Ravenloft! The Demiplane of Dread! The Mists! All names for the same prison dimension for the foulest in the multiverse! Those within the clutches of the Dark Powers must suffer, whether or not they deserve it. These Dark Powers overseen all sorts of truly awful Domains of Dread, plots of artificially constructed spaces where the Powers observe the truly damned in the places of their own damnation. The Darklords are those who have doomed themselves through acts of ultimate evil. They preside over the aforementioned domains to remind them of their sins. Usually, they don’t take kindly to visitors like myself.
Author’s Note: The Lovable World Traveling Bard vs. The Demiplane of Dread! I always love writing bits on Ravenloft and this is a good way of introducing some of my favorite domains to players who might not be as familiar with them. Of course, there are MANY domains that I wish I could ramble about, but I have only so much space and time to play with, unlike the Dark Powers. In fact, their ability is limitless! Plus, this is a good way of building up my own domains, Dawnsveil, Within the Woods and Feuer! (Yes, the second one is Evil Dead 1 & 2.) Keep an eye out for those new domains, by the way… Also I continued a piece cut from my prior post. The Black Lanterns was part of my Shadow Fell to Planescape conversion concept from before.
Welcome to the Demiplane of Dread
Truly a most treacherous development. My search for dark and dreary realms has lead me to the logical conclusion. This outer world, dimension, what have you. These “Mists” as locals call them. This is a home to many, a living hell that traps the most wicked and tortures them for strange amusement. This, my friends, is the demiplane built around and from the infamous Ravenloft! Dive with me into the deepest sinkholes of evil throughout the demiplane and wish me the best of luck.
The House of Black Lanterns
Cultural Level: Early Medieval.
Seeing as I have been tricked through one of Gloomwrought’s gates into The Mists, one must find their way to safety. This establishment is one such place… However, this inn is also one such way into the Mists! For those familiar with the notorious World Serpent Inn, the House of Black Lanterns has a somewhat similar function as a nexus between realms. However, entering the Mists through this establishment is far easier than getting out. The Inn has a habit of manifesting itself in places with the intent of snatching wanderers away into the the Demiplane of Dread. No one in the establishment has any control over this, so they do their best to accommodate any confused travelers. Curiously, it’s a Pocket Domain with neither a Lord of Darkness or any particular malevolence… and somehow it reaches out to the Prime Material! The Dark Powers work in mysterious ways.
This traveling micro-domain is a purely hospitable place with a strange side effect… Those who dwell here too long become frightened of the Mists beyond. To them, leaving this inn is suicide. So, this isn’t to say such a business is built on pure wholesomeness. Plus, the strange curse probably caused by the Dark Powers seems to be good for business. Curiously, the House never runs out of rooms or halls. One could swear they’ve already turned the same corner several times, all while encountering different rooms all the same.
Souragne, Island of Terror
Cultural Level: Chivalric
Darklord: Anton Misroi. Once a vicious owner of a plantation. While potentially cordial and courteous, he was a ruthless and cunning owner of business… and possibly even people. His torture of his servants and of locals who dared to slight him became legendary. In fact, his dabblings into deathly arts made his cruel streak far worse. However, his damnation came in an act of revenge against his wife, taken in the arts of a rival plantation owner. He trapped them within a quicksand bog while assaulting them with dark power, this backfired, as the reanimated undead husks of his victims retaliated and dragged him in. He found himself changed into a Zombie Lord from the experience, also dragged into the Demiplane of Dread.
This seemingly welcoming tavern and inn tried to pull me back, but onward I must explore! Knowledge must be spread to the many, to enlighten and warn! The lands beyond the cozy building quickly became marshy and murky, as ground gave way to swampy muck. This was certainly one of the domains within the Lands of the Mists! However, as an outsider, I couldn’t say. The trudging sludge was made more strenuous through the reveal of alligators sloshing beneath the opaque “water”. However, the lands beyond the swampy path proved to be something entirely. A beautiful old quarter of a city awaits!
