Posted in Dungeons & Dragons Online

Guest Post: DDO Mists of Ravenloft review (part 2)

Today’s guest post is from DDOCentral’s Matt, who wanted to give Bio Break’s readership a deeper look into Dungeons and Dragons Online’s newest expansion. Check out part one here. Thanks Matt!

Dungeons and Dragons Online (DDO) released its third paid expansion on December 6th, 2017 titled Mists of Ravenloft. The two previous paid expansions for DDO are Shadowfell Conspiracy, released on August 19th, 2013, and Menace of the Underdark, released on June 25th, 2012. These earlier expansions are placed in tabletop Dungeons and Dragons’ most famous campaign setting, Ed Greenwood’s Forgotten Realms.

Mists of Ravenloft explores the popular Gothic horror-themed Ravenloft D&D campaign world created by Tracy and Laura Hickman and the vampire Count Strahd von Zarovich’s domain Barovia on the Demiplane of Dread within that world.

This article is the second in a series of three articles on Mists of Ravenloft, the latest addition to DDO’s growing multiverse. The article will review the content of the expansion’s twelve quests, eleven of which are divided into three multi-quest story-arcs, as well as the Favor and Saga achievement systems that bind all twelve quests together. The third and final article will conclude the series with a review of Mists of Ravenloft’s two raids.

Into the Mists

The quest ‘Into the Mists’ is the only stand-alone quest in the expansion and must be completed first to unlock the rest of the expansion’s content. A mysterious portal appears in both House Jorasco on the Eberron side and in Eveningstar Village on the Forgotten Realms side of the DDO game world. The party is drawn into the portal’s Mists and find themselves in a strange forest unlike that known anywhere in the realms familiar to the characters. Howling wolves can be heard off in the distance and a dead body recently drained of its blood is quickly found by the side of the road leading through the dank woods.

The desiccated corpse is clutching a crumpled letter from the Burgomaster of Barovia, Kolyan Indirovich, that relates that his adopted daughter, Ireena Kolyana, has been bitten by a Vampyr and is now slowly dying from this “unholy wound.” The letter goes on to ask that the Land of Barovia be permanently sealed off by the symbols of good so that the Vampyr may be contained and hence the world saved from the same evil fate.

The party then finds a grievously injured but still fighting solder down the same road, slaying a pack of slavering wolves. The soldier tells the party that he is a Revenant; in life, an oath-bound knight of the Barovian Order of the Silver Dragon, but now in undeath sworn to continue to oppose the vampire Count Strahd von Zarovich. The Revenant reveals to the party that the Mists brought them here and that the Land of Barovia lies beyond the gate in the wall to the west.

This massive iron gate is the only way to enter Barovia’s territory. As the choke point to Barovia, the gate is a trap for those Strahd brings to his Domain of Dread. The party must first thin the ranks of the creatures serving Strahd in the forest – wolf packs, Will-o’-Wisps, and guardian Scarecrows – before exiting and making their way to the Village of Barovia on the other side of the gate.

In the Shadow of the Castle

The first of the three story-arcs in the Mists of Ravenloft expansion is ‘In the Shadow of the Castle.’ Each of the three story-arcs needs to be finished in succession of one another. The final quest in each of the story arcs requires that players first complete the preceding quests in the arc. A bonus end reward is granted to characters in the party for completing each story arc.

The three quests in the ‘In the Shadow of the Castle’ story arc are found in the Village of Barovia and its immediate environs: ‘Death House’ is bestowed by Magdelena the Curious in the streets of the village, ‘Fresh-baked Dreams’ by Aglaya Karushkin outside the Old Bonegrinder windmill in the Land of Barovia explorer area, and ‘An Invitation to Dinner’ by Ismark Kolyanovich, Ireena Kolyana’s brother, in the Blood on the Vine Tavern public area. Speaking to NPC Ireena Kolyana in the Blood on the Vine starts this story arc.

