Dare you seek shelter in places where solace cannot be found? They have roofs and walls, but they are not homes. They are prisons all their own, where cries of horror and derangement mix with the maniacal methods of their overseers. Enter through these doors and never leave, for your caretakers have other plans for you now. Below are a few buildings designed to ensnare, persecute and afflict. They are not prisons in the traditional sense, but the dark powers have a habit of changing all to accommodate the punishment of another. Some existed prior, such as a place of holy contrition and a house of state security. Others came about as domains are built from a darklord’s sins or as a consequence of them.
Author’s Note: This one slides a bit into mature content, warranting a word of warning. As it is, one of the domains was built on a dare to make something quite disturbing. It is disturbing. Is it wholly original? Not really, it’s basically The Golden Cat from Dishonored meets dark aspects of Planescape and Ravenloft; plus the House of Lament. Will I use it for something? I don’t really know, but it’s now a piece of the Demiplane either way. Likewise a few other things slide well into proper Ravenloftian grimdark. Debauchery, zealotry and totalitarian horror await. For what it’s worth, more Planescape and Mystara references are here as well. And while I’m at it, very very few WotC-era references, hehe. But, even if this version is slightly tamed down, some viewer’s discretion is advised.
The House of Repentance (Dawnsveil)
Should you be convicted of sin within Dawnsveil, there a few potential fates for you. The first is that you go on a second trial to see if you are conspiring with The Witch. Should you be found guilty, you are to be executed. If you are found innocent of connection with The Witch, you are still considered dirty and unwelcome to society until you reform. This religious site then comes into play, as you are administered into the care of the monks here. As the name implies, it is a holy place where one must repent from their sins and ready themselves before they return to society. But of course, life is never so simple in The Lands of the Mists. Often, the glorified in-mates suffer torture in relation to their sin and will continue to face it until they own up to what they committed. The monks within the abbey that operates such an institute are psychotic and feel that battering subjects to near death is the best way to cure them. Barring that, their use of holy miracles are used to drain and torment in any way possible. It’s not uncommon for a “patient” to “tragically die” within their care. Through use of prayer, the somber outcries and pleading wails are muted to prevent others from knowing the depths of the monks’ own depravity and villainy.
The monks of this domain originate in the Prime, alongside the rest of the colony. The House of Repentance was built for its namesake. It was a holy place where people could freely address their woes, in order to come back to regular society. Their sins observed and addressed by a priest, their conscious was cleared and they were on a path to redemption. The Witch changed all of that. The monks succumbed to rampant paranoia, well before the domain’s curse did so to Dawnsveil itself. Their rehabilitation charity was corroded by their own insecurities and fears, retooling it into a place of divine retaliation. The first few cases involved people with involvement with the witches, even though the majority of them were far from malicious. Eventually, prior to the final execution, their practice degenerated into anyone who gained negative favor from the church itself. From that point until this day, even the majority of religious charities and faith groups are unaware of how low the House of Repentance will sink to achieve their sadism. In many regards, they have very much become the very heretics they seek.
The front facing facades and buildings within the property remain just as welcoming and hopeful as they have been in the past. The monks create an uncanny sense of praise and healing, only to masque their genuine intentions. Even acolytes of the Dark Witch fear them to some extent, as their aura of malice surpasses their charms and abilities. Despite their flaws, their genuine faith shields them from the powers of the witch, even if they follow a deeply perverted and heretical fracture of said beliefs. Their initiation rituals are also deeply disturbed, often amounting to abusing someone the newcomer knows. The condition is that they must have transgressed somehow, only for their punishment to be severe and brutal. Those who risk cracking under the pressure are often taken as prisoners, as they release a statement on apprehending infiltrators. Attempts at investigating this gruesome place mysteriously come back negative. It is said that secret chambers exist within the confines. That or a strange “divinity” cloaks the realm. Splints, cages, all means of torture devices made to stretch, pierce, shred or bludgeon the flesh are beyond the onlooker. The deeper into this lair of wrathful sadism one descends, the more gruesome the torture. Further trade in gunpowder has allowed for one such experiment, building and exploding small bits of gunpowder on the victim, before using divine prayers to heal them enough to continue the process. Their information has been secretly of interest to the Governor’s militias.