A sign greeted me, at last! Port d’Elhour! The collective stares of the residents ensured they wouldn’t accept a gaudy-looking outsider who reeked of fetid waters and swamp muck that easily. Mind you, one must make do with what they have. The architecture speaks to both an olden world, combined with new and progressive styles. Supposedly named after a colonist ship known as “Elhour”, this township carries its own strange history. The locals who would have my time told me of the dark spirits and primeval horrors that lurk within the swampy depths. Tales of mad sorcerers who command over the dead, mounds of swampy murk with lives of their own, incarnate forces of nature and of course The Lord of the Dead.
This last entity is a terror shrouded in mystery and superstition. What is known is that all dead belong to him. A corpse shall be left to his devices for at least four days, supposedly to become one of the many zombies that patrol over the swamps. This is to ensure the lands act as he sees fit. Magic is disallowed, save for the trusted few within the circle of the Lord who can wield the powers of necromancy. Visitors who don’t heed this rule apparently have a habit of being taken away by the Lord’s zombie servants. What happens to them? My imagination has a fair number of ideas. Beyond ensuring that he maintains rule over the land, it’s not known what this Zombie Lord’s motivations truly are. Whether or not he takes joy in enforcing fear to keep the denizens in check? Unknown. By all means, I have no intent on meeting with him though. As it is, when I made my first mistake of trying to conjure my own means of survival, I thought I saw vacant stares in the swamp. For what it’s worth, they proved to be idle for the time being.
Dawnsveil, Island of Terror
Cultural Level: Chivalric (Outside of the Colony), Renaissance (Within the Colony)
Darklord: Governor Aaron Orvird. Once a man of great respect and power, he is seen as a paranoid coward consumed by his own hatred of the land’s local legend, the dark witch! This wasn’t always the case, the locals will say his decline was only a few days ago. In reality, every time Orvird make progress, the domain resets itself slightly. Once, Dawnsveil was a fledgling colony that met itself with many terrible conflicts. Periods of starvation, conflicts with native tribes, conspiracies of witchcraft. Oddly enough, the final issue was the colony’s ultimate downfall. Orvird was always driven by suspicion, especially in light of a troupe of spiritualists and healers taking up the roll of several tradesmen in town. Complaints surfaced that people were relying on strange devilry rather than approved methods accepted by the colony. The sources were sought out and extinguished. The last witch condemned and damned the governor as she was brutally tortured at his command. Her ultimate passing sealed the fate of the Governor, as the Mists cut his prospering territory from its homeland and all trade routes there of.
A wandering vagrant from a caravan of The Vistani informed me something. I have somehow traversed loosely tethered domains without being devoured by the Mists of Ravenloft. These independent Islands of Dread are often isolated from each other or form into their own micro-clusters. But those who manage to escape often find themselves in an endless cloudy voidspace of terror. But, somehow I found myself emerged in another realm. While Souragne was a domain of humid heat and swampy marsh, this new place was equally coastal, but carried a clammy dampness and whispering wind. Residence seemed to have a far more comfortable architecture, but also practical.
Denizens who would give me a listening ear claim that they’re an offshore colony awaiting word from their homelands. It turns out that this domain was once a trade and shipping centric colony to send supplies across this “new world” to their home nation. For some strange reason, I’ve already forgotten the name that they said. Disturbing. This domain carries a local-described “colonial style” of simple wooden homes with white fences. A trade route between the rangers outpost and a variety of small burgs and hamlets dedicated to different craft and trade makes up most of civilization. The central capital had the most regal and classic look, likely the longest established territory within this colony. Everything beyond is made of sky touching mountains and a poisonous marsh likely far worse than the depths of Souragne.
The leader of this former-colony is Governor Aaron Orvird, a well dressed man who looks far more aged than his years would tell you. His seat of power is juxtaposed by his fidgety and nervous demeanor, which he does his best to hide. His anxieties are mostly stemmed from the spirit of a witch that haunts the lands. Upon her trial, she placed a curse upon the land itself. Monsters pour from the mountains and the forest and the ghosts of slain natives guilt the colonists for their demise. For countless years, the residents have feared venturing beyond their own little towns. Even the bravest are hesitant to travel along well used trade roads. With tales of the vengeful Witch’s ghost? Who could blame them! But, it prove far worse than that… in fact, far worse than the other monsters that move about the outer reaches. I fear something truly wrong is happening here.
