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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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Probably, where I'm coming from this dictionary definition seems apt:

"in the style of camp : absurdly exaggerated, artificial, or affected in a usually humorous way."

Seems to apply equally to Saw with the ridiculous cartoon plot and murder puppet just as much as any other horror flick.
I figured that's what you ment. But being British, and older, the word carries other connotations to me.

It comes from here: Polari - Wikipedia
 


The thing about horror is horror is not scary. "Fear" is an emotional response that exists only in the mind of the individual. And what individuals find scary varies enormously. So you cannot say "X is scarier than Y" because scariness in not an intrinsic property.

All you can say about the horror genre is it tries to be scary.
 

Stormonu

Legend
I think they may have missed a horror type that was popular in the 70’s, but has now been spoofed to hell - nature horror.

I’m talking the likes of Jaws, Cujo, Grizzly, Orca, Lake Placid, Pirahna, Jurassic Park and the like. A horror where humanity goes from the top of the food chain to the main dish. It preys on ancient fears of being eaten alive, of not being in control of our environment and simply being prey to something far more powerful and unconcerned with our well-being. You can’t reason with it, and yet somehow it’s more than just an animal doing it’s thing. Somehow, it seems like it’s hunting you with a cunning and maliciousness far greater than it should possess.

While some of those movies are still made, they’ve veered into camp, absurdity and self-parody with the likes of Megladon, Sharknado (Anaconda?) and other such movies.
 


Horror is a genre - a loosely defined set of conventions, tropes, and common themes that characterize certain works of fiction. Not everything scary falls into the horror genre, and not everything that falls into the horror genre is necessarily scary. Fear is often one of the emotional responses works of horror try to evoke in their audience, but it isn’t always successful. And often, non-horror works will evoke a fear response in at least some of their audience members, intentionally or unintentionally.

When I say “D&D isn’t horror,” I’m not saying D&D isn’t, can’t be, or shouldn’t try to be scary. I’m saying its conventions, tropes, and themes, taken holistically, don’t fall under those associated with the horror genre. Typically speaking. Obviously you can include horror conventions, tropes, and themes in D&D, and the result might be something that could reasonably be described as horror. But I don’t think the game as-written is particularly well-suited to it.

Ravenloft, as a setting, does employ many of the tropes, conventions, and common themes of horror, so I think describing it as a “horror setting” is very fitting. Playing a game that is not horror by design, in a setting that is, can create a very interesting genre mashup. I think that’s the primary appeal of Ravenloft. And, of course, you can adjust the dials to find the balance of adventure, horror, and fantasy that feels right for your purposes.

I don't agree. I found Ravenloft to very much be a horror game once you implemented the system adjustments. Obviously there are other ways to emulate horror and some games make a point of ensuring things like 'don't go into the basement' come up more. But I don't think that is necessary for something to be a horror game. My feeling with D&D is you can do a number of different genres in it with the right adjustments. Will it tend to be as focused as something built around a genre from the ground up: probably not. But I think Ravenloft, at least as it was originally presented in 2E, leaned very heavily into being a horror game (again just having played a bunch of horror RPGs in that period, I think it stood up with the best of them).
 

The thing about horror is horror is not scary. "Fear" is an emotional response that exists only in the mind of the individual. And what individuals find scary varies enormously. So you cannot say "X is scarier than Y" because scariness in not an intrinsic property.

All you can say about the horror genre is it tries to be scary.

I think this is one of those things where when someone says X is scarier than Y, they really mean something like "I think X is scarier" or "the consensus appears to be X is scarier".
 

As an aside, I'd actually say the horror movies that tend to survive are not the scariest ones (which are often not even the best ones), but rather the ones which are scary and tell a good story. Some of them are actually towards the lower end of the scary scale, esp. '80s ones. It's not always true though. Don't Look Now is still profoundly creepy though perhaps not very scary, for example.

This I think this true, but it is also, at least for me, true that the most scary films tend to have stories and/or characters that you make you want to keep watching and make you care about what is happening. And there is of course a spectrum: some horror movies technically fall into the genre, even have many of the tropes but are more of an entertaining romp than something that makes your heart race. Quality of the film isn't just about how horrifying it manages to be to an audience but how much it manages to entertain them. But I think this is an argument for elements of camp and humor. They sometimes open you up more to being receptive to the horror. Mentioned it before, but American Werewolf in London is quite campy (though it seems we have some feuding definitions, so lets just say it at least brings in a number of humorous elements). But it is also quite scary, and I think it may even have been a less scary movie without the humor (I might be wrong on that, but it is my impression). But then there are movies like Bride of Frankenstein. It is filled with camp, wildly entertaining, but in all honesty probably less scary than the original Frankenstein. Still at the end of the day I find Bride of Frankenstein a more entertaining and moving horror film, so it is what I'd rather watch.
 

