Demiplane of Dread

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The Demiplane of Dread is a unique Demiplane - or, perhaps more accurately, a series of interlinked demiplanes - within the Great Wheel cosmology of Dungeons & Dragons. This is the actual "world" in which the campaign setting of Ravenloft is based, and so the name is often used when trying to describe the "Ravenloft world".

The precise origins of the Demiplane of Dread are lost to history. Its creators are enigmatic beings known only as "The Dark Powers", who maintain and defend their creation with mighty magic and jealous zeal. It's believed they have some kind of mutual non-aggression pact with the various gods of the Great Wheel, but nothing canon is ever defined. It is believed to lie where the Ethereal Plane meets the Plane of Shadow, but is able to manifest portals absolutely everywhere, even in places normally restricted to planar portals, such as Athas or the Phlogiston. Such portals usually appear as banks of fog or mist, but will adapt themselves to other sight-obscuring phenomena - and are usually one-way.


Planar Traits[edit]

The Demiplane of Dread's creators have molded the reality of this world into a new fashion, forcibly imposing the rules of Gothic Horror on the setting. There are many ways that this molding manifests, but some of the more overt include the following:

  • Necromancy spells are empowered and rendered more dangerous; spells like Animate Dead will call up more creatures than the caster may be able to control, whilst spells that instantly kill their victims usually cause such victims to arise spontaneously as the undead - and often as ones quite pissed off at their killer. Certain non-necromancy, non-instant-kill spells even have a chance of doing this, such as Disintegrate turning a completely disintegrated victim into an incorporeal undead! Using any necromancy spell provokes a powers check unless it's purely defensive, doesn't affect undead, and doesn't manipulate life force; that list of "safe" spells is quite narrow.
  • Divination spells are pretty much worthless; spells that detect moral alignment invariably fail, spells aimed at detecting monstrous species either are unreliable (Detect Undead) or flatly won't work (using True Seeing to look for natural shapechangers), spells that revolve around mental contact risk driving you mad if you accidentally use them on certain inhuman creatures, and in general you can't trust the result of divination spells because the normal awareness of when such a spell has failed doesn't occur in the Demiplane of Dread. Oh, and Scrying type spells create a visible sensory apparatus that can alert your target that you're scrying on them, which can even serve as a conduit for things like gaze attacks. There's a practical reason for this; horrific things aren't quite as scary if you know their true nature too early, and so this element was put in to keep from having the DM tip their hands too soon and ruin the scare.
  • Conjuration allows entities from other planes to be summoned, but they won't be able to return home when the spell expires. Obviously, quite a few of them will be very upset with their summoner because of this. Even before they figure this out, the binding aspects of conjuration spells are weaker in the Demiplane of Dread, giving summoned creatures a chance to escape its bonds the moment it arrives.
  • Abjuration spells that banish creatures to another plane do not work. Rather, they appear to work but just toss the target somewhere else within the demiplane.
  • Illusion spells that manipulate shadows are 20% more powerful, but the caster risks losing control of it when the spell ends, releasing a free-willed shadow.
  • Spells that directly interfere with the fabric of a Domain, such as manipulating weather, can often attract the attention of the resident Darklord, and who might be able to subvert or negate these same spells if they have related powers.
  • The "Contact Other Plane" spell doesn't work like it should - instead, it gives you a telepathic two-way communication link with the local Darklord.
  • Curses are empowered, and even non-spellcasters can potentially lay deadly or deforming curses on people if their rage or grief is intense enough to catch the notice of the Dark Powers.
  • The Dark Powers are watching everybody and seem to enjoy turning people into monsters that reflect their own evil deeds. When a creature performs some evil act, which range from casting necromantic spells to premeditated murder, the Dark Powers might notice and start the process. The changes are subtle or even helpful at first, allowing the victim to more easily perform his evil acts, which lures the victim into more evil, gaining more attention and transformation, until he is completely transformed into a monster or even a darklord of his own domain.
  • Intelligent undead, like vampires, can tell if their minds are being read and can choose which thoughts they will project. Depending on the circumstances, this may be a false image passing them off as human or an up-close look at the most evil parts of their minds meant to drive the would-be mind reader insane.
  • 5th edition's overhaul of the lore drops most of the above rules but adds some new ones. If you die in the Demiplane of Dread your soul does not move into the afterlife and is trapped there until it is eventually reincarnated. People who are resurrected after being dead for over 24 hour discover this and are traumatized by the experience.

Welcome to the Hotel California[edit]

One of the most infamous traits of the Demiplane of Dread is that getting in is easy, but getting out is a whole nother story. After all, DMs don't want you running out on their games so easily.

Attempting to brute force the issue with magic? Won't work. In general, teleportation spells treat each domain within the demiplane as its own entirely unique plane; no teleportation spells of 5th level or lower can work across domain borders, and even 6th level or higher teleportation spells can't breach a closed domain or leave the demiplane entirely. Likewise, spells that function by shifting creatures into another plane, especially the Astral Plane, don't work in the demiplane of dread - you can still cast "Banishment", but all it does is just boot the target to a random spot in the demiplane. The Gate spell can only be used to either create a one-way portal into the demiplane, or to create a portal to a different domain. Plane Shift can be used to either travel to any domain you've visited in the past, or just to randomly teleport you to somewhere else in the demiplane. Shadow Walk lets you travel to anywhere in the plane you wish, so long as you don't try and breach closed domain borders. And the Wish family of spells (Wish, Limited Wish and Miracle) all simply fail if you try to use them to get out.

So, how can you leave?

Well, firstly, you can just enter the Mists and hope for the best. Your destination is up to the Dark Powers (read: the DM), so if you're lucky, the DM may show pity on you and let you go.

Secondly, defeating a Darklord may well cause the Mists to rise and take you back to where you belong, especially if this is supposed to be a Weekend in Hell game. This is the classic way to leave Ravenloft.

Thirdly, you can try and find a portal out of Ravenloft. These are incredibly rare, obviously, but do exist - "Domains of Dread", for example, states outright that such a portal can be found on the Isle of Lament, the inhospitable home of Lamordia's Darklord. Expect to go through hell and high water to find and/or activate the portal.

Fourthly, the 3.5 Ravenloft Dungeon Master's Guide offers a way out in the unique artifact called The Scroll of Return. Said to have been written on the skin of a celestial who voluntarily sacrificed its life to allow for the item's creation, and given the creation mechanics "caster level 18, Wish, Plane Shift", this scroll allows the user to cast a fully functioning Plane Shift spell that ignores the demiplane's normal restrictions on teleportation magic, allowing the user and up to seven other souls to flee the demiplane to anywhere else in the multiverse. Using the scroll takes 10 minutes and consumes the scroll itself to open the portal that lets the party Plane Shift, but the scroll will reform itself somewhere else in the demiplane after being used. Naturally, expect finding this little beauty to be an adventure, if not a campaign, in and of itself. Darklords can't use this item, though.

Finally, you can always hope to stumble across the door to the World Serpent Inn, which materializes in a random domain each night. The Dark Powers always try to guard this door with local monsters and nastiness, but if you can open the door and step inside, you're free of the demiplane.

Mapping the Demiplane[edit]

Geo-physically, the Demiplane of Dread consists of various bubbles of reality, ranging in size from a single room to full-fledged countries, all floating in a sea of ephemeral mist; each of these reality bubbles (called "Domains") is typically centered around a Darklord, a villain whose evil caught the eyes of the Dark Powers and so they responded by imprisoning them within the Demiplane. 3rd edition's unpublished splatbook "Van Richten's Guide to the Mists" introduced the concept of Oubliettes, which are basically prototype or abandoned Domains that don't contain a Darklord. A Domain may exist on its own (an "Island of Terror") or be physically coterminous with one or more more other domains, forming what is called a "Cluster". The largest and oldest Cluster in the Demiplane is called "The Core", and this is basically Ground Zero for the setting.

Traveling between Domains is a little tricky to describe. If two Domains are coterminous, you can simply walk between them, as if they were normal lands. If you want to get to a Domain that isn't coterminous, then you have to just walk into the Mists and hope you'll end up where you want to go. Certain spots are known to have what are essentially portals that can link different Domains together, in that traveling from these spots (which may require unique triggers before they kick in) will usually end you up in a specific Domain; known as "Mistways", these portals can be either one way or two way, and vary in reliability (aka, how likely you are to end up at the intended destination instead of fuck-knows-where) from "guaranteed" to "you rolls the dice, you takes your chances". For example, an eldritch monolith called the Black Spire in southwestern Hazlan is the foundation of an Excellent Relibility Mistway called "The Song of Obscene Hunger"; whenever it gets struck by lightning, everybody around it who fails a pretty tough Will save falls unconscious and then reawakens in Bluetspur. Meanwhile, "The Road of a Thousand Secrets" is a Moderate Reliability two-way Mistway that links Hazlan's Misty Border to Pharazia.

Traveling between Domains is made more complicated by the fact that most Darklords have a power called "Closing the Borders," which causes the borders of their Domain to become enveloped in a barrier of some sort unique to that Darklord that prevents escape in some fashion - some are non-lethal, most will kill you if you try. A rare few can be circumvented by the right esoteric circumstances (for example, undead or constructs can safely walk through poisonous borders like that of Barovia, because they're fundamentally immune to poison), but in general this is the ultimate Railroading tool the DM has to keep you from just saying "fuck this" and leaving the domain.

