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Bleak House ***(SPOILERS!)*** 
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Post Re: Bleak House
Garudos Celestar wrote:
I believe Stuart Turner once mentioned that he ran Bleak House as a sequel to his campaign, but there's no summary to how it turned out. Perhaps if we engage in a séance and prepare a mystick cage we can summon him for some DM do-and-don't tips?


Yes indeed, I did run Bleak House once. After I finished my big Ravenloft campaign, others in my group ran some games for a few years - and then I ran a "Return to Ravenloft" short series of sessions, all based on the Bleak House boxed set.

It was a long time ago (probably more than 10 years ago), so I'd have to say I don't remember that much of the detail at all. But a couple of the comments above have prompted some recollections:

* I also didn't use the shipwreck to get to the Asylum. There'd already been a key shipwreck scene in my campaign, and would just be too sucky to have another "convenient" shipwreck. Similarly, the PCs already knew Van Richten - and so a much better tie-in was to find a reason for them to go looking for VR.

* The whole mask-wearing idea on the island really is very effective. One player even suggested that we should have gotten some plain masks from somewhere, to wear during that section of the game - it's just a very disarming and paranoia-inducing idea concept.

* I can't remember what I did for the treatment room sessions. I do remember that the players spent a lot of time planning their escape, so the idea of making sure the others are discussing this while you're dealing one-on-one is a good one.

* In the Baron section, the one thing that my players rolled their eyes at was the "Black Tower" - as in, "Yeah, I'm sure there's nothing evil going on in the Black Tower!!". Suggest toning this down a bit.

* I wish I could remember more about the house section, but it's really a blur. I remember really enjoying it though - so while it's challenging to run, the payoff was great (a bit like Castles Forlorn).

Sorry I don't have any more on this one - but it's worth the investment!

Stu

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Wed Oct 28, 2015 6:42 am
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Post Re: Bleak House
Possible suggestion for how to use the mask idea more effectively:

Have a pool of patients and orderlies other than the PCs and Van Richten, and mix up the players a bit in the group. Everybody gets a note on who they are and what they're purpose is...so some of the group are playing their characters, but some of the players are other patients, or sneaky orderlies pretending to be patients or even other PCs (if they can extract information from the PCs to help with this so much the better...). Then your PCs could really get paranoid...you do a 1-on-1 with someone, come back to where the group has been working on their escape plan, and one of the players secretly being an orderly tells you all about their escape plans when the others don't know.


Wed Oct 28, 2015 10:14 pm
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Post Re: Bleak House
Hey, good to see you here.

stu wrote:
Yes indeed, I did run Bleak House once. After I finished my big Ravenloft campaign, others in my group ran some games for a few years - and then I ran a "Return to Ravenloft" short series of sessions, all based on the Bleak House boxed set.


You are I think the only person who ever played this fascinating adventure. This adventure is very challenging for the DM as well as for the players. Did your players accepted the challenge and entered in the game or was there some resistance?

Quote:
* I also didn't use the shipwreck to get to the Asylum. There'd already been a key shipwreck scene in my campaign, and would just be too sucky to have another "convenient" shipwreck. Similarly, the PCs already knew Van Richten - and so a much better tie-in was to find a reason for them to go looking for VR.


Same here. So I'll have the PCs board the ship in Martira Bay, so they have a few days on the ship if they want to investigate. I think they will cross a wrecked ship and save a few people from this boat's crew, so all the adventure pieces fit in (more bodies for Heincloth and in the game, more real people for the PCs to interact with).

It makes me think that the PCs will request to see VR upon arrival. I guess I will make sure the boat arrives late to Dominia, so they can have the dinner with Heinfroth, but he will tell them they will see VR tomorrow morning. And during the night, ... it starts.

Quote:
* The whole mask-wearing idea on the island really is very effective. One player even suggested that we should have gotten some plain masks from somewhere, to wear during that section of the game - it's just a very disarming and paranoia-inducing idea concept.


Great idea, I'll hunt the Halloween shop for six identical masks.

