• The VOIDRUNNER'S CODEX is coming! Explore new worlds, fight oppressive empires, fend off fearsome aliens, and wield deadly psionics with this comprehensive boxed set expansion for 5E and A5E!

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.

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.

VRG10.jpg

...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.

VRG11.jpg

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+

 

log in or register to remove this ad

Beth Rimmels

Beth Rimmels

Marandahir

Crown-Forester (he/him)
Read also the Carnival domain description in the book. It's a travelling domain of dread that moves between domains and even between planes (can cross over to the Feywild from the demiplanes of dread within the Shadowfell).

The carnival also specifically states that the Dark Powers do not allow Dark Lords to escape their domains by entering the carnival. If the carnival comes to their domain, they can enter but once it leaves they'll be left in an empty location where the carnival had set up, unable to travel with it. If they had gotten into the carnivals carriage and tried to ride away they'd find the carriage vanish around them.

The road etc can still exist. Remember that 4e created a whole domain of this function - The Endless Road. But the domains are not just in a singular space, travelling through the mists can distort space and time, just like any travel in the Shadowfell could (hence why one could use a spell to access the shadowfell to fast travel through the material plane).
 

log in or register to remove this ad



Remathilis

Legend
Read also the Carnival domain description in the book. It's a travelling domain of dread that moves between domains and even between planes (can cross over to the Feywild from the demiplanes of dread within the Shadowfell).

The carnival also specifically states that the Dark Powers do not allow Dark Lords to escape their domains by entering the carnival. If the carnival comes to their domain, they can enter but once it leaves they'll be left in an empty location where the carnival had set up, unable to travel with it. If they had gotten into the carnivals carriage and tried to ride away they'd find the carriage vanish around them.

The road etc can still exist. Remember that 4e created a whole domain of this function - The Endless Road. But the domains are not just in a singular space, travelling through the mists can distort space and time, just like any travel in the Shadowfell could (hence why one could use a spell to access the shadowfell to fast travel through the material plane).
The Mourning Rail and the Horseman's Bridge both serve similar functions.
 

Tonguez

A suffusion of yellow
I bet the change to domains being isolated from each other was done so that WotC wouldn't have any need to print a big fold-out map of the entire Domains of Dread.
The Domains were originally isolated from each other with the Core being thought up later by those wanting to play native PCs, I like modular approach to things, it fits the whole design of the book and tool kit and it means I get to choose which domains I can use - full disclosure I dont play in Ravenloft instead I take Ravenloft domains and use them in my own prime world,

After reading the Create a Domain Chapter, my mind immediately switched to analysing other adventures to see how they fit as Domains, Rime of the Frostmaiden is an obvious fit, Saltmarsh with a Undead Pirate Darklord works


This comes back to a major issue I've had with Ravenloft since time out of mind: it forgot it was a D&D setting in it's rush to mimic precisely the source material it was apeing. Old Ravenloft punished demihumans and spellcasters needlessly because there are no elf wizards in Frankenstein and no other reason. It often meant that the only PCs that could enter towns were the ones that could pass as humans and didn't obviously look like they used arcane magic (witchcraft!) Worshipped foreign gods (blasphemy!) Or were going to rob the joint (thieves!). In the era of play what you want, there was no way they could justify torches and pitchforks for elves and wizards or keep half a team hiding on the outskirts of town unable to engage in urban adventures or even buy rations and a warm bed. Many domains are still very human filled, but the "burn the elf" part is gone and good riddance!

Ive got no problem with in game xenophobia and already have games were NPCs refuse to let Dragonfolk, Orcs or Pixies enter town unless they are performers in the carnival;

For Ravenloft I could see Tieflings passing for Hexbloods and Orcs as calibans/Mongrelfolk but yeah Dragons are going to be hard to justify
 

Urriak Uruk

Gaming is fun, and fun is for everyone
Have any of the reviewers listed here ever given a negative review to a 5E hardcover? Honest question.

@brimmels has done review roundups before, and gave Candlekeep Mysteries and average rating of an A+, but gave Tasha's an average review of only B.

 

Remathilis

Legend
Ive got no problem with in game xenophobia and already have games were NPCs refuse to let Dragonfolk, Orcs or Pixies enter town unless they are performers in the carnival;

For Ravenloft I could see Tieflings passing for Hexbloods and Orcs as calibans/Mongrelfolk but yeah Dragons are going to be hard to justify

A DM can, of course, change that as they want. But I'm very happy that WotC hasn't dictated such restrictions in a setting that can pull anyone from the multiverse into it. I'm content though that dwarves, elves and wizards can focus on the plot and not constantly hiding from the very people they are supposed to "help".
 

The xenophobia and social restrictions based on PC race are just a 2nd ed holdover to times when there were very few options. in 5th ed, there are literally dozens in official material. I'm happy to see this relic phased out. Better to have it be an aspect of the horror of a specific domain, to make it special, that a pervasive limitation to the setting as a whole.
 


Having read through most of the new Ravenloft, it does seem pretty clear that it is the best 5E book so far, on quite a number of levels. Even the way it is arranged and the general reading flow is better than most, and the contents and DM advice are particularly distinctly superior. There's nothing it it that made me yawn or flip forward, and not a Ravenloft obsessive. Combine that with more and better art than most (esp. if we note Theros was mostly cribbing art from MtG, which is cool but...), and it honestly looks like 5E is in a kind of "vertical climb" in terms of quality.

What's also interesting to me is that this isn't a bunch of highly-experienced super-veteran designers or something, this is a diverse crew of mostly-younger designers, so pretty much new to designing for D&D (AFAICT), and the guy in charge is younger than me (40!), but they've managed to put out a book that is pretty much unquestionably better put-together than a lot of stuff that had vets on it. This should certainly put paid to any notions that going younger or more diverse might in some way reduce quality. The direct contrary appears (unsurprisingly to me) to have happened.
 

Remove ads

Remove ads

Top