I’ve been a fan of Ravenloft since the original AD&D I6 adventure and the 2nd Edition Realms of Terror boxed set, so I was excited to read Van Richten’s Guide to Ravenloft, the latest D&D book from Wizards of the Coast.
This series of blog posts offers some ideas on how a DM running Empire of the Ghouls (or another Midgard campaign) can steal things from Van Richten’s Guide to Ravenloft to enhance their game by adding an extra touch of horror.
You can read Part 1 in the series here.
Darklords and Domains
The second chapter of Van Richten’s Guide, Creating Domains of Dread, offers guidelines and ideas for building your own Darklord and their domain in Ravenloft. Since Ravenloft is part of the Shadowfell – the equivalent of Midgard’s Shadow Realm – and Empire of the Ghouls features several trips along the mysterious shadow roads, DMs running the campaign have the perfect opportunity to send their PCs on a side trek to the Domains of Dread.
As the characters travel the shadow roads in Chapter 2: Holy Robes of Sister Adelind and Chapter 4: Catacombs of the Ghul King, you can have the Mists of Ravenloft draw in, transporting the party to one of the domains featured in Chapter 3 of Van Richten’s Guide to Ravenloft, or – even better – you can send them to a domain of your own devising, complete with a Darklord with origins in Midgard.
Here are two new Midgard Darklords you can use in your campaign.
Lucretia Ravelli was an apprentice gear mage from Triolo, studying at Zobeck’s Arcane Collegium. She showed great promise and a natural affinity for clockwork magic, but it didn’t take long before the masters became concerned at the direction her studies had taken. As Lucretia became increasingly obsessed with the creation of fellforged (see Tome of Beasts) and other sinister constructs, Master Jelinak attempted to warn her off the subject on several occasions, before finally threatening her with expulsion from the Arcane Collegium. Lucretia responded by ordering the fellforged prototype she’d built to murder the professor and every single one of her classmates. Fleeing to a secret workshop in a disused part of campus with several of their corpses, Lucretia began “enhancing” first the bodies of her fellow students, and then her own, by grafting on gears, cogs, and other clockwork parts.
When the Collegium authorities finally tracked Lucretia down it was too late: the Mists had descended, transporting Lucretia, her workshop, and part of the Arcane Collegium to Ravenloft. Now, as Darklord of a domain called Vykovat, Lucretia rules over a nightmarish industrial cityscape where her part-kobold, part-construct minions drag hapless victims to the workshops to be subjected to her bizarre experiments fusing metal and flesh.
Aurel Taranu was born in Vallanoria in Morgau and conscripted into the Order of the Knights Incorporeal (Ghost Knights) shortly before the invasion of Krakova by Prince Lucan’s undead armies. Initially posted to Engerstal Castle, Aurel was part of the force that slaughtered the defenders of Yarosbirg and sacked Varshava, burning its World Tree to the ground. Witnessing the horrific deaths of so many innocent Krakovans at the claws of the ghouls and vampires had a profound effect on the young Aurel. He stopped being appalled and terrified at what he saw, and instead took delight in bloodthirsty mayhem, indulging in acts of cruelty and depravity that shocked even his undead commander, General Grimslade.
When Grand Marshall Princess Hristina road victorious into Krakova following the city’s surrender, Aurel and his unit carried on the killing, massacring several dozen unarmed townsfolk who had taken refuge inside a temple. As the blood-spattered Ghost Knights emerged from the building, the Mists rolled in from the Nieder Straits. Aurel and his men found themselves in a ruined castle uncannily similar to Yarosbirg, in an unfamiliar land named Korbozia.
Aurel has become an undead ghost knight (see Tome of Beasts) since becoming the Darklord of Korbozia. He patrols his domain on his skeletal warhorse, accompanied by his comrades, now transformed into wights, but there is no one left for them to fight. Korbozia is a realm torn apart by war, where pitiful survivors eke out an existence of sorts in burned village and towns.
Other possible candidates for Midgard Darklords could be a Niemheim gnome diabolist, a savage dwarven reaver, one of the “little lords” of the darakhul, or even a bearfolk king who descended into darkness.
I’ll be covering some ideas on how to adapt some of the domains of Ravenloft in Chapter 3 of Van Richten’s Guide to a Midgard campaign in the next post. I’d love to hear from you in the comments if you have suggestions or feedback.
Main image by Craig J Spearing