Rulers of Ravenloft’s cursed Domains of Dread
Ravenloft is a horror setting for D&D in which people are pulled into its shadowy demiplane into one of the domains of dread. The domains of dread are self-contained regions, usually the size of a city or a small country, but sometimes much smaller in which the inhabitants are trapped and tortured by the domains darklord. These darklords rule over the domain but they themselves are trapped, tortured constantly by the Dark Powers, a mysterious, god-like force that rules over Ravenloft and its darklords.
What are Darklords?
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 his 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.
Darklords usually find themselves in a Domain of Dread as its ruler due to some great crime they’ve committed. Often these are moments of terrible betrayal or evil unseen among most people of the universe. Strahd Von Zarovich, the Darklord of Barovia, for example, murdered his brother to try and take his betrothed for himself. When she refused his advances, he murdered the rest of his family and the castle staff. At this point, he made a pact with the Dark Powers, gaining immortality through vampirism and was taken into Ravenloft.
List of Darklords in D&D 5e
Van Richten’s Guide to ravenloft updated the Ravenloft setting for 5th edition and updated with it the Domains of Dread. There are 40 Domains of Dread detailed in the setting book with 18 of these (if you include the House of Lament) given detailed information about the Domain, its Darklord and the plot hooks you can use in your campaigns.
|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|
About the Darklords of Ravenloft in 5e
Each darklord rules over a domain of dread. Below we’ve detailed all the darklords of D&D 5e though there are others that are undiscovered in the potentially endless mists of Ravenloft. We’ve even created our own 5e stat blocks so you can easily use each darklord as an NPC in your own campaigns, just click through the page for the Darklord you want to use in your campaign to find out more about them and see their stat block.
Count Strahd Von Zarovich is the Darklord of Barovia and believed to be the first ever vampire. In life, Strahd was an effective conqueror, leading armies to victory. In undeath, he is a charming, but devious plotter. He has a keen mind and will always seek to bend others too his will. Despite his charming facade, he shouldn’t ever be dismissed, should your usefulness end or you become a nuisance, he won’t think twice about casting you aside. He is eternally tortured by the ever reborn love of his life, Tatyana, who throughout each rebirth, continues to reject Strahd’s affections.
Strahd became Darklord of Barovia on the day that his brother and Tatyana were supposed to be married. He had made a pact with the Dark Powers to regain his youthfulness so he could win Tatyana’s heart. This involved murdering his brother, drinking his blood, and in this unholy ritual, becoming a vampire.
Tatyana was unsurprisingly horrified by Strahd’s terrifying actions and ran away from him. At this same point, traitor’s among Strahd’s guards attempted to assassinate him. Strahd was gravely wounded in a way that no mortal man should survive, but he was no longer mortal and he proceeded to kill every single one of the wedding guests. It was at this point that he was taken into the mists of Ravenloft.
The God-Brain is the Darklord of Bluetspur, a cataclysmic Domain of Dread. In Bluetspur, the surface is inhospitable leading its denizens to dwell underground for “safety”. Unfortunately for them, mind flayers have made Bluetspur their home, most led by the terrifying and half-insane, God-Brain of Bluetspur. The God-Brain is a highly intelligent Elder Brain that learnt too much and went insane with its discoveries of the universe. It is a maniacal entity, even more so than most elder brains, even turning to cannibalism to enhance its own self. It now searches for a cure to its alien disease sending its mind flayer agents throughout the domains of Ravenloft.
Ivana Boritsi and Ivan Dilisnya – Borca
Borca is home to 2 Darklords; Ivana Boritsi and Ivan Dilisnya. Ivana is the daughter of a powerful, aristocratic family, but as a woman, she was denied heirship of the estate despite her obvious prowess in the family business. Embittered, she poisoned her brothers expecting to be made heir, but instead, her cousin, Ivan Dilisnya was made the heir instead. Furious, Ivana poisoned the rest of the family and claimed she was heir anyway, keeping Ivan’s inheritance to herself.
Ivan Dilisnya is a childish man who murdered his family in a fit of rage when his only confidant, his sister Kristina, was sent to boarding school. He now remains alone in the family estate, surrounded by his clockwork creations. He hates the loneliness, but is too socially inept to develop the friendships he desires. His only hope is that Ivana might replace Katarina as his friend and confidant, but he also resents her for her place as head of the family. Ivana would also never reciprocate such feelings.
Nepenthe – The Carnival
Nepenthe is a holy avenger sword with its own conciousness. It can’t speak but can communicate telepathically to its wielder (currently Isolde). It was originally crafted to hand out justice to the guilty, but Nepenthe cares not, and is unable to discern who is guilty, it only cares to dish out ‘justice’ wherever it might find an excuse to do so.
