D&D 5E Van Richten's Guide to Ravenloft Art Preview

SageAdvice.eu has compiled a bunch of art shots from the upcoming Ravenloft setting book. I've featured a handful below, but click through to the link for the full set of nearly 30 pieces.

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Russ Morrissey

Russ Morrissey

To be fair, you can easily make Bleutspur into a Geiger-esque domain. And Junji Ito has such a wide variety of horror styles (compare The Hanging Balloons, The Intersection Pretty Boy, The Long Dream, Tomie, Gyo, The Town Without Streets, and Uzumaki) that you can fit him in almost anywhere. Honestly, I think The Town Without Streets would make for an amazing, if small, domain.

It wouldn't surprise me if the alien world from the first Alien movie was part of the inspiration.
 

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Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
They sure seem to be playing up the notion that "actual horror" is on the table. Considering they're talking about things like safety tools and genre guides and they're coding different domains as the gothic horror domain, the body horror domain, the cosmic horror domain. Wizards really seems to think they're putting out an "actual horror" book. You're probably right, but someone should tell their marketing department.
Safety tools are always valuable in RPGs, and it makes sense to include discussion of them in a product that contains material some portion of the audience is likely to find disturbing. Different people have different tolerance levels for horrific, or even just spooky content, so it makes sense to talk about how to insure everyone’s comfort at the gaming table. Also, given that different domains focusing on different horror subgenres is part of the core premise of Ravenloft, of course they’re going to talk that aspect up. But at the end of the day, if you expected it to be something other than D&D in a horror-themed setting, I don’t think it’s the fault of their marketing.

Yeah. I know. I'm running three Call of Cthulhu games. I also regularly run D&D horror games. It's not that hard to do, you just have to be willing to subvert some of the heroic fantasy expectations and your players have to be on board for that.
Right, and I imagine the book will probably have some discussion of subverting the heroism traditional of D&D, but I wouldn’t expect it to go beyond “you won’t be able to win every fight” or “consider using the Sanity mechanic from the DMG.” We’re talking about a first party D&D product here, it’s not going to stray that far from what D&D is known for.

Only the ones with horrible/spooky things happening or depicting scared characters. The rest are generic D&D fantasy art. I'm not knocking the art. It's all top notch. But most of it's barely identifiable as even Ravenloft art, to say nothing of whatever faux-horror they're pushing with the book.
I’m not sure what standard you’re using for “Ravenloft art.” It’s art that depicts spooky things in Ravenloft. Not sure what more one could reasonably expect than that.

Right. The kid in a mask with spots of ketchup for blood at Halloween version of horror. Again, if that's what you expect them to deliver, and that's what they intend to deliver, someone should tell their marketing department, because what they're suggesting the book will be and what you expect the book to be are wildly different beasts.
Dude, it’s a game sold by Hazbro. There’s no way they’d include art in it that isn’t appropriate for all ages. If you want to use it for “real horror” you can, but you kind of have to read the room in terms of what to expect them to present by default.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
To be fair, you can easily make Bleutspur into a Geiger-esque domain. And Junji Ito has such a wide variety of horror styles (compare The Hanging Balloons, The Intersection Pretty Boy, The Long Dream, Tomie, Gyo, The Town Without Streets, and Uzumaki) that you can fit him in almost anywhere. Honestly, I think The Town Without Streets would make for an amazing, if small, domain.
I was just talking about the art. Certainly I think the content of a campaign could easily get into that kind of territory.
 

overgeeked

B/X Known World
Anyone else notice in that headless horseman image it looks like the horseman has two white spots on his stump of a neck? If I'm not mistaken, people only have one spine. Did that artist maybe use a severed arm as reference and forget the difference?
 


Faolyn

(she/her)
Anyone else notice in that headless horseman image it looks like the horseman has two white spots on his stump of a neck? If I'm not mistaken, people only have one spine. Did that artist maybe use a severed arm as reference and forget the difference?
Maybe it's part of a vertebra?
 

Rabulias

the Incomparably Shrewd and Clever
Anyone else notice in that headless horseman image it looks like the horseman has two white spots on his stump of a neck? If I'm not mistaken, people only have one spine. Did that artist maybe use a severed arm as reference and forget the difference?
I think it's more to represent the spine and the windpipe, but it is hard to tell.
 

overgeeked

B/X Known World
Safety tools are always valuable in RPGs, and it makes sense to include discussion of them in a product that contains material some portion of the audience is likely to find disturbing. Different people have different tolerance levels for horrific, or even just spooky content, so it makes sense to talk about how to insure everyone’s comfort at the gaming table. Also, given that different domains focusing on different horror subgenres is part of the core premise of Ravenloft, of course they’re going to talk that aspect up. But at the end of the day, if you expected it to be something other than D&D in a horror-themed setting, I don’t think it’s the fault of their marketing.

Right, and I imagine the book will probably have some discussion of subverting the heroism traditional of D&D, but I wouldn’t expect it to go beyond “you won’t be able to win every fight” or “consider using the Sanity mechanic from the DMG.” We’re talking about a first party D&D product here, it’s not going to stray that far from what D&D is known for.

