“I must apologize for speaking to you on such short notice, my Count. Please take whatever comfort in my quarters that you require. My scheduled appointment was far later and I must thank you for willingly meet me within my own home. You are likely aware of why I’ve requested to see you. The crazed arcanist, known as ‘Azalin’, has-“
At the mention of his nemesis, Strahd twists like a gust from his seat, staring at the Burgomaster in contempt. A stare of shock and rage quickly transforms into the cool and collective grin shown to friend and foe alike. “Do understand,” Strahd calmly verbalizes, “such a name causes contention within my land. You should know that more than anyone. But, I rudely interrupted you by my reaction. Please… continue.”
His commanding words pierced the burgomaster harder than arrows or even the count’s hidden fangs could. As if he too was hit with a shocking statement, the burgomaster jerks back a bit. He sighs, trying to cover it up as the airs leaves his lips. Eyeing Strahd, the count simply raises an eyebrow after casually reclaiming his seat. After a few seconds of stammering, leading to the count’s arched eyebrow rising further, he continues with a hint of shakiness.
“-has been seeding the lands with spies to gather any information possible. He is plotting something big, but I shall rally the land to your aid. I am a patriot to Barovia first, and thus I shall heed any call to action. I know these matters cause a great deal of grief to you, but I hope to take some of the strain off of your shoulders.”
The count leans in, like a predator readied to pounce. “Yes, very fair. Now, out with it.”
The burgomaster visibly gulps his own spit while refraining from further stutter. “Several informants have reported to me, currently stationed at makeshift barracks by the village. They’re recanted some strange activity that might relate to Barovia and that other figure of contention. Fortunately, the rebellions of the subdued rival populations have been met with appropriate force. The rumors of their ruler’s return are grossly overstated, a mere distraction as an attempt to scare us.”
The Burgomaster twitches and fiddles in his seat, sweat drops gathering in more number like the growing armies he promised. The Count stares deathly upon the simple false ruler of the village, before his intrigued expression flattens into something more playful and cruel, “the active vigilance of a patriot should be rewarded. The call to action will begin soon, but first these informants of yours need my acquaintance. I must thank you for your service.” The Burgomaster shudders, while attempting to stiffen his stance in pride. Without further word, Strahd lifts himself to his feet and leaves toward the home’s wooden door. “And another thing, you would do best to find any spies and eliminate them quickly. I *shall* keep my trust in you.” As the door slowly shuts behind Strahd, the Burgomaster deflates into his seat from his received threats.
Author’s Note: Big thanks to P.N. Elrod, who inspired the intro blurb after a good rereading of “I, Strahd.” Likewise, big thanks to Ari Marmell for a reinvented version of Winding Road. Here’s my more constrained take, a pocket domain that links to Barovia… and possibly other domains as well. And a thought experiment gone wild, The Rule of Threes Cluster. One of the concepts is a call-back to a Planescape creation that felt right at home in the Mists, so here we are! As for the original Chaotic domain, Point Barmy was going to be it, but I was dissatisfied with it… and thus it was my April Fool’s post for how crazy it was. So, instead, here’s a domain inspired by the bank collapse of Florence. Also, I know I said I’d stop using Barovia, Gundarak, Darkon and Invidia… and yet here I am, haha.
Also, let me respond to a request I’ve gotten a few times. I won’t do a review of the new “Ravenloft” book for 5e; it’ll be dismissive, biased and angry. I’ve seen enough of it, I won’t enjoy it. Even pirating doesn’t feel like it’s worth my time.
