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D&D 5E Barovia and Borca: What is the world they originated from like? And what could it be like now?

Urriak Uruk

Debate fuels my Fire
So I've been reading Van Richten's Guide to Ravenloft, and as someone with only passing familiarity with the lore in past editions, I was surprised when I learned that both Barovia and Borca were originally from the same world on the Material Plane.

Now, after a bit of research, apparently this was always the case in previous editions. But it does appear that this new book changes a few things (retcons), and as someone who is generally curious about what Barov-World could be like, I've decided to try and sort out the various details I could find.

  • Barovia is the very first of the Domains of Dread to form, and Strahd von Zarovich is the multiverse's first vampire.
  • Borca is from the same world as Barovia, but became a Domain ages later (Borca is therefore from the "future" of their same world).
  • Members of the Dilisnya family were present at Castle Ravenloft on the night of Strahd's ascension to vampire, and were presumably all killed.
  • The first Vistani also originate from the same world as Borca and Barovia.
  • On the world of Barovia-Borcan, the man Osybus became a devotee of the Dark Powers, and became a lich of nearly godly power.
  • Strahd von Zarovich took up arms against Osybus, but only achieved victory because Osybus was betrayed by his priests.
  • Osybus' physical form was destroyed, but he cursed his ex-followers and became one of the Dark Powers himself.
  • Strahd fought his war against Osybus and his unnatural armies alongside his friend Ulmed, who founded the Ulmist Inquisition (his friends Cosima, Ansel, and Tristian formed each of its three branches).
  • The Ulmist Inquisition was founded on the Barovia-Borcan world (Barovcan?) and originate in the cult-infested city of Malitain. This is a vast city-state that lies to the north of where Bariva once was.
  • The Ulmist Inquisition no longer fights monsters but also hunts down those they think have been corrupted; they send their agents all across the Multiverse.

So, from these collected details, we learn that this world has lost not one but two locations to the Mists, but that it still seems to reside in some form on the Material Plane. Is it ruled over in its entirety by the Ulmist Inquisition at Malitain? Or are there other nations that still remain? As time kept going on, so they have much more advanced tech than Barovia did when it disappeared?

Anyway, it's kind of a fun idea that there is a world where all of these concepts originate from, but we don't know much about.
 

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Parmandur

Book-Friend
So I've been reading Van Richten's Guide to Ravenloft, and as someone with only passing familiarity with the lore in past editions, I was surprised when I learned that both Barovia and Borca were originally from the same world on the Material Plane.

Now, after a bit of research, apparently this was always the case in previous editions. But it does appear that this new book changes a few things (retcons), and as someone who is generally curious about what Barov-World could be like, I've decided to try and sort out the various details I could find.

  • Barovia is the very first of the Domains of Dread to form, and Strahd von Zarovich is the multiverse's first vampire.
  • Borca is from the same world as Barovia, but became a Domain ages later (Borca is therefore from the "future" of their same world).
  • Members of the Dilisnya family were present at Castle Ravenloft on the night of Strahd's ascension to vampire, and were presumably all killed.
  • The first Vistani also originate from the same world as Borca and Barovia.
  • On the world of Barovia-Borcan, the man Osybus became a devotee of the Dark Powers, and became a lich of nearly godly power.
  • Strahd von Zarovich took up arms against Osybus, but only achieved victory because Osybus was betrayed by his priests.
  • Osybus' physical form was destroyed, but he cursed his ex-followers and became one of the Dark Powers himself.
  • Strahd fought his war against Osybus and his unnatural armies alongside his friend Ulmed, who founded the Ulmist Inquisition (his friends Cosima, Ansel, and Tristian formed each of its three branches).
  • The Ulmist Inquisition was founded on the Barovia-Borcan world (Barovcan?) and originate in the cult-infested city of Malitain. This is a vast city-state that lies to the north of where Bariva once was.
  • The Ulmist Inquisition no longer fights monsters but also hunts down those they think have been corrupted; they send their agents all across the Multiverse.

So, from these collected details, we learn that this world has lost not one but two locations to the Mists, but that it still seems to reside in some form on the Material Plane. Is it ruled over in its entirety by the Ulmist Inquisition at Malitain? Or are there other nations that still remain? As time kept going on, so they have much more advanced tech than Barovia did when it disappeared?

Anyway, it's kind of a fun idea that there is a world where all of these concepts originate from, but we don't know much about.
So, I don't know if this holds true for these nuggets in Van Richten’s Guide, but they follow on a bunch of Easter eggs that Chris Perkins slipped into Curse of Strahd referencing Jeremy Crawford's homebrew setting from his personal campaign (which Perkins plays in) as Strahd's original homeworld.
 



So I've been reading Van Richten's Guide to Ravenloft, and as someone with only passing familiarity with the lore in past editions, I was surprised when I learned that both Barovia and Borca were originally from the same world on the Material Plane.

Now, after a bit of research, apparently this was always the case in previous editions. But it does appear that this new book changes a few things (retcons), and as someone who is generally curious about what Barov-World could be like, I've decided to try and sort out the various details I could find.

