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"It's like hell... but it's not hell for you."
Noah Antwiler summarizing the setting.
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Ravenloft is a campaign setting for the Dungeons & Dragons tabletop roleplaying game, invoking themes of Gothic Horror and Dark Fantasy. The 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. The name "Ravenloft" is actually the name of the castle which looms over the Land of Barovia, 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 H. P. Lovecraft, Pinocchio, The Island of Doctor Moreau, Shakespeare's Macbeth, and the historical Borgia family among many others comprise only a few examples.

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Ravenloft began as the sixth adventure in the "I" series of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 1st Edition 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 for Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 2nd Edition 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 3e 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, thus integrating Ravenloft into fourth edition's core. The setting and some of the characters are also mentioned in the 5e manuals, and an expanded Updated Re-release of the original I6 campaign titled Curse of Strahd was released on March 15, 2016. Van Richten's Guide to Ravenloft, the proper return to Ravenloft as a campaign setting for 5th Edition, was released on May 18, 2021, seeing a reimagining of the setting with established domains getting revamped and new ones introduced.

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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 an entity called the Red Death. It features many of the above mentioned classic characters that Ravenloft drew inspiration from as villains, and Word of God has described the Red Death as an "exiled" Dark Power from the Demiplane of Dread.

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 were made available as official PDFs.

The webcomic Starcrossed (Ravenloft) is set in Ravenloft (The domains of Souragne and Dementlieu, specifically).

Works that are set in Ravenloft include:

    open/close all folders 

    Board Games 
  • Castle Ravenloft

    Choose Your Own Adventure 
  • Master of Ravenloft
  • Castle of the Undead
  • Night of the Tiger
  • Escape from Castle Ravenloft

    Comic Books 
  • Dungeons & Dragons: Shadows of the Vampire

     Modules 
  • I6: Ravenloft
  • I10: Ravenloft II: The House on Gryphon Hill
  • Feast of Goblyns
  • Ship of Horror
  • Book of Crypts (module anthology)
  • Touch of Death
  • Night of the Walking Dead
  • Thoughts of Darkness
  • From the Shadows
  • Dark of the Moon
  • Roots of Evil
  • The Created
  • Web of Illusion
  • House of Strahd (I6 remake for 2e)
  • Adam's Wrath
  • The Awakening
  • Hour of the Knife
  • Howls in the Night
  • When Black Roses Bloom
  • Circle of Darkness
  • A Light in the Belfry (boxed set)
  • Chilling Tales (module anthology)
  • The Evil Eye
  • Neither Man nor Beast
  • Bleak House (boxed set)
  • Death Unchained
  • Death Ascendant
  • The Forgotten Terror
  • Servants of Darkness
  • The Shadow Rift
  • Vecna Reborn!
  • Die, Vecna, Die!
  • Ravenloft Silver Anniversary Edition (I6 update for 2e)
  • Expedition to Castle Ravenloft (I6 remake for 3e)
  • Curse of Strahd (I6 remake for 5e)

    Novels 
  • Vampire of the Mists
  • Knight of the Black Rose
  • Dance of the Dead
  • Heart of Midnight
  • Tapestry of Dark Souls
  • Carnival of Fear
  • I, Strahd
  • The Enemy Within
  • Mordenheim
  • Tales of Ravenloft (anthology)
  • Tower of Doom
  • Baroness of Blood
  • Death of a Darklord
  • Scholar of Decay
  • King of the Dead
  • To Sleep with Evil
  • Lord of the Necropolis
  • Shadowborn
  • I, Strahd: The War Against Azalin
  • Spectre of the Black Rose
  • Heaven's Bones
  • Mithras Court
  • Black Crusade (free pdf)

    Sourcebooks 
  • Ravenloft: Realm of Terror (2e core boxed set)
  • Monstrous Compendium Ravenloft Appendix
  • Darklords
  • Van Richten's Guide to Vampires
  • Islands of Terror
  • Van Richten's Guide to Ghosts
  • Forbidden Lore (boxed set)
  • Monstrous Compendium Ravenloft Appendix II: Children of the Night
  • Van Richten's Guide to the Lich
  • Van Richten's Guide to Werebeasts
  • Castles Forlorn (boxed set)
  • Van Richten's Guide to the Created
  • Ravenloft Monstrous Compendium Appendix III: Creatures of Darkness
  • Ravenloft Campaign Setting (revised 2e core boxed set)
  • Van Richten's Guide to the Ancient Dead
  • Van Richten's Guide to Fiends
  • Van Richten's Guide to the Vistani
  • The Nightmare Lands (boxed set)
  • Forged of Darkness
  • Children of the Night: Vampires
  • Ravenloft Monstrous Compendium Appendices I & II (collects Appendices I & II)
  • Requiem: The Grim Harvest (boxed set)
  • Domains of Dread (revised 2e corebook)
  • Children of the Night: Ghosts
  • Champions of the Mists
  • Children of the Night: Werebeasts
  • Children of the Night: The Created
  • Carnival (boxed set)
  • Van Richten's Monster Hunter's Compendium Volume One (collects the Guides to Vampires, Werebeasts, and the Created)
  • Van Richten's Monster Hunter's Compendium Volume Two (collects the Guides to Ghosts, the Lich, and the Ancient Dead)
  • Van Richten's Monster Hunter's Compendium Volume Three (collects the Guides to Fiends and the Vistani, and adds the Guide to Witches)
  • Ravenloft Campaign Setting (3e corebook)
  • Secrets of the Dread Realms
  • Ravenloft: Denizens of Darkness (3e corebook)
  • Van Richten's Arsenal Volume I
  • Ravenloft Gazetteer Volume I
  • Champions of Darkness
  • Heroes of Light
  • Ravenloft Gazetteer Volume II
  • Van Richten's Guide to the Walking Dead
  • Ravenloft Gazetteer Volume III
  • Ravenloft Dungeon Master's Guide (3.5e corebook)
  • Ravenloft Player's Handbook (3e Ravenloft Campaign Setting update to 3.5e)
  • Ravenloft Gazetteer Volume IV
  • Ravenloft: Denizens of Dread (Denizens of Darkness update to 3.5e)
  • Ravenloft Gazetteer Volume V
  • Van Richten's Guide to the Shadow Fey
  • Legacy of the Blood: Great Families of the Core
  • Dark Tales and Disturbing Legends
  • Van Richten's Guide to the Mists (free pdf)
  • Van Richten's Guide to Ravenloft (5e corebook)

    Video Games 

As the setting has been around since 1983, some spoilers are unavoidable.

Ravenloft provides examples of:

