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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

No thank you, I'd like to keep that silliness out of the setting.
Sillier than a bunch of hammer tropes assembled into a jigsaw continent and floating around without anything resembling a planet?!

Whatever, it has been part of the Shadowfell for a couple of editions now, and that comes with a structure and set of rules. One of which is shadowstuff to make things out of.
 

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Remathilis

Legend
The thing is, the Darklord doesn't have control over its domain, except through what political power it has. That's part of the DL's curse.

The Core was mostly well-thought out, I believe, with only a few outliers--like G'Henna and Markovia, which got yanked out and turned into a dark, Mist-filled pit of nothingness that got turned into the Shadow Rift (which I always felt should be a forest).


At the very least, it should provide some inspiration--if only to say "wow, I hate how they did this domain now!"
The Dark Lord has plenty, it's just not always political power. Godrey isn't the political lord of Mordent, but he still controls the border openings, his presence is the reason the land of filled with ghosts, and the locals still "consult" with the spirit before making major changes, and while the ghost doesn't show up to speak at the town halls, his displeasure is known when warranted.

Anyway, a lot of this might be moot regardless. If all domains were always supposedly bordered by mist, its a simple matter of having some domains "always" lead to other ones. If you leave Darkon by the normal roads, you always get to Falkovia, Tempest, Lamordia, and Nova Vaasa. Leave via other methods and anything's game. This also assumes that their will be is Domain and Mist; the Shadowfell IS a plane with geography reflecting the Material plane. Perhaps Darkon and Lamordia don't share a border, but it's a short ride in the Shadowfell to get from one to another. Traveling in the Shadowfell would be gloomy and possibly dangerous, but appear like traveling any undeveloped hinterland.

I'm just saying that the Core, either in it's black box or DoD incarnation, was the only or even best way to make Ravenloft a setting. YMMV.
 

I’m actually ok with travel between domains being infrequent. But I would like for it to happen (possibly with the help of the Vistani), and most importantly I want people in the domains to have their own lives, even if they are miserable ones.

The inhabitants of the domains did have their own lives, and people could travel. There is plenty of this but you see it clearly with the most famous character Van Richten: he describes his adventures all over Ravenloft (where he also describes various allies, friends and foes across various domains). He resided in mordentshire where he ran an herbalist shop (which suggests trade to me). Also pretty sure domain entries got into things like exports and imports but would have to check. In feast of goblyns one of the encounters is at a local homestead inhabited by a family. Of its Ravenloft so you never know if you will be meeting people or monsters
Eh, they weren't very consistent about that. Sometimes the Dark Powers scooped up actual places from the Material Plane (i.e. Kalidnay), sometimes the domains never existed anywhere else and were shaped by the darklord's nature (i.e. Sithicus). That's why some folks having souls and some not works for me, it accounts for the inconsistency. (Plus the horror aspect that even death might not release you from Ravenloft...)
one of the horrors in Ravenloft, more in concept than in practice for PCs (though it can be done with PCs too) is much of the history around you, your families past, even you, might not really exist: it is possible you were created ten minutes ago when the dark powers created an ancient looking domain to torment a new dark lord. This true as well with people living in Darkon, who might simply have false memories and false roots there
 

They were certainly all horror in my opinion. Some more successful at it than others, but I can't really think of a domain that wasn't horror.
I think the issue for me is that, in Sideshow Bob's immortal words, "There's no Nobel prize for attempted chemistry!". Certainly all of them had some kind of horror angle in mind and attempted it (albeit several not Gothic Horror, contrary to the supposed conceit of that era of Ravenloft, as George notes), but some were total failures at it any kind of inherent horror, instead ending up as small dark fantasy settings with a usually humanocentric vibe. Which like, I get that appeals to some people (c.f. the success of 3PP dark fantasy stuff in the early 3E/OGL era), but seemed like a retrenchment from the actual concept they pushed so hard initially. A vaguely oppressive region with a bad guy and his forces in charge isn't horror, it's just a fairly typical part of a D&D setting. I mean, jeez, some of the city-states in Dark Sun were creepier/scarier than some of the domains in old Ravenloft.
To you. You are entitled to your opinion but others are entitled to theirs. You don't speak for everyone. To me they were far from boring. I can honestly say, the black boxed set was the most exciting gaming material I had read to that point. It was the most exciting game material I had played to that point. I devoured it. I used it all. I was a total fan. I certainly didn't find it boring.
Sure, but I don't think I was alone, and given the 1990s, I'm pretty sure, personally, if they'd embraced their own conceit rather than getting lost in it, Ravenloft could have had even more success.

