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D&D 5E Everything We Know About The Ravenloft Book

Here is a list of everything we know so far about the upcoming Van Richten's Guide to Ravenloft.

rav_art.jpg

Art by Paul Scott Canavan​
  • May 18th, 256 pages
  • 30 domains (with 30 villainous darklords)
  • Barovia (Strahd), Dementlieu (twisted fairly tales), Lamordia (flesh golem), Falkovnia (zombies), Kalakeri (Indian folklore, dark rainforests), Valachan (hunting PCs for sport), Lamordia (mad science)
  • NPCs include Esmerelda de’Avenir, Weathermay-Foxgrove twins, traveling detective Alanik Ray.
  • Large section on setting safe boundaries.
  • Dark Gifts are character traits with a cost.
  • College of Spirits (bard storytellers who manipulate spirits of folklore) and Undead Patron (warlock) subclasses.
  • Dhampir, Reborn, and Hexblood lineages.
  • Cultural consultants used.
  • Fresh take on Vistani.
  • 40 pages of monsters. Also nautical monsters in Sea of Sorrows.
  • 20 page adventure called The House of Lament - haunted house, spirits, seances.




 
Last edited:

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Russ Morrissey

Russ Morrissey


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JEB

Hero
That latter paragraph seems to describe the tactic WotC has taken with this book, and 5E by and large. This is what big tent compromise Ravenloft looks like (and remember Gen Z is the main population of the tent at any size).
5E by and large, yes. Certainly with the core rules, and the Realms, and Eberron. Keep the past, build on it, keep fixes targeted to specific problems. It's an approach that largely managed to capture old and new audiences for 5E's first six years.

This book? Not so much. Unless previews have been very misleading, this is a product aimed primarily at new fans, with the old stuff as window dressing or inspiration in most cases. Certainly their right to do as the IP owner, but not what some older fans clearly wanted out of the book, and a definite change in strategy from the last few years. And again, an approach that's guaranteed to create divisions.

I don't think there's a winning choice between "all new domains that are clearly treading the same ground and are meant to be updated version of old domains" and "updating the old domains" if the goal is to avoid upsetting long-time fans. In the first scenario they'll demand to know why they didn't just use the perfectly good old domains and accuse them of trying to erase them. In the second scenario they want to know why they had to change the perfectly good old scenarios and accuse them of trying to erase the prior work.
Maybe there's no perfect "winning" choice, but there are choices which will be less alienating. The former approach, at least, doesn't require old fans to pick between the old version and the new, if they want to play in the "official" setting; the latter most definitely does.

Using the old names is just another way to tread on nostalgia, which is a huge element of 5e from top-to-bottom.
Nostalgia which will evaporate quickly when the veteran fans actually read the descriptions of domains like Dementlieu... and in some cases, shift to disappointment, or irritation, or even a sense of betrayal. Is that really better than leaving well enough alone? Why invite fans to choose a side?
 

JEB

Hero
There was some changes to Strahd's origin, the Amber Temple, and Van Richten being there that all contradicted established Ravenloft lore. Plus they opted to borrow ideas from Fair Barovia which was also contradictory to classic Barovia, esp Vallaki. Lastly, Madame Eva's origin was heavily rewrote, though not as mangled as it was in Expedition.

Just a few I remembered.
I made note of those changes when I read through Curse of Strahd as well, but they all seemed vastly easier to reconcile with the original takes than what's appeared in previews of this new book. Seemed quite a lot easier to rationalize as additions, updates, or reinterpretations of the lore, rather than being blatant contradictions.
 


Eubani

Adventurer
Trust me, as a trainer Medievalist the way European culture gets butchered in D&D is pretty bad. Just because it would be nice to fix that doesn't mean they shouldn't fox other problems.
I am not against the fix and am not in any way saying that it shouldn't. What I am saying is that many people pushing for these changes are holding a double standard. If you cannot twist one culture in a setting/campaign you cannot do it to another. We all know what this is, but it's a term banned on this site.
 

Rikka66

Adventurer
The former approach, at least, doesn't require old fans to pick between the old version and the new, if they want to play in the "official" setting; the latter most definitely does.

They create a much bigger version of this problem in the form of making entirely different versions of the game, so I imagine they aren't worried about this.

Nostalgia which will evaporate quickly when the veteran fans actually read the descriptions of domains like Dementlieu... and in some cases, shift to disappointment, or irritation, or even a sense of betrayal. Is that really better than leaving well enough alone? Why invite fans to choose a side?

"If you are a person who really has a strict belief in the original, I would not advise that you watch this program. It'll hurt them."

That's a quote from Edward James Olmos in regards to the Battlestar Galatica reboot on the topic of whether fans of the original would enjoy the new series. My point being that we're talking about a topic much bigger than Ravenloft, and one in which the creative industry has firmly pick a side on. They are going to bring back old franchises, and they are going to change them.

