EXPEDITION TO CASTLE RAVENLOFT
By Bruce R. Cordell and James Wyatt
Wizards of the Coast product number 953937200
224-page hardback, $34.95

Expedition to Castle Ravenloft is the newest iteration of the original Ravenloft module from the AD&D 1st Edition days, which spawned not only a sequel module but also a whole brand identity, with the release of the Ravenloft line of books and adventures in the AD&D 2nd Edition days. Now, in what many are sure are the final days of D&D Third Edition (with worried looks upon the horizon for D&D Fourth Edition), Wizards of the Coast releases the first in their "Expedition to" series of adventures looking back at the early days of the game, updating and expanding early modules into much larger works using the most current edition of the game rules.

Being the first in this new series, Expedition to Castle Ravenloft brings with it an entirely new format, one where most of the individual battles between the PCs and the monsters they encounter can be found between a single two-page spread, so that the DM needs only open the book to those pages and will have everything he needs to run the battle. It's an interesting concept, but it's applied with various levels of success.

The cover artwork, by Kev Walker, is a portrait of the vampire Count Strahd von Zarovich's elderly Uncle Bernie, who -- no, wait, I stand corrected, that's supposed to be Strahd himself standing there. Oddly enough, he wears the same clothes as the old Count we knew from previous iterations of the game, and yet here he looks like a doddering old man who must lean upon a banister to stand upright. I can only hazard a guess that Kev was told that Strahd was hundreds of years old without it being mentioned to him that, oh yes, by the way, he's also a vampire, and thus shouldn't be showing the ravages of time the way he's been portrayed. This is especially disconcerting when we get a look at the artwork for Strahd on the inside of the book, such as on page 7, where artist William O'Connor gives him long, flowing black hair and...elf ears? Now wait a minute here, didn't anybody (like, maybe Art Directors Mari Kolkowsky and Karin Jaques) bother to inform the artists what Count Strahd von Zarovich is supposed to look like? Didn't anybody research the artwork from the previous books and adventures detailing the good Count? Or is this just another example of artists today [urinating] on the past in order to leave their own special mark upon the present? Whatever the case, I'm not impressed. If and when I ever run my players through Expedition to Castle Ravenloft, I'll be grabbing artwork from the previous books to show them what their primary vampiric foe looks like, because the artwork in this book is not up to so simple of a task.

The interior artwork consists of 39 full-color and 4 monochrome illustrations by 7 different artists, plus 69 full-color maps by cartographers Jason Engle and Kyle Hunter. I have a couple things I want to point out about some of the artwork, besides "Strahd doesn't look like Strahd." Several of the pieces of full-color artwork are "reruns" - the Strahd painting on page 7 is reprinted in 131, for example, and the ghost illustration on page 102 shows up again on page 146. Worse yet, there's a painting of three worgs on page 80 that eats up a third of a page; if you want to see what it looks like, turn to page 257 in your Monster Manual, because it's the exact same painting. In each case, the "rerun" artwork is used to fill up space on one of these new "two pages of everything you need to run this particular combat" deals that Wizards of the Coast is trotting out on display for us all, and while I can applaud their attempt to not leave large, blank spaces on their pages, it only highlights my concern that the "2-page encounter" format is a guarantee of nothing more than wasted space. (More on this is a few paragraphs; for now, let's get back to the artwork.) My other big complaint about the artwork in this book is how much of it isn't there. Expedition to Castle Ravenloft reaches out to a lot of different books when it comes to filling out the "monster palette" for this adventure - for example, I noticed monsters from Monster Manuals I-IV, Libris Mortis, and Heroes of Horror - but in most cases it doesn't provide a picture of the monsters being used, so a DM without the books from which the monsters were taken is going to be at a bit of a disadvantage when it comes to describing the monsters to his players.

However, despite all of the problems I have with the artwork in this book, there are some rather good pieces provided in Expedition to Castle Ravenloft, like Eva Widermann's crazed nymph Valicia on page 50 (her expression shows without a doubt that she was driven mad by the corruption of the land); Dave Allsop's laboratory on page 106 (which looks like it could have been taken directly out of a "Frankenstein" movie - note the primitive electrical equipment on the left side of the table); and Anne Stokes' ethereal painting of the ghost of Lady Vey Rallen on pages 102 and 146 (Anne creates a very nice "see-through" effect with her ghost here). But the real stars in the artwork department are the beautiful maps, rendered in 3-D orthogonal effect (like in the original Ravenloft adventure) for Castle Ravenloft itself, as well as the standard (and much easier to draw for the players) top-down 2-D view for each of the combat encounters.

Expedition to Castle Ravenloft provides several different ways to play through the adventure: either as a simple "kill-the-vampire" castle assault (in which case much of the lead-up information is disregarded), as a long adventure, or as a mini-campaign in its own right, bringing PCs from levels 6 to 9. I admit I was somewhat surprised to see "conversion notes" allowing the adventure to be transplanted not only into an Eberron or Forgotten Realms campaign, but also a d20 Modern campaign. Pretty versatile!

The authors also do a pretty good job of keeping the spirit of the original adventure intact, despite adding on nearly 200 pages of material to the work. The last 20 pages or so are new magic and alchemical items, a new spell, a new prestige class (Knight of the Raven), a new guild (the undead-hunting Lightbringers) and associated alternate class levels, and so on, but the rest of the book is pure adventure. The authors "bulked up" the original plotline by adding a zombie curse to the town of Barovia and greatly expanding the types of monsters encountered in Castle Ravenloft and its immediate environs, but they made sure to keep intact the multiple goals that Strahd might be pursuing during the course of the adventure, as well as the whole "PCs get their fortunes told by a Vistani fortuneteller, and their specific fortunes have an impact on how the adventure plays out" shtick. (And kudos to them for that.) On the down side, maybe I'm just a traditionalist, but the concept of "halfling Vistani" just makes me wrinkle my nose in disdain. Yes, I know that halflings have been made more Vistani/Gypsylike in 3.5, but I would have greatly preferred it if all Vistani associated with Barovia and Ravenloft remained humans.

No, I don't have a whole lot of problems with the things that got added to Expedition to Castle Ravenloft to expand it beyond its original scope. What I do have problems with are the way these concepts got implemented - specifically, the "2-page encounter" format and the creature stats. Let's start with the first one, as it's going to take less time to do so. (A lot less time, actually.)

