log in or register to remove this ad

 

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.

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+

 
Last edited by a moderator:

log in or register to remove this ad

Beth Rimmels

Beth Rimmels

By having them unconnected, each domain can have it's own unique identity instead of having to squeeze everything into the Gothic horror genre. To me that's the opposite of bland.
I know that "weekend in hell" was the original conception of 2nd ed Ravenloft, despite the presence of a core. Even so, the work they did over the course of 2nd and especially the Kargatane's 3rd ed contributions really added an enormous amount to making it a campaign setting, and the amazing world-building really spoke to me (my favorite part of being a DM). Reversing that to go back to the old model (with a lot of details changed) feels like an attack against something I love, even though I know it really isn't.
 

log in or register to remove this ad

The Lizard Wizard

Adventurer
I know that "weekend in hell" was the original conception of 2nd ed Ravenloft, despite the presence of a core. Even so, the work they did over the course of 2nd and especially the Kargatane's 3rd ed contributions really added an enormous amount to making it a campaign setting, and the amazing world-building really spoke to me (my favorite part of being a DM). Reversing that to go back to the old model (with a lot of details changed) feels like an attack against something I love, even though I know it really isn't.

I can see how that might leave people disappointed. I remember appreciating that element when it was introduced (or built upon after the initial box set) I just thought bland was a bad description for things no longer all being the same.

I like the flexibility in being able to pick my favourite domains and stitch them together however I like, I think it makes sense from a design point of view and I can understand why they went this way given the tool box approach to the 5E books.
 

Jiggawatts

Explorer
Nobody stops you adding the things you love.

Van Richten's Guide to Ravenloft is literally the best toolbox that looks like a Campaign Setting because of the Van Richten and allies letters within, but still, this book is more a toolbox than anything.

Nobody stops you linking the domains. The roads and pathways are considered wrapped in most for those who want them separate , there is that, and for those wanting them linked, no problem, go ahead
Canon matters. Pretending that it doesn't is disingenuous.
 

imagineGod

Legend
Canon matters. Pretending that it doesn't is disingenuous.
Canon matters? Seriously, in Dungeons and Dragons products that keep getting retconed each edition, sometimes even within the same edition.

Even strong canon products like Warhammerr Fantasy struggle yo keep their lore sacred. Though it is significant to note that in the current 4th Edition did not alter the population of elves in the human Imperium above a percentage point.
 

Remathilis

Legend
I know that "weekend in hell" was the original conception of 2nd ed Ravenloft, despite the presence of a core. Even so, the work they did over the course of 2nd and especially the Kargatane's 3rd ed contributions really added an enormous amount to making it a campaign setting, and the amazing world-building really spoke to me (my favorite part of being a DM). Reversing that to go back to the old model (with a lot of details changed) feels like an attack against something I love, even though I know it really isn't.
Ravenloft, true to it's genre, was an unholy mashup of two play styles: weekend in hell and living world. They designed a bunch of individual domains that obeyed thier own logic, then stitched a bunch together with not a lot of thought as to thier neighbors. Tepest would kill demihumans for being "fey" yet it's northern neighbor is Darkon. How do those nations conduct trade? The moon changed in number, size, color and phase simply by crossing the border. The Sea of Sorrows disappeared when you were walking the coast from Mordent to Valachan. Things like this made the idea of a living world difficult. Even if you were iron out these inconsistencies, you still have dozens of domains that are floating in the Mists that don't connect to anything and don't have any of the trade or intrigue access. Often, those Domains were second class citizens as far the setting was concerned.

Ravenloft had two choices: rebuild it like a real campaign setting with fixed nations, trade, commerce and faiths akin to a spooky Forgotten Realms, or break it apart and make each it's own haunted playground. I would have loved the former (borrowing the design from Masque of the Red Death but making it a fantasy world rather than Earth) I respect the fact they went back to weekend in hell with nods to the interconnected settings.
 

