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D&D General Reading Ravenloft the setting

So I've lost the thread a bit here on Invidia in international politics, how has Invidia been involved?
Basically Malocchio has allied with Drakov, and there’s a not-insignificant number of Falkovnian mercenaries/soldiers/military advisers now stationed in Malicchio’s holdings in Invidia. This has made Borca nervous because if Falkovnia invaded again they could be fighting on two fronts, and also it means if Malocchio gets too troublesome they can’t simply crush invidia without risking a wider war that would involve Vlad. And to get to Invidia in the first place, Vlads troops have to pass through Borca, which they have been doing despite not having permission from Ivan and Ivana. Quite the provocation, and tensions are high there.

And on the other side, relations are bad between Malocchio and Strahd because of Malocchio’s persecution of the Vistani, but they’re not much better between Gabrielle and Strahd because of Gabrielle’s links to the Gundarakite independence movement, the relative success of which in Invidia is encouraging the similar movement in Barovia. S speculates that Strahd might be tempted to just simply invade and crush the lot of them and take over - he did the same with eastern Gundarak when Duke Gundar died, and he doesn’t care about alliances with Vlad since Barovia and Falkovnia don’t share a border and Vlad can’t get at him. And Azalin may be encouraging him to do this, presumably because if Malocchio has to flee Invidia then Azalin gets the chance to offer ‘sanctuary’ in Darkon and have a pet dukkar of his very own.
 

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Voadam

Legend
And to get to Invidia in the first place, Vlads troops have to pass through Borca, which they have been doing despite not having permission from Ivan and Ivana. Quite the provocation, and tensions are high there.
I can't decide if this is ignoring the big kill them all Invidia poison border closing power or pointing out that it is only good at penning people in and they do not want the soldiers in Borca so ha ha darklord power is just ash in your mouth that does not get you what you want in the end.
 

The metaplot tried to give it something, but boy did it sideline Gabrielle in her own Domain.
Actually, I don't mind this dynamic in principle and I'd kinda like to see more darklords who don't temporally rule their domain. It gives you more creative scope when creating lords, and is actually more apt for some existing lords. Dominic, for instance - he could be much improved if his curse was perpetual political failure and insecurity. No matter what political scheme he tried or who he dominated, he'd end up backing the wrong horse or something outside his control would intervene and he'd always find himself on the losing side and relegated to a minor bureaucratic position or something. For a control freak like him, that'd be a far more effective curse than the one he actually got.

We already have, for instance, Godefroy, who (despite the questionable expansion of his role in Gaz III) mostly hangs around his house while Mordent manages itself. Adam doesnt rule either (nor does Mordenheim), nor do the hags of Tepest. And if you go beyond the Core, Ankhtepot (for instance) isn't even awake most of the time. These darklords certainly shape their domains, but they don't actually govern or tell everyone what to do on a day to day basis.

In the specific case of Gabrielle though, yeah, it does tend to reduce one of the relatively few female lords to 'mother of...' status. You could get away with it if there were more female lords to start with, but it stands out awkwardly in context.
 

I can't decide if this is ignoring the big kill them all Invidia poison border closing power or pointing out that it is only good at penning people in and they do not want the soldiers in Borca so ha ha darklord power is just ash in your mouth that does not get you what you want in the end.

Way I figure it, it's an illustration of the limits of border closing. If you close the borders, the borders are closed. It's a blunt instrument, all or nothing. Sure, Ivana could close the borders - but if the Falkovnians are inflitrating down to Invidia in small numbers and secretly, she'd have to keep the borders closed all the time to keep them out, which would of course cut Borca off from the entire world, all its trading partners etc. I suspect Malocchio was the one who came up with the idea of doing it this way - Vlad is a meathead, but if there's anyone who deeply understands the rules of Ravenloft and how to manipulate them, Malocchio is the guy.

So the Falkovnians filter through Borca in secret, by fives or tens, and Ivan and Ivana fume, and kill the ones they can find and catch, but a bunch still get through because you can't keep the borders closed forever...
 

Tonguez

A suffusion of yellow
Way I figure it, it's an illustration of the limits of border closing. If you close the borders, the borders are closed. It's a blunt instrument, all or nothing.
I do like that dynamic of closing the Borders, sure its a nuclear option but it emphasises the Cursed nature of the Domains and how fundamentally they are suppose to be prisons/punishment. The Darklords are given the key with which they can lock themselves inside the suffering of their Domains or they can open the Domain and gain a glimmer of hope - hope that remains elusive and denied of them.
 

