Van Richten Introduces 5e to RavenloftMay 19, 2021
Van Richten’s Guide to Ravenloft is now available in stores. It’s the first of three new fifth edition settings coming from the D&D studio in the next year or two.
The Ravenloft setting is composed of individual Domains of Dread; almost like islands of terror scattered across a misty sea. Each domain has its own Dark Lord who presides over the torment of its subjects, and brings misery to all to catch their notice. Dark powers rule all of Ravenloft and the Domains and their lords are like puppets to their whims.
What’s in it?
The book is 256 pages and has five chapters.
Chapter 1 is all about characters; it includes new backgrounds, and the Dhampir, Hexblood, and Reborn lineages.
It also includes an expansion on the dark gifts first introduced in Curse of Strahd and two new subclasses. Bards get the College of Spirits and Warlock gets the Undead patron.
The College of Spirits recounts tales of valor and inspiration, summoning spirits to enhance their powers…but spirits are fickle, and sometimes chafe at the Bard’s control. The Undead patron offers some of its undead power to its beneficiaries: they don’t need to eat or breathe, and at the highest level can untether from the corporeal form and project their spirit outside of their body.
Chapter 2 provides all the inspiration and guidance a DM needs to develop their own Domain of Dread and new Dark Lords; it also breaks down the different types of horror that they can introduce into their games. Body horror, Dark Fantasy, Psychological, Slasher; it’s actually a bigger list than you’d think.
Chapter 3 takes up about half of the book and provides details on the individual Domains of Dread. 17 domains are given expansive entries including Barovia (the domain of Strahd and his famous Castle Ravenloft,) The Carnival, Darkon, Lamordia, and more.
For these major domains, you’ll get information about the Dark Lord, the type of horror commonly associated with the domain, major places, adventure ideas and more. There’s 20 or so smaller domains each of which is given a paragraph or two…it’s just enough to give you the inspiration you need to flesh out the domains for your own campaign.
You’ll also get some information on the Vistani, noted travelers of the mists, and famous heroes including van Richten, Ez d’Avenir, and others.
Chapter 4 gives you suggestions on how to run a horror game, including new curses, fear and stress, and a short adventure in the House of Lament.
Chapter 5 is a bestiary and includes a host of monsters who would find themselves at home in the mists.
Should you buy it?
Yes. It’s quite possibly the most complete book put out by the fifth edition team.
The lineages are fun, and represent the first new take on “race” in D&D. Stats are independent of lineage, and your lineage offers you fun and unique benefits (Reborn don’t need to sleep or breathe, for example) but your stats are up to you.
The team also made a conscious effort to reframe “madness” and “insanity” as “fear” and “stress;” a welcome swap. We’ve come a long way in the field of mental health to understand how harmful these terms can be, so it’s positive.
If you’re not likely to DM in the next while, the book may not be for you, but it is a wonderful read, even still…and the alternate art cover is just lovely.
If this is the quality of the fifth edition books going forward…the game is in great hands.
Van Richten’s Guide to Ravenloft was provided for review