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D&D 5E My critic on VRGtR

No it is not a bad thing to give an audience what they want, it just feels like they gave a very narrow slice of the audience what they wanted. Maybe it is just me, but this book just falls flat and does not add much of anything interesting to the game.
I'm going to guess that you already have more Ravenloft stuff than just Curse of Strahd, unlike 90% of the current player base.
 

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I'm going to guess that you already have more Ravenloft stuff than just Curse of Strahd, unlike 90% of the current player base.
Which is why I specified that this critic was considering both the old and the new player/DM in mind. Both can benefit but the newer one will, of course, get a lot more out of it as they do not have an easy access to the old materials.
 

Which is why I specified that this critic was considering both the old and the new player/DM in mind. Both can benefit but the newer one will, of course, get a lot more out of it as they do not have an easy access to the old materials.
I was replying and asking a specific user who claimed that nothing interesting was added to the game.
 


Laurefindel

Legend
Nice review, thanks!

The College of Spirit

The college of spirit is meh… I could have had done without that one. A bard is an entertainer, if anything, I would have prefer to have seen a rogue with some of these powers. A half caster with these little powers would have liven up the rogue class (at la :Midnight Texas if you get what I mean). Again, bards are entertainers, not spiritualists… Don’t get me wrong, I love bards but this subclass do not fit them.

I respectfully refute this statement, both that bards must be entertainers, and that the spirit college cannot be an entertainer.

I wish I had this book when we played CoS. "Spiritualist" was my concept and I hesitated between the bard and warlock for my class. Ended-up going charlatan lore bard because I didn't find a patron that I liked (for that concept), and because street fortune telling and bonaventure was his form of artistic performance in a totally cliché "Mme Olga will tell your fortune!" like in the early 20th century grand opera variety shows. Anything that would end-up on a stage or in a cabaret, or during fairs or in tourist traps, is entertainment IMO.
 

Nice review, thanks!



I respectfully refute this statement, both that bards must be entertainers, and that the spirit college cannot be an entertainer.

I wish I had this book when we played CoS. "Spiritualist" was my concept and I hesitated between the bard and warlock for my class. Ended-up going charlatan lore bard because I didn't find a patron that I liked (for that concept), and because street fortune telling and bonaventure was his form of artistic performance in a totally cliché "Mme Olga will tell your fortune!" like in the early 20th century grand opera variety shows. Anything that would end-up on a stage or in a cabaret, or during fairs or in tourist traps, is entertainment IMO.
Hey, it is a simple opinion and not an absolute truth!😉

But I really think that a shaman would have done the job better, flavor speaking. A spiritualist is the modern take on the shaman's spirit contacting or whatever you call communion with spirits.
 




Delazar

Adventurer
I quite enjoyed this book. My only minor (really minor) nitpick is the "style" of the book. Maybe it's the nostalgia talking, but I loved the gothic "look" of previous editions of Ravenloft. Some fully black pages, with white or red letters, black & white art (even better if it was from Fabian), this kind of stuff.

I understand why they don't do this anymore, they want to give the impression that it's "still D&D", but I think it loses in... mood?

As I said, a minor nitpick, it is a really good book.
 

I quite enjoyed this book. My only minor (really minor) nitpick is the "style" of the book. Maybe it's the nostalgia talking, but I loved the gothic "look" of previous editions of Ravenloft. Some fully black pages, with white or red letters, black & white art (even better if it was from Fabian), this kind of stuff.

I understand why they don't do this anymore, they want to give the impression that it's "still D&D", but I think it loses in... mood?

As I said, a minor nitpick, it is a really good book.
Agreed. I never thought of the art work in my review but at the same time, keep in mind that they want to appeal to both old grognards like myself and to a younger audience. But yes, the gothic aspect of the original was really good and I would have kept it too.
 

eyeheartawk

Works 60% of the time, every time
My biggest gripes:

1. No Core? Every domain is just out here floating Islands of Terror style? Having domains of major Dark Lords bordering each other and that engendering rivalries and intrigue etc, was a not-small part of the prior iteration of the setting.

2. No stats for Dark Lords. Telling me IDK, go look in the Monster Manual on page 172 and give it immunity to poison is pretty weak for a $50 book. I suspect the strangely low page count to be responsible for this.

3. The really needless changing of characters. Why are we gender swapping and completely changing the characteristics of characters that already exist? Alanik Ray and Dr. Sedgewick are good examples of this. Just make new characters. Dark Lords come and go through the vagaries of the Dark Powers, it's all easy enough to explain. It's annoying in the same way that "surprise there were these other Drow all along for thousands of years that nobody knew about" is annoying.
 

My biggest gripes:

1. No Core? Every domain is just out here floating Islands of Terror style? Having domains of major Dark Lords bordering each other and that engendering rivalries and intrigue etc, was a not-small part of the prior iteration of the setting.

2. No stats for Dark Lords. Telling me IDK, go look in the Monster Manual on page 172 and give it immunity to poison is pretty weak for a $50 book. I suspect the strangely low page count to be responsible for this.

