"They say, 'Evil prevails when good men fail to act.' What they ought to say is, 'Evil prevails.'"
- – Yuri Orlov, Lord of War
The Darklords are the rulers and prisoners of the plane of Ravenloft, from the D&D setting of the same name.
You might be wondering "How are they both rulers and prisoners at the same time?" The reason for this is simple: each Darklord was pulled into the plane by the nebulous forces known only as the Dark Powers after an especially heinous deed (known in-universe as a "Act of Ultimate Darkness"), which reshapes a part of the plane into a realm tailored to each Darklord's defining crime. In its own realm a Darklord is a BBEG to rule over all other BBEGs, with absolute power over everything except whatever they desire most - whatever thing that might be, it is always dangled ever so slightly out of their reach by the Dark Powers to amplify their torment further. They have no mouth, and they must scream. (Thus the common description of the setting as "Hell, but not for you".)
- 1 Common Characteristics of Darklords
- 2 Notable Darklords
- 2.1 The "Hammer Horror" Darklords
- 2.2 Other Darklords
- 2.2.1 Addar
- 2.2.2 Captain Alain Monette
- 2.2.3 Maharaja Arijani
- 2.2.4 Azalin Rex
- 2.2.5 Bluebeard
- 2.2.6 Councilor Dominic d'Honaire
- 2.2.7 "Death"
- 2.2.8 Draga Salt-Biter
- 2.2.9 Dr. Daclaud Heinfroth
- 2.2.10 Dr. Frantisek Markov
- 2.2.11 Easan the Mad
- 2.2.12 Ebonbane
- 2.2.13 Elena Faith-Hold
- 2.2.14 Eli Van Hassen
- 2.2.15 Gabrielle Aderre
- 2.2.16 Gregor Zolnik
- 2.2.17 Gwydion the Sorceror-Fiend
- 2.2.18 Haki Shinpi
- 2.2.19 Harkon Lukas
- 2.2.20 Hazlik
- 2.2.21 Hive Queen
- 2.2.22 Illithid God-Brain
- 2.2.23 Inza Magdova Kulchevitch
- 2.2.24 Ivana Bortisi
- 2.2.25 Ivan Dilisnya
- 2.2.26 Jaqueline Reiner
- 2.2.27 King Crocodile
- 2.2.28 Kas
- 2.2.29 Lemot Sediam Juste
- 2.2.30 Prince Ladislav Mircea
- 2.2.31 Maligno
- 2.2.32 Meredoth
- 2.2.33 Sisters Mindefisk
- 2.2.34 Captain Pieter van Riese
- 2.2.35 Sodo
- 2.2.36 Marquis Stezen d'Polarno
- 2.2.37 Thakok-An
- 2.2.38 Tsien Chiang
- 2.2.39 Tristen ApBlanc
- 2.2.40 Baron Urik von Kharkov
- 2.2.41 Vlad Drakov
- 2.2.42 Lord Wilfred Godefroy
- 2.2.43 Yagno Petrovna
- 2.3 Former Darklords
- 2.4 Netbook Darklords
- 2.4.1 Ahasveros
- 2.4.2 Anibal Coronado
- 2.4.3 Captain Anton Dusard
- 2.4.4 Benada Nameless
- 2.4.5 Baroness Ilsabet Obour
- 2.4.6 Bethany Stone
- 2.4.7 Caleb Wicks
- 2.4.8 Cassandre Desesprits
- 2.4.9 Coyote
- 2.4.10 Dr. Dorothy Hemphyll
- 2.4.11 Elizabeth Michelle Cole III
- 2.4.12 Gatwe and Mr. Klein
- 2.4.13 Geren Horstadt
- 2.4.14 Jarl Gravstein Hansen
- 2.4.15 The Barons Gustav
- 2.4.16 Hakaan na Uruk
- 2.4.17 Henry Arlington
- 2.4.18 Hercules
- 2.4.19 Heresa Heri, The Vulture King
- 2.4.20 Commander Hernando Mouriros
- 2.4.21 Isabel de Sargas
- 2.4.22 Jack Karn
- 2.4.23 Captain Jacobi Robertsonn
- 2.4.24 Jinx
- 2.4.25 Warden Jonar Tamh
- 2.4.26 Kasselheim Blightlyng
- 2.4.27 The Lady of Ravens
- 2.4.28 General Martin Jose Maconda
- 2.4.29 Arcapatos Miguel Agustin
- 2.4.30 Miles Havelocke
- 2.4.31 Rafe Ungard
- 2.4.32 Don Santiago de Quijada y Alvarez
- 2.4.33 Sean Mako & Alice/Alison Marjory
- 2.4.34 Serenissa D'Aubliet
- 2.4.35 Sir Trevor Godwyn "The Mirror Man"
- 2.4.36 Urdogen "The Red"
- 2.4.37 Virindus
- 2.5 5e Darklords
- 2.5.1 Chakuna
- 2.5.2 Flimira Vhage
- 2.5.3 Jacqueline Renier
- 2.5.4 The Inheritors of Darkon
- 2.5.5 Isolde & Nepenthe
- 2.5.6 Klorr
- 2.5.7 The Last Passenger
- 2.5.8 Myar Hiregaard
- 2.5.9 Pietra van Riese
- 2.5.10 Ramya Vasavadan
- 2.5.11 Saidra d'Honaire
- 2.5.12 Sarthak
- 2.5.13 Teresa Bleysmith
- 2.5.14 Viktra Mordenheim
- 2.5.15 Vladeska Drakov
Common Characteristics of Darklords
The exact abilities and backstories of Ravenloft's Darklords have varied from edition to edition, but almost all exert considerable control over their individual domains, and many Darklords also rule their domains (assuming the domain has a population to rule), either openly or behind the scenes. Many Darklords are also extremely dangerous to confront in open combat, or otherwise have hidden powers up their sleeves that can neutralize entire groups of player characters even without combat.
Keeping in line with the Gothic Horror theme of Ravenloft, the presence and persistence of insidious evil on this plane is the rule and not the exception. By contrast, lasting triumphs of good are vanishingly rare possibilities. As such, PCs aren't really supposed to go toe-to-toe with Darklords and expect to come out on top like your average group of murderhobos in other D&D settings. Trying to storm through Castle Ravenloft or Castle Avernus (not the Avernus of Baator) and expecting to put Strahd's or Azalin's skulls on a pike by the end of the play session will most likely either end in a total party kill or a fate worse than death, assuming the Dungeon Master is at all trying to run the game in a thematically appropriate way. At most, the PCs' efforts might preserve a bit of light in the ever-present mists and hope their activities stay beneath the local Darklord's notice. Heroes in this benighted plane are not guaranteed a peaceful death in bed surrounded by family and friends, or a life of glory and deeds well remembered. Openly going up against a Darklord is one of the surest ways of ending your character's life and career for good.
A few things about Darklords have remained constant throughout Ravenloft's editions, however. First, unless the Dark Powers will it, Darklords are completely unable to leave their own domains (note that certain "pocket domains" are in fact mobile and can travel between larger domains, but the Darklord within is still powerless to leave its own pocket domain as any other). If PCs manage to leave a Darklord's domain, that specific Darklord is usually powerless to personally come after them (but see "Closing the Borders" below). Second, almost every Darklord has a weakness, usually in the form of something or someone they desire above all else that they would risk anything and everything for, or a personal vulnerability tied to its curse that is usually well-hidden and hard to figure out. Discovering and exploiting these weaknesses are one of the only ways to accomplish some good in spite of a Darklord's efforts, but if it comes to that you've likely already attracted (or will very soon attract) a Darklord's attention and are in deep trouble. A couple other abilities common to Darklords are discussed below.
Closing the Borders
The vast majority of Darklords have the ability to force others to share in their imprisonment by supernaturally closing the borders of their domains, usually leaving no way out even with the aid of magic. Trying to leave a closed domain border will just result in a grisly death or automatic failure, and teleportation magic won't work past a closed domain border either. As Ravenloft was an early AD&D product, the designers gave this handy tool to DMs so as to stop players from just up and leaving without going through the DM's plot. Improperly used it can smack of railroading, but it fits well within the Gothic Horror genre convention of having characters get trapped in sinister and dangerous locales with no safe passage out, until a situation is resolved (or the Darklord opens the borders again, as in the case of Ravenloft).
The few Darklords who cannot supernaturally close their borders either lack that ability as part of their curse, or are unable to do so as part of their nature. Vlad Drakov of Falkovnia for instance disdains magic and the supernatural, and in line with this attitude gained no supernatural ability to close his domain's borders upon becoming a Darklord. However, even these Darklords have more mundane ways of barring escape from their domains, such as sending their numerous lackeys to patrol the borders, though thankfully this doesn't impede magical methods of escape. An even smaller number of Darklords are completely unable to close their domain borders in any way, such as Haki Shinpi of Rokushima Taiyoo who was cursed to become a powerless geist upon becoming Darklord (rather than becoming a Death Knight as he originally planned) and was doomed to watch everything he built in his life's conquest literally sink into ruin through the squabbling of his sons.
Another reason to avoid going up against Darklords is that many of them have ways of returning from death, rendering all of your hard work moot. Even those who don't have explicitly mentioned methods of cheating death, like Strahd, generally have many contingency plans to avoid ever being at risk of getting truly destroyed. To make a bad situation worse, the Dark Powers appear to get occasionally "attached" to their playthings, and frown harshly upon attempts to take their toys away. In game terms, this means that certain Darklords are truly indestructible and can ever only be put out of commission temporarily, and even the attempt at doing so may end up drawing the Dark Powers' attention to whoever tries such a feat. Mercifully, these individuals are the exception, not the rule.
By contrast, some Darklords are fairly ordinary people with no significant combat skills and no more resistance to being killed off for real than their subjects. However, as mentioned above, even these seemingly vulnerable BBEGs often still have the means or minions to deal with a bunch of murderhobos, and most of these non-combat-focused Darklords are still savvy enough to be wary of any potential threats to their survival, and to nip those threats in the bud via underhanded means.
Outside of these extremes, permanently destroying most Darklords requires either killing one in a very specific manner and/or destroying a Darklord's means of cheating death (which in some cases might be nigh-impossible, such as killing every specimen of a very numerous type of creature in a domain before confronting the Darklord). Finding out this information is likely to require a good deal of questing and research to find out, but can make for a great campaign if properly handled. However, even accomplishing all this does nothing to stop the Dark Powers from "promoting" someone in the realm evil enough to assume the mantle of Darklord, possibly leaving the realm and its inhabitants in a worse situation than before. In fact, not a few of the "current" Darklords assumed their positions by killing the previous ones. In other cases, the title and sometimes even the personality of the Darklord is immediately passed down to another being on the moment of the Darklord's death, thus ensuring that their position is never lost.
What happens if you permanently destroy a Darklord somehow?
It's likely that some of you action-oriented elegan/tg/entleman reading this are just champing at the bit to claim a Darklord's skull for your trophy rooms, but as noted above, the odds and the themes of the setting itself are decidedly against you. Or maybe you're a DM who wants to run a Ravenloft campaign where good really can make a difference and want to know what happens when these Gothic Horror BBEGs finally bite the dust for real and no one takes their place.
Unfortunately, the rulebooks have historically been rather ambivalent and lacking in detail about the answer to this question and the resulting implications. Some Ravenloft rulebooks say that once a Darklord is permanently destroyed and no successor is forthcoming, the destroyed Darklord's associated domain "ceases to serve a purpose" and might simply disappear, leaving open the question of what happens to all the people who were living there. If the people there simply disappear as well, were they never real in the first place, instead being undispellable illusions made up whole-cloth by the Dark Powers to torment the Darklord? That might work out just fine if your group stuck to playing Weekend in Hell style adventures in Ravenloft, but what would it say about PCs native to Ravenloft, or even native to the domain now without a Darklord? Or were the people in the Darklord-less domain no more real (and therefore no more morally troubling to harm in any way) than characters in a video game, making the whole Powers Check mechanic moot with regards to harming innocents? Is there now a gaping misty void where the previous domain used to be?
Canonically, the answer might be found in how two domains (Arkandale and Gundarak) where the Darklords lost their darklordship were absorbed by neighbouring ones, essentially meaning the people inside those domains just exchanged one insidious tyrant for another. This solution is probably the smoothest way to incorporate the plot element of Darklords being permanently destroyed in your campaign. On the other hand, geographically isolated domains (such as one of the numerous "Islands of Terror" that are completely surrounded by the Mists), or mobile pocket domains with no notable population of sentients can just disappear back into the mists with no larger consequences to other domains upon the permanent death of their Darklords. It still leaves open the question of what happens to the population of sentients in domains situated in the middle of nowhere (ergo, having no neighbouring domains to absorb them) that suffer a sudden lack of a Darklord, though.
The 5e overhaul of Ravenloft gives a bit more insight into that last question—in the wake of Azalin Rex's disappearance, the domain of Darkon is slowly dissolving. It also references some of the newer Darklords as having stolen their rulership from older ones. Another possible answer is that a domain that was abducted wholesale from its original location, carrying along its native population, might simply return to its original location along with its population upon the irrevocable death of its Darklord.
Strahd himself is explicitly mentioned to be a special case with regards to permanent destruction, most probably due to his status as the posterboy of the entire Ravenloft setting (even in universe, it's noted that the Demi-Plane of Dread didn't seem to exist until Strahd's damnation). In 5e's Curse of Strahd module, it is said that in the absurdly unlikely event he is permanently killed with all of his failsafes destroyed or deactivated, the Dark Powers will intervene to return him to undeath within a month because they refuse to allow the possibility of ending his torment. They're "possessive" about their favourite playthings like that.
Players crying foul about this should note that the Dark Powers are mighty enough to bar the gods themselves from coming to Ravenloft. In light of that, something like bringing a Darklord back to life looks like a trivial feat by comparison.
Bottom line? Hash it out with your DM beforehand, or if you're a DM yourself, make sure you have a sensible plot thread lined up if you choose to allow the permanent destruction of Darklords, while keeping in mind how important Darklords are to the themes of Ravenloft.
The "Hammer Horror" Darklords
With the horror films by Hammer Film Productions officially cited as a major source of inspiration for the setting of Ravenloft, the Darklords who are patterned after the horror monster archetypes featured in those films will be listed here.
Strahd von Zarovich
Darklord of Barovia, and the first Darklord to be introduced to the setting--in fact, it's named after his own castle. He is the archetypal vampire darklord in the setting, though by no means the only one, and his appearance is clearly based off of Christopher Lee's portrayal of Dracula in the 1958 Dracula film by Hammer Film Productions.
Originally the conqueror of a region called Barovia that he claims was the ancestral home of his family, Strahd came to lust after a woman called Tatyana who rejected him in favor of his younger brother Sergei. Strahd took this very badly; badly enough that at some point he made what he called "a pact with Death" that turned him into a vampire in a desperate attempt to restore his youth. This too failed to win her over, and on the day Tatyana was to be married to Sergei, Strahd killed him and drove her to suicide.
His realm is a copy of Barovia from the Prime Material plane (the original apparently still exists but nothing is said about its current condition or even which D&D setting it originated from), which he has absolute power over to the point where he can enter any private home uninvited in spite of the fact most vampires are unable to do so (since as he boasts, "I am the land"), and he can ignore the standard vampiric weaknesses to mirrors, garlic or holy symbols, none of which ordinary vampires can do. He isn't even "killed" when staked through the heart like ordinary vampires are (though he is effectively paralyzed while staked) and can resist up to ten rounds of sunlight exposure before being destroyed, though he has always a contingency spell cast on himself that will teleport him away to a hidden mountain sanctuary should he ever be exposed to sunlight or staked by a prepared party, much like Bram Stoker's own Dracula had many coffins to sleep in to make his final destruction more difficult. However, Strahd's curse is to have the events leading to his damnation repeat themselves forever--once every generation he will encounter a woman who he believes to be Tatyana's reincarnation, only to be rejected by her in spite of all his vampiric mind control powers, and become responsible for her death once more, all while being unable to simply give up on trying to win her love.
Darklord of Har'Akir, partially based on the monster from the 1959 film The Mummy by Hammer Film Productions. He is the archetypal Mummy-based Darklord in the setting, but he is not the only "Ancient Dead" (i.e., a preserved corpse animated into undeath) who happens to be a Darklord.
Ankhtepot in life was a hubristic ruler of a land also named Har'Akir, patterned after Ancient Egypt and sharing the same pantheon of gods. As the head priest of the sun god Ra, the chief god of his land, Ankhtepot was obsessed with death and became consumed with the desire to live forever. Despite sparing no expense (nor quite a few lives, for that matter) his efforts were in vain, and in his rage he razed several temples, stormed into the greatest one and cursed the gods for withholding his heart's desire. For this blasphemy, Ra contacted Ankhtepot directly and said that Ankhtepot would indeed live after death, though he might wish otherwise. Anhktepot was confused about this, but later discovered that he had received a dire curse (making him one of the few outlander Darklords to have received the majority of his curse before being taken into Ravenloft); anyone he touched was dead by nightfall, and those he killed in this fashion rose from their tombs to serve him absolutely as undead mummies, because apparently Ra considers having mindless servants a punishment. Taking this in stride despite killing many of his relatives, he used his new undead servants to tighten his grip over Har'Akir, but his fellow priests rebelled, killed Ankhtepot in his sleep, and mummified him, little knowing he was still conscious and going insane inside his sarcophagus during his month-long funeral. After being entombed in a remote area with one small village named Mudar, the mists of Ravenloft claimed Ankhtepot, his tomb, and the nearby village, leaving no trace of them in Ankhtepot's home plane.
As Darklord, Ankhtepot spends most of his time in a deathless dream of better days in his tomb, but he can be roused from this state in a few ways, such as if his tomb is disturbed, or if the people of Mudar are anxious or otherwise distressed. His hubris and pride followed him into undeath, and similarly his greatest torment is his desire to be human again, as the god-king of a great empire he once was, while in reality he "rules" over a barren patch of desert with naught but a small mud-hut village. To frustrate him further, the Dark Powers granted Ankhtepot the ability to regain his human form and mortality by draining a human of moisture and life force in a dread sunrise ceremony, but this reversion to mortality lasts only from dawn to nightfall, and during those few daylight hours "under Ra's gaze" he loses all his supernatural powers, once again becoming a normal human with no appreciable abilities until nightfall, whereupon the transformation is undone. Knowing that he would face an eternity of solitude were he to sacrifice everyone in his domain to fleetingly experience mortality again, Ankhtepot generally prefers to wait and dream until he might rule a larger population, a time he seems unaware will never come.
With respect to his crunch, Ankhtepot can be an unholy terror in his Greater Mummy form. He retains much of the high-level spellcasting ability he had in life, his touch-delivered Mummy Rot is both more virulent and harder to cure than almost any other Ravenloft Mummy's, and those who become infected and are mummified alive become Greater Mummies under his total control. Other aces up his sleeve (or rather, his bandages) are the fact that he commands virtually every mummy in his domain, so if sufficiently provoked he can summon up an entire shambling army of mummies to do his bidding, and the fact that a certain item on his person allows him to heal lost hitpoints very quickly, even if reduced below zero, unless that item is removed from him or his downed "corpse." Ankhtepot can, however, easily be killed during his bouts of mortality (even though doing so might attract the attention of the Dark Powers since he poses no real threat during these times), but if he is killed while an ordinary human he can reanimate if he is mummified and entombed again. As a result of a possible oversight by the writers, no mention is made of how Ankhtepot might be able to return to unlife should he be defeated in his Greater Mummy form nor how he might be permanently destroyed, though he can simply reform in his tomb in the case of the former and the latter might simply require that both his tomb and his physical body be completely destroyed, resulting in the village of Mudar returning to its home plane and Ankhtepot's desert joining an adjacent domain.
Given the relative lack of sex appeal for mummies compared to the far more famous vampires and werewolves (unless you're a fan of the Tomb Kings or Mummy: The Curse), Ankhtepot and his domain more or less dropped off the face of Ravenloft canon after the AD&D version, and even in AD&D he was fairly passive. Even so, he did affect Ravenloft and D&D at large in one way by creating the first Greater Mummies (AKA "Children of Ankhtepot") to ever exist in a D&D system, though they have since significantly changed from their original incarnation. Ankhtepot has also been known to send his Mummy and Greater Mummy servants outside of his domain to track and kill grave robbers who defile his tomb and other unfortunates who incur his wrath.
Ankhtepot and his domain made his first appearance as the star villain of the classic Touch of Death Ravenloft module in 1991.
Despite not having shown up since AD&D, he was re-introduced to the setting in 5e, albeit with some significant retcons.
In an ancient country the inhabitants called the Land of Reeds and Lotuses, Ankhtepot served three generations of pharaohs as high priest. When the second pharaoh died, her unworthy son ascended to the throne. The new pharaoh quickly became unpopular among the people and priests, and Ankhtepot came to believe that the gods wanted himself to take the pharaoh's place. On the day of the pharaoh's coronation, Ankhtepot rallied his loyal priests and murdered their liege. Unfortunately he had misjudged both the people's loyalty and the gods' wills. The people rose up and killed him and his fellow priests, and when he died the gods forsook him and barred him from the afterlife. The gods returned him to the world, but stripped away a piece of his soul called the ka -- the vital spark that inspires all living beings.
He awoke immobilized and trapped in his sarcophagus, during which he felt the pain of every cut and every organ removed as if he were alive. One day, after untold years of this suffering, he a voice asking if he still felt he was worthy to rule. Still arrogant after all he had been through, he answered with certainty, and thus emerged from his crypt into the domain of Har’Akir. In this new land, Ankhtepot found a pious people devoted to the same gods he once served, and immediately set to wiping that religion out and replacing their gods with false idols of his own invention. Using blasphemous rites, Ankhtepot resurrected the priests once buried alongside him as powerful mummies, replacing their heads with those of beasts holy to his new faith. These Children of Ankhtepot served him as they did in life, and together the dead conquered the souls of Har’Akir.
Since then he has seen much, and known many things, but now he seeks one thing only: to be reconnected with his lost Ka, which he believes will allow him to finally die. Where and what his Ka is now is left up to the DM to decide, as is what happens when he is reunited with it. All of the suggested results are pretty grim, ranging from him being reborn as a living tyrant far more decadent and sadistic than he was as an undead, discovering that he cannot be returned to mortality and deciding to wipe out all life in his domain out of spite, to being reborn and dying soon after only for a war of succession to immediately begin with all the Children of Ankhtepot declaring themselves Ankhtepot II.
Darklord of Verbrek, and the archetypal werewolf Darklord of the setting, though by no means the only lycanthrope Darklord in Ravenloft. Alfred Timothy was born to Nathan Timothy (former werewolf Darklord of Arkandale) and an unknown mother. Disdained by Nathan for being frail and sickly in his human form, Alfred in turn disdained his father for his "overly human" interest in ferrying cargo and passengers with his paddleboat (in truth, Nathan was cursed as Darklord of Arkandale to become cripplingly nauseous with "land sickness" anytime he tried to set foot on dry land, but instead of suffering from this curse, Nathan grew so accustomed to boating and the company of his human passengers that he unknowingly lost his Darklordship during the Grand Conjunction, despite still being confined to river waters and remaining an unrepentant serial killer).
Leaving to find his own way and to escape the perpetual treatment as the runt of the litter, Alfred happened upon villagers in his father's domain who regularly made sacrifices to appease a savage being they called the Wolf God in the hopes of relief from continual attacks by bloodthirsty wolves. Taking inspiration from the sight of humans propitiating a lupine deity and perhaps indulging more than a little megalomania at the prospect of being an object of worship or leading a werewolf-centric religion, Alfred wandered the domains and interrogated clerics he met, sometimes lethally, on how he could become a cleric of this "Wolf God" and use its granted powers to inaugurate a werewolf-led reign of terror over humans. Unfortunately, his efforts and sacrifices were fruitless in provoking any response from this "deity," and he began to take out his frustrations on any clerics and religious buildings he could find whenever his latest interrogation target failed to provide the missing ingredient to contacting and receiving spells from the Wolf God. After one such iconoclastic rampage, Alfred incautiously fell asleep near the mutilated corpses and smouldering wreckage of his latest failure. Not content to "let sleeping dogs lie," Alfred was discovered, chained, and about to be burned at the stake by vengeful villagers, were it not for a mother-daughter pair of prescient Vistani who purchased his freedom and told Nathan that for this stay of execution, he must allow all Vistani safe passage in the future. Enraged at the possibility of being bound by a bargain struck with "mere" humans, Alfred promptly killed the Vistani mother, and the mists of Ravenloft claimed him for this betrayal, leaving him within his new domain of Verbrek, which eventually grew to encompass his father's former domain of Arkandale.
Now a Darklord, Alfred was initially delighted at having truly become a cleric of the Wolf God, receiving divine spells and being able to "converse" with it (assuming it exists, but if you decide to play with a nonexistent Wolf God, Ravenloft's Dark Powers have been known to grant divine spells and Alfred might just be hearing voices in his head). The price, as ever with Darklords, was an insidious curse. Alfred wants nothing more than to revel in the bestial fury and passion he once enjoyed as a werewolf, but as Darklord he is forced to transform back into his human form should he ever succumb to any kind of base passion: fear, rage, or lust. Having built a cult of savagery, wanton bloodshed, and debauchery among a large pack of werewolves as the chief priest of the Wolf God, his uncharacteristic unwillingness to practice what he preaches by frequently refraining from hunts and hesitance at finding a mate means his position is growing increasingly precarious. Realizing that widespread knowledge of his weakness would spell his doom (because "being an alpha means proving it every full moon"), Alfred is trying to divest himself of his humanity by commanding and occasionally participating in ever-greater acts of slaughter, dedicating and offering them to his god who has remained silent on this one pressing issue, with the only exceptions to his wrath being the Vistani as he still remembers what happened the last time he killed one.
Crunch-wise, Alfred is rather conventional as lycanthrope BBEGs go, aside from his cleric levels and being forced to fight in a calculating and tactical manner unlike most werewolves lest he be forced to return to his much weaker human form. He doesn't cast a shadow (since his domain is effectively the shadow he casts on Ravenloft), and can even teleport from shadow to shadow within his domain whenever the moon is visible. As an ironic reminder from the Dark Powers of his fundamental weakness, Alfred cannot even supernaturally close the borders of his own domain, short of sending his dire wolf and werewolf minions to patrol them, though the true nature of this additional curse is likely lost on him, since he probably doesn't know about other Darklords and their ability to close their domain's borders supernaturally. Though not specifically mentioned, Alfred's fluff implies that even harsh language might be one of the most potent weapons against him; if PCs can recognize him in either his wolf or hybrid forms and manage to enrage him through taunts, he will be forced to return to human form and at a minimum be robbed of the natural weapons of his alternate forms, or even be forced to kill any wolf or werewolf witnesses to his weakness with his clerical powers before turning his attentions to the PCs. However, even if Alfred is killed (and his crunch does not mention any method through which he could cheat death), it is likely the Darklordship (and possibly even Alfred's curse) will simply pass to whichever werewolf in his domain is evil enough for the Dark Powers' liking, preserving Verbrek as a separate domain unless every werewolf in the domain is killed or driven out before the current Darklord's death. Even then, the Dark Powers can always make more Darklordship candidates, though a more darkly ironic postmortem fate for Alfred's cult and domain might be for the Wolf God cult to scatter to the winds after Alfred's death, in essence metastasizing and spreading its cell members and evil elsewhere, while Alfred's father returns to Arkandale just in time to resume his old Darklordship and hear about his son's death, saying only "So that self-righteous runt finally bit off more than he could chew. No matter. Runts have always thought themselves to be bigger than they are."
