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Forbidden Lore (2e)

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Note: The softcover version of this title does not include a foldout map. To receive the maps, please purchase the print and digital combo.

The Horror Continues...

A new era in horror role-playing began with the introduction of the RAVENLOFT boxed set. Combining the best elements of fantasy adventures with spine-tingling techniques of gothic horror, the RAVENLOFT game became an instant sensation. Now the time has come to learn about the secrets of the lands in the demiplane of dread.

Forbidden Lore brings you five books, each containing a wealth of material designed to make your RAVENLOFT game adventures more terrifying than ever before. Brush away the centuries-old dust, sweep aside the cobwebs, and look upon long-forgotten knowledge.

Forbidden Lore contains:

  • Dark Recesses: This book details psionics, the powers of the mind, and their place in the demiplane of dread.
  • Nova Arcanum: New spells and magical lore from the darkest of Ravenloft's lords - Strahd Von Zarovich.
  • Oaths of Evil: Expanded rules for curses and tips on how to make them an important part of any RAVENLOFT adventure.
  • Cryptic Allegiances: An in-depth look at the secret societies hidden within the lands of Ravenloft. Some serve the lords of darkness, while others battle them at every turn.
  • The Waking Dream: For centuries, the Vistani have been the masters of prophecy and fortune telling. This book reveals their secrets and shows how to best use the Vistani techniques in RAVENLOFT adventures.

Product History

Forbidden Lore (1992), by Bruce Nesmith and William W. Connors, was the first boxed supplement for the Ravenloft: Realm of Terror line. It was published in October 1992.

Continuing the Ravenloft Line. Following the release of the Ravenloft: Realm of Terror (1990) box set, TSR limited its supplemental material to a series of five "RR" supplements; they expanded the background of the Ravenloft world and began splatting undead monsters. However for their first boxed supplement, TSR decided to do something different. They described Forbidden Lore as a "major rules expansion", and that was quite accurate: where previous supplements had been mostly fluff, this one was almost all crunch.

Forbidden Lore was rather uniquely divided up into five books, each of which was a "mini-module" for a different topic that was central to the Ravenloft setting. They were:

  • Cryptic Allegiances. Secret Societies.
  • Dark Recesses. Psionics.
  • Oaths of Evil. Curses.
  • Nova Aracanum. Magic.
  • The Waking Dream. Fortune Telling.

Origins. Of the five books, the curse-focused "Oaths of Evil" was the one with an external origin: it was created because fans at conventions told the designers that more work was needed on the curses and power check systems.

Expanding D&D. One of the most interesting aspects of Ravenloft was how much it differed from standard D&D rules. As a result, when new core AD&D books came out, Ravenloft sometimes needed to specifically detail how those new rules worked in the Domains of Dread. Forbidden Lore translates no less than three recent AD&D supplements: PHBR5: The Complete Psionics Handbook (1991), Tome of Magic (1991),and the Dark Sun Boxed Set (1991). The result adds psionics, new spells, and new magic items to Ravenloft and also creates a connection to the world of Dark Sun.

Forbidden Lore also adds plenty of new mechanics all its own. Besides the updated curses and power check systems, the box also introduces a madness check — which joined the fear and horror checks from Ravenloft: Realm of Terror. And then there were the new fortune-telling rules …

Components: In the Cards./i> The boxed Forbidden Lore set also includes a deck of 54 Tarokka cards and a set of five blank dice with stickers that could be used to turn them into Dikehsa dice. These components were connected to two new fortune-telling systems for Ravenloft.

Card-based fortune-telling had originated in I6: "Ravenloft" (1983), though it was based on standard cards in its first outing. The idea reappeared in the Ravenloft boxed set, but it wasn't given much prominence there. However, RA3: "Touch of Death" (1991) showed the continued interest in card-based fortune-telling, so it finally got a full write-up here.

The dice-based fortune-telling system had less pedigree and has never been as popular.

In retrospective, the appearance of these rules seems a minor miracle, since TSR was generally trying to avoid "occult" game elements in the '90s. Perhaps it shows how much leeway the Ravenloft line was given.

