Monday, 31 October 2016

A New Ravenloft & Combined Historical Campaign in the Making

& Things That Go Bump in the Night
Dungeons & Dragons Adventure Boardgame System
- A personal journey -

A few years back (actually, back in early 2013)  I had one of those crazy moments where I decided to do a major blitz on my games room. Games and bits of games and maps and files and books and rules and cardboard tokens and counters and CD`s with no idea what was on them as they were unlabelled and empty boxes (I don`t know about you, but I find it hard to chuck away old figure packets) and old paints, and brushes and half completed (neglected) bits of terrain... the original reasons for making these, quite forgotten... and glue pots and tins and jars and funny shaped things raided from the kitchen (presumably, originally stolen to make yet more terrain) and old dice and posters and....  yet more figures and heads and arms and shields and swords and...

... you get the picture and I`ve spoken of this many times before. My blitz on my hobby and a reduction of my collection. But this post is not about that! (thank god I hear you whisper). No the point is that by the time I`d finished, even though I gave away most of the stuff I got rid of, I DID end up with a tasty surplus supply of cash... which is quite a rare thing for me. And as it had all been generated from my hobby stuff, I didn’t feel at all guilty about ploughing it all right back into the hobby. Only, I didn`t want to waste this rare treat: I wanted to savour  it and buy myself something really worthwhile.. a chance as a pipe dream wish come true, kinda thing.

The strange thing about a major clear out is, it really helps you to define what it is you want to keep and use... and distinguishes the rest of the "has to go" stuff into clear list categories of "will I ever use this again - no". It’s a bit like a Phoenix arising from the ashes, as you begin to prioritize your hobby with renewed vigour. As you grow bolder, blitzing away with impunity... you begin to feel a bit like Bilbo Baggins giving up his ring... freely. It’s a deep internal struggle, but once you find the courage to ` let it go` the feeling of relief is immediate and immeasurable.


For a long time (back in 2013, remember) I wanted to have a go at running a (simplified) long term Dungeons and Dragons game. I had done this before, many years ago... the prime focus of attention back then had been my on line correspondence with another passionate gamer from Croatia... a guy who thought and enthused just like me, and we shared many many happy months writing back and forth to one another, and sharing ideas and battle reports with an ever appreciative eye; a bit like Tolkien and C.S. Lewis used to read chapters of their unpublished works back and forth to one another, for many years enjoying the shared productive criticism of it all.

I wanted something new, something fresh, something I could really get my teeth into, to get over the deep trauma of having just lost nearly 60% of my lifelong collection to the fires of hell and worse. And it was about this same time, back in 2013, that I had begun to hear about a new dungeon crawl game from Wizards of the Coast. Okay, it wasn`t new exactly. But I`d never heard of it until quite late on the scene, and I discovered it quite by chance on You Tube: “The Dungeons and Dragons Adventure System Boardgame.” It seemed to promise everything I had ever wanted, and so I read (on line) all I could about the game.

