[[quoteright:300:http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/Ravenloft_original_4205.jpg]]

''Ravenloft'' is a campaign setting for the ''TabletopGame/DungeonsAndDragons'' tabletop roleplaying game, focusing on themes of GothicHorror and dark fantasy. Events take place in a pocket dimension called the Land of Mists. The enigmatic Dark Powers have cobbled together a patchwork land of diverse kingdoms, each hiding their own foul secrets and held in thrall by a hideously corrupt being--its [[EvilOverlord darklord]]--for whom each domain is both a sovereign territory and a prison. "Ravenloft" is actually the name of a castle in one of the most famous dark dominions of the setting.

Many of the individual domains of ''Ravenloft'', along with their inhabitants, are directly inspired by classic {{horror}} and [[GothicHorror Gothic literature]], infamous historical figures, and twisted versions of FairyTales and other stories. ''Literature/{{Dracula}}'', ''Literature/TheStrangeCaseOfDrJekyllAndMrHyde'', the works of Creator/HPLovecraft, ''Literature/{{Pinocchio}}'', ''Literature/TheIslandOfDoctorMoreau'', Creator/{{Shakespeare}}'s ''Theatre/{{Macbeth}}'', and the historical Borgia family among many others comprise only a few examples.

The first version of the setting, ''Ravenloft: Realm of Terror'', was released as a boxed set (the Black Box) for AD&D in 1990. The ''Ravenloft Campaign Setting'' boxed set (the Red Box), released in 1994, revised and updated the setting to include developments in the metaplot. In 1997, the hardcover ''Domains of Dread'' updated both setting and rules, and was the first version to include rules for the demiplane's natives. The setting was licensed for Third Edition D&D by WhiteWolf, who released supplements through their Arthaus imprint, starting with 2001's ''Ravenloft'' hardcover. They updated it for 3.5 with 2003's ''Ravenloft Player's Handbook''. Plans to publish a fourth edition version of the setting were cancelled, but a number of Domains of Dread were introduced to 4e's [[TabletopGame/PointsOfLight default setting]]. In this way, Ravenloft was integrated into fourth edition's core.

There is also a {{Spinoff}} setting, ''TabletopGame/MasqueOfTheRedDeath'', released in 1994, which takes place on an alternate version of Earth that has been under the influence of some entity called [[Creator/EdgarAllanPoe the Red Death]]. It features many of the above mentioned classic characters that ''Ravenloft'' drew inspiration from as villains.

For a long while, getting hold of any ''Ravenloft'' books was basically a matter of KeepCirculatingTheTapes, but with {{Wizards of the Coast}}'s return to the PDF market, the AD&D ''Ravenloft'' books are being made available as official [=PDFs=]. Given the size of the D&D back catalog, it may be a while before everything's released.
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!!This tabletop game provides examples of:
* AchillesHeel: Every Darklord (and most villains in general) has one, usually associated with the curse that made him or her a Darklord (For example, in Strahd's case, it's Tatyana; the mere sight of her - or someone who looks just like her - is enough to make him take risks he would never otherwise take). The rulebooks emphasize that in order to have ''any'' success challenging - let alone defeating - one of these villains, a hero would have to learn this weakness and exploit it. Not that it makes it easy, but in order to make the chance remotely possible, one has to learn it.
* AdaptationExpansion: The game-setting itself is an expansion of an extremely well-received 1st edition adventure, also called "Ravenloft", and its sequel, "Ravenloft 2: The House on Gryphon Hill".
* AffablyEvil:
** Some of the Darklords can be like this, most likely so the [=PCs=] can sympathize with them, even if just a little.
** Many evil-aligned secret societies, in particular the Fraternity of Shadows, the people who write the Gazetteers (they're genteel and wise wizards who completely lack in FantasticRacism...and each and every one of them is a NeutralEvil ManipulativeBastard who truly believe that most other people aren't actually real, thus it doesn't matter what happens to them).
* AllThereInTheManual: Like most other D&D settings, most of the setting info is in the sourcebooks.
* AlwaysChaoticEvil: Even if 3rd edition DungeonsAndDragons moved a lot of monsters from the ''always'' ChaoticEvil to ''usually'' Chaotic Evil, the ''Ravenloft'' setting adamantly keeps its critters and other nasties in the ''always'' evil section. Don't look for FriendlyNeighborhoodVampires. Enforced even, for lycanthropes -- normally nonevil lycanthrope types (such as werebears, who in other settings are AlwaysLawfulGood) are evil in the Land of Mists. Even the likes of [[WhenTreesAttack treants]] and [[InvertedTrope unicorns]] are evil there.
