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D&D General Reading Ravenloft the setting

Tonguez

A suffusion of yellow
I love Mordent and admit that I have often lifted it and used it in non-Ravenloft (and non-D&D) settings too. Howls in the Night with its Baskerville vibe is one of my favourite adventures (including its customisation feature (no spoilers :)).

and its true that Mordents set up of Ghosts and Madmen wandering the moors and fens means that adventures can occur there with absolutely no reference at all to the Dark Lord.
The presence of Sahuagin in the seas also allows for some Arkham Horror to be shipped in too
 
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Remathilis

Legend
From a gameplay point of view - Mordent is one of my favourite domains. If you want a weekend-in-hell, then there's some great stuff here, especially with the way the Weathermay family is described here. Jules is a stunning character, the elderly but still sharp quasi-ruler of the place, he's devoted his life to governing, but can see ghosts after a brush with death a few years back and is starting to suspect a lot about Godefroy and the House. But he's got a case of noblesse oblige, and his descendents are all more interested in monster hunting rather than duty to Mordent, and one of them is probably a werewolf, and his son-in-law is being blackmailed by Godefroy. There's a really great story to be told here, the last cathartic crusade of Lord Jules as the career politician takes up the sword again, and the next generation of Weathermays having all their secrets come out and deciding what their destiny is, and a climatic expedition to the House on Gryphon Hill to face Godefroy.

As a setting for a longer campaign, it works very well too. It's not as darklord-centric as many domains so even low-level PCs have stuff to do, there's plot hooks all over the place, and the nature of the place means that PCs will likely be meeting the same NPCs a lot, which gives you time and scope to build and flesh them out. The sort of Mordent campaign I'd run would be very local - again, drawing from Austen a lot, fleshing out all the local families, the PCs neighbours and servants etc, and having social interaction, etiquette, reputation, the marriage market etc be major story aspects. If Mordent seems to small for this, well, there's lots of room to expand it. As well as the sidetrips to pocket domains or Cornish dwarf-ghosts mentioned above, you could 100% put primeval stone circles, and secret druidic sects dead or living, and mound-tombs of the iron-age ancient dead, bog mummies, spectral black hounds, and dark fey here, without compromising the feel of the place at all. And Mordenheim is just across the border too.

What the place does lack is an urban area. In Regency literature there tends to be the far-off big city (London) that acts as a source of scandal, excitement, desire, and occasionally wickedness that contrasts the whole rustic gossipy neigbourliness of the small town where the actual books takes place. I'll never understand why nobody writing the Ravenloft line during its various reconfigurations and conjunctions etc saw fit to plonk Paridon down at one end of Mordent to fill that role, it's a perfect fit, but it never happened, and Dementlieu is a long way away and culturally very different. I'd be sorely tempted to have a fairly reliable mistway running from Mordent to Paridon if I ever ran the place, but whatever.
My second favorite domain for all the reasons you listed. Its a domain with a non-intrusive darklord but lots of thematic elements and enough population (still low, but that's another topic) to support native PCs and NPCs. Like you, I kinda wished they'd mix the PCs races into the setting if they are going to allow native PCs to be other races, but that boat sailed.

I do agree I find it odd there is no "urban" domain in the core. Paridon/Timor would be a great for a domain-city, but the sheer fact the Core lacks anything the size of Paris, London, Rome, or Berlin. The closest WAS Il Aluk, but that's gone too. It leaves a huge hole in manufacturing, scholarly, and commerce issues, plus you lose the Victorian horror of Jack the Ripper, Jeckyl and Hyde, or even Sweeny Tood as the horror hidden in the city. I always felt that was a glaring omission...
 

Faolyn

Hero
I never quite liked that all but one of the ancient houses had died off or vanished in mysterious circumstances. I always felt that there should be a few hangers-on remaining in one way or another.

And yes, Mordent and Paridon should definitely be linked together somehow. I'd be fine turning them into a cluster, perhaps along with Staunton Bluffs and maybe Nosos. Perhaps Mordent and Staunton on one side, Paridon and Nosos on another, and something new in between.
 

Isn't "the Apparatus" in the capital of Mordent? This artifact could be wished by different factions, causing serious conflicts and troubles. What if a copycat is created, and the result is two clones with opposite aligment or both become archenemies? Or the evil twin is cursed and he wants to control or possees the other as a parasite within a "host". The tragicomic part is the good twin could be the key for the end of the curse but the evil twin betrays himself with he tries to avoid his twin's goals. Or the dark powers could create "good twins" as nemesis of evil characters because these hate being compared with somebody better than them ("you should study more as your cousin who enjoys better grades in the exams" or "I had to married him and not you, because he is making more money now"). Envy also can be used for a subtle psychological torture.

When I think in ghosts I can't avoid the hard influence of rich mythology by White Wolf/Onyx Path with titles as Wraith: the Oblivion. Sometimes I also wonder about the "Hamlet's effect". What had happened if Hamlet's ghost father hadn't revealed the truth about his death?

Mmmmm, Mordent would be perfect for a crossover with the franchise of Ghostbusters..(I am only kidding!).

