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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

That's the point; we don't exactly KNOW what the connective glue is going to be. We just know there will be no poster-map of a continent with domains sharing borders. There is no gotcha here; plenty of people have pointed out how the Core had multiple design flaws and you have handwaved most of them with "I never had a problem with it".

I guess we'll know exactly come May, but for now I think it's safe to say there are enough people who don't feel the core is central to Ravenloft's design.

I am not handwaving them, I am explaining why I liked the core. And my point is broader than that: a lot of people like the core. This conversation isn't the only happening. I am seeing plenty of fans of core domains who are also 5E players, and the very important point here is no core for many is a non-starter. You can say their reasons for that are stupid. But to many it is an important part of Ravenloft. I can't tell WOTC what to do, and maybe they have decided that they have enough fans of the new approach, they don't need folks like us (which is fine, it is up to them what they do). But I think people who are dismissing my concerns and the concerns of others, are underestimating 1) how useful the core is for establishing more potential for adventure types and for creating a more life-like world and 2) just how many people want that core. And what is more: the old edition had both a core and islands of terror: you can provide both and give both experiences. Another poster asked about the 'more life-like' thing so I will address that in more detail when I respond to that post.

I don't think it is safe to say the numbers favor no core. Just because WOTC is making a particular decision and just because you think you are seeing a trend on a forum, doesn't translate automatically into what people want (especially when you are dealing with customers who don't post as much on forums). All you have to do is look at 4th edition to realize what you are seeing in forums isn't always what people actually want. Often the picture is much more complicated. And one of the lessons of 5th edition is you can bring in both old and new fans if you do it the right way (i may not be super into 5th edition, but many of my old school friends are).
 

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I think that might be part of the communication problem.

You're looking at Ravenloft only through one specific lens; the 1992 Black Box. While you acknowledge the Red Box and DoD, I get the feeling your looking for something closer to what you fell in love with 20 years ago. I get that, there are plenty of people who reject anything Greyhawk beyond the 84 folio or all Dark Sun beyond the original box. Traditionalism has its appeal.

But the game and setting has move on some from there. Much like how Dark Sun needed a huge amount of work done for its 4e update (and cue a lot of wailing and rending of garments from the DS grognards over that), Ravenloft is another setting that has remained buried too long and needs some work done to update to how the game is played today. It needs a fresh coat of paint because a lot has changed since the Arthaus era (and even more since the black box era) and the setting has to adapt to that.

I've often told Dark Sun fans who hated how 4e introduced spellcasting bards and tieflings the same think I'll say now; a setting that cannot adapt to how the game is now is a dead setting for WotC in terms of future support. The game has evolved past 2e, settings need to also. Luckily, nobody is going to steal your black box edition; you can still run Old Ravenloft as you always have. But WotC needs to make a Ravenloft for today, not one beholden to designs that are outdated or even possibly offensive (the Vistani debacle as a clear example).

I want to point something out: I may be regarded as part of the old school crowd, but I am only 44. That isn't that old. Plenty of people in their 40s are WOTC customers. I am not saying they should just re-issue the black box with updated mechanics. But they should respect the prior material and they should avoid throwing out the baby with the bathwater. Again this is the lesson of 4th edition. Yes you need to bring the game and settings forward for present day audiences. I am not suggesting you shouldn't. But you can do that in a way that brings in new fans while retaining the old fans (otherwise you split your customers up)

And to be clear, I think there is something special about the black box. But I played red box and domains of dread, and I understand why those were appealing to people. To do Ravenloft you can't just appeal to black box fans, you need to get the people who also loved Domains of Dread (because it has its own style and helped expand the fanbase). What I am saying is, when you make drastic changes, you risk losing a lot of these older fans and you risk not gaining fans from that group which you could have gained. I may not be super into 5th edition. But a 5th edition Ravenloft that hit the right notes for me would certainly bring me into the fold. I feel like many people are forgetting the lesson of what made 5th edition such a success in the first place: it brought the fanbases back together
 

Aldarc

Legend
I played 5e Curse of Strahd and I enjoyed it. I own the 5e book. I bought the new 5e Tarokka deck even though I still have my old 2e one.

