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Van Richten's Guide to Ravenloft Review Round-Up – What the Critics Say

Now that you've had time to read my review of Van Richten's Guide to Ravenloft, and the book officially arrived in game stores on May 18, it's time to take a look at what other RPG reviewers thought of this guide to horror.


VRG9.jpg

Terrifyingly Awesome...​

Games Radar not only ranked VRGtR one of the best D&D books ever, they also praise it for taking a fresh approach to the decades-old RPG. GR notes that the chapter on domains could have become repetitive quickly, but instead it's packed with creativity.

VRGtR transformed the reviewer at The Gamer from someone uninterested in horror into someone planning a horror masquerade adventure. While they praise VRGtR for its player options, they like the information for DMs even more. That ranges from the new mechanics that replace the old madness rules to advice for DMs on how to create compelling villains.

Bell of Lost Souls praises VRGtR for how it makes players think about their character's stories, not just in terms of backgrounds but also through the Gothic lineages, how they came about, and impacted the character. They also like all the tools DMs get plus an abundance of inspiration for games. They actually like the fact that Darklords don't have stats because if they do, players will always find a way to kill them. Overall, they deem VRGtR “indispensable” for DMs and as having great information for everyone, which makes it “a hearty recommendation.”

Polygon was more effusive calling it “the biggest, best D&D book of this generation” and that “it has the potential to supercharge the role-playing hobby like never before.” As you can tell from those two phrases, Polygon gushes over VRGtR praising everything from the new character options to safety tools to its overflowing creativity, and more. They compliment the book for being packed with useful information for players and DMs.

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...And Scary Good​

Tribality broke down VRGtR chapter by chapter listing the content, and then summed up the book as being both an outstanding setting book and horror toolkit. They especially like that the various player options, such as Dark Gifts and lineages mean that death isn't necessarily the end of a character, but rather the start of a new plot.

Gaming Trend also praised VRGtR, especially the parts that discourage stigmatizing marginalized groups to create horror. They also considered the information on how to create your own Domain of Dream and Darklord inspiring. For example, it got them thinking about the role of space in creating horror, and how the mists allow a DM to drop players into a Domain for a one-shot if they don't want to run a full campaign. GT deemed VRGtR “excellent” and then pondered what other genres D&D could tackle next, like comedy adventures.

Strange Assembly loves the fact that VRGtR revives a classic D&D setting, and especially focuses on the Domains of Dread. They like the flavor of the Gothic lineages but not that some abilities are only once a day, preferring always-on abilities. Still, that's a small complaint when SA praises everything else, especially the short adventure, The House of Lament. VRGtR is considered an excellent value and worth checking out if you like scary D&D.

Geeks of Doom doesn't buck the trend of round-up. They really enjoyed the adventure inspiration and DM advice but especially appreciate the player options. agrees They really like the flexibility that's encouraged – and the new version of the loup-garou.

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The Final Grade​

While none of these publications give out a letter grade, the superlatives VRGtR has earned makes it pretty easy to associate ratings to each review. Games Radar, The Gamer, Polygon, and Bell of Lost Souls are so effusive in their praise that they would obviously be A+. Gaming Trend, Tribality, Strange Assembly, and Geeks of Doom also praise VRGtR, though their language isn't quite as strong or they have a very minor critique. That would make their reviews at least an A. Adding in the A+ from my own review, and Van Richten's Guide to Ravenloft grades this product by which all others will likely be judged in the future:

A+

 
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Beth Rimmels

Beth Rimmels

imagineGod

Legend
I dunno, ImagineGod. When is D&D no longer D&D? Is it alignment? Did it happen when THAC0 was dropped? Maybe it was when we abandoned gender maximums, Race as Class, or, I know, when we went past having more classes than Fighting Man and Magic User?

If you want to argue the usefulness of alignment, convince me why it is useful, not that it's some sort of iconic element of D&D that has to be there because it always been there.
Because Alignment with its single (E = Evil) or two letter (LG = Lawful Good) shorthand is much easier to peruse quikcly in a stat block and still offer the DM ideas into how to play a monster. Other, games tried other approaches, not any better in play, frankly, I play Cypher too.

By dropping alignment in Van Richeten's Guide to Ravenloft, the text then spends multiple sentences trying to explain that "Relentless Killer" monster in the appendix, when just one letter "e" would have told the DM it was an evil monster.

So if WoTC was honest, instead of dropping alignment, present the better alternative (they have none).

