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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

DEFCON 1

Legend
Humans are truly strange.

Some who do not like eating avocados do not just skip ordering them from the menu, but instead demand all avocados get removed from every restaurant menu.


So some such people say: why should they be subjected to reading an entry for avocados when they personally dislike avocados, not caring that other patrons enjoy eating avocados regularly.
Because to them, how dare a restaurant take up space on a menu listing avocados when not everyone eats them.
Wrong analogy. Replace 'avocado' with 'peanuts'.

People don't want peanuts as a default in a lot of place that offer food... because peanuts are know to cause harm to a certain segment of the population with horrendously bad allergies. And it's not enough to just say to those people "Well, don't eat them!", because the people who are using peanuts oftentimes aren't paying attention to how the peanuts are being used and the chance of them accidentally causing unnecessary harm is there. Even if unintended.

Alignment is the same way. It has been shown time and time again that the negative attributes given to the game's traditional "default orc" aligns eerily to many of the attributes given to certain actual human races and peoples to cause harm-- and alignment highlights one of them. Now whether or not that is intended to be the case doesn't matter-- if some people are feeling genuine hurt due to people just not thinking about it, treating orcs like second-class citizens and seeing the parallels between them and actual races in society... sometimes you do indeed need to say "Why don't we just remove them from our menu altogether so there's there's less chance of an accident here, hmm?"

That doesn't mean someone can't continue to eat peanuts or use the traditional "default orc" they always have in their own personal life and game... but it also doesn't mean the person cooking the meal or making the game can't be cognizant of the potential injury and just choose to go another way.
 

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Internal consistency and verisimilitude are the most important features of any non-satirical work of fiction.
Internal consistency maybe, verisimilitude not so much. I've observed that a lot of my crop of media consumers (Early Gen-Z and very late Millenials; speak to the tastes of the kids these days, or to older Millennials) find that verisimilitude has a time and a place, and outside of that time and place there is room for tossing verisimilitude out the window in favour of Rule of Cool/Rule of Drama/Rule of Funny. Overvaluing verisimilitude is a road that leads to those surface level media criticisms obsessed with a caricature of "realism" that prevents people from suspending any measure of disbelief and engaging with the broader and more abstract themes of the work.
 


You attempted to use that as a counterpoint to my original comment. I was responding directly to that.
My point was that most people play homebrew, and thus don't care about the canon of Ravenloft. Saying that the canon of homebrew settings matters is not something anyone was debating and is 100% irrelevant to the discussion.

People like dry socks, too. Also not relevant to this discussion.
 

Jiggawatts

Explorer
And I was saying established canon matters, regardless of what it is. It matters just as much in a homebrew setting as it does in a published one. We can look at 4E for a very prominent example of when changes go wrong.
 

Remathilis

Legend
Internal consistency maybe, verisimilitude not so much. I've observed that a lot of my crop of media consumers (Early Gen-Z and very late Millenials; speak to the tastes of the kids these days, or to older Millennials) find that verisimilitude has a time and a place, and outside of that time and place there is room for tossing verisimilitude out the window in favour of Rule of Cool/Rule of Drama/Rule of Funny. Overvaluing verisimilitude is a road that leads to those surface level media criticisms obsessed with a caricature of "realism" that prevents people from suspending any measure of disbelief and engaging with the broader and more abstract themes of the work.
Overemphasis of verisimilitude is what brought us the cancer of media criticism that is CinemaSins.
 



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