I thought to have one session where the players will be semi isolated in the room. Like 15'-20' each (we have a big room in the basement). I thought that the isolated situation could be like a game : while I DM one on one with a player, they can shush with the other, but if I hear them, they get one Spotted point. After three Spotted point, they have to stay silent as they are more isolated from the group by Heinfroth's staff.

That will be enough for one day, and I don't want to bore/frustrate the players with many sessions like this. So after one full session like I described, I will have this play by email thing to go deeper in the shock treatments.

And the next game session, I guess they will have a plan :) Or they will get VR's letter with the key. Or they will discuss an escape plan while I DM one to one, as suggested.

Quote:
* In the Baron section, the one thing that my players rolled their eyes at was the "Black Tower" - as in, "Yeah, I'm sure there's nothing evil going on in the Black Tower!!". Suggest toning this down a bit.


Ah ah ah, good idea.

Quote:
* I wish I could remember more about the house section, but it's really a blur. I remember really enjoying it though - so while it's challenging to run, the payoff was great (a bit like Castles Forlorn).


If you think of something else, do not hesitate to share :)

Joël

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Thu Oct 29, 2015 8:31 am
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Post Re: Bleak House
Cromstar wrote:
Possible suggestion for how to use the mask idea more effectively:

Have a pool of patients and orderlies other than the PCs and Van Richten, and mix up the players a bit in the group. Everybody gets a note on who they are and what they're purpose is...so some of the group are playing their characters, but some of the players are other patients, or sneaky orderlies pretending to be patients or even other PCs (if they can extract information from the PCs to help with this so much the better...). Then your PCs could really get paranoid...you do a 1-on-1 with someone, come back to where the group has been working on their escape plan, and one of the players secretly being an orderly tells you all about their escape plans when the others don't know.


Intriguing idea, that of having the players play other people while all this is happening, indeed.

I also think I will add to the masked patients another hero the players have already met. More possibilities of planning escape / getting information.

Other idea: I guess they will have to describe me the chain of information, i.e. how do they communicate messages from each other, one person at a time (they won't be kept together). Perhaps orderlies or other people will intercepting messages and perhaps changing/twisting them.

Joël

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Thu Oct 29, 2015 8:38 am
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Post Re: Bleak House
One other suggestion I might make that's specific to your campaign: since the PCs are all Gundarakites (and so is Heinfroth), find some tie-in back to their home struggles, like perhaps one or more of them having encountered "Dr. Dominiani" in the pre-Grand Conjunction era. Regardless, at least pay some consideration to what the PCs already know about him and his work.

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Fri Oct 30, 2015 5:12 am
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Post Re: Bleak House
Garudos Celestar wrote:
One other suggestion I might make that's specific to your campaign: since the PCs are all Gundarakites (and so is Heinfroth), find some tie-in back to their home struggles, like perhaps one or more of them having encountered "Dr. Dominiani" in the pre-Grand Conjunction era. Regardless, at least pay some consideration to what the PCs already know about him and his work.
Ooh! that's right! good catch....

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Fri Oct 30, 2015 8:18 am
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Post Re: Bleak House
Garudos Celestar wrote:
One other suggestion I might make that's specific to your campaign: since the PCs are all Gundarakites (and so is Heinfroth), find some tie-in back to their home struggles, like perhaps one or more of them having encountered "Dr. Dominiani" in the pre-Grand Conjunction era. Regardless, at least pay some consideration to what the PCs already know about him and his work.


Indeed! One of the PCs is the son of a noble under Gundar, he might even have met him :)

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Fri Oct 30, 2015 9:14 am
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Post Re: Bleak House
There are many treatments in Heinfroth's asylum. Each of the treatments ends with a madness save. Any suggestion for DC?

Average Will bonus in the party is 9.

Joël

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Sat Dec 26, 2015 4:30 pm
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Post Re: Bleak House
Some more thoughts on BH, I'm using some of the holiday free time for the planning phase.