When the party approaches Magdelena in front of one of the old stately homes lining the streets of the village, she tells the characters that two young children just ran inside the house. This wouldn’t be unusual except that no one has lived in the house for many, many years.

Upon entering the Death House, the party hears the voice of a young girl speak to them, asking the party to find the two children. Throughout the floors of the house, notes are distributed as an Optional objective that explain the quest’s backstory. Once the party reaches the attic they find out what happened to the children and once the party reaches the basement, they find the house’s current monstrous occupant.

A party wandering through the village of Barovia will encounter several NPCs who are “dream pie addicts” as well as an old woman selling pastries from a cart. Dream pies are an edible narcotic that is consumed by the depressed, impoverished Barovian villagers to escape their dreary existences as the pies produce pleasing hallucinations in the eater.

If questioned in the Blood on the Vine, Ireena Kolyana mentions that a brother and sister named Valentina and Alek disappeared yesterday near the Old Bonegrinder mill outside the village. Speaking to the Vistani guide in front of the tavern transports the party to their Aunt Aglaya Karushkin and their dream pie-addicted uncle Korga. Aunt Aglaya confirms that the siblings went missing the previous day after visiting the mill with Uncle Korga and then asks the party to find the vanished duo.

After questioning Old Morgantha who lives in the mill and makes the dream pies with her two daughters, the party must explore the rugged, wooded area nearby for clues to the whereabouts of Aunt Aglaya’s charges. The party learns the fate of Valentina and Alek as well as the secret ingredient in the dream pies that makes them so addicting.

With the completion of Death House and Fresh-Baked Dreams, Ireena asks her brother Ismark Kolyanovich to show the party an invitation that he has been keeping for them. The invitation is from Count Strahd von Zarovich to join him for a feast at Castle Ravenloft, the palatial dwelling dominating the skyline above the village. The party has proven their worth to the community, so Ireena and Ismark believe that the party may be the ones who can finally defeat Strahd and save Ireena from becoming his undead bride.

The party enter the immense foyer to the Castle and see Madam Eva, the Vistana fortuneteller, standing before the double doors leading to the Castle’s dining hall. Madam Eva offers to read the party their fortune from her Tarokka Deck of clairvoyant’s cards. Depending on the cards drawn by Madam Eva, the location of the dungeon objectives and the final dungeon completion requirement will differ for each run of this quest. There are seven possible combinations of Tarokka cards.

The doors open, and the party are greeted by Rahadin, the Count’s chamberlain. Rahadin requests that the party meet the Count for a friendly introduction over dinner. However, the encounter fails to go as ostensibly planned and the party find themselves in a duel of wits with the Count, plotting to escape the Castle with the holy Icon of Ravenloft. This treasure is hidden somewhere among the Castle’s many floors, rooms, and labyrinthine corridors. Once the Icon has been seized and the other objectives as determined by Madame Eva’s Tarokka Deck are satisfied, the party may leave Castle Ravenloft and return to the village of Barovia to begin the second story-arc.

The Vampire Hunters

Ireena now asks the party to travel to the Town of Vallaki and speak with the famed vampire hunter Rudolph van Richten at the Blue Water Inn. Vallaki is also the home of the Keepers of the Feather Patron, Urwin Martikov who administers the Favor reward system for the expansion’s quests and raids. A mysterious secret society devoted to protecting the Land of Barovia, the Keepers of the Feather are one of the few groups known to oppose Count Strahd von Zarovich.

Dr. Van Richten introduces himself to the party and mentions that they have already met his protégé, an NPC whom the party encountered during the ‘An Invitation to Dinner’ quest in the first story arc, Ezmerelda d’Avenir. Van Richten then bestows the second story-arc on the party, ‘The Vampire Hunters,’ that includes the following quests: ‘Oath of Vengeance’ , ‘A Raven at the Door’, ‘A Mad Tea Party’, and ‘Sealed in Amber’. The quest-givers for each of the four quests are located near the respective quest entrances.

