Rudolph Van Richten is a major character in Ravenloft, the horror themed setting in the Dungeons and Dragons role playing game.
He's one of the most heroic figures in the setting and also a great expert of the various creatures dwelling in the Land of Mists, writing a long series of volumes about them:
- Van Richten's Arsenal
- Van Richten's Guide to Demons
- Van Richten's Guide to Ghosts
- Van Richten's Guide to Vampires
- Van Richten's Guide to Werebeasts
- Van Richten's Guide to Witches
- Van Richten's Guide to the Ancient Dead
- Van Richten's Guide to the Created
- Van Richten's Guide to the Lich
- Van Richten's Guide to the Vistanis.
Rudolph van Richten was born in the year 671 in Rivalis, Darkon. He spent most of his early childhood in the family estate of Richten House, picking up the typical education of a noble as well as learning herbalism from his grandmother. He eventually attended a boarding school in Nartok, graduating in 688. Medical school at the University of Il Aluk followed. He married his childhood sweetheart during this time, and his son - Erasmus - was born shortly before his graduation.
Medical license in hand, Dr. van Richten returned to Rivalis to practice medicine. Many years passed, and van Richten became an established and valued member of the community. In the year 706, members of the VistaniRadanavich clan that were traveling through the area brought a seriously ill boy to Dr. van Richten for treatment. Though the doctor tried numerous remedies and medicines, he was unable to save the child. Enraged at his failure, the Vistani kidnapped Dr. van Richten's son and disappeared into the night. The doctor gave chase immediately upon learning of his son's disappearance, following the Vistani into Ravenloft's enchanted mists.
While evil lurks in all corners of the land, rarely is it as powerful as it is in the gloom of the mists. Van Richten soon found himself followed by shambling horrors - undead guardians that eventually guided him through the mists and to the Vistani camp. There, supported by the undead creatures that seemed to know his will even though no words were spoken, van Richten confronted the Vistani leader, Madame Radanavich. A woman far too proud for her own good, she was enraged that she had been hunted down. The Vistani callously revealed that the clan had already sold Erasmus to Baron Metus - a sadist whose cruelty was legendary. The Vistani delighted in telling van Richten about the pains the Baron would inflict on his son - both in this life and the next. For it was rumored that Metus worked the dark arts...
Van Richten exploded into a frenzy of violence. Somehow attuned to his rage, the undead guardians that had followed him to the camp also attacked, slaughtering the Vistani. With her dying words, the clan's leader cursed Van Richten to live amongst the monsters and watch all those he loved die by their claws. Snapped out of his rage by her demise, van Richten rode towards where he felt his son would be - and ended up at the estate of Baron Metus.
When the anguished father arrived at the estate, he found himself unable to penetrate its walls and rebuffed by the Baron's servants. Unable to figure out another course of action, he camped near the property. When night fell, he was visited by his son - or what remained of him. Baron Metus was, in fact, a vampire - and had turned Erasmus into one of his dark minions. With what little free will he had left, Erasmus told his true father what little he knew of his condition. Van Richten, filled with sorrow, was able to dispatch his son with the coming dawn.
Demoralized, Van Richten began the journey back home. The mists, however, were not as cooperative as before, and the path took much longer. When he arrive back at his house, he discovered the body of his wife. She had been slaughtered by Baron Metus, who had used his powers and the mists to get ahead of van Richten. His sanity driven away, van Richten sworn an oath to destroy Metus and all his kind, then charged back to the vampire's estate. Using the tales he had learned in his childhood and the knowledge the encounter with his unliving son had imparted to him, he was able to end the Baron's existence permanently. Thus began Rudolph van Richten's career as a vampire hunter and expert on the supernatural.