Expanding Ravenloft. Though Forbidden Lore mostly focuses on rules, one of the five books does have a lot of fluff: "Cryptic Allegiances" with its look at secret societies. There are six societies described here: the Dark Delvers, the Kargatane, the Ildi'Thaan, the Ata-Bestaal, Adam's Children, and The Keepers of the Black Feather. Of them, the Kargatane would be the most important, even appearing as a "vile organization" in the 4e Book of Vile Darkness (2011). For the rest, Forbidden Lore would remain the best reference for them, even after several more editions of Ravenloft appeared.

Expanding Dark Sun. Rather surprisingly, Forbidden Lore also expands the worlds of Athas. This is through a new domain called Kalidnay, which was once an Athasian city. Kalidnay had previously been mentioned in the Dark Sun Boxed Set/I>; Forbidden Lore now revealed that Kalidnay had fallen into the demiplane of Ravenloft. In a mini-crossover, the "real world" ruins of Kalidnay are visited in DSM2: "Merchant House of Amketch" (1993).

Future History. Bruce Nesmith wanted to include information on "Geas: The Vistani Card Game", but ran out of space. He eventually published it in Dragon #210 (October 1994) as a supplement to the release of the revised Ravenloft Campaign Setting (1994), which included considerable material from Forbidden Lore.

About the Creators. Nesmith was the designer of Ravenloft: Realm of Terror (1990) and had stayed active with the line on releases like RR1: "Darklords" (1991) and RA3: "Touch of Death". Connors had gotten his Ravenloft start with RR1: "Darklords", but would become a major force on the line in future years, especially in the late '90s when he coauthored 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

We (Wizards) recognize that some of the legacy content available on this website does not reflect the values of the Dungeons & Dragons franchise today. Some older content may reflect ethnic, racial, and gender prejudice that were commonplace in American society at that time. These depictions were wrong then and are wrong today. This content is presented as it was originally created, because to do otherwise would be the same as claiming these prejudices never existed. Dungeons & Dragons teaches that diversity is a strength, and we strive to make our D&D products as welcoming and inclusive as possible. This part of our work will never end.

 Customers Who Bought this Title also Purchased
Reviews (5)
Discussions (5)
Customer avatar
François C July 22, 2022 10:19 pm UTC
I'm curious and lost: i already have Domain of Dread. Does Domain of Dread include all the Forbidden Lore content?
Customer avatar
Kyle M April 22, 2020 9:04 pm UTC
Updated to include the map that was missing.
Customer avatar
Kyle M April 22, 2020 9:21 pm UTC
Note that customer service has informed me that they will not be updating the print product to include the missing map. So definitely buy the PDF with it.
Customer avatar
George F January 16, 2019 3:09 am UTC
Since DTRPG has a card printing service, I'd like to see a PoD version of the Tarokka deck. It would have to be a separate PoD product, but I'm fine with that.
Also, I hope there's a page of the Dikesha dice side that could be printed on adhesive paper and used on blank dice.
Customer avatar
Nicholas M January 16, 2019 5:35 pm UTC
That's how the originals were, actually - 5 blank dice with a sheet of colored stickers to make the Diekesha (I have an original unused set). It wouldn't be too hard to just use a group of five different d6 to emulate them.
Though if you need a Tarokka deck, there's a newer version in print from Gale Force Nine - it's all new art, and some of the names of the cards are changed to more gender-neutral versions, but it can easily be used as the one from this set
Customer avatar
Stelios P March 12, 2014 2:19 am UTC
Just a caveat: Each book is only 32 pages long, for those who don't know.

Also, The original boxed set included a Tarokka/Tarot Deck along with some Fortune Telling Dice. Are the images of these somehow included in the pdf to print off?

If not, the Waking Dream is kinda useless.
Customer avatar
Matthew M March 12, 2014 4:43 am UTC
The page count of the PDF is 288. There's no way to get to that without including the Tarokka deck, and you still have some pages left for the map sheet and the dikesha labels.
Customer avatar
Zia M February 20, 2015 1:34 am UTC
Yes, there is a 7 page pdf with all 54 cards (9 per sheet for six pages and a 7th with card backs). There is also another pdf with the die stickers for the fortune dice on a single page. The cards are not perfectly aligned which might cause some issues for printing them out and cutting the sheets.
Customer avatar
Andrew K March 11, 2014 1:23 pm UTC
If anyone from Wizards, Hasbro or Drivethru is reading these comments, please resume posting classic D&D content. I would really like to see the rest of the gazetteers published, and am eager to buy module X8 from you. Thanks.
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This title was added to our catalog on March 11, 2014.