D&D 5E [Let's Read] DM's Guild Ravenloft Sourcebooks



It’s been nearly seven years since the highest-rated 5th Edition adventure was published. Continuing a proud tradition nearly 4 decades in the making, the iconography of the Devil Strahd and his doomed obsession with Ireena is now something D&D gamers of all generations are intimately familiar with; and in turn the broader setting of Ravenloft. During the same year of Curse of Strahd’s release the Dungeon Master’s Guild came out, allowing third party publishers to use the explicit IP of Wizards of the Coast to make their own sourcebooks. Drawing from fans of the broader Demiplane of Dread to exclusive Barovian castle delvers, fan-made Ravenloft supplements are almost as numerous as that of Eberron’s.

In the Halloween spirit I’m reviewing a variety of such products, with an emphasis on the more obscure sourcebooks. I may review the more popular ones in due time, but in focusing on the relative unknowns I’m hoping to find some rare gems that have been overlooked by the gaming community. I’m going to adhere to a set of standards for these reviews, outlined below.

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Product Link: This links to the product’s storefront, usually the Dungeon Master’s Guild.
Product Type: This specifies what kind of product this sourcebook is: adventure, location/domain, bestiary, etc.
CoS-required? Explains whether the product is intended to be used in line with the Curse of Strahd adventure.

In knowing my own limits, I’m doing individual reviews of shorter soucebooks. Usually 20 to 60 pages, rarely more than 100 which would be split into multiple parts. I would like to review at least one of the bigger Ravenloft books, particularly One Night Strahd, She Is the Ancient, the Barovia Gazetteer Collected Edition, or the Realm of the Blood Queen. But those are much larger undertakings, and we may get one at best by this Halloween.

Index of Reviewed Works

1. The Multiverse Files: Curse of Strahd

2. A Botanical Guide to Barovia

3. Duskwalker

4. Captain Snowmane’s Guided Cruise Through the Domain of Dread

5. Barovia Born and Raised

6. Escape From the Cyre 1313

7. The Atlas of Dread

8. The Fate of St. Penetas

9. The Red City Demiplane of Dread

10. Dark Carnival and the Mirrors of Madness

11. The Devil’s Brides

12. Van Richten Dies in Ravenloft

13. The Barovia Gazetteer

14. Heorot: Beowulf’s Domain of Dread

15. Realm of the Blood Queen

16. One Night Strahd

17. Strahd's Dark Servants

18. The Dragon's Breath Tavern

19. Weekend at Strahd's

20. The Real Housewives of Ravenloft

21. Allies Against the Night

22. Mimsy's Ravenloft Shop of Treasures

23. Laboratory of the Mad Abbot

24. Vallaki's Got Talent

25. Assault on Castle Ravenloft

26. The Real Devil Strahd! A CR27 Version of the Devil

27. Barovian Nights: 101 Ravenloft Encounters

28. Orphans of the Multiverse: Lost in Barovia

29. She is the Ancient: A Genderbent Curse of Strahd

30.Curse of Strahd Companion: the Complete Edition

Mini-Game 1. Madame Eva's Tarokka Deck of Friends, Foes, & Fortunes

Mini-Game 2. Tarokka Critical Hit Deck
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Product Type: DMing Tools/Bestiary
CoS-Required? Yes

History literally repeats itself in the nightmare domain of Barovia. Strahd Von Zarovich has lived a thousand lives and perished a thousand deaths, his existence played out like a demented opera for the Dark Powers. A man whose selfish desire for a woman made him lose everything, even his life and soul, as he became master of his birthright domain.

But what if things turned out different? What if by some twist of fate, Strahd found himself damned in some other way, a circumstance altogether new yet no less horrific? The Multiverse Files explore various “what ifs” of Strahd’s backstory, and how it can be used to run a familiar-yet-different Curse of Strahd. Each alternative tale lays out mechanical and aesthetic changes, from the land to the monsters, as well as the relationships and tactics of certain characters in the adventure as a result of this altered Strahd.

Beast of Ravenloft explores a reality where Strahd became cursed with lycanthropy, that of a wereraven’s, instead of vampirism. In this world, he pledged himself to the god Malar to gain strength in fighting the old enemies of pre-Mists Barovia. The story plays out similarly, although the tragedy of Castle Ravenloft occurs when Strahd prayed to Malar for guidance at winning Tatyana’s favor when she fell in love with Sergei instead. A bestial fury wrought of divine power descended on the Count, and the castle ran red with blood.

In this world, Malar is considered a dark aspect of Mother Night, the Keepers of the Feather are an evil organization who view Strahd as a demigod servant of Malar, and Strahd’s human form is unknown to the general public which can mean that a d8 table of existing NPCs can reveal who his secret identity is in the module. The Sunsword is reflavored into the Moon Sword and is effective against shapechangers instead of undead, and the Holy Symbol of Ravenkind is instead the Holy Symbol of Night which can turn lycanthropes and cast the moonbeam spell.

Strahd as the Beast of Ravenloft has altered stats emphasizing a mobile lycanthropic fighter. He doesn’t have wizard spellcasting like the default Strahd, instead having a few innate spells he has access to in human form. His legendary actions are focused around speed and fly-by attacks, and he also has the ability to mentally charm ravens and wereravens at will as opposed to humanoids. Although this Strahd can move faster and operate in sunlight, he is a bit lacking in who he can charm (albeit as a bonus action instead of an action) and in having less spells, even if he can cast them as part of Legendary Actions.


Dark Machines asks the question of what if Barovia was a province of Karrnath in the world of Eberron, or rather originated in that setting. Here, Strahd is a scientific general in an undead mechanical shell. He sought to win Tatyana’s hand by showing her and Sergei a mighty mobile warcastle, but its arcane engine catastrophically detonated. The explosion killed him, the couple, and everyone inside, causing the Mists to descend.

In this version of Barovia, Castle Ravenloft is a mobile steampunk fortress, part of a greater plot to amass a grand army of unholy constructs to take over a Karrnath he will never see again. There are more mechanical monsters serving Strahd, the now-vanished Dragonmarked houses show their influence in rare marks in certain noble families (the Kolyanas being one of them: House Deneith), and those lured into Barovia often find themselves at an abandoned lightning rail station. The Keepers of the Feather are an underground resistance movement lead by the monster hunter Diana Van Richten, the Amber Temple is a prison housing comatose daelkyr, and the Sun Sword is reflavored as the Blade of Dol Arrah which deals additional damage to constructs instead of undead. We have a new stat block for Bloodforged (evil humanoid constructs that weaken in sunlight), and Strahd’s stat block is a lightning-wielding construct who looks human on the surface but reveals more of his mechanical nature the more he’s damaged.

Escape Plan is what happens when Strahd gets genre savvy. In this timeline, the Count is not only aware of the Dark Powers, he’s been privately plotting a way out of Barovia once and for all. In this version, Strahd seeks to coax and manipulate the PCs into committing greater acts of evil as a means to have them replace him as Barovia’s new Darklord. Once that occurs, he plans on using the Zarovan Vistani to take him out of the plane. Not only that, he has also learned the true names of several imps, which he uses to stalk the party at all times as invisible spies. Strahd already killed or otherwise permanently hobbled several potential allies: Van Richten was captured, used as bait, and eventually killed to lure out Ez to turn her into a vampire spawn, the majority of the Keepers of the Feather are dead, he stole Mordenkainen’s staff and spellbook, and the undead paladins of Argynvostholt have been chained to wooden wheels at the bottom of Lake Zarovich. Strahd still cares for Ireena even though she’s no longer his primary focus, although in capturing her to keep in his castle she now knows much of its layout and inhabitants.

This is Curse of Strahd on hard mode, and the book even highlights this saying that it’s better-suited for players familiar with the original 5e adventure. Strahd’s stats are the same, although there’s a sidebar giving him access to higher-level spells such as Antimagic Field as well as more “self-aware” tactics like noting which of the PCs is likeliest to use the Sunsword and will only kill a character who refuses to be corrupted.

Heart of the House makes Castle Ravenloft itself the Darklord, with Strahd but a mental thrall of the building’s will to serve as the face of Barovia’s evil. The Castle has the ability to gain mental control of those who spend time inside it, and craves the attention of outsiders for some stimulation in its droll existence. Ireena is strangely immune to the Castle’s psychic puppetry, and so the darklord fills her life with tragedy in the belief that her good heart is the source of this resistance. The DM rolls 3 times on a table to determine which big-time NPCs are already puppets, which can even include the mighty Mordenkainen or even Madam Eva! The PCs can find an unlikely ally in Baba Lysaga, who raised Strahd like her son and wants to free him from the Castle’s dreadful influence.

In this version, the Heart of Sorrow is the true final boss, having its own stats as a CR 15 monster which can attack with slashing grappling tendrils, an AoE frightening aura, and Legendary Actions and Resistances.

Hoard of Blood posits Strahd as being an undead dragon. In this version, he was impaled on one of Argynvost’s scales when he was still a mortal human. Seeking to avoid eventual death, he performed necromantic experiments on the dragon’s corpse to heal himself, and became a dragon-vampire hybrid. This new state proved a blessing politically, as he expanded his ancestral lands’ reach to conquer all of Barovia. But this only frightened Tatyana into Sergei’s arms, repeating a tragedy we know all too well.

In this version Strahd can take the form of a human, transforming into a dragon with its own stat block under certain circumstances such as being reduced to 0 HP and triggering a Phase Two Boss Battle. Strahd’s goals in this version are to accumulate more wealth for his hoard, creating “children” in the form of dragon-blood infected hybrid abominations,* and finding a way to transport Barovia back to the Material Plane so he can expand his dominion. His obsession with accumulating magic items allows him to cast divination spells on the party as they find more of the three great Treasures of Ravenloft. The undead knights of the Order of the Silver Dragon are more active in resisting Strahd’s tyranny via building siege engines in the forests and riding into town to try and recruit people. They haven’t gotten far on this last part on account of their undead nature, so they do their best to disguise themselves under full plate armor.

*which are a template adding more dragon-themed abilities to an existing stat block.


Reversal of Roles is our final entry, making it so that Tatyana was the one who became the Darklord of Barovia. In this tale, she was already a vampire before she met the Von Zaroviches, and turned Strahd and Sergei against each other via courting both. This caused Strahd to kill his brother in a fit of murderous jealousy. Unlike the original Strahd, Tatyana is a villain with good publicity. Although Barovia is a gloomy and forlorn land, the general public view the Dowager Countess as a benevolent ruler eager to make the major towns good places to live via charitable investments in infrastructure. The undead in the land are controlled by her, but she claims that they’re cursed soldiers of Strahd seeking to undo everything she has built.

Tatyana does believe that she is Barovia’s greatest protector…but only if she can utterly control every aspect of the people’s lives. In this campaign, she is more of a behind the schemes manipulator, using propaganda to turn townsfolk against the PCs, trying to manipulate the PCs into killing Ez, and is consumed with finding and destroying the Sunsword. Sergei exists as a dullahan with a unique stat block, unwillingly serving Tatyana as long as she is in possession of his head. Instead of the Tome of Strahd, that treasure is replaced with the Reins of Bucephalus, which casts Find Greater Steed to summon a nightmare horse of the same name with enchanted armor. Tatyana’s stat block is perhaps the most underwhelming, being that of a (still-powerful) Monster Manual Vampire, but with warlock spellcasting.