It’s worse than that? The paranoid if not dotty governor of the town? He seems to exude control over this domain. Even worse, he’s aware that I’m aware. Villagers randomly turn hostile against me, but I try not to raise a hand. The very colony seems to conspire against me. Worst yet? The forces of the witch want to slay or corrupt me. Perhaps I can do them a favor and slay these witch aligned forces and prove myself to these delusional zealots? Well, I guess an impossible task is upon me!
Within the Woods, Pocket Domain
Cultural Level: Renaissance (or beyond?)
Darklord: Professor Herbert Nelsby. Once a humble educator that teaches at a university a few days travel from the original Dawnsveil, which had been taken by the mists many ages ago! He was a prestigious educator obsessed with gathering artifacts of culture. From a voyage many years ago, he found a most disturbing acquisition; a diabolic tome of unholy rites bound in human flesh. He stashed the find and continued research when classes were completed. A small retreat several miles from Dawnsveil’s remains was constructed, which also allowed him to ride into town to purchase and trade various goods too. In time, he became obsessed with testing the powers of his new tome. First, he invited his wife for a couple’s retreat before unleashing the tome’s power. His wife became possessed by great evil, resulting in him chaining her to the cabin’s cellar. In an effort to reverse the effect, he brought in a protege surpassing expectations at his classes, a young man named Benjamin. The young man was meant to be a host for the demonic forces, to save the professor’s wife. Ultimately, the possessed wife attacked the boy and possessed him as the professor was ganged up on within the confines of the locked cellar. Strange mists poured into the basement, as the woods surrounding the cabin, along with the cursed cabin, were lifted into a dimension beyond… The Professor himself constantly wrestles with a demonic spirit, while retaining his obsession with luring people to the cabin for testing. A piece of him yearns for normalcy though, well aware he is damned forever.
Ah, calming refuge! A cozy cabin seems to be abandoned. I’ll take that over a populated area. Of course, there is probably a reason for this, no? Such luxuries can’t be afforded within this demiplane, there is always a twist! From what I understand, this should be beyond the territory of Dawnsveil. The architecture certainly speaks out to “Plantation Plain” aesthetic that hovers along the coastline of clammy colonial lane. However, being far more “inland”, the rocky crags leading to waving waters below is eclipsed by a piney woods. Mind you, the isolation and creaking timbers does little to create a welcoming environment.
Within the Cabin is a lingering stench of death, its secret also lingers just beyond immediate reach. The most curious, like myself, will probably find themselves scouring the vacant property. Well, lucky for me, a journal happened to find itself under a rather beaten bedside. The pages tell of a researcher and educator from a small university that is several days travel from what was once Dawnsveil’s prime world. This eccentric professor loved research and teaching in esoteric fields. Fortunately, the fate of Dawnsveil was already sealed long before the professor delved into his dark dealings. His greatest project involved discovering dark entities that corrupt the living and reanimate the dead. These forces are labeled as Demons, but only a few creatures of the Abyss fit this label. His tampering with forces beyond lead in the possession of his wife and his own gradual corruption. In a final moment of clarity, the demonically controlled wife was tackled into the cellar by the professor. As if by magic, the cellar lock snapped into place and the deed was done.
As I came to the end of the book, there were scribed incantations. Before I could pour over too quickly, other travelers rushed me in panic. Their garb, scratched and torn. Their faces, bloody and messy. It seems they’ve already had their run-in with this cabin. One of them wields a tome, not unlike one I’ve seen within the Prime of Oerth. It is a grimoire, bound in flesh with a humanoid face upon the cover. The travelers seem it appropriate to bind me while they seek this tome for an incantation to “send it all back”. Not a moment longer, forces buffet and batter the rickety shack. Planks and boards quake and splinter, glass panes shatter, doors fly wide open! The fools! An incredible blast of wind carrying dirt and rubble thrusts open the door, colliding with the panicked vagabonds. The forces of the underworld took their bodies, twisting them into demonic dead. The corrupted leap to attack, readying other victims for assimilation into the powers of evil. Lucky for me, the basement lock came undone and the demonic professor’s wife dragged me in. It turns out being slung around like a bullet on a sling is enough to free you from a tight binding. It also helps when the basement has enough sharp tools to finish off these disgusting flesh-puppet monstrosities. A flurry of hacked limbs and oozing black ichor blood later, I found myself doing all I could to flee the wretched hive of abyssal force come to the Dread Domains. Chasing roots, other victims of possession, the very earth itself; all conspiring! The forest shifts and changes as the domain tries to close its border. And before I could come to a halt, a sudden cliff face with a broken bridge jumped from the mist, as if to purposely cause my undoing! Into the mists below, I tumble!
