Thursday, October 3, 2013

Return to Ravenloft: Interlude the First

(This is an interlude between sessions for my gaming group who is currently playing through a Ravenloft-themed D&D campaign entitled Return to Ravenloft. Check the previous session recap to get some context!)

Deep in the Svalich Woods outside Holmont Cove, a hooded figure makes their way through the forest. From their movements, it seems very obvious that the figure is familiar with the area and has likely traversed it on many occasions. They seem to know exactly where they are going and how to get there, a truly impressive feat in a forest that is increasingly dense and confusing the deeper you go.

The figure comes to the edge of a clearing covered in blood and gore. Obvious signs of battle litter the clearing and the surrounding areas, with discarded and broken weapons in numerous places and the pools of blood that could only be resting places of slain bodies in more than one spot. Of most note, however, is the only remaining body: the dismembered and brutalized human lying in the middle of the clearing.

The figure picks its way gingerly through the clearing, watching not to step in any blood or on any piece of debris from the battle. At first glance, anyway, it appears as such; on closer examination, an observer would notice that the figure's feet never touch the ground. Instead, the figure seems to glide through the air, their feet hanging beneath them as they drift towards the center of the clearing.

Landing carefully next to the slain human, the figure makes a clucking noise with their tongue before leaning down to further examine the damage. The face and chest have been brutalized, scratched beyond recognition, but more concerning to the figure seems to be the right arm, completely ripped from the corpse, and the missing left foot.

After some deliberation, the figure produces a wand from within their robes and gathers some dirt and rocks from the surrounding area. Placing the dirt next to the leg, the figure points the wand at the debris and mutters an incantation; immediately, energy sparks from the wand into the dirt and it begins to change shape. Within moments, the soil and stones have formed a foot and adhered to the corpse on the ground.

Drawing next a pendant from within their robes, the figure slips it within the tattered pocket of the corpse before turning and gliding away from the clearing and back into the woods, all the while humming a lilting tune as dusk begins to fall.


  1. Intrigue! I say this because I had read through the book numerous times and do not recall anything like this going down. Ever tried having your players play through this scenes? I did a flashback vignette a year or so back when I ran an Eberron campaign to great effect; might be worth a shot.

    1. Some creative license at work here, I must admit. I created an entirely new opening to the game to introduce new players to the Ravenloft setting by easing them into it, as opposed to throwing them in head-first. This involves quite a bit of set-up and starts the slow burn going.

      As for actually playing through Flashbacks, I did something along those lines when I first ran Expedition to Castle Ravenloft: a throwaway encounter in the catacombs of Castle Ravenloft from that book gave me a great hook -- it involved a skull with the name Dysania engraved on it, placed on a pedestal in a tomb surrounded by three other corpses long-dead (Crypt 10, page 120 if you're interested). It states that Strahd was angered by wounds Dysania dealt him and tortured her for them. Thus, I ran a Prologue where four adventurers went through Castle Ravenloft and eventually were confronted by Strahd before being killed or captured. This was the setup to the adventure; after that, the players took their own characters and we continued on from the beginning of the actual published adventure. It was good times.

      I had been planning something similar for this campaign -- a quick Prologue to set the mood and establish the setting -- but the players were very eager to get started with their actual characters and so I put it by the wayside for another time.

      As for these little vignettes, I have designed them as a way to keep interest between sessions without actually involving the players. This may prove to be a bit more difficult moving forward, given that we may be going to weekly sessions, but I like having the ability to show them little things in the background, to really hammer home the understanding that there are things going on that their characters wouldn't know about. I might take to just reading these aloud at the end of each session, to really cap off each night, but I like this delivery as well!


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