* AncientOrderOfProtectors: The Order of the Guardians are a monastic sect which keeps cursed artifacts sealed away in hidden locations, keeping them out of the hands of innocent bystanders and villains alike.
* AncientTomb
* ArcWelding: The six-module Grand Conjunction StoryArc was belatedly welded together into one apocalyptic plotline, using a poorly-worded Vistani prophecy as solder.
* AnimateDead: Where else did all those [[DemBones skeletons]] and [[EverythingsDeaderWithZombies zombies]] come from?
* ArmedWithCanon: James Lowder wrote ''Knight of the Black Rose'', which brought Lord Soth from {{Dragonlance}} to Ravenloft. Tracy Hickman complained incessantly until TSR had ''When Black Roses Bloom'' made, removing Soth from Ravenloft. Despite that, Hickman still insists that Soth never went to Ravenloft, even plugging a non-action, non-dialogue cameo into ''Dragons of Summer Flame'' for the sole purpose of conflicting with the Ravenloft timeline, necessitating a fair amount of FanWank to deconflict the two.
** The most common theory was that Soth really did get sucked into Ravenloft, where he spent several decades forming one of the worst [[HeroicBSOD Villanous BSOD]]s on record. After about a decade continually locked in his "happy place" caused his realm to literally begin falling apart around him, the White Rose appeared in Sithicus to snap Soth out of his reverie. Once he recovered, the Dark Powers let the White Rose take Soth back with her to Krynn, realizing that there was nothing they could do to Lord Soth that his own memories and haunting spirits couldn't do worse. When he came back, he returned to Krynn only an hour/a day/five minutes after he left, leaving him available for any {{Dragonlance}} events that came along in the meantime.
* AudioAdaptation: ''I, Strahd'' got an audiobook release-- read by [[FrightNight Peter Vincent]] himself, Roddy [=McDowall=]!
* AxCrazy: This is actually very rare among darklords. Insanity would suggest that they aren't responsible for their actions, something which, as emphasized frequently, they ''are''. The only one that truly fits the Trope is Esan the Mad of Vechor. A few of them do show some leanings towards the Trope, such as the Hive Queen, Tristessa, Malken, and Duke Gundar, as do quite a few non-darklord villains like the Midnight Slasher.
* BattleInTheCenterOfTheMind: What happens if the [[ExactlyWhatItSaysOnTheTin Nightmare Court]] decides your mind looks tasty.
* BeCarefulWhatYouWishFor: The "wish" spell is dicey even on more benign worlds. Here it will ''always'' be perverted while fulfilling the ExactWords, no matter how carefully you phrase your request. (Unless you're evil, in which case the Powers may decide you've already taken care of that part for them.)
* BedlamHouse: Dr. Heinfroth's asylum on the domain/island of Dominia.
* BestServedCold: Revenge was the original motive for Dr. Rudolph Van Richten's career as a vampire hunter, which he later expanded to monster hunter in general. After his son was turned into an undead slave by a cruel vampire named Baron Metus, he was forced to kill his son via MercyKilling, but the Baron retaliated by murdering Van Richten's whole family. The doctor swore revenge against vampires in general, and his first victim was Baron Metus. (Sadly, this had unfortunate consequences that lasted his whole life; see DoomMagnet below.)
* BigBad: The Darklords in their various Domains.
* BigBoosHaunt: Castle Ravenloft, Necropolis even more so, and given the nature of the setting, probably some other places as well.
* BiggerBad: The Dark Powers. Maybe.
* TheBigEasy: Souragne is a SouthernGothic FantasyCounterpartCulture version of New Orleans/Louisiana.
* BigFancyCastle: Castle Ravenloft. Although some parts are pretty much falling apart from age and neglect.
* BilingualBonus: True of several domains' [[MeaningfulName Meaningful Names]], sometimes to the point of giving things away (e.g. "Richemulot" = [[spoiler: "Rich Mouse"]], home domain of [[spoiler: aristocratic wererats]]).
* BizarreAlienPsychology: Reading the far-too-alien mind of an aberration will force humanoid characters to make a Madness check.
* BlackKnight: Lord Soth.
* BlackMagic: Almost every spell that even tangentially relates to the dead is evil and can attract the Powers' notice, including objectively benign ones like Raise Dead.
* TheBluebeard: Bluebeard.
* BroughtDownToNormal: Werewolf darklord Alfred Timothy's curse causes him to revert to human form if he ever starts cutting loose in his furred shape, forcing him to restrain his own feral impulses or else expose this weakness to his pack. This is particularly sucky (for him) when you realise he's a high priest for a ReligionOfEvil whose main tenet is that lycanthropes must indulge in their bestial urges.
