[Let's Read] The Ravenloft Gazetteers

Faolyn

Retired User
I almost think Ravenloft would be a better RPG setting if they got rid of the concept of Darklords, because it basically sets up each domain as a single adventure and shuts down alternatives.
Not so! Unless the Darklord has a very active role in the domain, there's almost no reason to even have the PCs go anywhere near him or her.
 

Faolyn

Retired User
...so what's the need for one?
Well, true. Of course, you can say the same thing for any country in any setting where it's unlikely that the PCs will meet the ruler.

For meta-reasons, Dark Lords are good at providing the flavor for each domain and keeping each domain distinct. Unless you don't like that the domains are sometimes vastly different and monsters from one domain tend to not cross over to the next one.
 

Erik Sieurin

Translemurist
RPGnet Member
Validated User
Well, you can have a ruler without it having it being a darklord - in many case, that's how it is! But unless they are in someway part of the plot (which, say, Straad is, even if he's not literally met by the characters), the Darklords is basically a meta-construct you have just because.
 

Sleeper

Red-eyed dust bunny
Validated User
I still think it works better without a darklord. The very existence of the darklord, by default, sets up a big bad or an end boss, which creates an expectation among the players. You can get around this a bit by keeping the darklord a secret, but that would involve keeping it a secret in published materials as well, because otherwise players will tend to find out anyway. So the solution is either to keep the position undefined and let the DM decide, which no publishing company with a property will do, or to change the role of darklords. I do like the idea of distinctive domains, each built around a theme and with its own unique cultures and inhabitants, and which are collectively linked by the mist rather than normal considerations of geography. In fact, I think that's perhaps the most interesting feature of the setting. But I'd change the darklord concept, and make it more fluid. The patchwork of domains that became part of Ravenloft were each inducted to the realm by some dramatic event of evil and horror, which gives them their initial cast and tone, but rather than having a perpetual 1:1 relationship with a darklord, I'd dissociate it a bit. Islands or pockets may retain that 1:1 relationship, but no more. The event may not create a darklord, or it may create many, or they may be weak. Old darklords can die, new ones can emerge or travel to new realms, and they can also wax and wane in power. Being a darklord gives control over an area, which may be a specific region but may also defined other ways, perhaps by a fetish object, or even a concept like shadows or the underground. Darklords can encroach on each other, increase in power, and so on. And while the controls entrance and egress into the whole realm itself, that may be ursurped in localized areas, the position will be vied for, and who holds it may change hands, perhaps even frequently.
 

Evil Midnight Lurker

What Lurks at Midnight
Validated User
Funny, I was under the impression that Rashemen was inspired from Scandinavia. But here, the details about physical appearance, clothes and food are clearly reminiscent of Eastern Mediterranean civilizations.

Hmm... I just checked Spellbound (a campaign guide about Rashemen and Thay) and it says "Rashemen natives are taller than their Thayan counterparts, and their skin is paler."

Of course, Hazlan is a country created by the Dark Powers of Ravenloft, and its Rashemani may not be descended from real citizens of Rashemen.


The details about the way Rashemani are kept under control despite their numerical superiority are interesting and seem rather realistic.
Rashemen seems more Russian to me. (In addition to cultural details, we have Minsc and his accent.)
 

thewhippinggirl

Still being assembled.
Validated User
Typically when I run Ravenloft, the concept of a dark lord is very rarely brought up. My players may know but I also suspect them to separate their knowledge. With that said, I am also never opposed to giving them a shot at the dark lord. It is never easy and rarely ends well.
 

Talisman

The Man of Talis
RPGnet Member
Validated User
Thing is, Darklords are part of the terrain. The write-ups set them up as the Big Bads, and it's natural to want to use them that way, but it's also entirely unnecessary. You can have dozens of adventures in, say, Barovia without ever confronting Strahd directly, much less permanently slaying him and unmaking his domain. But he exists, he looms in the background, and his power and personality cast a long shadow over the entire domain. Same thing with other Darklords: think of them as part of the landscape, more akin to dark gods than mortal villains.
 

