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Domains of Dread: Sunderheart, The Funeral City

From Dragon Magazine #368

Author: Matthew Sernett

Illustrators: Rob Alexander, Jaime Carrillo, and Adam Gillespie
Type: Article
Format: .pdf
Release date: 2008

Summary of content:

Article detailing the Shadowfell Domain of Sunderheart, and its conjoined darklords, Lady Ivania Dreygu and The Ghoul.



Let me begin by saying I donít play the 4th edition of D&D, so I am not going to comment on any of the nuts and bolts, merely the fluff of the domain, and compare it accordingly to the existing domains.

Well the first down point is found in the very second paragraph, which states that the PCís primary goal to escape. Gone are the last two versions' attempt to make Ravenloft into a true campaign setting, instead it has been made once more into a weekend in hell. Also upon checking other sources the domain ties directly into new 4e background of the creation of the Tiefling Race. For those, who have not really followed 4e, Tieflings are now descendents of nobles of the empire of Bael Turath who through deals with devils instantly became Tieflings, rather than the previous versions where they were descendents of humans with a touch of fiend in their ancestry, so it comes off as an attempt to shoe-horn new information at people with out really telling people where it comes from. But I digress and move on with the review.

So we start with the history of the domain, which comes off as a very weak version of Romeo and Juliet, but without the overall depth. The darklords as described are unrepentantly evil from the get go and have no real tragic feel to them, and the land that they originate from (the empire of Bael Turath) is much the same. Compounding this ham handed ďevery thing is evilĒ feel is a very weak demon deal thread, with no explanation as to why the Emperor would turn to two social dilatants instead of a mage for help summoning a devil for his deal and why they would need a deal to extend their lives since that was part of the original deal that the nobles of the empire of Bael Turath made to become Tieflings. In addition from what I read that deal took their souls, so they have nothing to offer in the first place for a further deal so why bother.

It then describes the non-Shadowfell realm and then the Shadowfell realm, both of which come off as very high fantasy, which donít fit well with the low fantasy settings of the rest of Ravenloft. Tieflings seem to run rampant over the domain and they are all deformed versions of the race, but there does seem to be too many for just the noble caste. Coupled with the undead that exist in numbers that rival Necropolis, and rather openly exist in one half of the city, it just seems implausible.

Finally we get to the bizarre darklords which are fused to each other, now Ivania is described as waking up in the domain with Vorno fused to her back, and spends a good few moments before realising he is there. I donít know about you but if I woke up with a full grown person attached to my back acting as a dead weight I would not need to run to a mirrored room to find out. And the overall description of the dark lords is lacking, they really have the depth of detail that I would expect to find in any setting other than Ravenloft.

Rating: 1 Blood Drop out of 5

Overall, the domain is weak and ill thought out. To use it in a game I would recommend a complete overhaul:

  • First, replace the Tieflings with Calibans or humans.
  • Second, reduce the undead to a more vague threat, i.e. generally believed to be in the Tomb City by the population and some are but nowhere near numbers indicated in the article and they rarely leave it at night despite the popular belief.
  • Third, have the fusing of the darklord be a bit less obvious perhaps a vestigial face on the back of which ever one is awake at the time, ripping forth when they wake and forcing the other into them in a dormant state.
  • Fourth, establish a domain border closure for the lords, or given their dual nature an inability to close the border.

And these are just off the top of my head.


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