The adventure is in three parts (Dominia's asylum, Black Tower in Martira Bay, and BH itself), but the middle part is IMHO (and others) crap. It is too simple and basically a enter-the-dungeon-and-kill-the-boss adventure. Also, the dark powers behind the adventure already brought back Mme Radanovich to torment VRichten, so I feel bringing back Metus as well is overkill. No need to bring him back if only for a bit dull adventure. And the Thinker's name is stupid (and the Black Tower's too ;) It should be the Golden something, for its dome).

So I will scrap most of the middle part.

---

I thought of inverting part 1 and part 3 and it has its merits. You start with helping VR with Bleak House, then he ends up (alive and) insane. He is sent to Heinfroth's asylum. After a few week, no news, the players investigate. I think it could work too.

---

But the scenario I look which is more close to the spirit of the BH writer is :

Part 1

- PC investigate the Asylum in Dominia, looking after VR. Bad things happen.

- escape! The boat gets them to Martira Bay.

Part 2

- possible jail when they arrive at the port with the Mercy (if they are not believed because of Heinfroth's good reputation, or if it was reported stolen by a cerebral vampire who traveled to Martira Bay in seagull form)

- possible attack by cerebral vampires looking to bring them back to Dominia

- possible investigation of Heinfroth's clinic in Martira Bay (modelled after the Black Tower clinic, but without the crap - Metus, Thinker, etc.). There they find that the evil director is sending people to Dominia when Heinfroth needs new patients. They zap this guy.

- VR explains his bad dreams involving his old house. Book 1 p 70. He tells the PCs he needs to get to Richten's Estate to make sure everything is OK and may be to help him see the place as quiet and get rid of these nightmares.

- travel to Rivalis

- Near the estate's entrance, a man stops them and gives them a box for Van Richten. This mysterious man then runs toward the estate's gate's entrance. They run after him or look what is inside the box, no problem with either. It contains a crystal glass. In it, Mme Radanovich's image! See Book 2 p 85. Now they now their problems are not finished and who they are facing. The man's identity I have not given much thought to, but he is of course a pawn of Mme Radanovich.

Part 3

- They enter the estate, to find themselves surrounded by the mists! Mme R's trap has worked and VR is now in BH.

- BH adventure. VR can possibly die, but these high level players have access to raise dead, so I never saw the problem with VR possibly dying at the end of it...

- possible return to Dominia for retaliation on H?

---

The tarokka part in BH, where it sets a few things randomly. Not sure, I'll probably have the deck stacked somehow (easy to do) to set the events I feel are better. Illusion of random to the PCs.

Each end scenario is very cool and unique, and I feel it's a waste to use only one to respect random choice of the tarokka. My end will take the best parts of all four scenarios, to make a better cinematic end IMHO.

Comments?

Joël

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Sat Jan 02, 2016 12:39 pm
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Post Re: Bleak House
I think the middle part of the adventure could be saved if you focused on how the Thinker was being used. What if he was creating some kind of weird dreamscape or other altered reality, and after making their way through the maze of lies, the characters have to decide on whether to take him out, or to try to reason with him like here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YOooJW5SSDA

This would probably work best if you changed or switched out the Thinker for somebody Van Richten and/or the players knew. (Or better yet, inadvertently wronged.) Perhaps the Thinker could be a person Metus is courting for a vampiric groom/bride?

Or perhaps the Thinker could be Arturi Radanavich? (The Radanavich Dr. van Richten made peace with in writing Van Richten's Guide to the Vistani.) The latter would serve to highlight how low the traitorous Madame Radanavich had sunk, in selling out one of her own people.


Sat Jan 02, 2016 2:07 pm
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Post Re: Bleak House
The Lesser Evil wrote:
I think the middle part of the adventure could be saved if you focused on how the Thinker was being used. What if he was creating some kind of weird dreamscape or other altered reality, and after making their way through the maze of lies, the characters have to decide on whether to take him out, or to try to reason with him like here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YOooJW5SSDA

This would probably work best if you changed or switched out the Thinker for somebody Van Richten and/or the players knew. (Or better yet, inadvertently wronged.) Perhaps the Thinker could be a person Metus is courting for a vampiric groom/bride?

