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Secrets of the Dread Realms

Author's Notes

The Dark Duo

DarkDuo posted the following information in Dec 2004:

One clarification I'd like to make. Nicky and I are NOT in-house employees of Arthaus or White Wolf. We are freelance developers who get paid by the job. We do not get salaries or benefits from White Wolf, but do this on a "for hire" basis.

Because we are freelancers, we also have day jobs to pay the bills (or try to pay the bills). I work in a library; Nicky works in a movie theatre. Other line developers and freelance writers are teachers, tax preparation specialists, call center employees etc. Our primary responsibility as freelance developers consists of coming up with a list of proposed titles for the year (pending approval by higher ups at Arthaus), preparing an outline for the book for manager review, assembling authors & supplying information for contracting those authors, sending outlines to the authors and letting them know what the deadlines are, overseeing their progress & granting extensions as necessary, putting together a final draft for editing, finding an editor, sending the manuscript to the editor for copy editing and sometimes rules checking, sending the edited manuscript to the art developer for layout and sending artnotes for the chapters to the art editor (who chooses artists), and finally reviewing the proofs in .pdf.

All this is done on a very tight schedule. If someone drops the ball, we either have to find another author to pick it up, or write the material ourselves. And we do this after we get home from a full day's work!

Then, when we have some spare time, we try to visit the forum and listen to your complaints -- which is why we're often online during the wee hours of the morning (for us) when any sane individual would be getting some sleep to power up for the next day's work.

Those who have questions about web enhancements for Ravenloft, the number of titles produced, the type of titles produced, Ravenloft fiction, Ravenloft adventures or other policy decisions should write a landmail letter to:

Arthaus/Sword & Sorcery
1554 Litton Drive
Stone Mountain, GA 30083

Questions regarding rules, content, etc. should go to us either on this form (we get notified by email) or at the following email address: JHavana@aol.com. We'll answer you as best we can as quickly as we can.

Complaints can go to us as well or to Arthaus.

So, hope this helps clear up who to contact about what.

Take care,


Andrew Cermak

I did the text, but not the stat conversions, for: Gabrielle Aderre, Anhktepot, Ivana Boritsi, Dominic d'Honaire, Ivan Dilisnya, Vlad Drakov, Hazlik, Harkon Lukas, Jacqueline Renier, Alfred Timothy, and Strahd.

I also wrote the infamously missing DM material for the book, which was cut and ended up in the RL DMG instead.

Well, SDR came quick on the heels of the RCS, so we were preparing for it before we got contracts or word counts. We were told that it would be a Dungeon Master's book. From our D&D roots, we naturally associated "Dungeon Master's Book" with something of substance, not realizing until too late that what they had in mind was more of a "Book of Storyteller Secrets," a la the WoD line. Cutting back our material once we got the actual word counts was painful. Then what we submitted got cut even further. It was pretty disappointing compared to what we had envisioned, but there wasn't much to be done about it.

The characters I wrote that got cut for space were Anhktepot Malocchio, Tristen ApBlanc, Arijani, Diamabel, Elena Faith-hold, and Yagno Petrovna. And that just accounts for my half.

(Note, when I speak of "my half," I'm just referring to text write-ups. Andrew Wyatt did the stat conversions for nearly every lord, John and I handled the text write-ups and a couple odd stat conversions apiece.)As you can see, we had much bigger hopes for SDR than reality could provide.

John W. Mangrum

As AC said, the Andrews and I split up the darklords. While Wyatt constructed the game mechanics, Cermak and I divided the text entries between us, perhaps adding a few stats here and there. We used the old schoolyard system of kids naming teammates to make our selections; I don't remember who got "chosen last" by each of us (Andrew Cermak: Easan was your last pick. I got stuck with Maligno). I also wrote up a bunch of spells, magic items, and PC rules, all of which has now appeared elsewhere. Did "shadow developer" duty again.

Nearly all of what we wrote for Secrets of the Dread Realms has already been recycled. (The Kargatane never throw anything away.) Spells and items written for that book are scattered through Van Richten's Arsenal, the Gazetteers, the RL DMG, and the RL PHB. This is partly because including those items in those books was simply appropriate, and partly because we had to use those books to play catch-up with the lost information. With the exception of the remaining "lost" Island of Terror and Cluster darklord entries, I believe that the Ravenloft Player's Handbook marks the appearance of the last stragglers of that cut material.

Part of the reason SotDR ended up so overwritten is that our developer at the time initially gave us a page count that, due to a technicality we didn't grok, sounded longer to us than it really was; we didn't get more definite numbers until much later in the process. While not a major reason overall, that disconnect between we (relatively inexperienced) authors and our developer was what set our expectations down the wrong track.