Precisely why the Dark Powers collect these Darklords is unknown, and theories abound; the Demiplane of Dread has been described as a prison, a gathering place for evil, a grand study into the nature of evil, a unique kind of Hell, or even a Purgatory by various fans.

Another great mystery is the nature of its native population. Some Domains were physically taken from their homeworlds, but most are described as "copies" rather than direct abductions of land. This then leaves players wondering: are the locals actually "real", or are they merely soulless simulacra - props in the grand theater of Gothic Horror tales that the Dark Powers are conducting? Nothing concrete has ever been given. This isn't entirely consistent however, with other originals becoming ruins (Like Kalidnay) or vanishing entirely (like Har’Akir).

The Core[edit]

As mentioned above, this is the "core" of Ravenloft, the sole normal-style continent where the bulk of the game focuses on. Think of it as something akin to the Sword Coast of the Forgotten Realms, or Ansalon in Dragonlance. The precise layout has changed over Ravenloft's life, usually as a result of Advancing the Storyline - most prominently, it changed massively after the Grand Conjunction, and then changed a little during both the Grim Harvest and the shift from 2e to 3e.

The Core is made up of the following Domains.

Cultural Level: Medieval
Landscape: Temperate Forests, Hills & Mountains
Motif: Blatant Dracula Knockoff
Darklord: Strahd von Zarovich

This is the oldest domain in Ravenloft, the literal heart of the Demiplane of Dread. It's ruled by Strahd, and is basically Dracula in D&D. It is also home to the titular Castle Ravenloft, Strahd's humble abode. This domain has been visited in literally every single edition of D&D after BECMI; even 4th edition, the only edition without an adaptation of I6 to its titles, has the adventure "Fair Barovia" in Dungeon Magazine #207, which has the party exploring Barovia and completing assorted side-quests.

Cultural Level: Chivalric
Landscape: Temperate Forests, Hills & Mountains
Motif: Poisoners, Italy under the Borgia Family
Darklord: Ivana Boritsi

Originally, Borca was ruled by the Darklord Camille Boritsi, and was half its present size, sharing borders with the near-identical domain of Dorvini. Ivana poisoned her mother because her mom seduced her boyfriend, and during the Grand Conjunction, her domain and that of her cousin Ivan Dilisnya merged together due to their great similarities.

Cultural Level: Dark Age to Chivalric
Landscape: Temperate Forests, Hills, Plains, Mountains & Swamps
Motif: Generic Dark Fantasy
Darklord: Azalin

Darkon is notable as the most overtly fantastical realm in the Demiplane of Dread, with a relatively huge population of demihumans that sees humans going from the usual 90+% population merit to only 75% as well as the greatest amount of local toleration for arcane magic.

If one spends a month in the realm they lose their memories until they leave the domain, thinking they've always been from Darkon. Unfortunately, the new state from having lost memories convinces one to never leave unless forced to.

Cultural Level: Renaissance
Landscape: Temperate Forests & Plains
Motif: Renaissance France/Victorian England
Darklord: Dominic D'Honaire

Though not as overtly modeled on London as the domain of Paridon, Dementlieu definitely taps into the Gothic Urban Horror motif, as is made clear by the way it is home to myriad mystical mind-manipulators and the character Alanik Ray, who is basically Sherlock Holmes if he was an elf. It's considered the "cultural heart" of the Core.

Cultural Level: Medieval
Landscape: Temperate Forests & Plains
Motif: Military Horror, Fascism, Urban Squalor
Darklord: Vlad Drakov

Slap together Nazi Germany and Stalinist Russia, paint it up in the most shit-awful and miserable stereotypes of Dark Ages Europe, and have the place be run by a man who melds Hitler with Vlad the Impaler and is so bloodthirsty they'd both be disgusted by him. Falkovnia is outright called the biggest shithole in the Demiplane of Dread.

Cultural Level: Iron Age
Landscape: Temperate Forests, Hills & Plains
Motif: Dreary Scotland with a dash of Brak Man Morn
Darklord: Tristen ApBlanc

A vaguely Scottish Celtic themed domain that nobody gives a shit about because there's nothing in it but killer plants, giant bugs, and goblyns. 3e tried to fix this by adding a small population of native humans, but the overall domain is still a monster-infested backwoods, so nobody fucking cares. As for its resident asshole, ApBlanc is a vampyre by day, and a ghost by night, proving once and for all that the Dark Powers do, indeed, have a sense of humor.

Cultural Level: Medieval
Landscape: Temperate Hills, Mountains & Plains
Motif: Dark Fantasy meets Yellow Peril
Darklord: Hazlik

Essentially a tiny sliver of Thay transplanted into the Demiplane of Dread, where a tiny minutia (the Mulan ethnicity) rules over and brutally represses a far vaster majority (the Rashemani). One of only two places so absolutely shit that The Lawgiver is actually worshipped here.

Cultural Level: Chivalric
Landscape: Temperate Forests & Hills
Motif: Lethally Impulsive Stupidity
Darklord: Gabrielle Aderre

A land of passionate, hot-blooded and constantly feuding individuals, including mercenary armies, ogres, giants, and wolfweres. The Vistani are executed on sight here, and as such, its hunter-mercenaries are on the collective shit-list of both Strahd von Zerovich and Ivan Dilisnya.

Cultural Level: Medieval
Landscape: Temperate Forests & Hills
Motif: Wolves in Sheep's Clothing
Darklord: Meistersinger Harkon Lukas

A rural backwoods inhabited by proud, cocky, music-loving foresters who are quite happy with the way things are, thank you. They are totally oblivious to the population of wolfweres hiding amongst them.

Cultural Level: None (formerly Chivalric)
Landscape: Temperate Mountains (Bleached of Life)
Motif: Endless Grief
Darklord: Tristessa the Banshee

A cursed and forsaken realm, with a population consisting solely of its mad, grief-stricken banshee darklord, her court of half-insane undead fey, and a village of skeletons that constantly mime out the actions of their last day.

Cultural Level: Renaissance
Landscape: Temperate Forests, Hills & Plains
Motif: Mad Science ala Frankenstein
Darklord: Dr. Mordenheim & Adam

A stuffy, tempest-lashed domain that prides itself on its scientific acumen and its staunch rationalistic beliefs, totally denying the fantastical nature of the world around them.

Cultural Level: Renaissance
Landscape: Temperate Forests, Plains & Swamps
Motif: Ghost-Haunted Rural Britain/Scotland
Darklord: Lord Wilfred Godefroy

It's basically the setting for every ghost-related Gothic Horror novel ever written. High concentration of both incorporeal undead and mist creatures in a land dotted by small villages sheltering the living. Is also full of ancient ruined manors, decaying coats of arms and dying or dead noble families, furthering that neo-Britain impression by casting it as the decaying remnants of a once-mighty civilization. The false history implies they share a mutual background with Borca, perhaps having originated from the same nameless fantasy world.

Cultural Level: Iron Age
Landscape: Temperate Settled Area
Motif: City of the Dead
Darklord: Death

Once a bustling metropolis in Darkon called Il Aluk, the place was destroyed and turned into a city of sapient undead creatures protected behind a mystical veil that kills and reanimates any living humanoids that enter. This was caused by Azalin achieving an epic-level fuck up with his magic. Generally considered the worst domain in the Core because you can't go in there without being transformed into an undead, which in AD&D came with associated rules that, in the grand tradition of Ravenloft, utterly fucked you over pretty much from the get-go. Its Darklord, "Death", is an uber-powerful ghost with hyper-lethal abilities that was created from a clone of Azalin and which has gone absolutely insane, believing itself to be the literal spirit of death.

Nova Vaasa[edit]
Cultural Level: Medieval
Landscape: Temperate Forests, Hills & Plains
Motif: Russia under Peter the Great
Darklord: Sir Tristen Hiregaard/Malken

A horse-filled steppeland dominated by sweeping grassy plains and crushing urban poverty and squalor, presided over by a mixture of corrupt aristocrats and Lawful Good types who view "law" as more important than "good". This is the other domain shitty enough to have The Lawgiver as the state religion, and is such a hellhole that Barovians look down on its people as backward hicks.

Cultural Level: Chivalric
Landscape: Temperate Forests, Hills & Plains
Motif: Wererat Land
Darklord: Jacqueline Renier

A pseudo-French domain distinguished mostly by being the largest breeding ground of wererats in the entire demiplane. The name is literally French for "Rich Mouse", which pretty much gives the game away from the start if you know the language..

The Shadow Rift[edit]
Cultural Level: Unknowable
Landscape: Eternally Dark Mysical
Motif: Dark Faerie Tales
Darklord: Gwydion the Shadow Fiend

This is the homeland of the Shadow Fey, and as such no mortals know anything about the place. The court is found at the bottom of a chasm filled with mist, protecting it from the sun, as well as erasing anything stupid enough to try penetrating so deeply into said-mist. In classic Faerie fashion, time works differently here, with a fortnight outside equaling a year inside.

Cultural Level: Medieval
Landscape: Temperate Forests & Hills
Motif: Declining Elf Kingdom
Darklord: Inza Kulchevitch

The only domain in the Core that has a demihuman majority population, this was formerly the domain of Lord Soth, and is thus loosely based on the Dragonlance setting. May or may not contain vampire kender.

