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D&D General Reading Ravenloft the setting

No you don't. But the Black Box did it anyway.

And once you strip away the sexism, racism, classism and homophobia (not to mention repetition) from the Black Box, you need to find something else to replace it with.
This is where we disagree. I don’t want to retread all the same arguments but I think it is sufficient to say here we disagree over whether content equals that kind of message (I don’t believe it does in the case of the boxed set)
 

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Voadam

Legend
I thought the inquisition was primarily a response to the Grand Conjunction and the Shadow Rift. Like everyone, I'm fuzzy on how much it was a factor prior to the GC, but it was The Driving Force after it.
There was no reference to an inquisition or any Celtic stuff in Tepest prior to the Grand Conjunction.

From Realms of Terror page 79:

"The Folk: Viktal and Kellee, the two villages, house 3,000 people each. The folk are simple and poor, living in small, whitewashed cottages roofed with bundles of twigs and bark. As a matter of pride, they carefully adorn the cottage walls with intricate floral patterns in bright colors. In summer, the window boxes overflow with blossoms.
Viktalians herd goats and sheep, hunt bear and wild pig, or fish for sturgeon on the lake. The sturgeon caviar is a delicacy, reserved for special occasions. The people of Kellee also herd and hunt. The goats wear bells. As the herders guide their animals back toward the village at dusk, the gentle, haunting clangs echo across the valley.
Tepestanis are a superstitious lot, believing in "little beasties" and evil spirits that kidnap wicked people. When night falls, the doors shut tight. The folk even lock up their herds, in circular, roofed stables made of timber and twigs. The wood in this domain burns poorly with a lot of smoke; hence, the animals' dried dung more often fuels a fire."

And that is it.
 

This is where we disagree. I don’t want to retread all the same arguments but I think it is sufficient to say here we disagree over whether content equals that kind of message (I don’t believe it does in the case of the boxed set)
I'm sure that there was no message intended. It was just written by a bunch of middle class educated white Americans living in their pre-internet bubble.
 

Shadowedeyes

Explorer
I actually really disliked the idea that everything had to be in the same multiverse in the first place, but I guess once you start having Plane Shift spells and Planescape as a setting and the like, someone's eventually gonna want to write a Marvel vs DC crossover. I liked Soth in RL because he fit so well, and Azalin's desire to escape at least gave him some motivation, but Kalid-ma and Thakok-An had no business being there imho, Vecna and Kas weren't much better, Hazlik didn't really add anything interesting, and most of the other lords who originated from other TSR settings could have just been Ravenloft locals. People like Lukas and Easan - is the fact that they are nominally from FR and Greyhawk actually relevant to their character or their domain? Does the setting they come from actually add anything? In most cases, no.

Sidenote - Dark Sun, with it's notion of the dwarven focus and being condemned to undeath if you died having neglected or failed it, is a far more Gothic take on conventional fantasy dwarfdom than anything in Ravenloft.

So personally while the humanocentric thing works for me from an aesthetic point of view, and I'd certainly run Ravenloft as a human-dominant setting, I just wish they'd commit one way or the other. If you're going to have non-humans in the setting, then at least use them and have towns etc where they live! Don't just blithely assume there's non-human PCs in the setting, then write a world guide that offers no explanations as to where they might come from.

If RL went all-human I'd be sorry to lose the Sithican elves, and I'd probably find an excuse to keep them, but everything else could go as far as I'm concerned (supernaturally 'altered' humans like calibans or dhampirs could stay too). If i'm playing a Ravenloft game, I'm not really interested in multiverse theory. It's a personal choice and everyone's going to have their own opinion, but i'd rather they stick as close to the gothic literary and film roots of the setting and for me it's easier to do that without having to fit in dragonborn and gnomes etc routinely living alongside humans.
I myself don't tend to run multiple settings in my games either, but Ravenloft has done the mists grab adventurers for weekend in hell thing for awhile now from what I gather. So it's a bit late for that.
 

I know it's not popular, but I like the idea that most of the inhabitants of Ravenloft are actually shadows, who just go through the motions of living. And their tragedy is they think they are real people. Like robots who don't know they are robots. Thus, they are basically oblivious to anything out of the ordinary - they don't even notice when the person they are talking to isn't human. "That's a nasty skin condition you have there lad" to a PC dragonborn.
 

Istbor

Dances with Gnolls
Tepest, or 'how many different ways can I spell "Inquisition" wrong?'.