Verbrek.

Kartakass, but more so.

I could honestly leave it there, and in fact this writeup is probably going to be shorter than most because there's simply not much to say. It's werewolves rather than wolfweres, but it's almost entirely the same Kartakass tropes, turned up to 11. The lycanthropes are more populous, the human (again, the tiny non-werewolf population is 97% human) populace even more isolated and terrified and huddled in rough-hewn farming hamlets, shivering at the sound of the howling in the night.

Geographically, it's a forest. There's the slightly more swampy bit of the forest, the slightly more hilly bits of forest, but not much more variety thatn that. This is nature primeval, there's explicitly not even any ancient ruins here. The largest settlement listed has a population of 67. Small palisaded villages cling to the rivers, working the waterborne trade with Richemulot and Invidia, exchanging furs and fish for manufactured necessities while subsistence farming, fishing, and hunting for everything else. The monsters are fairly standard. Every possibly variety of wolf, a smattering of other wilderness lycanthropes, some dire animals, and monstrous plants. Again, basically the same as Kartakass.

History here is wolf history rather than human history, and it's very fable-like, again, reminiscent of Kartakass. The savage Wolf God ruled over all before humans came along, and when humans started to cut down the forests and clear the land. The wolves couldn't stand up to the metal weapons of humans, but there were a fraction of humans who admired the strength and savagery of the wolves in this long struggle, so the Wolf God turned them into the first werewolves to keep the weak farming humans in their place. Now Verbrek's unquestioned rulers are the werewolves. Humans don't worship the Wolf God, but do fearfully seek to placate him with prayer and sacrifice. No human family has more than two children - third children are believed to be dragged off by the wolves, as the Wolf God won't tolerate human numbers increasing as the generations pass. As far as human history goes - there doesn't seem to be any. Human Verbrekers are scrabbling to survive, they're not scholars or historians, and there's not enough of them to really even worry about politics. The last harvest is much more relevant than the last century, but also, there's a feeling of timelessness here, as if history does't matter and this bloody dance of human, wolf, and werewolf is the way it has been since time immemorial and is the way it shall always be.

The darklord here almost feel peripheral. Alfred Timothy is a werewolf, a sickly child who found strength as a fanatical priest of the Wolf God. He's got a point to prove to his werewolf father Nathan (the darklord of a now-defunct neighbouring domain) who despised him as a weakling. Roaming around perpetrating deeds of ever-increasing savagery, he was caught and due to be executed, but his life was bought by some Vistani. They offered him freedom in excahneg for free passage for their people in perpetuity, he agreed, and then killed them the second his bond were loosed. That earned him his domain, and later on in one of the Core's periodic realignments, it seems the Dark Powers at least agreed he'd out-savaged his dad, because the two domains merged, he became the sole darklord, and the Dark Powers just ... released his father who now cheerfully sails a riverboat around the Core. Huh? His father gets a writeup too and is still a murderous chaotic evil werewolf, no repentance or anything in sight, what the hell happened there? Did the Dark Powers just get bored or something? Anyway, Alfred's curse (unclear whether it's from the Dark Powers or the Vistani) is that he reverts to his human form in states of high emotion. Which is actually a fairly good one. He reveres savagery and primal instinct, but has to remain logical and collected or his prized physical strength will vanish and the other werewolves will turn on him. His father derides him as weak and not a real man(/wolfman), but his curse won't let him take a mate or sire pups. He's toxic masculinity in fur, preaching a standard of brutality and might that he despises himself for being unable to live up to himself, and compensating by demanding every more extreme expressions of savagery from his followers.

However - it really seems to me like the true darklord here is the Wolf God itself. Timothys come and go, father to son, but the Wolf God and the wolves that lurk beyond the firelight and the palisade remain eternal. Maybe that's why Nathan Timothy escaped his domain so easily - he was never the real prisoner...