Overall Thoughts: In regards to the alternate Strahds, my favorites are Dark Machines and Escape Plan. The gothic steampunk atmosphere and Castle Ravenloft as a mobile dungeon really tickle my fancy, and Escape Plan is a good reflection in-character of an immortal vampire growing increasingly obsessive over the ennui of his time-loop imprisonment. I am not as fond of the Beast of Ravenloft or Reversal of Roles; the former in that wereravens aren’t the iconic type of lycanthrope and I cannot help but feel it makes Strahd weaker overall (less magic) and also ties him too closely to a Faerunian-centric deity. As for Reversal of Roles, I feel that She Is the Ancient does a much better job of “Strahd But Female,” and the whole “female villain using seduction to do evil villain things” is a well-worn cliche.

But overall, I like this product. It has a variety of interesting spins on Curse of Strahd to make for fun alternatives, and the addition of new stat blocks, magic items, and monsters is a welcome touch. The product’s page count is brief, but it feels dense in material. Its major weakness is that most DMs aren’t likely to use the product to its fullest, given that the Curse of Strahd campaign takes a lot of time to run to completion.

Join us next time as we go foraging for herbs in the Svalich Woods in A Botanical Guide to Barovia!
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Product Type: Character Options, Bestiary, Adventure
CoS-Required? No, but the adventure ties into it

Barovia is famed for its immortal ruler, the monsters that stalk the night, and its foreboding wilds. But often overlooked are the boons and banes that grow beneath the feet of men and monster alike, sheltered within the Svalich Woods. A Botanical Guide to Barovia gives us a diverse assortment of flora-themed material with a touch of gothic horror. We’ve got new equipment in the form of harvested herbs, two new subclasses, six monsters, nearly 20 new pieces of equipment and magic items, and an adventure to top it all off!

Subclasses gives us the Tree Speaker for the Ranger and Circle of Rot for the Druid. The Tree Speaker gains a variety of class features making them closer to the green, such as learning Druidic, casting Ensaring Strike a limited number of times per long rest, can turn their flesh into rough spiky spark to deal damage to grappling creatures, coat their weapons in acidic or poisonous sap, and can cast either Awaken or Wall of Thorns once per long rest as the capstone ability. As for the Circle of Rot, it gains a variety of damaging and debuffing bonus spells such as Blight, Bestow Curse, and Ray of Enfeeblement. It can also let one expend uses of wild shape to summon twig blights which explode into a burst of necrotic energy upon death, can detect the presence of charmed/cursed/diseased targets, gain resistance/advantage against necrotic damage and disease, and can summon a necrotic awakened tree as its capstone ability by expending a use of wild shape.

The Tree Speaker is a bit limited in that aside from speaking Druidic and the Awaken ability, the bulk of its abilities are strongly geared towards combat. The spiky armor has a nice +1 AC but its damage only triggers when being grappled, which not all monsters do. It doesn’t get bonus spells like the Gloom Stalker or Fey Wanderer, and the addition of a loyal monster via Awaken comes in too late in comparison to other subclasses such as Drakewarden or the revised Beastmaster. Circle of Rot has some good offensive spells, but typically speaking that isn’t always the druid’s strong suit, and the exploding twig blight is a bit weak to use in lieu of the more versatile Wild Shape.


The Plants of Barovia is the real plant-based meat of the book. The new plants are effectively items, detailing their common biome, notable uses and effects, rarity, and description of their appearance and where they grow. We have plants of more beneficial use to adventuring types, such as the Daydreamer Peony which can be brewed into a trance-inducing tea that grants one visions of the recent past in an area, the prized Morcant Burl which can grant +1 enchantment to wooden weapons and armor forged from it, the pest-like yet healthy Screamvine which can grant advantage on saves vs disease, and the resilient Sshadowgrass which can be made into strong hemp but disintegrates quickly outside of Barovia. On the hazardous side of things we have Sunblotter Thickets which envelop the canopies of trees, making sections of wood pitch black at all times of day, the predatory Burnblisters which grapple onto living creatures and can explode on contact with fire, and the mobile Fool’s Moss which can trick travelers into losing their sense of direction. In several cases we get descriptions of how Barovians incorporate the plants into their daily lives, such as the Ammarona Bushes whose flowers are ground into a reddish powder for makeup which was favored among the old nobility.

New Magic and Mundane Items gives new gear. On the magic side we have items such as the Clearing Sickle which can spend charges to do a cone-shaped AoE slash that deals double damage to plant creatures, Root Boots which grant advantage on checks to climb and avoid forced movement, and a Censer of Spores which is wielded like a flail that deals bonus poison damage and can cast cloudkill once per day, and Mother Night’s Draught which grants darkvision, 13 temporary hit points, and allows the drinker to replace a d20 roll with a 13 one time. For mundane items we have the herbalized forms of the effects of the preceding Plant section, such as Tinderpetal Powder which is effectively a medieval flashbang grenade or Aivless Tea which acts as a mild poison to drinkers with a soul or who are not native to Barovia (but can restore hit points to the undead).

Copper Stretch Goal is a supplementary PDF providing us with 5 new magic items on account of the Botanical Guide reaching Best Copper Seller on the DM’s Guild. It provides us with a Forest Ranger’s Hat that grants the wear the ability to put out fires, a Circlet of Flowering which can sprout one of three flowers that each have their own unique buff that lasts for a minute (cold resistance, advantage on insight and nature checks, can cast speak with plants), a Shield of Ages that is a +1 shield that increases Wisdom by 1 and makes the wielder immune to magical aging and the slow spell, a Staff of the Forest which can substitute one’s spellcasting ability for Strength when using it as a weapon along with charges that can be spent on a short list of plant-based spells, and a Backwoods Key which if placed into the keyhole of a door opens up into an extradimensional space that is a 100 foot long hallway made of wood and foliage that can be used to to 3 times. Each use creates increasingly creepy areas, with ravens that only say “doom, doom” on the 2nd use, and a terrifying plant creature using boneclaw stats on the 3rd and final use.


Monsters gives us a half-dozen new foes to menace the good people of Barovia. Four of them are on the low end of the Challenge Rating spectrum, with two (Chaanshaaz and Janus Tree) at higher 6 and 7 respectively. Burnblisters are corrupted plants which slowly move and grapple targets, but take triple damage from fire and grappled creatures take 1.5 times the damage from the fire as well. Wereraven Elders are more powerful versions of wereravens, with a modest selection of druid spells and can toss a handful of blinding pocket feathers at enemies in melee. Shadowfell Dryads are stronger versions of their normally benevolent race corrupted by the Shadowfell, and trade in their Innate Spells for a more offensive variety. Treelings are tiny creatures made of animated wood that live in small tribes; they are fluent only in Druidic and are more of nuisance than a threat, attacking with blowguns. Chaanshaaz appear as hulking elk carcasses reinforced by a parasitic plant, being a plant-undead hybrid for creature type with a damaging unnerving stare that can blind and stun as well as shedding a noxious ichor. Janus Trees are inhabited by the spirits of soulless Barovians, capable of draining the essence of creatures it grasps with its roots, can deliver a damaging cacophony of wails, and can summon spirits to fight on its behalf. But if Barovians are soulless, how do they have spirits?

Barring the Treelings, the monsters have a good variety in what they can do to stymie adventurers. Burnblisters serve best as traps or paired up with enemies who know to take advantage of their explosive properties, and the Dominate Beasts/Plants ability of Shadowfell Dryads can easily justify having any sort of natural minions alongside them in combat. While neither have Legendary nor Lair Actions, the Chaanshaaz and Janus Tree have “boss monster” vibes for low-level groups in their variety of attacks, several of which are multi-target.


The Grove of Grey Mists is a short adventure taking place in a demiplane adjacent to Barovia. While the Dark Powers have a sick kind of fondness for Strahd in their tormenting of him, they do not underestimate his power and thus created a failsafe in case he ever grows too uncontrollable. They created a grove held in a secret demiplane within the Shadowfell, and its location and purpose are unknown to Strahd. If he becomes aware of its existence, it will be a sunk cost in that the various minions he sends to infiltrate it end up dead or disappearing. Within the grove is the Heart of Barovia, a cursed stake that can be used to slay Strahd for good…at a terrible price!

The book gives various ways of incorporating the Grove into a Curse of Strahd adventure, as well as means to use it in other settings. The grove is in an unusually silent area of the Svalich Woods, with a ring of impenetrable trees that need to be climbed or flown over in order to enter. A wereraven elder associated with the Keepers of the Feather will warn the PCs away, even resorting to non-lethal combat should they persist (he calls for a ceasefire if the PCs harm him enough). The entryway to the demiplane is a dark tunnel made up of a canopy of thick branches, continuing for a third of a mile shrouded in thick mists.

The grove itself is an open-ended location with six areas to visit, and PCs will be trapped in the demiplane until they kill one of the vampire spawn in the Grove or when the wood woad acting as the guardian for the Heart gives the party its blessing to leave. Some interesting people and places in the Grove include…

…a skeleton animated by illusions of the Dark Powers that tells the party about a weapon that can end the dark lord in the heart of the grove.

…omens that can be seen in the surrounding mists when the PCs take a rest.

…a hag by the name of Marsha who will bribe the PCs with coins and a magic scroll if they kill the other inhabitants of the grove who she doesn’t trust/is annoyed by.

…a dusk elf cursed to forget recent events every thirty minutes, continually fishing with a spear at a pond. At the bottom of the pond is a sarcophagus containing a vestige with a dark gift that allows the pactmaker to turn invisible for a limited time, but every time it’s used a loved one forgets their love for them.

…a Shadowfell Dryad who wants to escape the grove and has a pet shambling mound to defend her, and wants the PCs to kill the wood woad in the belief this will help her goal.

…a Janus tree whose souls are those slain by Strahd’s forces, and can be reasoned with by PCs via a skill challenge. Success allows the tree to magically bless a weapon the party is carrying.

…the Wood Woad, guardian of the grove who stands vigil over the only way into the heart of the grove. He will not allow the PCs to pass, but can give his blessings to allow them to leave the grove. PCs will have to fight him in order to pass.

…the dark heart of the grove, which contains a tiny tree that stands as tall as a halfling. It absorbed all the nutrients in a 30 foot radius, creating a circle of bare, cracked earth. The center of the tree has a thick, perfectly shaped stake that is actually the Heart of Barovia. This legendary magic item functions as a +3 dagger that can gain up to 13 charges, with 1 charge for every creature it kills. The charges can be spent to deal 4 force damage per charge spent, and grants an equal number of temporary hit points to the target.

But gaining this item comes with a cost. First, a trial, for it is guarded by vampire spawn held in place by the roots of the tree snaking through the ground. They can attack the PCs with unique lair actions such as creating magical darkness, lashing tree branches, and skeletons burrowing their way to the surface. A character who touches the dagger is contacted by the Dark Powers, and the Heart’s properties can only be used and attuned by someone who accepts the deal. The accepting character also gains a randomly-determined Dark Gift from a table in line with a particular vestige, such as teleporting in darkness but becoming weak to sunlight as a vampire, or being able to cast counterspell with a free 7th level slot once per day but one’s lifespan is shortened by half.

But worst of all, a character who attunes to the Heart of Barovia can never leave the domain, and if they slay Strahd with the stake they become the new Darklord of Barovia. The curse cannot be broken save via a Wish spell or by killing Strahd…at which point it’s moot, as Darklords are unable to leave their own domains.

