Tabletop Game: Ravenloft

"It's like hell... but it's not hell for you."
Spoony summarizing the setting.

Ravenloft is a campaign setting for the Dungeons & Dragons tabletop roleplaying game, focusing on themes of Gothic Horror 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 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 Gothic literature, infamous historical figures, and twisted versions of Fairy Tales and other stories. Dracula, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, the works of HP Lovecraft, Pinocchio, The Island of Doctor Moreau, Shakespeare's Macbeth, and the historical Borgia family among many others comprise only a few examples.

Ravenloft began as the sixth adventure in the "I" series of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons adventure modules, published in 1983, where a party of adventurers end up in and around the eponymous castle. It received a sequel, Ravenloft II: The House on Gryphon Hill (I10), in 1986. It was turned into a full-fledged campaign setting in 1990 with the publication of Ravenloft: Realm of Terror (nicknamed the Black Box). 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 to White Wolf, 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 default setting. In this way, Ravenloft was integrated into fourth edition's core.

There is also a Spinoff setting, Masque Of The Red Death, released in 1994, which takes place on an alternate version of Earth that has been under the influence of some entity called 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 Keep Circulating the Tapes, 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.

The webcomic Starcrossed Ravenloft is set in Ravenloft (The domains of Souragne and Dementlieu, specifically). Elemental Doom is in a setting where characters can become trapped in Ravenloft.

As the setting has been around since 1983, some Late Arrival Spoilers are unavoidable.


This tabletop game provides examples of:

  • Achilles' Heel: 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.
  • Adaptation Expansion: 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".
  • Affably Evil:
    • 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 Fantastic Racism...and each and every one of them is a Neutral Evil Manipulative Bastard who truly believe that most other people aren't actually real, thus it doesn't matter what happens to them).
  • All There in the Manual: Like most other D&D settings, most of the setting info is in the sourcebooks.
  • Always Chaotic Evil: Even if 3rd edition Dungeons & Dragons moved a lot of monsters from the always Chaotic Evil to usually Chaotic Evil, the Ravenloft setting adamantly keeps its critters and other nasties in the always evil section. Don't look for Friendly Neighborhood Vampires. Enforced even, for lycanthropes — normally nonevil lycanthrope types (such as werebears, who in other settings are Always Lawful Good) are evil in the Land of Mists. Even the likes of treants and unicorns are evil there.
  • Ancient Order of Protectors: 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.
  • Ancient Tomb: Har'Akir and Sebua, being twin counterparts of Ancient Egypt, have mummy-filled tombs all over the place.
  • Arc Welding: The six-module Grand Conjunction Story Arc was belatedly welded together into one apocalyptic plotline, using a poorly-worded Vistani prophecy as solder.
  • Artifact Collection Agency: The Guardians are a monastic order dedicated to collecting and locking away the Land's many cursed and/or malign magical artifacts.
  • Animate Dead: Spells that do this are much more powerful in Ravenloft, however, undead are also significantly harder to keep under control.
  • Armed with Canon: James Lowder wrote Knight of the Black Rose, the novel that 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 Fan Wank to reconcile the two.
    • The most common theory was that Soth really did get sucked into Ravenloft, where he spent several decades having one of the worst Villanous BSODs 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.
  • Audio Adaptation: I, Strahd got an audiobook release read by Peter Vincent himself, Roddy McDowall!
  • Ax-Crazy: 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.
  • Battle in the Center of the Mind: What happens if the Nightmare Court decides your mind looks tasty.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: The "wish" spell is dicey even on more benign worlds. Here it will always be perverted while fulfilling the Exact Words, 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.
  • Bedlam House: Dr. Heinfroth's asylum on the domain/island of Dominia.
  • Best Served Cold: 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 Mercy Killing, 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 Doom Magnet below.
  • Big Bad: The Darklords in their various Domains.
  • Big Boo's Haunt: Castle Ravenloft, Necropolis even more so, and given the nature of the setting, probably some other places as well.
  • Bigger Bad: The Dark Powers. Maybe.
  • The Big Easy: Souragne is a Southern Gothic Fantasy Counterpart Culture version of New Orleans/Louisiana.
  • Big Fancy Castle: Castle Ravenloft. Although some parts are pretty much falling apart from age and neglect.
  • Bilingual Bonus: True of several domains' Meaningful Names, sometimes to the point of giving things away (e.g. "Richemulot" = "Rich Mouse", home domain of aristocratic wererats).
  • Bizarre Alien Psychology: Reading the far-too-alien mind of an aberration will force humanoid characters to make a Madness check.