Phyreshan Rehabilitation Center (Phyresha)
Many of the Phyreshan powers-that-be are not so quick to give up on a problematic citizen. As such, reeducation is true education. All good citizens are given a chance to learn from what the state deems a mistake, lest they be cast out or be removed. While order within Phyresha is handled by the lingering and watching shadows that float throughout the domain, as well as the disguised spirit assistants, there is only so much that any of them can do at a time. And thus, just besides the central city, is their newest beacon of hope. By the decree of the Council of Seven, it is committed to a means of bringing the disgraced and harmful back into a society, a chance at redemption. While the propaganda throughout the city and the building’s exterior promote the wellness and care of those in their grasp, reality paints a different picture. In truth, in order to bring someone under the leashing law of the land, one must break their mind and remold it.
As the entry halls into this cold and unwelcoming compound will inform you, “This is a Mercy, This is a Kindness.” In their eyes, this is an extended arm of altruism that gives another chance to those who wrong society. Unlike The House of Repentance, there is a genuine pretense that their actions are for the greater good and a reflection of core character principles. Instructors and Disciplinary Enforcers have been hand selected based on their knowledge within their craft and their unending patriotic dedication to their land. This selection process is rigid, often the result of assemblies created to boost morale in the nation or from community outreach, where actual well-being is performed. The latter can range from bread and circus gestures to actual response to feedback on the improvement of society. But like their education center, their intentions are far from wholesome. While they claim to reform those to express within a safe environment, the untrammeled is a rogue factor that changes their conserved traditions and status quo. The facility itself embodies their claims of progress in initial appearance, while the reality of stagnation and restraint from change shapes the inner workings.
Those expelled and forced to live within huddled villages beyond their care are barely the wiser of their techniques. However, they are not beyond their eternal shadowy surveillance. Almost all of them have failed on them, regardless of them going through the rehabilitation program or not. Whether it’s because of their own stubborn convictions or some darklord curse that causes a failure probability is unknown. What is known is that many outcasts were failed subjects, with as many as possible memory wiped of their time in the unpleasant clinic. Those who aren’t so lucky are subjected to regimented schedules, often broken into various segments to establish routine. Classes and individual therapy range in “compassion”, often coupled by how cooperative and forthcoming a “student” is with learning. Many of the laboratory examinations remain horrifying, with classes being used to explain and break down matters. One popular modern technique involves a new invention, Electrified Zoetrope or “Electrope”. The moving pictures displayed range from the unsettling to the heinous, to better explain what is “wrong” in such a society. When the student sees their errors and proves that they’re cured, the nightmarish pictures end. Attempting to bluff through their procedures often fails, as the staff uses various means of technical and arcane measures to ensure that the subject is a truthful and forthcoming citizen. If helped, torture is reserved for those absolutely defiant and those suspected of deeper treachery. In fact, recent fears of war with other territories under Rockbaecche’s thumb has made the center a popular destination for prisoners of would-be war as well as spies. And should the ugliness of the warmachine rear its head, the rehabilitation center will rebrand itself into a true weapon against those who stand against it.
But, if this place is a creation of the domain, surely it has historical precedent? Within the prime, it very much does. Several regimes that emerged from the collapse of Phyresha’s predecessor, Neur’Maise, attempted to reconcile their differences. And for a time, it worked. However, the corruption within the Council of Seven cannot be understated. They put forth a forceful means of ensuring stability and cooperation, via a secret brainwashing initiative. Word of this got out and only emboldened the nationalistic and ethnically divided. Feuding worsened, as the facility was repurposed for war strategy in an effort to suppress division and keep the peace. None know this history within the demiplane, save for the darklords. Now they are only doomed to repeat their past mistakes, where there is now even less chance for true peace and unity.
