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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


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Right. In 1931 Dracula was a horror movie. Now it’s camp. Hammer’s Dracula movies were horror when they came out. Now they’re camp. So too with Lost Boys and the rest. The genre moves. It’s not static. It’s not about “levels” of horror. What we’re afraid of changes. We become used to and blasé about old horrors.

Of course it’s not the same as Call of Cthulhu. Never said it was. I also never said Ravenloft is bad.
I don’t find that many modern horror movies scary at all. And plenty of classic horror remains scary for decades (I would say the original Nosferatu is still way more scary than most other horror films from any era). What catches people is an inability to view things from another period and get past the conventions and aesthetics of the time. But all eras of horror have weird quirks people in that tune don’t see but look silly later (including films made today). I think it is less about evolution and more about taste and what you are familiar with. I think this idea that things get less scary over time is somewhat overblown. Try watching a horror film from the mid-2000s. In many ways a lot more dated than something from the 30s, 70s or 80s

I would also argue camp doesn’t necessarily negate horror: it often makes a movie more scary if done right (for example I find Evil Dead 2 was able to heighten its scares by lulling you with humor then contrasting that with scary moments)

I am not saying no movies today are scary. There are good horror movies, but I think we are far, far from the apex of horror movies today
 



overgeeked

B/X Known World
The Saw franchise is pretty much the original D&D trope isn't it? Mad wizard creates a maze filled with puzzles and deathtraps, most of the characters won't survive to see second level...

See: White Plume Mountain, Tomb of Horrors, Undermountain etc...
And to see the difference between horror and D&D you just have to look at how each is played out. In one you have kidnapped characters willing to do anything to escape with their lives, and in the other you have characters willingly going in in hopes of surviving long enough to gain power and treasure. Horror vs fantasy adventure.
 

Something doesn't cease to be "horror" because one individual finds it passé. :32 Dracula is still Horror, and was always camp. Newsflash: slasher stuff like Saw is also camp. All Horror is.
Whilst I agree re: one individual, I think you're oversimplifying here.

It's not true to say all horror is camp, for example. It is true to say the majority, perhaps the vast majority of horror, in the very broadest sense of the term camp, is camp. However, the level of camp varies quite widely, as does the type, to the point where I think it's actually unhelpful to say it's all camp. Why? Because that highlights how useless the term "camp" is in this situation if used as extremely broadly as you are. It ceases to convey any information at all.

Saying Dracula is camp conveys useful information, because it's close to the central meaning of camp (even to the original root to some extent). Saying Scream is camp is certainly true, but not particularly useful because the level and type of camp is pretty much present in most '90s teen movies, so you're really just saying it's a '90s teen movie. Saying It Follows is camp, might, technically, in the broadest sense, be arguable as true, but at that point it doesn't convey useful information. It's merely linguistic points-scoring.

I don’t find that many modern horror movies scary at all. And plenty of classic horror remains scary for decades (I would say the original Nosferatu is still way more scary than most other horror films from any era). What catches people is an inability to view things from another period and get past the conventions and aesthetics of the time. But all eras of horror have weird quirks people in that tune don’t see but look silly later (including films made today). I think it is less about evolution and more about taste and what you are familiar with. I think this idea that things get less scary over time is somewhat overblown. Try watching a horror film from the mid-2000s. In many ways a lot more dated than something from the 30s, 70s or 80s
I think you're really claiming to know an awful lot more about how other people think and what they feel than they do in a way that is perhaps not as helpful to your argument as you seem to be convinced it is, given you claims re: conventions and aesthetics. There's some truth in it, but I'd caution against overstatement on your own part and excessive mind-reading, especially of people younger than you.

I think what we actually have is three things going on at once which you're conflating. There is evolution, in that clearly, unarguably, horror learns from horror. This is incredibly easy to demonstrate. There are books where it's a major part of what they discuss. People didn't forget 1930s horror in the 1970s, or 1970s horror in the 2000s, even. New ways to scare people are found, both in terms of psychological techniques, and in terms of what can be done with film-making. So there is evolution, and older movies tend to be more narrow in their approach to horror (sometimes even by the standards of their era).

A second point is that, as you correctly point out, each era has peculiarities. Sometimes those peculiarities are of a nature such that they undermine the long-term scariness of a film (though who knows if it will start working again later), and sometimes it's because a particular technology is being used that looks okay in one period, but looks laughable in another, or sometimes it's because a particular approach to scaring people is being used which goes on to be so ridiculously overused that it becomes un-scary.

Thirdly, you're not comparing like with like. You're stacking up the mid-00s against effectively the very best of the 1930s, 1980s and so on. If we were more honest and say, stacked all '00s horror vs all '80s horror say, i.e. not just a section of '00s movies vs the very best '80s ones, I don't think you could confidently say that the '80s would come out ahead. The fact is, lots of horror movies just aren't very good in any given era, and often as a result they aren't very scary (if they even intended to be). The ones that work, for whatever reason, get remembered. This is gets more extreme the further you go back into history.

Finally as a minor point I suspect you're confusing mid-00s with the very late '90s and early-00s re: bad horror. Both periods had some remarkable movies in them, but the like 98-2003 period is notable for a very specific and now quite dated "teen horror"-style being common.

I am not saying no movies today are scary. There are good horror movies, but I think we are far, far from the apex of horror movies today
Old people always think that though. I am also an old person in that context.

I used to be a horror buff in the '90s (all of the '90s). I read a lot written about horror movies, and I watched them over a wide period, and every older person thought "horror movies today aren't that great", whereas once horror movies kind of "rose from their grave" around the time of Scream, younger people tended to universally think the opposite (prior to Scream things were a little more complex). Reading stuff written by people in their 20s today I can see the phenomenon continues.

