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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

Voadam

Legend
There's lots to do in any one Domain,
There was a literally one apartment domain in Book of Crypts.
and presumably you can still even just walk to one domain from another.
I would presume it would be like islands in the past, you cannot just sail or walk from one to another, you can blindly go into the mist and end up potentially anywhere, go with Vistani guides, or go with a different guide who has a special thing (I remember one boat captain who could serve a Vistani-like travel function here).
 

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How many moons are in the core realm of Sithicus and what color are they? How many are in the core's Nova Vaasa? How about for their neighbors in the core?

For a setting where moon phases could matter significantly I would have preferred to have the same answer for all three instead of three different answers.

Earlier I said moons were one area they really needed to figure out a better explanation or better way of handling them. That was always a little odd
 

Faolyn

Hero
There was a literally one apartment domain in Book of Crypts.

I would presume it would be like islands in the past, you cannot just sail or walk from one to another, you can blindly go into the mist and end up potentially anywhere, go with Vistani guides, or go with a different guide who has a special thing (I remember one boat captain who could serve a Vistani-like travel function here).
The one-apartment domain is an outlier and you know it. Most of the time, players will be wandering around one of the actual country-sized domains.

In 3e, at least--can't remember 2e--they had Mistways, which were mostly reliable ways to get from one domain to another by walking (or sailing) into the Mists, even without the Vistani. This included traveling to Islands and Clusters. It was, IIRC, something between a 50%-90% chance of getting where you wanted to go, depending on the quality of the Mistway. Traveling with a Vistani increased that to (close to) 100%.
 

tetrasodium

Legend
Supporter
On the subject of how beings affected by moons are affected by the moon(s) across different domains, eberron probably has the most written about moons since it has 13 different moons that present interesting challenges & boons for those beings that work well with the needs of plot
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-EE146
I'm not going to hunt down which book it got printed in since this is good enough, but Keith wrote about how lycanthropes & such are affected by all those moons here
How do the multiple moons of Eberron affect lycanthropes?

The origin of lycanthropy remains a mystery. All lycanthropes are influenced by the moons, but not all in the same way; this suggests that there may be multiple strains of lycanthropy with different origins. The first strain is only affected by the phases of the moon Olarune; this is typically associated with good-aligned lycanthropes. The second strain of lycanthropy is affected by all of the moons, and multiple full moons can cause extreme behavior; this is the effect reported by the templars during the Lycanthropic Purge, and it encourages aggressive behavior and drives victims to quickly succumb to the curse. The third strain of lycanthrope is affected by the moon(s) that were ascendant at the moment of its birth or at the moment it was afflicted; this is common among natural lycanthropes. When adventurers encounter lycanthropes, the DM will have to decide which strain they’re dealing with.
With 30 different domains it's almost certain that there is always a full moon somewhere to make an easy excuse for lunar cycle related things to happen at any time. The differing moons even give a d&d version of treknobabble beyond "because the dark powers" for why the results of a shift aren't always the same that might need special tools to discern if it's possible at all
 

Alzrius

The EN World kitten
Actual canonical answer: one moon. One in Nova Vaasa, and one in Sithicus (but in Sithicus, it's Nuitari only).
The reason the moon is an issue at all in Ravenloft is because The Awakening (affiliate link) said Nova Vaasa had five moons, but that was retconned fairly quickly as I recall.

With regard to Sithicus, during the events of Spectre of the Black Rose, Lunitari and Solinari briefly appeared, and at the end of the book the moon in Sithicus was said to be triple-colored (red, white, and black).
 

Occurs to me this may be why some of the domains were overhauled; a realm like Falkovnia, where endless war against an unbeatable enemy is a core element, doesn't work so well without a neighbor to invade.

Without there being a Core there is no point to Falkovnia at all, so you need to change the domain completely. Which is why I ask: Why bother calling it Falkovnia at all?
 




I really don't get the argument that "without islands floating in the Mist it's not Gothic, because you can escape."

You all know Gothic literature is set on Earth generally, right? A place that, even in the 19th century, you could get in a carriage (or on a horse) and go some distance without too much trouble. The Core allowed for the whole "can't escape terror" with isolated islands in the sea or Islands of Terror, but Barovia doesn't need to be inescapable to create the Gothic atmosphere. It only needs to be an isolated backwater, like the actual 19th century rural Transylvania or Wallachia.

