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Ivan IV Vasilyevich “Ivan the Terrible”

“Ivan the Terrible: The Fearsome Tsar Who Ruled with an Iron Fist and a Dark Legacy!”

Ivan IV Vasilyevich "Ivan the Terrible"
  • Alias: Ivan IV Vasilyevich “Ivan the Terrible”
  • Gender: Male
  • Race: Human
  • Occupation: First Tsar of Russia
  • Religion: Russian Orthodox Christianity
  • Allies: Varied alliances with nobles, military commanders, and foreign diplomats.
  • Enemies: Nobility factions seeking to undermine his authority, rebellious regions, and rival kingdoms.
  • Abode/ Base of Operations: Moscow, Kremlin (Moscow Kremlin served as his main residence and center of power).
  • Nationality: Russian
  • Languages: Russian
  • Alignment: Neutral Evil (Ivan’s reign was characterized by acts of both good and evil, but his brutal methods and excessive cruelty lean towards an evil alignment).
  • Affiliation(s): Russian royalty, Russian Orthodox Church, Oprichniki, Oprichnina (special state institution during his reign).
  • Significant Others:
    • First Wife: Anastasia Romanovna (deceased)
    • Second Wife: Maria Temryukovna (divorced)
    • Third Wife: Marfa Sobakina (deceased)
    • Fourth Wife: Anna Koltovskaya (divorced)
    • Fifth Wife: Anna Vasilchikova (divorced)
    • Sixth Wife: Vasilisa Melentyeva (divorced)
    • Seventh Wife: Maria Dolgorukaya (deceased)

In the vast expanse of Russia’s history, a towering figure emerges – Ivan IV Vasilyevich, better known as “Ivan the Terrible.” Ivan ascends to the throne at a young age, becoming the first Tsar of Russia. His reign is marked by a complex interplay of power, ambition, and a reputation for brutality that earns him the moniker “The Terrible.”

As a character, Ivan is both enigmatic and multifaceted, driven by a profound desire to consolidate power, strengthen Russia, and secure his dynasty’s future. Yet, his actions are also tainted by bouts of paranoia, cruelty, and the weight of a turbulent childhood. Through the highs and lows of his rule, Ivan the Terrible stands as a formidable ruler, forging a legacy that leaves an indelible mark on the course of Russian history.

The Early Years: Ivan’s journey begins as a young boy, inheriting the throne at the tender age of three upon the death of his father, Grand Prince Vasili III. This early ascent to power leaves him vulnerable to the machinations of rival factions and ambitious nobles, who vie for influence in the young ruler’s court. This turbulence shapes Ivan’s character, fostering a deep sense of mistrust towards the nobility and an unwavering determination to assert his authority.

The Ascension and Transformation: As Ivan reaches adulthood and assumes full control, his ambition to centralize power becomes evident. He enacts a series of sweeping reforms, including the creation of the Oprichnina, a state within a state, to consolidate his authority. In pursuit of a strong and unified Russia, Ivan wages wars, annexes territories, and brings rebellious regions under his rule. Despite these achievements, his darker side emerges as he carries out brutal purges and orders the massacre of entire towns, sowing fear and dissent among his subjects.

The Personal Tragedies: Behind the facade of a powerful ruler, Ivan experiences personal heartbreak. The death of his beloved first wife, Anastasia Romanovna, sends him into a spiral of grief and paranoia. As a result, he becomes increasingly isolated and erratic in his actions, leading to a period of intense cruelty and violence. His later marriages, too, are fraught with conflict, adding to the turbulence of his reign.

Legacy and Ambitions: Ivan the Terrible’s legacy is a complex tapestry of achievements and atrocities. He leaves behind a Russia transformed by his rule, with an expanded territory and centralized authority. His efforts to modernize the country lay the foundation for future tsars to come. However, his reputation as a tyrant and his unpredictable nature cast a long shadow over his reign. Ivan’s desire for absolute power and a dynasty that endures fuel his actions, yet the trauma of his early years and personal tragedies also contribute to the darker aspects of his rule.

The Quest for Immortality: As Ivan grows older, he becomes consumed by a quest for immortality. His fascination with the occult and alchemy leads him to seek the elixir of life, driven by a fear of his own mortality and a desire to leave an eternal mark on history. This pursuit drives him to make decisions that further alienate him from his subjects and sow discord among his courtiers.

The Final Days: In the twilight of his life, Ivan the Terrible’s health deteriorates, and he grapples with the consequences of his actions. Faced with a legacy of bloodshed and cruelty, he seeks to atone for his sins through religious devotion and public acts of penance. However, the wounds of his reign run deep, and his final days are fraught with inner turmoil and regret.

