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Tabletop Game / Curse of Strahd

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The master of Ravenloft is having guests for dinner... and you're invited.

A remake/reboot of the original Ravenloft adventure, Curse of Strahd is an adventure module for Dungeons And Dragons' fifth edition. It was written by Christopher Perkins, with story help from the original Ravenloft authors, Tracy and Laura Hickman. It was released in March of 2016.

The plot sees the player characters being absorbed into Barovia, a land of Gothic Horror ruled over by the vampire Strahd von Zarovich. Unable to escape thanks to a toxic mist, the player characters must scour the land to obtain powerful artifacts and allies before taking on the vampire himself.


This works contains examples of:

  • Adam Smith Hates Your Guts: Justified. Most of the shopkeepers are apathetic or fully aware of the hell they are stuck in it. Thus they either charge at such ridiculous prices, or just don't bother to really price fairly because they have no reason to. Many of them are willing to bargain because they expect the players to die, allowing them to get money, and their goods back.
  • Adaptation-Induced Plot Hole:
    • In the original Ravenloft lore, Strahd became a vampire through making a deal with an entity called Death. In this version, he made a deal with one of the vestiges in the Amber Temple, but the text in his Tome referencing Death is unchanged.
    • Ezmerelda d'Avenir's fluff claims that she was part of the clan that kidnapped Van Richten's son, but that van Richten spared them after interrogating them, since he had gotten the information he needed. Van Richten's journal, on the other hand, claims he killed them all. There is no implication that van Richten would be an Unreliable Narrator, and the fluff text obviously won't lie.
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  • Affably Evil: The lich in the amber temple can be quite friendly to the characters, and isn't even initially hostile.
  • Big Bad: Strahd himself. He is considered a deadly challenge for the player characters, and could easily wipe an unprepared party. He has near god-like rule of Barovia, and the characters cannot leave until he is defeated. Combine those with his habit of dropping in on the characters unexpected, and the module's namesake becomes clearer.
  • Blessed with Suck: The Tarokka reading might be this, depending on what you get. It's not actually a blessing, but in terms of gameplay, it works in a similar way.
    • Donavich and Piddlewick II can be this, depending on how the party feels. Donavich is an Acolyte, and is thus supremely useful in Barovia, where almost everything is weak to the divine, but to a roleplaying party, he's pretty boring. Piddlewick is a fun character for role-players, but pretty useless for actual gameplay.
    • Darklord is objectively the worst card for the Ally reading, since it doesn't give the party any ally. Most dungeon masters reread the card or makes up something new if they get this.
  • The Cameo:
    • Mordenkainen makes an appearance, and might be the party's ally. Assuming, of course, you can restore his memory.
    • While not named directly, Vecna indirectly appears in the Amber Temple. There are shrines there to a nameless god of secrets. These two cameos are the first references to the Greyhawk setting in Fifth Edition, which up until Curse of Strahd, was focused largely on the Forgotten Realms.
  • Classical Movie Vampire: Strahd himself doesn't deviate too far from this formula. Despite being a reboot, the module doesn't really make any attempt to "modernize" his character. In the foreword, it's stated that was on purpose.
    Tracy Hickman: But the vampire genre has taken a turn from its roots in recent years. The vampire we see today exemplifies the polar opposite of the original archetype: the lie that it's okay to enter a romance with an abusive monster because if you love it enough, it will change.
    • Notably, it's implied that even if Strahd does succeed in his plans, he's doomed to failure. Turning Ireena doesn't fulfill him. Instead, he corrupts her, and she becomes just another consort.
  • Character Select Forcing: The campaign is heavily skewed in favor of Paladins and Clerics due to the sheer amount of enemies weak to Radiant damage, alongside the benefits brought by both classes. Without either, a group playing can seriously start to fall behind in strength. The campaign is also very dependent on needing vision, so races with Darkvision get a huge boost as well.
