Hook of the Month
Home brewed changes to canon
Canon or not? We feel a DM can / should change whatever he feels like in his own game, to suit his campaignís needs. Now if you are wondering what other DMs have done with Ravenloft's "canon" setting and history in their various campaigns, hereís a collection of the most interesting pieces weíve collected on our boards.
I have added a forest haunted by ogres in the south of Sithicus (they must come from somewhere right?).
Jack of Tears
I made the setting larger.
I removed all the demi-human races from standard play except halflings. Dwarves and Elves are now changelings, none of the others exist.
A few big changes I made-
Culture Level: We're a little slippery with that one. We like 17th/18th century dress, so we tend to have 16th century realms with 18th century dress codes. Nothing very major...
Classical False History: This one's not "official" but I've gone with it as a PC. Basically, a lot of the literature of the periods portrayed in Ravenloft was written PACKED with classical allusions to ancient heroes from Greek epics. So, in assume to a large extant that in the false history of Ravenloft, realms of a similar flavour share similar "allusions": basically, references to a common false history of defunct myths and heroes. That way, you can go watch an opera about "Hercules" in Dementlieu, say. And you can pick up a book of pastoral poetry... But that's just the nerd in me, I think. I suspect my "mates" don't really care. It also makes for great dramatics - you can "quote" in character of you play that civilized bard...
(Therefore, in my Ravenloft, if not in our communal Ravenloft, Dementleus end up learning "Latin" (and "Greek") in grammar school, like Shakespeare might have in his past. Though, strangely enough, maybe not many can claims to have found any original texts, in recent memory, written in those ancient languages.... )
Dion of the Fraternity
Verbrek is culturally related to the US Deep South.
Gabrielle Aderre is Chaotic Neutral.
The Church of Ezra controls a large swathe of Borca and Richemulot, proclaiming it as the "Ezran States." Mystically, however, this political land mass is purely superficial, and the darklords still have control over their respective domains.
Darkon is culturally related to Imperial Rome.
Demise is waaaay bigger.
Population of most settlements is at x10 the canon.
A crude train-like system connects Port-a-Lucine and Martira Bay.
Hot air balloons exist.
Humans (along with giomorgo) dominate the land. Elves, dwarves and the little races are dying out. No half-races exist.
In Falkovnia, Mircea and Viggo wage in the war of princes for their forlorn fatherís throne.
In Richemulot, six mighty servants of the darkness siege for the control of their castle against a mad and horrifying nosferatu, and night becomes the day.
From Barovia, the peasants flee the breezing cold winter storms that have deserted the swamps around the Devil Strahdís castle.
Yet in Valachan, strange figures in the mists have been spotted; long caravans of refugees, men and monsters unseen for over twenty years, seeking shelter from the mists from where they came.
Geographically, two domains that were just too bizarre (Bluetspur and the Nightmare Lands) were never part of the Core IMC, but always Islands. Historical events that link these locations to the Core, such as the Thaani exodus to Barovia or Dr. Illhousen's explorations, happened via the Mists, not direct overland travel. (Hence the Core wasn't overrun by the illithids hundreds of years ago.)
Daglan became an Island under Radaga instead of vanishing after FoG, and it later merged with G'henna to form a Cluster called the Withered Expanse. Radaga's motives are much more complex and nastier IMC -- honestly, did all female darklords have to be obsessed with their own looks, at the dawn of the game-setting? -- and she and Yagno Petrovna really, really hate each other.
Like most DMs, I've added an Island or two of my own invention. Most distinctive of these is probably Aftermath, a 20th century domain and an homage to early Stephen King; its darklord depopulated his entire planet (!) by unleashing a lethal biological weapon in a botched attempt to murder a romantic rival, and his mind can animate the many abandoned machines throughout his domain, to communicate with intruders from his hidden germ-proof bunker (via any radio or telephone) ... and to attack those same visitors, once he convinces himself that they can't possibly be real "survivors" and he's only imagining their presence (eternal loneliness having driven him to a desperate paranoia).