Remember, THAC0 was the shorthand for the tables of to hit you needed in AD&D 1st Edition. Then in 3rd Edition, ascending Armor Class, was a shorter option than THAC0 of AD&D 2nd Edition.
 

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Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
For example here is that supposedly revolutionary character concept:
A brash (the adjective) explorer (the noun) who abides in stone (the verb).

From a Cypher System rules generator. What the hell does that even mean? And here you thought alignment was so bad in D&D it needed axing.
I mean... That tells me significantly more about the character than “Chaotic Good” does.
 


Shadowedeyes

Explorer
Because Alignment with its single (E = Evil) or two letter (LG = Lawful Good) shorthand is much easier to peruse quikcly in a stat block and still offer the DM ideas into how to play a monster. Other, games tried other approaches, not any better in play, frankly, I play Cypher too.

By dropping alignment in Van Richeten's Guide to Ravenloft, the text then spends multiple sentences trying to explain that "Relentless Killer" monster in the appendix, when just one letter "e" would have told the DM it was an evil monster.

So if WoTC was honest, instead of dropping alignment, present the better alternative (they have none).

Remember, THAC0 was the shorthand for the tables of to hit you needed in AD&D 1st Edition. Then in 3rd Edition, ascending Armor Class, was a shorter option than THAC0 of AD&D 2nd Edition.
I know you replied to two of my posts, but I think this is the better laid out argument between the two, so I actually wanted to address it. I think the argument that a shorthand, or jargon, on how to play a NPC or monster could be useful, so that argument for alignment is compelling.

That said, jargon is most useful when the people who use it are all on the same page. I would guess that for most of the people who find alignment useful, the group they play with probably generally agree on how to interpret alignment. The problem comes in only if a group is not on the same page on what the shorthand means.

Which is why I think it's not particularly helpful. If the Relentless Killer is lawful, what does that mean, and more importantly, are we all on the same page with what it means? No shorthand, or even detailed explanation is going to be perfectly interpreted the same by everyone, but alignment seems to be quite varied, probably not helped by different explanations throughout D&D's history.

I'm starting to ramble though. I think unless WotC wants to focus heavily on alignment and defining it, it's not terribly useful. The counter argument is that removing it doesn't add anything. Which is I suppose true. I'd argue that removing it makes the DM and players actually think about why the character or monster is doing what it is doing rather than falling back on the shorthand. I'll admit that is just an opinion on my part though.
 

imagineGod

Legend
I mean... That tells me significantly more about the character than “Chaotic Good” does.
One could argue that it restricts your imagination into playing the character only that way. Sort of like what you argued alignments do.

Or else, your argument against alignments are invalid, since we all know alignments are just great single letter or two letter shorthand to inspire the DM to build upon that the same way you are building upon the Cypher solution.

It seems the hatred for alignments by the anti-alignment crowd simply boils down to hating single or two letter shorthand, but happily accepting other short hand. Kind of hypocritical that!
 

imagineGod

Legend
Shorthand in the original i6 Ravenloft module for AD&D (by Tracy and Laura Hickman):

Random Encounter Table: Encounter:
1-4 villagers ; AC 9, MOV 12", HD 2; #AT 1: Dmg 1-6, AL: NG.

3-12 (3d4) ghouls; AC 6; MOV 9", #AT 3: Dmg 1-3/1-3/1-6; AL: CE

Yet, it seems some people who hate shorthand rather have it removed for everyone else who finds it useful.

I mean, is it not easier and more respectful to fellow DMs to just skip over the "AL: NG" in the above, if it is not personally useful to you, rather than demand no other DM has the right to benefit from that shorthand?
 
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Shorthand in the original i6 Ravenloft module for AD&D (by Tracy and Laura Hickman):

Random Encounter Table: Encounter:
1-4 villagers , AC9, MOV 12", HD2, #AT 1: Dmg 1-6, AL: NG.

See that above: shorthand.

Yet, it seems some people who hate shorthand rather have it removed for everyone else who finds it useful.

I mean, is it not easier and more respectful to fellow DMs to just skip over the "AL: NG" in the above, if it is not personally useful to you, rather than demand no other DM has the right to benefit from that shorthand?
You are using the word "hate" a lot.
 

Faolyn

Hero
With this sort of argument, why don’t you remove Type as well - why do we need to know that goblinloids are type humanoid when it can just be described in the monster entry? What’s that, there are spells that only work against certain types? Like how Protection from Evil works against Lawful Evil creatures?
Missed this one earlier.

