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


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Urriak Uruk

Gaming is fun, and fun is for everyone
Interesting. the 2e Ravenloft books said that if a Dark Lord dies, the next most evil person in the domain gets the job.

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.

So Dark Lords now appear to be immortal (sort of).

Darklords Are Immortal. Darklords are casually immortal, many having no concept of how long they've lived, how many times they've died, or why they returned to life. Should a Darklord fall, the temporary defeat lasts until they're restored by the Dark Powers. In their absence, those who sought to escape or supplant them seize their chance.

Now, it does appear true that the inhabitants of the Domain are not always aware who the Dark Lord is (or even that there is one). For example, Harkon Lukas doesn't actually have much power in his Domain, and is constantly being forgotten by inhabitants.

Harkon is obsessed with spreading his fame and travels Kartakass endlessly. Whenever he returns to a community, though, he finds he has been forgotten. Semi-polite variations of "I thought you'd retired" ever torment him.
 

Urriak Uruk

Gaming is fun, and fun is for everyone
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?

There isn't really a mechanism explained that I've noticed yet, but Chakuna replaced Ulrik von Kharkov in Valachan, so it's possible.

Chakuna swore to save her people. She entered the tournament freely, determined to turn the tables on von Kharkov or die. She vowed to sacrifice whatever it took to defeat the Darklord—but learned quickly that it takes monstrosity to beat a monster. Chakuna found von Kharkov's weakness, burned Castle Pantara to the ground, and kept the former Darklord's head.

So I suppose there is some implication that by "becoming a monster" you can replace a Dark Lord. This directly contradicts an earlier part which says Dark Lords are immortal and will eventually return, so it's not well explained.
 

Dausuul

Legend
I do think it would be difficult to build a high-level campaign in Ravenloft, but the reason has nothing to do with the CRs of the Darklords, and everything to do with the power curve of D&D itself.

Horror by its nature relies on the resonance of human fears which high-level PCs can generally blow off. The terror of sunset in "Dracula" is rather lessened when you can wave your hand and conjure sunlight. "The Masque of the Red Death" loses something when you can cure disease at will. Zombie apocalypse means little to the fighter who can cut down multiple zombies per round with barely a scratch.

Obviously, you can shut down the relevant abilities by fiat; but now you're playing whack-a-mole with the PCs' abilities, and the focus is on that instead of the intrinsic horror of the setting. I think Ravenloft would benefit immensely from an official 5E version of the "E6" system that people devised for 3.5.
 
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Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
So Dark Lords now appear to be immortal (sort of).

Darklords Are Immortal. Darklords are casually immortal, many having no concept of how long they've lived, how many times they've died, or why they returned to life. Should a Darklord fall, the temporary defeat lasts until they're restored by the Dark Powers. In their absence, those who sought to escape or supplant them seize their chance.

Now, it does appear true that the inhabitants of the Domain are not always aware who the Dark Lord is (or even that there is one). For example, Harkon Lukas doesn't actually have much power in his Domain, and is constantly being forgotten by inhabitants.

Harkon is obsessed with spreading his fame and travels Kartakass endlessly. Whenever he returns to a community, though, he finds he has been forgotten. Semi-polite variations of "I thought you'd retired" ever torment him.
So that begs the question. What happened to Azalin?
 

Urriak Uruk

Gaming is fun, and fun is for everyone
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

I largely agree here; fighting Ivana Boritsi in a straight fight would not be hard, even with the book's tweaks, for even a low-level party. I do personally believe though that it would be easier to place Borca as a setting for a low-level adventure, where the focus is navigating the intricate social politics of the realm, as opposed to say I'Cath, where dangerous Jiangshi (CR 9) are roaming every night.
 

Savage Wombat

Adventurer
I have a suspicion that the secret of high-level Ravenloft is to make the primary dilemma for the PCs not a particular fight, but a choice between two terrible options with large-scale consequences.
 

Urriak Uruk

Gaming is fun, and fun is for everyone
So that begs the question. What happened to Azalin?

Well, the book not only doesn't answer... it gives several answers! There are numerous tables that give possible explanations for what happened to Azalin, so there is no "canonical" explanation. He could be dead, escaped, roaming the Domains... all that is clear is that Darkon is slowly being destroyed, and no one knows what happened to him.
 

PCs could be cursed and tricked to believe they are the new dark lord, but the true one is other.

My opinion is the levels of the most important nPCs aren't frozen or static, but you can add more levels like the rest of monsters because you think the PCs are too powerful.

Dark Lords can die or be destroyed forever if Dark Powers find a better candidate.
 