This is our Salem domain. It's a decentralised largely rural sort of place living in fear of fey and witches and (to some degree) each other. This is the last domain in the Gaz range with a meaningful population, so I'll whine about the numbers one more time for tradition's sake. We have a population of 15 000 here, which is perfectly reasonable - except that it gives this rural backwater a population larger than the bustling metropolis of Dementlieu. Also, give the prominence of goblins in the description, having them comprise 1% of the population is just silly. That's 150 goblins for the entire domain, but we hear about goblin bandits and tribes and grave-robbers all the time. Bleh. Learn to count, dammit...

Agreed. This is mostly why when I world build I never give percentages. What? Are they running a census!?!

If you do throw in hard numbers, you best at least look at what they turn out to be.
 

Faolyn

Hero
* Tepest should be the "Jurasic Park" for the evil faes, for example the redcaps.
While this is likely not your intent, I'm getting the image of someone (probably not the hags) trying to bring a long-dead archfey back to life from only a touch of DNA--in this case, probably the dried smears of blood left on the blade that killed it originally. And then mixing it with something else's blood when there's not enough on the blade, and the combination causes the revived fey to act really weirdly and start producing mutated goblin-spawn...

Dammit, why are my players nowhere near any domain where this could reasonably happen?!
 

Faolyn

Hero
I don't imagine Ravenloft's xenophobia would be considered a feature today. It cuts a little too close to real world racial discrimination and violence, something WotC isn't going to want in their game. In Curse of Strahd, the Barovian natives were mostly human, but other races didn't draw mobs when in town. I suspect VRGtR is going to continue that trend at the very least.
I fully understand where you're coming with this, and judging from what art we've seen, they're almost certainly going to be more nonhumans roaming around. I'm just one of those people who prefer a humanocentric* Ravenloft, so it kind of bugs me. To me, there's just something weird about seeing dragonborn and orcs and goblinoids as native to Ravenloft.

*My current list of PC races originally only included humans, "fey-touched" (half-elves), and home-brew calibans. But I've decided to add shifters and changelings to the mix, maybe more human-appearing tieflings, plus the three new RL lineages.
 

Faolyn

Hero
I know it's not popular, but I like the idea that most of the inhabitants of Ravenloft are actually shadows, who just go through the motions of living. And their tragedy is they think they are real people. Like robots who don't know they are robots. Thus, they are basically oblivious to anything out of the ordinary - they don't even notice when the person they are talking to isn't human. "That's a nasty skin condition you have there lad" to a PC dragonborn.
While I personally hate the "robots" idea, I do like the idea that they literally can't see the nonhuman PCs as nonhuman. It's subtly creepy.
 

Tielflings are easy to explain, because the demiplane is a land of curses, and ordinary humans with some animal traits, for example horns, or a no-natural skin color, are perfectly possible.

I would add lots of halflings and gnomes to Tepest as potential victims of the meneater hags. Tempest is perfect for grimm parodies of fairy tales or famous horror franchises.
 

I know it's not popular, but I like the idea that most of the inhabitants of Ravenloft are actually shadows, who just go through the motions of living. And their tragedy is they think they are real people. Like robots who don't know they are robots. Thus, they are basically oblivious to anything out of the ordinary - they don't even notice when the person they are talking to isn't human. "That's a nasty skin condition you have there lad" to a PC dragonborn.

Well, I think it is one of two possibilities for Ravenloft. It certainly helps explain how places and people just seem to come into existence. I personally like the idea that the inhabitants are real people (it just feels a little off having them be ephemeral personalities); whether that is they are created by the mists and fully realized as a result or that they are drawn in from elsewhere somehow (i don't know, had their memories wiped). I'd like to at least think the people born in Ravenloft are real. But I do like this idea.

My only quibble is wouldn't them being self aware and thinking they are real, suggest they are real? Or are you saying they have minds like real people, but are literally made from shadow and more like an advanced AI robot that doesn't know it is real?
 

I fully understand where you're coming with this, and judging from what art we've seen, they're almost certainly going to be more nonhumans roaming around. I'm just one of those people who prefer a humanocentric* Ravenloft, so it kind of bugs me. To me, there's just something weird about seeing dragonborn and orcs and goblinoids as native to Ravenloft.

I am with you on this one. I do realize people who came into D&D after 3rd edition have grown very accustomed to a variety of non-human races at the table. Prior to this though, it wasn't even the norm for the party to be mostly demi-human (most groups I was in were usually mostly human with one or two elves or dwarves in them). But I think when it comes to Ravenloft, the human focus just works better than me. Having Dragonborn and Teiflings just makes it seem like....the dark crystal to me.
 

I suggest the idea of those "souless" later become "hosts" of reincarnated "isekai". It is even more dreadful when this isekai notices the dread domain is a "theme park" based in some famous fictional horror title, and she among other characters are "doomed". Do you know the horror-comedy "the final girls"?
 