On a side note, players who want to play a Ravenloft campaign set in Verbrek, but who also want to use D&D 5e rules instead of relying on older books, might opt to use the official Magic-the-Gathering-to-D&D-5e conversion Plane Shift: Innistrad book, using its rules to play a campaign set in Innistrad's Kessig province. Kessig is thematically similar to Ravenloft's Verbrek as both are "werewolf country" locations, minus Darklords and other Ravenloft-exclusive mechanics. Until the Ravenloft setting is more fully adapted for D&D 5e, the Innistrad conversion is probably the best foundation for playing Verbrek in 5e.
Dr. Victor Mordenheim/Adam
Co-Darklords of Lamordia, of a sort. Like the character of Victor Frankenstein (best known for creating Frankenstein's monster) he was based on, Dr. Victor Mordenheim sought to create life and was certain that a soul was not necessary for it to exist. To show him the error of his ways, the gods saw fit to endow the doctor's creation with a soul--specifically, an irredeemably evil soul. The newly created dread flesh golem was dubbed Adam, and he soon grew jealous of the love that his maker's wife Elise and adopted daughter Eva had for him. Adam's plan to kidnap Elise failed, and instead he killed Eva and wounded Elise so badly she went into a vegetative state. It was at that time that the doctor and his creation were taken together into Ravenloft.
The doctor himself resides in his own mansion, Schloss Mordenheim, spending most of his time obsessively trying to revive his comatose-but-alive wife (who has herself long since gone mad due to her life support system causing her constant pain simply by being active), up to the point of continually constructing new bodies out of exhumed or painlessly-killed female corpses for her, but is cursed to never succeed and to never stop trying. Note that this is not out of love, though Mordenheim still believes that it is--it has become nothing more than a compulsion that has become his only reason for living. Meanwhile, Adam is now the "ruler" of an inhospitable island aptly dubbed the Isle of Agony in the middle of Lamordia inhabited solely by himself, forever cut off from the acceptance that he sought, cursed to feel the doctor's pain as his own, and rejected by the very land that he supposedly controls (as it is influenced by Mordenheim and not Adam). Adam's only form of solace comes from sabotaging Dr. Mordenheim's attempts at reviving Elise just to spite him. Player characters who meet Adam and treat him without pity or revulsion may be able to get some useful information out of him or even get him to open the borders of Lamordia, but he is very prone to anger and is virtually unstoppable once enraged.
So strong is Mordenheim's disbelief in magic that his own domain also (potentially) interferes with divine magic of any kind, making it unreliable, and may even block any magical attempts to heal Elise. Worse still, Mordenheim's attempts at training apprentices over the years in the vain hope that they might just achieve the necessary breakthrough to restoring Elise has unleashed quite a few mad scientist villains, or monsters born of mad science (such as the Living Brain, a disembodied brain in a life-support jar that uses its psionic powers to direct and dominate a major organized crime ring), onto Ravenloft at large.
In a curious twist, Adam is the Darklord and is the one with the power to close Lamordia's borders, but both Adam and his creator are effectively immortal and ageless, and Mordenheim even shares his creation's immunities and regenerative properties. If either is killed and their corpse completely destroyed by fire, acid, or even disintegration, either will simply reincarnate into the nearest most recently deceased male corpse (for Mordenheim) or flesh golem corpse (for Adam, and there are a quite a number of these running around Lamordia, made either by Mordenheim as failed bodies for Elise and futile attempts to recreate Adam's "success," or Adam's frustrated attempts at making sympathetic company for himself), and will shortly thereafter shape their new bodies into looking just like their previous selves. The only way to destroy Adam and Mordenheim for good is to destroy them together at the same time. If DMs decide to allow the permanent destruction of Darklords (see above), then the fate of Elise and Lamordia itself is up to them; one appropriate denouement could be that the permanent deaths of Adam and Mordenheim might just be the spark Mordenheim's machinery needs to briefly restore Elise long enough to rise up and forgive their long-suffering spirits before leading both to their afterlives, just before the land suddenly twists and shifts to reflect the curse and nature of its new Darklord.
Adam and Dr. Mordenheim first appeared in the one-shot adventure in a 1994 boxed set named "Adam's Wrath," intended for outlander PCs to undertake a Weekend in Hell adventure. As of 5e, Dr. Mordenheim has been gender-bent and made Lamordia's Darklord, while Elise is alive, having taken on some of Adam's role in their backstory. For more details, see the 5e Darklords section.
Sir Tristen Hiregaard/Malken
The "Jekyll & Hyde" Darklord of Nova Vaasa. Sir Hiregaard is a staunch, gruff but sincerely righteous man who is dedicated to his people and his land. However, he also plays host to Malken- an alternate personality that takes over Tristen's body, warping it into a form so hideously ugly one can't recognize they're the same person and who delights in killing anyone who stands in the way of Hiregaard's repressed desires.
Strangely, Tristen did nothing at all to earn the position of Darklord; Malken is an entity born from a curse that was placed on Tristen's father by Tristen's mother Romir that compelled him to kill every woman he loved and any man who crossed him; Hiregaard Senior was an intensely jealous man and killed his wife and the man teaching her how to waltz in a fit of rage, thinking she was having an affair with him. When he killed himself to escape the curse, the curse passed to Tristen instead. Six years and nine killings after the curse first manifested itself in him, Tristen was taken into the mists and the secret jealousies and angers born from the curse coalesced into the being known as Malken. Tristen is only partially aware of Malken's existence, just enough to have his guards lock him into his personal chambers when he feels a fit of jealousy or anger coming on. For years he has assumed this has kept Malken in check, but as of late he is starting to suspect that Malken is too clever to be thwarted by mundane confinement despite the latter's attempts at keeping his influence a secret. Were he to discover the whole truth, he would be willing to do anything to end the curse.
This curse is the key to Malken's immortality; if Tristen is killed, then Tristen's eldest living male descendant will be possessed - and Malken will keep going down the chain each time his host dies, meaning that unless you find "the right way" to kill him, Malken can only be stopped by massacring Tristen's entire family line... which the players could potentially belong to. However, if Malken's host is killed by a woman genuinely in love with that man, then Malken will be dragged screaming into whatever hell-hole awaits him. And given that this would be a massive act of betrayal on that woman's part, she would likely end up becoming the new Darklord herself.
It should also be noted for DMs that "the struggle within his soul" prevents Malken from achieving the proper focus to Close the Borders of his domain, so if you want to run a session or campaign focussed around Nova Vaasa, you had better have a compelling in-universe reason to keep the PCs from simply up and leaving, since canonically DMs can't force the issue and simply lock the PCs into Nova Vaasa like they can with most other Darklords. It's possible that if Malken possesses a more evil host, he might just be able to Close the Borders then, but the form such a closed border would take has never been revealed in canon.
The father of Shadow Unicorns and a Darklord of questionable canon. More info on his page.
Captain Alain Monette
Darklord of L'ile de la Tempete. A violent and cruel privateer and captain of the Ouragan. Eventually his crew snapped from his vicious temper and regular abuse and mutinied against him, keelhauling him thrice before throwing him into the sea. This was meant to be an execution- keelhauling, or dragging a sailor around the keel of a ship to be cut by the barnacles growing on it and hit against the ship's hull, is traumatic even when it's only done once and the victim is taken on board the ship afterward. But Alain survived, and washed up on the shores of a small island in the mists. Vampire bats came to drink the blood from his wounds, and Alain survived in turn by eating them- which turned him into a werebat.
Alain thus recovered from his keelhauling, but physical health was a cold comfort as he soon found that even with the flight he gained as a werebat, he could not leave his lonesome island. Driven mad by the isolation and cut off from the sea, he now vents his frustrations on those who sail as he no longer can. His island contains a lighthouse, but as with many things in Ravenloft, it's a trap in the guise of something helpful. Anyone, even outside the Mists, who investigates the light is drawn to the hazardous waters near his lighthouse, where most are shipwrecked. If any survivors somehow make it to shore, Alain will greet them. He'll be quite friendly, at first- he's starved for company and news of the outside world. But he's even more starved for flesh, and within a few days at most he will attack and kill them.
Rakshasa darklord of Sri Raji, Arijani attained his position after betraying both his kind and his father, Ravana (or rather, the Avatar of Ravana), having received the scorn of the rakshasa for most of his life. Although Ravana is a deity venerated by the rakshasa, Arijani's mother was Mahiji, then high priest of the hated goddess Kali and a leader of the Dark Sisters. To compound things, the Avatar of Kali delivered Arijanni to a home of low caste rank. He lived as a pariah shunned by his fellow rakshasa and languished in a position of low social importance. This alienated Arijani from his own kind, such that he arranged the death of many rakshasa in the conflict with humans. Gradually, Arijani's manipulations became so great that the people of Bahru began hunting their former hunters.
Arijani's depredations climaxed with rakshasa retaliatory siege against Bahru. Although the city fell, the cost was massive casualties on both sides and the city left in ruins. Angered and disgusted by Arijani's actions, Ravana sent his avatar to dispatch his prodigal son. However, Arijani conspired with Mahiji and lured the avatar into a trap. Thus rendered helpless, Ravana offered Arijani a wish in return for his release. Ravana accepted the offer, wishing to become immune to the attacks of rakshasas. The wish was granted, but Arijani slew the avatar anyway. Such was the level of his treachery that the Mists brought Sri Raji into the Demiplane of Dread.
The Maharaja's curse is that, although he is a talented illusionist, Arijani cannot disguise himself in a pleasing form, as most rakshasa do. Instead, he can only assume despicable aspects, such as that of the viewer's worst enemy. Maharaja Arijani resides in Mahakala, in Bahru. There, he is served by the Dark Sisters, whom through him, must provide to Kali daily human sacrifice.
Beyond the threat of an all weretiger cult called "The Stalkers" that were huge fans of his dad trying to kill him, Arijani's greatest fear is the very weapon he used to kill the avatar with, knowing full well it's somewhere in the jungle and very likely to be used on him just like Ravana.
5e has given him a serious retooling, making him one of Ramya's rivals for the throne, along with his sister Reeva (an Arcanaloth). More details are in Ramya's entry.
Darklord of Darkon. A powerful mage who inherited the rule of the city-state of Knurl, his draconian rule culminated in the execution of his son when he was caught freeing political prisoners. Soon afterward, Azalin became a lich and devoted himself to searching for a spell that could resurrect the dead; he believed that his son's sense of compassion was due to a mistake in his upbringing and assumed that if he could be revived that mistake could be fixed.
As soon as he was taken into Ravenloft he lost the ability to learn any new magic at all- a terrible thing for any magic user, and even worse for a lich like him who became undead for the sole purpose of gaining more knowledge. This power over memory affects anyone else who enters Darkon as well; staying there for more than three months at a time causes a visitor's memories to be erased and replaced with false ones of spending one's whole life in Darkon. Originally an ally of Strahd when he first entered the mists, their relationship soured quickly after a failed attempt at escaping the Demi-plane of Dread temporarily split the former into two separate beings and they've remained enemies ever since. Another ill-fated attempt at breaking free in which he planned to become a demilich backfired even more spectacularly. Instead of allowing his essence to be freed from Ravenloft, it dispersed his essence across Darkon and destroyed the domain's capital. It took five years for him to reassume a corporeal form and take control of his realm again.
In 5th edition, Azalin has mysteriously gone missing. Did he finally outsmart the Dark Powers and escape? The only clue about where he went is that when he vanished a strange golden star or starlike thing called The King's Tear appeared in the sky and hasn't moved since and the sun and moon pass behind it instead of in front of it every day. While he is missing his domain is slowly disappearing and has become split into four islands which are ruled by three new not-quite-darklords. It is up to the DM to decide why he disappeared and why the domain is disappearing but several different possibilities are suggested.
A rare darklord actually liked by his subjects, Bluebeard rules over Blaustein (German: "Blue Stone"), a small nation from an unknown world. His rule was considered just and fair, and as a ruler he was considered to be quite generous. Unfortunately for him, he was an incredibly ugly man -- a blue-tinted beard and all -- which to his credit, he overcame with his own charms... and being incredibly wealthy didn't hurt either. Despite all of his good qualities, however, Bluebeard could not achieve a lasting marriage.
He would find a woman to marry, and soon after the wedding he would leave the castle for a time, handing its care over to his new wife. He would give her a set of keys to every door in the castle, and pointing out the one special golden key which opened a room at the very top floor. His instruction was to never open that particular door, with vague consequences. So far none of his wives have been able to overcome this temptation; and when they did open the door they found his grisly collection of former wives, hung up by meat-hooks with their throats slit. By opening the door, the key -- which was magical in nature -- would have a bloody mark that would appear that could not be removed except by Bluebeard himself. He would return to the castle soon after, and demand to see the keys. If the woman had given into temptation (which each invariably did), she would then share the fate as the other women in the room. Marcella was his fourth wife and victim. Her death was not the final, but eventually Bluebeard's repeated murders brought Blaustein into Ravenloft.
After becoming a darklord, Bluebeard was gifted by the Dark Powers with a minor charisma increase, which does not make him handsome by any means but does not leave him as ugly as he once was. He is also able to perfectly detect any lie. Even after the Mists took hold, Bluebeard is still the de facto leader of Blaustein, although his rule was twisted to be even more sadistic. Simply displeasing him is a death sentence, yet the populace still holds him in incredibly high regard. This is because he also has complete control over their memories, and freely erases or rewrites their recollections of his atrocities.
He is unable to marry any woman native to Blaustein, as their visages always twist to the posthumous appearance of one of his dead wives. This curse does not affect women who were born foreign of Blaustein, and Bluebeard along with his subjects are always on the constant lookout for any attractive women who fit this criteria. Lorel, an outlander he grabbed through the Mists, was his latest wife (and victim).
Bluebeard is also haunted by the ghosts of the wives he killed. Every third night must be spent in his castle in order to sleep, and he always awakes to the frightening caress of the specters of his murdered wives. Like his subjects, they are utterly devoted to him, yet in the most twisted way possible. While he considers this distressing, it has not stopped him from sending another wife to the same fate.
It is currently unknown if he has any dealings with any other nation or darklord, at least beyond welcoming in his harbour ships including those engaged in piracy.
He's mentioned in a single sentence in 5e, which states that apparently his spectral wives overthrew him and now endlessly torment him. Exactly how this happened or what this entails is not elaborated upon.
Councilor Dominic d'Honaire
The darklord of Dementlieu. Originally born in Mordentshire, Dominic led his nanny to suicide at age 7 and then manipulated his family to move away to avoid the Mordentshire police, with the mists giving him the domain of Dementlieu. Dominic is not the domain's temporal leader but does serve as an adviser for Marcel Guignol, Dementlieu's head of state. However, Dominic has much more power than his official position would suggest. The darklord's power is domination over the minds of other people on a prodigious scale. A great many in the land, including its recognized head, are his obedients and through this network he knows whatever goes on in his land.
His personal curse is that any woman he woos sees him as more repulsive the more he is attracted to her. Also, for some time his rule is challenged by an entity who is called (and virtually is) the Living Brain (re: Sherlock Holmes' Moriarty), the last remains of Rudolph von Aubrecker, the youngest son of Lamordia's political ruler.
in 5e, the domain was revamped and the Darklord is now Saidra d’Honaire, though there is a plot hook that hints he's still around and trying to get his position back (then again Dementlieu is now a place where everyone pretends).
Darklord of Necropolis (formerly Il-Aluk, the capital of Darkon). He is one of several minor Darklords that took over pieces of Darkon in Azalin's absence during the Grim Harvest and the only one of them to become a full Darklord after Azalin came back. Originally a clone of Azalin made by him as part of a convoluted scheme to bypass his curse, he was transformed into a negative energy elemental by the prototype version of the "Doomsday Device" Azalin thought would make him into a demilich. When it backfired, the massive surge of negative energy it released killed the whole of Il-Aluk's population. "Death" then claimed the ruined capital and its remaining undead inhabitants as its own, and after Azalin reconstituted himself Necropolis became its own domain. A shroud of negative energy still remains over Necropolis, which instantly kills all non-undead which attempt to enter its borders.
Darklord of Saragoss, a watery domain where the only analogue to 'land' is 'places where the seaweed is clumped particularly tight'. Draga is a wereshark pirate Cleric of Umberlee with a deep-rooted fear of sharks. Yes, it's ironic that he hates sharks while being able to turn into one. He knows. He got both his wereshark infection and his fear of sharks in the same incident; as a child, he was captured by a crew of pirates, who stuck a hook into one of his calves and dangled him into shark-infested waters, understandably traumatizing the kid. And after his own piracy and terrorism of the seas in Umberlee's name caught the Dark Powers' attention, they saw no reason to mess with a perfectly good case of irony and gave him a neat selection of new powers... all of which were shark-themed. He controls sharks, can only breathe underwater (though he also has a ring of air-breathing that allows him to surface for a few hours at a time), and his resurrection method involves his spirit being reborn via sharks. He's also becoming increasingly shark-like in mentality as time passes, a prospect which terrifies him.
Dr. Daclaud Heinfroth
Darklord of Dominia. Reknowned throughout the Demiplane of Dread as an expert on mental illness, few know the dark secret behind his knowledge. Terrified of falling victim to the hereditary madness that plagued his family, Heinfroth conducted horrific experiments on his mental patients to deepen his understanding of insanity. One of these experiments turned him into the first cerebral vampire, a vampire subspecies that feeds on cerebral fluid instead of blood.
Dr. Frantisek Markov
Darklord of Markovia. Originally a pig farmer from Barovia, he grew increasingly obsessed with the anatomy of the pigs he butchered and began to perform bizarre experiments on them that wouldn't be out of place in a Haemonculus' laboratory. When his "subjects" inevitably died, he simply sold the meat without telling anyone what he had done to it first. Eventually his wife discovered his gruesome hobby and threatened to expose him, at which time she ended up becoming one of his experiments as well. After three days of vivisection, she finally expired- her corpse was so horrifically mangled that when it was first discovered it was mistaken for the remains of a monster. When Markov's involvement in her death became clear, the mists claimed him and made him a Darklord.
Fittingly, Markov's curse allows him to shapeshift into any animal form he wishes (save for his head, which remains human), but is incapable of assuming his original human form. As a result, he normally takes the shape of a gorilla in order to continue his increasingly deranged experiments without being impeded by a lack of thumbs. Said experiments culminated in the creation of the "Broken Ones"- animals (and the occasional unlucky human) that have been surgically mutilated into a human-animal hybrid form and given a semblance of intellect, similar to the Beast Folk of The Island of Dr. Moreau. Like said Beast Folk, they too are highly prone to reverting to their primal instincts and bestial appearance after only a few days.
Easan the Mad
Darklord and ruler of Vechor. Easan has the power to reshape the land, and even reality itself, within his domain. Combined with his capricious whims, his power makes the realm a place of constant change.
Easan is a short wood elf and former agitator for a war against Iuz the Evil. For his efforts, he was seemingly driven mad by the possession of a fiend. Now Easan only looks for a cure to his madness, but he is willing to tear many innocent lives apart, and maybe even reality itself, to find a cure. His vile research has focused on souls and soul transference. Among other monstrosities, his research created the dread mechanical golem from fellow outlander Ahmi Vanjuko.
It all started on the outlander world of Oerth. Easan argued the cause for war to his colleagues among the rulers of a tiny elf kingdom bordering Iuz's empire. To make an example of the upstart elf, Iuz ordered his agents to kidnap Easan. With Easan rendered helpless before him, Iuz bound a fiend to Easan.
The presence of the fiend within Easan began eating away at his mind. Many magical means of expulsion failed, including the divine magic of St. Cuthbert's followers. In an effort to find a way to free himself from the fiend, Easan visited a far-off island of mystics. They managed to suppress the fiend for a time, but eventually the monks and their island were rent asunder by a disaster of mysterious circumstances. Only Easan came out of it alive. The cause of the incident was Iuz's visit to the island and his ensuing frustration at Easan's seeming mastery over the fiendish spirit within. Iuz brought about the magical destruction that wiped out the entire island.
Whereas Easan emerged from the disaster with his body intact, his mind had only deteriorated further. The fiend had returned, but Easan did not give up hope. Where religion had failed, Easan resolved to find a way to banish the fiend with perverse experiments. Easan sacrificed many lives in his pursuit for a cure before he was taken in by the Mists.
Eventually, Easan noticed he was in a foreign, if familiar, land where he was viewed as a god. Indeed, he now had the power to warp reality (albeit slowly) within his own domain. Although he enjoys this from time to time, for the most part he remains obsessed with finding secrets of the soul. For all his power, he cannot seem to best his own inner demons, for he has all but forgotten the reasons why he began his foul research.
In truth, Easan never had a fiend implanted in him at all. It was all merely a deception to throw him off balance. Still, Easan's mind locked onto it, and when others couldn't detect the nonexistent affliction, Easan turned to his own methods for finding a cure.
First introduced in the Darklords sourcebook, Ebonbane is a villainous character strongly associated with the mythos surrounding the Shadowborn Family and the Shadowlands cluster. In universe, Ebonbane is a source of horrific evil that has been opposed by Lady Kateri Shadowborn and her kin for almost two centuries, going back to the Heretical Wars on the Prime Material Plane. Once a powerful fiend known as Lussimar, Ebonbane was conjured and trapped inside a sword by mortal spellcasters. Ebonbane struck back at its summoners and enslaved them. After Ebonbane killed Kateri Shadowborn, it became darklord of Shadowborn Manor, the former residence of its nemesis.
Darklord of Nidala. Elena was a Paladin of the god Belenus that acted as a guardian of a land also called Nidala, but her devotion to Belenus was tainted by her fondness for the adoration of the masses. Following a great crusade against the forces of evil, the people began to scorn those who did not worship Belenus. The more zealous members of the clergy appealed to her vanity and drive to please Belenus, and soon she grew so fanatical that after the "non-believers" were wiped out, she turned on followers that she deemed unworthy, always finding some new target for her purges. For this, Belenus withdrew his support, but Elena never realized that she fell because her formerly Lawful Stupid tendencies had blossomed into full-fledged self-righteousness- thus leaving her incapable of even considering that she might have gone astray from her god's teachings.
Believing her fall to be only a test of faith, she grew ever more ruthless in purging those who she deemed unclean, until she was eventually drawn by the Mists into the Demiplane of Dread. She didn't actually become a Darklord until later, when she started slaughtering entire villages because she saw more evil than good in them (not knowing that she was only looking at the worst parts of each town). At that point, she was given the domain of Nidala, which she runs as a dour police state, forbidding all practices she sees as evil while allowing her cult of personality to reach new heights. When she considers a town to be too corrupted, she and her followers destroy it, blaming the deed on the fictional dragon Banemaw. Ironically enough, in her domain the true dogma of Belenus is considered Heresy, and her servant/"spiritual guide" Theokos (a fiend-like entity masquerading as a Cleric of Belenus) strives to wipe it out entirely.
As a Darklord, Elena has her paladin powers back, except they're from the Dark Powers, so they're warped in ways that Elena is in severe denial about (to the point where she's a straight Blackguard in some writeups). Her unicorn steed is now fiendish, she commands undead instead of turning them, her Aura of Courage is an Aura of Despair, she can only heal herself or her steed, and most notably her Detect Evil power instead detects strong emotions that others feel towards her (any emotion works, so someone who genuinely loves her will still be detected as "evil" with predictable results), leaving them vulnerable to her version of Smite Evil. Naturally, Elana refuses to believe that her Detect Evil power doesn't actually work as it's supposed to and insists that the inability of anyone else to use Detect Evil in the Demiplane of Dread is proof of their spiritual impurity. She is also able to "convert" foes to her side as loyal servants who will gladly die for her, which functions like an enhanced humanoid-only version of Charm Monster.
She is cursed with bouts of self-doubt, and once every week she must take a midnight ride as a chorus of voices denounce her for becoming one of the forces of evil she once fought against.
Eli Van Hassen
Darklord of the Endless Road, and a creation of the 4th edition to replace the infamously-dubious Headless Horseman and his Winding Road domain. Eli, unlike the Horseman, has an actual known reason to be Darklord, with the Horseman being downgraded to part of Eli's curse.
Eli was once a minor nobleman who ruled over a hamlet called Tranquility, despite having much grander ambitions. When his lands were ravaged by a hydra, a wandering horseman came by and slew the beast, being lauded as a hero. Eli was filled with envy as the huntsman received praise and admiration that he didn't, and his daughter falling in love with the man was the last straw. He forced the girl to claim that the Horseman had raped her, whipped the denizens of Tranquility into a frenzied mob, and executed the innocent man. Drawn to the Demiplane of Dread for this crime, Eli is now trapped on his estate, for the Headless Horseman, the spectre of the hero he murdered, wanders the road outside and will kill Eli if he ever steps beyond his estate's boundaries.
Darklord of Invidia. A half-Vistani whose mother was raped by Drakov and was rejected by her fellow Vistani, she had always fantasized about her father's identity and resented her mother's unwillingness to speak of him, as well as her warning that if she bore a child it would end in disaster for everyone around her. When her mother was attacked by a werewolf, Gabrielle refused to aid her until she revealed the truth about her father. But when her mother did so, Gabrielle refused to believe it and left her to die. The mists took her after that, and she came to be cursed with an inability to cause direct harm to the Vistani, either physically or magically. Soon afterward she came to become the temporal leader of Invidia as well as its darklord, an opportunity that allowed her to begin persecuting the Vistani in spite of her curse.
She took many lovers as Invidia's ruler, though she only truly loved one of them, a wolfwere called Matton Blanchard. However, she was later seduced by the incubus calling himself "The Gentleman Caller" and left pregnant by him. Her son Malocchio soon proved to be one of the Dukkar- one of the rare males of Vistani blood with The Sight. On its own this would be a cause for concern among the Vistani, as the Dukkar is effectively the Vistani equivalent of the Antichrist; however, Gabrielle went even further and taught him to hate the Vistani as much as she did. Ultimately she taught him too well, as Malocchio betrayed Gabrielle and took the position of Invidia's temporal ruler for himself. She survived due to the intervention of Blanchard, but since then Malocchio has been the ruler of Invidia, persecuting the Vistani far more effectively than Gabrielle ever could have done. The only reason he has yet to kill her is because he knows that if she dies, he will inevitably inherit her title of Darklord, which he has no interest in gaining.
Darklord of Vorostokov. The only known Darklord from Birthright, Gregor is descended from Azrai, and lives down to the bloodline's negative reputation. Gregor was an excellent hunter, and back in Cerilia, his skills saved his village during an exceptionally harsh winter. Gregor loved being a hero to the people, but his talent for hunting couldn't work so well every winter. And so, to keep bringing back meat, he started hunting humans. This drew Vorostokov into Ravenloft, where the winter has continued ever since (though recently it has shown some signs of abatement). Gregor still "hunts" for his people, although they've started to cotton on to Gregor's lies and resent their dependence on him, they have no other choice, for Gregor forbids anyone else from hunting.
Gregor is a Loup du Noir, and the boyarsky who support him are the same, as he infected them. His two sons are also nascent Loup du Noir, but the younger, Mikhail, wishes to escape him.
Gwydion the Sorceror-Fiend
Darklord of the Shadow Rift, and such an asshole that even the Shadow Fey think he's a monster. He is also responsible for their current state, as prior to Ravenloft, he was a powerful warlord on the Plane of Shadow, and to sate his ambitions, he kidnapped a bunch of normal fey, turned them into the Shadow Fey, and told them to create an interdimensional portal so he could use them as an army to conquer other planes. This worked as well as could be expected considering he had no mental domination of his creations. The Shadow Fey made a portal, alright... but it wasn't to the Prime Material and the armies that marched through it were actually a mass exodus of the Shadow Fey, hidden by illusions.
