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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

overgeeked

B/X Known World
I kind of view Ravenloft like I do the Haunted Mansion ride at Disney World. Is it in the horror genre? Yeah. Is it scary? Not really. Is in fun? Most definitely.
You should try playing with a DM who really likes horror sometime. Ravenloft generally gives them permission to get...creative.
 

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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.
My games tend to progress slower than many others sure, but in the grand scheme of a campaign only a small fraction is spent at 1st level, that's part of the problem with so much of 5e being tuned towards the super hero end of the scale. Yes ravenloft gives the gm more freedom, but when you start needing to rebuild parts of the system itself like rests, various spells, stuff like the fear effects you raised, etc your going to get pushback if too much of that is whole cloth houserules rather than "I'm using page xx & yy variants for the bulk of the system tweaks"
 

overgeeked

B/X Known World
My games tend to progress slower than many others sure, but in the grand scheme of a campaign only a small fraction is spent at 1st level, that's part of the problem with so much of 5e being tuned towards the super hero end of the scale. Yes ravenloft gives the gm more freedom, but when you start needing to rebuild parts of the system itself like rests, various spells, stuff like the fear effects you raised, etc your going to get pushback if too much of that is whole cloth houserules rather than "I'm using page xx & yy variants for the bulk of the system tweaks"
I don’t think a Ravenloft game should progress past 3rd level. Scale things down to suit the lower power level, but once you start getting ASIs and easy access to fireballs and lightning bolts, things go superhero rather quickly. You could allow higher levels, of course, but you’ll need to crank the difficulty of any combat encounters way, way up. To me, combat in Ravenloft should be meaningful and deadly. It’s hard to threaten gods.
 

One possibility would be to allow PC advancement beyond a set level threshold (maybe 5th, I'm just brainstorming without any playtesting here..) but there's no hit point gain beyond that point. So you can dish out more as you get more experienced, but a couple of decent hits and you go down. It keeps low-level critters like zombies and wolves dangerous longer, if you're even only a little bit careless.
 

overgeeked

B/X Known World
One possibility would be to allow PC advancement beyond a set level threshold (maybe 5th, I'm just brainstorming without any playtesting here..) but there's no hit point gain beyond that point. So you can dish out more as you get more experienced, but a couple of decent hits and you go down. It keeps low-level critters like zombies and wolves dangerous longer, if you're even only a little bit careless.
The problem is both hit point inflation and access to higher level spells. Fewer hit points is good, but once the PCs can throw a fireball or lightning bolt those low-level critters become speed bumps rather than anything you could describe as dangerous.
 

Voadam

Legend
I always disliked the save or roleplay act scared mechanics. Acting scared when you intellectually and emotionally don't feel it drains scenes of their atmosphere and can lead to eyerolling as the player loses agency over their character and increases emotional distance from how their character would be feeling. I always just worked to have the situation play out and try to effectuate actual tension and uncertainty for the players. I was doing this before Ravenloft in places like the Moathouse to good effect and I feel it works better with the desired Ravenloft play experience. If it does not always work it is ok for things to not always be scary even in Ravenloft.

I am generally more a fan of supernatural fear effects that instead impose more mechanical penalties like inducing minuses to hit or disadvantage on checks.
 

Remathilis

Legend
I don’t think a Ravenloft game should progress past 3rd level. Scale things down to suit the lower power level, but once you start getting ASIs and easy access to fireballs and lightning bolts, things go superhero rather quickly. You could allow higher levels, of course, but you’ll need to crank the difficulty of any combat encounters way, way up. To me, combat in Ravenloft should be meaningful and deadly. It’s hard to threaten gods.
Which is why I tend towards "Gothic Fantasy" rather than true horror. Stuff in the vein of Castlevania, Van Helsing, Vampire Hunter D, Bloodborne, Dark Souls, etc. D&D is about demigods, so why fight it, embrace the powertrip rather than focus on the survival aspect.
 

I always disliked the save or roleplay act scared mechanics. Acting scared when you intellectually and emotionally don't feel it drains scenes of their atmosphere and can lead to eyerolling as the player loses agency over their character and increases emotional distance from how their character would be feeling. I always just worked to have the situation play out and try to effectuate actual tension and uncertainty for the players. I was doing this before Ravenloft in places like the Moathouse to good effect and I feel it works better with the desired Ravenloft play experience. If it does not always work it is ok for things to not always be scary even in Ravenloft.

