Cultural Level

Ravenloft is a patchwork of domains drawn from vastly different worlds. These places differ not just in custom and geography, but in time. These disparate degrees of technology are expressed as Cultural Levels (CL). Cultural Levels determine the availability of Firearms, level of education as well as general sophistication.

Cultural Levels are a starting point for atmosphere, not a rigorous restriction. The Dark Powers sculpt domains as romantic dreams and chilling nightmare often a warped depiction of a true time. Trade is common across the Core and some domains have been side by side for centuries so these lines are starting to break down.

Rules for weapons and armor created from special materials are available here

CL0: Savage

Savage domains remain untamed wilderness completely untouched by civilization. No technology can be found in these lands and the only law in effect is survival of the fittest. Savage domains lack sentient creatures and are extremely rare in Ravenloft.

CL1: Stone Age

Stone age domains represent the most primitive lands that still possess true societies. Stone age people have no yet learned to work metal; weapons and tools are crafted from wood, bond and stone. The short bow represents the height of weaponry and tanned leather armor the pinnacle of defense.

While there are stone age cultures in Ravenloft, such as the goblin tribes that infest several realms, few entire domains are at this level.

CL2: Bronze Age

This age is defined by the discovery of metalworking and the onset of an agrarian economy. Bronze tools and weapons begin to replace their stone or wood equivalents. Studded leather armor is available for the first time and woven cloth allows for padded armor.

During the bronze age pictographic written languages and organized religion become major factors in society. Bronze Age rulers are often religious figures seen as divine emissaries. Sorcerers and oracles first begin to appear, as do some clerics.

CL3: Iron Age

Core Domains: Parts of Necropolis

Armed with the ability to forge iron, domains at this stage learn to create the breastplate, tower shield and siege engines such as the catapult. Armies employ more advanced military tactics. Government and law begins to distinguish itself from divine mandates and different forms of rule take shape. Ships capable of limited sea voyages open up new worlds of trade.

Written language at this point has condensed to a simple alphabet abandoning the hieroglyphic styles of earlier ages. Libraries are built and tales spread. Glassblowing, medicine, sundials and the hourglass represent the newest advances in technology. Iron age communities are also the first to be able to create water screws, canals, sewers and aqueducts allowing farming and landscaping to reach new heights.

CL4: Classical

Core Domains: Parts of Necropolis

Classical societies are the peak of early civilization, some are sliding into decadence believing all that is worth learning has been learned. Still, others push on and uncover new advance sin science, philosophy, mathematics, alchemy and theology. Durable bound books begin to replace scrolls and wizards are starting to supplement or replace sorcerers. High quality roads promote travel and the first true cavalry appears.

CL5: Dark Age

Core Domains: Parts of Necropolis

This brief period represents the decline of classical culture sliding under the oppression of the church or an overly harsh government. Monastic orders form, mechanical mills, more advanced shipbuilding and the discovery or porcelain represent the latest advances.

Warfare beings to change with the advent of the crossbow, banded mail, scale mail and splint mail. Magic also advances and spell casters begin to conceptualize the idea of elemental planes beyond their own.

CL6: Early Medieval

Core Domains: Tepest, parts of Necropolis

This is the error of cathedrals, the Gothic arch, motte-and-bailey castles, fortified towers and stained glass. Merchant guilds being to appear in larger communities. Healers start to explore primitive surgical techniques and travelers discover the magnetic compass. Water clocks are able to keep accurate track of time and warriors master the use of chain mail and the lance.

CL7: Medieval

Core Domains: Barovia, Falkovnia, Hazlan, Kartakass, Sithicus, Nova Vaasa, Valachan, parts of Necropolis

This is the default cultural level assumed by the Pathfinder rule set. Ornate Gothic cathedrals, the longbow and mounted knights in half-plate and heavy barding change the look of the time. Doctors establish medical schools, surgeons dissect bodies, block printing allows more efficient production of a very few books. Advances in glassblowing and optics create eyeglasses and mirrors. Pained windows replace shutters for the wealthy. Huge mechanical clocks appear in cities and the spinning wheel revolutionizes the production of textiles.

CL8: Chivalric

Core Domains: Borca, Invidia, Richemulot, parts of Necropolis

Here is where gunpowder first comes into use in warfare. Generally restricted to dangerous, crude and noisy bombards it is not suitable for most combat. Warriors may be outfitted in full plate but heavy armor is going out of fashion. Lighter weapons such as sabers are becoming more common. Mechanical clocks are now small enough to fit in the homes of the wealthy and doctors are beginning to comprehend the spread of disease enough to order quarantines to control infection. Governments start recording births, deaths and marriages.

CL9: Renaissance

Core Domains: Dementlieu, Lamordia, Mordent

Firearms and fencing now dominate combat, heavy weapons and armor are considered slow and antiquated. Anyone seen wearing such is considered a backward brute at best and an aggressive trouble maker most likely. Castles are no longer being built and are typically converted to sprawling and comfortable palaces. Few wars are won by walls these days and armies fight in open fields.

The invention of movable type and the printing press allows the creation and distribution of printed materials. This, in turn, leads to a cultural revolution and the spread of learning. Jaded intellectuals meet at salons to discuss politics, philosophy, theory and fashion. The first ballets and operas are put into production. Some larger communities are distributing newspapers in the form of double sided handbills.

For many renaissance domains the advances in science are beginning to make magic feel a little awkward and dated. Clockworks are sophisticated enough to fit in a nobles pocket and metal ore is purified in blast furnaces. Complex and often dangerous machines can knit wool and add figures. Advances in optics allow for early microscopes. It is in this advanced age that the first crude steam engines begin to appear allowing a small number of steam powered paddle boats to ply the rivers of Ravenloft.

Cultural Level

A Light in Darkness MKing MKing