Or perhaps the Thinker could be Arturi Radanavich? (The Radanavich Dr. van Richten made peace with in writing Van Richten's Guide to the Vistani.) The latter would serve to highlight how low the traitorous Madame Radanavich had sunk, in selling out one of her own people.


something that's just occurred to me is, maybe swap out some aspects of the adventure with some of the stuff from the Nightmare Lands boxed set, instead of the Thinker sending the bad dreams, it's the Nightmare Court, Van Richten could have gone to Dr Illhousen for help, but fallen under the care of Doctor Tasker, with the PCs needing to enter Van Richtens dreamscapes, or even journeying to the Nightmare Realms itself, in order to rescue van richten, with each dreamscape being a reflection of home, returning to richten haus after slaying Erasmus to find his wife dead, running into erasmus's room to find him gone etc. one could be a foreshadowing of the 3rd section by having the players see events from a child's perspective, they approach a gatehouse by carriage, it's a beautiful day, the carriage stops, there's some shouting, you try to get out to see, you are pushed violently back into the carriage which has become a black void through which you are falling, blinded the last thing you hear is "Don't let the boy see!"


edit
I didn't mention it before but I have run BH before (not long after it came out), and tbh it is a very complex adventure to run.

I don't think I ever managed to get the paranoia that the first section was going for, and my players very much disliked the "torture" aspect, and as has been pointed out as written there's no opportunity for payback, I think I let them escape on the second attempt. I think if the torture sessions were replaced by "analysis" or "hypnotherapy" with a chance to roleplay like in a dreamscape that might work well

I think I skipped section 2 completely, just by saying M. Radanavich sent the dreams (she's a vistani ghost, why not?).

Section three (the house) is a bit of a blur and i'm not sure if we even finished, a big part of that was the random elements of the night hauntings, I would advise either planning the night hauntings in advance, or even better use them whenever you feel the pace dropping (or use only minor ones if you need to slow it down).

The day hauntings went a lot smoother, they were there a few days before they realised something was up, play up the ethereal quality of the night time ghosts. My real problem is with the plot of the daytime ghosts.

This series of murders has never been mentioned before now, presumably because rudy didn't know as he was a child, my point is that if rudy didn't know about it then it never really effected him and so is not really relevant to the van ricthen story as a whole. My players were trying to connect it to what they knew about Van Richten, Erasmus, Metus etc and were a bit deflated by the explanation. My previous suggestion of foreshadowing this event as maybe a seminal awakening of curiousity would give some sense of "aaaah now it makes sense" to the players that I felt was lacking.


Thu Jan 07, 2016 11:41 am
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Post Re: Bleak House
Also in the campaign I am currently running, I have set up Bleak House thusly

When the characters first sought Van Richten (way back at 3rd lvl) they looked in Rivalis, and were told the house had been swallowed by the mists some time ago.

After running through several of the Chilling Tales episodes Van Richten sent them to Gundarak where they played a much altered version of FoG culminating in the death of Gundar, this took several months, and before it was complete they received word that Van Richten had vanished while adventuring in Edrigan.

After finishing up in Gundar, they hastened to Edrigan to find the remains of a battle several weeks old, they were able to collect enough of Van Richtens notes amongst the debris to piece together his failed hunt for Drigor and the disastrous battle that followed. There is no sign of Van Richten though they fear the worst as his belongings remain in Edrigan and his companions were unburied. In truth Van Richten failed a madness check and fled the scene in horror, in time he would have come to himself and returned to give his friends a decent burial but he happened upon well meaning folk who passed him along to the asylum.

I feel that VRGtF is a better setup for BH than VRGttV because the plot of the latter is about him coming to terms with his history with the vistani which makes the Vistani antagonist of BH seem like a retrograde step (YMMV), also the ending of the former is so dark and despairing and his defeat so absolute that it made more sense to me as a point of mental breakdown.