  • Continuity Reboot: Curse of Strahd is a retelling of the original module I6: Ravenloft. This new version uses rules from 5th Edition D&D, alters some elements of the original adventure, and significantly expands upon the lands surrounding Castle Ravenloft. Later additions, such as the sequel modules and the Ravenloft campaign setting books, aren't acknowledged. It should be noted that many of the party's possible allies are references to characters from later additions to the Ravenloft setting.
  • Crazy-Prepared: Van Richten knew what he was doing in infiltrating Barovia. He brought along a hat that lets him magically disguise himself at will, a spell scroll that can raise the dead, and his ring not only blocks mind reading, but can also possibly be used by friendly Vistani such as Esmerelda to smuggle his soul out of Barovia should he die.
  • Darker and Edgier: Even more so than Ravenloft already was, which is saying something. Previous editions made it clear that, while a world of horror, Barovia was still a beautiful, vibrant land where Strahd rarely interfered with day-to-day goings-on and most people enjoyed relatively peaceful lives. Far from the case here, where the sky is constantly dark, the woods are dying and blighted, the people are constantly miserable and mostly literally soulless, and Strahd's true threat is felt constantly.
  • The Doll Episode:
    • Izek Strazni, henchman to the Burgomaster of Vallaki, keeps an entire room full of dolls that look just like Ireena Kolyana. Ireena is Izek's long-lost sister, as well as the latest incarnation of Strahd's beloved Tatyana.
    • One of the possible allies the party could recruit is an evil, murderous doll. This is far from ideal for the party, but it can still help against Strahd.
  • Dissonant Serenity: Invoked by the Burgomaster of Vallaki. Everyone in town is required to look happy and put on a smile. Doesn't matter what happens around you, you have to smile or face possible death.
  • Everything Trying to Kill You: The amount of things not trying to kill you is easier to count. Justified, since almost everything in the land works for Strahd, and thus will actively do so because you are a threat. The things that won't try to kill you are either a small number of allies, or apathetic to you.
  • Fantastic Drug:
    • An old lady in the first village travels from door to door selling "dream pastries". They are made from ground up human bones.
    • The Vistani sell potions that protect against the mists. The Vistani lie, and are working for Strahd. The potions do nothing.
  • Fantasy Character Classes: Naturally, since it's D&D. Of particular note, a paladin or cleric is nigh-essential for success. Their ability to deal radiant damage can save the party in tough situations against vampire spawn or even Strahd himself, and only a good aligned member of one of these two classes can wield the Holy Symbol of Ravenkind, one of the artifacts the party is meant to gather before fighting Strahd.
  • Fisher King: Strahd appears to control Barovia's climate, and keeps the land perpetually dark and misty. If the party manages to kill Strahd, the mists fade away and the sun begins to shine.
  • Fog of Doom: Barovia is surrounded on all sides by a wall of mist. Attempting to enter the mist will cause characters to get turned around, forcing them back into Barovia. If characters persist in wandering into the mist anyway, it will drain the life from them, with fatal results.
  • Giant Spider: An entire nest of giant spiders can be found in the ruins of Argynvostholt.
  • Golden Ending: Nigh impossible to achieve without meta gaming, but if you defeat Strahd, there is a way of freeing the people of Barovia permanently, but it requires convincing every citizen of Barovia to flee. There are likely not more than 500 people who still have souls, but the issue is finding those 500, and convincing them to escape.
  • Go Mad from the Revelation: It is actually in the game mechanics. If a character dies but is brought back to life after being dead for more than 24 hours, they might gain a level of madness from realizing that their souls are trapped in Barovia and cannot make it to the afterlife.
  • Gothic Horror: The book contains most of the genre's standard tropes, including vampires, Eastern European themes, dark castles, and a sky that's perpetually overcast.
  • Guide Dang It!: In the crypts of Castle Ravenloft, the players can obtain an incredibly useful Staff of Power. The only problem is that they have no way of knowing it is there. Someone in the party must stand on a very specific spot and speak the name of the dead wizard buried there, which will cause the staff to appear for a single round. Grabbing it will trigger a lightning trap, not grabbing it will cause it to disappear forever.
  • Haunted Castle: Castle Ravenloft, which is perhaps the most iconic haunted castle in the history of tabletop gaming. There are other examples as well, such as Argynvostholt.