  • Abominable Auditorium: Lemot Sediam Juste is the playwright darklord of Scaena. Whilst famous as a comedian, he desperately wanted to break into tragedies... unfortunately, he had no skill in this field, and his actors could only salvage his works by playing them up as comedies. This ultimately drove him mad; he staged his "greatest tragedy" and secretly swapped the props with real weapons, killing his actors without the audience realizing it was all real. Then he locked the audience into the theatre and burned it to the ground, earning his darklordship. His realm of Scaena is a travelling pocket domain consisting of a single theatre. Juste has complete control over the intricate illusions he creates on his stage, can meld into any wooden surface in his theater and emerge elsewhere in the realm. He can also will the theatre to burn down (and then reform), and is immune to the flames.
  • 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.
  • Action Survivor: Van Richten's Guide to Ravenloft includes a set of rules specifically for creating Survivors, minor characters who can, at most, swing a sword or cast a spell or two, which are meant for either one-shot horror adventures, or flashback sequences in which the players play out historical events. Or course, whether or not they survive depends.
  • Actually Not a Vampire:
    • Vampyres are physically powerful, unnaturally beautiful, pale-skinned and sharp-fanged humanoid creatures who feed on blood...but are living beings, pack-hunting predators who fill the same ecological niche as lions or wolves—only with human prey.
    • Vorlogs are "half-changed" vampires created when the "Spawn Bride/Groom" ritual goes awry. They have a number of vampire like abilities, including the ability to sap mental energy, but are technically still living creatures.
    • Kizoku from Rokushima Taiyoo are extremely charming, unusually handsome male creatures who seduce women with their charms and gradually corrupt them into doing anything to be with them including slaying those who would keep them apart. These foul deeds done, the Kizoku then drains the woman of her life force. They may be slain only with a stake through the heart made from a weeping willow. However, they are living beings and no one's quite sure what their relation might be to real vampires.
    • Strigoi, monsters added in 5th edition, are essentially stirges (giant mosquito-bat-bird-things) that have somehow evoled into a humanoid form.
    • Werebats are haemovores by preference, and are called out in the lore as often being mistaken for vampires by under-studious hunters. The sourcebook "Children of the Night: Werebeasts" even features a werebat who deliberately plays up his vampire-like attributes in order to trick hunters, who come fatally prepared for the wrong monster entirely.
  • 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".
  • Adaptational Heroism: Darklord Tsien Chiang's daughters, which in older editions where all evil save for the youngest, are all benevolent in 5th edition, if extremely creepy.
  • Affably Evil:
    • Harkon Lukas, the wolfwere Darklord of Kartakas, enjoys human company, and often entertains his victims with an evening of song and merriment before eviscerating them.
    • Many evil-aligned secret societies, in particular the Fraternity of Shadows, the people who write the netbook 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).
  • Albinos Are Freaks: One of Carnival's sample scenarios involves helping an innocent young albino girl find refuge from prejudice among other human oddities.
  • 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.
    • Amazingly, it's also subverted; Ravenloft is home both to one of the few non-evil species of werebeast, the Wereraven, and to the Bruja, which are Hagsnote  that have turned to good.
  • 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 counterparts of Ancient Egypt, have mummy-filled tombs all over the place.
  • And I Must Scream: Victor Mordenheim's wife is kept alive, but in a constant state of agony, by being hooked up to his machines. She wants to just die already, but he won't allow it. Or to be more exact, the Dark Powers won't allow it. In one module, the party can try freeing her and letting her die, but the Powers will resuscitate her and hook her back up shortly afterwards.
  • Animate Dead: Spells that do this are much more powerful in Ravenloft... however, undead are also significantly harder to keep under control.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Artifact of Doom: As of Fifth Edition, if you encounter a block of amber in a hidden away location, you're either in Ravenloft and the entity inside is what allowed the Dark Powers to pull your location in, or you are not in Ravenloft, in which case smashing the amber and killing the vestige inside could prevent untold suffering that would have occured in the future had the vestige helped the Dark Powers add the area to Ravenloft.
  • Asshole Victim: Invoked in the mechanics for cursing individuals across the various editions, where a curse is more likely to take hold if the person invoking the curse feels the victim genuinely deserves it. And yes, this is noted as purely subjective, so villains calling curses down on the heroes who defeated them can benefit from this "deserving target" bonus!
  • Attack of the Monster Appendage: Gwydion, an Eldritch Abomination, has only been given stats for his tentacles, not his body.
  • 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 Easan 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.
  • Being Evil Sucks: If one trope holds true on Ravenloft, it's this one. Do evil things (or use necromantic spells) and you may attract the attention of the Dark Powers. They'll give you some neat ability, but with a generous side of Blessed with Suck and Red Right Hand. Be really evil, and they'll turn you into a Darklord - the all-powerful ruler of a domain struck with a curse that keeps them trapped and miserable forever.
  • 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.
    • The House of Lament oh so much.
  • 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, golem, undead, lycanthrope... really, just about any actual monster, will force humanoid characters to make a Madness check.
  • Black Knight: Lord Soth. It even becomes his moniker when references to him pop up after he's been Exiled from Continuity.
  • 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 and Death Knellnote .
  • Blood for Mortar: The House of Lament became cursed when a former owner had a young woman buried alive in its foundation, ostensibly because it was required (but in truth because he was a sadistic creep). In 5th Edition, dozens of people have been bricked into the House's walls by the brutal warlord who had conquered it; he himself was slain and entombed by a vengeful knight who caused the house to become cursed due to the bargain she had made with an evil entity on the grueling journey there.
  • The Bluebeard: In addition to Urik von Kharkov, who continually takes brides only to murder them when he suspects they may have discovered his Dark Secret of not being born human (or just that he's a vampire), the actual Bluebeard rules a tiny domain in the form of the island of Blaustein. Prior to 5th edition, his curse is that he is constantly haunted by the doting ghosts of the wives he murdered, who still appear as they did when he killed them. In 5th edition, they have instead rebelled and now keep him locked in a dungeon, torturing him for his crimes against them.
  • Book Dumb: One of the defining cultural trappings of pre-5e Valachan is a deliberate scorn for "book learning", which they view as useless, impractical, and antithetical to everything that makes a person a "man". If it's not practical knowledge that can help one survive in the day-to-day world, it's derided; this actually puts the local priests in the odd position where the locals simultaneously depend on their magic, but scorn them for needing to be educated. In fairness, this trope is depicted as a strong hindrance to the Valachani—for example, it keeps them from realizing they are being ruled over and literally preyed upon by an alliance of vampires and werepanthers.
  • 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 have a classic relationship; Sergei looked up to and loved his elder brother, but Strahd resented Sergei for his youth, his easier life, and for having the love of Tatyana. It ended with Strahd killing Sergei to try and steal Tatyana for himself.
  • 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...
    • The Curse of Strahd adventure includes "resurrection madness": when people who've been dead for at least 24 hours are returned to life, either by spells or supernatural means, they are driven insane by the knowledge that their souls are trapped in Barovia.
  • 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, with the 3e update of Ravenloft essentially rewriting the setting from the ground up to make native PCs the default.
  • Character Alignment: Played straight for all editions until 5th, with each darklord having alignment corresponding to their personality. 5th edition averts it by not giving listed alignment to any darklord (aside from Strahd) or even monster, though with the general understanding that, if it's in the demiplane of dread, it's most likely evil unless stated otherwise.
  • Character Narrator: 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.
  • Children Are Innocent: Subverted in a number of modules. Played straight by the True Innocent Prestige Class.
  • 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, and likely a few dozen others too.
  • Clever Crows: Just about the only potentially good-aligned creatures in Ravenloft, they sometimes help The Atoner.
  • Clock Punk: Mechanical Golems are clockwork/steam golems incorporating both magic and technology.
  • Closed Circle:
    • DMs can use the Mists to keep players from straying from a certain area (ie, players go into the Mists and emerge in the same place), but doing so is a cheap trick.
    • Darklords have the option to shut down the borders of their completely in 5e, which causes a variety of nasty environmental effects as well as locking everybody in.
    • For the Darklords, it's an endless circle of perdition. The only way for them to leave is to admit their evil and accept their punishment as just, which their very natures make it almost impossible for them to do.
