Ravenloft, Chapter 1: The Executioner

So, a long while ago, I statted up a D&D character and had a decent campaign ahead of him. Now, allow me to return and give him the full treatment he deserves. His very own Ravenloft campaign. Not only that, but Philip is also getting played on Foundry, a program I had taken a look at, so that’ll be an interesting way to see how the game unfolds. This will be a review for how Foundry plays compared to Astral.

To briefly recap on his backstory: Philip is a druid who took on a job that ended in a werewolf being lynched by a xenophobic Burgomaster and Philip plots to kill him in revenge. He also recently pissed off some cultists after mucking about in one of their HQs, a house they turned into a death trap.

We open the session and story in the Village of Orașnou. Philip and his companion, Gregori, are chilling out at the Seven Tables, the local inn. They had been spending the past two hours (and some money) hearing rumors. Philip is going to roll insight to see if he’ll discern the truth from the lies.

[Insight Roll: 8]

Nope, he just hears ten rumors, and he had no idea which is truth or lie. However, the rumors he is attached to are the ones concerning the Burgomaster, Randovich, and how he has increased guards.

“Mmm… I fear that we may not get enough coats for the winter…” Gregori said.

“They always say revenge is cold.” Philip muttered.

“Well, too bad! The Burgomaster is out of town and is probably away from this godawful place.” Gregori said.

“Which is the perfect time… Meet me at his house.” Philip whispered before leaving. We end the scene there. While things were in our control, we’re planning something sketchy, so Chaos goes down but Turmoil goes up.

[Scene Roll: 6, no interrupt]

Philip and Gregori sneak by the house of the Burgomaster where they see three guards standing by.

[Stealth Roll: Natural 20]

Philip easily sneaks past the guards as Gregori distracts them with a few gold coins. With the guards easily fooled, Gregori breaks out the thieves tools.

“Alright, if I get in trouble for this, you’re going down with me…” Gregori muttered.

[Tools Check: 20]

The lock is popped off and the two freely enter the house. Because they bypassed the men, Philip gets three hundred experience and twenty-five gold. The latter is split with Gregori because I feel like it makes more sense for NPCs to get a cut of your money and not your experience unless they are to grow alongside you like a party member. Another Chaos down and another Turmoil up.

[Scene Roll: 2]

Scene interrupt. For the event focus, I decided it’s going to be Horror-themed.

  • Event Focus: 57, Move Away from A Thread.
  • Thread Focus: 3, What caused this storm?
  • Event Meaning: 38 & 13, Inform War.

Ooooh, okay, so the way I see this is that Gregori tries to tell Philip that he should care more about trying to help people prepare for the brunt of the winter than to murder their, albeit tyrannical, leader. Philip tells him off and asks he help search. Easily, they ransack his house and gain fifty gold, split among the two. They open the cellar door and head down, ending the scene. Things are still going our way, but Turmoil is going up by two, since now even our friend is questioning our goals.

[Scene Roll: 5]

So, the two enter the cellar next. There, they see some lovely casks of ale and wine.

“I suppose this could keep them warm?” Philip asked.

“I guess, but how are we going to carry them back without alerting the guards?” Gregori asked.

“You forget that I am a person of the wild. I can shape my body to mirror that of an animal.” Philip said. “Besides, we’re not taking everything back. Just the things that matter most to Randovich.” Phillip then rifles through the crates and gets himself three potions of healing. He then notices some of the crates are filled with items that seemed random, like dolls, family crests, and even deeds.

[Insight Roll: 9]

He has no idea what Randovich is doing with these, though he gets the idea that they’re not something he truly cares about. He then notices an empty hat box with a letter on it, saying that it was a memento to someone named Tatyana, who fell in love with a person named Sergei von Zarovich.

[History Roll: 2]

Philip has no idea who either of them are, though I will take notes in the Mythic chart for later. He does notice there’s mention of a powderbox, but it doesn’t seem like anything he’s too concerned about.

“Gregori, find a way to distract the guards again. We’ll be treating the villagers to some wine.” Philip said as Gregori went up to distract the guards (i.e. bribe them) while Philip wild shapes into a draft horse, complete with a saddle made from the fur coats that Gregori sold to him. Gregori returns, is a little humbled by the display, then stocks the saddle full of drinks before heading off back to the inn.

So far, everything is going our way and now Chaos is at a 1. Meanwhile, Turmoil is slowly climbing ever so upwards because Philip is basically raising red flags left and right. He insists that the Burgomaster either dies or is severely punished to the point of neglecting the safety of the village he is residing in. This will not bode well, especially if I roll that 1 on the Scene Roll.