This I think this true, but it is also, at least for me, true that the most scary films tend to have stories and/or characters that you make you want to keep watching and make you care about what is happening. And there is of course a spectrum: some horror movies technically fall into the genre, even have many of the tropes but are more of an entertaining romp than something that makes your heart race. Quality of the film isn't just about how horrifying it manages to be to an audience but how much it manages to entertain them. But I think this is an argument for elements of camp and humor. They sometimes open you up more to being receptive to the horror. Mentioned it before, but American Werewolf in London is quite campy (though it seems we have some feuding definitions, so lets just say it at least brings in a number of humorous elements). But it is also quite scary, and I think it may even have been a less scary movie without the humor (I might be wrong on that, but it is my impression). But then there are movies like Bride of Frankenstein. It is filled with camp, wildly entertaining, but in all honesty probably less scary than the original Frankenstein. Still at the end of the day I find Bride of Frankenstein a more entertaining and moving horror film, so it is what I'd rather watch.
I'd agree with all of that including specific examples. Re: camp I think the issue is simply that by it's broadest definition the vast majority virtually all non-realist cinema is camp - Die Hard is camp, A River Runs Through It is camp, The Matrix is camp, Little Women is camp, La Dolce Vita is camp, Psycho is camp, almost everything Al Pacino has ever been in is camp, with the odd possibly exception of Dog Day Afternoon, which despite being about queer subjects (and thus the original meaning of camp), is so relatively down-to-earth that it maybe isn't camp. Whereas if we used a tighter and more useful definition of "camp", only The Matrix and Psycho of that list (er and various Al Pacino movies - The Scent of a Woman stands out) would be actually camp. So I think stuff like "humourous" or "over-the-top" or "exaggerated" is indeed perhaps more useful than camp except for movies which are profoundly in the camp "strike zone" (real bonus if there's some queer sexuality in there - the height of camp is of course the horror-themed Rocky Horror Picture Show - but there are queer or queer-adjacent horror movies that are not camp - Ginger Snaps springs to mind).

But er I'm maundering on.

Agree re: Bride of Frankenstein though my favourite Frankenstein-related movie remains the hysterical Young Frankenstein, which is clearly not horror (I would never have watched it except my mum said I'd love it and it had both Gene Wilder and Marty Feldman in it). Promethean monsters, particularly Frankenstein's monster have, imho, rarely been done justice in movies, despite countless attempts (many in the sci-fi sphere), which is a pity because conceptually I think it's one of the most compelling of the movie monsters (ones trying to stick close to Mary Shelley's book tend to end in particular tears). Blade Runner which is only arguably about the same subject is probably the best attempt.
 

Does G'Henna come back? If this is real, then it needs a total reboot. Yagno Petrovna is in my opinion the most hateful dark lord, the first I would want to dissapear ultimately. I feel there is a abuse of the tropes of G'Henna. I would rather to imagine G'Henna mash-up, like a satire against the "oil-snake salesman" and an allegory of the drug-addictions, with some pieces of eco-terrorism. The cult of Zhakata started as a secret lodge of lotus-eaters, in the beggining, for the "courtship phase" provided food and medicines to the lower classes. After they promoted a rebellion against the "corrupt authority" and then with the political power the things changed. Obesity was a sign of the lack of solidarity and moral corruption by the previous higher classes, and the thinnes the new beauty canon and sign of self-control by means of fast. Farming is totally forbidden (to stop the damage in the Nature by the men) , but usually nobody dies by hunger or malnutrition because the cult of Zhakata distribute for free a soup by the fruits of a special sacred mistletoe (with a special flow as the lotus). Its taste is not bad but G'Henna gastronomy is one of the most boring in the multiverse.

Hunting is totally banned, but the forests from G'Henna have got a bizarre curse "you are you eat". This means if you eat a rabbit you can acquire rabbit traits (then to keep your original human shape you can to eat humanoids, but troll's flesh also works). The cult of Zhakata teachs those animals are the reincarnation of sinner's souls. There are also trollhounds and gray trolls (survivals of "meat farms" by sentient undeads using their regenation as "renewable" food source). The followers of Zakhata who only feed by the fruits of the mistletoe enjoy a beneficial secondary effect, something like a mosquito repellent, and men-eater undeads aren't attracted to these "lotus-eaters". The cult of Zakhata doesn't use divine magic to heal, but a different effect, a special sacrament, and the believer is "ascended", becomes a new being who doesn't need the same level of food. (He becomes a creature as the yellow-musk zombie, but plant(touched), not undead, teorically keeping the freewill). G'Henna is famous by their healing herbs, but the harvest in the nature is "sacrilegy against Nature", but the true reason is because when these "ascended", humanoids with plant traits are very old or sick, go to the forest to "hug a tree", to become a creature like a dryad, a fae spirit linked to a plant, then the forest is practically like a cementery where the trees are the equivalent of coffins, and intruders aren't welcome. These plants are the origin of the "sacred mistletoe" that gives those fruits and lotus as food source.