Barovia, Core Domain
Cultural Level: Medieval
Darklord: Count Strahd Von Zarovich. The original darklord! Ruler over a once fair land. His conquests and calls to glory gradually meant less and less to him. In the end, he became obsessed with a woman only a little younger than him, Tatyana. His obsession grew into rage when he found out that his brother took his love in marriage. At the wedding, Strahd slew his brother while embracing dark power. In horror and despair, Tatyana threw herself from a building to her demise. The Dark Powers, far less powerful then, saw their opportunity to make Strahd the first of many experiments. Now, analogues to Tatyana appear in Barovia and taunt the angered count. He is reminded of his cruel deeds forever more.
It is from here that the demiplane owes much of its existence to. It is here where the Mists’ dark experiments began. Count Strahd, the notorious “first vampyre”, is the first of countless damned souls to be trapped here. His damnation caused a cascade throughout the multiverse, starting the fates of countless heinous souls. It is for that reason that Barovia is the most infamous of all domains! My entry remains a mystery. It turns out when one goes unconscious in a camping ground overrun with demonic undead, one wakes up in the coffin. For whatever reason, I find myself in the office of a mortician. Waiting several hours for the shop to close was far from ideal either, but one must endure hardship in these awful awful lands of the mist.
Barovia is a cold and isolated place, many small villages dot a well forested landscape. The trees themselves twist and sneer in disgust, as the sounds of wolves and unnatural monsters fill the night’s sky. The territory is cut in half by the rising rocks of the Balinoks Mountains. From the eastern portion of the mountains, Old Svalich road leads one through the dark woods and into the eponymous village where the domain gets its namesake from. Since the massive acquisition, Barovia has many villages and towns under its banner: Krezk, home to sanctuaries and shrines of light (among the few); Vallaki, home of the Blue Water Inn as well as the Van Der Voort Coffin Shop (which is likely a front for Strahd’s allies); the former Gundarak land of Teufeldorf, housing a Twisted Tower repurposed for Barovian military; Mount Ghakis, home of the nefarious bandit known as Red Lukas… and of course the Village of Barovia itself, known for far too much on its own!
The Barovians are a fearful people and for good reason. While they too are feared, the Vistani within the lands share in the fear. Many are forced into servitude under Strahd. While a few respect the Count, many resent him but are resigned into their station. The few who have attempted to revolt were suppressed by their fellow clan members or by the dark forces of the domain itself!
Conflicts bubble within the sullen land of Barovia. Even without the other terrors of the domain, The Devil Strahd hangs over like a looming shadow. All know and fear his presence, but try their best to continue life as normal. Disappearances, harsh and oppressive action and more weigh the Barovians down. None the less, their perseverance is nothing short of admirable, if a bit stubborn. Prior to the Grand Conjuncture, Gundarak proved to be quite the military rival, causing all means of campaigns and altercations between the borderlines. Following the demise and annexation of much of the domain? The Gundarakite and Balok ethnicities have found themselves on edge more often than not. These ethnic feuds have continued to heat up, causing Strahd’s own forces to intervene more and more. Despite the Darklord’s terror, the prejudice and hatred manifest in other ways. Even distant relative and meddler Lyssa von Zarovich has been known to cause Strahd grief, even using forces of Bluetspur against Strahd. Rumor has it that “poison” ultimately defeated her.
Arak, Parallel Domain
Progress Level: Medieval
Hold on, this makes no sense. Arak is dead. That’s what the scrolls say! A great rift consumed much of the land, while other domains devoured the rest. How very confusing. No matter, something has gone wrong and it’s back. Well, time to explore the past, I suppose. Perhaps the very Dark Powers themselves do this to chastise my own meddling ways. Who knows? Well, this is an opportunity to chronicle what’s lost, I suppose.
