Scare yourself silly with D&D’s horror themed setting
Ravenloft is one of the settings within the D&D universe and one that’s filled with horror and evil. It is not set on the material plane but in demi-planes of the Shadowfell known as the Domains of Dread. There are dozens of known domains of dreads and potentially a myriad more that are unknown.
Each Domain of Dread is an isolated demi-plane, sometimes the size of an entire nation, or even as small as a house or a train. Each Domain of Dread is ruled over by a darklord; a tortured individual who now pays for past crimes as a an often unknowing prisoner within their own domain. Darklords are typically cruel beings that bring misery to the subjects of their domain.
The Dark Powers
The Dark Powers are the evil force that rule over Ravenloft. They are similar to the gods in power and influence, but little is known about what they are or how they came to be.
The Dark Powers pluck people and areas from the material plane into Ravenloft. Little is known about what allows the Dark Powers to be able to do this, but often, they pluck individuals that perform deeds of great evil, or groups/settlements in which great evil occurs. The purpose of this is to torture these people in a myriad of ways. The Dark Powers love to manipulate mortals to perform evil acts, but also to cause those acts to create greater suffering so they will “reward” evil actions with “Dark Gifts”; abilities that give greater power, but at a cost.
Domains of Dread
|Domain of Dread||Darklord||Domain of Dread||Darklord|
|Barovia||Strahd Von Zarovich||Ghastria||Marquis Stezen D’Polarno|
|Bluetspur||The God-Brain||G’henna||Yagno Petrovna|
|Borca||Ivana Boritsi and Ivan Dilisnya||Invidia||Gabrielle Aderre|
|Darkon||None (though Alcio Metus, Darcalus Rex and Madame Talisveri Eris all vie for this title)||Klorr||Klorr|
|Dementlieu||Duchess Saidra d’Honaire||Markovia||Dr. Frantisek Markov|
|Falkovnia||General Vladeska Drakov||The Nightmare Lands||The Nightmare Court|
|Hazlan||Hazlik||Nova Vaasa||Myar Hiregaard|
|I’Cath||Queen Tsien Chiang||Odaire||Maligno|
|Kalakeri||Ramya Vasavadan||The Rider’s Bridge||The Headless Rider|
|Lamordia||Dr Viktra Mordenheim||Scaena||Lemont Sediam Juste|
|Mordent||Lord Wilfred Godefroy||Sea of Sorrows||Pietra van Riese|
|Richemulot||Jacqueline Renier||The Shadowlands||Ebonbane|
|Tepest||Mother Lorinda||Souragne||Anton Misroi|
|The House of Lament||The House of Lament||Staunton Bluffs||Teresa Bleysmith|
|Valachan||Chakuna||Tovag||Kas the Bloody Handed|
|Cyre 1313, The Mourning Rail||The Last Passenger||Vhage Agency||Flimra Vhage|
When the Dark Powers draw people into Ravenloft, they drag them into a Domain of Dread. The Domains of Dread are land masses that can vary in size from a single house, to an entire continent. Typically, Domains of Dread are the size of anything between a city to a small country. Each domain is surrounded by a near impassable mist that separates it from other domains, though it seems that Domains of Dread are not geographically linked to one another.
Each domain is different, specifically designed to torture the Darklord of the domain, though others that live within the domain will also suffer due to the terrible nature of the place. Van Richten’s Guide to Ravenloft details 39 different Domains of Dread but many more may exist and DMs are able to create their own domains to fit into Ravenloft.
Each domain tends to follow a certain horror-filled theme that individually tortures the soul of its Darklord. These include things like the gothic horror of Barovia with its vampires, the ghostly horror of Mordent or the cosmic horror of Bluetspur with its otherworldly horrors like mind flayers. A list of the Domains of Dread detailed in Van Richten’s Guide to Ravenloft can be seen below along with information about each one.
List of Domains of Dread in 5e
|Darklord||Count Strahd Von Zarovich|
|Domain Characteristic||Domain of the First Vampire|
|Hallmarks||Undead despot, notorious haunted stronghold, tragic resurrection|
Village of Barovia
Barovia is the first Domain of Dread. It is ruled by the Darklord, Strahd Von Zarovich, the very first vampire. Like all the Domains of Dread of Ravenloft, its denizens are trapped in the Shadowfell with Barovia’s borders blocked by an impenetrable mist.