Here our dark-lord Yagno Petrovna doesn't suffer a faith-crisis in the direct way, but his religion hasn't enough a coherent dogma, and in G'Henna a lot of self-proclaim Zakhata prophets or incarnations, with divine magic (or psionic, or incarnum). One of them is the leader of a sect of dark-feys teaching Zakhata was a titan killed and erasured by the gods, but keeping his existence as a vestige. He can come back if enough "divine sparks" are gathered together.
 
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Agree re: Bride of Frankenstein though my favourite Frankenstein-related movie remains the hysterical Young Frankenstein, which is clearly not horror (I would never have watched it except my mum said I'd love it and it had both Gene Wilder and Marty Feldman in it). Promethean monsters, particularly Frankenstein's monster have, imho, rarely been done justice in movies, despite countless attempts (many in the sci-fi sphere), which is a pity because conceptually I think it's one of the most compelling of the movie monsters (ones trying to stick close to Mary Shelley's book tend to end in particular tears). Blade Runner which is only arguably about the same subject is probably the best attempt.

Young Frankenstein is great. I am a little less pessimistic about movies based on Frankenstein. I used to adore the book and had a bit of a chip on my shoulder towards movies that got the material 'wrong'. But I have lightened up a lot over the years. I do think the shift to the film medium demands certain changes (Frankenstein as a story requires patent reading (it is not long, but it is flowery and ornate in its prose) and I don't know that the story beats translate easily to movies. On top of that Frankenstein movies are very self referential because more audiences are familiar with the film adaptations than the original (and even then they are often influenced by the imagery of Karloff without having seen the full length movie). But that said I really did enjoy the Hammer Frankenstein films (the quality and tone is all over the map but it is one of my favorite series to binge if I have a day to kill). I rather enjoyed the original and the Bride of Frankenstein (they definitely don't cleave to the book but they are good movies in their own right, particularly the latter). I can't recommend it, but the Andy Warhol Frankenstein was definitely...interesting. I remember really wanting to love the Kenneth Branagh Frankenstein, and there are parts of it I like (I do like how they handled the bride, I like that they got into the monsters backstory and gave him a personality more like the book....but maybe that one has too much Kenneth Branagh in it and feels extremely tethered to the 90s. The Abbot and Costello Frankenstein is pretty good but obviously that is going for a whole different feel. I remember really enjoying Frankenstein Unbound but it has been ages since I watched it and it was quite unorthodox in its approach. I do agree though there are lots of forgetful Frankenstein movies. I know I saw one with Randy Quaid in it, I can't remember anymore about it than that. I vaguely remember the Bride with Sting (and mostly I remember being bored watching it as a kid----not sure how it would hold up if I saw it today). I also vaguely recall Frankenhooker but couldn't recite the plot beyond the basic premise. One movie I actually kind of enjoyed, even though it really had serious flaws, was Frankenstein Theory. It was a found footage version of the movie. It had an interesting premise. If you don't mind a more Blaire Witch approach to the material, it is something different (and it has some campy acting in it----but I kind of liked that about it).
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
I don't agree. I found Ravenloft to very much be a horror game once you implemented the system adjustments.
Ravenloft isn’t a game, it’s a setting. D&D is a game, and the fact that you needed to implement system adjustments to make it fit the genre of the Ravenloft setting better is evidence for my position that D&D isn’t a horror game by default.

Obviously there are other ways to emulate horror and some games make a point of ensuring things like 'don't go into the basement' come up more. But I don't think that is necessary for something to be a horror game. My feeling with D&D is you can do a number of different genres in it with the right adjustments.
Right, exactly like I said - you can adjust D&D to make it a horror game if you like. You can adjust it to make it any genre if you want to, but...

Will it tend to be as focused as something built around a genre from the ground up: probably not.
This.

But I think Ravenloft, at least as it was originally presented in 2E, leaned very heavily into being a horror game
Again, Ravenloft is a setting, not a game. But it is undoubtedly a horror setting.

(again just having played a bunch of horror RPGs in that period, I think it stood up with the best of them).
I don’t doubt that it did.
 





Faolyn

Hero

It looks like this depicts Gennifer and Laurie Weathermay-Foxgrove, and the werewolf is Natalia Vhorishkova.
Huh--that's a new look for them, if that is them. Interesting change! Although if this is them, it's odd that Gennifer has a sword, when she always used a pistol before. I wonder what that says about the tech level they're going for. Personally, I imagine firearms being relatively common in Ravenloft.
 

tetrasodium

Legend
Supporter
Huh--that's a new look for them, if that is them. Interesting change! Although if this is them, it's odd that Gennifer has a sword, when she always used a pistol before. I wonder what that says about the tech level they're going for. Personally, I imagine firearms being relatively common in Ravenloft.
The pistol looking thing being fired by the character in the wheelchair looks a lot like a differently styled version of the artificer eldritch cannon. I think they might hew closer to breath of siberys charged "wands" to avoid ever finding out some school shooter had a pistol in a d&d game in a newspaper article
 

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