At its face value, having a book set up so that each encounter with a band of enemies takes up a single 2-page spread sounds like an excellent idea. And it is an excellent idea, don't get me wrong - if it can be sustained. The problem is, it can't: every encounter isn't going to take up the same amount of words so that it fills up a 2-page spread nice and evenly. That leads to some places where filler becomes patently obvious - like the artwork reruns within the same book - and others where important information is left out because there simply isn't room for it. The best examples of this latter problem are in the encounters with Count Strahd von Zarovich himself. The authors present Strahd's full stats starting on page 6, and they take up a whole page and a half all by themselves. Therefore, in any 2-page encounter spread featuring the Count, what we get are cropped-down stats that leave out required information like his feats, skills, and a handful of his important special abilities. In effect, what we're left with is a partial stat block that cannot actually be used as-is to run that encounter (the DM will invariably have to turn back to pages 6-7 to find out the information he'll need), so the question must be asked: why include it at all? Why not just refer the DM to pages 6-7? The answer, sadly, is that doing so would leave a gaping hole in that 2-page encounter spread, and would make it painfully obvious that the whole concept is not one that can be realized for every encounter. It's a great idea when the encounter fits nicely on 2 pages, but in many cases it's just not practical to even make the attempt. (One question I have is why the layout guys didn't monkey around with font sizes; I'd be willing to bet you could fit in a complete - and thus actually useful - set of Strahd stats if they bumped the font size down a notch or two as needed.)

Another problem with the 2-page encounter spread is you end up with quite a lot of duplicated information. For example, every time a Strahd zombie shows up in an encounter - and over the course of the adventure, they show up quite a few times! - you get a full set of stats for them. All of that duplication adds up to a lot of wasted space; I'll leave the actual page count difference as an exercise for someone with a lot more curiosity (and time!) than I do, but it wouldn't surprise me if you could recover a good 20 pages or so by deleting out the duplicated entries. When you're plunking down $34.95 for a 224-page hardcover, I imagine you (like me) don't like to see all of that waste. (For the record, I received my copy of Expedition to Castle Ravenloft as a free review copy, but the concept still applies.)

Finally, there are the stats themselves. I know I frequently state that I'm surprised by the sad state of the stat blocks in professional products, but at the risk of sounding like a broken record, I was very disappointed by the stat blocks in Expedition to Castle Ravenloft. I suppose the fact that the book's two authors, Bruce R. Cordell and James Wyatt, are both developers (the guys responsible for stat blocks in gaming products) themselves led me to expect that the stat blocks would be pretty clean in this book. Sadly, I was mistaken; either they didn't do that great of a job from the start or developers Jennifer Clarke Wilkes and Bill Slavicsek and Development Manager Jesse Decker came up behind them and added errors of their own (or who knows? - maybe it was a combination of the two), but the end result is a set of stat blocks of much, much poorer quality than I was hoping for. Here we go, then: my "unofficial errata" for Expedition to Castle Ravenloft:
  • pp. 6-7, Count Strahd von Zarovich, male vampire (human) necromancer 10: He has 12 feats, but he should have 13 (4 as a 10th-level character, 1 bonus human feat, 3 bonus wizard feats, and 5 bonus vampire feats), although I suppose we can just assume that he chose one of his "freebie" vampire feats as a human before becoming a vampire. (However, the correct number of feats are annotated as bonus feats from his vampire status and wizard levels, leading me to believe it was an oversight - if he already had the feat before becoming a vampire, why would it still be marked as a bonus feat?) Skills should include Disguise +3 (+5 acting) [0 ranks, +3 Cha, +2 synergy bonus from Bluff] and Survival +3 (+5 following tracks) [0 ranks, +3 Wis, +2 synergy bonus from Search]. In gaseous form, Strahd's AC values (AC 15, touch 15, flat-footed 12) don't take into account his Mountain Sign special quality, which provides a +6 armor bonus that specifically says it applies to his gaseous form; thus, in gaseous form, he should be AC 21 (+3 Dex, +2 deflection, +6 armor), touch 15, flat-footed 18. In dire bat form, Ref should be +14, not +11 (+3 as a Nec10, +6 Dex, +2 Lightning Reflexes, +3 cloak of resistance +3). (Despite the fact that the cloak of resistance +3 is apparently subsumed into Strahd's body when he changes into a dire bat, he apparently retains the +3 save bonus to his other saves, so you have to assume it works for his Reflex saves as well. This also carries over to his other alternate forms: bat and dire wolf. Optionally, you'd need to reduce all of his saving throws while in bat, dire bat, and dire wolf forms by 3 points. Your call.) In dire wolf form, Initiative should be +6, not +4 (+2 Dex, +4 Improved Initiative).
  • pp. 11-12, Kavan the Grim, male vampire (human) barbarian 5: Senses lists "Listen +12, Spot +8," but Skills lists "Listen +20, Spot +16" - it looks like the Skills entry has the correct values. Flat-footed AC should be 22, not 18, due to uncanny dodge. The second asterisked footnote should have a dagger symbol ("†") instead of an asterisk. In gaseous form, flat-footed AC should be 14, not 10, due to uncanny dodge. When not raging, flat-footed AC should be 24, not 20, again due to uncanny dodge.
  • p. 31, Ireena Kolyana, female human fighter 4: +1 longsword damage should be 1d8+5, not 1d8+3 (+2 Str, +1 magic weapon bonus, +2 Weapon Specialization).
  • p. 32, Carcass Eaters (Frenzied): Initiative should be +3, not +0 (+3 Dex). Bite damage should be 1d4, not 1d4+1 (half of a +1 Str bonus is rounded down to +0). With 1 HD, it should have 1 feat, not 2; one should be annotated as a bonus feat. Hide should be +11, not +7 (0 ranks, +3 Dex, +4 size, +4 racial).
  • p. 35, Vargouilles: Touch AC should be 12, not 11 (+1 size, +1 Dex). (Of course, the designers were led astray by the Monster Manual itself, where the error was started.) No saves at all are provided; they should be Fort +3, Ref +3, Will +3.