Cultural Level: Early Medieval
Landscape: Temperate Forests & Hills
Motif: Grim Faerie Tales Europe meets Salem Witch Trials
Darklord: The Sisters Mindefisk

Hands down one of the most primitive and worthless backwaters in the Core, Tepest's trio of hag darklords are practically non-entities in their own land, with the focus instead being on how the ignorant superstitious peasantry are falling increasingly under the sway of a self-righteous inquisition of self-proclaimed fey-hunters and witch-burners. The sisters do fan the flames of said-group so they can harvest the bodies of anyone condemned, but mostly stick to hiding in their cottage.

Cultural Level: Medieval
Landscape: Temperate Forests & Hills
Motif: African Savages
Darklord: Baron Urik von Kharkov (replaced by Chakuna in 5e)

A rugged wilderness inhabited by dusky-skinned foresters who take pride in their absolute ignorance when it comes to book-learning or anything not related to the practicalities of forest-work, to the point they even look down upon their own priests. Befittingly, this leaves them too ignorant to realize they are being eaten alive by a hidden population of nosferatu and werepanthers.

Cultural Level: Medieval
Landscape: Temperate Forests, Hills & Swamps
Motif: Werewolf Country
Darklord: Alfred Timothy

The obligatory werewolf domain, to contrast the Dracula and Frankenstein ones. Everybody here knows the wilderness (as embodied by the werewolves) is at their door, and live accordingly. This domain was originally called Arkandale and was run by Alfred's father, Nathan, until he lost the Dark Powers' interest by actually making peace with his lot in life and coming to enjoy being a riverboating casino owner, even if it did mean no longer being able to hunt on the land.

Quoth the Raven #1 offers an alternative take on the domain where Nathan reclaims it after Alfred's werewolf supremacist cult causes a deadly famine and then civil war amongst the local lycanthropes, which leads to it being renamed Arkandale once more.

The Seas[edit]

The Core is surrounded by two seas; the Nocturnal Sea and the Sea of Sorrows, which are technically their own unique Clusters that just so happen to adjoin the Core. Because of this, they're put in their own specific sections.

The Sea of Sorrows[edit]

Darklord: Captain Pieter van Riese

This is the Western Sea of the Core, a cold, stormy, mist- (and Mist-)haunted expanse of water populated by various islands, representing the scattered domains of lesser Darklords. Its own "true" Darklord is Captain Pieter van Riese; a ghost based on the legendary Flying Dutchman who has perhaps the greatest freedom of any Darklord in Ravenloft - he can even leave his ship to go on land and enter other domains! This is because his curse is to never be able to find his own way, but instead to only be able to take others to where they want to go.

Carcharodon Isle[edit]
Cultural Level: Chivalric
Landscape: Temperate Hills
Motif: Ladyhawke Parted Lovers
Darklord: Alison Marjory and Sean Mako

An island cursed with two darklords; a fisherman turned wereshark and a mermaid-turned-human turned seawolf, whose curses prevent them from ever meeting in their human forms. Netbook canon domain from the Book of Souls.

Cultural Level: Stone Age
Landscape: Warm Forests, Hills & Mountains
Motif: The Island of Dr. Moreau
Darklord: Dr. Markov

It's literally just the Island of Dr Moreau in D&D. That's it. Originally part of the Core, but was moved out to the Sea of Sorrows as a result of the Grand Conjunction. Nothing here except the Darklord, his Broken One minions, and a small temple of priests dedicated to guarding a powerful evil artifact that would be of great interest to the Darklord.

Cultural Level: Early Medieval
Darklord: Bluebeard

A small island consisting of a castle and a single village, whose population are fanatically loyal to the blue-bearded master of the castle above.

Cultural Level: Stone Age
Darklord: Althea

A rocky island made from a mostly cooled volcano, this is basically a glorified dungeon that serves as the prison of the medusa Althea. Fans have tried to expand this by adding the ghost of her murdered maedar husband (arguably a much better candidate for the darklord) and her maedar son, who hates both of his crazy parents and wants off this godsforsaken rock.

Cultural Level:
Motif: Insanity and Institutional Abuse
Darklord: Dr. Daclaud Heinfroth

A small island that houses the most famous (if not only) insane asylum in all of the Core. A pity it's actually a nest of cerebral vampires, ruled over a crazed psychiatrist determined to push the studies of inflicting madness and terror to their absolute limit.

Cultural Level:
Darklord: Stezen D'Polarno

A surprisingly grim and colorless place which grows abundant food that, mysteriously, holds no taste when consumed.

The Nocturnal Sea[edit]

Darklord: Meredoth

The cold and dismal Eastern Sea of the Core, which only emerged from the Mists after the events of the Grand Conjunction, ruled over by Meredoth, an epic-level Necromancer from Glantri in Mystara. Although strongly associated with Graben Island, which is where "his" people live, Meredoth can actually travel the Sea at will, and in fact lairs himself on the wintery isle of Todstein. Like the Sea of Sorrows, there are plenty of other domains scattered around the Nocturnal Sea ruled over by their own lords.

Isle of the Ravens[edit]
Cultural Level:
Darklord: The Lady of Ravens

A deserted island home only to its darklord, an insane but powerful sorceress from a Gormentghastian family, and her legions of raven and fey servants. Whilst it was first mentioned in official media, appearing in brief summary in the writeup of the Nocturnal Sea in the Domains of Dread revised campaign setting, it was fans who fleshed it out; the Isle of the Ravens first received a writeup in the Book of Sacrifices, before later being revisited in Quoth the Raven #13.

L'ile de la Tempete[edit]
Cultural Level:
Darklord: Captain Alain Monette

A rocky and treacherous island whose lighthouse serves only to lure sailors to their doom upon its shores.

Cultural Level:
Darklord: Baron Evensong or Assorted Demilords

A surprisingly large and fertile island, with one of the biggest and most welcoming populations of any island-domains in the Nocturnal Sea. Originally ruled by Baron Evensong, although the fanmade Nocturnal Sea Gazetteer downgraded him to one of a cluster of different super-minor darklords.

Locknar Cove[edit]
Cultural Level: Renaissance
Landscape: Cold, eroded hills and thick, old growth forest

A quiet, humble island of fisherfolk that lies off the combined shorelines of Darkon and Nova Vassa, close to the isle of Liffe. Hidden at its core like a toad in a stone, the ghost of an avaricious pirate who valued wealth beyond his own life guards a vast treasure hoard. Netbook canon domain from the Book of Sacrifices.

The Clusters[edit]

The Amber Wastes[edit]

Motif: Dark Fantasy Egypt

It's Gothic Horror Egypt in D&D. What more is there to say? Its constituent domains are Har'Akir, Sebua, and Pharazia.

Cultural Level: Bronze Age
Landscape: Desert and Badlands
Motif: Mummy Horror Movies
Darklord: Anhtepot

Har'Akir is a tiny little village of Egyptian peasants who live next to a tomb housing the darklord Ankhtepot, a pharaoh who blasphemed against the gods and was condemned to both eternity as a mummy and to be trapped in obscurity with only a single village of humble peasants to "lord over".

Cultural Level: Bronze Age Darklord, Stone Age natives
Landscape: Desert Wasteland
Motif: Mummy Horror meets Ghost Horror
Darklord: Tiyet

Sebua consists of an abandoned Egyptian manor next to an oasis haunted by both a tribe of feral children, who inhabit the nearby ruins of a fallen city, and the darklord Tiyet, a unique female mummy who appears as a gorgeous woman... save for her insatiable hunger for human hearts.

Cultural Level: Early Medieval
Landscape: Deserts, Oases, Rivers
Motif: Arabian Nights Horror meets Religious Fundamentalism
Darklord: Diamabel

Pharazia is a pseudo-Arabian city-state ruled over by its darklord Diamabel; a moralistic fanatic who led a campaign of genocidal terror in life, when felled by an arrow he arose as the shining angel he always wanted to become... only to find he transformed into a hideous undead version of himself at night.

The Burning Peaks[edit]

Motif: Dark Fantasy

A two-domain cluster made up of Cavitus, the realm of Vecna, and Tovag, the realm of Kas.

Cultural Level: Medieval
Landscape: Negative Energy-Infused Wasteland
Motif: Cartoonish Necromancer-Ruled Hellhole
Darklord: Vecna
Cultural Level: Medieval
Landscape: Mountains, Scrub Pine Forests
Motif: Vampires, War Horror
Darklord: Kas

The Frozen Reaches[edit]

Motif: Dark Fantasy Russia

It's basically the frozen wintery hell that everybody imagines that Russia is transplanted into D&D. Its constituent domains are Sanguinia and Vorostokov,

Cultural Level: Early Medieval
Darklord: Prince Ladislav Mircea

Sanguina is an Early Medieval Russian kingdom ruled over by Prince Ladislav Mircea, a self-centered alchemist who accidentally transformed himself into a mutant vampire, possibly a Vrykolaka, that feeds on the Four Humours (blood, phlegm, black bile, yellow bile) in an effort to save himself from a deadly plague.

Cultural Level: Dark Ages
Darklord: Boyar Gregor Zolnik

Vorostokov is a frigid Dark Ages wasteland of villages and forests trapped in a perpetual winter, ruled over by the Loup du Noir Boyar Gregor Zolnik.

The Shadowlands[edit]

Motif: Medieval Dark Fantasy

Intimately tied to a single world, the Shadowlands are made up of three domains that all tie to one long story of corruption; Avonleigh, Nidala, and Shadowborn Manor.

Cultural Level:
Darklord: Morgoroth the Black

Avonleigh is a monster-haunted forest ruled over by the darklord Morgoroth the Black, a planeswalker wizard who traveled to the homeland of the three domains and ended up destroying the not!Arthurian court there through accident. He is now trapped as a ephemeral shade unless the enchanted mirror that trapped him in this state is reassembled in his former mansion home.

