Profile cover photo
Profile photo
Michael Schmidt
492 followers -
There's something in the attic. I can hear it slithering.
There's something in the attic. I can hear it slithering.

492 followers
About
Michael's posts

Post has attachment
Went out to the park with my son and saw this patch of melting snow. Thought it would make a great map, so I pulled it in to Photoshop for a quick render. Need to do some more work to better define the mountains, and climates/terrain. Feel free to use as you like!
Photo
Photo
19/03/2017
2 Photos - View album

Post has shared content
This. As they say.

Post has attachment
Curse of Strahd is a Railroad

SPOILER ALERT: If you are a member of my gaming group... don't read this. If you are player who might be adventuring through Curse of Strahd, don't read this.

I did something bad... very bad. I tricked my players into going to Barovia.

We were just wrapping up Lost Mine of Phandelver from the Dungeons & Dragons 5th edition starter set, and I had been foreshadowing the events of Storm King's Thunder throughout the adventure. I'd also mentioned to my players that I wanted to run Storm King's Thunder. Now, to be fair to me, I still plan to run SKT, but I also wanted to run Curse of Strahd (hereafter known as CoS) and I wanted it to be a surprise.

You see, if you are playing with new players, it not really a problem to say "Hey, do you want to play CoS? It's full of gothic horror, and the big bad is a vampire!". New players have very probably never heard of, let alone played in, a previous incarnation of Ravenloft.

My players, however, have been playing for decades. They all know the 2nd Edition Ravenloft boxed set, and the 3rd edition 3rd party Ravenloft book. Some of them have even read or played the original i6 module. I could just ask them if they want to play CoS, but where's the fun in that? There is no mystery, no surprise.

The usual way characters get to Barovia is that the mists creep in and spirit them away. Rather anti-climactic if they know it's coming, and they know what to expect, especially if they are already familiar with Strahd and his domain.

So I did something sneaky. As they were coming to the end of Lost Mine of Phandelver, I had the days become cloudy and rainy. Each morning they woke to fog, and mist on the fields. It was normal. That way, when they were abducted by the dark powers, they had no idea anything was up. Even after they found themselves in a dark forest of ancient pines, they didn't immediately realize where they were. They thought they were somewhere else in the Forgotten Realms. My trick worked.

When they finally understood where they were, there was a bit of grumbling. It's not that my players don't like Ravenloft, or were opposed to playing CoS, it's that, because they all know the story from previous editions, they were all familiar with the one thing about Ravenloft that is its singular conceit; the only way out of Ravenloft is to kill an incredibly powerful vampire lord who can easily mop the floor with you, and likely some or all of you will die in the process.

In almost all the reviews I've read, or listened to, or watched on YouTube about CoS, the reviewers inevitably refer to it as "very sandboxy".

I contend that it's not. If you are unfamiliar with the terms here, "sandboxy" means that, like a video game like Grand Theft Auto, the adventure is open form for the players. They can choose their path and investigate wherever they want, possibly getting in over their head. There is certainly enough material for the DM to allow the players to find their own path, there's just one glaring problem... all paths lead to Strahd.

Sure, the players can decide how to get there, and in what order they face all, or none of the encounters, but the only way out of Barovia, and the adventure, is to kill Strahd. There really isn't a choice. Curse of Strahd is a Railroad adventure in the guise of a sandbox. The choices are an illusion.

I don't want to give up on CoS, though, and I don't want my players to give up on it either, so I've decided to do something that will likely be seen as heresy for Ravenloft purists; I'm giving them other ways to get out.

In my humble DM opinion, the only way to actually make CoS a "sandbox" is if the players really can choose to do anything, including not fight Strahd to get out. If they have other ways to leave without defeating Strahd, then they are faced with a moral quandary - Do we leave these people to their horrible fate with Strahd, or do we try to do something about it?

Now they have a real choice. They are no longer obligated to do the only thing that gets them out of the world, and the adventure, but if they do leave, their characters leave knowing forever that they let those people down. It will, I hope, lead to some interesting player, and character, discussions, as well as character development.

Of course I don't want to make it easy to get out, this is Ravenloft after all.

