Lore of the Road: Answers to Your Darkest Inquiries

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THE LONESOME ROAD FAQ

ot your own question for the FAQ? Confused about some aspect of THE LONESOME ROAD? Vexed by a mechanical, metaphysical, or stylistic conundrum concerning the Demiplane of Dread? Mail it to the Dark Powers!

Questions about THE LONESOME ROAD
What is all this? What's "THE LONESOME ROAD"?
Who are you?
Can I use material from THE LONESOME ROAD in my own game?
Can I submit my own RAVENLOFT stuff to THE LONESOME ROAD?
Who is this Kostrzyn Lubartów guy?
How come some of the stuff on this site contradicts stuff in Domains of Dread?
What good is non-canon material to me?
What are you going to do about DUNGEONS AND DRAGONS 3RD EDITION?

Questions about RAVENLOFT
What is RAVENLOFT?
What is D&D?
Who are the Kargat?
Who are the Kargatane?
Hasn't RAVENLOFT been cancelled?

Submitted Questions
What are the hallmarks of gothicism?

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QUESTIONS ABOUT THE LONESOME ROAD

What is all this? What's "THE LONESOME ROAD"?
THE LONESOME ROAD is a Website devoted to the DUNGEONS AND DRAGONS RAVENLOFT campaign setting.

Who are you?
I'm Andrew Wyatt. I've been a RAVENLOFT fan since the Realm of Terror campaign setting (the original "black box" set) was published. Being somewhat a creative type, I write quite a bit of original role-playing material in my spare time, particularly for RAVENLOFT. THE LONESOME ROAD is a place to disseminate that material.

Can I use material from THE LONESOME ROAD in my own game?
Yes! That's the point of THE LONESOME ROAD, really. As long as you don't pretend it's yours, reproduce it, or make money off it, go to town! Just read the copyright information carefully.

Can I submit my own RAVENLOFT stuff to THE LONESOME ROAD?
While there was a time when I was accepting the work of others for distribution on THE LONESOME ROAD, this is no longer the case. If you have an original piece of RAVENLOFT source material, I suggest you submit it to the Kargatane's annual Book of S______ Netbooks. Submissions are typically accepted from March to September of every year.

Who is this Kostrzyn Lubartów guy?
Kostrzyn, The Wanderer of the Black Woods, is an NPC I created for my RAVENLOFT games. He is a native of Invidia, and is something of an explorer, author, and hero. Often, he acts as a heroic NPC for the PC's to interact with, much like Rudolph Van Richten or Alanik Ray. Although he is not precisely an alter ego for myself, his writings and experiences will often appear in THE LONESOME ROAD. Here are his game statistics.

How come some of the stuff on this site contradicts the stuff in Domains of Dread?
Because I don't believe in always holding to the canon version of RAVENLOFT. Some people like to have their original material mesh with the "official" reality of the gameworld, and that's fine. I, on the other hand, sometimes mix things up a little bit. In general, it's safe to assume that I haven't gone out of my way to make any particular item compatible with the canon. There are notable exceptions, however, such as the PLAYER'S GUIDE TO RAVENLOFT and the FAITHS AND AVATARS OF RAVENLOFT. Such explicitly "canon compatible" sections are denoted with the graphic below:

Canon Compatible

What good is non-canon material to me?
The main thrust of all the original material on THE LONESOME ROAD is in the idea, not the details. If you prefer a more orthodox gameworld, that doesn't mean that non-canon materials are useless. They might just require a little imagination and alteration for individual campaigns. All the ideas found here are meant to plant the seeds of creativity, and hopefully with a little care they will blossom into exciting gaming experiences for players and DM's alike.

What are you going to do about DUNGEONS AND DRAGONS 3RD EDITION?
As of late 2000, I am leaning towards a complete revision of all source material on the LONESOME ROAD to reflect the new edition of the DUNGEONS AND DRAGONS rules. You will most likely see movements in this direction in the coming months.

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QUESTIONS ABOUT RAVENLOFT

What is RAVENLOFT?
RAVENLOFT is a campaign setting for D&D. It is set in a twisted world that simultaneously breeds and imprisons evil. RAVENLOFT combines the themes and elements of gothic horror with the the more classical components of fantasy role-playing, such as quests and heroism.

