MDN: 10 Ravenloft Facts You Should Know Before Van Richten’s Guide

Hearing the name “Ravenloft”, most Dungeons and dragons fans immediately think of Count Strahd Von Zarovich. However, there is so much more to Ravenloft than Strahd’s iron rule over Barovia. Ravenloft was born from the minds of Tracy and Laura Hickman in the late 1970s when, during a D & D session, a pathetic excuse for a vampire was encountered in a dungeon.

Tracy Hickman believed the vampire lacked extravagance – that he needed a large castle and minions to carry out his every whim and motivation, which would terrify even the most resilient adventurers. Strahd was born from the joint imagination of the Hickmans, and from there this epic Gothic horror-style campaign setting evolved into something as grand as it was horrifying.

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The half-plan of dread

Also known as Dread Domains or Dread Domains, the Dread Half Plane is a pocket dimension located in a remote corner of Shadowfell. This makes perfect sense given the dark and dismal nature of Shadowfell. It’s impossible to say how great the dread domains are because no one has ever been able to successfully map them in their entirety. It is believed that a number of realms were once part of the Material Foreground that were trapped by the Mists and dragged into the Shadowfell.

Each dread realm is overseen by a Darklord, the best-known example being Strahd’s reign over Barovia. However, the Dark Lords are not the supreme power; they respond to higher, much darker forces that would be responsible for the overall creation of the Dread Realms.

Dark powers

Not much is known about the Dark Powers except that they rule the Dread Realms from a mysterious vantage point that allows them to manipulate even the most powerful Dark Lords. Many Dark Lords are beholden to the powers of Darkness, manipulated in such a way that they cannot see so that they continue to carry out their will and provide them with entertainment. For example, Strahd’s obsessive love for Tatyana is inevitably doomed to eternal failure, but the powers of darkness continually provide him with enough incentive to continue to pursue him.

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Some Dark Lords are completely ignorant of the powers of Darkness, although this hardly means that they are immune to their influences. For example, Dark Lord Vlad Drakov of Falkovia is completely oblivious to outside interference in the constant defeat of his many military campaigns, believing his failures to be nothing more than fate, while constantly encouraging him to continue. to fight.

The dark lords

Each Dread Realm is overseen by a Dark Lord, a powerful figure of great evil whose deeds are so terrible they are usually beyond redemption. These dark lords have drawn the attention of the powers of darkness with their actions, earning themselves an eternity’s imprisonment in the realms of dread. While this makes them look like victims, nothing could be further from the truth. These villains revel in the power bestowed upon them over their domain, often reigning with a cruelty and wickedness that no one who served under them will ever forget.

The most famous Dark Lord is Strahd, who made a pact with “Death” and then murdered his brother, Sergei, on the day he was to marry the beautiful Tatyana. Other Dark Lords include Vecna ​​(who escaped when he became a god), Lord Soth, Vlad Drakov, Madame Radanavich, Baroness Ilsabet Obour and Tristen Apblanc.

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The dreaded mists

One of the most mysterious aspects of Demiplanes of Dread is the eerie mists that surround the entire plane. Ethereal in nature, there is nothing magical about them. They appear to be a bit more than normal fog – but they are anything but normal. Few can navigate it successfully, and those who can should be viewed with suspicion.

Mists are known to envelop unwary travelers and carry them to the Dread Realms. In some cases, they’ve even surrounded buildings, armies, or entire cities that then mysteriously vanished from their location in the material foreground only to reappear in one of the many dread realms. Many of those trapped there spend the rest of their days fighting the evil forces there while searching for a way to return home.

Magic works differently there

There are many places in the multiverse where magic is affected by unexplained forces; the Demiplane of Dread is one of them. The Dark Powers watch over those they’ve dragged into their half-plane, and it’s usually by their will alone that creatures are allowed to leave. This means that spells like Change of Plan are more or less out of the question. Even if a magical user could successfully trigger one, there’s a good chance it would simply drop him into an even more dangerous and horrific region of the Dread Realms.

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Divination magic, like Scry, summoning spells, or necromantic magic may not work at all. However, other types of magic, like the Vampiric Touch spell, could be greatly enhanced as it feeds directly on the nature of the realms to suck life out of something to rejuvenate itself.

Superstition is a staple

Life in the Dread Realms is incredibly unpredictable, which has led to a lot of superstition and fear among its inhabitants. Many of them have seen an entire city disappear or know someone who knows a midwife who gave birth to a monster instead of a baby. Maybe they haven’t seen the baby monster firsthand, but they’ve heard about it from a trusted source – and there are enough of these mysterious and horrific rumors going around to get people to beware. against it happening to them and those they love. .

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Don’t trust anybody

Superstition goes hand in hand with an unhealthy distrust of strangers. When a lost adventure group falls in town, no one should expect the locals to welcome them with open arms. There might be a few elders who might want to talk or run the party to someone else who can, but they are probably seen as roaming fools to other townspeople. One of the saddest aspects of this mistrust is that it doesn’t just extend to strangers, but almost everyone. There is probably no one in town who wouldn’t sell their best friend if it meant saving their son or daughter (or themselves) from the wrath and torment of the Dark Lord.

Religion is anything but forbidden

Divine magic is a rarity in the realms of dread, and there are few clerics who can actually summon the power they need to minister healing to the masses. Despite the abundant need for healing, most would view such magic with suspicion and suspicion. It’s not something they see often because religious practices are prohibited in so many areas. Whether the Dark Lords forbid these practices out of fear or whether the powers of darkness had succeeded in preventing the light of the Godhead from entering the mist and shadows, it would be difficult to find a temple where they could actually commune with their god.

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Humans are the predominant race

Humans tend to be the predominant race when it comes to dread, although that doesn’t mean there aren’t any elves, dwarves, halflings, or the like at all. They just tend to be rarer, and no one knows why. Non-humans are so rare in some areas that a human inhabitant could go their entire life without ever having encountered one. Of course, this further reinforces their suspicion and superstition when non-human travelers arrive in their cities. Many of them have never even heard of, let alone seen, a Dragonborn or Tiefling, so the random appearance of any of them would certainly cause reluctance among suspicious locals.

There are Ravenloft novels

In the 1990s, TSR published a multitude of fictional novels, starting with Mist Vampire, exploring the Demiplane of Dread. Over 20 novels have explored the many planes and the dreaded Dark Lords who oversaw them. There were three novels about Strahd Von Zarovich among them, detailing his backstory and memoir. There were also tales of Lord Soth, a riverboat dancer whose magical dance could potentially stop a zombie apocalypse and the Baroness’ dreaded rise to power as a vampire of souls.

There were news collections that explored the very darkness of the Demiplane of Dread, drawing players and fans even deeper into the setting of gothic horror. We can only hope Van Richten’s Guide to Ravenloft will launch an all-new series of fiction books for fans to explore the realms of dread in their campaigns.

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