The House of Stoking Inner Delights (Pocket Domain)
Cultural Level: 9 (Renaissance) with hints of 10 (Industrial)
Darklord: Madame Sylvain Du’Fée. Despite looking like a middle aged human woman in various finery, she is in fact a fey changed by her own glamor. An enterprising sidhe within The City of Doors, this fey pondered how to spread her influence of glamor upon the planes. Her origins lie within the Seasonal Courts in the Deep Ethereal, home of various faerie creatures not aligned with the Seelie or Unseelie Courts upon the Outer Planes. Even then, her plans were known to the multiverse, to manipulate and play with the minds of mortals like none have before. Her true name is lost, but upon venturing with other fey into Sigil, she adopted the name Sylvain Du’Fée by 710 BC. Du’Fée witnessed the “red torch” districts seen within The Hive, pondering on how to not only do it better, but appeal to a wealthy elite. While “classy” companions exist within The Clerk’s Ward and The Lady’s Ward, Sylvain pondered on “giving them a home”. However, her schemes could not end there, for the sylvan folk never stop at just the sensible conclusion. Her idea was original, using her sylvan powers alongside her escorts to create unique and world-bending experiences. Several members of the Society of Sensation were eagerly recruited to help build this new experience in The Cage. However, Sylvain lacked any moral fiber on what was too far or what proved acceptable. Her powers, magnified alongside a network or sorcerers and magic-users, made something akin to an expansion to the Civic Festhall… Or rather, the stereotypical parody that the Factol would never accept for her own faction headquarters. Established in The Lady’s Ward, a gorgeous building almost resembles an ornate greenhouse. The extravagance of the interior matches the price paid by “worthy” patrons. However, Sylvain’s dark side quickly corrupted and doomed the establishment.
As the Madame, she always had a final say in experiences. Through her bolstered powers, she would blend augmented reality with illusion in ways that didn’t just bring a sense of pleasure, but a sense of the uncanny and even danger. And worse, her lack of mortality caused her to stress on finding replacement recruits over the years. As such, she payed particularly immoral knights of the cross-trade to grab orphans or deal in kidnapping the offspring of rivaled families in more higher end wards. A separate school was built to educate in basics and ready them for her decadent and degenerate world. Several Guv’ners and Hardheads became in on this as a means of reducing homelessness as well as keeping the young of criminals away. After years of the shadowy side of The House operating without issue, a patron died from over-stimulation of elemental lightning, causing his heart to fail. Having given in to his mad pleasure, his soul was unable to be found for revival. One of the groomed orphans had escaped during the calamity, fleeing to one such watchman of the Harmonium not involved with the cruel place. A raid took place a day later, with all of the captured children taken to safe haven. The escorts were all interviewed, revealing horrid cases of abuse especially involving mental magic. Countless staff and patrons were subsequently arrested, as two infiltrators involved in The House went off to “find” the Madame. What they came back to report was finding that the Madame had hung herself from the rafters of her office. It’s just as likely that she tried to end herself upon the city as it was that they too were involved. Either way, normally fey reincarnate after their bodies are shattered. But, strange mists had other plans after the undercover hardheads left. It came to a new home in 725 BC, as a pocket domain. Only later would it connect itself to other planar domains for brief periods of time.
