Ravenloft: Mist Hunters Designer Interview: Steffie de Vaan

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 have the privilege of hearing from Steffie de Vaan. She is the designer of the twelfth stand-alone adventure in Mist Hunters, RMH-12 Beneath the New Star

Can you share a brief synopsis of the adventure in your own words?

Sure! Alanik Ray has caught on that Azalin Rex is planning something bad, so he sends the party to investigate. They make their way past a dead and destroyed Darkon, courtesy of Azalin’s ascension ritual, and a community of survivors. They also uncover a dark, personal secret from Azalin’s past. The second act takes them to the castle proper, which is suspended mid-explosion. I had a ton of fun writing that, it appealed to my sense of strange and haunted architecture.

What does your writing process look like?

I start with an outline. Break the adventure into scenes and summarize the notes each needs to hit like plot points and information the characters need to find. Then I don’t follow the outline. Or I do, loosely, but I adjust it as I go. Sometimes things work in broad strokes, but when you write it the character motivations don’t line up or the magic doesn’t work. Or I realize the party met an NPC in scene 1 who’d probably come back to aid or hinder them in scene 4. The outline keeps me pointed in the right direction, but I may take a different path to get there.

Did any media influence your Mist Hunters adventure?

I’m a huge consumer of horror in general so it’s probably a blend of things. The idea of a castle with shifting halls and rooms is very loosely inspired by the Haunting of Hill House, which is my hands-down favourite.

Is there anything you'd include in a "director's cut" of this adventure, or anything that didn't make it past editing?

I love cozy scenes. It balances the horror nicely and reminds the characters why they’re going through this hell—what waits back home. I had a scene early on where the characters have tea and home-baked goods at the Ray Agency and Travis cut most of it. The scene with Radaga was also longer because I love libraries and geeked out much too long about classification systems. Cutting them was the right call—not all groups like that sort of thing—but I’m putting them back in for my home game.

What Domain of Dread (from Van Richten’s Guide to Ravenloft or imagined) would you like most to visit?

Myself, a normal human with no powers and bad eyesight: none. ‘Cause I’ve seen that movie and I know how it ends. But if I were a bard or a hexblood: Tempest because folkloric horror is my passion. I also love cosmic horror, but I feel like I could handle a hag while the vastness of space genuinely terrifies me.