Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Strahd Von Valentines Day

In honor of Valentines Day I'd like to talk about a subject most near and dear to my heart, my unrequited love for Ravenloft and all things Strahd Von Zarovich!

On the Dead Games Society podcast #38 we talk a little about the tragic romance that is Strahd Von Zarovich's origin story.

In the original AD&D Ravenloft adventure from 1983, known among collectors as "I6," we are introduced to a most cunning Vampire Lord that harries the Player Characters throughout their journeys within the Transylvania-like realm of Barovia. The villagers name him as "The Devil Strahd," and that he lives in the mysterious castle that perches above the village like a waiting vulture. This mysterious Strahd expertly performs guerilla-like attacks on the PCs as they travel and camp at night, striking only once or twice before fading back into the shadows. Eventually the PC's may explore Castle Ravenloft and find Strahd's personal journal, wherein he describes in his own hand (and point of view) how he came to become obsessed with his younger brother's fiance as well as his own creeping mortality, and made a pact with some dark entity to the blood-drinking master of Ravenloft.


"With words she called me “brother,” but when I looked into her eyes they reflected another name – “death.” It was the death of the aged that she saw in me. She loved her youth and enjoyed it. But I had squandered mine. The death she saw in me turned her from me. And so I came to hate death, my death. My hate is very strong: I would not be called “death” so soon. I made a pact with Vol, a pact of Blood. On the day of the wedding, I killed Sergei, my brother. My pact was sealed with his blood, his…divinity.
I found Taryana weeping in the garden east of the Chapel. She fled from me. She would not let me explain, and a great anger swelled within me. She had to understand the pact I made for her! I pursued her. Finally, in despair, she flung herself from the walls of Ravenloft and I watched everything I ever wanted fall from my grasp forever."

-Tome of Strahd

During the adventure, the PCs are tasked with protecting Ireena Kolyana from Strahd's affections (who he sees as the reincarnation of Tatyana). He constantly tries to separate her from the PCs and whisk her away to Castle Ravenloft to woo her into loving him. However he thinks the best way to do that is to charm a PC into attacking her and then swooping in to destroy that PC in front of her. He's not a super lovey-dovey dude. Based on that diary passage above, I don't think the Strahd fall from grace is about love so much as obsession with her youthfulness and rebelling against his encroaching mortality. When Strahd says that he "Loves" Tatyana (Ireena), its really more about his obsession with her youthfulness and carefree life. Love is reciprocal and pleasant, Obsession is more one-sided and lustful. I think it could be argued that obsession may be a stronger emotion than Love, and I don't think Love is really a power that would create vampires, after all. So when Strahd is chasing after the PCs in I6 and trying to capture Ireena, I think he subconsciously understands this lost cause, and knows that she will never actually love him, no matter how much he whines about it. He doesn't expect to actually get her. He simply desires a justification to feel persecuted again, to be perceived as a martyr as much as possible. Of course, once he achieves that goal of being rejected and again proving the injustice of "love", he'll he'll happily rip the rest of the party to shreds. Happy Valentine's!

So that's a bit of my take on Strahd's personality, but developing your own understanding of Strahd's motivation is key to playing him as interestingly as possible if you dare take your players through the original I6: Ravenloft.

You can listen to me ramble on and on about how much I love Ravenloft (with tangential references to Valentines Day) on the DGS Podcast #38!


Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Cedar Rapids Comic Con

I'll be giving a presentation about Crowdfunding your own Boardgame at Cedar Rapids Comic Con this Saturday at noon! Come on down to CRCC if you love costumes, comics, sci-fi, and discussions about accrual-based funding dynamics. Shazam!


Tuesday, January 31, 2017

World Building on DGS Podcast #37

In Dead Games Society Podcast #37, DGS Chad and I talk about what Out-of-Print RPGs and miniature wargames we're running at this upcoming GaryCon (Battletech and Starship Troopers! w00t!), and then move into discussing World Building (especially building your own world within an established setting) with the historical details that help you more confidentially improvise and react to player actions while running your RPGs!


Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Delving through Undermountain on DGS #36!

Welcome one and all to the Yawning Portal! Grab your iron rations, silver mirrors, and tinderboxes because it’s time to descend into the dreaded Undermountain! 

We’re talking convention-gaming Undermountain, that is. On episode of the DGS Podcast I take the DGS mic on a solo adventure down into the cold dark to explore the depths to which one can go when creating conventions based around old-school Megadungeons. I interview Brando of the annual megadungeon-themed convention Brandonomicon, and we discuss hyper-deadly Undermountain, Ropers, Twitch-style technical setups for multi-room gaming, making mystic treasure props and cards for the players, side-betting on adventurer deaths, dungeon-themed geocaching, and for some reason, pizza roll eating contests! (Plus a special return edition of the Vorpal Chainsword Quizblast!)


Thursday, December 8, 2016

Cyberpunk 2013 RPG on DGS#34

Lo-Teks, prepare to download!

This week on the Dead Games Society Podcast we discuss the old-school RPG Cyberpunk 2013 (yes, the hyper-deadly edition that came before Cyberpunk 2020). I interview Digital Dungeon Master Chad Parish (who runs Cyberpunk 2013 regularly at Cons) about the game and what its like to take mirrorshaded players into a world set in the distant dystopian future of Two-Thousand and Thirteen! We also discuss Chad's fantastic answer to the ever-problematic Cyberpunk RPG question of (be it Shadowrun, Cyberpunk20XX, or other): "What do you do with all the meatspace mercenary characters while the one hacker player just wants to keep surfing the matrix?"


Of course his solution is based on Neuromancer. Of course!

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

TMNT and Other Strangeness RPG - DGS#33

Recently had a discussion with the rpg necromancers Chad Parish and David Bauter over at the Dead Games Society about the old Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles RPG that was done by Palladium back in the ancient days of nineteen-eighty-sev-oh-my-god-I'm-so-old!

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

GameholeCon recap - Dead Games Society Podcast #32


Recently joined forces with the nefarious necromancer Chad Parish of the DGS to talk gamin'! Come on over to the lair of the Dead Game Society to hear a couple of world-weary but wizened DMs dissect how last weekend's Gamehole Con went in DGS Podcast #32!