Our space in the Ravenloft Campaign Setting was exceptionally tight; the reason all the specific spell entries in Chapter Three refer back to the General Guidelines whenever possible rather than spelling out alterations individually was done late in the process, simply to carve out about six pages of text better used elsewhere). Those space considerations meant we'd had to make tough choices about what to include in the RCS. We designed the RCS under the naive assumption -- entirely our failing -- that, since the info being shifted to SotDR was so vital, even if the word count came in long Arthaus would bump up the page count rather than just leave the data stranded.

(Darklords were the only element we were specifically instructed to save for SotDR, for posterity. Right up to our last book, we were also still following our first developer's order not to use the word "demiplane.")

Then, of course, as AC said, we started hitting inflexible numbers and realized that our plans weren't going to happen. The Ravenloft Dungeon Master's Guide is reasonably close to what we were pushing Arthaus to make SotDR into at the time, so most concepts intended for that book have since reached print. (Of course, the DMG isn't just a SotDR clone; it has a lot of original material never intended for SotDR.)

At any rate, this is the root cause of why the upcoming SotDR that Arthaus publicized ended up so different from the SotDR that actually appeared on shelves. I have no idea what happened to the poster map that was briefly (and unofficially) promised. I suspect that Arthaus simply had no idea of the extent of the info they'd instructed us to hold for SotDR; in the era of 3E, when just a darklord's statblock and portrait eat up at least half a page, I truly believe that our developer's expectations of what SotDR could include were as misguided as our expectations of what it would include.

Our main SotDR plans -- make that pipe dreams, honestly -- that still remain orphaned, however, were our intentions to include full NPC entries for the darklords of every domain included in the RCS, simple rules for adventuring in nightmares, and a chapter reintroducing a slightly reinvisioned take on pocket domains, including several examples and their darklords (including the Nightmare Lands). That's why there's absolutely no mention of things like pocket domains or the Nightmare Lands in the RCS. We wrote the RCS knowing we wouldn't have space to do them justice and expecting to be able to cover them fully in the next book.

Most of this had to be abandoned so early on that they never progressed past the notebook-jotting stage. We did write up many, many more darklords than appear in SotDR, however. You can tell which ones were written but not included because the sidebar at the beginning of SotDR offering one-liner descriptions of all the darklords only list names for darklords we'd hoped to include.

On Azrael

For the record, the reasons Azrael was in SotDR, as opposed to Inza, were threefold:

  1. Right from the outset, we knew that at best we only had room for one or the other.
  2. 2E stats existed for both Inza and Azrael, but we wanted to modify Inza quite a bit to reflect her new state as a darklord, and collaborating with Jim Lowder to determine the specifics of those changes would have taken more time than we really had. Azrael, on the other hand, was really just grown a few years older since the events of SotBR.
  3. At the time, Inza was gathering power deep in the earth, as the domain subtly adapted to its new lord above her. She was very behind-the-scenes. Azrael, meanwhile, was and is an extremely active (ever hyperactive) villain. Of the two villains, folk in Sithicus were much more likely to encounter Azrael, so he was deemed higher priority.

And no, Azrael was never intended to be the darklord[1]. That he was labeled as such next to his name was an error that slipped in sometime after the book left our hands.

[1] At least, not officially. Way back when TSR made the decision to send Soth back to Dragonlance, Stu and I submitted an adventure proposal that I believe did end with Azrael as our first pick for darklord. That proposal was unused, obviously, but many of its ideas -- such as casting Azrael as Iago to Soth's Othello -- ended up being quite compatible with SotBR.


John W. Mangrum

We wrote Elana Faith-Hold for Secrets of the Dread Realms, but she never saw print. Here's her unedited 3.0 stat block:

Elena Faith-hold, Darklord of Nidala
Female human ex-Pal3/Blk8: CR: 11+; Medium-size humanoid (human); HD 11d10; hp 90; Init +2; Spd 20 ft.; AC 23 (touch 11, flat-footed 22); Atk +16/+11/+7 melee (1d10+7 [one-handed] or 1d10+9 [two-handed]/crit 17-20 plus 2d6 unholy damage, +2 unholy bastard sword) or +13/+8/+3 ranged touch (by spell); SA aura of despair, command undead, poison use, smite evil, sneak attack +2d6, unholy bastard sword; SQ detect evil, dark blessing, fiendish servant; SR 14; AL LE; SV Fort +13, Ref +7, Will +7; Str 20, Dex 15, Con 15, Int 11, Wis 14, Cha 18 Height 5 ft. 11 in.

Skills and Feats: Concentration +4, Diplomacy +10, Heal +4, Intimidate +12, Knowledge (religion) +4, Ride +8; Exotic Weapon Proficiency (bastard sword), Improved Critical (bastard sword), Mounted Combat, Ride-by Attack, Trample.

