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Domain of Dread: Graefmotte, The Font of Shadows

From Dragon Magazine #375

Author: Robert J. Schwalb

Illustrators: William O'Connor
Type: Article
Format: .pdf
Release date: 2009

Summary of content:

Article detailing the Shadowfell Domain of Graefmotte, and its darklord, Lord Durven Graef, a shadow-infused human.

Reviews:

brothersale

Now unlike Sunderheart, the history of Graefmotte seems more thought-out and less forced, however danger signs appear at the final stage when Lord Durven Graef becomes the darklord. Put simply he just doesnít seem to deserve it. I mean yes, he is a traitor, but one through inaction and refusing the call to arms, and yes he does kill his son, but he does it by a single moment of blind rage in a accident. Iíve seen fan domains get shot to pieces for similar attempts. It just doesnít hold water, especially when he shows genuine remorse and literally tries to kill himself in combat the next night, it just seems wrong.

The next section after the history and the darklord, relates to the fate of Lord Graefís son: the Ghost of Graefmotte, which seems to have a bit of a flaw in it, in that every one knows who he is and that his father murdered him. I mean its hardly something Lord Graef would advertise, especially after he hid the deed from his people.

Next is the monsters that inhabit the land, which include undead Gnolls, cannibals and the undead fragments of an innocent soul. These I will get to later, instead pressing on to the domain itself. Now the domain itself lacks a map so it means that we only have the description to go off of and the picture at the beginning. So we are told that it is a pine wood valley locked on at least three sides by a mountain range called the Gloomcrag. (A horrible name for a mountain range, in any sensible culture. I mean, why not just call it something benign instead and surprise people with its dangers instead?) The forest itself is described as something dark and oppressive with lots of little hints as what to show PC, e.g. bone piles and bones dangling from tree etc.

The description of the actual town is nicely done, but a few flaws spoil it, such as the arbitrary decision that Lord Graef is suddenly a despot. Nowhere before this is it indicated, but suddenly he is. Why? I can only conclude because he is the darklord. Other flaws are the somewhat impractical idea that the villagers would not hunt more in the forest, farm, or have vegetable gardens and some live stock that they breed from. Even Paridon with more people, has managed to survive in such a fashion for longer than this single village without resorting to cannibalism, so the build up of starving people, cannibals and ghouls is really silly and does not real fit with the darklord. I mean, I would more expect extreme violent outbursts or acts of indifference in the face of trouble from the population to match the sins of the darklord rather than starvation and cannibalism.

Rating: 2 Blood Drops out of 5

Overall a slight improvement on the Sunderheart, but several flaws really let it down, and mean that it needs work before using it:

  • First, lose the starvation theme, it doesnít fit.
  • Second, make the Gnolls just plain Gnolls rather than undead. There is simply no need for them to be undead, just survivors of the attack instead. Also lose the Griefmotes they are a good idea but there is no reason for them to be linked to this domain at all based on their description.
  • Third, the Darklord needs a little rework to truly justify his damnation, perhaps making him more authoritarian and over-protective of his youngest son, much like Azalin to Irik. And his murder of his son needs to be more hidden rather than the entire village knowing. Perhaps it would be better if they think he is locked in the room still on orders of Lord Graef or escaped and was killed in the forest. Anything but that he was killed by Lord Graef. I mean Lord Graef was alone during the act of murder and the room sealed after the event. The first any of them would know would be after the domain was formed and his sonís body at that point was gone from the room, taken by the Mists, so they would have no reason to think murder.
 

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