Tranquility, the Winding Road (Pocket Domain)
Cultural Level: Chivalric (8)
Darklord: Eli van Hassen. Originally from Kartakass, the van Hassens fled into Barovia after the merchant family was plagued by wolfweres and other monstrosities. After being welcomed by an associate of Count Strahd, they found themselves not far off Teufeldorf, a makeshift hamlet known as Tranquility. The place was quite small, even chafing for Eli. He aspired to lord over much larger communities. Thus, he tried to make bids in nearby communities, while establishing himself as a branded name across Barovia; stretching to Invidia and Borca. A mysterious horseman one day emerged, where he met Talitha van Hassen, daughter of the de facto leader of Tranquility. Due to the family owning the most land, including the inn, that made her a sort of merchant nobility, not that she cared. While the still young Talitha was enamored with the foreign ex-pat, she did not know his name yet, something he liked to keep hidden. None the less, they met in romantic secret. Likewise, the nameless horsemen began to perform feats of bravery around Barovia, making a name for himself, even if through aliases. A servant of Strahd, Vasili von Holtz VIII, visited the von Hassen estate to alert them that the man staying in their inn is a Gundarakite and will likely cause trouble in the long run. At first, Eli dismissed this while trying to keep the stranger in his eyes. He brushed it off as nationalistic fearmongering. Others circulated rumors that the dashing rider sought his daughter as a bride. He had chased off countless suitors in the past, he figured this one would be easy to banish. But, the weeks passed and his attempts to remove “a hero” were either postponed, reconsidered or outright failed. This lead him to discover his relationship with his daughter, thanks to workers he turned into spies, who revealed much of his own life to her. After calling for legal aid from Teufeldorf, Eli declared that the mysterious horseman ravaged his daughter. Through horrid intimidation, he got Talitha to make a false testimony on the assault. Given full clearance, Eli oversaw an execution by beheading. As a final statement, the horseman cursed Eli, saying that he would rue the day he’d condemn him in such Barovian treachery. And with that, he was executed. Soon after, strange mists emerged as crowds went their way. The night ahead was deafened by frightened cries of horses and morning after saw the trampling of crops. Also, the highway that traveled north to Teufeldorf and south into Kartakass seemed to now stretch ad infinitum. Worse, the sounds of wicked galloping hooves and cleaving swings can be heard in the distance.
The family itself was never one of great triumph or gains, beyond near complete ownership of the Tranquility lands. Desires for greater land will never be met, a curse ironically akin to the Darklord of their homeland of Kartakass. In the meantime, he does what he can to welcome the noble and influential into his estate as a refuge from the horseman. He’ll welcome others, under the condition that they swear fealty and serve under his conditions. He sees himself as salvaging his own claim to land, amidst being stifled to Tranquility and any other piece of land within his walls. Eli, the latest and likely last of his clan’s patriarchs, is only survived by his daughter. His wife and son died terribly at the hands of wolfweres, prior to his pledge to Barovia. As it is, his sponsorship of the Teufeldorf Hunting Club has supplied them with silver in secret. But, with the formation of the Pocket Domain, support abruptly stopped. Likewise, Talitha found herself cut off from a wider world. Her flower garden is something of a personal work of pride, something she’d rarely let servants tend to. Many of the flowers were imported from Borca. Since the cut off, no Borcan traders have emerged near Tranquility. The fear and anguish generated by both has lead to a minister remaining in Traveler’s Rest Inn, alongside a servant/innkeeper by the name of Carspen, to bless the gates to the property and keep the horseman out. Eli is still fiercely protective of Talitha, to the point of manipulation to ensure her safety. While not a true Barovian, he distrusts anyone of Gundarak based origins. To an extent, he’s not overly trusting of the Barovian natives either, but even less so the Vistani. As such, caravans passing by are instructed through glyph symbols to keep going.
After the Mists claimed the region, a new barrier formed. Eli himself cannot leave his estate property, lest the horsemen claim him. Likewise, Talitha and the family servants are too terrified to leave. In fact, none of them can venture too far down the road, as the domain has doomed them to stay within Tranquility’s reaches entirely. And beyond that, there is a river shielding the property and the lonesome road that the horsemen forever rides upon. The life of the locals remains none the better. Still working furiously for the landlord, they mostly stay with him out of fear of the phantasmal horseman. Some, especially farmers, have taken their chances on the road. This is due to soil and crops proving far harder since “the land was cursed”. Most of these travelers met their doom.