  • Barovia is the very first of the Domains of Dread to form, and Strahd von Zarovich is the multiverse's first vampire.
  • Borca is from the same world as Barovia, but became a Domain ages later (Borca is therefore from the "future" of their same world).
  • Members of the Dilisnya family were present at Castle Ravenloft on the night of Strahd's ascension to vampire, and were presumably all killed.
  • The first Vistani also originate from the same world as Borca and Barovia.
  • On the world of Barovia-Borcan, the man Osybus became a devotee of the Dark Powers, and became a lich of nearly godly power.
  • Strahd von Zarovich took up arms against Osybus, but only achieved victory because Osybus was betrayed by his priests.
  • Osybus' physical form was destroyed, but he cursed his ex-followers and became one of the Dark Powers himself.
  • Strahd fought his war against Osybus and his unnatural armies alongside his friend Ulmed, who founded the Ulmist Inquisition (his friends Cosima, Ansel, and Tristian formed each of its three branches).
  • The Ulmist Inquisition was founded on the Barovia-Borcan world (Barovcan?) and originate in the cult-infested city of Malitain. This is a vast city-state that lies to the north of where Bariva once was.
  • The Ulmist Inquisition no longer fights monsters but also hunts down those they think have been corrupted; they send their agents all across the Multiverse.

So, from these collected details, we learn that this world has lost not one but two locations to the Mists, but that it still seems to reside in some form on the Material Plane. Is it ruled over in its entirety by the Ulmist Inquisition at Malitain? Or are there other nations that still remain? As time kept going on, so they have much more advanced tech than Barovia did when it disappeared?

Anyway, it's kind of a fun idea that there is a world where all of these concepts originate from, but we don't know much about.

If this is a topic that interests you, you really need to find a copy of the Ravenloft Gazetteers from the early naughts. The -best- deep dive on the classic domains, including their origins and history. I'm sure it would still be useful even with some of the changes 5E has inflicted.

There is actually more than 2 domains with roots in the same world as Barovia -Borca, Dorvinia, Gundarak, and Invidia. All of them except Gundarak speak Balok (the same language of Barovia),(Gundarak speaks Luktar). Since Barovia is fantasy-Romania, and Borca fantasy-Italy and Invidia heavily influenced by Spain, think of Balok as effectively an equivalent of vulgar Latin in our world (the parent of Romanian, Italian and Spanish). Dorvinia was merged with Borca and Gundarak with Barovia in the Red Box, and 5E did away with them altogether.

The Gazeeters mention historical events that the current incarnation has left out, like Strahd's efforts in combating the Terg invasion of Dorian/Durakan, the pre-Demiplane religion of Andral, the survival of the patriarch Leo Dilisinya as a vampire, and the efforts of his great-nephew in founding the religion of Ezra.

The original Grand Conjuction adventure path shows us Prime Material Barovia in Roots of Evil (or From the Shadows, I don't really remember) and it still exists, complete with king and queen. Strahd attempts to take over in an attempt to return to the real world. Basically the Dark Powers stole every person from the real world, but merely duplicated the lands and buildings. On the real world it looked like Strahd and his entourage had "vanished". More can be found in the novels of Vampire of the Mists and I, Strahd.

Either through ignorance of the sources or more likely, deliberate reasons not much from the 2002-2008 run ended up in Curse of Strahd, though a few elements maybe snuck in via Claudio Pozas' Barovia the Beautiful, which Perkins used as a source. Pozas was a fan and artist during the Arthaus run of Ravenloft, so he was familiar with it. For me, its a shame not more of that ended up in the current incarnation as it was certainly the deepest and richest look at those domains. None of what you have there is directly incompatible with any of the old lore, except the stuff about the Vistani. (pre Curse of Strahd Madame Eva is a time-travelling immortal with no relation to Strahd) and perhaps the age of Borca. (Borca wasn't drawn directly from the Prime Material, the Dilisnyas and Boritisis were already in the Demiplane, resident in Barovia)
 

I really dislike the idea of Strahd being the very first vampire. Barovia must have originally been part of a fairly advanced civilization, which either means that vampires are a relatively modern creation, or that there's nothing that remotely resembles a common timeline across the multiverse.
 

I really dislike the idea of Strahd being the very first vampire. Barovia must have originally been part of a fairly advanced civilization, which either means that vampires are a relatively modern creation, or that there's nothing that remotely resembles a common timeline across the multiverse.
Is this something from Curse of Strahd? It was never the case in earlier editions.
 



Urriak Uruk

Debate fuels my Fire
Is this something from Curse of Strahd? It was never the case in earlier editions.

I don't know if it was in CoS, but in Van Richten's guide, the subtitle for Barovia is: Domain of the First Vampire.

There is also the line: The nature of his bargain with the Dark Powers was revealed, and Strahd became the multiverse's first vampire.

I largely am ok with Strahd being the first vampire, just because vampirism is largely an inefficient form of undead... compared to being a lich or mummy lord, vampirism is almost more of a mistake. Warhammer Fantasy essentially says this outright, I believe there Neferata becomes the first vampire by mistake when trying to achieve immortality by mimicking Nagash's research.
 