For starters, the Arak are first and foremost Shadow Fey. For the domains that have their roots in Oerth or Toril, it’s easy to see why one could mistake them as The Drow, a foul sub-set of elves brought to the depths of the world by a Demon Queen known as Lolth. This deific fiend power turned these fallen elves into the dark elves under her control. Needless to say, these Arak are similar but different. For starters, any reference to a Queen of Spiders only came after the fact. Another fiendish power entirely brought these darkened fey to the Mists to begin with. As I wander these blasted out hills, I have to wonder if the Arak were descended from The Shadow Elves, a sub-set of elves from the world of Mystara. Their empire isn’t so different from the one on Arak. However, the strange elements of the Oerthian dark elves cannot be overlooked either, especially the corruption of Lolth. But, what of the actual drow that made their way to Arak? Well, three outsiders actually found themselves within the domain! As to what happened to them? Unknown!
The real important question is thus, how is Arak standing if the Conjunction happened and the Shadow Rift took its place? I’ve heard scholars deep into the lore of the Mists pondering a theory of “Ghost Domains”, mere echos of lands that should be gone. This is likely a creation of the demplane to mess with the minds of people like me. A demiplane wide version of a practical joke, if you will. Needless to say, I’m not laughing! Plus, bands of Arak raiders has proved to be a brutal experience. I can only fend for myself with fancy footwork and craft swordplay for so long! However, the rumors prove true. Should you fend for yourself in the night time of Arak, you may live to see another day. For the dwarf miner from Darkon who tagged along with me? May you find peace, poor basher was dragged into the earth, like it was quicksand. But, given how this domain doesn’t exist anymore, did it really happen? This isn’t certain. But, at least this is still a chance to learn a little history.
The Arak kingdom of Niurin Scaa is a particularly begiling sight, especially given the sprawling and confusing caverns that surround much of it. This glimmering gossamer city holds its own “temporal fugue”, where one could feel like they’re stuck for hours to days within the kingdom below, but emerge to find themselves gone for maybe a couple of hours to a day at most. Up above, dead mountains line the wastes, as well as hints of a Cult of a Spider Queen up above. One can assume that Prince Loht made his move against the cult, but I can’t be certain of this. From what has been recorded, a massive storm was conjured by “something” and wiped many surface dwelling Arak out. This was probably what crippled the cult too. Soon after, many dwarven and gnomish prospectors from Darkon became interested in salvaging the remains, much to the chagrin and outrage of the Arak.
Shadow Rift, Core Domain (?)
Cultural Level: ???
Darklord: Gwydion the Sorcerer-Fiend. Is he a god? A demon? Something all together? Unknown! All that is known is that the Shadow Fey were the fiend’s prize. Chasing from the Plane of Shadows, the Sorcerer-Fiend wanted Arak for himself. After Loht was dethroned by his power and almost succeeded, something went horribly wrong… The Grand Conjunction. The Kingdom below was moved elsewhere and the lands above Arak were torn up in the cataclysm. A dark mist overlays the realm below known as the Shadow Rift. Now his realm is partially tethered in Ravenloft, acting as a reality wrinkle of sorts. In all fairness, he’s a living reality wrinkle within the domains.
I don’t know how I got to a place that shouldn’t exist. Arak was devoured by an event called the Grand Conjuncture. Yet, there I was! More disturbing, this alternate reality that took me? It’s converging with the current one! And now I find myself in a locale that proves to be far worse and far more deadly. Enter, The Shadow Rift! It’s becoming more clear now. The void is overlooking a seemingly endless pit into a sylvan hell. And beyond it? Tepest, a land of ant-fey inquisition. But, no harm in learning the truth on the Arak, no? We haven’t died off yet!