I quickly realized it was not just one boxed game, but three separate ones (at this time of writing there are actually now four big box games) - each one stand alone, yet each totally interchangeable and usable with its other big box brothers and sisters. Combined, the games would give me a truly sizable collection of D&D minis; plus the game contained all the terrain tiles necessary to create an endlessly varied of 2D dungeon and outdoor layouts: and what`s more... the game was totally 100% playable as a solo experience, so double yeeeey!!. The more I read, the more I began to ponder on the idea of buying it for myself: and so when I finally found some game tutorials and battles played out on You Tube, that was it: I went and ordered all the boxed games in one fell swoop, from (I bought the forth box set, when it came out two years later), and I waited as patiently as I could for all the stuff to arrive. Okay, I practically wore a hole in the floor boards as I started to pace up and down, waiting excitedly.
I didn`t have to pace for long. Three days I think. I knew the boxes were meant to be big - and heavy.. I`d heard that in the reviews I`d read; but oh my goodness, I wasn`t prepared for exactly how big the games would be... and I had three of them arrive all at once. I was utterly in gaming heaven, like a chocolate addict let loose in a Galaxy warehouse.
I had originally planned to open one game, play it to death, and then proceed to the second, and so on. But of course, I simply had to see the contents of each box. Actually, I`m very glad I did this because, enthused and carried along in a wave of gaming euphoria, I was able to take all 140+ miniatures and paint and varnish the lot over a couple of weeks of intense hard work (I later painted the 40 miniatures in the forth box set the same way). The end result was well worth the time it took, and I soon had a lovely shiny brand new collection of finish miniatures sitting on my shelf waiting to be played with. 
In time, I discovered something called “Dungeon Command,” a stand-alone table top skirmish game based very heavily on the old, highly successful Wizards of the Coast Table Top Skirmish Collectable Miniatures Game of yester-yore. Dungeon Command itself was a bit of a `Wizard` flop, to be honest (not surprisingly really, as it was not fully supported and the game itself was rather badly designed, I seem to recall). BUT the miniatures that came in each of the half dozen box sets were compatible with the Dungeons and Dragons Adventure System box games I was collecting.. and in fact, each figure from the Dungeon Command mini sets came with stat cards and additional event cards designed specifically to be added into the sister games. Thank GOODNESS someone in the design team came up with the cool idea of making the two game systems interchangeable (a bit like the guys did with Super Dungeon Explore and Ninja All Stars). I never even looked at most the counter components from Dungeon Command, and simply, and immediately, added in the cool new cards, and all the lovely pre painted models to my beloved new Adventure System experience. I was in gaming heaven: and I was also pleased to note, these pre-painted minis were darn decently painted. Another cool thing were the really large tile pieces (one included in each set of Dungeon Command) which, when combined, makes up an endless variety... exponentially possible dungeon in its own right, perfect for home brew table top D&D mini games, using either standard D&D or the simplified Adventure System rules.
I played this game to death over the next few years. Literally hundreds of games got played, and it quickly became a favourite `go to` game for me, the family, friends, and the club. We played it so much that come 2016, we had seen enough of it for a while and put it all neatly away (I even offered it to Bryan at one stage, but he graciously turned me down on the offer). I`m sooooo glad I kept it though, as the `bug` to play it has recently resurfaced - big time. This all came about when the kids... all five of them, and their various boy friend/girl friend attachments... all came to visit us at the same time for a week. I set up and hosted the inevitable D&D game, and as chance would have it, I put together a good old “Ravenloft” D&D horror role play game for them to enjoy. The game night came and went, a one off adventure that went on for four hours or so... with a decent start, middle, and a finish (important I always think, for a satisfactory one off game). And I realised everyone had a good time, including me, the DM for the adventure. The game led to a discussion about gothic horror, and as the conversation went on, I began to realise a personal eureka! I had just found the missing elixir and game experience balance I had been striving to find for so long.
I love my historical games, and love my fantasy, horror, and sci-fi. Normally fantasy and the rest doesn’t work in a historical context, but strangely gothic does, for most themes. Okay you can’t usually put fantasy into a historical setting, but you CAN put a historical theme into a horror one.

Da Daaaaaa!!!   *drum roll*

okay baby, my Beaver Wars/French Indian War/American Outback Revolution War was going to be moved to Ravenloft.
mmmmm a mid game scene from my beloved collection of Colonials and woodland Indians {terrain all homemade}.

No more pondering what to do, this was the answer to it all... blindingly obvious really, but I had to go all round the houses to get there hahaha. I`d never have made this connection had it not been for that silly impromptu D&D game I set up to entertain the family.
Some of the gang, planning, discussing, and preparing for the next D&D session.
And so with the decision made, Hils has set to work making and designing lots of amazing homemade terrain: Tar` has been painting figures like crazy, and I have been designing the campaign, making maps, writing history, story plot, and panting lots of miniatures as well. We have not stopped, and I can proudly announce that FINALLY the new campaign is about ready to start. I had to stop the Liberty or Death one I was about to do (batrep for that first game still to post), as I wanted to fold it all into the Ravenloft setting, and to do that, I needed to de-constrict the whole thing and mix it seamlessly into the pot alongside its fantasy cousin. The end result is a stunning series of game potential: which mixes macabre with the historical, fantasy with the thematic, and the whole thing into a vast play box of untapped potential. I am very proud of the eventual completion.