Through the lens of history, Ivan IV Vasilyevich stands as a complex and enigmatic figure – a ruler both revered and reviled, a conqueror and a tyrant, whose actions shape the course of Russia’s destiny. His reign is a testament to the allure and dangers of absolute power, leaving an enduring legacy that continues to fascinate and haunt the annals of history.

Ivan IV Vasilyevich “Ivan the Terrible”

Medium humanoid (human), Neutral evil

Armor Class 17 (chain mail) Hit Points 220 (20d10 + 100) Speed 30 ft.

20 (+5)14 (+2)20 (+5)18 (+4)16 (+3)18 (+4)

Saving Throws Con +10, Wis +8, Cha +9 Skills History +10, Intimidation +9, Persuasion +9 Senses Passive Perception 13 Languages Common, Russian Challenge 17 (18,000 XP)

Legendary Resistance (3/Day). If Ivan fails a saving throw, he can choose to succeed instead.

Innate Spellcasting. Ivan’s spellcasting ability is Charisma (spell save DC 17). He can innately cast the following spells, requiring no material components:

At will: command, disguise self, message

3/day each: fear, clairvoyance, bestow curse

1/day each: dominate person, geas, hold monster


Multiattack. Ivan makes three attacks with his longsword or his dagger.

Longsword. Melee Weapon Attack: +11 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 17 (2d8 + 5) slashing damage.

Dagger. Melee or Ranged Weapon Attack: +11 to hit, reach 5 ft. or range 20/60 ft., one target. Hit: 9 (1d4 + 5) piercing damage.


Parry. Ivan adds 4 to his AC against one melee attack that would hit him. To do so, Ivan must see the attacker and be wielding a melee weapon.

Lair Actions

Ivan the Terrible’s lair is filled with an aura of fear and oppression. On initiative count 20 (losing initiative ties), Ivan can take a lair action to cause one of the following effects:

  1. Terrorizing Presence. All creatures of Ivan’s choice within 60 feet of him must make a DC 17 Wisdom saving throw or be frightened for 1 minute.
  2. Oprichniki Reinforcements. Two shadow creatures appear in unoccupied spaces within 60 feet of Ivan. These creatures are loyal to Ivan and obey his commands.
  3. Cruel Whispers. Ivan magically whispers dark and foreboding words into the mind of one creature within 60 feet of him. The target must make a DC 17 Wisdom saving throw or take 18 (4d8) psychic damage and become stunned until the end of its next turn.


Ivan the Terrible wears chain mail. He wields a masterwork longsword and a dagger. He also carries a royal scepter adorned with dark gemstones.

Legendary Actions

Ivan can take 3 legendary actions, choosing from the options below. Only one legendary action option can be used at a time and only at the end of another creature’s turn. Ivan regains spent legendary actions at the start of his turn.

  1. Attack. Ivan makes one longsword or dagger attack.
  2. Command Oppression. Ivan targets one creature he can see within 30 feet of him. The target must succeed on a DC 17 Wisdom saving throw or be charmed by Ivan for 1 minute. While charmed in this way, the creature regards Ivan as a trusted ally.
  3. Terrifying Glare (Costs 2 Actions). Ivan fixes his gaze on one creature he can see within 60 feet of him. The target must succeed on a DC 17 Wisdom saving throw or be paralyzed with fear for 1 minute. The creature can repeat the saving throw at the end of each of its turns, ending the effect on itself on a success.

Oprichniki Reinforcements

Medium undead, lawful evil

Armor Class 15 Hit Points 82 (11d8 + 33) Speed 40 ft.

16 (+3)14 (+2)16 (+3)10 (+0)12 (+1)5 (-3)

Saving Throws Dex +5 Damage Immunities necrotic, poison Condition Immunities exhaustion, frightened, paralyzed, poisoned Senses darkvision 60 ft., passive Perception 11 Languages understands the languages Ivan knows but can’t speak Challenge 4 (1,100 XP)

Shadow Stealth. While in dim light or darkness, the shadow can take the Hide action as a bonus action.

Sunlight Weakness. While in sunlight, the shadow has disadvantage on attack rolls, ability checks, and saving throws.

Shadowy Grasp. The shadow can move through a space as narrow as 1 inch wide without squeezing.


Strength Drain. Melee Weapon Attack: +5 to hit, reach 5 ft., one creature. Hit: 10 (2d6 + 3) necrotic damage, and the target’s Strength score is reduced by 1d4. The target dies if this reduces its Strength to 0. Otherwise, the reduction lasts until the target finishes a short or long rest.

Shadow Stealth. The shadow can take the Hide action as a bonus action.

Etherealness. The shadow enters the Ethereal Plane from the Material Plane, or vice versa. It is visible on the Material Plane while it is in the Border Ethereal, and vice versa, yet it can’t affect or be affected by anything on the other plane.


