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Ravenloft 5th Edition Review

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  • #61
    Yeah, the counterpart description was used somewhere - I want to say in a thread on rpg.net - which mentioned them, but in the examples I've seen they look more akin to Alice in Wonderland, Labyrinth, and Legend. But I still want some sort of bright happy counterpart to original Ravenloft and its core, just because I think it would be fun.

    And yes, Richemulot was disappointing. I always rather liked it for its whole "this is fine" attitude, even though everyone was very aware that it wasn't, and there was clearly a lot of rot - physical, social, etc. - under the surface. And I could never in a million years picture Jacqueline wearing anything with a rodent motif, let alone something as tacky as slippers, given the curse she lives under.


    What is tolerance? It is the consequence of humanity. We are all formed of frailty and error; let us pardon reciprocally each other's folly. That is the first law of nature.
    Voltaire, "Tolerance" (1764)

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    • #62
      The Other Domains number 22, some new, some old (For comparison, we just reviewed 17 Domains). Each will get a proper title, a brief impression and my opinion on how interesting and useful it is.

      I’ll do this in two installments, though, as I want to deliver the first batch quickly and one of them is expanded on the book and will also be so here. So we have 14 Domains today.

      CYRE 1313

      A good Pocket Domain is always an interesting addition. The brief description give little to do with the Darklord, but the machine itself is well defined. Easy to use, interesting and versatile.

      FORLORN

      The focus goes on Tristen, which is a shame because that means a huge lot of simplification to fit everything in a single paragraph. There is no description of the domain, so I think it is interesting but lack usefulness.

      GHASTRIA

      A bit changed and even more Dorian Grey, but this wasn’t the most complex place to begin with. It focus more on the art and let the orgies to the side, predictable but a shame. As interesting and useful as the original.

      G’HENNA

      Some expected retcon, but enough information to be useful, I only think they could have been more directly on saying the people there is starving and the animals are anthropophagi (even herbivores). But good enough.

      INVIDIA

      Completely overhauled and ridiculous. The Darklord is the ultimate overbearing mother and the greatest threat is her spoiled child. She’s also dumb, as she summons demons and whatnot to care for the child then doesn’t understand why people don’t want to stay around.

      KEENING

      It lacks direct mention to Tristessa’s child, but otherwise describes her well without dwelling on it too much, so it has some spare text for the domain. Marbh-Cathair isn’t mentioned, but it has a living village of deaf people. As far as it goes, interesting and useful as is.

      KLORR

      New Domain named after an old character now made Darklord, call it Domain of References. Despite that it is curious and creative enough, too short for so many story hooks. Interesting and useful, but requires more work.

      MARKOVIA

      Overhauled by a more direct take on the base themes, but it works well for a short write-up, a scientist getting ever more bestial, worshiped by animals getting ever more intelligent. Good, interesting, useful, easy to apply.

      THE NIGHTMARE LANDS

      Retconned to make Illhousen’s clinic into its center and his lover into the Darklord, and there’s no mention to the Abber Nomads. While it is useful as is, could have been done better and the changes are uninteresting.

      NIRANJAN

      New domain and forms an unofficial cluster with Kalakeri. Plays on themes of brainwashing cults and has a metallic dragon for Darklord as a nice twist. Interesting, easy to use, makes good use of the space given.

      NOVA VAASA

      Little to no resemblance to the original, it’s a little twist in the Domain torn by War trope. I like more the duality between Tristen and Malken, but Myar and Malkan work, so I’d say less interesting, but still plenty useful.

      ODIARE/ODAIRE

      Almost no change except the name as above. I know what the old name means, I don’t know what was the problem for the Domain to be so named except for being a weird conjugation. It’s well summed and works.

      THE RIDER’S BRIDGE

      I think this is their third attempt at doing this Domain, first was the Winding Road at 2nd ed, then the Endless Road at 4th ed. Made into a Pocket Domain, kept simple and of uncertain origin, useful but predictable.

      RISIBILOS

      Now I have to concede, they really dug deep to find this one. The domain itself is completely changed, but the new one works as well as the old one, I think? I mean, it equally doesn’t, yet is as funny a joke, I like it.


