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

Azzy

ᚳᚣᚾᛖᚹᚢᛚᚠ
Also, removing the alignment from the stat blocks, leaves monsters like the Relentless Killer (Page 242) without guidance on its moral outlook The text just says Relentless killers are hateful, revenge obsessed creatures.

Yet, by skipping alignment in the stat block, nothing to say if the above are lawfully good actions. Basically, 5e since Tasha's encourages all rules to be read subjectively.

The good news is that no more rules lawyers arguments. Everything is subjective now, and even that Relentless Killer could basically be a lawful good paladin in training, if your table so chooses.
If you can get "lawful good" out of the description of the relentless killer, you must have expertise in acrobatics.
 

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Tonguez

A suffusion of yellow
The Darkon section explicitly says there was a big event that no one can remember.

Yeah the book is full of nods to old Ravenloft progressed on to a contemporary state.
New Darkon is quite explicit about it and allows for Azalin to still be a factor. I think the ‘new’ look of Darkon is my favourite domain, in my mind it works as a mini-Core, provides a choice of different Darklords and adventure sites and allows PCs to fully immerse themselves and aim to instal/become the new Darklord.

I’ve used Mordent a lot in the past but in the new future would be happy to be based in Darkon and do a campaign there
 
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imagineGod

Legend
Minor correction: Expertise in Intelligence (Acrobatics) checks.
No need to be sarcastic..

The situation with modern 5e since Tasha's, is the obvious shirking of responsibility by Wizards of the Coast to call out that Relentless Killer as evil, by offering a wink and a nod to edgy Dungeon Masters to label that creature Lawful Good, since no alignment guidance exists on creature stat blocks nowadays.
 

BookTenTiger

He / Him
No need to be sarcastic..

The situation with modern 5e since Tasha's, is the obvious shirking of responsibility by Wizards of the Coast to call out that Relentless Killer as evil, by offering a wink and a nod to edgy Dungeon Masters to label that creature Lawful Good, since no alignment guidance exists on creature stat blocks nowadays.
So you think DMs will make Relentless Killers lawful good and then... what?
 

Levistus's_Leviathan

5e Freelancer
No need to be sarcastic..

The situation with modern 5e since Tasha's, is the obvious shirking of responsibility by Wizards of the Coast to call out that Relentless Killer as evil, by offering a wink and a nod to edgy Dungeon Masters to label that creature Lawful Good, since no alignment guidance exists on creature stat blocks nowadays.
I am a strong believer that sarcasm is warranted when the other side of the argument is being purposefully dense (like not being able to tell just that Relentless Killers are supposed to be evil because it doesn't have two words explicitly describing it as "chaotic/neutral evil").

Also, I don't think it's correct to call it a "responsibility" for WotC to give monsters alignments. Just the opposite, in fact. It's their job to listen to the community, and they have here.
 

Faolyn

(she/her)
No need to be sarcastic..

The situation with modern 5e since Tasha's, is the obvious shirking of responsibility by Wizards of the Coast to call out that Relentless Killer as evil, by offering a wink and a nod to edgy Dungeon Masters to label that creature Lawful Good, since no alignment guidance exists on creature stat blocks nowadays.
There is no "wink and nod," nor did they shirk any responsibility because the writers did a good job explaining how evil the Relentless Killer is. Any DM will look at the creature's description and realize that. Nobody is going to play the Relentless Killer as good just because there's no line that says "Alignment: Chaotic Evil". And any DM "edgy" enough to do that probably also does some awful things to their players anyway that putting an alignment there wouldn't mean anything.
 

Whizbang Dustyboots

Gnometown Hero
The situation with modern 5e since Tasha's, is the obvious shirking of responsibility by Wizards of the Coast to call out that Relentless Killer as evil, by offering a wink and a nod to edgy Dungeon Masters to label that creature Lawful Good, since no alignment guidance exists on creature stat blocks nowadays.
What a weird strawman.

Easy solution: Don't play with edgelord DMs.

No one has alignment labels on their foreheads in real life. You can still tell the good guys from the bad guys.

Alignment in D&D is moving away from being rigid codes of behavior to a descriptor for outsiders, undead and the like.
 


imagineGod

Legend
What a weird strawman.

Easy solution: Don't play with edgelord DMs.

No one has alignment labels on their foreheads in real life. You can still tell the good guys from the bad guys.

Alignment in D&D is moving away from being rigid codes of behavior to a descriptor for outsiders, undead and the like.
Reality alert, Dungeons and Dragons is a game not real life.

Besides, no one in real life has Hit Points or Character Class levels either. Other games do not have those, so is D&D moving away from both those unreal options too? Why stop at alignment if you are trying to be simulationist instead of just a game?

Alignment was a simple game too in a most star block to help guide DMs.

What a strawman argument to compare D&D to real life. Seriously, even WoTC still considers D&D just a game.
 

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