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How do you as a DM handle the transition/interaction between differing cultural level domains that live alongside (practically bordering, thanks to the Mists) one another in Ravenloft (any edition)?

I mean, for example, how do you make traveling from "Renaissance France" to "Medieval Germany" not break your (the players', the DM's) suspension of disbelief? (...let alone these domains trading with each other, (lack of) cultural influence - dressing, habits, sciences, architecture etc -, and so on.)

("Default" DnD has, thanks to its many illustrators a cultural "look and feel" that distantly (rather distantly!) resembles Earth's medieval period, but RL seems to rely more strongly on real historical times, which I'm not sure I like.)

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oooh, interesting question. +1 –  Brian Ballsun-Stanton Jul 19 '11 at 11:57

2 Answers 2

We always played it sort of like Quantum Leap. Our dm ran it so that most of the domains denied they were anywhere other than where they originated. We had communication issues for domains where none of us knew the language. Trying to enlighten the populace to their true plight was most often met with hostility from them as well as the lord but was often an easy way to draw out the lord as well. Most places accepted us as travelers sometimes someone had a prejudice against someone in our group because of their appearance. Often it was the Vistani seer.

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The Domains — except a few that were warped and changed for dramatic effect — were plucked from fully functioning worlds and cemented together, so traveling from Domain to Domain is effectively "world-hopping" in the same way that a cross-genre game would be, with any culture clashes muted by the effects of the Mists and the influence of the Dark Powers. The typical character doesn't notice the strangeness — it's how they've lived all their lives — while the players and GMs are supposed to recognize the "wrongness" of it. These places are kept backward and oppressed by an actively malevolent universe; that's another part of Ravenloft that's horrific.

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Indeed - yet the official sourcebooks (all editions, as far as I can remember) keep mentioning that the various domains are actively engaged with one another in the ususal "international" aspects: cultural and material trade, wars etc. Okay, let's assume that, as you say, the typical character doesn't notice the strangeness - but why do inventions not spread? What keeps a domain using swords and medieval armor when its neighbor has guns - and there's trade between the two otherwise/anyway? Sure, the answer could be "just because of The Mists", but that's not creepy imo, that's awkward. –  OpaCitiZen Jul 19 '11 at 11:39
Possibly. One answer is, "The guns available in Ravenloft aren't that much more effective than bows, and still don't hold a candle to magic — which also, as per D&D, hasn't caused people to give up medieval arms and armor." Another is addressed in the Cultural Levels and Equipment section of Chapter 2 of the Ravenloft Player's Guide. (p.70) Items have a Cultural Level rating — they become progressively more expensive as they cross domain borders. The RDMG chalks much of it up to entrenched xenophobia among residents — they don't change because foreign ways are strange and unreliable. –  Jadasc Jul 19 '11 at 13:36
"These places are kept backward and oppressed by an actively malevolent universe; that's another part of Ravenloft that's horrific." deserves a +1 on it's own! –  Simon Withers Jul 20 '11 at 2:54
@OpaCitiZen - As I recall, the Vistani are the only denesins of Ravenloft that can transit the mists. So while there may be trade among them it it via the Vistani. So the only proof they actually have to the other domains is the tales of the vistani. –  Chad Jul 20 '11 at 13:47
@Chad, afaik the Mists do not always separate domains. On the contrary, there's regular trade and wars and whatnot between bordering domains (see for example that Borca, Richemulot and a few others had to form an alliance against Falkovnia and its repeated attempts to conquer them.) (And Falkovnia is a medieval domain with swords and armor whereas Richemulot has renaissance pistols and muskets... and probably heavier artillery as well...) –  OpaCitiZen Jul 20 '11 at 14:45

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