Sunday, January 16, 2022


Below is my re-imagining of the domain of Sanguinia in Ravenloft, taken from the pages of the third issue of Strahd Loves, Man Kills, which just so happens to be available for purchase. (And I've already sold more than 2/3 of the print run, so don't sleep on this one.)


Domain of Feudal Excesses

Darklords: Count Magnus von Karlok and Countess Yulia Skarnstein

Genres: Gothic horror and dark fantasy

Hallmarks: Oppressed peasants, decadent nobility, blood tithes

Mist Talismans: Bejeweled goblet, fragment of shattered crown

Sanguinia is a cold northern realm of defiled churches, sprawling castles, and humble farming communities. Once a land held in thrall by a single capricious feudal prince, Sanguinia is now a realm divided. Two vampire nobles vie against each other for control of Sanguinia. In the south, Count Magnus von Karlok holds sway over the territories encircling Fagarus. In the north, Countess Yulia Skarnstein rules the villages, towns, and hamlets that surround Kosova. 
A look of fear, resentment, and resignation is common in the eyes of Sanguinian serfs. The mortal peasantry who populate the land are forced to work the unforgiving and often barren soil of Sanguinia just to eke out a meager existence. Worse yet, they must pay a tithe in blood to the vampires who reign over them as undying lords. Although they are oppressed by undead nobles they cannot hope to overcome, revolts among the lower classes are becoming increasingly more common, incendiary, and dangerous in Sanguinia. These petty rebellions are always violently suppressed by the vampires who govern the domain.
Countess Skarnstein and Count von Karlok contest each other’s rule in both overt and subtle ways. Each wishes to usurp the other from their territory so that they might rule all of Sanguinia. Yulia Skarnstein has spies hidden within the Count’s household and plots to lure him into a cunning trap that will end his unnatural existence. Magnus von Karlok has marshaled his troops, annexed villages that belonged to the Countess’s dominion, and hopes to one day meet Yulia on the field of battle so that he might kill her personally. Neither can rest easy while the other still exists. The people of Sanguinia are caught in the middle of this ferocious and unending enmity. 

Noteworthy Features

Those familiar with Sanguinia know the following facts:

    • Sanguinia was once a united kingdom ruled by Prince Ladislav Mircea, but is now divided between the vampires Countess Yulia Skarnstein and Count Magnus von Karlok.

    • The oppressed peasants of Sanguinia are required to tithe their blood to feed their undead masters.

    • The worship of the gods has been outlawed throughout Sanguinia. The land’s many churches and cathedrals stand vacant or ruined, though some Sanguinians meet in secret to continue practicing their faiths.

Settlements and Sites

Sanguinia is a hard, unforgiving land of frost, cold winds, and rocky soil. Most of the populace live in villages and hamlets that are little more than open farmland dotted with crude shelters. It is only around the estates of Sanguinia’s vampire lords that anything approaching urban civilization can sustain itself.

Castle Guirgiu

Nestled at the foot of the mountains, Castle Guirgiu is an abandoned keep that was once the seat of Prince Ladislav. The people of Sanguinia have a pronounced dread of Castle Guirgiu. The castle is haunted by a spectral memory of the once-whole prince; he continually weeps over his currently divided state and inability to reconcile his warring passions.


The heavily fortified city of Fagarus is the seat of Count Magnus von Karlok’s realm in the south of Sanguinia. Count Magnus demands that the people of Fagarus suffer meekly under the imposition of austerity. Fagarus is the central hub of trade in southern Sanguinia, but the townspeople do not benefit from increased access to food or other goods. The Count stockpiles grain and other necessities for the war he wishes to wage against Yulia Skarnstein. Order is kept in Fagarus by the Count’s brutal enforcers, who are immediately recognizable by the ashen coats they wear and the executioner’s axes they carry as grim badges of office. Overlooking the town is Castle Myrkrana, Count Magnus von Karlok’s spartan and imposing keep.


Kosova is the largest city in Countess Yulia Skarnstein’s northern realm and the acknowledged center of culture in Sanguinia. The Countess’s court attracts artists, dancers, musicians, poets, and actors who find the unnatural allure of undeath to be aesthetically inspiring. Similarly, the pleasures offered in Kosova dull the pain and monotony of toil on behalf of the Countess. Taverns, brothels, and gambling dens litter the streets of the city. At the center of Kosova stands Castle Siebenhurst, Yulia Skarnstein’s seven-spired fastness of gleaming white stone, elegant galleries, and stained glass windows depicting acts of carnal depravity.

Lake Argus

The winds blow cold and harsh around the shores of Lake Argus. Save for a few brief weeks in the height of summer, Lake Argus is sealed over with a thick crust of gleaming ice. Those who stare into the lake’s mirror-like surface on nights of the full moon are granted strange visions, such as glimpses of a wintry apocalypse that will make the land inhospitable to life or the presence of a sunken city lurking at the center of Lake Argus.


