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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

MGibster

Legend
We must remember Hasbro wants Ravenloft could allow horror stories for no-mature audence. Even monsters as "tomb-elementals"(grave, pyre, mist and blood) could replace undeads because destroying "statues" is less violent than fighting against skeletons.
I saw The Monster Squad in theaters back in 1987 and watched in on Netflix (I think) a few short years ago. Wow. I can't believe it was a kid's movie. Dracula does not screw around and he dynamites the kid's tree house in an effort to murder them. And I'm hard pressed to think of many movies for children today where a kid would kill something with a shotgun like Horace did the Gill-Man.
 

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Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
I saw The Monster Squad in theaters back in 1987 and watched in on Netflix (I think) a few short years ago. Wow. I can't believe it was a kid's movie. Dracula does not screw around and he dynamites the kid's tree house in an effort to murder them. And I'm hard pressed to think of many movies for children today where a kid would kill something with a shotgun like Horace did the Gill-Man.
But did you know wolfman’s got balls?
 

MGibster

Legend
I probably should have done a better job of relating my last few comments to gaming. I think it's necessary to update Ravenloft, if for no other reason, our sensibilities and fears aren't the same as they were in 1991. In Curse of Strahd, I feel there was a greater emphasis on Strahd and as serial user and abuser of women then there was in 1983 with the Ravenloft I-6 module. CoS also emphasized Strahd's desire to manipulate and corrupt those around him taking special delight in turning good people towards evil. I think that resonates quite well with a modern audience. I think CoS Strahd is scarier than the original Strahd.

And then there's the problematic elements. The Monster Squad was brought up, and while I marveled at how violent a children's movie was, I didn't mention some of the other elements of the movie that wouldn't pass today. The kids watching a teenage girl changing her clothes, the focus on a teen girl's virginity, and the homophobic conversation about one of their teachers just wouldn't fly today and with good reason. So you gotta update your material to take that into account as well.

But did you know wolf man’s got balls?
I won't lie. Before I saw the movie I was not aware that Wolf Man had nards.
 

Man, Moffat’s episodes used to be so damn good before he became showrunner.
Sometimes just presenting things obvious to the viewer/player in ways the PCs won't does it too
Don't Dead
Open inside

To say nothing about the things that were oh so much darker in the comics or if you read the comics first like when Carl realized the adults were becoming just as broken as the world & grew up instantly by handling lizzie himself, the telephone rick carried around, why the governor has that little zombie girl & all the zombie parts, or just "wow Glenn is like a big major character now on tv but...."

I think things like 28 days, TWD, zombie fallout & others make a good case for the new zombie domain being in ravenloft.
 


overgeeked

B/X Known World
I didn’t say horror doesn’t work for long-term campaigns. Perhaps it would have been better word choice to say it’s easier to do as one-shots rather than “better.” It can be quite challenging to maintain horror long-term without it becoming oppressive. But it is certainly possible.

I would argue Masks of Nyarlathotep is more pulp than horror though.
It’s all about a spectrum, though. No one’s arguing that Ravenloft is the same level of horror as Call of Cthulhu. Nor would anyone argue that Call of Cthulhu is the same level of horror as the Saw films. Gothic horror and pulp horror are just as valid expressions of horror as any other. I’m not arguing better or worse, nor am I implying you are, but different styles of horror work better for different people. But they’re all still manifestations of horror.
 
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I'm not disputing that some Hammer movies are good. All I said is that at the time they were released, people found them a lot scarier than if you released them to an audience today.
What I am trying to say though is when Ravenloft was released this was the case too: most audiences would have found Hellraiser or Friday the 13th more scary than Horror of Dracula or Nosferatu at that time. The point of Ravenloft was to say: hey, not so fast, this older approach can be more scary if you give it a chance. That is why people note the passion of the pride in black box: it is trying to persuade an audience that thinks exactly what you express here. My argument is 1) we shouldn’t forget this was largely the point of Ravenloft and 2) that the black box actually had a good point: once you release yourself of your current biases and engage classic horror fully, it can be more scary. Stills of a film like the wolf man might look less scary than the howling (for the record I like both movies*), but if you fully engage The wolf Man, it is actually quite scary as well (if you are invested in the characters and allow yourself to get lost in the film). I just rewatched it not long ago and I think it is quite scary in its way if you watch the whole thing (and also a good example of stuff you’d expect to find in Ravenloft)

