Wizards Gives A Closer Look At One Of Ravenloft’s Domains Of Dread

Van Richten’s Guide to Ravenloft is coming out later this month, and it’s goal seems to be to expand on tropey presentations of Dungeons & Dragons horror settings. The lead designer recently gave some insight on how one setting in particular – the Egyptian-inspired Har’Akir – is being reimagined to avoid cultural appropriation.

In a preview with Polygon, Van Richten’s Lead Desinger Wes Schneider shared how he thinks “treating a part of history as a adventure setting” is a big part of the issue. Bringing up Har’Akir, he talked about how the location has been based more on mummy movies than any kind of fantasy. This made Egyptian culture the weird, mystical element, and not the magic and monsters. That’s not very D&D, and Van Richten’s is looking to change that.

“I think you’ll even see from the image that we have of Anhktepot that this is not Boris Karloff,” Schneider told Polygon. “This is a much more magical looking character who we are hoping feels like a character, that it feels like a mummy that comes from a D&D setting, that comes from a high fantasy setting — not necessarily from the history of Egypt.”

Another important change was to define Har’Akir as a Domain of Dread, one of the horror dimensions of the D&D cosmos. This adds an element of mystery to why the land is a desert filled with pyramids. How much is real, and how much is a trick of the realm? This uncertainty gives the writers and Dungeon Masters an opportunity to focus on the terrifying monsters and magic, not the raiding of tombs and stealing of cultural artifacts.

The preview goes deeper into how the D&D team hopes to differentiate Har’Akir from popular depictions like The Mummy. Its 256 pages will also cover other Domains of Dread and hopefully give them a modern reshaping as well. But will it actually work? Will Van Richten’s truly help to take D&D away from offensive tropes and re-contextualize its more questionable adventure settings? Wizards of the Coast took a huge step in the right direction with Candlekeep Mysteries, but then took an almost immediate step back. So we’ll have find out on May 18, when Van Richten’s releases, just how much it succeeds.

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