A Breakdown of Every Dark Gift in Van Richten’s Guide to Ravenloft

dark gifts 5e

With the release of Van Richten’s Guide to Ravenloft, players have a slew of new content to jump right into. Including a bunch of brand new dark gifts that allow players to gain all sorts of abilities. Though these gifts come at a pretty big cost most of the time, so let’s do A Breakdown of Every Dark Gift in Van Richten’s Guide to Ravenloft.

Dark Gifts 5E Guide

Dark Gifts may not be a new concept to some D&D players since they’ve been around in some form for some time. They are a means to gain special abilities for your character that can often be a massive help during a campaign. Allowing you to learn a skill that you may not have been able to acquire before. But Dark Gifts also come at a cost that could range from being an annoyance to being life-changing for your character. So they’re a great way to add in some extra excitement to the campaign. As well as a good way of diversifying the skill set of each player so they can be useful in unique situations.

They are chosen when creating your character, where you work with your DM to find out how you came across it. Which is a great opportunity to add some extra backstory to your character. But even if you don’t decide to take a Dark Gift when you create your character, you can still choose to get one later on. A choice that is down to the DM’s own discretion based on when they think a character would need it most. This would usually occur in a desperate situation where a Dark Gift may be the difference between victory and loss. But a player can always choose to decline these Dark Gifts, especially if they feel the gift isn’t worth the negative side effects.

Echoing Soul

By using this gift you gain the following abilities:

  • Channeled Prowess – You gain Proficiency in two skills of your choice.
  • Inherent Tongue – You can speak, read and write one additional language of your choice.

This Dark Gift makes it so that your soul is no longer your own. You can have a soul connection with another being, someone from a past life or even your soul from a past life. This connection gives you access to knowledge, talents and other languages that could prove very useful in certain situations. But the cost of this is that the soul you have a connection with can intrude on your perceptions and beliefs.

When the player chooses this Dark Gift, they must roll a d6 that determines the nature of their soul connection. Ranging from simply being linked to another being that exists somewhere in this world, to sharing your body with an otherworldly force. This gift could give a player access to unique knowledge, at the cost of sharing their soul with another. It’s great for players that love spontaneity in their characters and want to add in a potentially chaotic element.

Gathered Whispers

For players who decide to go for this Dark Gift, this is what they get:

  • Spirit Whispers – You learn the Message cantrip and messages are delivered by one of your whispering spirits rather than you or the target’s voice.
  • Sudden Cacophony – Use a reaction to let voices howl through you, deafening your attacker.

Players who take this Dark Gift will be haunted by spiritual beings, which can either be those of the deceased or spirits from another plane. The voices will constantly interact with you, often taunting or whispering at you. Only you will be able to see the spirits and even those with the ability to see invisible creatures will only see glimpses of them.

This gift can severely affect your character both in combat and out of it. Though it does have its uses as a means of discovering information, it comes with lots of negatives too. The spirits can manifest as different entities based on a d6 roll. Either being your dead ancestors or the spirits of those you’ve killed. Players who are up to the challenge of accepting this gift will definitely have a unique experience. Just be prepared to have a pretty spooky time if you decide to take this gift on.

Living Shadow

Players that want to take this Dark Gift will gain the following abilities:

  • Grasping Shadow – You learn the Mage Hand cantrip if you don’t already know it. The hand created by the spell is shadowy but is not bound to your actual shadow.
  • Shadow Strike – Increase the reach of a melee attack by 10 feet.

With this gift your shadow is something that is animate and ever present. Regardless of lighting conditions your shadow will always be present and even move out of sync with you. Sometimes acting out its own tasks and threatening other shadows. And this is obviously going to draw some attention to you.

The amount its actions will differ to you is dependent on the Shadow Quirk roll you make with a d6. Which can have your shadow only slightly differing from your actions, all the way to threatening other people when you aren’t watching. This Dark Gift is quite a funny one and can make for some hilarious moments. Plus depending on which Shadow Quirk you roll, you may find yourself getting into pretty unique situations. Like most Dark Gifts this one can prove to be pretty useful or mostly act as a hindrance.

Mist Walker

Here’s what you’ll get with this gift:

  • Misty Step – You can cast the Misty Step spell and don’t need to use a spell slot.
  • Mist Traveler – When entering the mists you are treated as if you possess a Mist Talisman for that dominion. But to use this trait you have to know the name of the domain that acts as your destination.

For those who decide to take on this Dark Gift they will be able to travel through the mists and Domains of Dread. This is pretty useful if you ever need to travel through such places. But there’s a pretty heavy cost too, in that if you stay in one place for too long the mists will find you. If this happens your life force will be drained and this can obviously be a bit of a problem.

