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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.

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.

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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

Kurotowa

Legend
The Mourning Rail and the Horseman's Bridge both serve similar functions.
One of the two character ideas I've got shortlisted for any future Ravenloft campaign is an Undead Pact Warlock who committed dark betrayals to pay the Headless Rider's toll for passage across his bridge and out of Falkovnia. Afterwards the Rider would be a mostly distant Patron, with the Warlock's power already bought and paid for, but his bridge might still turn up in dire moments to offer passage for the right price.

You could probably premise an entire campaign where the party has been pressed into service of the Headless Rider to help him collect a set of McGuffins. Each adventure starts with them walking off his bridge into a different Domain, or even one of the realms beyond. It'd be like Ravenloft Stargate.
 

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Faolyn

(she/her)
Do you know what the most legit complaint about this book is? This is the only official one we will be getting. 2nd and 3rd edition Ravenloft has 20+ books EACH worth of material. If you want to run those editions, you are already well served.
Sadly, you're almost certainly right. They haven't really put out a second official book for any setting so far, except possibly the Realms. And they will likely continue that trend and assume that fans will take up the slack on DMsguild.

Fortunately, for Ravenloft at least, it's not that hard to convert old material to 5e. There's relatively few rules for this setting that haven't been addressed.
 

Azzy

ᚳᚣᚾᛖᚹᚢᛚᚠ
And the 5th Edition game as a whole is just as circular. Those of us from the Golden Days of the game are going to gripe at many of the unnecessary and blatantly terrible changes while the newbs and casuals to the game (of which is the only business the company cares about, they don't care about the rest of us from the 70s-early 2000s) will give these products amazingly grand reviews and find it such a great addition to the game with the pure ignorance of what it was before, and if you educate these same people, then they'll come to realization of how utterly watered down the game truly is.
Um, I hate to break it to you, but I'm 47 and have been playing since '86. I've played BECMI, AD&D 1e, AD&D 2e, D&D 3e, and D&D 3.5. I've played/DMed in Greyhawk, the Forgotten Realms, Dragonlance, Ravenloft, and countless homebrew settings. I have/had setting material for all of these, plus Spelljammer, Dark Sun, Kara-Tur, and the Known World/Mystara. You do not speak for me. I think 5e is the best version of D&D yet (it has its flaws, but I'd still rather play and DM it than any other edition). I also think the new Ravenloft book is in many way superior to the 2e boxed sets. You do not speak for me.
 

Whizbang Dustyboots

Gnometown Hero
Sadly, you're almost certainly right. They haven't really put out a second official book for any setting so far, except possibly the Realms. And they will likely continue that trend and assume that fans will take up the slack on DMsguild.

Fortunately, for Ravenloft at least, it's not that hard to convert old material to 5e. There's relatively few rules for this setting that haven't been addressed.
DMs Guild already has conversions of almost everything as-is. I'd expect the remaining gaps to get filled in soon. Between this book and PDFs, pretty much every version of Ravenloft is available for play now.
 



Mercador

Adventurer
Yes, it's an entertaining read, particularly if you have familiarity with the earlier versions of the setting.
Not really, never been an horror fan. But it gets so much praise, I'm curious. I would love a good Forgotten Realms lore book though but I guess it's overdone by now.
 

R_J_K75

Legend
Not really, never been an horror fan. But it gets so much praise, I'm curious. I would love a good Forgotten Realms lore book though but I guess it's overdone by now.
I stopped reading FR novels and RPG books almost 20 years ago and even then the metaplot was so detailed it was hard to keep track of. I can only imagine what its like now?
 

Mercador

Adventurer
I stopped reading FR novels and RPG books almost 20 years ago and even then the metaplot was so detailed it was hard to keep track of. I can only imagine what its like now?
No idea, the last FR novel I read was The Cleric Quintet so I'm quite behind as well. But I purchased the FR Boxed Set of the 2nd, I'm just nostalgic of that period. Funny that at that time, I had all the time of the world to read that kind of content but not the money to purchase it. Almost 30 years later, I purchase tons of books but never read them.

I would like to have the time to sink in all those 5ed content but even when I do have free time, I don't. Not too sure why though...
 

Tonguez

A suffusion of yellow
As someone that buys books only for fluff (as I don't play these days), would you recommend it nonetheless?
Theres not much in the way of solid lore in the book, its very much a toolkit giving a whole lot of suggestions, hints and questions for players and DMs use in creating their own adventures with Horror elements.

I can see why the Fraternity of Shadows crew might be upset that the old lore in the Domains is largely ignored in favour of a build-your-own kitset.

However as a kit set it is a great tool that pushes DnD to the narratavist end of the spectrum and relies heavily on Dms and Players pulling in their own ideas to create the adventure .
 

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