The denizens of Barovia are in a constant state of fear as Strahd’s agents roam the land seeking to fulfill his evil plans and help him escape his eternal torture. It is a land in which vampires are common and enjoy elevated status while the people suffer in isolated villages amidst a landscape that is too dangerous to traverse due to roving packs of wolves and other more terrifying creatures.
|Darklord||The God-Brain of Bluetspur|
|Domain Characteristic||Domain of Alien Memories|
|Hallmarks||Alien abductions, otherworldly landscapes, untrustworthy memories, monstrous experimentation|
|Races||Humans, illithid, drow, duergar|
Bluetspur is an alien environment that is practically inhospitable due to cataclysm after cataclysm that scar its surface. The landscape defies gravity, tempests roar uncontrollably and the sun burns red, dying slowly, turning the surface into an inhospitable wasteland.
For this reason, the denizens of Bluetspur have sought the “relative” safety below the surface to survive. But even there, mind flayers hatch terrifying experimentations to save their dying Darklord, the God-Brain of Bluetspur. Those caught by the illithid often are not seen again, and when they are, they bear significant mental scars of the experience, even if they have no memory of ever being there.
|Darklord||Ivana Boritsi and Ivan Dilisnya|
|Domain Characteristic||Domain of Desire and Deceit|
|Genre||Gothic Horror and Psychological Horror|
|Hallmarks||Political intrigue, poison, revenge|
|Races||Mostly Humans, some halflings|
Borca is one of the Domains of Dread in Ravenloft and is a place where the noble families exploit the working classes for their own monetary gain so as to demonstrate their incredible wealth to the other noble families. The noble estates are decadent places, village-sized in scale and operate as the base for each of the noble families and their web of intrigue and gluttonous living. Common folk, on the other hand, must scrape away a living from the metaphoric crumbs dropped from the noble’s tables. Of course, the noble families are not without fear and tragedy as inter-family rivalries lead to deception and even subtle murders of one another.
|Darklord||Nepenthe (and Isolde)|
|Domain Characteristic||Wandering Domain of Wonders|
|Genre||Body Horror and Dark Fantasy|
|Hallmarks||Entertainment, fey bargains, misfits, wandering exiles|
|Population||Very small, but many visitors|
|Races||Mainly fey but has a wide mix of races|
|Sideshows and Attractions||Big Top|
Hall of Horrors
Tindal the Barker
Alti the Werehare
Amelia the Vampire
Charlotte the Fire Eater
The Organ Grinder
Silessa the Snake
The Carnival is a travelling Domain of Dread that transports itself and its visitors from one domain to the next. A place of wonder, it’s marked by bright, garish banners, tents and stalls as well as entertainers whose acts defy all reason. But beneath this joyous exterior are sinister and suspicious happenings.
|Darklord||Previously Azalin Rex, now no Darklord rules this land|
|Domain Characteristic||Domain on the Brink of Destruction|
|Genre||Dark Fantasy and Disaster Horror|
|Hallmarks||Fractured realm, magical ruins, ongoing supernatural catastrophe|
|Races||Mainly humans but also many halflings and gnomes and some elves, half elves, dwarves and other races|
Darkon is one of the Domains of Dread of Ravenloft. It was once ruled over by the lich, Azalin Rex, but through extensive, magical experiments, he has escaped his domain and now Darkon is crumbling. Once a large landmass between 2 oceans, mists have begun to creep inwards, consuming the land and its people into some unknown state.
|Darklord||Duchess Saidra d’Honaire|
|Domain Characteristic||Domain of Decadent Delusion|
|Genre||Dark Fantasy and Psychological Horror|
|Hallmarks||Masquerades, decadent aristocracy, social decay, illusions, imposter syndrome|
|Races||Mainly humans, some halflings and a few other races|
Mother of Tears Cathedral
Red Widow Theater
Three Odd Gables
Dementlieu is one of the Domains of Dread of Ravenloft and is primarily a port city and little else. Its denizens are ruled by the Darklord, Duchess Saidra d’Honaire; a woman of grandeur and deceit above all else. She insists upon presenting the city as the illusion of refinement and decadence, while in reality, the population scrimp to get by. Those that fail to uphold the facade of rich nobility are removed from society, permanently.