For a single adventure or an adventure path style campaign a single isolated Island set up can work. For a more sand box campaign and as a full setting I prefer having the domains connected.
IMO, 2E and 3E Ravenloft always seemed more akin in its presentation to a Theme Park MMORPG rather than a Sandbox MMORPG.

I also don't particularly understand the idea put forth that somehow views sandbox play as being directly proportional to landmass size. Blades in the Dark is designed as a sandbox game, but it takes place within the confines of an enclosed city. Likewise Ptolus is a sandbox urban campaign setting for 3e (and soon 5e) where Monte Cook establishes that adventuring in the world of Praemal really only happens in and around the city of Ptolus. By the accounts of several people in this forum, such as @TheSword, Curse of Strahd can be played in the manner of a sandbox campaign. Stars Without Number is a sci-fi sandbox in which players essentially "sail" between "island" planets and systems in space. So how does landmass have any actual bearing on sandbox play? Is my sandbox somehow less of a sandbox if it stays entirely within the bounds of Barovia in Ravenloft or Keoland in Greyhawk or Aundair in Eberron or Karameikos in Mystara or the Nentir Vale in the Nentir Vale?
 

Aldarc

Legend
I want to point something out: I may be regarded as part of the old school crowd, but I am only 44. That isn't that old. Plenty of people in their 40s are WOTC customers. I am not saying they should just re-issue the black box with updated mechanics. But they should respect the prior material and they should avoid throwing out the baby with the bathwater. Again this is the lesson of 4th edition. Yes you need to bring the game and settings forward for present day audiences. I am not suggesting you shouldn't. But you can do that in a way that brings in new fans while retaining the old fans (otherwise you split your customers up)

And to be clear, I think there is something special about the black box. But I played red box and domains of dread, and I understand why those were appealing to people. To do Ravenloft you can't just appeal to black box fans, you need to get the people who also loved Domains of Dread (because it has its own style and helped expand the fanbase). What I am saying is, when you make drastic changes, you risk losing a lot of these older fans and you risk not gaining fans from that group which you could have gained. I may not be super into 5th edition. But a 5th edition Ravenloft that hit the right notes for me would certainly bring me into the fold. I feel like many people are forgetting the lesson of what made 5th edition such a success in the first place: it brought the fanbases back together
At this point, I think it's safe to say that their primary concern is for fans of the Curse of Strahd adventure: you know, the people who are actually buying and playing their games rather than those old school gamers who haven't already been convinced to jump on-board with 5e.
 

We have to be very careful not to get into real world issues. In tepes as I said before, even though I am a history person, and I like Dracula, I know not all that much about Tepes or the history of that region, so I prefer to keep my mouth shut on that particular example in terms of how it should be framed. But you bring up Jonestown. And I think something that actually happened as real world history like that should be fair game for horror because it resonates. But if you are going to allow real world concerns to make real world history an issue there: Jonestown is even worse because it’s recent. There are still people alive who survived Jonestown. So using it has just as much likelihood as emotionally affecting real people. And I think this is the problem with that idea for me personally: most real world examples as sources of inspiration are going to be a problem for someone somewhere: but using real world inspiration is very important for communicating concepts and having an emotional impact

I think there is a difference between emotionally affecting people who survived a tragedy, by portraying the horror of that event as horrific, and affecting people emotionally because they feel like you are misrepresenting a cultural hero.

I agree that using real world inspiration is important, but I think there are ways to do it well, and ways to do it poorly.

Just for another example that personally grinds my gears, now that I am better educated in history. Portrayals of Cleopatra as a promiscuous woman whose only role is the seductress of men ignores the fact that in her own time, her people actually didn't think she was remarkably beautiful. What she was was one of the most educated and intelligent people around. Part of what drew Caesar to her, as I have heard, was the fact that she spoke dozens of languages and could hold an intelligent conversation about any topic he cared to discuss. Her overtly sexual portrayal was Roman Propaganda to disenfranchise her, because "her womanly witchery was the only way she could have held sway over such a great man".