  • Comic-Book Fantasy Casting:
    • Dr. Rudolph Van Richten looks exactly like Van Helsing as portrayed by Peter Cushing.
    • Doctor Victor Mordenheim looks exactly like Christopher Lee from the mid-Seventies. (The mini put out back in the day more strongly resembles Colin Clive.)
  • Constructed World: The world is a construct of the Dark Powers, who can rearrange it however they please. It's more overt in 5th edition than in previous editions.
  • Corrupt Church:
    • The Church of Ezra has... issues. The Borcan branch has a strict official policy of staying out of politics and willfully turns a blind eye to the depredations of the nobility; this is how they avoid incurring the local darklord's wrath. The Darkonese sect is a fundamentalist sect with an apocalyptic doctrine, willing to conduct Cold-Blooded Torture both to interrogate "monsters" and to convert members of other religions, which they see as heathens who are dooming themselves to hell.
    • Zhakata is a fake religion whose god only exists inside the head of its demented high priest.
    • The Church of the Lawgiver has an extremely strict and stratified worldview in which social mobility is impossible and not only has no restrictions on the power of those in authority, but actively encourages leaders to do whatever they want. Which is unsurprising, since it's literally the church of the God of Tyranny and Slavery from the Forgotten Realms with the serial numbers filed off.
  • 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.
  • Creepy Child: The supplement Darklords has Merilee Markuza, 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 Crows: Zigzagged. On the one hand, Barovia is home to both Wereravensnote  and to Ravenkinnote , which thoroughly subvert this trope, although the Ravenkin's ability to spy through the eyes of normal crows can be used to play this trope straight. Played thoroughly straight with the Corvus Regis ("King's Ravens"), who are intelligent, talking ravens bred as as spies by the lich-king of Darkon, Azalin.
  • Creepy Doll: Doll golems and the Carrionettes.
  • Creepy Souvenir:Jacqueline Montarri collects the still-living heads of her victims. Justified in that she can gain all the abilities of her victim by wearing said heads, so even beyond her vanity, collecting heads is genuinely useful to her.
  • Cross-Cultural Kerfluffle: The mix-and-mash nature of the demiplane means that wildly different cultures can come together, and often clash quite spectacularly. Two specific examples called out in the 3e Gazetteers:
    • In Barovia, the feuding Barovian and Gundarkite ethnicities both share a tradition of women wearing headscarves to show their marital status... the problem is that Barovian women wear it to show they're married and Gundarkite women wear it to show they are unmarried. This is noted by the in-universe narrator to be a recurring source of brawls.
    • S, the in-universe narrator of the Gazetteers, notes that when she discussed the Church of Hala with the leader of the Tepest inquisition, she couldn't convince him that the Halans were a harmless, peaceful religion interested in ministering to the sick and needy, because the Halans title their practitioners "witches", which in Tepest are regarded as unrepentant agents of evil.
  • Crossover: Many of the darklords, and a handful of the deities, 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.
    • Meanwhile, Kalidnay comes from Athas.
    • At the start of the video game Ravenloft: Strahd's Possession, 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, Ravenloft: Stone Prophet, they manage to find a portal back to Faerun.
  • 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 (Lathander) and Lawgiver (Bane) from the Forgotten Realms, the Eternal Order's death-gods from Greyhawk), and deities made up for (Ezra, Hala) or even by (Zhakata, the Wolf God, the Overseer) natives of the Land of Mists.
  • Crystal Dragon Jesus:
    • Most obviously, there's the Church of Ezra, the most prominent religion in the demiplane, which is basically Catholicism with a female God/Jesus/Mary hybrid. It's a henotheistic bordering monotheistic religionnote  and is divided into four sects, each with their own unique perspective on the church's core teachings.
    • The Church of Hala is basically Crystal Dragon Wicca, with a dash of Christian nuns for disguise — they even call themselves "witches".
    • Invoked in 5th edition, where Har'Akir no longer worships the D&D Egyptian pantheon of old, but instead worships a fake religion based on them created by the darklord Ankhtepot.
  • Culture Chop Suey: Crops up now and then. For example, Tepest is The Theme Park Version of premodern Ireland, mixed with Witch Trials era New England, garnished with just the tiniest sliver of Spain during the Inquisition (in the form of the Inquisition itself and a forest called Brujamonte).
  • Curse: Being a Dark Fantasy setting based on Gothic Horror, curses are extremely prominent in the setting. Aside from generally being more likely to find a cursed magical item than one without a curse, the setting has a tradition from its earliest days of giving mechanics to actually cursing people, in a way much more detailed than the generic "Bestow Curse" spell. A number of other Curse tropes are invoked as well — for example, a Dying Curse is much more likely to take effect. And the usual easy fix of Remove Curse? Generally, it doesn't work on curses invokved in Ravenloft.
  • 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.
    • The Darklords actually have one as well, namely admitting that the actions that landed them in Ravenloft were entirely their own fault. However, if they were capable of doing that, they wouldn't have become Darklords in the first place.
  • Dark Fantasy: Of course, as this is Dungeons and Dragons with Gothic Horror running through its veins.
  • 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.
  • Day-Old Legend: Happens to entire countries in the setting, where new realms that coalesce out of the Mists upon a new darklord's arrival come complete with their own "ancient" legends and histories.
  • 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 of a Child: There are undead children here and there, and plenty of monsters eager to steal infants for the dinner table or worse.
  • Death Seeker: In 5e, Ankhtepot, the ruler of the realm of Har'Akir, wants nothing more than to retrieve the last bit of his soul. He believes that when he finally tracks down his his ka, he will become mortal again, and will thus be able to die. What happens afterwards doesn't really matter to him anymore; he's just over the whole "existing" thing after countless centuries. This very much does not apply to his original interpretation.
  • 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.
  • Deity of Human Origin: Well, he's not technically considered a god, but the lich Osybus managed to become one of the Dark Powers after he was slain by the Ulmist Inquisition and the then mortal Count Strahd von Zarovich.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: The sourcebook "Van Richten's Guide to the Created", the golem sourcebook, takes a firm attitude that the Created are inherently evil due to the circumstances of their creation, depicting them as soulless abominations against the natural order that should only be destroyed (though see also Stages of Monster Grief below). Whilst this is in keeping with a number of Frankenstein moviesnote , and is based upon Victorian morality ideals that underpin Gothic Horror, it's at odds with Mary Shelley's original novel, where it's the Monster's continued rejection by humanity that makes him a villain, and with modern audiences, who nowadays regard the Monster as a Tragic Villain at worst and believe that Victor Frankenstein is the true "monster" of the story. The Created, a supplement which introduces several golems, also conflicts with this, introducing some golems that aren't evil (yet.)
  • Despair Event Horizon: Unbeknown to most Darklords, this is one of their win conditions. To give up hope of succeeding would break The Dark Powers' lure of success, and their Yank the Dog's Chain modus operandi.
  • 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.
  • Dhampyr: Being heavily rooted in Gothic Horror, Ravenloft has played around with this trope.
    • Surprisingly, the classic version of the dhampyr (here called a "dhampir") is largely removed from the setting, despite the fact you'd think it a much more obvious player character race than, say, the half-vistani or caliban. In fact, the dhampir didn't appear in the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons run of Ravenloft at all; it debuted in the "Guide to Transylvania" sourcebook for spin-off setting Masque of the Red Death, and was subsequently ported back into Ravenloft proper in its Third Edition update. Ravenloft and Gothic Earth Dhampirs have many of the vampiric powers, but few of their weaknesses — most prominently, they need to regularly feed on humanoid blood, and most of their powers are inaccessible whilst exposed to sunlight. Their curse is that, upon their deaths, they are almost certain to rise again as fully-fledged vampires. They are described as being the result of mating between humans and vampires.
    • Vampyres are "living vampires", who exist both on the Demiplane of Dread and on at least one other normal world. Described as resembling beautiful humans or half-elves with a feline cast to their features and vampire-like retractile fangs and claws, they are a species of Monstrous Humanoid, and far weaker than true vampires; aside from their exceptional beauty and natural weapons, their only power is a minor mind controlling toxin in their saliva. On the other hand, as living haemovores, vampyres are completely impervious to sunlight or any of the various mystical powers that can be wielded against true vampires. Whilst a fully fledged species in their own right, it's implied they can somehow be born as a result of either mating between humans and vampires, or if a pregnant woman is bitten by a vampire, as was the case with the only vampyre Darklord, Tristan ApBlanc.