VoidDrifter

Registered User
Validated User
Mulan Culture
Appearance
Unlike their short, squat, dark-colored slaves, the Mulan are tall and slender, with fine bones and angular features; they tend to have prominent cheekbones and noses that are longer and thinner than average. That said, their pampered lifestyle does make them prone to obesity. Their skin ranges from a very pale white to a dark sallow shade, which can make them look less than healthy - although their better diet and easier lifestyles means they are, in fact, much healthier than the Rashemani. Their hair is naturally light-colored, ranging from dirty blond to chestnut brown, but a quirk of Mulan culture is that they regarded an unshaven scalp as obscene; as a result, men and women shave their heads daily as a matter of ritual cleanliness. Facial hair is not technically vulgar, but only a minority of men wear it, and even then they keep it meticulously neat and trim.

The Mulan's physical differences are heightened by their cultural practice of tattooing. Indeed, placing a singular tattoo on the scalp, slightly above the forehead, is the rite of passage into adulthood that all Mulan undergo at age 12. From that point, they'll continue adding tattoos; most Mulans have their scalp, neck and shoulders covered in tattoos by the age of 16. Their first tattoo is always a symbolic representation of their name, but traditionally, subsequent tattoos are distinguished along gender lines; men receive geometric designs and depictions of legendary beasts, while women receive designs of flowers, vines, and abstract whorls and swirls. Both sexes may receive depictions of lightning, flames, water, and similar natural elements, as well as traditional pictographic symbols.

That said, the finest tattoo artists in Hazlan charge considerably for their services, and even the Mulan have few who can afford to have themselves tattooed frivolously. As a result, most Mulan reserve adding tattoos for commemorative purposes, using them to celebrate significant events in their lives; births, marriages, deaths, and educational accomplishments.

Mulan tattoos often include pictographic representations of words or concepts. A staggering number of these symbols exist, yet the Mulan are able to recognize each one at a glance. The symbols have such a deep and abiding meaning to the Mulan, however, that they are never used for something as coarse as written communication. Drawing these symbols on anything other than human skin is a crime punishable by the loss of the artist's hand.

Tattoos are exclusively a Mulan trait. It is a crime for a Rashemani to even draw a tattoo, never mind wear one.

Fashion
The clothing of the Mulan is distinctive and somewhat unisexual. Men and women alike wear zarongs, ankle-length cloth wraps, around their waists; trousers are considered peasant garb, as well as long, silken robes dyed in bright colors, favoring reds, yellows and purples - these are replaced with hooded woolen cloaks in cold weather. Men go bare-chested, whilst women wear stiff vests left open in front; the combination of the cut of the vest and the rigidness of the material is just enough to preserve the wearer's modesty, whilst still leaving much of her neck, stomach and sides exposed.

Lifestyle & Education
The article does not cover exactly what the average Mulan does on a daily basis, possibly because the Mulan are all landed gentry and make up the aristocracy of their country.

Amongst the Mulan, marriage is arranged by parents when constituent partners are children; such marriages are essentially transactions, seeking to secure alliances between families. The actual wedding doesn't take place until both are adults. Divoerce is possible, but costly; it requires the approval of the local governor, and such approval rarely comes cheaply. The cost in goodwill from other Mulan can be even greater.

Education is done mostly through foreign private tutors; teaching is considered too common and mundane a task for most Mulan. Gnomes have found a particular niche in this role. More advanced education is conducted at a handful of specialist academies found in the major settlements; the Red Academy in Ramulai, where Hazlani wizards are trained, is the most infamous example.

In contrast to the simple, bland diets of the Rashemani, the Mulan consume a diet heavier in meat and baked goods. The most popular dishes are frikadeller; rolled balls of chopped meat served with creamed vegetables, and spandauers; sweet pastries topped with nuts and jams. Their wealth means that virtually any dish found in the Core might make its way onto a Mulan's table.
 
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