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      • #63
        As mentioned earlier, one of the things I really didn't like in this section is that they shoved Sithicus into the "dead domains" territory of Klorr. Like, they have mentioned before the book came out that "Lord Soth's presence will be felt in Ravenloft even though he was freed from the Domain", and in the end the only thing we got was a "black rose like citadel" getting drawn to its ultimate ruin- which only shows that the team either did not do any research (like reading the actual novel and how Sithicus ended up after Soth left) or that they outright ignored it out of (misguided) thought that the replacement of Soth by Inza was done by the 3e line (the novels predated 3e Ravenloft and Inza as the Darklord was first published in Dragon magazine by the author of the novels), which only emphasize my feeling that they did not do their research- at least, no more than reading a wikipedia article on a very shallow level.

        I mean, sure, they probably left it open ended enough by describing Nedraggard only, and the citadel was consumed by the shadows, but between Klorr being the place where domains go to die and the lack of Sithicus it is clear what their intention was. I guess that between them avoiding 3e Ravenloft and their "relationship" with Dragonlance (especially while the book was written) probably explain why Sithicus was sent into Schrodinger's box- but it is still annoying.. On the other hand, perhaps it was for the best. Who knows how badly Inza would have turned up if they were to write about the Domain.


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        • #64
          Originally posted by LostLight View Post
          I mean, sure, they probably left it open ended enough by describing Nedraggard only, and the citadel was consumed by the shadows, but between Klorr being the place where domains go to die and the lack of Sithicus it is clear what their intention was. I guess that between them avoiding 3e Ravenloft and their "relationship" with Dragonlance (especially while the book was written) probably explain why Sithicus was sent into Schrodinger's box- but it is still annoying.. On the other hand, perhaps it was for the best. Who knows how badly Inza would have turned up if they were to write about the Domain.
          Klorr isn't where domains go to die. It contains reflexes of domains destroyed and still existing. And, in the end, it is just another, really weird, domain.

          Not that I disagree with your conclusions and I'm just as annoyed about it all. But then there's Tovag, where things get even worse...


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          • #65
            Finally my final post on the Domains. Following that comes the Travelers in the Mists section, where I'll review their take on cross-domain organizations, characters and stuff.

            SCAENA


            Simplifying what’s already simple, they not only did unnecessary changes to Lemont’s history, they made his plays American style gorefest horror, which limits tremendously any use for it. Bland, but has enough material.

            SEA OF SORROWS

            Turned into a pocket Domain of sorts, I miss old Van Riese obsession with charting new routes, the new one is a little bland, but it works. The islands remain and I will comment the ones presented, but they’re technically not their own Domains anymore:

            - Blaustein: the same, but Bluebeard was imprisoned by his wives;
            - Dominia: now all the patients are Heinfroth himself through multiple lenses;
            - Isle of the Ravens: brought from the Nocturnal Sea, otherwise unchanged;
            - The Lighthouse: new and interesting, I like the fossil motif;
            - Vigilant’s Bluff: new, interesting and useful to make a safe heaven.

            THE SHADOWLANDS

            It seems more wrong than retconned, due to how much it actually sticks to the original themes, but have to deal with the constraints. It encapsulates the spirit of the Shadowlands Cluster, is interesting, but has little of use for a newcomer.

            SOURAGNE

            Overhauled, now Misroi is an undead prison warden on the lookout for prisoners, and Souragne seems a little more gloom and small, although it may be just an impression. I prefer the old, but this is interesting and good.

            STAUNTON BLUFFS

            The only domain that got a new write-up in 4th edition, with some retcons. Now it got completely overhauled and is about a Groundhog Day-style ongoing war, with Stonecrest being sacked every day. Interesting, but limited in use.

            TOVAG

            Overwhelmingly stupid. They retconned Vecna’s time in Ravenloft, which is insulting even after all we went through here, and Kas is locked in an eternal war against… nothing. Imbecilic offensive and useless.

            VHAGE AGENCY

            New Domain, either Pocket or Island. Extremely derivative, but that works with the word-count constraint, it throws too many loose hooks, so will be a lot of work to use well, but have good potential. Interesting, useful, but hard.

            ZHERISIA

            Shortened, they simplified Timor to place there some random monster they made for this book, and the city is only described as constantly engulfed in riots. Only Sodo himself is more described, acts personally now and eats organs. Lame, easy to use, though.


