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Yanecky's picture
The Castle
explorers society

If you are one of the 250+ people who purchased "The Castle", can you please share your thoughts about it? In short, is it any good? Any why yes, why not? Does it provide interesting consequences/opportunities for sequences and risks? Most importantly, is the overall story engaging and rewarding?

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Rob Justice
Rob Justice's picture

If you are one of the 250+ people who purchased "The Castle", can you please share your thoughts about it? In short, is it any good?

I think so.

Any why yes, why not?

I might not be the best, more objective, person to answer that question...

Does it provide interesting consequences/opportunities for sequences and risks?

Yeah, I think there are a few neat uses of consequences & opportunities. Like with the Bandits at the River scene or the Dinner Guests scene.

Most importantly, is the overall story engaging and rewarding?

The "story" is written pretty modularly, the GM decides the direction of the narrative based on four presented paths, picks which scenes they think will help move the story in that direction best for their players, and then has three presented goals to wrap up the story with. While there is some advice for tying everything together, the answer to "is the story engaging and rewarding" can be found more on how the GM uses the tools they are given than any text in the PDF.

Yanecky's picture

The Castle is an excellent adventure. Each stage/step is made of several steps and you can make the adventure you want: more action, less action, more horror/less horror, choose the ending you want – the tools are there, just pick and go.

It’s not perfect – there are minor typos, and there could be more consequences/opportunities for each scene and reminders about the scene overall importance: For example there is a library, which is the key location for most of the approaches. The text could remind us that, for example „if you decided that you want to lift the curse, the library offers this and that pieces of information.”

But these are minor things, and an experienced GM can manage easily.

It took us 5 hours to complete and I rushed the ending a bit, since the group decided to fight the Villain. Using all the scenes it can be easily stretched to probably 8 hours, and with bare bones (4 scenes should do it) – down to 3 or 4.

As such, it is much, much better as a starting adventure than “The Caliberi Letters” for one fundamental reason: the story it tells has a beginning and an end, therefore is much more meaningful for the players than the Letters (which is really and intro to a much larger story and players don’t care about its conclusion). If you’re wondering which of the two you should get – get this one.

Rob Justice
Rob Justice's picture

Thank you so much for your kind words! I'm freaking thrilled that anyone would think my adventure is better (in any way) than the one written by John. Especially since The Castle was the first professional adventure I've ever written. 

Carlo Lope
Carlo Lope's picture

No need to be so humble!

One of the main differences between The Caliberi Letters and the Castle is that, like Yanecky said, your adventure has a beginning and an end. However, they way I understood the adventure, you are given more than enough hooks to continue this adventure in the future, making it part of something greater. You offer both possibilities whereas The Caliberi Letters does not.

I don't think The Caliberi Letters is bad, mind you, and I truly love when I have a set of continuous adventures that fit together but, if I have to choose, I'd rather make the sequel myself if I'm given the tools instead of waiting for an official part 2 :P. That is just a matter of preference though.

Rob Justice
Rob Justice's picture

I remember having a conversation with JWP about designing Adventures and I was super against the Part 1 of 3 design structure. I thought Adventures should be like good movies, self-contained but able to build on a bigger whole. You can do a sequel, sure, but the adventure shouldn't require it. 

BluSponge blusp...
BluSponge blusponge@verizon.net's picture


I haven't run the Castle and am not likely too, since I've actively avoiding Eisen monster hunting with this game (after three years of Witch Hunter: The Invisible World).  But I really do applaud you for the way you put everything together.  The use of multiple endings (ala I4: Ravenloft) and the modular fashion you've presented things, so that every GM can tailor the adventure to be a unique experience, is a really good model.  I hope the rest of the crew take inspiration from that with future 7th Sea adventures.

Rob Justice
Rob Justice's picture

Ravenloft was a huge inspiration (obviously) for me so to be compared to it really makes me blush. 

Couple interesting facts.

When I was contracted by JWP part of my contact was to put together a framework for how adventures are designed for 7th Sea. I felt the modular nature was paramount in how 7th Sea adventures are framed, as the ruleset was designed to allow the players to play their story, I felt a "by the numbers" adventure was really counter-productive to the core of the game. I don't know if JWP will stick with that model, but I did turn in a framework document to the company on how to design adventures.

