Well 2016 was a crazy year for me but as we enter the new year my creative juices are flowing. Our gaming group was unable to get together consistently for a while so its been board games and card games for those that can make it. However, we’re all on the same schedule for the next several months so it’s time to get back to our first love; RPG’s.
After kicking around several ideas I’ve decided to convert WotC’s Curse of Strahd campaign to the Cypher System, one of my all-time favorite systems. The campaign kicks off this weekend and I’ve been working on notes and handouts for the past couple weeks. For those of you that aren’t familiar with the Cypher system let me tell you, converting other source material is really easy. I’ve been wanting to run something in the Gothic horror genre for awhile and I’ve always loved all things Ravenloft.
So, here’s my premise for the campaign:
- The heroes are actually agents of The Estate (borrowed from The Strange, a Cypher System game).
- They are trapped in the recursion of Ravenloft.
- Everything else in the campaign will generally follow the original.
Aside from the thematic element that these heroes are actually from Earth, my only other slight modification is to increase the Gothic horror elements and decrease the fantasy elements typically found in the Ravenloft products made for D&D. I’ve done a couple things to accomplish this:
- The heroes are all human. Virtually all of the NPC’s in the adventure are human as well, except the handful of “dusk elves” but they should feel more mysterious and exotic in the absence of any other elves, dwarves, halflings, and gnomes.
- A couple of monsters have been changed, or at least re-skinned, for a more classic Gothic feel. One of the druids has been redone as a necromancer, a shambling mound is now an undead ooze, that sort of thing.
- The list of available focuses I’ve selected for the players to choose from all have a grittier feel to them. I want the campaign to feel more Solomon Kane and Brothers Grim than your typical D&D version of horror.
- There are a handful of important, named magic items in the adventure that I’ve converted into Cypher System artifacts. Everything else that would be a magical item in D&D has been turned into Cyphers (one-shot items for those unfamiliar with the system). Cyphers in this setting include herbal remedies, alchemical concoctions, clockwork devices, blessings from the Dark Powers, and sudden insights of inspiration.
- I also added “bringing light into the darkness” as one of the primary methods of earning XP in campaign along with GM Intrusions.
One of the nice things about Curse of Strahd is that it is presented in a way that matches my GM style. It isn’t a linear adventure, it’s a variety of interesting locations, unique situations, and antagonists with complex goals and various resources. The only real guidelines are that the heroes should find out what they need to do to escape Ravenloft, explore and discover what they need to do that, and then do it. Easier said than done however!
Stay tuned to hear how this campaign progresses each week; will our brave heroes escape the clutches of the vampire lord Strahd von Zarovich or are their souls doomed to wander the Demiplane of Dread for all eternity?!