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Tabletop Game / Curse of Strahd

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"I am the Ancient, I am the Land. My beginnings are lost in the darkness of the past. I am not dead. Nor am I alive. I am undead, forever."
Strahd von Zarovich

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

The story sees the adventurers being transported into Barovia, a land of mystery and horror ruled by the vampire Strahd von Zarovich. With the entire land surrounded by a deadly mist that prevents its inhabitants from escaping, the adventurers are forced to scour the dreaded domain to obtain powerful artifacts and trustworthy allies before taking on the vampire himself.


This work contains examples of:

  • Achilles' Heel: Besides your standard weakness' a vampire would have, Strahd has another one in the form of Ireena. The book explicty states that Ireena is one thing that can make him go off rails, and a careful group can use this to their advantage.
  • 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. The book also mentions Strahd making a deal with the Dark Powers for his powers, but also says he became a Vampire thanks to one of the vestiges from the Amber Temple. The module never actually clarifies what the Dark Powers are beyond the name; as written it could just be an alternative name for the vestiges.
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    • 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.
    • The Death House module is written in such a way that it can be done outside of Barovia. However, if included in Barovia, it causes problems with the setting because it states that the Durst family met Strahd after he became a Vampire, and yet the module also states the house is located in the Village of Barovia and has been around for a while, which doesn't make sense since they would have needed to known Strahd existed in some way to even be part of the village.
  • Affably Evil: The lich in the amber temple can be quite friendly to the characters, and isn't even initially hostile. His alignment is even Lawful Evil to reflect this.
  • Animated Armor: In Castle Ravenloft, there are several pressure plates where stepping on them will cause the nearest suit of armor to fall towards it, potentially causing damage to the tune of 7hp. However, the armor is not actually animated, and won't intentionally do anything to the player. There is an actual animated armor in the tower, though. It activates at a command word, and since this is Strahd's armor in Strahd's house, odds are that he will use it against you.
  • Anti-Regeneration: Strahd can regenerate his health at the start of his turn unless he is in running water, direct sunlight, or hit with radiant damage, necessating the search for at least one of the two MacGuffins that can do radiant damage.
  • Aristocrats Are Evil: Most of the noble families encountered in the module are horrible people, with Strahd himself being at the top. Many of them are Vampires or allies of Strahd out of promises of power. Ireena, however, is also a noble, and certainly presented as a moral character, and her brother likewise.
  • Awesome, but Impractical:
    • One of your potential allies against Strahd is a young Vistani named Arabelle. She's descended from Madam Eva and has similar abilities in foresight like she does, which makes her possibly useful against Strahd as thanks to it, she can offer predictions to help plan strategies. She's also a seven year old girl, meaning she has almost no health to speak of, no combat abilities, and will get taken out by most things she comes across. Due to this, she has very limited viability and can be a detriment to use.
    • Many of the gifts given by the Vestiges at the Amber Temple are either really strong, or very unique and potentially fun to use. They all come with a steep price however, ranging from your character physically changing, to your character having to do specific things daily to even live, and all give you a personality flaw. They're a fun concept, but incredibly impractical.
    • Saint Markovia's Thighbone. It has the properties of a mace of disruption and can be acquired reasonably early in the campaign. The catch? If used on any Vampire/Vampire Spawn, once battle is over, the weapon crumbles and is no longer usable. Compared to the other unique weapons like the Blood Spear and Sunsword, it isn't too useful.
  • Beware the Silly Ones: The Vistani are cheerful and love to party, with many of their camps being very lively in comparison to the rest of Barovia. Despite this, they're no less dangerous than anyone else, and almost all are loyal to Strahd. They also pack powerful curses that are able to seriously hurt anyone who they inflict them on.
  • Big Bad: Strahd von Zarovich 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.
  • Bizarrchitecture: Whether as a result of Dark Powers' meddling or of a map editor's mistake, Castle Ravenloft has some Alien Geometries going on in its layout. Most egregiously, the upper exit of the King's Apartment Stair (K33) in the Rooms of Weeping (Map 5) is located a full 20 ft. (~6 m) to the west of where it is placed in the Court of the Count (Map 4). More subtly, the bedrock tunnel (K81) connecting the Dungeon to the Catacombs (Map 11) is shown to be 120 ft. long, but based on the positions of the High Tower (K18) and the Spiral Stair (K83), it should actually be 130 ft.note  To be fair to CoS, the exact same issues have been present in every map of the Castle since 1983.