Urriak Uruk

Gaming is fun, and fun is for everyone
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?

More details on how Chakuna pulled it off against Ulrik von Kharkov;

Heartless.
Chakuna has no heart—literally. At the height of her contest with von Kharkov, she ripped it out of her chest with her fingers and placed it at the center of the Yaguara Mountain maze, then replaced it by taking and eating von Kharkov's heart. Doing so, she co-opted von Kharkov's powers and accursed immortality and claimed Valachan as her own. Within Yaguara's Heart, the sacred nexus of the maze, Chakuna's heart still beats as one with the land, infinitely connected and as robust as the rain forest. But like anything that lives, her tie with the domain she's claimed must be maintained. Life eats life. And so Chakuna sacrifices the blood of the hunted to the land to maintain her grip on power. If she doesn't, the plants and animals of the domain grow hostile, threatening to wipe out all who dwell there.

So um... I guess if a PC did this, they could replace Chakuna. No idea what one would need to do in another Domain, as this seems very Domain specific. I suppose the idea is the PC needs to gain near-identical flaws to who they replace.
 

Iry

Hero
Dark Lords come in many flavors. Some are combat monsters, others emotionally impactful, some are there to make you feel spooked.

Other factors radically alter effective DC, like fighting Strahd in his castle without doing a good job exploring the place first. Nobody likes Strahd when he's wearing a +2 Shield, +2 Plate, and the Staff of Power.
 



jgsugden

Legend
If you feel like there are definitive answers to how to replace a Darklord, how powerful a Darklord is, whether a Darklord can be defeated permanently ... I think you're going to need to read the book a bit more. Ravenloft is about anxiety, despair, and the twisting knife. Defeat from the hands of victory should be unexpectedly expected.

I have a homebrew Dread Domain where the Darklord is the Coward. They made a cowardly choice, and because they made that choice, 1000 years of destruction was rained down upon the world. They relive that day - every day - and although they try to change the outcome, they always give into their fear and let the world burn. This realm is the only way that PCs can discover how and why the world burned. It has been visited dozens of times since I introduced it in the early 90s. Each time the PCs go there, they think they're there to change the past, to save someone, etc... They never know it is primarily a lore dump. They get their chance to meet their objective - and have every indication that it will work - but in the end it always resets and their efforts are for naught ... but they get the chance to learn something essential (a silver lining that is really more important). I've used other Domains here and there over the years, mostly for a short adventure. This is the one that I think best implements the 'Ravenloft approach'.
 

overgeeked

B/X Known World
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.
Likewise, you're free to pointlessly handicap entire domains because you inexplicably think the Dark Lord must have the biggest CR in their Domain. I'm just saying your assumption doesn't make a lick of sense.
HOWEVER, there is an assumption in the book that the Dark Lords are the most important NPCs in each Domain.
Most important, yes. But not necessarily the most powerful by CR. There are more forms of power than are reflected in hit points, DPR, and CR. Political power, control of resources, contacts, alliances, etc. How does immortality affect a creature's CR? Or the ability to block or allow passage through the Mists surrounding the Dark Lord's Domain? And as you quoted, the Dark Lords are immortal. How does that affect their CR?

I’m objecting to the notion that a Dark Lord's CR is reflective of how difficult the Domain is as a whole. The Dark Lord’s CR is not the difficulty of the Domain. It’s not a suggested level limit. This is literally never once suggested in the book. That's an assumption you are making. I'm just pointing out that it's your assumption and questioning why you'd make it.

And the book agrees with me: "Darklords range from monstrous tyrants to depraved individuals who otherwise appear as ordinary people. A Darklord’s position and powers stem from their deeds, not their game statistics. While some Darklords are deadly or possess foul gifts from the Dark Powers, many pose little threat in battle. Their menace is the result of capabilities beyond physical prowess."

The CR of a given Dark Lord is not an indicator of the "difficulty" of their Domain, nor is it a "level limit" for the creatures contained within.
 

Urriak Uruk

Gaming is fun, and fun is for everyone
Shouldn’t Lamordia also account for Adam (CR 5) and Aubreker (CR ??)

Well, Adam isn't mentioned at all, and his replacement is essentially Elise (Flesh Golem, CR 5). Baron Rudolph von Aubrecker is a brain in a jar (CR 3).

I did not bother to try and measure the Domains by all the other important NPCs... that would have gotten really complicated.
 

Urriak Uruk

Gaming is fun, and fun is for everyone
Likewise, you're free to pointlessly handicap entire domains because you inexplicably think the Dark Lord must have the biggest CR in their Domain. I'm just saying your assumption doesn't make a lick of sense.