HEY YOU, YES YOU, PERSON PLAYING IN MY CoS CAMPAIGN! STOP READING!!! SPOILERS BELOW HERE!!!

Here are some of the options I will be laying out for the players to choose from. Some may be easier than others, but all will be challenging.

1. Kill Strahd. Just like the adventure says.

2. The PCs uncover an old riddle that gives a clue to a portal key that will let them use the Brazier room in Castle Ravenloft (K78). Even Strahd does not know about this. The riddle is "Piece of the innocent, one for each, toss it in, your home to reach." If they hear the riddle, perhaps spoken by a statue, or in a dream, they may misconstrue the first word as "peace" instead of "piece". Then the PCs must sneak into Castle Ravenloft, and each toss the bone of a child into the Brazier, which will whisk them away to another place, possible Sigil!

3. The Hut of Hands. Deep in the Svalich Woods is a witch. She appears as a beautiful elven maiden, but she has no hands, just bloody stumps. She is ancient and no one knows from where she came. She is known only in stories and legends around Barovia, and even Strahd himself questions her existence. If the PCs can track her down, they will find her dilapidated hut deep in the forest. Outside the hut is a chopping block with a bloody axe (I think you see where I am going here). Inside the hut are numerous hands nailed to the walls, all in various states of decay. The most recent are the hand of a young woman, and the hand of a child. They look fresh. If the PCs ask her, the witch will free them from Barovia, but the price is a hand from each of them. They may choose which hand, but they must chop it off themselves, and nail it to the wall. Upon doing so she will send them to the Feywild, and once there it's up to them to survive with their bloody stump.

4. A deal with the devils. If the PCs go to the Amber Temple, they can ask the evil beings imprisoned there to send them home, but there will be a price. They may not like it.

5. Become a Vistani. This one may be the easiest of them all, depending on circumstances. The Vistani can come and go as they please, so if the characters become Vistani, they should be able to leave as well. To become a Vistani, they will need to perform some incredible service to the Vistani, something that would move the Vistani to make the PCs family in a special blood ritual of bonding. For example, finding and saving Arabelle from drowning in Lake Zarovich might be a way to win them over. Once they are part of the Vistani, however, there are certain responsibilities that go with it. To leave the mists of Ravenloft, the Vistani agreed to act as spies and agents for Strahd. The PCs must honour this arrangement, or they will not be free of the domain of dread. This might mean performing some task for Strahd before they can leave, or possibly they will know that at some time in the future they will be pulled back into Barovia by the mists to fulfill their end of the bargain.

I hope in the end they choose to fight Strahd, because that would be epic, but if they don't that's okay, at least I can sleep better knowing I gave them back their "player agency". If you like this idea, maybe you can come up with some other means of escape that are equally devious and creative!
Photo

Post has attachment
Curse of Strahd is a Railroad

SPOILER ALERT: If you are a member of my gaming group... don't read this. If you are player who might be adventuring through Curse of Strahd, don't read this.

I did something bad... very bad. I tricked my players into going to Barovia.

We were just wrapping up Lost Mine of Phandelver from the Dungeons & Dragons 5th edition starter set, and I had been foreshadowing the events of Storm King's Thunder throughout the adventure. I'd also mentioned to my players that I wanted to run Storm King's Thunder. Now, to be fair to me, I still plan to run SKT, but I also wanted to run Curse of Strahd (hereafter known as CoS) and I wanted it to be a surprise.

You see, if you are playing with new players, it not really a problem to say "Hey, do you want to play CoS? It's full of gothic horror, and the big bad is a vampire!". New players have very probably never heard of, let alone played in, a previous incarnation of Ravenloft.

My players, however, have been playing for decades. They all know the 2nd Edition Ravenloft boxed set, and the 3rd edition 3rd party Ravenloft book. Some of them have even read or played the original i6 module. I could just ask them if they want to play CoS, but where's the fun in that? There is no mystery, no surprise.

The usual way characters get to Barovia is that the mists creep in and spirit them away. Rather anti-climactic if they know it's coming, and they know what to expect, especially if they are already familiar with Strahd and his domain.