To me, Ravenloft was extremely good concept, with some very strong domains, weighted down by a lot of much weaker design which seemed to be edging it into mere "dark fantasy" territory over time, especially as people tried to make this inherently fantastical concept "make sense". Hopefully WotC have reversed that, and it sounds like it for sure.
 

I think the issue for me is that, in Sideshow Bob's immortal words, "There's no Nobel prize for attempted chemistry!". Certainly all of them had some kind of horror angle in mind and attempted it (albeit several not Gothic Horror, contrary to the supposed conceit of that era of Ravenloft, as George notes), but some were total failures at it any kind of inherent horror, instead ending up as small dark fantasy settings with a usually humanocentric vibe. Which like, I get that appeals to some people (c.f. the success of 3PP dark fantasy stuff in the early 3E/OGL era), but seemed like a retrenchment from the actual concept they pushed so hard initially. A vaguely oppressive region with a bad guy and his forces in charge isn't horror, it's just a fairly typical part of a D&D setting. I mean, jeez, some of the city-states in Dark Sun were creepier/scarier than some of the domains in old Ravenloft.

Sure, but I don't think I was alone, and given the 1990s, I'm pretty sure, personally, if they'd embraced their own conceit rather than getting lost in it, Ravenloft could have had even more success.

To me, Ravenloft was extremely good concept, with some very strong domains, weighted down by a lot of much weaker design which seemed to be edging it into mere "dark fantasy" territory over time, especially as people tried to make this inherently fantastical concept "make sense". Hopefully WotC have reversed that, and it sounds like it for sure.

we just fundamentally disagree which is fine. But that also might have to do with expectations. I found ROT was hugely atmospheric, classic horror with a good bit of camp (I was a fan of old horror movies so for me something that felt like it could be read in the voice of Vincent price or used to run a bride of Frankenstein adventure—was the kind of horror I wanted. On stuff like Drakov, I found the domain creepy and was a good place for humans as the horror (which is why I think his treatment of Demi humans was interesting). But I also loved the monster outs horrors of places like Barovia, Forlorm and Kartakass. For me products like guide to created and guide to ghosts sealed it: I had all the tools I needed for really great horror adventures in the style I wanted.

I can say is it often comes down to execution. And many of the individual supplements were varied in quality but the black box, the red, domains of dread and the van Richten books were solid (not entice to mention sone of the standout modules like FOG and CF). Sone domains also certainly didn’t land with me: but I found most of the original ones I did eventually find angles with (and finding the angles was important because of the barebones style of Rot. Some of the modules didn’t land as well, but I do think it was by far much more effective horror than the stuff I have seen under 3E WOTC (CoS was certainly a step up but just didn’t register with me and I don’t quite like the combat heavy approach of 3-4th: played lots of 3rd, and Ravenloft never felt the same under that system; switched back to 2E and it felt the same). With 5E I don’t think it is that old Ravenloft fails or succeeds and 5th does or doesn’t. They seem to be going for different things. Can’t comment as much on 5E mechanically as I have only played it a few times. But just reading through CoS it is much closer to the spirit of Ravenloft than say Expedition to Castle Ravenloft in 3rd. But I can just tell from the style of horror in CoS it isn’t the style I am looking for in Ravenloft (and not saying it isn’t successful horror, I just really like the classic, yet campy, style of old schooo Ravenloft)
 

I think the issue for me is that, in Sideshow Bob's immortal words, "There's no Nobel prize for attempted chemistry!".
You are entitled to your opinion. But if we were both awarding the horror RPG orixe I would 100% give it to the black box (and it was well received when it came out). As far as I am concerned they didn’t simply attempt, they succeeded. And for me the proof was in the pudding: I was captivated by the boxed set as soon as I sat down to read it (literally couldn’t stop till I finished). The. It inspired me to run countless campaigns where the horror was absolutely working (and in sessions that didn’t work, it wasn’t the setting but me just learning how to GM). If I have that reaction to a setting, have that kind of play experience, I can’t label it mere attempted chemistry.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
I skipped most of 4e so I'm not really up with the lore on the Raven Queen, but from what i do know she's usually impassive, neutral, patient etc, right? That's ... not how the Dark Powers work. They're capricious, calculatedly cruel in nastily ironic ways, and will cheerfully make the lives of thousands awful and brutally short so that their favoured targets continue to suffer appropriately.
In 4e, yeah. She’s the Lawful Neutral* goddess of death, fate, and winter, and she’s very much about maintaining natural cycles. She hates undead and is pretty brutal in exterminating them, but trapping people in their own hell-dimensions definitely doesn’t seem like her thing.