Protective Shadows. If Ivan is attacked, one of the Oprichniki Reinforcements can use its reaction to impose disadvantage on the attack roll against Ivan.

Plot Hooks

  • The Tsar’s Coronation: The players receive a prestigious invitation to attend the coronation of Ivan IV as the first Tsar of Russia. Amidst the opulence and splendor of the Russian court, they find themselves entangled in a web of political intrigue. As Ivan’s new advisors, the players must navigate the treacherous waters of courtly machinations while earning the favor of the young and ambitious ruler. They might be tasked with uncovering plots against the Tsar, deciphering hidden alliances, and proving their loyalty in a realm where trust is scarce.
  • Unmasking the Oprichniki: A desperate plea for help reaches the players’ ears as they stumble upon a secret plot involving Ivan’s infamous Oprichniki. Reports of unspeakable atrocities perpetrated by these shadowy figures have surfaced, and the players are tasked with exposing their covert activities. Infiltrating the Oprichniki’s ranks, the players must gather evidence of their heinous deeds while avoiding detection. As they delve deeper into the dark underbelly of Ivan’s regime, they must decide whether to confront Ivan with the damning truth, risking his wrath, or find a way to neutralize the sinister organization without endangering themselves.
  • A Desperate Plea for Aid: The players are approached by a grieving Ivan, consumed by paranoia and despair following the mysterious death of his beloved wife, Anastasia. Convinced that enemies within his court are responsible, he beseeches the players to help him uncover the truth. In a race against time, the players must venture into dangerous territory, unraveling a web of deception and betrayal to unearth the true culprits behind Anastasia’s demise. Along the way, they may encounter powerful adversaries seeking to keep the truth hidden, leading to deadly confrontations and moral dilemmas.
  • The Siege of Kazan: As Ivan’s trusted allies, the players are enlisted as part of his army, charged with aiding in the siege of the Kazan Khanate. Amidst the chaos of war, they must endure the harsh conditions of the battlefield, strategize with Ivan, and face formidable enemies. Their decisions on the battlefield could determine the fate of the entire campaign, and they must navigate the complexities of Ivan’s leadership style and temper to ensure the success of their mission.
  • Saviors of Novgorod: Rumors of a massacre in Novgorod reach the players, and they arrive in the devastated city to find survivors in dire need of protection and hope. The players take up the mantle of heroes, leading a rebellion against Ivan’s oppressive regime. Their goal is to liberate Novgorod from the grasp of Ivan’s enforcers and confront the Tsar himself, demanding an end to the tyranny and restoration of peace to the city. In their quest, they may encounter both loyalists to Ivan’s rule and those who secretly support their cause, making choices that have far-reaching consequences for the people of Novgorod and the entire nation.
  • The Reclusive Tsar: Following unexpected abdication, Russia plunges into turmoil, and the players are approached by concerned advisors seeking their help. They must convince the reclusive Ivan to return to the throne and restore stability to the country. Gaining an audience with the reclusive Tsar proves challenging, as they navigate Ivan’s unpredictable mood swings and psychological traumas. The players must find ways to break through his isolation, confronting past traumas and personal demons to persuade him to reassume the mantle of leadership for the good of Russia. Along the way, they may uncover hidden agendas and competing factions vying for power in the absence of the Tsar, leading to high-stakes diplomatic encounters and tense negotiations.

Currently in the World

Ivan the Terrible
Ivan the Terrible by Klavdiy Lebedev, 1916

In his later years, Ivan IV Vasilyevich, famously known as “Ivan the Terrible,” has aged considerably. His once robust frame has now withered, and his tall stature now slightly stooped. Deep lines of worry and stress mark his face, reflecting the weight of the crown he has worn for decades. Despite his advancing age, Ivan still exudes an aura of authority and power, commanding respect and fear from those around him.

Currently, Ivan sits upon his ornate throne within the grand halls of the Moscow Kremlin, the heart of his kingdom. Surrounding him are loyal courtiers and advisors, each waiting for his command. The room is lavishly adorned with tapestries, paintings, and gilded decorations, reflecting the opulence of the Russian monarchy.

At this moment, Ivan’s mood is somber and contemplative. He has just received troubling reports of unrest in some of the distant regions of his vast empire. His brow furrows as he contemplates the best course of action to maintain order and ensure his reign remains unchallenged. Despite the title “the Terrible,” Ivan carries the burden of his actions heavily, and he desires to be a just and strong ruler for his people. However, the paranoia and fear that have come to define his reign still linger, casting a shadow over his intentions.

As he listens to the advice of his counselors, Ivan knows that the fate of his kingdom lies in his hands. He must navigate the treacherous waters of politics and power, facing enemies both within and beyond his borders. The weight of the crown is heavy, but Ivan remains determined to preserve and strengthen his empire, no matter the cost.

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