I am generally more a fan of supernatural fear effects that instead impose more mechanical penalties like inducing minuses to hit or disadvantage on checks.

I don't know. I think real world reactions to fear are reluctance to act, inability to act, or freaking out. Losing control of your character due to fear, I think is fair. Where I would criticize the old rules is that you didn't have to make a fear check if you RPd it. I think everyone should have had to make one, regardless of how they RP. I do agree, fear is something you ether feel or don't. But suddenly not being able to swing your sword as a deadly creature moves towards you, in my experience, can generate fear.
 

overgeeked

B/X Known World
I always disliked the save or roleplay act scared mechanics. Acting scared when you intellectually and emotionally don't feel it drains scenes of their atmosphere and can lead to eyerolling as the player loses agency over their character and increases emotional distance from how their character would be feeling. I always just worked to have the situation play out and try to effectuate actual tension and uncertainty for the players. I was doing this before Ravenloft in places like the Moathouse to good effect and I feel it works better with the desired Ravenloft play experience. If it does not always work it is ok for things to not always be scary even in Ravenloft.

I am generally more a fan of supernatural fear effects that instead impose more mechanical penalties like inducing minuses to hit or disadvantage on checks.
In my experience, unless there’s a mechanical effect (like Call of Cthulhu’s SAN loss), then PCs will literally never act scared. And that’s kinda the point. You mentioned emotional distance from how their characters would be feeling. Their characters would crap their pants and run screaming into the night if any one of the hundreds of monsters in D&D confronted them...yet, they generally just shrug and charge headlong into battle. Having a roll for fear, terror, horror, and madness closes that emotional distance by making the character act how they actually would be. This is why I hate advice in horror games that focuses on scaring the players. That’s literally not what gaming is about. Focus on scaring the characters. Most players simply refuse to go along and will make an endless litany of excuses as to why. Fine. Make a fear check or drop your sword.
 


Voadam

Legend
I was playing in a CoS 5e game before it went on hiatus due to DM burnout. At the end I was a 9th level flesh golemized bladesinger Esmerelda who was immune to non magical attacks and had ridiculous stats and skills and attacks. The party paladin had the two big undead smiting artifacts. We were about as high powered as can be expected in the module. I still felt the horror of the setting and figured Strahd had better than 50 50 odds of wrecking us as we drew closer to the culmination. We were all expecting it was probably going to end horrifically poorly, but possibly not and we were working hard through a comedy of errors to try for that possible not horrible ending for our monster hunters.

5e Ravenloft can work for not super low level PCs.
 

The problem is both hit point inflation and access to higher level spells. Fewer hit points is good, but once the PCs can throw a fireball or lightning bolt those low-level critters become speed bumps rather than anything you could describe as dangerous.

Yeah, I get here you're coming from there. Big flashy combat spells and the gothic aesthetic are an uncomfortable mix. But unless you're willing to rewrite a lot of the monster manual, a lot of classic Gothic monsters are going to be out of reach. A bog-standard vampire, for instance, is CR13 with 144 hit points, legendary resistance, and resistance to any non-magical physical damage. There's no way known that any party of 3rd level PCs is going to be able to deal with that. And an advanced vampire, like Strahd? Forget it.

One way of Gothicking things up bit would be to just flat-out ban the entire school of evocation (and take an axe to a lot of transmutation as well) for all spellcasting classes. And pile on a Powers check (or 5e equivalent) for using damaging necromancy spells. Makes spellcasters more support-oriented than fireball cannons, and magic in general less flashy and more subtle. Of course that leaves a lot of other PC abilities like Radiance of the Dawn untouched, not to mention what horrible things it'd do to anyone wanting to play a warlock...
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
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 the actual lord of Mordent is evil, and if the PCs were to kill Strahd, the next most evil person in Barovia becomes Lord.
 

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.

You can't just take over because you kill a lord. The domain chooses someone else if there is a worthy individual, or it dissipates. They could gain political power in a domain. But then they would probably end up contending with the new lord (and political power wouldn't stop the monsters from coming)

Also, if you raise education and tech, they'd just be having horror adventures in a more culturally advanced domain. It wouldn't make the domain less horrifying.
 

