Campaign of the Month: February 2023
The Domain of Dread Council Meeting
The Carnival of Dread
The Carnival of Dread is one of the ‘transient’ Domains of Dread that move from place to place. For adventures it’s considered a ‘light in the dark’, a ‘safe place’ amid the horrors and gloom of Ravenloft. However for those born within the domains of Ravenloft the Carnival is a place of suspicion, somewhere to visit but not to linger for fear of the ‘Twisting’ power of the Carnival Mistresses that risks turning one into a ‘freak’.
Because hope is such a foreign concept within Ravenloft natives of Ravenloft see the people of the Carnival as disgusting/horrible and something to be feared – words like ‘joy’, ‘fun’ are actually taken to be sinister in their vocabulary.
In the Domains of Dread those positive emotions are often tied to violence or horror -eg the joy a vampire gains in feeding, or the fun Strahd has playing with those who try to stop him.
What natives of Ravenloft see as disfigurement is actually the result of becoming more feylike – Amilia for example has brightly coloured wings and has to paint them black and to pretend to be a vampire to ‘pass’ for normal in Ravenloft.
The irony being that to protect themselves Carnivalle folk need to always be acting and moving on because if they stay too long the natives of the domain they impose upon are liable to band together to attack them, spurred on by hateful stories claiming the Carnival folk steal children, twist the minds of those who dwell too long and are a “affront” to good order and the “norms” of society – because in providing a happy and safe space they make clear just how UNhappy, UNsafe, hateful and dark the lives of those within the Domains they visit really are!
SPOILER: Behind the screen – Running the Carnival of Dread
The Carnival acts as a safety net for players in the event that their characters get too depressed/upset by events to continue their adventures in Ravenloft.
It is a place of Hope amid the dark and players experience changes depending on if they are a native to Ravenloft or from a world where the daily horrors and dread is less common
Spoiler: Themes explored at the Carnival
The Carnival explores the very real everyday horror of mental health issues, hate, stigma and fear towards those who are different with a good side of body horror in the event that things go wrong! The ‘twisting’ nearly ties into the concept of “beauty being in the eye of the beholder” explores the issues faced by LGBQTIA+ disabled people bring seen as “freaks” and fears of ‘turning fey’ or ‘looking different’ are key to the domain. The twisting explores the transformative effect of being allowed to express ones true self – and the horror of not having others able to accept who you really are.
Isode’s power is to make visible the “hidden self” empowering those who are different and punishing those who hide their “ugly” nature.
Isolde and the Carnival folk know what it’s like to be depressed and not allowed to be ones “true self” and people who undergo the twisting are celebrated not as freaks but as “coming out as fey”.
The Carnival folk show the importance of having Allies in this process of healing, to have friends and strangers wiilling to help, celebrate and accept who you really are.
This in it’s very core the Carnival acts as a Safe Spaces amid people who have been there before…. Either in having gone though the twisting or in overcoming the depression and horror imposed by the adventures though Ravenloft…but even there not all is perfect, not every person at the Carnival accepts every other person, they are still pretty dislikes, drama and threats from both within and without, and the constant struggle for Isode in needing to remain trapped within her responsibilities to protect those under her care, at the cost of her own own wants and aims