RA2: Ship of Horror (1991)

Ship of Horror is the second Ravenloft module and the second part of the Grand Conjunction series. The GC is an event brought about by completing a six-part prophecy (convenient) that allows Azalin the lich and the rest of the Ravenloft inmates escape the Demi-plane of Dread. Each of these modules stands alone, but represents one of the couplets of the prophecy, and thus can be linked together into a loose campaign in which the players are Azalin’s unwitting patsies.

Anyway, Ship of Horror. This module is a good deal smaller and lacks all the extras that Feast of Goblyns provides. PCs wind up on a haunted ship captained by a grave robber working for a powerful necromancer.

You can see that Ravenloft is figuring itself out here, but Ship of Horror still feels…not great. It involves a lot of railroading, a ridiculously powerful villain and not a lot of scares. The gothic atmosphere is improving though, not the least because of…you guessed it…

Stephen Fabian’s fantastic art. I know I sound like a broken record, but this dude picks up the not very thought out concept of the Ravenloft campaign setting and carries it on his shoulders for years, until the designers could catch up to him and figure out how to make a decent fantasy horror game that measured up to his art.

His illustrations here are fantastically evocative of the gothic in ways that the adventure itself never measures up to. It’s a bummer. You can probably tease something good out of it with a lot of revision, but that seems like a lot of work…

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