Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Iron & Blood: Warriors of Ravenloft

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One-on-One Fighting
October 3, 1996
Take 2 Interactive
0 21481 21077 1
Sony ID:
1 to 2 Players
1 Block
Teen Animated Violence
Box Copy:

No 3D Fighter Can Match the Brutal Action of Iron and Blood!

An axe-wielding medieval mother wants your heart on a stick…
An armored killing machine wants his mace in your head…
A ferocious fiend wants his claws in your charred corpse…either way, you’re facing an eternity on the edge of a rusty blade.

  • Death Strikes at 225,000 polygons per second
  • A Medieval massacre with 250 combat moves and arcane powers
  • Bludgeon the weak with 64 deadly weapons and artifacts
  • Face off in a tactical struggle to the death with the revolutionary team campaign mode.



  • There are no known variants.




  • There are no known misprints.




Sometimes, one needs to set aside their understanding of a genre. To allow ideas buried beneath the surface to bubble up and shine, even for the briefest moments. If we don’t allow ourselves these trinkets of revelation, too often they are entombed under the faults of their peers. 

Such is the case with Acclaim and Take 2’s Iron & Blood: Warriors of Ravenloft release. An Advanced Dungeons & Dragons game whose ideas are sound but find themselves buried under the rubble of player expectation and a desperate lack of development time. 

Advanced Dungeons & Dragons - Iron & Blood: Warriors of Ravenloft Screenshot

Published in 1996, Iron & Blood found itself up against some fairly heavy odds. Developers Capcom, SNK, Midway, and Namco had already planted their flags in the fighting game arena, many of which are still going strong today. For a new contender to the crown to have a chance, something different would be needed. 

Designer Rick Hall and his staff had a novel idea for their fighting game; a Dungeons & Dragons campaign mode built around the source material’s cornerstones of Magic, Combat Experience, and Risk. How many times were you willing to roll the metaphorical dice? That’s the question that can be answered in Campaign Mode.

The game’s roster is divided into good and bad. On the left side are the 8 heroic entities and on the right, villains galore. A player’s first character choice decides their alignment, and then from there, several more same-faction choices are made. On the first play, gamers will note the fairly empty portrait of their roster choices. That all changes with the match objectives. 

Advanced Dungeons & Dragons - Iron & Blood: Warriors of Ravenloft Screenshot

Players are fighting for three potential objectives; Magic Power, Ring of Resurrection, and an Extra Team Member. The latter is simple, instead of the standard 3 players per team you can now select 4. This continues till you reach a maximum of 6 characters per team. The Ring of Ressurection allows a defeated player to be resurrected at the cost of losing all their experience points and powers. Finally, and most importantly – Magic and Experience.

If the player wins a round with the Magic objective, they are awarded the first of 3 possible magic levels. These magic abilities are the game’s Super Moves. As the 2nd and 3rd slots are unlocked the ability’s magic will grow with it, usually in how long it lasts. Once a 4th Magic objective is won, that unlocks the Arcane power ability – an action so powerful it changes the dynamic of the character. 

Advanced Dungeons & Dragons - Iron & Blood: Warriors of Ravenloft Screenshot

On top of this, every 5 matches a character wins they will be rewarded with 1 level of experience. Every 3 levels of experience they gain more health, cause more damage, and earn a tiny bit more defense. Once maxed out at 9 levels of experience, the character is a walking death machine. At least they would be if it weren’t for that pesky ‘risk’ factor I mentioned earlier. Your characters can die – literally erased from the memory card permanently, and will need to be  – if you’ll pardon the phrase – re-rolled. 

This life-and-death situation is where Iron & Blood’s…well… lifeblood is. Especially since it means you and a friend can load up memory cards and face off against each other’s created characters. Or at least, just once. 

If you’re looking for more standard fighting rules, Head-to-Head mode is where to meet. This strips away the team choosing and lets players duke it out in single-fighter best-of rounds. Here both players can choose the same characters and still use their powered-up players. Rounds are determined by the same lives set in Campaign Mode.

Advanced Dungeons & Dragons - Iron & Blood: Warriors of Ravenloft Screenshot

Once settled in, the game’s controls and combat system can be discussed. Iron & Blood uses a 4-button setup with a unique layout. Three of the four buttons conform to the usual Quick, Medium, and Strong Strength variant attacks, but the Circle Button acts as a modifier. This when used with other buttons and directional combinations will unironically allow you to perform pre-determined combinations. Or as the game says, “COMBINATION!”

