The History Of Ravenloft In Dungeons & Dragons

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We know that Ravenloft is coming to DDO, in “The Mists of Ravenloft” Expansion pack.

 

 

I thought this would be a great time to take a look back at the history of Ravenloft in Dungeons & Dragons. So, gather around the boys and girls, the mist they are calling.  In the early 1980s, Tracy Hickman encountered a vampire during one of his first games of Dungeons & Dragons. That encounter was the start of something to come, he felt it was just odd to have that vampire there, He knew that the vampire was an option on a random encounters table, and such, it felt out-of-place in this dungeon.

 

That random encounter led Hickman and his wife, Laura, to come up with their own vampire and a castle for him to lair in. This was the start of what was to become Ravenloft, at the time though, the result was a game called Vampyr that the Hickman’s would play test with family and friends yearly around Halloween. Vampyr would morph into one of the best modules for D&D after Tracy Hickman joined TSR. I6: Ravenloft.

 

 

 

I6 Ravenloft

 

I6 Ravenloft is mainly focused on the vampire Strahd von Zarovich who is cursed, to the land of Barovia over which he rules, toying and terrorizing the townsfolk and all who dare enter the realm.  It consisted of a 32-page book, with separate maps that detailed locations in the adventure scenario. This adventure is for characters level 5-7.

It features a heavy influence from gothic horror and introduced some revolution mechanics for the time, using Tarot cards to determine where the magic items are placed.

This allowed for many replays of the module, as it would random. Also, at the time, something else new for the module, they provided the dungeon master with instruction’s, or how to play Strahd, as he needed to act and be played in a specific way as per the story and to keep the story moving along.

I6 is considered one of the best modules ever written for D&D and places on my any top lists, usually first or second place.

 

I6 Ravenloft can be purchased via the DMSGuild

 

 

Ravenloft II: The House on Gryphon Hill

1986 saw the release of Ravenloft II: The House on Gryphon Hill for Advanced Dungeons & Dragons with Tracy and Laura Hickman as authors, they left before the module was complete.

David Cook, Jeff Grubb, Harold Johnson and Douglas Niles picked up from where they left off, to finish out the book.

 

The same basic structure was used as the original Ravenloft with variable locations of the key objects and NPCs with different goals. Where it did vary a lot, was that Strahd himself will have different motivations according to the cards drawn before the game.  The story is for characters of levels eight to ten and it isn’t a direct sequel, but more of a parallel story, A new character was introduced in this adventure, Azalin Rex who is a wizard-king that will become a lich and would be important in the next part of the Ravenloft story.

 

Ravenloft II: The House on Gryphon Hill can be purchased via the DMSGuild

 

 

Ravenloft: Realm of Terror

1990 saw the release of Ravenloft: Realm of Terror, a box set written by Bruce Nesmith and Andria Hayday to describe the rules of the 30 realms of terror where immortal beings like werewolves, vampires, and liches ruled while also being imprisoned. “The domains are like small countries with distinct political borders. Each domain reflects the personality of the lord who prompted its creation.”

This box set is where many of the features and mechanics we know today from Ravenloft.

  • Fear was introduced
  • Magic spells and some items worked differently

This introduced Ravenloft as full-on setting, rather than just an adventure or module, Strahd’s story was now expanded with more details. This also paved the way for a series of novels written by different authors and set in the Demiplane of Dread.

Ravenloft: Realm of Terror can be purchased via the DMSGuild

 

House of Strahd

House of Strahd was module RM4 for the 2nd edition of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons and it was published in 1993 with Tracy and Laura Hickman as the authors but with revisions by the creators of the Ravenloft campaign setting. This was meant for higher characters of levels 11-13 have to go through deadly catacombs and reach Castle Ravenloft to face off with Strahd, new creatures were added to the world, and Strahd is more than happy to use them to his advantage.

This also saw another new mechanic to the world of Ravenloft.

  • Sunset was added for the first time
  • Also, a table to track the time was added
  • Castle Ravenloft now has over 100 rooms for the players to try and survive as they search for the vampire.

House of strahd can be purchased via the DMSGuild

 

Masque of the Red Death

Masque of the Red Death and Other Tales came out in 1994 with William W. Connors as the designer and was considered an add-on campaign setting for Ravenloft with elements taken from the universe of Edgar Allan Poe. It’s a bit different as you’re not in the lands of Barovia, rather you’re on earth, be it a Gothic earth different from the norm, a place inspired by the end of the 19th century Players will encounter some famous names in this one, Van Helsing, Dorian Gray or Jack the Ripper. This variant of the Ravenloft campaign introduced firearms, as magic is rare, as I said you’re on earth, not a demiplane.