The House of Stoking Inner Delights resurfaced and Sylvain fell from her noose and onto the floor. At first, she thought that her magic infused within the establishment had saved her, even somehow ripping the entire building away from Sigil. For a short time, she was delighted by her own craftiness. However, all of that faltered as she explored her surroundings. The building remained spacious and much of the prior setups were still there. It was still a lovely looking building inspired by a greenhouse. Beautiful plans still lined the edges, as well as garden boxes to accent balconies. Interiors were built of well polished bright wood and reinforced by marble work. Beyond the dimly seductive fire from braziers alongside the welcoming lamplight, the entryway now had a walkway of torches stretching off into a misty void. Curiously, the time of day is always around twilight hour. Beautiful colors hang in the distance as a night sky always tries to approach. While the building was taken away from Sigil, it seemed to be isolated completely. At least, so Sylvain thought, but her immortal nature caused her not to worry initially. It was not long that she realized that she too had mortal needs; a need to eat and drink, a need to rest. However, she found herself devoid of any attraction, joy or passion. While she continues to operate The House, she does so out of habit rather than her own fulfillment. In fact, just like her true name, she forgot why she started it up. Likewise, her glamored form of an aging human woman grafted itself upon her, becoming very much real. However, while her new mortal looking form is frail, years went on as she never aged further. And while it is a fake identity, those who make fun of the Madame’s name are quick to earn her wrath. Despite what she calls herself, Sylvain is not in control. The very building itself has absorbed most of her powers and have gained an awareness. It wants to feel sensual sensations of its guests, while also taking either a bit of life force, sanity or reality along the way. Much like the House of Lament, the agonies secretly suffered within the walls have tainted The House of Stoking Inner Delights.
A malignant force has been born from these emotions and bonded to the grounds itself. These forces are most strong in the private upper chambers, as this is where the captured younglings were once contained for either lessons, observation or simply kept from the prying eye. Only a few of the staff actually tried to help these sealed off children through the trauma, even with escape, while most were complicit in grooming. Now the forces of the Bordello manifest as angry souls either resembling those captured or the abused prostitutes. The Darklord rarely goes up here, save to check on current prostitutes within her grasp. And even then, she is reminded of the acts she is responsible for. This isn’t to say the rest of the building is safe. Various chambers and lounges shift and alter to a client’s delights, digging into their minds to see what The House can exploit. A sense of what’s real warps as the chosen setting with an escort distorts into a deranged fantasy land. But, the realer it seems, the more dangerous. Like a dream, it can easily tip into nightmare territory. Fey-like magic proves capable of reshaping or reprogramming everyone involved with the session as well. Clients and prostitutes alike have left sessions gibbering in absolute madness, while some have left looking completely different than when they arrived. Some have even been found gruesomely slain by something. In one macabre instance, a disgusting patron with an obsession for necromancy signed for an encounter with a zombie. An unwitting prostitute died upon entering the room, only to subsequently reanimate as the undead. It’s for this reason that obscure mist scholars made aware of the bordello consider it a part of The Nightmare Lands or possibly The Shadow Rift. Even the Madame’s office is cursed for everyone except the Darklord. Those who enter are compelled the end themselves after leaving the pocket domain, should their minds not be ready for its psychic evil. Another guest of ill-repute is “The Grim Moralist”, a serial killer who stalks and slays prostitutes while on the grounds. Originally from Paridon, this psychopath has somehow been able to travel the mists. He is out on a crusade to exterminate all he considers depraved. However, this violent reactionary is simply a cold blooded killer with specified targets, who are often defenseless.
