A classic module, a decent PDF release, a disappointing print edition
(As of 6 Feb 2018)
About the PDF: The PDF release comes with two files, both presenting the same book in slightly different ways. "9075_Ravenloft.PDF" (the "printable" version) is a faithful and unaltered scan of the original book, admittedly in quite low resolution, accurately showing the original text and typography. This will delight collectors and historians. Unfortunately, the formatting of the original book doesn't lend itself to a readable scan, with the use of light grey ink for text, and some pages showing black text on a grey background. This version has useful PDF-format bookmarks, but is not searchable. Maps in this version are broken down into A4 pages with white gutters, which suits an A4 printing but is not quite faithful to their original presentation.
Conversely, "DDI_I6_Ravenloft" is an edited scan, with the original text replaced by a searchable transcription. This version replaces the original light grey typography with a darker, more readable version, making the whole book significantly more usable in its digital form, although sadly the bookmarking was not included in this version. The maps here are presented in their correct asepct ratios as single images.
Both versions feature scanner alignment issues throughout, making many pages slightly skewed off true vertical. This could creatively be said to fit the "wrongness" of the Ravenloft setting, but it's a niggling issue which will annoy many customers. Both versions have colour covers and colour maps.
About the Print On Demand (PoD): The Softcover Color Book (Standard Heavyweight) is outwardly a gorgeous product that will look good on a shelf, with a disappointing interior. The physical object is the same width along the bottom edge as the original module but is about a centimetre taller than original. (In my printing that represents an additional centimetre at the top of the cover, extending the orange banner, but on the interior pages the extra centimetre is at the bottom of the page, appearing as white gutter.) This makes it a comparable size to the 1E/2E core books and will fit flush on the same shelf. The cover is a beautiful full-colour glossy print on thin card that feels very faithful to the quality and texture of the original book. The perfect binding creates a thin true spine (unlike the original module which merely came to a point) but, both in keeping with the original and the thinness of the volume, there is no name or other printing on the spine, merely a continuation of the wraparound cover.
This is a 40-page perfect bound single volume. (I.e., the interior portion is NOT detachable the way the original module was.) Maps are included in colour at the rear of the book but are again NOT detachable. Customers are advised to include the PDF in their purchase and print their own maps from that. The PoD print is based on the "printable" PDF described above, which is perhaps unfortunate, as the low resolution is clearly visible and combines with the light weighting of the original font to give the whole book a "1990s home printer" feel. Text looks faded and blurry. Full page black and white images have visible printing artefacts where the printing has struggled to keep up with the colour density. Most buyers could probably achieve a better result on their home printer or by photocopying the original module. Maps at the rear appear to be coloured faithfully to the original book but again have a very unprofessional look. The problems of the black text on grey background pages are even more pronounced, and in addition these pages do not have the full bleed effect of the original book and instead have white gutters.
Overall it's adequate to run the adventure from, and a little easier to safely store than the original module, but collectors will still probably want to get their hands on the original
About the module content: Ravenloft is an absolute classic, by the standards of AD&D 1E, although perhaps not by today's measure. It departs from the standard 1E adventure in several important ways - it's true gothic horror, it makes excellent use of its villain throughout the module and not just as a final boss fight, it's relatively sandboxy, and key plot points are randomised to keep players who already know something about the content on their toes. In addition to all that, the villain, Count Strahd von Zarevich, went on to be a D&D icon, featured in many adventures up until the modern day, and the module spawned its own setting, Ravenloft, heavily supported in the 2nd Edition era and frequently referenced thereafter.
By today's standards it's a little lacking. The conflict is heavily rooted in the relationship between one NPC and another NPC, rather than, say, an NPC and the players. It has all the weird idiosyncracies of the 1E rules. And for all the sandbox feel, at the end of the day it IS a dungeon crawl. Still, it's easily one of the best official adventures of the 1E era and is hard to go past for anyone wanting to play with that ruleset.
The module is tuned for 6 to 8 1E characters of levels 5 to 7. A reasonably experienced GM could easily use this content with 2E, 3E or 5E, although of course those editions have their own remakes or interpretations of this material.
[4 of 5 Stars!]