There's a few attempts to add complexity to what is a fairly stark and simple place. There's some disagreement among those werewolves who live secretly among their human prey, those who live as close to natural wolf lives as they can, and those who live in the wilderness but believe raiding and slaughter of humans is a sacred and joyful duty. So if you want to dive into werewolf politics, you can. There's a secret society of Verbrekers who seek to overthrow the Wolf God, but have to conceal their activities from their fellows who are fearful of retribution. There's a small hospice for infected lycanthropes of all types who seek to control their curse (and a prestige class for them, so if we have rules for playing PC lycanthropes in the 5e book, we can't pretend it's WotC mainstreaming Ravenloft for the kiddies, the option's been around for a while), and there's an association of non-wolf lycanthropes who band together for mutual assistance (this doesn't mean that they're nice). But in the end, this place is about the wolves.

Using Verbrek in a game ... hmm. If you want to do a survivalist one-shot with lots of werewolves, you do it here, and this is what I'd expect the 5e incarnation to look like. It's spartan and isolated and the feel of being a tiny island of humanity in an ancient hungry wilderness is really uncompromisingly in-your-face. None of your Kartakan singing mayors here, it's fear and blood and barring the doors at dusk and shuddering at the sight of the full moon. The darklord I find uncompelling, he's a monstrous, irredeemable character, but the feeling is that if you kill him, the next strongest wolf would just step up to replace him, and so on forever. But on the other hand, that means that you CAN kill him without breaking the domain, which could be a decent campaign goal. Problem with Verbrek as a setting for an ongoing campaign though, is that there's nothing here and very little reason to come here. Even if all your PCs are Verbrekan natives, if they stay there they're never going to find (or spend) much in the way of treasure, and there's not really much in the way of variety to the encounters they'll face. Get used to fighting lotsa legendary/dire/were/wolf/weres and the like.

On the other hand, it's probably not the best setting for some other sorts of werewolf stories, where you have a peaceful village suddenly beset by savage murders by a claswed creature and you'e not sure who/what is responsible and which villager has the deadly secret. There's just Too Damn Many werewolves here, you lose shock value. The locals are just going to be 'oh crap, someone got infected, who is it this time?' Best run that sort of story in a more cultivated domain, Richemulot or Mordent or even Darkon or somewhere.

We get a bit of metaplot at the end. S goes to seek out the Circle, a place where she believes werewolves perform their rites to the Wolf God. But shock! Her guide, a supposedly reformed infected werewolf, is not reformed at all, and gives her away. She blows him away with silver bullets, but is wildly outnumbered. The high priest (Timothy?) tells her that she is the quarry, and that she should run. She runs, but the wolves are faster, and they catch her and seize her and she feels the fangs sinking home ... and everything fades to black. Ooh, a cliffhanger!

Random class generator gave us warlock. There's REALLY not many warlock patrons appropriate to Verbrek's primal, savage feel, much less the rustic book-wary inhabitants. Genies? Underwater monstrosities, in a domain that doesn't have a coastline? Undead, in a domain where raw savage life simply pulses in the air? Fiends or great old ones, in a place where there's no ancient unspeakable tomes to learn their names from? I do hope that maybe a future Planescape 5e setting will resurrect the Animal Lords as warlock patrons, that could work nicely. Anyway, out of sheer lack of alternatives, I'm going with an archfey warlock here. There's no fey in the recommended monster list, but it's a primeval forest, right? Anyway, this is what happens when you get caught away from the village late at night under a full moon, and crawl into a hollow tree in the hopes the things hunting you can't reach. Some trees already have inhabitants, and this one will make a bargain with you, sanctuary for the night, and power for the future, in exchange for a promise to always go barefoot in the forest, and, once a month under the dark of the moon, to feed the tree with a fresh heart...

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Next, Valachan.
 



As an Australian who's never visited anywhere in the US east of Arizona, I have no idea what that means! :LOL:

Probably Maine and Vermont are more mountainous than verbrek, but they are places with small settlements, widespread areas of forest and other natural expanses. And, very much the kinds of places with a 'golden autumn' tone to the leaves. They are just remote, woodsy places that seem to fit Verbrek whenever I visit them.
 

I imagine werebeasts from Verbrek as a planar raiders or pirates attacking zones from the feywild and causing troubles to other no-human creatures (wererats, giants, jerren (evil halflings), undead (don't ask how these are hunted and coocked).