[Scene Roll: 4]

Philip and Gregori return to the tavern with drinks a plenty. As they do, Gregori manages to roll a 21 on his history check.

“That’s where I remembered it from!” Gregori said.

“Remember what?” Philip asked.

“The…” He then pulls Philip in for a whisper, “powderbox.”

“What about it?” Philip asked.

“I think that Fillar guy was selling a powderbox the other day. It might still be there.” Gregori said.

“And what use does it have to me?” Philip asked.

“That box means something to the Burgomaster, right? In that case, he might want an exchange something for the box…” Gregori said.

“He can’t bring back Alina.” Philip said.

Hmm… I’m going to ask CRGE if reviving the dead the right way is common knowledge. If not, then I’ll have to have Gregori make a roll.

[Q: Is Reviving the dead common knowledge? Purpose: To Knowledge. A: 99]

Yes! And, unexpectedly…

[Roll: 8, Set Change]

And we have a random event.

  • Event Focus: 56, move away from a thread.
  • Thread Focus: 3, What caused this storm?
  • Event Meaning: 10 & 32, Communicate Plans

First off, it’ll be Gregori who says that they can’t bring back Alina. I’m believing that common knowledge is that, to the common person, the highest revival spell is Raise Dead. I do not know how long it’s been since Alina was killed, but I will assume that ten days have passed and so she falls outside the requirements.

Okay, so, as they’re coming along, Gregori brings up how the powderbox has been rumored to be the cause of the harsh winters and that, perhaps it would be best to instead take it to somewhere where it can never bother any innocents again. However, Philip refuses. If what Gregori says is correct, he will get his hands on a bargaining chip and, if the Burgomaster is desperate enough, he’ll do all he could to find a way to bring back Alina. Needless to say, Gregori is starting to regret his partnership with Philip.

They enter the shop just as another person purchases the powderbox.

“Seems we’re too late…” Philip muttered. The buyer, an aloof person named Arik, insists Philip gets out of his way. Philip faintly smells the scent of decay from his flesh. I’m going to have him roll Nature to see just what sort of decay it is.

[Nature Roll: 19]

It’s a smell he’s all too familiar with. Throughout his travels as a druid, he picked up the scent of the unnatural dead returning to life. Arik is just one of these people. However… It’s odd. Arik is able to make purchases and even speak coherently despite being a zombie. Intrigued, Philip lets Arik go, even apologizing for the inconvenience.

Of course, he waits for Arik to take a couple of feet of movement before going out to follow him. Gregori, meanwhile, has no idea what is going on and is just along for the ride. The scene ends and, for once, the Chaos Factor goes up by one, as does turmoil going up by two, since now Philip knows there’s a zombie in possession of an item he wants.

[Scene Roll: 8]

Philip and Gregori follow Arik, rolling stealth. They must beat a 13 combined Stealth.

[Roll: 10]

So, while Gregori falls behind with an 8, Philip succeeds with a 13. Regardless, he spots Gregori and calls for two zombies to take care of him. The battle begins when Philip and Gregori find a good place to hide from the zombies and get ready to battle.

Combat begins with Philip running and stabbing a zombie with his shortsword with Gregori following suit. The zombies serve as a distraction while Arik hobbles away. With Gregori’s ability to give help as a bonus action, Philip uses his advantage to attack one of the zombies. With ease, they deal with the zombies, but Arik is now 90 feet away from the group, which means they’re gonna have to chase him. (He gains 100 xp)

Philip assumes the form of a warhorse and the chase is pretty easy. Arik is cornered at his house. Scene ends as he does this and Chaos and Turmoil go up by 1 and 2 respectively.

[Scene Roll: 9]

The duo arrives onto a cabin where they see Arik about to run off on a racehorse and summon two Ghouls to attack them. The ghouls have only one shot to damage Philip each. While they did nick him badly, Philip begins to take chase. As I assume that Arik has a simple riding horse, the warhorse easily outpaces him by 10 feet. All it takes is a dash to catch up.

Arik tries to shoot him down with two arrows, but he crit fails twice, so his bow breaks and Philip reverts back into a human and tackles him. Now is a 2-on-1 fight, though the Ghouls will arrive in two rounds. Arik manages to hurt Philip badly and damages his maximum HP by six.

Eventually, Arik and his Ghouls heavily wound Philip and were about to kill Gregori when a dire wolf comes by and rips up the Ghouls. Arik runs off in haste while the dire wolf tends to Philip’s wounds. The scene ends and since my character was knocked out, that’ll be two points of Chaos going up and three points of Turmoil.

