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D&D General What is your favorite iteration of the Ravenloft Campaign Setting?

Favorite Ravenloft Campaign Setting

  • Ravenloft Boxed Set (black box)

    Votes: 7 21.2%
  • Revised Ravenloft Boxed Set (red box)

    Votes: 5 15.2%
  • Domains of Dread (hardcover TSR)

    Votes: 1 3.0%
  • Domains of Dread (hardcover white wolf/Arhaus)

    Votes: 6 18.2%
  • Shadowfell (4E “domain of Dread”)

    Votes: 2 6.1%
  • Curse of Strahd (mini-campaign)

    Votes: 2 6.1%
  • Innistrahd (planeshift pdf)

    Votes: 1 3.0%
  • Masque of the Red Death

    Votes: 2 6.1%
  • Expedition to Castle Ravenloft (3E Campaign adventure)

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • I6 - Ravenloft (pre-campaign 1E adventure)

    Votes: 6 18.2%
  • Heroes of Horror (3E genre supplement)

    Votes: 1 3.0%

  • Total voters


So, with the new announcement, what has, so far been your favorite gothic version of D&D? I’m also including MtG’s Innistrahd here, and the Victorian-set Masque of the Red Death. I’m unsure if there was an actual Ravenloft product for 4E, but I do remember mentions of a “domain of dread” and possible ties to Ravenloft with the Raven Queen (and Shadowbane family).

Speak up, and tells us what you liked most about the various versions, and what you think they could have done better!

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I'll admit, I just like Masque of The Red Death because I loved the movie with Vincent Price. And that part of me wants to run a dnd campaign based on said movie.


Guest 6948803

I can't decide on just one!
Good old black/red box (they are mostly the same) or in other words early 2nd edition Ravenloft is where my love for the setting was forged.
Curse of Strahd is just amazing, wonderful re-do, and certainly best setting iteration I ran - in some ways, I learned from it how to really run Ravenloft game without falling into a "lets try to make horror session in D&D" trap.

In general, I lost any interest in the setting when overarching and world-shattering plot line became main narrative engine and when I realised, that trying to reforge Ravenloft into more "normal" setting with native PC's and lots of exclusive char creation rules does more harm than good. Then CoS brought me back. I was about to start prepping for another campaign in Ravenloft, based on early 2nd edition state of affairs, but I can as well wait with it 2 more months and use new book. Yay!


Well, I wanted to wait a little bit before expressing my own opinions:

I absolutely adore the original module, I6. It was the first time I ran across an adventure where the bad guy didn't sit idly around waiting for the PCs to come to him. And, just a couple years prior I'd played Dracula in our school play, opposite my best friend who had played Van Helsing. In my D&D campaign, we played Ravenloft & Griffon Hill simultaneously. My players STILL hate & fear the original Strahd and the Realm of Mists to this day.

I liked the Core map of the black boxed set, but it was clear that the designers were just scratching the surface and getting their legs what Ravenloft should be with the initial set. Most of the dark lords had interesting stories, but a good number lacked the punch to be fear-inspiring without liberal use of fiat to keep them around. They also tried to toe too tightly to a gritty style of play that even a 5th level spellcaster could easily disrupt, and a realm in which the demihuman races of the time felt badly out of place (and generally unwanted).

The Revised boxed set, despite the addition of the Shadow Rift was a good reorganization of the campaign set, though it still suffered from xenophobia towards demihumans and spellcasters. There were attempts to shoehorn in firearms, but because they weren't universal to the lands, it was a poor fit - they were better regulated to Masque of the Red Death.

Domains of Dread was a further refinement that was more player-facing than the previous two attempts, but did an overall good tightening up of the dark realms as a campaign world that could stand as full-blown campaign realm that the characters adventure in from start to finish. Still, the attitude towards magic and ignoring higher level abilities made it difficult to run higher level adventures and still make the world naturally fear-inspiring.

White Wolf/Arhaus/Sword & Sorcery did an excellent job removing the unintentional camp from the domains and making it a really dark and foreboding place. It was dense though and sometimes went into too much detail that made game play stumble. It did do a better job incorporating magic, and being aware in a way that running it was easy to keep characters on their back foot.

I initially enjoyed Expedition to Castle Ravenloft upon reading it, but got frustrated when I started to run it. While it did expand the old module into a full-fledged campaign, it suffered from the 3.5 late edition syndrome of "behind every door is an encounter!". Where the original module was sparse and created tension with its abandoned feeling, this thing overwhelmed with unending encounters. And swung away from gothic into lovecraftian in an unsatisfying manner.

When Curse of Strahd rolled around, I immediately picked it up and ran it. Though I just used the castle portion, I had a blast with it. The realm of Barovia finally felt like it fit in typical D&D world with wizards and clerics, not just fighters and rogues. The party could - and should - use their magic to their full extent and it still be a challenge without them getting lynched on piled on for using sorcery. And it was fun ... and a little bit terrifying. My players STILL fear the Dread Realms, and that makes me feel like I've done the job right.


Victoria Rules
Am I evil for not voting because there's no "none of the above" option listed? :)

(sorry, just never been a Ravenloft fan...)


Elder Thing
Ravenloft at large was never my thing, but I absolutely loved Masque do the Red Death. I ran a fairly lengthy campaign back in high school and incorporated concepts from the setting into basically I've ever run since. I still have my Gothic Earth Gazetteer.

The 3.0 and 3.5 MotRD were poor cousins, IMO, but so it went.

With the caveat that i haven't read/played some of the earlier versions, it's the Arthaus presentation of the setting by a street for me. I could take or leave some of the rules changes etc, and the line as a while deteriorated a lot once the Kargatane stopped being involved in development, but the first four Gazetteers in particular remain damn near the gold standard of setting books in my book, despite being relatively art-light, black-and-white softcovers. It's a minor tragedy that the Gazetteer line was never completed in the vein it started.

Dripping with flavour and character, they really moulded the previously rather fragmented bits of the setting into something coherent and functional, without 'normalising' it all too much and losing the Gothic. And the focus on locals as the default PC type rather than Mist-summoned blow-ins, just made it more grounded and the stakes higher. What's more Gothic than a main character's loved ones being endangered/seduced/kidnapped/etc, after all?


Elder Thing
Apologies in advance for the nitpicking, but your phrasing here is making me scratch my head. There was a 3.5 MotRD, but what 3.0 incarnation are you referring to...?
Eh. You're right. I was mixing it up with the 3.0 Ravenloft setting book vs. 3.5 Ravenloft Player's Handbook and Dungeon Master's Guide.



Rotten DM
I6 was the best. Each DM could put their own personal stamp on the setting, using what every lore floated their boat.


I like mine. It has been through a few iterations over the years, but the core concept has remained the same - rather than being people plucked out of the Prime Material, they're evil twins created by the horrible agony that was in the world around them.

The Shadowfell, being a reflective plane of the Prime, changes to mirror what happens in the "real world". Sometimes, when something incomprehensibly horrible takes place, the reflection manifests into an intelligent "twin" of something in the real world. It could be a being, a place or an object. Regardless of what the original was, the twin is evil and obsessed with something.

The Shadowfell treats these intelligent twins as invaders, and seals them up in a Misty Border that contains the infections. There are ways through the mist for everyone except the infection, but they are not easy.

I have some of the obligatory undead lords (Mummy Lord, Lich, Vampire, etc...), some insanely 'Haunted' locations, a few items of horrific interest, etc... but, also some that are the dark mirror of a hero of legend that was there when the tragic event took place. I've copied a couple high level PCs as twins.

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