  • Holy Hand Grenade: The Icon of Ravenloft inside the chapel of Strahd's castle. Touching it while having an evil alignment is possibly fatal.
  • Hope Is Scary: The Baron of Vallaki and his wife. They've turned nuts because of their desperation for giving the townsfolk hope. As a result, he tends to be paranoid of newcomers and will often jump to believe the player characters work for Strahd if any vague allusion to being drawn into Barovia is made.
  • Hope Spot: Even if you manage to defeat Strahd, he will return within a year. There is no way to ultimately kill him. Lampshaded in the disclaimer.
    Disclaimer: Wizards of the Coast cannot be held liable for any lingering side effects of venturing into the dread realm of Ravenloft, such as lycanthropy, vampirism, a fear of dead things, a fear of living things, an inability to sleep without a nightlight and a +5 holy avenger under your pillow, and the unsettling suspicion that Strahd is too clever to be so easily defeated and that this is all just part of some grand scheme of his to extend his power beyond Barovia. You didn't think you could escape unless he wanted you to, did you?
    • The son of the Baron of Vallaki is trying to create a Teleportation Circle to escape Barovia. Even if he succeeds, the circle won't take him out of Barovia.
  • Immortality Bisexuality: Although Strahd has had a number of female consorts, it's implied that his current consort is a handsome young man named Escher who he turned into a vampire spawn. Additionally, it's possible for him to take an interest in Player Characters with a high charisma, and seek to take them as his consort. The book takes great care in not specifying a particular gender.
  • Karmic Death: While it might not be permanent, it is possible and quite likely that when Strahd is beaten, it will be with the Sunsword that his brother Sergei had forged before Strahd killed him.
  • Kill Them All: Possibly the design intention of Death House. The starting module is very deadly for low-level characters even though it's meant for levels one to three. Of particular note are the Shambling mound and the house's giant F-U in the form of stupidly dangerous traps, which it springs if characters don't play ball. There's also the fact that Strahd is very likely to appear, and if the player is not careful, they might piss him off.
  • Logical Weakness: Inverted. Strahd has all the typical vampire weaknesses. He's hurt by sunlight, can't enter a home unless invited, and is weak to the holy. However, he's leveling it out by using his other powers. He's hurt by sunlight, but Barovia is covered in mist, and there is thus never direct sunlight. With one exception. He can't enter someone else's house, but as the sovereign ruler of Barovia, everything within its borders, including private homes, belong to him. He's hurt by the holy, but there are no gods in Barovia (the citizens worship Lathander and Shar, but they have long since stopped answering prayers). This last one is zigzagged, since Clerics can still cast divine spells. It's implied, however, that the prayers of the player characters are answered by the Dark Powers, someone Strahd wouldn't expect to be working against him.
  • Obliviously Evil: The Abbey of Saint Markovia is led by The Abbot, an angel who doesn't realize he is a fallen angel. He wants to protect the people of Krezk by creating a "bride" for Strahd out of reanimated body parts. Despite this, he's a useful ally if you get on his good side, as he can use Raise Dead on recently deceased party members.
  • Obviously Evil: Strahd. Even if the party somehow doesn't put it together from the 30+ years of history on the net or his appearance on the book's cover, everyone in Barovia knows he's evil and make no secret of it. Strahd himself doesn't bother hiding it when he meets the party.
  • Oh, Crap!: There will likely be many of these moments. Namely, every time Strahd shows up before the party is finally ready to deal with him.
  • Orcus on His Throne: Defied. Part of what makes Strahd such a fearsome enemy is that he literally can be anywhere. He might not actively try to kill you early on since he is more interested in letting you amuse him, but make no mistake about it; Strahd is not an idle threat at all. In fact, every single encounter roll has a chance of being Strahd if you end up unlucky.
  • Our Liches Are Different: Exethanter is the typical D&D lich, with one crucial difference: He has no reason to fight the party. They are no threat to him, he has no interest in stopping their quest, and they might even restore his memory. He's still Lawful Evil, but puts more focus on the Lawful part.
