What became the Shadowfell Road campaign or the Tasque Elzeny campaign started as the Scions of Ravenloft campaign. I had planned it as a story arc campaign with the PCs as residents of the Village of Barovia. The PCs are all descendants of the heroes that slew Strahd von Zarovich and claimed his castle as their home base. I used the original 1E modules Castle Ravenloft and Ravenloft II: The House on Gryphon Hill and the 3E book Expedition to Castle Ravenloft as the basis for my setting. I blended the maps and placed the Village of Barovia on the northwest corner of Moytonia. I lifted places and names from Domains of Dread and A guide to Transylvania to create my own little fantasy version of Eastern Europe. The PCs were going to explore the world and ultimately learn why their ancestors (grandchildren and great-grandchildren of the original heroes) fled their ancestral home.
The PCs saved the River Witch from a pack of wolves. They cleansed her house of the ghost of her apprentice. They retrieved an item lost in ruins of Clearmoon Tower and had a run in with a wolfwere that would plague the Party for several levels. They explored a crypt that lead to the Necroverse. They saved Baba Zelena (grandmother of one of the PCs ). All was going well, but the Players grew restless and decided they wanted to be Sanderzani.
The background for Elzeny (my wife’s PC) included the fact that she had been a member of a Sanderzani Tasque (a traveling family group), but she left the Tasque when it came through Barovia, because her destiny lay there. Well, Christina and my other players became more interested in the idea of being Sanderzani and hitting the road, than the Ravenloft story arc. So, they designed a varda (the Sanderzani version of a Gypsy Vardo) and headed to the next nearest village.
I created the gypsy-styled Sanderzani back in college under 1E rules. Other than a few reoccurring NPCs, not much came of the Sanderzani until 3E. I ran a Sanderzani campaign in the late 2000s and had to expound upon the nature of the Rilmorn Gypsies. I had players that wanted to play different races and since I had just completed an elf-only campaign, I really didn’t want to limit the Players’ choices again. Thus the Sanderzani became the People of the True Name.
To be a Sanderzan, one had to be “Born to Tasque.” One had to have three adults within the Tasque willing to share his or her True Name with the Seeker. Any adult of any race could become a Sanderzan, if they could find three people willing to perform the Ritual of the True Name (an idea I took from Monte Cook’s Arcana Unearthed) with him or her. This worked great until 4E.
For 4E, we used the online Character Builder to level and advance the PCs. The Character Builder doesn’t have the Sanderzani and their soul kin rituals. The Builder, however, did have the Vistani and the Vistani Heritage feats. Those feats were tied to blood, not to naming rituals. So, I had to make a decision about what to do. I decided that there was a Sanderzani Tasque called Tasque Vistani. Unlike other Tasqes, Tasque Vistani was a Tasque of Blood, not a Tasque of Word. Thus the Vistani entered into the mythology and history of Rilmorn.
About the time Tasque Elzeny (each Tasque is named for its first captain) hit the road, I got a copy of the Neverwinter Campaign Setting. In the back of the book is a section on a road that weaves through the Shadowfell and connects Thay to Evernight (the shadow reflection of Neverwinter) and many places in-between. I decided to use the Shadowfell Road and link The House on Gryphon Hill to my version of Evernight/Neverwinter. I got the idea that if Tasque Elzeny could gain the deed to a place and had a member of the Tasque living there, then that place would become a stop on the Shadowfell Road. Tasque Elzeny could expand the Shadowfell Road as they explored the world.
Since that day, Tasque Elzeny has spent their time extending and defending the Shadowfell Road. The Players could not care less about Castle Ravenloft. I find plot hooks at a drop of a hat, now. They’ve crossed dwarf lords in Dwarmarrik. They’ve fought vampires in the Garden of Graves. They’ve parleyed with efreeti in the City of Brass. They have befriended a lich and created an intelligent zombie to act as guardian of a mausoleum. They have crafted a dream drug and sell it through their connections to E3 Trading. It is no longer a true Ravenloft style campaign, but it is a lot of fun.