Thoughts on RAVENLOFT Masque of the Red Death setting, product MCA2, and sad news

I had a whole month to prep, and I used it all. I've got a large body of work over here, but I am happy with it all. It should give me time to figure things out. I've got many elements to it, it is layered nicely, but we'll have to see how it plays. It will definitely be a challenge for everyone at the table, a test of everything that we've learned so far. It has exploration, physical conflict, amazing treasure that will make things easier for the party, but not required to succeed if they miss it. A great mystery that should unfold nicely. I'm excited! I like this! I wish that I could play it, which is a really good sign.

Its been a couple of weeks since I've chatted you up, and I do have some stuff to say, so lets get to them!

I stumbled across an article about "Masque of the Red Death" (I didn't save it, and I no longer know where it is, but the writer summed Gothic Earth up to a simple game. Something that you play for a session or two and then beat it, like it is a video game, and this is so far from the truth that it annoyed me. Maybe I see something in it that others don't. I will admit that sometimes I get frustrated with it, because it can be very demanding,  the setting isn't complete in any way shape or form, if I get lazy it always shows, and because of the technology of the 1890's, the flow is different from sword and sorcery, and from time to time I'll admit that I miss that; But, this setting offers a lot more than fighting the Red Death, as a Dungeon Master who enjoys a more literary style, and as a huge fan of the Ravenloft Setting, this is the perfect medium for both. You aren't confined to the default AD&D setting in any way, it allows the DM and players the freedom to come up with their own mechanics, it excepts a very broad variety of styles, but in a challenging way that keeps things fun and spontaneous.  Things that players take for granted in standard fantasy are really tested here, it isn't just me that caters to the setting, and nurtures it, the players are actively doing it as well. We like the idea of turning all of the magic into rituals; giving it that occult feel. I expected the players to buck the system, but they don't. They see it as an additional challenge, and really put thought into using it.

Going into it with the expectation that you are going to save the world from the Red Death is akin to going into Forgotten Realms with the expectation of getting rid of the Red Wizards of Thay and expecting everything to be peachs and cream. The Red Death, to me, is more like Sauron in the Lord of the Rings, but worse, because the Red Death doesn't consolidate his power into a tower that you can storm, but what the two do share is that neither have an actual face. They aren't flesh and blood characters, they are horrifying ideas. One can't assault the Red Death. To whatever it is, even a 30th level wizard is a pawn on his game board.

As a DM, Masque of the Red Death allows me to really focus on, and properly showcase monsters found in the MM. Give them the perfect stage to really delve into what makes them tick. Up until we all sit around the table and I start describing the world, it is the monster that is the hero of the game. I really like that.

We are still playing Dungeons & Dragons, but with a lot more thought put into it than a fantasy game typically requires,  and for those of us who have a real appreciation for gothic horror, the setting allows us to get a lot of bang for our buck. It challenges us to rethink what table top role playing can be, but allows us to use a system that we are comfortable with. I've been playing this setting for many years now, and still don't think that I've scratched the surface of it's true potential.

I would gladly pit Masque against the other commercially successful settings that D&D offers, and point out that it is just as open and full of possibilities as any of them. I'm not sure why it didn't get the acclaim and attention that it deserved, perhaps it was just bad marketing or just to much of an indy kind of an idea for people. Those of us who did give it a shot absolutely love it! It was well worth learning the new mechanics and changes that it demands. On paper it does look barebones and incomplete, but once you get going it becomes apparent just how wonderfully different that this is, and how well it compares with similar products. I've played Call of Cuthulu, but I prefer this medium. It allows for more surprises and twists then CoC does, and since it is still Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, it offers much better support and idea generation.

Before closing, I would also like to make a retraction. Somebody, I'm sorry, I forgot who exactly, pointed out that the XP Calculator was updated in the Monstrous Compendium Annual Vol. II; a book that I have ignored for years as just more monsters that are more trouble than they are worth, but I after picking it up and looking at it, this book is moving off of the annex shelf and over to the main one. Not only does it have a great XP Calculator, but I find that the Random Encounters are much better than those found in the 1st Edition DMG, which I had been using and was never all that happy with. I completely forgot that that appendix was back there! It is also worth noting that rediscovering this appendix made my life much easier during my prep marathon, so thank you :)

The game starts on Saturday, wish me luck! Also a bit of sad news. Another player has lost a parent, a shout out to my brother Bigfoot. If you need anything, brother, we are here. Our thoughts are with you, always.


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