Gwydion eventually discovered the Shadow Fey's treachery, but it was too late, and by the time he got to the portal to stop them, the exodus was almost complete. The Shadow Fey king, Arak, held Gwydion back long enough for the Shadow Fey to all escape and seal the portal while Gwydion was going through it, trapping the Sorceror-Fiend. The other side of the portal led to the Demiplane of Dread, where the Dark Powers created the Shadow Rift to contain Gwydion further.
And that's pretty much how it remains. Aside from a failed escape attempt during the Grand Conjunction, Gwydion has remained stuck in that portal, unable to do anything but watch and send Shadow Fey an occasional bad dream.
Darklord of Rokushima Táiyoo. He's a powerless Geist that, in life, was a powerful samurai and clan leader that forged a big and powerful empire. He felt pride in the fact that his clan and lands held together while others fell to discord, despair, and war, which he helped to instigate via manipulation and betrayal. Haki Shinpi somewhat lived by the code of Bushido but abused and exploited it to manipulate his nemeses, play them against each other, and run their hopes into the ground.
Shortly prior to Haki's death, he made it known that each of his six sons would inherit part of his conquered lands evenly. As expected, this went swimmingly for everyone involved. After his death, his children turned to bickering and then all out war against each other. Two of his children met their doom, and their islands were leveled by earthquakes before Rokushima Taiyoo was brought into the Demiplane of Dread.
Far from the influential and powerful man he was in life, Haki Shinpi can now do little to keep his sons from tearing his land apart in civil war.
Darklord of Kartakass. A wolfwere bard from the Forgotten Realms unusual among his kind for his highly social nature, as most wolfweres are lone predators who only come together temporarily to breed. Seeing as how he couldn't get other wolfweres to agree to hang around together, he started focusing more on integrating into human society. He still hunted and ate humans, but he also gained a genuine love of human culture and of the idea of being somebody important. One day, for no reason since he'd basically been doing the same stuff any wolfwere does, just spending a bit more time in town in between kills, the Dark Powers grabbed his ass and yanked him into Barovia. At which point he went on an anti-wolf killing spree for, again, no particular reason. This attracted Strahd's attention, and he nearly killed Lukas, forcing the wolfwere to flee into the Mists, which gave him his own domain of Kartakass. Which, much to his frustration, is a tiny, rustic place where the most power he'll ever have is being mayor of a small town, so he's got the letter of what he wanted but not the spirit, making for a hollow victory.
The 5th edition version of Harkon Lukas is a Loup-garou instead of a wolfwere, and it changes some of the other details about him. As in the original, he had dreams of a werewolf society - an empire of werewolves, in fact - but that dream was dashed by the werewolf indifference to gathering in large numbers. So he tried to forge an empire amongst humans, this time actually directly getting involved; ultimately, he led a revolution against a king by faking his own death as a martyr to stir up riots, then using these to get him close enough to the king that he could burst out of the coffin his followers were carrying him around in, rip the king to shreds, and take the king's crown for himself... which was when the mists swallowed him and he found himself in Kartakass. His curse is also tweaked slightly as well; rather than being doomed to never rise above the position of mayor, he's doomed to never rise above the even less prestigious position of nearly-forgotten, washed-up performer.
Darklord of Hazlan. A gay Red Wizard of Thay who was publicly humiliated and stripped of his status by his female rival and her boyfriend, the latter of which he lusted after. As revenge, he murdered the guy, made his girlfriend eat his corpse, then tortured her to death as well, at which time he was then swept up by the mists. His curse is to suffer from nightmares of his now-inaccessible rivals defeating him with impunity and generally humiliating him every night, which has made him even more fixated on getting revenge against the Red Wizards. So he's crafting plans to cast a spell that will genocide all members of his race, the Mulan, throughout the multiverse. To escape being killed by said genocide spell himself, he's prepared to bodysnatch his female Rashemani apprentice when he's ready to use it.
The 5e version retcons him quite a bit. Once an ambitious Red Wizard with a habit of horribly scarring his rivals, Hazlik came to believe that his lover/rival, a man named Indreficus, was planning to betray him. In retribution, he captured Indreficus and subjected him to a nightmarish experiment that left him permanently transformed into a pain-wracked living portal. Hazlik presented what had become of his former lover as to the zulkirs with hopes to impress them, only to be told Indreficus did not betray him and he had merely been manipulated by the zulkirs into thinking so as a way to halt the ambitious pair's ascent. They then declared Hazlik’s transformation of Indreficus an abomination, and that as punishment, every rival Hazlik had defeated could exact a penance of their choosing upon him. In desperation, Hazlik fled through the twisted portal that had been Indreficus and found himself in the demiplane of dread, where he eventually found his way to a realm that knew nothing of magic.
As well as his old nightmares (which are now of Indreficus taunting him for his failures), he also has a new curse borrowed from the now-absent Azalin Rex, making him unable to learn any new magic. On top of no longer being able to advance the magical research that used to drive his life, he's also absolutely terrified that anyone will learn of his limitations.
Darklord of the sewer domain of Timor that lies beneath Paridon, and a half-Marikith because somebody thought it was time to rip off the Aliens franchise. She wasn't always a monster, though. She was originally a spoiled princess who decided one day to scare her mother to death. To do this, she seduced a wizard into casting an illusion of her transforming into a half-Marikith, but when said wizard saw her with her real lover, he decided to spice up the spell a bit by removing the 'illusion' bit and actually transforming her. She now lurks in the sewers as the Queen of the Marikiths, regularly laying more Marikith eggs. But she fears being usurped even from what little power she has, so if any of those eggs hatches another Marikith Queen, the Hive Queen kills the hatchling. Gets a shoutout in 5e's Van Richten's Guide to Ravenloft, where she's no longer a Darklord. Instead, she dwells somewhere in the sewers of the city of Paridon, located in the domain of Zherisia, where she rules over countless Carrion Stalkers.
The darklord of Bluetspur is an illithid Elder Brain, a massive conglomeration of the brain of every dead illithid, merged together into a new, living, entirely alien entity. It's the reason using psionic powers in Ravenloft is a dicey proposition, as the God-Brain might notice and attempt to integrate you into itself. It's notable for having no attempt to justify its position in Ravenloft whatsoever, with the original writeup in the Red Box, the original Ravenloft campaign setting collection, literally saying that nobody knows why it's in the Demiplane of Dread, what crime it committed to end up here, or even how it's actually being tormented by its stay here!
The Book of Sacrifices gives it a backstory and reason for its Darklordship. Its core persona was once a human psion named Seldrid, whose people were at war with the Illithids. Eventually, they began to win for good once the Illithid Elder Brain started to die, but unfortunately for them, Seldrid had come to admire the Illithids' power and discipline, and merged with the Elder Brain to revive it. This act of betraying his people to such a great evil caught the Dark Powers' attention, and as the Illithids sacked his home city, they drew the country into the Demiplane of Dread as Bluetspur, with the Seldrid-brain as Darklord. Seldrid's curse is an inability to transfer his consciousness as he once did or to integrate any new consciousnesses into himself. Now trapped as a giant brain in a pool with nothing but Illithid tadpoles for company, unable to make himself more mobile or gain any outside experiences, Seldrid has gone quite insane.
5th edition has its own take on the idea. In a nutshell, the God-Brain hails from the era when the Illithid empire was at its peak, performing whatever blasphemous experiments took its fancy until it literally thought something that was unthinkable. That is, it had a thought so blasphemous, so utterly inimical to reality itself, that even an Elder Brain couldn't actually think it. Becoming obsessed with this ineffable thought, the God-Brain began cannibalizing other Elder Brains to try and upgrade itself to the point where it could finally contemplate this mysterious thought-form. Instead, it just gave itself kuru. Aghast at its behavior and terrified of catching the disease themselves, the other Elder Brains pooled their powers and tried to erase the God-Brain from existence; thanks to the meddling of the Dark Powers, they only succeeded in banishing the God-Brain to the Demiplane of Dread. Now the God-Brain struggles endlessly to both find a cure for its disease and to manifest the alien thought-form still gestating inside of it, all the while subconsciously aware that there is nothing it can do to achieve either goal, but desperate to fight for every last moment of life.
In 5th edition at least, the God-Brain cannot fully close the borders like other Darklords do. When the borders are closed, the surface of Bluetspur becomes covered in lightning storms and anybody who isn't an aberration that exits the domain both by above or below ground suddenly wakes ups in a familiar place with no memories of their time in Bluetspur.
Inza Magdova Kulchevitch
The current Darklord of Sithicus, replacing Lord Soth. She was born in Gundarak, on the night Duke Gundar was assassinated, and two years later, her caravan wandered into Sithicus, where they were trapped, although her mother Magda managed to bargain for protection with Soth.
Inza's dark mindset showed from a very early age. Even as a child she loved thieving and manipulating the giorgio of Sithicus, and for the most part stood aside from her tribe. Her only friend was Piotr, a boy 1 year her senior, and this wasn't such a good thing as Inza pushed him to join her in both emnity to the giorgios and bullying a boy named Nikolas for his kindness towards non-Vistani. Their friendship eventually came to an end when Inza allowed Nikolas to be brutally beaten and pinned the blame on Piotr. Inza also hated animals, since they were not fooled by her facade of innocence, and would torture and kill them on the sly. None of this disturbing behavior ever reached Magda, who doted on her daughter, but by adulthood her rampant kleptomania and unlikeable personality had alienated most of the other Vistani.
Inza became Darklord of Sithicus after betraying her mother and caravan to Malocchio Aderre, breaking the caravan's oath to Lord Soth in the process. She attempted to usurp Soth's power, but was foiled and as the surviving members of her caravan hunted her down, she leapt into a chasm to escape. The darkness within the chasm surrounded and embraced her, turning her into the new Darklord.
As Darklord, Inza exists as a force of corruption. Her curse is twofold- first, her form has become a mass of shadow, and she has to concentrate to look human. Second, she stole, manipulated, and was a general bitch because of her philosophy that everyone was as evil as her at heart. The presence of true heroes in her domain (to say nothing of the redeemed spirit of Lord Soth himself) has shaken her to the core, and despite all her efforts to stomp out the forces of good in her domain, they still exist as thorns in her side.
Darklord of Borca, and a reference to the titular character of Rappaccini's Daughter. Ivana inherited the domain by poisoning her lover for cheating with her mother Camille (who she also poisoned). Thus, Ivana inherited Camille's domain, along with immunity and power over poison. This, of course, came with a curse- Ivana cannot turn her lethally poisonous touch off, and thus will never be able to take a lover.
Ivana is best known for the creation of Ermordenung, humans infused with poison to make them super-assassins. The first of these was Nostalia Romaine, Ivana's childhood friend and the one to actually do the dirty work of killing Camille.
5e retcons her a bit, though not nearly as much as Borca's other Darklord. While the whole thing with her mother seducing her lover did still happen, there's no mention of her poisoning her lover and it's not the only reason she kills her mother. Rather, she murdered her brothers and mother in an attempt to force her father to name her his heir. When he still refused to do so, insisting that her cousin Ivan Dilisnya would be his sole inheritor instead, she murdered him and all of their servants with poison gas. She's still terrified of the possibility of her father's will being found, as that would mean that the business she's worked so hard to grow would go to her childish and depraved cousin.
Her poisonous touch is gone, with her curse now being the more mundane and psychological torments of boredom due to feeling like no one around her is her intellectual peer, and the fact that she is never given the respect she feels she is owed, always being doubted, second-guessed, and looked down upon just like her father did. There's also the matter of her father's will, which she has never found and is terrified of someone discovering as it would prove that she isn't her father's rightful heir.
Co-Darklord of Borca, and former darklord of Dorvinia. He's a cousin to Ivana Bortisi, and shares many similarities with her, most notably his love of poisoning people who draw his ire. After he poisoned his sister (who he lusted after) and her husband, he became a Darklord. His curse is simple but effective; his greatest pleasure aside from killing was fine food and drink, so he lost his sense of taste, rendering all the luxury around him hollow and unenjoyable.
His similar nature and modus operandi to his cousin caused their domains to fuse together under the name of Borca during the Grand Conjunction. Both he and Ivana are immune to poison and can create any toxin they can imagine, but Ivana has one more gift- agelessness. Ivan is desperate to learn the secret to her immortality, and refuses to believe she has no idea how she came by the gift (the Dark Powers granted it). Unlike Ivana, Ivan doesn't create Ermordenung, but he does have one nasty trick up his sleeve: Borrowed Time, a poison that only he can create. It stays in one's bloodstream for life and causes lethal convulsions every sunset unless you've ingested the antidote, 'Mercy', which is also something only Ivan can create, that day. Most of his minions are thus held hostage, knowing that Ivan holds the key to each day of their lives.
5e retcons him heavily; while he's still the cousin of Ivana and co-darklord of Borca who envies his cousin's immortality, that's pretty much all that stays the same. Ivan was groomed from a young age to be the head of a noble family, but despite all the opportunity in the world he instead took to wallowing in childish depravity, his family ignoring and enabling his worst and strangest impulses as they hoped he would grow out of it. He of course did not grow out of it, only becoming more violent and immature as he aged. On the same night that Ivana Boritsi poisoned her family, Ivan learned of his parents’ intention to send his beloved sister Kristina to a prestigious boarding school, and murdered his entire family for it.
He now resides in the Dilisnya family estate, a twisted funhouse that he lures people into to torment. Those unable to escape are eventually forced to don the colorful uniforms of the Dilisnya household staff and become Ivan's new servants. He rarely leaves the estate, instead communicating through letters and acting through his "toys," animate creatures of clockwork or cloth provided to him by the Dark Powers.
Like Ivana, Ivan's curse is a more mundane and psychological one than it was in earlier editions. He was given everything, destroyed it all, and doesn’t know how to live. He endlessly creates fawning, fake family from clockwork creations to distract him from his solitude. He both resents Ivana, his closest relative, and views her as his only peer and a potential replacement for his sister, but Ivana hates him and avoids him at all costs.
Darklord of Richemulot. Appropriately to the name, she's a natural wererat, born to a wererat branch of the Reiner family. The Reiners followed their patriarch Claude into the mists, where he reigned as Richemulot's original Darklord, but eventually Jaqueline had enough of his abuse and killed him, taking on his title of Darklord in the process. And while that title came with neat perks like control over Richemulot, it also came with a pair of curses.
First, Jaqueline suffers from intense monophobia. She hates nothing worse than being alone, but her entire family is made up of evil wererats whom she also really hates, so being in their company is not that much better. Second, while Jaqueline falls in love easily, she will involuntarily shift into rat form whenever she's alone with someone she truly loves. And while that love is as genuine as anything Jaqueline has experienced, she can never muster up the trust that her lover will accept her as a wererat, and she almost invariably then kills him. She might make a good pair with Urik von Kharkov, but Darklords can never leave their domains and it's uncertain if she knows about him.
5e replaced her with the very-slightly-differently-named Jacqueline Reiner, details about which can be found in her own section below.
Yes, Ravenloft even has Darklords that are talking animals! No, you cannot play as one yourself.
King Crocodile is the savage and bestial Darklord of the equally savage and bestial Wildlands, which is based on Rudyard Kipling's Just-So Stories and The Jungle Book. This talking crocodile was so bloodthirsty and ferocious to his fellow talking animals in the jungle, they begged the hairless apes (i.e. humans) to come and kill him, but instead of holding up their end of the bargain, the hairless apes just started destroying the jungle for resources and colonizing it. This drove the other talking animals into pleading for King Crocodile to kill the hairless apes, and he agreed on the condition that the other animals all loan him their powers, which they did with the exception of the Python (the "wisest of the animals") and the Fly (whom King Crocodile thought was too insignificant to matter).
King Crocodile did slake his bloodthirsty appetite on the hairless apes and drove them out, but instead of returning the other animals' powers when he was finished as he had promised, he instead returned to his old ways of gorging himself on the animal population even more wantonly and gluttonously than before. It was at this point that the Python told King Crocodile a prophecy, which was that King Crocodile would either be killed by one of the hairless apes or by something he thought was pathetic and beneath him. With this done, the Python and his fellow snakes left King Crocodile's jungle to its fate at the hands of Ravenloft's Dark Powers, who quickly claimed the land as their own.
True to the Python's words, King Crocodile is slowly dying of the sleeping sickness spread by the flies, and the only thing that might help him are the hairless apes. But he is unable to keep himself from attacking any who might cure his affliction, and might attack them even if they do help him. The other talking animals still live in fear of King Crocodile and will implore any player characters they meet to dispose of him, but the cycle of betrayal in this land is only doomed to repeat itself. As a result, even if the player characters succeed in killing King Crocodile none of the talking animals will honour their words and the other crocodiles will fight to the death to assume King Crocodile's crown (and his cursed fate), as "gratitude is not a quality well-known in the jungle."
Darklord of Tovag. The infamous vampire who betrayed Vecna and cut off his hand and eye. Was drawn into the mists at the same time as Vecna and the two of them were at constant war with each other until Vecna escaped. It is confirmed in 5th edition that Kas is still in the Demiplane of Dread and also is unaware that Vecna is gone. He repeatedly sends out armies to attack Vecna which never return, leaving him increasingly frustrated.
In the World Axis cosmology from 4th edition, he's not a Darklord, but he does hang out in the Domain of Dread called Monadhan; because he's figured out how to freely leave the domain whenever he wishes, he's turned it into his own personal base under the nose of its dracolich Darklord.
Lemot Sediam Juste
Darklord of Scaena, one of the few Domains capable of traveling through the mists. Scaena is a theater house, and one that Juste worked at as a playwright prior to his becoming a Darklord. Juste was a well-known and talented writer of comedies and dramas, but this never satisfied him, as he wished to write tragedies. Unfortunately for him, his Grimdark always came out as grimderp, and the actors invariably played his tragic works as farces, since they weren't good for much else. Driven to a deep bitterness by his failure to fulfill his obsession with tragedy, he wrote one last play- this one designed to be a real-life tragedy that killed all of his actors, and when the audience booed this one too, he locked up the house and burned it down with them inside.
Now, as a Darklord, Lemot has ultimate control of his theater, allowing him to trap people in his plays and alter reality for these press-ganged performers, but all this is undercut because he can't believe any of it; for his Darklord curse, the Dark Powers have taken away his suspension of disbelief, forcing him to always see actors, props, and scenery for what they truly are instead of what he wants them to be.
Prince Ladislav Mircea
Darklord of Sanguinia. Ladislav's story is a ripoff of the Edgar Allan Poe classic The Masque of the Red Death, with the prince abandoning his people to a lethal plague, and retreating to a closed castle with his friends. And like in the original story, the plague entered the castle anyway. When Ladislav caught the plague, he turned to alchemy in a desperate attempt to cure himself. This failed and he died, only to rise as a Vrykolaka (usually mindless plague-carrier vampires that feed on bodily humors) and become Darklord of Sanguinia. He still experiments with alchemy to cure himself of his undeath, but this is unlikely to ever succeed.
Darklord of Odiare, and originally from Gothic Earth's version of Italy. In the same vein as Pinocchio, he was originally a marionette brought to life through his toymaker "father" Giuseppe's wishes for a son. Though beloved by the children of Odiare, the adults of the village did not consider him to be a "real" boy. He soon grew bitter over the discovery that he wasn't truly alive, and after terrorizing Guiseppe into making more carrionettes like himself he had them kill every adult at one of his performances. It was this act that drew Odiare into the Mists as an Island of Terror.
Later on, he planned to have the carrionettes steal the bodies of every surviving adult there so they would be forced to love him, but due to the intervention of the PCs in the module "The Created" he was forced to simply kill the adults off instead. The children now adore him only out of fear, and as they grow older they wonder when Maligno will come for them as well.
Maligno's curse is that he can never be human as he craves, as he alone among the carrionettes is unable to steal the bodies of others. Furthermore, he cannot kill Guiseppe because any injury he suffers is inflicted on Maligno himself. Instead, the old toymaker was driven insane and now exists solely to create more toys for his "son" to command. Should Maligno's body be totally destroyed, Guiseppe is compelled to rebuild it, with the foul puppet's spirit claiming the new body as its own.
In 5e, Maligno was originally called Figlio, which at least is an actual Italian name and not literally calling him "Evil" from the start. Which is actually a retcon from the Children of the Night: The Created AD&D splatbook, but never mind.
Debuting in the adventure module Ship of Horrors, Meredoth was originally the Darklord of Nebligtode, a small sea-based domain encompassing Graben Island, Knammen Island, the Schlammholme Islets, and Meredoth's personal island demesne of Todstein. However, after the events of the Grand Conjunction, he became the Darklord of the Nocturnal Sea as a whole, although he either can't leave the former borders of Nebligtode or has never tried, it's unclear which.
He received an updated and expanded backstory in the "Nocturnal Sea Gazeteer" netbook by the Fraternity of Shadows, which includes the hilarious note that he is one of the very few Ravenloft darklords to have been defeated in the timeskip from 2nd to 3rd edition when a bunch of adventurers zapped him with a scroll of Anti-Magic Zone and then beat him to death with improvised weaponry. He survived by activating one of his many ice-preserved clones, but the humiliation has left him seething ever since.
Although defined primarily as a necromancer, Meredoth also specializes in both crafting constructs and in ice elementalism, even pioneering spells like Transmute Snow to Stone. He's also the creator of the Lebendtod.
The three Hag co-Darklords of Tepest, and based the "the three wicked witches" from folkloric stories. Three sisters who were left as babies for a humble farm wife who wished for daughters, but from their birth displayed mysterious traits. Most notably, after their mother died from the strain of caring for the three sickly girls (or possibly because they drained her life), their father (who had often voiced his dislike of "weakling daughters") tried to leave the three 2-year olds for dead repeatedly, but they always came back. Eventually he let them stay as long as they cooked for him and his sons. Growing up dissatisfied with their surroundings, they took to seducing, murdering, and eating travelers to build up a stockpile of money so they could ultimately leave the farm. This worked until one final traveler tried to turn them against each other, only to be murdered so none of the sisters could claim him as theirs. This was what ultimately led to their being taken into the Mists and stuck in the depths of a forest full of goblins and witch-burning, faerie-chasing bumpkins. They still lure in any unwary travelers to their cottage, taking advantage of the locals' blaming the goblins for their victims' deaths, but otherwise have little influence on their domain.
The sisters consist of Laveeda, an Annis Hag, Leticia, a Sea Hag, and Lorinda, a Green Hag. Though they can shapeshift, they are cursed to always see themselves and each other as their true forms no matter which shape they take.
In the 5e version of Tepest, only Lorinda is the darklord, having imprisoned her sisters when they refused to let her make and rear a child despite how badly she wanted to be a mom. Which ignores the complete and utter lack of maternal feelings they had in past editions, but then again, developing the desire to become a parent is a believable change to go through, especially if you've seen the Mandalorian. She desperately yearns to have a family, but is thwarted by both her own inherently controlling, murderous nature, her inability to trust that her offspring genuinely love her (and the subsequent smothering, demanding, overbearing way that this makes her act), and the curse that any child she magics up for herself is a short-lived, ravenous monster; she can only make hexbloods for other people.
Captain Pieter van Riese
Darklord of the Sea of Sorrows. Originally from Gothic Earth's version of the Netherlands, Pieter was a ship's captain obsessed with finding the legendary Northwest Passage. When his ship was sunk in an encounter with an iceberg, he offered his own life along with the lives of his crew to any being who could help them forward, and the Dark Powers answered him. Naturally, they didn't actually give him what he wanted.
Pieter is now a ghost, and the captain of the ghost ship The Relentless. He has the power to summon the ghosts of those who killed others and then were killed in the Sea of Sorrows to crew his ship, and can sail anywhere in his domain. However, he can no longer explore as he wishes, since the island domains in the Sea of Sorrows move around and he can only sail to land that he's chartered to go to.
Pieter is Ravenloft's answer to the legends of the Flying Dutchman, a ghost ship that is unable to make port and sails the seas forever. Most versions say that the curse is because of her captain, Hendrick van der Decken, refusing to go to port while crossing the Cape of Good Hope, declaring that he would not make port "though I should beat about here till the day of judgment". He got shipwrecked in a storm, and the ghost of his ship is now bound by his curse to never be able to rest at port.
Darklord of Paridon. A low-ranked dread Doppelganger who resented being born into a lowly clan and thus being prevented from rising through the ranks by merit. After acquiring a magical Hat of Disguise, he fulfilled this previously-thwarted ambition by killing the elders who ruled over the clans and impersonating them, while also offing anyone else who questioned him. For managing the impressive feat of committing a betrayal egregious even by doppelganger standards, he was claimed by the Mists and given Darklordship of Paridon, and nailed with three separate curses: inability to control his shapeshifting, a healing touch (which wouldn't be much of a curse to anyone else, but Sodo's a sadist and this along with the previous curse renders him unable to effectively torture people), and an extra dose of paranoia for flavor.
In 5e, Sodo must eat the organs of humanoids to avoid his flesh from sloughing off, and cannot retain a single form for more than a few days at a time.
Marquis Stezen d'Polarno
Darklord of Ghastria. As Strahd is for Dracula, Dr. Mordenheim for Dr. Frankenstein, and Tristren/Malken for Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde, so is Stezen to Dorian Grey, of The Picture of Dorian Grey. But unlike Dorian, Stezen was a piece of work before his cursed painting came into play. As a noble in an unknown land, he enjoyed sowing chaos and rebellion and assassinated many people, but his charismatic nature meant that he hung on to a good reputation. But after one particular attempted coup went too far, his king had enough. Consulting with his mistress, a master of dark arts, he laid a curse upon d'Polarno that would do the Dark Powers proud; trapping a good chunk of Stezen's soul in a painting, he robbed him of all his charisma, vibrance, and capacity for enjoyment.
In retaliation, Stezen poisoned the king and his family, which drew the land into the mists. But he wasn't yet its Darklord. That happened when he realized that, once per season, he could temporarily reclaim his soul from the painting- at the cost of up to 50 other souls, each granting him one hour of rejuvenation. Now, once per season, he'll invite every stranger in Ghastria to a party (he'll grab some peasants if not enough foreigners answer). The party is for him, and him alone. With the exception of a few guests that he debauches himself with/upon, all guests are exposed to the painting, giving him up to 50 hours of being able to enjoy himself again before he returns to his normal drab state. While this is when he's at his most dangerous, it's also when he's most vulnerable- when his soul is still in the painting, he's essentially immortal, but when he's whole, he is as vulnerable as any other (And unlike the original Dorian, killing the painting won't work until Stezen is dead).
Darklord of Kalidnay, formerly from Athas. She was a templar of Kalidnay's sorceror-king, Kalid-Ma. To help him ascend to dragonhood, she sacrificed her family for the ascension ritual- an act which, ironically, would ruin it, as the Dark Powers took notice and drew Kalidnay into Ravenloft, in one of the few occasions in which being in the Demiplane of Dread was an improvement for most people. But not for Thakok-An nor Kalid-Ma, as the failed ritual put Kalid-Ma into a coma. Thakok-An remains active, ruling the realm as a theocracy of Kalid-Ma, despite said lord being comatose and all her efforts being for naught.
Originally from the continent of Kara-Tur on the world of Toril, Tsien Chiang was beautiful and powerful wizard, who hated all men due to her father's dismissal of her abilities. After killing him and disabling her relatives, she seized control of her family lands. She used her charm and position to marry a total of four men, each of whom fathered a child with her before she killed him and moved on to the next. Three of the daughters so produced were evil, with the fourth, Nightingale, being truly good-hearted and adored by the gods. Tsien Chang would go on to commit various evil acts, including the desecration of four sacred bells and four sacred trees, but her mistreatment of Nightingale is what ultimately led to her being taken by the mists. On the fourth time that Nightingale objected to her family's atrocities, Tsien Chang decided to do far worse than merely beat her as they had the last three times, and she and her evil daughters were taken by the mists as the torture began. Tsien Chiang imprisoned the living remains of Nightingale in the Tower of Broken Promises as the Mists tore I'Cath from Kara-Tur forever.
