The Ye Olde Wayfarer's Adventurer's Almanac
Relics from Baron von Radomir’s Vaults
Ravenloft- Realm of Terror
Retro Review Halloween Special
Ah, my fellow Adventurer’s, Friends, and newcomer alike. Please come in, for the night is dark, and things which may never see the light of day have crawled out of the dim to stalk the land. Even as we speak the night’s ebony shroud stalks the western land and stretches out to claim us. Have a mug of your favorite ale and pull up a chair by the fireside. Welcome, Adventurers, Travelers, and Friends, to the Ye Olde Wayfarer’s Adventurer’s Almanac. Here we tell tales from Adventures long ago, Fantasy Worlds, World-building, Inspiration, and more.
It is peculiar that the shadows are so thick this very evening. You see, I was looking through the Adventurer’s Logs, which we refer to as Legends from the Labyrinth, when I had a brief, yet sharp knock at the door. The man who stood there bore in his cloak; a box covered in holy seals. With a look of profound concern, I regarded the traveler. At once a stalwart and strong-willed man, the strenuous circumstances had taken its toll on him, for he was gaunt, haggard, and nigh at his limits. With only enough words to give me the origin of this divinely sealed box he thrust it into my hands and stumbled away into the darkness. It was a Relic from Baron von Radomir’s Vaults. Upon further investigation, it was clear that the seals were meant to keep out the unliving. With my curiosity piqued, I peered inside to see its contents.
Upon opening the coffin-like box, I found myself taken aback as I beheld something dark and wondrous indeed. So, bolt the windows and fill up the lamps, to keep the darkness out, and settle in as we delve into the shadows of this dark discovery.
Ravenloft Realm of Terror-
Ravenloft, the name alone invokes images of Ghosts, Vampires, Werewolves, and other creatures of the night, and rightfully so as the Gothic Horror setting allowed Players and Dungeon Masters to play out adventures that seemed more like the old black and white Horror films of the early to mid-20th Century. Drawing upon Gothic literature such as Dracula, Frankenstein, the Works of Edgar Allen Poe, H. P. Lovecraft, and more, Ravenloft appealed to the horror lovers of Dungeons & Dragons. While it was more story based and centered more around Roleplay rather than Roll-play, it gave Dungeon Masters the opportunity to shine as the setting really took the initial interactions and exploration to the next level.
At the beginning of it all was the original Ravenloft, Module I6, for the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 1st Edition. Written by Tracy Hickman, co-creator, and author of the Dragonlance Saga, and his wife Laura, who wanted to see Vampires really step up to be the full-bodied horror menaces they were meant to be rather than just another Monster Manual Entry with Stats and Experience Points. The Original Module was
set as a standalone adventure which pit the heroes against the main antagonist, Count Strahd von Zarovich, a Vampire of Renown power, in a Scenario much like that of a Hammer Horror Dracula plot. Ravenloft II- The House on Gryphon Hill, Brought Back Strahd, but also introduced Characters like Azalin, the Lich, and the Ghost, Lord Wilfred Godefroy.
It took TSR almost a decade to make the Demiplane of Dread, Ravenloft, a Setting all its own. The Ravenloft- Realm of Terror boxed set was a Campaign for AD&D 2nd Edition that was unlike any which had come before. Ravenloft invaded other worlds and drew in the sinister and most vile and innocent alike. Set in a remote part of the Ethereal Plane, Ravenloft was made up of Domains, Kingdom-like realms, that were each and every one autonomous, and self-governing, with a Darklord whose fate was tied to the very land making them both the Lord and Prisoner of the Realm.
The Realm of Terror Boxed Set came with everything you needed to create tales of Gothic Horror, providing you had the core rule books for the AD&D 2nd Edition and the dice. Inside the box was the 144-page campaign sourcebook which detailed both the lands as well as how to run the Ravenloft Campaign. There were four full poster maps of the lands and major cities of interest, a transparent map overlay for distance and time. And twenty-four cardstock sheets detailing haunted locales, and key Families of the Dark Realms.
Ravenloft was the perfect blend of Fantasy and Gothic Horror, a trait that could also be found in the classic Castlevania Games, so if you were a fan of Castlevania, then Ravenloft was definitely the campaign setting for you. With vampires, werewolves, ghosts, curses, family manors, monster hunters, and all the trappings of the traditional Gothic Horror genre, a session could play out like an old Black and White Horror movie. The beauty of Ravenloft is that it was more story-driven than its fantasy siblings, like Forgotten Realms, Greyhawk, Dragonlance, and such. Ravenloft was a bit of a melting pot for these worlds as well, as the mists would reach into these other realms and draw people and places alike to the demiplane where they would either have to find their way back, or forever be trapped in the Land of the Mists.
The interesting thing about Ravenloft was how it affected certain types of characters, offering the temptation to give in to the darker impulses of their characters and potentially become one of the vile darklords with a realm of their own. Ravenloft used this as a way to keep particularly cruel player characters in check. The Dark Powers of Ravenloft would “reward” the actions with enhanced abilities, that could eventually lead them to losing control of their characters as they give over to the curse that comes with their new domain. At the same time, good characters, especially Lawful Good Characters such as Paladins, become like a beacon to the evil beings of the Realm, and as such puts a target on those would be heroes’ backs. Worse, the darkness of Ravenloft also entices the fall of such virtuous characters. But with such a fall, is the story of redemption.
Since the Realm of Terror Boxed Set’s release in 1991, the Land of the Mists have seen several incarnations over the years, including two expansions that led the mists to invade the literary Earth referred to as Gothic Earth where Dracula, Frankenstein, Sherlock Holmes, and other such literary icons lived out their stories. I will Cover Ravenloft- Masque of the Red Death, Terror in the 1890’s in a future segment, for it’s contents were among those in the box brought by the mysterious courier. Ravenloft still to this day is one of the most
underrated of the D&D campaign worlds. The D20 Ravenloft (3.0/3.5) is easily compatible with Pathfinder RPG, Dungeon Crawl Classics, Castles & Crusades, as well as any other D20 system based Roleplaying system. The Original modules I6, Ravenloft and I10 Ravenloft II- The House on Gryphon Hill, as well as the Realm of Terror, Ravenloft Campaign Setting V2, and Ravenloft Domains of Dread can still be played with minimal adjustments using, the Castles & Crusades, and OSRIC, Roleplaying Systems. The Most Recent of these, Curse of Strahd, and Van Richten’s Guide to Ravenloft, are available for Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition, and are once again Compatible with the Systems surrounding the D20 system, though older systems like Pathfinder RPG, Tru 20, Dungeon Crawl Classics, and even D&D 3.5 Edition may require a little tinkering and tweaking to work.
Well, the shadows have closed in on us, and the darkness is almost tangible beyond the doors of this old Tower. We have arrived at the end of this nights topic of discussion. Oh no, there is much more to say about Ravenloft, especially Realm of Terror, than can be voiced in one sitting, but we have come as far as we are allowed to for this round. For those of you who have to leave, Arellon will say a spell to ensure that no harm will befall you in the Vale of Lost Souls. Those who can, feel free to stay here by the fireside until the first light of dawn peers over the eastern horizon. May your roads rise to meet you and may all your journeys be safe. Until next time… Happy Adventuring!
W. R. Frady