My biggest gripes:
1. No Core? Every domain is just out here floating Islands of Terror style? Having domains of major Dark Lords bordering each other and that engendering rivalries and intrigue etc, was a not-small part of the prior iteration of the setting.
You can still have that sort of thing going on. The Dark Lords were always dependent on their agents to engage in intrigue. Now they just have to use Mist Tokens to send their agents... and this means that they can send their agents anywhere
, not just bordering countries. You want to send a Kargatane to I'Cath now? Go ahead.
2. No stats for Dark Lords. Telling me IDK, go look in the Monster Manual on page 172 and give it immunity to poison is pretty weak for a $50 book. I suspect the strangely low page count to be responsible for this.
While that's probably true--the book could definitely have used another 50 pages or so--not having stats means that you can use them as villains no matter the level of your party.
Also, how often do you really need to know the actual stats for a darklord, instead of just rule-of-cool/horror'ing their abilities? There's a lot more to do in each domain than just kill the darklord, after all.
3. The really needless changing of characters. Why are we gender swapping and completely changing the characteristics of characters that already exist? Alanik Ray and Dr. Sedgewick are good examples of this. Just make new characters. Dark Lords come and go through the vagaries of the Dark Powers, it's all easy enough to explain. It's annoying in the same way that "surprise there were these other Drow all along for thousands of years that nobody knew about" is annoying.
The fact that they are now married (or that one is in a wheelchair) doesn't "completely change" their characteristics at all. I'd have to go back and check, but I'm pretty sure that none of them were ever avowed heterosexuals in earlier editions. And the wheelchair, while a change, isn't one that alters who they were
But now imagine that they had decided to make a completely new domain featuring a female darklord. Chances are it would have been similar in some way to an existing domain (since most of the standard horror tropes have been used, and many of those that haven't wouldn't be suitable for this sort of work). And then people would have complained about the copycat domains, which would likely always be compared unfavorably to or treated as a Mary Sue version of the original domain.
Or they could replace the old Darklord with a new, female version with a sufficiently different backstory, and possibly bother people who preferred the old Darklord (as an example, I hate Inza and prefer Soth). They did that with Chakuna, and I bet there are those who preferred Kharkov to her.
So why not genderflip some of them and keep the history mostly the same, like with Viktra? Or say that the Dark Powers replaced a male Darklord with a female one who had a different backstory, like with d'Honaire and Saidra, and altered everyone's mind so nobody realizes what things had been like before. (As I wrote in another thread, Falkovnia has always been at war with Zombasia now.)
(Heck, make it like the way Darkon used
to be. If you're from a domain that got a new Darklord, and you leave the domain, you suddenly remember the way it used to be. If you ever return home, however, you might forget that and go back to remembering the new timeline.)
The only two changes of this type I wonder about: genderflipping Hiregaard (if they had fully fleshed out Nova Vaasa, it would have been fine, but considering that they only gave the domain a paragraph or so, it feels unnecessary) and deciding that Erasmus is aromantic. I mean, it's a cool inclusion [raises fist in aromantic solidarity] but he's the ghost of a (probably) prepubescent kid who had been murdered by a pedophile vampire, when ghosts are famously stuck in one mindset and rarely think about things outside of it. I'm not sure that his place on the romantic spectrum is actually that important.