Be still, my beating heart! The D&D 5e release of Van Richten’s Guide to Ravenloft has been announced with a release date of May 18!
Readers of this blog will know that I have a deep love for all things horror. So it’s no surprise that I’m going a little crazy with excitement for this release!
While the incredible Curse of Strahd adventure is what comes to mind when most D&D players hear the name “Ravenloft,” this campaign setting promises to go beyond Barovia with a dark and fiendish collection of horror adventures for your group to brave!
While Wizards of the Coast has been on fire with a recent string of incredible releases, I haven’t been this excited for a new book in years! The release of Candlekeep Mysteries in March (which you can read about here) definitely seems to be starting 2021 on a high note, but getting a Ravenloft setting for 5e just has me over the moon!
But what can we expect in Van Richten’s Guide to Ravenloft?
Read on to find out!
New 5e Subclasses
Two new subclasses have been announced in Van Richten’s Guide to Ravenloft. As you might expect, both of these fit the dark horror themes of the setting like a glove!
Bard Subclass – College of Spirits
The spirits of heroes live on in grand stories told of their deeds. In this way, Bards of the College of Spirits are able to manifest these spirits from beyond the Material Plane.
Using gaming sets or other tools to reach out to these entities, Bards of the College of Spirits use these stories to embolden themselves and their allies with unique changes to their Bardic Inspiration ability.
The Bard has no control over what tale the conjured spirits will share.
Which tale will you attend?
(Side note: I’m an absolute sucker for props. You can absolutely bet that I’ll be busting out the Tarokka Deck for this one!)
Warlock Subclass – The Undead Patron
Perhaps you choose to make a pact that will allow you to bond with the power of death itself.
Swearing themselves to powerful dark entities such as Count Strahd von Zarovich, Acererak the Lich, or other such figures, Warlocks who take The Undead Patron seek to gain knowledge that can only be achieved over the course of numerous lifetimes.
With the ability to take on a ghastly Form of Dread and blur the line between life and death, these Warlocks are not to be taken lightly.
Three new lineages will be made available in Van Richten’s Guide to Ravenloft. These were first presented in last month’s Unearthed Arcana and provide options that are perfectly suited for tying player characters to the Ravenloft setting!
Torn between life and vampiric undeath, the Dhampir gain abilities similar to that of a vampire but must constantly wrestle with an unrelenting hunger.
Dhampir possess increased speed, supernatural climbing abilities, and a life-draining bite.
Can you resist the urge to feed?
Encounters with insidious hags often leave adventurers… changed…
Of course, this is more true of some than others.
As the Hexblood’s appearance changes, they find themselves tied to the Hag that has influenced them in such a way. As they age, their ears split into forked points, their skin takes on wild shades, and a living crown (known as an “eldercross” or “witch’s turn”) grows from their temples and wraps around their head.
This crown serves as a visible indicator of the Hag’s influence over the Hexblood. Whether as a marker of a debt owed or a grim change to come, the message is clear.
Can you escape the Hag’s clutches?
(Psst… It wouldn’t help to check out our guide to Hags just to be on the safe side!)
Death is not always the end. Through fate, magic, or science, sometimes it is only a new beginning.
The Reborn experience the world seeking answers and experiences as they piece together their new life (or some version of it, at least.)
Reborn are typically grisly to look at. Some still wear scars of whatever led to their demise in their previous life on their pale figures. Others are stitched together creatures a la Frankenstein created in some form of dark laboratory.
Will you find the answers and meaning that you seek?
Van Richten’s Guide to Ravenloft also promises an assortment of Dark Gifts that can be bestowed upon the party.
This seems very similar to the Supernatural Gifts presented in the Mythic Odysseys of Theros campaign setting.
However, it’s probably best not to take the Dark Gifts of Ravenloft at face value. The benefits of these gifts will certainly be powerful and memorable.
But at what cost?