Population-wise, Ravenloft's always had problems, in that too few people are present to sustain too many man-eating monsters. However, I didn't want to spoil the claustrophobic effect of the setting by making it larger (with some exceptions; Souragne is somewhat bigger than in canon descriptions IMC). To eliminate problems -- which, by my calculations, lead to things like Jacqueline Montarri decapitating her way through fully a third of Barovia's female population in the first 50 years of her curse! -- I made some "native" monsters of Ravenloft that are particularly voracious into Mist-napped imports -- e.g. if my PCs meet a skin-thief, it's probably only been in the setting for a matter of months -- and altered some of the individual villains so they don't have to kill so often ... which, if anything, makes them seem more evil when they choose to do so anyway (Montarri IMC could survive indefinitely without a head, she's just too vain to go without one for long).
If a domain is really, really getting underpopulated, the Dark Powers aren't above slipping an extra village or two onto the map when nobody's looking, and altering the memories of all parties involved to say that it's always been there. This information is NEVER in-character knowledge; so far as PCs know, the monsters really can wipe out whole domains, even if the DPs don't want the victim-supply to run out and the domains' cycle of misery to end.
Historically, events in the Grand Conjunction modules wrapped up a little differently. Instead of the real Material Plane, the darklords "escaped" to yet another construct the Dark Powers had established (complete with look-alikes for Strahd and Tatyana as "royals"; honestly, reincarnation is one thing, but credibility has limits for Pete's sake! ) specifically to mess with the participants. The Holy Symbol of Ravenkind took no part in the storyline -- that was around Sergei's neck, not on an alter, when his murder took place; read your own *%@ novels, people! -- leaving the Icon as the PCs' objective in "From the Shadows". The Book of Keeping wasn't retrieved from the Material Plane, but on a second visit to the past, this time to the crypts under Castle Ravenloft. Nathan Timothy was also fortuitously killed by the heroes during this adventure, explaining why Arkandale got absorbed into Verbrek.
I really don't like the concept of "personality fragments", nor the notion that simply wishing to escape a horrible fate can create one -- if it could, wouldn't Ravenloft have more fragments than 'complete' people? -- so IMC the Tatyana who died in Jander Sunstar's arms really was the original one, albeit rendered ageless by having ingested Strahd's blood when she bit his lip to get him off her (a la the Kargatane secret society). All "Tatyanas" we've seen in the centuries since then are fakes: the DPs find it amusing to play off how Strahd's professed "love" for her is entirely superficial, as these copies' personalities are actually overidealized charicatures, not accurate portrayals of Tatyana's nature (she had more depth). It's also their smart-arse way of giving Strahd the very thing -- "someone like Tatyana"; like her, yet certainly not actually her -- which Sergei, himself, had wished for his brother moments before his murderer struck.
Likewise, the man who'd actually built the Apparatus wasn't a calved-off fragment of Strahd von Zarovich, IMC, but a Mordentish "local" named Erik Leede. When Azalin's escape-ritual tried to separate Strahd from his bond to the Land, it formed a link with the Good-from-Evil extractive effect of the Apparatus, and this rebounded to disintegrate Leede, leaving only drifting whisps of his essence (a la VRA's "alchemical philosophy") and no one to be split in two. The Apparatus then sucked Strahd and Azalin through this planar cross-link, and it split the vampire in two. Strahd's resulting "Good" self -- really the inoffensive, albeit introverted scholar he would have become, had he never gone off to war in the first place! -- could not cope with the recollection of having been a vampirish villain, but when he inhaled the lingering essence of Leede which drifted through the lab, he became fixated on Leede's memories and convinced that that had to be his true history, not the terrible vampire he also remembered. The "Evil" Strahd (still a vampire, hence unbreathing) was never exposed to Leede's gasified essence, so it took "the Creature" a while to figure out what had happened and to build up his forces; in the meantime, the "Good" Strahd became convinced his (real) memories of vampirism were the result of some awful darkness within him, so moved to Mordentshire (under the Von Zarovich name) and began living the life of an alchemist (rather, "the" Alchemist).