The town of Tirgo is caught at the border between the lands claimed by Count Magnus von Karlok and Countess Yulia Skarnstein. Ownership of the town and its farmland alternates between the two vampire lords of Sanguinia depending on the fluctuation of the border between the two vampires’ holdings.

Ladislav Mircea

Sanguinia is a domain possessing two Darklords, but it was once the province of a single man—Prince Ladislav Mircea. Ladislav knew he ruled his principality as an unloved despot. Though the suffering engendered by his rule troubled his conscience, rather than attempt to reform his tyrannical ways directly he enlisted a foul priest of a deity known as the Lawgiver to enact a ritual that would magically purge him of his most pernicious flaws.
Unfortunately, Prince Ladislav was a man of many sins. He was as warlike and bellicose as he was lusty and depraved. The ritual did not free him from his worst impulses—it instead rent him asunder, giving separate life to the failings that marred his essential self. His anger and love of exercising authority was encapsulated in Magnus von Karlok, the very embodiment of the imperious vampire. His licentiousness and ungovernable attraction to physical and spiritual corruption was given form as the vampire hedonist Yulia Skarnstein.
As equal portions of the same blighted soul, Yulia and Magnus hold each other in the deepest contempt and are cursed to forever war against one another in a battle that neither can win. The Dark Powers ensure that the hubris of Prince Ladislav’s vain attempt to free himself from his transgressions will be punished in perpetuity as the two halves of his nature are forced into a never-ending conflict to control Sanguinia.

Magnus’s Powers and Dominion  

Magnus von Karlok is a towering vampire of rigid, militaristic mien, with a long mane of hair and piercing eyes. He only ever truly feels comfortable when striding across the battlefield clad in his blood-red ancestral armor and giving vent to his violent impulses against whoever dares to oppose him. Magnus von Karlok’s stats are similar to those of a vampire warrior.

The Knights of Draghul. Magnus von Karlok maintains an elite band of warriors known as the Knights of Draghul who direct and lead his militias. The Knights of Draghul are mostly comprised of the scions of dragonborn families that the Count has allowed to settle in estates around Fagarus. Count Magnus trains each of his knights personally; they are fanatically loyal to him, viewing him as a veritable demigod of war who will lead them to blood-soaked victories. 

The Brides of von Karlok. Magnus has few close relationships, but his most trusted advisors are his three monstrous brides: Lithka is a cunning harpy who acts as his spymaster, Phaedra is a medusa who operates as his private assassin, and Maxima is an erinyes who assists in drawing elaborate battle plans for the conquest of Countess Yulia Skarnstein’s territories.

Roleplaying Magnus von Karlok

Magnus is inflexible, believes in a strict code of honor, and is a reactionary traditionalist at heart. However, his chivalrous nature is compromised by a domineering streak that flares into violent rage at the slightest provocation.

Personality Trait. “If a subordinate does not bow and scrape before me, they must learn a grievous and painful lesson.”

Ideal. “I am driven to seek glory through military victory.”

Bond. “I feel a kinship with all honorable warriors.”

Flaw. “My belief in the superiority of my martial skill sometimes blinds me to obvious danger.”

Yulia’s Powers and Dominion

Yulia Skarnstein is a vampire of breathtaking beauty who refuses to be dressed in anything less than the height of sumptuous fashion. She is a masterful gatherer of information and an adept manipulator. Yulia favors indirect machinations; she prefers quiet assassination and complex stratagems over blatant aggression. Yulia Skarnstein’s stats are similar to those of a vampire spellcaster, though her spells lean toward enchantment, divination, and magic drawn from the darker end of the cleric’s spell list.

Cult of the Razor’s Kiss. Yulia is the high priestess of a pleasure cult that venerates Malcanthet, the Demon Queen of Succubi. The cultists of the Razor’s Kiss view pain and degradation as the highest forms of beauty and art; they venerate Malcanthet through sadomasochistic rituals that test their endurance and devotion to the Demon Queen. As Malcanthet’s chosen prophet, Yulia Skarnstein has a number of skilled enchanters, cambions, and succubi from the cult sworn to her service.

Roleplaying Yulia Skarnstein

Countess Yulia fears the inescapable ennui that comes with long centuries of undeath. She regularly holds salons in Castle Siebenhurst to stave off boredom and keeps a harem of breathtakingly beautiful intellectual and artistic men and women to provide her with whatever stimulation she requires.

Personality Trait. “I appreciate witty conversation and demand to be amused by those around me.”

Ideal. “I want to be privy to every secret and experience every possible pleasure—no matter how base or degenerate.”

Bond. “Whoever gratifies my desires is my current favorite, but my favor is forever fickle and inconstant.”

Flaw. “I cannot conceive of others as anything else but playthings.”