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D&D: An In-Depth Preview Of Ravenloft’s New Character Options

4 Minute Read
May 12 2021

From new player lineages full of undead possibilities, to dark gifts that promise power…at a price, the new Ravenloft book has a lot to offer.

With Van Richten’s Guide to Ravenloft just around the corner (next Tuesday, in fact), more and more previews are making their way out into the wild. And today we’re taking a closer look at thew new player options included in Van Richten’s Guide. They take D&D in a bold new direction where you can add or change some fairly integral parts about your character well after character creation.

Let’s start with Lineages. In the video they explain that the gothic lineages introduced in this book aren’t like typical races–they’re not just an option you can pick at character creation, but rather they can also be adopted over the course of play.

Which is a fantastic way to capture the changes that might occur over the course of a horror story. After all, this is Ravenloft, we’re dabbling in dark fantasy territory where things get grim and dark and perilous. But it can be hard to say “oh I’ve been corrupted by dark powers and have to struggle against my cursed blood” when you’re a sturdy mountain dwarf. But here, your mountain dwarf could, to reflect the events of the story become a Dhampir, for instance. This might reflect getting bitten by (but not necessarily turned into) a vampire and gaining some powers related to undeath.

Or perhaps you get slain and brought back to life by some strange power, in which case you might take on the Reborn lineage. What I really like here though, is that it seems to be all about the player’s choice, rather than something that the DM inflicts on the players. It’s a little slice of narrative agency that might draw players into darker corners than a DM might think of.

But how do you manage the transformation? Well, one of the elements of the new lineages is a trait called Ancestral Legacy which lets you bring skill proficiencies and ‘speeds’ (so if you can fly or swim, for instance) you can keep those ‘realities’ of your character the same. Or, of course, you can just start off as a Dhampir and be brooding from day one.


Now let’s talk about Dark Gifts. Like lineages, these are powers you can gain at character creation or over the course of play, but these are even more skewed towards dark tales of grim fantasy. As the name implies, they’re ‘gifts’ so they’re new powers you can draw on, but they come with a price: every dark gift might make your adventuring life interesting.

You might hear strange whispers around you at all times, or have a living shadow that follows you around. Or perhaps you are constantly surrounded by strange spectral creatures that only you can see, and you can use the to a degree to scout ahead or see in places you aren’t meant to be–but their constant presence makes it hard for you to “be charismatic” which probably means a penalty of some kind to charisma checks.

Next up we have the two new subclasses: the College of Spirit Bards, which are all about empowering themselves with spirit stories, and the Undead Warlock Patron, which is all about transforming into an undead-ish form and gaining special power.

We haven’t seen the final version of these yet, but we covered the most recent versions of these here.

There are also two new backgrounds in the book: the Haunted and the Investigator, which reflect either being called to address some event in their past, as you can see in the picture above, or as the name investigator implies, you might become a supernatural investigator yourself and follow in Van Richten’s footsteps. Speaking of which, here’s Van Richten himself, hard at work, assisted by his ghost friend Erasmus.


Van Richten’s Guide to Ravenloft is due out May 18th.

Happy Adventuring

Author: J.R. Zambrano
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