Oh sorry, reading this I was thinking about other darklord, Boyar Gregor Zolnik, from from Vorostokov, with a wicked twist, hunting alive humanoids to be infected with no-wolf licantropy, for example weredonkeys, werehares, wererats or wererams. It may look ridiculous but not when you are in a human-farm being amputated time-after-time thanks regeneration powers as Sæhrímnir in the Valhalla. If usually Ravenloft is a weekend in the hell, Vorostokovians are a weekend nightmare suffering a raid of mist vikings.

Today the werewolves aren't so dreadful as in the past, even some children are used with them, but they may be dangerous antagonists or natural enemies of other supernatural creatures, and not only vampires. Even they could eat souls...(these aren't destroyed ultimately, but only something like a month in comma in a hospital).
 


Remathilis

Legend
On the other hand, it's probably not the best setting for some other sorts of werewolf stories, where you have a peaceful village suddenly beset by savage murders by a claswed creature and you'e not sure who/what is responsible and which villager has the deadly secret. There's just Too Damn Many werewolves here, you lose shock value. The locals are just going to be 'oh crap, someone got infected, who is it this time?' Best run that sort of story in a more cultivated domain, Richemulot or Mordent or even Darkon or somewhere.

As a fan of werewolves, I always found this true of Verbrek as well. The werewolves have won, and the humans are basically livestock, so the obvious tension of shapeshifters among us is lost. It felt like Camp Crystal Lake with an infinite number of Jasons. If the roles were reversed (humans the dominant number, but werewolves act as apex predators that serve as an evil aspect of nature's revenge) you'd have some tension beyond "survive the night".
 


Tonguez

A suffusion of yellow
As a fan of werewolves, I always found this true of Verbrek as well. The werewolves have won, and the humans are basically livestock, so the obvious tension of shapeshifters among us is lost. It felt like Camp Crystal Lake with an infinite number of Jasons. If the roles were reversed (humans the dominant number, but werewolves act as apex predators that serve as an evil aspect of nature's revenge) you'd have some tension beyond "survive the night".
Yeah, very much this, If nit was up to me I’d just turn Verbek into a Pocket Domain that sits within some other forested region and which a GM had the option of invoking if they wanted to do a wild hunt scenario but which otherwise was just a background rumour,
 

As a fan of werewolves, I always found this true of Verbrek as well. The werewolves have won, and the humans are basically livestock, so the obvious tension of shapeshifters among us is lost. It felt like Camp Crystal Lake with an infinite number of Jasons. If the roles were reversed (humans the dominant number, but werewolves act as apex predators that serve as an evil aspect of nature's revenge) you'd have some tension beyond "survive the night".
Turn it round. The PCs are werewolves, and suddenly there is a mysterious and apparently invincible killer slaughtering everyone with silver bullets.
 

Yeah, very much this, If nit was up to me I’d just turn Verbek into a Pocket Domain that sits within some other forested region and which a GM had the option of invoking if they wanted to do a wild hunt scenario but which otherwise was just a background rumour,

This is exactly why Ravenloft shouldn't be all Islands and why islands for certain domain concepts, I think, can be a problem. I almost always used Verbrek like Keening or Falkovnia, or even Bluetspur, where they are great 'survival domains. You can certainly have adventures in them. It is ultimately up to the GM how Verbrek gets used. But they are domains that serve a good purpose in terms of the structure of the core (places you occasionally choose to venture into, knowing they are dangerous, in order to get somewhere more quickly or by a different route when you are being pursued).
 

Stephen King doesn't write horror, he writes Maine travelogs...

I don't particularly care for Stephen King's writing, but I think it is unfair to say he doesn't write horror. He is a giant of the genre and has had a very big impact (and it isn't like his books and the films based on them aren't scary, they are just one style of horror that isn't one I especially like)
 

I don't particularly care for Stephen King's writing, but I think it is unfair to say he doesn't write horror. He is a giant of the genre and has had a very big impact (and it isn't like his books and the films based on them aren't scary, they are just one style of horror that isn't one I especially like)
I think it was a joke, implying that Mr King's books are a true and accurate depiction of the state...
 


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I don't particularly care for Stephen King's writing, but I think it is unfair to say he doesn't write horror. He is a giant of the genre and has had a very big impact (and it isn't like his books and the films based on them aren't scary, they are just one style of horror that isn't one I especially like)
It's not a slandering of his books, More like a tongue in cheek highlighting of a trope that is pretty unique to him that he largely drove into existence. I'm pretty sure I've even seen the phrase come up in puff interviews with him.
 

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