Madame Eva is far more of an active (albeit behind-the-scenes) "player" IMC, in that she's been secretively fighting a low-intensity 'cold war' with the Dark Powers for centuries, having spurned their attempt to make her Ravenloft's second darklord back in the 5th century (when they still bothered to ASK villains to accept their "heart's desire" ). The DPs wanted to exploit her unprecedented psychic gifts, to predict the outcome of their endeavors -- they weren't as powerful back then; IMC, they've been getting stronger over time, which accounts for why the Land of Mists' growth has been accelerating -- but her Chaotic contrariness led her to set them up, by dropping hints to Jander Sunstar which would let the elf win free of the DPs' manipulations (which he did: he perished in the sunlight as he'd intended, back in 499 BC [and the fact he was such an old vampire made no difference BTW, as aging only makes vampires resist sunlight IMC if they age in Ravenloft]). Eva's severance from time, her murder in 495 BC, and the Zarovans' sterility (no kids since Mikhail, b. 492), all date from the DPs' realization that she'd reneged on their "arrangement"; however, the raunie had already set several events in motion -- some of which my own PCs have contibuted to, though Eva's schemes for revenge won't bear fruit for quite a while -- which might well undermine the Dark Powers' intended goals (!) ... that is, if even Eva's Sight has shown her everything she'd needed to learn, to make this happen.
The ToUD prophecy is just that: a prophecy, not a metaplot device. No actual date is alleged, for the events it foretells. This means that some believe it'll happen countless generations in the future, some believe it's coming next Tuesday, and a heck of a lot believe it's a load of hogwash.
Lyssa von Zarovich didn't become more powerful via a ghost's aging effect , but by spending an extended period amongst the Arak, back when they still lived below the surface. Lyssa has a number of sith allies (who'd found her intriguing as the first vampire their race ever met) back in the Shadow Rift, and could probably get help from them in a pinch if she could find a way to enter that domain; her later visit to Bluetspur, in fact, was something she set out on, because her first attempt to ally with an utterly-nonhuman race from a domain all mortals dreaded had been so productive!
The Malocchio-as-Dukkar subplot has been downplayed. When I do get around to bringing it up, I'm probably going to decide that Malocchio really can't remove darklords from their domains -- if a true fiend can't do it, and a full-blooded Vistani can't do it, why should a hybrid of fiend and quarter-Vistana be able to? -- but that he's been fostering that rumor (and maybe even setting up Azalin himself to believe it; how's that for a reversal? ) in hopes somebody who wants out of the Land of Mists will engineer his own escape from Invidia!
As for Castle Ravenloft, I've eliminated the witches and re-stocked that room with Sergei's original bedroom, complete with MASSIVE ethereal resonance and phantoms which re-enact his murder. OTOH, instead of the spirit of Sergei himself, I put a twist to the "House of Strahd" notion that PCs can ask the ghost in his crypt for help: while a ghost that looks like Sergei is indeed present, it's actually Alek Gwilym's spirit, impersonating Sergei so he can rat out his former commander and killer, Strahd, to such heroes as might avenge their deaths! Unlike Sergei's, Alek's spirit is not Good-aligned, and is perfectly willing to send would-be vampire slayers to their deaths, if there's the slightest chance of getting back at the comrade who'd betrayed their long years of friendship. When he's not masquerading as Sergei for intruders, Alek hides from Strahd in the one crypt the vampire shuns like sunlight ... and takes petty pleasure in using his Ghost Writing salient ability to manifest dreadful puns and insults to the Von Zaroviches on the lesser tombs within the castle's vault.
The Dark Powers IMC, as correctly surmised in my sig, are indeed complete and total bastards. Their actual motives aren't something I can reveal on this board ... but I will say that, from what I find when I look at their actual behavior in those few cases where their direct or covert intervention is acknowledged, they're not always as stolidly mature as is generally believed ("Lord Through Dark"/"Dark Lord Through"/"Through Dark Lord"? What are we, five years old here...? ). Not to say that moral maturity is necessarily equated with chronological development, mind you....
