One of the most iconic villains of Ravenloft has a new status quo in Dungeons & Dragons, which could set up an intriguing new storyline or campaign arc. Wizards of the Coast just released Van Richten's Guide to Ravenloft, a new campaign setting book that provides wholesale updates to the horror-themed world of Ravenloft. The book contains sections on over 30 different Domains of Dreads, shadowy demiplane prisons meant to torment specific souls known as Darklords. While the Darklords rule over their respective Domain of Dread, the Domains are twisted reflections of the Darklords' desires, forcing them into a never-ending cycle of dread and despair.
While Van Richten's Guide to Ravenloft contains updated lore on over a dozen iconic Darklords, one notable Ravenloft seemingly missing from the book is Azalin Rex, the wizard-king lich of the domain of Darkon. Azalin is a longtime Ravenloft resident, having first been introduced in the second adventure set in Ravenloft, The House on Gryphon Hill. The famed lich is known for his rivalry with the vampire Strahd von Barovich and his multiple attempts to escape from Ravenloft, some of which have had long-reaching consequences in Ravenloft lore.
Initially, Azalin Rex appears to be missing from Van Richten's Guide to Ravenloft. His domain Darkon is presented as being on the bring of the destruction due to the "Hour of Ascension," a magical event orchestrated by Azalin that caused his castle to explode and Azalin himself to disappear from the realm. Darkon itself was impacted by Azalin's disappearance - the realm is being consumed by the Mists that typically form Ravenloft's borders, and several would-be tyrants have moved to fill the power vacuum created by Azalin's disappearance.
Van Richten's Guide to Ravenloft's section on Darkon is deliberately vague on what happened to Azalin and provides several suggestions for DMs looking to build an adventure set in Azalin. However, the book gives readers another clue as to what happened to Azalin later in the book. The "Mist Wanderers" section has a biography of Firan Zal'honan, a "wandering scholar" and expert on the Mists of Ravenloft. Longtime fans of Ravenloft will recognize that Firan Zal'honan is actually Azalin's true name. The biography contains several other clues about Firan's true identity - not only does Firan brag that he could have ruled as a "wizard-king" in another life, he also is accompanied by a familiar named Skeever (which is mentioned as Azalin's familiar earlier in the book.) Firan is also noted to loathe the domain of Darkon (his longtime prison), have an "almost-personal" hatred for Strahd and avoids entering the Mists without guidance from the Vistani. One potential adventure hook for Firan mentioned in the book involves retrieving an amulet bearing a tiny gold dragon skull, an object that seems like a miniature version of Azalin's phylactery.
It seems that Dungeons & Dragons has some sort of plans for Azalin. Not only have they provided him with an intriguing new status quo, the book also went out of its way to mask his identity, albeit in a way that keeps his identity clear to longtime fans. The disclaimer of Van Richten's Guide to Ravenloft provides one final clue that more Azalin content is on the way - the disclaimer is written from Azalin's perspective and tells readers to "Prepare for [his] coming." We'll have to see what Wizards of the Coast has planned for Ravenloft and Azalin - hopefully we won't have to wait very long.
Van Richten's Guide to Ravenloft is available now.