I don't think WoTC would characterize the new book this way. I'm sure they're position, at least publicly, is that old and new fans a like will find something to love here. And if we only a year out from the latest new chapter in the old Ravenloft meta-plot I'd have more sympathy for fans of it. But we're not. It's been abandoned by the company that controls it, and they intend to move on. My only hope is that any changes they make end up for the better. If not, then count me on the side of the old guard.
 

tetrasodium

Legend
Supporter
So the answer to the first question is name recognition, which I'm sure you already knew.

I don't think there's a winning choice between "all new domains that are clearly treading the same ground and are meant to be updated version of old domains" and "updating the old domains" if the goal is to avoid upsetting long-time fans. In the first scenario they'll demand to know why they didn't just use the perfectly good old domains and accuse them of trying to erase them. In the second scenario they want to know why they had to change the perfectly good old scenarios and accuse them of trying to erase the prior work.

Using the old names is just another way to tread on nostalgia, which is a huge element of 5e from top-to-bottom.

Edit: Also I'm not sure what "book equivalent of the Snyder DC Universe" means. Maybe I'm alone in that.
Snyder was the director for batman vrs superman & justice league to start but they kicked him off & brought in someone else to hack the movies down & the result was a more traditional super hero movie tone that left a confusing plot. Snyder got the chance to reshoot & finish both with snyder cuts on hbo's streaming thing & the results were rather dark but great super hero movies with a morality spectrum that largely ranges from grey to grey. I don't know if they are still on hbo's streaming thing but they are worth watching.

With the new ravenloft leaning into a more nuanced morality & dipping into horror genres rather than redoing what has long been kind of cheesy movies that weren't o originally cheesy it makes for a good analogy
 

JEB

Hero
How utterly and ridiculously over-dramatic. Next you’ll say the sky is literally falling. Are the WotC Nazis going to burn all the old books, too? FFS. Get a grip. You don’t like that the bad corporation changed your precious. We get it. We all know. How about letting the rest of us have a conversation without the hysteria?
You might have wanted to go back and read my earlier posts, before you rudely write me off as a reactionary. As previously stated, I'm actually fine with the vast majority of the changes, since Ravenloft's mutability is well-established; I just don't think they should have included deliberate contradictions that forced fans to choose between new or old. Let the new stuff be, and the old stuff possibly be, and it would have worked fine.

It just seems worth pointing out that superficially invoking nostalgia to hook old fans, only to have the actual product be resolutely anti-nostalgic, might backfire - in fact, it already seems to be happening, just from responses to the previews. The previous six years of 5E demonstrated that they didn't need to do a total reboot to make a setting work for new audiences, so this seems like a misstep.
 

Rikka66

Adventurer
With the new ravenloft leaning into a more nuanced morality & dipping into horror genres rather than redoing what has long been kind of cheesy movies that weren't o originally cheesy it makes for a good analogy

So I think it was a misunderstanding because I read it at first as Innistrad being the Snyder Cut in the analogy. But the context of the post gives the quote a negative vibe, so I'm not sure your interpretation hits the mark completely.
 

Parmandur

Legend
This book? Not so much. Unless previews have been very misleading, this is a product aimed primarily at new fans, with the old stuff as window dressing or inspiration in most cases. Certainly their right to do as the IP owner, but not what some older fans clearly wanted out of the book, and a definite change in strategy from the last few years. And again, an approach that's guaranteed to create divisions.
I dunno, I don't see it that way. Ravenloft had changeability and "everything is a lie" baked into the premise.
 

And all the old guard won't "come around." They'll just be beaten down and driven out of the hobby. Replaced by younger gamers
That ... won't happen.

The old guard aren't a monolithic group, and more to the point, D&D isn't a centralised activity. Some 'old guard' will try the new stuff and like it, some will try it and dislike it but adapt the 5e mechanics to the old setting, some will go back to OSR or AD&D or something and play their preferred iteration of the setting. And old guard gamers will generally have an old guard group they game with. It seems hyperbolic to claim that old school gamers will be 'beaten down' and 'driven out'. Who's going to be doing the beating and driving?

There's things about the new RL I don't like, or that I think were changed unnecessarily (from the very limited amount I've seen). But there were things I didn't like about the old Ravenloft too, both the 2e and the 3e versions of it. If I was running it, I'd probably put together an unholy melange of all sorts of bits and pieces across different versions, plus stuff I've made up myself. The only real disadvantage in doing it that way is in pre-campaign prep - you can't just throw a setting book at your players and tell them 'read this and come up with a character', you have to compile/edit/write one yourself.
 

Urriak Uruk

Debate fuels my Fire
Changing everything and not giving a flip about the existing fans worked out well for 4th Ed 🙄

Considering how 4E split the fanbase so completely it gave rise to D&D's biggest competitor Pathfinder, which tried to maintain something the older players enjoyed, I'm not sure that this statement is true at all. WotC I think hates the whole 3.5 vs. 4 vs. Pathfinder debacle.
 