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.

I am pretty sure this isn't true, but it has been a long time since I've poured closely over the lore. I believe Barovia is a domain that was actually pulled from its original location. Again I could be wrong, but I am pretty sure the options are:

a copy of the place
a newly crafted place
the original place gets pulled into ravenloft
 

One possibility would be to allow PC advancement beyond a set level threshold (maybe 5th, I'm just brainstorming without any playtesting here..) but there's no hit point gain beyond that point. So you can dish out more as you get more experienced, but a couple of decent hits and you go down. It keeps low-level critters like zombies and wolves dangerous longer, if you're even only a little bit careless.
Whatever those kinds of rules suggested & declared lacking over the last page or so wind up being for optimum ravenloft feel their bulk needs to come from wotc rather than expecting ravenloft GMs to hand out a huge chunk of houserules before even starting to tweak ravenloft for their campaign's needs. It's al well & good that @Bedrockgames didn't like some of those elements in the past, but that kind of enforced one true way by omission from wotc to save someone from saying "we aren't going to use this thing" while forcing others to invent the thing whole cloth would be completely unreasonable for a 5e ravenloft book.

Not only is that unreasonable, it's completely unacceptable given how much of the system was rewritten by past ravenloft books. Put into perspective just how extensive the changes are... in the 3.0 ravenloft campaign setting book 28-35 goes over the races similar to how rising does for eberron versions of phb+eberron races33-44 classes & class feature changes, 45-47 rebuilds skills, 47-48 is a bunch of new feats. 49-54 rebuilds not only faiths but the nature of faith in ravenloft for classes like cleric/paladin that need it, 55-59 equipment, 60-61 bunch of character related questions to consider, 64-75 lets say rebuilding save mechanics & madness, 76-82 curses, it's already up to about 50 pages so far & it doesn't stop till about 107 when chaper4 rolls around. People expecting a sizable body of serious system level rules changes aimed at cranking the dial back from 5e's super saiyan target are on extremely solid footing when talking about an official ravenloft book like is being discussed.
 

overgeeked

B/X Known World
I was playing in a CoS 5e game before it went on hiatus due to DM burnout. At the end I was a 9th level flesh golemized bladesinger Esmerelda who was immune to non magical attacks and had ridiculous stats and skills and attacks. The party paladin had the two big undead smiting artifacts. We were about as high powered as can be expected in the module. I still felt the horror of the setting and figured Strahd had better than 50 50 odds of wrecking us as we drew closer to the culmination. We were all expecting it was probably going to end horrifically poorly, but possibly not and we were working hard through a comedy of errors to try for that possible not horrible ending for our monster hunters.

5e Ravenloft can work for not super low level PCs.
Right. That’s CoS, and you’re at 50/50 on taking out the Dark Lord of the Domain. So, what can you do in the rest of the setting? At that point nothing but bringing Dark Lords is a challenge. So what is there to be worried about that’s not Dark Lord smiting? Basically nothing. Nothing else in the setting that wouldn’t also give Strahd himself a run for his money is a challenge for your group. I don’t see how anything else would be a challenge. That’s not horror anymore. That’s not even gothic horror. It’s superheroes painted in black, white, and red. I want my Ravenloft games to be horror. So a low level cap.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
I am pretty sure this isn't true, but it has been a long time since I've poured closely over the lore. I believe Barovia is a domain that was actually pulled from its original location. Again I could be wrong, but I am pretty sure the options are:

a copy of the place
a newly crafted place
the original place gets pulled into ravenloft
Yes. Barovia itself was drawn into the demiplane and became the first domain of Ravenloft.
 


Faolyn

Hero
You can't just take over because you kill a lord. The domain chooses someone else if there is a worthy individual, or it dissipates. They could gain political power in a domain. But then they would probably end up contending with the new lord (and political power wouldn't stop the monsters from coming)

Also, if you raise education and tech, they'd just be having horror adventures in a more culturally advanced domain. It wouldn't make the domain less horrifying.
Right, that was my entire point here. Doctorbadwolf was saying that there was some sort of reset that happened upon killing Strahd which made the whole thing pointless and bad, but I was trying to explain that in Ravenloft, killing the Darklord would could cause other things to happen.
 

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