equal to its Hit Dice. A character earns experience points from spending gold in town to help others in some manner, with no other gain for themselves. A character earns 1 experience point for every 100 gold spent in this manner. This can be anything from simply being a very generous tipper at the pub, to throwing a party for the whole town. A character shouldn’t be offered true quests until 3rd or 4th level, which is about when people will start to see them as heroes, based on their deeds.

Level.     XP required
1.              10
2.             30
3.             60
4.             100
5.             150
6.             210
7.             280
8.             360
9.             450
10.            550

When gaining a level, a character may choose to gain a level from any class in which they have experience. That is to say, if a character has physically fought with weapons, disarmed traps, cast spells in some manner and used a holy relic of some sort in a display of faith, they are free to choose any of the four basic classes to level-up as. They are free to choose a different class at each level.

The physically-focused classes, Warriors and Rogues, earn Feats when they gain a level. Spellcasting classes, Clerics and Wizards, earn Spells upon gaining a level. Characters also get more hit points when when they go up a level. Finally, PCs have the relevant ability score of their class (for this particular level) raised by one.

Hit Points gained per level
Warrior: 1d8 plus Strength modifier
Cleric: 1d6 plus Charisma modifier
Rogue: 1d6 plus Dexterity modifier
Wizard: 1d4 plus Mind modifier

Because leveling is based on actions taken during the course of the game, players have a good bit of freedom to build their characters, albeit slowly. If all a player wants to do is bash monster heads, they can go right for it, taking warrior every level and kicking a lot of butt. If a player wants a more well-rounded character, they can take warrior at 1st level, gaining a warrior feat, 1d8 plus Strength modifier hit points, and getting a plus 1 to their Strength score, then at 2nd level, after having acquired a couple magic spell scrolls in a dungeon, take a level of Wizard. They’ll then gain 1d4 plus Mind modifier hit points, learn one of the spells they were exposed to, and get a plus 1 to their Mind score.

Basically, no character is locked in to their first chosen class.

Warrior Feats
Combat Training: plus 1 to hit, plus 1 to damage with melee weapons
Archery: plus 1 to hit, plus 1 to damage with bows and crossbows
Thrown Weapons: plus 1 to hit, plus 1 to damage with thrown weapons (daggers, axes, hammers)
Cleave: when an opponent is knocked out, get an extra attack against another nearby foe.
Push: on a successful hit, push an opponent away from you one square.
Weapon Specialization: plus 3 to hit, plus 3 to damage with one unique weapon.

Rogue Feats
Quick Feet: you don’t provoke opportunity attacks for movement when adjacent to enemies.
Sneak Attack: if you can sneak up on your target unnoticed, double damage on a successful attack.
Move Silently: plus 2 to any attempt at moving silently.
Pick Locks: plus 2 to any attempt to pick a lock with appropriate tools.
Disarm Traps: plus 2 to any attempt to disarm a trap.
Reflexes: plus 2 to Armor Class while wearing light armor.


Magic is difficult to learn and even more so to control. However, there are magical items scattered throughout the world from which those aspiring to wizardry or the priesthood can learn from.

Wizards can learn magic from a variety of different sources: magical wands, staffs, rods, and rings, for example, or from casting spells inscribed on scrolls. When a wizard gains a level, he or she can gain the ability to cast any single spell that they have cast over the course of gaining experience for that level. It is up to the player to keep track of these spells. So, if character has used a scroll to cast a Fireball, a wand to cast a Lightning Bolt, and a ring to cast Feather Fall over the course of gaining their most recent level, they can choose one of those spells to permanently remember and cast at will.

Priestly magic works differently. The character must have a holy symbol of their deity. At any time, they can beseech their god through a prayer, be it to put a blessing on something, or repel undead, to heal wounds or purify something. The DM must roll for the success or failure of this prayer in secret! The character will not know immediately if their deity has granted their request (however, it depends on what exactly the request is). 

Also of note, is the current state of priestly magic on Innistrad. The only "deity" the humans of Innistrad worship is the archangel Avacyn. However, she has disappeared of late, and priestly magic has grown weak. Her disappearance is a mystery, although the recent rise in the frequency and ferocity of monster attacks that has coincided with her vanishing is not lost on the people of Innistrad, and many wonder what they have done wrong to cause their angelic leader to abandon them. 