Urriak Uruk

Debate fuels my Fire
Snyder was the director for batman vrs superman & justice league to start but they kicked him off & brought in someone else to hack the movies down & the result was a more traditional super hero movie tone that left a confusing plot. Snyder got the chance to reshoot & finish both with snyder cuts on hbo's streaming thing & the results were rather dark but great super hero movies with a morality spectrum that largely ranges from grey to grey. I don't know if they are still on hbo's streaming thing but they are worth watching.

With the new ravenloft leaning into a more nuanced morality & dipping into horror genres rather than redoing what has long been kind of cheesy movies that weren't o originally cheesy it makes for a good analogy

Totally off-topic, but lord that trilogy of films was horrendous. I'm too lazy to even blame Snyder, Whedon, or anyone, all three films were boring and nonsensical.
 

FitzTheRuke

Legend
I guarantee you that this book will be a MASSIVE success, so take that for what you will regarding how many actual fans the changes will turn off; old OR new. I played Ravenloft back in the early 90's, so I guess I'd count as an "old" fan, but I really, really don't care if they make changes, as long as the new stuff is good.

And so far, I think it looks great.
 

Parmandur

Legend
That ... won't happen.

The old guard aren't a monolithic group, and more to the point, D&D isn't a centralised activity. Some 'old guard' will try the new stuff and like it, some will try it and dislike it but adapt the 5e mechanics to the old setting, some will go back to OSR or AD&D or something and play their preferred iteration of the setting. And old guard gamers will generally have an old guard group they game with. It seems hyperbolic to claim that old school gamers will be 'beaten down' and 'driven out'. Who's going to be doing the beating and driving?

There's things about the new RL I don't like, or that I think were changed unnecessarily (from the very limited amount I've seen). But there were things I didn't like about the old Ravenloft too, both the 2e and the 3e versions of it. If I was running it, I'd probably put together an unholy melange of all sorts of bits and pieces across different versions, plus stuff I've made up myself. The only real disadvantage in doing it that way is in pre-campaign prep - you can't just throw a setting book at your players and tell them 'read this and come up with a character', you have to compile/edit/write one yourself.
Yeah, they seem to be focusing on this book being a malleable toolbox of ideas more than a concrete traditional Setting. Which fits old school Ravenloft.
 


Yeah, they seem to be focusing on this book being a malleable toolbox of ideas more than a concrete traditional Setting. Which fits old school Ravenloft.
Yeah, as someone who owned the Black Box back in the day, the new book is full of stuff that is actually useful for running horror-themed D&D, rather than being overstuffed with acres of repetitive, irrelevant, or just plain silly (e.g. domain population figures) lore.

Which brings me to something I have noticed with some fans of other settings: they read them as history books, rather than use them as tools for playing D&D. What they want to know is "what happens next in the metaplot" or "which is the true version of this trivial lore contradiction". Actually having a toolbox for playing a fun game doesn't matter to them.

Anyway, I have read some early reviews, and they are overwhelmingly positive. I think WotC have a massive hit on their hands.
 

Remathilis

Legend
Nostalgia which will evaporate quickly when the veteran fans actually read the descriptions of domains like Dementlieu... and in some cases, shift to disappointment, or irritation, or even a sense of betrayal. Is that really better than leaving well enough alone? Why invite fans to choose a side?

I wonder how many people are upset with the specific changes vs. upset that there were changes?

I mean, in the great canon of domains and darklords, how many people really put Dementieu on the top 10? A genteel domain with few naturally occurring horrors, a human population with limited (but still greater than many) access to magic, and a darklord who can cast enchantment magic at will and has consent issues. Even when given multiple pages in the Gazetteers, the best they could do was a brain in a jar and a vague Le Mis vibe. What part of that are you missing? What part should they have kept? How do you fix Dominic to make him both compelling and less creeper? What does Old Dementieu have going for it besides tradition that makes it worth keeping?

Answer me that, and maybe I'll buy that they miscalculated in changing it to the faux Cinderella ball by way of Masque of the Red Death. But right now, between the two versions, I'm far more inspired by the new version then I ever was by the old.
 


I'd be happy if they gave me stat blocks for the dread lords.

But naw.

This seems like a very odd choice. I can understand not giving stats to something like gods, but to not stat up domain lords, is a terrible design choice in my opinion. It is going to come up that someone swings a sword at a domain lord (heck some campaigns are built on domain lord hunting).

I spent the past day going over the previews more closely. This really seems like it is thumbing its nose at the old material to be honest. And it definitely doesn't seem like they are making an effort to unify anymore like they did when they released 5E. This is the fire the old fans edition of Ravenloft
 

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