3.0 / 3.5 Ravenloft essentials


3.5/d20/OGL


My curiosity about the Ravenloft campaign has been peaked recently and I picked up the 3rd edition campaign setting book from White Wolf. I'd like to ask: what other Ravenloft supplements come highly recommended and are worth checking out? For either 3rd edition or 2nd edition, since I'm interested in flavor as well as rules.


It's one of the few settings where I can say it's all good, although there are a few things that just don't fit- Kender vampires, halfling vampires, and a few of the stranger lycanthropes seemed a bit forced, as did the ONE area of the world with a dragon in it. Still, that's just me.


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Hey James!

I've got almost all of the material for both editions, and there is a ton of great stuff in those books. I rebuilt my collection early last year, and I found the Fraternity of Shadows website an amazing source for reviews of the products, as well as a great checklist for everything released. Check it out.

As for personal faves, among the 3e stuff I really liked Van Richten's Arsenal. This is a very, very neat book with a TON of equipment for hunting monsters, as well awesome feats, spells, magic items, alchemy and investigation essays. Essential, I say, and by far the best of the lot and useful for any game, really. Besides the core stuff, the Van Richten Guide to the Walking Dead is great, and Denizens of Dread has your essential creatures, updating them from 3.0 and adding some from the previous version titled Denizens of Darkness. You only need Dread. Most of the darklords are presented in Secrets of the Dread Realms, and I think the Witch Hunter PrC is in there, too. I was never much for the various Gazetteers though, preferring to detail stuff out on my own, so I don't have much of a take on them.

The 3e Masque of the Red Death setting is another great hardback if you want to dip your toe in that. Lots of great classes and FULL of flavor. All of the 2e materials for this setting are awesome as well, including the box set and gazetteer, with the sole exception of the unfortunate Guide to Transylvania which reads like a boring wikipedia article.

I find that the 2e adventures are easy to convert. My favorite Ravneloft campaign opener is Night of the Walking Dead, and I still use the bones of that adventure a lot for low-level play. Feast of Goblyns is still intriguing, too. The Evil Eye is a great one, and the Bleak House boxed set/adventure is at the top of the list as well.

Of the other materials, the Van Richten's guides are still some of the most informative, entertaining reads from that era, and the books that accompany each creature type (ghosts, constructs, vampires, werebeast) had shorter one-night adventures, but I've found really killer, strong material in them. A standout is the adventure in Children of the Night: The Created that deals with a clockwork servant who takes over an entire clockwork house with its consciousness and wreaks havoc on investigating PCs...neat stuff.

And I doubt anyone else will say it, but Carnival is a killer, killer sourcebook. Traveling freakshow where everyone mutates, intriguing cast of NPCs, great flavor -like HBO's Carnivale on meth. Awesome. I'll also go out on a limb with a crazy fave in Castles Forlorn, but it is a real mess that would take so much work to make it right that I can't suggest it. But man, what a concept.

Hope that helps, and check out that site!!!

-Brandon


Welcome to the Dread Realms James! I've played Ravenloft 3e since it came out, and from my experience I swear by all the Gazetteers (1-5). The Campaign Setting gives nice info for each region, but the gazetteer books give lots of insight into specific areas, as well as multiple adventure hooks, NPCs, even new monsters. We do a lot of gaming in Barovia, and my Gazetteer vol. 1 never leaves my side.

Also, if you can find a decent copy, the Ravenloft Player's Handbook is great for helping your players with what info they should have access to, in regards to the mysteries of the Realms. It's updated to 3.5, whereas the Campaign Setting was 3e. Unfortunately, everywhere I've looked online the price is horrendous, so maybe keep an eye out at bookstores and clearance racks for it. The Ravenloft Dungeon Master's Guide is a great book as well, as it deals heavily with advice on running horror-themed games, and has some useful tidbits like new items, Tarroka Card reading, Curses, etc.


I like the Dark Tales and Disturbing Dreams adventure 3.5 supplement. I pull my PC's into the mists on occassion to run those adventures.

I agree with Brandon, Night of the Walking Dead is an excellent module. I ran it 3 different times (once modified to a WoD game).

I don't have very much of the 3E stuff but the 2E stuff I loved (except for Thoughts of Darkness, it was terrible - great concept poor execution).

Grand Lodge

Try www.hitpointe.com and www.dragonstrove.com...

I've made plenty of purchases from both companies, great people!

Oh, and the prices are a heck of a lot better than what you'd find on ebay...

-That One Digitalelf Fellow-

Liberty's Edge

James Keegan wrote:
My curiosity about the Ravenloft campaign has been peaked recently and I picked up the 3rd edition campaign setting book from White Wolf. I'd like to ask: what other Ravenloft supplements come highly recommended and are worth checking out? For either 3rd edition or 2nd edition, since I'm interested in flavor as well as rules.