What? I still don't understand. What's D&D?
D&D is an acronym for DUNGEONS AND DRAGONS, the classic role-playing game. It's a popular hobby for millions of adults and children around the world and is published by Wizards of the Coast, Inc. If you don't know anything about D&D other than it leads to Satan-worship and involves funky-shaped dice, you're probably not reading this.

Who are the Kargat?
There's really a twofold answer to that question. In the RAVENLOFT campaign setting, the Kargat are the secret police that serve the evil lich-king Azalin Rex. The Kargat's ranks include supernatural creatures, such as werewolves and—at its highest levels—vampires. The Kargat was also the name given to the developers of the RAVENLOFT product line at Wizards of the Coast. They're the ones we have to thank for many sleepless nights of horror!

Who are the Kargatane?
As with the Kargat, the Kargatane have both imaginary and real significance. In the RAVENLOFT campaign setting, the Kargatane are a sycophantic blood cult that serves the Kargat. In the real world, the Kargatane are a group of six RAVENLOFT fans that manage the Official RAVENLOFT Website, The Secrets of the Kargatane. With the end to published RAVENLOFT materials from Wizards of the Coast, the Kargatane have been given permission to write and distribute canon products for free at their site. They will be the source of all future official RAVENLOFT releases.

Hasn't RAVENLOFT been canceled?
Yes, if by "canceled" you mean that no more published products will be released by Wizards of the Coast under the RAVENLOFT line. With the release of the new DUNGEONS AND DRAGONS game, Wizards has made the GREYHAWK campaign setting the "default" setting for D&D. Other settings may receive support in the future, but the RAVENLOFT setting will not be among them. RAVENLOFT will continue to thrive online, however, as new official products will be released—for free!—at The Secrets of the Kargatane. Wizards of the Coast may also publish generic D&D gothic horror products set in RAVENLOFT campaign setting, though they will not carry the RAVENLOFT product name. You can read all about these developments at the Kargatane's RAVENLOFT FAQ.

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SUBMITTED QUESTIONS

What are the hallmarks of gothicism?
Submitted by Ben Messer
One of the reasons that running a RAVENLOFT campaign is often more challenging than an "normal" D&D campaign is the diffifulty in evoking the right mood. Gothicism is a term that is bandied about by most RAVENLOFT DM's, but what does it mean? What elements make a story thoroughly gothic? In answer to this question, THE LONESOME ROAD presents:

THE TOP TEN HALLMARKS OF GOTHICISM

10 - The Savagery of Nature
"Mother Nature ain't very nice." In a gothic story, the natural world is cruel place, roiling with unmatched and uncontained elemental power. At times, civilization can seem to be hanging on by its fingernails, and the whole world becomes a wild frontier. Even the humblest wilderness hamlet is a bulwark against the brutal landscape. Only the tools in his hands and sheer will stand between mankind and certain death. Nature is unforgiving and can even seem malicious at times, despite its neutrality. As a story element, the natural world can be an adversary, but should not be a villain. Play up the amoral aspects of a merciless thunderstorm pummeling the characters or a hundred miles of sun-baked desert between them and the next oasis. Natural phenomena may also provide dramatic and symbolic shadings, and in this the more romantic view of nature enters the gothic sensibility.

9 - Nightmare Logic
Don't be afraid of being improbable in a gothic story, particularly in a RAVENLOFT campaign, where the Dark Powers can explain away just about anything. People appear and disappear, landscapes transform, the undead rule, the mind is fooled, and worlds collide. Rather than naturalistic logic, gothicism adheres to "dramatic logic", where that which is appropriate to the story and mood is what happens. If it seems stylistically appropriate, it can happen, and physics and causality be damned. Think of every time you've uttered "Cool!" in a horror or science fiction movie when something really weird happened. The Demiplane of Dread tends to follow the dizzying, freakish laws of a dreamscape, where nothing is as it seems and things can change in an instant.