I’m not fond of pre-determined combos, like the ones found in Tekken and Mortal Kombat 3. I feel like it’s a more forced memorization rather than the flexible options found in Capcom and SNK games. I wouldn’t knock a game for its choice, but it does need to be said. 

It’s here in combat that Iron & Blood loses its way. I’ve seen several reviews over the years call out the frame rate, but that can be overlooked after a few plays. The stumble comes in how the developer approached character play-styles. If you’re not sure what I mean, let’s explore the standards. You usually have three move list templates: quarter-circles, chargers, and tappers. If one move is performed with said controller motion, it’s a good bet that the rest of the character’s moves will follow a similar pattern. This similarity in move execution is what helps muscle memory make a connection to that character. 

Advanced Dungeons & Dragons - Iron & Blood: Warriors of Ravenloft Screenshot

Well, there’s none of that here, at least for most of the characters. Let’s take the skeleton warrior Ardrus. He has three special moves. One uses Forward + Triangle, Cross. The second is Up + Circle + Cross. The final move is a half circle starting from Up plus a Square. There’s no connection between them, and that disconnect is what prevents players from forming a bond with the character. I reorganized the guidebook for it and I still need to look at the guide when I’m playing. More on that later. 

The larger issue that’s more annoying than pain is the Rune Wall. Instead of having a ring out, Iron & Blood features an invisible wall that players can bounce off of and take damage for colliding with it. In practice, it should provide a reason to constantly keep moving and dodging. But in reality, it becomes a love-hate relationship. It’s lovable when you can fake or throw the opponent into it and watch them bounce off as they stand up, giving you a free shot. It’s a nightmare when you get stuck in it and can’t roll out from it 

Within the stages lie Iron & Blood’s final trick; the hidden artifacts. Every regular character’s stage has a specific sound effect that randomly plays. If in Campaign Mode and the sound plays, inputting a stage-specific controller input will award the first player to do so an Artifact. These artifacts come in three flavors; Active, Continuous, and External. 

Active Artifacts are powers that you activate during the fight and may provide additional moves or stat bonuses. Continuous Artifacts are always on and can offer protection or health regeneration. External Artifacts are the most creative of the lot and can bring a wicked twist to the team strategy. For example, the Alter of Sacrifice allows the player to sacrifice one of their teammates to award 3 Magic Levels and an Arcane Ability to the selected character. A great way to fend off a stronger single opponent. 

Advanced Dungeons & Dragons - Iron & Blood: Warriors of Ravenloft Screenshot

With all that in play, the game’s actual combat and difficulty are a mixed bag. If players try to jump and just start playing it like it was a Street Fighter or Tekken, bad things will happen and they’ll just quit it. The easiest way to explain how combat works is that it’s a turn-based, more defensive hit-and-block play style. Rather than try and go on the offensive, players should let the computer or rival try their move, block it, and then throw out their attack. Regardless if it’s successful or not, hang back or dash back if the attack moved you forward. 

Once players get into the groove, they can begin formulating different attack choices that force the computer to unintentionally clock itself out against the Rune Wall, allowing for a free hit. Start sprinkling in the dodge roll and gamers will finally find themselves a rhythm to the combat. 

As long as the default or higher difficulty is selected in Head-to-Head Mode, defeating all 8 characters in the opposing team will introduce the 4 bosses to the tournament. This includes the boxer Avatar of Light, the scythe-wielding Minion of Chaos, the towering Lord of Chaos, and the main vampire himself, Strahd. 

Advanced Dungeons & Dragons - Iron & Blood: Warriors of Ravenloft Screenshot

In a curious twist, the boss characters have no Artifacts and most have no individual special moves. Just their standard skill set and then combinations. That said, their standard skill set can get pretty damn crazy, especially with the final boss Strahd. His eye beam attack can go across the entire screen and set up a terrible knockback into the rune wall. He’s a really good boss fight, if only because of how creative you can get with counter-attacks.

Sadly, Iron & Blood was published before it had enough time to be properly finalized – a fact corroborated by the game’s designer Rick Hall. In an email discussion with him about his old website, he revealed the various pitfalls the small team faced, including an all too familiar one where Sony didn’t include an English language manual with the PS1 development hardware. It’s almost like Sony does that on purpose.

This lack of polish comes mostly in the form of peculiar musical choices, the rough mixing of background sounds and musical scores, and the game’s frame rate. Oddly enough, some stages even have full hard-rock songs, complete with lyrics. It’s a trip the first time you experience it. Sadly, the game only features two endings, regardless of which mode you’re in. If your character is on the good guy’s side, you will see them as a group defeat Strahd. If you’re on the Chaos side, you’ll see the bad guys towering over their victims. 