3. The really needless changing of characters. Why are we gender swapping and completely changing the characteristics of characters that already exist? Alanik Ray and Dr. Sedgewick are good examples of this. Just make new characters. Dark Lords come and go through the vagaries of the Dark Powers, it's all easy enough to explain. It's annoying in the same way that "surprise there were these other Drow all along for thousands of years that nobody knew about" is annoying.
1) Yes it was a big thing that some dark lords could war on each other (and often spied) but we are in a new era. This is not the Ravenloft of the 90s,. I do miss the old material but nothing prevents you to bring that up.

2)Strangely, I prefer it this way. I can then make the Dark lord of a domain more fitting to my group and play style. And, players will not be able to check the stats of the Dark lord in their own copy. So for me, it is 100% approval.

3)I fully agree on that one. Gender swapping for gender swapping is meh...
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
It’s a tricky line to walk, right? On the one hand, options are always good, and options for significantly de-powered PCs would be highly appropriate for a horror toolbox book. On the other hand, how far can you take it before it feels like “why are we playing D&D instead of CoC in a fantasy setting?” I think the Survivor rules strike a nice balance. A great option for one-offs, the idea to use them to play out flashbacks and nightmares is awesome, and if you want super low-power PC options, they fit the bill.

I certainly wouldn’t mind more such options, but there’s the question of what to cut for them. Personally I’d be fine with more stuff along those lines taking the place of, like, the spirit bard. But new subclasses sell books, so I understand why they wouldn’t want to do that. The domains are already trying to squeeze a lot of information into very small page counts, I wouldn’t want them to be cut down. The travelers in the mists section feels perfect to me, enough to give you some ideas without taking up a ton of real-estate.
One way to use them in a longer campaign would be to “multiclass” after level 3 into sidekick classes.
 

Hexblood: Again, just like the Dhampir. A no go for me in Ravenloft, but in other setting it would do the trick. The main problem is that their powers come from the Hags. I know of no one that will freely gives that kind of powers for free without a heavy costs at some further point in time. The transformation into a Hag should not be something that the character has a say. Just like the warlock is beholden to a patron, the Hexblood is beholden to the Hag that gave the powers. At some point, the hags will ask for a payback and the character will become a hag. Consequences matter in many games. This lineage is best left for one shot campaigns but not for long ones. Ho and again, dark vision…
Just a small nitpick, but: That's one way to play warlocks or Hexbloods. The price could have already been played in the backstory, or the existence of the Hexblood/warlock alone could be all the patron wants.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
Just a small nitpick, but: That's one way to play warlocks or Hexbloods. The price could have already been played in the backstory, or the existence of the Hexblood/warlock alone could be all the patron wants.
I like to run warlock patrons as working like actual patronage. A patron pays an artist because they like the artist’s work and want to support their ability to keep doing it. They may occasionally request something specific they would like to see the artist do, but ultimately it’s up to the artist, and part of the point is to see what they’ll do with what the patron gives them. Warlock patrons do the same, only instead of money they grant magical power.

As for hexbloods, my understanding is that their connection to a hag is generally not voluntary. A hexblood is basically a changeling - the substitute the fae leave behind in place of a baby they abduct. They’re the results of parents making ill-conceived deals for children or offering their firstborn for boons. The victims of fae curses or fae who get lost or exiled to the human world. They don’t make deals with hags, they’re the result of someone else’s deal with a hag.
 

Remathilis

Legend
Which, mechanically, amount to a subrace of any race. (or lineage, if you prefer). Whatever the wording you prefer or apply it amount to the same thing. At some point, I care more about the effects and implications of these will have on a character story and how it will affect its social interaction with the NPCs that the character will come across. As I said, Ravenloft is mostly human based/inclined. I doubt that the first two would be welcomed with open arms by the inhabitants instead of pitchforks and torches. Even the reborn might have a hard time...
Well considering that in old Ravenloft that being an elf or having a spellbook was enough to get you burned at the stake, dhampir can at least pass as human on first glance.

And there is a line either in the book itself or in the D&D Blog post about PCs being active in the horror, and part of that can be the fact that they are also monsters and have to deal with that. A lot horror media has taken the monster and made him the protagonist to deal with the anguish of being different than others. A dhampir must control thier urges or be no better than their sire. A hexblood must adapt to the strange fey part of thier blood. A reborn has to come to grips with being given a second chance but as a freak of nature. This to me is as important as say a warforged in Eberron finding it's role in post-war society. It's a specific flavor that reinforces the theme.

All that said, WotC has taken a different tack with Ravenloft horror; it's not about crippling PCs and creating invincible monster foes to simulate terror through "oh noes, my PCs!" Type of play. It's a much more narrative or personal type, one where the heroes win the battle but rarely win the war. It's a shift of emphasis, but not a deviation from classic Ravenloft.
 

