Running the House of Lament

Game Master review

rpg dnd 5e

The D&D 5e book Van Richten's Guide to Ravenloft includes an adventure called House of Lament. Last year, I ran House of Lament as a side quest in an Expedition to Castle Ravenloft game. This is my review of the House of Lament module as a Game Master. It mirrors my review as a player.

Host characters

I had every intention of having no host character. I've never thought a host character was a good idea, so I intended to skip it altogether. Because this was a side quest in a larger Ravenloft game, I had Strahd himself deliver the quest to the players.

Strahd wanted the player characters to travel to the House of Lament and free it from its haunting. He told them he wanted this because he was trying to reform his evil ways. He was lying.

Instead, Theodora Halvrest was another previous incarnation of Tatiana. He needed the players to free her spirit from the house because he thought it was preventing Irina in Barovia from assuming her true identity.

That all worked perfectly. Until the players reached the house and entered from the top level. It didn't occur to me to just move the spirit board and other key components of the plot to the third floor, so when they started to spend too much time upstairs, I conjured up a host character and had him come fetch them.

Then I was stuck with a host character for the adventure, which annoyed the players as much as it annoyed me. In the end, it did all work out, though. The host ended up being Khazan (from Curse of Strahd) in disguise, and all the players but the player with the sunsword figured it out, so he got away.

Séances and spirit boards

Never again. It seems like a fun mechanic, but the séances were slow, cryptic, unhelpful, and confusing. If I ever run the module again, I'll skip the spirit board.

Plot threads

My players kept stumbling on elements of unrelated plots, and that caused them to follow false leads, which confused them more than the spirit board already had. In the end, I dropped all notion of how the haunting was supposed to be solved, and just followed the players' leads. I let them do all the things they decided made sense to free Theodora's spirit, and wrapped up the module.

House awakening

To keep things interesting, I had certain elements of the awakened house happen before the house was meant to awaken. That helped a lot.

House of fun

House of Lament is a pretty awkward adventure. I love a good haunted house adventure, though, and I think this adventure is packed with strong material. Here's what I'm doing next time.

  • Characters arrive. There's a host character there to provide details about the quest.
  • A séance is performed. One ghost possesses the host character and provides all three cryptic messages in the NPC's voice. After the final phrase has been uttered, the host keels over, dead. Should a player character cast a spell that allows speaking to with the dead, the NPC has no useful information about their own death. The NPC is unwilling to be resurrected.
  • Characters explore the house in an attempt to solve the ghostly clues.
  • When the adventure starts to lag, combat encounters from the post-awakened house section occur.
  • When the adventurers start to flounder, the ghost leaves additional clues as writing on mirrors or in tea leaves or dust.
  • Eventually, player characters invent some solution to the haunting. As long as it makes sense based on the clues they've received, it's the correct solution.
  • If the players seem to need a little more adventure once one ghost has been freed, a second ghost becomes enraged that one of its prisoner spirits has been released and attacks the player characters.

Just some ideas, and they haven't been playtested yet, but I think it'll be better than attempting to run this as written.

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