  • p. 35, Dire Maggots: First of all, I thought these guys were supposed to be much larger than Small creatures (or at least they seemed to be presented that way in Libris Mortis, despite some peculiarities in their stat blocks there). Still, we'll go with Small creatures here; their bite attacks should be at +6 melee, not +5 (+4 BAB, +1 size, +1 Str).
  • p. 36, Ashlyn, Undead Hunter, female human paladin 5: She should turn undead 6/day, not 5/day (3 base + 3 Cha), and her turn damage should be 2d6+5, not 2d6+2 (2d6 base + cleric level 2 + 3 Cha).
  • p. 39, Ghasts: Touch AC should be 13, not 12 (+3 Dex). This is another example of the developers being led astray by incorrect values in the Monster Manual; some day somebody should go through that thing and fix it up. (Actually, I received a copy of the $75.00 "Deluxe Edition" of the Monster Manual in my last batch of Wizards of the Coast review material, so I'll be going through it myself shortly....)
  • p. 39, Carcass Eaters (Frenzied): Initiative should be +3, not +0 (+3 Dex). Bite damage should be 1d4, not 1d4+1 (half of a +1 Str bonus is rounded down to +0). With 1 HD, it should have 1 feat, not 2; one should be annotated as a bonus feat. Hide should be +11, not +7 (0 ranks, +3 Dex, +4 size, +4 racial). (Here we have a fine example of the problems with the "copy-and-paste" nature of the 2-page encounter spread: errors made in one stat block are merely promulgated in others.)
  • p. 43, Infected Skeleton: No feats are listed; it should have Improved Initiative.
  • p. 44, Ghasts: Touch AC should be 13, not 12 (+3 Dex).
  • p. 47, Infected Zombie Rats: Grapple attacks should be -2, not -3 (+1 BAB, -4 size, +1 Str).
  • p. 47, Dire Maggots: Bite attacks should be at +6 melee, not +5 (+4 BAB, +1 size, +1 Str).
  • p. 64, Werewolf Hunter, Elf Form, elf werewolf ranger 2: As a lycanthrope, he should have Iron Will as a bonus feat, so Will should be +4 (+6 against enchantments), not +2 (+4 against enchantments). Special Qualities aren't alphabetized.
  • p. 64, Werewolf Hunter, Wolf Form, elf werewolf ranger 2: Bite damage should be 1d6+3, not 1d6+2 (1.5 times +2 Str for bite being its sole attack form). As a lycanthrope, he should have Iron Will as a bonus feat, so Will should be +4 (+6 against enchantments), not +2 (+4 against enchantments). Special Qualities aren't alphabetized.
  • p. 65, Wraith: Skills should include Survival +2 (+4 following tracks) [0 ranks, +2 Wis, +2 synergy bonus from Search].
  • p. 66, Werewolf Hunter, Hybrid Form, elf werewolf ranger 2: Masterwork composite longbow attacks should be at +8 ranged or +6/+6 ranged with Rapid Shot, not the other way around (+6 normal or +8/+8 with Rapid Shot). As a lycanthrope, he should have Iron Will as a bonus feat, so Will should be +4 (+6 against enchantments), not +2 (+4 against enchantments). Special Qualities aren't alphabetized.
  • p. 66, Werewolf Hunter, Wolf Form, elf werewolf ranger 2: Bite damage should be 1d6+3, not 1d6+2 (1.5 times +2 Str for bite being its sole attack form). As a lycanthrope, he should have Iron Will as a bonus feat, so Will should be +4 (+6 against enchantments), not +2 (+4 against enchantments). Special Qualities aren't alphabetized.
  • p. 68, Werewolf Hunter, Hybrid Form, elf werewolf ranger 2: Masterwork composite longbow attacks should be at +8 ranged or +6/+6 ranged with Rapid Shot, not the other way around. As a lycanthrope, he should have Iron Will as a bonus feat, so Will should be +4 (+6 against enchantments), not +2 (+4 against enchantments). Special Qualities aren't alphabetized.
  • p. 69, Valicia, female tainted raver nymph: AC should be 18, not 15 (+3 Dex, +7 deflection, -2 rage). (Her unearthly grace special quality grants her a deflection bonus equal to her +7 Cha bonus.) Touch AC should be 18, not 15. Flat-footed AC should be 15, not 12. Fort should be +12, not +9 (+2 as a 6-HD fey, +3 Con, +7 Cha due to unearthly grace). Ref should be +15, not +12 (+5 as a 6-HD fey, +3 Dex, +7 Cha). Will should be +21, not +18 (+5 as a 6-HD fey, +7 Cha instead of Wis due to the tainted raver template's madness feature, +7 Cha due to unearthly grace, +2 rage). Shillelagh attacks should be at +7 melee, not +6 (+3 BAB, +3 Dex due to Weapon Finesse, +1 magic weapon bonus from the spell). Produce flame attacks should be at +6 ranged touch, not +7 (+3 BAB, +3 Dex).
  • p. 70, Bloodmote Cloud: Fort should be +3, not +2 (+3 as a 10-HD undead, +0 Con). Ref should be +4, not +3 (+3 as a 10-HD undead, +1 Dex). Fly speed doesn't include a maneuverability rating; neither do the original stats in Libris Mortis, so your guess is as good as mine.
  • p. 71, Shambling Mound: Under Senses, "Spot +8" should be "Spot +0" - it's already spent all of its available skill points. Hide should be +11, not +15, in swamp or forest, as its racial bonus is +4 normal, +12 in swamp or forest (and it has a -4 size penalty and 3 skill points allocated to Hide).
  • p. 72, Blood Eels: Grapple attacks should be at +14, not +15 (+4 BAB, +4 size, +6 Str). Bite attacks should be at +9 melee, not +10 (+4 BAB, -1 size, +6 Str). No skills or feats listed, and while that's understandable due it being a nonintelligent vermin, it should still get a +8 racial bonus to Swim checks due to having a swim speed (granting it Swim +14 due to its +6 Str bonus).
  • p. 73, The Drowned Lady, sea hag tainted raver: Senses lists Listen and Spot each at +6, but Skills lists them both at +3; the Skills entry is correct. The stat block should have an "Immune" entry listing "confusion" (as a result of her madness special quality from the tainted raver template).