Remathilis

Legend
I am with you on this one. I do realize people who came into D&D after 3rd edition have grown very accustomed to a variety of non-human races at the table. Prior to this though, it wasn't even the norm for the party to be mostly demi-human (most groups I was in were usually mostly human with one or two elves or dwarves in them). But I think when it comes to Ravenloft, the human focus just works better than me. Having Dragonborn and Teiflings just makes it seem like....the dark crystal to me.
I had the exact opposite: in 2e everyone was a demihuman because barring a few race/class combos, there was no downside to it. Few games ever got to level limits, and multi-classing was superior to dual classing. Human only became an option to non-paladins when 3e gave them bonus feats.
 

I had the exact opposite: in 2e everyone was a demihuman because barring a few race/class combos, there was no downside to it. Few games ever got to level limits, and multi-classing was superior to dual classing. Human only became an option to non-paladins when 3e gave them bonus feats.

Definitely didn't have that problem in my games. The bigger issue in 2E for me was people wanting to play dark elves because of Drizzt. I had one player who played dwarves a lot. Another who occasionally played an elf. Most other players seemed to go for human
 

Stormonu

Legend
The biggest problem with Ravenloft‘s xenophobia and magiphobia is the “Weekend in Hell” aspect of the original boxed sets. Until Domains of Dread, I don’t remember PCs being expected to actually be from Ravenloft itself, so it made the stark lack of demihumans and mob mentality towards magic (and the presence of firearms in more than one domain) stick out like a sore thumb.
 

Istbor

Dances with Gnolls
Well, I think it is one of two possibilities for Ravenloft. It certainly helps explain how places and people just seem to come into existence. I personally like the idea that the inhabitants are real people (it just feels a little off having them be ephemeral personalities); whether that is they are created by the mists and fully realized as a result or that they are drawn in from elsewhere somehow (i don't know, had their memories wiped). I'd like to at least think the people born in Ravenloft are real. But I do like this idea.

My only quibble is wouldn't them being self aware and thinking they are real, suggest they are real? Or are you saying they have minds like real people, but are literally made from shadow and more like an advanced AI robot that doesn't know it is real?
That last bit delves into consciousness and what makes a person a person. I don't know that anyone has that answer here.

I think it would add a perverseness and creepiness to discover that those folks from Barovia you ended up becoming friends with are just shades. Maybe they were real people once? Maybe the Dark Lord imagined them into being whilst trying to cope with their cursed existence. Or maybe the Powers willed created them as part of their perverted sense of justice.

It definitely makes it seem different if you think of it as only a prison of one, instead of whole populaces being punished for generations, for the actions of one or two individuals who happened to live nearby.
 

Remathilis

Legend
The biggest problem with Ravenloft‘s xenophobia and magiphobia is the “Weekend in Hell” aspect of the original boxed sets. Until Domains of Dread, I don’t remember PCs being expected to actually be from Ravenloft itself, so it made the stark lack of demihumans and mob mentality towards magic (and the presence of firearms in more than one domain) stick out like a sore thumb.
Completely. When your typical party was pulled from whatever normal campaign setting and tossed into a world where they had to hide their magic, race and other details from the locals, it heightened the isolation of the setting. And it worked because usually you'd adventure in a Domain for a while and escape. As a place expected to generate PCs however, it was crippling. It meant demihuman PCs were a liability in all but a few domains, restricting the kind of stories you could tell.
 

Remathilis

Legend
From Ravenloft Travel Agency on Twitter...
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Alzrius

The EN World kitten
I had the exact opposite: in 2e everyone was a demihuman because barring a few race/class combos, there was no downside to it. Few games ever got to level limits, and multi-classing was superior to dual classing.
Most of my 2E players ran human characters, though exceptions weren't uncommon. I once pointed out what you noted, about how demihumans were better in the short term and most of our campaigns didn't make it to the higher levels, asking why they consistently went for human characters when they never got to cash in on the long-term "disadvantages now, advantages later" aspect of human characters.

What they told me (though I'm obviously paraphrasing a great deal) was that they were always planning for the long-term viability of their characters, i.e. treating every campaign (unless being told up front that we were running a one-shot, or that the campaign would only go to a certain level and then end) as if it were the one where they'd finally hit the high levels.

It wasn't entirely pragmatic, either. Several players had an aversion to the very idea of their character eventually being hit with a hard cap (or at least, one that was lower than other PCs). I never quite understood their position, but it rubbed them the wrong way even as a conceptual limit that virtually never came up in the course of the game.
 

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