The second part of the Death House adventure kept going without much of a hitch, until we got to the part where the parents of the house was discovered as Ghasts (Room 34 in your documents.) The dragonborn found out the hard way that the Ghast’s innate stench is made out of methane.
In other words, the DM wanted a Big Boom! In an enclosed space. The party was grateful that the treasure wasn’t burnt by the way.
At least during the now expected raiding of the place, they done so while getting the mortal remains of Rose and Thorn to a proper burial in the crypt below the house. In my campaign, I give out Action Points instead of Inspiration on the table, so I made a different reward for them: I let Rose give them a gun that shoots bullets that come out silvered (will use any normal bullets that they can buy in Barovia and Baldur’s Gate) and Thorn hands out a silvered rapier, both with an elegant floral theme.
Item: Fixing the Experience Points problem
With Death House, I start with an experiment to deal with a problem with 5th Edition right now. As some podcasts will attest, Wizards didn’t work much on this area. This will present a problem, especially for those who like to keep a running score on Experience, like myself. So I’m working on something to improve on this:
As some of you know, there are three important pillars in a Tabletop Roleplaying Game: Combat, Interactions, and Exploration. At its current virgin setting, 5th Edition only awards XP for Combat; which is used to create a difficulty setting for the encounter. Wizards didn’t account for the other two pillars. In fact, most of those in Wizards use the Milestone system or even flat out Hand Wave stuff.
For some of us who uses the Score system, we needed to include a way to award XP for the other two pillars, and I’m starting with a spreadsheet where I use a) the amount of XP needed to progress to the next level and b) the combination of the character level and the proficiency bonus to compute a benchmark level for reaching an important location, successfully finding a certain object or talking to a NPC, or achieving various side quests. (Look at playthroughs of Tom Clancy’s The Division to find out what I’m talking about) The spreadsheet is by no means perfect, but it’s something for me to start with.
With Death House, I knew that the party needed to get to 3rd Level at the end, so I took 900 XP and divided it among the various goals the party have to go through to get to that point. This is added on top of the XP the party gains by combat.
This deals with the main problem the standard way to progress has, especially in Expeditions: As Lex Starwalker said, Houit would take two modules to get to 2nd Level. Me? You’d needn’t have to go through more than one session to get to 300 points, and sometimes you get there in the middle of the module.
I’ll let you know about the progress of my experience system.
Item: My development of Barovia
As you know, I’m remixing Barovia to give my more experienced players a new twist on I6 Ravenloft 2016…ahem…Curse of Strahd. I have a lot of inspiration on how I imagine the module, which is markedly different from what Tracy and Laura Hichman’s imagined. When I thought about Vampires, I don’t think of Bram Stoker, or—thank GOD—Stephanie Meyer, whom Strahd would want to personally show what a vampire would really be like. (I see him reducing that author into a mind-numbed maid that he orders around like a living puppet, only existing for him to feed on.) I think of Anne Rice, Angel, and Forever Knight. These three series are the inspiration on where I’m going to be taking Strahd, someone who has come to terms with his Vampirism and finds a noble use for it. I’ll tell you more in blog posts as the Encounters party goes through my take on Curse of Strahd.
There is another source of inspiration behind my take on Ravenloft, and it might not surprise some about Wizard’s involvement with this particular world in their other flagship brand.
Shadows over Innistrad returns Magic: The Gathering to their own version of Ravenloft, which has become my top Inspiration to Barovia as a whole. I see my version of Ravenloft occur 20 something years after the timeframe after I6 Ravenloft, and such the mist-bordered world there has developed from a scared and oppressed Dread Plane that imprisons Strahd as much as the denizens there alike.
My version of Ravenloft is a world close to Innistrad than an actual Dread Plane, a gothic world where the humans are faced with wave after wave of Werewolves, Zombies, Vampires, Ghosts, and even the occasional Frankenstein Monster. (Note to self: Throw a Frankie or two in my Barovia.) There are two deities that still in force there, The Morninglord (Lathander) and Mother Night (Selune), to provide a bulwark for the humans to strive against the evils of this land. Some people, however, still manage to lose their hope and become soulless shell of their former selves, fading to black and white and being no more alive than the zombies and ghosts they succumb to. But the majority of the NPCs the party will encounter are sturdier souls. They adapted to their environment so that they not just exist in this dark world but actually thrive in the world. In fact, the linked story is as much a part of Barovian life, as the Cloud and the Sun is for Justin Mercurial. (More on that later.)
Most Barovians believe, much like those in Innistrad, in “The Eternal Sleep,” where their ultimate reward for a virtuous and vigilant life is not to have an afterlife, but to have a restful “sleep” after death—tranquil oblivion, or perhaps oneness with everything; rather than becoming a tormented spirit, mutilated corpse, undead abomination, or vampire drone.
There are even worse fates in my table. I had a “Dark Powers” mechanic long before Curse of Strahd.
In fact, like in Innistrad, Barovians use, “May you spend an eternity in the ground” as a common blessing. The beliefs are that similar.
Because of this, some businesses have reappeared in Barovia. There’s already a printing house that produces books, tarokka decks, and newsletters. An inn, general store, and smith is already added to the standard map, and you’ll find a lot of additional NPC from many other realms. (Since the official take on Ravenloft is that this realm can connect to any other realm, expect to see some Living Parnast and Æthercoil references in here.
In closing, I’d like to add one more thing: There is a very popular book in the village: Interview with the Count by Ireena Kolyana. She wrote this book while she was with Strahd, and found more about who he is behind “The Devil” and learns all she could about Vampires. The story between all the info dumps on Vampires makes this book an improvement over Rudolph van Richten’s Guide to Vampires. This makes Ireena very well known in town, so much that she became [REDACTED]. Although some folk are still wary of her; after all, she is still one of Strahd’s favorites.
And this ain’t even the biggest twist!