Because I quite liked "The Enemy Within", I made Tristen Hiregaard's life story more complex, to integrate elements from that novel. His father Romir's curse (inflicted by his murdered wife) did indeed jump to his son, but this, in itself, didn't make his heir the darklord as we know him/them today. Instead, it made young Hiregaard, who was actually Lawful Evil to start with IMC, develop a psychotic, homicidal temper that he just couldn't control. Young Hiregaard did commit several murders of young women -- murders, which the future darklord regreted because they represented a lapse of self-discipline, not because his crimes were evil acts per se -- and covered them up. Intrigued by the contradictory feelings they sensed in this murderer, the DPs (whose actual selection of darklords is a bit experimental and illustrative IMC; they like minds that are wracked by self-loathing and denial, not just by Evil for its own sake) snatched him up, and divided his two sides into separate identities: his Evil impulses which had made him kill and then hide his own misdeeds (Malken, darklord of Nova Vaasa), and his Lawful side that was ashamed by his lapse of self-control (the Tristen we all know... who really isn't any more the "real" Hiregaard than Malken is! ). At first, the two resulting personas were unaware of each other's existence -- each time one "side" went to sleep in one place, the other would awaken elsewhere, their mutual body Teleporting back and forth between their residences -- and Tristen dutifully hunted "the murderer" in his own law-enforcement capacity, while Malken dodged the police, each one in oblivious ignorance of his foe's nature. But when Tristen inadvertantly enraged the Vistana Rozalia, she invoked destruction, vengeance, and suffering upon him via her curse ... and the Dark Powers complied, simply by letting these two halves learn that the other "side" existed. No longer did their body Teleport back and forth; now, Malken could sieze control of it to sabotage Tristen's life, right where his non-Evil foe lived, and Tristen could lay traps and obstacles in his alter-ego's path. Cue "The Enemy Within".
While I was at it, I also salvaged nearly everything from that other version of Malken's umpteen contradictory backstories: the one from the Desmond LaRouche MCRLII entry. Dr. Edmond Hiregaard was a cousin of Tristen's, whose interest in alchemical philosophy Tristen encouraged, in the secret hopes that Edmond would find the way to expunge Malken from his own self. Malken sabotaged these plans by contaminating the holistic purifier Edmond had invented with Evil, causing the doctor to undergo his own Jekyll/Hyde transformations. Unable to recall his actions while under the (addictive) purifier's effects, and misled by incriminating evidence the real Malken had planted, Edmond wrongly deduced that he was the notorious crime lord "Malken" of whom the city's underclass whispered ... a misconception he later passed on to his apprentice Desmond LaRouche, when the latter was horrifically injured by Edmond's own purifier-created alter-ego. While Tristen wasn't fooled, having this false "Malken" running loose in Kantora, every time Edmond succumbs to his addiction and uses the contaminated purifier, helps to decoy adventurers and rivals in crime from Malken's true identity; hence, Malken makes sure the gulled doctor always has an ample supply of bottled Evil at hand.
On a less convoluted note, I re-vamped Castle Tristenoira a bit, to bring it more in line with the 3E concepts of ethereal resonance. Instead of being a site of literal time-shifts/loops, the other Tristen's lair undergoes random phantom shifts that restore its appearance to that of eras long past. Its halls are roamed exclusively by ghosts, but ghosts who take on pseudo-living forms much like the Richten House servants wore in "Bleak House", whenever a phantom shift re-creates a time when they were still alive. Even Brangain apBlanc is a ghost, IMC: rather than being saved from her cell, Tristen's daughter took sick and died in it while her father was too distraught by Isolt's suicide to check up on his captive's welfare (thus, Tristen's accidental killing of his family became complete). Brangain isn't seen in the castle when it phantom-shifts to later eras, because a band of heroes really did once "rescue" her from her cell in Castle A ... which doesn't mean she came back to life, but rather, that it snapped the repetitive cycle that kept her re-enacting her own death, much as the Bleak House servants' reiterative deaths could be averted. Thus, Brangain was freed from having to act out haunting Castles B & C as an unquiet spirit, the way her brothers and mother -- who might, in theory, also be "rescued" if someone could forestall her suicide in Castle A, thus removing her ghost from the later-era Castles, as well! -- still do.