  • 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 because his primary motivation is to free his vampire son Doru. He also is very weak long term and would require serious adjustment to be a long term ally. Piddlewick is a fun character for role-players due to his quirk personality and backstory, but pretty useless for actual gameplay. Generally speaking, allies like Van Ricten and Ezmerelda are more desired for being both useful and fun to interact with.
    • Arrigal is the only ally is that is a sure-fire Token Evil Teammate. He is an Assassin Rogue, making him very strong and a potentially useful stealth asset, but he also is a Vastani that is loyal to Strahd, and only helps the players because Madam Eva informed him of her tarot card reading. This means he's only helping because he owed her, so he has no reason to help the players and may even actively sabotage them. If he survives and helps defeat Strahd, he'll go on to betray the party after, making him a very big liability. Due to this, he tends to be one ally that the community advises to never make the Destined Ally because of how much trouble using him brings the party.
    • 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 make up something new if they get this.
  • Byronic Hero: Strahd is a Deconstruction; he is introspective, dark, brooding, and isolated, with an air of Romanticism. But these don't change the fact that, at his core, Strahd is an abusive monster who hides behind these qualities to elicit sympathy.
    Tracy Hickman: For Laura and me, those were the elements that truly defined Strahd von Zarovich—a selfish beast forever lurking behind a mask of tragic romance, the illusion of redemption that was ever only camouflage for his prey.
  • Cain and Abel: Like in the classic adventure, Strahd was the Cain to his brother Sergei. Sergei was engaged to the beautiful Tatyana, whom Strahd lusted after. She, however, did not return his affections. Strahd, convinced that Tatyana liked Sergei because he was younger, made a deal with Vampyr to become a vampire, thus giving him eternal youth, and sealing the deal with the blood of Sergei.
  • 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. Although if it is Vecna there's a massive Continuity Snarl or retcon involved, since the Temple predates Strahd's birth by many centuries and Strahd was centuries old when Vecna achieved godhood.
  • Can't Kill You, Still Need You: Downplayed. Strahd doesn't need the player characters for anything, they merely offer a fun diversion from his normal routine. That said, Strahd doesn't want them dead right away because of this, and hopes they bring about some amusement, so if he does send his minions at them, he does so to test them. He doesn't mind putting them in peril though, and once they do become a big enough threat, he will do all he can to kill them.
  • 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.
  • 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, and several important items can only be used by them. The module also is specific in that only characters of certain alignments can wield some of the items found.
  • Child Prodigy: Victor Vallakovich, the son of the mayor of Vallaki, is the equivalent to a lv. 9 wizard, despite being a teenager.
  • 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, so the older Ravenloft modules aren't Exiled from Continuity.
  • Cosmic Plaything: Although Strahd has all the power he wants, he still is a puppet of the Dark Powers, who love to make him their plaything. Due to this, anytime Strahd seems to have a chance at being happy, he is cursed to have it taken away by their will. Notably this even includes if he gets Ireena. If he somehow gets her and makes her a Vampire, he will end up either killing her, or potentially making her an enemy and thereby robbing him of her.
  • 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.
  • Damsel in Distress:
    • Ireena is targeted by Strahd, so she is at risk of being snatched by him and stuffed into a crypt with his other brides. Protecting her is an early quest for the party. However, she has the stat block of a Noble, and so she has some ability to defend herself, which might shift her into Badass in Distress.
    • A vistani girl named Arabelle is kidnapped by the fisherman Bluto. He ties her up, stuffs her into a sack and intends to sacrifice her to Lake Zarovich in the belief that it will improve his luck fishing. The players can save her if they act quickly.
  • 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 a good number of them literally soulless, and Strahd's true threat is felt constantly.
  • Death World: Barovia is only missing something that kills you just for being there, which the mist can easily take care of. Whether it be wolves, zombies, vampires, hags, etc, there is something always there that will try to kill you.