If you're wondering why the number four is mentioned so much, it's because it's homophonous with "death" in most Chinese languages and is considered bad luck in many east-Asian cultures.
Her 5e incarnation gives her such a radically different backstory that pretty much the only things that remain are the four daughters and a magic bell.
When Tsien Chiang was a child, her home was destroyed by invaders, forcing her to flee into frozen mountains where she expected to die. Luckily for her, she was found and taken in by a gold dragon who took pity on her, and she served him as an attendant in thanks for saving her life. While serving the dragon, she learned much of magic and medicine, growing to become an accomplished wizard. The dragon refused to teach her any truly dangerous or powerful magic though, knowing that she would only use it for revenge. In her studies, she learned of the Nightingale bell, an artifact that could make its ringer’s dreams come true -- but creating the bell required the scale of a gold dragon. Knowing her mentor would never provide a scale she attempted to drug him so she could steal a scale while he slept, but got the mixture wrong and not only killed him, but caused his entire hoard to be destroyed, with all that remained being a single scale. Chiang crafted the bell and took it to her home, where she used it to wish away the invaders, which instantly vanished. In awe and gratitude, the people elevated her to royalty and she became their queen.
She ruled well for years, enacting vast reforms and strict but sensible laws in pursuit of creating the perfect empire. She had a family, taking particular pride in her four beloved daughters. Though her kingdom was prosperous, her people eventually began to chafe under her strict laws and demanding orders and revolted. Chiang was swift and merciless in her attempts to quell the rebellion, but her ruthlessness only caused the resistance against her to grow. When she ordered her armies to kill the families of all insurrectionists, assassins struck Tsien Chiang’s palace and killed her family. Distraught, Chiang climbed to the highest tower of her palace, looked out over her burning dreams, and struck the Nightingale Bell. Rather than granting her vengeful wish, the bell cracked and spilled a golden mist across the land. When the mist cleared, Tsien Chiang’s perfect city was gone, replaced by the unreal prison-city of I’Cath.
I'Cath is a city divided in two: The true I'Cath of the waking world, and Tsien Chiang's impossible, perfect dream. In the waking world the city is a silent and chaotic labyrinth composed of surreal, knotted streets and citizens trapped in eternal slumber. In the dream the city is vibrant and living, a place of ultimate beauty and efficiency where all things move according to Tsien Chiang's design, and a nightmare of constant drudgery for her people. Every twilight, Tsien Chiang climbs the spirit-infested Ping’On Tower and tolls the Nightingale Bell. This renews the magic of her dream world and keeps her citizens asleep, but it also calls forth a legion of jiangshi, which emerge from their tombs to reshape the waking city’s mazelike streets in a fruitless attempt to match Tsien Chiang’s perfectionist vision.
Her curse is that while the dream is near-perfection in her eyes, that only makes the imperfections of the waking world all the more obvious and inescapable. No matter how many times she tries to bring the same order and beauty she sees in her dream to the waking world, I'Cath's streets grow only more twisted and labyrinthine. She spends as much time as she can with the dream-versions of her daughters though she knows they aren't real, and in the waking world she actively avoids the twisted reflections of her daughters that wander the true I'Cath's streets.
Darklord of Forlorn. A Vampyre (living vampire) born when his dad was turned into a vampire but refused to leave his wife, which resulted in their son being born a vampyre. Tristen's parents were killed by fearful peasantfolk, but not before his mom gave him to the druid Rual to be raised. By all accounts, Rual was a pretty good foster mom, but when he was fifteen years old, Rual caught him drinking the blood of a deer. Believing she had betrayed him when he saw her talking to other druids, he attacked her- only to get his ass impaled by a blessed deer antler she was carrying, and when he drank her blood, he was both poisoned and partially cured of his vampyrism by the holy water she'd just drank. As she died, Rual cursed Tristen to be trapped in the sacred grove where he killed her, and to (agonizingly) die and become a ghost each night, and rise as a vampyre each morning. This makes him one of the few Darklords to receive most of his curse prior to Darklordship, as Forlorn was only pulled into Ravenloft centuries later, when Tristen engineered a bloody civil war to take control of the land.
As it is now, Forlorn really lives down to its name; there's little there except savage goblyns, a few beleagured Druids, and Castle Tristenoira, where Tristen is stuck, along with the ghosts of his family. The castle is split between three separate time periods that adventurers can shift between, thought to be because of all the ghostly shenanigans. Because there's really not much to do in Forlorn besides exploring Castle Tristenoira and trying not to get eaten by goblyns, it has no real political importance and is ignored by basically everyone, despite being most likely the second-oldest domain after Barovia.
He gets some very minor retcons in 5e, but since he only gets a single paragraph there's not much in the way of details. Seemingly the only changes are that he's now a dhampir (which is really more-or-less the same thing as a vampyre) and that he was taken by the mists almost immediately after killing the druids.
Baron Urik von Kharkov
Considered one of the goofier Darklords, albeit not as bad as Tristen ApBlanc, and with a much more usable domain in Valachan. Baron Kharkov is basically half-Blacula and half-Werepanther; he was a black panther that a Red Wizard of Thay turned into a human being to use as an assassin. The Red Wizard arranged for him to fall in love with his rival, and then undid the transfiguration spell on him while they were together so he would tear her apart as a panther. When he was turned back into a human, he freaked out and ran off into the Mists. He found himself in Darkon, where he spent 20 years as a member of Azalin's secret police (turning into a Nosferatu in the process). He later escaped and subsequently became the Darklord of Valachan after entering the Mists again. We don't know what he did that turned him into a Darklord, in part due to his own fuzzy memories of what happened during that time, but he claims he killed many people while in the mists, including the Red Wizard that transformed him the first time.
Anyway, he's a blood-drinking black vampire cursed with yellow eyes (that turn into cat's eyes when he's pissed off) and with hands that resemble paws, being covered in fur and bearing retractile claws. He can still turn into a panther, in which state his bite turns people into werepanthers, and controls panthers instead of the normal wolves. His curse is to basically relive his most traumatizing event over and over again; he's constantly seeking a human bride, but once he has one, he can never trust her not to find out that he's not human, and inevitably murders her in a fit of paranoid fury. (He should try dating a Furry fan or Jaqueline Reiner, that would solve it.)
In 5th edition he decided to get a hobby and took up hunting the Oselo, a tribe of were-ocelots, for sport. This got him killed by one of their members, Chakuna, who ended up taking his place as Darklord because the ritual she used to kill him had some very nasty side-effects, including making it so that the jungles need regular human sacrifices to prevent them from turning on Valachan's people.
Darklord of Falkovnia. He was originally the leader of a mercenary band called the Talons of the Hawk in Krynn. For their wanton brutality and bloodlust, they were taken into Ravenloft and claimed Falkovia for themselves (after a failed invasion of Darkon that was repulsed by Azalin's undead). If this seems familiar then good, you're paying attention.
This rivalry with Azalin has since become part of Drakov's curse, though he seems unaware of it. While four other countries (that have themselves agreed to an alliance should Falkovnia ever attack one of them) surround him, Drakov considers them "women and fops" not worth the effort of invasion, obsesses over an enemy he has no way of defeating, and is forever unable to gain the approval and respect of the great military leaders that he has sought all his life. And even if he did somehow conquer Darkon, no Darklord can ever leave his own realm so he would never actually get to conquer it himself. Another factor in his defeats is that his way of doing war is distinctly and doggedly medieval (no gunpowder, no magic), so on the rare occasions he decides to try his luck at conquering other neighbouring domains than Darkon (all of which are at a higher technological level than Falkovnia) his forces almost always get shot to pieces by firearms or, more rarely, blown to pieces with magic. Oddly enough, his realm may in fact be, on the whole, a net benefit to the other domains of the Core, as his penchant for overworking his peasantry/slaves (when he's not busy having them impaled for his entertainment, of course) means that his realm produces large amounts of grain and foodstuffs which he sells for funds to equip and train his forces, unintentionally making Falkovnia "the breadbasket of the Core."
In addition, Drakov may be unique as the one of the most "conventional" Darklords in Ravenloft in the sense that he is statted like a run-of-the-mill fighter-class BBEG, and much like this archetype he has no magical abilities aside from a few magical weapons and armour at his disposal, coupled with no ability to cheat death, and no supernatural ability to close his domain's borders (all of which are in line with his disdain for magic and the supernatural), except for a good amount of inherent magic resistance that will also work against beneficial spells (so if he's ever in a tight enough bind to require magical healing, he's screwed). However, PCs and DMs shouldn't mistake his one-dimensional combat abilities as a sign that Falkovnia would be easy to liberate from his iron-fisted rule via a simple decapitation raid; the totalitarian and thoroughly abusive nature of his rule means that those he trusts enough to carry out his orders are all likely evil enough and think enough like him to instantly assume his mantle of Darklord should Drakov ever be killed, just like similar totalitarian regimes in real life can survive the deaths of multiple successive leaders. Truly liberating Falkovnia in a thematically appropriate way would require the PCs to either engineer a full-scale revolution, or otherwise ensure the complete destruction of his regime, much like truly destroying a cancerous tumour in real life requires removing or destroying every last cancer cell. And all of this says nothing about which neighbouring realm would end up absorbing Falkovnia on the off-chance it ever gets truly liberated, though at this point even Azalin would be a better ruler than Drakov given that the lich dispenses harsh but fair justice and otherwise leaves his subjects alone to continue his arcane pursuits.
Since the developers found him redundant, 5e's Drakov is revamped as Vladeska Drakov, with an all-new backstory, and Falkovnia is instead reskinned with a zombie apocalypse vibe.
Lord Wilfred Godefroy
Darklord of Mordent (the same place from the old Ravenloft II module). A nobleman who murdered his wife when she was unable to produce a son for him as an heir and then murdered his daughter for trying to stop him, and then framed their deaths as an accident. Their ghosts came back to haunt him for a year until he killed himself to make it stop, and when Azalin and Strahd inadvertently drew Mordent into the mists Godefroy (now a ghost himself) became its darklord. His curse is to be continually tormented by the ghosts of his wife and daughter just as he was in life, who tear him apart every night as they curse him for murdering them.
While he was formerly known to be rather passive as a Darklord, in recent times he has taken to enslaving other ghosts to do his bidding. In particular, he's had the mayor of Mordentshire under his thumb for years by holding the ghost of his wife hostage.
Darklord of G'Henna. The Petrovna family was one of those taken by the Mists when Barovia was absorbed into Ravenloft, and although they avoided Strahd's attention by hiding away in the mountains this in turn led to inbreeding. As Yagno grew up, it became clear to all that he was insane- he conversed with imaginary people and cowered from beasts that weren't there. One day, he was locked out of his family's home and had to take shelter in a cave for the night. When he woke up, he saw the name "Zhakata" scrawled on a wall.
Yagno concluded that Zhakata was the name of the god that had protected him when he slept that night and created a shrine to his savior. (In reality, the name was written by his brother as a prank and meant absolutely nothing.) At first he merely sacrificed animals to Zhakata, but then he moved on to sacrificing people. When he was caught trying to offer his sister's newborn baby to Zhakata, he was chased out of Barovia by his family. The Mists welcomed him to the domain of G'henna, where he became the Darklord.
Yagno is cursed to constantly suffer doubts about whether or not Zhakata is real. No matter how many sacrifices he makes or how many people he commands to starve themselves in the name of Zhakata, he can never quite get rid of his nagging disbelief and the worry that all his devotion has been directed towards a lie. This eventually led Yagno to call upon a wizard who claimed he could summon Zhakata; as he could not summon a nonexistent god, a nalfeshnee by the name of Malistroi answered the summons instead and told Yagno that Zhakata was just a figment of his imagination. The Darklord immediately flew into a rage and killed the wizard, while Malistroi later escaped to ravage G'Henna. Since then, he has merely redoubled his fanaticism in a futile attempt to dispel his doubts.
You remember that section where the permanent death of Darklords is discussed? Well, it's actually happened in the past, though never yet to a band of plucky adventurers, and the results usually haven't been good. These Darklords for whatever reason no longer rule their domain, usually because some asshole killed them and was promptly saddled with their domain as the new Darklord.
Former Darklord of Invidia, and formerly a tyrannical king whose kingdom was claimed by the mists when he was spurned by a woman named Marta, and in return had her lover killed and eaten in front of her and Marta herself raped to death by his soldiers. As she died, Marta cursed him to be the beast he was inside and never be free of the blood of loved ones on his hands, which manifested as turning him into a werewolf. Unlike most Darklords, Bakholis said 'fuck this' to angst and embraced his curse, descending to ever-greater depths of savagery until, to everyone's relief, the half-Vistani Gabrielle Aderre showed up and promptly murdered his ass, succeeding him as Darklord of Invidia.
The mother of Ivana Boritsi and the first Darklord of Borca, who earned her position by poisoning her husband and his lover. She was cursed to be betrayed by any man she trusted, which left her with serious issues relating to men and a blindspot towards scheming women, which ultimately proved her downfall when her daughter Ivana turned the poison tables by killing her for sleeping with Ivana's lover. She was succeeded as Darklord by her daughter and murderer, Ivana Boritsi.
Camille's biggest legacy is possibly her personal serving spoon, a magical artifact detailed in the 3.5 splat "Legacies of the Blood". It's an Intelligent version of the standard Spoon of Poison Detection (which, given the Boritsis have a strong association with being poisoners, is quite common amongst their family) with the added ability that it can also infuse poison into anything it's used to stir... and because it's a Ravenloft magical item, it tends to poison anyone it thinks is an enemy of the Boritsis, even if its owner doesn't want them to. Hilariously, it has a unique curse in that its poison detecting abilities fail if the poison is directly introduced to food or drink by somebody whom the bearer genuinely cares for, which neatly explains how Camille fell victim to Ivana's poison despite using this Spoon almost religiously to protect herself.
The first darklord of Richemulot. The patriarch of a family of wererats who lead his family into the mists to escape hunters, gaining his domain when his monstrous cruelty caught the attention of the Dark Powers. He was eventually killed when his granddaughter Jaqueline had enough of his abuse, making her the new Darklord of Richemulot.
Duke Nharov Gundar
Former Darklord of Gundarak, prior to being betrayed and usurped by Daclaud Heinfroth, who would later gain his own, separate domain. As Darklord of Gundarak, he enforced the worship of the malevolent trickster-god Erlin and taxed basically everything he could think of (with a special emphasis on the birth of girls), but little else is known of his rule. During the Grand Conjunction, Gundarak was absorbed by Barovia and Invidia.
But that wasn't the end of Nharov Gundar. He was a vampire, and though Heinfroth had staked him, he remained alive, but dormant. His skeletal remains somehow found their way to the traveling curio show of Professor Arcanus, where some complete berk went and yanked the stake out. This brought him back to life, though his time spent as a skeleton has reduced him to a near-bestial state, only vaguely remembering Heinfroth's betrayal.
The infamous Death Knight of Krynn was for a time the Darklord of Sithicus. More details can be found on his page, but suffice to say that the Dark Powers grew tired of him, and he was succeeded as Darklord by the Vistani Inza Kulchevitch.
Darklord of Arkendale. There are more details on him in the section for his more important son Alfred, but suffice to say that Nathan was possessed of a deep-seated wanderlust, which the Dark Powers curtailed by cursing him such that he couldn't leave the river Musarde, lest he be crippled by land sickness. Nathan rolled with the curse and adapted so well to being a boatman that he outright lost his Darklordship during the Grand Conjunction. He's still confined to river waters, but Arkendale has been absorbed into Alfred's domain of Verbrek.
Yes, THAT Vecna, the Maimed God; the guy whose eye and hand are still around for PCs to mess (and be messed) with.
The whole tale of Vecna's ascension to godhood is complicated, but at one point where he was 'merely' a demigod, he and Kas were pulled into the Mists after a bunch of meddlesome adventurers thwarted one of his plans. Not one to be contained for long, Vecna has the dubious honor of being the only Darklord to force his way out of the Demi-Plane of Dread after being drawn in by the Mists. On top of that, he managed to get himself 'promoted' to full-fledged minor God in the process, which is how he got the Dark Powers to kick him out due to their ban on allowing gods to influence Ravenloft. (The full story is recounted in the modules Vecna Lives!, Vecna Reborn and Die Vecna Die!.)
Darklord of Incitatus. Once, Ahasveros (male human) was the greatest scientist of his civilization, until the day his homeland was drawn into a great war against a rival nation. He invented the Adamas theory, a device that could be used to generate a mighty tidal wave to devaste the enemy's fleets and harbors.
But that wasn't enough for Ahasveros; he became obsessed with improving the device, banishing his assistants when they protested the potential dangers of doing so, cutting off all contact with those who might challenge his beliefs, and reducing the time he spent running his calculations.
The result was, when the device was used, Ahasveros lost control of it and the tidal wave annihilated his homeland as well, drowning him in the tower from whence he'd launched it.
Ever since then, the bussengeist he became has lingered in his tower, unable to decide whose fault the mess was, alternating between blaming his associates and himself. Honestly, he's not much of a darklord, and this is reflected by how empty and meaningless Incitatus is. He currently occupies a limbo; too dull to be truly absorbed into the Demiplane of Dread, but still too evil and in denial of what he did to be released, either.
Ahasveros' existence is completely tied to the remnants of the Adamas machine. Only by destroying it, which will unshackle his spirit, and performing a brief rite to the long-forgotten sea god of ruined Misenos, which requires lighting the lanterns in the temple and praying for both Misenos and Ahasveros, will his torment end.
If Ahasveros wishes to seal his domain's borders, those attempting to cross it are overwhelmed by misery and the urge to seek comfort, which only those outside of the border can give them.
Darklord of Cumbre de Oro. Arguably the oldest darklord of the Holy Imperial Colonies domains, Anibal Coronado was a infamous mercenary captain who had made a name for himself in the civil wars of the Holy Empire some 170 years ago, amassing a reputation that he parlayed into becoming a famous explorer. After building his reputation there, to the point that the name "Coronado" became synonymous with exotic lands, strange adventures, and foreign wealth, he attempted the most infamous expedition ever: to become the first man to successfully explore beyond the Sierra Acora mountains.
Pevious expeditions had all launched in early spring, hoping to cross during midsummer and then return before winter snows closed the passes. They had all failed, as the mountain passes didn't clear up until midsummer. Coronado proposed instead that he launch his expedition in midsummer, cross the mountains, winter in the lands beyond the Sierra Acora, and then return in the midsummer of the following year.
Long story short, it worked! Coronado became the first man to discover the realms that would become known as Mictlan, but he never would return to claim that prize. In one of his meetings with the natives of this strange tropical rainforest realm, he learned of a mysterious city of gold hidden in the mountains from a chieftain named Jucataan. Coronado's avarice was immediately enflamed with discussions of this city, said to hold wealth beyond that of the Holy Empire itself, and when chief Jucataan warned that the city was taboo and his tribe would prevent any attempt to pursue it, that avarice turned murderous.
Arranging things with his men, Coronado held a banquet in which he invited Chief Jucataan and all the men of his tribe. There, after he got the chief drunk enough to reveal the way to the city of gold, he and his men massacred them all. Once that was done, they set off in pursuit of what they had come to call "Cumbre de Oro"; "Gold Peak".
The expedition swiftly turned into a disaster. Their supplies hadn't been chosen with the tropical rainforest climate in mind, and quickly spoiled. They had no idea what foods were edible or how to find fresh drinking water. Tropical diseases swept through the men. All the while, Coronado drove them on with images of the fabulous wealth they would attain. But when these dreams became insufficient and murmurs of mutiny began circulating, Corando turned on his own men: selecting those he believed to be the ringleaders, he invited them to "discuss" the matter, only to poison their wine. Once they were dead, he paraded their corpses before the survivors, screaming blasphemies and promising the same fate to any who dared rebel, before forcing the terrorized, defeated men to cannibalize their former comrades.
With his men now utterly will-broken, and steadily losing what was left of his mind to sheer avarice, Coranado plunged on into the jungle, his men dropping like flies as he searched and searched. Finally, with only Coranado and two of his original 56 men still alive, they found it: Cumbre de Oro. It was everything that Jucataan had described as being and more. Now totally insane, Coranado turned on his exhausted companions and killed them, before plunging into the city to begin plundering.
That was when he discovered why the natives had left the golden city to the wilderness: it was a necropolis, its people having died and then become undead. The mummy of Emperor Maxaantii rose from his tomb at the central step pyramid and attempted to detain Coranado, who fought back with literal lunatic strength. He struck down the mummified emperor and fled with a bag of gold and jewels, but as he did, Maxaantii cursed Coranado that he would never succeed in leaving the city with his treasure. Sure enough, weakened by his trials, the excitement of finding the city, the stress of combat and the effort of hauling his heavy load, the feverish and dehydrated explorer collapsed at the city's outskirts. He could hear a brook just out sight, and if he'd abandoned the treasure to drag himself to the cool, clear water, he probably would have reached it... instead, he refused to let go of his ill-gotten gains, exhausting what little left of his strength in an effort to drag it with him as he crawled along.
As he lay dying, the sounds of the brook still echoing in his ears, Coronado cursed all the gods for taunting him by giving him such wealth only to then take it from him at the last moment. With the last of his strength, he raged and wept, begging any power that would listen to give him one last chance to make the treasures of Cumbre de Oro his.
As Coronado died, head pillowed on the treasure he had given his life to win, the valley was wrenched into the Demiplane of Dread, floating on its own in the mists as an Island of Terror until its former resting place followed it as the land of Mictlan, whereupon it fused back together. Coranado rose from his grave, found his men returned to him as avaricios, and began his stint as darklord.
A casual observer might take Anibal Coronado in his present state for a living man, albeit horribly emaciated and clearly disased, with yellowed skin drawn tightly against the bone and yellowed, bloodshot irises. He still wears the ancient, tattered clothing and armor he wore as a living man. Under the AD&D mechanics, he's a unique corporeal undead, similar in many ways to a Death Knight; in addition to retaining his skills as a 14th level Fighter and wielding the dread blade Corrupcion (+2 longsword that inflicts magical disease), he has 75% magic resistance, a 10% chance to reflect spells cast against him back on their casters, immunity to mundane weapons, a 5ft aura of fear, the ability to cast Detect Magic and Detect Invisibility at will, to cast Dispel Magic, Harm and Wall of Thorns 2/day, and both Creeping Doom and Symbol of Discord 1/day. If defeated in combat, he dissolves into mist; he will reform 1d4+1 days later, but during that time, he cannot close Cumbre de Oro's borders and his avaricios will ignore intruders unless personally disturbed. There is no known way to permanently destroy him.
Coranado is consumed by his paranoid terror that somebody will steal "his" treasure, and so he prowls the city endlessly on a hunt for intruders. His curse is simple and effective: he physically can't touch the treasures of Cumbre de Oro, and neither can his Avaricios. Add to it that their relatively weak abilities against non-living foes makes them little threat to Maxaantii and his forces, which include both undead and stone golems, and all Coranado can really do is drift from cache to catch and vent his paranoid wrath on any living intruders he catches. As a part of this curse, his ability to close the domain borders is limited; when he does so, his avaricios move to begin patrolling the border of the city, attacking anything they see in an effort to kill or capture them. If travelers can break past these patrols, the avaricios cannot pursue them any further than 3 miles beyond the city's edge - of course, fleeing from pursuing undead through dense jungle that doesn't impede their movement isn't exactly a picnic stroll!
Captain Anton Dusard
Darklord of Locknar Cove. Born impoverished and raised in the slums of a busy port, Anton Dusard learned to treasure gold over everything, especially human life. At age 16, he betrayed his parents to their creditors and used the bounty to invest in a merchant ship. He then proceeded to take sole captaincy of the vessel through murder and extortion. When war came to his native kingdom, he avoided financial ruin by becoming a privateer. Though he amassed a significant fortune, his avarice was insatiable; when his patron monarch demanded taxes on Anton's looted plunder, the privateer went renegade rather than part with so much as a single coin, bombarding and looting his own homeport before sailing away to become a feared pirate.
Establishing a hidden stronghold in the set of islands known as the Dismal Four, specifically on Locknar Cove, he continued to prey on merchant ships and amassed an enormous fortune. So much so that his own men began to dream of stealing it for themselves. One misty night, as Dusard's ship the Grasping Claw sailed into Locknar Cove, they mutineed. Though Dusard fought like a demon, he was outnumbered with few supportors; in a final act of spite, he ignited the ship's powder magazine and blasted them all to splinters.
The explosion flung his maimed body into the cold, black sea, where the dying man floated. He clung to life long enough to see a single lifeboat sail past, bearing with it the crew's sole survivor. That sight snapped Dusard's mind, and he called upon every ounce of his being, swearing to keep his treasure from beyond the grave. As he slowly sank into the waves, the mists closed in.
Ever since that day, Dusard has lurked in the depths of his fortified, trap-laden labyrinth on Locknar Cove, a ghost pirate jealously guarding his treasure. His curse is simple: the absolute terror of knowing he can never end his vigilance. To heighten his fears, he instinctively knows when somebody else in Locknar Trove is aware of his treasure's existence, although not who they are or where they are. Furthermore, the sole survivor of his crew, William Copperplate, still lives an unnaturally preserved life, and wants Dusard's treasure for himself, and is eager to manipulate others into doing the dirty work for him. As for the crew who died when the Grasping Claw blew up? They rise from their watery graves as ghosts once a year, and immediately launch an attack on the island, hoping to plunder the horde they gave their lives to try and win. Although Dusard can banish them with a touch, their efforts stoke his terror. Furthermore, the ghostly crew is also instantly returned to undeath and given a chance to assault his hoard whenever Dusard uses his "horrifying appearance" ghostly power, and so he is loathe to use it.
When he wills the closure of the cove, the seas become dangerously turbulent and choked in an impenetrable mist, whilst the forests of the western border become twisted walls of gnarled wood and the roads twist back on themselves, so every step only leads a traveler back to Ruttledge village.
If defeated, Dusard will reform in a single night. Only by plundering the entirety of his hoard, down to the last coin, will he be banished to the afterlife forever.
Darklord of Vin'Ejal. Conceived when the Eye of Toldun, the fake prophet of a phony goddess called Appissa (actually a powerful half-breed yuan-ti psion magically held in stasis), used a potion given to him by his goddess to drug and rape a woman named Dillura Ogfenhauer, Benada's mother despised her daughter from the moment she was born. Only Benada's uncle, Dillura's 12-year-old brother Ekkim, cared for her, and he raised her throughout her life, even taking her off with him to be his squire when he went to war after discovering her nature as a psionicist weresnake. Even when they returned, however, Dillura wanted nothing to do with her bastard daughter.
Finally, the enraged Benada sought to confront her mother one evening, only to track her to the Shrine of the Eye. When she saw Dillura embracing the Eye, she realized that this man was her father. Filled with hatred, she grabbed a bone knife and fatally stabbed her mother, before psionically torturing her father to death. As she turned to leave, she found herself confronted by her uncle Ekkim, who had seen everything. Realizing she couldn't let him live now, a weeping Benada killed the only person to ever show her love, transporting Vin'Ejal to the Misty Realm.
Benada's curse seems to be an insatiable hunger that only human flesh can sate; she only gives in to its demands once per month, however, as she fears depleting her domain's population. If she wishes to close the domain, the waters around Vin'Ejal decrease in temperature to the point that would-be swimmers will freeze solid, whilst hail begins savagely pelting down from above.