I totally hear you on the Eisen monster-hunter thing. When I first started writing I was designing a very Pirate-y adventure, drawing inspiration from the Savage World's 50 Fathoms design. A series of locations tied together with an overarching story that can be uncovered by visiting these places. But nixed it because I was sure other people would be writing Pirate-y adventures for 7th Sea. I didn't want to get lost in the crowd. Plus, I really really really like horror themes and found the Castle's design more inspirational to me.

If I could go back armed with the knowledge that my adventure would be the first out the door and not immediately followed, I would have done something a little more traditionally 7th Sea themed. Not to say I'm not super proud of The Castle or showing how the setting can stretch itself, but I'm just not sure it's what people wanted first out the gate.

BluSponge blusp...
BluSponge blusponge@verizon.net's picture

Well look at that.  Ravenloft AND 50 Fathoms as points of inspiration.  No wonder I like the format.  Deeply held secret: the climax for BOTH of my 1st edition campaigns (they were running in tandem) was going to be an adapted version of Ravenloft.  The main villain was chasing immortality and was dragging the heroes with him to the north sea to find an island that only appeared on special astronomical events.  He'd heard the secret of immortality could be found there.  No one was expecting it to be a vampire.  When one campaign closed down ahead of the goal, I planned to have some of those characters show up either as turned vampires or prisoners.  But the second (main) campaign closed maybe a session or two from the climax.  The lesson here, folks, is that gaming with your ex-girlfriend is a PITA.

I can see where the format might not work for some adventures.  But as the old school guy on these forums, I approve.  Now if only had some random encounters in it...  :D

I don't think it was a bad choice to go with monster hunting.  I think the changes in 2nd ed make Eisen a point of interest, and doing a big splashy adventure in there makes total sense.  Back in 2000, I would have been all over it.  This time, I'm running a high seas campaign after two 17th century monster hunting campaigns back to back.  So...bad timing.

Yanecky's picture

Okay, now that I have more time I'll share my warstories. I publish adventures myself (Cypher and DnD) so I know they're useful for writers.

The Heroes: Vesten ship captain, Castillian assassin (duelist), Montaignan ex-con (he was new, we had literally 5 minutes to make his char) and Olaf, a Vesten "warrior" who is not really a warrior (can't fight at all :D) , but looks like one and is great at lying and performing. 

The Hook: The captain is looking for "Allfather's Hammer" and learnt that a clue might be in the Castle. He met Manfred and the PCs and the NPCs go to the place. My changes: Manfred business is failing and he really, really needs the books from the library to continue. He and Jana keep this fact to themselves. Another major change I made was that the Baroness Influence had specific anchors: The undead knight, the feasting people, the snake and the ghostly ball. Dealing with each of these reduced her Influence by 1.

Scene 1: The PCs are a day away from the Castle and they see a thin line of smoke to the side, a side-trek of maybe 3 hours. After a short discussion Olaf and the Duelist go to investigate (Olaf also activates his Quirk: Curiosity). They find the bandits with prisoners. The duelist sneaks around and quietly rescues one villager. Olaf... Olfan turns up Perform dials and enters the camp openly, puffing and looking like a hero of old. He then convinces the entire group, the leader included to go to Vesten, because they're famous even there! He rolled 6 Raises and he succeeded. It was a really fun encouter and a great introduction of his character. Very film-like.

Scene 2: Later they camped in the fields, back on the way to the Castle. Battlefield Undead and meeting the Spectral Knight. Again, Olaf managed to convince him to leave them be, they also learnt that the Baroness lives or "lives" on the Castle. "Hey sir Knight, I'm taking them for your Baroness to feed on, let us go" "Ah, great, sure."

Scene 3: The crossroads. I did it mainly because I love dievai. Funnily, the moment they spotted the finger, they started to dig out the body.  Again, Olaf was at it, and searching the body, when the Dievai appeared (but only to him). Here, a description of the entity would be nice! I made it look like half man/half woman (divided along vertical axis and slightly misaligned). He offered his deal, but Olaf refused, so the magical compulsion effect followed. The Heroes resisted, they even stopped 2 NPCs. But not the thrid - and since the body was already out, Jana opened its eyes and the dievas hopped onto her. Into? Olaf wanted to kill her, the rest did not, it was tense and fun :) Jana survived and they continued on.

Scene 4: They enter the Castle first, through the front gate. First, they go to the dungeons (because Manfred mentioned somethign about treasures). They encounter the snake and after initial confusion it escapes, wounded, but almost killing Manfred and wounding a PC. Also: venomous, for a Danger Point, is pointless. Unless I'm using it wrong.