Those along the road are especially doomed, and to a lesser extent those within the settlement are too. Notes left behind imply that it’s not too hard to find the original burial grounds of the horsemen. But, those who dare to visit the grave site will almost always meet their end. Others near the edge of the community have pondered their own ways of fending off the horseman on the road. Somehow tolerated by the darklord, the Monks of the Jovial Jocularity are a religious society that greatly appreciates levity and humor, especially in such a grim land. However, they suffer their own curse prior to emerging in the village. When their humor is insulted, they become murderous. Curiously, they are able to lure victims into places where no one will witness their slaughter. When their mood sours, their visage noticeably contorts into something disfigured and uncanny. The Groundskeeper maintains a cemetery not far from the other side of the river. During the day time, it’s not uncommon for the mourners to bring the dead across the the graveyard. The automated man simply digs and maintains graves by himself. Somehow, the horsemen and all other means of undead that appear ignore him, as if he isn’t really there. Eli does not know who he is, but does not question him or his immunity. One mad group thinks that they can handle the road in high enough numbers, thinking that the horseman is hiding something interesting along the road. To the van Hassen house, they’re an illogical nuisance. But so far, they haven’t caused enough trouble to warrant being kicked out. The mad adventurers often recruit outsiders and travelers brave and foolish, which are considered troublesome by Eli anyway. One group he favors greatly is the Gorchelli clan from Borca, a group of disgraced nobles whose reputation was eradicated after turning against Ivana Boritsi. They claim no genuine loyalty to either van Hassen, but have done all to build up trust in hopes of one day fleeing the Horseman and having the means to take Borca down. Specializing in contemporary alchemy of the core, they’ve helped bolster the hospital portion of the mad monks, as well as the House Physician’s assistants. However, they have also supplied Eli with various poisonous weapons in case of emergency. So far, these poisonous vials have only been used once. A particularly indignant noble family overstayed their welcome and demanded to meet in the van Hassen House to make demands. Those who didn’t die from their poisoned meal found themselves torn apart by the house itself as it protected its master.
And for those who anger the Pocket Domain Lord and attempt to flee the border? He has the power to temporarily trick the Horseman into thinking the runaway is Eli and his allies. The Horseman will promptly pursue and exterminate all on the endless roadway, unless they return back to Tranquility. Try as Count Strahd may, he cannot stop the Horseman or van Hassen since neither are still in Barovia technically. Beyond control over the border to some extent, he has the power to make the land itself protect him. Strange gusts of wind, splinters of wood and more can manifest in an effort to keep Eli safe. As Talitha is not a darklord, she only suffers from Eli’s curse. Eli’s curse itself will seem to forever continue, not that anyone within the domain notices. Ages have passed, but no one seems to age and it only feels like months have gone by. Eli still retains the horseman’s skull in his study, as a macabre trophy. Little does he know that the dark spirit continues until he regains his head… And more so, the death of Eli and the professed love of Talitha. Should these three things come to pass, the soul will be at peace and Tranquility will fully return to Barovia. Matters in the meantime have gotten worse, several Barovians have witnessed the terrifying Shade for themselves, as it has become uncommon in recent years for the Endless Road itself to manifest alongside numerous trails and paths in the domain.
The Grand Conjunction not only reshaped Barovia, but also reshaped a seemingly unknown Darklord, The Headless Horseman. Thanks to the wickedness of another, the darklord was “released” and became a phantom to haunt someone else. It’s unknown if this was actually the original horsemen, rebranded with the soul of the Gundarakite or if the first one was freed and replaced with the current doomed soul. What is known is that the Headless Horseman directly identifies those of Tranquility who wronged him, while carrying out his wrath on those who dare trespass. This one Gundarakite was a young soldier who escaped during the fall of Duke Gundar and later Gundarak, lying low as Barovia was taking over his land. Sickened by Gundar, he wanted to reinvent himself as a folk hero, doing good for nearby communities. Just as he was turned into a foul creature, even his steed has become something more like a Nightmare than a true Horse.
