Wizards of the Coast is rebooting the numerous realms of Ravenloft, a basic setting for Dungeons & Dragons. Due out on May 18, Van Richten’s Guide to Ravenloft incorporates greater than 30 new Domains of Dread, every with its personal darklord for teams to discover collectively. Lead designer Wes Schneider instructed Polygon that the aim was to maneuver past the spinoff tropes which have plagued the Ravenloft setting previously, whereas additionally permitting gamers to have interaction with the fabric from various completely different views.
The Ravenloft setting was born in 1983 with the publication of Ravenloft, an journey for the primary version of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons written by Tracy and Laura Hickman. It used basic vampire tales to good impact, tracing the story of the valley of Barovia, the cursed rely Strahd von Zarovich, and his quest for the immortal soul of his obsession, Tatyana. Over the years, it has been criticized as spinoff — and for reinforcing dangerous stereotypes via its portrayal of the Vistani, an in-fiction analogue for the Roma folks.
Nonetheless, the journey has proved to be wildly standard. That’s as a result of it has a robust lead character in Strahd, a conflicted villain eternally tortured for his misdeeds. It spawned many further modules, every one going down in a unique Domain of Dread. One of these domains known as Har’Akir, and it’s a setting that previously has leveraged problematic Orientalist tropes to inform its tales.
“One of the things that was really interesting about the domain is that past versions of it — and we see this a lot in RPGs — is treating a part of history as a adventure setting,” Schneider instructed Polygon. “Definitely the older variations of Har’Akir have been very ‘Hey, you saw Boris Karloff’s The Mummy? Here, run that as an journey.’ We’ve seen that earlier than, and we needed to do one thing that felt completely different and we needed to do one thing that feels uniquely D&D.”
[Warning: This story will spoil a number of the secrets and techniques present in Van Richten’s Guide to Ravenloft, in addition to the trendy model of Ravenloft, a fifth version D&D marketing campaign titled Curse of Strahd.]
Part of the answer was to show Har’Akir’s malevolent darklord, Anhktepot, into one thing apart from an English actor lined in a whole lot of yards of material pretending to be an Egyptian.
“I think you’ll even see from the image that we have of Anhktepot that this is not Boris Karloff,” Schneider stated. “This is a much more magical looking character who we are hoping feels like a character, that it feels like a mummy that comes from a D&D setting, that comes from a high fantasy setting — not necessarily from the history of Egypt.”
Part of that artistic course of required bringing in an out of doors author named K. Tempest Bradford, whose work in Clockwork Cairo: Steampunk Tales of Egypt served as inspiration for Wizards of the Coast.
“She’s a fantastic novelist,” Schneider stated, “and she was a fantastic resource on this who brought a ton of experience, a ton of history, just a ton of creativity to be, like, ‘Alright, we want to take this initial conceptual historical idea, but then let’s make it fantasy. Let’s make it horror, let’s make it D&D.’”
The writers at Wizards additionally labored to present the denizens of Har’Akir extra company. This time they’re not merely a part of the setting.
“Whether it’s the Boris Karloff model [of The Mummy], or the Brendan Fraser one, there’s the story of outsiders coming in and having adventures on this different tradition,” Schneider stated. “This time around […] we provide you all of the elements needed to be somebody from Har’Akir, and to have this world be your world. This isn’t necessarily a story about going into tombs and grave robbing and pillaging somebody else’s past. This can very easily be [a story about] your home. [Your character] can imagine a world where there are not these horrors, and it’s up to you to make them better. That’s a quite different proposition from what you see in many of these classic horror stories, but also nonetheless terrifying because now what’s happening is within your own home.”
Van Richten’s Guide additionally makes use of the thought of “nightmare logic” to additional distance itself from the true Egypt, and to make the realm of Har’Akir appear one thing completely completely different.
“Why is there a Domain that is a desert that is riddled with these ancient, inexplicable haunted monuments and ruined pyramids?” Schneider stated. “How does a Domain like that exist? How does it make sense? To an extent it doesn’t, and it’s going to be the players that come and explore that, who are some of the only people that realize that the entirety of the domain is, to an extent, gaslighting them.”
Van Richten’s Guide to Ravenloft is a 256-page e book — the identical measurement as most fashionable D&D dietary supplements like Curse of Strahd. The greater than 30 Domains of Dread will, at most, get simply 5 or 6 pages devoted to them. That means DMs might want to do numerous artistic work alongside their gamers to flesh out their campaigns. Schneider stated that his workforce has additionally labored in one other, extra elaborate storyline for formidable DMs taken with taking issues to the following degree.
“Maybe Tatyana’s soul is in Har’Akir and is actually Anktepot’s soul,” Schneider stated. “Or maybe Anktepot’s soul is in Barovia and is tied up with Tatyana. There’s an interesting potential link here for, ‘Hey, do you want to tell a story where maybe you’ve got two different darklords vying for the same lost spirit?’ Just one of these fun little links that, as you start putting these domains together, some really creepy narratives potentially come out of them.”