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Characters / Ravenloft: Darklords

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Return to the main index | Darklords | The Carnival | The Kargatane | The Fraternity of Shadows | The Great Families | Faith

He is the Ancient, he is the Land... And he's not the only one.

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    Tropes common to the Darklords 
  • Asshole Victim: Each suffers a Fate Worse than Death, and they deserve every minute of it.
  • Being Evil Sucks: How far this trope is played out varies from Darklord to Darklord, but simply being a Darklord has the general gist of it: you are granted amazing powers and a large area of land to rule over... however, despite all the power you now have, you're still stuck in a monstrous existence, and the one thing you desire above all else is always just out of your reach.
  • Evil Overlord: Each Darklord rules over their corner of the Land of Mists with an iron fist, and every last one of them has passed the Moral Event Horizon at least once.
  • Freudian Excuse Is No Excuse: Some Darklords have tragic, or at least sympathetic, backstories leading up to their trip over the Moral Event Horizon. The Dark Powers very, very clearly don't care.
  • Immortal Ruler: Many Darklords are undead or otherwise ageless creatures, or stopped aging once they assumed their position. Many of them can also come Back from the Dead, one way or another.
  • Informed Ability: Especially notable with Darklords whose superpowers are social influence or cerebral.
  • 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.
  • Ironic Hell: Each is both the ruler and prisoner of his/her realm, continually tortured by a curse that reflects the horrid crime done to earn it.
  • His Own Worst Enemy: Darklord curses are usually set up so that if the Darklord just stops trying to do whatever got them damned, they would be essentially free. If Strahd were to stop pursuing Tatyana, Azalin to cease trying to escape Ravenloft, or Vlad Drakov focus on improving his own country rather than conquering others, their curses would be entirely moot. But, as the book says, people with enough self-awareness to make that realization don't tend to become Darklords in the first place.
  • Moral Event Horizon: Every one of the darklords has committed at least one act so utterly evil that it all but guaranteed the attention of the Dark Powers. In-Universe, the term for this in Ravenloft is an "Act of Ultimate Darkness," and it's a requirement for becoming a Darklord; 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 (as eventually occurred with Lord Soth). 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.
  • Powerful and Helpless: Most Darklords are undisputed masters of their domains and have incredible power... but they can't leave and the Dark Powers are actively preventing them from getting any happiness from their situation.
  • The Punishment: The Darklords gain great power, and often use it to make their subjects miserable. Strahd feeds on the Barovians, Drakov has turned his kingdom into a war machine that will never succeed, and Yagno Petrova runs a brutal theocracy that involves human sacrifice- just to name a few notable ones. But the Dark Powers don't care about those caught in the crossfire, just that the one thing the Darklords have no power over is whatever would make them truly happy.
  • 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.
  • Tragic Dream: This underpins every darklord's curse: whether it be love, land, or more power, the Dark Powers make sure that despite their best efforts, they will never get what they truly want.
  • Weaksauce Weakness: All of them have one, and the only true way to stand up to a darklord and hope to survive is via exploiting it. Strahd, for example, will lose a few WIS points when dealing with his "love" Tatyana, with his desperation to have her causing him to take all sorts of stupid risks he'd normally never touch.
  • Yank the Dog's Chain: The Dark Powers derive pleasure from repeatedly dangling the Darklords' greatest desires in front of them and, after they've gone through great lengths attempting to obtain what they want, snatch it away from them at the last minute. To ensure that they never lose hope and give up, the Powers make the Darklords' repeated failures appear due to mistakes on their part rather than by their design, meaning that they continue trying under the false belief that they have a chance to succeed.
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Alternative Title(s): Darklords

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