Most adventures will take place in the tombs, crypts, and dungeons below the vampire strongholds of Stensia. Time permitting, the DM can prepare other sites for adventure, but the tile-placing method of the D&D Adventure System is ideal for quick dungeon delves.

Every time a tile is placed, there is a roll on a chart to see what happens. Often there will be a monster coming out of the darkness, other times a different event will occur.

The Event Die

The DM shall have a D12, set to 1, at the beginning of the dungeon adventure. At the end of each round, one PC must roll their own D12 and roll higher than the current number on the DM's event die. After each round, the DM ticks the event die up one. If a PC rolls below the current number on the event die, an additional random encounter occurs (these are significant and more dangerous than what happens with each placing of a tile). Certain actions in game can cause the event die to tick up further. 

Also, the DM can rule that a player must roll a smaller size die if they have been particularly foolhardy.


Combat is fairly straightforward. Characters get one attack type action per turn. To do this, they declare who or what they want to attack (or some other action they wish to take), and roll a 20-sided die. The higher the roll, the better. If making an attack, they must roll higher than their opponent’s Armor Class. On a successful hit, roll for damage, according to the weapon being used, and subtract that amount from the hit points of who or whatever was hit. If a PC has zero hit points, they fall unconscious. An unconscious character loses 1 Hit Point per round until their wounds are bound. If they reach a negative number of Hit Points equal to their Strength, they will die.

Monsters simply die when they get to zero hit points, although PCs may declare their desire to subdue monsters instead of killing them. This must be done ahead of time.

There are squares on the board. Each one is about five feet across. You can only make a melee attack against something in a square next to you. You can only make ranged attacks against something that is more than one square away from you, that you can also see.

Opportunity Attacks occur when you are adjacent to an opponent, and then attempt to move away from them. Basically, they get a free shot at you when you try to get away. If they hit, you take damage and fail to get away.

Saving Throws

Sometimes, something dangerous happens, and there’s a chance you can dodge disaster. In these circumstances, the DM will often call for a “Saving Throw” to see if you dodge the fireball, or resist the mind control spell, or what-have-you. Saving Throws are simple: roll a D20, add the relevant ability modifier (the DM will tell you which to use), and hope you score a 20 or higher in total to make your save. 

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Back in the Game!

Hey, it’s only been about six months since last I posted anything here. After spending all of my available nerd energy playing Magic: the Gathering over most of that time, I’ve gotten the itch to run some D&D again, but it has to be in a way that works for our very large and busy family. Magic: the Gathering has been perfect for us, as it satisfies the fantasy cravings while being quick to just pick up and play when I have even a little bit of time with one of the kids.

D&D, on the other hand, required me to spend a good deal of time during the week preparing for the weekend session. These sessions often devolved into contests amongst the children of “who can be the silliest and garner the most attention at the table” to the endless frustration of myself and my father-in-law.

So, something different is in order. We need something that I can just pick up and run when I have a spare hour or two with a couple of the kids, because that seems to be about all I ever get. Basically, it’ll be a blend of the D&D Adventure System Games (Castle Ravenloft, Wrath of Ashardalon, Legend of Drizz’t) and Microlite74.

The system will build on what I started with Hyrulian Adventures (see my last half-dozen or so posts). Hyrulian Adventures, by the way, went well, but our increasingly busy family schedule kept us from having a free Sunday afternoon for a while, and then it became harder and harder for me to get refocused on it enough to start it up again… along with the aforementioned behavioral issues with the children at the gaming table.

I’m currently working on putting it all together. The basic idea is that I’ll be able to use the tile based dungeon-building mechanics from the D&D Adventure System for a good number of quick, short adventures when I don’t have something bigger ready to go.

The setting is going to be something the children are already quite familiar with: the plane of Innistrad, from the recent Magic: the Gathering set. Particularly, the province of Stensia, which is ruled over by powerful vampire clans. This, of course, works pretty well with a lot of what already comes in Castle Ravenloft. It also provides a decent amount of pre-built setting that the children know well; well enough they will be excited when they find certain artifacts they recognize from the cards they play with, or likewise meet certain characters, many of which I will be sure to weave into the story. 


All in all, I think it's a good start. I've got a good bit written up to get it all started, and I'll have it posted up here in the next couple of days. It's been a while since I've even cracked open the old D&D tomes, and it feels good perusing these old books for inspiration once again.