    • Vorlogs are cursed souls created when a vampire is slain whilst in the process of transforming a victim into a "Companion" — a unique strain of fledgling vampire that is created to be Mindlink Mates with its creator, and which is reborn at a much higher level of power than the standard fledgling. Vorlogs possess a number of vampire-like abilities, including Super Strength, a Charm Person power, the ability to become a living puddle of tears (a variant on the vampire's Super Smoke ability), preternatural resistances, and the ability to induce a homicidal berserker fury in any nearby animal. However, they are perpetually haunted by the loss of their Mindlink Mates, and compelled to try (and inevitably fail) to find a satisfactory replacement. They feed on psychic energies, and use these to create mindlessly loyal "surrogates", which serve them until the vorlog invariably grows dissatisfied and kills them.
  • Disease by Any Other Name: The population of Valachan is regularly plagued by a mild "disease" they call White Fever. In reality, it's anemia caused by the vampire dark lord taking controlled sips from his subjects note  — the population is too ignorant to realize the truth.
  • 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, at the DM's discretion, their land potentially 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. Later, this descends in the worst way possible.
  • 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 boxed set 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.
    • That said, the weirdness was merely somewhat reduced, not removed entirely; see Patchwork Map below for examples.
  • Elite Mooks:
    • Strahd's personal brand of skeletons and zombies have a number of advantages over the typical kind, namely a Healing Factor that makes them extremely hard to kill.
    • Archer skeletons are skilled archers who can get more bone-arrows from raiding graves, and when those arrows miss without breaking they have a chance of turning into pissed-off skeletons who attack any living thing they see.
    • Giant skeletons cross this with Giant Mook, as they're exactly what they sound like, and they can throw fireballs (as per the famous spell) once an hour with abandon as they're immune to magical and non-magical fire. They also turn as mummies rather than skeletons.
  • Empty Shell: The "Lost Ones," people who have been driven catatonic through horrible encounters with Ravenloft's many horrors.
  • Epiphanic Prison: At least in theory, this is what each domain is supposed to be to its resident Darklord. Few, if any, have learned the lesson being taught.
  • Escaped from Hell:
    • Lord Soth, one of D&D's favorite villains, escapes the Land of Mists in the most bizarre way possible ...by not giving a crap. He 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.
  • Eviler Than Thou: Fiends play this role to the Darklords. The Darklords usually tend to have a few redeeming characteristics, whereas Fiends are wholly evil.
  • 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.
    • There's even an Expy of a location: the House of Lament is essentially Hill House.
  • 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 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. There are also several other types of evil fairy creatures, such as the baobhan sith sadistic pixies) and the boowray (think Peter Pan as The Corruptor).
  • Fake Aristocrat:
    • A rather odd case in the 5e soft reboot, which retcons that the vampire who murdered Dr. Van Richten's family, Baron Metus, wasn't actually a baron at all. His name was Baron, and so he liked to pretend he was an actual baron. His retcon-created sister basically does the same thing herself now.
    • This is the entire schtick of Dementlieu in its 5th edition incarnation. Everyone who could be considered middle-class pretend to be nobility, and everyone who's lower class pretends to be middle-class. Because Impostor's Syndrome is a major theme, failing to maintain the facade will, at best, cause you to be shunned by your so-called friends, and if it falls at the wrong moment, such as during one of the darklord's masquerade balls, the Darklord will personally disintegrate you. Darklord Saidra d'Honaire is the domain's only actual noble, but even she was born a peasant.
  • Fallen Hero: While it is debateable whether he was hardened by war or if he was never a truly "good" person, as a mortal, Strahd von Zarovich was a friend and ally of the Ulmist Inquisition when they defeated the lich Osybus and countless supernatural threats. Regardless of his true inner character, had Strahd died before he could form his pact with the Dark Powers, history would have remembered him as a great hero and martyr.
  • 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 varieties 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, paralyzing 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. Scattered throughout the realm are the Vistani, who are fantasy counterpart Romani.
  • Fantasy Gun Control: Averted, because it just wouldn't be a classic werewolf hunt without a Silver Bullet or two. Though it depends on the Domain, those with a high enough Culture Rating have primitive guns, those without do not. But you can bring a gun from a high-Culture Domain into a low-Culture Domain and it still works, you just won't be able to buy shot, powder, or spare parts.
  • 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 King: Each Darklord is intimately tied to his or her domain. They have limited ability to sense things going on or when something's really out of whack with their land. This most notably manifests with the disruption of reality caused by demons and other supernatural outsiders.
  • Fisher Kingdom: Darkon will, over the course of three months, rewrite your memories so that you think you are a native. It's easily reversible 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 (with special mention going to Lamordians), 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 Dark Powers use the Mists to 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 may be the only one in the entire setting. A couple of adventures feature NPC vampires that are newly-created and haven't been corrupted below neutral alignment yet, but the setting is pretty firm that all vampires turn monstrous eventually.
  • 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.
  • Gender Flip: A number of prominent male NPCs are women in the 5e Soft Reboot.
    • Darklords Dominic d'Honaire and Vlad Drakov have been replaced by Saidra d'Honaire and Vladeska Drakov respectively, although apart from their name and some elements of Vladeska's backstory, these are practically different individuals entirely.
    • Gondegal, a heroic resistance leader against Vlad Drakov's tyranny in Falkovnia, is mentioned in 5e as a wandering female hero.
    • Victor Mordenheim, the setting's pastiche of Dr. Victor Frankenstein, has been turned into the lesbian woman Viktra Mordenheim. Also, Adam has been removed entirely and narratively replaced with Elise, who is now a cursed cyborg with an immortality-granting artificial heart.
    • An odd example; in the original lore, the Weathermay-Foxgrove twins' parents consisted of father Daniel Foxgrove and mother Alice Weathermay, with Alice being deceased due to Death by Childbirth and her ghost being a prisoner of Mordent's darklord, who uses this to control their father. In the Soft Reboot, their father is the one who is dead and being held as a ghostly hostage.
  • 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 conqueror and to 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.)
  • Ghost Train: Van Richten's Guide to Ravenloft introduces Cyre 1313, The Mourning Rail. A lightning rail from Eberron, it drives through the Mists in an attempt to escape The Mourning, but nobody realizes that everyone aboard is already dead.
  • The GM Is a Cheating Bastard: The opening of House on Gryphon Hill; If the players haven't played the original Ravenloft, they are put up against Strahd. The DM is encouraged to do whatever it takes to kill the players, including summoning banshees and fudging dice rolls. And then they wake up.
  • Go Mad from the Revelation: Fail a Madness save provoked by a "malign paradigm shift" (the revelation that something you thought you knew is not only wrong, but terminally harmful to your prolonged well-being) and that's exactly what happens.
  • Gothic Horror: The foundation of the game's genre. Many of the Darklords are outright pastiches of famous Gothic Horror monsters, most notably Strahd (Dracula), Mordenheim and Adam (Frankenstein and his Monster), Malken (Jekyll and Hyde) and Markov (the Island of Dr. Moreau).
  • Grave Humor: The tombs under Castle Ravenloft in the original adventure have a number of funny inscriptions on the individual crypts.
  • Grand Theft Me: Eleni of Toyalis is the protege of the darklord Hazlik, who has promised she will one day succeed him in ruling Hazlan. He's kinda telling the truth — he intends to hijack her body to circumvent death from old age and/or his genocidal ritual.
  • Great Detective: The Darkon-born elf Alanik Ray, based on Sherlock Holmes.
  • Greater-Scope Villain: The Dark Powers can play this role depending on what type of game the DM is running. Just as many people say that the Dark Powers are not evil at all, but may actually be good. After all, each domain is an Ironic Hell for its ruler, who is an eternal prisoner of it, making Ravenloft a prison of the damned. Seeing as the Dark Powers punish evildoers, it is very possible that they are good. On the other hand, their methods hurt the innocent just as much as they damn the guilty, making them just as likely to be candidates for enemy forces.
  • 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 of course. Godly intervention or communion with followers (almost) never happens. Clerics and paladins receive their spells/powers, 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.
  • Hellish Horse:
    • Strahd's Skeletal Steeds, made by the vampire lord himself, are immune to fire and cold (but not lightning), turn as wraiths, can emit a gas which freezes people in place and are immune to piercing weapons which go through their bones.
    • Shadow Unicorns are evil reflections of true unicorns who can go invisible in darkness and move near-silently at will. The sound of their unsilenced hooves or whinny can magically inflict fear (possibly having their hair go white), in combat they strike with sharpened hooves, set their horn ablaze with unnatural fire, charge with impressive speed, and have a short-range teleport. They're also immune to poison, hold, and death spells, as well as charm, so no you can't have one.
