Deep beneath the foundation stones of Castle Avernus, Azalin the lich hatches his plots. The grand conjunction is coming, when all the lands and lords of Ravenloft will be set free upon the realms of man. Azalin does not intend to let this oppurtunity slip by. All he needs are a few deadies. Fortunately, there is a party of adventurers nearby....
This is the first of two adventures that feature Azalin the lich and Strahd von Zarovich in their eternal conflict. This module contains complete floorplans for Azalin's dark home, Castle Avernus.
From the Shadows will take characters to places they've never been before - places spoken of only in hushed whispers and terrifying legends.
RQ3: "From the Shadows" (1992), by Bruce Nesmith, is the sixth Ravenloft adventure. It was published in October 1992.
Continuing the Ravenloft Adventures. "From the Shadows" was the third Ravenloft adventure published in 1992. At the time, TSR was switching their adventure codes every calendar year, rather than keeping them in tune with any arcs or stories. As a result, "From the Shadows" was also the third "RQ" adventure for 1992 and would be followed by new "RM" adventures in 1993.
Plotting Along. Ravenloft took a break from the Grand Conjunction metaplot with the publication of RQ2: "Thoughts of Darkness" (1992), but RQ3: "From the Shadows" continued on as the fifth part of the series that had previously spanned RA1: "Feast of Goblyns" (1990), RA2: "Ship of Horror" (1991), RA3: "Touch of Death" (1991), and RQ1: "Night of the Walking Dead" (1992).
"From the Shadows" was also where the metaplot got serious. The first two parts of the metaplot were originally unconnected adventures, then the second two parts were linked only by a prophetic poem. "From the Shadows" finally explains what's going on: the lich Azalin is trying to create a Grand Conjunction where the domains of Ravenloft will return to other worlds … and more importantly where a single dark lord might win free of the demiplane. "From the Shadows" also puts that plot in action, as Azalin weakens the demiplane by stealing an ancient artifact from Caste Ravenloft. It's what's required for the Grand Conjunction to occur!
The Hyskosa prophecy that was at the heart of the previous adventures also makes an important return in "From the Shadows"; the players get to meet Hyskosa himself, and finally learn the entirety of the prophecy. That includes the missing sixth verse, which describes this adventure:
The bodiless shall journey to the time beforeWhere happiness to hate creates land and lore.
This describes how the PCs are beheaded then thrust back through time.
The adventure ends with the actual occurrence of the Grand Conjunction, which leads to the final adventure in the sequence, RM1: "Roots of Evil" (1993).
Adventuring Tropes. "From the Shadows" starts with a rather surprising encounter where everyone is killed! In later years this sort of thing would become a clichéd trope in Ravenloft adventures, but for now it was a shocking (albeit, scripted) beginning.
The rest of the early adventure is event-based, but it includes one rather innovative bit of adventure design: Azalin sends the PCs back in time to the wedding of Strahd at Castle Ravenloft. There, they must steal an artifact in a limited amount of time. If they fail, they're sent back to the Castle again and again — not only repeating the same events, but also getting to see the results of their previous trips! It's an inspired bit of whimsy unlike anything seen before in an AD&D adventure.
The tail end of the adventure moves from events to delves, in the form of an extensive trek through Castle Avernus that's reminiscent of the adventure through Castle Ravenloft in I6: "Ravenloft" (1983). After that, events return, to properly set things on the path for the next adventure!
Expanding Ravenloft. "From the Shadows" is the first Ravenloft book to provide an extensive look at Azalin's domain of Darkon. Most of the focus is on Castle Avernus, which gets room by room descriptions, but there's some description of surrounding lands too.
Castle Ravenloft also gets a slight amount of attention, but there are better sources for that infamous dwelling.
NPCs of Note. Azalin comes center stage in "From the Shadows" as the mastermind behind the Grand Conjunction plot. Players tour his castle and his domain, while the GM learns more about Azalin himself — including the fact that he's from the World of Greyhawk, something previously unknown. At the end of "From the Shadows", Azalin is absorbed into his phylactery, which will free him from his domain.
The Headless Horseman from RR1: "Darklords" (1991) is also briefly featured, as a PC-killing antagonist.
About the Creators. Nesmith continued to be one of the more influential Ravenloft authors throughout the early '90s. His previous credits included Ravenloft: Realm of Terror (1990), RR1: "Darklords" (1991), RA3: "Touch of Death" (1992), and Forbidden Lore (1992) while he'd go on to produce a final few adventures in the next few years.
About the Product Historian
This history of this product was researched and written by Shannon Appelcline, 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.