Van Richten indicates the party should meet Zigmund Kovalev, one of the Keepers of the Feather, outside Argynvostholt in the mountainous Barovian hinterlands. Argynvostholt was once the fortressed manor headquarters of the knightly Order of the Silver Dragon but is now abandoned and decrepit as Strahd decimated the Order and its draconic leader centuries ago. However, the knights of the Order remain oath-bound to fight Strahd and do so even in death, as Revenants.

The party finds Zigmund Kovalev standing outside the seemingly deserted Argynvostholt, a large stone statute of a silver dragon displayed prominently in its front courtyard. Zigmund wishes that the gigantic skull of the Order’s doyen be returned to the deathless chief of the Revenants, Vladimir Horngaard, and presents Strahd’s former war trophy to the party. The Keepers of the Feather expect that if the skull is returned to the Order, they will once again light Argynvostholt’s beacon – a sign of hope to the Land of Barovia and a reminder of its glory days of legend.

The party must unlock a series of switches and doors in the manor house to locate Vladimir Horngaard deep inside his inner chamber, who is none to cooperative once found. Argynvost’s troubled spirit still dwells within Argynvostholt, and can only be put to rest by placing his skull within the dragon’s mausoleum found on the manor grounds.

‘A Raven at the Door’ begins back at the Blue Water Inn. Van Richten asks the party to return to Castle Ravenloft after visiting in the first story-arc, but this time speak to Oksana Cantemir outside in the Castle grounds. Oksana’s son, Yesper, is a Wereraven and has gone missing in Castle Ravenloft after seeking an unknown object of value within its walls. Both mother and son are members of the Keepers of the Feather and seek to help find a way to destroy Strahd.

The party must again find its way through the winding staircases and tower rooms of Castle Ravenloft, with clues left behind by Yesper the Raven concerning his fate. The quest takes several odd twists in the journey to recover Yesper and his unknown treasure, even introducing the Potion of Gaseous Form from tabletop D&D as a DDO quest mechanic for the first time. The party should defeat the Sisters of Strahd witches’ coven and then unlock the Castle Treasury which holds the Tome of Strahd.

Once back in Vallaki, Van Richten tells the party that there is a rumor Strahd is about to make an indirect play for power on their community and that Jirko Lukresh knows more about this gossip. The party meets Jirko in town and he tells them that Lady Fiona Wachter is having Baron Vargas Vallakovich over for her weekly tea party.

Baron Vallakovich is the Burgomaster of Vallaki and a sworn enemy of Strahd, while Lady Wachter is a blood relative of the Zarovich family and considers herself an ally of the Count. The sudden meeting of these two nobles after years of tensions between them is all the stranger considering these facts. Lady Wachter has issued an open invitation for this week’s tea party to the region’s nobility as well as outsiders. Jirko asks that the party get to the bottom of this intrigue and determine what subterfuge Lady Wachter may have planned at Wachterhaus.

What follows is a cat-and-mouse game that plays out in Lady Wachter’s manor home, involving secret passageways, color-coded metal keys, enchanted mirrors, missing servants, mad relatives, a diabolical “book club,” and plots within plots. The party can decide whether to betray Lady Wachter, Baron Vallakovich, or both!

The fourth and final quest in the second story-arc brings the party to the remote Tsolenka Pass in the Barovian mountains. Van Richten suspects that the Dusk Elf Kasimir Velikov harbors his own plans against Strahd and wants the party to learn what those plans may be. The party greets Kasimir at the mouth of an ancient temple and he asks that they follow him inside. Madame Eva is waiting for the adventurers and reads their fortune yet again, hinting at the hiding place of the Holy Symbol of Ravenkind. Once found in the Amber Temple, the Symbol of Ravenkind can be used as a weapon in the fight against Strahd.