  • p. 74, Sir Urik, male human paladin 4/Knight of the Raven 2: Lay on hands ability should be 8/day, not 4/day (Pal4 times +2 Cha). He should only have 1 1st-level paladin spell prepared, not 2 (Pal4 + KoR2 = Pal5 spellcaster; Pal5 gets 0 1st-level spells; +1 bonus spell for having Wis 12).
  • p. 76, Halfling Vistani, male and female halfling rogue 3: Initiative should be +7, not +5 (+3 Dex, +4 Improved Initiative). Senses lists Listen +5, but Skills has it at +7. Grapple attacks should be at -2, not +4 (+2 BAB, -4 size, +0 Str).
  • p. 77, Madame Eva, female annis hag cleric 5: With 12 HD, she should have 5 feats, not 4. Her "aura of chaos" special quality is not explained.
  • p. 78, Advanced Ogres: Javelin attacks should be at +2 ranged, not +1 (+4 BAB, -1 size, -1 Dex).
  • p. 79, Madame Eva, female annis hag cleric 5: With 12 HD, she should have 5 feats, not 4. Her "aura of chaos" special quality is not explained.
  • p. 82, Varikov the Trapper, male dwarf ranger 4/rogue 3: Using Two-Weapon Fighting, masterwork handaxe attacks should be at +8 melee, not +7 (+6 BAB, +3 Str, +1 masterwork, -2 Two-Weapon Fighting). Heavy crossbow attacks should be at +8 ranged, not +9 (+6 BAB, +2 Dex).
  • p. 83, Farkash, wolf animal companion: There's no indication what his known trick is.
  • p. 84, Caller in Darkness: Skills should include Diplomacy +4 [0 ranks, +2 Cha, +2 synergy bonus from Sense Motive] and Survival +2 (+4 following tracks) [0 ranks, +2 Wis, +2 synergy bonus from Search].
  • p. 86, Babau Demons: Skills should include Survival +1 (+3 following tracks) [0 ranks, +1 Wis, +2 synergy bonus from Search] and Use Rope +1 (+3 bindings) [0 ranks, +1 Dex, +2 synergy bonus from Escape Artist].
  • p. 87, Baba Zelenna, female advanced green hag: Weakness attacks should be at +15 melee touch, not +13 (+11 BAB, +4 Str). Skills should include Survival +1 (+3 other planes) [0 ranks, +1 Wis, +2 synergy from Knowledge (the planes)].
  • p. 88, Baba Zelenna, female advanced green hag: Weakness attacks should be at +15 melee touch, not +13 (+11 BAB, +4 Str). Skills should include Survival +1 (+3 other planes) [0 ranks, +1 Wis, +2 synergy from Knowledge (the planes)].
  • p. 89, Aspect of Chernovog: Skills should include Survival +3 (+5 other planes) [0 ranks, +3 Wis, +2 synergy bonus from Knowledge (the planes)].
  • pp. 103-104, Trilloch: No maneuverability rating given for its fly speed.
  • pp. 112-113, Lucian, Shadow Demon: With 10 HD, he should have 4 feats, not just 3. Skills should include Diplomacy +7 [0 ranks, +5 Cha, +2 synergy bonus from Bluff] and Disguise +5 (+7 acting) [0 ranks, +5 Cha, +2 synergy bonus from Bluff].
  • pp. 114-115, Emil, Werewolf Human Form, male human fighter 6: HD should be 8, not 6 (Ftr6 + 2 HD as a wolf). Fort should be +10, not +7 (+5 as a Ftr6, +3 as a wolf, +2 Con). Ref should be +8, not +5 (+2 as a Ftr6, +3 as a wolf, +3 Dex). He has 8 feats, but he should have as many as 11: 3 as a 6-HD character, 1 human bonus feat, 4 fighter bonus feats, 2 wolf bonus feats, plus the Iron Will feat from the lycanthrope template. (You can't tell me he already had Weapon Focus (bite) as a human!) By the way, that "Weapon Focus" listed in his Feats should be "Weapon Focus (bite)," courtesy of his wolf levels.
  • p. 115, Emil, Werewolf Hybrid Form, male human fighter 6: Hit points should probably be 62 (as in his listed human form on page 114), not 78 - lycanthrope hp totals don't fluctuate between forms, and 62 hp is closer to the average (66 hp) given his HD. AC should be 19, not 17 (+5 Dex, +4 natural). Flat-footed AC should be 14, not 12. HD should be 8, not 6. Fort should be +12, not +9 (+5 as a Ftr6, +3 as a wolf, +4 Con). Ref should be +10, not +7 (+2 as a Ftr6, +3 as a wolf, +5 Dex). Grapple attacks should be at +8, not +7 (+7 BAB, +1 Str). Claw attacks should be at +8 melee, not +9 (+7 BAB, +1 Str). Bite attacks should be at +4 melee, not +5 (+7 BAB, +1 Str, -5 secondary attack, +1 Weapon Focus). The "B" entries should be in superscript font in the Feats section. He has 8 feats, but should have up to 11 (but definitely more than 8).
  • pp. 117-118, Bat Swarm: Touch AC should be 16, not 14 (+4 size, +2 Dex). Flat-footed AC should be 14, not 12. HD should be 3, not 2 (otherwise, there are a lot of other required changes to the stat block; this is the easier fix).
  • p. 118, Darkweaver: Bite damage should be 1d6+1, not 1d6+3 (it only gets half its +3 Str bonus for a secondary attack).
  • p. 128, Stone Dragons: Will should be +2, not +3 (+2 as a 6-HD magical beast, +0 Wis).
  • p. 130, Count Strahd von Zarovich, male vampire (human) necromancer 10: He has 12 feats, but he should have 13 (4 as a 10th-level character, 1 bonus human feat, 3 bonus wizard feats, and 5 bonus vampire feats), although I suppose we can just assume that he chose one of his "freebie" vampire feats as a human before becoming a vampire. (However, the correct number of feats are annotated as bonus feats from his vampire status and wizard levels, leading me to believe it was an oversight - if he already had the feat before becoming a vampire, why would it still be marked as a bonus feat?) Skills should include Disguise +3 (+5 acting) [0 ranks, +3 Cha, +2 synergy bonus from Bluff] and Survival +3 (+5 following tracks) [0 ranks, +3 Wis, +2 synergy bonus from Search]. In gaseous form, Strahd's AC values (AC 15, touch 15, flat-footed 12) don't take into account his Mountain Sign special quality, which provides a +6 armor bonus that specifically says it applies to his gaseous form; thus, in gaseous form, he should be AC 21 (+3 Dex, +2 deflection, +6 armor), touch 15, flat-footed 18.