Should we use Cleopatra as a real world inspiration? Of course we should. But I also think it is fair to criticize versions that are solely the flat propaganda used against her. There are many many historical figures that could be portrayed by only the view of their enemies who would get people up in arms and furious.
 


At this point, I think it's safe to say that their primary concern is for fans of the Curse of Strahd adventure: you know, the people who are actually buying and playing their games rather than those old school gamers who haven't already been convinced to jump on-board with 5e.
The point I am making is old (bad edit... will resume in other post)
I think there is a difference between emotionally affecting people who survived a tragedy, by portraying the horror of that event as horrific, and affecting people emotionally because they feel like you are misrepresenting a cultural hero.

I agree that using real world inspiration is important, but I think there are ways to do it well, and ways to do it poorly.

Just for another example that personally grinds my gears, now that I am better educated in history. Portrayals of Cleopatra as a promiscuous woman whose only role is the seductress of men ignores the fact that in her own time, her people actually didn't think she was remarkably beautiful. What she was was one of the most educated and intelligent people around. Part of what drew Caesar to her, as I have heard, was the fact that she spoke dozens of languages and could hold an intelligent conversation about any topic he cared to discuss. Her overtly sexual portrayal was Roman Propaganda to disenfranchise her, because "her womanly witchery was the only way she could have held sway over such a great man".

Should we use Cleopatra as a real world inspiration? Of course we should. But I also think it is fair to criticize versions that are solely the flat propaganda used against her. There are many many historical figures that could be portrayed by only the view of their enemies who would get people up in arms and furious.

I think getting into this would derail the topic. So giving you last word here. I don’t really agree with your view but this discussion has been had in the forum a lot already and would rather talk about Ravenloft
 
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Voadam

Legend
I also don't particularly understand the idea put forth that somehow views sandbox play as being directly proportional to landmass size. Blades in the Dark is designed as a sandbox game, but it takes place within the confines of an enclosed city. Likewise Ptolus is a sandbox urban campaign setting for 3e (and soon 5e) where Monte Cook establishes that adventuring in the world of Praemal really only happens in and around the city of Ptolus. By the accounts of several people in this forum, such as @TheSword, Curse of Strahd can be played in the manner of a sandbox campaign. Stars Without Number is a sci-fi sandbox in which players essentially "sail" between "island" planets and systems in space. So how does landmass have any actual bearing on sandbox play? Is my sandbox somehow less of a sandbox if it stays entirely within the bounds of Barovia in Ravenloft or Keoland in Greyhawk or Aundair in Eberron or Karameikos in Mystara or the Nentir Vale in the Nentir Vale?

In a sandbox players can generally choose to explore and do stuff or not.

If the players choose to stay in one area it is not less sandboxy. If players have no choice but to be in one area it is less sandboxy.

Curse of Strahd has lots of stuff players can choose to explore and do or not do so I would agree it has elements that work with a sandbox style of play and is deep and open enough to go many different ways based on PC choices.

If Curse of Strahd was just the Castle and one village it would be less sandboxy than it is.

If Curse of Strahd had less secondary areas to choose to explore or not it would be less sandboxy than it is.

But also if Curse of Strahd had more areas but the PCs had to explore them that would be less sandboxy.

If players had to explore every area in a certain order that would be less sandboxy.

If Barovia was part of some bigger setting and players could choose to leave that would be more of a sandbox than Curse of Strahd is out of the box.

A haunted house domain would probably be less of a sandbox than Barovia in Curse of Strahd.
 

