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RR5 Van Richten's Guide to Ghosts (2e)
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RR5 Van Richten's Guide to Ghosts (2e)

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Beware the darkness, for it is alive with the dead!

Now, the nights of Ravenloft are more horrifying than ever. You'll find out why in the pages within. Follow Dr. Rudolph Van Richten, Ravenloft's leading authority on the supernatural, as he reveals how to hunt the hosts that lurk in the blackest shadows of midnight. Van Richten tells all that he has discovered about the incorporeal undead; he explains their origins, the passions that draw them back from beyond the grave, and the horrible powers bestowed upon them in unlife.

For countless years, Van Richten has traveled the misty roads of Ravenloft on a mission to destroy the undead wherever they might be. Now, your characters can join him on his courageous quest. In addition, he offers his wise counsel on the ways in which there fiends can be stalked, confronted, and destroyed.

Be careful, for these ghosts are not simple, moaning spirits of darkest night. These are the ghosts of Ravenloft.

Product History

RR5: "Van Richten's Guide to Ghosts" (1992), by William W. Connors, is the fifth Ravenloft Resource. It was published in May 1992.

Continuing the Ravenloft Resources. The first four Ravenloft Resource books were a motley collection of material, including NPCs, adventures, and geographic references. However, one of those books would define the future of the line: a monstrous splatbook called RR3: "Van Richten's Guide to Vampires" (1991).

Like that vampiric supplement, RR5: "Van Richten's Guide to Ghosts" (1992) is a massive 96-page sourcebook focused on one type of monster, the ghost. The book is composed largely of fluff — most of it written as an in-game guide by Dr. Rudolph Van Richten himself. However it contains a fair amount of crunch too, including a completely new set of mechanics for ghosts that details strength levels, special powers, and vulnerabilities. Rules for mediums and ideas for hauntings close out the book.

Following the release of "Ghosts", the "RR" line would concentrate exclusively on Van Richten Guides. TSR would publish a total of eight them (1991-1995), then Wizards of the Coast would publish three Compendiums (1999-2000). More recently, White Wolf published two Van Richten monster guides (2003-2004) of their own.

A History of D&D Ghosts. Ghosts had long been a part of the D&D game, though they were a largely a confusing and overlapping menagerie prior to the release of "Ghosts". The oldest ghost was the "spectre", one of the classic types of D&D undead, first appearing in OD&D (1974). A more proper "ghost" appeared a year and half later in The Strategic Review #3 (Autumn 1975), and it was a fearsome creature with 10 HD! Though OD&D monsters were often pretty simplistic, the ghost had a whole array of special attacks, including fear, aging, and magic jar. Oddly, this first iteration of the ghost was said to not be a "true undead" (though that'd change when the ghost reappeared).

When AD&D came around, ghostly sorts multiplied. The Monster Manual (1977) included the ghost, the groaning spirit (actually a banshee), and the spectre. The Fiend Folio (1981) added the apparition, the poltergeist, and the revenant. Then the Monster Manual II (1983) capped off the classic set of ghosts with the haunt. At the same time, Basic D&D was running its own course. The Eric Holmes blue box (1977) featured the spectre, and was the first of many Basic D&D books to claim that the shadow was "ghostlike". The ghost itself showed up in the original orange-covered edition of B3: "Palace of the Silver Princess" (1981), which was then recalled; as was common for new BD&D creatures, the Basic ghost was quite similar to its AD&D and OD&D predecessors.

Ghosts were a bit slower to appear in adventures, probably because they were an uncomfortable fit in their original iteration, which turned scary, incorporeal legends into another monster to hit. The adventure C2: "The Ghost Tower of Inverness" (1979) had a spooky name and showed what appeared to be ghosts on the cover, but the closest the adventure came was the possibility of a PC having his spirit sucked into a soul gem. Similarly, U1: "The Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh" (1981) seemed to present a haunted house but ended up being something else.

Only as 1982 dawned did ghosts finally begin to appear in major roles in adventures … and they weren't just something to hit. B4: "The Lost City" (1982) and B7: "Rahasia" (1984) both featured haunts, who tended to scare adventurers away, and who had to be laid to rest by solving problems. The latter was coauthored by Tracy Hickman who was the biggest proponent of ghosts in early D&D adventures. His I3: "Pharoah" (1982) featured the monologuing ghost of Amun-Re, who was cursed by the gods and couldn't be hurt. Then I5: "Lost Tomb of Martek" (1983) included ghosts, ghostships, and spectral minions. Like haunts, spectral minions had unfulfilled business, usually in the form of a vow or quest. They would become a signature monster in Hickman's Dragonlance campaign (1984-1986), appearing in several different adventures. After that, ghosts quickly proliferated in an ever-increasing variety of forms, such as the ghostly horde in B8: "Journey to the Rock" (1984) and the desert ghosts from AC9: Creature Catalogue (1986).

In the early Ravenloft line, ghosts were represented by two major archetypes. The first was the ghostly lord, like lord Godefroy of Mordent from Ravenloft: Realm of Terror (1990) or Sir Bleysmith of Staunton Bluffs from RR4: "Islands of Terror" (1992). The second was the haunted house, like the House of Lament in RR1: "Darklords" (1991). These singular entities showed the possibility of ghosts as real characters, not just simple monsters — the same path that TracY Hickman had been following with his haunts and spectral minions. "Van Richten's Guide to Ghosts" amped that up to the next level by providing a whole book on creating unique, detailed ghosts.

Future History. "Van Richten's Guide to Ghosts" was reprinted in Van Richten's Monster Hunter's Compendium, Volume Two (1999) alongside the "Ancient Dead" and "Liches".

The next great D&D book of ghosts was Ghostwalk (2003), a ghostly setting for D&D 3e.

About the Creators. Later in 1992, Connors also coauthored the first big boxed set for Ravenloft, Forbidden Lore (1992). He would go on to coauthor the second edition of Ravenloft, Domains of Dread (1997).

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.

 
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Product Information
Copper seller
Author(s)
Pages
96
Edition
1.0
ISBN
1-56076-351-5
Publisher Stock #
TSR 9355
File Size:
38.85 MB
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File Last Updated:
December 02, 2013
This title was added to our catalog on November 26, 2013.