Nathan of the FoS
There are no demihumans who commonly or routinely interact with humans. Elves, dwarves, gnomes and halfings are humans with a dash of fey blood in their ancestry (calibans are calibans). The game mechanics for their creation is the same, and they have the same ORs--it's purely a cosmetic change. (They do look more human than the standard D&D races--but again, that's a purely cosmetic change. )
I've never liked the distinction Ravenloft canon tries to draw between "science" and "magic". In a place where magic by definable rules and has easily visible effects, I think people wouldn't make this distinction easily, if at all. (As with Isaac Newton--a dedicated alchemist, a great believer in the "Bible code", and, of course, the creator or co-creator of modern physics and mathematics.) So everywhere except Lamordia and Hazlan no-one makes the distinction. The Lamordians fear and hate magic as a reflection of Mordenheim's bad experience with magic--the one time he tried to use magical power to animate a golem, he got Adam. In Hazlan the Mulani restrict magical study to their own race (or they have until recently--see Eleni of Toyalis), and they forbid the importation or development of technology for fear it would give the Rashemi ideas.
Everything is bigger; the Core covers a space roughly the size of France, Germany, the Low Countries, and Switzerland, and it's more heavily populated in the cities (roughly x10 for all populations, at least in the western core--the southern core is still relatively unsettled).
The political divisions are very different from the domain boundaries; for example, Strahd von Zarovich is the nominal ruler of a space that covers Barovia, parts of Invidia, Kartakass, and Forlorn. In addition, the domain now known as Verbrek is ruled, not by Alfred Timothy, but by the son of the werewolf lord Bakholis, who carries on a continual low-level guerrilla war with Gabrielle Aderre. Mordent is north of Dementlieu, and the two are united in one political entity, which happens to contain the great city of Paridon. Nosus is located in Nova Vaasa near the Darkon border. The Shadow Rift is not a rift--it's an impassable forest which becomes a gateway into Faerie on moonlit nights (one-way mistway of excellent reliability--other than that it's pretty much as it is in the Guide to the Shadow Fey and Gaz V).
There is a large cluster consisting of Arkandale (as described at the Lonesome Road website) and a few homebrew domains in the Sea of Sorrows, west and south of the Core.
Perhaps the most important conceptual definition (it's not a change, since there is no canon definition!): The Dark Powers are not the jailors of Ravenloft; they're the inmates. They are trying to use those they can draw into Ravenloft to break the bonds placed on them and escape into the Near Ethereal, from where they can roam the planes as it pleases them. The gods who created this prison use (who else?) the Vistani as their jailors. Also, the Dark Powers are actually a set of Darklords from Ravenloft canon--the Nightmare Court.
Zherisia: I don't know where Zherisia is supposed to be, but I keep it relatively close to Lamordia, Dementlieu and Mordent (thus keeping all of the high tech cultures together). However a lot of Dr. Mordenheim's theories are unappreciated in Lamordia, they are a big hit in Paridon, particularily his work on the cell theory and his budding concept of evolution. Zherisia also does not have its own language, and speaks a strange slang of Mordentish.
Cultural Level 10: I've been thinking about writing a 10th cultural level, which would pertain to Paridon and Lamordia. In this cultural level, muskets have been effectively replaced by rifles, steam engines and hot air balloons exist (hence why there would be no trains in Dementlieu or Mordent), and religion and the arcane arts play a very diminished role (if they are even present). The exception to this would be the divinity of man kind. Both of these areas just seem too culturally advanced to be thrown into the same category as Mordent or Dementlieu. This is not to imply that Mordent or Dementlieu are backwards societies (however, Richemulot could be considered somewhat of a backward society), its just that both societies put less emphasis on science than Paridon or Lamordia (Dementlieu is more concerned with Art and fashion, Mordent is more concerned with tradition, superstition and religion). The Cultural level 10 would require rejection of Ezra as a 'fundamental religion', something that Mordent and Dementlieu are unwilling to do.
Falkovinia: Cultural level 8. Drakov arms his talons with bastard swords and full plate armor, but has conditioned his talons to be able to take a musket shot and simply shrug it off. This tactic becomes effective when his talons finally reach melee combat with a legion of muskateers via horseback. By getting his talon cavalry to flank the enemies army, he is exposing them to an elite melee fighting force. A common tactic is to arm his 'recruits' with ineffective muskets to act as a deversion, and then have his cavalry to swoop into the enemy and kill them, much like a hawk does. I also paint Falkovnian culture with a lot of Prussian culture, which if you read about is itself a very militaristic society.
