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Ravenloft Campaign Setting, Revised, Boxed Set (2e)
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Ravenloft Campaign Setting, Revised, Boxed Set (2e)

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Terror in the Land of Mists

In the year 351 of the Barovian calendar, Strahd von Zarovich made a pact with Death - a pact that sealed his fate and created a land of nightmares known as Ravenloft. Other lords of darkness have embraced the Demiplane of Dread as their own, and woe to heroes who wander there. Creatures of the night prey freely upon the living in this land, and day is but a prelude to another night of horror.

This new edition of the RAVENLOFT game combines the original Realm of Terror boxed set with elements of Forbidden Lore and updated rules from other accessories. Domains destroyed in the infamous Grand Conjunction have been deleted, new domains added, and key personalities detailed.

This boxes set includes:

  • Realm of Terror - a 160-page book of rules concerning the reshaping of character classes; fear, horror, madness, and powers checks; curses; spells and magical items,both new and old; psionics; techniques of terror; and more.
  • Domains and Denizens - a 128-page book describing the dark lands of the Core, the islands of terror, and many nefarious personages.
  • Two maps depicting the reshaped Core domains and the islands of terror.
  • A poster featuring a painting by artist Robh Ruppel.
  • A tarokka deck of beautifully illustrated cards for role-playing fortunetelling.
  • A DM screen specifically designed to be used with a RAVENLOFT campaign

Product History

Ravenloft Campaign Setting, by Bruce Nesmith, Andria Hayday and William W. Connors, is the revised core set for the Ravenloft campaign setting. It was published in May 1994.

Continuing the AD&D 2e Worlds. When TSR produced Spelljammer (1989) shortly after the release of AD&D 2e (1989), it seemed like a wonderful one-off — a new campaign world to complement the classic settings of Greyhawk, Dragonlance, and the Forgotten Realms. But when Ravenloft: Realm of Terror (1990) followed, it suddenly became apparent that TSR was pushing hard on settings for their new edition — and that their appearance might just be a yearly event. In fact, yearly releases of new settings is exactly what happened, and it'd cause TSR big problems down the line as setting piled atop setting. But, for now, Ravenloft was just the fifth major world for AD&D.

TSR's AD&D 1e campaign worlds all walked the line between high fantasy and sword & sorcery, but that was changing with their 2e release. Spelljammer had started the trend by moving into a very different genre: science fantasy. Ravenloft similarly focused on something new: gothic horror. The idea of new settings featuring new genres was one that would continue through most of TSR's campaign settings of the '90s.

Revamping the Ravenloft Line. Ravenloft became a campaign setting in 1990, with the release of Ravenloft: Realm of Terror (1990), which fans call the black box. Almost exactly four years later, TSR released a revamped version of the box called simply Ravenloft Campaign Setting (1994). It's widely said to be a simple revision, not a full new edition. Some people call it the 1.5 edition, but most people just call it the red box.

While the original Ravenloft only contained one 144-page book (plus maps and cardstock sheets), the second Ravenloft instead includes two books, coming in at 160 pages and 128 pages (plus maps, a Tarokka deck, a poster, and a 4-panel DM screen). The box's increase in size is a pretty good indication of its increase in content; it contains almost everything that was in the original Ravenloft: Realm of Terror (1990) box, plus most of what was in Ravenloft's second boxed set, Forbidden Lore (1992).

To be precise, Ravenloft Campaign Setting incorporated the following from Forbidden Lore: its updated rules on curses and power checks; its alterations to PHBR5: The Complete Psionics Handbook (1991) and Tome of Magic (1991); its new systems for madness and Tarokka card-based fortune telling; and its new spells and magic items. Not brought over from Forbidden Lore are its Dark Sun integration, its new secret societies, or its Dikesha dice-based fortune telling.

Expanding the Ravenloft Setting. Ravenloft Campaign Setting is set in 740, five years after Ravenloft: Realm of Terror. This puts it after the Grand Conjunction metaplot that ran through six Ravenloft adventures, starting with RA1: "Feast of Goblyns" (1990) and ending with RM1: "Roots of Evil" (1993).

The Grand Conjunction was an event manipulated by the lich Azalin that temporarily freed the lords of Ravenloft. However, in the way of such metaplot events, it was also used as an excuse to change around the setting of Ravenloft — correcting what were seen as flaws in its original design.

