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As I understand it, in Ravenloft a Dark Lord has control over his/her land.

However, when traveling between lands, can the PCs cross borders as they like, as long as the Lord of the land has not decided to prevent it? Or are the lands always closed off?

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It's generally considered good practice to wait at least 24 hours before accepting an answer, my friend. –  Lord_Gareth May 23 '13 at 15:44
    
Note that you can easily change which answer you accept. –  SevenSidedDie May 23 '13 at 16:42
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2 Answers

up vote 5 down vote accepted

The former, that is, yes, you can cross the borders as long as the Lord of the realm hasn't decided to close them. (There might be exceptions, of course, but this is a strong general tendency.)

However, even so the crossing is not necessarily an easy thing to accomplish. Notably, the Mists may always descend and lead you astray to wherever "they" please, and even (seemingly) without the mists weird phenomena might occur, such as strange distortions of space and time (what seems like barely a mile's distance takes hours to cross), etc.

To sum it up: it's always up to the DM what happens to travelers intent on crossing a domain's borders. :)

For reference, see p126 "Traveling the Dread Realms" in Sword & Sorcery's Ravenloft: Player's Handbook v.3.5., for example. (Other editions will have very, very similar info on this, as this is a core feature of the setting which hasn't been changed, I believe.)

Edit: A quote, from the above-mentioned rulebook (p127):

"Even journeys through the open countryside of a domain have their own dilemmas. While distances that separate settlement or sites are normally stable, some travelers have found that the landscape plays with their minds in devilish fashion. A woodsman might discover that a journey that normally takes only a few hours, one that he has made dozens of times in the past, suddenly necessitates an arduous trek of a week or more. Such strangeness has a tendency [not a rule! -ed.] to manifest at the worst possible moment, such as when ravenous horrors worry a traveler's step. Most folk believe that this this phenomenon is a matter of perception, perhaps a fugue brought on by an encounter with the Mists. Surely, the land itself could not be changing beneath their feet?"

(Emphasis mine.)

Practically, the Mists are equal to the DM, and them, being the all-powerful controlling entity/ies of Ravenloft -- that torture and hold even the Lords of the domains prisoners -- can do anything and anywhere in the setting. (Of course, a good DM doesn't abuse this power.)

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Thank you, covers everything I was curious about! –  Gamer Boy May 23 '13 at 6:27
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I've downvoted this answer for factual inaccuracy; notably, the 'weird phenomena' referenced do not happen unless they're part of how a Darklord closes their borders. –  Lord_Gareth May 23 '13 at 15:59
    
@Lord_Gareth Source for your claim? I'm afraid you're wrong. See my edit of the question. –  OpaCitiZen May 23 '13 at 16:45
    
Firstly, the rulebook you cited is a third-party source that isn't endorsed by WotC, or the original Ravenloft writers. Second, the sources in question include, but are not limited to, the Ravenloft Campaign Setting, Islands of Terror, and Darklords supplements; they remain the last current information on Ravenloft outside of 2e modules such as Die Vecna Die! and others. –  Lord_Gareth May 23 '13 at 17:23
    
1. There was no edition specified in the Q. 2. White Wolf / Arthaus / Sword & Sorcery were completely official licensees of the IP, and for 3.0 and 3.5 there were no other official sources. Their publications were, again, official. Sure, you may dislike them and disregard their content, but it's a question of personal taste. Your claim of universal "factual inaccuracy" doesn't hold ground in the bigger picture. (Also, at least cite some conflicting, also official quotation.) 3. The Q was (when I wrote my A) originally tagged with "Pathfinder", to which 3.5 stands closest. –  OpaCitiZen May 23 '13 at 17:43
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It depends on the kind of Domain you're dealing with

There are two significant classes of Domain in Ravenloft - Core domains, and Islands of Terror. Let's address Core domains first.