*also worth noting here American Werewolf in London is a great example of using humor to make a film scarier
 
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overgeeked

B/X Known World
Nards, right! Man, it’s been a while
My wife and I are the same age (six months apart) and so we have a lot of the same cultural touchstones. “The wolfman’s got nards” was a running joke for years at our house. My kid never understood it until we watched Monster Squad again. She was horrified at a few bits and laughed her ass off at others. Not necessarily the ones the director and writer wanted people to cringe or laugh about.
 

overgeeked

B/X Known World
I didn’t say horror doesn’t work for long-term campaigns. Perhaps it would have been better word choice to say it’s easier to do as one-shots rather than “better.” It can be quite challenging to maintain horror long-term without it becoming oppressive. But it is certainly possible.
I wanted to give a bit more of a response to this bit. I think it all depends on what you mean by horror. If you mean constant fear, terror, and horror with every scene, you're absolutely right. I'd say it's not only hard, it's damned near impossible. But I don't think anyone's suggesting running a game like that. Maybe as a one-shot of pure horror scene after scene after bloody scene. But you can't do that for a campaign. As you say, it becomes oppressive. But you can still do a long-term horror campaign. You just can't run it like a spatter-fest marathon. Like anything else, long-form vs short-form genre pieces are fundamentally different beasts. They share traits, of course, but they're not the same. They can't be.

This announcement and this thread have me re-reading my old collection of Ravenloft stuff, like many others. One bit that I found especially wonderful was this bit from the Black Box. It talks about the normal D&D trope of kill small monsters, gain treasure and power, kill bigger monsters, gain treasure and power, kill even bigger monsters...lather, rinse, repeat. "In Ravenloft, you might be tempted to substitute a powerful vampire for the "beast supreme," and fill the string of lesser encounters with "Gothic" monsters such as bats, ghouls, and ghosts. Unfortunately, that formula leaves something to be desired: a story. Dungeon crawls make the worst kind of Ravenloft adventure, because they lack a real villain, a real problem, a real plot. In this realm, characters should do more than cast spells and bash monsters--they should unravel mysteries, too. Each encounter should be more than an isolated incident with a bounty attached. It should provide information that helps flesh out the story, and clues that help the characters succeed (or survive). If "spoils" are involved, those items usually should be a part of the story--something useful or telling--not just a trophy to add to the haul."

I'm hopeful the new book will give advice like this. Along with genre guidelines and actionable advice on how to use fear (anticipation), terror (revelation), and horror (realization) to great effect in game.
 

overgeeked

B/X Known World
I'm hopeful the new book will give advice like this. Along with genre guidelines and actionable advice on how to use fear (anticipation), terror (revelation), and horror (realization) to great effect in game.
To add to this. I really, really want good rules for fear, terror, horror, and madness checks in the new book. I don't like the ones presented in the DMG. I think those should be scrapped and redone with proper horror gaming in mind. Powers checks as well. There needs to be mechanical weight to sliding down the darker path. Sure, I could come up with them myself (any competent DM could), but that's what I'm shelling out money for...someone else to do the heavy lifting for me.
 

To add to this. I really, really want good rules for fear, terror, horror, and madness checks in the new book. I don't like the ones presented in the DMG. I think those should be scrapped and redone with proper horror gaming in mind. Powers checks as well. There needs to be mechanical weight to sliding down the darker path. Sure, I could come up with them myself (any competent DM could), but that's what I'm shelling out money for...someone else to do the heavy lifting for me.

I always found the powers checks in black box to be quite good. They were flexible, could have mechanical weight depending on the nature of the change, but also left the GM with enough flexibility to tailor things. I think it could have used more examples so people understood how to use powers checks well (I remember it taking me a little bit to get the hang of). But to me, powers checks were one of the big things that set Ravenloft apart.
 