They weren't corny parodies, though.
Indeed, those were often what was considered the equivalent of big budget makeup and special effects at the time. Back when stranger things hit the scene I can remember interviews with the director/sfx folks that talked about how they didn't do much of the way things were done back in the 80s for things like the end of s1 credits treestump door & instead opted o use modern CGI techniques to make a digital stump that looked like the old 80s model supported style. Netflix's Dark Crystal had to hire a lot of the original crew & jim henson muppeteers because nobody else really uses that style or bothers trying to learn it. Star trek phasers & space combat from ToS in 1966 up through the various trek series & modern current day trek series are a good example of what was considered good sfx with he original Lost in Space(1965) also fitting into a similar b&w budget.
 

If this is a reboot this means the rest of the settings will also. There is some reasons. One of them to can add new elements from the last editions, for example new PC races and classes, other because start almost from zero again allows higher creative freedom but I guess the main reason is the old metaplot becomes obsolet, and then the players want to buy the new books and not only the PDFs from the previous editions, or only reading the fandom wiki, even lots of own homebred new ideas, some of them published by 3PPs in DM Guild. The flaw is this can cause a jumping the shark effect.

* When I think about Ravenloft I remember lots of horror movies what aren't directly linked with gothic horror, for example the tall man, the gravers(sentient undeads) and lurkers(undead dwarf minions) from the saga "Phantasm", some mangas (for example..Gyo), or videogames as the comingsoon Back 4 Blood.

* I would rather dread domains allowed to be together to create stories of "international conflicts" or fights between the different dark lords. For example the illithid elder brain would sent mind-controlled spies to other domains, at least to buy slaves and food.

* I wonder about Fakovnia as a "Hellmouth" or a planar rift, and the undeads are from a second secret layer in the demiplane.

* Is there any relation between the demiplane of the dread and the negative quasi-elemental planes (salt, dust, ash and vacuum)?

* The line between tragedy and dark comedy is very blurred. If we abuse a trope this becomes usells, for example the killed girlfriend found in the refrigerator. You should remember what happens when a famous and popular marvel superhero dies but we know some day he or she will come back.

* What if Vlad Drakov is still canon, but nobody knows he was killed by a time-traveler from an alternate future?

* Do you think there is any potential conflict between the dark powers and Tharizdum, the elder elemental eye? It would be a surprise if the players discover their anti-undead item is useless as corrupted paraelementals. And this being so mad even he betrays himself, his incarnation or avatar becomes independient and rogue, rebelling against his "father", and manipulating mortals against the other elemental-eye cults.

* Usually there aren't too many outsiders in Ravenloft, but some "digievolution" of the "ekolid" could be possible, even with a twisted touch.

Ekolid.png
 

Faolyn

Hero
I guess I'm a little more confused now about how his punishment works, because I thought the idea was he was being punished with the destruction of his home. You can cut down and despoil a forest forever, eventually you run out of forest.
Keep in mind that almost nothing has been written about Farelle--there's a small write-up in the black box, but Jack Karn himself doesn't even get a writeup until the fan-made netbook The Book of Sacrifices (the Book of S series is pretty good). So that being said...

Jack doesn't care about the forest. He's not some sort of eco-warrior. He just hates humans (there are reasons). There may come a time when Farelle is completely deforested, but that hasn't happened yet; the humans are low tech and have simple iron axes, not chainsaws. (Also, there's the chance the Dark Powers would simply cause the trees to regrow quickly, or simply create or steal more forest.)

Jack's curse is threefold: he hates humans but is stuck in human or hybrid form and can't assume his much preferred jackal form for more than a short period of time. If he tries to personally harm a human, he suffers from crippling nausea. And, of course, despite his best efforts, humans breed like tribbles in Farelle and while he sends jackals, wild dogs, and jackalweres (but not wolves or werewolves, whom he also hates) to attack them en masse (which does a lot to keep the number of humans down), the humans are good hunters.

This I think adds to that "evil Terrarium" idea that Bedrock gave me, and a lot of things click together for me from that perspective. The prison isn't the important part, the show is.

This also makes sense in terms of the creation of new darklords, just like people might breed fish to make a more interesting variety to have on display.
Yep; that's a pretty good take on it. Since we still don't know for certain why the DL's are trapping evil humans, "for their amusement" is a perfectly good answer.