The ornate, arabesque doors of pure amber leading to the Temple’s many chambers are magically sealed and can only be unlocked with cryptic phrases hidden on parchments found throughout the enormous structure. The walls of the Temple are lined with the sarcophagi of entombed wizards, waiting for intruders; Amber Golem guardians shield the Temple’s secret treasures from robbers and interlopers. The location of the Symbol of Ravenkind will be different depending on the single card drawn by Madame Eva at the start of the quest and may require exploring the entire temple’s multiple floors to locate it.

The Light of the Land

With the Holy Symbol of Ravenkind in hand, the party travel to van Richten’s Tower on Lake Baratok in the northwest where the final four quests in the third story-arc are bestowed by Ezmerelda D’Avenir, the apprentice vampire hunter. The four quests in ‘The Light of the Land’ story-arc are as follows: ‘The Final Vintage’, ‘Wrath of the Earth’, ‘Ravens’ Bane’, and ‘Sunrise’. The coming showdown with Strahd quickly approaches.

Ezmerelda reveals to the party that she has found records of a weapon known as the Sunsword which may be kept at The Abbey of Saint Markovia. As a sentient, good-aligned weapon, the Sunsword’s special purpose is to destroy Strahd von Zarovich. Ireena Kolyana had previously left for the Abbey at the beginning of the second story-arc, but has not returned since and the Abbey is now closed to visitors as new shipments of wine stopped arriving months ago.

Ezmerelda asks that the party seek out the Wizard of Wines vineyard west of Vallaki and question Davian Martikov, the winery owner, as to why the wine shipments to the Abbey ceased.

Davian tells the party that evil Druids from Yester Hill and their monstrous allies have attacked the winery and stolen the last of the Martikov family’s magic gems. The gems were previously buried in the soil of the vineyard and provided the family’s grapes with a sparkling, sunlit flavor which made the wines extraordinary to those who drank them. Davian says that his daughter, Stefania, is still in the winery and is trying to come up with an antidote to the Druids’ poisons that now contaminate the winery’s storage vats.

The party must search the winery and its cellar for the ingredients to the antidote and then purify the Martikov family’s remaining stores of wine. Along the way, many Druids and their humanoid plant creatures attempt to thwart the party in its mission.

Ezmerelda tells the party that she knows one of the Martikov family’s gems was stolen by the Druids of Yester Hill, which rests at the very edge of Strahd’s domain. The party is to go to the Druids’ hilltop lair and attempt to recover the purloined gem. The Strahd-worshipping Druids can be heard chanting from among the standing stones high on the hilltop and the quest-giver Grilsha Targolova urges the party to stop their vile ritual and retrieve the magical gem.

The final encounter in the quest is a confrontation with the Archdruid and his unnatural summons brought forth from the barren soil near Castle Ravenloft. The party finds the stolen gem hidden inside a towering wooden effigy of the Count, mounted on a broad tree stump overlooking the Druids’ place of adoration.

After getting back the first gem from Yester Hill, Ezmerelda tells the party that she knows the whereabouts of the second stolen gem. Ezmerelda and the Keepers of the Feather have tracked the remaining gem to the ruined village of Berez, having been taken there by the wicked crone Baba Lysaga. The abandoned village rests by banks of the Luna River and is stalked by Baba Lysaga’s Scarecrow constructs, so recovering the gem will be perilous.

The party meets Muriel Vinshaw at the gates of the Ruins of Berez and she warns them that several Wereraven scouts have been captured by Baba Lysaga and need to be rescued. Long ago, Count Strahd flooded the defiant villagers using his supernatural control of the Barovian lands; what remains of the village today is surrounded by a fetid swamp and shelters the magically-warded home of the Hag Baba Lysaga. The party finds the second gem inside Baba Lysaga’s Hut which – it turns out – has a life of its own.