Languages: Nidalan*

Blackguard Spells per Day: 2/1/1/1. Base DC = 12 + spell level. Caster level 8th.

Signature Possessions: +2 unholy bastard sword (“Caitlin”), +2 full plate of moderate fortification, masterwork large metal shield, candle of truth, gold holy symbol of Belenus.

Fiendish Heavy War Horse: CR 3; Large magical beast; HD 6d8+18; 48 hp; Init +1 (Dex); Spd 50 ft.; AC 22 (–1 size, +1 Dex, +5 natural, +7 armor); Atk +10/+10/+5 melee (1d6+4 [x2], hooves; 1d4+2 bite]; Face/Reach 5 ft. by 10 ft./5 ft. [10 ft. with horn]; SA smite good; SQ darkvision 60 ft., cold and fire resistance 10, damage reduction 5/+1, empathic link, improved evasion, scent, share saving throws, share spells; SR 12; AL LE; SV Fort +13, Ref +7, Will +7; Str 19, Dex 13, Con 17, Int 6, Wis 13, Cha 6.

Skills and Feats: Listen +8, Spot +8.

Possessions: Masterwork half-plate barding, military saddle.

Combat: Elena is a born warrior. She is never so happy as she is when fighting what she believes to be a righteous battle. She will not withdraw unless clearly overmatched, and even then retreat will be temporary. She prefers to fight while mounted on her fiendish steed, riding in the midst of her foes swinging her bastard sword.

Aura of Despair (Su): Elena radiates a malign aura that causes enemies within 10 ft. of her to suffer a –2 morale penalty on all saving throws. Many Nidalans claim that when their Holy Protector is provoked by evil, she responds with a palpable fury; even the most wicked of beasts tremble before her righteous wrath.

Command Undead (Su): Elena can command or rebuke undead as a 6th-level evil cleric.

Convert (Sp): At will, Elena can attempt to convert a foe to her side. The target must succeed at a DC 19 Will save or “see the light,” repenting her wicked ways and gladly joining Elena’s ranks. This effect acts as a powerful form of charm monster, except that she can only convert humanoids, and those who are converted will gladly die for her. If a target succeeds at her Will save, Elena cannot attempt to convert that creature again for 24 hours.

Smite Evil (Su): Twice per day, Elena may attempt to smite “evil” with one normal melee attack. She adds +4 to her attack roll and deals 8 extra points of damage. This power functions against any creature Elena has previously detected as “evil” (see below). If Elena attempts to smite a creature she has not detected as evil, the smite has no effect but is still used up for the day.

Detect Evil (Sp): Elena believes that she can still detect evil, as per the spell. Furthermore, she believes that the inability of other spellcasters in Ravenloft to detect evil is a sure sign of their spiritual impurity. In truth, this ability performs just as the detect evil spell — except that instead of evil, Elena actually detects any strong emotions that the target creatures may feel toward her. Sadly, this ability does not distinguish between emotions. Elena interprets both the burning hatred of her foes and the boundless love of a suitor as purest evil, and lashes out at each.

Detect Life (Sp): By concentrating for a full round, Elena can detect the thoughts of any humanoid within 60 ft. Elena cannot read the creature’s thoughts, but she can hone in on them to root out creatures that may be hiding. Targets within range can make a DC 19 Will save to escape detection. Magic effects that shield thoughts also prevent discovery. Intriguingly, this power cannot detect infants or the insane.

Poison Use: Unlike the blackguards of the Dungeon Master’s Guide, Elena still believes herself to be a paladin. She has not trained herself in the use of poison, and thus lacks this ability.

Lay on Hands (Sp): Once per day, Elena can cure herself or her fiendish mount of 12 points of damage

Here are, again, almost entirely entirely unedited 3.0 stats. I'm going to include the fluff text since Ebonbane's details have changed considerably since the last time he saw print.

As a point of trivia, were I to write up Ebonbane today, I would make it a powerful loumara (Fiendish Codex I); a lord of their kind.

Ebonbane, Darklord of Shadowborn Manor
Unique Outsider: CR 17; Large outsider (chaotic, evil, incorporeal); HD 11d8+55; hp 110; Init +4; Spd. Fly 20 ft. (perfect); AC 16 (touch 14, flat-footed 12); Atk +11/+6/+1 touch (1d8 + energy drain, slam); SA blade dominion, create spawn, energy drain, frightful presence, malevolence, reality dominion, spell-like abilities; SQ darkvision 120 ft., the four keys, immunities, incorporeal, telepathy; Face/Reach 5 ft.; AL CE; SV Fort +12, Ref +11, Will +12; Str —, Dex 18 (+4), Con 21 (+5), Int 23 (+6), Wis 17 (+3), Cha 15 (+2). Height 10 ft. 7 in.