Shadowborn Manor[edit]
Cultural Level:
Darklord: Ebonbane

Shadowborn Manor is a manor other than Morgoroth's that is the resting place of Ebonbane, a raging fiend trapped in a sword, which is itself trapped in a crystal sarcophagus. Ebonbane is so dangerous that Morgoroth actually uses his magic to assist in keeping the damn thing locked up.

Cultural Level:
Darklord: Elena Faith-Hold

Nidala is the only actually populated domain, and is ruled over by the self-righteous fanatical fallen paladin Elena Faith-Hold.

The Verduous Lands[edit]

Motif: Tropical Dark Fantasy

The hot and humid hellholes, full of deadly predators and equally deadly plants. For some reason the moon is never seen here.

Cultural Level:
Darklord: Draga Saltbiter

Saragoss is an oceanic domain; a vast entangling sargassum patch full of wrecked ships crawling with ghouls and cannibal pirates above and sahuagin and sharks below, with a self-loathing wereshark pirate and cleric of Umberlee for a darklord.

The Wildlands[edit]
Cultural Level: Dark Ages
Landscape: Tropical Jungles and Swamps
Motif: Twisted Animal Fables
Darklord: King Crocodile

The Wildlands are basically grimdark Jungle Book; a tropical jungle full of asshole talking animals ruled over by the monstrous King Crocodile.

Sri Raji[edit]
Cultural Level: Classical
Landscape: Rain forests, hills, and mountains
Motif: Dark Fantasy India / Sri Lanka
Darklord: Maharaja Arijani

Formerly an Island of Terror, Sri Raji is a domain in the Verduous Lands cluster ruled by the Rakshasa Maharaja Arijani. The Verduous Lands cluster does not have a moon with potentially interesting consequences for lycanthropes having some part of the lunar cycle as their trigger condition. Equally, there should be no tides. Most of the human inhabitants of Sri Raji congregate in three cities, each located surprisingly close to the domain border. A fourth city, Mahakala, is less populated and commonly referred to as "accursed". It's basically Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, but with more rakshasas, beastfolk and giant insects.


Motif: Urban Dark Fantasy

Differentiating itself from other clusters, Zherisia is composed of the city domain of Paridon and Timor, a former Island of Terror now transformed into the sewers underneath Paridon.

Cultural Level: Renaissance
Landscape: Urban
Motif: Gothic-Era Urban Horror

Paridon is a sprawling London-esque city infested with a uniquely powerful strain of doppelgangers, whose darklord is a many-cursed psychotic doppelganger named Sodo.

Cultural Level: Stone Age
Landscape: Underground Tunnels
Motif: Monsters From Below
Darklord: The Marikith Queen

Timor is a dripping hive of tunnels infested by xenomorph expies called Marikith.

Republica de Neuva Aragona[edit]

Cultural Level: Renaissance
Landscape: Tropical Jungle Islands

A two-domain cluster made up of neighboring isles in a tropical ocean known to its inhabitants as Mar de Lagrimas (the Sea of Tears), both themed after the Spanish colonies of South America. Unusually, the two domains are historically linked; both were connected to the same history involving the "native" colonists rising up against the rule of the motherland of Aragona and fighting for their indepence, which led to the two primary land-masses - the island of Resistencia and the mainland of Maconda each gaining a Darklord out of that initial struggle. It appears in the 2001 issue of the Undead Sea Scrolls.


Resistencia is haunted by the ghost of Don Santiago de Quijada y Alvarez, the leader of the failed army sent by the motherland to quash the independence revolution.


Maconda, on the other hand, is led openly and in darkness by the man who led the independence revolution: the wereananconda President-General Martin Jose Maconda.

Colonies of the Holy Empire[edit]

An unusual netbook cluster in that it's not technically presented as a cluster. The Colonies of the Holy Empire are a collective of domains that all draw from the same homeworld, a pastiche of Central/South America and its invasion by the Spanish Conquistadors, which appeared in the Books of S netbooks. Despite this shared origin, they are not presented as being geographically linked in the usual way of a cluster. Mictlan appeared in the Book of Shadows, whilst Igid Rabi-i and Cumbre de Oro both appeared in the Book of Sacrifices.

Cultural Level: Classical
Landscape: Tropical Jungle
Darklord: Commander Hernando Mouriros

A pastiche of the Aztec empire, the invasion of an army from a mysterious Chivalric realm has destabilize the realm and caused it to begin falling apart into civil war. And all the while, the invaders, cursed to never die unless they can conquer all of Mictlan, press on desperately in an attempt to end their long and bloody campaign.

Igid Rabi-i[edit]
Cultural Level: Chivalric, Classical or Dark Ages, depending on region
Darklord: Arcapatos Miguel Agustin

A deeply spiritual domain wracked with internal conflict, for its leader is a priest who cares nothing for the realm, and everything for chasing a "holy relic" that evades his every attempt to grasp it.

Cumbre de Oro[edit]
Cultural Level: Savage (Iron Age ruins, Medieval Avaricios)
Darklord: Anibal Coronado

A cursed city of vast riches, a pastiche of El Dorado, haunted by the undead remnants of an explorer's party that gave their lives to find those riches and still refused to stop searching for wealth. This domain is actually a part of the larger Mictlan domain.

The Islands of Terror[edit]

Arlington Farm[edit]
Cultural Level: Renaissance decayed to Dark Ages
Landscape: Single large wheat & corn farm
Motif: Killer Scarecrows
Darklord: Henry Arlington

The cursed farm of a farmer so obsessed with the success of his land that he not only killed to acquire it, but he began performing blood rites to ensure its success, murdering people and hiding their bodies in his scarecrows. Eventually, his cursed creations turned on him and turned him into one of them. This netbook canon domain debuted in the 2001 issue of the Undead Sea Scrolls.

Cultural Level: Dark Age
Landscape: Temperate hills, plains, and mountains
Motif: Yog-Sothothery
Darklord: The Illithid God-Brain

Meaning "Blood Trail" in German, it's a desolate wasteland with nightly, violent electrical storms on the surface. Beneath the surface lie the maddening and sprawling cities of illithids and their tortured and experimented slaves. This is also the home of the infamous Vampiric Mind Flayers, a creature that is technically indestructible in AD&D.

Cultural Level: Renaissance
Landscape: Flooded Islets
Motif: Gothic Vienna
Darklord: Rafe Ungard

A once large island that has been reduced to tiny islets by intense flooding, peopled with a passionately chivalric (in the sense of "women are sacred and must be protected") people who claim to be the true Vistani, ignorant of the fact that they are actually the cursed reincarnations of the true Vistani seen elsewhere in the Misty Realms. Because only 20% of their children are girls, they are overwhelmingly, patronizingly chivalric, and will sooner die than hurt women. The realm is also home to a large population of Paka, who believe it to be a defiled holy site and hate the Callistans passionately. This netbook canon domain can be found in the Undead Sea Scrolls 2002.

Cultural Level: Medieval
Landscape: Shifts
Motif: Dueling Psyches
Darklord: Davion the Mad

A twisting realm that was created when a miscast Wish spell merged the mindscapes of the wizard Davion and his three hirelings - the male mage Ausgustus, the male fighter Boromar, and the female cleric of Loviatar Narana - into a single unit, leaving them struggling for dominion.

The Eternal Torture[edit]
Cultural Level: Renaissance
Landscape: Decaying Sailing Ship
Motif: Ghoul Ship
Darklord: Miles Havelocke

The cursed ship of Miles Havelocke, a mutineer who led his crew to commit cannibalism upon the loyal members of the crew. Now a crew of ghasts, they endlessly search for land, attacking and feeding upon any unlucky ships they encounter as their passage leads them to the Nocturnal Sea, the Sea of Sorrows, and the oceans off all other domains, but never to the land they desperately wish to reach. This netbook canon domain debuted in the 2001 issue of the Undead Sea Scrolls.

Cultural Level: Renaissance
Landscape: Temperate Woodlands
Motif: Acceptance of Self
Darklord: Jark Karn, The Jackal Who Would Not Be A Coward

An island splinter of the Wildlands, inhabited by a burgeoning population who are genuinely warm, welcoming and thriving. A pity that this is the manifestation of the darklord's curse. Netbook canon domain from the Book of Sacrifices.

Cultural Level: Classical
Landscape: Cold and temperate hills, plains, mountains, and deserts
Motif: Corrupt Theocracy
Darklord: Yagno Petrovna

Here a starving population works the fields to produce food to be sacrificed for the god Zhakata. Unfortunately the god doesn't exist and priests of the god eat the offerings, while the farmers starve themselves waiting for a god that will never come.

The House of Lament[edit]
Cultural Level: Chivalric
Landscape: Mansion
Motif: Haunted/Evil House
Darklord: The House Itself

The House of Lament is a cursed structure that is simultaneous domain and darklord; a haunted structure that demands the sacrifice of human souls in an effort to quell its inescapable loneliness.

Cultural Level: Classical
Landscape: Temperate Forest
Motif: Chinese Ghost Stories
Darklord: Tsien Chiang

A tiny Island of Terror inhabited only by its Darklord and her four daughters - the three evil daughters Hate, Spite and Scream, all of whom are variant Con-tinh (evil spirit women), and the benevolent, tormented good daughter Nightingale. Her domain is similar to Forlorn in that it's basically a glorified dungeon, with literally nothing to do except show up and defeat the Darklord or die trying, except it's Chinese, not Scottish. Tsien Chiang is a misandrist necromancer from Kara-tur, based on an incredibly minor character from the Forgotten Realms lore. She can also transform into an evil Treant.