Core Domains

Core domains are part of the so-called Core (Ravenloft Campaign Setting), a continent in Ravenloft composed of many Domains that are all connected to each other without the Mists cutting between them. All around the edges of the Core are the Mists of Ravenloft, which denote the boundaries of that continent. However, and this is important, there is no permanent establishment of the Mists within that boundary. While the Mists sometimes appear to deposit beings (either those stolen from other worlds or those utilizing the random transport power of the Mists; more on that later) they don't stick around, they don't lurk, and they don't affect travel between Core domains.

Only two things beyond an outside force (such as, say, bandits or hostile magic) affect travel between Core domains - the Darklord sealing the borders, and geography. The latter is simple enough - some Domains are bordered by mountains, mighty rivers, oceans, or other ordinary traveling hazards that can make crossing the border difficult on their own, just like they might in any other place. However, in the absence of a Darklord closing the borders the boundaries between Domains in the Core are essentially just political boundaries as far as the ordinary traveler is concerned.

Things change somewhat when a Darklord chooses to close their borders. When any Darklord (with the exception of the Lord of Falkovnia, who does not possess this power - see the Ravenloft Campaign Setting) chooses to close their borders, supernatural travel across them stops entirely. Psionic powers, divine magic, teleportation spells - all of them fail to transport across the political boundary entirely. Additionally, another effect occurs depending on the Lord in question - and it's important to note that these effects can be surmounted. For example, the lich Azalin (Darklord of Darkon) sent an army of the undead into Barovia even though Strahd had the borders closed; Strahd's borders took the form of a choking fog that failed to harm the lifeless undead. A clever or simply immune traveler can therefore sometimes cross into or out of sealed Domains depending on what, precisely, protects the boundaries - some protections being more comprehensive than others.

Islands of Terror

Islands of Terror are domains that are entirely surrounded by the Mists, possessing no political borders with other Domains. The Islands pose their own challenges to the potential traveler, starting with getting to them in the first place. The Mists of Ravenloft have a random effect on those who attempt to travel through them (Ravenloft Campaign Setting, Islands of Terror), depositing them somewhere in Ravenloft unless they have a guide (such as a Misty Ferryman, see Ravenloft Monster Manual), powerful magics to secure their passage, or the interest/attention of the Dark Powers. This also means that leaving an Island whose borders are not sealed is as easy - and hideously dangerous - as simply stepping into the Mists and praying you get back out before something that dwells within them devours you.

The Darklords of the Islands also have the power to seal their Domains, precisely like a Core Domain. Their protections tend to be more comprehensive (like the shifting garbage piles of Nossus) and likewise prevent magical travel into or out of their Domain. The plague-ridden domain of Nossus, however, is worthy of note because its Darklord has the supernatural capability to attract and ensure steady trade with other Domains and sometimes even other worlds in order to fuel his ruined holdings. Some Islands, like the Domain of the Headless Horseman or the theater ruled over by Simon Juste, can temporarily overlap with other worlds and prove very difficult to escape conventionally even if the borders aren't closed - however, these are the exceptions, not the rules, and can be easily researched on their own terms (Ravenloft Campaign Setting, Islands of Terror, Darklords).

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-1 because 1. You've left out the Clusters, 2. You're wrong about "Only two things beyond an outside force affect travel between Core domains - the Darklord sealing the borders, and geography." The Mists may override the Darklord's will (to torture them by letting people escape, for example), and may even surround Core etc domains (let alone arise within anywhere in any domain) and take travelers anywhere they please. P60, Ravenloft: Realm of Terror (Black Box): "At times the Mists surround an individual domain" etc. The Mists (== the DM) are above and beyond the Lords. –  OpaCitiZen May 23 '13 at 16:50
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To further support my claim and refute your "While the Mists sometimes appear to deposit beings (...) they don't affect travel between Core domains" sentence: p10, Ravenloft, RoT (BB): "These mystical vapors (...) can rise from the soil anywhere in the demiplane (...) as a result, a character may be transported from place to place within the demiplane--from fog bank to fog bank--and be powerless to stop it." –  OpaCitiZen May 23 '13 at 18:21
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