Officially, the Seelie and Unseelie wrestle for control in a hereditary ruler-ship within the Rift lands. But, the darklord responsible for their current misery watches onward from the ensnaring hold of The Obsidian Gate. Said gate is also how the Arak fled the Demiplane of Shadow and into the Demiplane of Dread to begin with. However, Gwydion’s tampering has caused him to become stuck there. This isn’t to say that his dark influence doesn’t mess with the Shadow Rift, let alone the entire Demiplane of Dread. his stasis is just a stop gap from him causing far more havoc all around. Thankfully, the “darklord” of the Shadow Rift seems pretty well wedged between the gates and other planes beyond. Maeve and Loht are the active forces of the plane, dueling each other in the words of faerie politics or sending all means of sylvan cohorts against each other.
Beware to all mortals who step into these lands of the fey! To the Arak, mortals are curiosities; mere play things to examine and use. The Seelie are kind to their new toys, while the Unseelie are quite destructive. Also, trying to leave will either disappoint them or send them into a fury. Even without the uncomfortable reality of kidnapping, the fey are alien as a whole. Try as they may to imitate the lives of humanoids in the domains above, they will always remain uncanny in some aspect; failing in critical ways that would otherwise make them relatable.
Tepest, Core Domain
Cultural Level: Early Medieval
Darklord: The Three Hags of Tepest. Three girls (likely changelings) were dropped off at the a farmstead, much to the shock of the residents. The husband of the household had a distaste for how weak they seemed. Attempts to get rid of them lead to chastisement by his wife, as well as them getting stronger when they returned… and his wife getting weaker. Eventually, his plans lead to his wife dying from this drain. Feeling cursed, he kept the girls on the farm, forcing them into simple chores and house care. While under these constraints, they lured wealthy strangers to the farm for their money, killing them and stewing the remains for the unknowing father and his sons. Eventually a dandy caught onto them and tried to turn the girls against each other, as they tried to kill each other and the dandy. The Mists intervened and pulled the girls into a faerie tale land of their own punishment. In an instant, they grew up and became foul witch distortions of their own selves. Both afraid and empowered, they continued to scheme.
Ah, the fair folk. My old nightmares never cease! It’s bad to anger the Seelie, it’s worse to anger the Unseelie! Luckily for me, the Shadow Rift has its own wrinkles in the demiplane. It turns out there are a few that lead to Tepest, which would explain the inquisitors upping their action. But, what of Tepest? Surely, this domain was more peaceful before these outside fey caused so much torment? Wrong! The fear of the sylvan kind has been a theme of the domain for as long as it has been in the Mists… at least so say various scholars of the lands.
A heavily forested land with an almost faerie tale look to it, Tepest could have been a pleasant land to live. However, the antagonism of dark fey, covens of hags and the inquisition itself have locked the lands down in paranoia and anxiety. The inquisition in general has often gone too far in their pursuits to stop any fey-aligned entities at all costs. This has gotten to the point that their leader, Wyan of Viktal, has attempted to interject. But, given the strength of the movement and the increase in support following the Grand Conjunction, he cannot stop them.
Stuck within their little woodland, three hag sisters act as the true darklord for Tepest. While the domain resists them as much as possible, they’ve adapted to the Inquisition’s attacks and have taken advantage of them in many ways. Competition in the form of other fey are pointed out and removed. Plus, all the bodies dropped in the inquisition’s wake have also proved useful to the Hag Sisters Three. Despite this, their actions are ones of survival and necessity, combined with their own guile and cunning. However, potential victims can gain their own escape due to the hags’ curse of riddle competitions. Even in their distracted state, they’re still experts at defending themselves, but they won’t notice their target getting away. And, unless all of the hags are slain at once, they’ll just use their cauldron to revive the other fallen sister(s).
(Königreich des) Feuers, Island of Terror
Progress Level: Medieval (Most of the Domain), Chivalric (Areas surrounding the castle)
Darklord: King Gunther Drachenblut. The maddest of despots, a literal form of rule by fire! King Drachenblut was always an extreme authoritarian that saw his ancestry as a divine reason to do as he wished, for his decisions were blessed by the heavens in his eyes. Through his pride, he imposed his will more and more upon whatever land he decreed his. Inevitably, people retaliated in the name of their freedom. Offended, Drachenblut’s tactics became more aggressive and inhumane. The pinnacle of his conquest campaigns involved bypassing rival armies to burn down several villages and years of resources (such as staple crops) until they gave up. Following that, he taxed the land into absolute destitution. However, the Mists didn’t respond until he threw a celebration to gloat over the hopeless people he had destroyed. Now, the mad King sits bored over a population that’s too tired and lifeless to do much of anything. Hardly any tribute comes in anymore, as crops hardly wield results and the people are too poor to pay much. When the tyrant leaves his stronghold walls, the nation’s perception of him warps his form into a nightmarish monster. Likewise, those in service to him become equally monstrous.