|Domain Characteristic||Domain Besieged by the Dead|
|Hallmarks||Dwindling resources, fickle hero worship, impending disaster, suspicion, totalitarianism, zombies|
|Races||Mainly humans, some halflings, elves, gnomes and a handful of other races|
Falkovnia is one of the Domains of Dread of Ravenloft. Like all Domains of Dread, Falkovnia is bordered on all sides by a mysterious mist that keeps its inhabitants trapped within the domain. Falkovnia is a place of endless zombie hoards that besiege the few bastions of civilisation that remain. Falkovnia is ruled over by the uncompromising hand of Vladeska Drakov who leads the survival efforts with an iron fist.
|Domain Characteristic||Domain of the Ancient Dead|
|Hallmarks||Ancient tombs, desert perils, lost gods, mummies|
|Races||Mainly humans and a few other races|
The Sands of Sute
City of the Dead
The Bent Pyramid
Har’Akir is one of the Domains of Dread of Ravenloft and is ruled over by the Darklord, Ankhtepot. Har’Akir is a harsh, arid, desert domain filled with the ancient ruins of an old civilisation, their gods, buildings and treasures long since lost beneath the desert sands. The undead are rampant upon these lands and the people live in constant fear that such creatures may find their way to their home.
|Domain Characteristic||Domain Doomed by Magic|
|Genre||Dark Fantasy and Disaster Horror|
|Hallmarks||Amoral spellcasters, magic-ravaged environment, magical experiments, wild magic|
|Races||Mainly humans with some halflings and gnomes|
The Fleshless Forest
Mound of the Worm
Hazlan is one of the Domains of Dread of Ravenloft and is ruled over by the Darklord, Hazlik. It is a place that has long since been ruined by magical experiments. Not only do abominations roam the land, created in some laboratory or another, but the land itself and the very fibres of magic that run through it has become cracked and erratic. These combine to make a domain that is hugely dangerous, especially if you have no magic with which to protect yourself.
|Domain Characteristic||Domain Trapped in a Dream|
|Genre||Body Horror and Cosmic Horror|
|Hallmarks||Endlessly changing labrynth, deadly jiangshi, inescapable dreamworld|
The Palace of Bones
Tsien Chiang’s Dream
I’Cath is one of the Domains of Dread of Ravenloft and is ruled over by the Darklord, Tsien Chiang. On the face of it, I’Cath is a dilapidated place of mouldy, ruined buildings, but a more sinister secret can be found within the dreams of its inhabitants. Tsien Chiang creates a shared dreaming world for her citizens in which they live in a stunning city of her imagining that never achieves the perfection she desires. Her citizens work tirelessly each day to create the perfect city, but never truly achieving her goal.
|Domain Characteristic||Domain of Betrayal and Revenge|
|Genre||Gothic Horror and Dark Fantasy|
|Hallmarks||Monstrous leaders, family intrigue, war-torn nation|
Kalakeri is one of the Domains of Dread of Ravenloft and is ruled over by the Darklord, Ramya Vasavadan. Kalakeri is covered in lush rainforests, home to exotic plants and animals alike. But such luscious plant-life also grows many dangers. Within all this is the infighting of the Vasavadan royal family with the 3 siblings each fighting a continual struggle to take the throne of Kalakeri.
|Domain Characteristic||Domain of Tarnished Dreams|
|Genre||Dark Fantasy and Gothic Horror|
|Hallmarks||Hidden identities, dangerous performances, exploitative ambitions, werewolves|
Kartakass is one of the Domains of Dread of Ravenloft and is ruled over by the Darklord, Harkon Lukas. Kartakass is a domain in which each resident is seeking to impress with performances accomplished by no other. While this may seem exciting, beneath this demonstration of prowess are lies and betrayals as each performer seeks to upstage all others. Even more sinister are the lycanthropes that emerge each full moon creating danger for the inhabitants of this domain.
|Domain Characteristic||Domain of Snow and Stitched Flesh|
|Genre||Body Horror and Gothic Horror|
|Hallmarks||Amoral science, bizarre constructs, frigid wilderness, mutagenetic radiation|
Lamordia is one of the Domains of Dread of Ravenloft and is ruled over by the Darklord, Dr Viktra Mordenheim. Lamordia is covered in snow making it a harsh place to survive. Food is often scarce and warmth is even scarcer. The desperate fight to survive has led the denizens of this wretched place to throw themselves at scientific pursuits to solve their problems. Unfortunately, in their desperation, the people turn to increasingly amoral forms of experimentation to discover what they need. And no-one in Lamordia exemplifies the pursuit of science at any means necessary than its Darklord, Viktra Mordenheim.