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            • #66
              I always liked original Zherisia for being a blatant stand and exaggeration of Jack the Ripper's London/Whitechapel, as I thought it worked well for that sort of murder mystery genre, as well as certain Penny Dreadful tropes. Although I sort of wish it and Timor were a city in or on the border of Mordent.


              What is tolerance? It is the consequence of humanity. We are all formed of frailty and error; let us pardon reciprocally each other's folly. That is the first law of nature.
              Voltaire, "Tolerance" (1764)

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              • #67
                Originally posted by No One of Consequence View Post
                I always liked original Zherisia for being a blatant stand and exaggeration of Jack the Ripper's London/Whitechapel, as I thought it worked well for that sort of murder mystery genre, as well as certain Penny Dreadful tropes. Although I sort of wish it and Timor were a city in or on the border of Mordent.
                First of all, Merry Christmas! Just arrived from my sister's house (we commemorate Christmas at midnight around here). 1:45 in the morning, I guess it isn't Christmas yet in EST. First post of Christmas for me, anyway.

                I think Paridon works well as an Island, as it's technological stage could be a bit too much for the Core. Also, it certainly plays well with the legendary London fog. But it would be interesting as a part of Mordent, too.

                But Timor, I don't know. While most Conjunction's changes were good, I do miss the original city of Timor and the role of the Queen there.

                Otherwise, focusing on social revolt for Paridon is... a little weird. And they don't even mention it's XIX century feel, or the Divinity of Mankind and its Monks. Really sad choices right there.


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                • #68
                  Feliz Natal.

                  If one wanted a domain based on the dark side of social upheaval, revolution, and mob rule, I think Galt from Pathfinder would be a good starting point. It even has guillotines that eat peoples' souls.


                  What is tolerance? It is the consequence of humanity. We are all formed of frailty and error; let us pardon reciprocally each other's folly. That is the first law of nature.
                  Voltaire, "Tolerance" (1764)

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                  • #69
                    With the Clusters, Mistways and regular Mist travelers gone, the section on the Travelers makes up for the unifying threads that link the many Domains into a larger setting. Here we have a mixed bag of new and old organizations and characters, with varying degrees of change to the old ones.

                    Now, overall this section works. We have a broad spectrum of them to keep things interesting in a cross-domain game, but not too much that could make things hard for new players to follow. But they also stretch too much the notion of the Domains as so isolated as the book outright says they are. While this section does not directly contradicts this statement, it seems hard to see them working without breaking it.

                    Keepers of the Feather

                    A mostly rewritten rendition of theKeepers of the Black Feather inCurse of Strahd, they’re changed even more here. I find it a bit disappointing, because both in the adventure and here this eliminates the only meaningful connection they had to Strahd and the Zarovitches. The original Keepers weren’t necessarily Raven-related, despite many important members being either Wereravens or Ravenkin (a species of intelligent raven without any innate shapeshifting ability), but were linked to Strahd in that their current leader was the last priest of the Sun god of Barovia, Andral, a position Sergei had at the time of his murder. The Holy Symbol of Ravenkind is this god’s symbol originally.

                    I find the new Keepers and the new history of the Symbol very bland, but the way they’re turned into Travelers is quite curious. Now it is (outside Barovia) a society of occultists mostly driven by curiosity, a reference to the popularization of séances and the like in late XIX century Europe and very reminiscent of Spiritism (my mom’s religion, by the way, so I know it well). The wereravens manipulate the mostly ignorant society from afar, yet the Keepers do get their hands in a number of real stuff and have the Rookeries, through which they manage the most trustworthy cross-domain communications system. Okay, I guess?

                    Vistani

                    On one hand, they undid the previous retcon they had done in 4th edition. Instead of planar travelers, here the Vistani are strictly described as a Ravenloft phenomena. They hail from Barovia’s original world, but now are adapted to the Mists. Also, instead of just saying they’re a culture without ties to species, they settle for stating that the Vistani incorporate a few traveling companions, it is rare, but enough that while they’re mostly human, you’ll find the odd non-human Vistani here and there.

                    For me, that works splendidly well. Opening the Vistani just this little bit is a long shot at making them better to integrate into a game, add some variety and explain out some official characters (like the Halfling Vistana Luba) without making them too generic.