I’m not sure what standard you’re using for “Ravenloft art.” It’s art that depicts spooky things in Ravenloft. Not sure what more one could reasonably expect than that.

Dude, it’s a game sold by Hazbro. There’s no way they’d include art in it that isn’t appropriate for all ages. If you want to use it for “real horror” you can, but you kind of have to read the room in terms of what to expect them to present by default.
I expect they'd be marginally honest. There's two competing things happening. 1) They are branding this as a horror book; 2) they are apparently sanitizing it so much that it's not recognizable as horror. Like pick one. Don't talk up the horror if there's not going to be any horror. It's like Die Hard being a Christmas movie. Sure it takes place at Christmas, but that's literally the only connection it has to Christmas. So if the marketing department sold Die Hard as a Christmas movie, fans of Christmas movies would justifiably have a bone to pick. Maybe I'm weird in that I expect the art to match the theme of the book. To me, most of this art doesn't strike any kind of even mild "this is a horror book" vibe. Some of it does, sure, but at the absolute lowest possible level of what could be called horror.
 

grimslade

Krampus ate my d20s
I think the art is pretty representative of Ravenloft. I would prefer more Fabian black and white for ambiance, but these will do.
We were never going to get edge-pushing fantasy horror art. Ravenloft is not that campaign setting. Ravenloft is spooky D&D. It still has heroic fantasy pumping in its veins. You can run NC-17 horror in Ravenloft but you have to change a lot of the game to get there. Sanity rules, gritty recovery, maybe a wound or injury mechanic.
 

overgeeked

B/X Known World
Maybe it's part of a vertebra?
Maybe? Wouldn't there be a matching nub of the other side? The bones in the spine are fairly symmetrical.
I think it's more to represent the spine and the windpipe, but it is hard to tell.
Isn't the windpipe in front of the spine? This looks like one big chunk of a thing and a smaller thing off to one side. Could be, but they're both the same color...and look like they're meant to be fairly solid.
 

Tales and Chronicles

Jewel of the North, formerly know as vincegetorix
So if the marketing department sold Die Hard as a Christmas movie, fans of Christmas movies would justifiably have a bone to pick

But in this here case, its more like fans decided to pick a bone with ''Die Hard-as-a-Christmas-movie'' having just seen part of the initial trailer.

I mean, we've seen a few partial pieces of art from the book. Once we've seen the whole picture AND the accompanying content, we'll be able to see if picking a bone with how the book was marketed is worth it.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
They sure seem to be playing up the notion that "actual horror" is on the table. Considering they're talking about things like safety tools and genre guides and they're coding different domains as the gothic horror domain, the body horror domain, the cosmic horror domain. Wizards really seems to think they're putting out an "actual horror" book. You're probably right, but someone should tell their marketing department.
Their marketing department knows, and is advertising appropriately.
Only the ones with horrible/spooky things happening or depicting scared characters. The rest are generic D&D fantasy art. I'm not knocking the art. It's all top notch.
So, most of what has been previewed.
Right. The kid in a mask with spots of ketchup for blood at Halloween version of horror. Again, if that's what you expect them to deliver, and that's what they intend to deliver, someone should tell their marketing department, because what they're suggesting the book will be and what you expect the book to be are wildly different beasts.
No, it's just PG-13 horror that isn't going to rely on graphic depictions of violence to sell the horror.
I expect they'd be marginally honest. There's two competing things happening. 1) They are branding this as a horror book; 2) they are apparently sanitizing it so much that it's not recognizable as horror. Like pick one. Don't talk up the horror if there's not going to be any horror. It's like Die Hard being a Christmas movie. Sure it takes place at Christmas, but that's literally the only connection it has to Christmas. So if the marketing department sold Die Hard as a Christmas movie, fans of Christmas movies would justifiably have a bone to pick. Maybe I'm weird in that I expect the art to match the theme of the book. To me, most of this art doesn't strike any kind of even mild "this is a horror book" vibe. Some of it does, sure, but at the absolute lowest possible level of what could be called horror.
They are being honest. You're reading into "horror" a lot of assumptions about what rating level the horror is, but I certainly hope you wouldn't try to absurdly claim that RL Stine isn't horror because it isn't graphic.

Also Die Hard has a lot more in it that makes it a Christmas Movie than taking place at Christmas. It's literally a story about a cynical guy who is losing his family, comes to see them for Christmas, has some trials and challenges, and has learned to properly value his family by the end of the film, reuniting with them and saving his marriage and family. (temporarily because Die Hard With a Vengeance needed him to be sorry and cynical again, and also wasn't a Christmas movie)

Anyway, arterial spray and exposed guts aren't needed to make "actual horror". Dread, uncertainty, terrible unknown things in the dark, a menace from which you cannot escape, etc, are all things that you can evoke without showing any blood or gore, much less graphic depictions.
 

