Just finished the playthrough of One Night Strahd. Delightful adventure that tells what will happen if you turn on the New Game + mode in Strahd. Suitable for those who see Ravenloft for the first time, and those who have already played (or DMed!). The difficulty is very high, but what else can you expect from a castle that literally wants to kill you?
The adventure does a great job of getting players to waste their characters' resources, and it doesn't do so through a series of boring fights. Any events - the exploration, the social part, and the fillers combats - are closed behind a series of checks, which can sometimes be replaced by spending health/slots/items/inspiration (which is given out very generously just in this case), and not forcing players to scratch their heads where they should go for hours, or to tackle their enemies until one side runs out of health. Each encounter has detailed results of success, including partial, and failure, and each result leads to something, and does not make you stagnate, like saying, «well, you didn’t succeed».
Characters do not level up, remaining at the sixth level throughout the game. But they develop horizontally, finding magic items and allies. After death they reincarnate: either a new character moves into their old body, or their soul receives a new shell. One way or another, the accumulated things remain with the player, so death here is normal and almost not scary.
Also, One Night Strahd is very nicely written from the point of view of the DM. Each meeting is spelled out down to the smallest detail. Here is the history and relationships of this NPC, here is a clear list of enemies and magic items in this location, here is a flowchart of how the enemy will behave in this particular battle (and for another it will be different). Some pages of the adventure can be shared with the players so that they themselves make up, for example, an algorithm for their trip through part of the castle (rather than simply bashing every door of it).
The design deserves special praise. To work on ONS, the authors hired Evangeline Gallagher, and, surprisingly, her style fit into the adventure very cool, forcing it to play with new colors (red and black). During the game, I wanted to show every illustration, and there are a lot of them.
And since the adventure is modular, I, as a master, managed to «close» only about a third of the content for myself, so there is a reason to play the adventure at least a couple more times, or even more. Fortunately, your playthrough can fit in four or five sessions. Maybe more, but you can easily cut some things if the adventure doesn't explicitely tell you that you can't.
We enjoyed One Night Strahd immensely, and I hope you will find it great, too. And remember: this place is trying to kill you.
[5 of 5 Stars!]