|Darklord||Lord Wilfred Godefroy|
|Domain Characteristic||Domain of the Haunted|
|Hallmarks||Ancestral curses, haunted mansions, mist-shrouded moors, vengeful spirits|
Mordent is a haunted domain where the dead find no rest but simply walk the land as ghosts; forever mourning, forever trapped in the mists of Ravenloft. Mordent is one of the Domains of Dread of Ravenloft and like all the Domains of Dread, its denizens are trapped there by the mists the surround the land. It is a domain ruled by Lord Wilfred Godefroy; the darklord of Mordent. An angry and abusive man in life whose spirit now lingers, continuing his rule of Mordent.
|Domain Characteristic||Domain of Disease, Isolation and Wererats|
|Genre||Disaster Horror and Gothic Horror|
|Hallmarks||Contagion, crumbling infrastructure, martial law, rats and vermin, wererats|
|Races||Mostly human, some halflings|
Richemulot is one of the Domains of Dread of Ravenloft and is ruled over by the Darklord, Jacqueline Renier. Richemulot is a domain plagued with, well plague. Much of the time, the cities operate like ordinary cities, people live, work, eat and die. But sometimes, just a few weeks will pass by or months, but inevitably, rats will begin the infest the cities, spreading disease and the city gates will close, quaranting those left inside. It is this cycle through which Richemulot must suffer and survive with the darklord and de-facto leader of the domain, Mademoiselle Jacqueline Renier, barely holding the entire nation together.
|Domain Characteristic||Domain of Nature’s Cruel Secret|
|Hallmarks||Fey bargains, nature worship, rural festivals, secret sacrifices|
|Races||Mostly humans and fey such as elves, goblins and similar creatures|
Tepest is one of the Domains of Dread of Ravenloft and is ruled over by the Darklord, Mother Lorinda. On the face of things, Viktal, the last remaining community in Tepest, appears to be a joyful place where children laugh and sing, harvests are bountiful and the people are protected by the nurturing hand of Mother Lorinda. But look a little deeper and you’ll find desperation in the eyes of its inhabitants. Lorinda masquerades as a god, going by the name “Mother” and while she protects the inhabitants of Viktal, this is only to raise them like cattle to feed her beloved daughters. She is the lesser of 2 evils however, as mischievous and evil fey lurk just beyond the borders of Viktal, ready to deceive any that stray too far from the village.
Outsiders provide some little hope to the villagers of Viktal. Hope of someone that might rescue them, or, at the very least, be a victim of Mother Lorinda’s next sacrifice so that a villager needn’t be the next to suffer.
The House of Lament
The House of Lament is both a Darklord and a Domain of Dread. Containing the souls of restless spirits, the house itself is a sentient entity that entraps wanderers in the mists, slowly awakening as hapless travelers discover the dark secrets of its past. The House of Lament is also an adventure featured in Van Richten’s Guide to Ravenloft that can help DMs get a feel for how to run an adventure set in the horror setting of Ravenloft.
|Domain Characteristic||Domain of the Hunter|
|Genre||Gothic Horror and Slasher Horror|
|Hallmarks||Diabolical traps, hostile wilderness, survival games|
Valachan is one of the Domains of Dread of Ravenloft and is ruled over by the Darklord, Chakuna. Valachan is a domain of jungles and mountains creating a labyrinth of oovergrown plants, winding rivers and mountains. The Valachani build their villages within these jungles, sometimes even in the trees for safety, for the jungle is home to many wild and untamed beast. Even worse than these lurking beasts is Chakuna, the darklord of Valachan who spends her days hunting, and when she’s bored, will play games of cat and mouse against those unfortunate enough to wander into her jungles.
The terror of Valachan is in knowing that you may be the next victim of the hunt, and Chakuna’s eyes are everywhere. Somehow, she sees that which is seen by the beasts of the land, ensuring her prey is rarely lost for long.
Cyre 1313, The Mourning Rail
Darklord: The Last Passenger
Hallmarks: Escape from disaster, lightning rail
On the world of Eberron, a land known as Cyre was almost completely destroyed along with most of its inhabitants by a mysterious calamity. In Metrol, the capital of Cyre, some of the people were aware of the calamity and the city’s impending doom and so they boarded lightning rails in order to escape the city. The last of these was a train known as Cyre 1313. It was almost ready to depart when a mysterious individual known only as the Last Passenger, boarded the train shrouded in secrecy. In order to maintain their secrecy, the Last Passenger brought a large retinue with them, forcing many to exit the train, leaving them to their doom.