* CainAndAbel: Strahd and Sergei.
* CameBackWrong: While resurrection magic ''can'' be performed in Ravenloft, it's ''very damn hard'', and if you were an evil bastard in life, you might instead come back as a [[KingMook zombie lord]]. [[CursedWithAwesome Admittedly, that sounds like a good reason to be evil]], but still...
* CanonDisContinuity: The novel ''Lord of the Necropolis'' explicitly stated the nature of the Dark Powers; both book and explanation were stricken from canon, as the Dark Powers are intended to be left undefined. Of course, one can always interpret that LOTN did happen, but Azalin only ''thought'' he discovered the true nature of the Dark Powers and he was mistaken at the time.
** Also, the novel ''The Enemy Within'', and the backstory of an NPC (Desmond [=LaRouche=] in ''Ravenloft Monstrous Compendium Appendix II: Children of the Night'') were declared non-canon because they contradicted the origin story for Malken. The backstory for [=LaRouche=] had Malken as even more of an expy of the scientist in ''Literature/TheStrangeCaseOfDrJekyllAndMrHyde''.
* CanonImmigrant: In its early days, Ravenloft was designed as a catch-all holding cell for villains across the multiverse. This even included the player characters, when early adventures were designed to have the Mists take them to Ravenloft, let them complete the plot, and then whisk them back home. It wasn't until the ''Domains of Dread'' revision that more emphasis was made on making Ravenloft an actual "home base" campaign setting, with rules and ideas for creating native player characters.
* ChildrenAreInnocent: Subverted in a number of modules.
* ChronicBackstabbingDisorder: Felix from ''Neither Man Nor Beast''
* CircusOfFear: subverted with the eponymous boxset "The Carnival", played straight by the original Domain of The Carnival l'Morai.
* ClassicalMovieVampire: Count Strahd von Zarovich, as illustrated by the page image.
* ComicBookFantasyCasting: Dr. Rudolph Van Richten looks exactly like Van Helsing as portrayed by Creator/PeterCushing.
* ConstructedWorld: The world is a construct of the Dark Powers, and they can rearrange it however they please.
* CorruptChurch: The Darkonian sect of the Church of Ezra.
* CraniumChase: In a non-comedy example, Jacqueline Montarri was cursed by the Vistani to live on without her head. She murders victims to appropriate their heads, then wears them to pass for human as she scours the Land of Mists for her missing original.
* {{Crossover}}: Many of the darklords originated in published campaign settings, plus there were a few novels and adventures that bridged the gap with other settings.
** ''Knight of the Black Rose'' crossed ''Ravenloft'' and ''{{Dragonlance}}''.
** ''Die, Vecna, Die!'' was an epic crossover between ''{{Greyhawk}}'', ''Ravenloft'', and ''{{Planescape}}''.
** ''Castle Spulzeer'' was a ForgottenRealms module that ended with [[spoiler: both the [=PCs=] and its villain]] being swept up by the Mists, kicking off a follow-up adventure in the Ravenloft module ''The Forgotten Terror''.
** Averted in the case of ''{{Spelljammer}}'': although one SJ module ended with the option of having its villain swept up by the Ravenloft Mists, the Ravenloft design team never followed up on this, probably because Spelljammer's style of gaming was so much goofier than Ravenloft's as to be thematically incompatible.
*** Also, though it wasn't official, [[WordOfGod Keith Baker]] said on his Twitter that the most likely {{Eberron}} NPC to become a darklord would be Erandis Vol or Merrix from the tie-in novel SonOfKhyber.
** The domain Odiare is from [[TabletopGame/MasqueOfTheRedDeath Gothic Earth.]]
** At the start of the video game ''Ravenloft'' a man manages to travel from Ravenloft to [[TabletopGame/ForgottenRealms Faerun]] to steal an artefact which can kill Strahd. After his pursuers kill him, Mists envelop them all and bring them to Ravenloft. [[spoiler:At the end of the second game they manage to find a portal back to Faerun.]]
* CreepyChild: The supplement ''Darklords'' has Merilee, a vampire child similar to Claudia from TheVampireChronicles. The feral children of Sebua can also evoke this trope, if seen watching from a distance.
* CreepyDoll: Doll golems and the Carrionettes.
* CreepySouvenir: One of the villains collects the still-living heads of her victims.
* CrossoverCosmology: The slate of deities worshiped in Ravenloft is a grab-bag of historical pagan deities (Belenus, the Akiri and Rajian pantheons), deities imported from other game-settings (the Morninglord and Lawgiver from ForgottenRealms, the Eternal Order's death-gods from {{Greyhawk}}), and deities made up for (Ezra, Hala) or even ''by'' (Zhakata, the Overseer) natives of the Land of Mists.
