View Full Version : Ravenloft monster gothic themes

2009-06-22, 08:08 PM
One thing that I always found disappointing about the Sword & Sorcery 3.X Ravenloft books was the lack of any real in-depth treatment about the themes and significances of monsters...

What do you think are appropriate and fitting themes for various Ravenloft monsters?

There's the obvious ones, of course:
Bastelluses, Dreamweavers, Dreamspawn, Tenebris: Nightmares, fear itself.
Elementals, animals, plants: The uncaring hostility or apparent outright malignity of nature.
Golems: Hubris, the danger and moral implications of usurping divine power over life and death.
Liches: Hubris, pride, greed, eternal life.
Lycanthropes: Hunger, lust, desire.
Undead: Fear of death and disease.
Vampires: Obsession, passion.

What about other creatures? Ancient dead (mummies), animators, arak (shadow fey; and fey in general) and their changelings,, backward men (and aberrations in general), bakhna rakhna, broken ones (the creatures of Ravenloft's Doctor Moreau), carrionettes, dhampirs, doppelgangers, ermordenungs (Ivana Boritsi's minions), fiends (outsiders possessing mortals), geists and ghosts, goblyns, hags, lebentod, sea spawn, skin thieves, dread trolls, vampyres, vorlogs, dread wights, wolfweres, zombie lords...

And what about the dreadlords? Some are easy to figure out - Strahd's curse and theme is obsession, Doctor Mordenheim's theme is the hubris of creating unnatural life, Tristen and Malken are about the duality of good and evil in one person, and so on. But what are the themes of Ivana Boritsi, Azalin, Vlad Drakov, Dominic d'Honaire, TRisten ApBlanc, Ankhtepot, Hazlik, Gabrielle Aderre, Harkon Lukas, Tristess, Wilfred Godefroy, Frantisek Markov, the Three Hags of Tepest, or Baron Urik?

Doc Roc
2009-06-22, 08:09 PM
I'm a huge fan of legion demons, because of how strange they are.
I'll be using them in an upcoming ravenloft game, and I guess their theme is oh-god-why-won't-they-stop-coming?!

2009-06-22, 08:22 PM
I think Azalin is clearly lust for power. The guy is a control freak who killed his own son for not handling things the way he wanted them done, and his curse is an experience cap and inability to learn new spells.

2009-06-22, 09:28 PM
Azalin is a control freak, hence his theme is domination. Vlad Drakov is arrogant, bloodthirsty and stubborn his campaigns only end in defeat yet he still goes on wasting his people. Ivana Boritsi is betrayal of love (or at least lust).

I think ApBlanc was hopelessness and Hags were about somewhat generic evil witch stuff. I'm not certain about these though.

2009-06-23, 02:30 AM
The three hags of Tepest were taken by Ravenloft because they'd started seducing and murdering travelers who visited their father's farm and feeding them to their father and brothers. They all wanted the last one to take them away, but then decided they'd rather kill him than let either of the other two succeed. They were turned into hags both to remove their beauty and to force them together - they're powerful when they work their magic together, and weak apart. So their curse is to be ugly and to be constantly reminded of it by the presence of the other two (they see each other in their true form even when shapechanged or otherwise magically disguised).

I'm just not entirely sure what the theme there is. Vanity and greed? How does it come out?

Strahd's curse is seriously the easiest to follow. He was obsessed, it led to his evil deeds, and now he's in Ravenloft and forever uselessly pursuing women he thinks are his love reincarnated, but they all end up either dead or rescued (or unsatisfactory, I suppose; I rather like the idea that he has a room full of almost identical dead women in various states of decomposition, like the old vampire who made Lestat; or that he has "wives" in Dracula's style, who he thought were his lost love but eventually realized weren't). It's easy to work with and to highlight both his tragedy and his evil...

Araks I'm particularly stumped on. They're one of the Big Foes, but I haven't a clue what the theme is with them. Their alien nature? The general horror theme of "things aren't what they seem" would work for the changelings, but that's not very gothic.

And ancient dead (mummies!). I mean, I guess they fit the whole "leave old things well enough alone" theme, but then so do vampires and ghosts. What's Ankhtepot's curse and theme? What about Tiyet of Sebua? (Well, she has to eat hearts, but why and how is that an appropriate curse for her crimes?) What does the condition and creation of ancient dead symbolize? The 3.0 Van Richten's Guide to the Walking Dead doesn't really even touch on the mummies, that I can tell.