Thursday, July 17, 2014

A Ravenloft For T&T

I awoke this morning to outrage about almond milk and the evening I've decided is good time to play the Who's Quadrophenia. I digress though.

Back in the late 90s, I entertained a fancy for the Ravenloft setting even while touching base again with the more established T&T gangIt was not a new fancy, TSR's 90s publications were all over Europe and I could get them for cheap from AAFES (The Army's version of K-Mart, with liquor, cigarettes, and Burger King) . So while WOTC was buying TSR for pennies, I had enjoyed a decade of great products even if I did not like the game system.

The Ravenloft setting, when not speaking of the original scenario, is strict D&D (AD&D? 2nd Edition? I am the world's worst observer of D&D trends and factoids) turned on its head into a role-playing setting that wants to be gothic horror. To be clear by "gothic horror" the writers mean the literature that was around at the time of the Gothic architectural movement's revival not its heyday. TSR's setting did a rather good job, at least as this GM that read its rules and notes to the viewing audience, at portraying the feeling of the literary genre that it was writing role-playing scenarios to.

Around this time, there were other horror games around. I'll exclude Call of Cthulhu in the forthcoming assessment, because it was the one of two horror RPGs that can serious claim to be the "first horror RPG" of all time and because Ravenloft worked hard not to be CoC and somewhat succeeded. That last idea enhances the charm of the setting so any sort of pro:con comparison to either games' detriment is silly. Now those other horror games never got over the theatrical device known as "The Gag" (usually a derivative of CoC's "Sanity" roll) or they were more about a comic book reality where its denizens were super-powered heroes and villains. T&T already had that in spades.

 I wanted to develop a setting similar to the expanded Ravenloft but everyone in the little teapot was about "new" things, which meant steam punk.

All things good to the fans of the movie Star Dust and to the scores of war-forged PCs in D&D campaigns for a whole edition, but I still think that the hacks Bram Stoker and Mary Shelley were onto something. That something that has only been the foundation of fantasist literature for a century and a half now. So instead of showing that you a rake can be replaced with coal-burning leaf blower, and how to make a cell phone into two cans and unbelievably stretchy string, I think fantasy likes to speak to emotions.

A quick little treatise on entertainment and emotionality within the scope of role-playing is in order here. It can be argued that when it comes to diversions from reality that any of them should be wholly enjoyed (or as intensely disliked) from the images called to mind within the players' imagination. With that, the participants should be trying to fulfill the parts of their imagination that are stirred by external/visual stimulation without that stimulation being there. Now, since the beginning of Gygaxian role-playing, and maybe a bit before, when it comes to role-playing, this can be striven for by the presentation of a talented GM, or it can be achieved from formulated with clever rules.

Now, these days, that last bit with the "clever rules" and all that _that_ entails, can be used as the premise for a decent Ravenloft campaign. I'd argue that with a very strong writing, the GM doesn't need to know what he, or she, is doing. Of course with a strong GM, nothing else is needed but come on already. Now that last bit,  is the worst excuse ever of any role-playing excursion half-way written, ever.

I am of the mind that T&T would be best framing campaigns to particular moods and atmospheres, rather than falling into the trap of "next edition." Not that anybody in charge or anything is particularly mindful of me. Still it can't hurt trying.

I want realms with dark-lords, and special rules. Given the rules of T&T, at least before the upcoming edition, this should not be too hard of thing to accomplish. In T&T, at least these days it is up to author to make it worthwhile.

So like Ravenloft is based off of a really module, I need to keep bugging Scot Malthouse about his Bloodmoon swamp.

Really, I want this to happen.


  1. I have several versions of this - none of them I've liked particularly much yet which is why I've not emailed you about them yet. I'll send you my current ideas though and we can hash something out.

  2. Oops I meant to say Bloodmoon Lake, I've got the swamp part.

    Still I look forward to the email.