To add to this. I really, really want good rules for fear, terror, horror, and madness checks in the new book. I don't like the ones presented in the DMG. I think those should be scrapped and redone with proper horror gaming in mind. Powers checks as well. There needs to be mechanical weight to sliding down the darker path. Sure, I could come up with them myself (any competent DM could), but that's what I'm shelling out money for...someone else to do the heavy lifting for me.
Some tactical combat rules not written by someone that dislikes that pillar of combat too. getting swarmed by wolves or whatever in 5e isn't nearly as frightening as in past editions since they don't really hamper your movement much. That's probably even more needed with them wanting to add a swarming zombie apocalypse type domain now.

edit: The fact that the release is so close(couple weeks?) & we haven't seen any UA mechanics to enable ravenloft's horror elements worries me
 


overgeeked

B/X Known World
Some tactical combat rules not written by someone that dislikes that pillar of combat too. getting swarmed by wolves or whatever in 5e isn't nearly as frightening as in past editions since they don't really hamper your movement much. That's probably even more needed with them wanting to add a swarming zombie apocalypse type domain now.

edit: The fact that the release is so close(couple weeks?) & we haven't seen any UA mechanics to enable ravenloft's horror elements worries me
I agree we need some better fear, terror, horror, and madness mechanics. But you can do a lot with what already exists. Take the normal CR guidelines and shoot for more deadly encounters. Players will learn caution. If not, go bigger. Or focus more on horror-based non-combat encounters.

A lot comes down to description as well. Playing with anticipation (fear), reveal (terror), and realization (horror) can go a long, long way. Describing the sound of something sharp being drug across the wall outside the room your PCs are in, have something jump out from somewhere they weren’t expecting, and have the moment of full realization what it is they’re dealing with (or have already dealt with) is the back bone of the horror genre.

I only think you need rules for those rolls because most players will refuse to RP anything like an in-genre response to those things. The majority of the time they’ll just attack, kill, and loot no matter what you present them with. You need rules to back up the genre tropes of jump scares, paralyzed with fear, being shocked by a horrific realization, and going mad from those realizations and the constant stress of living in the genre.
 

MGibster

Legend
Some tactical combat rules not written by someone that dislikes that pillar of combat too. getting swarmed by wolves or whatever in 5e isn't nearly as frightening as in past editions since they don't really hamper your movement much. That's probably even more needed with them wanting to add a swarming zombie apocalypse type domain now.
Are you kidding me? Wolves are absolutely terrifying now that Pack Tactics gives them advantage on attacks if one of their allies is within 5 feet of the target.
 

Are you kidding me? Wolves are absolutely terrifying now that Pack Tactics gives them advantage on attacks if one of their allies is within 5 feet of the target.
2d4+2 isn't all that scary* & getting away from a bunch of critters or moving to avoid getting surrounded is trivial in 5e compared to past editions. Getting tripped doesn't provoke an AoO to stand in 5e like in the past either
* Especially when you factor in the virtual lack of hp attrition risk & ease of recovering hp in 5e. Less explosive recovery rests are probably another mechanic that needs touching on.
 


MGibster

Legend
2d4+2 isn't all that scary* & getting away from a bunch of critters or moving to avoid getting surrounded is trivial in 5e compared to past editions. Getting tripped doesn't provoke an AoO to stand in 5e like in the past either
It's not trivially easy to get away from a bunch of creatures with a 40 ft. movement and that's especially true if your character is knocked prone. For a creature with a 1/4 CR, wolves are incredibly effective against lower level parties.
 

overgeeked

B/X Known World
2d4+2 isn't all that scary* & getting away from a bunch of critters or moving to avoid getting surrounded is trivial in 5e compared to past editions. Getting tripped doesn't provoke an AoO to stand in 5e like in the past either
* Especially when you factor in the virtual lack of hp attrition risk & ease of recovering hp in 5e. Less explosive recovery rests are probably another mechanic that needs touching on.
For an easy fight, you’d put four wolves against a party of four 1st-level PCs. With +4 to-hit and advantage from pact tactics and each hit dealing 2d4+2 damage...when, on average, a 1st-level PC has 6-14 hp. A PC goes down in 1-2 hits. Wolves have 40ft move and most PCs have 30ft. With an average of 11 hp, wolves also take 1-2 hits to die. Things turn way, way worse if you just add one or two more wolves. A pack of eight wolves against a party of four PCs? You’re well into a deadly encounter.
 


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