* CrystalDragonJesus: The Church of Ezra.
* CurseEscapeClause: Cursing someone with undeath or another torment is very easy to do as long as you include one of these. A lot of modules revolve around figuring out and fulfilling a clause.
* DarkIsNotEvil: The Dark Powers are known to reward some people that pass their tests. They also are suspected of powering clerics' and paladins' class abilities, as it's unclear whether or not gods can influence events within the setting in that way. Of course, the Dark Powers also torment people who don't remotely deserve it. Dark is not ''good'', but may be closer to ChaoticNeutral. Or [[BlueAndOrangeMorality blue]].
* DealWithTheDevil: Strahd claims that a bargain like this that he made was what made him a vampire and the Darklord of Barovia, which in turn, led to the creation of the whole Demiplane. He says that he made the bargain with Death itself, but most think it was actually the Dark Powers.
* DeathIsTheOnlyOption: The setting has some adventures that require ''someone'' to die, although often you can foist this onto an npc. In addition, it has several evil beings and magic items which offer PowerAtAPrice, gradually entrapping a character until dying is the only way to escape.
* DeathWorld: Ravenloft has this reputation from what little bits people not living there have learned. The 2nd Edition products played up how dangerous Ravenloft is, but the 3rd Edition products eased off of this and even stated that a person can live their whole life without encountering any horrific monsters. There are some locations, like Necropolis, that still play this trope straight (any living creature that tries to enter Necropolis is immediately killed), and Necromantic magic is much stronger in Ravenloft than it is elsewhere in the [[{{Planescape}} multiverse.]]
* DecadeDissonance: Each domain being tailored to its Darklord, the Demiplane of Dread is composed of a patchwork of small countries of very different civilization levels. Some are medieval, others Renaissance, and some even display a touch of VictorianLondon.
* DetectEvil: Averted, as such spells don't work in the Land of Mists. Subverted in the case of ex-paladin darklord Elena Faith-hold, who only ''thinks'' she can still Detect Evil, but actually senses any strong emotion (fear, outrage, or even love) directed at her.
* DisproportionateRetribution: The Dark Powers grant vengeful curses as a sort of hobby, and only require that the punishment fit the crime ''in the perception of the one invoking it.'' Whether it's actually appropriate from an objective viewpoint (or for that matter whether the curser has correctly identified the guilty party) is less important.
* DoesNotLikeMagic
** Lamordians even deny that magic exists at all, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. And their land follows suit, draining power from magical items and causing spells to be more likely to fail just for starters.
** The Church of the Lawgiver falls under this too; their doctrine teaches that arcane magic is an abomination created by Mytteri, their religion's equivalent of {{Satan}}, and is an embodiment of pure rebellion and nihilism. Any arcane spellcaster, no matter how devoted they may be to the Lawgiver's tenets, is destined for the Hell of Slaves.
** Practicing arcane magic in front of Tepestanis isn't a good idea, unless you'd like to play out the BurnTheWitch trope. Or rather, Burn The Fey, but that's hardly an improvement.
* DoggedNiceGuy: Strahd in ''I, Strahd'' acts like this toward Tatyana, even though he knows she is already his brother Sergei's fiance.
* DoomMagnet: For most of his career as a monster hunter, almost ''all'' of Dr. Rudolph Van Richten's friends and allies who helped him in this pursuit died horrible deaths. As it turned out, [[spoiler: this was due to a Vistani curse that had been placed on him early in his career. The curse was eventually lifted, but he disappeared soon after, and was presumed dead.]]
* DownTheRabbitHole: Oftentimes the earliest adventures have player characters being plucked up from their world by stumbling into the fog or somehow sailing into the Tractless Sea.
* DyingCurse: Curses laid in dramatic circumstances such as by a dying character are more likely to work, the 3rd edition rules actually provide a specific additional bonus for curses laid by a dying character.
* EarlyInstallmentWeirdness: The map of Ravenloft's Core in the first release was very...patchwork, to say the least. For starters, Bluetspur, a lightning blasted wasteland filled with underground tunnels of Mind Flayers, was directly adjacent to domains with temperate forests. The [[IDontLikeTheSoundOfThatPlace Nightmare Lands]], an almost completely featureless desert ''(as long as you're awake)'' and Vechor, a domain ran by an insane RealityWarper whose terrain changes by the hour, were right next to relatively normal domains filled with wheat fields. Another domain centered around a religion based on starvation as holy was smack dab in the middle of the Core's breadbasket, surrounded by lands of plenty on all sides. The opportunity to fix this came with the [[TheEndOfTheWorldAsWeKnowIt Grand Conjunction]], which, as a side effect, rearranged domains to correspond with roughly similar ecologies and created Islands and Clusters, domains separate from the Core that correspond with each other without seeming ''too'' out of place.