David Wise, leader of the "Kargat" of Ravenloft designers at TSR, has said there were a few reasons for the changes. Some domains were changed or removed because they didn't fit into Ravenloft ecologically: Bluetspur was too foreign to be in the core and G'Henna was too barren for its position in a "lush" land. Similarly, some things like drow and dragons were removed because they were too foreign for the setting overall. Some domains were removed or merged because their lords were too similar, and finally some islands of terror were kicked to the curb just because they were "less exciting".

The major changes to the setting that appeared in Ravenloft Campaign Setting were:

  • The disappearance of the domains of Arak, Arkandale, Farelle, Gundarak, Sanguinia, and Vechor — some of which were absorbed by nearby realms.
  • The merging of Borca and Dorivinia into a single domain.
  • The movement of Markovia to the Sea of Sorrows, and the introduction of a lord to the waters of the Sea.
  • The movement of Valachan to the shores of the Sea of Sorrows
  • The movement of Bluetspur, G'Henna, and the Nightmare Lands from the core to the Islands of Terror.
  • The creation of Dominia and Rokushima Táiyoo as new Islands of Terror.
  • The appearance of the Shadow Rift in the space left by G'Henna and Markovia. This mysterious new domain also replaced the drow of the former realm of Arak with new shadow elves (later, shadow fay).

A few domains that had appeared since the publication of Ravenloft: Realm of Terror were notably missing, including the Dark Sun realm of Kalidnay and the new realms of RR4: "Islands of Terror" (1992). All told, Ravenloft Campaign Setting covers 20 core domains and nine islands, as compared to 26 core realms and eight islands in Ravenloft: Realm of Terror. It also bolsters the coherency of the core as a European setting and improves the "niche protection" of the various realms.

Ravenloft Campaign Setting saw two further expansions over its predecessor. First, every single darklord of Ravenloft gets at least some description here — though most of the non-darklord NPCs have been dropped. Second, the Vistani get some additional detail, providing the best background on them until "Van Richten's Guide to the Vistani" (1995).

Whoops! The art of the conjurer and necromancer cards in the Tarokka deck are swapped!

About the Creators. Bruce Nesmith and Andria Hayday, the creators of the original Ravenloft set were joined here by William W. Connors, one of the authors of Forbidden Lore. Hayday had by now completed her work with Ravenloft, while Nesmith's final work would come a few months later with "Hour of the Knife" (1994). Connors, however, would remember a core member of the TSR (and later Wizards) Kargat until the line ended.

About the Product Historian

The history of this product was researched and written by Shannon Appelcline, the editor-in-chief of RPGnet and the author of Designers & Dragons - a history of the roleplaying industry told one company at a time. Please feel free to mail corrections, comments, and additions to shannon.appelcline@gmail.com. Thanks to the Fraternity of Shadows, an incredibly detailed website full of Ravenloft lore, for some of this research.

 
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Reviews (1)
Discussions (2)
Customer avatar
October 31, 2015 6:17 pm UTC
PURCHASER
It depends on what you want. Back in the 2E days, there were some heated debates among the Ravenloft community about what they wanted from the Ravenloft product line. I was on a Ravenloft mail list at the time, and list-members were divided over whether they wanted to add more fantasy elements to the setting, or remain true to the Gothic horror flavor and keep the fantasy elements to a minimum. I don't know how much TSR paid attention to the debates, but much to the chagrin of the Gothic-purists, they did start to gradually introduce more fantasy elements that seemed a little out of place to the original intent of a Gothic horror setting. The Domains of Dread book would have more of those fantasy elements (such as the inclusion of Vecna), while this boxed set would have fewer.
Customer avatar
Brett D January 13, 2015 9:10 pm UTC
PURCHASER
I've heard you might be better off going with the (also available) Domains of Dread instead of this book, unless you're a completionist.
Customer avatar
Matthew M February 14, 2015 7:14 pm UTC
It's debatable. The Red Box includes a couple of extras that Domains of Dread doesn't, such as the "van Richten's Cliff Notes" and the Tarokka deck. The reverse is true. If you go with both, you'll get a lot of overlap but a lot of complementary material.

The big distinction is 'what kind of Ravenloft game do you want to run'? The Red Box is probably superior for 'Twilight Zone'/one-shot or short-term games, while DoD is optimized for campaigns with native Ravenloft PCs.
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