SM Curse of Strahd

Published on 2020-07-06 #dnd

Strahd Von Zarovich, is one of the best written villain in the D&D mutliverse. His backstory thrusts the party into a wonderful story about an endless life and power; and what that how that transforms Strahd and his conquered land into realm into eternal darkness and death.

Curse of Strahd, brings the brilliant story of the dark lord as a excellent Gothic horror, where the characters are always looking behind their backs. If you would like to learn more about the actual adventure, I recommend buying the book. The book is very well written and I will not do it justice.

I am going to be talking about the changes I made to the game as I ran it and where I stole some ideas for the game from. I will also talk about some of the challenges I faced as the DM for this campaign.

——– Spoilers Ahead ——–

Scale. There is a significant problem I have with the scale of the map of Barovia. As written, the you can travel from one end of the map to the other end in about 4-5 hours, if you are get lucky that is. If you are unlucky, you could be killed by werewolves, hags, druids, Strahd randomly walking around and a very mean lady in a hut if you get lost. It is ridiculous that a level 3 party might go out of the first village and get caught by a hag coven after walking for 2 hours. I personally scaled up the map so that it takes four days to travel across the map. This also has the added benefit of making sure, the party camps out at night. Because in my opinion the best parts of the campaign are the intrigue in the cities and everything else in the forests. The more time, they spend travelling, the more time to build up horror.

Card Reading as Adventure Hook. Using the card reading as an adventure hook is introduced by DragnaCarta, as a plot hook to get the characters invested in saving Barovia. With this at the start of the campaign, every character gets a vision from Madam Eva in which she tells to seek her out and get a card reading. They then wake up with a card that they bring to her in the adventure. This also helps in dropping bread crumbs to various adventures in Barovia. It helps the DM to connect the player character’s back stories to the story of Barovia.

Tome of Strahd. The Tome of Strahd, is a great story device that lets the party learn about the Strahd’s story. But I think, giving the players a big info dump when you get the book doesn’t feel like a lot of fun. In order to make understanding Strahd’s story in more bite sized manner, I made the book itself enchanted to protect whats written. This makes it an ongoing skill challenge to decrypt whats written. Of course, this is not an original idea, many have done this before. I stole the idea from this post on reddit. I did modify it but the post explains the gist of it.

The Tome as provided in the adventure module is very small for an actual journal. I used the extended tome which includes more information from the ‘I, Strahd’ novel.

Fanes. Strahd defeated the three archfey ladies to gain control of the land. This is done by desecrating the three fanes corresponding to each lady of the land. I was able to intertwine the adventure of slowly reconsecrating the fanes and draining Strahd’s power over the land with the back story of a character. This also lets the players be more invested in the rest of Barovia instead of just doing the adventures to level up to fight Strahd. I gathered this idea from MandyMod’s Fanes of Barovia post.

Lancelot. For an extra bit of drama, I gave the party a puppy. First, it gives the party some kind of familiarity in this dark realm. At the same time adds an extra being to worry about. My party carried the puppy all the way to the end of the campaign slowly trailing it all the way. This could also be a good way to nudge the party find Gertrude if you make the puppy hers.

Important Resources

Curse of Strahd is a beautifully written adventure that has potential to tell an extraordinary story along with your group. I hope this has been useful :D

“I am the Ancient… I am the Land” ─ Strahd Von Zarovich