  • Dissonant Serenity: Invoked by the Burgomaster of Vallaki. Everyone in town is required to look happy and put on a smile as he fears that if the town does anything suspicious, it will draw Strahd's wrath. Doesn't matter what happens around you, you have to smile or else be punished for it. In his delusions, he thinks that if he can make everyone happy, then the town will somehow escape Barovia.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: The lore behind the Death House provides a moment for surprisingly enough Strahd. At some point before the campaign starts, the cultists at the Death House captured a group of adventures Strahd brought in to Barovia in the hopes of sacrificing them and taking their goods. Upon learning this, Strahd was furious and went to the house and slew all the cultists inside for daring to take his guests captive like that. Say what you will about Strahd, but if he invites to be his guest, he does at least try to be somewhat respectful, and doesn't take kindly to that respect being broken.Granted...  He had also repeatedly tried to get them to stop making sacrifices to him before this; not for ethical reasons, he just finds them so pathetic it's embarrassing.
  • 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.
  • Evil Versus Evil: Essentially what the political plotline of Vallaki boils down to. The current Burgomaster is a tyrant who enforces a Happiness Is Mandatory policy to avoid Strahd's wrath, and is close to losing his shit, but is doing his best to keep the town safe. The opposing party is the Wachter family lead by Fiona Wachter, who is Affably Evil and wants to open the town up more, but is a firm supporter of Strahd. Both parties hope to remove the other to gain power, with the player characters being stuck in a tough spot as neither are good options but one may be better than the other.
  • 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 camped near Vallaki sell potions that protect against the mists. The Vistani lie, and are working for Strahd. The potions do nothing.
  • Fantastic Racism: Because Barovia has been trapped in a cycle and thus is cut off from the rest of the world, its mentioned that non-human races are heavily looked down at by people in the land. It's specifically compared to you in real life meeting members of those races; even if people aren't actually hostile they'll find the non-humans exotic and strange.
  • 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.
  • For the Evulz: The entire module goes to great lengths to subvert this, as most of the evil factions have some understandable motive (although how sympathetic it is varies): Strahd is doing it for the love of a woman who doesn't love him back, Vargas Vallakovich just wants everyone to be happy, lady Wachter believes the mayor is a tyrant and idolizes Strahd, the werewolves serve Strahd out of fear, and even the lich Exethanter won't go against the players since he has no interest in their quest. The only ones to play this straight are the Dream Pastry Hags, but even they seem more interested in giving the people a means of escaping their troubles, they just go about it in an evil way.
  • The Ghost: The Dark Powers, even more so than in standard Ravenloft continuity. Whereas they were occasionally mentioned in Ravenloft sourcebooks, they are mentioned quite often in Curse of Strahd, but no explanation of what they are is ever given. They might be connected to the slivers of slain gods sealed within the Amber Temple, but this is not made clear.
  • Giant Spider: An entire nest of giant spiders can be found in the ruins of Argynvostholt. They also are among many random encounters the player can have in their travels.
  • 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.
  • Greater-Scope Villain: The Dark Powers. They are responsible for Barovia being stuck as it is, and essentially help maintain it while also helping the heroes through their allowing of magic to be used. Despite this, they never appear, are mentioned in passing, and don't appear to care about the adventurer party or Strahd's Evil Plan. The whole lure-travelers-into-Barovia thing is entirely Strahd's doing.
  • "Groundhog Day" Loop: Strahd's curse is a variant of this. To him, Tatyana's endless incarnations give him infinite do-overs to attain her love. The Dark Powers keep him trapped by ensuring that she dies every time he is close to success. Technically, he could escape any time he wanted, but he knows for certain that her incarnation loop puts him in the only position where failure is impossible...if he can just hatch the right scheme.
  • 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.
    • The tarot card readings can be very vague and confusing if the dice are not fortunate, and there are several cards that outright can be detrimental to allowing the players to decide what to do. A DM is encouraged to actually redo the card readings if they end up this way to avoid confusing players or making blatantly unfair situations, such as something like the Enemy of Strahd being someone like Piddlestick.
    • The ruins of Argynvostholt, and the Dragon Knights who fell there, can be redeemed and a fight with them can be avoided if the players go out of their way to light the beacon on the ruins. Doing so can potentially get you Godfrey as an ally and allows you to mostly avoid fighting in the ruins. However, there is little indication this is possible until a large part of the ruins are explored, meaning its possible players will miss it simply because the location is fairly large. Also, the fact that the item needed to light the beacon, the skull of the dragon, is not located in the ruins but instead Ravenloft Castle, aka, Strahd's castle, means most players will not know where it is, and when they do, it will be possibly too difficult to attempt.
