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YMMV / Curse of Strahd

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  • Author's Saving Throw: The Vistani received criticism for being every evil Romani stereotype rolled into one. Wizards of the Coast has since announced they'd be updating the module with input from a Romani consultant for a more culturally sensitive portrayal.
  • Base-Breaking Character:
    • Ireena Kolyana, who remains the most divisive character in the module for players. She's either a Damsel Scrappy who steals much of the module's focus while lacking a compelling personality to justify protecting her, or she's a likeable character with a good amount of characterization, and someone the players can see as a close friend to the point of wanting to help her survive at all costs.
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    • Strahd, at least mechanically. There is a fair amount of debate whenever he is a good enough threat for the endgame-level party and some DMs felt he is too much of a Glass Cannon to be dangerous, leading to the creation of CR 27 version Strahd that has none of his weaknesses. On top of that, the module gives so many tools that trivialize fighting him that by the time you do so, players may easily win. Other people, in turn, argue this defeats the point of trying to hunt for ways to hurt him, that Strahd played properly is pretty deadly already and that it's ridiculous bumping him so high in challenge rating since at the end of the day he is just a strong vampire ruling a small country, not someone more powerful thank someone like Orcus. Furthermore, part of Strahd's power is Castle Ravenloft, a location filled with traps, enemies, and a difficult to navigate layout that Strahd can take advantage of to punish hasty players or ambush people from, meaning if used in his castle properly, he can be more dangerous than some over final encounters.
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  • Darkness-Induced Audience Apathy: The module is rather infamous for its bleak nature, with not a lot of likable characters and the ones who are likable not often lasting for the long run, and the players achievements and successes often quickly either being overwritten or undone by some unforeseen event.note  Combined with some brutal encounters and it can be a very hard module to push through. Even most of the endings to the campaign, where the PCs successfully beat Strahd, are usually Bitter Sweet Ending's at best.
  • Family-Unfriendly Aesop: The people of Barovia cope with Strahd's torments by getting drunk every night. The Martikovs enable this behavior by giving away free wine, specifically because it's good for morale and they want to benefit the people. No one ever seems to think this is unhealthy or counterproductive. Instead, drinking one's self stupid is presented as the correct way to deal with an impossible situation.
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  • Junk Rare: The Tome of Strahd. It gives some useful exposition, though the campaign drops enough information that sharp players might have figured out the relevant stuff anyway. It also reveals that Strahd, as a vampire, hates sunlight (which a successful Religion check could have also revealed, and isn't even useful because sunlight doesn't work in Barovia (except that generated by the Holy Symbol of Ravenkind, not that the tome mentions that)) and doesn't like Sergei's sword (when the sword is acquired, it is sentient and openly doesn't like him). It derives its value not for anything it does to help the players directly, but from its power to bait Strahd into suspending his objectives and being redirected into a pattern or location of the party's choosing. The "rare" part comes from this being one of the artifacts the party is specifically sent to find by Madame Eva.
  • Scrappy Mechanic: The Gifts players can receive from the sealed evil Gods in the Amber Temple aren't a very well liked mechanic due to how inconsistent they are when combined with the consequences for doing so. They range from being either useful all around, to having such a limited or one time use, and all of them have a chance to shift the characters alignment to evil, and regardless will give them a new flaw. One of them for example gives a hefty +4 to Charisma, which sounds incredible for someone like a Bard or Warlock, and the only downside is a flaw of "I will not take no for an answer", which is hardly a flaw in of itself, while another gives you the ability to fly in exchange for having to eat dirt and/or grave dirt, and failure to do so means you flat out die, which is very impractical to even consider. Not helping is that the module states any player who is shifted to evil alignment, is no longer playable and the player has to make a new character, even if the player/character has no reason to now be enemies of the partynote . Due to these factors, players generally avoid them at all costs and to avoid having to make a new character.
  • That One Boss: Several of the module's fights go here.
    • The vampire spawn in the coffin maker's workshop can be a very deadly encounter for an under-leveled party. Even a fifth level party risks getting wiped, and the fight is meant for fourth level characters. Its recommended to do the fight because it allows you to prevent Strahd's attack on the church after, but most players might not be prepared for it.
    • For players not ready for it, the fight with the vampire Doru in the basement of the church in the village of Barovia can be quite difficult. Most players will encounter him around level three, but he is very capable of killing low AC characters easily thanks to being able to attack twice during his turn, including a bite that restores his health a bit, and also reduces the targets max HP for a period of time, on top of a good amount of health. If he goes after someone like a Squishy Mage, he'll easily take them out and run the risk of killing them quickly due to being starved and not likely to show mercy. It also can be difficult for races without Darkvision since the basement has no light source, so anyone without Darkvision will be at a huge disadvantage as well and forced to focus on using something like Dancing Lights or Light to see. Radiant damage helps greatly, but Doru may just ignore someone using it to instead attack a more vulnerable target.
    • Special mention goes to Old Bonegrinder. Three Night Hags would be bad enough at level 4, but having them all present means they get the Coven rules, which means taking a Lightning Bolt from each of them, which is a likely party kill at that level. This one was so egregious that one of the game developers even suggested replacing them with the much weaker Green Hag and having one of the sisters be away selling pies so that they can't use the Coven rules.
    • Fans of Russian mythology might have seen this coming, but Baba Lysaga is no slouch. She has a Finger of Death spell, which at the level you encounter her might be Save or Die. And you might die even if you do make the save. But even worse than that is her mobile house. Depending on how you explore the ruins of Berez, you might know what's coming, or you might be shocked when her house sprouts spider legs and wipes out a player each turn. She's also very high level for when you may end up facing her, which can mean that even a well setup group will simply be overpowered by her magic.
    • Depending on the personality of the party, the Amber Temple will either avert this or play it lethally straight. The Lich has a higher challenge rating than Strahd himself, but is not hostile to the party, and may even escort them through the temple, scaring off enemies as they are approached. Of course, if the party likes to attack anything that moves in a dungeon, or thinks that anything undead must be purged, etc., they are going to have a bad time. And then there's the main chamber of the temple. An arcanaloth that starts off with cover so that you don't even know who dropped a Chain Lightning on your party, as well as the possibility of multiple Flameskulls coming to his aid. Said fight is infamous for being one of the hardest fights in the module because of this.
  • That One Level: The module is infamous among D&D players. Despite the emphasis on roleplay over combat, the module regularly throws the party into potentially lethal encounters. Ironically, players used to combat-heavy campaigns are more likely to die, as the module is notoriously unforgiving when it comes to entering combat without need.
  • They Wasted a Perfectly Good Plot: According to the handbook for the module, Madam Eva is actually Strahd's half-sister, born from when his father was out on a campaign. This detail has significant importance from a story angle; Strahd is always looking for a worthy successor, unaware he had a half-sister all along, and Madam Eva herself wants to free Strahd from his curse. Not only that, but this means by extension any of Eva's children/descendants have royal blood in their veins. This seems to be included as a clever way to defeat Strahd, perhaps by using this to convince Strahd to let Eva rule so he may finally rest, or allow one of her descendants to rule. Despite this, there is almost no hint in game the player can find to learn this, and the piece of lore is so insignificant to the story that the community generally removes this detail when running the campaign to keep Madam Eva a mysterious character.
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