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

DEFCON 1

Legend
For better or worse, Wizards has broken with the past and decided it is now okay to tell players that their fun is wrong.
Breaking from the past is how you move on from outdated beliefs.

If you don't want to move on, that's fine. But to expect the rest of the society to not do so or keep quiet as you remain set in your ways just doesn't happen. It never has and it never will.

But if that person who doesn't move on feels like they are in the right... they should be so comfortable with their choices that even WotC saying "Your fun is wrong!" shouldn't bother them in the least. Because who is WotC? Just some business that makes stuff. Nothing that need impact anyone's life in any way, shape, or form.
 

log in or register to remove this ad

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.
If anyone who disagrees with you on something doesn't really care about it, you live in a pretty grim world.

There are two big ways to go with Ravenloft. WotC went the direction you don't like. To say that means the folks involved -- who have repeatedly made public declarations of their love for the setting -- don't really care about Ravenloft is petty.
 
Last edited:

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.
There were already a ton of conversion documents and updates to 5E for older Ravenloft material on DMs Guild before this book was even announced. If that's the product you want, there's a ton of options.
 

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.
They are a publicly held company that intends to stay in business. You are going to find few businesses in a similar position saying that past works that are widely seen today as racist, sexist and ableist are the direction they're going to keep going. WotC in particular made this clear when they slapped a warning on nearly all the TSR products posted to DMs Guild/DriveThruRPG.

They are not creating works for edgelords who want to sit down with their 12 year old cousin and subject them to sex trafficking, racism and telling them that disabled people are inherently monsters, under the guise of "I don't want to shelter her."

You are, of course, free to do that yourself, and always have been. But the publicly held company won't be putting out the books to support that by default. It's irrational to expect them to do so, based on their fiduciary responsibilities to their shareholders.
 

But if that person who doesn't move on feels like they are in the right... they should be so comfortable with their choices that even WotC saying "Your fun is wrong!" shouldn't bother them in the least. Because who is WotC? Just some business that makes stuff. Nothing that need impact anyone's life in any way, shape, or form.
Truly old school gamers remember laughing at Gary Gygax writing in Dragon magazine that, unless you were doing things exactly his way, you weren't actually playing Dungeons & Dragons. We then flipped further through the magazine and rolled up a new PC using an explicitly for-NPCs-only gonzo class that they were always printing at that point. (Hell, yes, I rolled up and played a Jester.)

Everyone is free to play D&D as they wish, and a sentence that offends them in a WotC book should be ignored. Worst case scenario, black it out of your copy of your book. (Don't use a Sharpie, though: That'll bleed through to other pages.)
 

Stormonu

Legend
I’m still reading through the book - and this is the first one I’ll likely read cover to cover in a long time. So far, I’m enjoying what I find in the book - though I’ve had a couple minor grievances with some of the content. Nothing I can’t easily rectify for my own games, usually be drawing on the prior lore. Overall, I see more good than bad and I find myself more likely to run a native-born campaign instead of the “weekend in hell” games I’ve primarily used in the past, and that makes me happy.

I’m really glad to see the xenophobia of the prior editions being played down. It always bothered me that the PHB demihuman races got such a bad rap in the campaign world. I’m not going to be inserting teiflings and Dragonborn as native races, but I might think @Snarf Zagyg ’s dead-eyed, soulless elves might be seen as acceptable now.

Best of all, the shadow rift is gone!
 



If anyone who disagrees with you on something doesn't really care about it, you live in a pretty grim world.

There are two big ways to go with Ravenloft. WotC went the direction you don't like. To say that means the folks involved -- who have repeatedly made public declarations of their love for the setting -- don't really care about Ravenloft is petty.
I meant really care about the version I liked. You can care about Ravenloft and make a bunch of changes to it (in fact, they can do that whether they care or not), but I'm talking about the segment of fans who care about the version from previous editions. Nothing has changed for them except they have a stumbling block for new fans of the old setting to get over.
 

Alzrius

The EN World kitten
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.
They don't seem to have any problem selling Ravenloft 3E books (affiliate link). Admittedly, not all of them are there, but given how they're still releasing more products for every edition of D&D, I suspect we'll see them in time.
 


Prakriti

Hi, I'm a Mindflayer, but don't let that worry you
But if that person who doesn't move on feels like they are in the right... they should be so comfortable with their choices that even WotC saying "Your fun is wrong!" shouldn't bother them in the least. Because who is WotC? Just some business that makes stuff. Nothing that need impact anyone's life in any way, shape, or form.
I wonder if you would feel the same way, and still buy their products, if Wizards consistently put out the message that you and your beliefs weren't welcome in the D&D community.
 

dytrrnikl

Explorer
There were already a ton of conversion documents and updates to 5E for older Ravenloft material on DMs Guild before this book was even announced. If that's the product you want, there's a ton of options.
I'm aware, but admittedly bypassed them. I guess for me, a clearer turn of phrasing would be, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." 2E source material...specifically lore and the like, is fantastic as is. Doesn't need updating, morphing, changes, or any kind of alteration. Don't mess with perfection.
 


I'm aware, but admittedly bypassed them. I guess for me, a clearer turn of phrasing would be, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." 2E source material...specifically lore and the like, is fantastic as is. Doesn't need updating, morphing, changes, or any kind of alteration. Don't mess with perfection.
Why do you need or care about a 5E version, then? If you've reached perfection, you're all set.
 

dytrrnikl

Explorer
Why do you need or care about a 5E version, then? If you've reached perfection, you're all set.
I was responding to why some people would care about changes made to something they love and gave my reasonings for why I prefer the older material. For instance, for me, it doesn’t matter whether or not DC is setting up Clark and Lois’ son to take over the mantle of Superman or that it appears we will getting another Superman reboot with some form of Calvin Ellis, for me, Clark Kent will always be Superman, with everything else being a sad imitation at best. But that’s me. I don’t agree with many of today’s perspectives regarding previous versions of D&D, but also recognize that no matter what I think, the world moves on. All in all, I’m good with things changing, but not if it’s solely for the sake of change. Change for the sake of change is pointless. As I said, Van Richten’s Guide to Ravenloft is a decent supplement. New doesn’t mean better, just means new. 10 or 20 years from now, fans will be decrying whatever gets presented for Ravenloft compared to “their” version of it in Van Richten’s Guide to Ravenloft. The more things change the more they stay the same.
 



Faolyn

Hero
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.
To be fair, Toril and Ebberon are both legitimate worlds. As in, planets. Ravenloft not only isn't an actual world--it's a demiplane, or collection of demiplanes--it has always been totally mutable. Half of the domains were brought from other worlds, and half were created whole-cloth. Even in the black box, IIRC, they talked about Conjunctions that added and removed domains and changed the face of the world.

Over the years, they caused two domains (Borca, Dorvinia) to join together and caused another two domains (Gundarak and Arkandale) to get absorbed into its surrounding lands. They ripped multiple domains out of the Core, flung two of them (G'Henna, Bleutspur) into the Mists, turned one (Markovia) into a literal island at sea (and kept it as a tropical jungle island, right by Switzerland-style Lamordia), and turned the resulting space into the Shadow Rift, which is a legitimate world-wound--and if you enter the Rift in one way, you wind up in Faerieland, but if you enter it another way, you vanish completely. Valachan was positioned on a completely different part of the map, to the point that "S" noted how that change altered the architecture of the country. New domains and even oceans magically appeared at points, and the Nightmare Lands completely disappeared in 3x, as far as I can tell.

Ravenloft is all about making major changes.
 


Visit Our Sponsor

Latest threads

Level Up!

An Advertisement

Advertisement4

Top