  • Our Vampires Are Different: Averted. The eponymous villain is more of a Classical Movie Vampire, or even more accurately a direct expy of Dracula as he appears in Bram Stoker's original novel.
    • His vampire servitors are no different, though bound by his will.
  • Our Werebeasts Are Different:
    • Averted with a pack of werewolves living in Barovia. They're fairly standard, as far as D&D werewolves go.
    • Played straight with a secret fraternity of good-aligned wereravens operating throughout Barovia. They will readily agree to help out adventurers who oppose Strahd.
  • Reduced to Ratburgers: Because Barovia is lacking in wild game and the farms have all been abandoned, the people rely on wolves for meat.
  • Noob Cave: Defied. The Death House is the closest example of this in the campaign, and it does not mess around. Players have to be careful and serious exploring it, treating it like an entry level or training area is a good way to get yourself killed.
  • Power at a Price: You can accept Dark Gifts from the vestiges in the Amber Temple. Doing so requires a Charisma saving throw to avoid an immediate alignment shift to Evil, and grants an additional character flaw regardless of whether you succeed.
  • Preserve Your Gays: While the module's only two gay characters, the knights Vladimir and Godfrey, are dead when the module starts, they still hang around their old castle as revenants.
  • Sealed Evil in a Can: The Amber Temple was built to serve as a secure vault where plenty of cans of sealed evil including about a dozen evil gods trapped in amber blocks could be safely stored in one place. It went about as well as you'd expect.
  • Stalked by the Bell:
    • In the town of Vallaki, the wards surrounding the church have recently gone down. Should the party fail to find and complete this miniquest within a few days of entering the town for the first time, Strahd and several vampire spawn will storm the church during a sermon and murder the priest.
    • Another example occurs at Yester Hill. The druids there are conducting a ritual to awaken the Gulthias Tree. If they are not defeated in time and the tree killed, it will transform into a Tree Blight, which will run off to attack the Wizard of Wines winery. The loss of allies there might make getting into Krezk difficult.
  • Status Quo Is God: Invoked. Strahd enjoys the company of the player characters, but at the end of the day he still wants to maintain his control over Barovia, and thus will inevitably seek to slay the players or corrupt them to his side. As a result, Barovia is maintained in a state of fear and control by Strahd, anything that goes against his rule or desires will be plucked out as soon as possible.
  • The Soulless: Approximately ninety percent of Barovia's population. Any person with a soul, including any party members who die, is doomed to reincarnate forever.
  • Talking Weapon: The Sunsword. It wants nothing more than to kill Strahd.
  • Tempting Fate: A friendly guard in Vallaki warns the player characters that the Burgomaster is easily provoked and a bit of a paranoid nutcase. Players might feel tempted to poke him a bit, which can cut Vallaki completely as a friendly town.
  • Total Party Kill: Many games will likely end this way. It is Gothic horror, after all.
  • Unwitting Test Subject: The butler and lady-in-waiting of the Baron and Baroness of Vallaki. The son of the Baron "enlisted" them to test out his teleportation circle, which burned them to crisp. The reason? Well, take your pick: His knowledge of the ritual was too limited to perform it properly, he doesn't have any proper destination sigils, or it's the magic of Strahd.
  • Villain Forgot to Level Grind: Reconstructed with Strahd. Strahd is insanely powerful, even high level players with weapons, gear, and allies that are specifically geared to stop him will not be able to beat him with ease. Strahd has lived for hundreds of years, he has no reason to get stronger since its the players who need to get stronger.
  • Villainous Crush: An actual part of Strahd's character that can occur towards the players. While Strahd only has his eyes set on one person for his true love, he can develop something like this towards the player characters if they interest him enough. This largely is based on the personality and how charismatic a player character is, and you really don't want Strahd going this way.
  • Why Don't You Just Shoot Him?: Played straight and justified. Strahd typically has two modes: boredom and searching for Tatyana's latest reincarnation. The rare newcomers to Barovia represent a diversion he'd rather not end too quickly. Even then, however, the moment he's convinced the party might present a threat to him or his plans, he becomes a Combat Pragmatist.

Example of: