Our Dungeon Master has been digging through his gaming chest at the news of new Ravenloft content.
With Wizards of the Coast’s Curse of Strahd releasing earlier this month, I wanted to take the time to go back through some of my old 2nd edition Ravenloft modules , dive in, and relive what made them so good. The Domains of Dread were hands down my favorite AD&D setting growing up. I loved the novels, I loved playing, I got to DM it once or twice. It was an entirely different pace and atmosphere than regular ol’ D&D.
So first…what is Ravenloft (to those who know not)?
You’ve adventured far and wide…you’re experienced…you’ve seen it all…your trusty longsword in one hand; shield gripped tight in the other you stand ready for anything. In a clearing, tall pines surround you and your party. The moon is high in the sky, swollen. Its lunar glow casting a pale light over you and your companions. Grunts and howls, accompanied by the rustling of dense undergrowth have you on edge. Looking into the shadows of the lofty trees you await the imminent ambush. As you mull over scenarios spawned of an active imagination, a snakelike mist swirls around the base of the pines, creeping outward. Ghostly fingers, looking for something to grab onto. The animalistic noises sound more intense, you feel they are on top of you but the thickening mist makes it harder to see. You glance around, cold sweat dripping off your neck and trickling down your back. You shiver. You only see one member of the party and whisper harshly to tighten ranks. The party heeds your warning and make their way towards your voice. The mist is now to your knees. Here and there a tendril of vapor breaks loose and shoots up, to peak, and then settle back down where it spawned. It seems unnaturally alive. You hear agitated motion and a grunt to your left. You turn your head. One of your party, you can’t tell who the mist is too thick now, snaps forward at the waist plunging head first into the blanket of fog. A dull thud follows, then a sound of something, or someone being dragged rapidly away from you. The howling stops; the growling distant. The mist begins to recede, and as it clears, you and your remaining companions look around, terrified, upon an entirely different landscape…
Welcome to Ravenloft.
The Domains of Dread, D&D’s gothic horror setting. A land that exists on the ethereal plane and is bordered by the strange, and powerful mists. A land that can reach out and take from any other world and claim what it wants as its own by sending the mist to steal it. Whether that be an innocent person the mists just want to play with, a wicked villain that Ravenloft wants for itself, or even a chunk of land from the material plane. Ravenloft wants what Ravenloft gets. The land is pure evil and for lack of a better word, alive.
Beings of extreme monstrosity are lured to Ravenloft and once there, if the world decides, they stay and often are granted a domain. A prison, where the collected being has power over the land but cannot leave, not even to enter another domain. The world changes itself, adapts, and rearranges itself to its desires. Deities have trouble communicating with their chosen. The mists act as a holy filter. Magic is tainted. It’s a terrible land where good is hard to come by, and even then it’s easily manipulated. Compared to most other D&D worlds, maybe DarkSun being the exception, likelihood of survival is very slim. Most player characters don’t make it very far, the land itself can change you. Minor unseemly choices that may be overlooked in other worlds can trigger the attention of Ravenloft, making characters suffer horror and madness that can ultimately turn them into the evil they initially sought to vanquish. Even going as far as to be gifted the right to become a lord of a domain themselves. I’m going to periodically show you glimpses into the horror realm, this is just a taste. Lick your lips…