Out of one nightmare and into another. This has been the recurring theme of the domains, hasn’t it? Fortunately, I have solid land not controlled by the dark spirits of the fair folk. The ground is covered in a mixture of ash, clay and a hint of snow. A blazing inferno likely had its way with what’s left of what was probably a town… However, an inn building still curiously stands. And within, an innkeeper and a priest sullenly gathered at a round table. The rest of the establishment? Long empty, probably unused too. They warned of a kingdom devoid of life, controlled by a delusional tyrant. This place was one of the last safe havens and I should be cautious when venturing out. Well, I’ve come this far. Perhaps diving deeper is inevitable… I hear a tale of a warlord who took hold of a land, drained the land for all it was worth, burning the rest. And as for his punishment? Well, exactly that. Time will tell what that entails.
Beyond a small set of sloping hills, coated in decaying plants and warm soot, lies the imposing walls of a brutal kingdom. The guards looked weary, but ever vigilant, almost eager to lash out against an outsider. The least drained among them was a more regal looking captain figure, whose eyes locked with my own, as if he was a predatory animal side stepping besides its prey. A fool would demand to explore further, a worse fool like myself demanded capture to witness the might of the land’s glorious ruler. Without haste, the barracks defenders apprehended and dragged me away. Sights of colorless buildings, weak peasantry lacking in energy and crests of a royal Drachenblut family line the way, as my feet carve a line within the ashen covered dirt ground. Moving closer to the royal palace, plenty of buildings are scorched or burnt down completely, a testament to the family name of Dragon’s Blood.
And then there are the residents themselves…. Sickly, zombie-like, lacking in any form of life. Just like the land itself, all means of energies are being sapped away by the forces of evil. There are exceptions though, as I found out. As the guards brought me to an imposing castle far more intimidating in stature and sheer amount of spikes compared to the outer wall; I saw something truly inhuman. The “forces” that interrogated me, they look like they were once humanoids at some point. These shadowy figures have little in discernible features, save for jaws glowing with infernal sparks. Their gnashing teeth provided the only glints of light within considerably dim dungeons. For sure, this was my end? It would have been, had the particular power of the kingdom not taken interest in me. King Drachenblut, I presumed. And indeed, he is… or should be. Oh, how I wish I was wrong. What began as an approaching man clad in fine robe and battle worthy armaments morphed before my eyes into a gangly monster composed of shadow, pale flesh and limbs sharper than the blade by his hip. Wreaths of Fire wrapped around the being. The creature-king studied me with morbid delight, sometimes using a talon finger to slice into my torso, solely for pleasure. As the warped man thing slinked back into the retreat of the dark, a more human voice assured that my time will surely come once a use is found. After all, he wants to see his kingdom awaken once more in a combustion of renewal… to take from his words.
Not a moment sooner, a familiar young woman leaped from the void space. Ah, the vistani sage! The wise woman freed me from my shackled bondage, leading me through corridors of singed black stone and burnt out sconces. Making it to a sewage canal, freedom was hopefully at hand. The mote beyond, covered in spikes amidst the foul water soup. It took a while before guards caught on and delivered a rain of arrows in our direction. However, the recovery onto land and mad dash into the farmland was the least of worry. The hulking king-thing returned, ablaze in rage. Corpse-like villagers cowered and shuffled in hopes of evading the monster’s fury, only for a number to be scorched by pillars of flame shooting from the beast’s mouth. A gristmill being ignited was my final memory of the domain, as the vistani girl did all she could to tug my limp body to safety. Was I doomed to be burnt like charcoal? Life faded as all that was around me was inferno. Was this the Darklord’s means of preventing my escape?