Thirty (Yes, THIRTY!) Domains of Dread
Each Domain of Dread is a type of pocket dimension with its own respective ruler/Dark Lord.
Because there are an astounding 30 different Domains of Dread in Van Richten’s Guide to Ravenloft, that means that we are getting 30 different Dark Lords. Who knows? We may even get a few bonus ones too!
With so many different Domains of Dread, this effectively means that there’s 30 different flavors of horror to haunt and terrify any group that dares to enter the Ravenloft setting.
A few of these have already been teased ahead of the book’s release.
I have to start with the one that is most immediately captivating me: Dementlieu.
This Domain represents a type of twisted mixture of horror and whimsy. It’s as if Edgar Allen Poe decided to rewrite your favorite fairy tales.
I expect some wonderful flavor from this Domain and its ruler, Saidra díHonaire. With aristocratic flair and schemes a-plenty, I can’t wait to dive into this one!
A very specific and primal type of fear exists when it comes to survival.
In the Domain of Valachen, the party finds themselves immediately being hunted through the dense jungles by the domain’s Dark Lord and his displacer beasts.
To complicate matters, there is another party that has found themselves in this “Most Dangerous Game” type of scenario.
No doubt, I expect resources to be a major factor here. As paranoia sets in and the Dark Lord grows ever-closer, one question will drive the party to overcome this treacherous environment:
Can the hunted become the hunters?
I love mythology and folklore, but I know very little about Indian myths. With the Domain of Kalakeri being based on Indian folklore, I’m excited to check this one out!
In this Domain of Dread, the Dark Lords Ramya, Arijani, and Reeva are all fighting for control. In endless struggle between the three Dark Lords, what is the fate of those trapped in the middle of the warring factions?
I expect this to be a setting with tons of tension, a fair amount of intrigue, and a colossal web of terror to be discovered!
Prepare yourself for a zombie apocalypse in this reimagined classic Domain of Dread!
While Falkovnia was originally based more heavily on Dracula, Wizards of the Coast made the (wise) decision to change it up so that it stands separate from
The new ruler of Falkovnia is Vladeska Drakov.
Zombie apocalypse settings became over-done in movies, TV, and books several years ago, but I’ve found myself getting over that burnout thanks to the excitement of this Domain.
I’m very curious to see how this Domain of Dread plays. Zombies may be weaker enemies, but what can you do against a full-blown horde of them? I think that that is when the real terror will begin to sink in at the table…
Few works have had the lasting effect on the horror genre as Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein.”
The Domain of Lamordia is dedicated to the same themes as Shelley’s masterpiece: who is the real monster?
Ruled by the Dark Lord, Dr. Viktria Mordenheim, the party can expect to encounter all manner of stitched-together abominations.
As the Doctor is hunting down an elusive escaped Flesh Golem, the party will find themselves along for the chase.
To what ends?
We have yet to see…
Har’akir finds itself steeped in Egyptian folklore and you can absolutely bet that there will be an unforgettable encounter with at least one mummy. (Personally, I’m crossing my fingers for a Mummy Lord appearance in this one!)
There’s definitely some interesting opportunity for tombs that are filled with deadly traps and ancient riddles here!
While this Domain has the least amount of released information at the time of writing this article, it’s speaking directly to my lifelong obsession with Egyptology and marrying that with my other greatest loves: horror and D&D.
I’m Calling It!
I’m calling it now: this will be THE campaign setting book to get.
I initially expected like a dozen Domains of Dread, but having an astounding thirty different Domains that all seem to be well thought out has me jumping up and down.
Everything that has been released about Van Richten’s Guide to Ravenloft is oozing with flavor and is perfectly geared towards creating an unbeatable horror experience in D&D.
You can get your pre-order in on Amazon or at your friendly, local game store.
In the meantime, you will want to make sure you check out another article I wrote to help you gear up to run an unforgettable horror campaign! (I have to admit, I’m actually really proud of that one and think it will be super helpful!)
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Until next time,
Stay spooky my fiends!