A Few Homemade Dungeon Tile WIPS
The adventurers walk straight into a Kobold tunnel set up! fortunately for the heroes, the trap is sprung a little too early by the eager little beavers, and  the only thing to get caught under the crushing rocks is one of their own number... eeek!
The clay is workable for a long time after you finish playing about...  I`d estimate you could still mess with it for a good few hours after leaving it to dry. Drying takes over night before it becomes rock hard... and apart from gently moving the piece, I wouldnt advice any rough handling until the clay is fully dried out.
First Undercoat
Pre-Painted Dungeon Command Miniatures
Hilary Says....
Hi, Hilary here.
I have always enjoyed making paper models. Not only for wargaming and role playing (but for museums, pro displays and architectural/graphic design dioramas). But certainly making  terrain models and scenics for games is highly rewarding as, unlike modelling for modelling`s sake, you actually get to use the finished results, over and over again on the table top.
So, I asked Stevie what he needed, and he told me as clearly as he could. I made some notes, made some preparations, and set my nose to the grindstone to produce just the things he wanted included in his games.

 A gothic castle, lots and lot (oh my, so many) and lots of buildings. I can see myself making buildings for this game for a long to come. But here are a few of the finished pieces, ready for the table, and their very first airing into the terrifying miniatures gaming lands of Ravenloft.
Tarot Says...
Its Jez who started it all really, over at his blog “Carrion Crows Buffet.” 
You see, he’s always looking at other people`s games on line, and instead of doing what most people do, which is to go: “coooorrrrr I want me a piece of that... where do I buy one?” he goes: “hmmmm, that`s really nice, now how do I make that for myself?
Never truer was this put into practice for us recently when.. we all got excited at the thought of playing Space Hulk. Then the horrified realisation struck each of us in turn - that all three of us had, at one time or another, owned a boxed game of this, but that we had all of us either lost, sold or given away our respective games somewhere along with the ravages of time.
So what did we do? We took a leaf out of Jez`s good book, and we decided to make our own version of Space Hulk. The first edition rules (the ones we wanted to recreate) are available free on line: a nice simple 22 page black and white PDF copy. Between us we were able to make up 19 Genestealers.. just enough arms and legs to assemble that many, with several torsos spare. These spare bits we can think about later, maybe we can make some custom tentacle arms and so on. No bases though, and we will get Hil to make us some hand crafted ones out of her kiln clay work. The tiles are a no go. None of us have the originals, but we do have the tiles from “Doom” which could have been made for Space Hulk. I think the FFG ones for the Doom boxed game may actually be nicer anyway. The tokens we will make ourselves, and woohoooo!!! We have ourselves a complete game of Space Hulk, and just saved ourselves £199. Not bad huh, thanks Jez.
Stevie  assembles Genestealers from an assortments of old bits.
But yeah, anyway, what was I saying? Oh yeah. He started it! *points at Jez again* And this new campaign we have been planning meticulously has become all about putting together a game which does not require us to spend any money on it.. instead, using what we have in our huge, vast, already owned joint collection(s). Ok we had to go buy “Curse of Stradt”  because we decided right from the start that we wanted to play 5th edition D&D, and this new Ravenloft adventure module book contains everything we would need to get started. Nope we don`t even own the 5th edition Players Handbook, the Dungeon Masters Guide, not even the 5th edition Monster Manual. Again we turned to Jez (and Andy, with his Bushido ideas). What would Jez and Andy do at this juncture, we asked ourselves. Easy, we went on line on the official WotC website, where they offer a cut down, black and white (no colour or artwork) BUT COMPLETE free PDF copy of all three books we need: the Players Handbook, Dungeon Masters Guide, and Monster Manual. Bingo! We were now ready to play 5th edition D&D.
Everything else for the new campaign, we either have made for ourselves, are now in the middle of making, or will be making along the way. Even the files for notes and stuff, we have used old existing folders and have simply jazzed them up a bit, and cannibalised into suitably gothic looking tomes we can pour over in our future games. The figures used will stretch from across a truly eclectic range, from fantasy D&D, Descent, HeroQuest, Mage Knight, Brimstone, and loads of other strange and wonderful bits and pieces.. all the way to miniatures from Mansions of Madness, Tannhauser,  A Touch of Evil, Warlord Games, Empress Miniatures, Eureka Miniatures,  and a bunch of other stuff I can`t even remember off hand. Same with the maps, 2D maps from Hero/Horror Clix, cannibalised from various boardgames, tons of existing 3D terrain, and what we don’t have, as I already said, we are making all that for ourselves (using existing materials from around the house).
Good-o, yeah?
      even our Zombicide Black Plague figures gets used in our combined mammoth  D&D games. We use everything, and just combine it all together (like gaming should be), We rarely use the rules for box games as they come in the.. um.. box. We just pull everything out and make it all up - using D&D rules, or our own.. mostly hehe.
 Oh boy, don't you just love all things Gothic at Halloween!
Happy Halloween guys.