Skills and Feats: Bluff +12, Diplomacy +12, Knowledge (arcana) +20, Knowledge (the planes) +20, Knowledge (the Shadowborns) +22, Intimidate +16, Spellcraft +18; Iron Will, Skill Focus (the Shadowborns).

Languages: Ebonbane can communicate telepathically with any creature within 100 feet that has a language.

Ebonbane’s Sword: CR 12; Small construct; HD 1d10; hp 10; Init +4; Spd. Fly 30 ft. (perfect); AC 17 (touch 15, flat-footed 13); Atk +11/+6/+1 touch (1d8 + 1d6 fire/x2 + vorpal, flaming vorpal blade); SA energy drain, flaming, symbols, vorpal; SQ hardness 20, the four keys; AL CE; SV Fort +7, Ref +7, Will +7; Str 10, Dex 18 (+4), Con —, Int —, Wis —, Cha —.

In its true form, Ebonbane appears only as the silhouette of a massive, spiky creature equally comfortable on two legs or four. This living shadow would appear entirely two-dimensional if not for the fiend’s eyes, which burn a fiery crimson. With luck, however, no one will ever see Ebonbane’s true form again.

Ebonbane was sealed in a powerfully enchanted sword when it first entered Ravenloft. Indeed, some scholars identified Ebonbane as an intelligent artifact, unaware of the true source of its evil. Although Ebonbane was later freed from the sword, it can still animate its former prison, and uses the sword as its proxy when dealing with intruders. Ebonbane’s sword has a long, slender blade forged from a strange black metal that was conjured from another dimension. The blade is set with numerous runes, each crackling with an unholy black aura. The sword’s hilt is cast in pristine silver, taking the form of a howling figure dressed in a monk’s cassock.

Ebonbane is now trapped within the body of Alexi Shadowborn. The body lies in stasis inside a rectangular casket carved from a single, seamless piece of crystal. The casket is ornately carved with designs that pulse with mystical power.

Background: Ebonbane is a unique force for evil, less than a god but more than a fiend. It is likely that it was a ruler in whatever abyss spawned it. The fiend’s true name is Lussimar, but Ebonbane zealously guards this information. After untold eons in the lower planes, Lussimar turned its attention toward corrupting the mortal realm. As a shadowy, incorporeal fiend, Lussimar could not remain on the Material Plane without a physical body. Lussimar entered a material world in a land called the Southern Empire, and as a host took the body of its just and noble ruler, the Grand Caliph Muhdar ab Sang. Having dominated ab Sang, Lussimar turned the ancient empire to evil and demon-worship. It took control of the Grand Caliph’s elite cadre of servants, the Ahltrian, and turned them into an army of assassins. With the Southern Empire befouled, Lussimar turned its dire attention toward its northern neighbor, the matriarchal Great Kingdom.

The Great Kingdom was protected by the Knights of the Circle, an order of paladins representing each of the kingdom’s thirteen provinces. These holy warriors led the Great Kingdom’s armies against the invading Ahltrian in a bloody conflict known as the Heretical Wars. After one early victory, Lussimar captured a Knight of the Circle, a young paladin named Kateri Shadowborn, defender of the Province of Avonleigh. Lussimar subjected the woman to unspeakable and sadistic torments, but shockingly, it found it could not break her will. Even worse, during her internment Lady Kateri learned of Lussimar’s true nature. After Lady Kateri led a daring escape from the Ahltrian’s clutches, she dedicated herself to ridding her world of Lussimar’s evil.

Lady Kateri’s forces gradually drove back the Ahltrian, breaking their defenses. With each defeat Lussimar suffered, its obsession with the young paladin grew. After four years of war, Lady Kateri faced the Grand Caliph himself and expelled Lussimar from her world. Muhdar ab Sang was restored to his true self, but he could not bear the weight of the atrocities committed through him and soon took his own life. Both the Great Kingdom and the Southern Empire started to rebuild, and Lady Kateri put down her sword.

A year later, the last three remaining Ahltrian met in secret to summon Lussimar back into their world so that it could seek its vengeance. They created a magic blade — the Ebonbane — to house the fiend’s abyssal spirit, and it is that name which the fiend now uses. Once Ebonbane’s monstrous spirit was sealed in the blade, its first act was to suck the very life-force from its servants. Then, wielded by a dominated monk close to Kateri, Ebonbane sought out its nemesis at her home.

Kateri greeted her friend at the door, but immediately sensed the truth. Kateri and the dominated monk fought a long and exhausting duel, but eventually Ebonbane shattered the blade of Kateri’s holy avenger. Ebonbane struck down the paladin, and as it gloated over its ultimate victory, it failed to notice as the Mists of Ravenloft rose to sweep Shadowborn Manor away from the world.

