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Howls in the Night (2e)
by Alexander L. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 10/11/2013 06:36:58
Originally posted at: http://diehardgamefan.com/2013/10/11/tabletop-review-ravenlo-
ft-howls-in-the-night-advanced-dungeons-dragons-second-editi-
on/

It’s October and what better time for DNDCLassics.com to FINALLY start re-releasing some more Ravenloft adventures than in the month of Halloween. Until now, DNDClassics.com had only sported subpar releases like The Created, the badly written, Children of the Night pieces and the wonderful Monstrous Compendiums for the setting. This month however, we’ve seen four Ravenloft adventures released so far, which is great to see. Today we’ll be looking at Howls in the Night is not only one of the best Ravenloft adventures, but one of the best second edition adventures regardless of campaign setting. It’s extremely versatile and can be adapted to just about any campaign world (except Planescape). Best of all. Howls in the Night offers four different ways for the GM to run the adventure (One for each possible main antagonist) which gives the adventure an amazing amount of replay value, a fact that is all the more amazing when you remember that most adventures written in this time period (regardless of system) were extremely linear and inflexible.

Howls in the Night takes us to the domain of Mordent. It’s an analogue for Scotland and you’ll recognize that almost immediately. From the lush rolling meadows to the dark ominous moors where much of the adventure takes place, the DM should feel more than free to use their best (worst?) Scottish accent to give the NPCs of Mordent some personality. It’s a great setting and one made all the better by the fact the Darklord of the domain never shows up in the adventure. You can generally tell whether a Ravenloft adventure is good or bad by whether or not the goal is to kill a Darklord or not. If it is, put it back and look for a different adventure.

Howls in the Night is a little bit The Hound of the Baskervillies, a little bit of the Black Shuck from British folklore and a lot of Ravenloft twists thrown in. The adventure is for four to six players between 3rd and 5th Level, meaning that the characters have some experience under their belts, but not enough that they can shrug off a pounding. Indeed, much of the adventure is running from or circumventing the almost limitless bog hounds at the disposal of one of the antagonists. As well, the core monster plaguing the town of Mordentshire can’t be defeated unless very specific circumstances are encountered, meaning that Howls in the Night plays a little more like a Call of Cthulhu adventure and far less of a hack and slash dungeon crawl.

I absolutely love the story here. You have a doomed force love affair, the effects of which still curse the village, the surrounding countryside and the principal players a century after it occurred. You have a wonderful curse, as odd as that phrasing may sound, which breathes a lot of life into the adventure, makes it exceptionally spooky and also highlights how well Ravenloft used the concept of curses, especially curses made during one’s death throws. I always found the whole “Bestow/Remove” curse spells from D&D to be implemented horribly and both PCs and DMs would use the spell without any style or forethought. Ravenloft is the one exception to that and a curse made here is extremely hard to get rid of and generally has long ranging dramatic results.

As the principal protagonists in this adventures, Players are hired to exterminate the ever growing problem of what appears to be extremely aggressive wild dogs. Just as the moors slowly extend their reach every year, so too do does this pack of wild canines grow ever bolder and closer to the town of Mordentshire. Of course, players will instantly assume that the dogs aren’t actually dogs. They’re right, but not in the way they think and the end result generally has overconfident players who were relying on player knowledge rather than character knowledge, getting freaked out and humbled by their actual foe. It’s wonderful as a DM to see how players handle their first encounter with the bog hounds and the slow realization that nothing in Ravenloft is ever straightforward.

Besides dealing with the hounds, Howls in the Night has several other nasty surprises for the players. At least one character will probably having to roll for their lives against quicksand. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a playthrough of this adventure where one character meets their end at the hands of a mundane natural occurrence. It’s wonderful as it keeps players really invested in where they are placing their feet and their immediate surroundings. Players will really quickly learn to think on their feet (literally and figuratively) from this adventure. Most of all though, players will be brought into the conflict that occurs between the two main NPCs of this adventure. They are the root of the curse plaguing the village and much of the fun of the adventure comes from the players trying to decide who is wearing the black hat and who is wearing the white hat. Again, the adventure has four different playthrough possibilities, so you can design the adventure to where BOTH are evil or both are victims of the curse rather than deserved recipients. I tend to find the adventure is more fun for everyone involved when you have both NPCs either be truly evil dicks or good people caught up in a bad situation. Regardless, all of the four storylines are extremely fun to play through and no matter which one you choose, your PCs will talk about this adventure for a long time to come.