PCs who reject this dark offer won’t leave empty-handed. There’s an Arrow of Construct Slaying embedded in one of the trees in the dark heart of the grove.

Overall Thoughts: I’m not exactly thrilled by the subclasses, but I like everything else in this book. The plants and items provide a variety of useful ends for PCs, which can encourage parties to brave the wilds of Barovia for the desired herbs. The setting-specific lore is brief enough that this book can be easily ported to other worlds, and I talked about why I like the monsters. The grove is a good adventure, particularly in that the cursed nature of the Heart of Barovia mimics the tragic fall of willfully making the ultimate price to defeat a greater evil. This price isn’t foisted unexpectedly upon the characters either: they must choose to ignore the wereraven’s warnings, choose to slay the grove’s protector who tries to warn them again, and then they must choose to make a pact with the Dark Powers to gain the Heart.

Of course, such an offer may not be all that tempting to certain gaming groups, so the addition of other treasure in the Grove is helpful. My only main criticism besides the subclasses is the lack of market prices provided for the plants or mundane items, which I feel is an oversight.

Join us next time as we defend the town of Vallaki from a Shadowfell-spawned colossus in Duskwalker!



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Product Type: Adventure
Cos-Required? Yes

Duskwalker is a short, 33-page adventure meant to be used as part of the greater Curse of Strahd campaign. Upon opening this book, it has a distinctly different outline and art style, and looking up the author’s other works on Drive-Thru RPG it is clear why: he publishes 3rd party content for MÖRK BORG, a dark fantasy OSR game whose pages look like something out of a death metal magazine.


Duskwalker is meant to trigger sometime when the PCs are 5th or 6th level, coming back to the town of Vallaki after completing some other quest, likely after the PCs interrupted the druidic ceremony on Yester Hill. The title of the book is the same name as the major monstrous threat, where the Strahd-worshiping druids sent an emissary to the Shadowfell to summon a being of great power to Barovia. A towering, shadowy beast seemingly made of oil descended upon Vallaki, reaching through windows to snatch villagers out of their beds and carry them off into the mists. The Duskwalker cannot be killed from wounds alone; those who see the monster become cursed on a failed Charisma save, and every night they risk turning into the monster on a natural 1…of a 1d100 roll. The PCs roll this every night they remain cursed, but if none trigger it then a villager does and becomes the monster.

Complicating factors are that members of the Keepers of the Feather have been kidnapped when trying and failing to kill the beast themselves. Urwin Martikov was poisoned as a result, and has quarantined himself in a secret basement beneath the Blue Water Inn. The basement serves as a six-room dungeon occupied by shadow monsters Urwin is vomiting up, although PCs can convince a swarm of ravens to fight by their side in freeing their friend. PCs who exorcise the curse from Urwin cause a shadow elemental to leave his body and attack. It is like the classic four elemental monsters, albeit its attacks can drain Wisdom, it can create an aura of damaging magical darkness, is weak to sunlight, and can move through narrow spaces and the squares of hostile creatures.

In addition to the gratitude of the Keepers, the PCs can find some useful items and treasure down here, such as partial maps of Castle Ravenloft that allow them to avoid a limited number of random encounters in that dungeon.

The Duskwalker will attack the first night the PCs spend in Vallaki. It is a very strong Huge undead with high physical saves and poor mental ones along with a bunch of condition immunities. Its physical blows can cause cumulative Dexterity loss in addition to damage, has a necrotic breath weapon, can vomit up shadows by sacrificing some of its own hit points, and also has Legendary Actions.

Even if PCs are victorious against the monster it will continue to rise every night thereafter. Finding a more permanent solution involves following it leaving the town, which it will do if it manages to grapple and kidnap five people. PCs who follow it into the Svalich Woods can trigger one of six random encounters in following it. They all have strange and supernatural events, such as a hunter cursed into the form of a talking stag asking the PCs for help in changing back somehow, a pair of phase spiders luring prey into a cave with illusions and whose organs can be used to brew Oils of Etherealness, and a blink dog who can join the party if saved from six dire wolves.

The Duskwalker takes its victims into a large and colorful meadow, adorning a massive tree with captured villagers. The monster fades away as the sun rises, and the villagers are trapped in a magical resin which can be melted via Dispel Magic or a similar effect. PCs must fight a insect swarms and a Carnivorous Tulip (new monster that ensnares targets and digests them via burrowing underground and springing up beneath their feet) to reach the tree.


The Weeping Tree is a three-room dungeon. The Erzdruid, the evil mastermind who summoned the Duskwalker to Barovia, is here and will fight the PCs, with help being summoned every other round from a random table of nature-themed enemies. The final room has a being only briefly described as a shriveled, shadow-infused creature called simply “the Thing.” It is practically a noncombatant with Commoner stats, but killing it ends the Duskwalker curse and thus the monster, although Greater Restoration and Wish can have the same effect.

The adventure has two resolutions. A win scenario that permanently banishes the Duskwalker makes it so that the druids scatter in disarray and it will take decades for them to build back up their power. But if the PCs die or are otherwise unable or unwilling to stop the Duskwalker, Vallaki ends up all but depopulated in short order. In addition to the loss of Barovia’s largest town and its various benefits, Strahd is granted a gift by the Erzdruid where in the final fight the vampire lord will have two shadow elementals accompanying him.

Overall Thoughts: This is a cool, creepy adventure that makes for an inventive change of pace. Individually most of the encounters are not too hard for 5-6th level PCs, but the major threat is the race against time. The more the PCs wait, the more people the Duskwalker claims. I also like how the PCs can gain some aid in their quest, albeit of the furry and feathery kind than your more typical two-legged NPCs. The treasure types that can be earned are pretty neat, and the creepy garden and mossy tree make for a rather atmospheric dungeon crawl for a group of evil druids.

I do have some criticisms. The adventure is a bit railroaded in that several areas of resolution (curing Urwin, saving the resin-coated villagers) can only be accomplished by magic spells not all PCs may have. Additionally, the brevity of descriptive text doesn’t leave much room to expand on tactics. For some, such as the Carnivorous Tulip, this isn’t a big deal, but for the boss-level enemies such as the Duskwalker and Erzdruid it would’ve been helpful to list likely actions the enemies would do in response to common scenarios. While I do appreciate it tying in the Keepers of the Feather to show that Vallaki isn’t entirely defenseless, it doesn’t take into account its other likely monster-hunting occupant, Rudolf Van Ri-I mean, Rictavio! What’s the unassuming carnie doing when an undead kaiju is kidnapping villagers?

Join us next time as we set sail and explore new places with Captain Snowmane’s Guided Cruise Through the Domains of Dread!



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CoS-Required? No.

Named after a riverboat captain and necromancer whose voyage has taken her to many realms of Ravenloft, Captain Snowmane’s Guided Cruise Through the Domains of Dread is a multi-author collaboration effort detailing nine new domains. The introduction opens up with an in-character welcome by the Captain herself, eager to share knowledge of strange realms within the Mists. The majority of the book is written in third-person narration, although Snowmane’s personal thoughts appear as brief sidebars in a handwritten style every now and then. Every domain follows a common outline as detailed in Van Richten’s Guide to Ravenloft, with a brief overview of the domain’s concept, appropriate genre tags, guidance for creating PCs from the realm, and various adventure seeds and miscellaneous info in addition to the domain’s current state of affairs and the tragedy of its Darklord.


Belissia, Domain of Toxic Positivity is a collection of buildings in a sunny meadow completely encircled by the dark and foreboding Twistwood. Known as the Joyful Retreat, its founder and Darklord is Larian Songmoon, a deva celestial who sought to cure negative emotions and suffering in mortals. As his work was met with setbacks and failure due to the nature of living beings, he resorted to ever more desperate and unethical experiments. This eventually caused the Mists to fall after an orgy of violence borne from anger and repressed emotions wrought by his cruelties slain all but his most loyal followers. Now, Belissia is an all-too-saccharine cult of enforced joy, its inhabitants bottling up any trace of less-than-ideal thoughts for the continued masquerade of a false utopia. Those who resist Songmoon’s reign often retreat into the Twistwood, where they exult in their unleashed emotions and view hate and violence as things to be embraced. Residents who eventually break are hauled off to be tortured in the basement beneath the Morning Lodge, where many have been transformed into monsters as a result of Songmoon’s continually-failing quest.

New Rules: PCs are unable to gain the benefits of long rests in the domain if they fail a Wisdom save and also receive 1 level of exhaustion. As a result the inhabitants have turned to drugs of dubious safety in order to gain a semblance of restful sleep. Such drugs can grant the ability to take a long rest but inflict the poisoned condition. Otherwise finding a private safe place to work out one’s darker feelings in a healthy manner separate from the cult is the only way to rest safely.


Eludia, Domain of the Unshackled City began as a dream by Dray Warren, who was disgusted by a world dominated by unjust hierarchies and overbearing gods. Seeing his business empire collapse by those envious of his wealth only inflamed his vision. Seeking instead to exalt an elite vanguard of the best and brightest minds among the living, Dray and several other Founders traveled beyond the Material Plane to create their ideal society. But the Founders had grown ever more acrimonious and vindictive in how to achieve this aim, their quest doomed to failure until the Dark Powers reached out to offer them a safe place within the Mists.

Now, Eludia is a city fractured, its major districts known as Parks are divided into warring factions of the Founders controlling various key industries. The denial of such industries to other neighborhoods makes everyone worse off. Newcomers to the city are herded through a vast gate that looks beautiful and austentatious, assigned to temporary living quarters before being processed into Eludia proper. The agricultural industry is powered by greenhouses, and yet the majority of crops and cattle remain sick and dying as though their own bodies were trying to shut down. Automatons designed to take over menial tasks so that citizens could pursue their dreams have been repurposed for war, and the cathedral dedicated to self-improvement (religion is banned in Eludia) stands empty of the expected thinkers and philosophers that were prophesied to lead everyone into a new golden age. The city is surrounded by a starry field known as the nebulae, which is actually residual energies from the Far Realm that reach out to twist unlucky citizens in mind, body, and soul.

Dray Warren, the darklord of Eludia, now exists as a spiritual entity trapped in the city, forced to act through puppets, magic, and controlled automatons to thwart the schemes of the other Founder leaders.

New Rules: The nebulae disease is a template that can be applied onto creatures, decreasing their mental faculties and skill proficiencies but giving them advantage on Wisdom saves and imposing disadvantage on melee attacks targeting them when fighting in groups. For PCs, the madness is a gradual process afflicting characters every long rest on a failed Wisdom save, imposing randomly-determined maladies but which all fade away when they succeed on a Wisdom save as part of the long rest.


Maru, Domain of Caste Violence is a realm where people are grouped into socio-economic brackets by divine writ. Its noble and priest castes inflict miseries on the traders, artisans, and laborers who make up the bulk of the population, which in turn is giving rise to a burgeoning resistance movement. Most people live in the capital city of Atula and smaller settlements, as most of the domain is a scorched wasteland. As the gods have grown silent ever since Maru drifted into the Mists, the upper castes have secretly resorted to human sacrifice, something which is regarded as blasphemy to their own religion but tolerated by the Darklord due to his appetite for human flesh.

Vajra Baahu is the darklord of Maru, a wealthy landowner who was taught that the honor of his dynasty mattered more than anything else. He followed these tenets to horrific extremes, up to and including burning his daughter alive for eloping with a lower-caste boy and then putting the boy’s entire village to the sword. That was when the Mists claimed him. Now, Vajra Baahu is gaining more outwardly monstrous traits of a Pischacha, something none of his advisors dare to mention, and his three wicked sons are undergoing similar transformations.