  • Hereditary Curse: Some of the noble families are saddled with these, such as the propensity to madness displayed by the Hiregaard clan in Legacy 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 descendants.
    • The Fifth Edition Van Richten's Guide to Ravenloft offers an adventure hook based around this for the realm of Mordent, in what is clearly a subtle homage to Gilbert and Sullivan's Ruddigore.
    The baronet of a small estate is forced to commit increasingly heinous crimes each day or face unspeakable torment at the hands of his ghostly ancestors, who suffered under the same curse.
  • He Who Fights Monsters: The heroes of Ravenloft always run the risk of becoming what they have set out to destroy, if they commit enough acts of evil along the way to draw the attention of the Dark Powers.
    • 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.
  • Hillbilly Horrors: The Quevari are a particularly dark example of this. 99% of the time, they are gentle, peaceful people who live in remote rural areas and make a living as farmers and herders. But, on the nights of the full moon, they turn into bloodthirsty cannibal killers and try to murder any non-Quevari they can find.
  • Hope Springs Eternal: This is 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.
  • Hunter of Monsters: 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. 3rd edition sourcebooks sometimes lampshade the trope — for example, "Dementlieu" is named that way because of its (false) history as a realm of immense political instability and constant war, resulting in its own people dubbing it "the madness place", and the name stuck even after things finally settled down.
  • Ignored Epiphany: Lord Soth faces this in Knight of the Black Rose, and it 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 (ironically, it's likely the in-universe reason why Soth was eventually released from the Mists was his eventual subversion of the trope when he eventually hit rock-bottom).
  • I'm Having Soul Pains: Fiends can perform a ritual that steals some of a domain's power from the local darklord. This is debilitating to said darklord as they feel some of the connection to their land torn from them.
  • I'm Melting!: The most potent curse the Vistani can put on you is the fatal mishamel, which causes you to melt. They rarely use this, though. If you've really pissed them off, they usually prefer inflicting something that keeps you alive to suffer.
  • Immortal Ruler: Most of the Darklords have been cursed with unending, tormented existence by the Dark Powers, and many of them are also various types of The Undead. As such, most have been in power for a very long time, and their tenure isn't likely to end soon. Moreover, the Dark Powers don't like to lose a plaything, so they've been known to resurrect a Darklord that's been killed.
  • In Name Only: All of the domains that were mentioned in the 5th edition Soft Reboot which had a presence in earlier editions are changed from their older lore to varying degrees. Some get off quite mildly; Lamordia, new Darklord aside, is just a slightly exaggerated version of its previous self, and both Borca and Mordent are much the same. But many are so extensively changed they could be given a brand new name and nobody familiar with the setting's lore would tell they were supposed to be connected. Tropes Are Tools, however, as some of the "nu-Ravenloft" domains can be called legitimate upgrades, particularly Har'Akir and I'Cath.
    • The Carnival of Isolde in 5th edition is a Domain in the form of a traveling carnival, and its Darklord is a sapient evil sword being unwittingly wielded by the carnival's leader. In older editions, the Carnival is not a domain at all; it's a once-ordinary circus made up of deformed escapees from a lost Domain called L'Morai, led by Isolde, who is an eladrin feigning humanity so she can hunt down her archenemy; an incubus known only as the Gentleman Caller.note  However, her supernatural nature clashes with the ambient dark energies of the Demiplane, producing an aura called "The Twisting", which grants her and those around her immunity from some of the prison-like aspects of Ravenloft, but also causes those who spend too long in her time to develop metaphysical mutations, usually of a Karmic Transformation and/or Personality Powers variety.
    • Har'Akir in the original lore was a single primitive village of subsistence farmers trapped near the tomb of the undead Pharaoh Anhktepot; this was part of his Ironic Hell, since he had committed horrible acts of blasphemy to attain eternal rulership over his empire, but was now condemned to an eternity in the middle of nowhere with nobody to rule over, save a small population of people who don't even remember his name. In the 5th edition remake, Har'Akir is instead a vast, thriving domain ruled by The Necrocracy, with Pharaoh Anhktepot at its head — but he can't enjoy his power because he is missing his Ka.
    • I'Cath was originally a single Chinese-themed fortress-mansion in the middle of nowhere, inhabited by Tsien Chiang, a mad, ugly, bitter old misandric witch, her three equally evil and monstrous daughters, and her single good, beautiful daughter, as well as an assortment of monstrous vassals. In 5th edition, it's instead a massive, labyrinthine city-state maintained by armies of Chinese Vampires, as its living population is forcibly kept in an enchanted slumber so they can populate a dream version of I'Cath.
    • Dementlieu in classic Ravenloft lore is a highly advanced nation, one of the great cultural centers of the Core, ruled by the Darklord Dominic D'Honaire; a man who uses his powers of Mind Control to weave a subtle web of authority and rule as the power behind the throne. In 5th edition, Dementlieu is a single crumbling city-state with a "dark fairy tale" theme, populated by people desperately struggling to appear richer than they truly are and where society centers around the endless balls thrown by its Darklord, Saidra D'Honaire, a mad wraith feigning an aristocratic lineage she never had.
    • Falkovnia is originally characterized as a grim, brutal land where a corrupt, thuggish military reigns over cowed peasantry whilst always knowing that eventually they will be sent into hopeless battles and die like lambs at the slaughter for the ego of their brutal, bloodthirsty overlord, Vlad Drakov. Even fans of the domain tend to characterize it as "Fantasy Stalinist Russia with Nazi-esque iconography ruled by Vlad the Impaler". The 5e remake instead is a Zombie Apocalypse domain, where the female warlord Vladeska Dravov fights a Forever War against endless hordes of zombies (or whatever monsters the DM feels like substituting) that she knows is futile, but refusing to admit to the need to retreat.
    • Richemulot was originally established as one of the great cultural centers of the Core, a regal and aristocratic (and vaguely French) realm despite the fact its aristocracy had been secretly infiltrated by wererats, perhaps in homage to Swords Over Lankhmar. In 5e, it is instead a crumbling collection of city-states barely holding together in the face of serial waves of plagues and massive rat swarm outbreaks, where the aristocracy is either long fled or dead. Its Darklord also went from being a born wererat who inherited the domain when she murdered her abusive grandfather and cursed with twin curses note  to an arrogant would-be social climber who inadvertently transformed herself into a wererat when she engineered the first outbreak of plague to aide her schemes to climb into society.
    • Tepest was originally a setting that was themed after the Salem Witch Trials, with the addendum that there really were evil fairies, goblins and wicked witches secretly lurking in the dark woods. In 5th edition, Tepest is openly ruled by a hag-queen, who forces the villagers of her domain to revere her like a twisted mother goddess.
    • Whilst Hazlan was always ruled by the Sorcerous Overlord Hazlik and had trappings of Sword and Sorcery and Cosmic Horror, the original iteration of the domain focused more on the evils of slavery, with a culture consisting of a tiny minority of brutal, decadent Mulans reigning cruelly over a much larger population of Rashemani serfs. The 5th edition version is instead focused on showing what happens when The Magocracy goes horribly wrong; the entire domain is literally falling apart at the seams as its mad wizard-king indifferently tests the fabric of reality to destruction with his eldritch experiments and encourages his underlings to do the same. The 5e version of Hazlik also trades his original curse of suffering nightmares of powerlessness before his old rivals whenever he sleeps for instead being unable to actually learn new magic on his own and instead having to steal it from others, a curse traditionally associated with another Darklord entirely — Azalin, the lich-king of Darkon.
  • 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.
  • Interfaith Smoothie: The "Celtic" pantheon of Ravenloft, having been inherited from the original Legends & Lore sourcebook, is a grab-bag of different Celtic deities. This results in the extremely Scottish Forfarians, the native people of Forlorn, worshipping a pantheon made up of Belenus, a Continental Celtish deity; the Irish deities Dahda, Diancecth and Morrigan; the Romanized Celtic goddess Brigantia; and the Welsh gods Math Mathonwy and Arawn.
  • 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. The Dark Powers always reincarnate her, so he can never resign to her being out of his reach either. 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. A particularly "fun" example is Dragon's description of the way Sithicus changes after Lord Soth returns to Krynn: the domain was originally all about lack of consistancy and twisting memory, because Soth's thing was clinging to who he used to be. Once Inza, whose flaw was self-deception, became the darklord, it changed into a realm where nobody can forget their past.
  • 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 Character 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.