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One of my ideas is a variant of the revenants, this is not an undead, and then they aren't affected by the divine spellcasters in the same way, but they are a different subtype, (dark) faes or (dread) elementals(grave, pyre, mist and blood). An animated earth figures with some skull, bones and pieces of tombstones (or obelisk with funerary runes) may be a softer version to remplace walking undead with a too gore look.

 

Tonguez

A suffusion of yellow
I never quite liked that all but one of the ancient houses had died off or vanished in mysterious circumstances. I always felt that there should be a few hangers-on remaining in one way or another.

And yes, Mordent and Paridon should definitely be linked together somehow. I'd be fine turning them into a cluster, perhaps along with Staunton Bluffs and maybe Nosos. Perhaps Mordent and Staunton on one side, Paridon and Nosos on another, and something new in between.
Chuck Bleak House in there too and wow, could be a setting on its own :)
 



Remathilis

Legend
Yeah, I've been wanting to split the Core up into Clusters for a while now. Regardless of what the new book says, I think I'll go for Clusters and throw all those pseudo-English domains together, along with a few tiny Domainlettes in the middle.
I believe Ravenloft could use A Core, but not necessarily THE Core as it was left. That is, I could see many of the islands and clusters become part of the Core and the core itself re-arranged to create a bit more logical order to the Core. I see the logic of WotC picking the alternative of no Core, but if they had wanted to embrace the "living world" they could have done it with a 2nd "Grand Conjunction" that creates a larger and more cohesive landmass.
 

Faolyn

Hero
I believe Ravenloft could use A Core, but not necessarily THE Core as it was left. That is, I could see many of the islands and clusters become part of the Core and the core itself re-arranged to create a bit more logical order to the Core. I see the logic of WotC picking the alternative of no Core, but if they had wanted to embrace the "living world" they could have done it with a 2nd "Grand Conjunction" that creates a larger and more cohesive landmass.
Well, presumably a Core 2.0 would be centered around Barovia. I'm just not sure which existing domains would go well attached to it. Borca and Invidia, perhaps, but Borca, being an Italy analogue might also go well next to kinda-Spanish Nova Vaasa and French Dementlieu and Richemulot for a whole Western Europe thing, while Barovia and Invidia are part of a more Eastern Europe thing.

Maybe. I dunno for sure.
 

I'm not sure they'd want a canonical Core that was so tightly coupled to the real world though. It got a bit close to that for my taste in the Gazetteer era, Darkon was obviously USSR-coded, Falkovnia had all the Nazi tropes, Lamordia was heavily Swiss and so on. It does tend to hamstring creativity a bit - and what do you do with places like Sithicus that have no real-world analog?

I think you could certainly do some improvement on the Core, and the lack of the big urban domain is #1 on the list but it shouldn't end up as Gothic Earth.
 
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It would make more sense to lump together domains that have similar cultures and technology levels into clusters. So you could have an "1800" cluster of domains with a major city as the hub, and several other clusters with related culture and tech, rather than one big core. The original design of which was a nonsensical random hodgepodge.
 

Remathilis

Legend
I'm not sure they'd want a canonical Core that was so tightly coupled to the real world though. It got a bit close to that for my taste in the Gazetteer era, Darkon was obviously USSR-coded, Falkovnia had all the Nazi tropes, Lamordia was heavily Swiss and so on. It does tend to hamstring creativity a bit - and what do you do with places like Sithicus that have no real-world analog?

I think you could certainly do some improvement on the Core, and the lack of the big urban domain is #1 on the list but it shouldn't end up as Gothic Earth.
I think some of that was due to many/most domains being outlines to begin with, so they drew from the RW setting of the inspiration of the darklord. Kinda a making the best with what you got.

That said, I don't read Darkon as USSR, more Fascist Italy superimposed on generic D&D. YMMV.
 

Faolyn

Hero
I'm not sure they'd want a canonical Core that was so tightly coupled to the real world though. It got a bit close to that for my taste in the Gazetteer era, Darkon was obviously USSR-coded, Falkovnia had all the Nazi tropes, Lamordia was heavily Swiss and so on. It does tend to hamstring creativity a bit - and what do you do with places like Sithicus that have no real-world analog?
True.

In that case, they could stick with thematics. Sithicus is mostly woods, few settlements. Put it with Tepest and Valachan. Or, Falkovnia, G'Henna, and, I dunno, Vorostokov, where merely existing is difficult. Maybe throw Forlorn, Keening, and Verbrek together: do you risk the woods where the wolves are, or the open areas that are filled with undead and goblyns?
 

Remathilis

Legend
True.

In that case, they could stick with thematics. Sithicus is mostly woods, few settlements. Put it with Tepest and Valachan. Or, Falkovnia, G'Henna, and, I dunno, Vorostokov, where merely existing is difficult. Maybe throw Forlorn, Keening, and Verbrek together: do you risk the woods where the wolves are, or the open areas that are filled with undead and goblyns?
You could always combine Hazlan, Nova Vaasa, Valachan and Kartakass together as the Forgotten Rejects cluster...
 