The Headless Horseman: I keep him in Mordent. The story is that two weeks before and during the nocturne, one must stay off Mill road. I also change the rule that the Headless horseman can miss; he ALWAYS gets at least one head. Unfortunately for the Mordentish, it's never a matter of them finding mill road, but of mill road finding them.
Bastard Sword: You cannot buy a Bastard sword in any domain except for Falkovnia. This is because all other domains are either not technologically advanced enough to develop them, too technologically advanced to even care about them, or currently at war with Falkovnia, and therefore seeing the Bastard Sword as 'the enemy's weapon'.
Rules for Fire arms: When I went over the rules for fire arms with my players, we all agreed that they are 'too fantasy like'. I rule that muskets require 2 rounds to reload, and you cannot take the rapid reload feat for them. However, when attacking with a musket, your target uses its touch attack AC (a musket bullet will effectively negate any AC bonus granted by armor or natural armor). The Critical range for muskets and pistols is 18-20x2. In the case of rifles, as mentioned above, the reload time is only one round, and the rifle does not need to be masterwork to be water proof.
My two biggest changes are pretty common--Soth still runs Sithicus and Mordenheim is a co-lord with Adam.
The mastermind behind Van Richten's death wasn't the Gentleman Caller, but a pair of extraordinarily powerful fey created by Gwydion as a means to free himself (Azalin temporarily weakened the fabric of the land as he ripped himself free from dissipated-all-over-Darkon status, not enough for most of the DLs to even notice anything but enough for Gwydion to reach out and tear a couple of new crations from the land before being shut down again). They orchestrated Van Richten's death because they were afraid that he would stop their plot. (The two fey were the main villains IMC, and I wanted to run Bleak House without throwing in a completely new "evil mastermind"-style antagonist.)
I'm working on a way to tweak Necropolis to make it more accessible to PCs--I think it's a very interesting setting that's completely wasted as is--but I don't like the idea of getting rid of the Shroud outright. This isn't set in stone yet, but I think that IMC, the negative energy is going to be dissipated throughout Necropolis, leading to a constant slow energy drain. Visitors to Necropolis will gain a negative level or lose a certain number of hit points every hour or so until they die.
I keep Soth in Sithicus (perhaps with Inza as a co-darklord prehaps not)
Hazlan: Enhanced link to Thay (FR)
Dementlieu: Reworked domain extensively. Linked it to a long lost French colony. Local culture is closer to what France was during the reign of King Louis the XIVth.
Har'Akir: Introduced an outpost created by explorers and scientists (mainly from Dementlieu, Mordent, Darkon, and Lamordia) who have come to uncover more about the ancient civilization that once flourished here. Har'Akir artifacts (not necessarily of the 'magic' kind) have become the latest rage in the northwestern corner of the Core. In short, it has become a lot like Egypt at the beginning of the 19th century. This has prompted the natives to try to restore their own culture (to fight against cultural contamination) and there are rumors about a long lost heir to the vacant throne who is trying to assemble the regalia of the last pharaoh.
Paridon: Sole Tech 10 domain but one that struggles to survive because of a lack of food. As such, it has become a kind of military/scientific advisor to a selected few domains of the Core in exchange for food.. and other "raw" materials
Forlorn: Goblyns have a much more "celtic" culture (albeit a very violent one). The two sects of druids of the domain have fallen out. One thinks that only "true" natives can return the domain to what it once was and refuses any contact with outsiders. The other decided that in order to win against the darklord and his minions, they needed "new" blood. They now travel all around the Core (and beyond), kidnapping any red-hair children they can find to turn them into new members. They have founded druidic enclaves in Barovia, Kartakass, and Tepest.
Barovia: Got rid of the (infamous) Sheriff and toned down the Ebon Gargoyles to what was more appropriate for what is after all a tech & magic-poor domain (wizards who are taught by ghosts until they can teleport on their own? Come on!). Jander Sunstar is dead (no, but truly!)
