D&D 5E Boosting Strahd


I'm running Curse of Strahd for a group of mostly teenagers. They have gone through Castle Ravenloft and finally found Strahd in the Vistani's foretold location (the study). It's time for an epic showdown - especially since it's going to be the climax of the campaign. (Plus, one of the players is moving off to college - so this is his last game with us.)

Previously, I tested them against a Monster Manual standard issue Vampire - and I'd say it was no challenge at all. Even though the party is only mid-level (6th), the paladin has the Sunsword and the cleric has the Holy Symbol of Ravenkind. The party's ability to do consistent radiant damage with attached smites as well as create a 60 ft. radius of sunlight negates a vampire's regeneration, causes 20 damage the start of every vampire's turn, prevents shapechanging, causes disadvantage, etc.

Next, I tested them against Strahd in an ambush on the streets of Barovia. He had enough room to move and blast them with several Fireballs. This time it was a tough fight, but they very nearly killed him. (He was reduced to 0 HP, but was only 5 feet outside the sunlight radius - which means had the cleric been 5 feet closer, Strahd would be perma-dead.)

Now they have stormed the Castle, and they have Strahd cornered in a room that's been foretold he will be encountered. It's too small for him to effectively use his Fireball spells (which are, honestly, his primary attack spells). As written, he won't survive three rounds against this party. His attacks are a pathetic +9 to hit (with disadvantage) and deal a measly average 9 points of damage on a hit.

Any ideas of how to bolster him that would keep with the vampiric theme without coming across as "cheating" just to try to thwart the party?

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Did Strahd get a taste of their capabilities in the previous encounter? If so, it's reasonable for him to have planned accordingly.

One thing that comes to mind is a scroll / wand of Wall of Stone, to wall off the sources of sunshine in their own little cubicle while he takes on everyone else.

Tales and Chronicles

Jewel of the North, formerly know as vincegetorix
'' This aint even my final form!!''

If you played Castlevania (or Soulborn games), you know that Dracu-Strahd has many ''hp bar'', evolving into more and more grotesque forms.

1st: Strahd Von Zarovich, Vampire Noble,
I'd say when you drop Strahd, have him jump through a gothic stained glass and retreat higher in the castle.

2nd: The Beast Strahd,
the PC must find a fight a Loup-Garou + 4 death dogs in the huntmaster lodge.

3rd: Strahd, the Sovereign Blood,
in the coffin room, fight him as a Necrichor + 4 priest of Osybus.

Final Form: Strahd, Shadow of the Amber Moon
In a pocketplane inside the coffin, fight him as either a Star Spawn Emissary or a Nightwalker.

Then he's finally dead.

If your players are so powerful and prone to nova, dont make the fight a sprint, make it a marathon!


Incidentally... another thing to keep in mind is that just because he was foretold to be found in his study, doesn't mean he has to stay there while the party wails away on him. After one round of attacks there's no reason why he can't turn to mist and then GTFO to somewhere else in the castle.

If the party has never been to the Castle's study before, an interesting location for Strahd in mist form to go to would be through a crack in the back of the fireplace to the rooms found behind it. The party then needs to figure out how to open the secret door, and then deal with all the stuff back there before finding Strahd again (perhaps on top of the Daern's Instant Fortress found in the Treasury.


What do you consider cheating? Would a new stat block be cheating? If not there are lots of options. If so:

Strahd is in his lair. He is stronger here by RAW. IIRC correctly he can move through walls in his lair and the hearstone (or something similar) buffs him. If you use hit and run tactics he can be quite a challenge RAW. I will need to look up the adventure to give more specific advice. I will get back to ASAP!

PS Sly Fourish has a whole series on running this adventure: Running Curse of Strahd ; however, you probably only need:
Running Strahd Von Zarovich


OK, I cracked open the book: Here is what is RAW.

Strahd's Minions: creatures he will have with him unless he is in his tomb (which he isn't). Roll a d20 or pick on the groups listed.

Heart of Sorrow: This crystal absorbes the first 50 hit points of damage done to Strahd. This is only suppressed by an anti-magic field, not sunlight or similar

Lair Actions:
  • Pass through walls, doors, ceilings, and floors.
  • Magically close and lock doors and windows
  • Summon a specter that attacks a target
  • Create shadow that obye's Strahd's commands.

So with the above, he should almost always have help (no help on a 19-20), he has 50 extra hit points, and he as tactical lair actions. On initiative count 20 he can attack, create a shadow minion, or pass through walls. One easy tactic is to move through the walls and then regen to full HP before attacking again. Also, if you didn't have him cast mirror image before the fight, pass through the wall (for floor) cast it and come back.

Another option, though not technically RAW, it makes a lot of sense. I had Strahd use a lair action to summon his armor and sword (see Strahd's Animated Armor pg 227). This upped his AC to 21 and I buffed the sword a bit to give him +12 to hit (+3 from sword) and 14 (2d6+7) slashing + 14 (4d6) necrotic + 3 (1d6) lightning. That is up 155 DPR!
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His attacks are a pathetic +9 to hit (with disadvantage) and deal a measly average 9 points of damage on a hit.
I just checked and he does 8 + 14 with an unarmed strike (22 damage). Still to little, but a lot more than 9! IT does add up to 110 DPR which can be rough for some groups. Also, he can choose to grapple it and then bite it. Less damage, but some other interesting riders.

Also, not technically RAW, but you could have him grapple a target and then use his lair action to pass through the floor with the target. Nice way to separate and dominate the group and scary as heck! Then, depending on where you move some of them, fireball!
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Final suggestion: Stahd in the castle is already stronger by RAW. Take the idea further and make him a mythic monster. Something like this:

Undead Monarch (EliteTrait, recharges after a Rest). When Strahd is first reduced to 0 hit points, all conditions and effects he is suffering end for him. he regains 144 hit points, and he can use his Mythic Actions for 1 hour.

If Strahd's mythic trait is active, he can use the options below as legendary actions for 1 hour after using Undead Monarch.

Unstoppable. Strahd removes one condition or effect he is suffering. He can do so if he has at least 1 hit point, even while unconscious or incapacitated.
Telekinetic Crush (Costs 2 Actions). Strahd selects one creature he can see within 120 feet of him. The creature must make a DC 17 Strength saving throw, taking 35 (6d10) bludgeoning damage and being restrained (Escape DC 17) on a failed save. The target remains restrained as long as Strahd maintains concentration and is within 120 feet of the target.
Shadow Strike (Costs 3 Actions). Strahd transforms into a smoke shadow and moves up to his speed without provoking opportunity attacks. He can make one Unarmed Strike attack against each creature he moves past. At the end of this movement Strahd transforms back into his vampire form.
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Also, since he's in the study if he gets reduced to 0 hp, there's a good chance he just goes gaseous form, slips through some cracks in the stone and reforms in his coffin. This would give the party 24 hours to track him down before he returns with a vengeance (attacking at a time and in a place to his benefit).

If the party has done the work to track the items to destroy him and prepped to face him for this confrontation though, I wouldn't rob them of their victory. If you know (as you seem to) that the fight will be disappointing, using a Mythic Form does seem to be the way to go, as mentioned in the posts above.

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