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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

Scribe

Hero
A horror story wherein it is known to the audience from the jump that nothing the characters do can ever matter, where there are not multiple possible outcomes, where there is no element that if the characters do everything right they can get out alive and win the day, and the tension lies in seeing what choices lead them further and further away from that possibility, is pointlessly boring.

This is the basis of pretty much anything grimdark. So, I dont think is fact. It may be boring to you though.
 

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MGibster

Legend
It’s a difficult balancing act. Horror doesn’t need a happy ending, but it does need hope, which is difficult to achieve if you go in knowing there can’t be a happy ending.
One of the reasons most of my horror campaigns are relatively short is because there's only so much bleakness I want to deal with. Though I don't really consider Ravenloft to be all that bleak. It's very difficult maintaining a horror atmosphere in a game designed for players to live out their power fantasies.
 

The horror feeling disappears when there is no hope and characters can't make the reader to feel empathy for them. If you aren't worried because they are going to be killed then it is not horror, but morbid repugnance.

If I want then there is enough hope in horror story, thanks faith's characters. Maybe somebody doesn't survive, but his sacrifice to save others helps more he could guess, becoming a martyr his relics hurt unholy creatures. The defenders of the innocents can be a true nightmare for evil monsters. Have you killed a cute doggy? Then John Wick warns you to start to pray.

Buffy the vampire-slayer was action-horror, but also it had got some piece of comedy, and it worked.

Some players want a happy ending, even the possibility some dark lord could find the path of the redemption to be free from the curse.

* Now I am remembering those old horror comics from 70's, and or supernatural young fiction, for example Brenna Yovanoff's The Replacement (I don't know the book to be good or bad, but I only mention it as example of possible future new Ravenloft novels).

* Other idea is a dread domain with creatures from Gamma World, antropomorphic animals thanks transgenic enginering who betrayed and rebelled against their human creators, and a horrible relation with the evolutionated apes, who learnt the way to craft ammo and firearms. (the dark powers sabotage all no-magic machine-guns but if these are too old and "expensive relics", at least mini-motors to reload crossbows works, but the no-magic batteries aren't easy nor too cheap to be crafted) .

Other idea is a plague of khytons, alien demons from 3rd Book of the Vile Darkness. The horror arrives when you discover the dark lord caused intentionally the plague, as a "pyromanian firefighter", the classic evil politician causing troubles to sell the solution. If the emergengy allows you to keep absolute power, then you don't want the end of the crisis.

* American Horror Story shows us example of stories within "little spaces", for example a single-family house gave enough plot for the first season.

* It would be fun, but nasty if characters from Sithicus find an escape to the prime material plane and they discover they are in the post-apocalypse Krynn where Raitslin become the one deity. (The good new is they are "welcome" or at least not hostile, because these "refugees" are an opportunity to rebuild his devastated world.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
One of the reasons most of my horror campaigns are relatively short is because there's only so much bleakness I want to deal with. Though I don't really consider Ravenloft to be all that bleak. It's very difficult maintaining a horror atmosphere in a game designed for players to live out their power fantasies.
Yeah, horror usually works better for one-shots than long-term campaigns. I think the key with campaigns like Curse of Strahd is to steer into the gothic and let the horror be a little looser.
 

Savage Wombat

Adventurer
We discussed this after CoS - one of my PCs intended to stay and rule Barovia after Strahd's demise.

I told him that, inevitably, he or his heirs would be corrupted by the darkness and become a wicked tyrant. And a couple of generations from now, a brave young hero would engage in a quest to enter Castle Ravenloft and overthrow the tyrant. He would find the resting place of the beloved, one true ruler of the land - only to pull out the stake or drop blood on the ashes and return the Count to his unlife.
 

delericho

Legend
The time loop aspect is an ongoing plot point in my current Ravenloft campaign, and it's working well. However, the endgame will absolutely be that if the PCs slay the darklord (Adam, in this case) then they will have broken the loop and freed the land.

That ending of "Curse of Strahd", where everything reset, really annoyed me - despite providing the useful inspiration for the above. :)
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
I guess I don't understand what the criticism is, then.

If Strahd dies, they might find someone more interesting to take his place.
Boring. Nah, at my table, if you kill Strahd under certain specific circumstances, and it’s a “puzzle” of sorts that the PCs can fail to solve, Barovia returns to its proper world. The mists recede, and there is now a whole traumatized population in whatever world that is.

Because horror doesn’t need pointlessness. It mostly just needs uncertainty, atmosphere, And the knowledge that you absolutely can fail utterly and all die.


You said "The whole adventure is pointless if there is no possible ending wherein the people of Barovia aren't saved."
Right. The “setting” is just a haunted house, not an actual setting. That’s boring as hell.
If The People Of Barovia are saved, that's a happy ending.

Also, there are small victories. You don't have to save "The People Of Barovia." You can save Farmer Bob from the horror that's going after him--or if not Farmer Bob, then other people who might be affected by the same horror later on.
RL isn’t Call of Cthulhu, it’s D&D. In D&D, the actions of the PCs matter.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
The time loop aspect is an ongoing plot point in my current Ravenloft campaign, and it's working well. However, the endgame will absolutely be that if the PCs slay the darklord (Adam, in this case) then they will have broken the loop and freed the land.

That ending of "Curse of Strahd", where everything reset, really annoyed me - despite providing the useful inspiration for the above. :)
Yep. It’s a fun premise. Once. If the PCs can then go back and figure out the “switch” to end the cycle.
 