Current Sketch: Ebonbane is blinded by hatred for Lady Kateri Shadowborn and has dedicated itself to destroying all that she ever held dear. Lady Kateri’s weary ghost still haunts Shadowborn Manor, and Ebonbane’s inability to destroy her utterly drives it to distraction. For all its power, Ebonbane has a weak grasp of the forces trapping it in Shadowborn Manor, and believes that Kateri’s spirit is somehow responsible for its imprisonment. Each time Ebonbane ruins something dear to Lady Kateri, her spirit grows that much weaker, and Ebonbane believes that if he can just destroy her, he will be freed to return to the Great Kingdom and destroy it utterly.

For 25 years Ebonbane existed as an enchanted sword. Then, in the year 626 BC, a young knight named Alexi Shadowborn, the son of Lady Kateri, entered the Phantasmal Forest to avenge his mother. Ebonbane immediately recognized its own essence in the man — it had sired the child during one of the many torments it had inflicted on the paladin during her captivity.

Alexi sought out Ebonbane and battled it just as it had battled his mother. Alexi shattered the sword, freeing the fiend’s spirit — but then Alexi immediately drew the incorporeal fiend into his own body. Ebonbane had traded a prison of metal for a prison of flesh.

Alexi Shadowborn remained in Shadowborn Manor for the rest of his life, founding a society of knights modeled after the Circle of his homeland. The Knights of the Shadows exist to this day, defending the weak and ensuring that Ebonbane is never freed.

After five decades of leadership, Alexi’s strength was waning. He knew that on the moment of his death, Ebonbane would escape its prison. Alexi sent his knights to bargain with Morgoroth, the darklord of Avonleigh. Morgoroth’s downfall had stemmed from his love for Aurora Shadowborn, Alexi’s cousin, and the knights convinced the mage that were Ebonbane freed, Aurora would become its first victim. To protect her, Morgoroth created a crystal sarcophagus that would keep Alexi in ageless sleep forever. The crystal prison is powered by four magic keys (see below) that must be renewed each year. The Knights of the Shadows return each year to keep Ebonbane contained. Casualties are common, but the knights have not yet failed in their mission.

Combat: While Ebonbane remains trapped in the crystal prison, its attacks are limited to blade dominion, create spawn and reality dominion. It has reconstructed the sword that once held it, and now animates the sword as its most lethal weapon. The Ebonbane sword is a +1 flaming vorpal longsword with the energy drain and symbols special attacks. Ebonbane ruthlessly hunts down any intruders in its realm, offering up each slaughtered victim as another torment to parade before Lady Kateri’s spirit. Ebonbane is wholly evil and delights in inflicting pain and torment.

If freed from its crystal prison, Ebonbane is free to travel wherever it wishes. Its first task will be to destroy the fools who freed it. That done, it will travel to the domain of Avonleigh to slaughter Aurora Shadowborn, then rampage through Nidala, and lastly it will return to the Great Kingdom to plunge it into darkness.

Saving throws against Ebonbane’s supernatural abilities are DC 20. Unless freed from the crystal prison, Ebonbane’s attacks are limited to blade dominion (including control of the Ebonbane sword), create spawn, and reality dominion.

Blade Dominion (Su): Ebonbane can animate any sword or dagger within its domain, as if casting animate objects, even if the blade is carried or worn by another creature. Ebonbane can animate and control every such blade in its domain at once. Such daggers and swords fly through the air and attack as animated objects (see the Monster Manual).

Create Spawn (Su): Any humanoid slain in Ebonbane’s domain or the Phantasmal Forest and left in contact with the ground sinks into the earth after 1d4 minutes. 1d4 days later, the corpse reemerges in the muck surrounding Forenoon Abbey (see sidebar) as a ghoul. The ghoul retains the Intelligence score it had in life, but does not retain any other abilities. These ghouls, which Nidalans call the Ahltrian, remain enslaved to Ebonbane until their destruction.

Energy Drain (Su): Living creatures hit by Ebonbane’s slam attack receive one negative level. A living creature that grips the hilt of Ebonbane’s sword suffers one negative level per round. The Fortitude save to remove a negative level is DC 20.

Malevolence (Su): Ebonbane can possess the body of a living creature, as the ghost ability (see Monster Manual).

Reality Dominion (Su): Ebonbane has a chilling degree of control over its tiny domain. It can summon lightning storms from clear skies, spin the sun and moon through their cycles, or even destroy and restore the entire manor. None of Ebonbane’s powers can affect its crystal prison, however.

Spell-like Abilities: At will — burning hands, chill touch, shocking grasp. 3/day — blindness/deafness, darkness, spectral hand, shatter. 1/day — deeper darkness, enervation, flame strike, slow, solid fog, vampiric touch. These abilities are as the spells cast by an 11th-level sorcerer (save DC 15 + spell level).