And on the note of Falkovnia. Drakov's military dictatorship and endless war is absolutely a form of horror. Remember how I said the current incarnation seems to be ignoring the "humans are the real monsters" aspect. That's Falkovnia. It's a horrific land ruled by a misogynistic delusional psychopath who sends his people into a charnel house of endless wars with no victory to satisfy his own frustrated ambitions. The Dark Powers torture him by having him get beaten in battle by women (Borca, Richemulot), fops (Borca and Mordent) and wizards (Darkon), things he despises. Azalin's contempt for Drakov is even worst - the Wizard-King doesn't even bother turning up to the wars with Falkovnia, he just waves his hand and raises the dead.

The Falkovnian soldiers end up being gutted by their own (dead) comrades.
 

The thing is, she did.

That was a plot-thread in the 3E take on the setting, and it was a fascinating way of laying down potential adventures for your party, because Strahd was getting angry that he couldn't find her among the current generation of young ladies in Barovia, while Tatyana's latest reincarnation (who'd been taken out of the domain by her parents when she had her fortune told as a child, and were horrified that it ended in her dying before she turned twenty if she stayed in Barovia) has been having recurring dreams about going back to Barovia, dreams that are getting stronger over time...

Later interviews with the designers revealed that they did this because it pushed questions central to the dynamic of the characters. Strahd's feelings for Tatyana were centered around the fact that she made him feel young and alive again, and that even now he intended to make her his eternally-youthful vampire bride, so what would happen if he encountered her when she was past her prime? It was brilliant, and it's a shame it's not being followed up on now.

Yes! Tara Koylana hanging out in another domain was honestly a fresh take on the character. Strahd is now tortured by the fact that his "one true love" is out of his reach and aging rapidly.
 

The one-apartment domain is an outlier and you know it. Most of the time, players will be wandering around one of the actual country-sized domains.

In 3e, at least--can't remember 2e--they had Mistways, which were mostly reliable ways to get from one domain to another by walking (or sailing) into the Mists, even without the Vistani. This included traveling to Islands and Clusters. It was, IIRC, something between a 50%-90% chance of getting where you wanted to go, depending on the quality of the Mistway. Traveling with a Vistani increased that to (close to) 100%.
That was 3rd edition (unless it appeared in DoD). The best one was "Jackal's Ruse" which would take you from a ship in the sea to.... stranded in the desert of Har'Akir!
 

There's no single answer to any of these questions, but most of them have been answered at various times over the years in the Ravenloft line.

Over the centuries, Strahd's obsession Tatyana has been reincarnated many many times. She's not aware of his interest or of her place in his punishment, but Strahd is cursed by the Dark Powers to fail to attain her. Maybe in some past lives she HAS escaped Barovia, and lived a full life outside in Mordent or somewhere, while Strahd raged impotently from Barovia. Maybe sometimes Strahd attempted to prevent her escape and she died trying to leave. The Dark Powers hold the whip hand in Ravenloft and they don't care what happens to Tatyana, as long as Strahd doesn't have her. She, through all her lives is nothing but an instrument of his punishment. Nobody ever said the Dark Powers were nice, or fair, after all!

But Strahd isn't onmiscient or omnipotent even in his own domain. He can only stop her leaving, or stop PCs leaving, or stop Van Richten entering, if he knows that they're actually trying to cross the borders. Closing the borders is all or nothing, They're completely closed, completely open to everyone (minus whatever spies etc Strahd might have on the roads or watching the Vistani). And of course when it comes to Tatyana his efforts are ultimately doomed to fail - even if he hampers her movement or keeps her in Barovia, she'll never love him. Because that's the curse the Dark Powers laid on him when he became a Darklord, and he can't use the powers of a Darklord to escape the destiny of a Darklord. From the outside Barovia might look like Strahd's dominion, but it's really his punishment.

And that's true with all the domain lords. They have vast powers in their domain, but their curse prevents them using those powers to achieve what they want the most. Could Strahd launch major wars etc, if he wanted to? Sure (though if he was invading another domain whose Darklord cared enough to defend it, he'd lose). But Strahd isn't really interested in conquest. He's only interested in Tatyana - if her newest incarnation appeared at a critical moment in his military operations, he'd drop everything to seek her out, and the Dark Powers would make sure he can't have her anyway. Some Darklords, like the pre-5e version of Vlad Drakov genuinely are driven by the desire to wage aggressive war - but Vlad's curse prevents him from ever being successful at it. Hell, part of Ankhtepot's curse is to watch the once-mighty kingdom he ruled wither into a scattering of ruins that ignorant foreigners plunder for treasure.

