In the last post on this subject, I talked about how I accidentally hijacked a D&D 5th Edition game and turned it into a GURPS Dungeon Fantasy game using the old-school Ravenloft module for AD&D. Today, I’ll tell you about how Ravenloft claimed yet another party of ill-fated adventurers.
I don’t think the group actually realized how close they were to winning. It was almost entirely a psychological defeat. The place was scary and unknown, the random encounters hard, and they spent the first couple of sessions treating it like a Diablo dungeon (“run in as fast as possible and kill everything that moves!”). After that, they became overly cautious, retreating to the chapel every couple of fights to spend the night and let those healing penalties fade.
They’d inevitably wake up to a random encounter. No, undead can’t enter the chapel, but those two rust monsters I rolled up that one time sure could! They didn’t wreck any equipment, but they scared the players just the same.
This became the usual pattern of our sessions, and if it kept up the group would end up allowing the monsters to slowly grind them to death. I told them as much, and cautioned them to explore the castle in a more directed and organized manner if they wanted to win.
That led to a rather fruitful session where they moved with purpose and reached the room where Strahd’s maid lived. She pleaded for help and offered to lead them to a stash of treasure in exchange for help in escaping the castle. The PCs agreed.
She led them up the stairs, staying towards the back of the group for safety. When they reached the “treasure room”, the maid sprouted claws and fangs and backstabbed the party, because of course she was a vampire and the treasure was fake.
They managed to defeat the vampire maid without suffering too much damage, and it turned out that all of this happened right in front of the door to the throne room, where I6’s tarot reading told me Strahd himself could be found.
So there they were, mostly unhurt, with a cleric and a paladin in the party, in possession of both the Icon of Ravenloft and the Sunsword, literally at Strahd’s doorstep. What did the PCs do? They ran away! The rest of the session was them finding their way to the outside, still at the second floor, levitating over the walls and making it back to Barovia.
We ended the session there, and we wouldn’t get to play another. One of the players outright told me Ravenloft was too hard and he wanted something else, so I offered to switch to Iron Gods the next session with a fresh batch of characters. No one else complained or offered a dissenting opinion, so I guess they agreed. Ravenloft had claimed another party, not by killing them but by breaking their spirits.
I’m pretty sure it was Ravenloft, too, as opposed to shitty GMing on my part. The Iron Gods game is still ongoing and the players look forward to each session, so I must be doing something right.
When I next write about this, we’ll see how that Iron Gods game started.