Nepenthe is now wielded by the owner of the Carnival, Isolde. Nepenthe is also the Darklord of the carnival, and by extension, so is Isolde. The Carnival is a travelling Domain of Dread that Isolde directs to travel to wherever she believes the Caller is; an individual that killed Isolde’s former companions. Nepenthe thirsts for ‘justice’ and uses Isolde’s anger to stoke the flames of vengeance within her. This has affected Isolde in her manner and treatment on those that cause infractions against her, often leading her to exact harsh judgement against those that wrong her (normally leading to their loss of life).
Alcio Metus, Darcalus Rex and Madame Talisveri Eris
When the lich, Azalin Rex, disappeared from Darkon, the domain was left without a Darklord. Since that moment, the domain itself has begun to crumble and the mists of Ravenloft have been encroaching inwards, consuming the land. 3 individuals lay claim to rulership over Darkon and seek to be its new Darklord (though they do not know what this entails). They hope that by taking control of the domain, that they can stop the creeping doom. These 3 individuals are; Alcio “Baron” Metus, a vampire, Darcalus Rex, the Darklord prior to Azalin, reborn at the hands of the elder mystic, Cardinna Artazas and Madame Talisveri Eris, a permanently invisible noble of one of the most prominent aristocratic families of Darkon.
Saidra d’Honaire is a wraith and also the Darklord of the Domain of Dread known as Dementlieu. Saidra was not born into nobility, but believed she was of noble birth due to the stories and claims of her father of being an exiled duke. Even from a young age, Saidra would bully the other children to conform to her whims.
When she became an adult, she went to a masquerade ball to kill the new duke that was being crowned there, hoping to take his place, but instead fell in love with him. It was not long though that she found out he was also a pretender to the title and also her long lost brother. Furious, she murdered her brother as a plague swept through the ball, striking down all the guests including Saidra. Saidra did not find peace in death though and became a wraith and the Darklord of Dementlieu. She enforces a pretense of nobility and wealth among the people of Dementlieu, killing those that do not conform to her requirements, ignoring the impoverished state of her domain.
Vladeska Drakov is the Darklord of Falkovnia, a Domain of Dread infested by zombies that rise in droves to attack the inhabitants of the land. In Falkovnia, 2 things are certain; death and zombies (probably taxes too). Although not a constant threat, it is inevitable that a new wave of zombies will sweep across the land, decimating all in their way at some point. It may be a matter of days, weeks, or even months, but it is inevitable. The people are in a constant state of defending their settlements, or preparing for the next onslaught.
At the centre of these efforts is their Darklord, Vladeska Drakov, who rules with an iron fist, strictly enforcing martial law in the city of Lekar, and commanding all that can bear arms. It is a dreary cycle of survival for the people of Falkovnia, and Vladeska is constantly haunted by her past life as leader of the Falcon’s Talons mercenary group. In 2nd edition, the darklord of Falkovnia was Vlad Drakov (inspired by Vlad the Impaler). Vladeska is an alternate, gender-swapped version of Vlad Drakov, re-imagined for 5th edition.
Ankhtepot is the Darklord of Har’Akir, a Domain of Dread filled with arid deserts and Ankhtepot’s undead servants. In Har’Akir, people barely survive the punishing climate, but also live in dread of Ankhtepot and his undead servants. They search tirelessly for Ankhtepot’s lost piece of his soul. All who get in the way of Ankhtepot’s quest are destroyed.
To keep the people in check, Ankhtepot has created a false pantheon that everyone must worship, that only speak through Ankhtepot himself. This allows Ankhtepot to maintain claim on the title of pharaoh and subjugate the people to his will. Though many do not believe the lies of Ankhtepot and his clerics, few dare rebel for fear of retribution.
Hazlik originally hailed from the nation of Thay in Eastern Faerun. He was raised by the Red Wizards who taught him magic and allowed him the opportunity to rise through the ranks of the magocratic nation. But whatever he learned was never enough and he obsessed over gaining more knowledge and power, in particular, achieving the perfect mortal form and visiting the dream realms of another’s psyche.
He was consumed by his desire for greater power to the point that he betrayed his own lover (wrongfully believing his lover to be the betrayer). In anger at this presumed betrayal, Hazlik transformed his lover into a living portal who now spends his days in constant agony at the transformation enforced upon his body. Hazlik, however, believed that this cruel experiment would earn him the respect of the Zulkirs of Thay, instead, they were horrified and fearful of the power he’d attained.
Before he could be punished, Hazlik escaped through the portal he’d created. He emerged from the portal in a grim netherworld of fog that he named Hazlan. But he was to be forever tortured. His body became branded with golden tatoos naming Hazlik as a traitor in the language of Thay. He also hears the voice of his former lover, Indreficus who condemns him mercilessly, even to this day.