*ok, technically Unaligned because 5e had a 5-alignment system instead of 9 and Lawful Neutral didn’t exist. But she would absolutely be LN in the 9-alignment system, and the table of Dawn War pantheon deities in the 5e DMG backs this up.

I skipped 4e too, but the Raven Queen is one of the better things to come out of it. Her alignment is chaotic neutral, she is incomprehensible, uncaring, and collects memories associated with negative emotions.

"The Raven Queen is trapped by her fascination with the past. She sits in her fortress, amidst all the memories of the world, looking at the ones that please her most as though they were glittering jewels. Many great wizards have attempted to understand her motives, but like a raven she has always remained cryptic, keeping her cache of secrets just out of their reach."
Yeah, so that’s the 5e reinterpretation of the Raven Queen. In 5e they rewrote her because her original lore was specific to 4e’s default setting and pretty incompatible with 5e’s sort of meta-cosmology. She isn’t Chaotic Neutral in 5e either though, she’s supposed to be inscrutable and to sit outside the alignment chart. Most 4e fans I know hate the 5e re-interpretation of the Raven Queen, as she’s kind of the opposite of her original incarnation. Instead of a neutral but ultimately necessary force actively working to preserve the natural order of life and death, choice and consequence, summer and winter, she’s become a mysterious interloper who meddles with the souls of the dead for some unspecified purpose.

I could just about see the 5e Raven Queen as a dark power, but I really hope they don’t go that route. The less of that awful rewrite we see published, the better.
 
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??? Is that like a prize? Part of my brain is saying it might be.

I would award it for D&D to Ravenloft, though not RPGs in general as there have been countless superb horror RPGs, and Ravenloft is merely a setting for D&D which can work okay as a horror RPG under specific circumstances.
And for me the proof was in the pudding: I was captivated by the boxed set as soon as I sat down to read it (literally couldn’t stop till I finished).
This has no bearing whatsoever on whether they succeeded as horror settings, only whether you liked it or not. I've read plenty of RPGs where I loved the setting but it didn't actually work the way it was intended. It's almost routine.
It inspired me to run countless campaigns where the horror was absolutely working (and in sessions that didn’t work, it wasn’t the setting but me just learning how to GM).
That's not a rational argument nor a well-reasoned opinion and appears to contradict your directly previous post. Blaming yourself for everything that didn't work, and the setting/writing for nothing is the opposite of making any real attempt to analyze the successes and potential failures of a setting.
Sone domains also certainly didn’t land with me: but I found most of the original ones I did eventually find angles with (and finding the angles was important because of the barebones style of Rot. Some of the modules didn’t land as well, but I do think it was by far much more effective horror than the stuff I have seen under 3E WOTC
See, you said this previously, and that's much more of an actual attempt to look at things - it also contradicts the "it's all my fault" angle! Having to work to find an angle was certainly my experience - and most importantly to what I'm saying, often if you could find an angle, it wasn't one the writers appeared to have considered nor supported well.

As for "more effective than horror under 3E WotC", I totally agree! Definitely not going to argue with that!

WotC in 3E and 4E basically wrote about 75% mediocre-to-terrible adventures. There were some gems, for sure, but in general, the overall quality of their output was extremely low in anything but production-value terms. This is a big part of why Paizo and others were so successful. I don't think Paizo's APs were the apex of adventure design or anything, but they were typically vastly better-designed in everything from layout to understanding how players operate, more inherently "exciting" (subjective but I feel like the extreme success of their products helps bolster this assertion), often more mechanically sound and where they attempted horror, vastly more effective than WotC's attempts at it (but it wasn't typically the focus for either company).

Anyway, put it like this, if your contention is "Every single domain and lord, no exceptions, was good, and worked well to produce horror of some kind!", then I personally find that ludicrous and it seems to contradict your own statements. (n)

But if your contention is "Ravenloft was the best D&D setting at horror and stayed that way!", I agree. (y) And I think it'll continue, because it looks to me like WotC are making very sensible updates.
 

Remathilis

Legend
So, changing tracts for a moment.

I hope as part of the revision of Ravenloft is an expansion in racial/lineage diversity. Too many domains were not just human-centric, they were human ONLY. That worked in the 1990's when a.) Ravenloft's PCs were assumed to come from outside the demiplane and b.) they were probably going to be from the six PHB races that more-or-less could pass as human with a clever enough disguise. Unfortunately, this carried over to the "campaign setting" version, and while the other races were playable in theory, in reality unless you were in Darkon it was a liability. I don't see that flying as well in 2021.