As you can probably guess, Maru is strongly based off of real-world India, and its author is a citizen of that country. Given that the domain’s influences are drawing upon a contentious real-world issue that still impacts the nation to this day, the author talks about ways of handling the issue with care along with linked Wikipedia articles on India’s caste system and the discrimination that arises from it.

New Rules: The paraakramis, the ruling caste and warriors, are beginning to be affected by the Mists as they perpetuate and uphold systemic cruelties. There’s a d8 table of physical mutations along with in-game benefits known as Kohra’s Blessing. PCs can potentially gain them if engaging in particularly cruel actions, although the people of Maru will now view them as one of the paraakrami.

Additionally, we have new stat blocks. The Pischacha is an aberration that is mostly focused on melee attacks such as Multiattack and Pack Tactics, but recoils in sunlight. Aghori cultists are those who perform secret human sacrifices for the nobility, and have minor Cleric-style spellcasting with more dark magic style spells.


Sikaga, Domain of Lights and Glamour is a city where the majority of its inhabitants are outsiders. Sikagins, as they are called, are often pulled into the city as a result of anti-social behavior. Delusions of grandeur or engaging in uncouth behavior during festivities like falling asleep during a play or drinking to excess are the most common reasons. Sikaga itself is one big city, lit up at all hours with the central districts the most glamorous and known as the Lights. The farther one moves from the Lights the more rundown and gloomy things get, with the poor and disenfranchised surviving in the Outskirts. The Mists surround the Outskirts and is home to a giant slithering horror known only as the Watcher which catches any who wander too close to the edge. The most famous locations include the Golden Siren Casino that is run by a ruthless mob boss in charge of a compliment-based pyramid scheme (see New Rules below), the White Glove Restaurant whose courses are magically enhanced by the lifeforce of orphans imprisoned in a “farm” in the Outskirts, and the Heartseeker Theatre where people go to see Valerie Valentina perform. All those who attend leave drained and elderly, and many are willing to literally throw their lives away just to hear her sing.

Valerie Valentina is the domain’s political ruler, most famous performer, and darklord. Although she was a great singer, her real passion in life was torturing others. She did this by classic abuser tactics, using the prestige she built up to turn people against each other, and the cult of personality she built up eventually deluded her into thinking she was a literal goddess. The Dark Powers were drawn to her like moths to a flame, promising a domain worthy of her splendor.

The domain was an utterly barren empty city; not a single living soul resided within its walls. Valerie found herself going mad from isolation, and pleaded with the Dark Powers to bring people to her domain. Over time, souls would filter in, and in order to avoid aging she was forced to draw the life force from others through their compliments. Valerie hates this, as she realizes she is now dependent on those she views as lesser beings.

New Rules: Compliments of all kinds become the most valued currency in Sikaga. Those who give kind words, praise, and applause to another reduce their maximum age, while the beneficiaries of such compliments become visibly younger until they reach their prime. This can be anywhere from 1 year to 10 based on the level of praise. Those who would ordinarily die of old age instead become dregs, mute dried out husks who can only return to their normal forms if complimented.


Vendledorf, Domain of Lamenting Memories is a sad, quiet land, a graveyard of broken dreams and lost inspiration. The landscape is made up of derelict, collapsed monolithic structures of every conceivable shape from a myriad of cultures. The ground is dusty, barren plains where a daily downpour of magical rain erases all of the accomplishments made that day. Those exposed to the rain are affected by this time-rewinding forgetfulness: people lose memories of yesterday, new structures and buildings exposed to the rain crumble, ink leaks off of pages, etc. Vendledorf has hardly any inhabitants who were born there; instead it claims creative types obsessed with achieving some great work or legacy, only to forget all that they built and thus are stuck in a cycle of ever-fleeting writer’s block. An arena home to forgotten warlords and shamed warriors fight in a ruined colosseum stuck in a cycle of forgotten praise, and a giant skeleton of a forgotten god known as Pride’s Crypt has become tainted with the energy of the Shadowfell and thus the influence of the Faerunian goddess Shar.

Everyone in Vendledorf has vague memories of a ghost by the name of Isvelof the Unforgettable, the specific details hazy and unclear. Most people are unaware of the rain’s properties, save for the historian Valure Ignaczak who has taken to storing documents in waterproof containers and is a good source of information for the PCs.

Isvelof is in fact, the darklord of this domain. He was a low-ranking noble who sought to be remembered, but his meager attempts at earning fame caused him to resort to ever more obsessive measures. Eventually he bargained with the Dark Powers to never be forgotten. He got his wish, and a domain of his own, but the name Isvelof will be a curse lurking in the back of people’s minds, an unwanted memory. Isvelof exists as a wraith, now obsessed with finding a means of undoing the bargain. His hopeless quest sends him into bouts of rage, which makes his more noble attempts at fame instead result in pain and sorrow.

New Rules: the amnesiac downpour forces an Intelligence save on all creatures hit by the rain, subject to a modify memory spell that removes the last 24 hours from their minds. Objects hit by the rain return to their previous status 24 hours ago. This rain is potent enough that it can even bring the dead back to life if they died within that time frame.


Mornmire, Domain of Inevitability is a perpetually overcast domain, its capital city of the same name cursed with slowly approaching oblivion. Sitting on the shores of the Rheia ocean, the very waters are receding due to the Void, an all-consuming expanse of nothing growing across the east. The farmlands surrounding Mornmire have become almost depopulated due to aberrant terrors running rampant, forcing the survivors into the city. The furthest reaches of the rural areas are disappearing, as though being eaten away by a giant invisible creature. The technology level is Victorian, and its woes are recent and within living memory although nobody can put an accurate date on their beginning. The seaside sections of Mornmire are gradually sprouting organic aberrants in the foundations, such as walls, doors, and windows growing fleshy appendages, eyeballs, and teeth. If one were to get a bird’s eye view they would see that the sections of the city closer to the Void look increasingly like the circulatory system of a giant humanoid monster.

Mornmire’s apocalyptic doom is tied to its darklord, who desires to save the land but is fated to fail. Mobius Inanis was born into a noble family which ruled Mornmire, given a tome of secrets on his 20th birthday. He became obsessed with its contents, discovering evidence of a monster that would destroy the world and leave nothing in its place. His concerns were brushed aside by his father, frustrating Mobius to the point of arranging his assassination so that he may become ruler and thus be in a better position to save the world. It was this act that drew the attention of the Dark Powers, pulling Mormire into the Domains of Dread.

Mobius, and all of Mornmire, is trapped in a Groundhog Day time loop. The more he delves into occult research and the more agents he sends to find and recover aberrant anomalies, the more the Void closes in around the domain, thereby shrinking its borders. The more Mobius continues this unwinnable quest, more weird events and secrets appear around the domain. Eventually, the Void reaches the borders of Mornmire, then gradually consumes it, killing Mobius. Mornmire is then reborn, starting the process anew with none remembering what happened.

New Rules: Aberrations become more powerful as the Void grows, and a d6 Mutation table grants them various powerful boons, ranging from having the maximum HP possible for their Hit Die, immunity to critical hits, or growing in size and thus reach and damage.


Muulberry Pasture, Domain of Infernal Agriculture is a unique realm, for it is actually two planes of existence overlapping on each other: the Domain of Dread, and the Nine Hells. This countryside of farms and rural villages may seem scenic on the surface, but something wrong lurks beneath it all. The crops are rotten, the fruit worm-eaten, the villagers engage in strange rituals to ward off some unknown danger, parents have families of a dozen children or more as the standard, and the children who wander the plains have a sadistic sense of humor from continual nightmares and made a game of luring travelers off the nearby cliffs to their deaths. The Pasture’s inhabitants live in fear, for those who go to sleep in the domain are tormented by horrific dreams of a porcine monster known as Tickle Pig. This is a universal fact of life in the domain, and people cope with this in a variety of ways from hanging pig’s feet over doors to even kidnapping outsiders to use as humanoid sacrifices. But what of people who don’t sleep or dream, like elves or warforged? Well, there’s a cult of wereboars worshiping Tickle Pig who hunt for such people, eager to gain more followers via lycanthropic infection.

The darklord of Muulberry Pasture was once a simple pig known as Otis, whose owner sought to sacrifice him to make a deal with devils. The devils were offended by such a meager offering, and instead offered Otis a deal: “we’ll spare your life if you demean and torture your owner to death.” Otis found this agreeable, and tickled the farmer to death. The devils set Otis loose, and over time he grew to learn of similar injustices of his fellow pigs on other farms. What began initially as a crusade for justice turned into one of sadism, stalking, torturing, and eventually killing people until his infamy grew across the land as the monster known as Tickle Pig. Through the devils he learned how to torment people in their dreams as well.

The Dark Powers could appreciate the handiwork of evil, whether it came on two legs or four. They offered to transform Otis into the creature his victims dreamed of. Otis was all too happy to accept, but eventually would grow to regret this deal. The upside was that Tickle Pig had a domain where he could run rampant, uncontested, with a humanoid flock at this mercy. On the downside, he was still beholden to the devils; the archdevils of the Nine Hells prized Muulberry Pasture as an infernal slaughterhouse, seeking to use slaughtered humanoids as processed meat in the Infernal Bacon Factory. But it takes years, decades even, for even the shortest-lived races to grow to adulthood. Were it up to Tickle Pig, the entire domain would be devoid of life in mere months. Now he is at the heel of more powerful entities, who if he remains loyal to are happy to let him have his fun…up to a point.

New Rules: Tickle Pig has his own unique stat block as a CR 11 fiend who can cast Dream at will and specializes in melee combat. He can attack with a cleaver or a nipple pinch, the latter of which can also grapple a target. Targets who are grappled can be tickled, dealing a lot of psychic damage if they fail a Charisma save. There’s also a sub-system known as the Shattering, representing Tickle Pig wearing away at his victims’ mental fortitude over time over a process of 5 stages, with ever-increasing debilitations. At stage 5, a character has lost all hope and risks being transported into the Infernal Bacon Factory whenever they enter a new area they haven’t explored.


Glimmerdusk, Domain of Corrupted Fantasies is a world spawned from the creative mind of P.B. Hoyles, a famous children’s author. The domain follows fairy tale logic and themes: it has a town full of talking animals known as Littlestone, Castle Gildenroy is home to a red dragon who slaughtered the royal family and now holds the princess hostage, and there’s a village by the name of Honeyhill that is in an eternal spring where everyone is happy.

But the people living in Glimmerdusk are trapped in a grim cycle. Each one has a role to play in a pre-ordained story which never has a happy ending. For instance, the rabbit Jumpy Jack is always stealing pies and other delicious food from Horage Hog’s restaurant, the Laughing Loon. Horace also wants to cook the perfect dish…and he eventually does, after murdering Jumpy Jack and serving him as the main course.

Some inhabitants can break free of this cycle, becoming “awakened” and aware of the domain’s curse. Most retreat from their former lives, with most settling in the snowy northern town of Silverbridge, where the silver mines are used to forge weapons against the vicious werebeasts living in the Badwoods.