This delay proved catastrophic as the train was consumed in the calamity killing all aboard. At this same moment, the train and all its passengers were transported into the mists of Ravenloft. Here the train travels the domains as its own self-contained and moving Domain of Dread. The people continue to fear that the calamity might catch up with them, not realising that they are already dead. And there remains the mystery of who the Last Passenger is and why they maintain such a shroud of secrecy.
Darklord: Tristen ApBlanc
Hallmarks: Life and death, strange invention
Tristen ApBlanc was the son of a vampire and a human noble. As such, he was born a dhampir, a half vampire, half human. But the locals despised his vampiric heritage and murdered his parents. Tristen was abandoned but was adopted by a group of local druids. When the druids discovered Tristen’s dhampir nature, they were horrified and forced him out, but this only served to enrage Tristen and made him show his true nature even more. He took vengeance on the druids he felt had betrayed him, draining them with his vampiric powers.
Unfortunately for Tristen, the sacred waters of the druid’s rituals had infused with their blood and was like poison to his vampiric body and he died amidst his adopted family. It was at this point that Tristen and the druids were pulled into the mists of Ravenloft and found themselves in the land of Forlorn. Tristen found his body restored and now lives in Castle Tristenoira, the smoking fortress, built mockingly over the druid circle. But each night, Tristen dies a fresh, painful death, transforming into his spectral form and seeking to destroy all that is of nature in anger towards his adopted druid family.
Darklord: Marquis Stezen D’Polarno
Hallmarks: Cursed art, dour population
Ghastria is a soulless domain, much like it’s Darklord, Marquis Stezen D’Polarno. Stezen had once had a great zeal for life and found great joy in the artistic, but he also desired immortality. His immortality was granted by a mysterious artist, but at the expense of his love of life and natural charm. Now the Marquis lives a joyless existence.
Darklord: Yagno Petrovna
Hallmark: Corrupt theocracy, false deity
G’henna is a savage and barren domain of rocky landscapes and savage, hungry beasts. The people primarily worship the god Zhakata who they sacrifice their crops to in order to hear his will. This will is spoken through the prophet and Darklord of the land, Yagno Petrovna. Yagno himself has a savage history, becoming favoured of Zhakata by sacrificing people in worship to him.
Darklord: Gabrielle Aderre
Hallmarks: Bad parents, possessed children
Gabrielle Aderre is a doting mother of her son Malocchio, though he is a vicious trickster. This behaviour though is lost on Gabrielle who provides her son all the tools available for success with a string of tutors and other servants to provide his every need. Inevitably, each of these servants is killed or disappears from the Aderre estate just outside the village of Karina. Either Gabrielle gets rid of the servant for their apparent incompetence, or they become the victim of another of Malocchio’s tricks.
More sinister are the supernatural forces that Gabrielle makes deals with to help her son attain the great potential she believes he is destined for. Using her bone spirit board, she summons fiends, angels, spirits and worse and strikes deals to protect and enhance her son.
Hallmarks: Banshee, silent village
Keening is home to a banshee known as Tristessa, who is also the Darklord of the domain. She was outcast from Tepest for her crimes there and now torments the people of Keening. She now roams Mount Lament with her horrifying wails carrying dread throughout the night. The wailing is so terrible that the villagers of Anwrytn at the base of Mount Lament impose deafness on themselves so they don’t have to hear her shrieking.
Hallmarks: Impending doom, surreal environment
Klorr is a domain of islands amid a misty netherworld in which the remains of failed and castaway domains are thrust into a constant and deadly spiral into the sun-like sphere that is Klorr. Each hour, one of the thirteen stars disappears from the sky, spelling the time at which another islands is swallowed in death into Klorr.
The inhabitant’s of Klorr’s islands only know the sense of doom and dread that comes from counting down until they will finally be consumed by Klorr. Among the islands that float about them is a tower like a blackened rose and a city of skulls. Somewhere, hidden here, people believe is the key to preventing doom in the form of the hidden Darklord, a clockmake known as Klorr.
Darklord: Dr. Frantisek Markov
Hallmarks: Depraved science, sapient animals
Markovia is an island domain filled with sentient beasts that worship the Darklord, Dr Frantisek Markov, as a god. He is not, though he is the provider of their sapience. Dr Markov had produced a formula that granted him unparalleled intellect, but at a cost that his intelligence would slowly be taken from him until he is but a beast himself. He relentlessly works on a new formula that will cure him of this malady, experimenting on the fauna on the island, but never quite finding the key to perfecting his formula.