Fortunately, there is some indication that the "humans only in practice" model might be shifting. There has been some artwork of a tiefling already (and 4e did have a tiefling-focused domain in Dragon Magazine) and Curse of Strahd didn't inherently penalize any race moreso than any other (every stranger in Barovia was given the same unwelcome treatment, regardless of birth). Further, I don't imagine racial discrimination is going to work post-Orcgate. Lastly, there is no reason why most of those domains couldn't have other races in them (except for the fact several of them are carbon-copies of gothic novel setttings with minimal work done to them).

I'm looking forward to seeing if any non-human-origin Darklords make appearances as well. There isn't a single dwarf, gnome, or dragonborn in the multiverse who was evil enough to warrant a domain? Pshaw!
 

Remathilis

Legend
The lord of Falkovnia is based on Vlad the Impaler. With any genre there is going to be blending of flavors, and there is definitely room for the kind of horror you found in Falkovnia. This kind of horror was like the opening to the 92 Dracula movie. That combined with the way it handled demi-humans, made it a great backdrop for all kinds of horror adventures. It was one of the most popular domains for a reason: it worked.

He really only shares a name and an afinity for impaling with Vlad Tepes. He's actually much more like this guy:

Hitler_portrait_crop.jpg

Y'all really can't see the pontential MINEFIELD associatate with a domain who's a mixture of Vlad Tepes (a controversial and brutal figure, but a still a hero to certain areas of the Slavic world) and Hitler, complete with racial discrimination, super-soldiers, and "branding"?

Seriously, World War Z is a far easier sell than Fascist Utopia. Esp for an "all ages" market they are attempting to reach.
 

Voadam

Legend
In 4e, yeah. She’s the Lawful Neutral* goddess of death, fate, and winter, and she’s very much about maintaining natural cycles. She hates undead and is pretty brutal in exterminating them, but trapping people in their own hell-dimensions definitely doesn’t seem like her thing.

*ok, technically Unaligned because 5e had a 5-alignment system instead of 9 and Lawful Neutral didn’t exist. But she would absolutely be LN in the 9-alignment system, and the table of Dawn War pantheon deities in the 5e DMG backs this up.


Yeah, so that’s the 5e reinterpretation of the Raven Queen. In 5e they rewrote her because her original lore was specific to 4e’s default setting and pretty incompatible with 5e’s sort of meta-cosmology. She isn’t Chaotic Neutral in 5e either though, she’s supposed to be inscrutable and to sit outside the alignment chart. Most 4e fans I know hate the 5e re-interpretation of the Raven Queen, as she’s kind of the opposite of her original incarnation. Instead of a neutral but ultimately necessary force actively working to preserve the natural order of life and death, choice and consequence, summer and winter, she’s become a mysterious interloper who meddles with the souls of the dead for some unspecified purpose.

I could just about see the 5e Raven Queen as a dark power, but I really hope they don’t go that route. The less of that awful rewrite we see published, the better.
Where is the Raven Queen described in 5e?

She sort of fits very well with the anti-undead raven theme from Ravenloft (holy symbol of Ravenkind, wereravens, Castle Ravenloft), except that the ravens and their themes are explicitly good in the setting history across editions and she is explicitly not good in 4e.

I could see her being tied in as an in-game deity either officially or as someone's campaign.
 

Where is the Raven Queen described in 5e?

She sort of fits very well with the anti-undead raven theme from Ravenloft (holy symbol of Ravenkind, wereravens, Castle Ravenloft), except that the ravens and their themes are explicitly good in the setting history across editions and she is explicitly not good in 4e.

I could see her being tied in as an in-game deity either officially or as someone's campaign.
Ravenloft isn't really anti undead. Even compared to eberron where intelligent undead can be people its downright kind to them the Dark Powers use a lot of undead to highlight tragedy sure, but it's not really anti undead
 

Ruin explorer when I have time later I will respond to each post but please don’t accuse me of being unreasonable or contradictory without asking for clarification first. I am perfectly willing to admit if I contradicted an earlier point, or acknowledge my arguments haven’t convinced someone. But I have put a lot of effort into being accurate, bring clear, bring reasonable and trying to honestly convey my experience with Ravenloft. It feels like you are trying to paint my posts as unreasonable just to gain the upper hand or strengthen your own position. I haven’t accused you of being unreasonable. If you said something that seemed contradictory I would ask for clarification. In forum discussions it is easy to not fully explain a thought, it is also possible to be wrong or contradict oneself without realizing it. But the tone of your above post only provoked anger because it seems an unfair characterization, or at least an uncharitable one to me (which isn’t something I am interested in engaging in an rpG discussion). We are talking about our subjective opinions about horror games here
 

Remathilis

Legend
Where is the Raven Queen described in 5e?

