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The newest storyline in D&D Adventurers League looks like it is returning to the Ravenloft setting. I've just started introducing my 10 year old to D&D by playing in Adventurers League events together, but I'm unsure whether the upcoming change to a horror setting will be age-appropriate for him.

I know everyone has their own ideas of what is acceptable at various ages, so I'm mostly interested in how the Ravenloft atmosphere compares to the atmosphere of the Forgotten Realms setting, as featured in the previous AL storylines, in terms of gore, grotesqueness, and mature themes.

We'll be playing at a store, so I expect it will be a varying mix of kids and adults each session. Assuming that the DM goes "by the books" of the WotC material, what kind of experience in terms of family-friendliness should I be expecting?

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up vote 22 down vote accepted

While it's impossible to predict what future content will look like with certainty, the history of Ravenloft under WotC has consistently been "gothic horror", with no modern horror explicitness. From I6 Ravenloft and I10 Ravenloft II in 1e, to Domains of Dread and Expedition to Castle Ravenloft, the setting is "dark" in the sense that Hammer Films were dark, but if a minor can handle that kind of media they will be fine with Ravenloft.

I will also note that WotC has always had extremely strong content codes applied to their works in general and Organized Play in particular (when I was a Living Greyhawk triad, an Erik Mona adventure got censored because of the implication that some critters had hurt some children). I think it's safe to say you have nothing to worry about, they have kept their stuff consistently PG over the last several decades. The Adventurer's League Player's Guide has a Code of Conduct in it, the campaign doesn't allow NE/CE alignments, etc.

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I'm afraid there is no clear cut answer. Ravenloft is supposed to be a rather dark, gothic horror setting. That has not changed.

However, if this really means it's creepy and frightening depends entirely on the surroundings and mood of the game when played.

I have played the very same adventure (although it wasn't 5e) once in bright daylight with people munching pretzels chatting about homework and what pizza to order and another time with good friends at night with only enough candlelight to see our character sheets and dice. That's a completely different game.

And it's not about what content actually makes the adventure. Tom and Jerry has consistently more gory and brutal content than D&D. But it's fun. It's bright, stupid, unrealistic fun. And that's the point. If it's obviously unrealistic, kids can easily compensate. But if it's not, even the stories of the adventure league sounds like they could scare someone really well.

Check out the store, how they run the game. Games run in the afternoon with the sun still up and lots of customers around are probably okay. Games in the evening, when it's dark outside and only a few people are around might not be such a good idea.

If in doubt, run the game yourself in the privacy and controlled environment of your home, where you can pick the people and mood you want your kid to experience. That way it's not an adventure league game, but you are in control and can have some stupid, funny scenes when it gets too much for your kid.

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The "check out the store" for day and night games is very good advice. Environment will contribute to kid friendly or not. – KorvinStarmast Feb 2 at 22:14
    
@SevenSidedDie I changed the last sentence to be more explicit about what I meant to say. – nvoigt Feb 3 at 6:53
    
That looks great. Thanks, and there's the +1 I was itching to give! – SevenSidedDie Feb 3 at 7:12

Having recent experience running the campaign I can easily give some recommendations.

First and foremost — it obviously depends on you as a parent. What you deem acceptable for your children is your decision. That being said you do not have to delve very far into the campaign to see what sorts of things will come up as a common theme.

  1. If you play the pre-story campaign ("Death House") you get some interesting story aspects.

    For instance, the story revolves around a cult living in a building. The nurse-maid had an affair with the master of the house, and her bastard child was sacrificed, after having left their two other children to starve to death. Her mutilated corpse was found in the attic.

    I would not say this type of story is appropriate for someone around 10 years old. However you could likely downplay the slightly more gory parts of this story to be a little more clean. For example...

    Instead of finding the body in the attic, simply have them find a pile of bones/etc.

  2. Other than the sometimes descriptive wording choices used in the book, the story is probably ok. I think it boils down fairly easily, and any wording your children don't understand I am sure you could help them with.

  3. Given that you are looking to join a campaign versus DM it yourself - I would not recommend this for children under 14. It uses a lot of complex language and symbolism that I think would generally confuse a younger audience. Likewise it deals with some very mature themes that you may want to avoid exposing young children to.

As a general reference - I expect this would receive a "Teen" rating. A quick online search for events has the age rating anywhere from 13+ to Adult.

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Well that's really entirely up to you on two distinct fronts

1) what are you ready to expose your kid to

2) does raven loft really have to be gory? It's up to you to make it what it is, ravenloft is just a backdrop. What's the difference whether it's distinct misty realms, or vast caverns with dragons? You make it as scary or not so scary by how you present it.

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I understand the DM has a lot of control over this, but I'm considering organized play where I wouldn't be the DM. Assuming that the DM goes "by the books" of the WotC material, what kind of experience should I be expecting? – bwarner Feb 2 at 21:22
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Gore ain't the only thing that can make horror inappropriate for kids, and the OP isn't the GM and so has very little power over gore levels anyway. – GMJoe Feb 2 at 23:21

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