Tabletop Review: Ravenloft: Dark of the Moon (Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, Second Edition)

Ravenloft: Dark of the Moon (Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, Second Edition)
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast (Originally TSR)
Cost: $4.95 (Original Physical Copy: $9.95)
Page Count: 64
Release Date: 10/08/2013 (Originally 1993)
Get it Here: DriveThruRPG.Com

As I’ve said in the past, a good rule of thumb for whether or not a Ravenloft adventure is worth buying or not is whether the plot ends with you trying to kill the Darklord of a domain. If it does, put it down and look elsewhere. Of course, there are always exceptions to this rule. Ship of Terror is one. Bane of the Shadowborn is another. Thankfully, Dark of the Moon is another, even though you’ll be killing one of the more interesting Darklords in the game. The reason this adventure is able to get past the horrible idea of killing a Darklord (which should be all but impossible and trivializes what being a Darklord means as well as the entire campaign setting as a whole) is because you’re given a slow burn up to the inevitable climax. In essence, Dark of the Moon is more a mini campaign where trying to kill the Darklord only comes after a long series of grueling events where PCs will be tested not only by a horde of unwavering lycanthropes, but by the very elements themselves. Much of my time with Dark of the Moon both past and present reminded me of the old Wilderness Survival Guide from First Edition. For many gamers, Dark of the Moon will be the first adventure where they actually have to keep track of inclement weather damage, frostbite, hypothermia and starvation. For some, Dark at the Moon may be too intense for the gamer that just wants a standard hack and slash dungeon crawl. For others, the fact their players will have to deal with so many variables will be a new, exciting and interesting challenge. After all, weather is an enemy that you simply can’t defeat.

Dark of the Moon is designed for four to six players between 5th and 8th level. The adventure is pretty intense and more likely than not, members of the party will die from exposure to harsh temperatures or being eaten by werewolves. Do not underestimate how lethal this adventure is as it’s very reminiscent of some old Gygaxian penned adventures in terms of how easy it is for a PC to meet their final fate here. I’ve found that a Druid has the best chance of survival, followed by a Ranger or a Cleric. Indeed, a Druid may be indispensable to the party surviving both the weather and the werewolves in this adventure. The old AD&D adage about Mages being the best character the higher level characters get is thrown completely out the window here as for much of the adventure, Magic-Users will not have access to their spell components. So that extremely low Hit Point total combined with no magic just paints a massive bullseye on any Wizard PC that takes part in this adventure.

Dark of the Moon takes place in the domain of Vorostokov, which is an analogue for Siberia. Players will be brought to the domain by the mists of Ravenloft, ensuring that they will be ill prepared for a climate of endless frigid winter. Votostokov has little in the way of food as animals that are game animals are elusive and the weather is much too cold for the growing of crops. Villages are sparsely populated and it can take weeks of travel before you find one. As such, players are in a bind. After all, would you want to be wearing full plate mail in below zero weather? That has got to be painful. With the heroes realizing they are pretty unprepared for the weather (unless again, you have a druid or magic items like a ring of warmth), cold based damage is about to set in. So Players will be completely out of their element, both literally and figuratively lost in a land that they have never been in and freezing their collective asses off.

Which of course is when the hordes of werewolves show up. Much of Dark of the Moon is fighting and running from werewolves. If the players have magic, silver or blessed weapons, there will be more fighting than running but if the opposite is true, Pass Without Trace becomes the absolutely best spell in the game for the duration of this adventure. The werewolves in Vorostokov are very different from those players will have encountered before. Instead of your standard werewolves or loup-garou, the lycanthropes in Dark of the Moonare skinwalkers or Loup Du Noir, which actually doesn’t mean skinwalkers or skin changers in French. Discovering the differences between these creatures and your standard werewolves, is a big part of what will help characters to survive, especially as the way to kill the Darklord is extremely convoluted and may take multiple play sessions based on the rolls and wits of the players. There’s also the additional problem that at least on PC WILL be infected with lycanthropy, if not all of them. In Ravenloft you have a 2% chance per point of damage taken of developing lycanthropy – 3% if it is by the Darklord. Considering the sheer amount of combat and that for this adventure you roll after each hit and the percentage is cumulative, you’re going to have a werewolf or entire group of werewolf PCs. The good news is that being a werewolf will help them to survive the freezing weather, give them some nice damage prevention bonuses and help them to regenerate. The bad news is that it basically lets the Darklord of the domain mentally control them at will. A cruel DM will force infected players to find a cure for their lycanthropy after the adventure, but in Ravenloft, that is an exceptionally hard task to accomplish. A kind DM will let the players be free of the disease once the Darklord is dead and that’s what I’d strongly suggest. Of course some player at some point will want to stay a werewolf, but that’s a whole other problem you’ll have to deal with if and when it comes up.

Another interesting aspect of the adventure is how alignments blue here. You’ll find Chaotic Evil Rangers, a good aligned werewolf, and that your best bet for killing the Darklord is by allying with three evil aligned NPCs – two witches and a ghost. More than likely, there will be a few Powers Check rolls made by your players in this adventure. This is actually typical of a Ravenloft as you’ll find strange bedfellows as players must decide between the lesser of two evils. Truthfully though, the three allies you’ll need to make in this adventure aren’t evil in terms of how they are written, but Second Edition was pretty strict with classifying specific “races” (for lack of a better word) as a specific alignment with no room to budge. It’s odd the adventure does this with these three while making huge steps outside the usual alignment with the aforementioned good werewolf and evil ranger who still has access to all his class disciplines.

All in all, Dark of the Moon is one of the better “Kill the Darklord!” adventures for Ravenloft, mainly because while being the climax of the mission at hand, there is so much more going on, that it is only the focal point until the very end. Dark of the Moon will last you several playsessions and while it’s not a top tier Ravenloft adventure, so to speak, it’s still a pretty enjoyable one. You could do a lot worse for a five buck adventure, especially since this one will last you multiple playsessions and really test you as both a player and a Dungeon Master. I definitely recommend this, but with the caveat that you and your players really have to be willing character death or a permanent change into a evil werebeasty.



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