                    But on the other hand, they avoid depicting the Vistani as either being mistrusted or deserving it like the plague, and I think it has two major drawbacks. First, it outright went from racism because they’re mostly shady people to racism because they’re too idealized. People who suffer from racism know well how both can be horrible.

                    Here they went so far that they outright stripped the Radanaviches from Vistani status. Now they are presented as a family of criminals that pretended to be Vistani, and Ezmeralda is a Vistani only through adoption. Utterly ridiculous, only Madame Eva is kept as a somewhat shady Vistana, and even her isn’t described as certainly an evil one, she may be just mysterious. And Hyskosa is now outright a hero...

                    The greatest harm to their own depiction, though, is that the Vistani are described as regulars everywhere, not a constant or predictable sight, but frequent enough for everyone to know about them and expect to trade with them. That makes it really hard to swallow that people don’t believe or are curious about other Domains if they know for a fact those Mist wanderers exist and bring news and goods from other lands.

                    Church of Ezra

                    From all religions in the setting Ezra used to be the most spread and, despite many schisms, it was interesting in how much contact the sects of the church had. If this was kept somehow, it would be really interesting. But instead it is just a paragraph to repeat that it doesn’t happen and in each Domain it is its own thing. Why is this even here, then?

                    The Circle

                    Simplified and made more stupid, IMO. The tragedy of the Knights of the Shadow was exchanged for a version that instead acts like the most straightforward stereotype of Lawful Good = Lawful Stupid, being in many ways the exact opposite of what the Circle was in Ravenloft (or even in their original world). They’re also stripped of their more varied membership to be just a bunch of knights from the Shadowlands instead of pilgrimaging there.

                    The Kargat and the Kargatane

                    Not much to say about these. They’re pretty much the same, described without much detail, but given enough information about. It does mention their current status as fractious groups warring for the benefit of the factions described in Darkon’s write-up. What just isn’t explained at all, though, is why they are a cross-domain thing and what they do with it, as neither this or Darkon’s write-up give any benefit to be so obtained for them.

                    Order of the Guardians

                    Same as ever, it received a rather grandiose description with little detail, I think it could be better done, but not a bad one, though. They at least make sense even with the more closed domains of this book.

                    Priests of Osybus

                    A completely new faction of soul-stealing immortals trying to free Strahd from Ravenloft. I think it holds enough novelty to be interesting, although it seems we’ll have to wait another chapter to get a more thorough depiction on them, and I think other factions here could have used that benefit.

                    Ulmist Inquisition

                    Same as above, new and described later, but we got a glimpse of a society of Psionic Paladins that are feared for not being very keen on the notion of privacy. Interesting, I’m curious now to see them further.


                    Now, originally I was going to post all the comments on this section at once, but as this is taking more time to write than predicted (‘cause life things to do), I’ll finish with the individual characters later.
                    Last edited by monteparnas; 12-28-2021, 02:10 PM. Reason: Formatting


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                    • #70
                      Alanik Ray and Arthur Sedg(e)wick

                      Ravenloft’s main Holmes & Watson rip-off finally married! There’s a little retcon in that they mashed-up Alanik’s time in Mordent with his later period as constable, making everything happen at Martira Bay, but otherwise this short write-up advanced their story more than changed anything. They also changed Arthur’s name, but’ is so minor I see it more as a typo. Ray is in a wheelchair now, but as result of an accident, so I don’t see a problem, and they formalized they’re a gay couple, no one became a woman here. They moved to Port-a-Lucine, and the only question remaining is again the same: how does they work in such a closed-domains setting?

                      The Caller

                      Since they retconned Isolde so thoroughly, they should have just ditched the Gentleman Caller entirely. They got rid of its main MO, what’s left is utterly generic. Making it change sex at ease isn’t a problem, I don’t see the character getting any weaker if sometimes it bears children itself. With this, a host of characters got harmed.

                      Erasmus van RichtenandEz d’Avenir

                      Linked by the retcons in Rudolph’s backstory. Instead of trapped in Richten Haus, Erasmus’ ghost accompanies the father around, communicating with his associates. Ezmeralda is a new character from CoS, the child of the Radanaviches, now further retconned to only become a true Vistana later in life. They’re interesting, but I think there were better options for this section instead of deepening here the connections of van Richten. TBH, the whole van Richten presence in CoS was more than a little unnecessary for me.

