D&D 5E The Domains of Dread, listed by the power of their Dark Lord (using their CR)

Urriak Uruk

Gaming is fun, and fun is for everyone
Now, I noticed a common complaint with the Van Richten's Guide to Ravenloft as it seems like it could be difficult to build an entire campaign within the Domains of Dread. Specifically, that most of the challenges seem fit for low-level or mid-level campaigns.

Well, I've now looked over a good chunk of the book, and although I agree with the above, I thought it would be an interesting experiment to list out the Domains, in order from the weakest Dark Lords to the strongest. This is not a ranking of the characters themselves, as I think some through guile and influence can make a tougher opponent than a simple statblock suggests. But this list does stick to ranking the Dark Lords (and their Domains) by their suggested Monster Manual equivalents. This can provide a basic guideline for which Dark Lords a low-level party could reasonably tackle, and which ones they'd be hard-pressed to defeat.

Note: I assume the Great Brain (Bluetspur) is like an Elder Brain even though the book does not suggest this. Also, I know Alcio Metus isn't actually Darkon's Dark Lord, but she's the strongest warlord there.

Borca: Ivana Boritsi (Spy, CR 1)
Lamordia: Viktra Mordenheim (Spy, CR 1)
Richemulot: Jacqueline Renier (Wererat, CR 2)
Falkovnia: Vladeska Drakov (Knight, CR 3)
Mordent: Wilfred Godefroy (Ghost, CR 4)
Valachan: Chakuna (Weretiger, CR 4)
The Carnival: Isolde and Nepenthe (CR 5)
Dementlieu: Saidra D'Honaire (Wraith, CR 5)
Tepest: Mother Lorinda (Green Hag in Coven, CR 5)
I'Cath: Tsien Chiang (Mage, CR 6)
Hazlan: Hazlik (Archmage, CR 12)
Darkon: Alcio "Baron" Metus (Vampire, CR 13)
Kartakass: Harkon Lukas (Loup Garou, CR 13)
Bluetspur: The Great Brain (Elder Brain, CR 14)
Barovia: Strahd von Zarovich (CR 15)
Har'Akir: Ankhtepot (Mummy Lord, CR 15)
Kalakeri: Ramya Vasavadan (Death Knight, CR 17)

Now, obviously one can do various tweaks and other tricks to make Dark Lords stronger or weaker (have Viktra Mordenheim pilot an Iron Golem mechsuit!) but the CRs are a decent guideline for what levels they expect PCs to tackle each domain. Consider how Curse of Strahd ends at around level 10, and Strahd himself is CR 15; the only domains really optimized for a challenge beyond level 10 are (maybe) Har'Akir and Kalakeri. Most domains are for lever levels, in fact much lower, although Hazlan, Darkon, and Kartakass are still fairly challenging Domains.

Running a full campaign from level 1 to 20 would be very difficult without boosting Dark Lord's stats, or using Domains not given center-stage in this book. That said, there is plenty of material to run a campaign to at least level 12.
 

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Urriak Uruk

Gaming is fun, and fun is for everyone
That assumes: 1) the point of any campaign set in Ravenloft is to take out the Dark Lords, and; 2) nothing in the domain has a higher CR than the Dark Lord. I don't see why you'd make either assumption.

I'm not saying you should. What I am saying, is if the characters are at a high level and are much more powerful than the Dark Lord, it's going to be more difficult to strike fear in the PCs. Not impossible, and I think some Domains like Falkovnia are designed to be more scary than the Dark Lord's CR suggests, but CR does provide some guidepost to the difficulty of each Domain.
 

TheSword

Legend
I'm not saying you should. What I am saying, is if the characters are at a high level and are much more powerful than the Dark Lord, it's going to be more difficult to strike fear in the PCs. Not impossible, and I think some Domains like Falkovnia are designed to be more scary than the Dark Lord's CR suggests, but CR does provide some guidepost to the difficulty of each Domain.
It’s an interesting point.

I certainly don’t intend Darklords to be the BBEG (Big Bad End Guy) of an adventure in each domain. Not in most cases anyway. It should be fairly obvious that the danger of Ivan Boritsi is not his attack and hp. It’s what he put in your dinner two nights ago. Lol
 

overgeeked

B/X Known World
What I am saying, is if the characters are at a high level and are much more powerful than the Dark Lord, it's going to be more difficult to strike fear in the PCs.
Only if you assume the Dark Lord is the main enemy or the most powerful thing in the domain. There's no reason to make that assumption.
Not impossible, and I think some Domains like Falkovnia are designed to be more scary than the Dark Lord's CR suggests...
I think that equally applies to all Domains. Unless you think a 1st-level party should stroll through any and all opponents in both Borca and Lamordia. Again, there's no reason to make that assumption.
but CR does provide some guidepost to the difficulty of each Domain.
I don't agree. Anything can be in any domain. The Domains are themed by the listed horror genres, but there's no mention of all monsters in a given Domain being CR restricted based on the Dark Lord's stat block. Lamordia is listed as body horror and gothic horror. Body horror lists CRs up to 10. Gothic horror lists CRs up to 13. There's no reason to assume that the Domains are WoW areas with only certain CR monsters.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
I thought that the Dark Lords didn't have stat blocks. Do they expect the DMs to create the Dark Lords at those CRs?
 