I can’t end this review without really plugging the artwork it contains. The cover for Howls in the Night by Paul Jaquays is especially spooky and sets the tone for things to come quite nicely. The interior artwork by Mark Nelson has me missing the days when I could regularly see his art in Vampire: The Masquerade, Ravenloft and Shadowrun publications. He also did a wonderful job with the Hellraiser comics back in the day. Both Wizards and Catalyst Game Labs need to hire him back for regular work ASAP! Nelson is one of my favorite RPG artists and it’s easy to see why after you’ve flipped through this adventure.

So yes, Howls in the Night is a truly brilliant adventure from beginning to end. It’s an extremely easy adventure for a DM to run, and it’s hard not to have fun with this. With a price tag of only four dollars, it’s practically begging you to buy it. Howls of the Night is one of my favorite adventures from 2nd Edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons as it is creepy, boasts a wonderful cast of characters, a very intricate plot and it highlights just how well D&D works as a horror game instead of a hack and slash dungeon crawl experience. Seriously, pick this up today.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Howls in the Night (2e)
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B1 In Search of the Unknown (Basic)
by David S. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 10/04/2013 12:29:55
Ran as an intro 3.5 not much had to be added. Just some save DCs ect... Took me three week days to read and prep but still not much time each day.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
B1 In Search of the Unknown (Basic)
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B4 The Lost City (Basic)
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 10/01/2013 16:27:20
Another great Moldvay module. This one is so strange, but so much fun. I remember playing this one in 8th grade and honestly I had a blast. It wasn't though till many years later while running it for my own kids did I see it's Pulp fiction roots. Plenty of great influences can be seen in this from Robert E. Howard to Lovecraft to Clark Ashton Smith.

To me this one was always on the edge of that B/X divide. Sure it was a B series module, but it could have easily been one of the X series.
Unlike some adventures I played or ran in the 80s I went back to this one appreciated it more now then I did then.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
B4 The Lost City (Basic)
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X2 Castle Amber (Basic)
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 10/01/2013 16:20:57
This adventure had always been something of a Holy Grail for me. I was a huge fan of Tom Moldvay, I had heard this adventure took place in Glantri and it was full of horror elements. As time went on and I still never found a copy I began to hear more; that it was a crazy dungeon full of crazier NPCs. That it is was more of a thinking module and not a hack and slash one and finally it was heavily influenced by Clark Ashton Smith, whom I always felt was superior to Lovecraft in many respects.

I did finally get a copy, paid a lot for it and I also got a copy here.
The module lives up to the hype. It is not a particularly easy module to run and you better spend a lot of time with it. But for me at that time (the mid 90s when I finally got a copy) it became a great addition to my growing Ravenloft collection. It was not officially part of Ravenloft mind you, but so much of it feels the same that is would have been a crime not to bring them together.

This is one of the last of the truly classic modules.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
X2 Castle Amber (Basic)
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B1 In Search of the Unknown (Basic)
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 10/01/2013 14:36:45
This is my "go to" adventure anytime I want to start up a new group or game. It's a ritual for me, roll up characters and run them through the halls of the lost Castle of Quasqueton. I still have my copy that I bought all those years ago and it was also one of the first PDFs I purchased from WotC. I never really expanded on Roghan the Fearless or Zelligar the Unknown save that they were long dead and their Castle was now overrun with monsters.
It is one of those adventures I can run with zero prep time and each time I learn something new or remember something I forgot.
This module is simple, easy to use and can adapted to any campaign world and even any game.
It is a perfect module for the Basic game.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
B1 In Search of the Unknown (Basic)
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X1 The Isle of Dread (Basic)
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 10/01/2013 14:23:23
Maybe second only to B2 and B1 in terms of numbers of players, but The Ilse of Dread lasts as one of the best Basic-era adventures out there. In today's frame of mind the adventure is equal parts Pirates of the Caribean, King Kong and Jurassic Park. It is a heady cauldron of tropes, ideas and just plain crazy fun. It was included in the original Expert set and it still had expanded maps and more creatures. I never understood why the creatures where not just in the main book, but it did make the module special.
What was so nice about X1 over B2 is you had the feel it was more integrated into the Expert rules; it felt like a logical extension.
I ran it again recently with 20+ years between the last time I had ran it and it felt like a very different adventure. There is a lot of untapped potential here. Enough for several adventures.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
X1 The Isle of Dread (Basic)
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B2 The Keep on the Borderlands (Basic)
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 10/01/2013 13:49:04
I once read that more people have played through the Keep on the Borderlands more than any other adventure. Of that I am sure. I have run scores of new players through it myself including a new generation of gamers.