Cultural Level: Late Renaissance
Landscape: Temperate & Cold Plains, Mountains and Aquatic
Motif: When Death Becomes Relief
Darklord: Dr. Dorothy Hemphyll

An incredibly advanced domain whose scientific prowess can challenge that of Lamordia's, especially in medical sciences. It bulges with life to the point of being overrun with it, and yet death is a mercy that all too few can find, especially under the watchful eye of the Healer's Guild. This netbook canon domain can be found in the Undead Sea Scrolls 2002.

Cultural Level: Classical reduced to Stone Age
Landscape: Desolate, Lifeless City and rural surroundings
Motif: Scientific Hubris Brings Apocalypse
Darklord: Ahasveros

The lifeless remains of what was once a great scientific civilization, one that destroyed itself attempting to harness the power of the sea to annihilate an enemy nation with an artificially created tidal wave. Now, all that remains is the reclusive ghostly remains of the scientist who created that tidal wave, and destroyed his own people with it. This netbook canon domain can be found in the Undead Sea Scrolls 2002.

Cultural Level: Classical
Landscape: Desert
Motif: Athas
Darklord: Thakok-An

The city and lands surrounding Kalidnay in Athas, which are nothing but ruins within Dark Sun's setting proper. Its inhabitants actually prefer the Demiplane of Dread to actually living in Athas. Just let that sink in.

Cultural Level: Chivalric
Landscape: Massive Prison in the middle of nowhere
Darklord: Warden Jonar Tamh

Formerly the Great Prison of the Harmonium, an experiment in reformation-focused incarceration launched by the Hardheads on the faction's homeworld of Ortho, the warden's descent into cruelty and draconian punishments in defiance of the experiment's focus led to its being ripped from Ortho and stranded in the Mists. This netbook canon domain debuted in the 2001 issue of the Undead Sea Scrolls.

Cultural Level: Medieval
Landscape: Mountainous Grasslands
Motif: Futility of Power Behind the Throne
Darklord: Baroness Ilsabet Obour

A domain adapted from the Ravenloft novel "Baroness of Blood", ruled over by a malevolent alchemist turned pain-eating monster. Netbook canon domain from the Book of Souls.

The Lost Wizard's Tower[edit]
Cultural Level: Savage, vestiges of Renaissance
Landscape: Temperate Forest & Hills
Motif: Obsessive Love
Darklord: Jinx

Once, there was a cat; a familiar to a powerful alchemist and transmuter named Margaret Landsdale. Then she grew overbold with her experiments and tested a formula on her familiar in order to enhance his intelligence. It worked all too well; now, Jinx could think as well as any human... and get jealous. That jealousy led to her death, and now it leads to the death of any arcane spellcaster whom Jinx tries to take as her replacement. This netbook canon domain can be found in the Undead Sea Scrolls 2002.

Cultural Level: Chivalric
Landscape: Temperate hills, forests, caves
Motif: Ghostly Hauntings
Darklord: Cassandre Desesprits

A rugged and inhospitable land whose people struggle to survive and put food on the tables, all whilst dealing with the vast legions of ghosts that haunt the realm. And nobody suspects that a humble barmaid with a heart full of spite and selfishness is the ultimate cause for their damnation. This netbook canon domain debuted in the 2001 issue of the Undead Sea Scrolls.

The Nightmare Lands[edit]
Cultural Level: None
Landscape: Ever-Changing
Motif: Nightmares
Darklord: The Nightmare Man and his Nightmare Court

A strange realm that exists halfway between the Demiplane of Dread and the Plane of Dreams, ruled over by Darklord-like figures who live to visit mortals with nightmares and ultimately draw them into complete insanity.

The Northlands[edit]
Cultural Level: Chivalric declined to Medieval, Early Medieval declined to Dark Ages
Landscape: Temperate forests, hills, mountains, plains, swamps
Motif: Vikings
Darklord: Jarl Gravstein Hansen

A land patterned after the ancient Norse lands, where one Jarl's selfishness is causing the decline of everything his people had worked for. This netbook canon domain debuted in the Undead Sea Scrolls 2002, and was revisited in its 2003 issue.

Cultural Level: Renaissance
Landscape: Polluted Hellscape
Motif: Rampant Pollution, Capitalism Gone Wrong
Darklord: Malus Sceleris

A hellish polluted pit of a domain, where disease runs rampant amidst mountains of filth and sewerage in a sky clouded with fumes, smoke and gas.

Cultural Level: Stone Age, Renaissance in Mr. Klein's camp
Landscape: Tropical Rainforest
Motif: Darkest Africa
Darklord: Gatwe and Mr. Klein.

A domain inspired by the Darkest Africa tropes in general and the novel Heart of Darkness in particular. A land of cannibalistic natives, jungle monsters, and a brutal overlord who thinks of himself as the civilizing force, begging the question: "who is the real savage?" This netbook canon domain can be found in the Undead Sea Scrolls 2003.

Cultural Level: Medieval
Landscape: Temperate settled area
Motif: Twisted Pinocchio
Darklord: Maligno

Island from Gothic Earth's Italy, populated by children and the carrionettes who killed the adults that used to live here. Naturally, all the kiddos are quite concerned about what'll happen when they're old enough to be labeled an adult.

Cultural Level: Classical
Landscape: Temeprate Forest & Hills, Cold Mountains, Warm Aquatic
Motif: Greek Mythology
Darklord: Hercules

A pastiche of mythological Greece, ruled over by a pantheon of Living Gods - fallen heroes who have taken the identities of the Greek Deities as their own. And the once shining hope against those cruel, petty deities is in fact the worst of them all. This netbook canon domain can be found in the Undead Sea Scrolls 2002.

The Raging Tears[edit]
Cultural Level: Medieval
Landscape: Single Rotting Ship
Motif: Ghost Ship
Darklord: Urdogen "The Red"

The cursed vessel of a long-forgotten pirate from Faerun, whose restless soul is condemned to wander the seas forever and never attain the power he once knew as the feared pirate king of the Inner Sea of Faerun. Whilst the ghost ship can be found in any sea in the Demiplane, or even sometimes beyond, its physical remains lie in the Sea of Sorrows, and must be found if one would put Urdogen to his long-cheated fate. Netbook canon domain from the Book of Sorrows.

Rokushima Táiyoo[edit]
Cultural Level: Dark Ages
Landscape: Archipelago with forests, hills, and mountains
Motif: Dark Fantasy Japan
Darklord: Haki Shinpi

Four islands surrounded by a poisonous salt water ocean. Each island's ruler hates the others, whilst the Darklord (their father) is forced to watch as they tear apart his dreams of unity and peace. It's also the home of the Akikage (ghost ninjas), Hebi-no-Onnas (snake women), and Kizoku (vampiric womanizers). Despite a Dark Ages cultural level, it's interested in the gunpowder weapons of Dementlieu and Darkon. Fun fact: the Anesthesia spell is popular here, as its use allows the dying to face death with a clear mind, and thus die with honor.

Strangely, the capitals of the four warring brothers have the Japanese names of various real world countries: Beikoku (米国, United States of America), Eikoku (英国, England), Chuugoka (corruption of 中国, China), and Roshiya (Literally just Russia said funny). As long as it sounds Japanese! Sadly, that's more than can be said for the Dark Lord's name...

Cultural Level: Chivalric
Landscape: Mild Plains and Forests
Motif: Eternal Love
Darklord: Serenissa D'Aubliet

A peaceful and gentle agricultural domain that seems free of the darkness of other, grimmer realms. But its shadows still linger, in the form of a spectral darklord who, whilst powerless to affect the natives, has no such restrictions against preying on visitors. Netbook canon domain from the Book of Sorrows.

Cultural Level: Medieval
Landscape: Temperate Mountains, Forest
Motif: Blood Purity
Darklord: Hakaan na Uruk

A realm of half-orcs turned inwards into a brutal and pointless butchery, where the inhabitants try to claim "purity" of either human or orcish heritage despite all being mixed race. Netbook canon domain from the Book of Sacrifices.

San Bartolome[edit]
Cultural Level: Middle Ages
Landscape: Warm, Rugged, Mountainous
Darklord: Isabel de Sargas

A theocratic tropical paradise that is obsessed with the need to attain spiritual purification through righteous behavior and serial reincarnation. Netbook canon domain from the Book of Sacrifices.

Cultural Level: Renaissance
Landscape: The inside of a theater
Motif: Mad Artistry
Darklord: Lemot Sediam Juste

The personal theatre of Lemot Sediam Juste, who went insane and murdered his entire cast of actors, then burned down the theatre with himself in it, all because he couldn't accept that he was only good at writing comedies and he was a fucking terrible author of tragedies. Now it wanders the Misty Realms, luring in victims to serve as cast and audience alike, all ultimately to meet destruction.

Cultural Level: Chivalric
Landscape: Temeprate Forests, Hills
Motif: Stupid Nuetral
Darklord: Geren Horstadt

A domain from which all of the metaphorical life has been sapped; a dull and colorless place of dull and colorless people, its inhabitants almostly aggressively average, sluggish and dreamy in their actions. All the better to torment its darklord. Netbook canon domain from the Book of Secrets.

Cultural Level: Chivalric
Landscape: Tropical Swamps
Motif: Southern Gothic
Darklord: Anton Misroi

It's basically the Ravenloft version of the Antebellum South as a whole and New Orleans in particular.

