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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.




 
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Russ Morrissey

Russ Morrissey


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I did like it. I was just not blind to its faults. Nothing is perfect and beyond improvement.
I agree nothing is perfect. I have said it could be improved. But the degree is massively different. There hasn't seemed to be much you liked at all about it based on your posts. Either way, the new version to me seems like it is jettisoning most of the old fans.
 

I agree nothing is perfect. I have said it could be improved. But the degree is massively different. There hasn't seemed to be much you liked at all about it based on your posts.
The concept, the tone, the art, the monsters. Those where great. Several of the domains had interesting ideas. The rule adjustments where okay, as was the fear and and horror mechanics. But there were several fundamental flaws:

1) The core. This, and treating it as if it where are real world with fixed geography, history, and economics detracted from the nightmarish feel.
2) The core's irrational layout. If there must be a core it could have been arranged in some way that made sense.
3) Gothic gatekeeping. The refusal by the authors to tolerate different types of horror was an inappropriate attempt to impose their own taste on the players. This is also partially the cause of 4.
4) Repetition. Many of the domains where too similar to each other. This is a case where less would have been more. Clearly the authors had a page count they needed to fill.
5) Too much emphasis on dark lords. This led to video-game like gameplay: go to the domain, kill the minions, kill the boss, rinse and repeat.

Either way, the new version to me seems like it is jettisoning most of the old fans.
It seems to me that an awful lot of old fans are just as pleased with the changes as I am, and "If you don't hate changes you are not a true fan" is arrogant gatekeeping naughty word.
 

Fair point that if the Darklords are now unkillable plot devices, you don't really need full statblocks. (Mind, now my complaint moves to them being unkillable plot devices...)

It's also true that certain darklords never were, and shouldn't be, combat monsters. Though in 5E, legendary and lair actions could compensate for that (and in fact would have been a neat way to make darklords that weren't much to speak of in melee, but still very dangerous to confront).
They do have a set of powers listed. They are just "story level" powers rather than "5 foot grid level" powers.
 

M.L. Martin

Adventurer
I've managed to read the stuff on the nature of the dark powers from page 8, so I will share it here:

"The nature of the dark powers is for you to decide. How you perceive these forces can influence your view of their actions and agendas, who the abduct into Ravenloft and why. Through your adventures you might reveal these mysteries, and use them to hint at ways to escape the Domains of Dread. Consider these possibilities when developing your perspective on the Dark Powers:"

It then discusses the following three options: Amoral Guardians, Evil Architects, Undying Remnants.

Since this directly contradicts what the nut-job priests in the monster section believe, I think we can safely assume the nut-job priests are wrong.

Good. I'm still not buying the product for a host of reasons, but at least they managed to avoid that misstep.
 


3) Gothic gatekeeping. The refusal by the authors to tolerate different types of horror was an inappropriate attempt to impose their own taste on the players. This is also partially the cause of

But this was the essence of the setting. I mean it was designed for gothic and classic horror. They did allow other types of horror in, it just kind of had to pass through that filter a bit (they even allowed slashers in the form of flesh golems in the created----just leaned more on Halloween than on Friday 13th, and kept the gothic trappings). I can understand not liking gothic horror, but when that is the foundation of the setting and they completely change it? Most of the old fans of Ravenloft were there for the gothic and classic horror feel. This would be like a movie company saying they are going to remake the Godfather for the old fans, but they aren't going to be constrained by the limits of the gangster genre, and going to include action, comedy, farce and they are going to strip out all the Italian cultural elements. You can do that. Maybe it makes something good, but a lot of people who liked the original are going to scratch their heads and probably feel a little insulted by the change (particularly if there is this attitude coming from the filmmakers and from some fans and critics, that if you don't like the changes there is something seriously wrong with you)
 

It seems to me that an awful lot of old fans are just as pleased with the changes as I am, and "If you don't hate changes you are not a true fan" is arrogant gatekeeping naughty word.

It isn't gatekeeping to give your opinion on a product put out by the biggest RPG publisher and one of the biggest toy companies in the world. This kind of victim-hood card large companies are getting fans to pull on their behalf is frankly tiring. I can dislike it, you can like it. We can disagree. And we can also disagree on how the fanbase feels. I am not saying liking the game makes you not a true fan. I am saying the things you said in your post, and some others have said in their posts about the old material, makes it seem like this was probably written for people who really weren't that into the old material or had big problems with it. There has long been people who criticized Ravenloft from the get-go. Many of us did not. Those are two very different types of fans.
 

But this was the essence of the setting.
No, it was the authors'* prejudice. They clearly looked down on contemporary horror. It's not a matter of not liking gothic horror. It's just that it's perfectly possible to have a setting that supports one group of players playing gothic ghost stories whilst another group of players fights the zombie apocalypse.

*And since the authors of the Black Box weren't Laura Hickman they don't get to claim originator's privilege.
 

Remathilis

Legend
The concept, the tone, the art, the monsters. Those where great. Several of the domains had interesting ideas. The rule adjustments where okay, as was the fear and and horror mechanics. But there were several fundamental flaws:

1) The core. This, and treating it as if it where are real world with fixed geography, history, and economics detracted from the nightmarish feel.
2) The core's irrational layout. If there must be a core it could have been arranged in some way that made sense.
3) Gothic gatekeeping. The refusal by the authors to tolerate different types of horror was an inappropriate attempt to impose their own taste on the players. This is also partially the cause of 4.
4) Repetition. Many of the domains where too similar to each other. This is a case where less would have been more. Clearly the authors had a page count they needed to fill.
5) Too much emphasis on dark lords. This led to video-game like gameplay: go to the domain, kill the minions, kill the boss, rinse and repeat.


