Howls in the Night (Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, Second Edition)
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast (Originally TSR)
Cost: $4.95 (Original Physical Copy was $6.95)
Page Count: 32
Release Date: 10/08/2013 (Originally 1994)
Get it Here: DNDClassics.com
It’s October and what better time for DNDCLassics.com to FINALLY start re-releasing some more Ravenloft adventures than in the month of Halloween. Until now, DNDClassics.com had only sported subpar releases like The Created, the badly written, Children of the Night pieces and the wonderful Monstrous Compendiums for the setting. This month however, we’ve seen four Ravenloft adventures released so far, which is great to see. Today we’ll be looking at Howls in the Night is not only one of the best Ravenloft adventures, but one of the best second edition adventures regardless of campaign setting. It’s extremely versatile and can be adapted to just about any campaign world (except Planescape). Best of all. Howls in the Night offers four different ways for the GM to run the adventure (One for each possible main antagonist) which gives the adventure an amazing amount of replay value, a fact that is all the more amazing when you remember that most adventures written in this time period (regardless of system) were extremely linear and inflexible.
Howls in the Night takes us to the domain of Mordent. It’s an analogue for Scotland and you’ll recognize that almost immediately. From the lush rolling meadows to the dark ominous moors where much of the adventure takes place, the DM should feel more than free to use their best (worst?) Scottish accent to give the NPCs of Mordent some personality. It’s a great setting and one made all the better by the fact the Darklord of the domain never shows up in the adventure. You can generally tell whether a Ravenloft adventure is good or bad by whether or not the goal is to kill a Darklord or not. If it is, put it back and look for a different adventure.
Howls in the Night is a little bit The Hound of the Baskervillies, a little bit of the Black Shuck from British folklore and a lot of Ravenloft twists thrown in. The adventure is for four to six players between 3rd and 5th Level, meaning that the characters have some experience under their belts, but not enough that they can shrug off a pounding. Indeed, much of the adventure is running from or circumventing the almost limitless bog hounds at the disposal of one of the antagonists. As well, the core monster plaguing the town of Mordentshire can’t be defeated unless very specific circumstances are encountered, meaning that Howls in the Night plays a little more like a Call of Cthulhu adventure and far less of a hack and slash dungeon crawl.
I absolutely love the story here. You have a doomed force love affair, the effects of which still curse the village, the surrounding countryside and the principal players a century after it occurred. You have a wonderful curse, as odd as that phrasing may sound, which breathes a lot of life into the adventure, makes it exceptionally spooky and also highlights how well Ravenloft used the concept of curses, especially curses made during one’s death throws. I always found the whole “Bestow/Remove” curse spells from D&D to be implemented horribly and both PCs and DMs would use the spell without any style or forethought. Ravenloft is the one exception to that and a curse made here is extremely hard to get rid of and generally has long ranging dramatic results.
As the principal protagonists in this adventures, Players are hired to exterminate the ever growing problem of what appears to be extremely aggressive wild dogs. Just as the moors slowly extend their reach every year, so too do does this pack of wild canines grow ever bolder and closer to the town of Mordentshire. Of course, players will instantly assume that the dogs aren’t actually dogs. They’re right, but not in the way they think and the end result generally has overconfident players who were relying on player knowledge rather than character knowledge, getting freaked out and humbled by their actual foe. It’s wonderful as a DM to see how players handle their first encounter with the bog hounds and the slow realization that nothing in Ravenloft is ever straightforward.
Besides dealing with the hounds, Howls in the Night has several other nasty surprises for the players. At least one character will probably having to roll for their lives against quicksand. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a playthrough of this adventure where one character meets their end at the hands of a mundane natural occurrence. It’s wonderful as it keeps players really invested in where they are placing their feet and their immediate surroundings. Players will really quickly learn to think on their feet (literally and figuratively) from this adventure. Most of all though, players will be brought into the conflict that occurs between the two main NPCs of this adventure. They are the root of the curse plaguing the village and much of the fun of the adventure comes from the players trying to decide who is wearing the black hat and who is wearing the white hat. Again, the adventure has four different playthrough possibilities, so you can design the adventure to where BOTH are evil or both are victims of the curse rather than deserved recipients. I tend to find the adventure is more fun for everyone involved when you have both NPCs either be truly evil dicks or good people caught up in a bad situation. Regardless, all of the four storylines are extremely fun to play through and no matter which one you choose, your PCs will talk about this adventure for a long time to come.
I can’t end this review without really plugging the artwork it contains. The cover for Howls in the Night by Paul Jaquays is especially spooky and sets the tone for things to come quite nicely. The interior artwork by Mark Nelson has me missing the days when I could regularly see his art in Vampire: The Masquerade, Ravenloft and Shadowrun publications. He also did a wonderful job with the Hellraiser comics back in the day. Both Wizards and Catalyst Game Labs need to hire him back for regular work ASAP! Nelson is one of my favorite RPG artists and it’s easy to see why after you’ve flipped through this adventure.
So yes, Howls in the Night is a truly brilliant adventure from beginning to end. It’s an extremely easy adventure for a DM to run, and it’s hard not to have fun with this. With a price tag of only four dollars, it’s practically begging you to buy it. Howls of the Night is one of my favorite adventures from 2nd Edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons as it is creepy, boasts a wonderful cast of characters, a very intricate plot and it highlights just how well D&D works as a horror game instead of a hack and slash dungeon crawl experience. Seriously, pick this up today.