  • p. 131, Count Strahd (Werebat Form): Initiative should be +9, not +8 (+5 Dex, +4 Improved Initiative). Flat-footed AC should be 22, not 20 (+6 natural, +6 armor from Mountain Sign). Ref should be +10, not +9 (+3 as a Nec10, +5 Dex, +2 Lightning Reflexes). Skills should include Disguise +3 (+5 acting) [0 ranks, +3 Cha, +2 synergy bonus from Bluff] and Survival +3 (+5 following tracks) [0 ranks, +3 Wis, +2 synergy bonus from Search].
  • p. 132, Strahd Zombie: With HD 6d12+3 (from Toughness), average hp should be 42, not 40.
  • p. 134, Count Strahd (Dire Wolf Form): Initiative should be +6, not +7 (+2 Dex, +4 Improved Initiative). Size should be Large, not Medium. 50 ft. does not equal 8 squares; his speed should be 50 ft. (10 squares). Grapple attacks should be at +16, not +12 (+5 BAB, +4 size, +7 Str). Skills should include Survival +3 (+9 following tracks) [0 ranks, +3 Wis, +2 synergy bonus from Search, +4 racial bonus as a dire wolf].
  • p. 136, Count Strahd (Feral Form): Initiative should be +9, not +8 (+5 Dex, +4 Improved Initiative). No skills or feats given, making this stat block of limited usefulness. Flat-footed AC should be 22, not 20 (+6 natural, +6 armor from Mountain Sign). Ref should be +10, not +9 (+3 as a Nec10, +5 Dex, +2 Lightning Reflexes). Gaseous form AC should be 21, not 15 (+5 Dex, +6 armor form Mountain Sign), and gaseous form flat-footed AC should be 16, not 12.
  • p. 138, Shapeless Spawn: Grapple attacks should be at +21, not +20 (+10 BAB, +4 size, +7 Str). Tentacle attacks should be at +16 melee, not +15 (+10 BAB, -1 size, +7 Str).
  • p. 140, Lief Lipsiege, male tainted raver (human) aristocrat 3/fighter 6: Touch AC should be 9, not 14 (+1 Dex, -2 rage). Skills should include Disguise +2 (+4 acting) [0 ranks, +2 Cha, +2 synergy bonus from Bluff].
  • p. 142, Crypt Chanter: Incorporeal touch attacks should be at +7 melee touch, not +6 (+3 BAB, +4 Dex). Skills should include Survival +2 (+4 following tracks) [0 ranks, +2 Wis, +2 synergy bonus from Search].
  • p. 143, Cursed Spirits: Weapon Finesse seems like a wasted feat for an incorporeal creature that uses its Dex for melee attacks anyway. Incorporeal touch damage should be 1d8, not 1d8+1 (no Str score, so no Str modifier).
  • p. 146, Wraiths: Skills should include Survival +2 (+4 following tracks) [0 ranks, +2 Wis, +2 synergy bonus from Search].
  • p. 147, Cursed Spirits: Weapon Finesse seems like a wasted feat for an incorporeal creature that uses its Dex for melee attacks anyway. Incorporeal touch damage should be 1d8, not 1d8+1 (no Str score, so no Str modifier).
  • p. 149, Tatyana Portrait: Why does it list "Listen —, Spot —" when it has Wis 11? Why not Listen +0, Spot +0? Since it has "Dex —,"that's considered a -5 Dex modifier, so presumably its touch AC should be 5, not 10 (-5 Dex), which means its AC and flat-footed AC should each be 16, not 21. On the other hand, its Ref should be "—" (denoting an automatic failure) instead of +3; see the "shrieker" entry in the Monster Manual for an example of a creature (like this one) that doesn't move at all and thus cannot make Reflex saves.
  • p. 150, Trina, female human warlock 7: Masterwork short sword damage should be 1d6-1, not 1d6 (-1 Str).
  • p. 150, Afina, female human warlock 5: No numerical modifier is given for her cloak of resistance, but judging from the stats, it's a +1. Masterwork shortspear damage should be 1d6-1, not 1d6 (-1 Str). Skills should include Appraise +0 (+2 alchemical items) [0 ranks, +0 Int, +2 synergy bonus from Craft (alchemy)].
  • p. 151, Cristofor, male human warlock 5: Con should be 13, not 13 (17), and Dex should be 14 (18), not 14 - it looks like they added the +4 modifier from the potion of cat's grace to the wrong ability score. Masterwork shortspear damage should be 1d6-1, not 1d6 (-1 Str). Sickening blast attacks should be at +7 ranged touch, not +5 (+3 BAB, +4 Dex). Skills should include Appraise +0 (+2 alchemical items) [0 ranks, +0 Int, +2 synergy bonus from Craft (alchemy)].
  • p. 152, Imps in Cat Form: AC line should mention "dodge." Since this is 3.5, not 3.0, "Weapon Finesse" needn't mention "(bite)." Skills should include Gather Information +4 [0 ranks, +2 Cha, +2 synergy bonus from Knowledge (local)]. Under "Alternate Form," "bit attack" should be "bite attack" - and despite what the Alternate Form paragraph states about there being no changes to the creatures' statistics when they change forms, in imp form they should gain a fly speed of 50 ft. (perfect).
  • p. 153, Lesser Redcap: Medium scythe attacks were calculated using a 2-point Power Attack, which should have been pointed out. Medium sling attacks should be at +5 ranged, not +4 (+2 BAB, +1 size, +1 Dex, +1 bonus from Eldritch Stone ability). Skills should include Knowledge (nature) +2 [0 ranks, +0 Int, +2 synergy bonus from Survival].
  • p. 153, Shocker Lizard: Grapple attacks should be at -2, not -4 (+2 BAB, +0 Str, -4 size).
  • p. 154, Trina, female human warlock 7: Masterwork short sword damage should be 1d6-1, not 1d6 (-1 Str).