Sylvain and the living house aren’t the only evils to be found here. Jeram and Kristov Cosht are direct underlings, formerly dedicated to ensuring that the premises run smoothly. However, since said locale has become somewhat self-aware, they’ve begun to lose their minds. The House constantly torments them, reminding them of being complacent in the abuse and torture of the young. All the same, neither regret it and are frustrated that they can’t continue with such wicked practice. Attempts at suicide have failed every time, as they’ve spiraled into fits of depressive panic behind closed doors. Otherwise, they remain just as conniving and clever as ever in attempt to push around the denizens of the bordello to their liking. Interestingly, it’s by their hand that The House is staffed with a rather diverse team, even if it’s all for customer fulfillment. One of the “companions” is actually a crazed mage seeking to learn the secrets of the house. Chael Marlis is a convincing enough act, using magic to account for a handsomeness below other companions.. He is also adept in summoning and alteration magic, with the goal of being able to recreate the powers of The House. However, all attempts fail, as he even fails to create something original. Frustrated with mediocrity, he succumbs to simply participating in his job instead, before aspirations to usurp power return again. Likewise, Meredith “Marie” Falcon is not all she seems. Her original purpose was to find any “dark” or secrets about the madame, while using her enchantment and illusion talents to extract anything from paying “subjects”. Thanks to the powers of The House, her efforts often go too far and can scramble or destroy the minds of clients if not careful. This spy is stuck keeping her findings to herself, sometimes alerting guests who look like they’re willing to get help. And like the Darklord, all employed under Du’Fée cannot leave. They are just as stuck in the pocket domain as she is. Likewise, any else who signs her binding contracts are equally doomed. And to enter this palace of sordid delights, all one needs is a wayward flyer. It blows gently in a non-existent breeze, ready to fall in the hands of the House’s next victim. It hungers for a love that isn’t real, for sensation that can’t be sustained, for the very essence of a visitor’s being. It is a beast with many trapped from within. It is the House of Stoking Inner Delights.
Rimpinzarsi Family Farm and Tavern (Alleigosto)
While agriculture in the past was seen as an activity of the common people, the Rimpinzarsi family are quite well to do off. In fact, the family holds something of a monopoly within the town of Malgiallo, particularly thanks to bringing in tourism to the area. The sickly, lonesome and smelly town is unlikely to attract many, but the well-known and respected farmstead and tavern has brought in countless guests. In particular, their meats taste clean, natural and have a wholesome and filling quality to them. And being on the edge of town, they benefit the most from Alleigoston technology that better filters the air and pushes away the stench of decay. In truth, it’s far more useful than for just that. The air systems are also rather loud in their early stages of developments, masking a far grimmer truth to the established center of the community. Not only are the sounds of slaughter well audible in the community, the Rimpinzarsi property has their own unique sounds. The Farm and Tavern exists as far more than just an economic staple and center of attention. It’s also one of the most heinous places to be birthed from the foul town of plague and butchery. While accusations of cannibalism have been flung from the more urbane cultural centers of the domain, this holds quite true for the farm. Those who stay too long or peer too closely often become part of the the menu themselves. But, what would motivate such depravities and diminishing returns? Truth be told, there is something quite wrong about the Rimpinzarsi clan, for they are no ordinary people. In actuality, they are natural born werewolves.
Their clan roots trace back to the domains of Arkendale and Verbrek. Only 5 years after the domain’s formation, 713 of the Barovian Calendar, the first generation of the clan escaped their wicked butcher shop deep within the capital city of Mirros in the Duchy of Karameikos. The Rimpinzarsi clan were secretive cannibals who had made a name for themselves operating a black market within Thyatis City for several years before fleeing to Karameikos undetected and trying again as “ancestors”. Even back then, the clan had a long bloodline of lycanthropy. Despite a deep reverence to Entropic Immortals of decay, plague and stagnation; they were not quick to unleash their gift upon the masses. Rather, they turned to incorporating their cannibalistic tendencies into their own meats business. Their past in Thyatis caught up with them, as forces marched down to inform Duke Stefan himself of the murderous butchers responsible for the deaths of countless civilians. The duke’s own soldiers were assembled, with reluctant aid from cousin Ludwig von Hendricks, after it was revealed that the mad slaughter had made its way toward Fort Doom. The clan, sensing their end, fled the new territory and into odd mists.
It was there that they discovered Arkendale. In time, the clan continued their old practices with less pressure. Eventually, they expanded into Verbrek, though were seldom welcome by the Cult of the Wolf that haunted those forests. The Grand Conjunction threw both domains into chaos, causing the family to escape once more. In 741 BC, they found a new domain, Alleigosto. At this time, it was isolated, not yet part of the current colony under Rockbaecche. Escaping the hustle and energy of the city, they found a large town that operated as a means of feeding the city. With little resistance, they assimilated to continue their operation once more. For nearly 2 decades, they have worked unhindered and with only a little in questioning. Given how ingrained they are in the stability of the town, many will come to their aid while they hide any evidence against them. This only helped their hold over the land grow them from just another supplier to a tourism destination complete with dining halls and hospitality options.