So I did something sneaky. As they were coming to the end of Lost Mine of Phandelver, I had the days become cloudy and rainy. Each morning they woke to fog, and mist on the fields. It was normal. That way, when they were abducted by the dark powers, they had no idea anything was up. Even after they found themselves in a dark forest of ancient pines, they didn't immediately realize where they were. They thought they were somewhere else in the Forgotten Realms. My trick worked.

When they finally understood where they were, there was a bit of grumbling. It's not that my players don't like Ravenloft, or were opposed to playing CoS, it's that, because they all know the story from previous editions, they were all familiar with the one thing about Ravenloft that is its singular conceit; the only way out of Ravenloft is to kill an incredibly powerful vampire lord who can easily mop the floor with you, and likely some or all of you will die in the process.

In almost all the reviews I've read, or listened to, or watched on YouTube about CoS, the reviewers inevitably refer to it as "very sandboxy".

I contend that it's not. If you are unfamiliar with the terms here, "sandboxy" means that, like a video game like Grand Theft Auto, the adventure is open form for the players. They can choose their path and investigate wherever they want, possibly getting in over their head. There is certainly enough material for the DM to allow the players to find their own path, there's just one glaring problem... all paths lead to Strahd.

Sure, the players can decide how to get there, and in what order they face all, or none of the encounters, but the only way out of Barovia, and the adventure, is to kill Strahd. There really isn't a choice. Curse of Strahd is a Railroad adventure in the guise of a sandbox. The choices are an illusion.

I don't want to give up on CoS, though, and I don't want my players to give up on it either, so I've decided to do something that will likely be seen as heresy for Ravenloft purists; I'm giving them other ways to get out.

In my humble DM opinion, the only way to actually make CoS a "sandbox" is if the players really can choose to do anything, including not fight Strahd to get out. If they have other ways to leave without defeating Strahd, then they are faced with a moral quandary - Do we leave these people to their horrible fate with Strahd, or do we try to do something about it?

Now they have a real choice. They are no longer obligated to do the only thing that gets them out of the world, and the adventure, but if they do leave, their characters leave knowing forever that they let those people down. It will, I hope, lead to some interesting player, and character, discussions, as well as character development.

Of course I don't want to make it easy to get out, this is Ravenloft after all.

HEY YOU, YES YOU, PERSON PLAYING IN MY CoS CAMPAIGN! STOP READING!!! SPOILERS BELOW HERE!!!

Here are some of the options I will be laying out for the players to choose from. Some may be easier than others, but all will be challenging.

1. Kill Strahd. Just like the adventure says.

2. The PCs uncover an old riddle that gives a clue to a portal key that will let them use the Brazier room in Castle Ravenloft (K78). Even Strahd does not know about this. The riddle is "Piece of the innocent, one for each, toss it in, your home to reach." If they hear the riddle, perhaps spoken by a statue, or in a dream, they may misconstrue the first word as "peace" instead of "piece". Then the PCs must sneak into Castle Ravenloft, and each toss the bone of a child into the Brazier, which will whisk them away to another place, possible Sigil!

3. The Hut of Hands. Deep in the Svalich Woods is a witch. She appears as a beautiful elven maiden, but she has no hands, just bloody stumps. She is ancient and no one knows from where she came. She is known only in stories and legends around Barovia, and even Strahd himself questions her existence. If the PCs can track her down, they will find her dilapidated hut deep in the forest. Outside the hut is a chopping block with a bloody axe (I think you see where I am going here). Inside the hut are numerous hands nailed to the walls, all in various states of decay. The most recent are the hand of a young woman, and the hand of a child. They look fresh. If the PCs ask her, the witch will free them from Barovia, but the price is a hand from each of them. They may choose which hand, but they must chop it off themselves, and nail it to the wall. Upon doing so she will send them to the Feywild, and once there it's up to them to survive with their bloody stump.

4. A deal with the devils. If the PCs go to the Amber Temple, they can ask the evil beings imprisoned there to send them home, but there will be a price. They may not like it.