Souragne: Enhanced link to 17th century Louisiana. Made it a (long lost) "sister colony" to Dementlieu. Lower class still made of slaves.
Richemulot: Enhanced link to Dementlieu. It is now the result of a former attempt by Dementlieu to extend their colony across the Core. The events of Scholar of Decay happened exactly as described in the novel.
Borca: Aurek Nuiken has become a lich obsessed with restoring his wife (first to an intact statue, and then to life). His brother Dmitri is now the official head of their family and funds adventuring groups striking deep into Richemulot against wererats (or anywhere else against lycanthropes). He insists on paying people with silver pieces directly "hand to hand" (and prohibits anyone from wearing gloves in his presence).
Wildlands: Enhanced domain with rules/monsters from the Nyambe setting.
Falkovnia: Enhanced link to Taladas/Thenol (DL). Official religion is the worship of Hith although Drakov made it bloody clear to them who was *really* in charge. Preachers from the Lawgiver (coming from NV) are trying to convert enough natives to gain a foothold.
JoŽl of the Fraternity
I removed the archaic (IMHO) ring of fog surrounding the village of Barovia (a remnant of I-6). IMHO, Strahd doesn't really need the poison fog around the village of Barovia. Perhaps it could be a feature he can activate with his will, as a border closure, but I donít see it activated at all time.
I made the WF twins active (in enquiring the supernatural, I mean) sooner, just a few years before the disappearance of Van Richten. The interaction with PCs with these heroes is richer this way.
The Core is much, much bigger. I mean huge. Barovia alone is several hundred miles across. It's a month on foot from Vallaki to Krezk. But I've left the population figures the same. Rather than making the PCs feel claustrophobic because there's so few places to go, they feel claustrophobic because it's so hard to get anywhere. They don't dare set out anywhere without making serious travel plans, and recently spent five months of downtime living in an abandoned boyar's estate outside of Vallaki simply because they didn't want to go wandering around the Balinoks in winter. When I told them how big Ghakis and Baritok are, one of the players rightly pointed out that they're getting close to the Himalayas.
Pretty much no demihumans in human settlements, and very little is known about them. My players are still sure (ic) that a dwarf will turn you to stone by spitting on you. Also, no Gnomes. I don't see a point to having them and Halflings in a setting.
My Ravenloft setting is very much like a big Lovecraftian setting!
I`ve made big cities here and there where you could do an entire campaign, big gothic cities like old London or Budapest. For example the city of Krezk (my capital for Barovia) counts 65,000 peoples with one big university, a hell lot of dark alleys and corners, nightclubs were vampire goes to hunt and so on (ŗ la Vampire, the masquerade a little bit).
Irving the Meek
I've made some changes that seem to be on par with other DM's out there. Darkon is a Chivalric domain; Necropolis never happened, and Azalin sit confidently on the throne. Neighboring domains are quite different, though. Tepest and The Shadow Rift do not exist; instead, we have The Wood, a faerie-tale domain run by the Queen of the Night.
Right now my players are walking through Invidia, to the southeast. The Darklord there is Daimon, a bard who's been partially transposessed by a balor. (The transposession is "locked" by his Darklord status, so the process can't be completed.) Invidia is a Rennaisance-level domain, with a clan of dwarves who freely use Davinci-esque tech. (They're also all insane to a man and enraptured by Galatea, a beautiful dread golem who doesn't understand their infatuation.)
Eventually, they'll probably have to go through Falkovnia - one of the PCs was framed for murder by Damion in a town on the route home. Falkovnia's a mideval realm with some Mongolian touches (think the beginning of Bram Stoker's Dracula). Vlad Tepes, the Impaler, is on the throne there; he's mortal, and still frustrated in his attempts to invade Darkon. I have a sort of rule of thumb that each section of Ravenloft has at least two horrific evils going on. Darkon has evil fae from The Wood and undead going on; Invidia has the infernal a dread golems from Galatea's dwarves. Dunno what Falkovnia will have... Tepe's soliders will be pretty bad and scary, but I need something else, too. Maybe some grisly aberrations created by a mad wizard from Hazlan...
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