Queen Tsien Chiang – I’Cath
Before Tsien Chiang was taken by the Dark Powers into Ravenloft, she had been a child refugee from her home city which had been taken by an invading army. She took refuge with a gold dragon who cared for her but as she grew older, her desire for vengeance grew. She sought to take back her city and created a bell that could be struck to grant a person’s desires. The dragon forbade her from using such powerful magic but she did so anyway. Unfortunately, the such an item required a scale from a gold dragon so Tsien put the gold dragon to sleep and stole one of his scales, but her potion was wrong and ended up killing the dragon.
Tsien was unperturbed by this and moved ahead with her plan, striking the bell and taking rulership of her home city. She ruled strictly but fairly until people began to forget what she’d achieved for them. Rebellions began to spring up in the city which she stopped through aggressive and decisive action, killing those that opposed her. Eventually though, the rebellions became too large to control so she went to strike the bell once more to destroy those that opposed her, but instead of granting her wish, the bell cracked and Tsien was taken into the mists of Ravenloft to a Domain known as I’Cath.
Now, Tsien Chiang obsesses constantly about creating her perfect city within the dream world she has created. She finds imperfections everywhere and will constantly send new orders for the people to find new ways to perfect the city. The Nightingale Bell recreated her daughters in resplendent beauty, exactly how Chiang had imagined them in life. But their resurrection was more sinister for the real versions of the daughters were brought back in an undead state in the real world of I’Cath. Innocent, yet undead. It is believed that they might hold the key to Tsien Chiang’s undoing.
Ramya Vasavadan was the eldest daughter of the previous King of Kalakeri. Before he died, he name Ramya as his successor. However, Arijani, Ramya’s brother, was not happy about being overlooked, he believed that he deserved the throne. Once their father had died, Arijani attempted to lay claim to the throne, stirring up the power-hungry ranas (the nobility of Kalakeri) against Ramya.
The ensuing conflict was dealt with swiftly as Ramya met her brother in battle. She intended to execute her bother for his treason but Reeva, Ramya’s younger sister begged for mercy so Ramya cast her brother into prison instead. Little did Ramya know that Reeva was also a perpetrator in this rebellious plot.
Arijani and Reeva continued to plot against Ramya in secret until they were able to overthrow Ramya. As Ramya was being strangled by the executioner’s garrote, she screamed out a curse upon her brother and sister, calling them bloodthirsty beasts. Ramya’s body was flung unceremoniously into the sea, but as this happened, Kalakeri was drawn into the mists of Ravenloft.
Weeks passed, but as the waves grew to their highest, Ramya emerged from her watery grave, reborn as a death knight and with an undead host of the slaughtered that she had led in life. They entered the streets of Jadurai, tore down the gates to the Cerulean Citadel and slaughtered all that had betrayed her. Ramya declared her younger siblings as traitors and had them executed, trampled underfoot by undead elephants.
In death Arijani and Reeva howled like beasts and cursed as they were, they were reborn, transformed into monstrous beasts that continue to wage war against Ramya for the throne of Kalakeri.
Harkon Lukas is the Darklord of Kartakass, a Domain of Dread filled with the curse of lycanthropy. In Kartakass, life is a performance, everyone seeks to impress all others and there are even towns that turn the entire town into a performance in which the actors are the residents. While some may consider this exciting, beneath the surface of these pretenses are lies, treachery and betrayal as everyone seeks to get ahead of each other.
Behind all of this is Harkon Lukas. A darklord cursed with lycanthropy who was cut adrift by his own pack for his extreme methods and obsession with power who now seeks to charm the inhabitants of Kartakass, treating them as his new “pack”.
Dr Viktra Mordenheim is the Darklord of Lamordia, a snow-covered Domain of Dread. In Lamordia, the people struggle daily to survive in such an arid, inhospitable land. Crops struggle to grow here and people strive to keep themselves warm. Within this climate, the amoral experiments and scientific progress championed by Dr Viktra Mordenheim are actually celebrated. With new cures to diseases and better ways to grow crops being discovered, the people are generally happy to overlook some of the more nefarious ways in which she accomplishes her achievements.
Despite her brilliance though, Mordenheim is haunted by lost love. Elise, her once lover, struck down with a deadly disease, was moments away from being cured by Viktra’s invention; the unbreakable heart. She suspects Elise may have survived and may even be somewhere in Lamordia, but for whatever reason, Elise avoids all attempts at reuniting with her former lover and Viktra suffers endlessly in this forlorn state.
Wilfred Godefroy is the Darklord of Mordent, a ghostly, haunted Domain of Dread. Wilfred is a cruel man, prone to fits of rage, which led him to murder his father, wife and daughter who now haunt him relentlessly. Racked with grief, he sought release from his tortured mind through suicide, but such is the cruelty of the Dark Powers that Wilfred himself was raised as a ghost and continues to be haunted by his murdered family members.