5. Become a Vistani. This one may be the easiest of them all, depending on circumstances. The Vistani can come and go as they please, so if the characters become Vistani, they should be able to leave as well. To become a Vistani, they will need to perform some incredible service to the Vistani, something that would move the Vistani to make the PCs family in a special blood ritual of bonding. For example, finding and saving Arabelle from drowning in Lake Zarovich might be a way to win them over. Once they are part of the Vistani, however, there are certain responsibilities that go with it. To leave the mists of Ravenloft, the Vistani agreed to act as spies and agents for Strahd. The PCs must honour this arrangement, or they will not be free of the domain of dread. This might mean performing some task for Strahd before they can leave, or possibly they will know that at some time in the future they will be pulled back into Barovia by the mists to fulfill their end of the bargain.

I hope in the end they choose to fight Strahd, because that would be epic, but if they don't that's okay, at least I can sleep better knowing I gave them back their "player agency". If you like this idea, maybe you can come up with some other means of escape that are equally devious and creative!
Photo

Post has attachment


Curse of Strahd is a Railroad

SPOILER ALERT: If you are a member of my gaming group... don't read this. If you are player who might be adventuring through Curse of Strahd, don't read this.

I did something bad... very bad. I tricked my players into going to Barovia.

We were just wrapping up Lost Mine of Phandelver from the Dungeons & Dragons 5th edition starter set, and I had been foreshadowing the events of Storm King's Thunder throughout the adventure. I'd also mentioned to my players that I wanted to run Storm King's Thunder. Now, to be fair to me, I still plan to run SKT, but I also wanted to run Curse of Strahd (hereafter known as CoS) and I wanted it to be a surprise.

You see, if you are playing with new players, it not really a problem to say "Hey, do you want to play CoS? It's full of gothic horror, and the big bad is a vampire!". New players have very probably never heard of, let alone played in, a previous incarnation of Ravenloft.

My players, however, have been playing for decades. They all know the 2nd Edition Ravenloft boxed set, and the 3rd edition 3rd party Ravenloft book. Some of them have even read or played the original i6 module. I could just ask them if they want to play CoS, but where's the fun in that? There is no mystery, no surprise.

The usual way characters get to Barovia is that the mists creep in and spirit them away. Rather anti-climactic if they know it's coming, and they know what to expect, especially if they are already familiar with Strahd and his domain.

So I did something sneaky. As they were coming to the end of Lost Mine of Phandelver, I had the days become cloudy and rainy. Each morning they woke to fog, and mist on the fields. It was normal. That way, when they were abducted by the dark powers, they had no idea anything was up. Even after they found themselves in a dark forest of ancient pines, they didn't immediately realize where they were. They thought they were somewhere else in the Forgotten Realms. My trick worked.

When they finally understood where they were, there was a bit of grumbling. It's not that my players don't like Ravenloft, or were opposed to playing CoS, it's that, because they all know the story from previous editions, they were all familiar with the one thing about Ravenloft that is its singular conceit; the only way out of Ravenloft is to kill an incredibly powerful vampire lord who can easily mop the floor with you, and likely some or all of you will die in the process.

In almost all the reviews I've read, or listened to, or watched on YouTube about CoS, the reviewers inevitably refer to it as "very sandboxy".

I contend that it's not. If you are unfamiliar with the terms here, "sandboxy" means that, like a video game like Grand Theft Auto, the adventure is open form for the players. They can choose their path and investigate wherever they want, possibly getting in over their head. There is certainly enough material for the DM to allow the players to find their own path, there's just one glaring problem... all paths lead to Strahd.

Sure, the players can decide how to get there, and in what order they face all, or none of the encounters, but the only way out of Barovia, and the adventure, is to kill Strahd. There really isn't a choice. Curse of Strahd is a Railroad adventure in the guise of a sandbox. The choices are an illusion.

I don't want to give up on CoS, though, and I don't want my players to give up on it either, so I've decided to do something that will likely be seen as heresy for Ravenloft purists; I'm giving them other ways to get out.

In my humble DM opinion, the only way to actually make CoS a "sandbox" is if the players really can choose to do anything, including not fight Strahd to get out. If they have other ways to leave without defeating Strahd, then they are faced with a moral quandary - Do we leave these people to their horrible fate with Strahd, or do we try to do something about it?

