Dungeons & Dragons is more than swords and sorcery! This Halloween, D&D fans get to revisit the classic gothic horror adventure in Curse of Strahd Revamped. This story and setting is drenched in spookiness, and the new edition celebrates Strahd’s long history!
A History of Horror
Some of the best stories in the world become the best because of their villain. Darth Vader, The Joker, Hans Landa, Agent Smith, there are innumerable examples. For D&D, the transcendent villain is one Count Strahd von Zarovich.
The thing that makes Strahd such a great villain is, naturally and ironically, his humanity. Strahd’s early life was a legend of heroism and justice, fighting for the forces of good in the land of Barovia. But Barovia is a cruel land, where hope evaporates like water on desert sands. And so too did Strahd’s hope. Disenchanted with the violence of his struggle for good, Strahd retired to Castle Ravenloft to rule Barovia.
Eventually, Strahd found love for a peasant named Tatyana. This might be the key to restoring Strahd’s hope, but it soured into jealousy when Tatyana fell for Strahd’s younger brother Sergei. Strahd forged a pact with dark forces to regain his youth. In an effort to gain Tatyana’s affections, he killed his brother Sergei, but Tatyana destroyed herself to evade Strahd’s advances.
Strahd succumbing to despair and the burdens of his guilt make him a surprisingly relatable villain. Ironically, his supernatural curse simultaneously makes him a little strange, alien, but fascinating in a way only vampires can master. Since the original Ravenloft adventure was published in 1983, and with every rerelease and expansion in the decades since, Strahd has remained a classic figure in Dungeons & Dragons mythology.
The Contents of the Coffin
Ravenloft, as an adventure, remains current to this day. It was one of the first adventures published for the current fifth edition of Dungeons & Dragons in 2016. Now, just in time for Halloween in 2020, the Curse of Strahd adventure is getting another update.
This year’s Curse of Strahd Revamped (get it? revamped?) centers around an updated version of the 2016 book. However, there’s a lot more in the coffin-shaped retail box, all of it very exciting.
One of the new includes is a deck of Tarokka cards. The adventure uses the Tarokka deck in a similar way as real-world cartomancers use a tarot deck. The Tarokka cards that the dungeon master draws determine several key aspects of the adventure. In previous versions, dungeon masters were advised to use a poker deck to simulate this. With the Revamped version, the included deck adds a new level of immersion to the adventure.
The bestiary normally included in the module’s main book is separated into its own volume, allowing creative dungeon masters to conveniently include gothic horror monsters in other Dungeons & Dragons campaigns. Also for dungeon masters, the Revamped edition includes an elegant Ravenloft-themed DM screen to add more atmosphere to their campaign; and a large, color foldout map of Barovia and Castle Ravenloft helps players navigate the adventure.
Lastly, just for funsies, since Barovia is a world apart from other D&D settings, players can send postcards back home to their favorite characters and NPCs in Faerun.
It’s A Dead Man’s Party
The Curse of Strahd is an adventure filled with classic gothic horror tropes. Vampires and werewolves terrorize the countryside, representing not just physically violent threats, but existential terror as well. Simple, common folk truck with spirits and the undead in desperate attempts at survival. Sacrificing body and soul are the coin of land.
For players who want to sink their teeth into the dusky worlds of horror, who could ask for more? How about, let’s play Curse of Strahd on Halloween! The tone of Curse of Strahd is an obvious complement for the spoopiest time of the year.