[Let's Read] The Ravenloft Gazetteers


Still being assembled.
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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.

Keep in mind also that a lot of Darklords have the ability to return from death so you can defeat one of their schemes but it doesn't mean killing them.

Alternatively, a Darklord can show up on the scene and complicate things so the plan doesn't become kill the Darklord but survive it until you complete whatever objective you have.


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The importance of tattoos in Hazlan is a flavorful touch (directly borrowed from Thay, of course).

The fact that men and women tend to have different tattoos is actually relevant to Hazlik's backstory.

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."
Turns out I was wrong. While the Rashemi of Thay are descended from the inhabitants of Rashemen, they look fairly different, and are indeed short and dusk-skinned.


Cat Fragment
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Several domains were explicitly lifted from other D&D settings back in the day, Sithicus in particular (which had to change a lot when Tracy Hickman and Margaret Weis wanted Lord Soth back). There were even attempts to do Birthright-based and Dark Sun-based domains. Most of this had to be downplayed, of course, when the setting went to White Wolf/Arthaus.
I recently had fun trying to work out what happens to the place it was taken from.


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Ravenloft Gazetteer #1: Hazlan
Shared Culture
The Hazlani tongue is Vaasi, which is a language they share with the Nova Vaasans and the Kartakans, with each country speaking a different, although mutually intelligible, dialect. Hazlani Vaasi pronounces the normally sibilant "s" as a buzzing "z" sound, and cuts short vowel sounds that would be prolonged in the "purer" Nova Vaasan dialect. This gives Hazlani Vaasi a somewhat clipped sound.

I want to say that the basis of Vaasi is Russian, but I can't be sure. The primer consists of the following phrases:
* "Good day": Godaag
* "Goodbye": Afsked
* "Yes": Jao
* "No": Ikke
* "Help!:" Jaal!
* "Leave this place!": Afgaa herfa opstille!
* "Magic": Trolddom or Trylleri
* "Wizard": Trolddommen
* "Fire": Skyde or Afrbrand

Hazlan's major contribution in the artistic fields consists of theatre; they are home to two distinctive theatre styles, called haebstzarn and abhaebstza.

Haebstzarn is an unusual form of caricature-centric theatre characterized by having each character played by two actors; one sits on the other's shoulders and does the speaking and gesturing, whilst the guy on the bottom carries the top guy around the stage. The topmost actor symbolizes their identity in the act by wearing a mask, called a haebstza; these pieces sport wildly exaggerated features, furthering the caricature nature of the style, and are prized artpieces in their own right. They are frequently made as display pieces, masquerade disguises, and personal accessories. The haebstzarn comedies have spread to theatres around the Core, and are quite popular, though most non-Hazlani troups don't use the double-actor method of the traditional style.

Abhaebstza, in contrast, is a form of puppet theatre, told either with shadow puppets or with cloth marionettes as tall as three men, which revolves around stories of Hazlan's various folk heroes. The style is practiced amongst both the Rashemani and the Mulan, although the heroes depicted and the stories told vary depending on the audience.

Attitude Toward Magic
The relationship of the Hazlani with magic has been odd and inconsistent. In their false history, the arcane arts were considered a noble history and the Mulans were ruled over by many great mage-kings. But when Hazlik seized control of Hazlan, he prohibited the practicing of arcane magic upon pain of death; with the Church of the Lawgiver eagerly supporting this ban, as their religion demonizes arcane magic (though they were smart enough to declare Hazlik a divinely-ordained exception), the Mulan grudgingly supported and enforced the prohibition.

And then, after decades of this, Hazlik suddenly reversed his position - he gave no explanation, instead simply declaring that arcane magic was to be propagated and embraced, going so far as to found the Red Academy and declare that all Hazlani were welcome to study there - even the Rashemani!

This has left the Mulan highly confused. Some are still suspicious, and they scrupulously avoid any hint of the arcane or its practitioners. Most Mulan, however, were greatly pleased; magic was a traditional right of theirs, and they view it as key tool in maintaining control over the Rashemani, so the they avidly pursue it.

In comparison, the Rashemani tend to shun arcane magic, as their people are often dragged into arcane laboratories as guinea pigs for hideous experimentation. A minority are willing to enter the Red Academy to chase power at long last, but these are shunned by their kinsfolk and become outcasts.

When it comes to divine magic, the Mulan uphold the Lawgiver's creed that it is the only god, regarding clerics of others faiths as either demon-sworn or arcanists in disguise - which was not an uncommon ruse for foreign mages to adopt in Hazlan prior to the Upheaval, apparently. They will target open worshippers of other deities with harrassment and even imprisonment. In comparison, the Rashemani take a more ecumenical attitude; though officially they recognize only the Lawgiver, in private they grant respect to any divine spellcaster, and many quietly offer their worship to other deities.

The Hazlani tend to be deeply religious, for different reasons. The Rashemani turn to it as an escape from their lives of toil and drudgery; even the oppressive dogma of the Lawgiver promises them hope of escape. There are far more Rashemani who secretly abandon faith in the Lawgiver for the worship of the other deities, however; the Mulan cling to the Lawgiver's faith as a way to partially appease their paranoia, desperately hoping their faith will continue to result in their domination over Hazlan.

The Iron Faith, as the Lawgiver's cult is called, is the state religion, and whilst membership isn't mandatory, it is strongly (and sometimes forcefuly) encouraged. Only it has the approval of the government to act freely and openly, and other religions are denigrated, given officially subordinate places in the "hierarchy" of the Lawgiver's pantheon. Ezra and Hala, most tellingly, are relegated to the position of the Lawgiver's concubines.

The book contains an extended writeup of the Lawgiver's dogma and church structure here, but I don't know if that's relevant - I can add it later, if folks wish? A sidebar also details the Iron Inquisition, the secret society within the Church of the Lawgiver to root out those judged "insincere" in their faiths. Mechanically, these tend to be Cleric/Rogues, focusing on their stealth abilities over theft or defeating locks and traps.

Such is the power of the Iron Faith that even the basic ideology of Heaven and Hell are rooted in its dogma. The Iron Paradise is a blissful paradise where the faithful and obedient believers will be ennobled as vassals of the Black Lord. The Hell of Slaves is a burning land of red skies and black stone crawling with biting, squealing packs of rats, where the souls of the unbeliever and the unfaithful will toil under the whips of demonic overseers for all eternity.

Ezra's church faces the most overt oppression in Hazlan, since its strong ambitions of political power make it a natural rival for the Iron Faith.

Hala's cult is hated by the Lawgiver-worshipping Mulan for promoting hope and feelings of community and equality, but adored by the Rashemani for those same reason. Hospices to Hala can be found in every Rashemani community, and they protect them as much as they can.

Interactions With Others
Distrust and suspicion colors the mindset of both Rasehmani and the Mulan - whilst this is naturally focused on each other, they extend it to others.

The Rashemani's grim, brutalized lives have caused them to forsake most forms of leisure and entertainment, as well as to expect the worst of people on first meeting. They are guarded and distant, naturally assuming that others will seek to exploit them; their trust meust be earned, which is a long and difficult process.

The Mulan mindset is a combination of ethnic superiority and a constant state of fear. Whilst they wholeheartedly believe themselves better than all other races, they're not idiots; there are nine Rashemani for every Mulan, so a widespread, organized revolution would be pretty much guaranteed to overwhelm them. They can't even rely on their guards, since these are themselves Rashemani. Paranoia colors every interaction Mulans have with the Rashemani, and they are constantly skirting a line; the Mulan believe the only way they can survive is by balancing out oppression (to render them powerless) and reward (to keep them loyal).
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