Ravenloft (1994)

This is the 1994 revision of Ravenloft. Let us take a moment to appreciate Robh Ruppel’s deliciously gothic cover art. Let us take another moment to ponder why the powers that be at TSR decided the original Ravenloft logo had one too many pointy bits on it.

The box, in essence, reprints and revises the original Ravenloft: Realm of Terror and Forbidden Lore box sets. The main difference is that this box assumes the events of the Grand Conjunction have come to pass (detailed across the Ravenloft modules RA1-3, RQ1, RQ3 and RM1), which the design team used as an opportunity to rearrange the domains of Ravenloft into a more cohesive and tonally consistent whole. It works, for the most part. A lot of the mechanical issues I mentioned on Monday in the Realm of Terror post persist, but in a more subdued way. The sense of an in-world continuity is a drag, though, but I will get into that when I cover the modules.

Instead, I should mention that this box comes with a Stephen Fabian designed tarot deck (or, Tarokka, if you’re a TSR designer and can’t abide using normal word in your fantasy setting). This is far superior to the Tarokka deck that accompanied 5E’s Curse of Strahd, and I’ll tell you why: Stephen Fabian.

Fabian’s art here is maybe his best TSR work. Check out that Arcanoloth summoning! And Azalin in his lab! The appeal for me is maybe that Fabian isn’t a D&D illustrator, but rather a pulp illustrator, self-taught on the work of Virgil Finlay and Hannes Bok, who happened to work for a time, excellently and prolifically, for D&D. The man was 60 when he started working on Ravenloft, for Pete’s sake. I think his age and experience adds something almost intangible that other D&D artists lack. He’s also from New Jersey, so maybe I’m just biased.

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