    • A few of the plotlines in the campaign are very hard for a DM to hint towards and for for players to discover or complete because of the difficulties in doing so, or how out of the way they can be. For example, it is possible to free Doru, the son of the Village of Barovia's priest who was made into a vampire, without killing him, but it requires going far out of the way to try and fix, and many will instead kill him because of the difficulties of trying to save him. One of the more infamous ones is the side quest with Arabelle; she is captured by a random fisherman and taken to the lake to the north of Vallaki to be drowned. Nothing in the book gives a good way to hint towards the players to go to the lake, as the only hints it provides are that she is missing, so players will just have to guess and head there to even find her.
    • Its entirely possible to screw over Strahd before players are ready to fight him if they take Ireena to Krezek, thereby earning his wrath. In the city is a magically blessed pool of water. If Ireena approaches it, she will see visions of Sergei from her past life as Tatyana, and, if the players do not stop her, will enter the water and Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence with Sergei, allowing her to essentially escape Barovia forever. If the player does so, Strahd essentially has a Villainous Breakdown at how the heroes have removed the one thing he wanted, and will target the players now for ruining everything. Nothing in the campaign hints this is at all possible, and you'd have to have Ireena go to the spot on a whim to even find this out, with most likely avoiding it due to how it can come across as a Violation of Common Sense.
    • The Mad Mage, aka Mordenkainen, can possibly be a major ally against Strahd, even if he doesn't chose to fight alongside the players. However, getting him to be an ally is tedious and frustrating for how obtuse it is. To elaborate; the Mad Mage openly attacks the players thinking they're a threat, and even though he doesn't have his full Spell List, has more then enough power to possibly wipe out an entire party with no trouble. If the players manage to subdue him and try to restore his mind, it fails because he casted Mind Blank on himself to prevent himself from being found by Strahd. If the players don't pass a high enough Arcana check or use a spell like Detect Magic on him, they'll not learn what is going on and have no way of fixing it. Even if they do, they have to wait 3d6 hours for it to wear off so they can restore him (meaning he cannot be restored from anywhere as short as a mere 3 hours, to as long as 18 hours). Nothing hints that this situation occurs or can be done except for maybe if players assume the Mad Mage is the same Mage who attempted to defeat Strahd a year ago, but this is hard to put together as well because all the rumors imply he died.
  • 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.
  • Have You Seen My God?: It's off-handedly mentioned that the gods have no power in Barovia, and Warlocks, Paladins and Clerics get their power from other, darker sources. Dungeon Masters are encouraged to make this part of the roleplaying experience. The local goddess Old Mother Night is still somewhat active, but her counterpart The Morninglord has disappeared.
  • The Heavy: Baba Lysaga. She helped raise Strahd, gave many blessings and even the gift of magic to him before she was kicked out, and uses her magic to directly support him. Its also implied she had a hand in the death of Queen Ravenovia, which helped walk Strahd down his dark path. She's one of the main threats to the heroes stopping Strahd, and directly attempting to stop the Wereravens from assisting those who would stop Strahd.
  • Hellish Horse: Beuceaphalus, Strahd's Nightmare steed.
  • Holy Hand Grenade: The Icon of Ravenloft inside the chapel of Strahd's castle. Touching it while having an evil alignment is possibly fatal but it is a valuable weapon in the hands of a good aligned character.
  • Hope Is Scary: The Baron of Vallaki and his wife. They've turned nuts because of their desperation for giving the townsfolk hope as well as trying to avoid Strahd's wrath. As a result, they tend 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.
  • I Do Not Drink Wine: Seems to be averted. Strahd is depicted holding a glass of wine on the cover. If it is wine, that is.
  • 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.
  • Laserblade: The Sunsword was a sword of crystal wielded by Strahd's brother, Sergei. Though the crystal blade was destroyed, the hilt remains, now given a blade of sunlight that the wielder can manifest at will. It is also sapient and has a burning hatred of Strahd.
  • Lethal Joke Character: One of the first combat encounters in the entire module is an animated broom. This broom, more than any other monster in the module, is responsible for countless player deaths, thanks to the players' low level when fighting it and it having a ridiculously high armor class for its level.
  • 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 due to their inability to). This last one is zigzagged, since Clerics or other classes with Divine spells can still cast them, but it's implied that the prayers of the player characters are answered by the Dark Powers, someone Strahd wouldn't expect to be working against him.