Despite being a pocket domain tethered to Barovia, it’s connections to other domains have caused countless theories and other stories to arise. In the end, the story of Eli van Hassen could just be smear campaign. One such story comes from a skirmish between Borca and Dementlieu, following heated aggression between two Noble houses. A hired mercenary from Gundarak was beheaded by a new form of weaponry, cannon fire, used by a Dementlieuse war band. The phantom that emerged cursed the soldiers who struck them, slowly hunting them down. A skirmish veteran hides in Barovia. Could this be Eli? Another tale tells of Falkovnian revenant who won’t rest until he finds his head, after Barovian soldiers took it as a prize. He hunts down any Barovian, in hopes of coming closer to his prize. This tale of Eli seems especially odd, given how he has a journal detailing him aiding the military within Barovia. Even more strange, letters in his journal detail how he thinks that the horseman might have been confused on his nationality. These contradictory and alternating stories all seem to have some proof.
The Rule of Threes Cluster
The Rule-of-Threes Cluster takes its name from the ways of the multiverse. From the Inner and Outer Planes, one studies rules of reality in three. Even in the places of The Mists, these rules of three can still be found. It is here where one can find an example. The three domains are like three thirds of a wheel, seemingly is constant rotation… as if a mockery of Sigil as well. Curiously, the space at the end of each domain acts as a kind of mockery of the Outlands. It almost reflects a distortion of distanced neutrality gone horribly wrong. In each respective domain, the outskirts will still suffer from relevant problems; whether they be frantic patrols, chaotic raiders or Mist fiends.
By some twist of fate, the fiendish wasteland found itself surrounded by two other domains. While the Mist Gate should have shattered the domain outright, it found itself suffering curses alongside others, in part to distract the False-Oinoloth further. The Mist Fiends, creations of the Dark Powers, continue to harass the edges of Reality’s End as a few move towards borders of other lands. Lawful Mist Fiends find themselves attracted to Omnipotence and Chaotic Mist Fiends can linger in Proditore. Even so, they cannot be found elsewhere in the Demiplane, as they aren’t real fiends that can ripple reality.
This hasn’t stopped some attempts at a normal life, under the madness and antagonism of the dark cult that presides over all. The Gatehouse, named after the location in Sigil, is closer to the nearby Night Market than the holding quarters of the insane. Inside this dimly lit halls, one can find various vendors stands filled with all sorts of temporary tenants. Everything about the merchandise as well as the building gives an aura of foreboding, with many of the wares containing some manner of curse or misfortune. Many other wares are bootlegs or fake reproductions of other creations. As such, it is an attraction that locals rarely engage with. However, the discerning eye might be able to find rare artifacts and magic that aren’t necessarily cursed. However, the payment for such items goes far beyond just money. It is likely that these goods carry a fiendish heritage to them. As said before, this establishment is next to the Mourning Gory. However, one need not visit the tavern to gain access. Several abandoned buildings nearby contain “portals” that also lead into the building. One such portal is quite the curiosity all its own. The Daemon’s Doorway simply leads one to another part of the domain. However, it is also a semi-stable one-way Mistway/Portal. It takes a planewalker from Brass Hills of the Bright Desert on Oerth, right to the Gatehouse in this domain.
The infamous temple is also a place where some bring offerings, if only to keep the malicious “Dark God” away from them. The False-Oinoloth doesn’t genuinely care and mostly targets those who seem the most annoying to him. When not looking for other fiends to rope into contrived schemes, the godly idol usually mutters to himself or his servants. These range from fallacious arguments to strange hyperbole to nostalgic musings. When the Darklord isn’t lost in himself, he’ll usually lament in some nihilistic manner over the pointlessness of the domain.
While little exists in the way of genuine order, the patrolling fiends have a common punishment for those who don’t adhere to the lands “basic” principles. South of the jutting central tower are the Pools of Plague and Pestilence, horrific basins filled with disgusting sludge that emits corrosive vapors. Should a dunked victim not immediately died, they are wracked in the pain of potent acid and overwhelmed by multiple terrible diseases. The particularly sturdy often find themselves horribly mutilated, sickened and tortured. In the end, their weakened remains are left to waste away in cages off to the side of the pools. Special events are held for those that the False-Oinoloth holds in particular contempt, enemies either invented by himself or those who actually are a cause for harm. The Litany of Pain is a service in which disguised fiends recite mocking poetry while the enemy of the darklord is slowly tortured by the foul goo. The name itself, as well as regalia worn by hosts and presenters, is meant to invoke The Lady of Pain in one way or another.