[Scene Roll: 3]

So, this is automatically an Altered Scene by means of Obstacle, since the Turmoil would bump any result past 12.

  • Type of Incident: 5, an allied creature or NPC faces a setback, possibly dropping from the narrative.
  • NPC: I actually think this will be Gregori, since he’s been seen throughout the session disapproving of Philip’s actions and this may be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.
  • Auguring: 133, 322, 436, Attacking Fool Main

Yep. So, Philip comes to back at the inn since the storm has picked up. For his troubles, he gains 550 experience. Gregori is the first to speak to Philip and he reads him the riot act of how selfish he has been acting, even risking his own life just for something he would only see as a bargaining chip. He tells him off, saying how he’s not getting himself killed over this squabble anymore and leaves the party.

Philip will need to take a long rest in order to wake up, so that’ll be the end of the scene. We’ve reached a lull, so Turmoil is reduced by 1, but things are clearly not going Philip’s way and Chaos goes up by 1.

[Scene Roll: 4]

Scene Interrupt!

  • Event Focus: 25, Remote Event
  • Event Meaning: 23 & 52, Judge Dispute

The scene opens with the Burgomaster barging into the inn, specifically Philip’s room where he reads him the riot act over stealing his ales and wines. He had welcomed his stay before as thanks for helping them with the werewolf problem (to which Philip is upset with his off-handed mention), but now he has crossed the line. Randovich banishes Philip and forbids him from returning.  

Philip just spits in his face and says “good, I was tired of this shithole anyways” and walks off.

[Q: Is Randovich gonna take that? Purpose: To Conflict. I’m giving him a +10 because Philip already pissed him off. A: 36, SC goes up by 1]

No. He’s a lot more cool-headed than Philip gives him credit for. He packs up and heads out, only to be approached by the man who saved him. He reveals that his name is Florian Vaduva, Alina’s brother, who heard of her death at the hands of Orașnou and has heard tales of Philip’s work. He cuts the small talk and tells it to him simply: he is a werewolf like his sister who had turned his lycanthropy into a ritual in of itself, becoming a druid like Philip.

And he wants to help Philip avenge his sister.

That’s where we’ll end the session and, I have to say, this turned out to be just as dark as I had hoped it would be for a game set in Ravenloft. A D&D veteran’s summary of the setting sold me on its premise and his own recounting of a session set there harkened to the theme I wanted to convey most: “you either die the hero or live long enough to see yourself become the villain”.

This is perhaps the darkest anti-hero I played and it is really cool seeing how his actions end up losing me a party member in a means other than them outright dying, and the way the sandbox has opened up, it will be interesting to see how this story goes.

As for Foundry, I have to say, it makes playing 5E a hell lot more of a breeze compared to playing this on Roll20. Using maps and tokens was easy and free, preforming rolls was a breeze, and, having taken a few rulesets on a spin to try them out, most of them are well-coded to be more in-depth than using Roll20, especially when they have built-in compendiums or additional add-ons that make the experience better to play.

I don’t think I’d be able to rank the VTTs, since all of them seem to accomplish their job really well. Roll20 naturally covers the basic bases that are needed to roll dice and keep information on a sheet, Foundry covers certain games with a lot more coverage and depth, Astral covers games that both VTTs overlook. Overall, they’re all essential tools to solo roleplay just about any system.

If I were to pick one, however, it’s hard. Roll20 would be my go-to pick if it weren’t for Foundry’s ease of use when it comes to rolling dice and making maps, but Foundry doesn’t have the wide breadth of sheets like Roll20 does nor the approachability. Yes, you have to pay a monthly subscription to get the most out of Roll20, but it has done me fine without that.

Astral is this red-headed stepchild, though. It’s good for this one thing, but that’s it. I can say good things about Foundry and Roll20, but Astral’s biggest claim is “I can do any RPG with the right sheet!”, which, even then, you still have to plug in the numbers, hence why I went with an easier to use system for it.

So… Really, I can’t pick just one. Instead, I’m gonna go with a tiered recommendation. If you have the fifty to sixty dollars to spend and you’re playing a game that’s supported by the community, then Foundry is for you. If you don’t have that money, Roll20 can still serve you just fine. However, if you run that really weird, out-there game with zero support from both Foundry or Roll20, Astral is your best bet.

And with that, I’m done this duology of comparing VTTs. I will definitely continue this Ravenloft campaign at some point down the line, but until then, bon voyage, gamers!

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