* EmptyShell: The "Lost Ones," people who have been driven catatonic through horrible encounters with Ravenloft's many horrors.
* EpiphanicPrison
* EvilAlbino: The bakhna rakhna are a breed of deformed, albinistic goblins. Not all that tough as villains, but they're nasty, thieving little creeps.
* EvilVersusEvil: Many published Ravenloft adventures involve feuds between darklords, or lesser villains' attempts to seize power from an incumbent lord. Strahd and Azalin have been feuding for centuries, and several other rivalries (Sodo vs. the Hive Queen; Ivan vs. Ivana) are well established. Plus, the Dark Powers are considered evil by many gamers, making their imprisonment and tormenting of darklords an example of this trope as well.
* ExiledFromContinuity: When White Wolf got the license to do Ravenloft for third edition, they only got Ravenloft, not the other D&D settings, so all references to those settings had to be removed--though Lord Soth was still implicitly referred to as "the death knight" or Black Rose on occasion.
* ExpositionOfImmortality: Dr. Van Richten realized that the fiend Drigor had been manipulating a particular family for generations when he looked at the family journals, and realized their writing styles hadn't changed for the past two hundred years.
* {{Expy}}: Though they're not direct analogues, many of the darklords take direct inspiration from popular gothic literary figures. Strahd is {{Dracula}}, Mordenheim is {{Frankenstein}} and Adam his Monster, Tristan Hiregaard and his alter ego Malken are [[Literature/TheStrangeCaseOfDrJekyllAndMrHyde Jekyll and Hyde]], Markov is [[Literature/TheIslandOfDoctorMoreau Dr. Moreau]], Rudolph Van Richten is based on Van Helsing and so on. As well as [[SherlockHolmes Alanik Ray and Doctor Arthur Sedgewick]].
* FantasticRacism: Demihumans get a lot of mistrust, alienation and prejudice in the setting, to the point the third edition rules introduced an "Outsider Rating" that posed an increasingly high penalty to most diplomatic-focused skills. Sadly, it's kind of justified by the fact that Ravenloft is officially crawling with all manner of monsters that look ''almost'', but not ''quite'', like normal human beings. These include several varities of AlwaysChaoticEvil [[OurWerebeastsAreDifferent werebeasts]], multiple types of vampire, and even weirder creatures ("Red Widows" are an [[OneGenderRace always female]] race of sapient {{Giant Spider}}s that can shapeshift into always-redhaired humanoid forms and which reproduce by mating with humanoids, paralysing them, and then laying the eggs into their bodies).
* FantasticScience: The Van Richten's Guides are presented as being written by Dr. Rudolph Van Richten (or later the Weathermay-Foxgrove Twins, his heirs) and are written to be scientific sounding.
* FantasyCounterpartCulture: Apart from Darkon, which looks like (almost) a standard Elves-and-Dwarves Fantasy setting, each inhabited Domain is based on a real-world historical or literary country, as summed up on [[http://www.fraternityofshadows.com/FAQs.html this webpage]].
* FlatEarthAtheist: Literally. The demiplane is a pocket dimension consisting of a single continent and a number of "islands" floating in the Ethereal Plane. Entire domains have been known to appear, disappear or move. Yet a fair number of people, especially in the more technologically advanced domains, are strict rationalists to the point of willful denial of the supernatural nature of their world. Ironically, the Dark Powers that are effectively the "gods" of the demiplane help preserve this mindset.
* FriendlyNeighborhoodVampire: Jander Sunstar, who may be the only one in the entire setting.
* FunctionalMagic: Wizardry operates under Rule Magic and VancianMagic, Clerics use Theurgy (which may or may not be granted by the Dark Powers themselves) and VancianMagic, Sorcerers have an Inherent Gift, and Psionics can be considered...[[ShapedLikeItself Psionics.]]
* GeniusLoci: The Demiplane itself may or may not be sentient.
** In the 3rd Edition rules, certain places could get so saturated with evil that they could spontaneously awaken to sentience. These places were known as Phantasmagoria. The House of Lament in Borca is so strongly evil that it's actually a tiny Domain.
* GhostPirate: Captain Pieter van Riese, Darklord of the Sea of Sorrows. (Well, technically he was a greedy merchant when he was alive, not a pirate, but he haunts the sea on a GhostShip and he was crueler than even most pirates, so he probably qualifies.)