The module hardly needs an introduction and it really is almost immune to review. Who cares that the Caves of Chaos look like some sort of Monster Condo where all these different creatures live together until those meddling humans show up from the Keep.

Going to the Caves is rite of passage. It is the hallmark of a real honest to Pelor adventurer.
If you don't have it you can't really call yourself a D&D player.

Just remember, "Bree-Yark" means "I surrender" in goblin. Yell it out really loud.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
B2 The Keep on the Borderlands (Basic)
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B3 Palace of the Silver Princess (Basic)
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 10/01/2013 13:41:21
Another classic. B3 has had a storied history, but the module we all actually played has a special place in many gamer's hearts.
For starters it is a Basic module, and lot of material in it is aimed at new DMs working on their craft. While the programmed text of rooms 1 to 6 might look quaint by today's standards, there is a lot of good things here.
For starters the basic premise of the module is a fun one. An Evil artifact, an innocent princess, a dashing rogue on a white dragon. Lots of the cliches of fantasy gaming, but all are played earnestly and not a hint of irony is here.

The module itself is not without issues as mentioned. The map of the castle is enough to drive a sane mapper crazy and some of the NPCs (like the green elf "Protectors") are annoying. But all that fades when you discover the Eye of Arik and destroy it.
I recently re-ran this one for my kids using the D&D 3.5 edition rules. Worked great.
http://timbrannan.blogspot.com/2010/07/return-to-palace--
of-silver-princess.html

If you are new to the Basic D&D game (B/X flavor) then this is a great adventure to get.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
B3 Palace of the Silver Princess (Basic)
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CM2 Death's Ride (Basic)
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 10/01/2013 12:54:10
Death's Ride is one of a few adventures I have had the privilege to both play and to run. While overtly for the D&D Basic rules, Companion set, it can be run (and we did) under AD&D. Though some of the special features were lost I think.

The Barony of Two Lakes Vale gave us ample room to move about and try different things, but the it was the NPCs that captured my attentions the most. Ulslime, Wazor and Korbundar lived on in my games for many more years with both Ulsime and Korbundar even threatening my players in the 3rd Ed. game. One, and I am not sure if he was an NPC in the game or one my DM made up, went on to torture my characters for many more adventures after this.

The Death Portal was an interesting bit of necromantic trickery to get the players something to focus on and the new monsters were a lot of fun (the Death Leech nearly took out my characters back in the 80s.)

Calling it a "High level dungeon crawl" is fair, but it leaves out a lot of what made this particular adventure so much fun.
I still have my original copy of this and it holds up well.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
CM2 Death's Ride (Basic)
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Q1 Queen of the Demonweb Pits (1e)
by Darin S. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 09/13/2013 11:11:30
Rated this at three stars.

5 stars for the module itself and for DTRPG for hosting it! Can't thank you all enough for this. This module is very creative and deep. Lots of fun to be had for both players and DMs.

1 star for the scan though. It is very muddy and there appears to be a lot of page bleed through.

Averages out to 3 stars for the full rating.

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Q1 Queen of the Demonweb Pits (1e)
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X2 Castle Amber (Basic)
by Darin S. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 09/06/2013 13:40:44
I loved this adventure when it first came out. It ranks high on most surveys on peoples favorites and I agree with those assessments. The eclectic cast of characters is a highpoint for me. Other than the map issue (mentioned in other reviews) the scan is very nicely done. The monster on the cover gave me the shivers back in the day. "OMG! It's using a tree for a club! Run!"

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
X2 Castle Amber (Basic)
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HHQ4 Cleric's Challenge (2e)
by Chris M. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 09/06/2013 12:21:23
This is an interesting adventure, I was disappointed with the way the "solo" aspect of this was handled. I was hoping I would have an adventure that was balanced for a single player , not a group adventure written for the DM (me) to have to play the missing aspect of the group out.( could have done this with basically any adventure).
some of the Magic items available within an adventure geared for a player of this level is a bit over power in my opinion.(easily corrected as I will just remove these items or replace, +3 weapons just shouldn't end up in the hands of a level 2-4 player). those things mentioned I am looking forward to running this adventure with my player, it has a cool story and should prove to be fun.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
HHQ4 Cleric's Challenge (2e)
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G1-3 Against the Giants (1e)
by Edward C. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 09/05/2013 09:19:56
Writing a review for Against the Giants is a bit like telling someone about Diet Coke and Mentos. As soon as the words "Diet Coke and Mentos" come out of your mouth, most people are going to start telling you about their own experience with them and their spectacular effects. But some people are going to look at you confused and ask what you are talking about. So you grab that moment with both hands and immediately run to the nearest Stop-n-Rob to buy some innocent-looking candy and soda and be part of a moment that someone is going to remember for the rest of their life.