Cultural Level: Medieval (7)
Darklord: High Commander T’loros Deis, Minister of the Glorious Doctrine. Omnipotence wasn’t always a parody of itself. It was once a dream upon the planes, Regulate. This was envisioned as a city that would pay homage to the glorious Planes of Law. More than anything, it aspired to take from Mechanus and to a lesser extent Bytopia. However, the government under T’loros became quickly too obsessed with absolute control and order, imposing more and more sanctions and propositions to forcefully steer the populace towards the “true goal”. This made the government more and more corrupted by evil. Indifference to cruelty and torture became the norm, as ends justified their means. The Outsider became quickly rebuked, as a potential mystery element that could throw cause into their perfect vision. In a sense, they maintained that desired order of the Modron. However, their rigidity developed an insular fear, rather than a desire to share Order with the planes. Worse, their propaganda machine began to twist sending undesirables to Acheron as a sacrifice to bring glory and achieve honor within the society. Something goaded the more “chaos prone” to finally retaliate, as the Rule of Regulate decided to take a final action to implement the transition into their next stage. They initiated the “Sacrifice for Higher Law”, in which a citizen would except execution alongside a “degenerate” as both a showing of loyalty and to help ready the remainder to build a more lawful path without distraction. The logic to any outsider would be complete insanity, but their reasoning and constructed argument behind this was perfectly within “True Law”. The genocide that ensued first lead to a purge anything “not lawful enough”, followed by a mass assisted suicide to ready the next age. It was at this point that The Mists saw the city move away from the Lawful Planes and onward to elsewhere.
Omnipotence is everything Deis wanted Regulate to be. It is his perfect order. And yet, he’s not satisfied. It feels artificial, a stale product of what he envisioned. And worse, it doesn’t feel perfect to him, he wants more, even though he questions its realness. He, himself, is not perfect. In his angrier moments, he’ll see comparative chaos, where there is none. And thus, an otherwise lawful scene will be investigated or taken down by the High Commander Minister’s forces. His quest for a higher form of law has driven him insane, not that he’ll ever notice or acknowledge this. Already a terrible tyrant, now he’s one driven by true delusions of grandeur. However, this has empowered him. All who hear his calls to actions listen, with outsiders having a chance to break from the domination. Should he see some disorder or treason to eliminate, his operatives do it without question. Likewise, the accused will seek repentance, feeling as though they have done great wrong. But, in such a society as Regulate’s, there is death and no forgiveness.
A perfect circle sees Castle Regulator in the middle. Four wards make up various divisions of this perfect order. The northern ward is trades and merchant pursuits, the south is bureaucratic matters assisting the overlord, the east is all matters pertaining to commoner residence and residential related services and the west is the houses of religion, as well as assortments of memorial parks and cemeteries. In the case of the cemeteries, a divine protective haze is settled over the graves. This blocks all attempts at necromantic rituals or another spells to defile the dead. However, only those who perish as “proper citizens” are awarded burial. Those who are killed in punishment have their bodies destroyed and their records erased. Within the bureaucracy, The Sons of the Ministry define Total Law by their own definitions, with the Darklord unable to stop them. They mostly argue and accomplish nothing, compromising into authoritarianism that makes no one happy. It is from them that the early steps of laws are considered, albeit ones that are always biased to the overlord. It is said that The Sons are all close appointed lords who have been effectively brainwashed by their leader in the first place.