  • Black Knight: Lord Soth.
  • Black Magic: 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.
  • The Bluebeard: Bluebeard.
  • Brought Down to Normal: 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 Religion of Evil whose main tenet is that lycanthropes must indulge in their bestial urges.
  • Cain and Abel: Strahd and Sergei.
  • Came Back Wrong: 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 zombie lord. Admittedly, that sounds like a good reason to be evil, but still...
  • Canon Discontinuity: 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 The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
  • Canon Immigrant: 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.
  • Children Are Innocent: Subverted in a number of modules.
  • Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: Felix from Neither Man Nor Beast.
  • Circus of Fear: subverted with the eponymous boxset "The Carnival" and played straight by the original Domain of The Carnival l'Morai.
  • Classical Movie Vampire: Count Strahd von Zarovich, as illustrated by the page image.
  • Clever Crows: Just about the only potentially good-aligned creatures in Ravenloft, they sometimes help The Atoner.
  • Comic Book Fantasy Casting: Dr. Rudolph Van Richten looks exactly like Van Helsing as portrayed by Peter Cushing.
  • Constructed World: The world is a construct of the Dark Powers, who can rearrange it however they please.
  • Corrupt Church: The Darkonian sect of the Church of Ezra.
  • Cranium Chase: 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 Forgotten Realms module that ended with 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, 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 Son Of Khyber.
    • The domain Odiare is from Gothic Earth.
    • At the start of the video game Ravenloft, a man manages to travel from Ravenloft to Faerun to steal an artefact which can kill Strahd. After his pursuers kill him, the Mists envelop them all and bring them to Ravenloft. At the end of the second game they manage to find a portal back to Faerun.
  • Creepy Child: The supplement Darklords has Merilee, a vampire child similar to Claudia from The Vampire Chronicles. The feral children of Sebua can also evoke this trope, if seen watching from a distance.
  • Creepy Doll: Doll golems and the Carrionettes.
  • Creepy Souvenir: One of the villains collects the still-living heads of her victims.
  • Crossover Cosmology: 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 Forgotten Realms, 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.
  • Crystal Dragon Jesus: The Church of Ezra.
  • Curse Escape Clause: 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.
  • Dark Is Not Evil: 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 Chaotic Neutral. Or blue.
  • Deal with the Devil: 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.
  • Death Is the Only Option: 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 Power at a Price, gradually entrapping a character until dying is the only way to escape.
  • Death World: 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 multiverse.
  • Decade Dissonance: 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 Victorian London.
  • Detect Evil: Averted, as such spells don't work in the Land of Mists. Subverted in the case of ex-paladin darklord Elena Faith-hold, who thinks she can still Detect Evil, but actually senses any strong emotion (fear, outrage, or even love) directed at her.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: 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.
  • Does Not Like Magic
    • 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 Burn the Witch! trope. Or rather, Burn The Fey, but that's hardly an improvement.
  • Dogged Nice Guy: Strahd in I, Strahd acts like this toward Tatyana, even though he knows she is already his brother Sergei's fiance.
  • Doom Magnet: 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, 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.
  • Down the Rabbit Hole: 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.
  • Draw Sword, Draw Blood: Rumor has it that Ba'al Verzi daggers cannot be sheathed before having killed someone.
  • Dying Curse: 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.
  • Early Installment Weirdness: 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 Nightmare Lands, an almost completely featureless desert (as long as you're awake) and Vechor, a domain ran by an insane Reality Warper 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 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.
  • Empty Shell: The "Lost Ones," people who have been driven catatonic through horrible encounters with Ravenloft's many horrors.
  • Epiphanic Prison
  • Evil Albino: The bakhna rakhna are a breed of deformed, albinistic goblins. Not all that tough as villains, but they're nasty, thieving little creeps.
  • Evil Versus Evil: 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.
  • Exposition of Immortality: 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 Jekyll and Hyde, Markov is Dr. Moreau, Rudolph Van Richten is based on Van Helsing and so on. As well as Alanik Ray and Doctor Arthur Sedgewick.
  • Failure Is the Only Option: Initially, Ravenloft was a one-adventure module with Strahd as the Big Bad, whose defeat by the hands of the PCs was the conclusion. Since then, the setting evolved and Strahd is still alive and well (or should we say undead and well). The Canon timeline of Ravenloft even says "528: powerful heroes assault Castle Ravenloft and are killed".