Lamordia, Core Domain
Cultural Level: Renaissance
Darklord: Adam, the Creation. Adam is among the most somber of the darklords. He was the creation of a mad doctor concerned with pushing the boundaries of morality. Doctor Mordenheim’s obsessions resulted in his perfect project, Adam. Compiled from many bodies and brought to life through strange occult-science, Adam was oblivious at first, only wanting to be wanted. However, Mordenheim’s cruel personalities and desires slowly rubbed off on Adam more and more. While Adam became more cruel himself, he still sought acceptance, but could never receive it. Eventually, in a fit of rage, Adam murdered Elise Mordenheim (Victor’s wife), kidnapped the daughter and fled into the Mists. The Dark Powers responded accordingly by sculpting the domain in his honor.
The vistani girl smacked me awake. A bit rude, but I should still be grateful, no? The path ahead is filled with far more life than before! The hellish wasteland of fire and shadows was no more! The architecture ahead looked a bit similar, but ages more advanced. Have I fled the Mists at last? No, that’s far too hopeful of a possibility. Life here is not that nice. However, a somewhat cozy looking village awaits me… Deja vu, only horror awaits soon. As an hour passes, I see an outline of my new stalker. It’s hulking and bulky, some kind of mutant or misshapen giant? I shout to the creature to reveal its intent, as I’ve long become fed up with the tricks of mist. Out comes not a creature of wickedness, but a walking tragedy far worse than its material plane incarnations… The Dread Flesh Golem!
Aghast I stand, this foul abomination of arcane science before me! It roared in fury before readying a barrage of furious fists. However, a little panache and quick feet proves that speed beats strength. And running like a coward means one lives another day! Well, after tending to one’s wounds by the Musarde riverside. At least the river has its way to leading to civilization. This domain features two primary settlements overseen by the Von Aubreckers, who seem nice enough. Neufurchtenburg and Ludendorf make up those primary settlements, with dotting outliers of civilization elsewhere. But, given the penchant for harsh weather, travelers and immigrants are uncommon.
However, the real “attractions” of this domain are born from the mind of Dr. Victor Mordenheim, a physician and “creator” who wanted to undo the terrible truth of mortality. While he partially succeeded, he created a monster… quite literally. His greatest creation, Adam, was his ultimate undoing. And worse, his work inspired many copycats, whose creations have run amok, amassing much destruction outside the walls of safe civilization… Well, ‘safe’ in theory. While Adam resides on the Isle of Agony, a secluded spot away from everyone else, his pain can be felt throughout the realm. In fact, those who give him too much grief and try to escape find themselves caught in a buffeting and blasting blizzard… even in the height of summer! Fortunately, most of the domain ignores Adam much of the time, except for stories. For one who desired acceptance more than anything, even the domain rejects him. Many feel that Dr. Mordenheim is the actual darklord in fact! With that, let me take my leave to this Isle of Agony, so I may garner information from this Adam. This is probably a bad idea.
The Lair of Adam exists on the tip of an archipelago known as “The Finger”, extending into a vast sea. This lonely island is spar in noise and sight. Given the nature of Adam, this is understandable. The isle is rife with systems of cave passages and tunnels, creating a small maze that Adam uses often. When not busy brooding, the Dread Flesh Golem ponders and plots. He wishes the doom of Dr. Mordenheim without killing himself, plus he wishes to find some happiness in a land that will never accept him. I could have been a potential friend, had I not stealthily maneuvered through his lair like a thief. Even trying to explain that I’d be willing to accept him met with paranoia and outright. After all, a cursed ruler of a domain must always suffer for their sins. Only a greater force should hope to shatter the curse. A pinch of magic and bolstering word was all that was needed to properly flee the raging giant. However, the cruel blizzards of which I spoke of kept me in line. The magic of the shining light device I bought in town certainly helps. For all the guff I gave the enlightened folk, this crafty invention did a good job of frightening Adam for a second! Too bad he punched me off a ledge into into the murky depths below. And now? I found myself plummeting, sinking, fading with The Sea of Sorrows…
IMAGE CREDIT: TSR/Wizards – Domains of Ravenloft map and Ravenloft logo