Now they have a real choice. They are no longer obligated to do the only thing that gets them out of the world, and the adventure, but if they do leave, their characters leave knowing forever that they let those people down. It will, I hope, lead to some interesting player, and character, discussions, as well as character development.

Of course I don't want to make it easy to get out, this is Ravenloft after all.

HEY YOU, YES YOU, PERSON PLAYING IN MY CoS CAMPAIGN! STOP READING!!! SPOILERS BELOW HERE!!!

Here are some of the options I will be laying out for the players to choose from. Some may be easier than others, but all will be challenging.

1. Kill Strahd. Just like the adventure says.

2. The PCs uncover an old riddle that gives a clue to a portal key that will let them use the Brazier room in Castle Ravenloft (K78). Even Strahd does not know about this. The riddle is "Piece of the innocent, one for each, toss it in, your home to reach." If they hear the riddle, perhaps spoken by a statue, or in a dream, they may misconstrue the first word as "peace" instead of "piece". Then the PCs must sneak into Castle Ravenloft, and each toss the bone of a child into the Brazier, which will whisk them away to another place, possible Sigil!

3. The Hut of Hands. Deep in the Svalich Woods is a witch. She appears as a beautiful elven maiden, but she has no hands, just bloody stumps. She is ancient and no one knows from where she came. She is known only in stories and legends around Barovia, and even Strahd himself questions her existence. If the PCs can track her down, they will find her dilapidated hut deep in the forest. Outside the hut is a chopping block with a bloody axe (I think you see where I am going here). Inside the hut are numerous hands nailed to the walls, all in various states of decay. The most recent are the hand of a young woman, and the hand of a child. They look fresh. If the PCs ask her, the witch will free them from Barovia, but the price is a hand from each of them. They may choose which hand, but they must chop it off themselves, and nail it to the wall. Upon doing so she will send them to the Feywild, and once there it's up to them to survive with their bloody stump.

4. A deal with the devils. If the PCs go to the Amber Temple, they can ask the evil beings imprisoned there to send them home, but there will be a price. They may not like it.

5. Become a Vistani. This one may be the easiest of them all, depending on circumstances. The Vistani can come and go as they please, so if the characters become Vistani, they should be able to leave as well. To become a Vistani, they will need to perform some incredible service to the Vistani, something that would move the Vistani to make the PCs family in a special blood ritual of bonding. For example, finding and saving Arabelle from drowning in Lake Zarovich might be a way to win them over. Once they are part of the Vistani, however, there are certain responsibilities that go with it. To leave the mists of Ravenloft, the Vistani agreed to act as spies and agents for Strahd. The PCs must honour this arrangement, or they will not be free of the domain of dread. This might mean performing some task for Strahd before they can leave, or possibly they will know that at some time in the future they will be pulled back into Barovia by the mists to fulfill their end of the bargain.

I hope in the end they choose to fight Strahd, because that would be epic, but if they don't that's okay, at least I can sleep better knowing I gave them back their "player agency". If you like this idea, maybe you can come up with some other means of escape that are equally devious and creative!
Photo

Post has attachment
My son DMed his first game of "D&D" for me today. I use the quotation marks because we played pretty loosely. I made him a cheat sheet with some DCs, some example monsters, and examples of the dice. I used a really simplified character sheet, and we used the battle mat and minis from 3.5.

I encountered lots of monsters, but I wasn't allowed to fight them, instead I had to make friends with them all. Eventually I had a party of monsters following me around until we met a dragon, who was defeated by one of my monster followers.

He did great voices for all the bad guys, and gave them all names: Bob, Dave, Tom, Mr. B for Brains, and an Ettin whose heads were named Mario and Luigi Mustachio.
PhotoPhotoPhoto
05/03/2017
3 Photos - View album

Post has attachment
I'm going to post some of my hand drawn maps soon after I scan them. In the mean time here is a pic of my 6yo son and his first dungeon of hand drawn map tiles for fun.
PhotoPhotoPhotoPhoto
2/26/17
4 Photos - View album

Post has shared content

+Denis Labelle Why is it that some posts from people I follow/have circled show comments, but don't show a comment button? It doesn't say that comments have been disabled, and others have commented, and it's a post that is "Public".
Wait while more posts are being loaded