    • Also in keeping with this theme, certain aspects of the rules tended to make victory nearly impossible or at least very, very difficult. Most darklords had various means of resurrection that were almost guaranteed to succeed (Azalin's phylactery, Strahd's contingency spell to teleport to a hidden coffin in the mountains if he was ever killed, Harkon Lucas' mind jumping to any nearby wolf when his domain is covered in them, etc) unless the players were extremely clever. Likewise, a closed domain border pretty much meant the players were trapped, and any mundane or magical attempts to get out would fail automatically.
      • Finally, a trend that ran through many of the adventures involved the deaths of PCs as integral parts of the plot, usually as an excuse to resurrect them later as monsters or so the villain could force them to do something. Hour of the Knife involved any player who wandered away from the group getting killed 'off camera' by dopplegangers who promptly replaced him, Adam's Wrath forced the PCs to die so their brains could be transplanted into golems, From the Shadows had Azalin behead the PCs to fulfill a prophecy...the list goes on.
    • This applies to the Dark Lords themselves as well. An integral part of their curse is that the Dark Powers keep giving them hope of gaining what they most desire, only for them to fail each and every time.
  • The Fair Folk: The shadow fey, of the Shadow Rift. These range from benign pixies to savage redcaps to cruel sidhe lords, all psychically manipulated by an Eldritch Abomination.
  • Fantastic Racism: 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 Always Chaotic Evil werebeasts, multiple types of vampire, and even weirder creatures ("Red Widows" are an always female race of sapient Giant Spiders 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).
  • Fantastic Science: 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.
  • Fantasy Counterpart Culture: 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 this webpage.
  • Fantasy Gun Control: Averted, because it just wouldn't be a classic werewolf hunt without a Silver Bullet or two.
  • Fantasy Kitchen Sink: Ravenloft could be considered a "Horror Kitchen Sink". It was originally meant to be a Gothic Horror setting, and for the most part mostly is, but it also incorporates elements of Cosmic Horror and other horror genres as well.
  • Fisher Kingdom: Darkon will, over the course of three months, rewrite your memories so that you think you are a native. It's easily reversable though-one day outside its borders, and one migraine later, your real memories will come back. This is a lesser version of Azalin's curse, which prevents him from learning new spells.
  • Flat Earth Atheist: 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.
  • Fluffy Tamer: Paladins and other good-aligned people with Familiars or bounded mounts normally get good-aligned Familiars or bounded mounts. In Ravenloft, they get Dread Companions, who personify their master's id. They're slavishly devoted and friendly, but a Dread Companion paladin's mount may not grok why its master may not want it to kick people he dislikes or considers beneath him when they get too close.
  • Flying Dutchman: Several, most notably Captain van Riese (a Captain Ersatz of the original).
  • Fog of Doom: The Mists that often pluck people from other worlds and deposit them into Ravenloft.
  • For the Evulz: Averting this trope was one of the setting's original selling points, as most of its villains were among gaming's most complex, three-dimensional NPCs of their era. Played straight in a few cases, such as Falkovnia's Vlad Drakov or Tepest's Three Hags.
  • Friendly Neighborhood Vampire: Jander Sunstar, who may be the only one in the entire setting.
  • Functional Magic: Wizardry operates under Rule Magic and Vancian Magic, Clerics use Theurgy (which may or may not be granted by the Dark Powers themselves) and Vancian Magic, Sorcerers have an Inherent Gift, and Psionics can be considered...Psionics.
  • General Failure: Vlad Drakov. The first time he launched an invasion, his armies were devoured by the undead. He's launched at least three more, with similar results. It's part of his curse as a Darklord to want to be a great conquerer and be surrounded by those too strong to conquer.
  • Genius Loci: 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.
  • Ghost Pirate: 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 Ghost Ship and he was crueler than even most pirates, so he probably qualifies.)
  • Gothic Horror
  • Grave Humor: Module I6 Ravenloft. The tombs under Castle Ravenloft had a number of funny inscriptions on their individual crypts.
  • Great Detective: Alanik Ray
  • The Grim Reaper:
    • The minor darklord Death claims to be this, but in reality, it's a former servant of Azalin's.
    • Grim Reapers are also a form of monster that appear to collect the life force of the dying and powerful. Defeating one causes the target in question to have a miraculous recovery.
  • Gypsy Curse: 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.)
  • Haunted Castle: Castle Ravenloft itself, to start with, but there's plenty others.
  • Haunted House: Several of them, the module Bleak House being the best example.
  • Have You Seen My God?: Religion and faith exist in Ravenloft, but (like in Real Life) people expect their gods to be distant and inscrutable as a matter or course. Godly intervention or communion with followers (almost) never happens. Clerics do receive spells, but this may actually be the Dark Powers filling in.
  • Headless Horseman: There's one haunting the roads of various domains, trying to decapitate travelers. The heads of his past victims assist in these attacks.