* GothicHorror
* GraveHumor: Module I6 ''Ravenloft''. The tombs under Castle Ravenloft had a number of funny inscriptions on their individual crypts.
* GreatDetective: [[{{Expy}} Alanik]] [[SherlockHolmes Ray]]
* GypsyCurse: This is a big part of the plot of a ''lot'' of stories. (In fact, here's a good safety tip if you end up here: Do NOT make the Vistani angry at you. They won't kill you, but eventually, you'll ''wish'' they had.)
* HeroicAlbino: Helping an innocent young albino girl find refuge from prejudice among other human oddities is one of the sample scenarios from the supplement ''Carnival''.
* HumanlikeHandAnatomy: In a non-cartoon example, the darklord Markov is cursed to always have the body of a beast and the head of a man, but can invoke this trope on himself at will. He favors primate forms anyway, but can opt for hands instead of paws or hooves in his other shapes also.
* TheHunter: Dr. Rudolph Van Richten. The [=PCs=] may also take on this sort of role depending on how the [=GM=] is running the setting.
* IShouldWriteABookAboutThis: Most of the ''Van Richten Monster Hunter Guides'' are supposedly authored by Van Richten himself. (He is the {{Narrator}} in each of them.) However, he never claims he wrote them for profit, but to aid those who would, like him, fight the evils of Ravenloft.
** This also applies to those Guides written by his heirs, the Weathermay-Foxgrove twins.
* InformedAbility: Especially notable with Darklords whose superpowers are social influence or cerebral. E.g. Azalin is hailed as a genius-level spellcaster able to use spells creatively in combat. Yet in the two official adventures where he features prominently as a combat BigBad, the writers presumably realized there was no way to do him justice. In one adventure they write in a plotline justifying a death wish so he's "intentionally" not using any of his brilliant strategies, and in another adventure they simply ignore it and write ultra-generic description text of a battle raging in the background. See also TakeOurWordForIt.
** Being fair, in the one plotline where he wants you to kill him, that's because he's running an EvilPlan where ''[[UnWittingPawn your destroying his current body is part of how he will escape Ravenloft]]''. And if Strahd van Zarovich hadn't interfered, Azalin would have ''made'' it too. No, his genius was entirely functional during that one.
* KryptoniteFactor: Virtually any monster is likely to have one, and identifying the Factor of an individual creature is often the only way to defeat it.
* LaserGuidedAmnesia: The Dark Powers do this to people a lot. For example, most residents of Darkon believe that they have always lived there, and newcomers likewise quickly develop imagined family histories.
* LighthousePoint: Monette, the werebat darklord, resides in a lighthouse on a tiny isle in the Nocturnal Sea.
* LikeABadassOutOfHell: The weirdest case of qualifying for this trope ever. Lord Soth, one of D&D's favorite villians, is the only one ever to escape the Land of Mists, but he does it in the most bizarre way possible....by not giving a crap.
** To elaborate, Soth basically accepts that he deserves to be tormented by the Dark Powers and admits his failures. He refuses to rise to anything they present him with, be it despair or hope; eventually, realising that it's pointless to keep him around since he won't respond to anything they do, the Dark Powers release him from Ravenloft.
* LiteraryAgentHypothesis: Van Richten's monster guides are presented as documents written by Rudolph Van Richten (and later his heirs, the Weathermay-Foxgrove twins). The Gazetteer series, spotlighting the demiplane's domains, is presented as a research project by the scholar 'S' for a mysterious patron. Both of them have OutOfCharacter side bars explaining the (admittedly very few) factual errors.
* LoadBearingBoss: Depending on how the GM wants to run things, the Darklords could end up being load bearing bosses for their whole domain.
* LooksLikeSheIsEnjoyingIt: Cover of Van Richten's Guide to Lycanthropes.
* MagicCompass: Compasses ''do'' point north, but this is presumably a magical effect because the Land of Mists is not a globe, so doesn't have poles. Just what force it is that attracts compass-needles there is a bit of a mystery.
* MagicVersusScience: As a rule, the more technologically advanced a given domain is, the less the natives are prone to put much faith in magic, even though the level of magic is fairly consistent throughout the demiplane. For example, magic is not taken very seriously in Dementlieu, Mordent or especially Lamordia, despite the dominance of nearby Darkon in the northern Core.
* MainliningTheMonster: Vampires from the Kargat secret police dole out their blood to human minions, the Kargatane, as a means of increasing their strength and delaying their rate of aging.