The Nightmare Lands
Darklord: The Nightmare Court
Hallmarks: Nightmares, reoccurring dreams
The Nightmare Lands are the terrifying embodiment of the heartless deeds of Caroline Dinwiddy. She is a potent psychic who sleeps an endless sleep in the city of Nod so that she needn’t wake to face her terrible actions. But her memories, as repressed as they are, bleed into this dream world her mind has created, ensnaring hapless sleepers into this domain.
One of the embodiments of her twisted psyche are the Nightmare Court who act as the Darklords of this domain. They include the tragically graceful Ghost Dancer, the tomb-bound Hypnos, the witch Mullonga, the trickster Morpheus and the embodiment of terror known as the Nightmare Man, though there may be others we are unaware of. The Nightmare Court are artisans of nightmares, visiting terror upon all whose dreams intersect with the Nightmare Lands.
The lands themselves are hostile wildernesses that shift constantly. Those who escape speak of an empty city known as Nod and the uncountable drifting spheres that hang in the sky.
Hallmarks: Asceticism, brainwashing, shadows
Niranjan is an island Domain of Dread that was once part of Kalakeri. It was once a monastery, engaged in scholarly pursuits and who sought to separate themselves from the material things of the world. These monks were led by their holy figure, the elderly sadhu Niranjan. However, the Nirnjan is actually controlled by a bronze dragon known as Sarthak (and the Darklord of the domain) who convinces all to adopt the teachings of the monastery, give their material things to himself to increase his hoard and then helps victims find the blissful peace of the trance that causes their soul to slip away from their bodies. Sarthak then replaces their souls with a shadow, allowing him to control the people of the domain.
Darklord: Myar Hiregaard
Hallmarks: Nomadic riders, transformation
Nova Vaasa was once a nomadic nation of vast plains, ruled by the great warrior, Myar Hiregaard. She was a strict but fair soldier who was highly respected and was able to unite the tribes of the plains in a way that no other leader had. Unfortunately, she was a poor peacetime leader and soon became bored, instead, inciting tribes to fight with one another before bringing in her soldiers to ‘control’ the peace. She did this subtly again and again, massacring her own people to sate her idle mind. On her last such excursion though, the mists of ravenloft took her and the people of Nova Vaasa. At this point Myar was split into 2, one a strict but fair leader, and the other, a raging knight known as Malkan who lusts for carnage and blood.
Hallmarks: Evil toys, village of children
Odaire is a village of only children, ruled over by a carionette known as Maligno. Maligno was a toy made by the toymaker, Giuseppe, to help him have the family he never had He treated Maligno like a child and the children of the village adored him, but the parents were skeptical stating he was only a toy. Disheartened, Malgino had Giuseppe build him siblings as other carionettes, and when the time was right, these carionettes rose up and killed all the adults in the village, dragging the whole of Odaire into Ravenloft and leaving only the children and the carionettes.
The Rider’s Bridge
Darklord: The Headless Rider
Hallmarks: Haunted bridge, murderous legend
The Rider’s Bridge can appear at any bridge-like crossing, often appearing within other domains and linking them to another domain. Each domain appears to have some tail or another of the Rider’s Bridge and its Headless Rider, the Darklord of the domain. Some say it’s a dark armoured knight, others a mutated centaur, but in all these tales, is a headless rider who seeks to decapitate its victims.
Hallmarks: Misdirection, ventriloquism
Risibilos is a small music hall, ruled over by a former king, Doerdon. Doerdon was so thoroughly humourless, that he forbade his subjects from laughing, killing any that broke his law. he is now cursed by the Dark Powers to endlessly entertain those that enter Risibilos with a ventriloquists dummy carved in the likeness of Strahd Von Zarovich who has a mind of his own and insists that he is the real Strahd and promises to reward anyone that can help him regain his proper station as Lord of Barovia and kill the impostor sitting in Castle Ravenloft. This naturally garners much laughter from the audience and is pure torment for Doerdon.
