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
True... if you run them directly as that statblock says. Remember, the book says they have statblocks like spies or like nobles, not that they use that statblock exactly--and even then, you can change them.

So it's perfectly reasonable to say that Darklords can't be charmed or put to sleep magically or stuff like that. Or attempts to charm a Darklord bounce back on the caster, or cause psychic damage as the PCs open their mind to the alien evils of the Dark Power.

But even if you decide that no, Ivana has the spy statblock, no changes... that's OK. The PCs put her to sleep and slit her throat or get information out of her... well, they've now marked themselves as a target for every single one of her minions (who might be instantly aware that she's been affected in such a manner). And she's immortal, so she could come back the very next day. (And in Ivana's case, this would be a good way to get the attention of Ivan, who might just welcome the PCs into his playhouse.)

OK, sure, it would have been very nice if there was a section that read "Darklords can't be charmed or put to sleep magically, and are immune to the frightened condition unless it's directly related to their Torments."

But the lack of high power for the Darklords not new to this edition. Ivana was a 0th-level Human with 8 hp in 2e with no particular immunities, not even to poison (although she could always detect poison anyway, so it basically impossible to poison her). In 3e, she finally was immune to poison, and she was fairly high level: Aristocrat 3, Expert 4, and book-specific prestige class Court Poisoner 5, but even though she had a lot more hit points (115 hp), she would still be killed almost instantly in battle since relies entirely on close-ranged attacks (one of which is, admittedly, quite powerful) and doesn't wear armor.

Honestly, the only weirdness I find in the statblocks is that (A) they didn't say "If you own VGM, you can use this statblock from that book instead" Because let's face it, Vladeska should've been a warlord. And (B) in 2e, Hazlik was a 12th-level wizard but uses the Archmage statblock, while Tsien Cheng was a 20th-level wizard but only uses the Mage statblock.

I very much agree with this analysis. I think part of the reason it is set up this way, is that the designers thought of trying to structure these Domains as suggestions for different blocks of levels, to make it easier to structure a whole campaign by jumping from Domain to Domain. It's very easy to imagine a campaign starting in Borca, moving to Dimentlieu, then I'Cath, Kartakass, and ending in Har'Akir with the power level of Dark Lords (and their minions) scaling up as the players level, to keep the fear factor up.

Now, I don't think that's the only or even best way to run a campaign, and one could definitely run a mid or even high-level group in Borca, with Ivana being untouchable solely due to her web of connections and military protection. I do find the choice of statblocks indicative of something however, as you say it's interesting that they make Ivana a spy, when they could make her the far more powerful Assassin statblock instead (which would still fit her character well).
 

log in or register to remove this ad


CR 1 Dark Lords do sound hella weird
Yeah, not every adventure should be about killing the Dark Lord. But if every other monster in the domain is tougher and half the NPCs could kick the Dark Lord around the block... why are they still in charge?
 


Urriak Uruk

Gaming is fun, and fun is for everyone
They’re not in charge, the Dark Powers are, the Dark lord is a prisoner

Well, sometimes they are also "in charge" in that they are the ruler of the Domain. Ankhetop is the ruler of Har'Akir for example. So he's a prisoner, but he's also the Pharoah of the Domain. Many of the Darklords have similar situations.

But there are other examples, like Harkon Lukas, where he's the Darklord but not the ruler (or in a position of power) of Kartakass.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
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.
The explanation I’ll be going with is that you can permanently kill a Dark Lord by gaining the attention of the Dark Powers - proving you’re the most evil sonofabitch in the Domain, thus enticing them to make you its Dark Lord instead. Then, of course, the previous Dark Lord will no longer be immortal, and can thus be permanently killed. Fits with the Chakuna and von Kharkov story, and makes Dark Lord succession a matter of constantly escalating evil instead of the dwindling evil that the old lore would have implied.
 

Right right, I'm not saying the DM should ever put her in a fight (they shouldn't, she wouldn't last). I'm saying that if the PCs ever try to force her in a fight, or even just try to cast simple spells like sleep or charm person, they'll probably work.