  • Heroic Albino: Helping an innocent young albino girl find refuge from prejudice among other human oddities is one of the sample scenarios from the supplement Carnival.
  • He Who Fights Monsters: Rudolph Van Richten, author of the guides to Ravenloft's monsters, is a subversion: He started out angry and vindictive, but mellowed out as time went on, even learning to forgive the Vistani who had stolen his son. He still has nothing but vitriol for liches and willing vampires, but in those cases, they were evil before they became monsters.
    • Although one of the possible endings for the final module suggests that Van Richten finally became a darklord in his own right.
      • Or was locked in an oubliette within the Mists, if the 3E product-line is accepted as canon.
  • He Who Must Not Be Named: Lord Soth became such because of the copyright issues and is mentioned only as a "Black Knight" or a Blackguard. In Secrets Of The Dread Realms, it is said that "no Sithican will speak his name for fear of calling him back from whatever abyss claimed him".
    • To a lesser extent, many of the gods such as Bane and Lathander got renamed to the more generic The Lawgiver and Morninglord.
  • Hereditary Curse: Some of the noble families are saddled with these, such as the propensity to madness displayed by the Hiregaard clan in Legacies of the Blood. One of the most powerful spells introduced as part of the setting allows the caster to inflict this trope upon an enemy and their descendents.
  • Hope Springs Eternal: Deconstructed, and exploited by The Dark Powers, who made it the crux of their Punishment for the Darklords. See Failure Is the Only Option and Yank the Dog's Chain.
  • Horny Devils: The setting has relatively few demons (well, for D&D anyway) but one of the more prominent, the Gentleman Caller, is an incubus who has fathered one pseudo darklord and a couple of younger villains of the setting...
  • Humanlike Hand Anatomy: 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.
  • The Hunter: Dr. Rudolph Van Richten. The PCs may also take on this sort of role depending on how the GM is running the setting.
  • Identity Amnesia: Do not stay in Darkon longer than a few weeks. You did? Oh, never mind, of course you can stay, because you're suddenly convinced you were born there.
  • I Don't Like the Sound of That Place: Many of the lands. Convincing prospective tourists to visit beautiful "Darkon," "Dementlieu" or "Ghastria" is probably something of a challenge.
  • Ignored Epiphany: Lord Soth is the poster child for this in Knight of the Black Rose. However, this is one of the basic requirements to become a darklord in the first place. Someone capable of acknowledging their own faults automatically has too much humanity left to qualify.
  • Infant Immortality: Averted, there are undead children here and there, and plenty of monsters eager to steal infants for the dinner table or worse.
  • Informed Flaw: Each Darklord has a curse of sorts, but some of the curses are abstract or far-reaching to the point where they have little practical effect in the scope of a typical adventure. Of course, many of them are not intended as a flaw to exploit, just to make the darklord's life suck.
  • Innocence Lost: A game mechanic. "Innocent" is an attribute which gives some limited protection from evil magic, but also makes a character more vulnerable to fear effects — it's also very easy to lose, what with the nature of the plane.
  • Ironic Hell: Each domain is tailored to its darklord. All are given great power but at the cost of what they truly desire. Strahd is an immortal warrior-wizard and unquestioned ruler but can never possess the woman he loves. Azalin rules the largest domain in Ravenloft and is probably the most powerful Darklord there is, but cannot learn new magic. Others include a werewolf who hates his human side but will become human if he acts like an animal, a sadistic killer whose presence removes pain and whose touch cures all ills (including death), and a wolfwere who wants to rule his domain but whose people acknowledge no ruler.
  • I Should Write a Book About This: 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.
  • Informed Ability: 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 Big Bad, 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 Take Our Word for It.
  • Jerkass Genie: The MO of the Dark Powers is to grant a person's wish in the most horrible manner possible, landing them in an Ironic Hell. They will corrupt any Wish spell cast in Ravenlloft, unless the caster is evil, and wishes for something horrible, in which case they may decide the wish is already corrupt enough.
  • Jerkass Victim: A number of people in this setting have bad things happen to them, but are such bad people it's hard to feel sorry for them. For example, the Vistani being eaten alive by zombies after selling an innocent man's son to become a vampire.
  • Karma Houdini: In theory, the plane is hard-wired to avert this. In practice, the Dark Powers' "justice" is very capricious, and probably depends more on what would entertain them at this particular moment.
  • Knight In Sour Armour: The demiplane might as well have a Cynical Messiah Factory.
  • Knight Templar: One darklord, Elena Faith-hold, is a former paladin.
