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Lords of Darkness (3e)

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Evil Powers Threaten Faerun

Sinister cabals plot in shadows, while merciless armies gather for war. Explore the inner workings of infamous factions such as the Red Wizards and the Zhentarim. Discover more recently unveiled enemies, including the shades and the People of the Black Blood. With detailed descriptions of key villains, secret headquarters, and more, this guide covers everything a Dungeon Master needs to conspire against the heroes of the Forgotten Realms game setting.

  • 28 villainous groups
  • Maps of evil strongholds
  • New spells, feats, and magic items

To use this accessory, you also need the Player's Handbook, the Dungeon Master's Guide, the Monster Manual, and the Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting.

Product History

Lords of Darkness (2001), by Jason Carl and Sean K Reynolds, is an organizational splatbook for the Forgotten Realms 3e line. It was published in October 2001.

Origins. The authors were tasked with writing a book about the evil organizations of Faerûn, but they pushed the envelope to portray a world that was "if not overwhelmed, then definitely beleaguered by groups dedicated to the pursuit of evil deeds". It was an interesting foreshadowing of the Points of Light world that would epitomize the next edition of D&D (2008).

Another Lords of Darkness. Lords of Darkness (2001) was the second Forgotten Realms sourcebook by the same name. The first was Ed Greenwood's REF5: Lords of Darkness (1988), a book of adventures about undead that won the 1989 Origins Gamer's Choice Award. The organizational focus of the new Lords of Darkness resulted in a totally different sort of book (though it also features vampires).

Continuing the 3e Forgotten Realms Line. Forgotten Realms production had started off quietly in the 3e era with softcover adventures like Pool of Radiance: Attack on Myth Drannor (2000) and Into the Dragon's Lair (2000). However once the line got going properly in 2001, it was divided into two parts: hardcover core books and softcover sourcebooks. In its first year, Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting (2001) was the only hardcover, while softcover sourcebooks included Monsters of Faerûn (2001) and Magic of Faerûn (2001). Lords of Darkness was the third of what would be just four total softcover sourcebooks, with the final one, Silver Marches (2002) appearing in the next year. Other than one other softcover adventure, City of the Spider Queen (2002), the line would thereafter move entirely to hardcover releases.

Expanding the Realms. About half of Lords of Darkness is spent detailing seven major organizations in the Realms, all of which had been touched upon earlier in the year in the Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting. They covered a broad swath of the history of the Realms.

  • The Red Wizards of Thay were the first of two classic organizations. They dated back Ed Greenwood's earliest Dragon magazine writing. “Pages from the Mages” in Dragon #62 (July 1982) refers to a "Red Wizard of Alail Thong", which might (or might not) have been a reference to Thay, while "Seven Swords" in Dragon #74 (June 1983) more definitively refers to the Red Wizards as enemies of the Harpers. These evil arcanists got an early sourcebook in FR6: "Dreams of the Red Wizards" (1988), then some novel-length attention in Red Magic (1991), the third Harpers book.
  • The Zhentarim similarly premiered in "Seven Swords" in Dragon #74 (June 1983), which mentions Zhentil Keep. It's also listed as a source of evil magery in "All about Elminster" in Dragon #110 (June 1986), alongside Mulmaster and Thay. Though the Zhentarim didn't get a sourcebook in the Realms' early days, they were a frequent villainous force in novels like Spellfire (1987) and Azure Bonds (1988) and in various adventures. They finally were spotlighted in Ruins of Zhentil Keep (1995) and "The Moonsea" (1995). Then, in late AD&D days, they were changing thanks to the Manshoon Wars, which debuted in Cloak & Dagger (2000).
  • The Cult of the Dragon also predates the RPG publication of the Realms, originating as an organization worshiping undead dragons in "The Cult of the Dragon" in Dragon #110 (June 1986). They made their novel debut in Ed Greenwood's Spellfire (1987) and received a full sourcebook a decade later: Cult of the Dragon (1998).
  • The Drow debuted as a force in the Realms in R.A. Salvatore's many Drizzt Do'Urden novels, beginning with The Crystal Shard (1988). They also appeared in many AD&D suplpements, starting with FOR2: The Drow of the Underdark (1991) and Menzoberranzan (1992).
  • The Church of Cyric originated in the Avatar event (1989), when the evil mortal Cyric rose to godhood. His role as a deity was described in RPG books like Forgotten Realms Adventures (1990), On Hallowed Ground (1996), and Faiths & Avatars (1996), while he also got personal attention in two later novels: Prince of Lies (1993) and Crucible: The Trial of Cyric the Mad (1998).
  • The Night Masks are a criminal organization in the city of Westgate that first appeared in an eponymous novel, The Night Masks (1992), the third book in the Cleric Quintet by R.A. Salvatore. Although they appeared in some RPG books in the '90s, their next major appearance was another novel: Masquerades (1995), by Kate Novak and Jeff Grubb. They finally got some more extensive RPG attention in Cloak & Dagger (2000), which revealed how vampires were taking over the organization.
  • The Shades (Shadovars) were part of the newest Realms-shattering event, which debuted just a few months earlier in the novel The Summoning (2001), the first part of the "Return of the Archwizards". They were sorcerers from the ancient Empire of Netheril, long-dwelling in the Plane of Shadow and now returning to the Realms.

Some of these groups, including the drow and the Red Wizards, saw a major "paradigm shift" in this new book, while the Shades were largely new.

Another 20 minor organizations were covered in the rest of the book, from beholders and fire knives to the iron throne and the shadow thieves. Some of these smaller groups were also new, such as the Kir-lanan gargoyles and the monks of the long death

Future History. Champions of Ruin (2005) was a somewhat similar book published during the 3.5e era. It also detailed a number of Realms organizations, repeating two from Lords of Darkness: the Cult of the Dragon and the Zhentarim.

About the Creators. A long-time writer for White Wolf, Carl was just getting his start with D&D in 2000 and 2001. He'd previously written The Dungeon of Death (2000) and would go on to work on Silver Marches (2002). Reynolds had been working on D&D since 1997 and was one of the co-authors on Cloak & Dagger (2000), a previous organizational book that Lords of Darkness built upon. More importantly, Reynolds was heavily involved in the 3e Realms revival, also co-authoring Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting (2001) and Magic of Faerûn (2001).

About the Product Historian

The history of this product was researched and written by Shannon Appelcline, the editor-in-chief of RPGnet and the author of Designers & Dragons - a history of the roleplaying industry told one company at a time. Please feel free to mail corrections, comments, and additions to

We (Wizards) recognize that some of the legacy content available on this website does not reflect the values of the Dungeons & Dragons franchise today. Some older content may reflect ethnic, racial, and gender prejudice that were commonplace in American society at that time. These depictions were wrong then and are wrong today. This content is presented as it was originally created, because to do otherwise would be the same as claiming these prejudices never existed. Dungeons & Dragons teaches that diversity is a strength, and we strive to make our D&D products as welcoming and inclusive as possible. This part of our work will never end.

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File Last Updated:
February 15, 2019
This title was added to our catalog on April 14, 2015.