  1. I never realised before now just how good your Woodland Indians and Colonial Hunters (Last of the Mohicans) actually looks on the table. The terrain really enhances them too.

    1. Wait a year until I have the whole lot painted, kit and caboodle... all 400+ figures. It will look extraordinarily good I think Hils.

  2. See? If you flog a dead horse for long enough and perform the correct rituals at the correct time (of course), the ruddy thing will leap to its feet and carry you off on a wild moonlit ride! Daddy's so proud...

  3. HAHHHHAHAHAAHAHAHAHAHhahahahahahahahahahaahahahahahahahahaaaaa!!!!

    "Yes, Daddy" *child looks up adoringly at its Pater"

  4. Cool article, I love the "make your own terrain" ethos I find it very satisfying as I'm sure you all do.

    **gets himself comfortable** right then! Shall we begin the story guys?

    1. Soooo looking forward to seeing the games told :-)

    2. Really love the clay tiles.....

    3. SO easy to make Andy, and DAS modelling clay is so cheap.

    4. *hands Andy the coke and popcorn*

  5. Forgot to say earlier, but I ADORE Ravenloft. At one point I owned nearly every 2nd edition supplement and the majority of the novels. Sadly, during a tight financial period, I was forced to sell nearly everything, retaining only a few of the more 'special' items. The Domains of Dread hardback I had to keep, as it's got my name in the credits section - currently my only (minor) claim to fame.
    So, I'm pretty excited by this - should you want any ideas, I posted several threads on the Fraternity of Shadows forums entitled "Thoughts on..." where I put forward 'fixes' for canon Domains I felt didn't quite reflect the true ethos of Ravenloft. The thread on Tepest made it even more 'Grimm'.

    1. THANK you Jez, that's kind. I may well pick your brains later (in the credits huh, that's pretty cool, especially as 2nd ed is possibly THE coolest Ravenloft ever IMHO. If.. if... IF I cant find it, I will send you a disc (crammed full of PDF`s) with every single book and module ever made for this edition. Just got to find it out... no idea where it is at present.

      I`m thrilled you like Ravenloft, it is, I think, the most iconic of all the Gothic settings out there.

      Don`t forget, the sooner you send me that mini of yourself the sooner I`ll be adding you to the `VERY soon to be aired` mammoth campaign.

    2. yes, yes: we have to have that figure of yourself Jez. I want to start writing you into the story.

