*Hey guys! Melvin here. Please remember that there is still time to head over to the Acadecon 2016 Kickstarter to get your badge to meet me, and plenty of even cooler people, in Ohio this November! Can’t make the trip? Grab four friends and pick up a virtual game run by myself or one of the other special GMs available!*
Curse of Strahd is the newest Adventure Path out from Wizards of the Coast, this time in partnership with the original minds behind the iconic vampire lord, Tracy & Laura Hickman. Essentially an updated, and certainly expanded, version of the I6 adventure “Ravenloft”, Curse of Strahd hits the nostalgia levels on all points. If you have a place in your heart for this compelling story of love, despair, and jealousy (mixed with truly unnerving supernatural mystery) you’ll certainly enjoy the update. So if you’ve never had the chance to experience I6, or maybe you have and feel compelled to run the game this book is for you! Those content to merely play the game? I can’t see a compelling reason you’d ever pick up this book beyond enjoying a well crafted product for Dungeon Masters.
If you’ve never had a chance to delve into the world of Ravenloft, or have never met its ultimate baddie Strahd von Zarovich, your players’ characters will be introduced to a cursed realm. The terrified populace of Barovia cowers under Strahd and the dark monstrosities that roam nightly to keep all in check. The adventurers will find themselves ensnared by whatever curses the place, and even more horrifying they will discover that the vampire lord himself takes pleasure in their vain attempts. He knows they are there, he fears them not, and he delights in orchestrating their demise. Their only hope is to take heed of the warnings issued by a mysterious fortune teller, and hopefully discover the means to put Strahd down.
Curse of Strahd is gorgeously laid out, has fantastic artwork, and really expands on the original module without taking anything away. I feel like a Dungeon Master would have some real fun running this game for their table. They’ll find the book easy to navigate and will likely find some perverse joy at throwing the supernatural threats within at the player characters. I simply love the eerie feeling to the adventure. I feel the best part of this book is the attention to detail reserved to mapping the adventure. Strahd’s castle is a crazy 45 pages worth of content! I’d also like to point out that many of the encounters within could easily be remapped for use outside of this adventure path. The organization of the book can’t be lauded enough (I think this is roughly the third time I’ve mentioned this fact).
Your players will need certain details (location of a powerful weapon, symbols of power, etc.) before they can finally attack the dreaded lord of the realm and that is where fortune telling and a chance meeting with Madam Eva and her Taroka Deck. The work done to bring the Taroka Deck into the game is great. It randomizes every delve into Curse of Strahd, thus ensuring this Adventure Path actually has what few Pre-Written adventure do, a replay value. I’ve had a chance to see the actual Taroka Deck put out by Wizards of the Coast and it would be an excellent companion purchase with Curse of Strahd. The deck adds something special to the game, and comes with rules for its own card game. Don’t despair though, a standard deck of cards will suffice.
My only complaint is what I alluded to in my introduction. There’s nothing in this book for players beyond one background (Haunted One), a new pack (Monster Hunter’s Pack), and some new “Gothic” trinkets. The Haunted One background is a very well crafted and fits the scene well but man is that a thin offering for a book tied to the Ravenloft Campaign setting. There are a vast quantity of races, classes, and other character options out there to bring to 5e but this book has none of it. My only hope is that we get something Ravenloft specific down the line to explain the absence here.
If you’re a Dumgeon Master looking to bring some Gothic horror to your 5e D&D table, this is most certainly the place to go. I highly suggest picking it up. Another quality entry into 5e’s Adventure Path line.
Curse of Strahd
Retail: US $49.95 CAN $63.95
BONUS REVIEW: THE SONG OF ARACOS
From Ember Design Studios LLC. author Lucas Curell, The Song of Aracos is considered to be a companion piece to Curse of Strahd that takes a paragraph from the introduction in CoS, written by Tracy Hickman, to heart…
“Strahd isn’t a villain who remains out of sight until the final scene. Far from it – he travels as he desires to any place in his realm or his castle, and (from his perspective) the more often he encounters the characters, the better. The characters can and should meet him multiple times before the final encounter…”
— Curse of Strahd pg 10
The adventure is a ghost story, written for five characters of 6th-level and centers on a child’s struggle to reunite with her mother. After an introductory piece of fiction, that perfectly fits the Ravenloft flair I love, the adventure starts right out of the gate with some action with an encounter that makes pulling the players into the story-line easy for the DM. From there the players are led down the rabbit hole of helping not only another man recently trapped in Strahd’s realm but a spirit in need of respite. The trouble is, Strahd is well aware of the character’s movements and of those who seek their aid, and he is not one to lay dormant as the playthings in his interest make their moves.
Curell weaves elements of the main Adventure Path into his adventure with deftness, you’ll never feel that your playing through something not of WotC’s make. He even includes the randomization of the Taroka Deck. The setting, and NPCs involved all fit perfectly with Strahd just as terrifying as ever. Adding in a win and lose circumstance for the players matches up well with the way such things are handled within the actual Adventure Path. I especially like the potential rewards that players can obtain from doing well.
In my opinion this is a must have for anyone planning to run Curse of Strahd for their table, though it can be used as a stand alone adventure. Honestly, it’s a perfect example of what a great idea it was for Wizards of the Coast to open up their content for talented creators through the Dungeon Master’s Guild. Head on over and pick it up!