It's particularly amusingly ironic that you say this in a Ravenloft thread. I'm hoping you know why, but for those who don't...

Because the original 2E Ravenloft boxed set basically opens with an old person (who was probably what, 30s, 40s? Practically a skeleton!) insisting that modern horror sucks and is lame (and by modern he means the '80s and onward), but Hammer and Universal was awesome and actually scary and TRUE HORROR and any TRUE HORROR FAN, much like a true Scotsman, will like that stuff.
 
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And to see the difference between horror and D&D you just have to look at how each is played out. In one you have kidnapped characters willing to do anything to escape with their lives, and in the other you have characters willingly going in in hopes of surviving long enough to gain power and treasure. Horror vs fantasy adventure.
It's not unknown for D&D PCs to be kidnapped and thrown into the dungeon.
 

It's not unknown for D&D PCs to be kidnapped and thrown into the dungeon.
Yup. The main difference actually seems to be that the characters in Saw act more like it's actually happened to them, where D&D players, even ones who RP relatively seriously, tend to have an element of distance that means they don't RP the level of panic and desperation people would be likely to experience. Also few DMs would set up a situation where the PCs were turned against each other in that way.
 

overgeeked

B/X Known World
It's not unknown for D&D PCs to be kidnapped and thrown into the dungeon.
Sure. In my experience players would rather die than be captured. So other than DM fiat, it's not a thing that actually happens. But, assuming DM fiat, you'd still have a group of characters wandering a dungeon trying to delve deeper in looking for power and loot. At best their attitude would be described as cautious. And when one character dies, the group would find a mysteriously appropriately leveled character who just happens to be friendly enough to join your merry band of treasure hunters. But again, in a horror version of that setup, the characters would be living in mortal terror for the rest of their short lives desperately trying to GTFO. Generally the same premise and setup up, but wildly different expectations and execution. Fantasy adventure game vs horror.

You could certainly flip the script and start the PCs at the center of the dungeon trying to get out, but their attitude would still be one of cautious exploration, XP farming, and loot collecting rather than abject terror and fear.
 

Sure. In my experience players would rather die than be captured.
Your experience is your experience.
So other than DM fiat, it's not a thing that actually happens.
Sure it is. And quite a lot of published adventures (e.g. Slavelords, Out of the Abyss) begin that way (not to mention CRPGs). After "you all meet in an inn", my experience is it's the second most common campaign start.
but wildly different expectations
I agree with expectations: it's horror because the label says it's horror.
and execution.
Not really. I've seen plenty of extremely gory demises in D&D.
 


overgeeked

B/X Known World
Your experience is your experience.

Sure it is. And quite a lot of published adventures (e.g. Slavelords, Out of the Abyss) begin that way (not to mention CRPGs). After "you all meet in an inn", my experience is it's the second most common campaign start.
As it's a safe assumption that the most common campaign start is not "you wake up chained to the floor with a hacksaw within reach" I'm not sure what your point is.
I agree with expectations: it's horror because the label says it's horror.
It's horror because the characters react as if it were horror. If the characters in Saw were treating the whole thing as a jaunty team-building exercise knowing they'd get missing limbs restored and life magically returned to their dead bodies...there's not much horror.
Not really. I've seen plenty of extremely gory demises in D&D.
Horror is far, far more than just gore.
 

It's horror because the characters react as if it were horror. If the characters in Saw were treating the whole thing as a jaunty team-building exercise knowing they'd get missing limbs restored and life magically returned to their dead bodies...there's not much horror.
Sure there is.

Particularly if it ends up with them not actually getting what they expected. Shit I seem to remember some horror movie from a few years ago where these people go on a team-building exercise and they're being picked off but most of them keep thinking it's team-building for like 2/3rds of the movie. In fact I think there may be multiple movies like that. Probably a Black Mirror episode or two as well (caveat: I have never actually watched Black Mirror and know it solely by reputation).

There are absolutely horror movies where the characters failing to understand the peril they're in and treating things much more lightly than they should is part of the horror.

EDIT - I mean @overgeeked, dude, you basically just described Aliens for god's sake. "This is just going to be a bug hunt". Sure they realize fairly early on that it isn't, but that realization could have been delayed considerably and still worked. The Marines go in there exactly like a bunch of cheery, overconfident adventurers. It's their downfall, in many ways. If the PCs are all cutting their feet off because they're sure Greater Restoration or whatever is going to be available to sort it shortly, and it isn't (or not for everyone, or not in time), that's going to be highly effective horror.
 
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As it's a safe assumption that the most common campaign start is not "you wake up chained to the floor with a hacksaw within reach" I'm not sure what your point is.
Now that you mention it I'm certainly going to do it.

But in the later films characters go in in order to try and rescue other characters. Which is another frequent reason D&D characters go into deathtrap dungeons.
It's horror because the characters react as if it were horror.
Which in D&D is entirely up to the players. If the players decide their characters are terrified of The Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh then that's how they react.
Horror is far, far more than just gore.
Horror is nothing but a label.
 

Remathilis

Legend
I think this was meant to be ironic, but honestly they are more science fantasy than sci-fi.
That's the point. Sci-fi is so coded with concepts of hard and soft sci-fi that the definition is almost meaningless except to say it takes place in a setting not explicitly our past or present. Yet people quibble over if one or both or neither is true sci-fi or not. Those debates make this one about horror seem quaint.
 


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