Staunton Bluffs[edit]
Cultural Level: Middle Ages
Landscape: Cold Prairies and Forests
Motif: Cowardice and treachery
Darklord: Sir Torrence Bleysmith

A small realm of prairies, overseen by the mad, bitter ghost of the man who caused the downfall of the people who once dwelled here.

Cultural Level: Civalric
Landscape: Temperate Forests & Mountains
Motif: Puritan Intolerance
Darklord: Bethany Stone

Once a small town near Salem, Massachusetts in the real world - or at least its Gothic Earth analogue, Stonewall has been ripped from its moorings and cast into the myths thanks to the machinations of its darklord; a woman so self-righteous and hateful that she killed her own daughter to carry on her moral crusade. This netbook canon domain can be found in the Undead Sea Scrolls 2002.

Tower of the Phantom Lover[edit]
Cultural Level: NA
Landscape: Tower over underground labyrinth
Motif: Sexual Predation
Darklord: The Phantom Lover

The mysterious hideaway of the malevolent spirit known as the Phantom Lover, who seeks to seduce and then slaughter women pining for lost love.

Cultural Level: Stone Age
Landscape: Warm Deserts, Hills & Mountains
Motif: Desert Country Native American Mythology
Darklord: Heresa Heri, The Vulture King

A domain inspired by the myths of desert-dwelling Native American cultures. A realm of seemingly eternal day, haunted by a malevolent vulture-spirit who once tried to steal all the lights of day and night for himself. Netbook canon. First appeared in the Book of Shadows for 2e, then was updated to 3e in the Undead Sea Scrolls 2002.

Cultural Level: Classical
Landscape: Warm Forests, Hills & Swamps
Motif: Insanity Made Real
Darklord: Easan the Mad

A vaguely India-esque domain ruled over by an insane elf wizard who has the power to reshape the surroundings based on his current mad whim.

Cultural Level: Medieval
Landscape: Arctic Coastal Mountain
Darklord: Benada Nameless

A frigid island that drifts in an icy sea, whose people struggle to survive in the face of the eternal winter and the packs of seawolves haunting their rich seas, haunted by a most unusual darklord; a yuan-ti-blooded weresnake! Netbook canon domain from the Book of Souls.

Cultural Level: Late Chivalric to Renaissance
Landscape: Temperate Forests, Hills, Mountains
Motif: All-Consuming Bitterness
Darklord: Kasselheim Blightlyng

A realm of unusually somber and technology-focused gnomes and svirfneblin, shaped by the prejudices of a bitter, self-loathing, humor-hating gnomish vampire cursed with failing senses and growing madness. This netbook canon domain can be found in the Undead Sea Scrolls 2002.

Cultural Level: Dark Ages, Renaissance on the Godwyn Estate
Landscape: Cold Mountains
Motif: Moral Guardianship
Darklord: Sir Trevor Godwyn, "The Mirror Man"

A strict, almost puritanical domain obsessed with the necessities of survival and averse to all things that are not "right" or "proper". But this attitude is not born out of morals or self-righteousness, but fear, for they are haunted by an ever-present spirit who will punish those that fails to live up to his strict sense of decency. Netbook canon domain from the Book of Shadows.

Wayward on the Bone Sands[edit]
Cultural Level: Chivalric
Landscape: Barren Desert
Motif: Cannibalism, Killer Kids
Darklord: Caleb Wicks

A cursed desert village of former humans turned into quevari after being seduced into genocide against (and cannibalism of) their gnome neighbors by the malicious child cannibal Caleb Wicks. Netbook canon domain from the Book of Secrets.

Cultural Level: Renaisssance
Landscape: Cold Forested Hills
Motif: Moby Dick
Darklord: Captain Jacobi Robertsonn

A sturdy, practical domain dedicated to the hunting of fish, seals and whales... no mean feat when your land is home to the demiplane's largest congregation of wereorcas. Netbook canon domain from the Book of Sorrows.

The Winding Road[edit]
Cultural Level: Nonexistent
Landscape: Random road
Motif: Random Encounter
Darklord: The Headless Horseman

Hands down one of the worst Domains in classical Ravenloft, the Winding Road is a glorified random encounter in which the party is suddenly attacked by the Headless Horseman, a powerful undead warrior mounted on horseback. Who is he? Well, there's three stories about where he came from. The first one is that he was an innocent man executed by Drakov's men. The second one is that he was a man who chopped off his own head rather than be killed by one of Strahd's men. And the third is that he was a bard who failed to entertain Ivana Boritsi as she bathed, so she chopped off his head and mixed his blood into her bathwater. If you think that none of those sound like a Darklord's backstory, you're not wrong. Oh, and you also have to fight the undead severed heads that precede and then follow the Horseman's run-by attack, which includes several medusa heads.

Cultural Level: Iron Age
Landscape: Mountains, High Desert
Motif: Native American Mythology
Darklord: Coyote

A domain based on certain Native American myths, where the people live simple, happy lives, whilst trying to avoid the attentions of the malicious trickster and fallen hero-deity Coyote. This netbook canon domain can be found in the Undead Sea Scrolls 2002.


In Eberron, the nation of Cyre was destroyed in the Day of Mourning, leaving only the Mournland behind. That Cyre became a Demiplane of Dread is perhaps the most common theory on the origin of the Mournland within the fandom, as it checks all the boxes for explanations.

  • The Mournland stops at Cyre’s artificial, political, borders and thus had to be caused by some intelligent actor. The Dark Powers certainly count. It also explains why it stops so exactly at the water that the docks were left behind.
  • The Mournland’s border is a wall of “dead-gray mist”. The link is obvious. In 4th Edition, this dead-gray mist supernaturally drains people of hope.
  • The Forge of War states that Dannel ir'Wynarn insistence that the crown of Galifar belonged to her was the only thing keeping the Last War going, making her prime Darklord material.
  • Dark Sun material describes Kalidnay as having been destroyed by "unknown disaster" that left it only "a jumble of ruins". The ruins in the Mournland are described being "moved", "rearranged", "turned 90 degrees", or "found miles from where war-era maps say they should be", which certainly can be described as a "jumble". The one adventure that travels to the ruined city (DSM2) mentions several structures remain intact, and many appear to be ruins purely because they're centuries old, which fits the multiple Mournland adventures with surviving structures, and several people seem to have died suddenly in a way that their body was intact. (While some of the Mournland's signature features are absent, all outside descriptions of Kalidnay are centuries after the fact while all descriptions of the Mournland are 0-4 years after its creation.)

None of this will ever be confirmed, and it’s unlikely to be anti-confirmed, as the truth of the Mourning is one of Eberron’s mysteries that exists to have no answer but what the Dungeon Master gives them. The setting's creator has however concurred it's a good option if one wanted some bit of Eberron in Ravenloft.

The theory received a bit of a nod in 5th edition with the reveal of a new Domain of Dread that is a fragment of Cyre that was taken by the mists on the Day of Mourning. Keith Baker also later released a supplement called Dread Metrol which makes the capital of Cyre another Domain of Dread.

4th Edition: Islands of Terror[edit]

In the World Axis, the idea of the Demiplane of Dread being its own independent universe was basically dropped. The idea, however, remained in the form of the Domains of Dread; regions in the Shadowfell created in response to great evils in the Material World, essentially mimicking the Islands of Terror format of the Demiplane, but with one major difference: these Domains are still part of the Shadowfell as a whole. As a result, if you can find the rite or secret or whatever it is that grants you passage, then you can flee the Domain through its misty veil and into the wider Shadowfell... which isn't necessarily that much of an improvement, but hey.

The idea of the Core is complete absent in 4th edition. Perhaps, if Ravenloft had been revived in this setting, the Core would have instead become more of a cursed but otherwise normal world, similar to and yet separate from the Domains of Dread seen in the Shadowfell. We'll never know.

The 4e Domains of Dread consist of the following:

Cultural Level: Classical
Landscape: Half-ruined city on a cliff's edge at the edge of a swampy river dela
Motif: Diabolist Grand Guignol
Darklord: Ivania Dreygu and Vorno "The Ghoul" Kahnebor

Originally the Bael Turath city of Harrack Unarth, Sunderheart's doom came when it came under the control of the lovers Ivania Dreygu and Vorno Kahnebor, the Nentir Vale version of Romeo and Juliet... if Romeo and Juliet were debauched hedonistic tieflings who engaged in rape, murder and cannibalism and who massacred their entire families so they could be together. Eventually, Vorno became so vile that even Ivania grew sick of him, so she murdered him by feeding him a servant girl whom she had fed with a deadly poison. Then she woke up in Sunderheart with her ghoulified undead lover fused to her back like a monstrous parasitic twin. Now she rules by day over the half of the city still inhabited by the living, and Vorno the Ghoul rules over the undead-haunted ruins at night.

Cultural Level: Classical
Landscape: Dense Pine Forest, Mountains
Motif: Starvation
Darklord: Lord Durven Graef

When the Yeenoghu-worshipping hordes of the White Ruin threatened the empire of Nerath in the Nentir Vale, Lord Graef was the ruler of a minor frontier province who had already lost two of his three children. Desperate to preserve his family legacy, he was determined that his final son, Geoffery Graef, would not answer King Elidyr's call to take up arms against the horde. When his son disagreed, they fought, and Lord Graef accidentally killed his son by causing him to fall and fatally strike his head. Which was when the gnoll warbands fell upon Graefmotte. Lord Graef led the fighting over the night, and was near-mortally wounded; disemboweled and with an arm bitten off, nobody expected him to cling to life for a day and a night... never mind for his wounds to fully heal. Ever since then, Graefmotte has been a land cursed, where its people face a slow, withering death by starvation, or a quick, bloody one at the jaws of the maddened gnolls and starvation-spawned ghouls that haunt the ever-shifting forest.

