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Hour of the Knife (2e)
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Hour of the Knife (2e)

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A madman stalks the fog-shrouded streets of Paridon, killing with gruesome precision - and always at midnight.

A party of brave adventurers witnesses the most recent of these brutal murders. Now that they've seen the killer's face, they're sure to be his next targets.

Who can be trusted in this city where the residents are not what they appear to be?

Those who dare to track the killer will find strange allies -and even stranger enemies. The adventurers must investigate the ancient mystery behind the murders that take place when the clock strikes the "Hour of the Knife."

The adventure is based on the popular RPGA Network tournament by Bruce Nesmith.

Product History

"Hour of the Knife" (1994), by Bruce Nesmith and Lisa Smedman, is the fourteenth Ravenloft adventure. It was published in September 1994.

About the Cover. The cover to "Hour of the Knife" is shockingly modern. It shows what appears to be a Victorian gentleman in a bowler hat skulking about an alleyway. It's a good representative of the adventure, and a sign that D&D was entering a different time.

Continuing the Ravenloft Adventures. Following the release of the Ravenloft Campaign Setting (1994), the Ravenloft line began a second era of publication that would feature more adventures than ever. From 1990-1994, adventures had comprised almost half of the line, but now they were almost two-thirds of the total Ravenloft> publications. Thus, it's no surprise that the second new adventure, "Hour of the Knife", appeared just a month after the first, "The Awakening" (1994). There would be many more in the next two years.
Origins. "Hour of the Knife" started life as an RPGA Network tournament adventure written by Bruce Nesmith. There, it was one of many RPGA Ravenloft adventures that were run throughout the '90s. They would later be supplemented by the Gothic Earth "Living Death" RPGA campaign (1996-2007).

Adventure Tropes. Pure investigation adventures are somewhat rare in D&D, but they'd occasionally appeared starting in the early '80s; early examples include N1: "Against The Cult of the Reptile God" (1982), L2: "The Assassin's Knot" (1983), and N3: "Destiny of Kings" (1986). "Hour of the Knife" confronts the adventurers with a series of murders and gives GMs lists of clues and NPCs that they'll need to run the non-linear plot.

After a bit of a right-hand turn halfway through the adventure, "Hour of the Knife" becomes a more traditional macguffin quest, but it still maintains its open-ended style of play thanks to events that keep players on their toes.

This is all played out against an atmosphere of horror and paranoia that makes good use of the Ravenloft setting; players are probably even driven to go on the run from overpowering forces during the course of the adventure — a real change from the heroic tropes common to more traditional D&D games.

Adventure Tropes: And Then They Woke Up. The Ravenloft line was fond of abruptly and surprisingly killing off PCs — usually to resurrect them either in a different form, in service to a particular foe, or both. RQ3: "From the Shadows" (1992), RM2: "The Created" (1993), and "Adam's Wrath" (1994) were all past examples of this trope. "Hour of the Knife" repeats it, offering a small bit of railroad in an otherwise open adventure.

Expanding Ravenloft. "Hour of the Knife" was the first supplement to take an extensive look at the domain of Zherisia. The entire adventure takes place in the city of Paridon, which had expanded to fill the entirety of the domain of Zherisia during the Grand Conjunction. The use of Zherisia explains the surprising cover of "Hour of the Knife", because Paridon is essentially a Victorian London deposited in the demiplane of Ravenloft.

Monsters of Note. "Hour of the Knife" is the Jack the Ripper adventure for the Ravenloft line, fulfilling a promise from Ravenloft; Realm of Terror (1990), which told of "frequent and grisly murders, which are committed with a surgical blade."

However, it's also the doppelganger adventure; it introduces the "Ravenloft doppelganger", a monster that's more effective and aunthetic in its mimicry than its lesser cousin — which is exactly the sort of thing you need in a horror adventure focusing on suspense and paranoia.

NPCs of Note. As was frequently the case in Ravenloft adventures, one of the main actors in "Hour of the Knife" is a domain lord: Sodo, the doppelganger ruler of Zherisia. He's changed a bit from his original conception, as he no longer commits murders with a knife as suggested by Realm of Terror; instead, his appearance here is consistent with the updated descriptions of the Ravenloft Campaign Setting.

Future History. The Ravenloft line kept with its modern theme of Victorian horror throughout the rest of the year. First, it presented its Gothic Earth masterpiece, Masque of the Red Death and Other Tales (1994), then it turned back to the main Ravenloft line with the publication of "Howls in the Night" (1994) — an adventure based on Arthur Conan Doyle's The Hound of the Baskervilles (1902).

About the Creators. Nesmith wrote the original RPGA adventure for "Hour of the Knife", which was then brought to the tabletop by Smedman, TSR's most prolific Ravenloft adventure writer at the time.

About the Product Historian

The history of this product was researched and written by Shannon Appelcline, the editor-in-chief of RPGnet and the author of Designers & Dragons - a history of the roleplaying industry told one company at a time. Please feel free to mail corrections, comments, and additions to shannon.appelcline@gmail.com.

 
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Colin P December 09, 2016 4:31 pm UTC
PURCHASER
I love this mod, but like many of these old scans, it is missing the poster map (of the city of Paridon). I really wish WotC would revisit and add them back in.
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Silver seller
Pages
70
Edition
1.0
Publisher Stock #
TSR 9456
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File Last Updated:
August 12, 2019
This title was added to our catalog on July 29, 2014.