Ravenloft, true to it's genre, was an unholy mashup of two play styles: weekend in hell and living world. They designed a bunch of individual domains that obeyed thier own logic, then stitched a bunch together with not a lot of thought as to thier neighbors. Tepest would kill demihumans for being "fey" yet it's northern neighbor is Darkon. How do those nations conduct trade? The moon changed in number, size, color and phase simply by crossing the border. The Sea of Sorrows disappeared when you were walking the coast from Mordent to Valachan. Things like this made the idea of a living world difficult. Even if you were iron out these inconsistencies, you still have dozens of domains that are floating in the Mists that don't connect to anything and don't have any of the trade or intrigue access. Often, those Domains were second class citizens as far the setting was concerned.

Ravenloft had two choices: rebuild it like a real campaign setting with fixed nations, trade, commerce and faiths akin to a spooky Forgotten Realms, or break it apart and make each it's own haunted playground. I would have loved the former (borrowing the design from Masque of the Red Death but making it a fantasy world rather than Earth) I respect the fact they went back to weekend in hell with nods to the interconnected settings.
As I mentioned, much of the world building that made it make sense occurred in the Kargatane material for 3rd edition. They added mistways, somewhat reliable trade routes that allow trade with several of the islands of terror. Connections between the domains are explained and expanded, although you could certainly do more. All the domains had a way to feed themselves, either through growing food or trade (the original Falkovnia was the bread basket of the core, for example). It was enough to work with and, as I said, worldbuilding is my thing.
 

Remathilis

Legend
As I mentioned, much of the world building that made it make sense occurred in the Kargatane material for 3rd edition. They added mistways, somewhat reliable trade routes that allow trade with several of the islands of terror. Connections between the domains are explained and expanded, although you could certainly do more. All the domains had a way to feed themselves, either through growing food or trade (the original Falkovnia was the bread basket of the core, for example). It was enough to work with and, as I said, worldbuilding is my thing.
3e did the best it could with what it had, but it still felt torn between logical world building (where do people get thier food from?) and nightmare logic (where did the coast go?) In a choice, I'd have preferred a more logical design with flourishes of nightmare (a larger and more complicated Innistrad) but at least the 5e version is consistent in embracing nightmare logic completely.
 

Shardstone

Hero
Publisher
This is a new version of Ravenloft. I get that you guys miss your old versions, but you have two editions of books of those. I've read all the 2E and 3E Ravenloft books, and I still love Van Richten's, because it lets me play Ravenloft in a new style.

I don't understand why you guys basically want reprints of the same material for yet another edition. Ideas are allowed to change and morph; they aren't static things, forever locked in one form.
 

3e did the best it could with what it had, but it still felt torn between logical world building (where do people get thier food from?) and nightmare logic (where did the coast go?) In a choice, I'd have preferred a more logical design with flourishes of nightmare (a larger and more complicated Innistrad) but at least the 5e version is consistent in embracing nightmare logic completely.
I suppose there's something to that, but I still find the direction they went very disappointing. At least my version of Ravenloft is now entirely in the hands of those fans who really care about it.
 

This is a new version of Ravenloft. I get that you guys miss your old versions, but you have two editions of books of those. I've read all the 2E and 3E Ravenloft books, and I still love Van Richten's, because it lets me play Ravenloft in a new style.

I don't understand why you guys basically want reprints of the same material for yet another edition. Ideas are allowed to change and morph; they aren't static things, forever locked in one form.
WotC updated the Realms and Ebberon to 5th ed without making major, incompatible changes with older material. They could have done the same with Ravenloft if they wanted to. If this had come out a couple years ago, I think they would have.
 



dytrrnikl

Explorer
I don't understand why you guys basically want reprints of the same material for yet another edition. Ideas are allowed to change and morph; they aren't static things, forever locked in one form.
Nostalgia. I started playing in the 80s, heavily with 2E. While Van Richten's Guide to Ravenloft is a decent supplement, I'll still take the 2E material over it...it hits all the marks for horror for me. A new version doesn't always equate to better. Of course, with all the criticism being leveled at older material for it's "insensitvities", opinions vary.
 

Ideas can expand and grow, building on the past (like with the Realms and Eberron). They don't have to be wholesale replacements, and they've proved that on several occasions.

Anyway, I'm over it. I going to take the bits that I like (like the updates to Har'akir and I'Cath) and move forward with the old stuff for the rest. There's still a great community for that, and it's not going to stop keeping the old Ravenloft alive. As a horror toolkit for D&D, the book's actually decent.
 