Symbols (Sp): The blade of Ebonbane’s sword is engraved with numerous, palpably evil symbols. Ebonbane can use these to evoke any version of the symbol spell at will, as cast by an 11th-level sorcerer (save DC 23).

The Four Keys (Su): Ebonbane’s crystal prison is sealed by four “keys,” each a magical representation of one of the four elements binding the abyssal spirit to the material realm. These keys take esoteric forms, though each can be found somewhere within the domain. Ebonbane’s power continually seeps out of this prison, but for four days after the keys are renewed, Ebonbane is so weakened that it cannot use any of its abilities or close the borders of its domain. This is often the only way to escape Shadowborn Manor.

Immunities (Ex): Immune to all mind-affecting spells and effects.

Incorporeal: Can only be harmed by other incorporeal creatures, magic weapons, or magic, with a 50% chance to ignore any damage from a corporeal source. Can pass through solid objects at will, and own attacks pass through armor. Always moves silently. Due to Ebonbane’s unusual fiendish nature, if Ebonbane is freed from its material host it can pass through closed domain borders or even escape Ravenloft entirely.

Telepathy (Su): Ebonbane can communicate telepathically with any creature in line of sight that has a language. It can communicate with its ghouls so long as they are anywhere within Shadowborn Manor or the Phantasmal Forest. Targets of Ebonbane’s telepathy do not need to make Madness saves.

And here's the sidebar referenced above:

The Phantasmal Forest
Although Nidalans believe that the Phantasmal Forest is part of Avonleigh, this is not the case. It is a manifestation of Ebonbane’s formless evil, as it continually seeps through the borders of the fiend’s domain into the Mists of Ravenloft. When Ebonbane or its minions corrupt a location or creature dear to Kateri Shadowborn, that subject is drawn into the Forest and added to the fiend’s nightmarish collection. It is said that intrepid travelers could once use the Phantasmal Forest to journey into the outlander world that Kateri called home, but these Mistways seem to have closed when Ebonbane ran out of targets to destroy. Ebonbane has very limited influence over the Phantasmal Forest: it is dimly aware of the location of travelers, and it can communicate telepathically with any of its minions.

Numerous tiny “pocket domains” float in the ever-shifting Phantasmal Forest, like bubbles on an oily pool. Each of these locales, none larger than a few hundred feet across, is home to a creature that Ebonbane has thoroughly corrupted. Like darklords, these creatures cannot leave their “pocket domains,” but they cannot close their borders. Ebonbane cannot see into Avonleigh or Nidala, nor does he have any direct power over those domains; these two darklords corrupted themselves. A few of the known locales include:

Forenoon Abbey: Once the sacred home of pious scholars, this monastery is now home to Ebonbane’s ghoulish Ahltrian. The abbey is overseen by its former abbot, his name long lost, who now exists as a powerful ghoul.

Addar’s Glade: This break in the trees is home to the haughty unicorn Addar, corrupted by a nightmare serving Ebonbane. Their twisted offspring have now spread into the world. Addar was once a steed for a paladin in the Circle, but accounts differ on exactly whom he served. Addar’s glade travels with him. He can lead travelers to any location in the Forest, but only if they appease his immense vanity.

The Dolmens: The god Belenus is said to have created this circle of stones as a respite for his faithful. The area within the circle is under the effect of a permanent consecrate spell. Ebonbane is utterly blind here, and the sun always shines brightly.

Anton Misroi, Darklord of Souragne
Male Zombie Lord Ari2/Sor6: CR 20; Medium-size humanoid (human); HD 6d12+2d8+6d4+32; hp 86; Init +4; Spd 30 ft.; AC 18 (touch 14, flat-footed 14); Atk +13/+8 melee (1d6+2, masterwork rapier) or +10/+10 melee (2d4+2, slam) SA Aura of death, zombie master, awaken the dead, zombify, dance of the dead, spells; SQ Essence of death, swampwalk, speak with the dead, spellsinging; AL LE; SV Fort +8, Ref +8, Will +12; Str 15, Dex 18, Con 14, Int 16, Wis 8, Cha 16. Height 6 ft. 1 in.

Skills and Feats: Appraise +4, Concentration +5, Diplomacy +4, Intimidate +4, Knowledge (local) +4, Knowledge (undead lore) +8, Listen +5, Perform +8, Spellcraft +6, Spot +5, Wilderness Lore +7; Endurance, Great Fortitude, Weapon Finesse (rapier), Weapon Focus (slam, rapier).

Languages: Souragnien*, Darkonese, Druidic, Vaasi.

Sorcerer Spells Per Day: 6/7/6/4. Base DC = 13 + spell level.

Sorcerer Spells Known: 0–create water, detect magic, detect poison, light, mending, purify food or drink, read magic; 1st–entangle, invisibility to animals, obscuring mist, pass without trace; 2nd–hold animal, speak with animal; 3rd–plant growth.