Baroness Ilsabet Obour
Darklord of Kislova. This female human alchemist was born the youngest daughter and favored child of Baron Janosk Obour of Kislova, and remained loyal and obedient to him even as he descended into brutal tyranny and made a failed attempt to conquer a neighboring barony, only to be crushed, captured and executed. Before he died, Janosk commanded each of his three children to take steps to both preserve their family and avenge the loss of their power.
Of the three, Ilsabet was the most loyal to her father, honing her alchemical skills and delving into dark alchemical practices, focusing on hideous poisons and the creation of alchemical undead. She crippled and maimed many prisoners who had dared to rebel against her father's rule before his conquest by Baron Peto, created a unique strain of alchemical vampires, fatally poisoned her elder siblings for perceived disloyalty to their father's dying wishes, and finally married Baron Peto herself and bore him a son in order to gain the opportunity to poison him with a paralytic venom. It was only as she administered what she intended to be the final, fatal dose, killing her mentor (and true love) to do so, that the Mists finally claimed her.
Ilsabet currently suffers two curses. Her most direct darklord-related curse is that her desire for power and revenge are thwarted; though her husband, Baron Peto, remains incurably paralyzed, he also remains unkillable - no matter what she does, he always returns to life. As a result, she remains forever his regent, rather than the true Baroness of Kislova, which she regards as unacceptable; she yearns to resume the interrupted reign of her own family. Secondly, Ilsabet has become a vampire-like creature that feeds on pain, and must have one person killed every day in order to survive.
Unlike many Darklords, Ilsabet has no particular powers of supernatural survival. If you can beat an 11th level wizard protected by her guard of alchemical vampires, you can kill her.
When Ilsabet closes the borders, a poisonous green mist surrounds Kislova, inflicting irresistable damage per round until the would-be escapee returns to Kislova.
Darklord of Stonewall. A sad, broken, bitter woman, Bethany was born the daughter of a family of puritans, self-righteous and obsessed with sin. When her father discovered the child Bethany, a cheerful, whimsical young girl, had dreams of leaving the family home to become a dollmaker, he destroyed the dolls she had painstakingly constructed over years of work and beat her within an inch of her life. Later, when she came of age, he arranged her marriage to a man of high standing.
After long years of often-lonely marriage, pregnant with her sixth child, Bethany's father and husband were caught in a terrible accident, with the former dying and the latter being left in a coma. That was hardship enough, but as she cared for her husband, Bethany discovered his diary, in which he revealed he had only wed her to cover up his "sinful" nature as a homosexual. Enraged, Bethany began tampering with her husband's medicine to ensure he remained comatose, and then launched her own moral crusade, something aided by the fact she established her charismatic but broken-willed son Clarence as the town's minister.
When the Salem Witch trials broke out, Bethany eagerly spread their madness to Stonewall. But the tenth victim was the friend of Bethany's youngest daughter, Katherine, who unearthed evidence that this was really a way for Bethany to resolve a land-dispute between their families in the Stone's favor. When Katherine tried to intervene, she called out her mother for the cold, twisted monster that she was. Bethany promptly stabbed Katherine in the heart, and that was when the Mists took the town.
Bethany Stone is now a harpy, although she has limited shapeshifting abilities that let her masquerade as a human. Her curse is that she will be forever doomed to lose her children before they are fully ready, whether by death, betrayal or abandonment. Though she doesn't know it yet, as part of this curse, she will become spontaneously pregnant and give birth to a human child every 5 years. Both of her arms are permanently blood-red from the elbow down, although she considers it a sign of her righteousness and so doesn't hide it.
The borders of Stonewall are permanently closed; unless the departee has the approval of either Bethany or Clarence to leave, they will be struck by lightning bolts until they turn back. It's unknown if lightning immunity will nullify this border, but it's not explicitly countered.
Nothing explicitly says that Bethany cannot just be killed in a fight (and, frankly, Stonewall is described as the kind of place where wiping out everybody is actually the heroic thing to do), but she does have an explicit method of redemption. If the party can find one of the dolls she made as a child, as one survived her father's wrath, and present it to her, she will break down in tears. If consoled and successfully reminded of her long-lost dreams, the rest of the town will break down weeping with her, and then Stonewall will slide out of the Mists and back to the prime material. On the other hand, if they fail, then she'll destroy the doll herself and become even more fanatical.
Darklord of Wayward on the Bone Sands. Even at the age of 10, Caleb was a fearless, stubborn, trouble-making brat. The only thing able to scare him into obedience were stories of a local boogeyman: Black Hat the Swordslinger.
Caleb's transformation from mere brat to full-blown Darklord came when his family were hired by the lord of the distant Hangingshire, which required a long trek that passed through a desert region known as the Bone Sands. During this leg of the journey, Caleb's family were seperated from the caravan and veered their wagon over a tall, steep dune as a result of a sudden sandstorm. The wagon was destroyed, their horses killed, and Caleb's elder brother Horatio was severely injured. Though they initially settled in to wait for the caravan to send a rescue party after them, their food swiftly ran out and they realized they would have to try and walk out of the desert on foot... a journey that Horatio couldn't make.
The senior Wicks came to a grim realization: Horatio wasn't going to live much longer anyway, so when he died, the family would eat his body for sustenane before making their trek towards safety. They were content to wait... but Caleb found out about their plans, and taunted his brother with this fact; when Horatio began to scream and cry, Caleb panicked and stabbed him to death with a cooking knife. Caleb's parents were horrified, but ultimately decided there was nothing left to do. They ate their dead son, and then broke camp the next morning.
As they were traveling, Caleb found himself separated from his family by another sandstorm, wandering on his own for days before he stumbled across a small town called "Wayward". Mad with hunger, he murdered the first townsman who tried to offer him help, devouring as much of the man's flesh as he could before fleeing into the night. The next morning, he revealed himself to the horrified townsfolk and claimed that he had witnessed Black Hat kill and eat the man. Unable to believe a youngster like Caleb could be responsible for so monstrous a crime, the townsfolk believed him, and opened their homes to the young cannibal.
Caleb became a beloved fixture of the community... and then, the neighboring gnome community of Rumbleton was destroyed in an earthquake that crushed the subterranean village like an egg. They begged Wayward for shelter whilst they tried to rebuild, and the humans took them in. But rebuilding a new gnomish settlement wasn't easy, as Rumbleton had already been built in what was considered the most stable, accessible ground for miles around. With little choice, the gnomes began to put down roots in Wayward.
Which was a problem: Wayward already had troubles supporting its own population before the gnomes came in, and now things were worse than ever. The population increase led to a famine, known as "The Lean Times" by the locals, and tensions began to grow between humans and gnomes... tensions only fanned by Caleb, who began advocating the humans of Wayward should eat the baby gnomes born after the refugees settled in their village. Whilst initially this proposal was rejected, the gnomes took affront when they learned of its proposal at all, and relations only continued to deteriorate... especially because Caleb was continuing to egg things on, pushing his cannibalistic plan in secret.
Finally, it all came to a head; on the first night of the full moon, the Waywarders, driven mad with hunger, descended on the gnome shantytown and abducted as many gnomish children as they could, cannibalizing them in a disgusting, bloody orgy. Over the next two days they massacred the surviving gnomes and ate them as well, then they ate the few Waywarders who had protested "The Feast", as it was dubbed. And on that final full moon night, as the cannibal villagers slept off their full bellies, Wayward on the Bone Sands was pulled into the Demiplane of Dread.
Caleb and the other villagers are now quevari. They spend most of their time in an enchanted slumber, only waking when visitors come to town. Like all quevari, they are peaceful and innocent-seeming during the day, but revert to bloodthirsty cannibals at night, as the first three nights after outsiders arrive are all full moons - after those three nights, they fall back into slumber until disturbed again. It's unclear what happens if a survivor somehow avoids being killed on that third night.
Wayward itself has a couple of curses. Firstly, there are no children here; all of their youths were left behind when the village was pulled into the Misty Realms, and none of the women ever fall pregnant, save when Caleb is killed (we'll get to that). Secondly, all food and drink in the domain is inherently inedible - even foods brought in from outside instantly spoil, although the look and smell perfectly fine. Finally, none of the villagers will ever age beyond the day they were when they committed their sins.
Caleb himself is a 5th level quevari thief who wields an enchanted knife +3 of bleeding. He can Charm Person 1/day by speaking to them, and still carries the Triangle of the Feast - the triangular dinner bell he played before the cannibalism of the gnomes. This can function as a Chime of Hunger that only affects non-Waywarders 3/day, and can also summon 2d6 Waywarders to his aid at will. The other quevari only openly recognize him as their lord and master during the night, but still are fiercely protective of him during the day. He can potentially be driven away in fear by forcefully invoking Black Hat - this requires something like disguising yourself as the boogeyman or telling a Black Hat story, simply saying the name won't scare him.
If killed, one of the Wayward women will find herself pregnant within a week, and give birth to Caleb's reincarnation a month later. Caleb will resume his true form as an elven year old a month after being born. The only way to kill Caleb for good is to wipe out the entire town of Wayward, which frankly you should be wanting to do anyway.
Caleb can close the borders by summoning tornadoes that lash all around the domain's periphery, kicking up lethal sandstorms and making it impossible to flee.
Darklord of Miseria. Born to a humble farmer's family, Cassandre was gifted with the ability to see and communicate with the spirits of the dead, which also made her a very effective seer. When this was revealed to her village, she became an immediate celebrity, and this situation - never permitted time to herself or any true friends, but also showered in displays of good will and thanks - twisted her heart. She became completely self-centered, egotistical and immoral, regarding all others as nothing more than things to use for her own amusement and gratification.
When a war broke out amongst the local villages over the ability to use her seer powers, Cassandre exploited this to become a veritable queen, feeding just the right predictions to all factions to keep the war dragging on perpetually for over two years, wallowing in opulence whilst others bled, died and starved over her. Inevitably, the war drew to its climax, with both factions preparing to launch a decisive blow with a super-spell; Cassandre manipulated them into both acting at the exact same time, figuring that this would cause the spells to negate each other and stalemate, thus preserving the war and her power. Instead, they magnified each other, resulting in the annihilation of the warring armies and Cassandre being literally blown into Miseria.
Cassandre's curse is, fundamentally, that she will never again enjoy the lifestyle she once enjoyed. Although surrounded by people who genuinely like and care for her rather than her gifts, she pines for the days when people doted upon her every wish and resents being forced to work for a living as a barmaid. Her diviner powers have dwindled and become almost useless, but her spiritual powers have expanded; she now commands incorporeal undead with the proficiency of a master necromancer, and her life is supplement with the years drained by her ghostly minions. None of her schemes to regain her "royal" status will ever work, and so she seems doomed to an eternity as a beloved but otherwise unremarkable barmaid.
When she closes the borders, Miseria is surrounded by thick red fog that causes those who try to leave to age and eventually crumble to dust, whereupon they become ghosts under her command.
If slain, Cassandre becomes a ghost herself, but then resurrects 2d4 days later. Only if she is confronted in ghost form by an exorcist of the local deity Saint-Ambroise who can denounce her for her crimes in life will she be banished from the world of the living forever.
Darklord of Yatehcaa. Once, this animal god aided the First Man in protecting his American Aboriginal-flavored world from powerful monsters. But his greed, malice and cruelty led to him committing many dark acts, and so the gods declared him unfit to remain amongst their ranks. First Man took back Coyote's cloak of stars, condemning him to stay forever on the world and be vulnerable to the monsters he had once battled. But Coyote showed no regret, no compassion, no willingness to learn from his mistakes or to try and make amends, and so he found himself trapped in the Demiplane of Dread.
Ever since, he has continued his old ways, playing cruel, malicious tricks on the people of Yatehcaa, all the while trying to distract himself from how afraid he is that some day, he might be caught and killed by "The Dark Watchers", the antediluvian monsters whom he once battled alongside First Man.
Technically, nothing protects Coyote from death, but between his lack of shame and utter cowardice combined with his powerful magical abilities, actually killing him in a fight is easier said than done.
Dr. Dorothy Hemphyll
Darklord of Immerabt. This female human alchemist could in many ways be considered a mirror to Dr. Mordenheim of Lamordia. Like him, she was born a scientific prodigy who had neither time nor patience for religions and matters of faith. When she was twelve, Dorothy's mother died in childbirth giving birth to a son, something Dorothy blamed upon both the local priest - for he had both refused to allow Dorothy to be present at the birth, despite her knowledge of herbs and medicines, for her lack of faith, and proven unable to save Lady Hemphyll's life with his limited divine magic - and her father, for he had listened to the priest.
This became the cornerstone of Dorothy's growing loathing for religion, something that grew ever stronger as she aged. She went abroad to study medical sciencies, transmutation magic and philosophical alchemy, always seeking to refine her medical skills. She also visited the dark, seedy corners of society: brothels, dog-fighting arenas, drug-fueled parties and other such realms that further convinced her of the absence of divine intervention.
The kicker was when she met and fell in love with another medical student of noble ancestry; Hermann Leawly. Despite her feelings, she refused to marry him, for that would require submitting to a religious ceremony she wanted nothing to do with. But he bent under the pressure from his traditional family and returned to their home, something that enraged Dorothy, who now derided him as a weakling.
After a long, bloody war, a terrible plague gripped her homeland, and Dorothy came up with an idea for a new method to care for the terminally ill. She purchased an abandoned penitentiary on a small rocky island and converted it into a sickbay, hiring the best healers she could find (so long as they weren't divine spellcasters). One of those she hired was Hermann. She became ever-more obsessive, pushing her followers brutally, and gaining the first attention of the Dark Powers. When she perfected her prototype life support mechanisms and began abducting the terminally ill from her hospice to install them in the devices, trapping them at the brink of life and death in a state of constant, unrelenting pain, they grew anticipatory. But it wasn't until she got drunk at a party celebrating her newly produced plague vaccine, and revealed to Hermann her monstrous experiments, injecting him with concentrated plague serum and deliberately waiting for him to reach the still-incurable terminal stage of the disease before strapping him into one of her hideous living death machines that they seized her and transformed goal island into Immerabt.
Dorothy's curse is three-fold, and could be a considered a blend of Mordenheim's and Azalin's. Though she is well-aware of the fact that the local industries of Immerabt are poisoning the population, her attempts to plan and execute social projects to counter the pollution invariably fail due to being rejected or ignored. Secondly, she is kept so busy working her daily job that she cannot devote the time to furthering her understandings of magic and alchemy, preventing her from attaining the greater power she needs to pursue her goal of the ultimate curatives. Finally, she is unable to invent a vaccine to cure those suffering from the terminal effects of the plague, which means she cannot cure Hermann, who remains bound and suffering in his life-support in the depths of her sanitarium.
Unlike many darklords, Dorothy has no inherent abilities that make her unkillable, although her disease-bearing touch and biomechanical golem guards make her a force to be reckoned with in combat. She can regenerate, but she's vulnerable to fire.
If she wishes to close the borders of Immerabt, violent storms with strong winds and heavy rain surround the archipelago, whilst the waters boil with mutated sharks and other aquatic predators.
Elizabeth Michelle Cole III
Darklord of Hibernate. This female human vampire was born to the noble family of the Coles in the land of Hybernaya on Boram'ith. Despite her aristocratic lineage, she did not believe in the inherent superiority of her bloodline, and fell in love with a peasant boy, whom her parents had executed on trumped-up charges. This engendered a deep hatred for her parents in Elizabeth's heart, and at the age of 28, she left home to "think about things".
In her wanderings, she met and fell in love with a man named Alexander Berzinski, a vampire who converted her into one as well. They traveled together for seven years before parting, whereupon Elizaeth returned home, murdered her parents, and ruled their lands with an iron first for a decade.
During this time, she became a high priestess of Thanatos, and attempted to lure a prophesied warrior known as "The Son of the Black Moon" into Thanatos' service. A task she delighted in, for she fell in love with him when she met him - a one-sided love, for he was devoted to his half-elf girlfriend. When he died escaping from his contract with the dark god, Elizabeth had him resurrected and attempted to lure him through a portal to the Lower Planes, only to find herself alone in Darkon. Here, she fell afoul of the Kargat and fled to the Sea of Sorrows, only to find herself bound to the newly formed isle of Hibernate when she set foot there.
She has risen to power as the madame of the most well-respected brothel in Hibernate, leading a force of twenty eight call girls, all of whom she has turned into vampires. Her curse is that she yearns to find the Son of the Black Moon and claim him for herself, but he has never materialized in the Demiplane of Dread.
Elizabeth is unaffected by Hibernatian holy symbols, due to the combined facts that they represent a non-existant god and the lack of true faith endemic in Hibernate's people, but can be slain by a pine wood stake, or paralyzed with any other kind of stake. If Elizabeth is killed, one of her vampire prostitutes will fall into a month-long coma, during which she will physically and mentally be subsumed and transformed into a new incarnation of Elizabeth. It's unclear how this can be prevented.
When she wishes to close the domain, Hibernate's borders are choked by a thick fog that is impossible to navigate; those who try only find themselves circling back to Hibernate, no matter how hard they try.
The Undead Sea Scrolls 2002 version of Elizabeth emphasizes her fundamental selfishness and cruelty, and also notes that her Undying Soul will allow her to possess any woman in Hibernate should all of her prostitutes be killed.
Gatwe and Mr. Klein
The domain of Nzari is home to two darklords, struggling for dominance.
Gatwe is the original Darklord; an Mwele man who was forever questioning the traditions of his people even from a youth and who burned to hold power. He apprenticed himself to the tribal shaman, whom he perceived held the true power, but his ambitions remained unchecked. When the most beautiful woman in the village chose to marry a respected hunter, that was the last straw; he forsook all the traditional limits on the shaman and began practicing sorcery. He used curses to sicken and kill those he hated, and goad the tribe into war, slowly building an empire from the scattered tribes of the Mwele. When suspicion began to fall upon him, he murdered his own family to try and throw it off, assuming the form of a leopard to plant a curse-bundle that would kill them all slowly and painfully. When he began to resume his human form, that was when the Dark Powers struck, trapping him in a twisted nightmarish conglomerate form, incapable of wielding his former magic, and launching Nzari into the Misty Realm.
Mr. Klein came to Nzari after its appearance in the Demiplane of Dread. A fanatical devotee of Ezra, he yearned to be a missionary, but found that goal stymied during the initial rush to explore the Sea of Sorrows; the merchants who controlled the expedition wanted profits, not proselytizing. Only when Nzari was discovered, with its savage cannibal tribes and vast wealth of ivory, did Mr. Klein finally find his desire within his grasp. He founded the Dementlieur Exploration Company, and led its first expedition to Nzari. The Mwele naturally resisted this foreign invasion, but Klein had the zeal of a fanatic and pressed on, resorting to ever-more brutal tactics as months of battle and disease took its toll on his followers. Eventually, he caught the attention of Gatwe, but managed to fight the feared "leopard-devil" off - an act that won him inroads amongst the Mwele. His followers swelled in numbers, and he seemed to make real progress in "civilizing" Nzari... until he realized that his followers were not worshipping Ezra, but Klein himself, and that those he conquered were merely paying lip service to his commands. Furious, he resorted to to ever-more draconian methods to "stamp out the heathenism", but succeeded only in pushing the Mwele to rebel. Klein counter-attacked viciously with his own forces, and responded by flaying every last one of them alive before he had them beheaded, their bodies cast into the river, and their heads impaled on stakes around his house.
In the face of such brutality, the Dark Powers aren't sure which of the two better deserves the title of Darklord.
Gatwe's curse is simple: he is forever cut off from the adoration and power he changes. No Mwele will have anything to do with one so obviously marked as a sorcerer, and he cannot change or disguise his form regardless of what artifice he tries. Mr. Klein, on the other hand, is cursed that when he sleeps, he sees the world through Gatwe's eyes, experiencing the broken one's life as he lives it. Both, ironically, share the curse of wanting to change the Mwele culture, but being completely incapable of doing so.
The two Darklords despise each other. Gatwe has become convinced that if he can kill Klein, his full powers will be restored to him. Klein, on the other hand, believes that Gatwe is a literal demon, a symbol of the savagery hidden in humanity's heart, and that only by "civilizing" the Mwele will the nightmarish dream-visions cease.
Unusually for co-darklords, they can both close Nzari's borders; Gatwe surrounds the domain an impenetrable thicket of vegetation, whilst those trying to flee against Klein's wishes find themselves lost in thick fog and eventually attacked by an endless hail of arrows.
Both darklords also have their own unique forms of immortality. If Gatwe is killed, one of the leopards of Nzari will become his reincarnation a day later. Klein, on the other hand, is simply impervious to all attacks not dealt with an ivory weapon (a blessed ivory weapon deals double damage!) and will not return if slain.
Darklord of Seradan. Born the favored son of a minor noble family, Geren was a bullying braggart in private, but a charming and idolized peer in public. All that changed when, at the age of 17, he was struck by a strange wasting disease that crippled him irreversibly; he lost use of his legs, his muscles withered, and all his senses faded. Though his family bankrupted themselves to try and cure him, nothing worked. He spent fifteen years in his own personal hell, watching and envying those with normal lives, and resenting his family despite the love and care they still showered him with.
His true descent into damnation came when one of his brothers brought down a trunk full of books from the attack, and Geren learned one of his great-grandfathers had been a powerful wizard - one with considerable experience in summoning beings from the Lower Planes. When his family refused to hire a wizard to tutor Geren in magic, he decided to try summoning a fiend on his own. He called forth a yugoloth, who was so surprised by the venomous manner in which Geren pleaded his case that he offered Geren a trade: the souls of Geren's families in exchange for the ability to "help Geren feel what others feel".
It was a bargain Geren made without hesitation. He hired an assassin to kill every last member of his family, other than his mother. In exchange, the yugoloth gifted him with the ability to possess others, which allowed him to vicariously experience life as a normal person again. He slowly began to rebuild the family's fortunes by using possessed thralls to commit acts of murder and theft... then the townsfolk began to suspect his mother was involved, and she in turn wondered if Geren was responsible. When she confronted him, however, Geren petuantly seized control of her mind and made her kill herself. But some of the townsfolk had just arrived to question her again, and they discovered her slumping over the infamous and now-hated cripple. Realizing that Geren had been responsible, they beat him with clubs and then dragged him into the streets, where the mob lynched him; hanging him from a tree and beating him to death as they burned his family's home and himself.
Such was Geren's rage at this fate that he returned from the grave as a powerful haunt - a Ravenloft strain of ghost. With his possession abilities enhanced, he used them to massacre the entire population of the village... which was when the Mists rolled in and claimed him for Seradan.
Geren's darklord status brings with it a cocktail of curses. The standard Darklord curse of being unable to leave his domain chafes him particularly, being that he yearns to explore and experience the world. Making matters worse is that he is now trapped in a realm of dullards, so docile, unimaginative and unfeeling that possessing them is little better than staying a ghost. For further insult, Geren can now only possess hosts for short periods of time, or else they die of a supernaturally induced fever, forcing him to largely avoid using his possession abilities.
Geren always reforms one week after being destroyed. Only if he is allowed to kill Wilhelm Braugh, the only survivor of Geren's hometown and the inspector who gave him over to the mob, will he cease to exist, having decided that there is nothing left to live for. If he closes the borders, supernatural exhaustion claims any who try to leave the domain, sapping their strength until they are left helpless.
Jarl Gravstein Hansen
Darklord of the Northlands. This male human was born to the Gand tribe, son of the man who had founded the trade guild known as the Key, which was bringing much-needed prosperity to the realm. He railed against the tradition by which the Gand and Kosti tribes alternated ownership of the capital city of Miklaheim every five years, and was determined to keep ownership of the city for himself.
To do so, he launched a brutal campaign against the Gand tribe, taxing his own people into famine and ruin to do so. When they were devastated, he turned his back on the traditional religion of the seidmen, secretly siphoning away funds from the church who thought he was supporting them. Finally, he began taxing the trade guild to borderline ruin itself. Through his short-sighted greed and selfishness, the realm was drawn into the Demiplane of Dread.
Secretly, Gravstein yearns to be respected and loved, but he cannot attain it - only if he returns all the land of the Gand to them will this curse be broken, which mechanically manifests as an automatic failure on any Charisma check other than Intimidation. He doesn't have any magical powers to preserve his life, but whoever takes up the mantle of leadership should he die will be cursed in the same manner.
Closing the borders results in a vast army of warrior spirits descending from the heavens and physically blocking passage.
The Barons Gustav
Darklords of Gustavstan.
Baron Gustav the Elder is a male human ghost who once ruled a small kingdom in his homeland. Though he had intended to pass his holdings on to his younger brother Klaus, the younger sibling had no interest in ruling, so the elderly Gustav took a wife and fathered a son, Gustav the Younger. Then, when his son was fifteen, Gustav the Elder stepped on a snake in his garden and was fatally bitten.
Gustav the Younger (male human Fighter) was inconsolable, his mind fracturing under the sudden death of his beloved father. In his grief, he refused to take up the throne, forcing his uncle Klaus to become Baron in his place - as well as to wed Ingrid, Gustav the Elder's widow and Gustav the Younger's mother, to secure the Younger's inheritance. Unfortunately, this gesture was misunderstood by both Gustavs; the Younger began to despise his uncle and mother for their apparent disloyalty, whilst the Elder's restless spirit also became incensed at Klaus's apparent betrayal. He seized upon the idea of exploiting his son's fractured mind to both weaponize him against Klaus and to make him vulnerable, so the Elder could live again by stealing his son's body.
This domain is basically grimdark Hamlet, in case it's not obvious already.
So Gustav the Elder manifests to his son, lies that he was murdered by Klaus, and convinces his half-crazed son that Klaus wants to steal the throne for himself. Klaus the Younger swallows this bullshit hook, line and sinker, and pretending to be even madder than he actually was, he began preparing to kill his uncle and his mother both - ignoring that Gustav the Elder wanted Ingrid spared, having figured that once he stole his son's body, he could reclaim her as his wife.
This led to Gustav the Younger murdering the father of Elaine, the woman he loved, and driving her so insane that she ended up committing suicide by throwing herself off the battlements of the castle - which didn't do Gustav Junior's sanity any great shakes. Instead, it provoked him into finally battling his uncle, killing Klaus and his mother in the process. Which was when Gustav the Eldler showed up and, horrified at his wife's death, he revealed the truth about how he'd played his son for a fool. Enraged, the son attacked his father's ghost, and that was when Gustavstan was snatched up by the mists.
Gustav the Younger now burns with the urge to hunt his father's spirit down and destroy him, a task not helped by his paranoia. Every night, he is haunted by the angry ghosts of Elaine and Klaus, who spend the night cursing him out for their murders.
Gustav the Elder now spends his days haunting the local insane asylum, where Ingrid - who actually survived her son's attack, but was left a raving madwoman - is now kept. At night, he strives to manipulate others into killing his son.
Neither darklord can be permanently destroyed by violence; they regenerate and revive from destruction. Only by killing Ingrid will their resurrective regeneration cease... but doing this will cause the killer to immediately suffer a failed Powers Check, whilst those who watch get to roll one.
Hakaan na Uruk
Darklord of Saarkaath. This male half-orc was born to an unknown human slave and her orcish master in the orc stronghold known as the Dark Fork Holding. When Hakaan was young, the Holding was put to the torch by a paladin order called the Storm Templars; whilst the orcish women and children fled, Hakaan was left behind, and rescued by a paladin named Leith Kelbar. As Hakaan favored his human heritage in appearance, Leith took the child in and informally adopted him.