                      Firan Zal’Honan

                      Here you are! Now, this is an Easter Egg I really, really liked! The author here either was one of the few that cared for reading the 1996 novel King of the Dead or, more likely, read the Mistipedia on Azalin Rex to find about his identity prior to coming to Ravenloft. That’s a nice change of pace, and the write-up is full of references and, at the same time, interesting and useful on its own if you want to keep Firan as a distinct character or just didn’t get the connection.

                      Jander Sunstar

                      Protagonist of the very first Ravenloft novel, Vampire of the Mists, Jander is among the longest standing heroes of Ravenloft despite being a vampire and having the accompanying dark impulses. Most of the time he tries to do good and either leave his victims alive or prey on the irredeemable. Why on Earth dd they had to change him into being darker and edgier!?

                      And the changes are just stupid, they’re not simpler than what originally happened, just hollower of meaning or purpose. This very book muses about the possibility of making Tatyana reincarnate outside the Mists, then the character that was one such incarnation gets changed to just a random adventurer. All his original story hooks aren’t just ignored, but completely unmade, and in their place are thrown two hooks that could have been put here anyway without this, aren’t that clever and aren’t that developed to matter.

                      Larissa Snowmane(and Nathan Timothy)

                      Remembering Larissa was a good one. There’s some built-in reluctance with her past that I find odd for her, but overall the write-up is ok. They even acknowledge the origin of her Dance of the Dead, despite no mentions in Souragne’s write-up (Misroi taught her, in the novel he didn’t felt unpaid at all). Citing she’s in her 60s already is also nice, although it may confuse people about her hair (it was always white).

                      A major nitpick is that they focused on making Souragne a plot hook as if she had unfinished business there, while they cited Nathan and didn’t develop further about him. That’s extremely unfair with both characters, with her for ignoring the conclusion of her story, with Nathan for not giving attention to the only “redeemed” Darklord I remember.

                      Rudolph van Richten

                      By the might of the Olympians, what’s this!? Disney doesn’t tone down fairy tales as much as they toned down Rudolph’s backstory, and I’m serious! It is the same basic story, but reworked all over the place to remove the unsavory parts. Remove the unsavory parts from the BG of a monster hunter in a horror-themed book. As said earlier, the Radanaviches are made into fake Vistani and common criminals. Van Richten refuses to treat the injured member because they’re criminals. He dismantles their operation. Irena goes to jail. Baron Metus just kills Erasmus, and his mother for good measure. Irena’s curse works for reasons, but after his family no one else was ever a victim of it.

                      Da fuck. This makes little to no sense, it is utter bullshit. They retconned his death, then put him in CoS, now this!? What’s wrong with them!?

                      The Weathermay-Foxgrove Twins

                      Continuing the trend set with their uncle, the twins got their story made happier to some extent. Now there is no familial strain or worry, Rudolph and George both were completely supportive of two teenagers deciding to train as monster hunters, because their mother apparently has nothing better to wish for her daughters. Since their “uncle Rudolph” didn’t disappeared for good, they follow his steps just because saying your uncle’s fiancé is a monster and being right proves you can handle this life and be a happy person.

                      No, it doesn’t even has nothing to do with Gennifer being possibly infected. This is just a side note. Also, she is a Druid now, because she learned with Rudolph, that is a Priest now, and it makes sense, really, of course. The following art of a Keeper’s Séance going to shit is pretty good, though, and capture very well the group’s feel.


                      My main complain here is how little the write-ups of those groups and characters follow the proposed tone this book ascribes to the setting. Even the new characters and groups, or the ones most changed, are far closer to the old setting, with a Core and clusters and known Mistways and regular trade among Domains, than to a take where all Domains are even more isolated and don’t even know about one another. They not just thread through the Mists, they do so as if this was mundane. Which it used to be, more or less.

                      The Keepers have reliable communication, Vistani are regular inter-domain traders. At least six organizations are immersed in regular cross-domain activities, and the folk wandering the Mists aren’t just secret monster hunters and shady Archmages, but also Private Eyes and good-standing citizens that fully expect to return from a trip across the Mists in time to keep mundane businesses going.

