I6: Ravenloft (1983)

The original Ravenloft module, I6, by Tracy and Laura Hickman. Apologies for the condition of my copy – it is much loved.

Aside of providing the foundation of what would become the Ravenloft campaign setting, there are two mechanical innovations of note in I6. The first is the element of randomization – five playing cards drawn at the start of the game determine the locations of Strahd, several important item and the vampire’s motivation, making the game more replayable than most D&D modules at that point. Second, Strahd’s statistics combine that of the standard vampire with that of a PC wizard, making him a more powerful and versatile an opponent than any encountered in D&D to that point.

It is a delightful, if not entirely successful module. As I discussed last week, the mechanics of D&D (power) are naturally at odds with notions of horror (powerlessness), particularly the gothic horror Ravenloft strives to emulate. Clyde Caldwell’s art is a perfect illustration of this near miss. He’s a totally capable artist, but his Dracula pastiche feels far more campy than scary. In the end, the module is a slightly spookier than usual dungeon crawl through Dracula’s castle. Which is fine by me!

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