Officially, Hakaan was just Leith's "dog robber", a menial worker, but Leith showed the boy an undemonstrative but very real affection and even trained him in weapon's use and other page skills. This in turn engendered a hero's worship attitude in the young half-orc.When Hakaan entered puberty and his orcish heritage became more appropriate, the other knights of the Storm Templars began encouraging Leith to abandon the half-orc and take a human servant instead. The stubborn and idiosyncratic paladin flatly refused them, and instead made Hakaan his squire at the age of 14. The half-orc's respect for his adoptive father only increased at this decision, and he began to dream of becoming a full-fledged Storm Templar himself, determined to prove his worth despite his heritage.
The orc/human war was still raging at this point, and soon after becoming Leith's squire, Hakaan saw his father killed during a climatic battle at Shadow Mountain. Leith's dying wish was for Hakaann to take his Holy Avenger and his armor back to the Storm Templars. The half-orc fought heroically and made the 400 mile trip back to the central temple of the Storm Templars. To his dismay, he found himself coldly received and sharply censured for daring to carry Leiber's weapons and armor as a mere squire; many of the Templars even pushed for him to be expelled from the order entirely. But his actions and skills did win him the support of a few key members of the order, and so a compromise was offered: Hakaan could "prove himself" by beginning his squire's training over from the beginning, with vague promises of a future "consideration" for full knighthood.
The young half-orc was outraged and indignant, feeling he had proved his worth through his skills already. He left the order and sought membership in another elite martial unit... however, none would take a half-orc. Only a mercenary force allowed him membership, and whilst initially distressed by their monetary emphasis and neutral (at best) morality, he soon adjusted. In fact, by the time he was 30, he was the Captain-General of his own mercenary army! But he never forgot the way that the Storm Templars and the other elite forces of the human military had rejected him, and a bitter enmity grew in his heart. Things finally came to a boil when the human kingdom declared war on the southern hobgoblins; not only was Hakaan's army hired to work alongside an offensive led by the Storm Templars, but despite his vital role, he was not invited to the meetings held by the various generals of the royal army and the order.
That was the last straw. Hakaan began secretly communicating with the hobgoblin armies, and through his treachery the human forces suffered reverse after reverse. At the final climatic battle, the humans' last gamble, Hakaan deliberately "misunderstood" a signal to reinforce the Storm Templars and fell back, allowing his former order to be annihilated and delivering a crushing defeat to the forces of humanity. He promptly surrendered to the hobgoblins and offered them the services of his forces; those mercenaries who refused to follow him were promised safe passage to the lines, but instead were betrayed and given over to the "correction officers" of the hobgoblin forces.
Fighting at the side of the hobgoblins, Hakaan's forces swelled with the addition of several hundred orcish conscripts, all eager to serve "under one of their own". Howerver, he soon fell out with the hobgoblins and tried to betray them as well, but they were better prepared than the human forces and Hakaan found himself forced to flee with less than a thousand surviving troops into the mountains, pursued the whole way by hobgoblins, goblins and worgs.
He escaped by fleeing into a thick mountain fog, only to emerge in a strange mountainous region completely alien to him and his followers, and magically prevented from finding their way back to more familiar ground. Discovering a massive complex of tunnels and caverns within the mountains, at the encouragement of his orcish followers, Hakaan settled into the caves and began operating like a typical orc warchief, sending his forces out to raid the surface villages for supplies, slaves and concubines; many of those slaves or their ill-favored human-looking halfbreed children subsequently escaped to the surface, and thus the domain of Saarkaath was born.
A hundred years have passed, but Hakaan's aging has been slowed, and so he only appears to be fifty... of course, even a very-well preserved fifty is still a pretty significant age for a half-orc! In mockery of Hakaan's life-long loathing of his orcish heritage only to willingly stoop to the worst behaviors associated with orcdom, his orcish traits have been exaggerated over the years, and so he now not only looks like a pureblooded orc, but he suffers even worse sensitivity to sunlight than a true orc would - combined with his curse-spawned intense agoraphobia, and Hakaan can no longer bring himself to visit the surface. Hakaan attempts to hide from his self-loathing by celebrating the orcishness of his people, surrounding himself with those who most strongly favor their orc heritage and punishing the least orcy-looking denizens of Saarkath, but truthfully it still rankles him. Combined with his inability to leave Saarkaath to take revenge on his ancient human and hobgoblin foes, and his "kingdom" is a glorified prison whose bars he can never deny.
Hakaan is amongst the most vulnerable of all darklords; aside from the hitpoints of being a 12th level fighter as well as owning a +2 greatsword and a Ring of Regeneration, he has no magical protections of any sort to preserve his life. If you can kill him, he'll stay dead. Amongst his more unusual abilities, he can fly into a berserker rage similar to a barbarian, and detect paladins with perfect accuracy.
When Hakaan closes Saarkaath's borders, a forest of magical spears and swords appears at the border; those who try to force through will suffer 1d10 damage per round, which can only be restored by magical healing - and, of course, those who try to fly over will instead just drop straight onto them.
Darklord of Arlington Farm. Henry Arlington was a farmer who obsessed about success. Inheriting his farm after the tragic death of his parents in a house fire, he killed his own elder brothers in a duel to secure his inheritance. He proved to be a demanding, overbearing farmer, and obsessed with successful crops; when an unexpected New Year's late frost resulted in damage to a significant portion of the crops, Henry flew into a rage, even though he had more than enough funds to weather this less-than-perfect year. In his rage, he murdered one of his farmhands, concealing the crime by cutting up his body and hiding it amongst the scarecrows on the property. That year, the farm bloomed with a record-breaking bounty.
The next year saw a similar pattern: the crops failed early in the year, but when Henry killed (in this case a stray dog), they suddenly reversed fortune and flourished. Henry became convinced that his farm would reward him with bounty only in exchange for blood sacrifices, and he began a yearly ritual of murdering some human victim and stuffing their dismembered body into the scarecrows. Over a decade of this grisly work, he soon had no farmhands left to sacrifice, and so instead he slaughtered his entire family for the sake of his farm.
That was the last straw. The grisly, corpse-stuffed scarecrows came to life and burned down all his crops, then dragged Henry out into the field and mutilated him, turning him into a fleshy scarecrow like themselves. That was when the Mists swallowed the farm.
In the present, Henry still tends to his farm as an animate corpse scarecrow, only to find his labors undone whatever he achieves. In addition, every harvest moon, he finds himself human once more - and subsequently butchered by his vengeful scarecrow "workers".
Henry can close the border for up to an hour at a time by summoning a vast murder of crows that attack whoever tries to leave. After an hour, however, Henry is exhausted and must rest for 3 rounds before he can resummon the swarm. If slain, Henry remains dead until the next full moon or blue moon, whereupon he will possess one of the scarecrows in his domain and return to life. Theoretically, he can be destroyed forever by destroying all of the scarecrows.
Darklord of Olympus. Born the son of the High Priest of Zeus in a theocratic nation ruled over by a collective of seven temples to the Greek Gods - Zeus, Athena, Aphrodite, Hermes, Ares, Apollo and Hades, the man now known only as Hercules earned great fame in his youth by speaking up against the brutal repression of the priest-lords and championing the rights of the oppressed commoners. Although originally he sought peace, the overwhelming corruption opposing him led him first to delving into the murky depths of politics, and finally into leading a full-blown revolution.
This angered the realm's rulers, the conclave of High Priests known as the Council of Seven, who came up with three plans to ruin Hercules. The High Priest of Zeus sent his son cursed gauntlets that would drive him into bloodthirsty rages under false pretence of truce. The High Priestess of Athena sought to summon a daemonic entity that would grant the Council magical powers that would allow them to crush the rebels and prove themselves the true "Voices of the Gods". Finally, the High Priestess of Aphrodite arranged for one of her serving girls to be sent to seduce Hercules, with the ultimate plan of disgracing him by tempting him into committing the blasphemous act of making love in the holy ground of the temple of Zeus.
They couldn't have expected that Dejanira, the girl chosen by the Voice of Aphrodite, would fall in love with Hercules and reveal the ploy to him. Any more than she could have expected for him to revile her as a traitorous seductress, but hide his loathing and use her to deliver a strike against the Council as they performed the summoning ritual. At the height of battle and ritual both, Hercules turned on Dejanira and stabbed her to death before throwing her into the center of the Council, then beating his father to death as he was paralyzed by the sudden influx of magical energies from the rite.
The Seven Voices of the Gods were transformed into quasi-daemons in their own right, and Hercules became the Darklord of the realm now called simply "Olympus".
Hercules is cursed both with the erratic and dangerous rages from his braces, and in that he is haunted by the terrifying spectre of Dejanira, who still loves him even in death. Worse still, his reputation continually sours due to his berserk rages.
The only way to kill Hercules for good is to force him, the six "Living Gods" of Olympus and the Forsaken One (the half-daemonic ghost of the High Priest of Zeus) to meet in the abandoned temple of Zeus and perform the fiend summoning ritual again. Only if Hercules allows himself to be sacrificed as part of the ritual will his curse be ended - which will also strip the Living Gods of their powers and make them mortal as well.
If Hercules wishes to seal the borders of Olympus, a titanic lightning storm envelops the domain, striking down any who attempt to escape.
Heresa Heri, The Vulture King
Darklord of Tsuu-Y-Teke. Long ago, Heresa Heri was one of the great animal lords, powerful spirits subordinate to the greater animal gods, but he betrayed his master's wishes after being named ruler over the skies: when given the ability to create permanent light from enchanted crystals, rather than sharing this light with the world, he selfishly kept them for himself, turning them into a shining feathered headdress. But his treachery was uncovered by a human hero-shaman named Kanaciwe, who captured Heresa Heri and tore out the golden and silver feathers, turning them into the sun, moon and stars. But the appearance of the sun dazed Kanaciwe, allowing Heresa Heri to break free of the shaman's grip and kill him.
This act enraged his rival, the newly empowered Haloe-Tsuu (Sun Puma), who cursed Heresa Heri; never again would he be allowed to face the sunlight, or else it would destroy him. Though the Vulture King fled into the deepest cave, he was mortally wounded, and summoned his underlings to ceremonially preserve his body and spirit. As he died, he cursed all those who had robbed him of "his" treasure, from the humans whose shaman had taken his headdress of shining light to the skies themselves for being home to the sun and moon. Thus was the domain of Tsuu-Y-Teke born.
In appearance, the Vulture King is a white-feathered giant vulture with a dark red bonnet of dried blood on his head, sickly yellow eyes that glow in the dark, and a jagged, uneven beak that gives him the appearance of fanged teeth. He is an undead creature with powers similar to those of a mummy, althoug he looks like a living bird.
As Darklord, Heresa Heri is trapped in his cavern lair except during True Night, the one period of darkness that comes to Tsuu-Y-Teke once per month. He has become obsessed with the idea that if he can amass a sufficient number of gems, he can reimprison the light and restore the endless Night that the world once knew... but he knows that to do so, he needs the exact number of gems as there are stars in the sky, and he no longer remembers how many that is!
In combat, Heresa Heri is a powerhouse and all but impossible to destroy without the use of sunlight or powerful magical light. Even then, if destroyed, his spirit will possess any giant vulture within a 13 mile radius, which will transform into the Vulture King 1 week later.
When the Vulture King seeks to seal Tsuu-Y-Teke, then impenetrable magical darkness gathers on the borders; those who try to escape instead get lost in the utter blackness and stumble right back out into the domain.
Commander Hernando Mouriros
Darklord of Mictlan. Born into poverty, Hernando Mouriros was the son of a simple laborer; a brutal drunkard who savagely beat his wife and children. Hernando's mother died birthing Hernando's younger sister when he was ten, and six months later, his father took another wife, which pushed the embittered youth over the edge. Only the city guard's intervention kept Hernando from being beaten to death by his father, and he repaid their mercy by throwing himself into their ranks.
Despite his background, Hernando's rise was meteoric, and he soon graduated from the city guard to the Imperial Army, and from there worked his way up the ranks to captain. When the Holy Empire launched its great crusade, Hernando flung himself into the slaughter, eager to showcase his loyalty and win wealth and power for himself. He became renowned for his uncompromising nature, devious tactics, draconian authority over his men, and utter lack of mercy towards the "pagans" he battled.
After ten years of crusading, he was called back to the Empire and charged with leading the first expedition to conquer the newly discovered jungle realms beyond the Sierra Acora mountains. Hernando was honored - and the discovery of the distinctly Aztec-like native cultures, with their bloody theocracy, only fueled his desire to succeed. When the first natives they met offered them peaceful greetings and a tribute of gold and gems, Hernando took the offerings and then launched an attack anyway, slaughtering the natives down to the last child - the act that finally earned him his position as Darklord.
The curse of Hernando Mouriros is similar to Vlad Drakov's: he yearns to conquer Mictlan and bring it to heel, but he is handicapped from doing so. Not only are his forces outnumbered and demoralized, but the agonizing immortality that allows them to defeat superior numbers carries its own curse; one soldier randomly dies permanently whenever Mouriros' forces conquer a city, and so their numbers shrink as he gains closer to achieving his goal. Whilst he doesn't lose his own forces if an allied force of natives conquers a city, the natives have no real respect for Hernando and constantly betray him for no reason he can determine. His own self-discipline and authoritarian control, once his greatest strengths, have become crippling weaknesses; he can't adapt to the ever-shifting chaos of life in Mictlan. The random nightmares he has of being a hapless child at his brutish father's nonexistent mercy merely adds insult to injury.
A rarity amongst Darklords, Hernando isn't protected from death, unlike his men. But, if he were to be killed, then his body would burst into enchanted, inextinguishable flames that would ignite anything they touch (although these secondary fires could be extingiuished normally). It's unclear how long Hernando's corpse would burn for, but the wildfires it would cause would almost certainly lay waste to vast swaths of Mictlan in the process.
If Hernando dies, the most likely candidate to replace him as Darklord is the cruel, unhinged high priest of Huitzilopochtli, Cuxi Yapanaque.
Isabel de Sargas
Darlord of San Bartolome. From her earliest days, Isabel de Sargas was a natural charmer, able to get anything she wanted... until the day she met a monk named Fernando in Porta Coeli. He refused to bend to her charms, and had no desire for anything she could offer him; all he cared about was attaining self-perfection, so that his soul could become an Njelx - the local term for angels. Intrigue at his defiance soon grew into an all-consuming obsession; Isabel became convinced that she was in love with Fernando, and determined to make him reciprocate.
Finally, she decided that the only way to make Fernando come to her was to become an Njelx herself. Soon after, the dark Njelx Ezimel began to whisper in her dreams, offering to make her dream come true; Isabel resisted at first, but ultimately succumbed. Months later, the ritual was cast and Isabel became a beautiful winged woman; under the light of the moon, she flew to Fernando's room and told him that she had been an Njelx all along, one sent to test him and determine if his soul was worthy of similar ascension. She claimed he had passed this test, and also won her love, and so they would be together forever in Coeli. Fernando was delighted, and finally yielded to her embrace...
And that was when the sun rose. A strange feeling of lightness, of somehow being detached from her body, came over Isabel, and she saw horror in Fernando's eyes. Looking about, her eyes fell on a mirror, where she saw the truth; she was no Njelx, but a bat-winged horror, with razor-clawed fingers and the legs of some monstrous flying beast - she had become a harpy. And she wasn't tenderly embracing Fernando, but instead ripping him apart with her bare hands.
As she was snatched back to reality, the mists swallowed her and brought her to the demiplane of dread.
Ever since that day, Isabel has hated the churce of San Bartolome. Though she can assume the semblance of her old form, the illusion doesn't last for long and can be forcibly dispelled by the light of both sunrise and sunset - she knows that if her true form were revealed, she would be hunted as a monster. As such, she can no longer exploit her charms to enthrall men, and has been forced into a bitter, self-loathing life as a social recluse. She likes to creep about the city at night and attack couples out of her rage and jealousy. By day, she opoerates a small fishing boat, desperately hoping to accrue the finds to try and overthrow the reigning theocracy, a task she will never complete.
Unbeknownst to Isabel, when she completed her dark pact, her soul was physically removed and now lies hidden somewhere in Nove Circulae, the realm of Ezimel and his fellow fallen Njelx. Unless her soul is returned to her, rendering her mortal, Isabel is unkillable; when slain, she returns to life within a tenday.
If Isabel chooses to close her domain's borders, then a great storm lashes the seas surrounding the island, rendering it impossible to sail or fly through.
Darklord of Farelle. Originally, the entity now called Jack Karn was a jackal from the Wildlands who hated that his people were content to be scavengers rather than hunters, a fact that saw them labeled as cowards by the beasts of the Wildlands. He convinced other Wildlands jackals to follow him, and began to incite conflict between the other animals of the Wildlands; when the two groups were fighting, he and his followers would attack their dens and drag away their children as food. This filled The Jackal Who Would Not Be A Coward with great pride - and ever-greater bloodlust. But eventually his tricks were discovered, and the vengeful animals turned upon the jackals of the Wildlands, slaughtering them and driving the survivors into the swamp of King Crocodile. When one of the elder jackals denounced him for bringing ruin upon their race, the murderous jackal attacked this elder - but was instead driven away by the other survivors, who savaged him with their fangs.
The murderous jackal escaped, pausing only to watch as his few surviving packmates were devoured to the last by King Crocodile, and then trotted off into the mists, vowing to find a new pack and teach them his vicious ways. Instead, he found himself in a strange land; a snow-bound conifer forest, where he fell afoul of a common leg trap. He would have died, had not the original Jack Karn, a kindly human tinker, stumbled across him.
Jack Karn, a peaceful soul who loved nature, instantly felt sympathy for the jackal, and tried to help him. The murderous jackal repaid his efforts by trying to kill him, failing only because of his wounded leg. Undaunted, Jack beat the jackal senseless with a length of iron, then used this as an opportunity to chain the jackal up, muzzle him, and tend his wounds. For weeks, he took the jackal along his cart, trying to befriend the creature and convince him that, together, they could help battle man's despoilment of nature. The jackal would not listen, full of bloodlust and egotism, and instead made himself a veritable devil; though Jack showed the jackal nothing but kindness and patience no matter how frustrated he grew, the jackal cursed him endlessly and terrorized the people who came to Jack's cart for their tinker needs.
Starving, Jack's patience finally gave out as he accepted that he alone could not hope to redeem the murderous jackal. So he set out in search of Vistani, reasoning that they would be both willing and able to keep the jackal alive but prevent it from harming others. He soon stumbled across a clan of the Naiat tasque, who accepted the jackal for their menagerie and invited Jack to spend the night at their fire, impressed by his patience and kindness. As they supped, however, the jackal used his magical abilities to compel the Vistani's dogs to free him, and then began attacking the clan's children. However, the startled Vistani swiftly regained the upper hand, and the jackal was about to flee... when he caught Jack's scent.
Unwilling to temper his bloodlust with sense, the jackal attacked the tinker and fatally mauled him, giving the Vistani the chance to catch him. As he lay dying, the original Jack uttered a dying curse, condemning the jackal for his arrogance and declaring that he would become the thing that both the jackal and Jack despised most before that same thing would destroy the jackal. The Vistani's raunie stepped forth and added her own mystical might to the curse, guaranteeing it would take root, and commanded her people to release the jackal to suffer this curse.
Fleeing into the mists, the jackal became a jackalwere, trapped almost permanently in human form - which the people of Farelle recognize as "Jack Farn". He can only resume jackal form for a few minutes at a time before he is ultimately compelled to return to human form; he can take hybrid form for ten times the duration of jackal form, but he finds this form a hideous abomination and refuses to use it unless compelled to do so. A secondary curse is that he cannot harm humans or even human-like monsters unless they attack him in anger first; so long as they are not the aggressors, he suffers crippling nausea should he try to raise a hand against them. Further compounding his curse, whilst he has total control over all canines in Farelle, they are all ordinary animals, not the intelligent animals of the Wildlands, so he finds himself as effectively the only "thinking" animal amongst a bunch of idiots.
The Jackal Who Would Not Be A Coward cannot close the borders in a conventional manner, but instead commands the canines of the realm to swarm to Farelle's edges and attack whoever tries to escape. Theoretically, nothing prevents you from fighting or magicing your way through them. Also, these closed borders only keep people in; to the jackal's rage, they ignore people entering the domain, no matter how viciously he punishes them for doing so.
The curse of the original Jack Karn keeps his namesake from knowing true death; if slain, he revives a week later. However, Farelle is doomed to experience an ultimate ecological collapse, having changed from a bountiful wilderness with a few scattered hunter-gatherer tribes to a widely agricultural community centered around two massive villages of an Early Medieval level or higher in only 250 years. When the swelling tides of rampant humanity finally cause a total ecological upset of Farell, only then will the cursed jackal die, the victim of a species he has spent the last few centuries belittling.
Given "Jack Karn's" curse, it's actually best not to attack him. If he is attacked, and thus given the ability to respond in kind, the he is immune to all weapons that do not represent "civilized man" - unarmed strikes, natural weapons, clubs, arrows and any other "Savage" cultural tier weapon do nothing to him, whilst those that appear from Bronze Age or higher cultural tiers are fully effective.
Captain Jacobi Robertsonn
Darklord of Whal. Born a fisherman's son on an unnamed world, Jacobi grew up in seas that were plentiful with a father who loved him and loved his life on the sea. Then, when Jacobi was young, he and his father were caught in a terrible storm whilst fishing, during which the youth spotted a giant whale - a leviathan - playing in the rough surf. Play that ended with the breaching whale crashing right on top of the small fishing boat; Jacobi awoke washed ashore, scarred, surrounded by debris, and with his father missing.
Years later, Jacobi was commanding a trading galleon called the Sailor's Blessing with his beloved only son Abram when the ship was caught in a tropical storm. On the fourth day, the ship hit something in the water and began to sink, and during the scramble to escape, Abram was swept over the side and vanished. Spotting a leviathan in the storm, Jacobi blamed his son's apparent death on the creature, and in fact convinced himself it was the same whale that had killed his father.
Returning to port, he purchased a new ship, the Retribution, and became a whaler, venting his wrath on whales indiscriminately for the next decade. He was beginning to lose all hope of ever attaining vengeance when he finally encountered the biggest whale he'd ever seen - what he was sure was the leviathan that had killed his father and son. He personally led the hunt and harpooned the beast, only for it turn and smash his boat to pieces. Driven by rage, the wounded Jacobi hauled himself onto the beast by climbing the rope of the embedded harpoon; even as the surviving crew fled, he stabbed the whale over and over again, all the while cursing it, himself and his crew with all his soul... until everything went black.
Then he awoke and found himself on a strange, yet vaguely familiar, island; the land of Whal. A place of whalers who, to his surprise, deferred to him with their problems. He has since figured out he rules Whal, but is cursed to never leave it.
As a Darklord, Jacobi's curse is that he has become a rare oceanic therianthrope: a wereorca. He has distinctly mixed feelings about this form; he acknowledges the appropriateness of it, but he loathes being associated with a whale. He's also been cursed to suffer from intense sea-sickness if he ever sets foot upon a water-borne vessel, so whilst he does enjoy the freedom offered by his alterante form, the fact he can only hunt as an orca means he misses the thrill of commanding his own ship. Whilst normally he has control over this changes, he is forced to assume orca form on the days of his father's and son's deaths, days that are also marked by intense storms.
Perhaps his true curse, however, is that despite his obsession with killing the leviathan he blames for ruining his life, the creature never appears in the waters off of Whal.
When Jacobi closes his borders, the sea parts down to the sea floor, creating a 300ft wide chasm between the two bodies of water. Flight is, of course, impossible. Nothing explicitly prevents you from walking across the chasm and then using water-breathing magic to escape through the water on the other side, though.
Jacobi has no life-preserving powers outside of his immunity to any weapon that isn't +1 or made from whalebone. He is a 16th level Avenger, however, which combined with the aquatic capabilities of his form makes him more dangerous than you'd think.
Darklord of the Lost Wizard's Tower. This male black cat was once the familiar of a transmuter named Margaret Landsdale, a caring and heroic individual, but a slightly neglectful owner, and also too hubristic for her own good. Jinx's journey into damnation began when she decided to use the cat as the test subject for an experiment in increasing the intelligence of animals.
It worked... but it also made Jinx smart enough to realize just how much more there was to Margaret's life than him. He became convinced that she had chosen him as her test subject because she simply didn't care if he lived or died, developing a burning resentment for it. Worse, he became mentally human enough to become convinced that he was in love with Margaret, and to be consumed with jealousy that she had other interests in her life.
When the region where they lived was attacked by barbarians, Jinx went out of his way to assist Margaret, hoping to prove his worth in the hopes that she would come to reciprocate his jealous, obsessive love. She did not. Instead, she fell in love with a young warrior under her command. When she announced their upcoming marriage, he devised and enacted a plan to lead the man Margaret had fallen for to his death in battle. With no spellcasters in the region powerful enough to revive the fallen, Jinx was sure that this would be the end of his "competition".
To Jinx's fury, the death of her betrothed only filled Margaret with rage and suicidal grief. She prepared a super-powerful alchemical explosive, and made a personal assault on the horde's camp. Blind with fury, she waded through the ranks of the enemy, surviving many attacks only because Jinx fought like a hellcat to save her - to the familiar's growing rage as he realized she didn't even notice her efforts. Finally, Margaret planted the explosive, only to be attacked by the horde's leader. Though she defeated him, she was badly hurt in the process, leaving her helpless in the face of the coming explosion.
Jinx tried to pull her to safety, but was too weak to do so. Margaret told him to flee to safety, and expressed her happiness that in dying, she would meet her beloved fiancee in the afterlife. At that, the cat flew into a rage and revealed how he had arranged the warrior's death, blaming his actions on Margaret's decision to give him the curse of reason. Finally, he vowed that Margaret would neither see Jinx's death nor her beloved, raking her eyes with his claws and then fleeing his master, whose screams of pain were swiftly cut off by the explosion.
Unrepentant, yet fearful, Jinx fled all the way back to the tower where he and Margaret once lived, only to find it mysteriously deserted. He has remained there ever since.
Jinx waits endlessly now for people to visit the lost tower, hoping to claim a new master. His first preference is a female wizard, then a female sorcerer, then a female bard or any other arcane spellcasting clas, and then finally a male arcanist. He will do whatever he can to first persuade them to accept his presence, and then separate his chosen master from their former companions. His curse, of course, is that he will always destroy any relationship he establishes - if nothing else, he will end up killing the would-be master when they fail to meet his standards for loving and doting upon him. He prefers to use his retained spells ability, which allows him to cast Flesh to Stone one per day, to "immortalize" failed masters by petrifying them.
Jinx has no specific powers keeping him alive, so if you can kill the little beast, he's done for. He can't even close the borders properly, but instead just summons the Mists; those who flee will find themselves emerging from the mist elsewhere in the Demiplane of Dread.
Warden Jonar Tamh
Darklord of Karss. This Harmonium-sworn male aasimar Fighter joined the Harmonium at a young age, and very quickly moved up the ranks, attaining the position of Mover One at the age of 25. When he was selected to lead the experimental Great Prison of Ortho, a reformation-focused alternative to the Mercykiller-run prison of Sigil, he saw it as a great honor... until it became apparent that the majority of the cynical Sigil-originated prisoners were unwilling to cooperate with the project.
Fearful for his reputation, Jonar Tamh resorted to increasingly brutal and draconian punishments, covering up the ongoing breakdown from his superiors and replacing subordinates who dared to question him. Growing convinced that some force - the Mercykillers, the Revolutionary League, or the agents of evil - was sabotaging the Great Prison, he descended ever-deeper into brutality. Finally, his best friend, the deputy warden Zet Keffen, tried to convince Jonar to return to the Great Prison's original premise; when Jonar refused, he declared he would bring this matter to the Factol of the Harmonium.
