Info about Ravenloft


Ravenloft is a campaign setting for the Dungeons & Dragons role-playing game. It is a pocket dimension, the Demiplane of Dread, consisting of a collection of "domains" brought together by a mysterious force known only as Dark Powers. Each domain is mystically ruled by a being called a "darklord", a person who has committed a crime so foul as to attract special attention from the Dark Powers. The darklords are imprisoned within the borders of their domains and cannot escape by any means, although most can seal their borders with a thought. Within their domains, the darklords are forever tormented by the objects of their desire (often the objects they committed their crimes to achieve), which the Dark Powers dangle before them like the fruits of Tantalus. Each darklord's desires and motivations differ; some desire love, glorious victory, or the defeat and humiliation of their enemies.

Ravenloft is primarily a Gothic horror setting. Dungeon Masters are encouraged to use scenes that build apprehension and fear, culminating in the eventual face-to-face meeting with the nameless evil. Characters have a much greater significance attached to their acts, especially if they are morally impure, as they risk coming under the influence of the Dark Powers (the "powers check") and gradually transforming themselves into figures of evil.

Ravenloft is noted for its use of analogues of fictional characters from Gothic and horror literature and, rarely, historical figures. Examples include Count Strahd von Zarovich and Vlad Drakov, who are analogues of Bram Stoker's character Count Dracula and his historical inspiration, Vlad Tepes, respectively; Doctor Victor Mordenheim and his creation, Adam, analogues of Mary Shelley's characters Doctor Frankenstein and his Creature; and Frantisek Markov, an analogue of H.G. Wells' character Doctor Moreau. The Vistani are a stereotypical represtentation of gypsies. The Vistani often have fortune-telling powers, often using the Tarokka, a fantasy version of the Tarot.

In addition to borrowing from the world of literary horror, Ravenloft incorporated characters and features from existing Dungeons & Dragons settings. Lord Soth, a villain from the Dragonlance setting, appeared as a darklord in Ravenloft, as did the Greyhawk lich-god Vecna. The magical mists of Ravenloft could appear anywhere in the Dungeons & Dragons universe, drawing evil-doers (or player characters) into the Ravenloft setting. Ravenloft has even spawned its own variants of canon planes, by tainting existing planes with its gothic energy. The affected planes are the Demiplane of Dreams and the Elemental Planes of Earth, Air, Water and Fire, the tainted areas are mentioned in the latest version of Planescape, the tainted Demiplane of Dreams creates the Domain called the Nightmare Lands, while from the Elemental Planes arise the Demiplanes of Grave, Mist, Blood and Pyre.

First published as a stand alone Advanced Dungeons & Dragons adventure module also called Ravenloft, it was popular enough to spawn a pick-a-path book, a sequel module (I10: The House on Gryphon Hill), and in the early 90s was launched as a full-fledged campaign setting. The campaign setting was revised three times before Wizards of the Coast cancelled the line after acquiring TSR. In 1991, Ravenloft won the Origins Award for Best Graphic Presentation of a Roleplaying Game, Adventure, or Supplement of 1990.

TSR also published a series of novels set in Ravenloft. Each novel was typically focused on one of the darklords that inhabited the Ravenloft world, with several focusing on the figure of Count Strahd von Zarovich.

Ravenloft was licensed to White Wolf Game Studio under a sub-imprint, Arthaus. White Wolf reverted that license back to Wizards of the Coast on August 15, 2005, however White Wolf has retained rights to continue to sell its backstock under its "Sword & Sorcery" umbrella brand until June of 2006. This reversion means that the RAVENLOFT supplement Van Richten's Guide to the Mists will not see print. The free download was released late September 2005. Currently Ravenloft's future is unknown, though most people speculate that it will likely be shelved until another gaming company pursues a license from Wizards.
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