Advanced Dungeons & Dragons - Iron & Blood: Warriors of Ravenloft Screenshot

Like the game, this review also has two different endings. The first ending deals with the score. Iron & Blood’s Campaign Mode is unique in its presentation and a high-stakes game of betting your hard-earned grinding levels against your skillset. In a surprising move, if playing solo in Head to Head, the computer gets to use your characters as well. This means the better you are at keeping characters alive in Campaign Mode, you’re creating your own harder difficulty level in Head-to-Head Mode. It’s a bloody ingenious design that happened slightly before Edge Mode and World Tour Mode

But enjoying that creativity comes at the cost of poor character control schemes and confusing stage design. Like the roster, Iron & Blood’s overall vibe is an average of 5 out of 10. It is by no means the terrible game the rest of the internet would have you believe that it is, but it’s also not going to replace Street Fighter or Soul Blade any time soon. 

Advanced Dungeons & Dragons - Iron & Blood: Warriors of Ravenloft Screenshot

The second ending deals with the previously mentioned designer’s website. Rick Hall could see people wouldn’t be happy with the manual and provided his web page in the back of the booklet. Had gamers followed the link, they’d have found Rick’s notes in real-time as the game was being developed. This included deep lore from the game’s writer, programmer’s cheats for the bosses, strategies and move sets for everyone in the game. 

Sadly, over 20 years later, it was clear these weren’t finalized either as there were some discrepancies in the move lists and unlockables. As part of Project Up1 and with his knowledge, I have gone through and not only corrected anything out of place but also reorganized and further expanded on the source material. The result is a modern-day strategy guide, weighing in at more than 50 pages if it were printed out. New additions include easier button combinations for certain moves, a complete overhaul of the Artifact unlocking, some new combos, and providing the boss characters their full move suites. Hit the Guide Tab at the top of the page to access it.

Iron & Blood was a choice that not even a Natural 20 could save, but still worth the first roll.


The Good

  • Nice use of the good and bad alignment
  • The leveling system is interesting
  • Fantastic risk and reward system for permanently losing your character

The Bad

  • Lack of development time shows
  • No consistency in character-specific moves
  • Back up characters to a separate memory card just in case
Final Score: 5/10 – Average

Iron & Blood: Warriors of Ravenloft is a victim of real-world development hell. But its ideas are worth investigating if for no other reason than to pave the way for a future better product.




  • The game started as a 3DO Game. There was also a Sega Saturn version planned but was eventually canceled.
  • In the original version of Rick Hall’s notes, it constantly referenced visual clues in stages that would have signaled the Artifact to unlock. For the life of me, I could not see any of them. Just the audio clues.
  • Rick Hall’s original website featured a screenshot of a stage design that was removed from the game.




These are playable hidden characters in Advanced Dungeons & Dragons: Iron & Blood.

For the sake of transparency, these codes can have some bizarre side effects. If you repeat a code one too many times, the character graphic in the Selection Screen will break. Losing in the round and quitting will cause the Title Screen to become garbled.

  • Play as Lord of Chaos
    At the character select screen press: Up, Up + Left, Left, Down + Left, Down, Triangle + Cross. Your cursor will be in the upper right corner. Choose them.
  • Play as Minion of Chaos
    At the character select screen press: L1 + L2 + R1 + R2 + Up + Cross. Your cursor will be in the upper left corner. Choose them.
  • Play as Strahd
    At the character select screen press: Up, Right, Down, Left, R1, R2, L2, L1. Your cursor will be in the lower right. Choose them.
  • Play as Avatar of Order
    At the character select screen, Hold Left and press Square once. Now press Right + Circle. Your cursor will be in the lower left.
  • Character Outfit Selection
    Press Triangle for the Basic Outfit and Cross for the Alternate Outfit.
  • Easy Artifacts
    In the Options screen, set fights to 1 round. Go into Head-to-Head mode with two controllers. Choose the same character on both sides whose artifact you want. Once in the round, simply wait for the artifact audio cue, perform the move, and once acquired, kill the opponent. Let the timer count down and let the game return you to the title screen (for autosave). You’ll now have the artifact.



Fighter’s Companion Guide

The most in-depth guide you’ll find for Iron & Blood. It’s been given an all-new page and layout which you can reach by clicking here.




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