One of the difficulties in running for a diverse group of players is making a variety of countries/regions that has something for each of your players, but still work together in a logical way to form a functioning world. This is one of the attractions of Ravenloft for me, in that is inherently diverse, with each domain being potentially separated by culture, time, the mists, and most importantly the ability of the Dark Lord to seal the domain entirely if necessary. When designing a new domain, I took the approach of influencing it with a real world culture and dashing in a flavor of a particular theme.
The first of the three domains the Teuralian cluster is Dunkilwald, a land loosely influenced by early medieval Germany. This domain is sparsely populated and is brutally violent. It is the most like a traditional D&D world with the potential to run into orcs, giants, or faeries. This provides a home for those who want a normal D&D PC, as well as a place to set more standard D&D adventure. If you have a player that would rather be playing “regular” D&D instead of an investigative horror setting, this is probably the best place for them.
Real World Influence: Medieval Germany
Cultural Level: Medieval (7)
The Land: Dunkilwald is a land of mist shrouded hills, ancient gloomy forests and swift, deep rivers in northern Teuralia. Ruins of ancient men and elves sometimes top the hills, but these are generally avoided by both man and beast, with a reputation as places of dark magic. On clear nights, strange lights can sometimes be seen moving through the ruins and those who investigate are not heard from again.
The further north one travels, the taller the hills rise, until they can truly be called mountains along the northern shore. Their steep faces provide no natural harbors, and make approach by sea from the north virtually impossible. Melting snows and natural springs in the mountain highlands give birth to three tributaries that flow south to join and become the domain’s largest river, known as the Drakkenklau. The Drakkenklau runs swift and cold, cutting deeply through the stony soil, causing great canyon walls to rise up to either side until it empties into the Tabllyn; the lake that forms the central border with Vildissette and Sullenworth.
The domain is more heavily populated by raptors, bears and deer than humans, but the rugged beauty of Dunkilwald hides a savage brutality. The depredations of the goblins and orcs are frequent in the hills. It is not uncommon to find burned down cottages or tribal effigies of bones, gnawed upon and painted in the blood of their victims. Perhaps more disturbing are those small forest communities that now stand empty; abandoned for no obvious reason. The populace avoids these desolate places, claiming they are cursed by the dark fey that are said to dwell in the wood.
Major Settlements: Falkensalz (pop. 1,200), Frischaft (pop. 620), Ringel (pop. 370). Dunkilwald is sparsely populated and has few settlements of note.
The Folk: Population—17,260; Humans 56%, Dwarves 13%, Elves 8%, Half-Elves 2%, Half-Orc 1%, Other 20% (primarily goblins and orcs). Languages— Dunkilspecken*, Sylvan, Dwarven, Elven, Goblinoid, Orcish, Sullen, Vildissetian, High Teuralian, Falkovnian. Religions—Belenus, ancestor worship, The Wolf God.
The people of Dunkilwald tend to be extremely practical and resigned to the cruelty of their lives. A home built over the course of years may be burned to the ground by goblins in one night. All one can do is struggle on, plant, hunt, and care for one's family.
The humans of Dunkilwald tend to have milky complexions and sharp features framed with blonde hair worn long by both men and women, although darker hair is common among the hill tribes. Clothing tends to be warm, supplemented with furs and cloaks for most of the year with lederhosen and tall socks in the brief summers. Nearly all folk, child or otherwise, carry a weapon; from a simple knife or woodsmen's' axe to the well-balanced longswords of the knights of Falkensalz. Due to the violent, tragic life of Dunkilwald, women are often called on to take over families or lead settlements. Traditional gender roles, more common in Sullenworth or Vildessette are blurred in Dunkilwald and armed women in chain or plate do not cause a stir.
Tiny communities of dwarves and elves exist in Dunkilwald, as they have without change since history began. Both races tend to stay isolated, trading with men once or twice a year at most and watching for raiders the rest. While the crafts of dwarves and elves are prized, particularly dwarven clockworks, men remain suspicious of their long-lived neighbors and ascribe all sorts of foul practices to them. Oldwives tales say that the dwarves digging in the earth causes crops to fail and cows to produce less milk and it is commonly believed that elves will steal young children to be used as slaves, or worse.
No matter the race, all of those in Dunkilwald take great pride in their elaborate craftsmanship. While the goods produced in Dunkilwald may not exceed the steam-powered wonders of Sullenworth or the elaborate artistic beauties of Vildessette, they are always sturdy, functional, and intricately detailed, with natural themes of flowers and birds commonly used as decoration. Even the monstrous orcs and goblins that come down out of the mountains or the deep wood raise terrible but complex totems to dark spirits and paint their bodies with complicated woad.
Druidic traditions run strong in Dunkilwald and the worship of the sun god Belenus is common. While his worship is generally not well organized among the rustic folk, the center of his worship is most focused around the fortress of Falkensalz where Lady Agenthe and her knights bring his light to all within reach. Other faiths will not find much tolerance from the paladins within her lands.
Belneus is not the only religion that has found purchase in the dark corners of Dunkilwald. Ancestor worship is frequent in the highlands and the feral Wolf God is popular among the orc and goblin tribes.
The Law: The folk of Dunkilwald tend to think of themselves as free men who volunteer their fealty to lords that earn it. That said, in most cases that obedience is earned at the point of a sword. The hill tribes raid from the north, the forest folk hide in small settlements with their own strange rules, and only the shining of beacon of Falkensalz brings any true stability. For several miles around the cliffside fortress, Lady Agnethe and her knights strive to push back the darkness of the wood and the Lady rigidly enforces the tenets of Belenus’s faith. This is truly the only place with significant stability in the land and her court is perhaps the only place one might expect to find justice, even if that justice is sometimes final.
Trade and Diplomacy: Resources—beer, clocks, copper, furs, iron, meat, metal goods, nuts, timber; Coinage—dragon (pp), hawk (gp), owl (sp), dove (cp).
Vildissette and Sullenworth prize the natural resources plentiful in Dunkilwald, but the danger in bringing those goods to market and the small population of the domain mean that trade with Dunkilwald is infrequent at best. Instead most of the natural bounty of Dunkilwald rarely travels more than a few dozen miles between neighboring settlements where the local populace crafts it into beautiful furniture and intricate metal jewelry. Dunkilwald's neighbors tend to think of its folk as living in a savage backwater and ignore it. That tends to suite the people of Dunkilwald just fine.
Encounters: The paths and streams of Dunkilwald are a dangerous place where friendly meetings with other humanoids are rare. Animals are likely to be the most common encounter, with bears, wolves or various raptors being most common. Raiding hill men from the highlands or monstrous humanoids, primarily goblins and orcs with the occasional troll, are also not uncommon. Though rarely seen, legends persist that creatures of old still dwell in seldom traveled places. Evidence of the feyfolk and even dragons, is however hard to substantiate and it may be that such creatures died out long ago.
Native Player Characters: You might consider playing a character from Dunkilwald if you like a fiercely independent or primal PC, or prefer a character from a more traditional D&D setting. Nearly all character classes are found here though Rogues and Wizards are uncommon. Barbarians, Druids, Rangers and Sorcerers are extremely common. This is the only domain that sees native Dwarves or Elves.
Natives of Dunkilwald are used to violence as part of their daily lives and receive a +2 bonus to Fear checks made against scenes of brutality such as mutilated corpses. However, they are a simple, superstitious people used to things being as they appear and suffer a -1 penalty to Horror checks related to magic and the unnatural.