Masque of the Red Death And Other Tales can be purchased via the DMSGuild

 

RA1 Feast of Goblyns

In Feast of Goblyns, a party of adventurers is mysteriously transported from the lands they know to a dark and dangerous demiplane known as Ravenloft. Trapped in this realm of terror, they must use all their skills to escape the manipulations of one of Ravenloft most powerful lords as they attempt to seek out the accursed Crown of Soldiers. If all goes well, they just might live long enough to escape this dread land and return to their homes.

Feast of Goblyns can be purchased via the DMSGuild

 

RA2 Ship of Horror

The mists of Ravenloft know no boundaries and observe no rules. One way or another, they always get what they want – this time with some help from a cursed captain and his ship. Player characters boarding an innocent-looking ship will soon find themselves aboard a haunted vessel, destined for an island inhabited by a new form of undead creatures.

But that’s not the end of the horror – an evil necromancer lies at the root of the evil on the island. The battle isn’t over until he’s been defeated!

Ship of Horror is an adventure for four to six players of levels 8-10 looking for grisly chills and thrills!

Ship of Horror can be purchased via the DMSGuild

 

RA3 Touch of Death

The Mists of Ravenloft envelop you once again. When you realize where they’ve taken you, it’s too late. You find yourself in the burning wastelands of Har’Akir, beware all who enter! The desert is a powerful foe, but in Har’Akir, an ancient evil is awakening, and the desert will be the least of your worries. As withered hands cast off ancient shrouds, little can save you from their touch of death.

An adventure for 4 to 6 characters, levels 3rd-5th.

“Touch of Death” offered the first in-depth look at a non-western Ravenloft setting: the domain of Har’Akir “Touch of Death” brings out the mummies, greater mummies to be precise. It also introduces a new desert zombie.

 

Touch Of Death can be purchased via the DMSGuild

 

 

There were other various books and supplements released for Ravenloft around this time as well, such as the “Van Richters Guides” and a few other minor adventures.

 

 

Expedition to Castle Ravenloft

2006 saw the release of Expedition to Castle Ravenloft, this is a full-on update to the original Ravenloft module for the D&D 3.5 edition and it went back to the roots, the demiplane is gone, but you have some great instructions on how to merge it into the Forgotten Realms and Eberron campaign setting.

It would go from level 6 to 10. This is being also a full-on campaign, it will take you some time to comb through the massive 226 pages, written by Bruce R. Cordell and James Wyatt.

Expedition to Castle Ravenloft can be purchased via the DMSGuild

 

Strangely The edition that shall not be named had no Ravenloft released for it.

 

Castle Ravenloft Board Game

Castle Ravenloft Board Game is a 2010 board game published by Wizards of the Coast. It was the first game released in the Dungeons & Dragons Adventure System board game series.

In Castle Ravenloft Board Game, the players control brave Heroes who have come to Barovia to discover the secrets of Castle Ravenloft and must work as a team to succeed in the adventures within the castle. It features multiple scenarios and challenging quests.

Castle Ravenloft Board Game is a co-operative game for 1-5 players. Each player selects a Hero and can choose from the Dragonborn Fighter, Human Rogue, Dwarf Cleric, Eladrin Wizard, and Human Ranger.

Castle Ravenloft Board Game includes 40 plastic heroes and monsters, 13 sheets of interlocking card-stock dungeon tiles, 200 encounter and treasure cards, a rule-book, a scenario book, and a 20-sided die.

Castle Ravenloft Board Game can be purchased via Amazon

 

Curse of Strahd

Curse of Strahd is the most recent Ravenloft module and, so far, the only one for D&D 5E.

 

Curse of Strahd is a fairly free-form adventure where the characters are drawn into Barovia and must defeat Strahd to escape. The location of three essential magic items (Tome of Strahd, Sunsword, and the Holy Symbol of Ravenkind), the identity of an NPC ally, and the location of Strahd himself are determined by a reading from the Tarokka Deck.

Curse of Strahd can be purchased via Amazon

 

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One comment

  1. Good write up! Thanks, Drac.

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