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Circle of Darkness

Author: Drew Bittner
Type: Adventure
: 64 pages paperback, plus map
Release date: June 1995
: 5-7
Domain: G’Henna
Inside cover: map of domain.
Colour map: City of Zhukar; Temple of Zhakata; Wilderness encounter charts.



Charles Phips

Summary: An adventure module where PCs accidentally kill a Vistani woman and are sent by her curse into the starvation ridden domain to find her lost son. Over the course of the adventure, a powerful fiend will be released and they must choose whether or not to aid the Dark Lord or the luxury bringing incarnation of evil.

Circle of Darkness is an adventure that is absolutely spectacular. The problem with Circle of Darkness is the fact that G'henna really does not fit the theme of Ravenloft. G'henna makes an ideal domain in Dark Sun, Eberron's Mournlands or Demon Wastes, or even as a Seeker Priest near Tarsus in Dragonlance. However, starvation cults in the middle of a huge desert are more difficult to justify in the domains of Ravenloft. If you want to preserve the subtle mystery of Ravenloft, open tribes of Mongrelman created by miracles performed by Yagno are also a bit over the top as is a huge wizard's tower. Nevertheless, the domain of G'henna is beautifully well crafted and illustrated with Yagno's insanity making him one of the more pitable Darklords yet also no less evil. The adventure is also emotionally well developed and with many highs and lows.

The adventure opens with the railroading of the players with them accidentally causing the death of a Vistani woman and the mists to transport them to G'henna. I admit I used it and the players were on edge for hours due to the fact they'd broken a major Ravenloft taboo. However, I didn't use the "mists" of Ravenloft to transport the players but just said that the arid wastes of G'henna had been cut off from the rest of the Core by a series of natural disasters including Earthquakes, famine, blight, and plenty of more disasters that the Core just forgot about them.

The players dealt well with the idea of the "Weird" religion of G'henna and I did only a few minor tweaks to the surroundings to make them less fantastic and more European. I used the Quevarri for the first time in my game by making them a people that worship the Devourer and having offered up their 'sins' to happen all at once and thus native to the land. I also made the opposing sect to Zhakata actually worshippers of every other land surrounding the Core that were driven into Exile and Zhakata was a religion that more or less took over every other native Church in the region when Yagno came during the famine (which is not imagined, part of the land's curse in my write up is that there really IS a huge famine and Yagno chooses to make people starve to help alleviate it and has made it a religious offering so the people are enthused about killing themselves). Plus, I ditched the Re-animators that duel because frankly while cool..it's a distraction from the narrative.

The creep factor of the Mongrelmen, all religious folk themselves, and the fact the PCs were mostly "unbelievers" and non fanatics to any religion was a nice contrast and Rega is probably the only "normal" person with a healthy attitude towards faith (abet, he's of course evil). I drew a parrallel between the Mongrelmen and Lepers to make the work more patable. Having Rega die comically is something that probably shouldn't show up in a Ravenloft module but I'll be damned if it wasn't the best part of the Module.

The final confrontation with Malistroni was wonderful though and fairly Apocalyptical. The whole "random ending thing" that appeared in Bleak House is something that sucks though and I just chose an ending (Yagno destroys himself and the domain disappears-though I just had it absorbed into Tepest). This is one of the few occasions where the death of a fiend is justified and the confrontation is delightfully appropriate. You just need to be prepared to figure a way to get the players to flee at the start since mine wanted to fight Malistroni when he first freed himself.

4.5 Blood Drops, Great Adventure but needs "Tweaks" to be usable in a RL context.


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