Authors: Andrew Cermak, John W. Mangrum, Andrew Wyatt
Type:Setting Guide, the first Ravenloft book in 3rd edition
Format: 224 page hardback
Release date: October 2001
Other notes: White Wolf has released a Limited Edition version of the Ravenloft Third edition Core book. It has a black leatherette-like cover, with red metallic logo, and includes a place-keeping bookmark ribbon. There were 3,000 copies made of this numbered edition. There is an errata file for this document – we will try to find it soon!
Summary of content:
Chapter One: The World of Ravenloft (introduction to the setting)
Chapter Two: Player Characters (how to adapt your PCs to a Ravenloft campaign, races, skills, feats, religion and equipment)
Chapter Three: The Ways of the World (Fear, Horror and Madness checks, curses, power checks, and changes on spells and magic items)
Chapter Four: The Dread Realms (listing and a player’s summary of the domains)
Chapter Five: Horrors of the Night (expanded rules on vampires, ghosts, liches, lycanthrope, constructs, ancient dead, fiends, hags, vistani)
Chapter Six: The Ravenloft Campaign (advices for gothic adventures)
Errata:In the 3E campaign setting, the name of a Borca town is "Von Ziyden" while the map claims it is "Vor Ziyden" (as in the 2nd edition references): Vor Ziyden is the correct spelling.
This book raised Ravenloft from the dead and started the 3rd edition update of the setting. Overall, it was a great start. The book contains enough detailed information to start a 3rd edition campaign.
A minor quirk, not related to the book’s content: I bought a limited edition copy, but I really don’t feel it was worth it. There was nothing more to it, for double the price. Let’s just say I’ll watch more carefully next time when considering the purchase of such a limited edition product…
This new book was presented as a player’s handbook, i.e. the players should have access to all the information in this book. That is the major problem I have with the book’s objective: unless your players are very good at sublimating out of character knowledge, I think the book gives too much information on monsters for example. IMHO, the players should learn these details by adventuring, fighting monsters, or by meeting well informed scholars. I feel these notes should have been in Denizens of Dread. So in my campaign, I only gave my players the bits they needed to start the Ravenloft campaign. I will probably give them new parts slowly, as when they enter a new domain, for example. The rest, they’ll find soon enough ;)
However, that said, it’s an excellent book:
In short, when it came out, we felt the setting has been passed to strong hands.
Voting: 4 (on 5)
When judging this book on the basis of text it contains, I'd say the work is outstanding inprovement over DoD. All the things expected are there, I don't mourn the lack of darklords as many do. I think that the strongest point for thebook is that this book is the most coherent version of Ravenloft to date (I write this as of late 2003 and Ravenloft Player's Handbook has been released). The setting has been made more consistent, it is usable as a , breathing world. The domains trade, thought has been given to the trouble in Paridon for an example, a new concept of mistways is to ease travel to more distant clusters. The book has been in more player friendly format, which means that no darklords have named and some of the secrets have been kept from the players. Some have criticised this book for having included monsters and their as well as the rules for cursing and powers checks. I mind it being shared with players.
Ravenloft should be played with mature players who can separate ingame and outgame knowledge and unless you are introducing the campaign setting they end up being better players when knowing such things. The next thing is artwork. Some of it is outstanding, made by Talon Dunning, probably the Fabian of the 3E Ravenloft line. Still, some of it just are repulsive. Take the robotic undead that are situated below the lich or the raving ancient dead skinhead for example. The maps are nice, the rotting lower end of page is an excellent touch.
But layout is a total blunder. I'd like to comment a bit on the use of fonts in the new book. More than three fonts per product is not good, the product becomes messy. Take all the different introductory paragraphs of different NPC-s. Some of them even fit; Strahd, Gennifer, they have time and patience to write in typed text like clarity. But why use a curved handwriting on a text that has been scratched into a stone tablet?!? The werewolf part has been blotched with ink/blood, still the handwriting remains calm and correct, maybe a hand-written scrap of paper would have done the trick a lot better? Also, Azalin seems to take a lot of pains to typeset his laboratory notes... Why on earth has the "Core Rulebook" text on cover been made ugly by giving it bold look? Also the black metal framing on the page looks really ugly and is totally out of style.