The Darklord can be found usually within his magnificent castle or royal palace. But, even with his great station, he enjoys surveying other locales that complement his work. The Bastion Retreat is a tavern catering to guardsmen, soldiers and others regardless of rank. All those who adhere to strict principles and serve are respected within the establishment. While he does not drink, he has scheduled visits to much fanfare. However, upon visiting, he gradually falls into depression, despite the praise from his legions. Worse is another curse, his depressive states bring about fears and delusions. When in these moods, his reflection will cast him in an Infernal form, befitting of the city’s grim take on law. As such, he flees from any reflective surface as his mood becomes more dour. As such, any visits have become rarer, as he no longer feels validation from them. As he became more insular and reflective, the Collections of State Ministry is a private book archive containing vast knowledge on countless subjects. While reading within this secret library has brought the High Commander some solace and peace, it’s not uncommon that he’ll come across a book that details a society far more stable and just in his eyes. In the end, this is often his insecurity and paranoia taking over him. Part of it is that yearning for a less brutal society, a reflection of his younger self before a downwards spiral. His own pain is reinforced by the fact that the library was built to resemble the various holy archives found upon the Lawful Good plane of Mount Celestia. While he finds “cosmic good” to be a distraction from his cause, he envies what has been accomplished on those planes as well as the true beauty that they offer. His own disapproval of himself is most apparent by his failure to rid a cult of dissenters. The Church of Free Spirit emerged by Emric Gondon, after receiving an epiphany on how to lead his oppressed people to revolution. His movement has remained small and underground, but he seeks to undo the tyranny that has stilted and stagnated the planar city for far too long. While the cult is not aware of the mists and still thinks they’re in the Outer Planes, they seek to use some chaos to help bring the city back towards a greater neutrality. The High Commander loathes them, seeing them as a mockery to everything Regulate stands for. However, attempts to rid or seek them out turn up nothing. In reality, Emric was a creation of the Dark Powers. Likewise, the rest of the clergy don’t actually exist. Should the Darklord perish, the movement will cease.
And from The Mists, a new domain joins to help a trifecta, The Rule of Threes.
Cultural Level: Early Medieval (6) within most of the domain, Medieval (7) around House Frojjone
Darklord: Gonz’iliio “Gonzik” Forojjone. Once a rising factor within the ranks of The Fated faction of Sigil, he made a name for himself as a prominent moneylender of the Helping Hands Lending Company. This infamous group has been the fall of countless, with Forojjone at the top of it all. But, his attempts at ruination weren’t enough for him, he wanted to move far ahead of his own competition, even his other bankers and lenders. In his mind, they were the enemy. As conflict began to arise within The Hive, he egged on matters by hiring agitators and robbers to further desperation, while advertising the company. After the downtrodden come filing in, he’d be the quickest to respond and provide service. This money then followed into acceleration of conflict in The Hive, using proxies and bribes to keep other factions at bay. As conflict exploded and many Hivers realized that they were tricked, a grouping of them stormed the Helping Hands building. Gonzik’s hired security helped not only save their employer but intentionally put his colleagues in the line of fire, in hopes that they’d prioritize and take them down. Following the fall of internal competition, he rallied both private security and lawful factions to beat down and even slay much of the mob. Enough slipped by to track him down. Luckily for Gonzik, his personal office had a portal to the Outlands, with a key that worked for him. Unlucky for him, The Dark Powers responded to his escape. At first, his point of arrival resembled somewhere that could be in The Outlands, but something was clearly wrong. It was unlike any place he had been to before, and yet oddly familiar. Far more interesting, the same mists from the portal followed him into this new land. Was this a demiplane? Somewhere new founded on the Outlands? An accidental jaunt upon The Prime? Or perhaps, it was something else?
Proditore, the land Forojjone found himself in, is a troubled land that seeks to bail itself out of a brutal collapse. The economy within the land has fallen to absolute ruination, with mobs running the streets. Vicious warlords and petty nobles alike fight for territory before they’re quickly unseated by some other faction. In the words of Gonzik, “it’s like the prophecy of the Faction War not only came true, it’ll never stop.” Ultimately, the wealthy have shut themselves into well guarded and heavily secured bastions or “Island Paradises” as they call them. For the most part, power is held tightly within closed circles and wealth is horded. Otherwise, little exists in government, save for House Forojjone’s mediocre attempts through the market. They believe in “The Drifting Gauntlet”, a philosophy that a “free flying metaphorical armored hand will guide the markets and the people”. This has been criticized as a lazy method of fixing greater problems, with those reaping the rewards hiding them behind closed doors. Petty thefts rarely target those of higher status, as their fortified defenses could handle a small army. But, this has only attracted burglars and thieves from abroad, seeing the bastions as a true challenge. In addition to merchant guilds using proxies and agents to contend with the world, lots of thief and assassin guilds have flourished in the underground, both in massive slums and in shadows. The Noble House has been brought up, but what of the Darklord? In his eyes, he’s a failure. His advocacy for his philosophy has been turned into a farce. Those who get ahead more or less do what he does, but in the worst ways possible. While this pleases him, society is a mess and he has no clue as to why it won’t improve. Plus, his desires for respect are met with scorn and malice. Even other members of high society think little of him, considering him an opportunist who gained clout and attention after their beloved realm fell. Plus, his primary business of lending money is especially loathed. Few are willing to trust it, despite that being his forte in life. As for the land, it’s uncanny. It both reflects Forojjone’s earlier years as a planes traveler, particularly his love of Arborea. This is combined with both the best and worst that Sigil has to offer. Perhaps most concerning for the darklord is sampling of his own childhood prime world, which is seen in much of the architecture and culture, Thyatis from the world of Mystara. All of these blend in the worst aspects to mock its Darklord.