Depending on how much you wish to spend; I personally think that with the 2nd edition D&D PHB*/DMG/MM + Domains of Dread you have a life time of scary arse fantasy role-playing. All can be gotten for a song on Amazon/eBay. That and all the books are black!

Perhaps the Complete Psionics Handbook - but for me psionics = Sci-Fi not fantasy.

The "Van Ritchen's guides" at least in 2nd edition D&D were a great read and I personally couldn't help making an adventure based around each Guide that came out.

Oh and Masque of the Red Death, again fantastic in a sort of D&D meets Call of Cthulhu way.

Opinions of course WILL vary...

S.


Freehold DM wrote:
It's one of the few settings where I can say it's all good, although there are a few things that just don't fit- Kender vampires, halfling vampires, and a few of the stranger lycanthropes seemed a bit forced, as did the ONE area of the world with a dragon in it. Still, that's just me.

I gotta agree here. I dig Werewolves, even maybe Werejaguars, but once it starts getting to Were-manta rays and such it feels a little silly.

I'm having a total brainfart, which domain had the dragon? I think a dragon could be a terrifying opponent if played out well. I would abandon the DnD style colored, talking, spell casting dragons in favor of one like in the movie Dragonslayer; a relentless beast that terrorizes the land. No spells, no half-breeds, just a big, scary, fire-breathing lizard.


Digitalelf wrote:

Try www.hitpointe.com and www.dragonstrove.com...

I've made plenty of purchases from both companies, great people!

Oh, and the prices are a heck of a lot better than what you'd find on ebay...

-That One Digitalelf Fellow-

Fixed 'em for you; forgot the http:// part.


Jandrem wrote:
Freehold DM wrote:
It's one of the few settings where I can say it's all good, although there are a few things that just don't fit- Kender vampires, halfling vampires, and a few of the stranger lycanthropes seemed a bit forced, as did the ONE area of the world with a dragon in it. Still, that's just me.

I gotta agree here. I dig Werewolves, even maybe Werejaguars, but once it starts getting to Were-manta rays and such it feels a little silly.

I'm having a total brainfart, which domain had the dragon? I think a dragon could be a terrifying opponent if played out well. I would abandon the DnD style colored, talking, spell casting dragons in favor of one like in the movie Dragonslayer; a relentless beast that terrorizes the land. No spells, no half-breeds, just a big, scary, fire-breathing lizard.

I honestly don't remember. It was their nod to Dragonlance, if I'm remembering things right, and I think it was a shadow dragon or something like that. The realm was gone in the current version, almost as if it never existed(at least I think).


Brandon Hodge wrote:

Hey James!

I've got almost all of the material for both editions, and there is a ton of great stuff in those books. I rebuilt my collection early last year, and I found the Fraternity of Shadows website an amazing source for reviews of the products, as well as a great checklist for everything released. Check it out.

Do you have a direct link for the bolded above? I was poking around, and couldn't find a list of product.


Thanks, everybody! Looks like I can start amassing my Ravenloft collection. I may start with the Compleat Strategist near me because I think they stick to cover price more than Internet vendors. Some of these books are $50-90 each online. Or failng that there's always the PDFs from Drive Thru Rpg.


Brian E. Harris wrote:


Do you have a direct link for the bolded above? I was poking around, and couldn't find a list of product.

Awww...crap! Sorry guys! My link is to the wrong part of the site!

Check again here -the "Drawing Room" at http://www.fraternityofshadows.com/DrawingRoom.html

It has a complete list of all products ever produced for Ravenloft, and clicking on each one brings up a complete description and user reviews. Awesome resource to figure out what's good and what...less good.

Brandon


Fantastic, thanks!


I don't believe the DriveThruRPG option exists any longer for D&D products. WoTC pulled all of their products of last year. (If I am wrong let me know there are some things I wanted to get that I never picked up).

Scarab Sages

I just checked, and it seems, all of the 3rd edition Ravenloft books are still there, only WotC PDFs got sacked.


Interesting.

Grand Lodge

Honestly, the best material for Ravenloft isn't in gaming books, though there are a small few good ones.

What you need to get if you're into Ravenloft is a couple of the novels.

Start at the beginning with Christie Golden's
Vampire of the Mists

You should also get the Anthology,
Tales of Ravenloft
if for no other reason the stories
"The Crucible of Rudolph Van Richten" and
"Caretaker"

Once you've gotten these two, you should be ready for the universally accepted "best novel" from Ravenloft: P N Elrod's
I, Strahd

.... There are some other "okay" novels out there; I liked Scholar of Decay, Knight of the Black Rose and Lord of the Necropolis.

Now, don't think this is gonna be the best fantasy fiction ever, but it's pretty okay for junk lit, and far more able to produce the kind of feel you want to create for a homebrew campaign.

Think about it, the FRCS is cool with its mini descriptions but reading a Drizzt novel and reading his stat block just don't cut it.

