Van Richten’s Guide to Ravenloft – What to Expect

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The nightmares of Ravenloft are about to become real. On the 18th of May, the new D&D 5e sourcebook Van Richten’s Guide to Ravenloft hits the stores and brings the mist-shrouded Domains of Dreads and their infamous Darklords to your table.

If you love horror, and you love D&D, this is the book you have been waiting for. In this guide, we will dive into what you can expect from the 256 pages in Van Richten’s Guide to Ravenloft.

What's to Expect?​

Van Richten’s Guide to Ravenloft is the first official D&D 5e sourcebook for the highly popular Ravenloft campaign setting that first appeared in the 1st edition adventure module Ravenloft in 1983 and focused on the legendary vampire Strahd von Zarovich as the villain!

With haunted subclasses, new monsters, concepts, and backgrounds suited for a horror setting, this expansion of Ravenloft’s Domains of Dread for D&D 5e takes you far beyond the Gothic horror realm of Barovia and its dreaded Darklord, Count Strahd von Zarovich.

Whether horror-inclined players at your table are screaming for (or just deserve to be put through) a zombie apocalypse, or you are looking for a way to bring your Curse of Strahd-campaign forward, Van Richten’s Guide to Ravenloft is sure to have something to offer! 

Dark fantasy, cosmic horror, ghost stories, a short adventure and much more will be at your fingertips with this fresh take on the highly popular Ravenloft setting that even comes with the tools to create your own Domains of Dread, Dark Gifts and horror-themed campaign! 

Domains of Dread and Darklords

Van Richten’s Guide to Ravenloft is told through correspondences – think Tasha’s Cauldron to Everything – between the legendary vampire hunter Dr. Rudolph van Richten (D&D’s Van Helsing), and other known figures from Ravenloft such as the Vistani Ezmeralda D’Avenir. 

The 256 pages book provides everything from a bestiary of horrific monsters, a host of new backgrounds, Domains of Dread, and a lot of other cool stuff themed for a horror setting! 

Anyone familiar with the devil Strahd might also know that his kingdom Barovia is but one of many mist-shrouded Domains of Dread known as Ravenloft. A major part of Van Richten’s Guide to Ravenloft is dedicated to those domains, their Darklords, and how they function.

A wobbling 30 Domains of Dread with different horror-themes and their own Darklords are fleshed out in the book – alongside guidelines for creating your own Domains of Dread!  

Some of the domains are completely new, others such as Lamordia and Dementlieu might be a revisit to old nightmares for those already familiar with Ravenloft, while a domain as Falkovnia has been reflavored to new themes (prepare for zombie apocalypse!).

Dark Gifts, Lineages and New Subclasses

Following up on the Lineage rules from Tasha’s Cauldron to Everything, we get three Gothic Lineages (Reborn, Hexblood and the human-vampire Dhampir). 

At the same time we can look forward to the official version of the Undead Pact subclass for Warlocks, and the College of Spirits for Bards! 

My personal favorite is the new mechanic called Dark Gifts – an idea that was played with in Curse of Strahd and has similarities to Dragonmarks in Eberron, and the Piety System in Mythic Odysseys of Theros.

In Van Richten’s Guide to Ravenloft, Dark Gifts are horror-themed abilities that a character can start with. It not only helps provide roleplaying ties to the Domains of Dread but offer concrete benefits – with a potential sinister price to pay, of course! 

The House of Lament

Though the main purpose of the book is to be a source of inspiration for running a campaign in the Ravenloft setting, it also has a short adventure set in a Domain of Dread called the House of Lament. 

The details on this 20-page aventure are still sparse, but for some of you, the name will sound eerily familiar as the House of Lament was featured in the AD&D campaign Domains of Dread!

Without making any promises, I think we can expect an adventure that will take us through a haunted and decaying mansion in a dimension locked in a perpetual state of autumn. The adventure will likely tie together the different, horrific domains of Ravenloft and serve as a great introduction to the setting as a whole! 

Conclusion

All in all, Van Richten’s Guide to Ravenloft seems it will be a great toolbox for providing elements of horror in virtually any D&D campaign, whether through a Dark Gift, a haunted background – or, of course, a visit to one of Ravenloft’s many Domains of Dread.

Following the succes of the highly praised Curse of Strahd campaign in 2016 – and its ‘revamped’ release last year – Van Richten’s Guide to Ravenloft is, in many ways, a natural next step. Personally, I appreciate that Wizard’s of the Coast opted for a sourcebook for Ravenloft as a whole rather than a new campaign within the setting. 

I’ll try to write a review of the book as soon as we get our hands on it at Eventyr Games.

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S. K. Valeur

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