8 - Forbidden Lore
The wizened gypsy woman reading the tarot... The voudoun bokor and his shuffling nzambis... Hieroglyphics from eons pasts spelling out foul curses... These are the images of the hidden, occult world which terrifies and tantalizes the common folk. Prophecy, spiritualism, and diabolism thrust gothic stories beyond the material and into the unknown and otherworldly. In the minds of the many, association with the occult is sure to indicate dangerous connections to evil. In the Land of Mists, the existence of arcane and divine magic dampens the potency of this vision, but it can still be used to great effect. In fact, magics which bewilder even the most experienced PC wizard are sure to make the rest of the party more than a little uneasy. Furthermore, a character who wields their occult powers too proudly may find themselves under suspicion... or a gallows.

7 - Degeneration
Gothic tales are often characterized by downward spirals, morally and physically. The natural human condition, while wretched in many ways, is painted as innocent compared to what it is capable of becoming. Terror Tracks are an excellent way to bring this point home for the PC's, although a less heavy-handed approach is to illustrate the point through NPC's. If you want a great example of this degeneration, watch Jeff Goldblum in the remake of The Fly, as Seth's body and soul are twisted by the genetic taint of the insect within him. This theme of degeneration extends to society and even ideas. Think of the many literary clichés you've heard through the years: "The best laid plans of mice and men...", "Things fall apart, the center cannot hold...", etc. Things which begin with good intentions often become twisted to sorrow, and even the noblest visions fade eventually.

6 - Passion and Arrogance
What sins come more naturally to man than lust and pride? Together, they are the cause of nearly all misery and pain in gothic tales. Passion leads men to temptation, while arrogance ensures their downfall. Often, the two blend into one another. Dr. Frankenstein's arrogance at his own ability and his passion for knowledge both prevented him from seeing the true needs of his creation, with horrible consequences.

5 - The Sins of the Fathers
True evil does not die. Gothic stories often involve many generations, at least indirectly. They thrive on the idea that the repercussions of past actions echo across time, causing pain and destruction. Family curses, sworn vengeance, prodigal sons, buried secrets, and unforgiven sins are all hallmark elements of gothicism, especially older gothic tales. The resolution of ancient conflict is made all the more difficult by the ignorance of those caught up in its consequences.

4 - Heroes not Antiheroes
For all its darkness, RAVENLOFT is a game of heroism and hope. While alternative morality systems might have a place in VAMPIRE: THE MASQUERADE, the central characters of most gothic stories are traditional heroes, and they act appropriately. This doesn't mean that they're all paladins, striding into battle in the name of virtue. Many heroes are reluctant or more subtle in their pursuit of what is right. But it does mean that stories center around their deliberate struggle against evil. Though domain lords can be larger-than-life figures, the PC's should be the center of any story, because they're the Good Guys!

3 - Tragic Irony
Think of the sinners in Hell in Dante's Inferno, suffering darkly poetic fates for their lives of evil. Gothicism loves just desserts. The domain lords and their curses are perfect examples of this. Azalin sacrificed everything to spend eternity developing his magical skills, but finds himself incapable of learning a single spell. However, irony doesn't always work against the villain. Often, circumstances emerge where good intentions—or even pure happenstance—result in tragedy. Imagine a noble knight who pledges to protect a lady at all costs, and then accidentally cuts her down in a confusing battle. The wrenching emotional nature of such plot devices make gothic stories melodramatic, but also makes them powerful.

2 - Good Man / Evil World
The Western bias of gothicism comes through in its perception of the ultimate dramatic struggle. The world, to gothicism, is an evil place that snuffs out goodness. The hero, on the other hand, is virtuous. He wages a constant battle against the villain that reflects a cosmic battle against evil. His struggle is at once intensely personal and exhaustingly universal. Though this is a very Judeo-Christian sentiment, its application is broad. The idea is a timeless theme in gothicism, stretching from The Castle of Otranto to The Crow.

1 - Virtue and Sacrifice
One of the most important factors in gothic tales lies in their resolution. One does not come through a RAVENLOFT game physically and morally intact merely by having the biggest guns, so to speak. Victory, no matter how hollow, is achieved through a commitment to what is right, no matter what the sacrifice. The young man who must fight back his tears and drive a stake through the heart of his lover-turned-vampire is the classic image of this ideal. The gothic hero must not submit to the darkness, and must be prepared to give up everything in the fight against evil. The rub, of course, lies in discerning good from evil...

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