I imagine the demiplane with two layers, maybe even three. The first layer would be the dread domains, like islands. The second layer would be the "core", and the third would be the "otherside". If I used videogames as examples to explain it better the dread domains would be like a dungeon where the dark lords, the "bosses" can't exit. The second layer would be the "classic" core, something like a sandbox, a complete kingdom to be visited and explored by the rest of ordinary citizens. The third layer would be like the Umbra or Spirit Realm from World of Darkness, the "Metropolis" from Kult: Lost Divinity and the "Otherside" from Silent Hill videogames (Do you know the videogame "Painkiller"). Then the dark lords could sent secret agents to the other domains, there would be enough "hunt zone" for all those supernatural predators, and trade would be possible if you are enough brave to travel throught the mists.

I guess G'Henna will be rebooted totally.
 


Faolyn

Hero
I guess G'Henna will be rebooted totally.
Almost certainly, if they use it at all. I feel it's a domain that could have been quite interesting if they ever bothered to really expand upon it. And maybe if they toned down slightly on the enforced starvation, which doesn't make sense. Eventually, you'd have a populace that couldn't actually do anything at all, including growing the crops that Zhakata demands. There are plenty of other things that can be sacrificed instead of just food.
 

Tonguez

A suffusion of yellow
It would make more sense to lump together domains that have similar cultures and technology levels into clusters. So you could have an "1800" cluster of domains with a major city as the hub, and several other clusters with related culture and tech, rather than one big core. The original design of which was a nonsensical random hodgepodge.

The original design was suppose to be a nightmare realm, bits snatched from throughout the multiverse, so the nonsensical nature is by design.
Its only later with people wanting to be natives and give some consistency that it needs to be mapped out. But yes clustering similar culture and tech is probably a good idea.

I imagine the demiplane with two layers, maybe even three. The first layer would be the dread domains, like islands. The second layer would be the "core", and the third would be the "otherside". If I used videogames as examples to explain it better the dread domains would be like a dungeon where the dark lords, the "bosses" can't exit. The second layer would be the "classic" core, something like a sandbox, a complete kingdom to be visited and explored by the rest of ordinary citizens. The third layer would be like the Umbra or Spirit Realm from World of Darkness, the "Metropolis" from Kult: Lost Divinity and the "Otherside" from Silent Hill videogames (Do you know the videogame "Painkiller"). Then the dark lords could sent secret agents to the other domains, there would be enough "hunt zone" for all those supernatural predators, and trade would be possible if you are enough brave to travel throught the mists.

I guess G'Henna will be rebooted totally.

I kinda like this idea, its similar to what I did in my version of Spelljammer mixed with Ravenlofts mists which I used to create a setting based on the game PC Pyrates.
Essentially reality had been ripped apart by a cataclysmic Nexus Storm which was enveloping everything except for a few scattered Zones (Islands). A World known as the Core Medula had discovered three stable portals which allowed them to sail Nexus Ships through the Portals to reach new Zones...

Anyway I like the idea of Ravenloft being made up of a relatively small Core each of which becomes the nexus of its own cluse
eg
  • Mordent (Anglo cluster with Paridon, Forlorn, Staunton Bluffs, Bleakhouse etc)
  • Dementlieu (urban) & Richemulot (Romance cluster with Paridon, Blaustein, Borca etc)
  • Lamordia (Germanic cluster)
  • Barovia (Carpathians cluster
  • The Nightmare Lands (cluster everything else)

Then use the Mist ways, dark portals and Otherside to link it all together
Since time travel is a thing, you could even have the same geographies done at different eras and thus account for multiple domains and differing Dark Lords
 
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G'Henna is one of the best examples of how some things may be too unconfortable now. And we can't explain how people would accept a new religion asking that stype of sacrifices. You can't "sell that type of goods". Even there is a potential conflict with the cancel culture if the villain is the leader of the "cult of the anorexy". Even if the character of Yagno Petrovna was retconned into a secular lay tyrant G'Henna may become an allegory of the Ucranian Holodomor or the hunger for the years of Mao's great step forwards. Other option would be unwilling thinnes caused by life-drainer magic or by some parasite what doesn't need direct contact but only to be enough near, usually for the night, for example psionic stirges. And Yagno Petrovna, the supreme leader of the lodge, would be the host of the secret hive queen of those parasites, the high priest of the legal religion, but also the leader of the forbidden secret sect (really a decadent society of rich children until was infiltrated and controlled by a hidden group of rebels). Let's imagine the cortical stacks from Altered Carbone as sentient living parasites searching host to be controlled. But their invasion of the body-snatchers fails when the victim has got enough faith to reject doing actions against their religious values. Then the parasites would try to destroy the faith of the potential hosts.



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I am definitely in the minority on what would be best for the core setting. What I'd like to see is expanding the setting on the existing core (and bringing back the weird domains like G'henna, Bleutspur and Nightmare Lands). Maybe get a nice desert in there after Bluetpur and Nightmare lands, with a bunch of pocket domain oasis in it; a much large sea on the coast as well, with a variety of islands. Include lots of islands of terror too, but include more concrete rules for what happens when people venture into the mists (methods of navigation, with their accuracy and where you end up when navigation fails). And bare bones entries :)
 

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