Type is actually useful in 5e for determining if a creature can be affected by certain spells or other effects. Protection from evil and good doesn't work against Lawful Evil creatures. It works against aberrations, celestials, constructs, elementals, fey, fiends, and undead. Charm person only affects humanoids. Cure wounds doesn't affect constructs or undead. A cleric or paladin may have the ability to turn undead--or fiends, or fey, or something else.

On the other hand, there are almost no things that require or work against a specific alignment, and most of those are weird magic items.
 

AcererakTriple6

Autistic DM (he/him)
Some people playing D&D hate almost all its game mechanics: hate character races, classes, alignment, hit points, initiative based turn order.

So why play D$D when so many Indie RPGs are free from all this baggage?
1) Alignment is not a game mechanic. It's a piece of flavor text that has a handful of alignment-centered mechanics. The base alignment system has no mechanics attached to it, and thus is not a game mechanic.
2) I don't hate character classes, and I haven't seen anyone here saying that they do. Nice strawman, but that's not what we're saying or arguing for.
3) We've explained why we dislike alignment and why it was already near-useless mechanically and thematically in D&D. Removing it does not "destroy D&D". Stop with the slippery slope arguments, please.
4) I like hit points. I would like a few changes to them so that they mechanically fit the PHB's description of them and to make going 0 hp =/= sleep anymore, but I like hit points. Stop with the strawmen, please.
5) I like initiative. No one here has said that they want to get rid of initiative. Again, it could use a few tweaks for stuff like Ready actions, but I like the system.

Does getting rid of alignment and slightly changing up hit points and a few other minor parts of systems destroy D&D? I don't think so. Please stop gatekeeping.
 
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imagineGod

Legend
1) Alignment is not a game mechanic. It's a piece of flavor text that has a handful of alignment-centered mechanics. The base alignment system has no mechanics attached to it, and thus is not a game mechanic.
2) I don't hate character classes, and I haven't seen anyone here saying that they do. Nice strawman, but that's not what we're saying or arguing for.
3) We've explained why we dislike alignment and why it was already near-useless mechanically and thematically in D&D. Removing it does not "destroy D&D". Stop with the slippery slope arguments, please.
4) I like hit points. I would like a few changes to them so that they mechanically fit the PHB's description of them and to make going 0 hp = sleep, but I like hit points. Stop with the strawmen, please.
5) I like initiative. No one here has said that they want to get rid of initiative. Again, it could use a few tweaks for stuff like Ready actions, but I like the system.

Does getting rid of alignment and slightly changing up hit points and a few other minor parts of systems destroy D&D? I don't think so. Please stop gatekeeping.
The game is not all about you. There are many arguments on why Character Classes are restrictive to role play. A first level Character class pigeon holes characters into being Magic User without the ability to use Martial Weapons, an artificial restriction that harkens back to D&D history than any valid in-game reason for good role play. So calling out Character Class restrictions is not a strawman. It showcases the alignment haters are selective in their hatred for certain elements of D&D the help other DMs create good encounters on the fly.

Next, I showcased that Hit Points are a terrible injury tracking mechanic that has encourage that dreadful "kill it until dead" style of play in D&D, that other games with better injury tracking do not encourage. Can you please explain what logical reason there is for a 10th Level Fighter to have so many Hit Points compared to a 1st Level Fighter? There is none, HP are a legacy of old D&D encounter balance, not something that is vital if better systems are written like other RPGs seem to have done already.

Regarding Initiative, also a broken system. Why would your character with better Dexterity be last in the imitative order than much slower enemies if your dice rolled badly. If fact your whole party could be lower on the initiative order than the monsters, making for poor overall fun for the Players to witness the DM hacking them one after the other before they get a change to react.

Gatekeeping is refusing to allow other DMs who find alignment useful to get that in the monster stat blocks. Why take toys from others who find them useful?

The option to axe alignment for everyone is more like gatekeeping than the other option of leaving alignment for those who want it but not forcing it in use upon everyone.
 


Why not address the usefulness of shorthand instead of focusing on words not related to the shorthand
Because your inflammatory language is getting in the way?

I don't see anyone in this conversation "shouting" or using hateful language other than you. I can't imagine you talk with people in real life like this.

If you want to have a real conversation about alignment, how about asking questions, responding respectfully, and challenging assumptions?

Here are some questions for you:

Why do you think WotC is no longer using alignment?