  • Kryptonite Factor: Virtually any monster is likely to have one, and identifying the Factor of an individual creature is often the only way to defeat it.
  • Laser-Guided Amnesia: 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.
  • Lighthouse Point: Monette, the werebat darklord, resides in a lighthouse on a tiny isle in the Nocturnal Sea.
  • Like a Badass out of Hell:
    • Lord Soth, one of D&D's favorite villians, escapes the Land of Mists 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.
    • Vecna's escape was chronicled in Die, Vecna, Die! and in the 4th edition of D&D he's still wandering around.
  • Literary Agent Hypothesis: 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 Out of Character side bars explaining the (admittedly very few) factual errors.
  • Load-Bearing Boss: Depending on how the GM wants to run things, the Darklords could end up being load bearing bosses for their whole domain.
  • Looks Like She Is Enjoying It: Cover of Van Richten's Guide to Lycanthropes.
  • Lord British Postulate: Gwydion, an Eldritch Abomination, has only been given stats for his tentacles, not his body.
  • Love Makes You Evil: Strahd's backstory.
  • Mad Doctor: Doctor Mordenheim (a Captain Ersatz for Doctor Frankenstein), and Doctor Heinfroth (keeper of the resident Bedlam House). Darklord Frantisek Markov (a Captain Ersatz for Doctor Moreau) has no medical training, but he doesn't let that stop him experimenting on any animals— or humans— unfortunate enough to cross his path.
  • Magic Compass: 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.
  • Magic Powered Pseudo Science: It is possible for non magic using characters to create Dread Golems or even Undead, but it is stated that these creations gain their dark lifeforce from the Dark Powers granting it to them.
  • Magical Library: The lich-king Azalin has a giant book which houses the self-updating life stories of every sentient being who has ever been born in his domain of Darkon, or who's entered it and stayed long enough to lose all memory of their previous life, in addition to Azalin's continuously updating biography. Crossing out or rewriting your lifestory are among the few ways to recover from Darkon's insidious Identity Amnesia effect, as is asking Azalin to rewrite said lifestory to your benefit.
  • Magic Versus Science: 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.
  • Mainlining the Monster: 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.
  • Meaningful Name: Many of the domains' names, and some of the characters.
  • Micro Monarchy: Ghastria, until the Great Upheaval.
  • Moral Event Horizon: In-Universe - The term for this in Ravenloft is an "Act of Ultimate Darkness," and it's a requirement for becoming one of the setting's dreaded Darklords; a near-perfect blend of hypocrisy, depravity, cruelty, and selfishness. The clincher, though, is absolute refusal to acknowledge that what they did was wrong. Indeed, that's part of The Punishment for darklords — that if they worked up the moral strength to admit that what they have done is inexcusable and that they reaped what they sowed, their curse would be moot. Then again, the books pretty much say that if they were the sorts of people who'd be able to do that, they would never have become darklords in the first place.
  • Monster Shaped Mountain:
    • 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.
  • More Predators Than Prey: 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.
  • Mundane Made Awesome: 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.
  • Necromancer: Strahd is a Necromancer Specialist Wizard, as are the darklords of I'Cath and the Nocturnal Sea. There are likely tons of others lurking around, due to the nature of the setting.
  • Never My Fault:
    • Almost all Dark Lords are constantly confronted with their misdeeds simply so they can ignore or rationalize them away.
    • One of the big flaws of the Vistani, as a whole, is this; it's all but outright said that it's only a crime if it's done by a giorgio (outsider) to a Vistani, not the other way around. The absolute perfect example of this is the Vistani wise woman cursing Van Richten to bring a horrible death to anyone who comes to consider him an ally for destroying her tribe... not once considering the fact they brought it on themselves by kidnapping his son and selling him to become, essentially, a vampire's catamite. Making things worse, the Vistani who died and was used as an excuse to kidnap van Richten's son? He got his injuries in a failed attempt to kidnap somebody else's son.
  • New Powers as the Plot Demands: 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.
  • No Campaign for the Wicked: Even if there is no strict obligation for Player Characters to always be goodie do-gooders, morally questionable actions tend to attract the attention of the Dark Powers. After five failed "Power Checks", the character becomes an NPC; the sixth sends them headlong into darklord territory.
  • Not So Different: The setting goes to pains to describe that, as often as (insert group here) is regarded with distrust and suspicion by others, they are often just as bad and may genuinely give their neighbors reason to treat them the way they do. The Vistani are a great example of this. On the one hand, the "giorgio" are clearly shown to be xenophobes. On the other hand, the Vistani are, in many ways, just as xenophobic, as well as being smugly self-righteous, indifferent to cultural differences, and prone to blithely committing acts of theft, kidnapping and worse against giorgio simply because "it's not a crime if we're doing it to them".