If you have played AD&D, Against the Giants is probably one of the adventures you reminisce about most at the Old Gamers' Home. You remember that moment when you opened that one door in the Steading of the Hill Giant Chief and felt like Han Solo rounding the corner into the StormTroopers. Or the guy who made the mistake of using the fireball at the wrong time and place in the Glacial Rift. Like any other module, you watched good characters die and lucky characters make exactly the roll they needed at the crucial moment. And if you were a serious gamer you probably went through it multiple times.

But like bell bottoms and that old flame that sent you a Facebook friend request, AD&D is making a comeback, and a new generation of gamers are being introduced to the mysterious alliance between factions of giants who would normally no sooner work together than twerk together. When DriveThruStuff announced the opening of the DnD Classics section, this was no doubt one of the first modules many searched for, and it was the first purchase I made when I logged in.

Now for those of you who have yet to experience Against the Giants, this one is called a Classic for good reason. It is a challenge for players and DMs alike. For the player, there are giants. Lots of giants. And there are giants' pets, giants' servants, and giant's houseguests and family to deal with. This doesn't mean you can check your brain at the door. Giants may not be brilliant strategists, but invading a giant environment has challenges you may not anticipate until you face them. And if you don't think, you are going to miss out on loot. You can, however, expect to gain a LOT of rocks. Giants love rocks, and carry them around in bags (according to the Monster Manual).

This leads us to some of the challenges the DM will face.
1) LOTS of bags with random contents: There are approximately 52 giants just on the first level. Each has a bag that holds from 2-8 items which are randomly generated from a percentile table. Your party is going to want to look through a LOT of those bags. If any of the first ten or so have gold, they may want to search every bag in the place. Download a random die roller and do all of this before the first session.

2) Dense population surrounded by empty spaces: If they don't use the right entrance a particularly stealthy party, or one that moves fast, could get through a significant amount of the first level and only see a few giants here and there. That is, until they open one particular door. You may want to change the population density a little and have the giants move around a bit. Or you may want the party to walk in to a particularly memorable event. Just be aware that they could get the impression that the giants are away on a raid.

3) Layout favors the cautious/cowardly: Parties who want loot more than glory can get their wish if they play their cards right. For example, in the Steading it is possible to get into the main treasure stash by opening less than 10 doors and quite possibly not even seeing a giant. On that route they will also pick up a significant clue that essentially satisfies they requirements of the mission. Are you, as the DM, going to let the chips fall where Gygax put them, or are you going to intervene?

There are some minor issues with the text itself, but nothing that applying some common sense won't get the DM through. But those issues were in the original published version. The PDF is true to the format of the combined modules. Older gamers may remember when the three Giant modules were sold separately, so they may be surprised at the size of some of the maps in this combined version, but they still print well even if enlarged.

The important thing to keep in mind is that Against the Giants is not a nostalgia module. It doesn't "give you the feel" of old-school Fantasy RPG. It IS old-school Fantasy RPG, the standard by which other old-school style games is to be judged. When you picture a group of nerdy gamers in the late 70s in their Kiss Army T-shirts having pizza and Mountain Dew while playing D&D, this is what they are gathered around.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
G1-3 Against the Giants (1e)
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X1 The Isle of Dread (Basic)
by Samuel K. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 08/25/2013 23:52:56
Great sandbox wilderness adventure. There's plenty written out for you, but lots of room to add your own stuff. The scan is mostly quite good. The newer ones seem to change the font a bit, but in return for clearer text that cuts and pastes properly, it's worth it. The maps of the continent and the island could be a little better, but they'll do.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
X1 The Isle of Dread (Basic)
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X2 Castle Amber (Basic)
by Samuel K. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 08/25/2013 23:43:04
Great adventure, reviewed by many, and I don't have much to add about that. However, I'd like to second the criticism the previous reviewers criticism of the scan. The main map (on the inside of the cover) has some missing right down the middle. I would really like WotC to correct this, the way they did for the same problem with B2 - rescan the map as one large landscape page, rather than splitting it up and cropping it too short. Thanks.

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
X2 Castle Amber (Basic)
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