If you feel like alignment serves a useful purpose, what could be used to replace it?

How will removal of alignment change your game? How will it change the game in general, both positively and negatively?
 





AcererakTriple6

Autistic DM (he/him)
The game is not all about you.
I never claimed it was. However, the game is all about fun, and fun is inherently subjective to each table (including mine and including yours), so removing a piece of the game is "about me" and my table, and other people that agree with me and their tables.

The game is not all about you, either. You want alignment in the game because you like it, and that's the core of your rebuttal to my argument that alignment already did practically nothing for the game except taking up space in the books with no real benefits to a lot of campaigns and tables.
There are many arguments on why Character Classes are restrictive to role play. A first level Character class pigeon holes characters into being Magic User without the ability to use Martial Weapons, an artificial restriction that harkens back to D&D history than any valid in-game reason for good role play.
I believe that 5e's Class/Subclass system is a bit too restrictive, and that Subclasses should determine more than they currently do. However, I'm not advocating for the destruction of the Class/Subclass system, just changing it a bit to promote player creativity a bit more.
So calling out Character Class restrictions is not a strawman. It showcases the alignment haters are selective in their hatred for certain elements of D&D the help other DMs create good encounters on the fly.
It is. It's a red herring and a strawman argument. I'm not arguing to remove the class system, no one in this thread brought it up before you did, and so it's off topic and a strawman. We (my side collectively that dislikes alignment) don't want to get rid of character classes, so bringing it up is the definition of a strawman (a mischaracterization meant to distract away from the actual argument to attack something easier to argue against).
Next, I showcased that Hit Points are a terrible injury tracking mechanic that has encourage that dreadful "kill it until dead" style of play in D&D, that other games with better injury tracking do not encourage. Can you please explain what logical reason there is for a 10th Level Fighter to have so many Hit Points compared to a 1st Level Fighter? There is none, HP are a legacy of old D&D encounter balance, not something that is vital if better systems are written like other RPGs seem to have done already.
Hit points are a part of video games, card games, and a bunch of other board games and TTRPGs. The 5e PHB describes hit points as a "combination of physical and mental durability, the will to live, and luck". They're not just physical durability, it's a mix of other factors. They've already evolved from their original version in D&D. Furthermore, hit points are an essential part of D&D's combat system. Again, this is another strawman. Stop it, please.
Regarding Initiative, also a broken system. Why would you character with better Dexterity be last in the imitative order than much slower enemies if your dice rolled badly. If fact your whole party could be lower on the initiative order than the monsters, making for poor overall fun for the Players to witness the DM hacking them one after the other before they get a change to react.
I have advocated for changes to initiative, like allowing INT/WIS being allowed to be added to it instead of just Dexterity. That would make it a bit more realistic, IMO. Sure, it's unrealistic, but it's essential to how D&D combat works. Alignment in 5e is not essential to anything (it's important to Planescape, but not essential).
So why exactly are you only gatekeeping for the anti-alignment crowd and refusing to allow other DMs who find alignment useful to get that in the monster stat blocks. Why are you so happy to take away toys from others because you personally dislike them?
Wow. I've been accused of gatekeeping by angry grognards twice now. Interesting.

Firstly, I'm not gatekeeping. I recommend you check the definition of it. I'm not claiming that people who use alignment "aren't playing D&D", or don't deserve to be a part of the community, or shouldn't play the game. I've never done that. However, you have claimed that people who get rid of alignment aren't playing D&D. That's gatekeeping. Stop it. Stop accusing me of gatekeeping, because that's another purposeful mischaracterization of what I'm doing/saying (a strawman argument), and it's a personal attack.

I'm not happy to take away toys from other people. I didn't take away this "toy" from you, WotC did. I didn't even ask them to do this, so my joy at it not being in the books is not hurting you in any way.
Your option to axe alignment for everyone is more like gatekeeping than the other option of leaving alignment for those who want it but not forcing it in use upon everyone.
I want alignment to be restricted to an optional Planescape setting book for 5e and future editions, just like I wanted the Customize your Origin mechanic to be restricted to Tasha's Cauldron of Everything for 5e. Alignment was being forced onto me, though, with its inclusion in every D&D book up until Candlekeep Mysteries. Stop trying to play the victim, and stop trying to paint me as the villain. I'm not. It's jerkish behavior and it's not true. Kindly, knock it off, please.
 
