Dungeons and Dragons: Ravenloft

Dungeons and Dragons: Ravenloft

While some of the worlds of Dungeons and Dragons are big and expansive, and Ravenloft can be, in fifth edition, you’ll find that Ravenloft is quite small. It’s also quite different as we’ve shifted away from something that’s heavy fantasy and into a world that can be best described as Victorian Gothic.

Ravenloft is the home to the Vampire Strahd who has been trapped there and lives an eternal life. All the people are trapped there in fact, and in the 5th Edition Adventure, The Curse of Strahd, characters are pulled from the Forgotten Realms into Ravenloft. Not just the people, but souls as well. There is no rest for anyone, because when you die your soul will be put into the next child born. And if there are more people than souls, so be it, those people are shells of people going about their routines that have been created for them.

Most of the games that you’re going to play in Ravenloft are going to be surrounding trying to lift the curse and take out Strahd. Even if it means that you can’t leave Ravenloft, to let souls be able to leave and have rest is going to be a driving force to the game. And campaigns in Ravenloft are going to be more deadly by nature because resurrection magics don’t work in the setting, so if you’re dead, you’re dead and your soul will be reborn, but you won’t be adventuring anymore. Granted, there’s a chance that if you die, you’re just becoming a vampire and joining Strahd’s undead.

Image Source: Wizards of the Coast

When thinking about this setting, besides the vampire, it’s going to feel different because instead of the more traditional fantasy feeling houses, this world is going to have that run down Victorian era feel to it. And there are going to be things, cults, monsters, and the like, hiding around the corners. This is going to be a good setting for that spooky horror game as it’s going to feel more familiar to the players because it’s less steeped in fantasy. A downside to this is that you can’t play many/any other types of game in Ravenloft. There’s a lot of dark things to toy around with and you can focus on different pieces of it, though it’s likely to come back to Strahd in the end, but there is no grand world to travel through, there are mists that keep adventurers from being able to escape Raveloft and Strahd’s reach. So try as they might, the only momentary release from the darkness of the world is death. For that reason, you’re not likely to find happy NPC’s around Ravenloft as well. They are going to be feeling the weight of the darkness that locks them in the lands, and even though they don’t know who their soul was previously or have those memories, they’re going to be feel the weight of being reborn again and again.

This sort of setting is going to work well for some groups. I think that I could enjoy running or playing a game in it, but there has to be buy in that this is the type of game that you’re going to be playing. It’s going to be more depressing than your normal fantasy, and if you have new players, it’s not going to be what they expect from Dungeons and Dragons. I don’t know that Ravenloft is an advanced setting, I would say more so that it’s a setting that you need to warn people about. And not just once in passing, repeat it when picking to play in this setting, because it will feel different than they are expecting. But it does offer a lot of options in terms of delving into that spooky sort of game.

Have you played in the lands of Ravenloft and fought against the Vampire Strahd? How do you like it compared to the more fantasy focused worlds of D&D?

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