On the subject of Mystara, he was very much a denizen of the Prime for a large portion of his life. House Forojjone was a minor merchant house originally from the nation of Darokin, having suffered from a series of poor business decisions. Gonzik was 14 when he was declared ready to enter the ranks of family business, due to his quick insight and excellence sense of commerce. The family became involved in contracting and moneylending for a repairing nation of Thyatis. The war against Alphatia was devestatingly costly and ultimately weakened power within the nation. The house allowed for loans to help essential projects across several cities. Given how the lengthy war was over and the nation was in dire need of aid, House Forojjone saw their chance at ascension. Several years later, Gonzik began to assume more control, adding crooked clauses and ludicrous loopholes to his plans. Spiking interest and other issues drew quick outrage, as the rest of House Forojjone found themselves quickly at adds with the young addition to the business. Several “visiting diplomats” from Glantri were among the few friends for Gonzik to make during his years in Thyatis. With their aid, a gateway was commissioned to lift Gonzik out, allowing the then-young man to flee into planes beyond. This ultimately lead him to Sigil.
According to the lore of the land, Proditore was once a financial powerhouse driven by international financing from 4 powerful houses; Perizcha, Martellik, Borschia and Scalibari. A faraway kingdom, an ancient version of Grandglen, required financial aid as the ruling family was hit hard by plague and war. The holy clergy serving under Grandglen’s King Dorrik I advised against this, declaring loans an unholy slide into chaos. Despite this, Dorrik continued to pursue the foreign lending and banking families in a mutual agreement. The four families were interested in Grandglen’s stranglehold on various forms of trade, particularly through wool and various fabric. Should Grandglen collapse amidst war and health, the families prosper. And should things end and things be paid off, they also win. The two sides aided each other through action and increased trade, but there was one major flaw, Dorrik found himself unable to pay the loans. The wars against Grandglen quickly bloated numbers to untold lengths, requiring more money that all four houses could give. Likewise, the conflict seemed to continue. In time, the issue arose as the 4 families began to bicker and feud in panic. Through fallacious fears, they gave him more loans in hopes of more paying back. And then the “Day of Apocalypse” came when Grandglen revealed that the king had defaulted on loans. The campaign to rid the warring factions became insanely expensive, like nothing seen before. At that moment, all four families collapsed and rapidly degenerated into open combat. With no more financial power, they saw nothing left to lose. Many members committed suicide or fled, the rest blamed rival houses and engaged in civil war. The fighting caught other groups, who began to tore the nation asunder. The inequality has been a major source of contention and wide spread violence, which only exploded further thanks to the Day of Apocalypse.