  • MacGuffin: The three emeralds from the farm part are not at all related to Strahd. Finding them and returning them is a long-term side-quest to preserve the Barovians's only past-time, getting drunk. Returning them makes peacefully entering Krezek easier, because the players can offer wine shipments to the shut-in people. However, they're mostly just excuses to enter other areas.
  • Madame Fortune: Madam Eva can tell the player's fortunes. This is a game mechanic, as the locations of treasures, identities of allies, and where to find Strahd, are determined by the DM through this card reading.
  • Melting-Pot Nomenclature: Barovian NPCs primarily have Slavic names, but there are many Germanic, Romanian, and Hungarian ones as well. This is actually not too far from the truth, as Barovia is based on medieval Transylvania, which had sizable populations of all those groups.
  • More Predators Than Prey: The food chain seemingly consists entirely of humans and wolves eating each other.
  • 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.
  • 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. The Abbot in Saint Markovia believes he can redeem Strahd, but ultimately this is impossible; Strahd loves being evil.
  • 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 since, by their nature, a Lich has to be evil. It helps that he's chosen to spend eternity as an Evil Librarian, so aiding the heroes in their search for potentially corrupting knowledge and power is just indulging his hobby.
  • Our Souls Are Different: Souls in Barovia work a bit differently then normal modules. This is because Barovia is trapped in its own domain, meaning that when a person dies, their soul does not move on, and essentially remains stuck in the land, eventually reincarnating into a new person with the same soul and look, but without their past memories. As shown with Ireena being Tatyana's reincarnation, it is possible to awaken those memories, but they require specific situations that can do so. Those without a soul are living beings but are noted to be dour and lack the ability to express themselves the same way those with souls can; these make up 9/10 of the population. Strahd also does not feel his hunger satisfied unless he drinks the blood of a person with a soul.
  • 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. However, there is a distinction between being a full powered Vampire like Strahd, or a Vampire Spawn, the later being lesser in power who are bound to the will of Strahd and lack the raw power a true Vampire has. Mind you, they are incredibly strong still, and a single one is capable of being able to nearly kill a low level group.
  • 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.
  • Our Angels Are Different: The Abbot is a normal Deva by D&D standards, with the exception that he's completely insane..
  • 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.
  • Put on a Bus: Ireena can be this in Krezk. The ghost of Sergei shows up and can take her to a safe place away from Strahd. It requires Violation of Common Sense from the players, though.
  • Reduced to Ratburgers: Because Barovia is lacking in wild game and all the farms have been abandoned, the people rely on wolves for meat. 5E has the only farm be a vineyard, which isn't producing grapes anymore due to sabotage.
  • Reincarnation-Identifying Trait: Because the souls of those who die in Barovia are trapped, they reincarnate after a certain amount of time. Those who do look the exact same as they did in their previous life, hence how Strahd learned Ireena was the reincarnation of Tatyana.
  • Reincarnation Romance: A dark example in Strahd's constant pursuit of Tatyana whenever she reincarnates. He is obsessed with having Tatyana for himself, regardless of what her current reincarnation may think of it, even though she rejected him twice over in her original life, and jumped to her death to get away from him.
  • Retcon: The amount of lore changed from the original version of Barovia at the end of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 2nd Edition, or even its semi-official Dungeons & Dragons 3rd Edition update, is staggering.
    • The size of the domain has shifted. Whilst larger than the original realm seen in the original I6: Castle Ravenloft module, which consisted of a single village (Barovia) with the castle looming above, this iteration is much smaller and less populated than the Ravenloft setting version of the domain,
    • The widespread famine and crop-failure did not exist in past iterations of Ravenloft. Whilst the majority of the Barovians were peasant farmers, they still lived decently well, with fertile forests full of wild game and plentiful flocks of sheep, goats, pigs and even cattle to feed themselves with.
    • The idea that the vast majority of Barovians are soulless and the minority with souls are trapped in a cycle of reincarnation are both completely new to this module.
    • The existence of the Amber Temple and all things within completely retcons everything established about the Dark Powers throughout Ravenloft's history.
    • All the details of Strahd's relationship with the Vistani were made up for this module:
      • Strahd didn't originally know the Vistani before his damnation; they were some of the first people to emerge into his Domain of Dread after he was taken by the Mists.
      • Madame Eva being Strahd's half-sister is completely new to this module.
