What I Learned from Castle Ravenloft (probably not what you're thinking)

I mean, the WotC board game.

I play in a couple of tabletop 4e campaigns. Last night, I got five of our 4e players together to play the Castle Ravenloft boardgame. None of them had played it before and I had only played the first solo 'adventure' that comes with the boardgame. And as we were playing CR (the board game), and LOVE-LOVE-LOVING IT, an uncomfortable question lingered in my mind:

Why are we having so much more fun playing this boardgame than we usually do with our RPG?

Anyone else have a similar experience?

Now here goes my feeble attempt at analyzing this:

1) The game was FAST. FAST FAST FAST. (4e combat, though I love it, is fairly SLOW). The entire game was over, awesome, and done in about 90 minutes. The typical 'combat' in CR took one minute, not one hour.

2) The game felt DANGEROUS. You were constantly under attack from something, whether a monster, a trap, an event, or a boss. It was intense. 0 hps were a very real possibility and with 0 hps came real consequences.

3) We got a lot of RANDOMLY GENERATED treasure that often helped us RIGHT AWAY. Treasures weren't items that maybe we'd use once every month, treasures were cool and FUN (or, alternately, not that useful, but that's what happens with randomly generated treasure--ironically, that's what makes randomly generated treasure fun).

4) There was a clear OBJECTIVE for the 'adventure,' with a definition of failure and a definition of success, and either possibility seemed equally possible. Compare that with a typical 4e game session, where success and survival can feel 95+% likely.

5) INSTANT REWARDS. Kill a monster, get a treasure card and XP. It makes me wonder if characters in RPGs ought to get instant random bonuses that can be used during the current encounter (or in the future), because that was fun and it really made you look forward to killing stuff.

6) SELFLESS TEAMWORK. The victory condition was a group objective. You were all in it together, period. If one character made it to 0 hps without any more surges, everyone loses. The sense of comraderie was a real high.

7) Every character felt important, fairly awesome, and fun to play (this is something I think 4e gets right). 

8) Despite #7, each character was very simple and could be 'rolled up' in a minute or less. Maybe there should be more quick-build or pregen options with RPGs (even though I love taking my time with creating a new RPG character).

Of course, the boardgame had very little story or RP, but man we had a lot of fun in a very short period of time. I don't know how much an RPG can borrow from some of the things I mentioned above. Maybe an RPG is just a very different sort of beast. But it made me realize that our RPG experience needs to be made more FUN. Maybe we need more:

Speed, danger, randomness, clear and difficult objectives, instant rewards, selfless teamwork, awesome abilities, and fun.

Disclaimer: I do not often speak in ALL CAPS. But something about the boardgame brought them out in me. Cool

 
I agree with just about everything you said. Infact we play all 3 games, and mix and match them.


I feel it is what a basic 4e lite should look like. 

Before posting, ask yourself WWWS: What Would Wrecan Say?

Yeah, I reeeaaally want to try it out, but I'm in Beijing and haven't seen the game around at the cafes here :/

If there is one, could you point me to a really detailed review, or is there a preview copy to peruse?

How was movement handled? How were classes differentiated? How did the dungeon deck work out? How is monster AI done?
Yeah, I reeeaaally want to try it out, but I'm in Beijing and haven't seen the game around at the cafes here :/

If there is one, could you point me to a really detailed review, or is there a preview copy to peruse?

How was movement handled? How were classes differentiated? How did the dungeon deck work out? How is monster AI done?

WatchItPlayed is a Youtube channel that has a very detailed playthrough of Wrath of Ashardalon with rules discussions, Q&A, etc. If you want a detailed description of what the game is like and how it plays, I can really recommend it.
Ogre, this won't answer all of your questions, but here's the rulebook.
I agree that Castle Ravenloft very much is what I hoped 4e would be. It's combat and creation mechanics are top tier.


Only two changes to Castle Ravenloft/Wrath of Ardshadalan/Drizzt would make them perfect for me:


1. The ability to name your own character.
2. The ability to string the story of your adventures together between dungeon excursions. (Any kind of benefit or reward or "earning boosts" mechanic would work there.)      
Stick some Mordheim in there, pawning loot, getting new info and all that.

Thanks for the rules, it was an interesting read. How do the powers differ between classes?
Stick some Mordheim in there, pawning loot, getting new info and all that.

Thanks for the rules, it was an interesting read. How do the powers differ between classes?



I think they're different enough. They follow the names of 4e powers (i.e. the Fighter has Cleave, the Cleric has Lance of Faith), with at-wills, utilities (which are daily), and dailies. The powers are similar to 4e, but often mechanically very different.