Wilfred now controls Mordent and its ghostly denizens, seeking relentlessly to find a release from his tortured state. He uses an alchemist known as Rastinon to create a device that can manipulate the soul and body to give him the death he desires. Instead, this device killed all living beings in Mordent, leaving it a haunted wasteland. Wilfred continues with hope though to use this device somehwo to release him from undeath.
Jacqueline Renier was once a member of a thriving city with a burgeoning middle-class. Jacqueline though, felt that such wealth among those not of noble birth was a danger to society and so she sought to remove this ‘problem’. She eventually discovered the original inhabitants of Richemulot, the True-Blood Council, a community of wererats that lived in the sewers of the nation. She chose to become one of them to gain new powers and allies among this community.
Now as a member of Richemulot’s original inhabitants, Renier turned her spite away from the lower-classes and instead, directed it towards those of non-wererat status. She converted her family first of all to wererats though her twin sister, Louise, was the only one to refuse, for which, Jacqueline disfigured her and cast her out. Now with her family behind her, Renier turned her attention to the rest of Richemulot. She and her wererat allies concocted a plague from the filth of Richemulot that would kill most people that are not wererats. This was distributed first among the nobility but soon spread to the rest of the people of Richemulot as well.
The plague achieved Jacqueline Renier’s desires, the nobility were decimated leaving a huge power vacuum in Richemulot’s society, one that Jacquline quickly assumed as her own. She was now the highest born aristocrat and the de-facto leader of Richemulot. The lower classes begged their new leader for aid but she was disgusted by such lowly beings, unworthy of her help due to the nature of their birth and the lack of coin in their pockets. She refused aid and oversaw the death of all the non-wererat population of Richemulot. As the last soul died from the plagues, the mists of Ravenloft encircled Richemulot, taking the entire nation into the new Domain of Dread.
Mother Lorinda is a green hag and the Darklord of Tepest, a Domain of Dread filled with evil fey. In Tepest, most of the remnants of humanity, shelter for protection in the village of Viktal under the “protection” of Mother Lorinda who keeps away treacherous fey that would seek to harm the humans. But Mother Lorinda’s protection is simply the lesser of 2 evils as she demands seasonal tithes made in sacrifices of the populace to feed her hideous children.
Lorinda’s greatest desire is to be a mother, but she is forever cursed to fail in her attempts to create a being that might adequately be considered her child. Instead, she creates abomination after abomination that rarely survives more than a few weeks. The only thing that keeps some of her “children” alive a little longer, are the human sacrifices her children consume each season as part of the tithe.
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.
Chakuna is a werepanther and the Darklord of Valachan, a Domain of Dread where the inhabitants are constantly hunted to feed the thirst for blood the land has. In Valachan, few are safe from Chakuna’s hunt other than her fellow members of the Oselo tribe whom she protects having killed the previous darklord in order to protect them. Chakuna though, has now become the thing that she hates most of all; to continue protecting her tribe, she must feed the land with the blood of the hunted to prevent the land turning hostile and killing her tribe.
While not the life she hoped for after killing the previous darklord, Urik von Kharkov, Chakuna does feel justified in the killing of others. She believes that as her and her tribe of lycanthropes are stronger and smarter than others, that they deserve life more than other people and the sacrifices are an unfortunate burden to bear, but one that must be borne by someone.
Darklords in Previous Editions
Ravenloft has been around since 2e and has undergone many changes with new Darklords usurping old ones or some Darklords simply escaping (as has happened with the likes of Lord Soth and Azalin Rex). 5th edition didn’t bring back all the old Domains of Dread and their Darklords (though you can continue to use them in your campaigns). In some instances, Wizards of the Coast replaced Darklords with gender-swapped versions as is the case with Vladeska Drakov. In other instances, a new Darklord rose up after defeating the former Darklord, like in Valachan where Chakuna killed Baron Urik Von Kharkov. Below are all the Darklords appearing in previous editions of D&D:
|Darklord||Domain of Dread||Darklord||Domain of Dread|
|Alfred Timothy||Verbrek||Lord Soth||Sithicus|
|Anton Misroi||Sanguinia||Malken||Nova Vaasa|
|Arantor||Monadhan||Mordenheim’s Monster ‘Adam’||Lamordia|
|Azalin Rex||Darkon||Nathan Timothy||Arkandale|
|Baron Urik Von Kharkov||Valachan||Sir Torrence Bleysmith||Staunton Bluffs|
|Bluebeard||Blaustein||The Headless Horseman||The Winding Road|
|Captain Alan Monette||L’ile de la Tempete||The Phantom Lover||Leederik’s Tower|
|Essan the Mad||Vechor||Vecna||Cavitius|
|Jack Karn||Farelle||Vlad Drakov||Falkovnia|
|Lord Arijani||Sri Raji|