                      While I approve this take more than the officially stated one, this inconsistency is serious. Or rather, this consistent disregard in one large section for the themes and tone of the others.


                      On our next post I’ll take another detour. Chapter 4 is advice for running horror games, I want to save it for the end. I’ll decide if I’ll do chapter 5, where there’s a promise of doing monsters and explaining the Osybus and Ulmist, or if I’ll go to the beginning of the book and read what they actually propose for character creation. Any thoughts, people?
                      Last edited by monteparnas; 12-30-2021, 07:25 PM. Reason: Formatting


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                      • #71
                        A bunch of the more frustrating things in this book seem to come from this impulse of either wanting it both ways or just not even being able to be consistent in tone/approach. They edge Jander on up, yet at the same time change Van Richten and the Foxgrove Twins in the way they do. There's no seeming rhyme or reason to it.

                        Wanting to treat characters and organizations as moving between the domains in an interconnected way, yet basically sundering the idea of connections between the domains otherwise (again, not even a demiplane of its own anymore, let alone a world), feels badly jangled and difficult to find a consistent feel in.

                        Also yes, they did the Circle dirty, as the kids say, and seeming for not much more reason than to get to throw in a mocking "lol, teh lawful good is teh stupide!!1 derp derp."

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                        • #72
                          Yeah, Jander's writeup made me really cringe. I don't get why they changed his story to make him so "evil". I remember that in his first iteration in 5e (Descent of Avernus iirc), WotC suffered from a backlash for how they treated Jander that even the original writer of the novel said "it is not Jander", so they added this "plothook" about there being multitude of Janders. Really, I can't get WHY they edged him so much? Why to take the tragic hero and make him so unsympathetic, removing everything which made him interesting and leaving just a hollow cringe shell? It feels like they decided that they need to give reasons for players to kill him without feeling regret- which just makes me feel like the writer simply didn't like Ravenloft. Vampire of the Mists is the first Ravenloft novel, and it is almost quintessential for feeling what the setting is all about IMO. Those revisions are kicking the original setting where it hurts, and for me shows how the writers really either didn't like the game or worse, didn't care.

                          Because of that, I was terrified of seeing what they planned on doing to Larissa, but fortunately she survived almost unscathed. Sure, there is the strange thing about a "debt" which makes no sense (I think that Misroi stated that the undead she created are his "payment", and let's be honest- if the fate of Willen does not cover the debt I don't know what would). In short, I really feel like I have little to no value from this book- some parts of it I found useful, especially the mechanics like new player options and such, but really I am going to ignore the vast majority of it without a second thought.


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                          • #73
                            Originally posted by LostLight View Post
                            ...

                            Those revisions are kicking the original setting where it hurts, and for me shows how the writers really either didn't like the game or worse, didn't care.

                            ...

                            In short, I really feel like I have little to no value from this book- some parts of it I found useful, especially the mechanics like new player options and such, but really I am going to ignore the vast majority of it without a second thought.
                            Please give an opinion on what you think about this method for multi-quoting. We have to be creative here.

                            On the matter of the authors, what is really clear to me is that they are many, actually, and this team wasn't exactly on the same page. A lot of things stink of editorial order, but the general lack of cohesiveness on how to treat previous material shows that they had many hands on deck and few to no oversight on what those hands were doing. Or if there was, this oversight purposefully chose to not care about old stuff.

                            But I wouldn't say I have little use for this. There are many good ideas and good write-ups in the middle of all the bad stuff and Ravenloft is the kind of fluid setting where I can easily implement the bits I like without hurting the whole as much as they did. So I'd say that, while I really am furious about what they did in general, the book is useful.

                            Just to be clear, though, for their utter lack of respect with the fanbase and what I thoroughly perceive as false advertising (this is not Ravenloft as expected by the consumer), I'm thinking seriously about a lawsuit against them if they don't refund me. I am this pissed off. If I have to give the book back, so be it, but I don't want my money on their hands for this.
                            My final decision was for chapter 5. I took a cursory look and will be a relatively short text for the entire chapter as it’s simple and not that long anyway. It starts with some notes on using and tweaking monsters for horror and then goes for write-ups and stats, including the two new groups, Osybus and Ulmists.

