When you go looking for something fun to run for your Halloween D&D session, you haven’t much further to look than Ravenloft. The Domains of Terror are filled with ghosts, ghouls, monsters, and maniacs, all of them looking to horrify and entertain your players. And while there are 5e books that you can look through, you can also go looking through older materials to supplement.
One source that you can use is Dragon Magazine #174, published in October 1991. In particular, you can use its featured section, ‘Things that Go Bump in the Night’.
You can read the entirety of the article here: Dragon Magazine 174
The Ideas and Content of ‘Things that Go Bump in the Night’
‘Things that Go Bump in the Night’ is made up of 3 subarticles, each presenting new information, rules, and monsters that are tailor-made for a Ravenloft campaign.
Are You Having Bad Thoughts?
The first subarticle of ‘Things that Go Bump in the Night’ is ‘Are You Having Bad Thoughts?’, by Bruce Nesmith.
The demiplanes of Ravenloft are permeated by strange and powerful forces that warp and disturb arcane and divine magic alike. And their effects on the mortal mind are nothing to scoff at – allowing them to interfere with even the mental power of psionics. This subarticle goes through several lists of psionic abilities and effects, and the particular ways in which Ravenloft’s mists intervene.
Clairvoyance and clairaudience, for instance, put a spotlight on their user, making them vulnerable to attacks. Mind control abilities impose a strong temptation upon their user to take total control, subjecting whoever their target is to great cruelty. And of course, you can only bring people into Ravenloft – not even the most powerful psion can send someone out of the mists with their ability alone.
Out of the Mists
The second subarticle of ‘Things that Go Bump in the Night’ is ‘Out of the Mists’ by William W. Connors. This article introduces 3 new monsters that might appear in a Ravenloft campaign: Shadow Asps, Fenhounds, and Psionic Liches.
Shadow Asps are small but dangerous snakes of pure shadow, conjured and set to guard the tombs of powerful pharaohs in Har’akir. They strike quickly and silently, administering a dangerous toxin that turns a victim into a shadow themselves.
Fenhounds are large mastiffs that roam the wetlands of any Ravenloft domain. They trap and utilize the light and power of the full moon, giving them a sickly, pale aura, which terrifies any onlooker. And terrified they should be, since Fenhounds are as ferocious as any wolfpack.
Psionic Liches are just what, and just as dangerous as, their name implies. While these beings look almost identical to normal liches (mummified, wizened men who have lived longer than they ought), they instead utilize psionic abilities to maintain their power, usually at the expense of those around them.
The third subarticle of ‘Things that Go Bump in the Night!’ is ‘Cry Wolf!’ by Tim Malto. It introduces 3 new wolf monsters that might appear in a Ravenloft campaign: Dread, Vampire, and Stone Wolves.
Dread Wolves are artificially created creatures first summoned by Galen Dracos of Krynn. These wolves are not natural animals, but the necromantic servants of powerful mages. They serve their masters loyally, and spread rot and disease through their bite.
Vampiric Wolves are undead wolves, combining the terror of both the lupine and the sanguine. They are created when evil clerics corrupt wolf pups, and have the ability to hypnotize and drink blood like any vampire.
Stone Wolves are animated stone statues that originally held the appearance of wolves. They do require the remains of a living wolf to create, and in doing so combine all the hunting prowess of a wolfpack with the defense and immutability of a golem.
Is This Article Still Relevant?
It depends. The second and third subarticles, with their monsters, are certainly still useful. They‘re super fun and interesting creatures to make use of! The first subarticle, however, is a little trickier. 5e does not currently have psions as a full class, just a few subclasses, so its contents will really only be useful if you happen to have some of those subclasses in play, or are using psionic homebrews.
How to Use this Content in a Current Campaign
It’s a simple matter to utilize this content in a modern-day campaign for Dungeons and Dragons. You can pretty much just drop the monsters into any Ravenloft or Forgotten Realms game (provided you alter them to 5e first). And if you’re open to using psionics, you can simply apply the psionic effects as an interesting new set of rules for your players to bump up against and discover.
None of the monsters exist in 5e as yet, so you’ll have your work cut out for you there. But I fully anticipate that it will be worth it – and not just for a Ravenloft campaign. Wolves, especially, are a common enough enemy that a fresh take on them in a campaign is always welcome.
And since psionic subclasses can be somewhat difficult to integrate into a gothic or horror campaign (darker forces, even among arcane and divine magic, are usually the go-to for tales of suspense), it helps to have a few ideas ready for how to integrate certain characters’ abilities into the atmosphere of the setting.
Are you planning a Ravenloft campaign? Have you ever considered implanting any of the monsters listed above, or any of the magic effects? If you have, how did they run? Let us know in the comments below!