  • p. 154, Afina, female human warlock 5: No numerical modifier is given for her cloak of resistance, but judging from the stats, it's a +1. Masterwork shortspear damage should be 1d6-1, not 1d6 (-1 Str). Skills should include Appraise +0 (+2 alchemical items) [0 ranks, +0 Int, +2 synergy bonus from Craft (alchemy)]. Also, since the Tactics section specifically mentions that she already drank a potion of bear's endurance, her hp should be 52, not 42; her Con should be 21, not 17; her Fort should be +7, not +5; and her Concentration should be +11, not +9.
  • p. 155, Cristofor, male human warlock 5: Con should be 13, not 13 (17), and Dex should be 14 (18), not 14 - it looks like they added the +4 modifier from the potion of cat's grace to the wrong ability score. Masterwork shortspear damage should be 1d6-1, not 1d6 (-1 Str). Skills should include Appraise +0 (+2 alchemical items) [0 ranks, +0 Int, +2 synergy bonus from Craft (alchemy)].
  • p. 156, Khyristrix (barbed devil): Skills should include Gather Information +6 [0 ranks, +4 Cha, +2 synergy bonus from Knowledge (local)].
  • p. 157, Garden Larva: With a +0 Dex modifier and a +2 size modifier, if AC = 16 then natural armor is presumably +4, in which case flat-footed AC should be 16, not 12. (This is why I think it was a bad idea to drop the AC modifiers being spelled out in the new stat block format.) As a Tiny creature, Space should be 2˝ feet, not 0 ft.
  • p. 158, Vampire Spawn: "Str +16" should be "Str 16." "Dex +14" should be "Dex 14." Speed should include "climb 20 ft."
  • p. 159, Rafail: As a 5-HD vampire with no Toughness/Improved Toughness feats, there's no way he could have 78 hp - 60 hp would be his maximum (unless he just recently used his Blood Drain ability multiple times, but there's no indication of this). "Str +16" should be "Str 22" and "Dex +14" should be "Dex 17" - otherwise, his Initiative, AC, Ref, grapple, and attacks are all wrong; it's easier to just fix up his ability scores. His stat block header should mention that he's an augmented humanoid and a male human fighter 5. Either his Wis should be 16, not 13, or his Will should be +2, not +4; let's assume he was intended to be the same as the 5th-level human fighter vampire example on page 250 of the Monster Manual and go with the former option. +1 bastard sword attacks should be at +13 melee, not +11 (+5 BAB, +6 Str, +1 magic weapon bonus, +1 Weapon Focus).
  • p. 161, Shadow: No maneuverability rating is provided with its fly speed; should be "good." AC line should mention "dodge."
  • p. 162, Nicoramus, Troll Stalker: Bite attacks should be at +4 melee, not +5 (+6 BAB, -1 size, +4 Str, -5 secondary attack).
  • p. 163, Giant Ant, Soldier: Listen should be +1, not +0 (+1 Wis). Spot should be +1, not +0 (+1 Wis).
  • p. 164, Glass Shrapnyl: While within hp parameters, 69 hp is close to the "average" number of hp for a 12-HD construct (66 hp) - but only if you ignore the +30 bonus hp that Large constructs have; you'd think this one would have 96 hp on average. No maneuverability rating provided with its fly speed. Base attack bonus should be +9, not +7 (as a 12-HD construct). Grapple attacks should be at +17, not +15 (+9 BAB, +4 size, +4 Str). With 12 HD (and Int 10 despite being a construct), it should have 5 feats, not just 4. Since it's made of glass, its "Cloud of Steel" special attack should probably be renamed "Cloud of Glass."
  • p. 165, Wraiths: Skills should include Survival +2 (+4 following tracks) [0 ranks, +2 Wis, +2 synergy bonus from Search].
  • p. 166, Mohrg: Initiative should be +8, not +9 (+4 Dex, +4 Improved Initiative, and yet another example where the Monster Manual led the developers astray). Flat-footed AC should be 19, not 14 (+9 natural). Tongue attacks should be at +7 melee, not +12 (+7 BAB, +5 Str, -5 secondary attack, no matter what the Monster Manual says). AC line should mention its Dodge and Mobility feats, since that's now a standard feature of the new, improved stat block layout.
  • p. 168, Web Golem: This is all messed up. The Monster Manual II web golem has 11 HD; this one has 6 HD, but most of its stats are built as if it had 11 HD, so let's make that the standard. Thus, HD should be 11, not 6. That means that hp should be 90, not 67. Slam damage should be 2d10+5, not 2d10+7 (+5 Str, and it's not its sole attack so it doesn't get the 1.5 multiplier).
  • p. 168, Large Monstrous Spiders: Skills should include Move Silently +3 (+11 in webs) [0 ranks, +3 Dex, +8 conditional racial bonus].
  • p. 170, Bar-Lguras: The AC line should mention its Dodge and Mobility feats. With 6 HD, it should have 3 feats, not 2. Balance should be +15, not +13 (9 ranks, +4 Dex, +2 synergy bonus from Tumble). Jump should be +19, not +20 (9 ranks, +4 Str, +4 speed, +2 synergy bonus from Tumble). Tumble should be +15, not +13 (9 ranks, +4 Dex, +2 synergy bonus from Jump).
  • p. 171, Babau Demon: Skills should include Survival +1 (+3 following tracks) [0 ranks, +1 Wis, +2 synergy bonus from Search] and Use Rope +1 (+3 bindings) [0 ranks, +1 Dex, +2 synergy bonus from Escape Artist].
  • p. 171, Rutterkin: Jump should be +6, not +10 (8 ranks, +2 Str, -6 speed, +2 synergy bonus from Tumble). Tumble should be +12, not +10 (8 ranks, +2 Dex, +2 synergy from Jump).
  • p. 172, Half-Celestial (Inhabited by Lucian), male half-celestial paladin 9: As this is 3.5, not 3.0, his +2 large steel shield should be a +2 heavy steel shield. +2 bastard sword damage should be 1d10+5, not 1d10+7 (he can't wield it two-handed with that heavy steel shield!). The smite evil 2/day paladin ability was converted to smite good, but they forgot about the smite evil 1/day ability from the half-celestial template, which likewise should have undergone conversion to smite good. Missing spell-like abilities include remove disease 1/day (this is in addition to the 2/week as a paladin) and [unholy blight] (converted from holy smite) 1/day. Senses should also list darkvision 60 ft. With 9 HD, he can't have Bluff +18 (he can only put 12 skill points into Bluff, and with his +4 Cha that would make it Bluff +16), but with +2 synergy bonuses from his ranks in Bluff, his skills should include Disguise +4 (+6 acting) and Intimidate +6.