They called each other “Proditore” or Traitor, which in turn stuck with the successor state. Claims of vandalism, sabotage, intentionally bad advice and manipulation were flung. All of them agreed that King Dorrik was incompetent and had to be dealt with. After an assassin murdered the king of the now-enemy state, the crumbling land of now Proditore was targeted by Grandglen. After the Financial Four were successfully crushed and quelled, House Forojjone allegedly emerged with news of reform and rebuilding. The cynical and ruined peoples were not trusting the lofty newcomers. In fact, much open violence still occurs. For a decade, House Forojjone’s schemes have barely helped rebuild matters. Only a society of merchants and well to do artisans have prospered from the measures. Everyone else finds themselves going into debt, either paying it off or suffering grim ramifications. To ensure that a peasant revolt doesn’t destroy the rest of the nation, those within power attempt to divide the populace on issues of ethnicity, gender and other subjects. Some merchant companies further accelerate this through fraudulent campaigns of unity, taking from movements that would risk harming these Houses. This is to say nothing of political matters. Like Borca, the nation has become infamous for mercenaries and assassins as a means of financially supporting the ailing land. Given how tact, stealth and quick thought were survival traits of remaining merchant houses, many of the assassins have noble roots. After tasting the blood of King Dorren, many desired for more and thus the pursuit of the powerful secretly striking down the more powerful stuck within the land; a curse that will always haunt it. Beyond this roguish behavior, fell spirits are consorted for aid and equally dark magics are practiced in private. Strangely enough, there are sites within merchant houses where divination will always work when used against a rival group or enemy… Or perhaps, this is the Dark Powers making them see what they want to see.
Sealed off bastions dot the former wealthy districts of the city and nearby towns. Against all attacks and revolts, the nobles and merchants within live in paranoid isolation. To them, anyone is a potential traitor. Thus, more backstabbing inevitably occurs. One who is an expert at sowing this treason is an escaped arcanaloth from Reality’s End, who has taken the form of a seemingly nameless servant who magically charms his way into the estates. The fiend, Norrij’Nak, has a distaste for these sheltered people and finds them aggravating. He also takes interest in other governing powers accelerating into their most authoritarian forms, while pitting them against each other. Despite the rather chaotic feel of the domain, the fiend sees it as a playground where all ideologies and perspective can be pushed to their destructive conclusion. Prior to Reality’s End being taken by the Mists, it is possible that the curious Arcanaloth was invested in The Doomguard, despite their leanings into Chaos over Neutrality. But, in the views of the barmy fiend, entropy is a natural law that only seems like chaos to the uninitiated.
Even those related to the perpetrator aren’t safe from a life of agony. An expanded effort from the Church of the Lawbringer has found itself in this accursed land, where they actively condemn all who share a connection to these lawless traitors. Forojjone does not care for the moralistic zealots, but feels that their campaigns of guilt can be manipulated to his own coffers. The few allies close to him have tried to infiltrate the church, in hopes of funneling funds out of them, while he supplies counterfeit currency made from a thief’s guild. He hates this, as he feels like none of it is completely earned. While he feels like his schemes are clever and work all its own, he views it as theft and thus not genuine. These schemes extend to others as well, but usually those with less clout to their names. Likewise, he does this with great distaste. Should the church become suspicious of such events, his assistants will always shove all blame to the criminals to get clergy into a zealous frenzy. Fortunately for the Darklord, the church maintains a low level of power. But, the potential for damage at their hands is great. And their potential to beat the traitors of the land into submission is also great, but rarely actually works.
IMAGE CREDIT: Clyde Caldwell – Count Strahd; Ron Faure – Dullahan, Headless Rider; Chaunceybillops1 – Hopeless; Eugene Atget – Cabaret de l’Enfer; Historic Archives – Mussolini’s Headquarters; Jan Provoost – Death and the Miser
2 thoughts on “Of Lands Beyond Castle Ravenloft – More Domains and Dread”
I really like the unclearness of Tranqulity Lain, as its just like the unclear nature of the original Legend of Sleepy Hollow tale, where not only is the ending uncertain, but everything is.
And back in Realities End, evil Sigil is joined by Totalitarian-Sigil and capitalistic-chaos Sigil. One wonders how they connect: a sort of mist-filled outlands that meets all other domains in different times and places? Identical buildings acting as portals between the mirrored domains? Or maybe the False-Oinoloth became proactive and made some of his faux-maerenloths into Mistway Ferrymen.
LikeLiked by 1 person
My original intent was to have an outlands like barrier at the edge of each domain. The domains themselves are kind of like gate towns in a sense, except they bleed into otherwise neutral turf. I might expand on that… or at least give some implication towards that.
Mist Ferrymen from Merraenoloths? Delightfully terrifying idea…
LikeLiked by 1 person