Signature Possessions: Masterwork rapier, boots of elvenkind, cloak of elvenkind, gloves of swimming and climbing, lantern of revealing.

Combat :Anton is a devastatingly powerful foe, with a legion of undead slaves and virtually limitless necromantic power at his command. His ability to merge with the trees and ground of the swamp makes him almost impossible to kill, and enables him to strike his enemies from almost anywhere, in an instant. In personal combat, he adroitly wields a rapier, though if angered he will toss it aside and use his bare hands, striking with great force.

Aura of Death (Su): The first round that a living creature comes within 30 yards of Anton, it must make a Fortitude save at DC 18. Those who fail are affected as if a contagion spell had been cast on them, inflicting a disease of Anton’s choice. Those who fail their save by more than 10 points die instantly and become zombies under Anton’s control. Anton can activate or deactivate this aura at will, as a free action.

Zombie Dominion (Su): Anton can mentally sense all zombies within the Souragnean swamp, and can employ their senses as if he were standing in their place. He can mentally command them as a free action, and zombies under his influence cannot be controlled or rebuked by anyone else, though they can be turned. Anton can send his zombies outside the swamp, where it is possible for him to lose control of them; in this case, all zombies are still considered to be under Anton’s influence. In the case of rebuking attempts, this takes the form of a –4 penalty to the rebuke check.

Awaken the Dead (Su): Anton can cast a variation of the animate dead spell at will. Only zombies can be created via this spell, but, provided sufficient corpses are available, there is no limit to the number of zombies Anton may animate and control. The power affects all corpses within a 10 ft. radius of Anton, unless he wishes to affect fewer. In all other respects it is identical to the spell animate dead.

Zombify (Su): Once per day, by making a successful touch attack, Anton can attempt to turn a living creature into a zombie under his command. The target must make a Fortitude save against DC 15. Those who fail are instantly slain, and rise in 1d4 rounds as zombies under Anton’s command.

Dance of the Dead (Sp): Once per round, as a full action, Anton can cast any necromancy spell. The spell takes effect as if cast by an 18th-level caster.

Essence of Death (Ex): Anton is immune to poison, sleep, paralysis, stunning, disease, death effects, necromantic effects, and mind-influencing effects, as if he were an undead creature. He can forego this protection at any time if he wishes.

Swampwalk (Su): Anton is able to enter any tree within the swamp or the ground of the swamp itself, as a standard action. Doing so immediately restores him to full hit points, and he can emerge anywhere within the swamp.

Speech of the Dead (Su): Anton has the mystical power to telepathically converse with the undead. Generally, they can convey only basic information about their former lives and their recent experiences. He can also cast speak with dead at will by touching a corpse.

Spellsinging: Anton’s sorcerer spells never require material components, but all of them require verbal and somatic components; he must sing and dance to cast them. Also, his spells are drawn from the druid spell list instead of the sorcerer/wizard list, but they still count as arcane spells. He is incapable of learning curing or healing spells of any kind. In all other respects he is a normal sorcerer.

The list of other darklords we fully wrote up for Secrets of the Dread Realms, but never had the opportunity to publish or revisit, was:
  • Anhktepot: Stat blocks for him as a mummy (LE male human rank 5 ancient dead clr14 of Ra, CR 20) and as a mortal (LE male human Ari 1, CR 1/2). No major revisions to his backstory that I can spot at a glance.
  • Arijani: Stat block (CE male rakshasa clr6 of Kali/sor5, CR 20); no significant revisions to his depiction.
  • Crocodile: Stat block (CE male giant crocodile, CR 12); backstory basically unchanged, plus a "No Man's Land" sidebar on the supernatural effects of the Wildlands, which was much later squeezed into a sentence or two in his entry in the RLDMG.
  • Diamabel: Stat block (CE male unique monstrous humanoid or undead, CR 19), no significant revisions to his backstory.
  • Easan the Mad: Stat block (CE male fiendish wood elf Wiz13, CR 16), backstory basically as given in Domains of Dread with the required filing off of the Greyhawk serial numbers.
  • Ebonbane: Stat blocks for Ebonbane itself (CE unique outsider, CR 17) and its animated sword (Small construct, CR 12). Backstory updated to the status quo presented in the RLDMG. I have a feeling these stats may have been posted once upon a time, along with the sidebar on the amorphous Phantasmal Forest. [Note from GonzoRon -- They have been, on the WotC boards. They are no longer visible there, but have been salvaged above]
  • Elena Faith-hold: Stat block for Elena (LE female human ex-Pal3/ Blk8, CR "11+") -- which I assume means it hadn't quite been hammered down -- and her fiendish war horse mount. Backstory basically as we've come to know it. [Note from GonzoRon -- Elena's stats were posted on WotC's boards too. They can also be found above]
  • Maligno: Stat block (CE dread carrionette, CR 7), status quo basically unchanged from DoD.
  • Frantisek Markov: Stat block (LE male unique shapechanger Exp7, CR 10), backstory still as presented in Neither Man Nor Beast.
  • Prince Ladislav Mircea: Stat block (CE male human mature vrykolaka vampire Ari3/ Exp6, CR8); a boiled-down version of his backstory was presented in RLDMG. Big thing to know about him is that he drains "humours" rather than just blood, with differing effects. There's also a sidebar on vampiric thralls that I'm sure saw print somewhere early on. Gaz II, mayhaps.
  • Anton Misroi: Stat block (LE male zombie lord Ari2/ Sor6, CR 20), backstory basically as presented in DoD.
  • Yagno Petrovna: Stat block (LE male human clr12 of Zakhata, CR 14); the events of Circle of Darkness are mentioned, but he's basically unchanged.
  • Sodo: Sodo was included in Shadow of the Knife.
  • Gregor Zolnik: Stat block (CE male human werewolf Rgr9, CR 14), backstory unchanged.

