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Nerd Watching: Gypsy Rovers

Written by Nicholas - Published on October 21, 2009

Nicholas is the columnist in charge of Nerd Watching and part-time Expy wrangler. He also works as the community manager, so keep an eye out for him on RPG blogs and forums.

For those who don’t recall, I am a big Ravenloft fan. One of my favorite things in the setting are the mysterious Vistani race. So you can imagine how excited I was when I saw “Playing Vistani” pop up on the official content calender. I was so excited in the lead up to the release that I even pestered the author, Chris Sims. He was very tight lipped about it (curse him!) but now the scoop is out. Playing Vistani was released in three seperate articles to contain its massive content and now the last one has finally come out. I provide you with an overview of the new Vistani and my impressions below!

These Aren’t Your Grandfather’s Vistani…

The Vistani of old editions were a Ravenloft exclusive race of mystical gypsies. They were heaped with innate powers of cursing, divination and control of the mists of Ravenloft, which generally made them unsuitable for PCs except in a watered down state. Well there’s a new law in town.

For starters, Vistani are no longer a race. Vistani are a bloodline that members of any race can join by taking a feat at character creation or after being inducted into later. So now humans, shifters, tieflings, halflings and ever other race can join the ranks of the Vistani. Personally I think some races would be very odd, such as eladrin Vistani, but that’s a ruling for the individual table.

Secondly, the Vistani’s huge power set is no long innate. Taking the base Vistani feat grants a diplomacy bonus when dealing with Vistani, the knowledge of the ritual for inducting new Vistani and the evil eye encounter power which wards off enemies. Becoming a Vistani just opens the door to a vast array of powers, it does not automatically supply it.

…But Their Essence Remains Intact

The first portion of the Vistani release is 9 pages devoted to the fluff the of the community. The piece  has several potential origin stories, outlines the leadership and structure of the clan, what it is to be a Vistani and how the world sees them. The Vistani are not exactly as they were before, but everything new feels very right. They are still a nomadic gypsy community imbued with natural magics.

Even more exciting, the distinct flavor of the Vistani is repeatedly reinforced by the mechanics. Once you have taken the requisite Vistani bloodline feat, you open up to a whole world of feat possibilities. The divinations and spiritual nature of the Vistani is incorporated through feats that give free uses of rituals as well as some new Vistani flavored rituals. Other feats build up the classes that work well with the Vistani thematically. There are plenty of Vistani options to boost rogues, rangers, bards, warlocks and sorcerers. Obviously there are not feats targeting those classes that don’t fit with the Vistani idiom, like paladin and warlord.

The Measure of an Expansion

In my opinion, the best way to measure a game mechanic is by the inspiration it provides. It is an ethereal quality, but an important one. I think this is where the Vistani really shines. Go read the background about young Vistani going off on Jaunts. Take in the descriptions of Vistani exiles. Look at the feats that say so much is so few words. If you can read those and not be inspired then I think something is wrong with you. Reading the article I see things like the feat specifically for those arcane characters with a black cat familiar and immediately want to make a character around that element. On the other side of the screen, I could easily imagine running a campaign where all of the players are members of a Vistani clan. The 4e Vistani has hooks that I doubt I could ever expend entirely.

Are you a Ravenloft fan? What is your opinion of the new incarnation of the Vistani?

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Written by Nicholas

Nick DiPetrillo is the original author behind the games Arete and Zombie Murder Mystery available at http://games.dungeonmastering.com

Nick is no longer active with DungeonMastering.com, however he is an accomplished writer and published his first game in 2009.

GD Star Rating
Nerd Watching: Gypsy Rovers, 1.0 out of 5 based on 1 rating

Nicholas is the columnist in charge of Nerd Watching and part-time Expy wrangler. He also works as the community manager, so keep an eye out for him on RPG blogs and forums.



6 Responses to “Nerd Watching: Gypsy Rovers”
  1. Rob says:

    I spoke about the Vistani a bit on my blog already. The quick recap is that I find it a bit odd to see them separated from the Ravenloft setting. That being said, it was probably a good thing to allow them to grow beyond their roots.

    I also believe then new bloodline rules make them much more viable as Player Characters than they ever were before.

  2. rmckee78 says:

    The Vistani stuff has been calling my name since I first noticed it. Sadly I do not have an Insider description, although hearing this is fluff heavy makes me think I might get one if that trend continues. Hopefully this will make it into their Dragon Annual.

  3. JoeyD473 says:

    The Vistani give me a reason to consider going into a 4th Edition game.

  4. Kolbold Minion says:

    Our party had a blast massacaring a vistani settlement after they pestered them throughout the game

  5. Donald Wood says:

    I definitely do not like the introduction of non-human Vistani at all-period! I don’t know enough about the other changes to have an opinion, but I remember that when van Richten’s guide to the Vistani came out I didn’t like some of the information in it at first. It conficted with a fictional character I was writing stories about then, but later I saw that I could make it work for the character.

  6. Sorry to note it, still boasting with the “new” without honestly admitting that the old Vistani were atmospheric, and unique, where the “new” do not even score one-third of the customers is, to me, despicable. The crappy excuses for destroying former successes did not blind me to the fact, that the oh so modern better solutions are mostly plagiarisms, or freak-outs of egomania. Ravenloft went from bestseller to a marginal remnant, that is fact, too.

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