* MeaningfulName: Many of the domains' names, and some of the characters.
* MicroMonarchy: Ghastria, until the Great Upheaval.
* MonsterMash
* MonsterShapedMountain:
** In the adventure "Neither Man Nor Beast", the beach where the player characters become marooned on Markovia is covered with giant stone figures buried waist-deep in the sand or just offshore.
** Graben Island is shaped like a three-clawed monstrous hand.
* MorePredatorsThanPrey: Many, many gamemasters adjust the population figures and sizes of the domains up by a factor of ten or more to avert this trope.
* {{Mummy}}: Mummies got their own rules supplement back in 2E called ''Van Richten's Guide to the Ancient Dead.''
* MundaneMadeAwesome: The process for electing a new mayor of Skald, capital of Kartakass. The whole thing basically consists of several minutes of the candidates all explaining their platforms and issues, followed by several ''hours'' of a battle royale singing competition that's eventually decided by voice vote''(read: applause)''. The fact that Harkon Lucas has won every "election" for the past few decades doesn't preclude, say, a PC from throwing their hat into the ring. Say what you will about it, it's still the closest thing to democracy in the Core by a long shot.
* NewPowersAsThePlotDemands: DM's are explicitly advised not to let the stats limit what the darklords can do. If, for example, it is thematically appropriate to an adventure that a given darklord can control the weather in their domain, then go for it. Conveniently, since the powers that darklords possess beyond those normal for their race and character class are granted by the Dark Powers, who delight in tormenting them, DM's can also feel free to limit these to one-off special occasions.
* NotSoExtinct: In ''Scholar of Decay'', a wizard exploring some underground passages in Richemulot has a brief encounter with a [[BlobMonster black pudding]], a D&D monster not at all typical of the Gothic Horror-style Land of Mists. He avoids it, then pauses to marvel at its presence, as they're considered to be extinct.
* OnlyShopInTown: Bildrath's Mercantile is this for the village of Barovia.
* PatchworkMap: Justified by the very nature of the world. The [[PowersThatBe Dark Powers]] have even been known to add, subtract, or rearrange the patches from time to time.
* PhlebotinumInducedStupidity: As with LaserGuidedAmnesia, the Dark Powers do this to people, including the darklords, so as to preserve the "theme" of the domains. For example, even though a number of nations in the Core near to Falkovnia have firearms technology, Vlad Drakov will never adopt the use of these by his army even though it would certainly help in his attempted conquests (especially against Darkon).
** Although the above is actually justified InUniverse by the fact that Drakov's pride and arrogance outweighs his common sense, and always has; he hates guns because they're "cowards' weapons" and so he refuses to use them. It's the same reason why he refuses to train spellcasters to fight alongside his troops, despite the fact that LinearWarriorsQuadraticWizards applies as much in Ravenloft as it does in any other D&D setting, instead enslaving them to churn out enchanted armor and weapons for his elite soldiers.
* PocketDimension: The Demiplane of Dread is a seemingly finite space shaped in the Ethereal Plane by the will of the Dark Powers.
* PoisonousFriend:
** Wizards can summon a familiar and paladins can summon a war horse, like in other settings. However, these companions are AlwaysChaoticEvil (or lawful evil or neutral evil, depending on the law/chaos alignment of the summoner) in Ravenloft. They are loyal to their master, but lack a conscience, and aren't averse to carrying out evil deeds to "help" their master behind his back. This is bad enough for wizards, but potentially devastating for a paladin, who now has to deal with a pet that constantly puts him in danger of losing his paladinhood.
** Druid and Ranger animal companions aren't intrinsically evil, but if a domain's darklord commands animals, this includes their pets. They can resist a command to directly harm their master, though.
* RedRightHand: Those who fail Powers checks and get the attention of the Dark Powers usually end up physically deformed in some way that reflects on the nature of their evil deeds (a thuggish violent character becomes large and brutish-looking, etc). Also, the Vistani like to do this to people who annoy them, such as turning a thief's hands black.
* RiddleForTheAges: The true nature of the Dark Powers is this trope, both among scholars in-universe and among gamers.
* SaharanShipwreck: Why sailors traveling via Mistways prefer to avoid the Jackal's Ruse.
* SamusIsAGirl: Most fans assumed that S was a man until Gazetteer III, when she mentioned trying to wear all the corsets, skirts, and petticoats that were popular in Dementlieu.
* SceneryPorn: It is mentioned in the 3.0 setting book that the Demiplane of Dread is actually a beautiful land filled with lots of pretty scenery.
* SealedEvilInACan: The Order of Guardians was founded to seal a ''lot'' of evil artifacts into cans, and to keep them there.