Darklord: Lemont Sediam Juste
Hallmarks: Reality-manipulating theater
Scaena is a domain that is just a playhouse. Its Darklord, Lemont Sediam Juste, once lived in Dementlieu, delivering popular, if not critically acclaimed, plays to the populace. He, however, considered himself the greatest playwright to have ever lived. He was convinced that his latest play, Apparitions, would earn him the renown that he deserved, but when he showed his play and saw the boredom on the audience’s faces, he decided to give them all the gory details they wanted. He came on stage and systematically murdered each cast member as if it were part of the play. At the end of this play, the playhouse was taken from Dementlieu and formed a new domain known as Scaena. Here, Lemont creates realistic and immersive performances, able to manipulate the entire set to appear however he wants it to appear.
Sea of Sorrows
Darklord: Pietra van Riese
Hallmarks: Island domains, nautical horror
The Sea of Sorrows is a domain that hapless sailors can find themselves caught in whenever they take to the sea. There are an array of shifting islands amongst the waves of the sea. Some of the more prominent islands within the Sea of Sorrows include:
Blaustein: An island fortress once ruled by the notorious pirate captain, Bluebeard, until his spectral wives killed him and now torment his spirit endlessly.
Dominia: An island asylum that houses the vampire, Dr Daclaud Heinfroth. Each patient within the asylum is a different aspect of this vampire, inspired by different parts of his long and varied life.
Isle of the Ravens: An impossibly tall towers stretches into the sky on this island. It is home to the Lady of Ravens who turns any that offend her into one of the ravens of her flock.
The Lighthouse: This lighthouse has been built amidst twisting fossils, but the light it shines does not light the sea, but instead, points down into the depths of the endless pit within the lighthouse itself.
Vigilant’s Bluff: A vengeful, undead paladin watches over this drowned island. He will welcome visitors, if they are respectful of his faith, but if they are not, well, he has left the bones of the blasphemers on the shores as a warning of what will happen.
Upon the sea itself sails the Darklord of the domain, a murderous pirate captain known as Pietra van Riese. In life, she would drag her victims from ropes behind her ship until they drowned, never releasing them, even in death. Eventually, her ship dragged a practical hoard of zombies and corpses behind it.
Pietra’s ship was eventually sunk by rival captains but she was brought back in undeath to the Sea of Sorrows to sail its terrible waters, with a crew of undead and sea creatures housed in her flesh. She now sails the Sea of Sorrows looking for more victims among the unfortunate sailors that cross her path.
Hallmarks: Falls from grace, heroic sacrifice
The Shadowlands are home to a heroic order of knights known as the circle. They live a continuous cycle of survival by defeating the monsters and villains that endlessly spawn in the land in order to protect the peasantry. Some of these villains include the necromancer Morgoroth, the fallen paladin, Elena Faith-hold and Ebonbane, the accursed sword of the founder of the Circle, Kateri Shadowborn. Ebonbane is also the domains Darklord.
Darklord: Anton Misrol
Hallmarks: Imprisonment, swamp magic
Anton Misroi, the Darklord of Souragne, was once a prison warden and an upstanding aristocrat. But his life was much darker than the public persona he presented for himself. He would exert cruel tortures upon the prisoners, armed with a self-belief of righteousness, despite his wicked deeds. Eventually, the prisoners rebelled, taking over the prison and drowning Anton in the swamp around the prison.
The Dark Powers brought Anton back as Darklord of Souragne where he seeks new victims to imprison and torture.
Darklord: Teresa Bleysmith
Hallmarks: Endless warfare, repeating history
In Staunton Bluffs, faceless mercenary regiments traverse the land, pillaging villages as they make their way to Stonecrest Castle, the family home of the Darklord, Teresa Bleysmith. She had betrayed her family, giving their foes the intelligence they needed to raid Staunton Bluffs. The attack was never meant to go so far, but resulted in Castle Stonecrest being raided and Teresa’s family killed. She survived, but distressed by the results of her betrayal, Teresa threw herself from the castle walls, but the Dark Powers are cruel and force her to relive that day every day as a ghostly apparition.
Darklord: Kas the Bloody Handed
Hallmarks: Undead military dictatorship
The vampire Kas was the lieutenant of the legendary archlich, Vecna. Kas though, betrayed his master and it was believed that the resulting battle killed them both. In truth, Vecna escaped and grew in power and renown while Kas was claimed by the mists into Tovag. It is here that he builds his military might, waging a war that Vecna is unaware of. Kas sends his legions into the mists, believing Vecna to be just beyond the borders of Tovag, but when his troops do not return, he his left in a rage, continuing the building of his armies and his search for the Sword of Kas.