It is also making me start to think that the way it has been presented to the community at large is just... I don't know. Maybe the way it was presented was the point, but then you guys find a different interpretation, but this concept works far better than every single version I have ever been told about before.
Well, I'm willing to talk at length about any part of Ravenloft you might wish to know about, if you have more questions.
 

JEB

Adventurer
I've often told Dark Sun fans who hated how 4e introduced spellcasting bards and tieflings the same think I'll say now; a setting that cannot adapt to how the game is now is a dead setting for WotC in terms of future support.
While you're not wrong that Wizards needs to make sure Ravenloft works for 5E fans, pointing to 4E's approach of inserting 4E core elements into settings that not only didn't have them, but had good reasons for not having them, isn't the most appealing parallel. Fortunately, the way Wizards treated Ravnica and Theros demonstrates that they don't feel obliged to do that anymore; they're fine with striking a balance between "appeals to 5E fans" and "appeals to existing fans" when they want to. (Note also that they rolled back some of the 4E changes for the Forgotten Realms, while keeping those that kept it 5E-friendly.) As such, I'd like to think that Wizards will do that with Ravenloft as well (and the other classic settings on the way).
 

I also don't particularly understand the idea put forth that somehow views sandbox play as being directly proportional to landmass size. Blades in the Dark is designed as a sandbox game, but it takes place within the confines of an enclosed city. Likewise Ptolus is a sandbox urban campaign setting for 3e (and soon 5e) where Monte Cook establishes that adventuring in the world of Praemal really only happens in and around the city of Ptolus. By the accounts of several people in this forum, such as @TheSword, Curse of Strahd can be played in the manner of a sandbox campaign. Stars Without Number is a sci-fi sandbox in which players essentially "sail" between "island" planets and systems in space. So how does landmass have any actual bearing on sandbox play? Is my sandbox somehow less of a sandbox if it stays entirely within the bounds of Barovia in Ravenloft or Keoland in Greyhawk or Aundair in Eberron or Karameikos in Mystara or the Nentir Vale in the Nentir Vale?

You can do sandbox at a variety of scales. But I do think when you tell people you are going to run a sandbox, they expect to have full range over a setting (if it turns out to be a more limited sandbox like a city, a region, or a kingdom, that is fine but it isn't the typical expection so you usually have to clarify)
 

Aldarc

Legend
You can do sandbox at a variety of scales. But I do think when you tell people you are going to run a sandbox, they expect to have full range over a setting (if it turns out to be a more limited sandbox like a city, a region, or a kingdom, that is fine but it isn't the typical expection so you usually have to clarify)
So you can't run a sandbox if the PCs may hypothetically have to hire the Vistani to navigate their way through the Mists to other domains rather than walking as part of a single landmass?
 

So you can't run a sandbox if the PCs may hypothetically have to hire the Vistani to navigate their way through the Mists to other domains rather than walking as part of a single landmass?
I wasn’t addressing that I was just responding to your question about sandbox and scale
 

So you can't run a sandbox if the PCs may hypothetically have to hire the Vistani to navigate their way through the Mists to other domains rather than walking as part of a single landmass?

But to answer this one: first I don't think pure sandbox is necessarily the best approach to Ravenloft. I ran Ravenloft with a certain amount of freedom of movement, but there were clear adventures to be had, and if there was a sandbox quality it was more contained to the scenario usually (nothing against sandboxes, I love running them, but for Ravenloft it isn't my cup of tea). I do know some people like to run Ravenloft as a sandbox though and I think generally it is probably going to be easier to do if ease of movement between domains is easier, but it certainly wouldn't be impossible to do without a single landmass. Whether it is using islands of terror as a model or an Earthsea version of Ravenloft it would be feasible. However it very much would depend on how they do it. In the classic island of terror model, travel from one island of terror to another was incredibly difficult, and not at all predictable. And how reliably you could count on Vistani would also not be clear. This evolved a lot though over time, so it would depend on how it was handled. Personally I am not saying a lack of sandbox is the reason why I would be wary of having it all be islands of terror.
 