I think the art is pretty representative of Ravenloft. I would prefer more Fabian black and white for ambiance, but these will do.
We were never going to get edge-pushing fantasy horror art. Ravenloft is not that campaign setting. Ravenloft is spooky D&D. It still has heroic fantasy pumping in its veins. You can run NC-17 horror in Ravenloft but you have to change a lot of the game to get there. Sanity rules, gritty recovery, maybe a wound or injury mechanic.

Ravenloft was really much more of a tame setting compared to a lot of other stuff going on in the 90s. It definitely got suggestive once in a while, and was more risqué and edgy than many of the other settings in the 2E era, but I remember it felt very uncool compared to stuff like Vampire (and I wasn't into Vampire but I do remember it was more for the cool crowd than Ravenloft, often because it was much more modern and edgy).
 

I think the art is pretty representative of Ravenloft. I would prefer more Fabian black and white for ambiance, but these will do.

The new art isn't really my cup of tea, but I don't think its bad. I have a pretty similar reaction to it that I have to a lot of 5E art which is it looks technically very sound, but something about the aesthetic is outside my wheel house (and I have a lot of trouble putting my finger on it).
 

overgeeked

B/X Known World
But in this here case, its more like fans decided to pick a bone with ''Die Hard-as-a-Christmas-movie'' having just seen part of the initial trailer.
Isn't the trailer supposed to show what the film is about? Isn't that the point of the trailer? You don't cut a horror film trailer to make it look like it's a romcom. When people show up to the movie they'd rightfully be pissed. Aren't articles and art previews of books the equivalent to movie trailers? So this stuff should be showing what it is and what it's meant to do.
I mean, we've seen a few partial pieces of art from the book. Once we've seen the whole picture AND the accompanying content, we'll be able to see if picking a bone with how the book was marketed is worth it.
Sure. Absolutely. This is only a part of the art in the book. It just happens to be the subsection of the art the marketing people picked as representative of the whole. Like a trailer is representative of the whole, but doesn't, for example, spoil the resolution of the plot (generally speaking). They absolutely could be holding back the more horror-focused art. But I can't imagine why they'd do that. Either the previewed subsection of art is representative or it isn't. If these images are representative, then that means it's going to have mostly milquetoast art (from a horror POV). If these images are not representative, then they're bad picks for art previews because they give a false impression of the included art.
 

Isn't the trailer supposed to show what the film is about? Isn't that the point of the trailer? You don't cut a horror film trailer to make it look like it's a romcom. When people show up to the movie they'd rightfully be pissed. Aren't articles and art previews of books the equivalent to movie trailers? So this stuff should be showing what it is and what it's meant to do.

Preview trailers are made for general audiences----it even says this at the start of a trailer (they cut out all the PG, R-rated and NC-17 rated material usually). A preview trailer of an R rated film won't show the scene where the guy gets his head chopped off
 

Tonguez

A suffusion of yellow
This is a book that is aimed at young teens through adults; gore was never going to be an option.

This is Spirit Halloween decorations level, not Hollywood horror movie level.
There was no gore or viscera in the original books either, but the art still captured a Gothic horror feel (of course b&w helps there)
 

The Glen

Hero
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this is what I had in mind for ravenloft art for 5th edition. This art is purely G-rated there is nothing offensive about it. But there's something off with it. It's done with a blue tint so it makes you think that it's image at dusk, but there's something about the people that falls into uncanny valley.

A lot of them have animal motifs. They're staring straight at you in a predatory manner. They either have very angular features or very rounded features. Their clothing is impractical, but very stylish like they're trying too hard to look normal. It's unsettling but in a subtle way. It perfectly captures the feel of the setting. Bleak, off-putting and mysterious. Even if you don't like the art you have to admire it.
 

Tales and Chronicles

Jewel of the North, formerly know as vincegetorix
View attachment 136342 this is what I had in mind for ravenloft art for 5th edition. This art is purely G-rated there is nothing offensive about it. But there's something off with it. It's done with a blue tint so it makes you think that it's image at dusk, but there's something about the people that falls into uncanny valley.

A lot of them have animal motifs. They're staring straight at you in a predatory manner. They either have very angular features or very rounded features. Their clothing is impractical, but very stylish like they're trying too hard to look normal. It's unsettling but in a subtle way. It perfectly captures the feel of the setting. Bleak, off-putting and mysterious. Even if you don't like the art you have to admire it.
The same artist did a good chunk of the character art in Out of the Abyss and their art is also used to illustrate the free Basic Rules pdf. Pretty great, IMO.
 

overgeeked

B/X Known World
Sorry. I realize I'm being an insufferable git about this. I'm coming at it from completely the wrong angle. I've been playing D&D for 37 years and Call of Cthulhu for 34 years. Where I'm at in regards to horror gaming is wildly different than a lot of people here and I'm likely not quite the target audience. I'm glad Ravenloft is getting a full setting book. Curse of Strahd was amazing. Here's to the world's most popular RPG doing more horror-themed stuff. Here's to more horror gaming and here's to hopefully some spill over of players to more horror-focused gaming and games.
 

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