D&D 5E Van Richten's Guide to Ravenloft - A Grognard Finally Reads It (Review)


That is not quite the take I have on it.

Also you forget the mummy fear ability which is pretty standard in all editions.
I didn't forget, but it's so common in RL it's not really interesting. Not in comparison to various salient abilities offered in the various Van Richten Guides. Also, by the time PCs are ready to fight Ankhotep, they likely have something that will grant resistance or even immunity to magical fear, which makes it a fairly weak ability.

I normally view the core MM Mummy Lords from 5e and 3e as an adaptation of the Greater Mummy from the 2e Monstrous Manual which is explicitly taking up the Greater Mummy from 2e Ravenloft and making them more core. Its how I have thought of and used Mummy Lords in 3e and 5e, as advanced tougher mummies, but not unique mummy types like Ankhtepot.

The Base 5e Mummy Lord has 13 HD and 10th level cleric casting, The base 2e Greater Mummy has 8+3 HD and spellcasting of 16th to 20th level. There is general monster HD inflation from 2e to 5e so I think the mummy lord is still supposed to be reflective of the baseline greater mummy of which there are many instead of the ancient unique more advanced progenitor who is more powerful and has many greater mummy servants. The 5e base mummy has 9 HD, the 2e Mummy has 6HD, so an edition inflation of +50% (plus con bonus for actual hp.) This +50% ratio matches the HD increase from 2e to 5e in base Greater Mummies and Mummy Lords.

Ankhtepot is 13 HD and has 13th level clerical abilities. So with no inflation of stats between editions the Mummy Lord's 5e stats of 13HD and 10 caster match decently to the 2e Dark lord's 2e combat stats for HD and such.

It is an oddity that 2e greater mummies generally have greater clerical abilities than he does in 2e that has stuck out since I saw his stats in Darklords, but eh.
Consistency among monsters has never been D&D's strong suit.

The base 5e mummy lord has con bonus to hp so while they both have 13 HD the 5e version has 30 hp more than the 2e lord's 2e hp stats, though Ankhtepot has a higher constitution, but since he is a 2e monster it gives him no hp bonus. The 5e mummy lord has legendary actions which is a big deal in the action economy of a fight so that is a power boost over the straight 2e stats of Ankhtepot. The Darklord has a higher level of clerical casting but in 2e cleric spells only go up to 7 so they can both only cast 6th level spells.

Ankhtepot in 2e is basically a max age category greater mummy with 13th level cleric abilities and a few specific ones like turning people into Greater Mummies under his complete control which he uses as agents in his land and in other realms. He does not have a lot of interesting new powers like the 5e legendary actions, but all his powers and stats and defenses keep getting more potent with each age category. There are five categories between the base greater mummy and the 500+ age category.

It is worth noting that Ankhtepot created all Greater Mummies and that the Core of Ravenloft in 2e started with Barovia entering the mists in 350 on the Barovian calendar and the setting current date in Realms of Terror (the first 2e setting boxed set) is 750, so the setting itself is only 400 years old. So saying he is just like a 500 year old greater mummy is actually saying he is at least a category more powerful than any greater mummy created since the setting first existed.
IIRC, Duke Gundar was both older and younger than Strahd at the same time, due to wacky aging magic (I could be remembering a different vampire, though). Ankhtepot is powered not by time but by designer fiat. He's as powerful as he needs to be.

I would expect that the 5e version of Ankhtepot would be about 50% stronger in some stats than a baseline Mummy Lord, which I would assume a 5e Ankhtepot would make and control.

The 5e Mummy Lord stats can work for him, but it also takes him from being the top of the line greater mummy with the max five advancements beyond his creations to being just another mummy lord out of the MM.
Note that VGR specifically says, for every darklord, so-and-so has stats similar to that of a <preexisting statblock>. They're literally saying "change and add whatever you like, just use this as a baseline. Even without that line, you're free to change his stats. Personally, I've never run a monster directly out of the book, and would prefer to tailor any darklord's abilities to be whatever would be coolest/scariest for the party to face.

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Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
I find it interesting that VRGtR pretty consistently gets critiqued both for “making the Dark Lords combat targets” and for not giving the Dark Lords unique enough or powerful enough combat stats. Seems like there’s some kind of disconnect there. In my understanding, Strahd was really the only Dark Lord to specifically be designed as a boss monster, and that goes back to I6. Otherwise, the Dark Lords’ purpose was not to be BBEGs, but to personify their respective domains’ brand of horror. I think that holds true in VRgtR, and for that reason I’m not particularly bothered by them not getting unique stat blocks. Their descriptions are much more important than their combat stats, in my opinion.

As for the change from a unified core to isolated demiplanes, I like the change, but I get why others don’t. Part of the appeal of Ravenloft as a campaign setting is inter-domain politics, and the lack of a core can seem to play against that. But personally, I find the revisions to the Vistani and the inclusion of other cross-domain factions illustrates that the authorial intent was very much for inter-domain relations to play an important role in a campaign in the setting. Between the Vistani, mist talismans, and mist walkers, there should be plenty of contact and trade between any domains whose borders aren’t closed. Just not unrestricted travel.

As for map scales… I mean, yeah, they’re wonky, but hasn’t that always been the case? A problem the core only exacerbated, in my opinion. I’m fine with just saying distances in the domains of dread operate under twisted nightmare logic. The journey will be the journey.

Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
Real Grognard Review-

I ran I6. Ravenloft has been going downhill ever since that apex, and they never should have expanded it from a great adventure to a plane (Demi-, Semi-, or otherwise).

Van Richten’s continues this foolishness. I give it a 9 armor class.
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Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
Well, that's understandable, considering that the original Ravenloft adventure was I6. I3 was Pharaoh.

In fairness, I’m doing this from my phone while navigating international borders and hungover from New Year’s Eve. I’m lucky if I can remember the difference between ascending and descending AC while some inhospitable officer glares at my passport photo.


Golden Procrastinator
In fairness, I’m doing this from my phone while navigating international borders and hungover from New Year’s Eve. I’m lucky if I can remember the difference between ascending and descending AC while some inhospitable officer glares at my passport photo.
Descending AC is rightful and proper. Ascending AC makes baby Gary cry.
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Viktra Mordenheim is only a spy, but in 2e, Victor was a 0th-level human. AC 10, THAC0 20, one attack (by weapon), no special attacks, his only special defense is that he would regenerate from any wound as long as Adam was still alive. He was buffed a lot in 3x in terms of his BAB because he was a 15th-level expert, but he still had the same number of hit points and no special abilities or attacks. At least Viktra can use her knowledge of anatomy to deliver sneak attacks.
Victor wasn't the Darklord in 2E. It was the flesh golem "Adam" who was the Darklord, who was a considerable opponent back then.

Every Darklord in the 2E book is given something interesting. Like Markov, a 0-level human, has more HP than a standard commoner, can shapechange, and heals when he does so.
Things like this make each of the villains seem unique compared to standard Monster Manual counterparts. When I read, "just use the spy entry in the MM" that instantly makes me think that the villain is no more creative than any other encounter with a bandit or nameless NPC.
They didn't include even a single example Darklord statblock for demonstrative purposes on how we should build our own. (Plenty of charts for creative writing prompts for our original Darklord backstories, however.)

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