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Friday, February 19, 2016

Dungeons & Dragons - Dragon Plus Issue 6

You can read Dragon Plus Issue 6 here. Short version of this article: Go read this. It's much better than the previous issues, and it has a free download of a portion of the Curse of Strahd adventure.

A new issue of Dragon Plus has been posted! This one is full of Curse of Strahd stuff. Let's check it out and see if there is anything we can loot for our campaigns.


Unraveling Ravenloft

This is an interview with Tracy Hickman, co-author of the original Ravenloft AD&D adventure. He was a consultant on Curse of Strahd.  This is basically the same article posted on the D&D site a few weeks back, talking about the origin of vampires and how he came up with Ravenloft.

The part I find most interesting is the section about researching the origin of vampire stories (it traces back to Lord Byron):

"What the Hickmans found was that the romantic vampire of the earliest years of the genre was not just a spouse beater but a spouse killer, the archetype of abuse in the worst kind of destructive codependency.

“Strahd came directly from the roots of vampire lore. The origins of the modern vampire spring from feminine cautionary tales warning women away from the 'bluebeard' archetype. It was essential to understand this in order to properly construct him,” Hickman says. 

“But the vampire genre has taken a turn from its roots in recent years. The vampire we so often see today exemplifies the polar opposite of the original archetype: the lie that it’s okay to enter into a romance with an abusive monster, because if you love it enough, it will change.”

The thought that the Twilight movies boil down to the idea that a person can change her abusive partner if they just love them enough.. how awful.

When I run Curse of Strahd, I am going to keep the idea that Strahd is an abusive boyfriend at the forefront, making sure to subtly have him behave in the same manner. He'll do something terrible to the one he loves, but then apologize and be all sweet and use the excuse that he's a vampire - he can't help what he is.

What does it say about the target of Strahd's affection that they would decide to actually become a vampire in order to be with him? Not only have they failed to change him, they have now become a monster just like he is.

Volo's Visit to Barovia

Behold, the best article in all of Dragon Plus history thus far. The mighty Ed Greenwood is the author of a really fun story which is absolutely loaded with information on Barovia.

The Story: Volo goes to Barovia with the aid of Elminster's magic. He runs into a vampire spawn and he is saved by a gypsy/adventurer. Then he stops at the Blood of the Vine Inn and on to a new town where he meets a weird NPC and has a run-in with Strahd himself.

The Talisman: Elminster gives Volo a way to escape the mists of Barovia - he implants a talisman (which contains a piece of one of Strahd's fingernails in it) under Volo's skin in a complex magic ritual. When Volo wants to return home, he must say "Dharts" three times to activate the magic.

Great Greenwood Detail: Elminster gives Volo a bunch of equipment, including a waterskin full of water with a little mint in it. Ed Greenwood is so good at giving details that make the world feel real and interesting.

Ezmerelda D'Avenir: She saves Volo, and seems to be a gypsy vampire hunter. She has a piece of art and everything (this issue is overloaded with new art from Curse of Strahd, to my delight). I assume she is an NPC in the Curse of Strahd adventure. Volo gives us an interesting description of her:

"Flashing eyes, nigh-fearless, and knows what she’s doing when it comes to battling undead. I couldn’t help but notice there was something odd about her right boot; it didn’t match her left."

The Blood of the Vine: An inn right out of the original Ravenloft adventure. It's warm and cozy, if shabby. A place where people trade, gossip, smoke pipes, whittle and gamble. They sing loudly, laugh often and react quickly.
  • Barkeep: "Goodman" Arik, a quiet, wary-seeming sort.
  • Menu: "Stews and ale and warm round loaves of dark nut bread with strong yellow-green cheeses of unfamiliar local varieties."
We actually get a map of Barovia in this issue
We get a bit of info on the expanded realm of Barovia:
  • Landmarks - Mount Bartok, Mount Ghakis and Lake Zarovich
  • Vallaki - A pallisaded town
  • Krezk - A walled village
  • Abbey of Saint Markovia - I wonder if this is an update of the Brotherhood of Contemplative Monks from Thoughts of Darkness?
  • Argynvostholt - A ruined mansion that was once home to a knightly order. Possibly a version of the Knights of the Raven from Expedition to Castle Ravenloft?
  • Vallaki - A cheerful place, ruled by Baron Vargas Ballakovich. Plagued by wolf attacks.
The Mysterious Rictavio: A half-elf bard who has a cane in his hand and a pet monkey on his shoulder. I get the feeling he is Van Richten in disguise. He urges Volo to stay away from Castle Ravenloft.

Volo the NPC: A really fun idea might be to put Volo in your Curse of Strahd game. He can accompany the heroes, and when he is in danger, he can say "Dhart" three times and vanish. I actually mis-typed that word as "Shart", which might also be a fun command word. I once knew a guy who had a band named "Shat", which I thought was quite clever.

Interview: Patrick Rothfuss

What, Ho!
You might know this fellow as one of the players in the Acquisitions Incorporated games, or from his many novels.

He talks about how when he was a kid, the other kids at school wouldn't let him play D&D with them. How depressing is that?

He also says this:

“It is hard for people to understand these days that you did not instantaneously have access to a community that fits you."

I wonder what it's like for younger people. Can they even imagine the world without the internet? I'll tell you what it was like: It sucked. You watched what was on TV or you rented movies and games from a store. You read magazines that had news that was very out of date. There is more of a sense of what is acceptable behavior now.

Let me tell you, when I visit New York City today, it is full of kind, smart, well-groomed people compared to the city from just 15 years ago. I was astonished when I rode the subway into Brooklyn last year. Everyone was so well-behaved.

Dungeons, Dragons & Disabilities

This is an article about disabled players and characters. Check out what the author says:

"Our characters were thinly veiled caricatures of ourselves, and my companion’s storytelling stumbled when I announced that I wanted to shoot the dragon with an arrow.

“But… you’re blind. You can’t see well enough even to shoot a bullseye with a bow and arrow!” Even though I’d rolled a natural 20, and this was just a game, he told me that we had to go by the limits of what people think a blind person can or cannot do. This was my first exposure to rules that said I couldn’t do whatever I wanted with my imagination because of implicit assumptions about disability."

Ok. I hear what she's saying, but in the example there about the blind archer, I don't understand what she thinks is the correct answer to the problem. I do think that on a natural 20, the blind archer should definitely have hit.

But in other situations, should the DM allow the blind archer to shoot unimpeded? Should the DM give them a magic item that lets them see in a magical way (like Daredevil's sonar), or is that insulting?

Then there's this:

"A sighted DM can theoretically call someone out for cheating, but with a blind DM it’s all about trust."

If you cheat while playing D&D with a blind DM.. wow. That is about as low as it gets.

Very interesting article!

This is an awesome issue and you need to check it out, if just for the free adventure.

Check out my review of Dragon Plus issues 1-5 here.


Theodric the Obscure said...

How did the player roll without disadvantage? I guess everybody wants something different from their games.

Brett Day said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Brett Day said...

The game in question was played 15-20 years ago, no adv/ disadvantage system then

Brett Day said...

Ever seen samurai jack episode 7?
I don't see how a character like the blind archers from that episode would be any more fantastic than the average D&D character

Sean said...

I just wasn't clear on what the author of that article meant as far as how the blind archer should be handled.

Theodric Ælfwinesson said...

Oh, I missed that fact, thanks.

I love Samurai Jack, I guess that outside of magic, I want the range of verisimilitude in most (maybe all) of my gaming worlds to be closer to this world than to Samurai Jack's setting.

Sean said...

Theodric: I have a lot of friends who loved Samurai Jack. Thanks!