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View Full Version : What could a Ravenloft Campaign's Endgame be?



varden
2014-07-23, 04:58 PM
Hi guys,

it has been a while since I've been on RPG forums. I've never stopped playing and DM'ing, but the time to discuss the finer points of rules and setting just for the heck of it wasn't there anymore, now however I feel I have something to discuss that needs such a wide arena.

I'm thinking about starting a campaign set in Ravenloft (I'm assuming most of you are familiar with it, if not you can read up on it here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ravenloft). Since I first heard of the setting it has always appealed to me, it's aesthetics, gothic heroes and villains, darker tone, but at the same time there is one point I never could figure out to my satisfaction:

What's a fitting endgame for a Ravenloft Campaign?

The Mists drag you to this dreadful place, you fiight without giving up for several levels, trough several dungeons and adventures but what keeps you going, what you at the end?.... you probabily get home somehow. Seems the most fitting choice, but also a very obvious one. And if so, how? The dread powers aren't really known to be predictable, so it's hard to imagine there is a foolproof way to leave their domain...

I think of myself as an experienced game master, I don't need help figuring out how to run ad adventure or what a good villain could look like, but I feel a little overwhelmed in designing a narrative arc for such a campaign... I haven't found the right idea yet and so I thought maybe somebody out there has part of the solution :D Every input is very welcome, from pertinent suggestions to re-tellings of your greatest hits in the setting, everything helps.

Thank you.

Mark Hall
2014-07-23, 05:44 PM
There are two kinds of Ravenloft games: Natives and Outsiders.

A natives game doesn't really have an endgame. You might be aiming for something, and have your goals, but the Darklords are resistant to overthrowing, and they're going to play heavily into any long-term goals you have.

An Outsiders game generally comes down to "disrupt the world so much you get kicked out", and you mostly do this by messing up existing power structures... frequently a Dark Lord, but sometimes the other minor people who are in the realm for punishment. If you mess up their punishment enough, you get kicked out... if you disrupt their plans enough, they kick out of their domain.

The outsiders game is what you find in Strahd's Possession and Stone Prophet. I've never been in a Natives game, though I attempted to run one in a fairly novel situation (Vecna had broken loose from Ravenloft, invaded Sigil and overthrown the Lady of Pain, so the Dark Lords weren't active and many simmering plots were boiling over with the borders no longer being an issue).

Aside: I tend to view Ravenloft as one of the few places that actually punishes evil in the Planes. The various evil planes don't punish evil... they simply ARE evil, and being a little fish in those big ponds is dangerous. But Ravenloft, and the Dark Powers behind it, tend to punish evil with creative denial... Strahd committed evil to capture a woman, so that woman is forever denied to him. Corruptions and such are a side effect of the world, and the many inhabitants are something of collateral damage (especially as generations continue).

varden
2014-07-23, 05:55 PM
Good point, but you can't really go to your players and say: "Hey guys, create so much chaos the evil faceless gods of the dread realms want to get rid of you." On one side it would probably be player-christmas, on the other it isn't very epic from a story point of view. An idea could be to have an agent already in the demiplane, native or not, summon them to wreak havoc... Another would be a reverse Ravenloft clichè: A group of natives that sets itself the goal to escape somewhere else. You could have a outsider Patron that has been imprisoned many years offer them to escape with him if they help. Just spitballing at this point.

SiuiS
2014-07-23, 06:40 PM
This depends on if you want a Ravenloft game or a Ravenloft game.

One of the tag lines for the setting, when it was mentioned elsewhere at least, was that it was fitting and "commonplace" for one-shots in the setting to occur. The mists would pluck an adventurer or party from their current world, subject them to a night of terrors (often one that lasted much, much longer than the plain ol' 8-14 hours of darkness we associate with 'night') and those who survived and succeeded would be deposited back into their own world, shaken and scarred but alive.

So that's definitely a thing you could do if you wanted.


Otherwise, games set in Ravenloft don't have traditional endgames. I've never heard of a long term survivor who doesn't become a monster themselves.

E: darn, jury caucus didn't come soon enough, Cranky got to it before I could finish typingn. Heh.

Mark Hall
2014-07-23, 07:00 PM
Good point, but you can't really go to your players and say: "Hey guys, create so much chaos the evil faceless gods of the dread realms want to get rid of you." On one side it would probably be player-christmas, on the other it isn't very epic from a story point of view. An idea could be to have an agent already in the demiplane, native or not, summon them to wreak havoc... Another would be a reverse Ravenloft clichè: A group of natives that sets itself the goal to escape somewhere else. You could have a outsider Patron that has been imprisoned many years offer them to escape with him if they help. Just spitballing at this point.

Disruption doesn't have to mean evil and chaos. It can be actively FIGHTING evil and chaos. As I said, Ravenloft is one of the few places that actively punishes the evil. If you go through and end their punishment (killing them or curing them), then you're disrupting the purposes of the Dark Powers. If you go around disrupting the plans of the Evil Dark Lords, they kick you out of THEIR realm, which basically puts it in the Dark Powers hands whether you come back out or not.

In the Ravenloft games, you do a lot of fighting, but you also wind up with a lot of opportunities to help people. To help assuage the guilt of an old Paladin. To cure a werewolf before he goes too far off the rails. To cure a plague-stricken man, or help put down a righteous paladin inflicted with undeath. These things oppose the purposes of the Dark Lords, and sometimes the purposes of the Dark Powers, which leads to them eventually kicking you out of Ravenloft.

Cowardly Griffo
2014-07-24, 02:51 AM
You know, being of the Dark Powers is awful and sucky, but... it's still one path to immortality and (demi)godlike power. For some players, becoming one of the Dark Powers could be another perfectly legitimate end-game goal.