Darklord: Flimira Vhage
Hallmarks: Detective work, memory loss
This domain is a detective agency, owned by the Darklord, Flimira Vhage. The domain itself is colourless, taking on a monochrome grey. Flimira takes on cases of the occult which she helps to solve across the many domains of Ravenloft. What her customers do not know though, is that the Vhage Agency and its agents have their hand in each of the occult cases they are asked to solve.
Hallmarks: Serial murders, urban decay
Zherisia’s capital city, Paridon, is characterised by a scarcity of food, taxation and people that go missing by the dozens every night. In truth, these people are the victims of the Darklord, Sodo, a doppleganger that has impersonated so many people that he now struggles to hold a single form for more than a few days, forcing him to constantly hunt for new victims to impersonate.
Domains of Dread in previous editions
The setting of Ravenloft has been around in Dungeons & Dragons since 2nd edition and has gone through many iterations. Not all Domains of Dread have been detailed in Van Richten’s Guide to Ravenloft (where the setting was updated for 5e). This doesn’t mean that these domains no longer exist. The mists of Ravenloft are potentially infinite in their scope and there could be dozens, hundreds or even thousands of other domains secreted within the mists. This means that you can still play campaigns based around Domains of Dread from previous editions or even create your own domains for players to stumble into.
Below are all the Domains of Dread detailed in previous editions that haven’t been updated for 5e:
- Blaustein (is now an island fortress that makes up part of a Domain of Dread known as the Sea of Sorrows rather than being its own domain)
- Leederik’s Tower
- L’ile de la Tempete
- Sri Raji
Darklords of Ravenloft in 5e
The darklords are the rulers of each domain, though they rule in some kind of unrealised misery, not knowing that they’re being tortured. For example, Wilfred Godefroy is the darklord of Mordent, a haunted nation who’s people come back as ghosts when they die. Wilfred is tortured by the ghosts of wife, daughter and others he has murdered. He even attempted to take his own life to escape the haunting only to come back as a ghost himself and for the hauntings to continue, and in this tortured state, he remains eternally.
You can find all the known Darklords and their respective Domain of Dread below:
|Darklord||Domain of Dread||Darklord||Domain of Dread|
|Strahd Von Zarovich||Barovia||Marquis Stezen D’Polarno||Ghastria|
|The God-Brain||Bluetspur||Yagno Petrovna||G’henna|
|Ivana Boritsi and Ivan Dilisnya||Borca||Gabrielle Aderre||Invidia|
|None (though Alcio Metus, Darcalus Rex and Madame Talisveri Eris all vie for this title)||Darkon||Klorr||Klorr|
|Duchess Saidra d’Honaire||Dementlieu||Dr. Frantisek Markov||Markovia|
|General Vladeska Drakov||Falkovnia||The Nightmare Court||The Nightmare Lands|
|Hazlik||Hazlan||Myar Hiregaard||Nova Vaasa|
|Queen Tsien Chiang||I’Cath||Maligno||Odaire|
|Ramya Vasavadan||Kalakeri||The Headless Rider||The Rider’s Bridge|
|Dr Viktra Mordenheim||Lamordia||Lemont Sediam Juste||Scaena|
|Lord Wilfred Godefroy||Mordent||Pietra van Riese||Sea of Sorrows|
|Jacqueline Renier||Richemulot||Ebonbane||The Shadowlands|
|Mother Lorinda||Tepest||Anton Misroi||Souragne|
|The House of Lament||The House of Lament||Teresa Bleysmith||Staunton Bluffs|
|Chakuna||Valachan||Kas the Bloody Handed||Tovag|
|The Last Passenger||Cyre 1313, The Mourning Rail||Flimra Vhage||Vhage Agency|
Inhabitants of Ravenloft
Each domain of dread has a variety of inhabitants stylised after the nature of the domain itself. For example, Barovia is a domain of vampires, Lamordia has monsters stitched together from the flesh of others (like flesh golems) and Richemulot has wererats. These domains though, will often have other tortured souls from any race throughout the D&D universe (though some domains may have more of one race than another).
All inhabitants of these domains though, find themselves in different and unique tortured states imposed by the dark powers. As such, players may find that the inhabitants treat others differently than in other settings. They’re likely distrustful and are likely themselves to have turned to evil deeds.
Ravenloft is a fantastically dark and punishing setting for your D&D campaigns and with the arrival of Van Richten’s Guide to Ravenloft (you can check out our review here), there’s many adventures for you to take your players on.