- Return to Ravenloft, Finally!by Bspblog
During its run, Fifth Edition Dungeons and Dragons has told many fun and engaging tales. Players are engaged and the hobby is currently bigger and more popular than it ever has been, showing up in movies, tv shows, and being played by major celebrities. One of the few complaints waged on Fifth Edition Dungeons and Dragons, commonly referred to as 5e, has been that almost every single story has taken place in the Forgotten Realms. The Sword Coast, Chult, the Icewind Dale… All these locations and the stories therein, though different, take place in the same world setting. There are of course a few exceptions, one of which being the 2016 hit, “Curse of Strahd”.
Curse of Strahd is still one of the most beloved and played 5e campaign books, even five years later. It is a true wonder that in this time we have never returned to Ravenloft to visit the land of Barovia. That is, until now. The newest book announced by Wizards of the Coast is “VAN RICHTEN’S GUIDE TO RAVENLOFT”. In the same vein of titles like ‘Xanathar’s Guide to Everything’, ‘Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything’, and ‘Mordenkainen’s Tomb of Foes’, “Van Richten’s Guide to Ravenloft” is a resource book told in a narrative style by Van Richten and the other monster hunters who roam Ravenloft. If Strahd is the Dracula of the D&D world then Van Richten is the Van Helsing.
This new book will give players the ability to fully explore the realm of Ravenloft for the first time in 5e. Previously, in Curse of Strahd, the mists of the land made it impossible to traverse outside of Barovia. Now you will have the opportunity to learn about the other areas of Ravenloft and the interesting surprises that await you there. The 256-page, ‘Van Richten’s Guide to Ravenloft’ is presented as correspondence between D&D’s Van Helsing equivalent, vampire hunter RUDOLPH VAN RICHTEN, and other heroes in Ravenloft like Ezmerelda d’Avenir and the Weathermay-Foxgrove Twins. It is therefore closer to a campaign setting book like Eberron: Rising from the Last War mixed with the first-person flavor of Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything than it is a narrative-focused book like Descent into Avernus. But there is still a 20-page adventure called ‘THE HOUSE OF LAMENT’ that weaves together many different Domains like a whirlwind tour of horror.
With the both the cover and limited-edition art cover you will notice the strong tie this sourcebook will have to the Curse of Strahd adventure as Strahd himself stands on the front page. Game Designer Amanda Hamon, who worked on the Barovia section of the book, promises that Van Richten’s Guide to Ravenloft provides a “direct through line” from Curse of Strahd, but the main draw here is a fully fleshed-out resource for those 30 new Domains of Dread, each with its own supervillain to match Strahd. Some of the “Domains of Dread” will spark memories of old horror stories from our own world. For example, in the domain LAMORDIA, players explore the horror of experimentation associated with creating undead beings from deceased body parts by a Dr. Viktra Mordenheim. An official release from publisher Wizards of the Coast reads. “Other horrors include the surreal, fairytale masquerades of DEMENTLIEU; treachery in the war-torn rain forests of KALAKERI; and the endless zombie hordes of FALKOVNIA.”
F. Wesley Schneider, a game designer at Wizards of the Coast, describes the Domain Dementlieu as being stuck in an “endless masquerade” with a “ghostly Red Death meets Cinderella” vibe in what we might call a macabre fairy tale. “If every Domain is a horror funhouse, Lamordia is the Frankenstein country with mad scientists, flesh golems, and horrible science gone wrong against a hostile snowy background,” Schneider also promises. “What happens when there are more zombies than fireballs?” he says of Falkovnia, “How does that impact a society?” Vlad Drakov, a ruthless mercenary resembling the real-life Vlad the Impaler that most Dracula myths are based on, is Falkovnia’s Darklord. “He may be the Domain’s last hope to survive against the overwhelming hordes!” Schneider says. In another Domain rooted in Indian folklore, rival forces are at war for control. All these stories will be available for players to fully stretch out and utilize in their campaigns.
One of the other exciting things about this new book is the new subclasses and races that will be highlighted. With a more gothic and horror inspiration it is no surprise that ‘Van Richten’s Guide to Ravenloft’ also expands some of game-changing Lineage rules presented in Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything that expand the potential Races and Backgrounds that players can give their characters. The “Gothic Lineages” presented in a late-January Unearthed Arcana appear in the book, offering Dhampir (half-vampire, half-human), Hexblood (descended from a hag), and Reborn (a person brought back from the dead) as playable options. Similarly, the College of the Spirits subclass for Bards and Undead Pact subclass for Warlocks, both of which appeared in an August 2020 Unearthed Arcana, appear in the book, allowing for both classes to lean into dark necromancy more than ever before.
There are many reasons to be excited about this upcoming 5e D&D release and we here at BSP Games hope you will join us in our upcoming release party and store sponsored campaigns. This book is set to release on May 18th, 2021 and I know I’ll be picking up a copy for myself. Don’t forget to come by the store and preorder your copy before it’s too late!
Edited by: Marco Vazquez
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