Most important, yes. But not necessarily the most powerful by CR. There are more forms of power than are reflected in hit points, DPR, and CR. Political power, control of resources, contacts, alliances, etc. How does immortality affect a creature's CR? Or the ability to block or allow passage through the Mists surrounding the Dark Lord's Domain? And as you quoted, the Dark Lords are immortal. How does that affect their CR?

I’m objecting to the notion that a Dark Lord's CR is reflective of how difficult the Domain is as a whole. The Dark Lord’s CR is not the difficulty of the Domain. It’s not a suggested level limit. This is literally never once suggested in the book. That's an assumption you are making. I'm just pointing out that it's your assumption and questioning why you'd make it.

And the book agrees with me: "Darklords range from monstrous tyrants to depraved individuals who otherwise appear as ordinary people. A Darklord’s position and powers stem from their deeds, not their game statistics. While some Darklords are deadly or possess foul gifts from the Dark Powers, many pose little threat in battle. Their menace is the result of capabilities beyond physical prowess."

The CR of a given Dark Lord is not an indicator of the "difficulty" of their Domain, nor is it a "level limit" for the creatures contained within.

Hey man, I don't disagree. I don't really understand your antagonization here, because I'm not saying anyone should play a certain way. I just now that a lot of players and DMs are going to want to treat the Domains a lot like the experience in Curse of Strahd, with the Dark Lord being the BBEG. I don't think that's the only or best way to treat the Domains, but some folks are going to do that.

And of course CR matters. It's not the only or most important thing, but it is a fair assumption that PCs are going to be in more trouble in a Domain like Kalakeri, where there is conflict between a Death Knight, Rakshasa, and Arcanaloth, than in a politics-driven realm like Borca where the rulers are low-level humans. I can state it would be a lot easier to run a high-level campaign in Kalakeri than in Borca with those assumptions already set for me. So yes, there is an indicator there, though there are no level limits of any kind.
 

overgeeked

B/X Known World
Hey man, I don't disagree. I don't really understand your antagonization here, because I'm not saying anyone should play a certain way.
But you are. And that's what I'm objecting to. Your OP presented the Dark Lords and their CR as the basis for the difficulty of the Domains. You're literally saying the CR of the Dark Lord is an indicator of how difficult the Domain is. You even replace the Dark Lord of their Domain with a different character who happens to have a higher CR.
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...

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.
I disagree with that kind of reductive representation. As does the book itself as shown in the quote I used.
And of course CR matters. It's not the only or most important thing, but it is a fair assumption that PCs are going to be in more trouble in a Domain like Kalakeri, where there is conflict between a Death Knight, Rakshasa, and Arcanaloth, than in a politics-driven realm like Borca where the rulers are low-level humans. I can state it would be a lot easier to run a high-level campaign in Kalakeri than in Borca with those assumptions already set for me. So yes, there is an indicator there, though there are no level limits of any kind.
Only if you assume that the PCs are only there to physically fight and defeat the Dark Lord in single combat...and also exclude literally everything else about the Domain...like any monsters, creatures, guards, friends, allies, supporters, etc. Those are incredibly bad assumptions to make.
 

Interesting. the 2e Ravenloft books said that if a Dark Lord dies, the next most evil person in the domain gets the job.
Yeah Azalin Rex, I'm gonna assume, somehow cheated the system ala Soth and now the Dark Powers are like "Oh BLOODY SMEG NOT AGAIN!!"


Meanwhile Darkon is tearing itself apart and the only thing that Management knows how to do at this point is fold it back into the mist till the next annual company meeting.
 

Urriak Uruk

Gaming is fun, and fun is for everyone
But you are. And that's what I'm objecting to. Your OP presented the Dark Lords and their CR as the basis for the difficulty of the Domains. You're literally saying the CR of the Dark Lord is an indicator of how difficult the Domain is. You even replace the Dark Lord of their Domain with a different character who happens to have a higher CR.

I disagree with that kind of reductive representation. As does the book itself as shown in the quote I used.

Only if you assume that the PCs are only there to physically fight and defeat the Dark Lord in single combat...and also exclude literally everything else about the Domain...like any monsters, creatures, guards, friends, allies, supporters, etc. Those are incredibly bad assumptions to make.

This is one way, of many, to play the game. Outlining the Domains and the Dark Lords for folks to peruse is not inherently bad. I don't assume people need to play a certain way, so stop trying to put words in my mouth when I've explained my own thoughts in great detail.

I've repeated myself too many times to engage with you, when you clearly aren't interested a good faith discussion.
 

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