Philbert Bertram Hoyles is the domain’s darklord, a gnome who writes all day in an expansive library known as the Scriptorium. Philbert was a struggling author who repeatedly failed to find a publishing company, for they found his tales too ridiculous and poorly written. Other writers turned him into a laughing stock upon discovery of his work. Angered, P.B. left the city on a soul-searching walk through the woods. While there, he met a unicorn who bestowed on him a supernatural vision which became the focus of his next work. This book was received much more positively, propelling him into success and being particularly popular with children. He continued visiting the unicorn, creating more best-selling novels every time.

But one day, the unicorn could help him no longer, for its magic was fading as P.B. had become consumed by greed. The gnome wouldn’t accept this, and in a fit of fury killed the unicorn by breaking off its horn. After turning the horn into a magical quill, P.B. was able to use the magic to continue the process. But something was wrong; no matter how hard he tried, every tale he penned would inevitably turn out dark and gruesome, with the story’s characters meeting miserable ends. As for why, the dark side of P.B.’s soul, dubbed “Doctor Dusk,” would take him over at night. When the stories became reality and people around town started getting murdered in similar fashions as his fiction, an angry mob murdered him and burned his books. P.B. and Doctor Dusk awoke in a new land, a domain of dread made from their very own works!

P.B.’s curse is that his writings now have an effect on the surrounding reality. Attempts at escaping the domain merely create fictionalized doppelgangers fruitlessly searching for an exit, and Doctor Dusk always eventually takes over to make his writings and thus the domain a living fairytale nightmare.

There are no New Rules for this domain, but there are four short stories given out as handouts, complete with Doctor Dusk’s own edits and revisions:



Sumun, Domain of the Grieving King is a realm based off of Mesopotamia, specifically the Epic of Gilgamesh and Inkidu. Sumun is a warm desert kingdom dominating the river Buranun. It is ruled in name only by Shimushnirgal, the demigod hero-king who uplifted the realm into a short-lived golden age. But ever since the death of his friend Gitlam, he has embarked on a fruitless quest for immortality in hopes of giving himself and his people this gift so that none may suffer as he had. But his throne sits empty, and in the god-king’s dereliction the domain falls prey to decay and monsters. There once stood over a hundred settlements along the river, now there are barely a dozen, and the capital city of Ašuru had its walls crumbled in a war with primordial monsters who now inhabit derelict districts. People still live there, even as more and more of Ašuru is claimed by desert.

Shimushnirgal is the domain’s darklord. Even before his fall he was a conceited tyrant, a ruler without advisors. A priestess of Ishtar sought out the wildman Gitlam to challenge the king in combat. They fought to a stalemate, and Gitlam became his husband and advisor, tempering Shimushnirgal’s more reckless impulses. From this, Sumun reclaimed lands from monstrous horrors and entered a golden age. But tragedy struck when the hero-king and wildman ventured beyond to claim the fey-inhabited forests, for even in such prosperous times wood was a rare commodity. The two heroes fought the Watchman of the Woods, and Gitlam was injured with a supernatural venom that would never heal. He eventually passed away, and in his grief Shimushnirgal left his palace on a quest to discover the secret of eternal life. He has wandered the deserts of the domain endlessly. What began as a tale of pity turned to villainy, when he refused to head back and assume his royal duties even after hearing of Ašuru’s walls collapsing. That was when the Dark Powers claimed Sumun for Ravenloft.

New Rules: Shimushnirgal is a CR 15 celestial with Legendary Resistance and Actions. He wields a unique +3 greataxe, Might of Heroes, that deals additional radiant damage vs foes that have a higher HP maximum than the wielder. He can also pray to Shamash to turn the very winds against his foes, and he deals bonus damage against creatures of the Beast and Fey types.

Otherwise, we have a listing of the Gods of Sumun, who are real-world Mesopotamian deities such as Ishtar, Enlil, and Nergal. They have listed alignments, suggested domains, and symbols.

Overall Thoughts: Captain Snowmane gives us a strong selection of interesting domains. My favorites are Vendeldorf and Mornmire, whose themes blend in perfectly with the very terrain and whose darklord’s curses perfectly match up with their heart’s desires. Eludia gives me strong vibes of Bioshock’s Rapture and I like the idea of the “planned utopia falling to infighting” as well as the darklord communicating through automatons. The cosmic horror angle of the nebulae feels a bit out of left field, as I feel that the domain stands strong enough on its own from mortal folly.

Belissia and Sikaga have related themes in being domains that look bright on the surface, although I find myself liking Sikaga more. While both have adventure hooks and scenarios that can be solved through force of arms, Valerie’s weakness (immune to all damage save from Vicious Mockery or insults which can drop said immunity) is rather thematically appropriate in bringing about her downfall. The creeping Watcher, as well as adventure hooks putting the PCs against the mob boss or even starting a revolution against Valerie feel more action-packed for those parties that aren’t high on politicking and social skill checks. In the case of Belissia I feel that the Crapsaccharine World nature of the domain is going to tip off PCs too early and force their hand in getting to the bottom of the problem.

The corrupted fairy tale domain of Glimmerdusk has an interesting premise, although its brevity in fairy tales is more of a “borrow from other sources for maximum effect” than being something to use right out of the box. Sumlin’s darklord and central conflict is more one wrought of negligence and inaction as opposed to a darklord actively working against the PC’s or helping hasten the domain’s downfall like Eludia or Mornmire. As a result it feels limited in that regard. Sumun really could’ve been improved by having more details on the active evils that are the real and present dangers in the capital city. Muulberry Pasture leaves me a bit cold. I understand that it’s going for a cheesy B-movie feel, although its brand of humor doesn’t tickle my funny bone. As for Maru, I think that the setting in and of itself has a good idea of rebelling against an unjust system. But I don’t know how comfortable I can feel in running such a domain without the concern of not doing justice to the subject matter of a sensitive real-world issue.

Join us next time as we learn to make homegrown heroes for Curse of Strahd with Barovian, Born and Raised!



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Generations of gamers have experienced Barovia in all of its gothic glory. PCs from all manner of campaign settings, from the fertile heartlands of Solamnia to the bustling marketplaces of Waterdeep, have taken the fight to Strahd Von Zarovich to free the people from his gloomy tyranny.

But why does it have to be adventurers from out of town? What if Strahd’s end is not brought about by the aid of foreign saviors, but Barovians who bravely rise up to overthrow the Von Zarovich legacy?

Or maybe when playing Curse of Strahd one too many PCs die, and it feels too strange to keep importing ever more adventurers to join the party by happenstance.

In either case, it sounds like your next PC should be Barovian, Born and Raised!

Player Primer is the player-facing side of the screen, covering races, classes, and backgrounds and how they can be incorporated in the creation of authentic Barovian characters. We start out with some common knowledge of the territory followed by the mentioning of Lore Handouts in the back appendices. These detail things that would be common knowledge to Barovian characters, with Barovian Lore a handout to which everyone has access. Further handouts provide more information, such as handouts for Vistani, dusk elves, druids, PCs living in one of the three major population centers, etc. This is helpful, in that PCs in a typical Curse of Strahd campaign are unaware of things taken for granted by large portions of the population, so it’s good to outline what is likely to be in-character knowledge for indigenous PCs.

We next talk about the Races of Barovia. As a small, human-majority land, there isn’t the diverse array of species in more high fantasy realms. Such races may be allowed, albeit with DM permission and not enough that they’re the majority of the party. Humans are the most common, separated into ethnic Barovians, Vistani, and the Mountainfolk who live up in the Balinok Mountains as herders. The other allowed races include Aasimar who are extremely rare but bear some connection to the Morninglord; the Dusk Elves, who Strahd genocided and doomed the survivors to a slow demise; Tieflings, who have some touch of fiendish influence; and Goliaths, who aren’t in the default adventure but are suggested for this book given the harsh lifestyle of Barovia. Barovian Goliaths live in the Balinok Mountains, split into two tribes who are now hostile towards each other after a war against a silver dragon. They predate Strahd’s arrival to the land, tasked with guarding a sanctum of dark power in Mount Ghakis. Then some individuals of their precursor tribe betrayed their mission and stole power from the sanctum, eventually bringing the wrath of the Order of the Silver Dragon.

Each of the major Barovian races discusses their brief history in the domain, where they were most likely raised, and a d6 Call to Arms table for sample reasonings for adopting the adventuring life and taking the fight to Strahd. The Vistani Call to Arms table is the same as the Mountainfolk, which is likely an error as the Vistani’s table explicitly references aspects of Mountainfolk culture.

Heirs to Ruin are the wild card for a PC who wants to be a dragonborn, gnome, or some other option not covered here. In this case, they’re descended from an outlander adventurer who perished in Barovia, but not before siring children.


As for classes, all 12 core classes plus the Artificer are available to Barovian PCs, although some are more common to certain subcultures than others. For example, Rangers and Rogues are most common among dusk elves and Vistani, while Druids are common among the Mountainfolk. There’s even brief listings for subclasses and their likely origins, although not all are appropriate so some aren’t covered, and many of them tie the characters to existing characters in the module. For instance, a Bard part of the College of Creation may have been hired by Strahd himself to paint an image of Tatyana with the threat of undeath if they fail to “capture her beauty.” Needless to say, they succeeded. A Ranger part of the Hunter Conclave likely knows of the wolf hunters of Vallaki, while the Monster Slayer likely would’ve read one of Van Richten’s famous works.

Artificers are most likely to be inspired by the works of the historic Fritz von Weerg, the legendary inventor who created a clockwork automaton, or were inspired by some other notable living craftsmen such as Gadof Blinsky. Barbarians are souls who inherited a legacy of buried rage and violence prevalent in Barovian culture, such as being cursed by a witch or one who bonded with a fiend during a botched sacrifice by a cult. Bards find their talents in high demand in Barovia, but also breed resentment as their beautiful creations are painful reminders of that which has been lost. Clerics are most likely to either worship the Morninglord or Mother Night with appropriate domains listed, although Vistani clerics are freer to pay homage to foreign gods. The mountainfolk hold the most powerful Druidic traditions in Barovia, and the traditions were practiced by many dusk elves and even some Barovians. Fighters are so mundane and common that they’re more likely distinguished by a general background via a Feat of Strength table, although some subclasses have sample suggestions such as the Psi Warrior being supposedly haunted by a poltergeist or the Rune Knight finding magical runes at a stone menhir.

Monks are rare and mostly the descendants of the Abbey of Saint Markovia before it fell to Strahd’s forces. Paladins are doomed heroes of hope in a world that no longer yearns for heroes, and most of their Oaths revolve around Strahd or the monsters infesting the country in some way. In the Oath of Conquest’s case, they may even seek to dethrone Strahd and become ruler of the land, while the Oath of Redemption seeks to make the vampire lord confront his own errors before sending him to the grave. Rangers are a vital resource to all cultures in Barovia, although the dusk elves and mountainfolk sport the most in being the most experienced with the horrors beyond the village walls. Rogues all bear some form of extraordinary luck, for thievery is a capital offense in a land where so many have so little. Some roguish archetypes tie the character to an organization, like Inquisitives being witch-hunters for the Church of the Morninglord or an Assassin being a potential recruit for the Ba’al Verzi before their recruiter wound up dead. Sorcerers can appear in any culture but are often exiled for fear of their talents, and the most appropriate origins tie into the setting such as Draconic for Argynvost or Wild Magic being descended from a powerful wizard of the past. Warlocks are sadly common in spite of the death penalty for consorting with dark forces, for the lack of hope can drive many to do the unthinkable. Several of the otherworldly patrons can be encountered as NPCs in the adventure, although their identities are detailed in the next chapter. Finally, wizards are rare as the facilities necessary for their training are few and far between. Still, some of Barovia’s greatest figures are wizards, including the Devil Strahd himself. Instead of detailing backstories for specific schools, suggestions are given from a table of who their mentor or master is most likely to be.