  • Not So Extinct: In Scholar of Decay, a wizard exploring some underground passages in Richemulot has a brief encounter with a 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.
  • Ominous Fog: The Mists of Ravenloft are iconic setpieces, and are out and out said to work for the Dark Powers. The Mists are often used to block various domains from each other, and to transport unsuspecting characters to wherever the GM pleases.
  • One-Winged Angel: Everyone has a chance of doing this—ding the local Karma Meter too often, and you'll find yourself turning into a literal monster. Too bad it's a real curse though...
  • Only Shop in Town: Bildrath's Mercantile is this for the village of Barovia.
  • Our Demons Are Different: All evil outsiders usually come to the demiplane by possessing someone, or by being summoned in by powerful spellcasters. They become trapped like everyone else once they are in. A powerful Incubus named the Gentlemen Caller is trying to escape by creating a child capable of escaping from the Demiplane. Fiends even got their own rules supplement dedicated to them called Van Richten's Guide to Fiends in 2nd Edition. Due to their rarity, Van Richten himself is under the impression that All Demons Are Different, i.e. every one is unique in its powers and appearance.
  • Our Goblins Are Different:
    • A local variant are called goblyns, and they are humans mutated into monsters by dark magic, and they're all Violent Glaswegians to a Goblyn.
    • There are also plenty of conventional D&D goblins in Ravenloft. Even they are Different from most game goblins, being closer to their fairy-tale roots.
  • Our Monsters Are Different: The iconic creatures, as described by Rudolph van Richten in his monster hunters' guides, have unique features that must be researched in order to properly fight them.
  • Our Orcs Are Different:
    • To set it apart from traditional fantasy settings, there are actually no orcs in Ravenloft at all. There's a record of one single orc who was brought to the Land of Mists as part of a twisted carnival, but the Dark Powers warped him into a grotesque ape-man.
    • The setting thus doesn't have half-orcs as Player Characters, but Calibans — humans deformed in their mothers' wombs by curses or evil magics — fill that role.
  • Our Vampires Are Different:
    • Although individual vampires' powers can vary, Ravenloft for the most part played the "standard" vampire as close to the (Hollywood) archetype as possible, at least where the strict avoidance of Friendly Neighborhood Vampires is concerned.
    • The setting also has literally TONS of variants (even though the regular ones are most common): a racial variant for each race (e.g. elven vampires kill vegetation and are harmed by moonlight), nosferatu that can walk around in the daytime, vampyres (who aren't undead but living creatures that suck blood), and about a zillion others.
  • Patchwork Map: Justified by the very nature of the world. The Dark Powers have even been known to add, subtract, or rearrange the patches from time to time.
  • Path of Inspiration:
    • The Eternal Order, Darkon's official religion, is a Religion of Evil in disguise and a tool of political control of the population in the hands of Azalin.
    • In G'henna, the Church of Zhakata was constructed by its insane, inbred darklord.
  • Phlebotinum Induced Stupidity: As with Laser-Guided Amnesia, 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 In-Universe 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 Linear Warriors, Quadratic Wizards 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.
  • Pocket Dimension: The Demiplane of Dread is a seemingly finite space shaped in the Ethereal Plane by the will of the Dark Powers.
  • Poisonous Friend:
    • Wizards can summon a familiar and paladins can summon a war horse, like in other settings. However, these companions are Always Chaotic Evil (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.
  • Popularity Power: In Knight of the Black Rose, Count Strahd lures Soth into attacking Gundarak, a neighboring domain, on the promise that a portal there may lead him back home. Soth singlehandedly breaks into Duke Gundar's castle, murders his son, and uses his blood to open the portal while the Duke, supposedly an all-powerful Darklord in the seat of his power, takes one look at Lord Soth and vanishes until the scary man goes away. When the portal doesn't work as advertised, Soth intends to do the same to Strahd, but gets sidetracked by the Sorting Algorithm of Revenge and trapped in his own domain before he gets the chance. Partially justified in game stat terms as Soth was both higher-level and a Death Knight, a very powerful type of undead warrior who as such was impervious to most of a vampire's bag of tricks.
  • Powers That Be: The Dark Powers. No one is sure what they want, or why. Only that they tend to do dramatic things, and stay strictly off-camera.
  • The Punishment: 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.