At this point, I think it's safe to say that their primary concern is for fans of the Curse of Strahd adventure: you know, the people who are actually buying and playing their games rather than those old school gamers who haven't already been convinced to jump on-board with 5e.

Maybe that is true. And if so, it is fine. But I think they are missing an opportunity to get CoS fans and Classic fans. If they at least have a core, and have Islands of terror, I don't see why that wouldn't get you both audiences.
 

Life like? These are Domains of Dread in the Shadowfell curated by mysterious Dark Powers to torment the ruling Dark Lords and their inhabitants. How does having neighbors make them more life like and why is that even important for this setting? I'm not sure why these Domains would or even should be "life like" as part of the gestalt setting or how having them as separate islands somehow makes the intentions of the Dark Powers any less mysterious.

I think based on what I've seen of your posts, we probably have very different tastes here (we seem to like very different systems and settings). So I doubt what I find breathes life into a setting is going to be the same for you. With Ravenloft I think they are trying to do an odd balance of surreal and yet make it feel plausible enough that you connect to it as a real place. For example for a lot of people I think the Nightmare lands pushed the balance too far in the surreal direction, and maybe that is why they removed it from the core.

But to answer this: It is important to me that it feel real enough. It is a balance like I said, and I think the core helps get that balance right. Real world places are not just about what is inside their borders, but the context they exist in. Locations don't exist in a vacuum. And I find it harder to believe in a land where everything is just isolated and surrounded by mists and there isn't some amount of cultural exchange going. Further, this is a setting, like I said before, inspired by classic horror, and I think for that it makes sense to have something that approximates the kinds of places you would see characters in classic horror movies: so having a place that feels like England, a place that feels like eastern europe, etc and having them be connected, helps for me. Also, we don't know for sure why the lords are imprisoned in Ravenloft, but I think if the purpose is to torment the dark lords, then you are going to be much more successful if there is familiar surroundings and a sense of normality to provide hope. If every place is an island like that, it feels all kind of self contained, not connected to other places, and very different from how real world places operate in my mind: so it is lacking an ingredient of familiarity. Also having things like neighbors instantly makes the lives of the residents seem more real (they are not just people trapped in a prison bauble surrounded by mists, they can cross the border and trade with people from a different culture (and this creates interesting back and forth). As I said before it opens up lines of adventure that wouldn't be as easy otherwise in terms of political intrigue. Political intrigue may not be central to horror, but it can certainly be a part of it, and I think it is important for settings to not be so focused that they lose that kind of flexibility and range.

That may not be the case for you. Which is fair. I can just tell you, from years and years of play, I found having the core really helped provide a bed for the campaign. And I found the islands to be a useful part of that geography too (a more perilous, less familiar and harder to navigate place to venture into). I see them as complimenting each other.
 

The roster of people implied to be among the "people who liked it" in this conversation don't seem particularly interested or invested in playing 5e D&D so I'm not sure why WotC should care about them more than the people who bought and played the Curse of Strahd 5e adventure and made it into a success.

There are all kinds of discussions on this going on all over (on forums, in real life, etc). I have met and interacted with a fair number of people who play 5E, liked old Ravenloft, and want a connected core.
 

I believe at least people, myself included, have provided a basic overview of the Shadowfell without any real engagement on your part. Furthermore, if you are not familiar with the Shadowfell, a basic Google search is your friend as there are plenty of freely available online resources that provide background on the plane.

My point was I can't comment on its quality. I am not especially interested in it to be honest. It is the sort of thing where if the present treatment of Ravenloft was interesting enough to me to get me into 5E, I'd read about it so I could play Ravenloft in that edition. But I was just making the point that I don't really have a strong opinion one way or the other on whether shadowfell is a good idea, as I don't really understand it (maybe I missed posts explaining it, or maybe I just didn't absorb them fully if I read them) and my comments about islands of terror and so forth are all based on my understanding of Ravenloft which is as part of the ethereal plane.
 

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