Cultural Level: Classical
Landscape: Tropical Rainforest
Motif: Treachery
Darklord: Arantor

During the war between Bael Turath and Arkhosia, the Silver Dragon Arantor and his daughter mrissa were called upon to destroy a remote Turathi military outpost, almost hidden within thick tropical rainforest, whose isolation and surroundings made it virtually unreachable by ground-based forces. But after they hit their target, they realized that their intel had been faulty; this was no military camp, it was a refugee center for Turathi civilians! Father and daughter quarreled over what to do, with Imrissa wanting to return to Arkhosia and take responsibility for their crimes, whilst the glory-hound Arantor insisted they conceal it and protect their reputations. The argument grew so heated that Arantor slew his daughter, and then, stricken by guilt, he massacred the survivors of his first attack before becoming a plague upon the Turathi until his death. Which was when he awoke as a dracolich in a cavern deep below a twisted reflection of Monadhan, which has now become a gathering point for traitors. The greater the betrayal, and the more pathetic the reason, the more likely the perpetrator is to find a place within Monadhan - whether by being swallowed by the Mists, or by awakening there alive and whole after dying for their misdeeds. As a result, Monadhan is now an oubliette for treacherous scum from across time and space.

The Endless Road[edit]
Cultural Level: Classical
Landscape: An endless road winding through forests, hills and plains
Motif: You can't escape your sins
Darklord: Eli van Hassen

The tiny little roadside town of Tranquility was a peaceful place, until the day a four-headed hydra lurched from the fens and began plaguing the people. When a wandering adventurer known only as "The Horseman" arrived and slew the beast, the people celebrated. But the town's ruler, Eli van Hassen, a man forever plagued by resentment and inferiority over his provincial abode, resented the hero's fame. He forced his daughter to slander the man, accusing him of rape, and whipped the people of Tranquility into a frenzied mob who executed their savior despite his former protests. Now Eli and his daughter inhabit a fortified mansion that sits on the side of a great road, which stretches on to infinity; unless the Road decides to let you go, which it can do to anywhere in the Multiverse, you can walk forever and never leave. Of course, that risks attack by the undead remains of the Headless Horseman, who wants revenge on the van Hassens, but will happily settle for anyone else he can get his hands on.

Cultural Level: Iron Age
Landscape: Dense confider forest
Motif: Nature's Savagery
Darklord: Silvermaw

When a naive treant allowed humans to settle in the planeshifting forest that was an archfey's garden under his care, he was horrified when they began to create a fire to keep them warm as they slept. But when he attacked in an effort to quench the flames, he burned himself and then set the forest ablaze, leaving it to burn as he focused on slaying the human interlopers. For this, his master cut the garden away and banished it to the Shadowfell. Here, the tribal humans have become a pack of werewolves, endlessly hunting and being hunted by the mad, wounded treant, who has coated his mouth with molten silver so that he may better rend and bite his foes; hence his name "Silvermaw".

5th Edition: The Alternate Continuity[edit]

In February 2021, it was announced across the internet that the Demiplane of Dread would at last make an official return as a D&D setting for Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition in the form of Van Richten's Guide to Ravenloft. But it also openly announced that the 30 domains of dread that would be debuting in the book would include a mixture of brand new domains, classic domains, and revamped/reimagined takes on old domains - something that immediately began raising hackles amongst the Ravenloft fandom, who tend towards the grognardier side of the fence. Why did they do this? Was it because the last version of Ravenloft-as-setting was done by White Wolf and there were legal entanglements preventing Wizards of the Coast from reusing their inventions? Was it because a lot of Ravenloft classic lore was actually kind of stupid and in desperate need of revamping? Was it because of SJWs? (probably a little considering some of the weirder changes made) Some combination thereof? The world may never know.

Either way, the 5e version of the Demiplane of Dread thusly has its own unique take on the different Domains, which this section will try to break down for comparison's sake.

5th edition no longer has the Core although a few Clusters still exist, but are now treated as single domains, and also changes the rules for traveling between domains. If the borders of a domain are not closed, entering the mists on the borders only takes you to another domain if you get a lucky roll, and usually you will end up back in the domain where you started or just wander the mists going nowhere. And even if you do get lucky it is up to the DM to decide where to drop you. You can choose what domain you want to go to and bypass this roll by carrying a mist talisman, which is an item related in some way to that domain or at least that domain's theme, and each domain has a few possible items you can use as a talisman for it. If you have the Mist Walker dark gift, you can travel to any domain that you know the name of without a talisman, but at the cost of not being able to stay in one place for too long.

Featured Domains[edit]

These domains have received descriptions a few pages long.

Barovia 5e[edit]
Cultural Level: Medieval European
Landscape: Temperate forests and hills
Motif: Dracula knockoff
Darklord: Strahd Von Zarovich

It's literally just Barovia as seen in Curse of Strahd. The only major change is that now the Dark Powers have started to get creative and may have Tatyana reincarnate as someone unexpected to mess with Strahd.

Bluetspur 5e[edit]
Cultural Level:
Landscape: Utterly alien
Motif: Alien Horror, amnesia
Darklord: The God-Brain

Aside from some slight tweaks to the backstory of the God-Brain and a shift in focus to more of an "alien abductions/unspeakable alien experiments" motif, Bluetspur is basically unchanged.

Borca 5e[edit]
Cultural Level: Chivalric
Motif: Poison, Machivellian manipulation
Darklord: Ivana Bortisi

Outside of the changes to the Darklords, there's nothing new here.

The Carnival 5e[edit]
Cultural Level: N/A
Landscape: N/A
Motif: Creepy supernatural carnival
Darklord: Isolde/Nepenthe

No longer a wandering point of light, The Carnival is now a free-floating island of terror, with the role of Darklord being shared between Isolde and Nepenthe, a cursed sword she carries. The backstory has also been changed extensively, involving a counterpart to the Carnival run by shadar-kai. The Carnival is also haunted by the Litwick Market, a black market of malicious fey with a grudge against the Carnival who invariably show up once the Carnival settles down and start making trouble. Also, the Twisting is no longer a thing.

Darkon 5e[edit]
Cultural Level:
Motif: The end of the world
Darklord: Azalin Rex, currently MIA

The first "continuation" domain, Azalin went missing during an event called the Hour of Ascension and now Darkon is falling apart, slowly being dissolved by the Mists. The domain has become split into four islands. During the day the mists can be crossed as normal, but during the night anything covered by the mists disappears and the mists swallow a little bit more of the land in tiny steps or in huge floods. As was the case during the original Shrouded Years, a number of demilords are trying and failing to hold it together. Collectively known as The Inheritors, they consist of the vampire Alcio Metus (sister to the late Baron Metus), Cardinna Artazas and the Necrichor of Darcalus Rex, and Madame Talisveri Eris. The only clue about where Azalin went is a strange glowing object called the King's Tear which appeared floating over Darkon at the same time that he vanished.

Dementlieu 5e[edit]
Cultural Level:
Motif: Masquerade and imposter syndrome
Darklord: Saidra d'Honaire

Completely rewritten, Dementlieu is now an impoverished city where everybody tries desperately to pretend they are richer and more important than they actually are or else lose their clout, and avoid getting exposed as frauds lest they be disintegrated by its new Darklord; Saidra d'Honaire. Also has a Masque of the Red Death thing going on, making it a bit like Sanguinia.

Falkovnia 5e[edit]
Cultural Level:
Motif: Zombie Apocalypse
Darklord: Vladeska Drakov

Completely rewritten, Falkovnia is no longer the "war horror" domain, but instead a zombie apocalypse domain, where new Darklord Vladeska Drakov struggles to keep the living alive in the face of monthly sieges by massive armies of the Walking Dead. Maybe they didn't want /pol/ fanboying the original Vlad?

Har'Akir 5e[edit]
Cultural Level:
Motif: Ancient Egypt
Darklord: Akhtepot

Completely rewritten, Har'Akir is now a sprawling, heavily populated land where the living bow to a mummified aristocracy and Ankhtepot actually wishes for death.

Haz'lan 5e[edit]
Cultural Level:
Motif: Wild magic, environmental destruction, magic-based classism
Darklord: Hazlik

This retconned version of the domain has dropped the Mulans vs. Rashemani racism of the past and is now being devastated by a series of arcane apocalypses. Darklord Hazlik now suffers a combination of his old curse and Azalin's curse.

I'Cath 5e[edit]
Cultural Level: Scavengers
Landscape: City
Motif: Denial of reality
Darklord: Tsien Chiang

Completely rewritten, I'Cath has gone from a glorified Oriental Adventures dungeon to a crumbling city where the population is largely trapped in an eternal slumber, forced to constantly work at building and rebuilding a dream-version of I'Cath at the behest of Darklord Tsien Chiang, who can never be satisfied with what she has. When the inhabitants wake, they must scavenge for food in a city constantly being rebuilt by Tsien Chian's armies of Jiangshi, who will not harm a sleeper, but will happily tear an awake mortal limb from limb.

