As the Ravenloft: Mist Hunters series of adventures are published, we're chatting with the designers to learn more about their writing process, their experiences working in the Domains of Dread, and more! Today we hear from Casper Kirketerp-Helenius. He is the designer of the sixth adventure in the Mist Hunters series, RMH-05 Unexpected Hospitality.
Can you share a brief synopsis of the adventure in your own words?
The characters are sent on a trip to a well-known - to some players - area, Barovia, to track down another lost group of adventurers. As it is dangerous to go into Barovia alone, the party get a little help from a new friend to carry along. In Barovia, the characters must struggle to find their feet in this unknown territory while searching for clues as to what might have happened to the other party. The investigation takes the party cross country, before leaving them at the gates of RMH-06, so to speak, as RMH-05 is the first of a two-parter.
What does your writing process look like?
I consider myself very "craftsman-like" as a writer, having settled on a method that works well for me. I have a plan I work from - the Snowflake-method - which usually takes me home without too many unforeseen bumps in the road. I start out with a very short summary of the story, containing the direct path for the players, start to finish in no more than ten-twelve sentences. The summary is then extended into around a two to three page outline, which is then broken into the parts we know from D&D modules: Call to Action, Parts 1 through X and the Conclusion. From there, it's just a matter of picking up each section and filling in the blanks, adding some surprises and painting all the details. Once the story is done, all the outside fluff goes into place, handouts, monster stats, maps, etc. I am very much a B or even C type of person, so I mainly write in the evening or during the night. Inspiration comes - like for so many others - from strange places, but do not underestimate the power of the shower's running water.
Did any media influence your Mist Hunters adventure?
Maybe not directly, but I have certainly - both for the Mist Hunters module but also in general - listened in on the discussions in the TTRPG community for the past few years, around inclusivity and diversity, and I always try to have a broad, welcoming palette to work with when I write. The world is a horrible place at the moment as whole, very well suited for the terrors of Ravenloft, but for Mist Hunter I found plenty of horror in the setting itself and in memories from my time visiting Barovia myself as a player.
Is there anything you'd include in a "director's cut" of this adventure, or anything that didn't make it past editing?
Yes. I've always liked the gloomy, unsettling feeling that lays like a veil over Barovia. This inspired the story of an angel - who is still in the module - trying desperately to return to her rightful plane. Over the years she spent in Barovia, she searched high and low to find ways of reverting her getting sucked into Barovia, and nothing would hold her back. She lures this innocent, young man from the local village into falling in love with her, only to sacrifice him in a rite in the woods at night, of course to no avail. This side quest, called Love Birds, unfortunately did not make it through editing for reason I fully respect. However, I might include it loosely at my own tables when running Mist Hunters.
What Domain of Dread (from Van Richten’s Guide to Ravenloft or imagined) would you like most to visit?
I have a knack for the Carnival. Perhaps it's the childhood scares from the clowns or maybe the mysterious tents, with wonderful whiffs of exotic foods, where only a thin slit in the door allows you to peek into the unknown, maybe something delightful, maybe something terrifying. Who knows? Now, I know it's not canon to the official lore, but I really like to think of The Carvinal as the Dread domain's - an Upside-Down - version of The Witchlight Carvinal. And maybe, just maybe, one of the tents contains a portal from one domain to the other.