So even in Borca, where the focus is politics and family machinations, a PC could walk up to Ivana, cast charm person and learn key information or manipulate her in other ways.

This isn't going to be as easy as say against Ramya, who has abilities like magic resistance.

Anyway, I'm pointing out that CR does have several important limitations on these NPCs, even when these characters are not strictly your enemies.
You haven't really understood. Ivana is not a spy. Or maybe she is. Just like the is no canon explanation for where Azalin is, there is no canon stat block for Ivana (or any other dark lord). "Similar to a spy" is just suggesting where the DM should start if the story they are telling puts the PCs in a position where they might attack that character. The DM can give her any abilities they like, such as Immunity To Charm or Legendary Resistance. Or simply rule that the charm fails and she pretends to be charmed in order to trick the PCs.

If you look at a dark lord who is more likely to fight the PCs, like Chakuna. Sure, she has the abilities of a were-tiger, but she also has however many ranger levels she needs in order to kick the PC's backsides.
 

Urriak Uruk

Gaming is fun, and fun is for everyone
You haven't really understood. Ivana is not a spy. Or maybe she is. Just like the is no canon explanation for where Azalin is, there is no canon stat block for Ivana (or any other dark lord). "Similar to a spy" is just suggesting where the DM should start if the story they are telling puts the PCs in a position where they might attack that character. The DM can give her any abilities they like, such as Immunity To Charm or Legendary Resistance. Or simply rule that the charm fails and she pretends to be charmed in order to trick the PCs.

If you look at a dark lord who is more likely to fight the PCs, like Chakuna. Sure, she has the abilities of a were-tiger, but she also has however many ranger levels she needs in order to kick the PC's backsides.

I've read the segment on Ivana, and that's a lot of conjecture. It says "similar to a spy," then lists out similar traits of Ivana that are unique to her. Most of them are not mechanical, but the one "Alchemist" is and points to her being able to prepare spells up to 7th level.

I don't dispute that a DM can add more abilities to her to make her as tough as they want, and there technically is no set "canon" stats for her. That said, it is interesting to me that the book describes her as "similar to a spy," when they could have easily made her "similar to an assassin," which is a much tougher enemy that is still thematically appropriate. Can a DM give her as many abilities as they want to make her as tough as an assassin? Sure I suppose, but then your not really "similar to a spy" anymore.

I also find the reverse true for a Darklord like Ramya, who is given this description;

Reborn as a death knight, Ramya desperately tries to hold on to or retake the Sapphire Throne in a cycle of victory and loss with her equally uncompromising siblings. Although an illusion disguises her deathless state, Ramya constantly feels the chill in her bones and her own crumbling flesh. Her existence has becomes one of constant struggle, doubt, and defeat as her obsessions shape all of Kalakeri.

This text is even less vague than the one for Ivana, pointing to conflict with Ramya being... well, really difficult for a low-level party.

Anyway, I'm not trying to sort Domains into certain levels only, because I think you can run adventures in each Domain for any level regardless of the Darklords themselves. I do enjoy trying to sort through the designers intentions here however, and the choices of monsters chosen to represent each Darklord intrigues me.
 

but the one "Alchemist" is and points to her being able to prepare spells up to 7th level.
You are still trying to "deduce" a true stat block that does not exist.
I don't dispute that a DM can add more abilities to her to make her as tough as they want, and there technically is no set "canon" stats for her. That said, it is interesting to me that the book describes her as "similar to a spy," when they could have easily made her "similar to an assassin," which is a much tougher enemy that is still thematically appropriate. Can a DM give her as many abilities as they want to make her as tough as an assassin? Sure I suppose, but then your not really "similar to a spy" anymore.
Several reasons: spy is a baseline. it's easier to take a stat block and make it more powerful by adding stuff. It's also another way of saying "has rogue levels". Assassin is a way of saying "has more rogue levels". How many levels is appropriate depends on the level of the party. The other reason not to use the Assassin stat block is it's best move by far is to stab with a knife. Ivana isn't going to stab you with an knife. She is going to poison you. She probably already has poisoned you.