I suppose I could post the stat blocks, but here's the thing: we were all brand new to 3E at the time, and it shows. We continually revised these stats as we revisited darklords in the Gazetteers, and nearly a decade later (particularly now that I've picked Pathfinder for my poison & I've moved toward a more revisionist mindset) I'd want to essentially just remake them all from scratch anyway.


John adds: Here you go: Ladislav Mircea's unedited, 3.0 special abilities, as they would have appeared in Secrets of the Dread Realms:

Alternate Form (Su): Mircea can assume the shape of a dire rat or a swarm of rats or Fine vermin as a standard action. This ability is similar to the vampire ability found in the Monster Manual. Each creature in a swarm has 1 hit point, and the swarm is composed of a number of creatures equal to Mircea’s total hit points. He suffers 1 point of damage for each creature in the swarm killed. Contact with the swarm can still transmit the shakes, but the swarm is highly vulnerable to area attacks, so he typically assumes swarm form only to slip through narrow gaps.

Children of the Night (Su): Unlike most vampires, Mircea can use this ability only to summon 6d10 Hit Dice of monstrous vermin.

Disease (Ex): Any living creature that suffers damage from Mircea’s claw attacks or blood drain runs the risk of disease. The diseases Mircea carries (and the DC of each Fort save to avoid infection) are filth fever (DC 14), red ache (DC 17), and the shakes (DC 15). Victims killed by the effects of any disease transmitted from a vrykolaka return as vampire spawn.

Fever Sleep (Su): Mircea can cause a victim to pass out just by looking into her eyes. This is similar to a gaze attack, except that Mircea must take a standard action, and those merely looking at him are not affected. Mircea’s target must make a Will save (DC 16) or fall unconscious as though affected by a sleep spell cast by a 12th-level sorcerer, except that the attack can affect a creature with any number of Hit Dice. Mircea does not wake his victim by drinking her blood. The ability has a range of 30 feet.

Humour Drain (Ex): Mircea can suck the humours from a living victim with his tongue by making a successful grapple check. If he pins the foe, he can choose which of the four humours to drain. Regardless of his choice, the base effect is the same for the victim, who suffers 1d4 points of permanent Constitution drain each round the pin is maintained. Different humours produce different effects as they temporarily unbalance both Mircea and his victim’s bodily fluids.

Blood (sanguis): If Mircea is wounded, he immediately heals damage equal to the hit points the victim loses from the Constitution drain.

Yellow bile (choler): Mircea can rage (as the barbarian ability) for a number of rounds equal to the points of Constitution drained. If the victim has a rage ability, it cannot rage for an equal number of rounds.

Black Bile (Melancholy): Mircea suffers the “despair” version of an emotion spell. His victim is affected as by that spell’s “hope” version. The duration for both versions of the spell is equal to the points of Constitution drained. Mircea usually avoids this humour.

Phlegm: Mircea can ethereal jaunt as the spell as a standard action. The effect’s duration is equal to the number of Constitution points drained. For an equal number of rounds, the victim receives a morale bonus to Fear saves equal to the lost Constitution.

Mircea pierces different organs to access these humors. Blood is sucked from the heart, phlegm from the throat, yellow bile from the liver, and black bile from the spleen.

Vampire Weaknesses: Garlic, anise and holy symbols repel Mircea. He cannot cross an unbroken line of aniseed. He does not need to be invited into any building in Sanguinia, but he cannot enter any room that is spotlessly clean. Mircea can tolerate three rounds of sunlight before he is destroyed. Like most vampires, however, he may take only partial actions while exposed to sunlight.


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