Tracy and Laura Hickman help revive famous 1983 "Curse of Strahd" Ravenloft campaign for D&D 5th edition
Dungeons & Dragons is about to release a new module for 5th edition - and it's a recreation of Tracy and Laura Hickman's famous 1983 Ravenloft module, The Curse of Strahd. And to give it the best treatment possible, they've asked the Hickmans for help.
Reviving the Undead
The new module will revive one of Ravenloft's most iconic villains, the vampire Strahd von Zarovich - as well as bring one of Dungeons & Dragons' darkest campaign settings to the game's latest edition. Principle designer Chris Perkins told Polygon in a recent interview:
"Prior to the release of this adventure, D&D adventures kind of followed a format where they were basically location-driven dungeons that you went into in search of treasure. ... Ravenloft changed that. It expanded your mind in terms of what a D&D adventure could be [when] driven by the machinations of a truly, truly horrible villain."
Rather than starting from scratch, Perkins enlisted the aid of the Hickmans as the original module's creators, so they could brainstorm ways to resurrect the perennial favorite for a new audience.
Will fortune favor the bold, or lead them to dark, untold horrors? - Image source: D&D Adventurers League.
The famous 32-page module, released nearly a decade after Dungeons & Dragons was first published, will now be over 255 pages. It will have an expanded playing area (half the size of Rhode Island, according to Perkins) and new ways to keep the story fresh through multiple tabletop campaigns, thanks to the inclusion of the tarot-like "tarokka cards," which will be published by the folks at Gale Force Nine. These cards will let the Dungeon Master read the fortunes of the players at the table, while also guiding the DM through interesting ways to reveal the secrets of Barovia to them.
Curse of Strahd will be releasing for 5th edition online and in stores on March 19, so you don't have long to wait. Will you be playing the new module? Did you play the original? Tell us all about it in the comments.
Jessa RittenhouseJanuary 23, 2016, 12:50 amColumnist
Ty ArthurJanuary 22, 2016, 7:28 pmFeatured ContributorI'm glad they're returning to the offbeat settings (Ravenloft, Dark Sun, and Planescape are all sorely underrepresented in the modern gaming era), but I wish they'd do something new rather than re-treading the same ground again and again. There was already a 256 page hardcover re-creation of "Curse of Strahd" that utilized cards back in 2006. The Domains Of Dread have a whole lot more to them than just Barovia and Strahd's Castle - so why do the same thing again?
Jessa RittenhouseJanuary 23, 2016, 12:51 amColumnistI didn't ever get a look at that one. Did the Hickmans get any input on that one? It could be that, if they didn't, this was viewed as Wizard's shot to properly revive what is one of D&D's most popular modules ever. The Ravenloft campaign setting does have a lot more to offer, though, I agree - I'd like to see a lot more done with it in 5e. Still want to check this one out, though.
Ty ArthurJanuary 24, 2016, 2:29 pmFeatured ContributorIt was called "Expedition to Castle Ravenloft" and I could have sword Weis/Hickman were involved, but I just grabbed it off my shelf and don't see their names anywhere in the credits other than "inspired by the classic modules of Tracy And Laura Hickman."
GameSkinny StaffJanuary 26, 2016, 11:27 amContributorI'm very hyped for the return to Ravenloft - and I'll offer a counter point to this criticism.
While long-time D&D players know loads about Ravenloft (and the other 'greatest hits' modules), 5e is bringing in a ton of new players to the WOTC fold. New players might not know about these oldie-but-goodies and newer players are the most likely bunch to turn to modules rather than homebrew. Why not revive D&D's greatest hits? Besides, most veteran D&D players are making their own worlds and adventures - so modules aren't really targeted to them anyways.
That said, if a veteran did play the old, short version of Ravenloft, they might also pine nostalgic and be interested in seeing what a fully-fleshed, Chris Perkins-approved 250pg adventure brings to the table. So, I get it. I think WOTC is doing exactly what they need to be doing for the brand right now and the modules for 5e have only been getting better and better (I've been floored by OotA so far).
Jessa RittenhouseJanuary 26, 2016, 11:55 amColumnistYeah, that means they didn't work on it. I imagine they may be banking on their involvement to bring the project even more attention - not a bad plan, since they're the original creators and have a rep for creating amazing stories.
Jessa RittenhouseJanuary 26, 2016, 11:56 amColumnistYeah, updating the module for a new audience is never a bad practice.
Ty ArthurJanuary 29, 2016, 12:30 pmFeatured ContributorDifferent viewpoints I suppose. I see what you mean about new players, but for me I'd rather see something unique and new.
I see the pattern of releasing a new edition and then rehashing everything that came before yet another time as the low point of the tabletop industry. Although to be fair, Wizards has slowed that down in the latest editions (Forgotten Realms was probably the biggest offender on that front over time). Eberron wasn't my favorite, but at least it tried something different, and it would be nice to see Wizards take a risk again (hah, yeah right. We'll get Sword Coast Legends / Neverwinter repeats into infinity).
Although its starting to feel bloated and past its prime, what I really liked about Pathfinder was how new books didn't just rehash the old material in an updated ruleset (Occult Adventures is very different from psionics for instance, and mythic is very different from epic).
I've been gravitating away from straight D&D / Pathfinder lately though, there's a ton of really interesting systems being released (mostly through crowd funding) that go way outside the norm, but unfortunately they aren't getting the top shelf treatment and hitting the big book stores anymore.