Jonar panicked and killed Zet right then and there, covering it up by blaming the murder on two particularly troublesome prisoners and executing them for it.
But Jonar couldn't cover it up forever. Hearing that his superiors were on their way to investigate the prison, and also that there were plans for a mass uprisiong, Jonar gathered 28 of the most outspoken and problematic inmates and hanged them all, one by one. As the last expired, a great hurricane arose from nowhere, forcing the Harmonium guards indoors. When the storm ended, the Great Prison now sat on the barren island of Karss.
Jonar Tamh suffers two major curses. Firstly, although he now has the ability to mentally control large numbers of people at once, he experiences all of the pain and misery of those he is controlling. Secondly, the vengeful spirit of Zet has become bound to Jonar's sword; if Jonar inflicts 12 or more damage with it against a single foe, Zet gains the abilities of a rank 2 ghost for one hour, allowing him to attack his former best friend.
The aasimar darklord cannot close the borders of Karss.
Darklord of Vulnara. This gnome vampire had the misfortune to be born a gnome with no sense of humor. Whilst other gnomes were happily running round, playing stupid pranks and making silly illusions, Kasselheim was stuck fuming over how non-gnomish races didn't treat them with the slightest respect, all whilst the other gnomes reacted to his pleas for them to just try and be a little more serious by pranking him worse than ever. Eventually, he became a Transmuter, bitterly thumbing his nose at a centuries old family radition, and withdrew to the deepest depths of their underground home. Then a few years later, a great flood washed through the gnome community and drove them up onto the surface, and the survivors counted Kasselheim as one of the dead.
They didn't know that Kasselheim had severely blinded and deafened himself in an alchemical explosion during his period of isolation. Nor could they know that many of those presumed dead in the flood were actually kidnapped by Kasselheim, who began experimenting in dark magic to steal their senses for himself, ultimately transforming them into warped monsters called "tactyles". But when they finally began moving back into the tunnels years later, they found out.
They formed a great war party with the aid of elf, dwarf and human adventurers from communities who had also suffered Kasselheim's depredations, and tracked him down to his underground fortress... only to be all but wiped out. Even though former friends (well, they considered themselves to be his friends, at least) and family were amongst the party, Kasselheim killed or captured them all. The last survivor was one of his sisters, a cleric of the gnome gods who threw herself to her death over a cliff whilst cursing him. An earthquake, and Kasselheim was knocked unconscious, rising to discover he had become a unique form of gnomish vampire.
Kasselheim's curse is that he must constantly feed; his stolen senses of sight, hearing, scent and taste dwindle rapidly after feeding, until all that he has left is enough of a sense of touch to register pain. However, because of how fast his senses fade, and the isolated nature of his lair, he is effectively confined to a small part of his domain, and thus must go long, terrible intervals between feedings.
Killing Kasselheim can be done in two ways. First, if he is exposed to sunlight, he becomes incorporeal; if he is kept from fleeing back to his lair for two hours whilst in this form, he dissipates into nothing. Secondly, one can complete a complicated ritual, slightly altered from the traditional gnomish vampire. To achieve his permanent destruction, Kasselheim must first be immobilized by staking him with a silver spike through the heart. Then his hands must be cut off and boiled in a volcanic hot spring for 24 hours, after which his eyes must be gouged out and replaced with precious gems (100gp value minimum for each eye). Finally, his inert body must be carried to some place where it can be exposed to direct sunlight for an hour - but this will revive him in his incorporeal form, so the would-be vampire killer will need to use some method to trap him in the light for the full hour.
The Lady of Ravens
The Darklord of the Isle of Ravens occupies a strange and nebulous position between being a canonical darklord and a netbook darklord. Whilst she was first mentioned in the official splatbook "Domains of Dread", the last TSR-produced iteration of the Ravenloft corebook released to revise the setting in the wake of the Grim Harvest, all of her actual lore expansions have been through netbooks, starting with the Book of Sacrifices - canon simply mentions she existed and left it at that.
According to the Book of Sacrifices, the future Lady of Ravens was born the only child of a noble family who inhabited a massive, decaying castle in a remote corner of their world, scion to a once-great line fallen into steep degeneration through isolation and inbreeding. Her mother died before she could speak, and her father might as well have been dead, spending all his time either deep in a narcotic-induced stupor or drifting through his castle in the same vapid indifference as the ancestral ghosts. With servants who were forbidden by social codes to casually speak to her, she grew up alone and largely in silence, so isolated that she took the fairytales, myths and legends in her castle library to be unvarnished truth. Naturally aloof and disdainful, her circumstances merely shaped her belief that all others were beneath her, strengthening social awkwardness into full-blown narcissism and borderline solipsism.
The only friends she had, for the other children of the castle disliked her and avoided her when they could, were the ravens who inhabited the 400ft tall Tower of Flint, a spire constructed entirely of flint that was the central structure of the castle. Like all her family, the girl could talk to birds, and she fixated upon them as the only other "real" things in her life, spending much of her time telling them stories from the castle's library and hearing their stories in turn.
As she aged, the girl developed innate magical powers to summon, control, transform, create and destroy, which only furthered her budding solipsism. She became convinced that she deserved to have anything she desired, and that she should always be the best at anything she cared for. At the age of eleven, she used the ravens to murder a serving girl by causing her to fall from a high parapet as she was engaging in one of the climbing games so popular amongst the children of the castle, all because she'd overheard the girl's beauty being compared favorably to her own. This was but the first of several "accidents" to bedevil the servants, and it soon became understood that any criticism of its future mistress was best kept to one's self, which only heightened her isolation.
In her late teens, the girl's father died and she retired to the Tower of Flints, rarely emerging. But one day, on one of her rare excursions into the rest of the castle, she saw one of the serving boys, who had grown into the most desirable man of her generation in the castle - handsome, graceful, cheerful and well-spoken. She fell instantly in love, and began to leave the Tower more frequently, hoping to catch glimpses of him and sometimes covertly following him. Naturally, she never once gave thought to the idea that he might not reciprocate her feelings. Soon afterwards, the outside world finally came to the castle in the form of a draft; the heiress's "lover" was amongst the young men who were taken away to fight in a foreign war, and so she spent two years pining for his return, tormenting herself with dreams. When he came home safe and sound, she was ecstatic, refusing to eat or sleep for three days prior to his arrival.
...Naturally, she was less than thrilled when the first thing he did upon his return to the castle was seek out one of the serving girls and carry her off to a secluded spot, where they exchanged vows of undying love and discussed their plans to wed.
Enraged, the narcissistic sorceress fled to the Tower of Flints and whipped up the ravens into a murderous frenzy before setting them upon the young lovers. She watched them die a horrible death at the beaks and claws of her avian friends, then retreated into the tower's depths to weep over how she had been "betrayed".
When she emerged days later, she found the entire castle gone! She now occupied the lone Tower of Flints, which sat upon a lonely island. She could no longer speak to the ravens, although she could now see through their eyes and speak through their mouths, and strangest of all... she couldn't remember her name or the name of her family.
Ever since then, the Lady of Ravens has been left in total isolation. She desperately wants to regain her friendship with the ravens, but can't do so; she is convinced that the cause is because she doesn't remember her name, and so she often sends "agents" (people who dared to land on her island) to search for her name. As a result of these unwilling emissaries, typically magically compelled to obey her, she has amassed quite a library of tomes, parchments and papers on the Demiplane of Dread, especially its folklore and its noble families. Regarding all other beings as nothing more than tools or nuisances, depending on the context, she is more alone than she has ever been in her life.
Those who dare to face the Lady of Ravens are in for a massive struggle. She's an 18th level Sorceress, but she can also polymorph anybody she can see into a raven 1/day, and turn people into ravens with her touch. When she wishes to close the borders, her ravens flock out over the sea and attack anyone who tries to pass, which causes an irresistable 5d4 damage per round unless you turn back. If slain, she remains dead for 1 week, during which time her minions are uncontrolled and her borders unclosable, before a random raven will transform into her. Theoretically, you could kill her for good by wiping out all of the ravens on the island, as fans have theorized is the case with Harkon Lukas.
General Martin Jose Maconda
Darklord of Maconda. This charismatic male human was, from his earliest days, both adept at manipulating others with his natural charm and good looks, prone to surprising moments of generosity, and feared for his grudge-holding, horrifying fits of temper, and trait for cold-blooded manipulation. It came a great surprise to him when he discovered that there were people he could not dominate at will - and worse still, his mixed heritage would forever prevent him from joining the upepr echelon of Manzanillan society.
Thus, out of a mixture of pride and genuine interest, he became involved in the growing revolutionary movement, and ultimately he became the leader of the guerilla forces fighting against the brutal suppressionist forces of Don Santiago de Quijada y Alvarez. When Maconda's beloved wife Isabel died in her childbed as a result of of Don Santiago's cruelty, Maconda went in search of the fearsome Warlok of the Peak, determined to have the power to triumph over his enemies.
And he returned with that power. Only to find, to Maconda's fury, that Don Santiago had died of fever in his sickbed mere hours before the last Royalist troops were defeated. Enraged, he ordered the Royalists massacred, cutting down a priest who dared argue against this behavior, and once the bloodshed was over, he left Resistencia for the mainland of Libertad, vowing never to return - a vow the Dark Powers were happy to fulfill for him.
A year later, he became the president of the Republic, and he soon established himself as a brutal tyrant as bad as the royalists he had overthrown.
The Warlock of the Peak transformed Maconda into a powerful wereanaconda, and despite the many powers his state gives him, Maconda loathes this form, in part because he believes Isabel would be disgusted by it, and also in part because he is compellede to transform into a giant anaconda and feed on human flesh on the night of the new moon. Unusually, he cannot create other wereanacondas with his biter, but those who drink or touch his blood, even if they are spattered with it in combat, risk being turn into either were-fer-de-lanes or were-bushmasters, species of weresnake (treat as Neutral Evil werecobras) native to Libertad and compelled to be loyal to him.
Maconda's curse is that he desperately yearns to be loved and adored, but his insistence upon doing so by repressing and removing all opposition or dissent merely stokes the hatred and fear of those he rules over.
He can be wounded by weapons made of silver or the wood of the caobo tree, and is sickened by both the smell and taste of guavas. If defeated in battle, Maconda doesn't die but instead assumes anaconda form and slithers off into the jungle, unable to regain his human form until the next new moon. There is no known way to permanently destroy him.
Maconda can close the domain borders of his island by causing the jungles and seas to become engulfed in massive swarms of lethally poisonous snakes.
Arcapatos Miguel Agustin
Darklord of Igid Rabi-i. Born to nobility, Miguel harbored a fascination with the exotic and the unique from his earliest day, and his ascendence into the hierachy of the Matherion priesthood of the holy empire was, personally, motivated primarily by the chance to ever expand his collection of exotic goods.
The ultimate birth of Igid Rabi-I began when a native fishing family called the Bacani discovered a strange cloth floating in the ocean, bearing a design that they instantly recognized as their people's now-outlawed elder goddess Angarab, the Great Mother Goddess. They took this relic into their home and began to worship it. News of their discovery inevitably reached Arcapatos Agustin's ears; when he came to look upon the relic, however, he was convinced that it was in fact a depiction of his own Matherion in a lesser-known aspect; the Holy Mother. Religious zeal, glory hunger and collector's lust all awoke in Miguel's heart, and he immediately tried to buy the cloth from the Bacani. But they wouldn't sell at any price.
Enraged, the Arcapatos returned to his post in Tagudin and summoned his Council, who agreed that such an obvious sacred relic must be the property of the Matherion church, and so bargaining was undertaken. But after weeks of steadfast refusal, with the Bacani vowing they would rather die than give up the sacred cloth, the Arcapatos' rage grew too great to contain any longer. Whilst publically presenting himself as patient and uinderstanding, he vowed that he would have the relic, no matter the cost.
Soon after, as a typhoon approached one night, a band of seven assassin-priests crept into the Bacani house. Minutes later, the entire family was dead, down to the smallest child. No sooner had they breathed their last than Arcapatos Agustin began ringing the great bells of the Vestibulo, sounding the call for worship. This was greatly confusing to all the peoples of Igid Rabi-i, both natives and migrant Turonites alike; it was the middle of the night, for Matherion's sake, and there was a typhoon blowing in as well! But obediently they came to the church, and watched as a band of seven priests triumphantly barged through the Vestibulo's main entrance and approached the triumphant Arcapatos Agustin, bearing with them the sacred cloth. As the realization sank in for the people that the Arcapatos would do anything to get what he wanted, Miguel began the ritual of celebration.
The typhoon surged for three days. When it was over, Igid Rabi-I was now part of the Demiplane of Dread. The sun, moon and stars had all dimmed, and monsters began to creep from the shadows. And in his personal collection, Miguel saw the Cloth of Matherion vanish in a cloud of frankincense smoke, and silently vowed that he would never rest until it was recovered.
Arcapatos Augistin has ceased to age since that fatal night, but rarely leaves the Vestibulo, instead forever focusing on chasing down rumors of the Cloth of Matherion's re-emergence amongst the people of Igid Rabi-i. Though his assassins constantly hunt it down, it magically disappears from their grasp whenever they obtain it, no matter how bloodily they do so.
In combat, Miguel is one of the rare darklords with no special life-preserving powers. He's a 14th level Cleric who broadcasts a 20ft aura of fear, he's immune to all Charm spells, and his touch and weapon attacks can both render victims insensate for 2 rounds if they fail a save vs. poison, but aside from that, if you can kill him, he'll stay dead.
Like Strahd von Zarovich, Augustin has borders around both his capital city of Tagudin and around Igid Rabi-i itself. If he wishes to seal the former, the city is blanketed in an aura of fear that compels everyone to flee inside and stay there until he relents. If he wishes to seal the latter, a dense wall of frankinense smoke envelops the domain; anyone who tries to breach it instead falls unconscious a turn later, and then reawakens back inside Igid Rabi-i.
Darklord of the Eternal Torture. Born in a coastal city, Miles was pressganged at the age of 15, which ruined his life; he suffered from incurable seasickness, for which his fellows tormented him mercilessly and the bullying captain only made it worse by assigning him to the worst tasks possible for somebody with his condition, ordering him severely beaten when, inevitably, he threw up. With no aptitude for mathematics, Miles couldn't master the art of navigation, and so couldn't hope to progress to the higher ranks of the navy.
Twenty years of this treatment turned Miles into a bitter, miserable bully who loathed the sea and used what little authority he could get to exact vengeance upon those few below him on the ship's pecking order. Why he never simply fled during his first shore leave, nobody knows.
Eventually, Miles' captain was chosen to make a voyage into the uncharted western ocean, to Miles' dismay. But when the captain continued in pressing on in pursuit of ever-richer islands to the west, it led to the ship becoming lost in the waters and supplies running low. Miles seized this opportunity for revenge and began spreading rumors about the ship's officers hoarding food for themselves, ultimately leading a successful mutiny. When his ineptitude at seamanship led to them being becalmed, he led his mutineers to cannibalize the captured officers, gleefully rubbing their faces in their past abuse of him and coming to relish human flesh.
And then, as this supply of food began to run low, they finally spotted land... but, as they rowed frantcially to reach it, the Mists arose and swallowed the ship. When they cleared, the mutineers found themselves in the middle of a sea in the Demiplane of Dread. Overwhelmed by misery, they sat down and waited for death... and then, a fortnight later, they arose as ghouls under the command of Miles Havelock, a Ghoul Lord, and began searching for food and land.
Miles Havelock suffers multiple curses. Firstly, he can never reach land, no matter how desperately he tries - at best, he can get a brief glimpse of the coast before the Mists immediately rise and teleport his ship elsewhere. Secondly, his seasickness has not only survived undeath, but intensified; he is perpetually seasick and also starving hungry, and these twin pains are why he has rechristened his ship "The Eternal Torture". If destroyed, his essence will inhabit the body of a living prisoner in the ship's hold and consume them from the inside out; the only way to end his curse is to kill him, rescue all of the prisoners, and sink the Eternal Torture, then make for land at full speed.
Darklord of Callista. This male Half-Vistani Bard used his natural charm (and a complexion that allowed him to hide his hated Vistani blood) to swindle innocent women into marriage scams, start feuds amongst noble families for his own amusement, and delve into increasingly cruel and lethal manipulation. The backstory of poor Susannah Joson from Children of the Night: Ghosts is but one example of his misdeeds. When a party of adventurers tried to bring him to justice, he continually slipped away, leaving the bodies of victims in his wake to torment them, and ultimately murdered his pursuers by burning down the inn they were staying in as they slept, which is when the Mists took him.
Rafe now possesses a strange form of immortality; he will always die once per day, no matter what steps he takes to try and avoid it, only to spontaneously return to life the next day. There is no known method to stop him from returning.
When he closes the domain, Callista's borders become a ring of boiling geysers that will kill anyone who passes through them, and which extend as high into the sky as needed to reach anyone trying to fly through.
Don Santiago de Quijada y Alvarez
Darklord of Resistencia. Born the son of a once-great noble family in the Holy Republic of Aragona, Santiago's family had fallen in stature to such a degree that the impoverished patricians had mortaged their lands to the hilt and lived a life barely above that of their peasant tenats. They scrimped and saved to send Santiago to court, but the Don of Quijada found himself a laughing stock, regarded as little better than a jumped up hayseed peasant. This only fueled a lifelong hatred for those lacking in noble blood.
Desperate to try and reclaim the respect he had been taught from birth his family name deserved, Santiago bought a commission in the army. He proved little better here than he had in the court; poor of health, average at best with the sword, and no genius in the command of men or the intricacies of tactics and strategy. His only saving grace was his thoroughness and dedication... but even this went sour, breeding in him an obsession with discipline, cleanliness and presentation, and a love of punishment so extreme that even the Aragonan army considered him a draconian tyrant.
Though Santiago managed to win a few fairly creditable actions early in his career, his faults quickly stole away what his successes had won him, sending him into a self-inflicted downward spiral of ever-worsening behavior and failures as a result. He was appointed as the governor a rebellious backwater province, and only made things worse as he extended the same tyrannical, brutal law he held over his military forces to the population.
Then he was offered the chance to take up governship in a minor overseas colony called Neuva Aragona, which was also currently rebelling. Despite recognizing that this was intended to be a sentence of exile, Santiago accepted, dreaming of reversing his fortunes. Instead, he proved the absolute worst choice for the role; a born-and-bred monarchist with no sympathy for the lot of the peasants, he ignored the legitimate grievances of the rebels and remained fundamentally convinced that the isle of Manzanilla - renamed "Resistencia" by the rebels - was home to a silent majority of good, loyal followers of the kings. Ignoring all opportunities efor a diplomatic solution, he launched into his trademark brutality, which only fueled the rebellious sentiment of the natives.
Among his many atrocities, he took captive the pregnant wife of the rebel leader Martin Jose Maconda, one Isabel de Maconda. Simultaneously smitten with her and repulsed by her loyalty to the rebel's cause, he alternatively cajoled her and brutalized her, culminating in his ordering that she would be permitted no midwife when she went into labor. The birth went bad, and both mother and child died.
All his atrocities were for nothing, ineptitude and his habit of overworking his never-great health led to him dying in his sickbed, on the very day the last of his depleted forced were overwhelmed and Neuva Aragona formally seceded independence. But even as he died, he cursed that the rebels must be defeated at any cost.
Santiago now exists as a ghost, cursed to forever mentally relieve every battle he lost on Resistencia and see with perfect clarity how he could have won. And, of course, he's also cursed that no matter how he schemes and plots, on those rare moments he tears himself away from his biter memories and dreams of glory to actually try and do something, his plans to re-conquer Manzanilla are doomed to fail.
If defeated in battle, Santiago reforms in his burial chamber below Castillo Ascension, although he remains trapped there until the next full moon. The only way he can be destroyed is if his personal sword is stolen from this chamber and used to deliver the death blow in combat.
When he closes the borders, the sea surrounding Resistencia takes on an eerie, unnatural calm; sailing ships cannot move, and rowers will find that they simply can't get more than a half-mile away from the coast.
Sean Mako & Alice/Alison Marjory
Darklords of Carcharodon Isle. Sort of a combination of Ladyhawke and the Little Mermaid. Over a century ago, a male human fisherman named Sean Marko lived in the village of Mistlington. One day, he discovered an injured mermaid washed up on the isle's northwest shore, unconscious and bleeding from several wounds, including a severed left hand. Unable to turn away from someone in need, he brought her to his home and nursed her back to health. The mermaid, whose name translated into Common as "Alice", explained that she was the only survivor of a tribe that had been slaughtered by sahuagin.
The two fell in love, much to the displeasure of the locals; the fishermen thought Sean was foolish for pining over a mermaid, and their wives were jealous of Alice's beauty, leading to them slandering her and Sean's relationship as "unnatural". Ultimately, a bunch of the village's men took it upon themselves to "repatriate" Alice; they came to Sean's house in the night, bludgeoned him unconscious, and carried Alice away. When Sean regained consciousness, he rowed desperately to catch up to them, but by the time he did so, they'd thrown the still-bound mermaid overboard.
Enraged, Sean snatched up a boathook and attacked the men who had assaulted him and the woman he loved, butchering them. When the carnage was over, he dove into the water after Alice, and then begged the full moon above for a fins and a tail so he might never be separated from his love.
Naturally, the Dark Powers chose to be dicks about granting this wish...
Both Sean and the revived Alice, now a human calling herself Alison Marjory, have become maledictive therianthropes.
Sean is a giant wereshark who spends most of the month as an intelligent megalodon, unaware that he can transform and remembering nothing of his human life; only during the nights of the full moon and those nights directly before and after it does he return to his human form... which remembers everything he did as a giant killer shark. Because of his curse-spawned ignorance, the only way that shark!Sean can transform is if he is magically compelled to do so, such as by an Amulet of the Beast. He spends his days asleep and his nights hunting for food.
In contrast, Alison is a seawolf who spends most of the month as a human, but assumes her seawolf form on the nights before, during and after the full moon - the same nights when Sean regains his humanity. Like Sean, as a seawolf, she is completely ignorant of her human life. She keeps to herself, for the people of the isle still distrust and dislike her, gladly telling the nastiest stories they can think of about her to anyone who'll listen.
Neither darklord can be slain permanently through violence; they fully heal and return to life 1 round after being defeated. They also can't close the domain's borders, although since the only local vessels are small fishing boats that are no match for a giant shark or a massive seafaring wolf, they don't need to do much more than patrol the borders themselves.
Curing them simply requires breaking the curse by getting them to touch as humans, but doing so is tough; aside from the fact that they alternate human and monster forms, neither is aware of the fact that the other survives. Whichever of them is in beast form also refuses to get within 10 feet of the other one. They also won't willingly get within 5 feet of an Amulet of the Beast. So players are going to have to get creative to break their curse.
Darklord of Romagna. Serenissa (female human spectre) was born an orphan; her father, a miller's son, was killed soon after her conception, and her peasant girl mother died in birthing her. She was taken in the local lord to serve as companion to his two daughters, but their initial friendship soured as they came of age and Serenissa realized the social gap between them. At the age of twelve, she was sent to the family of a neighboring lord to become a nursemaid to that lord's newly born twin children; Serenissa doted upon the children, and happily threw herself into their care.
However, she also became increasingly obsessed with fanciful daydreams about her origins, fixating on the belief that she was actually of noble birth and that her parents were both alive and desperately seeking her. She loved to tell these stories to her two charges... until the eve of their fourth birthdays, when, at the top of the Eagle's Tower, the two young children scolded her for lying and corrected her that she was nothing more than the bastard daughter of a simpleton and a millerboy, both of whom had died. Mad with rage, especially when the twins revealed that everyone in the castle claimed that this was so, she pushed them off of the tower to their deaths.
Her skill at lying allowed her to escape being blamed for what she described as a terrible accident. For two weeks she festered on the idea that people were "slandering her" behind her back, and finally, two months after the day she had murdered the twins, she set a fire in the Great Hall that night, killing everyone in the castle.
Slinking away from the carnage, she made her way to the barony of Romagna, where she seduced her way into both a respectable position as lady's maid to the younger sister of Baron Etain and into the arms of Baron Etain himself. After several months of dalliance, he gifted her with a gemstone brooch... and then announced his upcoming marriage to the Lady Fialle, daughter of a neighboring lord, the very next day.
This pushed Serenissa over the edge and soon thereafter, she drew Baron Etain to a high tower, where she grabbed him and leapt off the edge, intending that they die together so she would not live alone.
But this time, with the interference of the Dark Powers, her scheme failed. Serenissa hit the ground and was killed on impact, but her body cushioned Etain's fall, and so he lived. The madwoman's spirit rose from its grave as a ghost, trapped in an endless time loop; Romagna experiences only a single year, constantly recycling itself. It starts one week before the equinox Spring Festival, when Fialle arrives in Romagna for her upcoming wedding to Baron Etain. That week is spent in feasts and celebrations, capped off by a three-day non-stop revelry for the weding proper. Then, six months later, Fialle conceives Etain's child. And then, one week before the first anniversary of the wedding, time looks back and it is the week before the Spring Festival again.
Furthering Serenissa's torment, she is completely incapable of physically interacting with the people of Romagna, although she can manipulate their emotions despite the fact they cannot see, hear or touch her. She uses her emotional control to turn them into her agents of retribution, although she can't turn them against Etain or Fialle. This ability is defined vaguely, because she herself hasn't really studied her full capabilities with it.
Only visitors to Romagna are in true danger from Serenissa, because she is fully visible and audible to them, although still intangible. She invariably attempts to seduce the handsome male visitors to the domain, luring them away if they prove receptive to try and embrace them - doing so, however, results in her draining 1 level per 2 rounds, causing them to disintegrate... but if they break free, she attacks.
Serenissa is vulnerable to holy water, +2 or stronger magic weapons, and functional weapons made of gold. She is impervious to holy symbols, but can be turned with symbols of true love and matrimony - for example, the wedding rings of people who are actually married. If destroyed, she can reform at Etain and Fialle's wedding. Exactly ho to destroy her permanently is left vague, with her entry in the Book of Sorrows concluding with this paragraph:
- Weapons forged from symbols of love (such as rings, charms, wooden wands, or ceremonial ropes used to bind a man and woman together at their wedding) may have greater effect, rendering her helpless or immobile. Her final death is likely to involve elements of her first experience; rejection, a long fall, and/or a noble lover. Heroes should beware, though—the dark powers may look with interest upon anyone who willingly transforms a symbol of love into a weapon of war.
Sir Trevor Godwyn "The Mirror Man"
Darklord of Vultharesk. There are many crimes that can earn one the unwanted title of Darklord. The ranks of the tormented "rulers" of the Demiplane of Dread include murderers of all stripes, countless variations of cannibals and torturers and sadists, and more than a few implicit rapists. But Sir Godwyn belongs to a particularly small but repugnant group: the authoritarian moral guardians.
Sir Godwyn was born on a realm far removed from the Mists, to what was basically a pastiche of the Victorian British Empire; a highly technological advanced nation that began a far-reaching campaign of imperialist expansion, justifying its efforts all the while as being "for the sake of the heathens" - in their propaganda, their efforts were to bring civilization and "proper" behavior to the unfortunates beyond their boundaries, by any means necessary.
The damnation of Sir Godwyn began when he and his entire extended family were sent to a small mountain town called Vultharesk, which lay upon the very fringes of the empire's territory at the time. A true believer in the "noble cause", Sir Godwyn was assigned as the town's military governor and took to his role with brutal dictatorship, demanding execution for not only the traditional capital offenses, but all manner of moral offenses, from adultery and worship of the proscribed non-Imperial deities down to lying. Ten years, Sir Godwyn held court, determined to civilize the people of Vultharesk even if it meant killing them all himself. And then he met Olyana Volienska: a beautiful native woman.