  • 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 Ravenloft, 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.
  • Kill the Lights: In Adam's Wrath, while the PCs are infiltrating the underground caves, Adam will touch the luminescent fungus that provides the only light in the area. When he does this, the light will immediately turn off throughout the area, leaving the PCs in darkness. Adam knows the area much better than the PCs and will take less of a penalty while fighting in darkness than the PCs will.
  • 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 who fell due to hitting this trope. If anything she's gotten even worse since her damnation.
  • 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.
  • Living Structure Monster: The House of Lament.
  • 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.
  • Love Makes You Evil: Strahd loved Tatyana so much that he murdered his own brother, who she was set to marry, in the definitive Act of Ultimate Darkness.
  • Mad Doctor: Doctor Mordenheim (an Expy for Doctor Frankenstein), and Doctor Heinfroth (keeper of the resident Bedlam House). Darklord Frantisek Markov (an Expy 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.
  • Magical Library: The lich-king Azalin Rex 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.
  • Magical Romani: The Vistani are built out of this trope, and have an in-universe reputation for being magical people, which doesn't endear them to the largely magic-fearing people of the demiplane. Every Vistani is capable of using an "Evil Eye" that allows them to inflict several mind-altering effects with a stare, as well as calling down powerful and unique curses. Collectively, Vistani can achieve ritualistic magical effects, such as their ability to navigate perfectly through the Mists. Vistani families are led by a raunie, a matriarch with particularly powerful magical abilities, primarily divination-focused. And even amongst the Vistani, there are some who are more magical than others; the Zarovan tasque is regarded as unearthly and mystical even by other Vistani. The ur-example is probably Madame Eva, a Zarovan raunie who might as well be a Physical God; she is able to use any clerical spell she wants at will and completely ignores all the normal rules for the demiplane altering magic: even other Vistani regard Madame Eva with a certain level of dread.
  • 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 Pseudoscience: 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.
  • 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.
    • Richumelot means, more or less, "Rich mouse", and the domain is run by rich wererats.
    • The 5e version of Dementlieu is all about pretending to be something you're not, and most of its denizens claim to be noble despite being middle-class at best. To this end, many claim to maintain mansions in Chateaufaux outside the city. There is no Chateaufaux, since the mist starts just outside the city walls, and the name means "False estate".
  • Micro Monarchy: Ghastria, until the Great Upheaval. Most domains whose overt ruler is a monarch or noble of some sort would count in any other setting if the official population numbers and geographic dimensions are used (Darkon, for example, is the largest and most populous Domain, yet barely has over 100 000 inhabitants and at its widest can be crossed in a few days at most).
  • Mistaken for Undead: Bone Golems, a sub-type of golem native to Ravenloft, are constructed from the bones of previously re-animated skeletons. Anyone who tries to fight it like they would an actual undead creature is in for a nasty surprise, however, as it lacks their vulnerabilities. Ditto for Zombie Golems, similar to flesh golems, but made from formerly animate zombie creatures.
  • Mix-and-Match Man:
    • Since only ten percent of a particular body at a time may be used to construct them, the above-mentioned Bone and Zombie Golems are a mish-mash of assembled parts from numerous creatures.
    • Like flesh golems outside the demiplane, Ravenloft flesh golems are made from various corpses. Unlike their foreign cousins, Ravenloft flesh golems have a spirit within them (usually from the brain or from a stolen soul) that makes them fully sapient. And angry.
  • Monster Mash: There are lots and lots of different monsters in the Demiplane of Dread.
  • 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.
  • Moral Event Horizon: The In-Universe term for this is an "Act of Ultimate Darkness", and it's required to become a Darklord — an act of such great and horrible evil that it is all but guaranteed to draw the attention of the Dark Powers, 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 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.
  • 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. Especially egregious is the Domain of Verbrek, which quite literally has more werewolves than humans living in it.
  • 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 Lukas 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.
  • Must Be Invited: While this still applies in Ravenloft, vampiric feudal lords like Strahd von Zarovich own every house in their domain and can thus invite themselves.
  • My Rules Are Not Your Rules: Madame Eva is statted in 3.5, but she explicitly ignores most of Ravenloft's constraints, even the ones other Vistani are subject to. She casts cleric spells without worshiping a deity (including ones that don't work in Ravenloft), never suffers powers checks, and laughs at closed domain borders. There is some implication she may be an avatar or manifestation of the Dark Powers themselves.
  • Necromancer: Strahd is a Necromancer Specialist Wizard, as are Meredoth and, pre 5th edition, Tsian Chiang. Azalin, while technically a generalist wizard, naturally has vast knowledge of necromancy (and was, in fact, Strahd's wizardly mentor before their falling out). 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 while under Van Richten's medical care 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: DMs 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, DMs can also feel free to limit these to one-off special occasions.
  • Nice Day, Deadly Night: Ravenloft is based on Gothic Horror, so as you'd expect the night is always more dangerous than daytime.
    • 1st Edition module I6 Ravenloft. At night, the citizens of Barovia bar their doors and tremble in terror. Strahd attacks the PCs at night with wolves and bats. Not only could the attacks easily kill them, but party spellcasters can forget relearning their spells. Random encounters at night are much more dangerous: not just wolves, but a deadly variety of undead monsters.
    • 2nd Edition Domains of Dread supplement. In the domain of Kartakass, wolves roam the streets of the cities at night and are strong enough to break down barred gates.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: The Vistani in particular have a track record for often making the world worse in the name of satisfying their own desires for vengeance. Jacqueline Montarri is a perfect example of this: because the thief murdered Madame Eva (who got better, incidentally), the Vistani took her and cursed her into an immortal headless woman who can steal the living heads off other women and use them as her own, whilst also compelling her to seek out constant replacements because her stolen heads rapidly age and then die. So they took a common thief and turned her into an immortal Serial Killer. Add in that she'd already been executed, as Madame Eva tricked her into going to Castle Ravenloft before Jacqueline stabbed her, and this just makes the Vistani look really stupid.
  • Nightmare Sequence: Depending on whether or not the players have played the original I6 Ravenloft, the opening of I10 Ravenloft II: House on Gryphon Hill can be this. The DM is told, if the players have fought Strahd before, to retell their battle so that it ends in the death of the heroes. If they haven't, they find themselves in a battle against Strahd, a battle the DM is encouraged to have Strahd win, no matter what. When they die, they wake up.
  • 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.
  • Non-Action Big Bad: 5th editon outright encourages DMs to take this view of the Darklords. Aside from Strahd and the Headless Horseman, none of them have dedicated statblocks (and Strahd only has the one from Curse of Strahd, whereas the Horseman's statblock doubles as a generic Dullahan), and only a few have suggested stats from the Monster Manual. This is in the hope of having the DM play more with the darklord's personality and influence, rather than combat prowess.
  • 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: they are humans mutated into monsters by dark magic, and 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 plays the "standard" vampire as close to the (Hollywood) archetype as possible, at least where the strict avoidance of Friendly Neighborhood Vampires is concerned.
    • Ravenloft is iconic for having the largest variety of vampires of any AD&D setting.
      • Demihuman Vampires gave unique strains of vampirism to dwarves, elves, gnomes, kender, halflings, goblins, and drow, each with their own bizarre powers, weaknesses and traits. For example, elven vampires kill vegetation with a touch and are only active during the day, as they are harmed by moonlight, whilst halfling vampires are repulsed by tobacco smoke and can only be destroyed by cutting off their head and feet and burning them in a hearthfire.
      • Nosferatu were originally inspired by the novel version of Dracula and by Varney the Vampire; they could walk about in the day just fine, but were depowered if they did so. In 5th edition, they were retconned into perpetually starving hideously disfigured, vaguely ratlike figures.
      • Chinese Vampires were originally a weird blend of standard vampires with elements of Bakeneko and Nekomata. 3rd edition made them a little more like folkloric jiangshi, but it wasn't until 5th edition that they accurately reflected them.
      • Vrykolakas are deformed, ghoul-like vampires who feed on corpses and plague victims, spread disease, and use a barbed prehensile tongue to siphon the blood from their prey.