Cultural Level:
Motif: War-torn nation, faction mechanics
Darklord: Ramya Vasavadan

New domain, although it's intended to take the place of the old domain of Sri Raji, which is mentioned as an alternative name for it. This India-themed domain is locked in an eternal civil war between its Darklord, Ramya Vasavadan, and her two fiendish siblings; Arijani the Rakshasa and Reeva the Arcanaloth.

Kartakass 5e[edit]
Cultural Level:
Motif: Show business, predatory business practices, werewolves
Darklord: Harkon Lukas

Largely unchanged, save for the revisions to Harkon Lukas' story and the replacement of wolfweres with Loup-garou.

Lamordia 5e[edit]
Cultural Level: Steampunk
Landscape: Arctic
Motif: Mad science, biting cold, implicit kaiju
Darklord: Viktra Mordenheim

Basically unchanged, save for a new emphasis on an arctic climate and the tweaks to its Darklord, replacing Viktor Mordenheim and Adam with Viktra Mordenheim and Elise. The darklord curse has been given a twist, too: Viktra succeeded where Victor would perpetually fail-- but she cannot duplicate her success and the living (golem-like) Elise shuns her and hides in the wilderness. Also, the whalers operating out of Ludendorf may or may not be hunting creatures more fearsome than actual whales, and it's heavily implied that there may be a radioactive kaiju hibernating under the mountain range not-so-subtly named "The Sleeping Beast".

Mordent 5e[edit]
Cultural Level:
Motif: Ghosts and haunted houses

The only change here is to Wilfred Godefroy's curse and backstory, which now involves the famous Alchemist's Apparatus first introduced to Ravenloft lore in I10: Ravenloft II: The House on Gryphon Hill.

Richemulot 5e[edit]
Cultural Level:
Motif: Pandemic, wererats
Darklord: Jacqueline Renier

Retconned into a plague-stricken nation barely avoiding crumbling into total ruination through the machinations of Jacqueline Renier, who's also responsible for the plagues in the first place as she's a one-percenter who despises the middle-class and people who aren't wererats.

Tepest 5e[edit]
Cultural Level:
Motif: Wickerman/Midsommar type of stories
Darklord: Lorinda Mindefisk

Sitting somewhere between continuation and retcon, Tepest has lost its anti-fey inquisition and is now focused on its Darklord; Lorinda Mindefisk, who imprisoned her sisters in a cauldron because they refused to let her have a child.

Valachan 5e[edit]
Cultural Level:
Landscape: Jungle
Motif: The deadliest game
Darklord: Chakuna

Similarly to Tepest, Valachan is supposed to be a continuation of its former self, although there's a lot of retcons to the lore. Since Baron Urik von Kharkov was slain by Chakuna, the jungles have turned hungry, rendering the realm a land where everything is out for blood and those appetites are barely kept in check by regular ceremonial blood sacrifices known as the Trial of Hearts.

Other Domains[edit]

These domains only received a short block of text about them. Several of them are completely new domains and so are intended to just be ideas for Dungeon Masters to build on.

Cyre 1313, The Mourning Rail[edit]
Cultural Level: Dungeonpunk
Landscape: A magical train traveling through the Mists
Motif: Ghost train
Darklord: The Last Passenger

The first ever Eberron Domain of Dread. On the day that Cyre was destroyed by the Mourning, a train was about to carry a bunch of refugees who saw the disaster coming out of Cyre, but the train's departure was delayed by a mysterious VIP who threw hundreds of the train's passengers out to make room for their self and their retinue and to be sure nobody on the train would learn their identity, and so the train departed too late. The train was taken into the mists when the Mourning hit where it became a mobile domain constantly running from the Mourning which the passengers think is still chasing them. The passengers still haven't noticed that the Mourning already killed them.

Forlorn 5e[edit]
Cultural Level:

Unchanged, save for a few details about its Darklord's history.

Ghastria 5e[edit]
Cultural Level:
Motif: The Picture of Dorian Grey
Darklord: Stezan D'Palerno

Unchanged, save for a few details about its Darklord's history.

G'henna 5e[edit]
Cultural Level:
Motif: Religious horror
Darklord: Yagno Petrovna

Unchanged, save for a few details about its Darklord's history.

Invidia 5e[edit]
Cultural Level:
Darklord: Gabrielle Aderre

Rewritten; Darklord Gabrielle Aderre now constantly dabbles in black magic and conjuring all manner of outsiders to try and ensure that her beloved (and implicitly possessed) son Malocchio will have the best of futures.

Keening 5e[edit]
Cultural Level:

Now has a living population who live in terror of its banshee Darklord. They fear the Darklord so much that they have actually destroyed their own sense of hearing to protect themselves.

Cultural Level:
Landscape: Surreal environment
Motif: Impending Doom
Darklord: Klorr

New domain mentioned in brief, a series of shattered islands floating through a misty netherworld, swirling around a blazing giant eye, where one island is obliterated every hour only for another to take its place.

Markovia 5e[edit]
Cultural Level:
Landscape: Tropical island
Motif: Flowers for Algernon syndrome, furries
Darklord: Dr. Frantisek Markov

Rewritten into a mixture of Dr. Moreau and Dr. Jekyll.

The Nightmare Lands 5e[edit]
Cultural Level:
Motif: Nightmares
Darklord: The Nightmare Court

Largely unchanged, save for the new origin of the Nightmare Court as multiple personas birthed from the mind of a powerful but monstrous psionicist who tries to run from the crimes of her past and deny that they ever existed.

Cultural Level:
Landscape: Island monastery
Motif: Path of Inspiration
Darklord: Sarthak

New domain mentioned in brief, tied to Kalakeri, ruled over by a corrupted Brass Dragon who poses as a sadhu to lure victims into sacrificing their worldly goods for his hoard before he consumes their souls and replaces it with an obedient shadow.

Nova Vaasa 5e[edit]
Cultural Level:
Motif: Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde meets Genghis Khan
Darklord: Myar Hiregaard

Rewritten; now less Russian and more Mongolian, with a female Darklord named Myar Hiregaard who united the warring tribes of her homelands, only to turn them against each other once more when she grew bored with peacetime.

Odaire 5e[edit]
Cultural Level:
Motif: Evil puppets
Darklord: Maligno

Unchanged, save for the minor detail that Maligno changed his name to that from his original, less ridiculous name of Figlio.

The Rider's Bridge[edit]
Cultural Level:
Motif: The Headless Horseman

Yet another reinterpretation of the Headless Horseman, this time as a dullahan who shows up at important bridges in domain-specific forms and attacks anyone who tries to cross. Successfully crossing the bridge may transport you to a different domain.

Risibilos 5e[edit]
Cultural Level:
Motif: Parody
Darklord: Doerdon

A super-minor domain originally mentioned in brief as part of the infamously terrible "Book of Crypts" anthology. Rewritten into a domain-hopping music hall, where the humorless former-king Doerdon is now condemned to an agonizing eternity as an entertainer, with a sentient ventriloquist dummy in the likeness of Strahd von Zarovich as his partner in comedy. Needless to say, don't be surprised if your DM brings a Strahd muppet to the table.

Scaena 5e[edit]
Cultural Level:

Unchanged from its original lore.

Sea of Sorrows 5e[edit]
Cultural Level:

The Darklord is now Pietra van Rise, a vicious female pirate turned ghost or sea zombie (it's not clear which). Mention is also made of Blaustein (now ruled by the ghosts of Bluebeard's wives), Dominia (the patients are all avatars of Dr. Heinfroth), the Isle of the Ravens (unchanged), and the new domains of The Lighthouse, which features, well, a lighthouse, and Vigilant's Bluff, where an undead paladin offers refuge so long as you respect his faith.

The Shadowlands 5e[edit]
Cultural Level:


Souragne 5e[edit]
Cultural Level:

Still Southern Gothic New Orleans, but Anton's got a new backstory as a sadistic prison warden and has been downgraded in terms of power.

Staunton Bluffs 5e[edit]
Cultural Level:

Largely identical, except the former darklord is now a good guy and his crime has been given to his retconned sister, Teresa Bleysmith.

Tovag 5e[edit]
Cultural Level:
Darklord: Kas

Another continuation. No longer connected to Cavitus, which probably doesn't exist anymore since Vecna is gone. Kas now fixates on finding Vecna and resuming their ancient battle.

Vhage Agency[edit]
Cultural Level:
Landscape: An office building
Motif: Insanity, Film Noir
Darklord: Flimira Vhage

A new domain in the form of a detective agency ruled over by Flimira Vhage, who remains unaware that literally the entire agency only exists in her own broken mind. Oh, and it literally looks like an old noir film brought to life, complete with everything inside being in different shades of monotone gray.

Zherisia 5e[edit]
Cultural Level:
Motif: Serial killings
Darklord: Sodo

The elaborate dread doppelganger society has been wiped out. Now there's just a starving city descending into madness and a single ancient doppelganger trying to preserve its existence through cannibalism. The sewers that used to be called Timor still exist but the marikiths have been replaced with Carrion Stalkers.

Fan-made and Semi-canon[edit]

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Cultural Level:

The former capital city of Cyre. Detailed in Dread Metrol, a supplement released by Keith Baker on the DM's Guild.

Notable Non-Darklords[edit]

The Cosmology of Planescape
Inner Planes Ethereal Plane Prime Material Astral Plane Outer Planes
Elemental Planes Energy Planes Demiplane of Dread Plane of Shadow Plane of Mirrors
World Serpent Inn Tu'narath Sigil Demiplanes Ordial Plane?
Far Realm