Savage Wombat

Adventurer
I'm not saying you should. What I am saying, is if the characters are at a high level and are much more powerful than the Dark Lord, it's going to be more difficult to strike fear in the PCs. Not impossible, and I think some Domains like Falkovnia are designed to be more scary than the Dark Lord's CR suggests, but CR does provide some guidepost to the difficulty of each Domain.
I think it was an interesting contribution to the discussion.
 


Urriak Uruk

Gaming is fun, and fun is for everyone
I thought that the Dark Lords didn't have stat blocks. Do they expect the DMs to create the Dark Lords at those CRs?

The Dark Lords don't have their own unique statblocks, however they do state how Dark Lords have similar stats to MM stats.

For example: Chakuna has statistics similar to a weretiger, but her animal and hybrid forms have the appearance of a panther.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
The Dark Lords don't have their own unique statblocks, however they do state how Dark Lords have similar stats to MM stats.

For example: Chakuna has statistics similar to a weretiger, but her animal and hybrid forms have the appearance of a panther.
So to go along with what @overgeeked said, does she also have additional powers to add to the standard Weretiger?
 

Urriak Uruk

Gaming is fun, and fun is for everyone
So to go along with what @overgeeked said, does she also have additional powers to add to the standard Weretiger?

The book does not suggest any, no. I think they are trying to leave open the option for DMs to make their own statblocks... which is kind of silly, because DMs can change statblocks they don't like all the time!

EDIT: Actually I lied, they do sometimes suggest additional stuff. Ivana Boritsi for example:

Ivana appears to be a young human woman with statistics similar to a spy.

But later: Alchemical Innovator. By spending one uninterrupted hour within her laboratory at the Boritsi Estate, Ivana can create ten doses of any poison or re-create the effect of one wizard spell of 7th level or lower.
 
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JohnF

Explorer
I thought it would be an interesting experiment to list out the Domains, in order from the weakest Dark Lords to the strongest.
Thank you!!! I was going to do the very same later today, but you’ve saved me the trouble. 😁

I might be in the minority, but I actually do love how they’ve chosen to express Dark Lords. Allows for a lot of versatility as to the role the DL will play, helping to keep to the spirit of each Domain’s unique theme (mainly by not forcing me to always make them the end bosses or the Big Bad we can’t meet until super high levels).
 

Urriak Uruk

Gaming is fun, and fun is for everyone
Only if you assume the Dark Lord is the main enemy or the most powerful thing in the domain. There's no reason to make that assumption.

I think that equally applies to all Domains. Unless you think a 1st-level party should stroll through any and all opponents in both Borca and Lamordia. Again, there's no reason to make that assumption.

I don't agree. Anything can be in any domain. The Domains are themed by the listed horror genres, but there's no mention of all monsters in a given Domain being CR restricted based on the Dark Lord's stat block. Lamordia is listed as body horror and gothic horror. Body horror lists CRs up to 10. Gothic horror lists CRs up to 13. There's no reason to assume that the Domains are WoW areas with only certain CR monsters.

So... I'm not sure I should bother arguing with you, because I don't disagree with your inherent premise. You can make each Domain as difficult as you like by populating it with foes as difficult or as easy as you choose. There is quite a lot of freedom in how you run these Domains in your games.

HOWEVER, there is an assumption in the book that the Dark Lords are the most important NPCs in each Domain. That doesn't necessarily mean they are the villain, but they have an outsized role. In I'Cath for example, there is an expectation set the PCs should try to set the Domain free by disrupting the dream created by Tsien Chiang; that would put the PCs in conflict with her. So it is a deliberate choice by the writers to compare her stats to that of a mage, instead of an Archmage like the did with Hazlik in Hazlan.

So again, you can do whatever you want, and it's not even that difficult to do so. However, I do think it is probably easier to make a campaign that starts with a Domain like Borca, and ends with a Domain like Kalakeri. It's not impossible (or really, that difficult) to do the reverse, but these serve as a simple tool for DMs that want one.
 

Tonguez

A suffusion of yellow
The book does not suggest any, no. I think they are trying to leave open the option for DMs to make their own statblocks... which is kind of silly, because DMs can change statblocks they don't like all the time!
I think it may have been a deliberate choice to signal that Darklords are thematic memes around which the Domain is focused and don’t have to be the opponent to the PCs.
I can see Victra being the PCs patron (and quest giver) working against the actual BBEG, Equally why cant Mordent also feature a CR 20 Nightwalker amassing its army of shadows on the borders?
 

