10 Ravenloft Facts

1. This is a Gothic Horror Campaign Setting: Ravenloft is different from Eberron or Greyhawk in many ways. The most obvious difference is that the evil that threatens the citizens of Ravenloft is more subtle and far more a part of daily life. The common people of the Ravenloft Setting live in the shadow of darkness. They do not fear the tribes of orcs over the hills- indeed, the Ravenloft setting HAS no orcs. They fear nameless terrors that come in the night to silently slaughter their flocks or steal away their children, they fear the inexplicable madness that strikes their neighbors, driving upright citizens to murder or worse, they fear the twisted and perverse attentions of their dark and mysterious overlords. You won’t find a dragon in the Ravenloft Setting, but that doesn’t mean you are safe. The dead, the living and creatures in between all threaten the lives and sanity of those who dwell here, and they strike from where you least expect

2. The Setting is More Victorian Than Medieval: Armor and swords are uncommon or reserved for the battlefield. Gentlemen wear suits and carry walking sticks. They might wear pistols but those are usually too bulky for day-today carry.

3. No One Calls It Ravenloft: In the setting, Castle Ravenloft is one location in small one nation state. The setting as a whole is composed of several dozen nation states, called Domains, each ruled by a different political entity. These ruling entities will serve as Icons for our 13th age campaign. Natives refer to the world they occupy as The Domains.

4. The World of the Domains Has an Edge: The Ravenloft setting has a definite border: a ring of impenetrable mists. People can enter the mists, but often they never return, or they come back insane, years later and hundreds of miles from where they entered. It’s generally believed that those who disappear don’t end up somewhere better.

5. The Mists of the Border Aren’t The Mists You Worry About: The border mists can be frustrating but are easy to avoid: just don’t go into them. However life in a Gothic Horror setting isn’t that simple. The Mists (with a capitol to distinguish them from natural meteorological phenomenon) can occur at any time and any location. These Mists can have varied effects- they can whisk away individuals or entire communities, they can bring a choking, incapacitating seizures, they can cloak the arrival of marauding dead. Such Mists rarely happen more than once a year and almost never let 3 or more years pass without an occurrence in a given Domain.

6. Humans Rule: Humans are the predominant race, compromising more than 90% of the civilized communities. The common non-human races such as elves, dwarves, gnomes and halflings each have a place in the setting, but they are so rare and scattered that most humans will live and die without ever encountering one of these other races. So any race but human has the potential to be greeted with suspicion and distrust by human communities. If you want to play a dragonborn or a warforged, be ready to be the only one in known existence.

7. The World is Filled with Superstition, and Rightly So: Daily life in the Domains is too often interrupted by sinister supernatural powers that occur without warning or reason. Mists bear away entire towns; a tinkerer travels from village to village, and after years is discovered to be a lycanthrope who has killed or infected dozens across the Domains; a good couple is blessed with a child, but what is born to them is a sport or a monster. These things don’t happen every day, but everyone knows someone who knows someone that such things did happen to, and this isn’t a rumor or a tall tale. At least no one thinks so.

Therefore villagers tend to be distrustful of strangers and very suspicious of magic, be it arcane or divine. Divine casters are incredibly rare and in many Domains religious worship is forbidden, so there is no tradition of healing magic befitting the community for divine casters to rely upon for goodwill.

8. Not Half-Orcs but Calibans, and Half-Elves and Tieflings are Different as Well: Orcs are unknown in the Domains, even as creatures of legend, and humans and elves cannot reproduce with each other. Instead, all of the races are afflicted with occasional strange births. When these sports are larger and stronger and more savage than their progenitor race, they are called Calibans and are mechanically half-orcs. If they seems fey touched or if born to elves, more of the domains, they are mechanically half-elves.

9. Meet the Vistani and the Tergs, but Don’t Trust Them: The Vistani are nomadic people culturally similar to the gypsies of Victorian Europe. They are by all appearances human but poses strange powers of divination and can cast powerful curses upon those who anger them. They are not a playable race, so that right there should tell you something is off about them. They can also enter the border mists and return at will. You can play a half-vistani, a race human in appearance but mechanically a tiefling. Tergs are savage horselords like the Mongols or the Dothraki and are mechanically Orcs, although they too appear human. A PC Terg would be like Drizzt but less popular in towns and settlements of the Domains.

10. Count Strahd von Zarovich is a Hero: A generation ago, the Domain known as Barovia was freed from the tyranny of the Tergs by the brilliant leadership of Count Strahd von Zarovich, who claimed Castle Ravenloft as his keep and seat of power. His victory has undoubtedly grown in the telling, but all accounts declare that the Count’s forces of hundreds defeated Terg hordes of thousands, employing brilliant tactics, effective use of the then-disparaged firearm, and some say sinister magic.

In victory Count von Zarovich enacted a harsh rule with near crippling tax burdens upon his subjects, but he was a less cruel master than the Tergs, who treated the Barovians as slaves or even cattle. And what’s more, the ever-present threats of the wilderness such as wolves, lycanthropes, hags, malevolent fey spirits seem to have lessened beneath his rule, although they remained ever a concern.

A scant five years after liberating Barovia, Count von Zarovich retreated into Castle Ravenloft and sealed himself off from the outside world. He still rules and taxes are still collected, but he has not been seen for nearly 40 years. Although the Count would be in his late seventies, no one assumes that he has died.

10 Ravenloft Facts

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