Sat Jan 16, 2016 3:16 pm
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Post Re: Bleak House
Interesting version, with the remains of a battle found.

You make me think, I'll probably add a Chilling Tales scenario before BH. Possibly the Bollenbach one.

Joël

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Mon Jan 18, 2016 10:03 am
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Post Re: Bleak House
thekristhomas wrote:

I feel that VRGtF is a better setup for BH than VRGttV because the plot of the latter is about him coming to terms with his history with the vistani which makes the Vistani antagonist of BH seem like a retrograde step (YMMV), also the ending of the former is so dark and despairing and his defeat so absolute that it made more sense to me as a point of mental breakdown.


I get the feeling that having VRGttV under his belt is almost essential because having already made peace with Arturi, we can that, even within one family, the Vistani are not monolithic. There will be those whom seek to seek to repair the mistakes of the past and offer atonement (Arturi). Then there will be those whom allow old grudges to fester and to even bloom into the Dark Desires of revenge, even to the point where they break their own codes. This the case with Irena Radanavich, whom dragged her clan back from the grave to create the ruination of a giogoto and attached herself to van Richten Haus.

In addition, VRGttV is something of a false good ending. The nature of horror, especially horrors of the past, is that it it is insidious and persistent, even when you think you've earned your happy ending.

To me, VRGttV is also essential because in that book we see not only his atonement with the Vistani but also the removal of his curse. Now that he has atoned with the Vistani in general, it's time for VR to make up for all the lives lost in his place due to the curse that was placed on him. He sacrifices his life so that the other souls may be free and so that he may undo the evils he helped unleash upon the world. Ultimately, this is perhaps the only way his soul may be free as well.


Mon Jan 18, 2016 12:23 pm
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Post Re: Bleak House
The Lesser Evil wrote:
thekristhomas wrote:

I feel that VRGtF is a better setup for BH than VRGttV because the plot of the latter is about him coming to terms with his history with the vistani which makes the Vistani antagonist of BH seem like a retrograde step (YMMV), also the ending of the former is so dark and despairing and his defeat so absolute that it made more sense to me as a point of mental breakdown.


I get the feeling that having VRGttV under his belt is almost essential because having already made peace with Arturi, we can that, even within one family, the Vistani are not monolithic. There will be those whom seek to seek to repair the mistakes of the past and offer atonement (Arturi). Then there will be those whom allow old grudges to fester and to even bloom into the Dark Desires of revenge, even to the point where they break their own codes. This the case with Irena Radanavich, whom dragged her clan back from the grave to create the ruination of a giogoto and attached herself to van Richten Haus.

In addition, VRGttV is something of a false good ending. The nature of horror, especially horrors of the past, is that it it is insidious and persistent, even when you think you've earned your happy ending.

To me, VRGttV is also essential because in that book we see not only his atonement with the Vistani but also the removal of his curse. Now that he has atoned with the Vistani in general, it's time for VR to make up for all the lives lost in his place due to the curse that was placed on him. He sacrifices his life so that the other souls may be free and so that he may undo the evils he helped unleash upon the world. Ultimately, this is perhaps the only way his soul may be free as well.


That's an interesting point, I had not considered that his lost companions were his victims, or at least, the victims of his actions and would require atonement.

I had always seen VRGttV as something of a weak reveal, with regards the van richten metaplot, IIRC I'm not sure if the curse was ever explicitly stated before then, and the tour of the tasques just seemed a little anticlimactic as an end to a great career, remembering that he is incapable of much by the events of BH.

I get that, in some ways VRGttV is a set-up for BH, and the passive "happy" ending is the calm before the storm. But, from an exposition point of view, the cliffhanger ending created by the defeat to Drigor is more useful in my campaign.

I kinda wish that VRGttV had been the penultimate guide, as it's resolution is neither "tragic" or "triumphant", but it is still a useful resource, though a little too heavy on the "somethings aren't meant to be known" for my personal taste.


Tue Jan 19, 2016 7:11 pm
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