As for why Darklords EVER let their borders open - well, again, it depends how much they care. Darklords ONLY care about their curse, and the drives or desires that led them to be cursed in the first place. All else is secondary. Strahd only gives a damn about the borders insofar as they affect his quest to possess Tatyana. Why would he keep them closed, when perhaps her latest incarnation was born in another domain, or perhaps the secret to breaking his curse is held by some travelling wizard?

It's also worth remembering that, Strahd aside, many Darklords don't actually hold temporal political power in their domain. Sodo, Wilfred Godefroi, Adam, the Three Sisters of Tepet, etc - they probably don't actually care very much if their domain is invaded, and certainly aren't in a position to invade others even if they cared enough to want to.

Yes, exactly. People seem to under the impression Strahd was rewarded with Barovia. He wasn't. It's his prison, and the things he actually wants (Tatyana) he will never get. He doesn't actually want to rule, not really, if he did, the Dark Powers would have locked him in a tomb like Leo Dilisinya.
 

See I think Ravenloft failed on both counts precisely BECAUSE it was trying to do both.

If you want a good example of a Natural Horror Setting, look at Innistrad. There are four regions (Stensia, Gavony, Kessig, Nephalia) each with its own themes and locals. Yet despite the powerful things that live there, there are no monster lords ruling over, no mists to block your path, etc. You can walk from one side to the other and the world around you doesn't change any more than on a normal world. It feels natural and that contrasts against the supernatural elements. You feel like you are part of a natural world overrun by supernatual horror, rather than being in an artificial world

Look at the map @Stormonu posted. You could be a captain of a ship, set sail from Lamordia, past Mordent, Dementieu and as soon as you hit Valachan, you fall off the edge of the map. Seriously, there is NO coast for Valachan despite being on the same coastal border as the other western domains. Somehow, we are to believe that people walk the coast of Mordent, get to a point and and say "well, we're in Valachan now, guess the ocean ended..."

To be honest, I kinda wish WotC had gone in the opposite direction and made Ravenloft feel like a natural world that has supernatural horror elements, but I'll gladly take the horror-theme parks over trying to make sense of the Core's map. I also reserve final judgment until I see the final product, but I don't see the loss of the Core Map as a big deal since the map didn't make a lick of sense anyway.

That's not what happens. If you enter the misty border, you reappear somewhere else. Stroll down the coast of Mordent and when you pass throught the Mists you'll emerge somewhat inland at Valachan (but maybe somewhere else). Sail down the Sea of Sorrows and you'll enter the Verdurous Lands (enjoy your stay in Saragoss). You don't "fall of the edge of any map".
 

Faolyn

Hero
Yes, exactly. People seem to under the impression Strahd was rewarded with Barovia. He wasn't. It's his prison, and the things he actually wants (Tatyana) he will never get. He doesn't actually want to rule, not really, if he did, the Dark Powers would have locked him in a tomb like Leo Dilisinya.
And that's something I really hope is emphasized in the upcoming book: that Domains are prisons and acts of true evil are punished more than they are rewarded.

Things like this were not that unusual (lots of house domains)
The Headless Horseman has a domain that's a single road. All fiends have their own "reality wrinkles" which are effectively person sized domains.
But you guys all know I was talking about the countries, not the lands of the "demilords."

And on the note of Falkovnia. Drakov's military dictatorship and endless war is absolutely a form of horror. Remember how I said the current incarnation seems to be ignoring the "humans are the real monsters" aspect. That's Falkovnia. It's a horrific land ruled by a misogynistic delusional psychopath who sends his people into a charnel house of endless wars with no victory to satisfy his own frustrated ambitions.
You are very correct here. However, the thing that made Falkovnia a very interesting read also makes it, IMO, less fun to play in. It's such a depressing Domain that I never really wanted to do anything with it. While I have ideas that would work well within the domain (I wanted to use the 3.x "half-golem" templates to make horrific Falkovnian super-soldiers, and I wanted to figure out how those vampyrs were getting by in such a militaristically horrific place), actually getting into the domain, and dealing with all the crap there, is just... well, it's unfun for me as a DM.

Now, turning Falkovnia into a zompocalypse domain is quite a bit different than any other bit of speculation I've seen as to where the domain would go post-Drakov. I'm not really a huge fan of zompocalyses in general so I don't know how well it will inspire me.
 

Though to be honest - and heresy alert here - if i was designing Ravenloft from scratch right now in 2021, I'd be sorely tempted to discard the concept of the mists entirely and just draw up a damn world map. I get the reasoning behind them - you want an in-setting way to deposit PCs in a place they have no intention of going - but I think mostly they were just a plot device created to keep people in Barovia waaay back in the first iterations of the Castle Ravenloft module, and just spun a bit out of control and as the setting expanded they started to be more of a hindrance than a help. But for better or worse, they're a fundamental part of the setting now, and you can't just discard them.

