The Grand Conjunction has come to pass!
As a result, the lords of Ravenloft have broken through the Mists and escaped into the Prime Material Plane. Bit by bit, monsters of the demiplane of dread are following behind. And in the midst of all, Azalin the Lich and Strahd von Zarovich a power game - a game with deadly stakes, most notably the player characters' lives. Unless the adventurers act quickly, death will be the least of their troubles!
This is the second of two adventures that feature Azalin and Strahd von Zarovich in their endless conflict. As a sequel to From the Shadows, this module gives the player characters an oppurtunity to atone for the evil they unwittingly caused as pawns of Azalin. The culmination of a six-part series of adventures dealing with the Grand Conjunction, Roots of Evil gives the player characters an oppurtunity to literally save the universe (as well as themselves!).
Until the dark powers recapture the lords of Ravenloft, no place is safe....
RM1: "Roots of Evil" (1993), by Eric Haddock and David Wise, is the seventh Ravenloft adventure. It was published in April 1993.
Continuing the Ravenloft Adventures. In the early '90s, TSR didn't like to publish supplement with high-numbered module codes because they thought it hurt sales. Thus in 1993 they rebooted their Ravenloft adventure numbering for the second time, replacing the "RA" and "RQ" codes of previous years with "RM" — which could have stood for "Ravenloft Missions" or "Ravenloft Modules". This was especially confusing because "RM1", the first adventure for the new code, is also the sixth adventure in the Grand Conjunction metaplot!
Plotting Along. "Roots of Evil" is the final adventure in a six-part metaplot. The previous adventures, in level order, are: RQ1: "Night of the Walking Dead" (1992), RA3: "Touch of Death" (1991), RA1: "Feast of Goblyns" (1990), RA2: "Ship of Horror" (1992), and RQ3: "From the Shadows" (1992).
The metaplot only got serious with the fifth part, RQ3: "From the Shadows", which detailed how the lich Azalin was bringing about the Grand Conjunction to free himself from Ravenloft. With the Grand Conjunction in full ascension as "Roots of Evil" begins, the many domains of Ravenloft have been scattered to the winds.
There's one twist to all of this. The fifth couplet of Hyskosa's Hexad, which predicted the Conjunction, was never fulfilled:
Inajira will his fortunes reverse,
And all shall live with dreaded curse.
The completion of this couplet is a focus of this new adventure, though there's disagreement whether accomplishing it after the fact will strengthen the Conjunction or end it.
The metaplot comes to a conclusion over the course of "Roots of Evil": Ravenloft is briefly destroyed, but then knitted back together, with all the lords back in their prisons. It seems that there are no lasting repercussions … but Ravenloft Campaign Setting (1994) would use the Grand Conjunction as the explanation for a number of changes to the demiplane of Ravenloft.
Adventuring Tropes. Like many second edition (1989-2000) adventures, "Roots of Evil" is a heavily plotted scenario. It also uses one of the favorite plot tropes of the time: a battle between multiple powerful entities, with the PCs caught in the middle. To be precise, "Roots of Evil" is about the fight between the lich Azalin, the vampire Strahd, and the daemon Inajira. Though this sort of plot has the potential to sideline PCs, "Roots of Evil" does its best to make the players front and center by leaving the crucial tasks to them while the NPCs pointlessly fight and bicker.
The first half of "Roots of Evil" is an event-based scenario where players jump from encounter to encounter — including a trip back through time, though with less agency than the similar journey in RQ3: "From the Shadows" (1992). Despite that, there's opportunity for player choice — particularly in interactions with NPCs, which in a few cases are cleverly laid out with long lists of questions that the NPCs might answer.
The low-point of the adventure's events is probably the tarokka reading. Oracular card readings had been used to great effect in previous adventures like I6: "Ravenloft" (1983) and RA3: "Touch of Death" (1991), which organically adjusted themselves based on the readings. "Roots of Evil" instead tells the GM to stack the deck!
The second half of the adventure returns to D&D's classic strengths, including a visit to a town and a large-scale dungeon crawl through Azalin's Crypt-Lair.
The Product Tie-In. "Roots of Evil" ties in to the Forbidden Lore (1992) boxed set, making use of both the rules for the Tarokka and Strahd's "Nova Arcanum".
Expanding Ravenloft. "Roots of Evil" doesn't actually take place in Ravenloft! Instead, it returns to the prime material land of Barovia, last seen in I6: "Ravenloft" (1983). Castle Ravenloft and the village of Vallaki are both detailed, and these details could be used for Strahd's domain in Ravenloft as well.
NPCs of Note. "Roots of Evil" is all about the NPCs Azalin, Inajira, and Strahd. It adds details to Strahd's background by returning him to his home and also by introducing Inajira, with whom he made a pact in far-gone times. The arcanaloth Inajira himself appears for the first time.
About the Creators. Haddock made his publishing debut with this adventure. He would also contribute to Elminster's Ecologies (1994), but most of his work has been editorial. Wise was a slightly more experienced Ravenloft writer, having authored RQ2: "Thoughts of Darkness" (1992) the previous year. He'd go on to write a few more supplements for TSR and Wizards of the Coast over the next several years.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.