      • Madame Eva had no particular interest in Strahd's fate at all in original Ravenloft canon
      • The Vistani traditionally would "help" Strahd in various low-key ways, but they never liked him and they certainly weren't his willing servants, ala Dracula's Romani henchmen in the original Bram Stoker novel. Madame Eva largely existed to be a quest-giver who would point the party on the right path to slaying Strahd in the original I6 module.
    • The dusk elves are retcons of a retcon; they never existed in older editions of Ravenloft, and were added into the domain in the Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition adventure "Fair Barovia". When introduced, they were a ghostly pale subrace of cursed elves with an affinity for shadow magic, and with a small but thriving population. In this module, they are the dying remnants of a clan of dark-skinned wood elves who suffered a Gendercide at Strahd's hands.
    • Ezmerelda d'Avenir never existed in earlier editions, and her relationship with Dr. Rudolph Van Richten comes with the retconning of Arturi Radanavich, a Vistani man who was responsible for persuading Van Richten to make peace with the Vistani by proving they weren't an Always Chaotic Evil race of thieves, kidnappers and Evil Sorcerers.
  • Schmuck Bait: Early in the Amber Temple is a corpse with a Staff of Cold that is perfectly intact and can be picked up. Doing so will make the user desire power above all else and make them more greedy.
  • 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 slivers of slain evil gods trapped in amber blocks could be safely stored in one place. It went about as well as you'd expect. All the evil contained here eventually corrupted its guardins, and they killed each other. Then evil people moved in.
  • 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. If you fail to stop it, you can still at least fight it, but doing so it very difficult as it can still destroy the winery during the fight.
  • 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 taken care of the moment he feels compelled to.
  • Stronger with Age: In-Universe this is why Strahd is so powerful. As either the first true Vampire or simply one of the oldest, he has many years of knowledge and experience that allows him to use his full might against his enemies.
  • 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.
  • Total Party Kill: Many games will likely end this way. It is Gothic horror, after all. In particular, this seems to be the design intention behind the Death House intro module. 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 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.
  • 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: Reconstruction 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: 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, as he will attempt to win you to his side and make you a vampire spawn.
  • Violation of Common Sense: One of the happiest resolutions to the adventure (and ways to quickly expedite it wrapping up) are to take Ireena To Krezk, and then approaching a certain pool of water with her. The party will see a ghostly apparition appear and talk to her in a suspicious manner, she will walk towards the pool in a trance, and everything about the encounter just SCREAMS "This is a bad idea, you need to stop her from walking to her doom!". And then the PCs find out that doing nothing to hinder the seemingly possessed woman they've been protecting all of this time will be the one way she can find happiness, and doing anything at ALL to interfere with the scene happening in from of them dooms her to never be able to escape Barovia. Notably, the only guidance in the adventure is for having the PCs escort her (and her brother) to one of the two towns, so how she is supposed to be handled from this point on if the ghost is thwarted is left entirely up to the DM.
  • We ARE Struggling Together: The main plotline of the Werewolf Den revolves around this: the Werewolves are unsure who their leader should be due to disagreements about the current leader Kiril, and are stuck arguing among themselves. The players arrival is designed to shift the playing field around to determine the fate of the pack. A good aligned party will likely just kill them all however, as they all, regardless, want to continue spreading out.
  • We Help the Helpless: The Keepers of the Feathers act as a variation of this. They do their best to help the people of Barovia against Strahd and his allies, but do their best to make sure the people they help actually are trustworthy.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: The Burgomaster of Vallaki is a cruel man who will jail people for daring to go against the status quo of the town, and is a paranoid nut-job. However, he's doing his best to protect the town from the threats outside the cities walls, and enforces a Dissonant Serenity to avoid Strahd's wrath. He isn't a good person, the book gives him an Evil alignment, but he is still trying to do his best in a terrible situation, even if a part of his reason is selfish.
  • 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 who will do everything he can just shy of personally killing them to stop them.
  • Your Magic's No Good Here: Downplayed. Your party is capable of using all their magic without issue while in Barovia for balance reasons, but Paladins and Clerics find their connection to their deities strained because of the nature of Barovia as a pocket in the world. As a result, typical mechanics like praying to your God for guidance don't work, or worse, are intercepted by other, more sinister parties.

DISCLAIMER: Wizards of the Coast cannot be held liable for any longterm 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 on 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?