I don't know if it was in CoS, but in Van Richten's guide, the subtitle for Barovia is: Domain of the First Vampire.

There is also the line: The nature of his bargain with the Dark Powers was revealed, and Strahd became the multiverse's first vampire.

I largely am ok with Strahd being the first vampire, just because vampirism is largely an inefficient form of undead... compared to being a lich or mummy lord, vampirism is almost more of a mistake. Warhammer Fantasy essentially says this outright, I believe there Neferata becomes the first vampire by mistake when trying to achieve immortality by mimicking Nagash's research.
It was always true that Strahd became a vampire through a pact with the Dark Powers rather than being infected, so to speak. Strahd being the first vampire wouldn't have fit however, since Duke Gundar (the darklord of Gundarak) was explicitly stated to be an older vampire. (Of course, Gundar has now dissipated into the black hole of retcons).
 

Davies

Hero
It was always true that Strahd became a vampire through a pact with the Dark Powers rather than being infected, so to speak. Strahd being the first vampire wouldn't have fit however, since Duke Gundar (the darklord of Gundarak) was explicitly stated to be an older vampire. (Of course, Gundar has now dissipated into the black hole of retcons).
Page 70, VRGtR.
 

Hmm, I just had a look in the Monster Manual, and in the sidebar about Strahd under the Vampire entry it does in fact state that Strahd is "The first vampire, according to many sages." I think I'll just have to go with the sages being wrong in this case, they often are. I want there to be room for truly ancient vampires dating back to the earliest ages.
 

TwiceBorn2

Explorer
This is probably the most comprehensive pre-D&D 5e Strahd timeline, compiled by the Fraternity of Shadows, arguably some of the most ardent fans of Ravenloft: Count Strahd von Zarovich - Mistipedia.

I don't have VRGtR yet, but this whole business about priests of Osybus was a clumsy retcon to some of the old guard, or just a plain old reboot to others, which ultimately had the effect of diminishing Strahd's own culpability in becoming cursed (see this discussion, for example).

Strahd was the first vampire in Ravenloft, and possibly even the first vampire in his original world... and thus, to his knowledge, he may very well have been the first vampire ever. But there are plenty of vampires across the D&D multiverse that have objectively been in existence longer than Strahd. The 3.0 module The Sunless Citadel (updated in Tales from the Yawning Portal) claims that a vampire named Gulthias was the first vampire (that's the product in which the Gulthias Tree found in CoS made its original appearance). That said, I don't find the Gulthias-as-first-vampire story very compelling, either (again, pretty sure there were vampires in the lore of various D&D settings prior to Gulthias), unless you find creative ways to interpret its wording/meaning.

One can also interpret "first vampire" as the most prestigious among his kind (i.e., the 'premier' vampire), or the first of a line (and Strahd would probably qualify as both in Ravenloft).

I'm sure that the more knowledgeable folks at www.fraternityofshadows.com forums (Le Cafe de Nuit) would be happy to delve into the OP's questions in greater depth... if the OP hasn't been there already.
 
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Parmandur

Book-Friend
I really dislike the idea of Strahd being the very first vampire. Barovia must have originally been part of a fairly advanced civilization, which either means that vampires are a relatively modern creation, or that there's nothing that remotely resembles a common timeline across the multiverse.
Got it on the second try.
 

Steampunkette

Shaper of Worlds
1) There's nothing that ever tried to present a common timeline across the multiverse.
2) Van Richten doesn't automatically know the truth across all planes, and the guide is written from his perspective.

So combine "We don't know the truth" with "Potentially unreliable narrator" and you've got a massive "Shrug of Uncertainty". Personally I like the idea that Strahd is the first vampire. Gives him even more gravitas as a character and it's not like it honestly matters in any way shape or form.
 

Composer99

Explorer
Am I right in remembering that Barovia came from Faerun and was part of the Sword Coast before being taken into the Mists?
If you're playing Curse of Strahd as a stand-alone game, you can have that be the case, but that isn't the case for the more-or-less standard lore. (Curse of Strahd has, as I recall, suggestions for how to fit Barovia in to several standard settings.)
 

Alzrius

The EN World kitten
Fun fact: the 2E Ravenloft adventure RM1 Roots of Evil (affiliate link) actually takes place on "Prime Material Barovia," showcasing that the domain was copied, rather than wrenched into Ravenloft.
 

Steampunkette

Shaper of Worlds
Fun fact: the 2E Ravenloft adventure RM1 Roots of Evil (affiliate link) actually takes place on "Prime Material Barovia," showcasing that the domain was copied, rather than wrenched into Ravenloft.
Which is SUPER IMPORTANT to consider.

After all, all the Barovian Villagers in the Ravenloft Setting (Well, the majority at least) are soulless automatons mimicking human life in the Domains of Dread. If the whole region had been yoinked into the DoD then all those souls would still be trapped, there, and the soulless husks would be real people.

Instead, the copy was made and the real Barovian people went about their lives 'til someone got curious enough to go to the Castle and found it abandoned... I wonder if it was immediately renovated for a new Baron or if it was left to molder and rot upon the mountainside...
 

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