I have no issues with the islands-in-the-mist concept itself, I just want to see domains implemented in such a way that regular citizens can live relatively regular lives in them, and travel/trade/etc between them, while certainly not risk-free, is not only possible but frequent. I don't want the various domains reduced to a bunch of one-shot adventure sites hanging around in some sort of limbo, populated by fake people spawned from Strahd's imagination or whatever, waiting for a PC party to show up and bash the darklord. They should be living worlds populated by people with agency and agendas and lives of their own, like any other campaign world. Except if it's one of those domains where everyone's dead... :p
 

Zaukrie

New Publisher
Thus far I've played in one Ravenloft setting campaign (although we used FATE while doing so), while also running two Curse of Strahd campaigns. And the impression I've come away with having done this is that I feel there is one really important thing that should happen to have any 5E game really work in the setting...

...the PCs should never level up.

Yep, I said it. In my opinion the characters should arrive at 3rd level and exist at 3rd level, and never gain XP. At no point should the PCs just get more powerful through your bog-standard "adventuring" while trapped there. Because to me, all that does is give the players the impression that if they just wait a bit... attack and kill a few more werewolves or zombies... they're going to gain extra attacks, fireball spells, the ability to one-shot monsters with divine smite, wildshape into animals that'll overrun everything they go up against etc. etc. That's how we've programmed D&D players to think, and thus it is much harder to frighten them that way.

So we can't let them. Keep them forever stuck with 20 or so HP, ACs that barely ever get above 20, nary a magic weapon to get past resistance to be found. That is their curse. And they will always feel like they are under-powered to deal with what is going on around them, thereby making everything they do truly scary.

But then the question becomes "how do the PCs become more powerful to either escape the domain or try and take on its lords?" And to me, the answer is using "plot leveling" rather than XP. In Barovia in particular (for example)... the way the Icon of Ravenloft and the Sunsword are built and designed as magic weapons... they are what allow characters to have what it might take to take down Strahd. Even if you were only 3rd level, the power of those items gave PCs the ability to actually harm (if not outright kill) the vampire lord. The problem though... at least when I ran CoS... was that by the time they acquired all the necessary items, the party that took Strahd on were like 8th or 9th level and at that point had so many martial and spellcasting options at their disposal that the Icon and the Sunsword were almost superfluous. If I ran the game "as-is" using the standard D&D rules... the party really never needed to get any of the things divined to them from Madam Eva. They just needed to walk around Barovia and level up until they could take the vampire on through standard D&D.

To me... having now run these games the "normal" way... I've come to the conclusion that finding the Icon and the Sunsword should be ALL of the "leveling up" the players get when they are in Barovia. Two entirely story-based items that they have to acquire through whatever means they can while trying to survive. And only by getting those items do they gain the ability to actually have an effect on the land and the denizens within (IE have a chance to take out Strahd.)

Plot and story. Learning the domain and the curse of the Lord. Using those things to gain the slightest bit of upper hand while the PCs are trapped, as their "D&D abilities" never actually grow. THAT would make the Domain of Dread truly scary. And why it was rather genius of my GM to use FATE for our game there, rather than D&D. Because FATE is almost all story, and you don't gain much "mechanical power" over what you start with. So we never felt like we had what it took until we "solved the puzzle" of whatever domain we got trapped in.
Interesting take.......which I might like.......Needs a lot more noodling.....
 

Faolyn

Hero
Without there being a Core there is no point to Falkovnia at all, so you need to change the domain completely. Which is why I ask: Why bother calling it Falkovnia at all?
We'll see when it comes out.

What if the zompocalypse was caused by Azalin sending self-replicating zombies into Falkovnia because he got tired of Drakov constantly bugging him with doomed-to-failure invasions? I mean, even if there was absolutely no actual danger from Falkovnia, an invasion from one domain into another has to be at least a bit annoying, when you're a being who at least has some awareness of when another DL tries to invade. I can imagine Azalin saying "Oh, come on! I just got my dead son to go somewhere else for a while and I was trying to do some research. Please stop ringing my doorbell! We all know it's going to end up with you dying horribly! Just go away!"
 

Shardstone

Adventurer
Publisher
A lot of people in this thread have a tremendous amount of Ravenloft baggage that the vast majority of customers will not share. To people who only know D&D through 5E, Ravenloft is going to be an expansion of CoS, which did have ample combat throughout it, and a feel not all to different from Castlevania — which itself takes inspiration from Castle Ravenloft.
 

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