Scene 5: The Feast. The captain wants to investigate, the NPCs are with him, the rest of the PCs are not right under the door. The Captain opens the door and the hungry mob attacks. Both girls die, but the Captain saves Manfred, they close the doors. General WTF? ensues.

Scene 6: They get to the Library. Another fun encouter. Two PCs steal valuable books. Olaf asks Dagna to bring him the most expensive volume she has (which he later gives Manfred for a fraction of its value, earining a HP). The Captian finds his clue regarding his personal quest. At this point they don't really care about getting rid of the Baroness, but after they leave the Library and discuss going home, Manfred mentions his financial troubles and this library could be mined for treasures for years - if there is no Baroness around, of course.

Scene 7: The PCs go to the Ball and learn more about the baroness. The ex-con convinves 4 ghosts to bring more books from the library, so he can sell them later (because 1 book per 1 person). They "park" Manfred and the pile of books some distance from the Castle. Then then return to the Library and learn that the Baroness can be destroyed, or the curse lifted if they find a willing sacrifice. They decide that there are no willing sacrifices around (they havent been to the village or the church though) and decide that first they'll kill the feasting guests because they're doomed anyway and suffering.

Scene 8: The return to the feasting hall and attack. The Duelist fights, the captian shoots, Olaf stays back and pretends he's fighting and the ex-con hides. After 3/4 of the poor guests are dead, the Baroness teleports in and her 20 cultists from the church arrive via the corridor. Olaf and the ex-con block the door, Olaf getting ready to scare the cultists away. This was a good example of a situation where raw strength matters! You can;t hold the door with your finesse or panache :D. Meanwhile the duelist and the Baroness fight, the captain finishes off the brutes and starts loading his pistols. Finally, in a appropriately dramatic fashion, the Captain shoots the Baroness dead while being 1 wound from Helpless and she was ready to rip his heart out (and the Duelist was also almost down), and the Brutes managed to get in. It was an intense battle and a difficult one! We had a duelist in the group and it was still difficult, and the module suggests to make the Baroness tougher with a duelist present! I even made her weaker (by two points of influence, as explained above).

Finale: With the Baroness dead, the Castle begins to shake and everything falls down. The Heroes escape. 

I had to rush up at the end, because it was already 2 a.m (we started at 9 pm) and I didn't want to split the adventure into 2 sessions. Overall, as I said above it was fun to run and experience! Good job, Rob :)

Donovan Morningfire
Donovan Morningfire's picture

I'm another one of those that purchased it, so here's my take:

Is It Any Good?  If Yes, Why?
I think so.  It certainly gives the GM a lot of options to work with, not only in terms of which appraoch to use to introduce the Heroes into the adventure, but also in terms of what scenes to include and the overall direction of the plot, choosing whether the Villain is indeed a true monster to be slain or a tragic soul that can be freed/redeemed without bloodshed.  The adventure does give a number of suggested pathways that a GM can use, many of which suggest "anchor scenes" that really play into the pathway in question.

About the only possible downside is that the module is set in Eisen, and relies upon the horror/tragedy that was the War of the Cross as a large part of the backstory on why things are they way they are in the adventure, but with a little work it's possible to change some of those details and set the adventure in another nation, with Avalon perhaps being the easiest Nation to adapt the adventure's location to.

It's got a very Ravenloft feel to it (especially notable as my online group is currently playing Curse of Strahd), so it can be very dark and bleak, which isn't everyone's cup of tea.  I'd love to run this for said online group, but will probably have to wait as we're going to want to play something a bit more uplifting once we conclude CoS.

Another nice element is that given its modular nature, the GM can tailor the length of the adventure as needed, be it for a single session or having it last three to four sessions (though more than four is probably stretching things out longer than it should).

Does it provide interesting consequences/opportunities for sequences and risks?

Most importantly, is the overall story engaging and rewarding?
I think so, though again I've not had a chance to run or play it, but if your group is keen on dark themes and fighting literal monsters in a haunted setting, this should be right up their alley.  With my group, the fact we're playing in Ravenloft means running this anytime soon is going to make it feel like more of the same, but for other groups it should make for some fun entertainment that leaves your players feeling both accomplished and more than a little creeped out.

Dono's Gaming & Etc Blog

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