** All darklords are trapped inside their own domains, which are effectively Cans the size of a country. Darklords such as Gwydion or Tristan [=ApBlanc=] are also sealed into cans ''within'' their domains.
* ShesAManInJapan: Kalid-Ma, portrayed as female in early Ravenloft appearances, is a ''male'' sorcerer-king in DarkSun and in his/her corrected later appearances.
* SmallSecludedWorld: The entire demiplane.
* StatusQuoIsGod: While world-shaking events like the Grand Conjunction have rocked the demiplane, the Dark Powers tend to quickly "fix" people's memories so that there is no lasting cultural impact. Likewise, even though domains in the Core vary wildly in levels of technology and use of magic, their cultures are nonetheless preserved as distinct and separate. Thus, even though Lamordia is adjacent to Darkon, Lamordians are not great believers in the power of magic, despite the massive wizard-ruled nation on their border.
* TarotMotifs: Tarot exists in Ravenloft as "Tarokka", which is used for fortunetelling by the Vistani. "Real" Tarokka decks have been released to support the game.
* TechnologyLevels: Most domains fit very neatly into a single specific era, corresponding roughly with the real world ranging from the Stone Age up to about the early 19th Century. Thanks to the tireless efforts of the Dark Powers, the fact the population lives in a blatantly supernatural world does not alter the fact that people in the more advanced domains tend to be skeptical of magic. Exceptions are domains like Darkon and Hazlan, which are openly ruled by wizards.
* ThePunishment: Lives, eats, and breaths this trope. The Darklords are given power for their crimes; and the innocent suffer. Said Darklords are not happy about it.
* TragicDream: This underpins every darklord's curse.
* {{Uberwald}}: Barovia
* VampireRefugee: Quite a few in various modules and stories. Vamiprism in Ravenloft is explicitly completely incurable, so theirs is always a hopeless cause.
* VillainProtagonist: ''I, Strahd'' is a novel starring - who else? - Strahd.
* ViolenceIsTheOnlyOption: Averted, in fact butchering your way through a Ravenloft adventure is usually the fastest way to be cursed by the Dark Powers. Most magical methods of determining who the real villain of a story is flat out don't function in the setting, so moral dilemmas over whether to fight or SheatheYourSword are frequent.
* TheWallAroundTheWorld: The Misty Border that surrounds every domain, although they can also take the form of heatwaves or blizzards.
* WolverinePublicity: No fewer than a half dozen different darklords have visiting Barovia and being chased off by Count von Zarovich as part of their background. Lord Soth got around this by already having as much PopularityPower as the Count, who only escaped with his undead hide intact by kicking out one of Soth's ghostly servants who'd sought shelter with him. Soth [[BatmanGambit cared more about getting revenge]] on his disloyal servant than on repaying the insults the Count had visited on him, and so chased his servant all the way to the Misty Border, where he eventually caught and killed him ''(again)'', but not before being caught by the Mists and trapped in his own domain.
** Played straight and averted in the ''Domains of Dread'' core rulebook, which introduced Vecna and Kas as darklords. Unlike the Lord Soth example, Vecna's entrapment was explicitly acknowledged by various {{Greyhawk}} sourcebooks when he was described as missing and/or trapped. Played straight as Vecna and Kas were two of the most famous {{Greyhawk}} characters in the setting and introduced some measure of celebrity to Ravenloft, but averted when the two were given a pair of domains adjacent to one another and in their own separate cluster where they could war against each other eternally, effectively making their appearance a sideshow that wouldn't disrupt the Core domains as a whole. Vecna, already a demigod at the very limits of the Dark Powers to hold and contain, managed to escape within a few years in an insane GambitRoulette scheme that involved luring Iuz to Ravenloft, absorbing his essence to become a true god, and using his power to warp the Mists into shunting him into [[{{Planescape}} Sigil]] where, as a true God within the Cage, his very presence began breaking down the rules of reality ''(and replacing them with those of 3rd edition)''. Problematic for violating the explicit rules of three different settings? Or CrowningMomentOfAwesome for violating the explicit rules of [[{{Greyhawk}} three]] [[{{Planescape}} different]] [[{{Ravenloft}} settings]]? Your call.
* WorldsMostBeautifulWoman: Tatyana
* YourMagicsNoGoodHere: Many spells don't function or have altered effects, to prevent players from circumventing the domain's rules. BlackMagic, on the other hand, is greatly enhanced but will quickly turn you into a plaything of the Dark Powers.
* ZombifyTheLiving: One of the nastiest powers of the zombie lord is its ability to cause the instant death and re-animation of living opponents.
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