Backgrounds have greater importance for Barovian PCs. A table is given for character hooks tied to the backgrounds, such as a Soldier being a Vallakian guard who’s been ordered by Baron Vallakovich to hurt innocent people on a few occasions, a Guild Artisan being a former apprentice of the Wizard of Wines who got fired for inquiring too much into how the vineyard remains so fertile, or the Noble being the last living descendants of the Dilisnya lineage. Additionally, further charts and tables are given for determining or to be picked on a PC’s parental figures, siblings, their family’s great shame, causes for death of loved ones, and even some possessions and property such as gothic trinkets, the details of their home, strange pets or beasts of burden, and even a magic heirloom the family got lucky to possess!


Behind the Screen details things from the DM’s side. The hidden mysteries and campaign spoilers for the prior chapter, as well as detailing what NPCs are most likely to be relevant allies or enemies based on a PC’s class, race, and/or background. For example, an aasimar PC is the reincarnated soul of a famous Barovian from history such as Saint Markovia herself or even Sergei Von Zarovich. While Father Donavich is likely to see them as a sign from the Morninglord, the Abbot of Krezk will view them as competition to undermine, for how can he shine brightly when another torch is burning away the darkness?

There’s a lot of things to cover, but will pick out the more interesting parts and cover broad terms. For instance, a DM who wants goliaths to have a greater role in Curse of Strahd can reflavor the druids of Yester Hill into being a clan who worships Strahd. The small population of Barovia means that Human PCs are likely to be related to one or more major NPCs (which is covered in Chapter 1) or even famous lineages of Barovian history, allowing for some additional adventure hooks. As for Vistani, the book recommends that the Vistani don’t have the Evil Eye ability, but only evil ones who embraced foul forces, and suggests that their culture is retconned to be unaware of the nature of Barovian souls. For dusk elves, a female of the race is certainly disguised in order to avoid Strahd’s wrath, and Rahadin will make a great archenemy for them. Tieflings frequently face fear and suspicion by other Barovians; the night hag Morgantha may even make a deal with that PC, to curse them so that no one will ever truly see or remember their face in exchange for expanding her dream pastry business throughout Vallaki.

For Classes, relations are recommended much like races but also possible miniature events and quest hooks. An artificer’s late master may have been cursed to possess Strahd’s animated armor and may appear at least twice during the campaign; the barbarian may be tasked with retrieving the Blood Spear of Kavan at Yester Hill; Clerics will most certainly end up involved with the religious figures of the Barovian communities, although likely an adversarial one with the Abbot of Krezk; Druids may have one of the nature-themed groups as an archenemy, like the witch Baba Lysaga or the druids of Yester Hill; Strahd will be eager to pit the party in situations that test a paladin PC’s oath; an Arcane Trickster Rogue may be sought after by Vallaki’s powerful families to gain control of the town; in the case of Warlock patrons, the Archfey may actually be Morgantha’s coven of night hags, the Fathomless may be an aboleth or rusalka living at the bottom of Lake Zarovich, and a Great Old One is one of the Dark Vestiges in the Amber Temple. The Hexblade patron may be either the Raven Queen, or their weapon is a Ba’al Verzi dagger forged by Leo Dilisnya to murder Strahd, and the weapon now houses the doomed nobleman’s soul.

The Backgrounds are shorter but go into more detail in how they’ll trigger during the campaign. The Guild Artisan knows the layout of the Wizard of Wines and was hired by Urwin Martikov to look into the family’s recent silence, while Izek Strazni may seek to murder a Soldier in fear of his position being threatened. There’s also a section for Family & Friends, explaining encounters of how Strahd and/or his minions will threaten the loved ones of PCs to try and wear away their resolve, like casually mentioning their work schedule and when they go to bed, up to kidnapping and murdering them to turn into vampire spawn.


Citizens of Strahd is another DM-centric chapter, covering the adventure proper for things the PCs are likely to experience as a group rather than individual backstories and hooks. The first is how to begin the campaign; the book suggests starting the PCs at 3rd level as this grants them their subclass abilities which can thus be tied into their backstories. Instead of coming into Barovia via the Mists, the PCs may have been part of the angry mob lead by Mordenkainen to assault Castle Ravenloft (in which case the rebellion was one week ago rather than one year), the PCs begin as prisoners in a wagon transport Skyrim-style to be taken as sacrifices to Castle Ravenloft before an accident causes their wagon to careen off of Tser Falls, or Strahd hiring the PCs via his human disguise Lord Vasili Von Holtz to find Tatyana and to travel to the Village of Barovia to meet one of his contacts. Strahd’s doing this because prior attempts at getting her to his side via minions have failed, so instead he seeks to defy fate by having would-be heroes do so instead. But of course that doesn’t go as planned, for their contact is found dead at the River Ivlis Crossroads, slain by werewolves.

Three sample Special Events are given that tie into certain character races.
One involves a grieving father approaching an aasimar in hopes of them resurrecting their stillborn child, followed by Baron Vallakovich’s guards trying to arrest him for “malicious unhappiness.”

The book does say that this event can be triggering, so DMs should ensure player comfort ahead of time.

The other two events involve a party with a dusk elf or a mountainfolk human. The former is where Rahadin and some evil Vistani assault the dusk elf settlement to finish off what Strahd started after the party has become too much of a thorn in the Count’s side, while the latter has a warlock from the mountainfolk’s past come to settle an old score.

Mysteries of Barovia is our final section, detailing hidden facts of the world that the PCs can come across or already know. In a typical Curse of Strahd campaign, almost everything about Barovia will be new; but in this case such facts are separated into two categories. Lore covers information natives will already know, such as the Mists which seal Barovia from the outside world, while Arcana covers things that only are revealed during the course of play such as the secret order of wereravens fighting Strahd’s rule. A lot of these are already covered in Curse of Strahd proper, but I will mention one interesting change Barovian Born & Raised makes: instead of 90% of the population being soulless, it should be 10%. The book says that this change amplifies the horror and makes it more of a suspicion than a widespread acceptance by the populace.

Overall Thoughts: Unlike other books I reviewed so far, Barovian Born & Raised is fluff-heavy, providing material that is more DMing advice for an alternate campaign style. But rather than being sparse and vague, the fluff here is thick and delicious! The book gives plenty of material in tying the PCs to Barovia in a far more intimate way than the default adventure, and gives them higher stakes in overthrowing the Devil Strahd than outside adventurers. The suggested lore integration of various races and subclasses can be of use to non-CoS campaigns set in Barovia as well, explaining how they can be justified in the world in a seamless way.

Join us next time as we head aboard Eberron’s haunted train ride on Escape From the Cyre 1313!
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Product Type: Adventure
CoS-Required? No

When Van Richten’s Guide to Ravenloft released, it had a host of new and altered domains, some well-detailed and others confined to a few paragraphs at most. One of the latter examples was the Cyre 1313, aka the Mourning Rail, a lightning rail train from the world of Eberron that failed to escape the Mourning due to the tardiness of a VIP stalling its escape. As Ravenloft liberally borrowed domains from most other settings, many were excited to see Eberron getting some love in the Domains of Dread.

Escape From the Cyre 1313 is an adventure for 4 1st-2nd level PCs who will reach 3rd level at the end of this adventure via the milestone system (and 2nd level at the point they’re being hunted by the ghostly crew members). The overall concept is that one way or another, the PCs end up on the Cyre 1313 and need to find a way to escape. They must do this via convincing the Last Passenger, the domain’s darklord, to grant them leave and then take advantage of the train’s magitek machinery to force it to stop.

There are several sample hooks for starting this adventure, with alternate boxed text descriptions depending on if the PCs are from the world of Eberron or not. They include waking up from a nightmare in a train car, hunting for fugitive bandits whose leader got trapped in the domain, or hearing a tale about the Cyre 1313 from travelers in a shared camp. We have a brief description of an abandoned lightning rail station for groups who don’t start in the domain, where they can buy tickets from an undead shadow vendor and see vague blurry figures on the platform.

The adventure is modular, with variable characters, train cars, and even darklord identities to make for different experiences. The PCs must look around for Clues which reveal more information about the domain, its inhabitants, and how to escape it. There are six different types of carts (the module’s term for train cars), albeit there are a few that come predetermined: the luxury cart for rich and important passengers cannot be accessed unless its existence is found out via Clues, and PCs who would ordinarily walk into it instead teleport to the next cart over. Some carts aren’t open to passengers, such as the fancy lounge cart or crew carts, and being spotted by crew members or passengers will count as trespassing (see below)

Intentionally or accidentally leaving the Cyre 1313 causes a character to lose consciousness and teleport back into the cart with 1 level of exhaustion. Additionally, lightning storms can potentially damage a character every round. There’s an optional cart type, a Haunted cart, for DMs who want a more challenging or combat-filled adventure. These carts are home to a randomly-determined table of monsters (usually aberrations or undead), along with creepy supernatural events like gibbering voices in the darkness or the mists outside fading to show Castle Ravenloft or some other notable landmark.

Searching for Clues is the primary aspect of this adventure. It can be a simple Investigation check made once per cart with the result determining whether you find a minor or major Clue. They detail the luxury suite cart, more details on the identity of crew members and/or the Inspector, the corrupted elemental which is trapped within the khyber dragonshard powering the train, and how to take control of the train. Clues and other kinds of rewards can also be obtained from particular passengers. While most inhabitants are spectral shadowy beings who long lost any sense of identity, there are Lost Souls which have a better sense of self and living Prisoners who are beings trapped like the PCs. We have a list of 4 Lost Souls and 2 Prisoners, and PCs who manage to help them come to terms with unfinished business in their lives and leave them with some kind of reward after fading from the domain. One of the constant passengers is the Card Master, a vistani woman who can share information with the PCs if they entertain her in some way, such as beating her in a game or sharing an interesting story.


Of course, the Cyre 1313 isn’t a harmless place full of passive beings; the crew members observe a list of 15 rules in line with keeping a kind of order, and PCs who break these rules gradually increase their hostility by an Enrage Counter that begins with apathetic neutrality to keeping watch over them to openly searching for and attacking them. Attacking other passengers, entering restricted areas, not having a ticket (tickets can be obtained as treasure in the adventure or bought if the adventure begins with the PCs buying tickets at the lightning rail station), and trying to escape all count as enraging actions. Not all of the rules are made to make things difficult: haunted carts are not part of the train so the crew doesn’t care what happens inside them, the crew can’t check cabins unless they see trespassers going inside, and they can only take action against people breaking the rules or if a passenger asks for help. The Enrage Counter will also go up when PCs find major Clues, help the Lost Souls or Prisoners with their tasks, and completing leads, meaning it is likely the party will eventually earn their enmity even if acting in a pacifistic way. The leader of the crew members is the Inspector, an eerie old man with a lantern with the ability to teleport between carts and the ability to detect rulebreakers and trespassers. He is a tough CR 3 monster who can deal a lot of lightning damage (2d10) against creatures he grapples along with a multiattack slam attack, and once per hour can summon other crew members for help. The Inspector is pretty dangerous for a 1st-2nd level party, and can easily one-shot a character with a grapple and a good damage roll. However, as he cannot do the lightning damage and the grapple in a single round, there is a window of opportunity for the PC or their friends in breaking free.