  • p. 174, Boneclaws: Skills should include Jump +9 [0 ranks, +5 Str, +4 speed] and Survival +2 (+4 following tracks) [0 ranks, +2 Wis, +2 synergy bonus from Search].
  • p. 174, Strahd Zombies: Average hp should be 42, not 40.
  • p. 175, Wraith: Skills should include Survival +2 (+4 following tracks) [0 ranks, +2 Wis, +2 synergy bonus from Search].
  • p. 176, Spectre ("Stefania"): Flat-footed AC should be 12, not 13 (+2 Cha-based deflection bonus).
  • p. 176, Rot Reavers: Initiative should be +6, not just "6." Damage from the +1 cleaver in its off hand should be 1d6+2/×4 plus wound rot, not 1d6+3/×4 plus wound rot (it only gets half of its +2 Str bonus for its off-hand weapon, plus its +1 magic weapon bonus).
  • p. 178, The Necromancer, female human necromancer 3/cleric 3/true necromancer 5: Initiative should be +0, not "0." Flat-footed AC should be 19, not 17 (+6 armor, +2 deflection, +1 natural). Rebuke undead damage should be 2d6+10, not 2d6+12 (Clr3 + TNc5 + 1 Cha + 1 necromantic prowess), and her caster level should be 9th, not 11th (Clr3 + TNc5 + 1 necromantic prowess). Her two cleric domains aren't given, although we can deduce that one is Death (due to her death touch domain ability).
  • p. 179, Deathreap Ooze: I'm not sure why an unintelligent ooze with no skill points to spend and a Wis 11 has a Listen score of +5, instead of +0. Fort should be +11, not +13 (+4 as a 12-HD ooze, +7 Con). Slam attacks should be at +15 melee, not +12 (+9 BAB, -1 size, +7 Str). (I don't think this creature is using its Power Attack, as the damage is normal at 1d8+10: 1.5 times its +7 Str bonus for having a sole attack form.)
  • p. 180, Skin Kite: With HD 4d12, average hp should be 26, not 14. Grapple attacks should be at -2, not -4 (+2 BAB, -4 size, +0 Str), or +10, not +8, when melded (and when it gets a +12 racial bonus). Touch attacks should be at +7 melee touch, not +8 (+2 BAB, +1 size, +4 Dex with Weapon Finesse).
  • p. 180, Ghost Brute Hound: AC values (material vs. ethereal foes) are reversed.
  • p. 181, Prince Aurel Plesu, Ghost: AC values (material vs. ethereal foes) are reversed.
  • p. 182, Boneclaw: Skills should include Jump +9 [0 ranks, +5 Str, +4 speed] and Survival +2 (+4 following tracks) [0 ranks, +2 Wis, +2 synergy bonus from Search].
  • p. 182, Strahd Zombies: Average hp should be 42, not 40.
  • p. 183, Large Air Elemental: Senses lists Spot +6, but Skills lists Spot +5; the Senses line is correct. With 8 HD, it should have 3 feats (plus its 2 bonus feats), not just the 2 plus its 2 bonus feats - according to the Monster Manual, it's missing Combat Reflexes.
  • p. 184, Wraiths: Skills should include Survival +2 (+4 following tracks) [0 ranks, +2 Wis, +2 synergy bonus from Search].
  • p. 184, Ghasts: Touch AC should be 13, not 12 (+3 Dex).
  • p. 185, Spectre ("Endorovich"): Flat-footed AC should be 12, not 13 (+2 Cha-based deflection bonus). Fort should be +2, not +4 (+2 as a 7-HD undead, +0 Con). Ref should be +5, not +7 (+2 as a 7-HD undead, +3 Dex). Will should be +7, not +9 (+5 as a 7-HD undead, +2 Wis). It looks like the developers got lazy and copied the stats from Stefania the spectre on page 176, forgetting that she gets a +2 profane bonus on all saves due to the unhallow effect in her area (but not, alas, in Endorovich's).
  • p. 186, Voor: Grapple attacks should be at +19, not +15 (+5 BAB, +4 size, +6 Str, +4 racial). Skills should include Diplomacy +0 [0 ranks, -2 Cha, +2 synergy from Sense Motive]. Can't have Spot +11; for one thing, it has 5 HD and thus can spend a maximum of 8 ranks on any skill, and with its -1 Wis modifier it could only get up to Spot +7, but more importantly, voors are blind! It would be best to replace "Spot +11" with "Survival +7" (like in Monster Manual III), and then also add Knowledge (nature) -1 [0 ranks, -3 Int, +2 synergy bonus from Survival].
  • p. 186, Imp: Speed should include "fly 50 ft. (perfect)." "Weapon Finesse" doesn't need that "(bite)" at the end. Skills should include Gather Information +4 [0 ranks, +2 Cha, +2 synergy bonus from Knowledge (local)].
  • p. 187, Erinyes: For whatever reason, her ability scores are way different from those in the Monster Manual: Str 23 vs. 21, Con 17 vs. 21, Int 10 vs. 14, Wis 14 vs. 18, Cha 10 vs. 20. Since most of her stats are the same as those in the Monster Manual, let's just change the ability scores to the latter numbers mentioned above (so we don't have to change saves, attacks, skill points, grapple, etc.). Of course, there are still mistakes to correct: rope attacks should be at +14 melee, not +4 (+9 BAB, +5 Str), and the save DC for her charm monster spell-like ability should be DC 19, not DC 10. It would have been nice for the developers to have filled out "Knowledge (any two) +14" so the work was already done for the DM, but at this stage of the game that's apparently far, far too much to ask for.
  • p. 188, Shadow: The AC line should mention its Dodge feat, in accordance with the new stat block layout.
  • p. 188, Wraith: Skills should include Survival +2 (+4 following tracks) [0 ranks, +2 Wis, +2 synergy bonus from Search].