Despite the fact they were both married, Sir Godwyn lusted after Olyana, and within weeks he succumbed to temptation and began an illicit affair with her - one that Olyana went along with in hopes of using this to seduce a better life for herself and her family. After only a handful of trysts, however, her husband suspected her of cheating on him, and managed to find her out. He didn't discover who Olyana's lover was, but he found enough to prove her guilt, and he dragged her to Sir Godwyn's court, demanding the "lord's justice". Terrified that his hypocrisy might be revealed, Trevor Godwyn agreed immediately, and executed her on the spot.
That evening, however, when Sir Godwyn glanced up at his mirror from his washbasin, he saw not his own reflection, but the shocked, accusing visage of Olyana. For months, every reflective surface in Sir Godwyn's view depicted Olyana's face, although only to him, and the haunting drove him increasingly mad. He became more vicious and brutal a ruler than ever before, executing dozens for imaginary transgressions and slaughtering Olyana's entire family in an effort to end the curse. Naturally, it failed.
Six months after Olyana's execution, damnation finally claimed Trevor Godwyn. On an unusually foggy summer's eve, as mists poured in from the mountain's peak and smothered Vultharesk, Trevor snapped and demanded his wife come to his room and look into the mirror. But when she told him that she saw nothing but their reflections, as she had done a hundred times before, Trevor grabbed her and began ramming her face into the glass over and over again, shattering the mirror and fatally cutting her to pieces on the jagged glass, all the while screaming at her to open her eyes and look. And then, once he had smashed the mirror to pieces and dropped his wife's corpse on the floor, he realized that Olyana still stood in the now empty, jagged shard-lined framed. He had time for one final scream as she reached out, grabbed him by the throat, and pulled him into the mirror.
Ever since then, Trevor Godwyn has become the curse of Vultharesk. The citizens do not remember he once ruled over them, and his living relatives do not believe the "Mirror Man" is anything other than a phantom cooked up by their superstitious followers; they cannot see his face when it appears in the reflective surfaces of their domain, and he is either unable or unwilling to haunt them the way he does everybody else.
Sir Godwyn is now condemned to a life as a phantom inside of a hazy, mist-shrouded netherworld, only able to perceive the mortal world by peering through reflective surfaces, forever haunted by Olyana's sobs. To try and distract himself, he flits from reflection to reflection, looking for any who might dare to commit even the most mild of immoral acts. He punishes these individuals by afflicting them with a curse of misfortune for so long as they remain in Vultharesk - and if they ever get near a reflective surface large enough, Trevor Godwyn can step forth into the material world and attempt to banish them into the mirror world forever.
When manifesting, Sir Trevor Godwyn is a unique kind of spectral undead. He appears as a tall man dressed in a black, high-collared and longtailed frock coat trimmed in silver, with matching leather boots and pants of midnight blue. His hair, hovering on the border between blond and white, is pulled back tightly into a tail; his eyes are an utterly empty shade of icy blue. Though traces of the handsome man he once was can still be seen in his sharp features, his face now appears to be that of a man dead by starvation; skin is pulled tight over his skull, as though most of the muscle and flesh were sucked out from beneath it. Unless he actively wills it into some other expression, the tightness of his skin constantly pulls his mouth into a rictus grin.
Once he manifests, Sir Godwyn can be slain, but he can only be harmed by weapons that aren't reflective - anything made of metal will have no effect on him unless it has been dyed, blackened or otherwise made unreflective. There is no known means of killing him permanently; he will reform at the next full moon. One possibility might be exposing his history to the people of Vultharesk, robbing him of his twisted position as enforcer of morality.
Fortunately for those who have angered Godwyn, he can only close Vultharesk's borders during the 12 hours he is permitted to remain in the material world after banishing a rule-breaker. When he does close the borders, they flood with mist, and any who try to flee the village instead find themselves spat back out at their initial entry point.
Urdogen "The Red"
Darklord of The Raging Tears. Male Human Spectre. In life, Urdogen (who first appeared in the Forgotten Realms splat "Pirates of the Fallen Stars") was basically Faerun's version of Blackbeard - if Blackbeard was a redhead. He terrorized the Inner Sea so badly that the nations of that region united to defeat his fleet, whereupon Urdogen fled and found himself spirited away by the Mists into the Sea of Sorrows... where he promptly hit a hidden reef and sank his ship, drowning.
Ever since then, Urdogen's ghostly vessel has sailed all the seas of the Misty Realm, cursed to never be able to come within sight of land and only able to rise from his watery grave during the nocturnal hours. Further stymying his desperate desire to reclaim his former reputation as a fearsome pirate lord, any who encounter Urdogen and live to tell the tale are cursed to forget his name.
To put an end to Urdogen, the ruin of the Raging Tears must be hauled up from the seafloor and carried inland, where it must then be burned completely to ash in a funeral pyre.
Interestingly, Urdogen's ghostly ship is actually able to return to the Inner Sea of Faerun on moonless, foggy nights in his homeworld, although he must return to the Misty Realms upon dawn.
If Urdogen chooses to close the borders of his traveling domain, the waters around his ship become rough and infested with a feeding frenzy of sharks; those who try to fly away will instead find themselves sinking into the water.
Virindus, the God Below, otherwise known as what you get if you combine the story of Atlantis with The Call of Cthulhu, is the Darklord of the Drowning Deep, which comprises the undersea portions of the Nocturnal Sea in Ravenloft (kind of like how Captain Pieter van Riese is the Darklord of the Sea of Sorrows, Virindus is the Darklord of the Nocturnal Sea in general). Once a megalomaniacal high priest of Oceanus in the island city of Xalot (pronounced SHAY-lot), he wished to become a deity himself, and tried to enact a plan to become the greatest god of his pantheon, ascending with the power of unholy rites and repeated human sacrifices. Naturally, Oceanus was horrified by this and sunk Xalot with earthquakes and tsunamis to stop him, which both did and didn't work. The underwater ruins of Xalot, along with Virindus himself, were pulled into Ravenloft by the Dark Powers to the bottom of the Nocturnal Sea, and Virindus would never bother anyone on the Prime Material again. On the other hand, Oceanus was just a little too late, and Virindus was able to complete his apotheosis into an ageless "nightmare of flesh."
Unfortunately for Virindus, his ascension also both did and didn't work, which is unsurprising as it was twisted by the Dark Powers. It turned him into a god, sure, but not the type of god he'd envisioned being. Virindus wanted to be worshipped and adored, and to exercise power over entire worlds. Instead, the Dark Powers left him as D&D's Cthulhu-equivalent and trapped him inside his indestructible sunken temple, which in turn left him unable to directly influence the outside world, and leaving him loved by no one (except perhaps the sort of crazies he doesn't want anywhere near him).
Given their penchant for cruel irony, the Dark Powers also "gifted" Virindus with several supernatural weaknesses. First, he has no power to supernaturally Close the Borders of his domain short of sending his mind-controlled sea creatures and fearful worshippers among the undersea races to patrol them. Second, his temple prison will remain indestructible so as long as at least one worshipper of Oceanus remains alive (who could have been dragged into Ravenloft as well, depending on how your DM wants to run a campaign centred around Virindus), and in any case, transmutation magic that would normally allow him to shrink in size enough to escape through the doors of his temple prison will simply fail to work on Virindus. Third, any weapons blessed or wielded by a Cleric of Oceanus will deal damage that he can't regenerate, as will light-based damaging spells (fitting his nature as a creature of the lightless depths). Unless or until he meets his permanent end at one of these methods, however, Virindus will remain a shadowy figure trying in vain to expand his worship among the surface and undersea races, megalomaniacally scheming away to try and either raise Xalot to the surface, or otherwise drag all the surface into his dark territory.
As part of its general overhaul of the Demiplane of Dread, 5th edition added a significant number of new darklords - some to replace former darklords, others ruling over brand new domains. Darklords who simply got retconned backstories and other traits have those details added to their entries above. Quite a few of these characters don't have much info on them due to being only mentioned in the "Other Domains of Dread" section of the book, most of which only have a single paragraph dedicated to their domain and darklord.
One trait common to most 5e darklords is that the personalized domain border closures of the past are largely gone; there might be cosmetic tweaks or some extra mechanical effects, but in general most 5e Domains of Dread all function the same when a person tries to escape through a closed border.
The replacement Darklord of Valachan, and one of the few 5e darklords to explicitly continue on in some fashion from the setting as it existed before. A female werepanther, Chakuna belongs to a tribe of werecats (specifically panthers and ocelots) called the Oselo, whom were hunted to the brink of extinction by Baron Urik von Kharkov, as he had come to fixate upon them as the most intriguing and challenging quarry. (Nevermind that Urik was originally "Blacula Strahd" with no real interest in "hunting the most dangerous game".) To save her people, she went to the literal heart of the domain and performed an unholy rite, cutting out her own heart and offering it to the land as sacrifice in exchange for the power to defeat Urik. Long story short, it worked; she ripped out his heart, tore him to pieces, and buried his still-living and curse-spewing head in the ruins of his castle before building her own treetop hunting lodge atop the ruins. Which is actually kind of badass. But now the jungle has become hungrier than ever, and she must regularly sacrifice human hearts to the land to keep the plants and animals from slaughtering all the Valachani (shades of the Wildlands, there), which she obtains through the "Trials of the Heart" - ceremonially hunting down designated victims with the aid of trained Displacer Beasts. She won't touch a fellow Oselo, but everybody else is fair game.
Chakuna can only be killed if her heart is found in the secret grove where she performed her dark rite and destroyed, but unless somebody assumes her mantle in the process, then the jungle will be free to kill everyone.
Currently very little is known about Flimira Vhage other than that their domain is the office of a detective agency which is actually an extension of their own broken mind.
While this character is really just a reimagining of Jaqueline Renier, her marginally different name means she's technically a new character and gets her own section here. Plus, besides being a wererat, she has almost nothing in common with the original Jaqueline anyway.
A century ago, Richemulot was a prosperous nation with a growing middle class. As the commoners began to gain more wealth and power, it caused the influence of the nobility to wane, a fact that Jacqueline Renier did not like. As her family seemed oblivious to the threat this posed, she began to look allies and heard of the Trueblood Council, a secret society of Richemulot’s eldest and most esteemed families. She spent a fortune finding a way to attain membership to the council, but discovered they were not actually nobles, but wererats. That same night, she was inducted into their ranks.
Renier swiftly accepted her new life as a wererat, her scorn for commoners expanding to include all non-wererats. Her first major act consisted of conferring the gift of lycanthropy upon her family. Only her twin, Louise, resisted, for which Jacqueline disfigured her and cast her out. Within the sewers of Pont-a-Museau, the wererats concocted a roiling pestilence known as the Gnawing Plague, which swept through the population. The disease wiped out the nation's rulers and all other nobles save for the Reniers, and eventually Jacqueline stood as the highest-born noble in the land, and the nation’s de facto leader.
Though the people begged her to help them, she let them all die, deeming them unworthy due to their poverty and low birth. As the last human soul expired in Pont-a-Museau, the Mists rose, drawing Richemulot into the Domains of Dread.
Her curse is that despite all of the atrocities she committed to cling to power and influence, she is never able to really enjoy the benefits of her status. She has pretty much no free time since she needs to constantly keep working to manage her country and concoct new plagues to keep the people from getting uppity, and even if she had the time to enjoy any luxuries, most of the people who would be able to provide her with them have all died from the plague.
The Inheritors of Darkon
Similar to what happened during Grim Harvest, Darkon currently has multiple Darklords while Azalin is missing. Specifically, there's only three of them this time.
"Baron" Alcio Metus is a female vampire, and the sister of Baron Metus - the vampire who got Van Richten started on his monster-killing path. Having risen to rule the criminal underworld of the Jagged Coast region, driving out her former Kargat masters in the process, Alcio burns with the desire for revenge against Van Richten for killing her brother. Not helping is that she's occupied Van Richten's ancestral home of Richten House and found that Van Richten's wife Ingrid still lingers as a ghost - but one who refuses to help Alcio in her quest for vengeance.
Cardinna Artazas, the thrice-reincarnated leader of an elfin mystery cult in Nevuchar Springs, has damned her soul in the name of good: desperate to preserve Darkon, she has striven to revive the spirit of Darcalus Rex, the king who reigned over Darkon prior to the coming of Azalin. Unfortunately, all she has called forth is a necrichor, and she must constantly weigh her belief that what she is doing serves "the greater good" against the very real demands that the undead tyrant makes for ever-greater magical reagents and sacrifices.
Finally, Madame Talisveri Eris is an elderly but vibrant and intelligent aristocrat who accidentally made herself permanently invisible whilst seeking to make herself look younger. She uses her invisibility to her advantage, having created an array of different identities that she assumes through costumes and cosmetics. She's currently built up a cult amongst the younger members of Il Aluk's nobility, offering them an elixir on the night of the new moon that makes them invisible until dawn and then sending them out to commit crimes and mayhem that advance her cause.
Because none of them are true darklords yet, none of them have specific curses.
Isolde & Nepenthe
Like the original Isolde, the 5e Isolde is an eladrin paladin, though this one was an adventurer who battled dragons and demons that threatened the Feywild. This unknowingly led her into the machinations of Zybilna, an evil archfey who had lost a number of fiendish allies to Isolde and her companions. Zybilna called upon her remaining pacts to arrange for a powerful incubus called "The Caller" (5e's retconned version of the Gentleman Caller) to corrupt and slaughter Isolde's companions; once that was done, the archfey stepped in and exploited Isolde's vulnerable state to become her "new best friend". She arranged for Isolde to become the guardian of a traveling fey carnival that also concealed a portal to Zybilna's realm... then, when Isolde began to tire of this role and their relationship grew strained, she secretly warped Isolde's mind with magic to ensure that Isolde would always prioritize the needs of the Carnival over her own wants. Even so, this wasn't enough to keep Isolde bound to Zybilna's reins. When Isolde encountered a traveling carnival from the Shadowfell managed by shadar-kai, she made a pact with its twin managers to trade ownership of their carnivals, but only until next the two carnivals met. The shadar-kai agreed, and gave her the magical sword Nepenthe as symbol of her new status as owner and champion - but that wasn't enough for Zybilna. She used her magic to erase Isolde's memories of all things relating to Zybilna, and also sent fey creatures to forever follow and harass Isolde's new carnival.
To make things worse, Nepenthe was a cursed blade; an intelligent Holy Avenger used to execute thousands of criminals, not all of whom were actually guilty, the blade had developed a deep craving for bloodshed in the name of justice. In Isolde, it found an easily manipulated host; it awoke her memories of the Caller, and stoked her desire for retribution. In many ways, it could be considered the "true" darklord of the Carnival, especially given how Isolde constantly struggles to resist its naked, insatiable need to kill.
Isolde's curse, then, is to wrestle with both the imperatives of Zybilna and those of Nepenthe; she craves vengeance, but finds herself forever stymied by her need to tend to the ever-growing Carnival's need, as well as fearing that she may one day encounter the Carnival's true owners and be forced to relinquish it back to them. Explicitly, she could be saved if Nepenthe was taken from her, but its grip on her mind means she would refuse to abandon it.
Darklord of Klorr. We know nothing about this darklord, but the name is taken from a character who appeared in the original Red Box; a clockwork-obsessed planeswalker mage who was infuriated that he couldn't synchronize and control his heart the way he could his clockwork creations. He made assorted dark bargains and ultimately came to rest in the Demiplane of Dread, where he produced four cursed timepieces: the Water Clock of Klorr, the Moondial of Klorr, the Hourglass of Klorr, and his final work: the Timepiece of Klorr. This cursed pocketwatch gave Klorr extended life and increased arcane power, but required him to regularly charge it with murder, an impulse he succumbed to. It ultimately killed him when he failed to sacrifice a life to it on time.
The Timepiece of Klorr is given mechanical stats in the "Forbidden Lore" boxed set. Klorr's other works are statted in "Forged of Darknes":
- The Water Clock lets the user transform into a water elemental, but might kill them in the process and also might leave them permanently trapped in elemental form.
- The Moondial grants powers based on the phase of the moon, but slowly transforms the user into a light-averse monster.
- The Hourglass can grant the user Improved Haste for 1 hour, but will age them 1d10 years and might also leave them under the effects of Slow for 24 hours after being used.
The Last Passenger
Darklord of The Mourning Rail. Nothing is known about this Darklord other than they were a VIP that delayed a train escaping from The Mourning, and threw out a bunch of passengers to make room for their self and their retinue, dooming the train, and they are now an undead being of some kind trapped on the train with the rest of the undead passengers.
Mentioned only in passing as the Darklord of the revised Nova Vaasa, she's basically a female Genghis Khan with a dash of Jekyll & Hyde; she was originally a female chieftain who united the nomadic plains-dwelling tribes of Nova Vaasa into a single culture, but she proved to be a terrible peacetime leader because she craved bloodshed and excitement. She tried to stave off her boredom with, quote, "brutal games" for a time, but ultimately she couldn't resist the thrill of war: she began fostering disputes amongst her vassal tribes so she had an excuse to lead her forces to crush both sides. This eventually got her claimed by the mists, and now she switches between two personas and possibly two bodies: as Mya Hiregaard, she rules with "strict fairness", but when she gets too bloodlusty, she transforms into her alter-ego of Malken and "sows discord across the plains".
...Whatever else you may think of it, at least it's more justified than Tristren "My dad got cursed and died, so I inherited his curse and became a Darklord without ever having to do anything to actually earn it" Hiregaard.
Pietra van Riese
A gender-swapped version of Pieter van Riese and the darklord of the Sea of Sorrows. Not much is known about her due to being in the "Other Domains of Dread" section, and therefore only getting one paragraph to herself. She was a ruthless pirate with a fondness for keelhauling her victims, and now she's a ruthless zombie pirate who speaks through the mouths of her undead crew.
Darklord of Kalakeri. Ramya was hand-picked by her father, the last ruler of Kalkeri, to succeed him, but when he died, her brother Arijani contested her claim, leading to a brief civil war. Ramya would have killed Arijani then and there, but their sister Reeva counseled mercy, and Ramya conceded, not really wanting to kill her brother anyway. She enjoyed a brief period of unchallenged leadership, bringing a golden age to Kalakeri, but all the while Reeva was working behind her back to build up support for Arijani, culminating in her freeing Arijani and launching a second civil war. Enraged, Ramya suppressed the rebellion with brutal methods, executing captured rebel ranas and executing them in horrifically inventive methods that only made the people distrust her more and furthered the fighting. At the second war's climax, Arijani and Reeva sued for peace and Ramya agreed... only to be captured by her treacherous siblings and murdered. Before the court strangler garotted her in the central courtyard of her own palace, Ramya cursed her siblings as bloodthirsty beasts.
Once it was done, Arijani and Reeva further disrespected their sister by throwing her body into the ocean... an act that resulted in a terrible monsoon lashing Kalakeri for weeks. And then, when it was done, Ramya rose from her watery grave and marched on her former siblings, followed by an ever-swelling army of undead soldiers made up of all her loyal warriors who had fought and died for her. This time, Ramya showed no mercy, capturing her siblings and having them crushed to death by undead elephants.
This civil war is the primary curse that Ramya experiences, with three secondary elements. Firstly, despite knowing better, Ramya is the sentimental sort, and so always remains vulnerable to the lies and deceptions of her siblings, which prevents her from truly ending the war. Secondly, Ramya's direct control over the domain is tied to her being seated in the Sapphire Throne, the symbol of Kalakeri's ruler; if the rebels oust her from the Cerulean Citadel, then her dominion diminishes until she can reclaim it. The final curse she labors under is the fact that, despite being shrouded in an illusion of life, Ramya knows that she's actually undead, and this is apparent in her reflection, so she bans mirrors from her presence. That said, she is willing to confide this secret to adventurers who show nothing but absolute loyalty to her, unlike her siblings who will never willingly reveal their true nature to anybody.
The future darklord Saidra grew up on a tiny farm, raised by her widower father, who filled her head with stories of her noble bloodline - he claimed to be a duke that had been ousted from his rightful throne by a vicious younger brother. Life was hard, especially as Saidra's sincere belief in her father's stories meant she alienated her peers, and only got worse when Saidra's father married a prosperous merchant woman with two daughters from her previous marriage, all of whom tormented Saidra and forced her to work as their personal servant, ala Cinderella. One day, a nearby duke perished, and when Saidra wondered if it had been her father's evil little brother, she was forced to confront the cruel truth: her father's stories had all been a pack of lies, and he was nothing more than a common-born servant who had fled to save his neck after trying to nick silverware from the duke's kitchen.
Saidra went to her mom's grave to beg her mother's spirit for help, which was when a "kind, grandmotherly figure" appeared and granted Saidra her wish, clothing her in a magnificent gown and fine jewelry before conjuring a stately carriage to carry her to the masquerade ball that was being held to celebrate the coronation of the new duke. We don't know who this figure was, but it's interesting to note that Saidra's version of Dementlieu contains a hag coven who basically love to pretend to be Fairy Godmother figures so they can mess with people. Anyway, off Saidra went to the ball, plotting to kill the new duke and claim his title. When she got there, she swiftly seduced the new duke, so successfully that she began contemplating if it mightn't be better to wed the duke instead. Things were going smashingly... until the clock chimed midnight and the whole party began dropping dead of a sudden, fast-acting plague, which rather put a downer on things. The kicker, for Saidra, was as she and the duke lay dying in each other's arms and he confessed that he wasn't noble-born, but instead a commoner who had been adopted by the previous duke. In fact, he was actually Saidra's long-lost brother.
Enraged at this second "betrayal", Saidra stabbed her brother in the heart with the last of her strength and then tried to stagger away from the corpse, only to collapse dead on the stairs leading into the palace.
And then she woke up as a wraith, the new spectral queen of Dementlieu, a shabby and impoverished town whose populace struggle to fake the appearance of being more important than they truly are, all the while risking Saidra's deadly wrath: she hates pompous fools who pretend to be what they aren't, aspire to higher station than they deserve, and fail to maintain the appearance of normalcy.
...Well, yeah, she wouldn't be a darklord if she wasn't at least a little bit of a hypocrite, now would she?
Saidra is a wraith who has the ability to launch free Disintegrates at anyone who reveals themselves to be lying about who they are in her presence - we don't know much more than that, mechanically. She lives in constant terror of being exposed as a fraud herself, and in fact she can only be killed permanently if she is revealed to be a fraud first. Related to that, she lives in terror that her hated stepmother and stepsisters are still alive somewhere in Dementlieu. Finally, almost tangentially, her status as a wraith means her beloved masquerade balls are a complete waste of time, as she can't enjoy any of the physical pleasures associated with them.
Darklord of the Ashram of Niranjan, Sarthak is an evil bronze dragon who poses as a mystic named Niranjan. He send agents into the Mists bearing his philosophical writings, which promise escape, peace, and enlightenment to any who adopt their teachings. Anyone who comes to his monastery is told that they must divest themselves of worldly goods, which are added to Sarthak’s hidden hoard. Sarthak then helps his victim enter a blissful trance that causes their soul to slip away from their body over the course of days. Sarthak consumes this soul and replaces it with a shadow, leaving the victim’s body under his control.
There's no indication of what his curse might be, since he's in the "Other Domains of Dread" section of the book and as such only gets a single paragraph to himself. That said, it wouldn't be entirely out of the blue to imagine that he might be a Shadow Dragon or Dracolich, considering his ability to eat people's souls or replace them with shadows.
Basically, she's Victor Mordenheim but a woman... what, that's not good enough? Alright...
Viktra Mordenheim was born the daughter of a minor noble family, as well as a natural prodigy in medicine - she taught herself anatomy as a child, and by the time she was a teenager she held a doctorate and had been appointed as a preeminent researcher at a local university. For all her genius, however, Viktra was arrogant, not to mention completely lacking in empathy, compassion and moral qualms. To her, medicine was just a way to sate her burning curiosity about the secrets of life. Also, she hated magic, regarding it as as "stealing the powers of otherworldly beings and cheating the laws of nature", and thus inferior to SCIENCE!
In the best Frankenstein tradition, she grew obsessed with the idea that she could not merely mend the sick, but actively create and even improve upon life. So she began hiring the services of bodysnatchers to provide her with fresh human cadavers for her research. This is how she met Elise; amazingly, the cold, aloof methodical surgeon and the beautiful but reckless and spontaneous body snatcher became infatuated with each other, and the two women's relationship swiftly changed from professional to personal. When Elise contracted an incurable wasting disease, Mordenheim became obsessed with saving her, and her experiments increased in numbers - she also began having living victims actively kidnapped for her experiments. Through countless murders, resurrections and remurders, Viktra honed her knowledege. Finally, as Elise fell into the deep sleep that marked the final stages of the disease, Viktra poured everything she had learned from a thousand deaths into saving a single life, crafting and installing the Unbreakable Heart: an artificial super-organ.
But just as she was stitching the fabulous device into place, constables burst into her lab, accusing her of being behind the recent string of kidnappings and murders. In the struggle, the lab caught fire and flooded with acrid chemical smoke: Mordenheim's last vision was of Elise rising from her table, a golden light glowing in her chest where the Unbreakable Heart had been installed.
When Mordenheim came to, she was in a strange, icy realm called "Lamordia", where she was hailed as the greatest genius ever, but there was no sign of Elise.
Viktra's torments largely center around Elise and the Unbreakable Heart; she can neither recreate the Heart on her own, but nor can she find Elise to study it again. Secondary to this curse is that she is showered with the love, respect and attention of Lamordia, whose people view her as a luminary savior; to Mordenheim, they are incomprehensible, and she loathes their constant distractions from her work.
In a nameless world, in a land torn between myriad bitterly feuding royal families, the woman named Vladeska Drakov was a skilled fighter and general, a mercenary who came to be known as the Crimson Falcon, the leader of a well-regarded mercenary army called the Falcon's Talons. Business was profitable, and Vladeska was raking in the loot, with dreams of retiring young, cashing in her wealth and reputation to buy land and a title. Then came the sacking of Veivere, where the Talons accidentally killed a very important figure. So important that the entirety of the aristocracy took up arms against the Talons, determined to kill them all for it. Well, Vladeska had no intention of just rolling over and dying, and she launched a bloody counter-attack that soon turned into a crushing campaign of conquest; her forces swept through the land, replenishing themselves with conscripted peasants and wiping out everyone stupid enough to stand against them. Vladeska made a point of impaling everybody with even the slightest drop of aristocratic blood that she caught alive. Through years of bloody effort, she became the ruler of an empire that stretched over the former patchwork nation, but as she crushed the last defiant village, the smoke engulfed Vladeska and her most elite warriors.
They found themselves in a new realm, and after swiftly conquering its capital city, Vladeska declared herself Empress of Falkovnia. Which was when she found the downside of her rule... namely, the armies of zombies that would attack her new kingdom every month with the rising of the new moon.
Vladeska's curse, obviously, is the zombie attacks, which press her to her limit as she struggles to throw back the dead and preserve what she has, but it goes deeper than that. Firstly, she suffers a horrible sensation of recognition; every zombie, to her, seems to be the animate corpse of one of her victims or her fallen soldiers, filling her with the gnawing belief that the dead are coming for her specifically. Secondly, no matter what scheme or ploy she tries, the result is always Phyrric; her people haven't been wiped out yet, but there's a big difference between 'survival' and 'winning'. Finally, she knows that her efforts are doomed - there is no way to hold Falkovnia against the dead, not with the forces that she has, and the only chance she has for survival is to take her people and flee during the peaceful period after the dead are repulsed for the month. But she's too stubborn to run, and so she keeps fighting her bloody, futile war.