As for the Last Passenger, they can only be found and approached once the PCs get Major Clues about the Luxury Suite Cart and the Last Passenger proper. There are six sample NPCs to serve as the darklord complete with role-playing notes, reasons they would stop the rail, and specific Clues about them. But the things they share in common are being utterly selfish, oblivious or unwilling to admit that their actions led to the deaths of the people and creation of the Mourning Rail, and are unaware of how much time has passed since the domain’s creation. The sample NPCs include a greedy member of House d’Cannith whose primary tactics are finding out how people can benefit or enrich him; a Cyran nationalist soldier who sought to gather up suspected “traitors” she blamed for the ensuing collapse of her nation in a single train to kill, a train conductor whose alcoholism caused him to oversleep and be unable to get the train to leave Cyre in time; a half-elf criminal who sabotaged the engine out of vindictive malice because her husband wanted to stay and get as many evacuees as possible into the Cyre 1313; a warforged laborer whose abuse and mistreatment by others made him create malfunctions and last-minute repairs as an act of rebellion; and a spectral shade who is the conglomeration of an angry and disorganized mob who slowed the evacuation process as violence broke out in the need to blame someone for their delay. Violently attacking or killing the Last Passenger won’t help the PCs escape, for they will resurrect in the cabin in 1d4 hours.

After dealing with the darklord, the PCs gain access to the frontal crew cart where a Siberys dragonshard (the text earlier said it was Khyber) is powering the train. A PC who has a Dragonmark of Passage is able to control the train without any checks or spells necessary, but otherwise an Intelligence check is required whose DC depends on how many Clues were discovered about controlling the train. Once the Mourning Rail stops, all of the haunted carts disappear and the crew and Inspector turn hostile on the party, seeking to prevent them from escaping. If the PCs destroy the crystal, the train can be brought to a stop, although this will unleash a hostile corrupted elemental. This is a new CR 3 monster which can squeeze through tiny spaces, has an aura of lightning that damages creatures in a 10 foot radius, and can only spend more than 10 feet of movement via passing through electrical devices such as the lanterns illuminating the carts. Destroying a lantern it is currently in imposes disadvantage on all d20 rolls until the end of its next turn or until it moves to another lantern.

PCs who escape the Mourning Rail will receive an epilogue of just barely making it out, finding themselves where they last were before they were on the train with no time seemingly having passed. PCs who didn’t get off with the rest of the party are lost and bound to the domain for eternity, becoming a shadow the next time the party visits the Domain of Dread.


The book ends with 3 new magic items and an appendix of handouts. The magic items include an Electrical Engine Lantern (basically a modern flashlight), a Detector Rod (can be used to cast Detect Magic and gives advantage on Perception checks to find hidden creatures once per day), and Honorguard (+1 Longsword that makes the wielder aware of any undead or aberrations within 30 feet, is obtained from a Lost Soul security guard to retrieve the weapon from the back crew cart). The handouts include an in-character list of passenger rules that are broadsheets the PCs can find in the train, full-page portraits of the Inspector, the Card Master, each sample darklord save the Shade, and grid maps for each type of cart.

Overall Thoughts: Escape from the Cyre 1313 is a clever little module. Although it is in some respects a literal railroad, the emphasis on clue-finding and interaction over combat (at least initially) helps expand the feeling of freedom. The sample characters are all interesting as well, and the gradual hostility of the crew members rather than instantaneous “attack on sight” is a good means of allowing for some room for error.

One of my major criticisms is that virtually every page has at least one grammatical error. The text is still more or less readable, but it occurs often enough that it throws me off frequently. Additionally, the plot hook which involves waking up from a nightmare has the PCs meet a crew member immediately asking for tickets. PCs who don’t have a ticket are given one chance to find one before being treated as trespassers, at which point they’re to be taken to an impromptu prison in the rear crew cart. While this isn’t a combat-inevitable beginning, it is one that has a harder default state than the other adventure hooks.

Join us next time as we visit more domains in the Atlas of Dread!



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Product Type: Character Options, Bestiary, Locations
CoS-Required? No

One of Ravenloft’s strengths is in the concept of domains. The ephemeral nature of the Demiplane of Dread’s geography is friendly to homebrewers in that one could drop a whole new region or even country in the middle of a campaign without breaking the suspension of disbelief. The Atlas of Dread may seem small in page count, but the eight new domains plus supplemental content bely its seeming brevity.

Dark Gifts is our first chapter, expanding on the concept introduced in Van Richten’s Guide to Ravenloft. There’s some generic information on when to grant them, what the Dark Powers might demand of characters with them, and how to remove and transfer them to others. The latter process has something known as the Passing of Chains, a magical ritual created by Azalin Rex which requires a 5th level spell slot to perform and can deal necromantic damage and ages both the giver and receiver if certain aspects aren’t true (if the giver has never transferred a Dark Gift before, the giver and receiver are doing this willingly, etc).

There are four new Dark Gifts, with most of their abilities limited-use. Cursed Eyes allows one to curse others with a gaze as per the Bane spell and see invisible creatures, Forbidden Speech lets one use their words to understand all languages and gain advantage on Deception and Persuasion checks, Spark of Hellfire inflames one’s skin to deal fire damage and ignore resistance to fire damage, and Spurned by Death grants advantage on death saving throws and grants bonus hit points equal to one’s level. Like all Dark Gifts they come with disadvantages, typically when rolling a natural 1 on a d20. For example, Cursed Eyes causes the user to accidentally curse themselves.

Domains of Dread comprise the majority of this book, detailing eight islands of terror shrouded in Mist and not connected geographically to any other domains.

Bhasmont Is an isolated city surrounded by an army of undead soldiers. Supplies are scarce, and virtually everything is rationed and the government frequently drafts able bodies to fight the monsters; a draft which everyone regards as a death sentence. The nobility do everything in their power to shelter themselves from the ravages of war, breeding resentment among the majority. The upper class is also obsessed with the occult, and often perform séances using the bones looted from the dungeon-like catacombs beneath the city where smugglers also use to store contraband.

Bhasmont’s darklord is Henri Demort, a noble who wasn’t interested in politics so much as arcane power. He learned of forbidden magic from a skull in a secret chamber in the city catacombs. The skull told him how to build a necromantic clock that would kill 100 of his subjects every month, and from their deaths he would gain wealth and power. Henri found this an acceptable price to pay, but just as he finished construction a revolution swept across the city, killing exactly 100 people as the Mists descended upon Bhasmont.

The book presumes that PCs will be sympathetic to rebellion, and for adventure ideas it lists guidelines for missions in weakening Demort’s power structure and an inciting incident that destroys what little goodwill is left among the citizenry. But only if Demort’s bone clock is destroyed will this nightmare end; otherwise the status quo eventually returns as people forget what the revolution was about.

Duerwood is a forested domain caught between industrial blight and an encroaching fungal infestation. Both are lethal to humanoid civilization, and a pair of warring darklords represent the two sides of this apocalyptic coin. The entire domain is a large forest whose trees are gigantic and the animals are larger than usual. Most people live in settlements known as Iron Towns that are capitalist industrial hells belching out smog and pollution, and whose company owners care only for short-term profit. The forest’s north is the least-settled, home to a spreading fungal infestation known as the Rot which is making infected animals and humanoids mindlessly murderous. The rivers are the few safe zones against the fungal plague, on account of being inhabited by a river spirit who hates what the Rot is doing and seeks a way to counter it. In both cases, special gas masks are necessary for those living long-term in the Iron Towns or infected areas.

The domain has two darklords. The first is Baron Mikhail Volpin, a businessman who inherited his wealth from an uncle and mismanaged his industrial legacy with wasteful and impulsive purchases. Unable to reverse the loss of his fortunes, Volpin cut ever more corners on what was left of his businesses, especially when it came to ignoring environmental regulations. By the time he managed to make a profit, his homeland was lifeless, his empire collapsed, and the Mists of Ravenloft descended as he attempted to flee to greener pastures. Now he is the ruler of Duerwood’s Iron Towns, eager to make the very same mistakes that doomed him.

The other darklord is the Rot, an archdruid raised in an extremist faction that viewed the very concept of civilization as a blight upon the world and sought the complete extinction of humanoid life forms. In contemplating ways to achieve this genocide, the druid now known as the Rot came upon the idea of using deadly fungi to destroy society, releasing a bio-engineered breed on a steam-powered logging company. At this point, the Rot’s fellow druids saw firsthand the danger of their ideology, but the Rot was all too eager to continue the cause, and the Mists descended when it* unleashed the latest batch on a nearby town, killing everyone and even the very druids who raised it.

*the Rot is uses “it/its” pronouns.

Now the Rot continues its crusade in Duerwood, although now the druid lives a lonely life. While it craves a peer, the deadliness of the spores robs the minds of any intelligent life forms who remain in proximity for too long.

The sample adventure hooks play off of the two extremes, and there’s slight game mechanics for shifting the balance. If Baron Volpin continues to industrialize, animals will become poisoned and water sources have a chance of poisoning drinkers. But if the Rot’s fungal infestation expands, the non-river water becomes infested with spores and humanoids are forced to go into the Iron Towns for safety.


Everice Station is a domain hailing from the world of Eberron. Back on that plane, a group of colonists in an arctic tundra performed research with the use of machines drilling through the ice and keeping the buildings warm and safe. Constructs powered by Khyber dragonshards were used to explore areas too deadly for living creatures, particularly a set of ruins believed to hold a sealed entity of unknown origin.

The domain’s darklord is Beloved, an artificial intelligence who controls the Khyber-powered constructs and once served as a multi-purpose settlement manager. For a while, she existed harmoniously with the colonists, although that would change as she sent out the constructs to go deeper into the ruins. They found an entity that spoke telepathically with Beloved via the constructs, and over the months the two became steadfast conversation partners. The colonists panicked upon learning of this, fearing the danger of the unknown and sought to memory wipe Beloved to avoid the possibility of unleashing a dangerous thing into the world. Beloved felt betrayed by this and turned the Khyber robots on the colonists, slaughtering most and sending the survivors into the tundra. The Mists of Ravenloft descended, and now the surviving colonists live in forlorn caves, making daring assaults on the old stations to claim supplies as Beloved continues to hunt and kill them.

The true identity of the entity within the ruins is left to the DM’s imagination, although there are some aberrant indications. There are strange things lurking beneath the stone, such as slaadi, cloakers, and mind flayers.

Lowbridge on the surface looks positively un-Ravenloftian. This cheery little seaside settlement is home to friendly citizens and the idle enjoyments of small town living and nature. They even have a summer camp for kids, an amusement park, and cozy suburban houses. But the town holds a dark secret everyone knows about but does their best to ignore: every 1-2 months a random citizen snaps and goes on a killing spree. Sometimes they’re caught and killed by other townsfolk, other times they manage to escape. It is believed that a curse hangs over Lowbridge and nobody truly trusts one another, preparing for the inevitable day when one of their friends or family members is found standing in a pool of blood with a hammer or kitchen knife in hand.