  • p. 190, Sasha Ivliskova, Vampire, female undead human sorcerer 5: Initiative should be +6, not +7 (+2 Dex, +4 Improved Initiative). With 5 HD, no Constitution score, and no Toughness/Improved Toughness feats, her maximum hit points should be 60, not the 78 she has listed. (For the record, average hp for her would be 5d12 = 32, or 38 if you give her maximum hp for her first d12, like you would for a non-undead classed human.) Fort should be +1, not +4 (+1 as a Sor5, +0 Con). Ref should be +5, not +6 (+1 as a Sor5, +2 Dex, +2 Lightning Reflexes). Will should be +5, not +4 (+4 as a Sor5, +1 Wis). Sorcerer spells/day should be 6/7/5, not 5/7/6 (6/6/4 as a Sor5, +0/1/1 for having Cha 16). Skills should include Diplomacy +7 [0 ranks, +3 Cha, +2 synergy bonus from Bluff, +2 synergy bonus from Sense Motive], Disguise +3 (+5 acting) [0 ranks, +3 Cha, +2 synergy bonus from Bluff], and Intimidate +5 [0 ranks, +3 Cha, +2 synergy bonus from Bluff]. Speaking of Skills, some of her skill totals seem too low, considering the +8 racial bonus vampires get to Bluff, Hide, Listen, Move Silently, Search, Sense Motive, and Spot: even with 0 ranks, Hide would have to be +10 (not +6), Listen would be +9 (not +5), Move Silently would be +10 (not +6), Search would be +8 (not +4), Sense Motive would be +9 (not +7), and Spot would be +9 (not +7). Str should be 16, not "+16." Dex should be 14, not "+14." Bottom line: this is one seriously messed up stat block; you'd probably be better off ditching this stat block in its entirety and rebuilding her from scratch. (And while you're at it, consider giving her a magic item or two - she is 5th-level, after all!)
  • p. 191, Vampire Spawn: Average hp should be 32, not 34. Str should be 16, not "+16." Dex should be 14, not "+14."
  • p. 191, Celestial Dire Lion: Intelligence should be 3, not 2. (It's a minimum for the celestial template.) Should have SR 13, as per the celestial template.
  • p. 192, Count Strahd von Zarovich: "(See page 6 for Strahd's full statistics)" makes this whole stat block rather pointless, as it doesn't list his feats, skills, or special ability descriptions. Why bother?
  • p. 194, Count Strahd von Zarovich: "(See page 6 for Strahd's full statistics)" makes this whole stat block rather pointless, as it doesn't list his feats, skills, or special ability descriptions. Why bother?
  • p. 196, Count Strahd (Dire Wolf Form): Initiative should be +6, not +7 (+2 Dex, +4 Improved Initiative). Size should be Large, not Medium. 50 ft. does not equal 8 squares; his speed should be 50 ft. (10 squares). Grapple attacks should be at +16, not +12 (+5 BAB, +4 size, +7 Str). Skills should include Survival +3 (+9 following tracks) [0 ranks, +3 wis, +2 synergy bonus from Search, +4 racial bonus as a dire wolf].
  • p. 198, Rogue Eidolon: No Initiative is given; it should be +0. Senses lists Listen +1, Spot +1, but as an unintelligent construct with no skill points and a -2 Wis penalty, they should be listed as Listen -2, Spot -2. Blood spray Will save should be DC 16, not DC 15 (10 + 1/2 HD + Cha bonus = 10 + 5 + 1 = 16).
  • p. 199, Giant Ants, Soldier: "Listen +0, Spot +0" should be "Listen +1, Spot +1" in the Senses line (+1 Wis).
Another odd thing I noticed is that the new stat block format seems to be morphing again: now, there's (often, but not always) a separate line at the top with the creature's hit point total, instead of in the line with its Hit Dice. This is quite puzzling, as it eats up an entire line for no apparent reason. If it's so important to get the hp value up at the top of the stat block, why not list the HD there as well? Otherwise, count up all the individual stat blocks with "hp" as a separate line, and that's how many lines were needlessly wasted in this book. Odd.

Proofreading and editing for Expedition to Castle Ravenloft was a bit substandard for a Wizards of the Coast book, because even when they mangle their stat blocks like they've done here, you can usually count on WotC to get their proofreading down fairly well. Not here, though: we get quite a few misspelled words/typos (has/his, nits/its, ank/ankh, be/he, who's/whose, shinning/shining, were/where, then/than, bonu/bonus, bit/bite), improper word usage (spread/spreading, it/them), a bunch of spell and magic item names not italicized, messed-up punctuation (especially apostrophes), sentences with words missing, page references to the wrong pages, a feat given the wrong name (the Favored in Guild feat is called "Active Guild Member") and indecision about a character's name (is "Ecaterina" or "Ecaterine" correct? - hard to tell, as each is used several times). And why is there a green slime paragraph in the sidebar on Taint in Ravenloft on page 91? That looks like it wandered in from somewhere else. Still, my favorite sentence in the whole book is on page 216: "By her late twenties she had was had priest, and had gained a reputation that no evil could stand before her." I think they're trying to say that she was head priest, but I couldn't really say for sure. In any case, although I've seen much worse proofreading/editing jobs in non-WotC books, when compared to other WotC books of comparable size, Expedition to Castle Ravenloft falls far below the standard of excellence I've come to expect from this company. I'm not sure what the problem was this time, but I hope Editing Manager Kim Mohan fixes it for future releases.

Here are a few other interesting excerpts from the book:
  • "However, all of the information a DM needs to run the adventure is provided in these pages" - except, perhaps, the feats Enervate Spell, Fell Drain, Improved Energy Drain, Positive Energy Resistance, and Spell Drain (from Libris Mortis), which are in Strahd's stats on pages 6-7 but not reprinted or explained.
  • "Ultimately, Strahd wants to turn every living creature in the world into his mindless undead slave." And just what will he feast on, then? Funny, I don't recall Strahd being such a doofus in earlier incarnations.
Expedition to Castle Ravenloft is an interesting "reimagining" of the classic adventure, and the 2-page encounter spread was likewise an interesting experiment, but ultimately I don't think the end result of either lived up to their potential. I'm going to have to go with a fairly low "3 (Average)" with this one, and hope for better products in the "Expedition to..." line in the future.