Marcello, the eldest son, is active in The Necrotic Circle and reveres the pulsating putrid mass that churns below the town as something of a deity. To him, the Horror grants a holy conviction in his butchery of both guest and intruder alike. He has been known to leave the homestead on extended “business trips” around the region, mostly to bring exaltation to The Crawling Agony, his farce god made of meat and bone. Antonio, the patriarch of the clan, is more down to earth in his dealings. His interactions with church, state and other matters are casual but respectful. Otherwise, he prefers to be left to his own cruel business. Andrea, the clan matriarch, had a history of being a quiet and reserved killer who used her own social graces to lure victims before removing any traces. A history of roguish business and spy work for hire that benefited Emperor Thincol himself has earned her both credibility and fear. However, her most notorious act was during her attempts to “network” within the mists. She found herself back in Verbrek, leading her to sneak into the Wolf Cult. Her final act before returning was the corruption and madness of Dirty Danielle the Meat Pie Baker of Dementlieu. One addition to the clan is something of a surprise, a disgraced member of the Marilinev clan. Piyter should have been killed during the attempted uprising against Duke Stefan. Instead, he took to the underground and left Lady Magda scrambling in a battered estate. While the clan of werewolves came later, an aged and exiled Piyter saw his chance. He was never infected, but became a close ally in a plot for revenge. The mad butchers wove a plan with him to send Specularum (or Mirros) into chaos. When that proved to be a failure, he too was taken by The Mists. As Arkendale saw its doom, he was rescued and brought with. The Clan sees a strange kinship in him, even though they’re aware that the mad mastermind will die relatively shortly. However, its his cunning that his kept the farm inn alive and away from nervous eyes. Attempts to make him a werewolf have curiously failed. He knows his time is almost up and his death will probably cost Rimpinzarsi family dearly. He often bids his time, hidden away from guests, to plot. He has nothing to lose and nothing within his will, for he desires to challenge the Dark Powers or “forces that be” in a final battle to show his superior wit.
As for the property itself, the exterior and much of the interior is nothing except welcoming and kindly. And by all means, it’s a welcome change from much of the domain. Beyond the discarded gore and refuse from deep within the food supplier town lies more idyllic rolling hills of some once great old-country… turned into a mass grave by major industry. Guests who leave their coaches and horses by stables enter into a pleasant wooden farmhouse built in true Alleigoston style. The entry facade gives way to a rustic dining hall furnished with an olden home charm rarely seen within the domain. Those who finish a meal can check into one of many rooms in the connecting inn building. While all of this strikes as pleasant, there is a literal underbelly to the property. While a strange magic tones down the grotesque within the meat shops and slaughter yards, much of the dark deeds are handled below ground. Servant passages connect to many of the rooms. In reality, they are just obedient henchmen and disguised family members spying on guests before preparing them for later. The reasoning for the eerie doorways is because they feel that those hired to tend to the farm and inn are not there to socialize or linger around for long. Unaware attendants see this as an otherwise cold feature to an inviting locale, unaware of deeper implications. Given the horrible disappearances and dark deeds involved, one would think the that law would investigate them. Considering how they are a major supplier of beef, pork, fowl and “superior meat”; many choose to look the other way. Furthermore, many of the victims are more common people eager for an inexpensive break away from oppressive factory work in the city or toil within Malgiallo’s other farms. Those of higher standings are lured by rival companies and families who have some clue as to the property’s nature.
Image Credit: Metallius666- Horror House; Hulton Archive/Three Lions – Spanish Inquisition Torture; Danzig Baldaev – Gulag sketch; Arkane Studios – Dishonored screenshot; Knott’s Scary Farm – Slaughterhouse