But most of the time, it doesn't matter. She doesn't have a stat block, so she can do whatever the DM says she can do.
This text is even less vague than the one for Ivana, pointing to conflict with Ramya being... well, really difficult for a low-level party.
Which is meaningless, since there is no reason why low level party would get to meet her, never mind fight her.
 

Coroc

Hero
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?

In 2e if you managed to do something very evil within RL you could become the next DL but there was not much mechanic about this since this makes you a npc instantly (often already before that on Powers check fail level 5 or 6 already the DM took over your char)
 




If your gonna use the stat blocks suggested and modify em for Dark Lords, at least make sure they get Maximized HP. So even if you have Ivana as a Spy, she's not going to have just 27 HP, but 49 HP instead. (IIRC, you Maximize monster HP by multiplying the Hit Die calculation in the stat block together, right? So for the Spy that would be 6x8=The Spy's Maximized HP total of 49.)

Probably added in some appropriate class levels/features into there as well. A Dark Lord should probably be doing at least more than the basic/level 1 damage hitting Sneak Attack if they have Sneak Attack listed in there.

I'd also say no lower CR ranked NPC monster stat blocks for Dark Lords as well: So no Mage stat block for Tsieng; either go big with Archmage or go home(before the session is over home as well!)

And probably the guidelines for making an "elite" version of the character or what not would probably help out too. I like how this link goes over something like this or making a more elite version of a monster in dnd.

Now I will agree that perhaps only the super big name Dark Lords, like Strahd, Soth, Azalin Rex, and so forth should be the only ones that gets a Mythic Trait. Small fry like Ivana wouldn't have a Mythic Trait. Ironically the Duhallan stat block in Van Richten's Guide to Ravenloft, is the only "Dark Lord" in the book that gets one. Which I found interesting. (And since that would be the stat block you would use for The Headless Horseman, it shows that yes, Dark Lords should be able to get one too.)

 
Last edited:

dave2008

Legend
(IIRC, you Maximize monster HP by multiplying the Hit Die calculation in the stat block together, right? So for the Spy that would be 6x8=The Spy's Maximized HP total of 49.)

Yes, except 6 x8 = 48. But you got the idea right! Of course if there is a CON bonus you add that after you multiply the HD
 

dave2008

Legend
Now I will agree that perhaps only the super big name Dark Lords, like Strahd, Soth, Azalin Rex, and so forth should be the only ones that gets a Mythic Trait.
I plan to stat them all in the near future and give them all the mythic trait. The mythic trait is optional based on DM discretion anyway so this just gives the stat block more flexibility.
 

dave2008

Legend
You haven't really understood. Ivana is not a spy. Or maybe she is. Just like the is no canon explanation for where Azalin is, there is no canon stat block for Ivana (or any other dark lord).
I am not sure what you mean by "canon stat block," but there have been official stats for many of the Dark Lords in previous editions (and of course Strahd in most editions).
 

dave2008

Legend
You are still trying to "deduce" a true stat block that does not exist.
The OP is not really trying to deduce a true stat block. They are trying to get an idea of the relative strengths of the Dark Lords and see what that could mean for adventures, based on clues in the text of VRGtR.

Most import is that this is done as a thought exercise for fun. It is not intended to be a statement on official canon or some such nonsense.
 

Tonguez

A suffusion of yellow
In 2e if you managed to do something very evil within RL you could become the next DL but there was not much mechanic about this since this makes you a npc instantly (often already before that on Powers check fail level 5 or 6 already the DM took over your char)

Ok, yeah I remember the your character becomes an NPC note for Lycanthropes through DID so that makes sense.
Just with Lineages and Dark Powers and Undead Warlock this version of RAvenloft seems to be giving a lot of options for PCs to actually be Monsters - and if the PC is already a Reborn Undead Warlock haunted by dark whispers then it seems ripe for that PC to be the Darklord too
 

The OP is not really trying to deduce a true stat block. They are trying to get an idea of the relative strengths of the Dark Lords and see what that could mean for adventures, based on clues in the text of VRGtR.
The dark lords don't have "relative strengths". They are exactly as strong as the plot and party level requires them to be.
 

Level Up!

An Advertisement

Advertisement4

Top