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imagineGod

Legend
Dude, take it down a notch. No one here has run over your puppy with their car.
When everyone is quoting my statements like dog piling as if my views are not welcome here. Is that a friendly response you see if you scroll all the way back through this thread?

I never claimed it was. However, the game is all about fun, and fun is inherently subjective to my table, so removing a piece of the game is "about me" and my table, and other people that agree with me and their tables.

The game is not all about you, either. You want alignment in the game because you like it, and that's the core of your rebuttal to my argument that alignment already did practically nothing for the game except taking up space in the books with no real benefits to a lot of campaigns and tables.

I believe that 5e's Class/Subclass system is a bit too restrictive, and that Subclasses should determine more than they currently do. However, I'm not advocating for the destruction of the Class/Subclass system, just changing it a bit to promote player creativity a bit more.

It is. It's a red herring and a strawman argument. I'm not arguing to remove the class system, no one in this thread brought it up before you did, and so it's off topic and a strawman. We (my side collectively that dislikes alignment) don't want to get rid of character classes, so bringing it up is the definition of a strawman (a mischaracterization meant to distract away from the actual argument to attack something easier to argue against).

Hit points are a part of video games, card games, and a bunch of other board games and TTRPGs. The 5e PHB describes hit points as a "combination of physical and mental durability, the will to live, and luck". They're not just physical durability, it's a mix of other factors. They've already evolved from their original version in D&D. Furthermore, hit points are an essential part of D&D's combat system. Again, this is another strawman. Stop it, please.

I have advocated for changes to initiative, like allowing INT/WIS being allowed to be added to it instead of just Dexterity. That would make it a bit more realistic, IMO. Sure, it's unrealistic, but it's essential to how D&D combat works. Alignment in 5e is not essential to anything (it's important to Planescape, but not essential).

Wow. I've been accused of gatekeeping by angry grognards twice now. Interesting.

Firstly, I'm not gatekeeping. I recommend you check the definition of it. I'm not claiming that people who use alignment "aren't playing D&D", or don't deserve to be a part of the community, or shouldn't play the game. I've never done that. However, you have claimed that people who get rid of alignment aren't playing D&D. That's gatekeeping. Stop it. Stop accusing me of gatekeeping, because that's another purposeful mischaracterization of what I'm doing/saying (a strawman argument), and it's a personal attack.

I'm not happy to take away toys from other people. I didn't take away this "toy" from you, WotC did. I didn't even ask them to do this, so my joy at it not being in the books is not hurting you in any way.

I want alignment to be restricted to an optional Planescape setting book for 5e and future editions, just like I wanted the Customize your Origin mechanic to be restricted to Tasha's Cauldron of Everything for 5e. Alignment was being forced onto me, though, with its inclusion in every D&D book up until Candlekeep Mysteries. Stop trying to play the victim, and stop trying to paint me as the villain. I'm not. It's jerkish behavior and it's not true. Kindly, knock it off, please.
I find the world "grognard" personally insulating, since you do not know my history and just made an assumption by quoting my name in the post right before using grognard as a slur in response to my views of what I like about older D&D modules.
 

AcererakTriple6

Autistic DM (he/him)
I find the world "grognard" personally insulating, since you do not know my history and just made an assumption by quoting my name in the post right before using grognard as a slur in response to my views of what I like about older D&D modules.
You know what? I don't really care. I begin to not care about offending a person when the same person that knows nothing about me decides that I hate D&D, want to steal all the fun away from you, and needs to be kicked out of the hobby that both helped me learn useful social skills as someone with Autism Spectrum Disorder and kept my depression from (possible trigger warning) potentially progressing into suicidal thoughts and attempts. I don't care if that offends you. You have attacked me personally and refused to debate in good faith, so I feel that one mention of the word "grognard" is both accurate and warranted.

Edit: I will make it clear that I didn't mean it offensively. I meant it as "veteran player", which is its meaning.
 
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When everyone is quoting my statements like dog piling as if my views are not welcome here. Is that a friendly response you see if you scroll all the way back through this thread?
You started off combative, have escalated with every response and then use everyone else's corresponding escalations as reason to escalate further.
I find the world "grognard" personally insulating, since you do not know my history and just made an assumption by quoting my name in the post right before using grognard as a slur in response to my views of what I like about older D&D modules.
Grognard literally means you're a veteran player. Saying people are using "slurs" is a great example of the extreme escalation happening here.

Also, spoiler alert: You guys aren't going to come to any agreement on alignment on this thread.
 

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