                            HORROR MONSTERS

                            First part, tips on making monsters horrifying, even known monsters. A quick presentation and then they cut to the chase, that’s a positive thing. They define six techniques to achieve this and describe then at some length: origin, notoriety, description, tactics, traits and minions.

                            The techniques are indeed simple and straightforward, and generally good advice. Origin is to use a stat block with a creature with completely distinct background, good advice and delivered ok. Notoriety is the extremely valid advice to make a monster’s reputation precede it, but constructed out of witness ignorance, a notion many GMs slip on, so that’s really good.

                            Description is three clear techniques to make engaging descriptions, could have been better phrased, but isn’t bad. Tactics is about making the monster behave creatively in combat and I think it is still very obscure in how it was written, but is a harder topic to explore in so few words. Traits is the suggestion of borrowing or creating new traits to a stat block, good advice, but very generic, I felt a lack of focus on how to do this for horror, but the examples kind of do that.

                            Minions is a bunch of new traits to add to minions of greater evils, and here I think they could seriously have done a better job, it feels unnecessarily focused on servitors and four out of five are more cool powers than horror tropes. Given context it really misses the mark, except for the first one, Alien Mind, obvious but valid.

                            Closing the section they put the advice to work on a sample creation, the Bagman, and I must say that I liked it. The creature is cool and stands on its own, and the process is described well enough to showcase the advice working. The end result has the stats of a Troll, but twisted into a cursed adventurer that now slips out of bags and other adventure equipment in its maddened search for home, randomly traversing the cracks of reality.

                            An important trait they should have put in the minions subsection, and one they use a lot themselves, is simply immortality. Making monsters immortal, so that they can’t be definitely eliminated just through combat, is really a simple but effective way to emphasize horror without making them more dangerous for the PCs. As a general note, in a horror-themed game combat shouldn’t solve problems, even in D&D. It should certainly happen, but by itself the more you avoid it as conflict resolution, the better. And making the enemy immortal, so that only an appropriate themed action, decision or achievement can resolve the conflict, is a simple, easy to apply tool for that. While they don’t gave this advice they use it, and the Bagman is one such monster.

                            I’ll let it here for now, next will be the general write-ups for most monsters. We have newcomers and old folk, some just upgraded for the new edition, some quite changed. They’ll have a quick summary of my opinion, in a similar fashion to the Other Domains, but I’ll take my time on some of them. Probably I’ll let Priests of Osybus and Ulmist Inquisition for the end, because they have more impact elsewhere so they have a duty to be better written.
                            Last edited by monteparnas; 01-02-2022, 04:05 AM. Reason: Some italicization.


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                            • #74
                              Regarding Tactics, I'm reminded of the bit from the original Ravenloft adventure module, where it said for the DM to run Strahd as they would a PC. Which I interpreted to mean A) be familiar with his stats and abilities and try to use them in the same clever ways PCs use theirs, and B) have him be active with his own plots and movements that advance his own agenda beyond just reacting to the PCs presence.

                              With the idea of Immortality, from a Pathfinder perspective, I keep coming back to the idea of the Darklords (and certain other characters and monsters) having Mythic levels. In the case of the Darklords, their mythic paths are probably the corrupted versions mentioned in Horror Adventures (Butcher, Heretic, etc.)


                              What is tolerance? It is the consequence of humanity. We are all formed of frailty and error; let us pardon reciprocally each other's folly. That is the first law of nature.
                              Voltaire, "Tolerance" (1764)

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                              • #75
                                Originally posted by monteparnas View Post
                                On the matter of the authors, what is really clear to me is that they are many, actually, and this team wasn't exactly on the same page. A lot of things stink of editorial order, but the general lack of cohesiveness on how to treat previous material shows that they had many hands on deck and few to no oversight on what those hands were doing. Or if there was, this oversight purposefully chose to not care about old stuff.
                                Yeah, that's my takeaway too. Poor editorial oversight, and they weren't clear to the authors about how the setting had changed. Also it felt like in some of the places authors were basically allowed to do whatever they wanted, previous material be damned, and that freedom led to some weird, out-of-place stuff like Richemulot where Jacqueline wears rat slippers.

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