Faolyn

Hero
Because horror doesn’t need pointlessness. It mostly just needs uncertainty, atmosphere, And the knowledge that you absolutely can fail utterly and all die.
This is true. But there's a difference between "Barovia returns to its proper world"--assuming it even had one to begin with--and "it's all pointless." There's a lot of things to be done in Barovia even if Strahd never appears or acts against the PCs.

Right. The “setting” is just a haunted house, not an actual setting. That’s boring as hell.
I don't see how.

RL isn’t Call of Cthulhu, it’s D&D. In D&D, the actions of the PCs matter.
Like with Call of Cthulhu, you get small victories. Even though Cthulhu is statted out, very few people ever would think to go toe-to-toe with it. Yes, you can go against the Big C, but that's almost not the point of the game.

Likewise, with Ravenloft, yes, you can go against Strahd--but there's so much else to do. You honestly don't need to.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
In your opinion.
Okay?
This is true. But there's a difference between "Barovia returns to its proper world"--assuming it even had one to begin with--and "it's all pointless." There's a lot of things to be done in Barovia even if Strahd never appears or acts against the PCs.
How is that relevant to anything I said?
I don't see how.
If you can’t meaningfully change it, it isn’t a real place. It’s a theme park ride, or similar.
Like with Call of Cthulhu, you get small victories. Even though Cthulhu is statted out, very few people ever would think to go toe-to-toe with it. Yes, you can go against the Big C, but that's almost not the point of the game.

Likewise, with Ravenloft, yes, you can go against Strahd--but there's so much else to do. You honestly don't need to.
In CoC, if you somehow shut down Cthulhu, it would stick. It wouldn’t magically reset and have the game tell you “lol nah none of that meant anything”
 

Yeah, horror usually works better for one-shots than long-term campaigns. I think the key with campaigns like Curse of Strahd is to steer into the gothic and let the horror be a little looser.

I think one issue people run into with horror is trying to force it (similar to comedy). Obviously if you have more time to invest and prep for a one-shot, and you get the buy in, a one shot can work great for horror (I do this all the time). At the same time, I think it is easy to confuse atmosphere and use of horror oriented language (i.e. upping your adjectives and descriptions) for horror. Horror is an emotion, and it is a real challenge to pull off in a game whether it is a one shot or a years long string of adventures. I do think, like anything else, the more you do it, the better you get. After running Ravenloft for years and years, I felt like I got quite good at spotting the opportunities to scare the players, I got better at focusing on picking the right words (rather than lengthy descriptions because I felt like I had to paint the scene and involve all the sense or something), and I figured out more what works and what doesn't. Still I think you have to give people a break. If it is 100% horror, 100% dark and brooding all the time, it is all going to feel the same and the players will become dull to the horror. Also, it is still a game, with dice, and randomness, and occasional cheetos at the table. It is possible to take yourself too seriously when you are GMing horror. If the players want to crack jokes and have a more laid back session, I find it helps to go along with that. You can end up with a tyranny of horror situation where people stop having fun because you are being too rigid about bringing the horror atmosphere to the table. What I usually strive for are moments of fear that build to horror. You can have a lot of different things in between that. Some of the scariest movies I've seen were filled with humor, and the humor contrasted sharply, I think making for a scarier experience in the end.

When I run Ravenloft long term, one thing I lean into is the camp. Some session are going to feel dark and scary, and genuinely give people chills. Some sessions are more like Pretorius dining in a tomb or showing off his homunculi in Bride of Frankenstein. A long term horror campaign is a little bit more like a jam session, you have to find your way over a very long campaign, and if you hit the horror too hard all the time, people will just be numb to it or exhausted. In the end, I am happy as long as we played in a gothic horror setting, whether it ends in laughter or terror
 



Faolyn

Hero
How is that relevant to anything I said?
Because it's exactly what you said?

If you can’t meaningfully change it, it isn’t a real place. It’s a theme park ride, or similar.
I don't know how much Ravenloft lore you know, but historically, most of the domains are either copies of real places or are made whole-cloth by the Dark Powers. Killing Strahd won't send Barovia back to its original world because there is no original world for it to go back to.

Also, going by the lore, if Barovia is destroyed, there's the possibility that the entire demiplane would be destroyed as well. The Dark Powers aren't going to let that happen.

And finally, the Dark Powers are the ones in who are ultimately in charge, not Strahd.

So let's say your adventuring party decides to kill Strahd, succeeds, and takes over, determined to make Barovia into a better place. They can do that! There are other domains that are actually fairly nice places to live (the political ruler of Mordent is Lawful Good), so Barovia could be changed for the better. Your PCs could make it so that the Barovians no longer huddle in fear of the creatures of the night, that they have access to education and higher technology.

But, what would also happen is that the DPs would assign a new Darklord. If one of the PCs in the party was actually quite evil, it may be that person. Or it might be an NPC like Leo Dilisnya, Jaqueline Montarri, Lyssa von Zorovich, or Ardonk Szerieza--or someone completely different. Whoever became the Darklord would end up changing the horrors of Barovia, but not eliminating them.
 

Remathilis

Legend
Yep. It’s a fun premise. Once. If the PCs can then go back and figure out the “switch” to end the cycle.
So between another DM my group used to play with and myself, we have run some iteration of Ravenloft three times (House of Strahd, Expedition, CoS). As an easter egg, there is a point where the group was asked to sign Strahd's "guest book" and amongst the names in the book I included the PCs from the previous two play-throughs. I included it as a handout, and each of the players "signed" the guestbook as their current PCs as well, nodding to the fact that perhaps those other times were cannon and the cycle has repeated before.

Of course, those other groups eventually escaped Ravenloft and went back to thier proper worlds and did other things, so to them, Strahd was defeated. But to the next group that wanders into the Mist?
 

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