The denouement of this tale of vampires and vampire hunters takes place at the Abbey of Saint Markovia. Ezmerelda greets the party one final time at van Richten’s Tower and asks them to find Ireena Kolyana at the entrance to the Abbey. Ireena should be there waiting for our heroes, anticipating the recovery of the venerable Sunsword which may be hidden somewhere within the Abbey’s walls. Ezmerelda promises to follow soon after and will meet the party inside the Abbey.

Upon meeting her in front of the Abbey’s imposing doorway, Ireena tells the party of a vision she had of a man who may have been Strahd’s long-dead brother, Sergei. The man brandished a glowing sword in his hands, which was almost definitely the legendary Sunsword. In this dream, he was standing beside a small pond within the Abbey’s perimeter, at the Shrine of the White Sun.

Ireena beseeches the party to find the Abbot and convince him to let the party (and subsequently Ireena) into the Shrine of the White Sun, but not before locating the Sunsword. Ireena can then confirm that this place is the scene of her strange premonition and help solve the riddle of the missing Sunsword.

The Abbey is guarded by the Belview family, a servant clan of the Abbot’s who the party later learn have become twisted and insane from years of horrid experiments intended to “improve” them. Once inside, the party finds the Abbot in his chapel and inquire about the Sunsword’s whereabouts. The Abbot dismisses the Sunsword as a myth, but requests that the party tour the Abbey and return to him once they are done exploring its environs.

The party finds an inert Sunsword buried on the Abbey grounds, lacking the solar intensity witnessed by Ireena in her dream. After delving the depths of the Abbey’s underground passageways, the party step into a bright light and the outdoor area encompassing the Shrine of the White Sun. Ireena and Ezmerelda both appear, as does…Strahd!

After a pitched battle, Strahd is driven off and the Sunsword is reinvigorated by Sergei’s ghostly presence, setting the stage for the capstone raid at Castle Ravenloft, The Curse of Strahd. Ireena Kolyana is now beyond Strahd’s grasp, at least for the time being. But don’t forget about the Abbot, he has something to show the party…

Saga and Favor Systems

Once all three story arcs have been completed by the party, they may visit Livius Lanston at the Blood on the Vine Tavern to receive the Saga bonuses for completion of the entire pre-raid Ravenloft story. The DDO Saga system rewards players above what is offered for individual quest or raid completions and is dependent on specific story arcs being finished. There are separate Heroic and Epic Sagas for the Ravenloft content, each with different reward options.

Each quest and raid in the Ravenloft expansion also grants Favor to the players, the amount of which depends on the difficulty at which the content is completed. Urwin Martikov, the previously mentioned Keepers of the Feather Patron, offers a variety of gifts for the players’ efforts in a backroom at the Blue Water Inn, including unlocking the Vistani Universal Enhancement Tree for knife fighters upon achieving a high-level Favor tier.

Classic Horror Revisited

When first playing through the three successive story arcs, one discerns how much old storytelling ground is made fresh again with these twelve quests. Not only do the Ravenloft expansion quests adhere faithfully to the pencil and paper D&D source material from Wizards of the Coast’s Curse of Strahd adventure, the quests also touch upon many of the prominent tropes found in the vampire and other horror literary and film genres. From Dracula to The Wolf Man to the classic Hammer studio films, the mood and atmosphere of these quests are an unmistakable homage to the kinds of worlds horror fans have come to love.

Many of the quests contain random elements which will allow solo players, pug parties, and Guild static groups many hours of replay, with numerous quest optionals to explore – no two runs of a quest may be exactly alike. Madam Eva follows the party throughout the story, appearing at the beginning of certain quests to determine their fates with her Tarokka Deck which then change the quests’ objectives. Madam Eva makes her last appearance before The Curse of Strahd raid which, along with the Baba Lysaga raid Old Baba’s Hut, will be the topic of the third and final article in this series.

2 thoughts on “Guest Post: DDO Mists of Ravenloft review (part 2)

  1. Good review. Just on my second run through with new characters. Good replayabiity certainly adds value. I just wish there was a heroic version of the raids. Level 30 raiding is not in my near future.

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