It seems to me that an awful lot of old fans are just as pleased with the changes as I am, and "If you don't hate changes you are not a true fan" is arrogant gatekeeping naughty word.
I want to second a lot of these observations. E when I was playing in the 90s, Ravenloft was mind-blowing. It was one of my favorite settings because I love gothic horror. But as I grew older and my tastes changed, my DM style matured, and my worldview expanded, I began to see the cracks in the design. The uneasy marriage between being domains being prisons tailored to specific darklords and the desire for a living breathing world of trade and politics. Darklords who ranged from non-entities in their own domains to being the only possible story that Domain could support. The difficulty of even playing non humans or spellcasters in many domains limiting PC options. And while I didn't see it affect me personally, I saw fans of the setting upset by depictions of race, gender, trans identity, and non-European cultures and wishing for more sensitive depictions. So much so, one author of many DMs Guild products had a list of Domains he refused to cover and never used Vistani in his works. And he was covering Ravenloft domain by domain.

D&D has evolved over the course 30 years. It's very different than 2e with it's exceptional strength and race/class limits. The settings need to evolve to. Some have had the chance to do so incrementally like Faerun, while others have 20 year gaps. But it is possible to love something and still want to see it change and evolve.
 

darjr

I crit!
If your going to tell me the current creators at WotC are not fans of D&D and the folks who worked on the new domains of dread book are not fans of it..... well then I don’t think you know what that word means.

After all we now know that the “producer” of the book pitched it.

I gave up on “angry” this or “ranting” that. There is enough strife and hate and anger in the world. I’m not giving any of those folks any credit any more.

WotC folk are fans and they tried their best to make a book they could be proud of. I think it’s going to be pretty great.
 
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It isn't gatekeeping to give your opinion on a product
But it is gatekeeping of accusing people who disagree with you of not being fans.
put out by the biggest RPG publisher and one of the biggest toy companies in the world.
What's the size of the company got to do with anything? You binging in the politics of envy now? You hate them because they are successful?
This kind of victim-hood card large companies are getting fans to pull on their behalf is frankly tiring.
No company got me to do anything. Although it might be fair to say that the way to be a successful company is to be right.
I can dislike it, you can like it. We can disagree.
True.
And we can also disagree on how the fanbase feels.
No, that can be determined objectively.
I am not saying liking the game makes you not a true fan. I am saying the things you said in your post, and some others have said in their posts about the old material, makes it seem like this was probably written for people who really weren't that into the old material or had big problems with it. There has long been people who criticized Ravenloft from the get-go. Many of us did not. Those are two very different types of fans.
So what you are saying is "I'm not a gatekeeper, but..."
 

No, it was the authors'* prejudice. They clearly looked down on contemporary horror. It's not a matter of not liking gothic horror. It's just that it's perfectly possible to have a setting that supports one group of players playing gothic ghost stories whilst another group of players fights the zombie apocalypse.

*And since the authors of the Black Box weren't Laura Hickman they don't get to claim originator's privilege.

Of course it is possible to have a multi-horror genre setting. And there is nothing wrong with a multi-horror setting, but that isn't what Ravenloft was. That's like complaining that Halloween doesn't have enough vampires in it or that it is being mean to zombie movie fans. The focus of Ravenloft wasn't that. And it was because of a lot of things, including a very clear vision on the part of the black box writers (who definitely had strong opinions about modern horror: opinions I don't share by the way). But that isn't prejudice. Let's not equate taste in horror movies with a term like that. I get it has broad use, but it is charged language. They preferred classic horror, and they made a good argument for it in box set. Whatever the reason, it helped produce a unique setting with a atmosphere and flavor. Change that, you completely change the setting. As for the original module: their job was to turn the original module into a complete setting, which is what they did. They brought in the classic and gothic horror, they bought in the idea of the living villain, they brought in the idea of customizable monsters, etc. The black box builds off the module and makes something new in the process.
 


No, that can be determined objectively.

But we don't have that information. That would require polling all the people who were old fans. That takes a lot more than a forum poll where the data will be skewed. At a certain point, unless a massive study is done on the subject (and it probably won't be) we will have to accept this is our own speculation and opinions on the matter.
 

Remathilis

Legend
If your going to tell me the current creators at WotC are not fans of D&D and the folks who worked on the new domains of dread book are not fans of it..... well then I don’t think you know what that word means.

I gave up on “angry” this or “ranting” that. There is enough strife and hate and anger in the world.

They are fans and they tried their best to make a book they could be proud of. I think it’s going to be pretty great.
It's a common misconception about any long running fandom: the current owners don't "get" the work and are ruining it for the long time fans, who are "fired" in the chase of new fans who didn't support the fandom since the beginning.
 

Of course it is possible to have a multi-horror genre setting. And there is nothing wrong with a multi-horror setting, but that isn't what Ravenloft was.
Why wasn't it? Only reason: The authors didn't like the other stuff.
As for the original module: their job was to turn the original module into a complete setting, which is what they did. They brought in the classic and gothic horror, they bought in the idea of the living villain, they brought in the idea of customizable monsters, etc. The black box builds off the module and makes something new in the process.
It's a shame they didn't bring in Laura Hickman...
 

So what you are saying is "I'm not a gatekeeper, but..."
No, I am saying I am not gatekeeping. I am just not being an idiot either when people tell me they were great fans but then criticize just about everything about the setting, including its essence. That is like saying "I loved scarface" except for all that violence and drugs nonsense: it needed more slapstick. Why was scarface so prejudice against Buster Keaton fans?
 


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