Urriak Uruk

Gaming is fun, and fun is for everyone
I think it may have been a deliberate choice to signal that Darklords are thematic memes around which the Domain is focused and don’t have to be the opponent to the PCs.
I can see Victra being the PCs patron (and quest giver) working against the actual BBEG, Equally why cant Mordent also feature a CR 20 Nightwalker amassing its army of shadows on the borders?

I agree, see my post above yours to see my exact thoughts explained.
 


Urriak Uruk

Gaming is fun, and fun is for everyone
Are there still domains where the lord isn't even known?

Sort of... Darkon does not actually have a lord at all, now that Azalin Rex has disappeared. There is an implication that Darkon is slowly be absorbed by the Mists for that reason. Beyond Darkon however, every Domain listed (including the less-detailed ones) have a Dark Lord named, although some have multiple, like the Nightmare Lands (Nightmare Court).
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
Sort of... Darkon does not actually have a lord at all, now that Azalin Rex has disappeared. There is an implication that Darkon is slowly be absorbed by the Mists for that reason.
Interesting. the 2e Ravenloft books said that if a Dark Lord dies, the next most evil person in the domain gets the job.
Beyond Darkon however, every Domain listed (including the less-detailed ones) have a Dark Lord named, although some have multiple, like the Nightmare Lands (Nightmare Court).
And they did in the 2e version as well, but if you read further into the domain lore, even though you the DM knew who was lord, the domain inhabitants sometimes didn't know who or even that there was a lord.
 

Tonguez

A suffusion of yellow
Sort of... Darkon does not actually have a lord at all, now that Azalin Rex has disappeared. There is an implication that Darkon is slowly be absorbed by the Mists for that reason. Beyond Darkon however, every Domain listed (including the less-detailed ones) have a Dark Lord named, although some have multiple, like the Nightmare Lands (Nightmare Court).
Just a thought; is there any mechanism (or implication) for PCs to become the Darklord of a Domain either by replacing an existing Darklord by getting the attention of the Dark Powers?
 

Now, I noticed a common complaint with the Van Richten's Guide to Ravenloft as it seems like it could be difficult to build an entire campaign within the Domains of Dread. Specifically, that most of the challenges seem fit for low-level or mid-level campaigns.

Well, I've now looked over a good chunk of the book, and although I agree with the above, I thought it would be an interesting experiment to list out the Domains, in order from the weakest Dark Lords to the strongest. This is not a ranking of the characters themselves, as I think some through guile and influence can make a tougher opponent than a simple statblock suggests. But this list does stick to ranking the Dark Lords (and their Domains) by their suggested Monster Manual equivalents. This can provide a basic guideline for which Dark Lords a low-level party could reasonably tackle, and which ones they'd be hard-pressed to defeat.

Note: I assume the Great Brain (Bluetspur) is like an Elder Brain even though the book does not suggest this. Also, I know Alcio Metus isn't actually Darkon's Dark Lord, but she's the strongest warlord there.

Borca: Ivana Boritsi (Spy, CR 1)
Lamordia: Viktra Mordenheim (Spy, CR 1)
Richemulot: Jacqueline Renier (Wererat, CR 2)
Falkovnia: Vladeska Drakov (Knight, CR 3)
Mordent: Wilfred Godefroy (Ghost, CR 4)
Valachan: Chakuna (Weretiger, CR 4)
The Carnival: Isolde and Nepenthe (CR 5)
Dementlieu: Saidra D'Honaire (Wraith, CR 5)
Tepest: Mother Lorinda (Green Hag in Coven, CR 5)
I'Cath: Tsien Chiang (Mage, CR 6)
Hazlan: Hazlik (Archmage, CR 12)
Darkon: Alcio "Baron" Metus (Vampire, CR 13)
Kartakass: Harkon Lukas (Loup Garou, CR 13)
Bluetspur: The Great Brain (Elder Brain, CR 14)
Barovia: Strahd von Zarovich (CR 15)
Har'Akir: Ankhtepot (Mummy Lord, CR 15)
Kalakeri: Ramya Vasavadan (Death Knight, CR 17)

Now, obviously one can do various tweaks and other tricks to make Dark Lords stronger or weaker (have Viktra Mordenheim pilot an Iron Golem mechsuit!) but the CRs are a decent guideline for what levels they expect PCs to tackle each domain. Consider how Curse of Strahd ends at around level 10, and Strahd himself is CR 15; the only domains really optimized for a challenge beyond level 10 are (maybe) Har'Akir and Kalakeri. Most domains are for lever levels, in fact much lower, although Hazlan, Darkon, and Kartakass are still fairly challenging Domains.

Running a full campaign from level 1 to 20 would be very difficult without boosting Dark Lord's stats, or using Domains not given center-stage in this book. That said, there is plenty of material to run a campaign to at least level 12.

This likely why Star Spawn Emissary is in the book, for when you need a boss fight bigger then a Dark Lord.
 

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