      • The Penanggalan, a South-East Asian vampire that takes the form of a Flying Face with fangs and trailing its internal organs, is also found in the Demiplane of Dread. Fans responded by fleshing out its "family tree" and converting several iterations of the Aswang (a catch-all name for vampiric entities from the same region) into monsters. These are the base Aswang (a shapeshifting, bloodsucking ghoul which feeds via its prehensile tongue), the Manananggal or "Greater Aswang" (upper torso sprouts bat wings and flies away, optionally trailing its guts), the Allawig (surrounded by an aura of hellish flames) and the Padara (constantly dripping with blood from eyes and pores).
      • Fans also invented the Upir Lichy, or "Frost Vampire", a predatory undead created when a person dies of hypothermia that ambushes people to sap their bodily heat with its touch.
      • Cerebral Vampires are only found in a single domain and are a mutant strain of (pre-5e) nosferatu that feed on cerebro-spinal fluid.
      • "Goblin" Vampires actually started out as human beings who stole an item from the Three Sisters of Tepest and were subsequently affected by the curses placed upon said item.
    • Then there's the variety of vampire-like creatures...
  • 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. Egregious examples include the Shadow Rift (a huge, seemingly bottomless chasm in the middle of the Core's landmass where two other Domains used to be) and Todstein (an island in the southern Nocturnal Sea with an arctic climate whereas both the coast at the same latitude and the islands to its north are temperate).
  • 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. Though it is generally considered the biggest of all demiplanes in the Ethereal.
    • Some Domains exist as this within the Demiplane of Dread, such as Aggarath, a cursed village found inside a gem on the hilt of a magical dagger.
  • 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.
  • Powerful and Helpless: More or less the Dark Powers' entire point in making you a darklord. Some notable examples:
    • Count Strahd von Zarovich is an immortal Domain Holder of a considerable chunk of the multiverse, but his one true wish—gaining the love of the only woman he has ever loved—is kept forever just out of his reach by the Powers That Be.
    • Ebonbane is a demonic creature trapped in a sword. Earlier editions flat out stated that the Dark Powers wouldn't be able to control him if he escapes his domain. Later ones are more vague on whether he has quite that level of power.
    • Gwydion is an Eldritch Abomination that has a power level comparable to many deities, but is locked within a prison of his own making. It's hinted that he too may be beyond the Powers' ability to contain if he escapes.
  • 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.
  • Prematurely Marked Grave: In module I6, an NPC named Ireena Kolyana is accompanying the PCs so they can protect her. Deep in the crypts under Castle Ravenloft she (and they) will discover an empty crypt with her name on it - her intended resting place after Strahd turns her into a vampire.
  • Protagonist Journey to Villain: The Dark Powers find this very entertaining, and are only too eager to facilitate it.
  • The Punishment: Premise of the entire series. The Darklords are given incredible power for their crimes that make people around them suffer. But it's their punishment as well.
    • Lesser monsters can also come off as this. For example, Jacqueline Montarri is cursed to either wear a hideous old crone's head or else perpetually steal heads from other women to try and retain her beauty, or else just go around headless but perfectly functional. Which, considering she had been executed before the Vistani cursed her into this state, is kind of a step up from where she started.
  • Race Lift: In the 5e Soft Reboot of the series.
    • Emphasis is placed on the European-based domains, which traditionally made up most of the Core and whose native populations largely resembled different native European ethnicities, having a wide and diverse array of ethnicities in them. More "foreign" domains, such as the India-based Kalakeri, the Egypt-based Har'Akir and the Chinese-based I'Cath, are implied to still be fairly monolithic in terms of racial appearances.
    • Artwork for Arthur Sedgewick, a nativeborn Mordentish human, an ethnicity established in previous editions as "fair to ruddy skinned" and based on real-world Anglo-Saxons, depicts him as more African-like. That said, Arthur has never been depicted in artwork before 5e, so it's less of a retcon than other examples.
    • The Weathermay-Foxgrove twins, nativeborn Mordentish women explicitly stated in 3e to have "icy blue eyes, creamy complexions, and dark hair" are depicted with distinctly African appearances in their artwork.
    • Isolde is an unusual case. Like the Weathermay-Foxgrove twins, she's gone from a typical Gothic English beauty with pale skin and dark hair to a more African look, but there's also the change to her in-universe race. In AD&D, eladrin like Isolde were elf-like angels who embodied the Chaotic Good alignment; in 5th edition, eladrin are instead fey-blooded elves who can shift between different abilities depending on which season they spiritually align themselves with.
  • 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. Want the party in a specific place? Have the Mists envelop them, and when they emerge, they're somewhere else, even the opposite side of the world in the opposite direction they were traveling in! It's given the setting something of a bad reputation.
  • Rapid Aging:
    • Malocchio Aderre, the feared Dukkar, aged from infancy to near-adulthood in about six months, then began aging normally; however, his emotional development wasn't accelerated, so he acts very much like a child despite his physical maturity. This does not make him any less of a threat, as shown by the many dead Vistani his troops have left in their wake.
    • The Lady of the Lake's daughter Katherine was created with accelerated aging so that she could help enact the Lady's vengeance. Unlike Malocchio, however, Katherine's rapid aging didn't shut off, meaning she went from infancy to old age in a few years. Katherine's son inherited his mother's rapid aging, becoming a hulking brute less than a year after birth.
  • 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 are both characterized by their extremely unstable realities. Vechor isn't so bad, as it generally only warps in an area when its darklord wills it to, but the Nightmare Lands literally operate on dream logic.
  • Redemption Equals Death: In general, once a character has reached advanced corruption levels from powers checks, only a Heroic Sacrifice is enough to redeem them.
  • 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.
  • Reincarnation Romance: This is what Strahd thinks is happening, but it's completely one-sided. The Dark Powers perpetually reincarnate Tatyana, Strahd's obsession, and Strahd is under the impression that this time, he can make her love him. Due to his curse, it never works - she always rejects him and ends up dead, either by his hand or some other method, and the process starts anew. In 5e, there's even a series of tables of potential incarnations and motivations for Tatyana that Dungeon Masters are encouraged to mess around with - whether she's a simple peasant girl, an accomplished vampire hunter, a man, actually multiple people, or even a flesh golem, Strahd will have her.
  • 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.
  • Religious Horror: Several domains use this as a theme.
    • G'henna is a theocratic dictatorship ruled over by a mad prophet who demands that all surplus food be sacrificed to a deity that does not exist, leading to a fanatical populace that is constantly suffering and starving, hoping for a salvation that will never come.
    • The domain of Niranjan is a monastery that preaches nonattachement to the physical world, but is actually just a Cult created by a greedy darklord hoping to steal the possessions of the converts, then brainwash them into becoming fanatic servants bound to his will.
  • The Renfield: Naturally, since the setting has every classic vampire trope, there's plenty of these running around.
  • Replacement Goldfish: 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, saw Van Richten find 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.
  • Roguish Romani: The Vistani, the Fantasy Counterpart Culture of the Romani, had a reputation as thieves, kidnappers and willing agents of evil in earlier editions of the setting. This was changed as of Van Richten's Guide to Ravenloft, as an effort by the writers to not rely on actual harmful stereotypes against a real-life ethnic group. In 5e, Vistani caravans are seen in a more-positive light, as they're often communities' only access to news and goods from outside their own realm. They tend not to be completely trusted, but Vistani aren't given any extra scrutiny or ire compared to everyone else.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Screw Destiny: When Tatyana's latest reincarnation was born in 3e, a Vistana warned her father who she was and that she wouldn't live to be 20. He promptly packed up and got her the hell out of Barovia and she's made it to her thirties so far. Unfortunately, she keeps having to fight an urge to head back there. Also, Strahd has realized she's not in Barovia and is likely to send minions hunting for her soon.
  • 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.
    • The Amber Temple from Curse of Strahd is dedicated to this, with vestiges of evil entities trapped in giant blocks of amber. Their shenanigans still affect the world, but it otherwise seems to have worked remarkably well, with only one having escaped.
  • Secret Police: The Kargat who serve Azalin.
  • Shadow Dictator: The Dark Powers.
  • Sherlock Homage: Alanik Ray, who prior to 5e can be summed up as "What if Sherlock Holmes was an elf?" In 5e, he's... Mostly the same, but with the added twist of using a wheelchair due to paralysis of his legs, and being married to Arthur Sedgwick, Ravenloft's version of John Watson.
  • 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. Calibans are often born as a result of evil deeds committed by one or both parents, such as cannibalism, incest, necrophilia or bestiality.
  • Slow Transformation: Foul acts that progressively turn a character into a Darklord often also cause physical changes.