Faolyn

Hero
Hey, it is a simple opinion and not an absolute truth!😉

But I really think that a shaman would have done the job better, flavor speaking. A spiritualist is the modern take on the shaman's spirit contacting or whatever you call communion with spirits.
The Spirit bard is modern(ish). It's supposed to be a séance-style medium, not a shamanesque spirit-summoner. Even if, mechanically, they are very similar, they have much different styles.
 

Remathilis

Legend
My biggest gripes:

1. No Core? Every domain is just out here floating Islands of Terror style? Having domains of major Dark Lords bordering each other and that engendering rivalries and intrigue etc, was a not-small part of the prior iteration of the setting.

2. No stats for Dark Lords. Telling me IDK, go look in the Monster Manual on page 172 and give it immunity to poison is pretty weak for a $50 book. I suspect the strangely low page count to be responsible for this.

3. The really needless changing of characters. Why are we gender swapping and completely changing the characteristics of characters that already exist? Alanik Ray and Dr. Sedgewick are good examples of this. Just make new characters. Dark Lords come and go through the vagaries of the Dark Powers, it's all easy enough to explain. It's annoying in the same way that "surprise there were these other Drow all along for thousands of years that nobody knew about" is annoying.

1. The core was rarely a factor in most Ravenloft games anyway. You couldn't send an army to invade another domain (darklord closes border = war over) and anyone with a mist talisman can still act as a Darklord's spy. Trade still happens via the Vistani.

2. A minor inconvenience, but considering Strahd in CoS was just the vampire spellcaster variant from the MM with a higher int a few spell changes, I don't think much is missed. The DMs Guild has already filled in the gap here.

3. There are two types of gender swaps in the book: a new darklord with some connection to the old Domain (Sadria, Chakuna) and those who were expy characters too close even in name to their models (Vlad Drakov, Victor Mordenheim) so that the gender flip allows them to be further differentiated from thier obvious inspiration.
 

Faolyn

Hero
My biggest gripes:

1. No Core? Every domain is just out here floating Islands of Terror style? Having domains of major Dark Lords bordering each other and that engendering rivalries and intrigue etc, was a not-small part of the prior iteration of the setting.
You can still have that sort of thing going on. The Dark Lords were always dependent on their agents to engage in intrigue. Now they just have to use Mist Tokens to send their agents... and this means that they can send their agents anywhere, not just bordering countries. You want to send a Kargatane to I'Cath now? Go ahead.

2. No stats for Dark Lords. Telling me IDK, go look in the Monster Manual on page 172 and give it immunity to poison is pretty weak for a $50 book. I suspect the strangely low page count to be responsible for this.
While that's probably true--the book could definitely have used another 50 pages or so--not having stats means that you can use them as villains no matter the level of your party.

Also, how often do you really need to know the actual stats for a darklord, instead of just rule-of-cool/horror'ing their abilities? There's a lot more to do in each domain than just kill the darklord, after all.

3. The really needless changing of characters. Why are we gender swapping and completely changing the characteristics of characters that already exist? Alanik Ray and Dr. Sedgewick are good examples of this. Just make new characters. Dark Lords come and go through the vagaries of the Dark Powers, it's all easy enough to explain. It's annoying in the same way that "surprise there were these other Drow all along for thousands of years that nobody knew about" is annoying.
The fact that they are now married (or that one is in a wheelchair) doesn't "completely change" their characteristics at all. I'd have to go back and check, but I'm pretty sure that none of them were ever avowed heterosexuals in earlier editions. And the wheelchair, while a change, isn't one that alters who they were.

But now imagine that they had decided to make a completely new domain featuring a female darklord. Chances are it would have been similar in some way to an existing domain (since most of the standard horror tropes have been used, and many of those that haven't wouldn't be suitable for this sort of work). And then people would have complained about the copycat domains, which would likely always be compared unfavorably to or treated as a Mary Sue version of the original domain.

Or they could replace the old Darklord with a new, female version with a sufficiently different backstory, and possibly bother people who preferred the old Darklord (as an example, I hate Inza and prefer Soth). They did that with Chakuna, and I bet there are those who preferred Kharkov to her.

So why not genderflip some of them and keep the history mostly the same, like with Viktra? Or say that the Dark Powers replaced a male Darklord with a female one who had a different backstory, like with d'Honaire and Saidra, and altered everyone's mind so nobody realizes what things had been like before. (As I wrote in another thread, Falkovnia has always been at war with Zombasia now.)

(Heck, make it like the way Darkon used to be. If you're from a domain that got a new Darklord, and you leave the domain, you suddenly remember the way it used to be. If you ever return home, however, you might forget that and go back to remembering the new timeline.)

The only two changes of this type I wonder about: genderflipping Hiregaard (if they had fully fleshed out Nova Vaasa, it would have been fine, but considering that they only gave the domain a paragraph or so, it feels unnecessary) and deciding that Erasmus is aromantic. I mean, it's a cool inclusion [raises fist in aromantic solidarity] but he's the ghost of a (probably) prepubescent kid who had been murdered by a pedophile vampire, when ghosts are famously stuck in one mindset and rarely think about things outside of it. I'm not sure that his place on the romantic spectrum is actually that important.
 

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