And there aren't any Ravenloft books as good as the FRCS.


W E Ray wrote:

Honestly, the best material for Ravenloft isn't in gaming books, though there are a small few good ones.

What you need to get if you're into Ravenloft is a couple of the novels.

Start at the beginning with Christie Golden's
Vampire of the Mists

You should also get the Anthology,
Tales of Ravenloft
if for no other reason the stories
"The Crucible of Rudolph Van Richten" and
"Caretaker"

Once you've gotten these two, you should be ready for the universally accepted "best novel" from Ravenloft: P N Elrod's
I, Strahd

.... There are some other "okay" novels out there; I liked Scholar of Decay, Knight of the Black Rose and Lord of the Necropolis.

Now, don't think this is gonna be the best fantasy fiction ever, but it's pretty okay for junk lit, and far more able to produce the kind of feel you want to create for a homebrew campaign.

Think about it, the FRCS is cool with its mini descriptions but reading a Drizzt novel and reading his stat block just don't cut it.

And there aren't any Ravenloft books as good as the FRCS.

I gotta agree with Ray here. I haven't read many novels, TBH, but it wasn't until I picked up "I, Strahd" that I was able to get a really strong feel for Barovia, and Ravenloft itself. Might be why I set a lot of my games in Barovia.

Books of stats and maps are useful tools, but Ravenloft is extremely mood-driven. Delve into some good stories to really get into the "feel" of the Realms.


Thanks! I found the novels on eBay for really cheap, looking forward to reading them.

Liberty's Edge

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Freehold DM wrote:
Jandrem wrote:
Freehold DM wrote:
It's one of the few settings where I can say it's all good, although there are a few things that just don't fit- Kender vampires, halfling vampires, and a few of the stranger lycanthropes seemed a bit forced, as did the ONE area of the world with a dragon in it. Still, that's just me.

I gotta agree here. I dig Werewolves, even maybe Werejaguars, but once it starts getting to Were-manta rays and such it feels a little silly.

I'm having a total brainfart, which domain had the dragon? I think a dragon could be a terrifying opponent if played out well. I would abandon the DnD style colored, talking, spell casting dragons in favor of one like in the movie Dragonslayer; a relentless beast that terrorizes the land. No spells, no half-breeds, just a big, scary, fire-breathing lizard.

I honestly don't remember. It was their nod to Dragonlance, if I'm remembering things right, and I think it was a shadow dragon or something like that. The realm was gone in the current version, almost as if it never existed(at least I think).

There was a shadow dragon in Soth’s realm – at least in our game. Not sure if that was cannon or if our DM just added it in.

Shadow Lodge

Nyb is the shadow dragon in Darkon. She is Azalin Rex's sometime steed, I never thought she suited the setting.

I can't recommend enough the 3.5 Gazetteers, they are amongst the best setting material I've read for any setting.

Grand Lodge

James,

how did you enjoy the Ravenloft novel/s you read?

Sovereign Court RPG Superstar 2009 Top 32, 2010 Top 8

And your 3.x Ravenloft collection can't be complete w/o a tarokka deck.


I got through Vampire of the Mists and I thought it was good, especially at the end. I haven't started I, Strahd yet but it's in my reading pile. Good recommendations!


Stefan Hill wrote:

Perhaps the Complete Psionics Handbook - but for me psionics = Sci-Fi not fantasy.

The "Van Ritchen's guides" at least in 2nd edition D&D were a great read and I personally couldn't help making an adventure based around each Guide that came out.

Oh and Masque of the Red Death, again fantastic in a sort of D&D meets Call of Cthulhu way.

Opinions of course WILL vary...

S.

If you like psionics with a gothic horror bent, check out the Occult Handbook for PF. It restructures and uses ideas for psionics (and more) and relabels it as "Occult." Definitely a good fit for Ravenloft, and ruleswise, a perfect fit for PF.

- Andrew <:-{}


Ravenloft differs from Call of Cthulhu and similar games in that it is a fantasy/horror hybrid. This violates one of the key rules of horror literature, in that your protagonists are supposed to be weak...always weaker than the Things That Go Bump in the Night. In D&D/Pathfinder, the heroes are always empowered, moreso as they advance in level. This makes bringing in the fear/horror aspects harder...but not impossible. It requires a change in focus.

If you have trouble effectively threatening the PCs, threaten NPCs. To make this really stick, get them to love certain NPCs before threatening them. You won't have any trouble motivating them to do the adventure.

2nd Edition D&D rules made threatening PCs a lot easier. The energy drain rules were a lot nastier and more permanent, and even a single wight would scare the crap out of most players. Spells like magic weapon and items like silversheen were not commonly available, making special weapons harder to acquire to beat the monsters. Third edition rules removed a lot of that. You either have to limit the spells and silver/magic access, or take sidereal routes to scaring the PCs/players.

- Andrew <:-{}

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