    3. super imposing a real life mix of the Beaver Wars, French & Indian Wars and American Rebellion into Ravenloft will be the real challenge, but one we have sat and worked on with meticulous care and attention to detail. Your input will be a delight Jez.

    4. Oooh, she's such a nag. Do you think pumpkins grow all by themselves? I have been scouring the Internet for a suitable figure (BTW, Steve, check out Front Rank Figurines - lots of suitable figures at £1.25 each), but so far with no eureka moments. Hmm, just remembered a possible candidate - to the Internet!

    5. sounds good Jez, thanks for that: I will keep a close eye on those *coughs* `Christmas present hint to Hils`

      nag nag nag, would you be surprised to know, in our current long running D&D game/campaign she plays a halfing thief who, at certain times of the dark wolverine moon turns into a character we fondly call: "the nagging hag" hahahahaa.

    6. ........ well, I do like to keep you guys on your toes. come on come on, why isn't it done yet???? ?? ????

    7. Talking of growing pumpkins, that reminds me of a Pumpkin Patch ghost story. Hmmmmm I`ll save that `til next year.

      But it does get me thinking about another topic, Pumpkin-men. hmmmm, I think I will make/sculpt some for Ravenloft. And as for Jez picking his figure to use, Oooo its so cool he`s taking time to choose j-u-s-t the right piece. I see I`m gonna have to pull my boots up myself, and do similar.

    8. Funny you should mention pumpkin-men...😉

    9. oh lord, what has Tar` started now... *looks at Jez, sideways* Pumpkin-Men huh?

    10. Great minds and all that, Steve. And as for Tarot's alter ego, either Black Scorpion's pirate range or Laughing Monk's 'Brotherhood of the Wolf' inspired figures (awesome movie, well-suited to this project) would probably give her what she needs.

    11. Roger that, mmmmm niiiiice candy!!!!. Okay Christmas pressie list (the `for others` list) suitably amended.

  6. So much to enjoy here, guys. All I can say is keep up with the good work. It should be a lot of fun, which is surely what gaming should be all about.

  7. Thank you so much Bryan.... really appreciated mate.

  8. Hello Bryan *smiles* thank you for the encouragement and the kind words. I think everyone will have a ball with this one, and as we have pulled so much of our combined material and collections together for this, it should be a roller coaster of a ride.

  9. Thank you Bryan. This really does promise to be a lot of fun.

  10. Yeeeeeey, and double yeeeeey!!!! I t-h-i-n-k the first part of the new campaign will actually start today... or possibly tomorrow. I will begin to take photos and stuff as soon as the first player bum plonks down in the chair and the first mini gets placed on the table. I may even video each and every session for posterity.

  11. ........ a tiny tiny teaser of `things to come.` We WILL also be picking up from where we left off at the Horror/Hero Clix house where Jim and Barbara Gordon found themselves: separated, alone, hunted and lost, last time we left them at a most interesting point in the adventure. So how does Clix fit into Ravenloft, you might be scratching your heads wondering? Trust me, all will be completely revealed hehe.

  12. Another spoiler/teaser. Yes Turtles WILL be in it, and this will be my creation in the game.. me the one person who has always hated the turtles as juvenile and.. well, a bit silly really. However, the boys have (with great patience) shown me the light concerning these green shell meanies. So much so that I got to reinventing the genre a bit; and so, like Jez`s alternative reality heroes he wrote about back along on his blog, these will be MY alternative reality turtles. I think they might surprise you lol.

  13. Hmmmm, well I`ve seen what you`ve done with them, first hand. And quite frankly you`re reinvention of them is terrifying. Not for the faint hearted and deffo not for the children hahaha.

  14. This all sounds very exciting. So much to look forward to. I'm very intrigued by what Hil has done to the TMNT. I definitely want to see how she has reinvented them. "Not for the faint hearted and deffo not for children" sounds good to me.

  15. hehe, think Tim Burton`s "Nightmare Before Christmas" meets "Hellraiser"