There are two verisons, actually.

The 4e-style dispassionate deity of death is in Explorer's Guide to Wildemont, (and appears on the Dawn War pantheon in the DMG). There is some slight variance from the 4e RQ and 5e Exandria versions, but they're fairly close.

The other is an enigmatic entity discussed in Modenkainen's Tome of Foes, who is an elven queen who achieved immortality at a terrible cost, and uses her minions the shadar-kai to collect memories, knowledge and the dead to her. She's not a deity, but something close to it. Honestly, this version could work in Ravenloft.
 

Remathilis

Legend
I cordially hate the idea of the Raven Queen in Ravenloft, but I'm kinda resigned we'll see it this time around. Best case IMHO would be to just have her as one of the setting's deities (have we heard anything about the gods of 5e Ravenloft yet? Is Ezra, Hala, the Morninglord, the Lawgiver, the Wolf God, the Divinity of Mankind still around? CoS was profoundly perfunctory when it came to in-world deities...) but we already have a death-focused faith in the Eternal Order. Is there room for two?

I kinda hope so, but to be fair, most of the Ravenloft "pantheon" is barely a pantheon. You have a few historical deities (the Egyptian deities in Hal-Akir, Belenus from the Celts, etc), interlopers from the other settings (Bane/the Lawgiver, the Morninglord/Jandar Sunstar, Nerull), some evil deities often centered on a single domain (the Wolf God, the Eternal Order, and Zhakata, all more or less reflections of the Dark Powers), plus one or two larger multi-domain faiths (Hala, which was a loosely based on Wicca and the Church of Erza, your Catholic church analogy). Honestly, the latter two don't sound like they'd be hard to put back into most domains, and the rest tended to be isolated to a single domain or two. (and even then, Erza only existed as a concept from 1997 on, Hala comes for the 3e Arthaus era. Both are relatively "new" the setting as is.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
Where is the Raven Queen described in 5e?
Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes, I think?
She sort of fits very well with the anti-undead raven theme from Ravenloft (holy symbol of Ravenkind, wereravens, Castle Ravenloft), except that the ravens and their themes are explicitly good in the setting history across editions and she is explicitly not good in 4e.
Well, not being good doesn’t mean the same thing in 4e as it does in a 9-alignment system. She’s unaligned, which doesn’t necessarily mean she doesn’t do good for the world, or that the good she does is balanced by evil. Corellon is also unaligned in 4e.

I could see her being tied in as an in-game deity either officially or as someone's campaign.
Yeah, in my take on Curse of Strahd, the Keepers of the Feather worship her.
 


Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
There are two verisons, actually.

The 4e-style dispassionate deity of death is in Explorer's Guide to Wildemont, (and appears on the Dawn War pantheon in the DMG). There is some slight variance from the 4e RQ and 5e Exandria versions, but they're fairly close.
Yeah, Exandria’s pantheon is Matt Mercer’s take on the 4e pantheon, which takes some liberties, but is actually much closer to 4e canon than Mike Mearls’ version of Nentir Vale he used for Heroes of the Veil.
The other is an enigmatic entity discussed in Modenkainen's Tome of Foes, who is an elven queen who achieved immortality at a terrible cost, and uses her minions the shadar-kai to collect memories, knowledge and the dead to her. She's not a deity, but something close to it. Honestly, this version could work in Ravenloft.
It could, but dear lord I hope they don’t put her in. I feel like that would be upsetting to both Ravenloft fans and Nentir Vale fans, and possibly even Critical Role fans. She’s just the polar opposite of everything people like about the Raven Queen.
 

Y'all really can't see the pontential MINEFIELD associatate with a domain who's a mixture of Vlad Tepes (a controversial and brutal figure, but a still a hero to certain areas of the Slavic world) and Hitler, complete with racial discrimination, super-soldiers, and "branding"?

Seriously, World War Z is a far easier sell than Fascist Utopia. Esp for an "all ages" market they are attempting to reach.

when I have time, will provide lengthier response. But this is horror and is going to draw on dark history to resonate. People will have very different reactions to that. The character of Drakov evolved over the line. Strahd is based on Vlad the impaler too.
 

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