  • Railroading: A lot of early Ravenloft adventures forced the party to go from Point A to Point B. Some even recommend the party die in order to get where they need to go. Also, the nature of the setting makes this very, very easy for a GM. Characters going in the wrong direction? Have undead hordes keep attacking them out of nowhere — it happens all the time here. They want to visit another domain? Just close it off, problem solved.
  • Razor Floss: Spider-like monsters called Head Hunters spin razor-sharp near-invisible webs that can decapitate the unwary.
  • Reality Is Out to Lunch: Vechor and the Nightmare Lands' Forest of Everchange.
  • Red Right Hand: 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.
  • Religion of Evil: The setting has quite a few of them, evil cults and dark religions being quite a natural aspect of gothicism, but the most notable one is the Church of the Lawgiver, which is the state religion of both Nova Vaasa (which is generally regarded as a self-centered backwater, even in Ravenloft) and Hazlan (where the Mulan desperately cling to it as a further way to control the Rashemani who they persist in treating as subhuman chattel despite the slaves outnumbering the masters by about nine to one). Being that the Church of the Lawgiver is basically the worship of Bane, Faerunian God of Tyranny, with the serial numbers filed off, it's not surprising that its membership is comprised solely of Lawful Evil and Lawful Neutral types — its dogma revolves around preaching that Status Quo Is God, those who are socially inferior must obey, and rebellion against one's superiors in even the slightest way warrants eternal damnation in the Hell of Slaves.
  • The Renfield: Naturally, since the setting has every classic vampire trope, there's plenty of these running around.
  • Replacement Love Interest: There's an unfortunate Dhampire-like creature called a vorlog that is created when someone is in the process of being turned by the Unholy Matrimony ritual, but the vampire is slain before the victim is fully transformed. They keep trying to recreate the aborted bond with the vampire through (non-vampire) surrogates. It never ends well.
  • Riddle for the Ages: The true nature of the Dark Powers is this trope, both among scholars in-universe and among gamers.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge:
    • A lot of these get mentioned in the background lore, and it's possible to portray a campaign as basically an extended one of these against the darkness.
    • Van Richten himself had one of these. When the Vistani kidnapped his son because he was unable to keep their fatally wounded tribesmember from dying, he went charging off into the night in blind pursuit of them. A chance encounter with Azalin Rex, the Lich King of Darkon, and Van Richten found himself leading an army of zombies, because the lich was amused by it. These enabled Van Richten to trap the Vistani and force their leader to tell him where his son was. When she gloated they had sold him to a vampire, who had already transformed the boy by now, Van Richten set the zombies on them and slaughtered the lot of them.
  • Safety In Muggles: In the module Death Ascendant. While the religious service in the temple is going on the Kargat members take aside worshippers one at a time and drain them of their life force. When they try to do this to a PC, if the PC protests the Kargat member backs off because they don't want to make a scene.
  • Saharan Shipwreck: Why sailors traveling via Mistways prefer to avoid the Jackal's Ruse.
  • Samus is a Girl: 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.
  • Secret Police: The Kargat who serve Azalin.
  • Scenery Porn: 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.
  • Sealed Evil in a Can:
    • 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.
  • Shadow Dictator: The Dark Powers.
  • She's a Man in Japan: Kalid-Ma, portrayed as female in early Ravenloft appearances, is a male sorcerer-king in Dark Sun and in his/her corrected later appearances.
  • Sins of Our Fathers: Entire bloodlines can be cursed. In one or two realms, Darklord status is passed on generation to generation.
  • So Beautiful, It's a Curse:
    • More literal than usual - if a Ravenloft woman is gifted with unusual beauty, it's generally so the Powers can torment her with particularly vile suitors that think No Means Yes and Rape Is Love. Or, alternatively, torment her by gifting her with supernatural beauty that causes her to kill or repel potential soulmates.
    • Inverted for the darklord of Dementlieu, who is (literally) cursed to appear uglier and uglier to any woman, the more strongly he's attracted to her.
  • Small Secluded World: The entire demiplane.
  • Status Quo Is God: 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.
  • Super Weight: Even a minor darklord of a small domain is going to be at least a 3. Major ones are the high end of 4, and would be 5 except the Powers regularly remind them exactly who's in charge here. As for the PCs, they'll be whichever tier the Powers decide for that adventure and like it.
  • Tailor-Made Prison: The entire setting is just a grouping of Oubliettes for the Darklords, along with all of the people who have to live in the domains, or those who get pulled in by the Mists from other worlds.
  • Tarot Motifs: Tarot exists in Ravenloft as "Tarokka", which is used for fortunetelling by the Vistani. "Real" Tarokka decks have been released to support the game.
  • Technology Levels: 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.
  • Title of the Dead: The novel Dance of the Dead by Christie Golden.
