Castle Ravenloft – The Metroidvania Megadungeon

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Two weeks ago, Castlevania premiered on Netflix. This animated series is based on the classic video game franchise of the same name, specifically Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse.  I’ve already watched it fives times, so I think it’s safe to say I enjoyed it. The voice acting is solid, the animation good, the action entertaining, and the handling of Dracula is rather intriguing. I just wish it was longer than four episodes.

The Castlevania franchise has always held a special place in my horror-loving heart, especially that iconic theme. I find myself quietly humming it to myself whenever I’m exploring a dungeon. I can remember the hours I’d spend sitting in front of the television, my chubby hands wrapped tightly around a NES controller, slaying monsters while traversing Dracula’s enormous castle, trying to not get too angry when I died for the millionth time.

While watching Castlevania, I had a spark of inspiration. How cool would it be to run a Dungeons & Dragons campaign based on the franchise. The players would enter an ancient castle under the dominion of a vampiric lord, a castle that is gigantic in size, encountering various different monsters along the way.

Why not take the material presented in Curse of Strahd and turn his castle into a Metroidvania-style megadungeon?

First, I’d probably do away with a majority of the story elements presented within the module. Don’t get me wrong, the story’s good, but wouldn’t be the best fit for what I have in mind. I’d mostly be using the maps, the information on Barovia so the players could have a home base to retreat to in times of crisis, and the stats for Strahd himself.

The biggest addition I’d have to make is increasing the size of the castle itself. The castle would become the center point  of the campaign, and I’d want to elevate it to a true megadungeon, one that gives the players a great deal of freedom to explore at their own pace. I’d use the material that already exists for Castle Ravenloft as a solid foundation, expanding upon it, making it something utterly massive. Something that would feel right at home in a Castlevania game.

I’d also borrow a lot of the creatures from the games because it would be absolutely criminal not to do so. I would be a piss-poor DM if I didn’t take this opportunity to use something as awesomely creepy as the Granfalloon, or not include at least one encounter with the Grim Reaper. Plus a flying Medusa head or two for good measure.

I’d probably take a few of the story elements from Curse of Strahd, mostly the stuff with his reincarnating lover, and the aspect from Castlevania about Dracula returning every 100 years. Probably keep it simple, with the gates to Castle Ravenloft mysteriously opening every century as Strahd awakens from his deep slumber to hopefully find his beloved once again, sending his minions out into the countryside to search for her.

This gives me a number of hooks to lead the players to the castle, from the altruistic in slaying a dangerous vampire to save Barovia to the greedy wishing to simply claim the treasures that must surely be hidden within that big castle.

This idea is still pretty rough, mostly because I’m still without a regular group, giving me all the time I need to flesh this out further. Feel free to take this idea for yourself & run with it. I think it’d be a blast to play/run.

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