    • The residents of the Carnival are also subject to Isolde's involuntary Reality Warper powers: the Twisting causes people who stay overlong in the Carnival to mutate, their form changing to reflect their hearts and souls.
  • Small, Secluded World: The entire demiplane.
  • 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". Or, alternatively, torment her by gifting her with supernatural beauty that causes her to kill or repel potential soulmates.
    • Inverted for Dominic d'Honaire, the original darklord of Dementlieu, who is (literally) cursed to appear uglier and uglier to any woman the more strongly he's attracted to her.
  • Soft Reboot: The 5e release of the setting is this rather than a strict continuation of the 2e/3e version of the setting. Some plotlines are continued or remains the same, like Azalin having seemingly escaped from the Mists, resulting in Darkon collapsing in on itself, but most of the featured domains are revamped either slightly or entirely — Dementlieu and Falkovnia stand out as basically having nothing but a name in common with their original depictions. A lot of darklords are also changed, most notably with a lot of Gender Flip.
  • Stages of Monster Grief: Discussed in Van Richten's Guide to the Created, though Van Richten believed that golems rather rapidly move beyond Denial (or rather Dependence [on its creator] followed by Confusion about what it really is) through Defiance (described as Betrayal— in this case betraying its creator and eventual Contempt for its creator) to Betrayal (or rather Hatred, where it takes out its fury at its state of being on everyone and everything around it).
  • 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 Soldier: The ermordenung of Borca have gone through a process that grants them Super Strength and a poison touch, as well as implicitly increasing their beauty and charisma to superhuman levels. In Third Edition, this is explicitly shown to be an overall physical and mental enhancement. They're Honey Trap assassins rather than soldiers, however.
  • 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.
  • Technically Living Zombie: Zombie Lords are the result of a failed resurrection spell cast upon an evil person. They have come back to life, but take on the traits and appearance of the undead, including rotting and decaying alive.
  • 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.
  • Tiger by the Tail: Wyan of Viktal started the Inquisition to combat The Fair Folk and those who conspire with them, but the group has become fanatical over time, and often not really interested in giving the accused due process. Wyan is a good man and not happy about this, but knows he would likely end up burned at the stake if he tries to speak out or leave.
  • Title of the Dead: The novel Dance of the Dead by Christie Golden.
  • Tomato in the Mirror: Darkon's effect on memory isn't a secret, just an unpleasant fact that's impolite to talk about openly. If you're a native Darkonian, you have to live with the lingering anxiety that a short jaunt across the border will reveal that you aren't a native Darkonian. Perhaps some of your most cherished friends and loved ones never existed, and perhaps there was something (or someone) very, very important you've left unattended for years. Darkonians don't like to leave Darkon.
  • Too Broken to Break: In Ravenloft, many beings are forced to live eternally in ironic hells. Lord Soth actually escaped because he was so broken he accepted his punishment and nothing the Dark Powers could do hurt him anymore.
  • Treachery Is a Special Kind of Evil: Count Strahd von Zarovich's infamous Act of Ultimate Darkness was the betrayal and murder of his brother Sergei on his wedding day so that he could have Tatyana, the woman both men loved, for himself.
  • Tsuchigumo and Jorogumo: The Red Widow may have been inspired by the jorogumo; it's a female Giant Spider (appearing like a color-inverted black widow) that can assume the form of a human woman, which seduces men to drink their blood and use them to fertilize and then incubate her eggs — a trait that the Pathfinder jorogumo would go on to use decades later.
  • Turned Against Their Masters:
    • Beings summoned into Ravenloft can't go back to where they came from or their normal lives. Depending on what they are or why they were summoned, they may have a problem with this.
    • Summoning Elementals has a 20% chance of summoning one of the special Ravenloft ones (Blood, Grave, Mist and Pyre) by accident. Ravenoft elementals show up free-willed and angry if summoned by accident. If a Ravenloft one is summoned on purpose, the summoner has to roll a powers check for making Ravenloft just a little worse. Whatever the case, losing control of any kind of elemental (Ravenloft or otherwise) will inevitably result in them trying to kill their summoner.
    • Golems and Figurines burn with a hatred for living creatures and have a chance at slipping the control of their creator/master. Figurines, being more clever than golems, might not let on that they've become free-willed until their master is most vulnerable.
  • 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.
  • Unusable Enemy Equipment: Averted with Archer Skeletons. If you can kill one without destroying its bow you can take it for yourself, if you don't mind the string being made of human sinew. On the upside, after the Powers Checks you'll have to make every time your bone arrows miss and create a new berserker skeleton, you'll probably stop caring pretty quickly.
  • Unwanted Assistance:
    • In 3.0 and above, a paladin summoning their magic warhorse or a spell-caster calling for a familiar gets a dread companion, which is exactly the same except its alignment is always evil. Rather than being opposed to its master, it is loyal to a fault and aware of its master's secret thoughts and desires, and will try to "help" him by, for instance, stealing an item he covets, or secretly murdering someone who annoyed him a bit.
    • Meet the Resplendent Cloaker, a creature which resembles a cloak. When a potential host comes near it blinds them with color spray and forcibly attaches itself to their neck. That's bad. But it feeds by rapidly healing its host's wounds. That's good! It also constantly gives off a dazzling glow which attracts all sorts of attention. In Ravenloft. That's bad. Also, if it's ever injured or covered up it drains the host's life to heal itself and trying to take it off might kill the host. That's really bad. But, as the kids say, it is pretty blingtasmicacious.
  • 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.
  • Vampire Refugee: Quite a few in various modules and stories. Vampirism in Ravenloft is explicitly completely incurable, so theirs is always a hopeless cause.
  • 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 wannabes by convincing him they are real vampires, and explicitly says he will unless the PCs stop him.
  • 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 Kharkov, 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.
  • Wandering Culture: The Vistani are heavily inspired by the real life Romani. They mostly make a living travelling between the domains of dread, trading in jewelry and rare goods, or doing small jobs for locals. While they were considered suspicious-to-outright villainous in earlier editions, 5e rewrote them as being seen with some suspicion, but also a welcome change of pace in the otherwise monotone lives of Ravenloft's denizens. Until Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition, they were also afflicted by a curse that made them unable to stay in one place for long.
  • Where the Hell Is Springfield?: While Strahd and Barovia appear to have been pulled out of another D&D realm into the Land of Mists, the backstory is written to be vague on which setting he came from, allowing him to be reasonably inserted into the history of most of them. The same is true for most Dark Lords.
  • Whodunnit to Me?: Ratik Ubel, a revenant who seeks to identify and take vengeance on his own murderer.
  • Wicked Toymaker: Toymaker Guiseppe is not actually evil, but went insane after his Pinocchio Expy turned into a serial killer. He still makes toys, but they should most definitely be kept out of reach of children (and anyone else you don't want to die or be horribly cursed.)
  • 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.
  • 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 awesome for violating the explicit rules of three different settings? Your call.
  • 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 an irredeemable 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.
  • World's Most Beautiful Woman: Tatyana to Strahd, to the point that he wants nobody else, despite attempts at trying to find a substitute.
  • Writing Around Trademarks: White Wolf received the rights to publish the third edition version of Ravenloft, but not any other properties, so that edition strictly avoids naming the worlds the darklords come from when describing their histories. Lord Soth also became "the Black Knight" with the excuse that everyone fears to speak his name. On the whole, this isn't regarded as a bad thing, since it increases the sense that Ravenloft is completely cut off from the rest of the multiverse.
  • 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. Some class abilities may also be altered. For instance, in most D&D settings, Paladins are immune to fear. In Ravenloft, they are immune to supernatural fear effects, not the ordinary Fear and Horror checks. Partly because supernatural fear is magically affecting one's mind while mundane fear is the natural psychological response to something dangerous, and partly because (as the Player Handbook cheekily notes) playing a character immune to fear in a horror game is rather missing the point.
  • 0% Approval Rating: Almost all Darklords that openly rule their domains are hated and feared by their populace. The few that are liked/respected (such as Bluebeard) generally have blanket Charm Person powers over their citizens.
    • Amusingly subverted with Jack Karn, darklord of Farelle. His people love him, and shower him with adoration and praise. He, however, hates humans more than anything, but can't do anything against them without suffering.
  • 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.

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