Ravenloft Gazetteer - Volume Three
Authors: Stuart Turner, Peter Woodworth and Andrew Wyatt, with John W. Mangrum
Well I'm back for the third book of this wonderfully enlightening series. The domains covered in this volume are Dementlieu, Mordent, and Richemulot. They have many similarities, including a somewhat shared history and a common language. I also found that they could very well be considered the most civilized domains in the Core, in that the people don't struggle under the yoke of any obvious tyrants.
Dementlieu is first, and it is often thought of as the France of the Core, with the city of Port-A-Lucine filling in for Paris. I like the fact this domain is so different from the others already covered in that there is no overriding supernatural threat that cows the populace, only the sinister manipulations of petty humans. The two secret societies introduced, L'Ordures and La Societe de Legerdemain, may seem like lightweights compared to the Kargatane or the Fraternity of Shadows, but they fit the personality of the domain very well and provide the DM with a valuable resource for adventure ideas. It was also nice to see the adventure from Chilling Tales referenced under the Chateaufaux entry. The only major problem I had was with the entry on the Council of Brilliance. While I liked the personal history and goals that were provided, I felt the information should have been included in a sidebar as it had game mechanics mixed in with the narrative text.
Mordent is next and takes up the bulk of this volume (a whopping 45 pages). The Landscape section does a wonderful job of fleshing out the history and feel of the realm. The primer on the noble bloodlines is also full of adventure hooks and background information for the DM to exploit. I especially liked the additions of the towns of Tumbledown and Blackburn's Crossing. Previously, Mordentshire was the only village of note, a fact that somewhat limited the scope of adventures. There are even several references to the previous modules set in the domain - The House on Gryphon Hill (from 1st edition) and Howls in the Night (from 2nd edition).
While I like the in depth analysis provided for this often overlooked domain, I thought the author of this chapter is a tad verbose. A lot of the topics, such as Populace, Lifestyle, and Government just keep going over the same thing again and again. Worse yet, some topics, such as the Gryphon Hill entry, don't say much of anything. It feels like a lot of filler text. And despite all these wasted words, we don't even get a primer on what the local currency is called! Another gripe I have is that the map is not as detailed as the descriptions provided.
Richemulot finishes up the bunch, and is another domain that was largely ignored in 2nd edition. I particularly liked the fact that "S" gives a short primer on their society and then that information is expanded upon in a sidebar. There was also a good sidebar on the former darklord Claude Renier. At first the secret societies that were presented (The Cupbearers, The Cult of Simon Audiere, and the Lock and Key), seemed a little weak, but on reflection I think they give the domain a very mystical flavor. The description of the House of Sages also does a good job at developing the landscape.
There were several things I didn't like about this chapter, however. I thought Tinctnoire Manor was a weird addition. I don't know if this is a reference to some other work, but it seemed to come out of left field. The flora section, comprised of only two short paragraphs, seemed horribly clipped. At least there's a valid explanation for the fauna section to be so short (the lack of large predators = thriving wererat population). There was also no mention of Louise Renier. Was she not included in 3rd edition? I think having a scheming twin sister would be a great source of adventure hooks for the DM. Another strange omission is the sidebar at the end of Jacqueline Renier's entry concerning the Becoming Plague. I like this concept but felt it should have been in the actual Richemulot chapter instead of being tacked on at the end of the Attached Notes section.
The Attached Notes were, as usual, very well done. I liked the prestige classes of the Grim Trekker and Lamplighter as well as the wererat entries. I did feel, however, that the doctrines of the Church of Ezra should have been shifted to the upcoming chapter on Borca. It is, after all, the birthplace of the Home Faith. I loved all the NPCs that were covered. Lord Godfrey seems like a truly terrifying villain now instead of a lasse faire domain lord. Not having the Champions of the Mist accessory (yet) it was also nice to see Alanik Ray's return. And I finally got to read the history of the Living Brain, a character that I had heard much about but whose origin I wasn't familiar with.
Despite all my grumbling about the layout and other things, I'd still give this book 4 drops out of 5 for the sheer wealth of information it provides for previously underdeveloped domains.
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