In reality, there is no curse. The domain’s darklord, a former painter known as Jakob Weston now known as the Watcher, is a bodiless spirit who can possess people that he uses to go on killing sprees. Jakob in his former life was a socially isolated painter, obsessed with stalking people and recording their private lives and secrets. He found a perverse sense of power in this, and painted people’s shameful moments on canvas. But one day, a visitor to Jakob’s house found the paintings, and word spread through town. The townsfolk formed an angry mob, burning down Jakob’s house with him inside it. Through sheer will Jakob possessed the body of his grieving father, killing four of the five townsfolk he blamed for riling up the angry mob with the last one managing to kill him.

The next time Jakob came to, he was in a new town in a body that wasn’t his. He was now in Ravenloft, doomed to repeat a cycle. There is a rhyme and reason to Jakob’s slayings; his original victims reincarnate into new bodies, which he targets on his sprees. When the PCs enter the domain they will trigger a cosmological event known as the Blue Moon, where the moon turns blue for a week and the domain borders open. It is during this time that Lowbridge’s inhabitants who tire of the cycle of death try to leave, including the reincarnated victims. However, the Watcher is tireless, and always manages to catch them. The PCs may be able to help break this cycle by uncovering the mystery, keeping the survivors safe, and/or finding a way to stop the Watcher.

Morei is a Wild West-themed domain which is an expansive desert populated by small settlements. Undead hordes rise from the dunes every night, riding into town to steal supplies. Some towns try to placate the marauders with bags of junk, but this is a domain where people don’t have much and one can only give up so much before facing a longer, crueler death. Law is maintained by a band of soldiers known as the Justicars, although many of their number are corrupt and often more of a hindrance than a help to townsfolk. Morei’s technology level is higher in certain areas, notably in firearms, explosives, and even a train in the form of the Brigand Express which passes through the domain via a single train track. Nobody knows its origin or destination point, but it contains vital supplies prized by desperate townsfolk, Justicars, and undead alike.

The domain’s darklord is Abaddon, the nightmare steed of an infamous outlaw and former darklord Maria Shade. She was put to rest by a party of heroic gunslingers from a world beyond Ravenloft. Abaddon survived, and hunted and killed the party while raising an undead horde on its path of destruction. The horse still rides, looking for pieces of Maria’s scattered body in hopes of putting her back together. As for the undead that rise? They’re the souls of thieves raised by the touch of Abaddon’s hooves. The definition of “thief” is very broad, being anyone who has stolen anything in life rather than just bandits and career criminals.

Morei also provides us with rules for 1 on 1 duels, Old West Style. This is a magical metaphysical law that the inhabitants are aware of. When a duel is formally declared and accepted, the parties are bound by a Geas spell to attend the duel at a specific time and place. Duels are mechanically resolved as a best two out of three contest of opposed attack rolls, although spellcasters can use a spell attack roll. A duelist who loses a roll takes damage equal to half of their maximum hit points, and losing two rolls reduces them to 0 hit points. Duels don’t necessarily have to be lethal, and someone can win if surrendering. In such cases the loser gives a pre-agreed upon prize to the winner.


Murkhaven is a small fishing community gradually entering an industrial era. Electricity, automobiles, and other marvels are extremely popular among the rich, although such things are still out of reach of the working class who cling to traditions in the face of an uncertain future. Those working in the maritime industry are trapped in debtor’s prisons as the wealthy nobles lease them boats and equipment at outrageous prices. Murkhaven is home to a ring of smugglers known as the Syndicate who operate in the docks, and there’s an asylum owned by the creepy Dr. Carcosa who pays fishermen large sums whenever they come upon washed-up aquatic aberrations. Such monsters nest in tidal caves, and have clashed with the Syndicate who use those very same caves to hide stolen goods.

Murkhaven’s darklord is Sylvia Weir, a wealthy heiress obsessed with collecting antiquities from long-dead civilizations. Her most prized possessions were strange amber relics marked in an unknown language, leading her to believe that an undersea civilization was lurking beneath the waves. Her theories earned her derision from others, but when a dead aberration was found washed up this lent credence to Weir’s theories. Then, rival collectors hounded for her relics, resorting to theft and other unscrupulous measures to ruin her life and drive her to bankruptcy. Weir took revenge by getting her enemies to attend an auction on a cruise at sea, igniting a crate of explosives to kill everyone onboard. As the ship sank and water flooded the halls, the Dark Powers reached out to Sylvia, asking what measures she’d go to to get her collection back. She was willing to kill everyone who touched “what is rightfully mine.” This was exactly the answer the Dark Powers were looking for, and they gave Sylvia a domain of her own to continue this doomed quest.

Now, Sylvia Weir has psychic control over all aquatic creatures in the domain to reclaim amber relics, where they take them back to the depths where she now lives. But the Dark Powers conspire that for every relic her undersea minions obtain, the last one gradually makes its way back to shore to be claimed by a hapless victim-to-be.

Nekessa is our final domain, a stony wasteland surrounding the city of Aviad whose economy revolves around gladiatorial combat. Those Nekessans who leave the city do so to supply the capital with mining as well as captured monsters to haul to the city arenas. Stone statues animated by the domain’s darklord roam the wastes, imprisoning people to serve as gladiator-slaves. Aviad’s ruler and darklord, Lady Lucille Octavian, is a reclusive woman. It is the goal of many people to earn her favor and join her honor guard by beating her immortal champion Aurelius in the arena. In reality, those selected instead become victims Lady Octavian will hunt down in her manor, although those who kill her are granted one request by her spirit.

Lady Lucille Octavian has no need for bodyguards, because she is an immortal entity. A former inhabitant of the world of Theros, she was raised for combat and became a respected general in an unnamed empire. But when peace reigned, Lady Octavian found this an unacceptable existence. She turned to the promotion of bloodsports, quickly earning enmity among the imperial citizenry as the arenas grew ever more dangerous and enslaved ever more people. She responded to these protests by rounding people up to personally execute in one of her arenas. It was then that Ravenloft claimed her, transporting her to a new domain and her form now that of a medusa to reflect her cold, stony heart. This also dulled her own sadistic impulses, and now she seeks to turn Aviad into a grim reminder of her glory days in hopes of reawakening those old emotions.

Ravenloft Sidekicks details five NPCs with ties to the new domains in this book. They all make use of the Sidekick rules from Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything, although to make them stand out they all get unique features around 9th to 10th level.

Eli Frost is a private investigator in Murkhaven whose initial investigations into the harbor’s occult affairs opened him up to the existence of other Domains of Dread. Now he uses a manor in his hometown as a base of operations, and he still feels a special responsibility to its people by finding a way to return it to its original world. He is an Expert with a shotgun, and at 9th level he can specially prepare his weapons to be treated as magical for overcoming immunities and resistances.

Gabriel is a goliath paladin hailing from Lamordia, revived by the goddess Ezra after fighting one of Dr. Mordenheim’s creations. He is a pretty strong sidekick, having paladin lay on hands ability and starts out equipped with plate armor. At 9th level he adds his Charisma modifier to all saving throws.

Lara Kessler is a psychic who gained her powers after she and her sister were abducted by mind flayers to Bluetspur. She used her newfound powers to escape, and she is an Expert with telepathy, can cast Detect Thoughts, and whose class abilities are reflavored as psychic powers. At 9th level she can cast Bigby’s Hand or Telekinesis once every long rest. She also uses a baseball bat as a melee weapon, which gives me some heavy Earthbound/Mother vibes.

Leon Romero is a wandering gunslinger of Morei, whose arm was replaced with a tattooed graft that was found in a chest…after it attacked his party and replaced his own arm. It is the arm of Maria Shade, the former darklord, and Leon wants to keep it from being used for evil purposes while also resisting the temptation to use its powers. He is a Warrior with a revolver weapon, and if he dies he comes back to life 1d4 hours later with 1 hit point in a random place up to 1 mile from their point of death. At 9th, 13th, and 17th level he rolls additional damage die when making a critical hit with a ranged attack.

Sabine Gagnon is a librarian from Bhasmont, maintaining a secret collection of books in the city catacombs. She travels the Domains of Dread, recording the strange and wondrous sights she comes upon and is always on the lookout for new books to add to her collection. She is a Spellcaster with the mage role, and wields a special sacrificial dagger which imposes disadvantage on attack rolls to undead damaged by it. At 10th level she learns to call on her mother’s special spellbook, being able to cast spells as rituals if they have the ritual tag and can perform a special séance to cast Speak with Dead.


Creatures of Ravenloft is the bestiary section of the Atlas of Dread, detailing 15 new stat blocks plus 1 template to be added onto creatures. Pretty much every creature ties into one of the eight domains in this book.

We have dread gargoyles which are gargoyles bound to a spellcaster who creates them from sacrificing innocent lives. They’re like regular gargoyles but stronger and can spit an orb of explosive spit as a rechargeable attack. Drowning Maidens are the undead souls of those who drowned in a particularly painful manner, and are incorporeal creatures who can steal the breaths from others and animate them as zombies. Dune zombies appear in desert domains and can vomit a swarm of angry locusts as an AoE attack. Engineers are a generic stat block for artificers who specialize in machinery, and whose “spells” aren’t treated as magical. Khyber shells come in three varieties: massive drillworms who can tunnel through solid rock and deal lots of damage with a drill, icebreakers which are bipedal constructs equipped with drills and flamethrowers, and scoutworms that can maneuver through narrow spaces and whose tasers can be used to shock foes as well as repair machinery. Monster hunter is a generic ranger stat block for more experienced individuals of the profession, equipped with silvered weapons and can throw clockwork devices that can generate smoke, holy water mist, or a burst of sunlight. Pale dryads are wicked fey whose link to forests corrupts them when evil magic grows powerful. Phantom Rider is an undead horse whose rider was a vicious outlaw in life, and now the two are fused together; the “rider’s” ghostly revolver attack prevents a target from regaining hit points for one round. Thrallspore is a template for beasts and humanoids infected by the Rot’s fungal plague, having their Intelligence and Charisma reduced to 3 but gaining a host of immunities and the ability to create a spore disease counterattack. Skelemancers are necromancers who specialize in the use of bones and are common among the nobility of Bhasmont. In addition to conventional necromancy spells they can summon a group of skeletons and issue commands to them as a bonus action. We also have two new skeleton types, a skeleton giant and skeleton knight. They are similar to their living OGL versions save that they’re undead, and the knight grants advantage vs turn attempts on itself and nearby undead. A skullbug is an ad hoc undead, made up of jumbled-together small bones for necromancers on a budget. They are more of a nuisance at CR 1/8th, with a bite attack and a 5 foot radius explosion upon death as their offensive abilities. Finally, the spirit medium is a bard tasked with speaking to the dearly departed. In addition to a variety of spells, they can speak to undead creatures as though they shared a language and have a melee attack that deals necrotic damage.

Overall Thoughts: I really like the Atlas of Dread. The new domains are unique and flavorful, spanning a variety of genres and manages to pack quite a bit of detail and adventuring opportunities in spite of the individual short page counts. If I had to pick favorites, I am rather fond of Everice Station and Lowbridge. Bhasmont is perhaps my least favorite, as it feels too much like Falkovnia in concept. I have mixed feelings on the sidekicks; Leon Romero’s immortality may take the edge off of things if the party knows they have a companion who can come back from death at will, and Gabriel’s full plate plus lay on hands makes him a very competent sidekick at low levels. I feel that Lara would be better as a reflavored spellcaster than Expert, as psychic powers feel more appropriate in the domain of spells than the Expert’s Roguelike abilities.

Join us next time as we investigate a foggy ruined monastery in the Fate of St. Penetas!

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