This Dark Gift lets you roll a d4 to determine how you got this power and can explain the origin of your expertise with the mists. This Dark Gift acts more like an interesting backstory rather than something that will have a dramatic effect on the game. But it’s interesting for those that want to play with this kind of backstory.

Second Skin

For those who choose this gift, you’ll get the following abilities:

  • Transformation – When choosing this gift you must roll a d6 to choose your second form. Then you may cast the Alter Self spell to appear in that form.This spell doesn’t require a spell slot and you must finish a long rest before using it again.
  • Involuntary Change – Certain circumstances can activate your transformation. You must succeed a DC 15 Charisma saving throw or use your action to cast Alter Self.

So this Dark Gift is an interesting one for those who like transformation. And this allows you to become a potentially powerful being at will. But there’s also a chance that this gift can cause conflict at the wrong moment. When choosing this gift you must roll a d6 that determines your Change Catalyst. Which can range from a particular sound to a certain phase of the moon.

Depending on the form you take and the Change Catalyst, you may find that transformation can be quite chaotic. Especially if you turn into your second form in a village or any other public area. Those who take this gift should be careful of this in the game.

Symbiotic Being

This gift is interesting and has quite a lot more going on than just a few abilities. The quirk with this Dark Gift is that you have a Symbiotic Being attached to you in some way. The exact attachment is decided through a d6 roll that can have it simply being a living tattoo or even a facial feature somewhere on your body.

The Symbiote has its own Intelligence, Wisdom and Charisma scores but its physical form is still bound to you and so is not a separate creature. It can understand two languages, yours and one other, plus it can learn one skill. And if it’s a skill that you don’t have, you gain proficiency in it thanks to the Symbiote.

The Symbiote does have its own goals though and that’s where things may get a little tricky. Its personality is one that the DM has to determine, but it can either be fairly passive or aggressive depending on its mood. In a role play sense it could be hilarious to have a Symbiote on your character, but it can also severely affect the game in tons of different ways.

Touch of Death

These are the abilities you can get with this gift:

  • Death Touch – As an action, make one unarmed strike and deal an additional 1d10 necrotic damage (1st level). Increases by 1d10 at 5th level, 11th level and 17th level.
  • Inescapable Death – Ignore a target’s resistances to necrotic when hitting them with necrotic damage.
  • Withering Contract – When a grapple is initiated with a creature, they take 1d10 necrotic damage.

Alright so this Dark Gift is fairly explanatory, Touch of Death can only mean so many things after all. But with this gift every person you touch feels great pain and this can be a powerful weapon and also a sad existence. Though it’s fantastic to use in combat and can definitely get you out of a few sticky situations.

The manifestation of this gift can be decided in a d6 roll that determines what kind of effect your touch or presence causes. Whether plants and insects simply die in your presence or touching things create distortions in time and space. As you can imagine this can lead to some interesting interactions in game. Though it obviously comes with a pretty heavy cost too.

Watchers

Here’s what you have to deal with if you take this gift:

  • Borrowed Eyes – Influence the presence guiding the watchers fr 1 hour. Gaining advantage on Intelligence and Wisdom checks.
  • Dread Presence – You have disadvantage on Charisma checks made against creatures that can see the watchers.

So with this Dark Gift you are constantly watched and/or followed by tiny beasts. These creatures are used by the entity that is always keeping tabs on you and they may behave in ways that suggest malicious intent. So it doesn’t really sound all that great does it? Well, that’s because it isn’t all that great, in fact it’s pretty annoying.

The form that these watchers take will depend on a d8 roll. With the creatures either being as seemingly harmless squirrels, all the way to being shadows and ghost orbs. There aren’t really any positives to this gift but there aren’t any glaring negatives either. Ultimately these watchers serve as an annoyance and can contribute to some funny moments during the campaign. Especially if you’re constantly being watched by one particular squirrel in a tree somewhere. These watchers don’t actively make the game harder for your character, they simply watch you. But to be honest that might be worse.

Conclusion

So the Dark Gifts that you can find in Van Richten’s Guide to Ravenloft range from being helpful to being a massive hindrance. They all have their own advantages and disadvantages to be sure, and it’s up to you to decide which gift will be the most interesting. These gifts all have a massive impact on what kind of character you’ll be playing and can provide a really interesting shakeup for D&D veterans.

But that’s been our ‘Breakdown of Every Dark Gift in Van Richten’s Guide to Ravenloft’. Let us know which gifts you think are the most interesting in the comments down below! Or tell us about some of the more chaotic moments caused by these Dark Gifts. Thanks for reading.

About Sam Robins 66 Articles
When not spending his time playing Video Games, Sam is busy planning out the next D&D campaign or wondering which tech upgrade is coming next. After all of that is when he decides to write about them.

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