To finish the review in somewhat lighter tones - this books value came apparent over the years - what seemed to be an issue when it came out, it most certainly is not after the Champions of Darkness. Solid five drops plus an unseen ethereal drop of blood. Get this one.
Hmmm well lets see....
Hmmm 8 for and 8 against gonna haveta call this one a tie.. So overall I'd say an okay job at translating the game to 3E.
The New Core Rule Book for the 3rd Edition Ravenloft Setting is a collection of good and bad feelings. As an old player (I play RL since the Black Box) I found myself in front of the Book, not knowing if I should buy it or not. Still, a new version of the Campaign Setting, me and my players came to love, was sort of mandatory (updates and new information among other things).
The Information given in this book is hardly what a DM wants for running a RL campaign. This book feels like a Player's Handbook, giving you, the DM, incomplete information about the setting. No Darklords inclueded. Information about secret societies, and religion in the core are given, but more often than not, they only serve to make you aware that they exist. Complete info is completely forgotten. I also contains info about some stuff scattered in various sourcebooks in 2nd. Ed. but this information is often incomplete, making you look back for more details into the previous sources (Fire Weapons rules were first introduced in Champions of the Mists for example) .
The best thing about this book is that it makes RL a living world. Details of the way of living in the Core, gives RL a new twist, most expected by the players. The historical updates on the Core's Hiistory are also good, placing your campaign at the beginning of a new era of RL.
About the book itself, the layout is terrible. The lack of color (only black and white combinations) makes it a very boring book to read. The text itself is also confusing, using only different font sizes to separate completely different topics (!) and in many parts it feels like the text has been sqeezed in just for lack of space. About the art in this book, it does not really add to the flavor of the Setting, introduced in some cases to fill gaps of text. I miss old artists like Baxa, who ilustrated RL as it should have been done. Finally the maps are a blessing, compared to the terrible ones given in DoD.
As an old player, even a nostalgic one, I must say that this book didn't add too much to my game. Personally, the only thing this book helped me do, was to jump into the 3rd Ed rules. I think that this book will be more useful to new players and DM's. It gives you the "new" point of view of RL. If you are an old player you will find this book not so useful, but still a must. If you are a new one, getting this book is about the first thing to do before venturing into the new and darker Demiplane of Ravenloft.
Rating: Three out of Five Thoughts of Darkness
This is a wonderful revision of the Ravenloft Campaign setting into the Third Edition rules. The authors, John Mangrum, and Adrews Cermak and Wyatt, are to be commended for the hard work they put into this Core Rulebook. I highly recommend it to anyone who wishes to run a new campaign, revise their old one, or who is a player in a Ravenloft game, since this book is mostly (but not entirely) written to be player friendly. There are a lot of goodies, like new templates, and modifications to other monsters, based on the the Van Richten's Guide series. There are new feats, and two new PC races (okay, one and half, since the caliban is really a modification of the half-orc from the PHB). There are detailed descriptions of dozens of domains, with info on trade, currency, climate, and the local demographics. There are rules for new religions, and two new clerical domains. There are new weapons, new skills, and a very interesting section on how to run a Gothic Horror campaign.
Now that I've finished gushing over the book, here are some valid criticisms. First of all the Darklords are not in this book. Unfortunately, that means that to get the skinny on what really goes on in Ravenloft, namely the Darklords and their tragic tales, a DM needs to buy Secrets of the Dread Realms, which is not nearly as good a product as this one. I understand why this was done, but SotDR is a poor complement to R3E.
Second, there are some serious typos in the book. This seems to be the case with all the Ravenloft books that Arthaus has published so far. Luckily there is an errata file somewhere on this website.
Third, in order to keep the surprises, some domains, like Bluetspur, Timor, and Shadowborn Manor, have minimal entries. This wouldn't be so bad if SotDR filled in the details, but other than naming the DL of the domains, those domains aren't detailed, so a DM who is new to RL will need to hunt for a copy of Thoughts of Darkness, Islands of Terror, or Darklords, in order to run an adventure in these lands. While the upcoming Gazetteer series will rectify some of the problems, the series is going to focus on the Core first, so detail on the Islands of Terror and Clusters may be a long time in coming. Again, I understand why the authors had to do this, but a prospective newbie should consider himself warned.
Despite these problems, I wholeheartedly recommend buying the book. That goes to die-hard 2E players, who will be surprised at how much new material the book contains.
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