Remathilis

Legend
WotC updated the Realms and Ebberon to 5th ed without making major, incompatible changes with older material. They could have done the same with Ravenloft if they wanted to. If this had come out a couple years ago, I think they would have.
I don't think so. The DMG already set up the isolated domains in the Shadowfell system; we were never getting the Core back. Curse of Strahd adjusted and rebooted Barovia. The 4e Domains were designed in a similar style. They were never going to bring back the gypsy class or Calibans.

If this had come out when Ravnica had, the best would have been more domains would have been evolutions rather then reboots. Gender swapped Darklords might have been descendants. You might have seen a few more core domains like Forlorn over ICath. The Vistani keeping their evil eye and curse powers. Stuff like that. I don't think you'd see DoD 2.0. Even among the fandom, certain domains and tropes were becoming radioactive, like Souragne for example.

Unlike Eberron, there was a lot of design elements that didn't match WotC's design aesthetic. Forgotten Realms is facing this kind of change in tone in real time. (See the drow thread). Ravenloft is stark because it's been oop since the early aughts; it is a radical jump rather than the gradual shift Faerun got.
 

Prakriti

Hi, I'm a Mindflayer, but don't let that worry you
You can unintentionally and unknowingly harm yourself.
You could just as easily argue that sheltering yourself and your players is causing unintentional harm.

Wizards could have said, "It's wrong to shelter your players from outdated beliefs." Instead they said, "It's wrong to subject your players to outdated beliefs."

Both statements go against the long-held tradition of letting people enjoy the game as they see fit, without shaming them or judging them for it.

For better or worse, Wizards has broken with the past and decided it is now okay to tell players that their fun is wrong.
 

Remathilis

Legend
You could just as easily argue that sheltering yourself and your players is causing unintentional harm.

Wizards could have said, "It's wrong to shelter your players from outdated beliefs." Instead they said, "It's wrong to subject your players to outdated beliefs."

Both statements go against the long-held tradition of letting people enjoy the game as they see fit, without shaming them or judging them for it.

For better or worse, Wizards has broken with the past and decided it is now okay to tell players that their fun is wrong.
I think you're reading a lot into a CYA.

Most people experience D&D though an experienced DM. I don't need to tell you how many "bad first DM" stories there are. This is WotC advising that DMs who do use harmful or offensive material doesn't reflect WotC's views how the game should be played. It's basically "The views and opinions expressed by your Dungeon Master are those of the DM and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Wizards of the Coast".
 

I know that "weekend in hell" was the original conception of 2nd ed Ravenloft, despite the presence of a core. Even so, the work they did over the course of 2nd and especially the Kargatane's 3rd ed contributions really added an enormous amount to making it a campaign setting, and the amazing world-building really spoke to me (my favorite part of being a DM). Reversing that to go back to the old model (with a lot of details changed) feels like an attack against something I love, even though I know it really isn't.
Third edition was a licensed work. WotC wouldn't be the first or last company to view such a work as unofficial and not counting. Not a view I hold myself, but I know that inside corporate office walls, the view often looks very different.
 

Canon matters. Pretending that it doesn't is disingenuous.
The majority of D&D play occurs in homebrewed world. The people who love canon and feel it's important at the table are a minority, even if they make up 100% of the people who buy and use published settings. In a mutable setting like Ravenloft, if the designers have the goal of "fixing it," they're not going to worry about it too much, since the canon answer could easily be "stuff happened since last time we visited Ravenloft, but the Dark Powers erased everyone's memories of it." We know explicitly that something happened, because of the write-up of the 5E Darkon.
 

WotC updated the Realms and Ebberon to 5th ed without making major, incompatible changes with older material. They could have done the same with Ravenloft if they wanted to.
Right, and they didn't want to. It is, in fact, theirs.

And they did make giant changes to the Forgotten Realms in fourth edition and decided "whoa, this was a bad idea" based on a large portion of the fandom basically screaming in their face and then spent years having to reverse it.

It takes a Realm Shattering Event to change the Forgotten Realms or to change it back (which is weird, since it seems to happen so frequently -- maybe the Forgotten Realms is in the DC Universe). It takes a whim of the Dark Powers to change Ravenloft.
 

Visit Our Sponsor

Latest threads

Level Up!

An Advertisement

Advertisement4

Top