  • Tragic Dream: This underpins every darklord's curse.
  • Twice Told Tale: The novel Mordenheim is a re-telling of Frankenstein.
  • Überwald: Barovia
  • Unholy Matrimony: A vampire can create a special spawn (normal vampire offspring in Ravenloft are completely in thrall to their creator), exchanging the Mind Control aspect for becoming Mindlink Mates. The ritual has to be done in bed. With lots of panting and sweating, and both left helpless for a while afterwards. Strahd keeps trying to do this to the reincarnations of his lost love, but his curse keeps foiling the attempt.
  • Unstuck in Time: Castle Forlorn is an example of a place that's unstuck in time. While the wider domain of Forlorn is temporally concurrent with the rest of the demiplane, people who enter the castle can find themselves shuttled between at least three different eras in its history.
  • Unwitting Pawn: Darklords and especially vampires like arranging these. There's a very good chance that by the end of a module the players will end up fighting whoever asked them for help in the first place. On a larger scale, the Powers are the ones that are really "playing" Ravenloft — all the characters, PC or not, are basically toys for their amusement.
  • Uplifted Animal: Urik von Kharkov is a panther-turned-human-turned-nosferatu. Also, the Wildlands do this to animals that stay there for long, and Markov cranks them out via vivisection.
  • Van Helsing Hate Crimes: Rudolph Van Richten came close to going down this path after his son was stolen and vampired, but managed to learn some empathy, and is usually quite sympathetic to monsters who honestly have no choice in the matter, saving his vitriol for ones that like what they are. At least one adventure, however, has the real villain try to convince Van Richten to commit these crimes against a group of vampire wannabees by convincing him they are real vampires, and explicitly say he will unless the PCs stop him.
  • Vampire Refugee: Quite a few in various modules and stories. Vamiprism in Ravenloft is explicitly completely incurable, so theirs is always a hopeless cause.
  • Vegetarian Vampire: Averted for animal blood; even vampires from other worlds who'd previously been subsisting that way have to turn to human victims or starve. Some vampires use "shallow feeding" on multiple victims to avoid killing each night, but this is generally done for convenience (e.g. Strahd's feeding on captives in Castle Ravenloft's dungeon) rather than mercy.
  • Villain Protagonist: I, Strahd is a novel starring - who else? - Strahd.
  • Violence Is the Only Option: 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 Sheathe Your Sword are frequent.
  • The Von Trope Family: Vampire darklords Strahd von Zarovich and Urik von Karkov, for starters...
  • The Wall Around the World: The Misty Border that surrounds every domain, although they can also take the form of heatwaves or blizzards.
  • Wolverine Publicity: 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 Popularity Power 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 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 Gambit Roulette 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 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 Crowning Moment of Awesome for violating the explicit rules of three different settings? Your call.
  • Whodunnit to Me: Ratik Ubel, a revenant who seeks to identify and take vengeance on his own murderer.
  • Winter Royal Lady: Jezra Wagner, a spectre who haunts the high mountains of Barovia. She's in constant freezing pain, but can briefly alleviate it by lethally sucking the heat out of the living.
  • World Half Empty:
    • It's the Demiplane of Dread, so this is a given. Each realm is ruled by someone the Dark Powers have judged a invokedComplete Monster, most of whom torment their subjects in various ways to pass the time. Heroes can sometimes foil one of their schemes, but unseating a Dark Lord is normally impossible unless the Powers allow it.
    • The Domains of Dread campaign book and 3rd Edition products from Arthaus both eased off on this trope, as these products adapted the setting for native player characters, not Mist-imports from other game settings. Rather than a blatant Crapsack World, they made it feel more like an entire Demiplane With A Dark Secret, in which the masses are largely unaware that their world is any grimmer than normal, the average person never knowingly meets a monster, and the existence of darklords is unknown to all but a handful of occult scholars.
  • Yank the Dog's Chain: The Dark Powers' favorite modus operandi. They especially love tormenting the Dark Lords by repeatedly almost letting them attain their desire.
  • Year Inside, Hour Outside: Time in the Shadow Rift flows much more quickly than it does in the rest of the Land. Also, Baron Evensong's curse is to be trapped in his parlor every night, which lasts 100 years for the room's occupants.
  • Your Magic's No Good Here: Many spells don't function or have altered effects, to prevent players from circumventing the domain's rules. Black Magic, on the other hand, is greatly enhanced but will quickly turn you into a plaything of the Dark Powers.
  • Zombify the Living: One of the nastiest powers of the zombie lord is its ability to cause the instant death and re-animation of living opponents.