Honestly, it might be a good idea to just throw the party in, have a couple of sessions' worth of stuff prepared and see what direction they go in. Offer them choices instead of having it all planned out, especially if you're having trouble coming up with long-term plans in the first place. They might just surprise you and write your endgame for you.

BWR
2014-07-24, 03:51 AM
I generally feel that a proper RL campaign should never have a happy ending. By the time the climax occurs, the PCs have been fully internalized in RL and are part of the setting, unable to move beyond their adopted/designated roles. Some times they become retired adventurers and sit in taverns dispensing advice. Some times they become wandering heroes whotry to destroy as many monsters as possible (like van Richten). Some times they become freedom fighters always trying to disrupt the plan of some specific darklord. Some times they even become Darklords themselves. But they are trapped by the Ravenloft narrative (for lack of a better word). Their roles are fixed, their fates obvious, their actions following certain paths.

Heroes should never have an unmitigated win. They might foil a DL but they generally shouldn't kill a DL, at least not permanently or without replacing him.
Our RL campaign ended with the party's mage becoming undead and evil and helping Azalin with the Grim Harvest in an attempt to get home. My character ostensibly went along with them and the rest of us PCs showed up and foiled the big ceremony Azalin and the PC were performing. The lucky ones died in the service of good. The mage got his own domain and my character, who was instrumental in ruining the plot, was cursed to never die. He's stuck in the domain of his former friend, who unrelentingly hunts my PC down to enact vengeance and get the magic McGuffin he believes is needed to escape the Mists. The curse means my character lives a life of constant fear and despair, the mage constant 'lives' in constant frustration and despair.

Millennium
2014-07-24, 08:17 AM
A friend of mine once DMed a Ravenloft game where partway through, the party decided that it would be a really useful and good idea if they all became vampires. The DM allowed this, because it was interesting. But at the very end, they managed to break the curse on Ravenloft. This wound up playing something like this...

DM: People are coming out of their homes to celebrate, as the sky starts to brighten...
Party: Yeah! We're all singing and dancing...
DM: ...and the thick black clouds start to think out, as things get even *ahem* brighter...
Party: Score! Awesome visual FX for the win!
DM: *Sigh* And you see a ray of sunlight in the distance. Maybe it would be a good idea to go inside...
Party: No way, man! There's partying going on!

...and the sun came out from behind the clouds, resulting in a TPK from the happy ending.

Mark Hall
2014-07-24, 12:37 PM
You know, being of the Dark Powers is awful and sucky, but... it's still one path to immortality and (demi)godlike power. For some players, becoming one of the Dark Powers could be another perfectly legitimate end-game goal.


A bit of nomenclature clarification:

Dark Powers: The nameless, faceless, completely unknown being(s) or force(s) behind Ravenloft. They imprison people in Ravenloft for their own purposes. You can't really become one, because no one knows what they are

Dark Lords: The rulers of various domains within Ravenloft. Within their domains, they have great power, but they are frequently trapped within their domains, and are subject to some interesting curses (such as Strahd being taunted with the woman he loves and can never have, or Azlain being unable to learn new magic). You CAN become one of these, but it usually means you've caused some sort of major catastrophe through your own hubris.

Overthrowing a Dark Lord is a frequent campaign goal, and usually where any Outsiders game in Ravenloft starts from. Becoming a Dark Lord is seldom a choice, becoming a Dark Power is ineffable.


A friend of mine once DMed a Ravenloft game where partway through, the party decided that it would be a really useful and good idea if they all became vampires. The DM allowed this, because it was interesting. But at the very end, they managed to break the curse on Ravenloft. This wound up playing something like this...

DM: People are coming out of their homes to celebrate, as the sky starts to brighten...
Party: Yeah! We're all singing and dancing...
DM: ...and the thick black clouds start to think out, as things get even *ahem* brighter...
Party: Score! Awesome visual FX for the win!
DM: *Sigh* And you see a ray of sunlight in the distance. Maybe it would be a good idea to go inside...
Party: No way, man! There's partying going on!

...and the sun came out from behind the clouds, resulting in a TPK from the happy ending.

Ok, that is hilarious.

lt_murgen
2014-07-24, 01:22 PM
I spent 6 years playing a combined Birthright / Rvenloft campaign. Essentially, the Vampire’s hold was where Strahd started….
Anyway, it was actually a continuation of a campaign our DM ran years ago, which was ravenloft based and ended with the grand conjunction.
Our characters, in the Birthright world, were swept up in a massive light that swept across the continent and unleashed hordes of undead. In less than a week, it subsided. But we ran into a gypsy woman, Madame Eva, who tasked us with finding the source of the disturbance and sealing it.

It took us as players a long time to figure out it was a ‘two worlds’ campaign, but once we did, we got into it. We went through the whole Grim Harvest / Il Iluk campaign (intermixed with some birthright things). We did figure out how to close the rift that was left open. It did, however, require a horrible choice- our good cleric, devoted to destroying undead, had to become one in order to save us and the Ravenloft world (stop the spread of the undead field from Necropolis). Another character discovered his Birthright heritage as a scion of a major king, only to have to abandon his only child to Strahd himself (to be raised as Strahd’s heir). The only alternative was that all of us would die, as zombies and multiple vampires had the entire party exhausted.

To me, the end game is always a horrible choice. There should be no happy endings in the Shadow World, only survival and grim choices. Strahd, for instance, is clever and nigh invincible in his own realm. He simply doesn’t make the stupid mistakes vampires make- dozens of coffins hidden all over, an endless supply of enhanced zombies, lots of female vampire’s at his beck and call, etc. Defeating him is going to cost, and then only likely be temporary.