From the pages of the past! Horror from yesteryear – Ravenloft: Stone Prophet

Ravenloft: Stone Prophet 1995

This would be the last time that SSI would publish a Ravenloft licensed game. This ad art was also once again courtesy of TSR’s vast collection of assets making it look fantastic.

Published only for DOS PCs in 1995 by SSI, a year after Ravenloft: Strahd’s Possession, this CD-ROM only sequel took players once more into TSR’s gothic horror themed setting. This time, into the desert realm of Har’Akir.

Ravenloft was TSR’s attempt at a horror campaign setting taking place in the Demiplane of Dread that acts as a sort of cosmic prison for Very Cursed People®. Imagine Dracula, the Wolfman, the Mummy, Dr. Frankenstein, and a traditional AD&D lich all in one place but separated and imprisoned within the lands they knew in life, and that’s Ravenloft in a nutshell. The setting is named after the castle of Strahd von Zarovich, the “Dracula” of this setting and something of the face for the kind of subtle terror TSR was attempting to ply pen-and-paper mavens with as an alternative to quests for loot in dwarven tunnels or overthrowing nasty nobles.

Har’Akir, in this case, is the ancient Egyptian-styled land that Ankhtepot once called home when it was a part of whatever world he came from — and before he was cursed by Ra for his blasphemous attempts at immortality. Forever wandering about as an undead mummy of terrifying power, the curse dragged him and the land surrounding his tomb to the Demiplane of Dread, trapping him and those the curse dragged along with him into perpetual imprisonment. It might not have been fair to the guy taking the long way home past his tomb that night, but that’s how the “unseen powers” of the Demiplane work.

So how did the players get there? In the last game, they helped a man named Lord Dhelt of Elturel recover a powerful amulet while escaping from Barovia, Strahd von Zarovich’s corner of the Demiplane of Dread. Now a strange shimmering wall of light has been sighted nearby while on patrol for said lord, and through it, a desert can be seen along with a woman dragging herself towards you clearly in need of help. Of course, being decent folk, you rush through the wall only to find yourself in a desert land with no way back. So it’s also time to find a way home from this mess. Again.

Unfortunately, the inhabitants that you meet are less than happy to see you, but they’re the only ones that can help out.

The game sports much improved visuals and music over its predecessor thanks to its exclusive release on CD-ROM. The designers had apparently made the most of it and it shows in the presentation of the screenshots above and from the game itself. Mechanics-wise, the game isn’t that much different from Strahd’s Possession. It’s still a first-person dungeon crawler, though you’re also more free to explore Har’Akir and get slaughtered on your own time.

It still uses the AD&D 2ed rules in describing its classes, races, statistics, Vancian spell system, and monsters, so players familiar with the first Ravenloft game won’t feel lost here. And just like in Strahd’s, players can only create two characters on starting the game and have to find the other two as NPCs wandering around in the new world they’ve arrived in. Or they can import their saved characters to make things just a tad easier. Automapping, now a staple of CRPGs, is also part of the game just as it was last time.

One interesting thing that the game does a bit differently is the use of water. As Har’Akir is a desert waste, water is a valuable resource that the party has to keep on them at all times to survive it. “Good judgement” points are also key to getting through the game and are earned by doing certain deeds and side quests that are helpful.

The problem with this setup is that a key clue is locked away in the game and not having enough “good judgment” can prevent players from getting to it. So it’s entirely possible to screw up your game by not paying enough attention to this, something that the documentation doesn’t exactly come clean with…and which few other games balance so important an element on because of how fatally flawed it can be.

Another neat thing the game did and which few, if any, other CRPGs did was throw the main baddie into your face fairly early. Ankhtepot will kill your party regardless of how tough they might be in-game. He also tends to wander about near his tomb and will come after you like the desert scourge that he’s feared as. The only alternative is to run for your life making him something like the juggernaut that never dies in Capcom’s Resident Evil: Nemesis. He gets his comeuppance, though, making for something of a different take on what a villain can do in a game other than be the ultimate beat down target.

Stone Prophet never came out on digital distribution, either, much like Strahd’s Possession. Both exist in the grey limbo of being abandonware today. This was also the last first-person CRPG to come out based on the Ravenloft setting. An interesting take on the horror genre in CRPG form, Stone Prophet wasn’t a bad game — especially if you were a fan of AD&D’s take on terror.

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One response to “From the pages of the past! Horror from yesteryear – Ravenloft: Stone Prophet

  1. Pingback: From the ads of the past, CRPGs of yesteryear – Lands of Lore II: Guardians of Destiny | World 1-1·

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