D&D 5E Boosting Strahd

dave2008

Legend
I think the "ever-evolving" Strahd is a good idea. I'll bring in the animated armor to join the fight. And the sunlight from the holy symbol and Sunsword will only be effective in his vampire form. When he turns into a second form (I'm thinking a big werewolf) it won't affect him. The rogue has a silvered short sword, so she'll get a chance to shine in that portion. I'll need to keep an eye on all the character's HP and spells - and then just adjust to make sure I'm not completely overpowering them.
Do you have the Ravenloft book? The loup garou from that book is a CR 13 werewolf that would be a good start for a werewolf form
 

log in or register to remove this ad

overgeeked

B/X Known World
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?
Down to 5-6 now.
There's your problem. 5E is designed for a party of four. Give all his hit points, regen, damage, etc either a x1.5 or x2 boost to account for the larger than expected party.

Besides that, play Strahd smart. There's no way he'd stay within an area of sunlight. He would flee. He has 3 legendary actions, one includes moving without provoking. Drop that three times and he's 90ft away, take an action to mist form, use his 20ft move to seep through a crack in the walls and vanish. If he couldn't flee, he'd charm the sunlight caster. There's a lot Strahd can do, if you play him smart. He's a centuries-old vampire.
 

Retreater

Legend
Do you have the Ravenloft book? The loup garou from that book is a CR 13 werewolf that would be a good start for a werewolf form
I do. Thanks for the tip.
There's your problem. 5E is designed for a party of four. Give all his hit points, regen, damage, etc either a x1.5 or x2 boost to account for the larger than expected party.

Besides that, play Strahd smart. There's no way he'd stay within an area of sunlight. He would flee. He has 3 legendary actions, one includes moving without provoking. Drop that three times and he's 90ft away, take an action to mist form, use his 20ft move to seep through a crack in the walls and vanish. If he couldn't flee, he'd charm the sunlight caster. There's a lot Strahd can do, if you play him smart. He's a centuries-old vampire.
Honestly, I've run Curse of Strahd (and other campaigns) for 4 players as well. I think (after 3rd level or so), the game is too easy regardless of the number of players. That's just my own preference, and I realize many DMs are fine with no threats toward the lives of characters or the appearance of challenge.
As written in CoS, there's no challenge. It's extreme easy or extremely impossible, and completely up to DMs fiat. Either you play Strahd like a moron and give the players an easy time, or you wreck them. Neither option is fun.
So if I do your suggestion, Strahd wastes their daily charge of sunlight by running away and coming back 10 minutes later. He attacks them one-by-one, running away to do a full recharge after each attack. Eventually the group runs out of healing. Eventually someone drops. Meanwhile, this combat has dragged on for a few boring sessions.
But the group all dies. Which is probably realistically how it would happen.
Other than that, he stays and fights, and is melted by either the sunsword or holy symbol. His AC is comically low. His damage output is comically low. His ability to hit (with disadvantage by the sunlight from the holy symbol) is comically low.
Sure, I have 5-6 players (who actually function like 4 players because of their inexperience). But they are also 6th level - three levels lower than the suggested range. With the exception of the two artifacts, magic items are nil.
 

There's your problem. 5E is designed for a party of four. Give all his hit points, regen, damage, etc either a x1.5 or x2 boost to account for the larger than expected party.

Besides that, play Strahd smart. There's no way he'd stay within an area of sunlight. He would flee. He has 3 legendary actions, one includes moving without provoking. Drop that three times and he's 90ft away, take an action to mist form, use his 20ft move to seep through a crack in the walls and vanish. If he couldn't flee, he'd charm the sunlight caster. There's a lot Strahd can do, if you play him smart. He's a centuries-old vampire.
He cans also pass through walls, floors, and ceilings as a lair action.
 

Retreater

Legend
He cans also pass through walls, floors, and ceilings as a lair action.
Again, if he does that and runs away, he wastes their charge of sunlight. Hits and runs until he gradually wears them all down, with his regeneration outpacing any of the party's healing. Eventually they run out of healing, and they all die, without afflicting a single, lasting point of damage on Strahd.
That's not challenging or fun. It might be realistic, the way Strahd would actually do it. But it's hardly a way to end the campaign for a bunch of new players.
It would kinda stink, actually.
 

overgeeked

B/X Known World
Honestly, I've run Curse of Strahd (and other campaigns) for 4 players as well. I think (after 3rd level or so), the game is too easy regardless of the number of players. That's just my own preference, and I realize many DMs are fine with no threats toward the lives of characters or the appearance of challenge.

As written in CoS, there's no challenge. It's extreme easy or extremely impossible, and completely up to DMs fiat. Either you play Strahd like a moron and give the players an easy time, or you wreck them. Neither option is fun.
It's not either, or. You can hang in the middle between those extremes. Up the drama and the horror.
So if I do your suggestion, Strahd wastes their daily charge of sunlight by running away and coming back 10 minutes later. He attacks them one-by-one, running away to do a full recharge after each attack. Eventually the group runs out of healing. Eventually someone drops. Meanwhile, this combat has dragged on for a few boring sessions.
You and I have opposite ideas of what's boring then. That sounds like it would be an amazing and tense running fight. Keeping the players on their toes, scared to split up, and unable to rest. I mean, honestly. Do what Strahd would do. Toy with them. He's a big evil immortal vampire darklord of Ravenloft. Let him act like it. If they want to confront him, he can hand them their collective butts, taunt them, and let them live. Show them they're beneath him and he's not worried about them. That's exactly what an overconfident braggart would do. Pure Strahd. Instead of killing one of the PCs, kill an NPC they care about. Vamp them and use them as an unliving shield. Taunt them with that NPC.
But the group all dies. Which is probably realistically how it would happen.
Only if you make Strahd go for the TPK. He likely would let them live and taunt them the whole time.
Other than that, he stays and fights, and is melted by either the sunsword or holy symbol. His AC is comically low. His damage output is comically low. His ability to hit (with disadvantage by the sunlight from the holy symbol) is comically low.

Sure, I have 5-6 players (who actually function like 4 players because of their inexperience). But they are also 6th level - three levels lower than the suggested range. With the exception of the two artifacts, magic items are nil.
Yeah. All his stats are terrible. But with the action economy, he's getting trashed way easier and quicker than he should be.
It might be realistic, the way Strahd would actually do it. But it's hardly a way to end the campaign for a bunch of new players.

It would kinda stink, actually.
You're excluding the whole spectrum of options between those two extremes. Like toy with them. Make them hate Strahd. There's nothing that says there's one fight then it's over. No one would choose to stay and fight to the death. Play Strahd smart and like every gloating villain in every movie, taunt them, leave them alive, and have Strahd walk away because the PCs are beneath him. They can come back and try again when they're more powerful. Like they should.

It sounds like your goal is to provide a good experience, a good story to your players. Great. So what's the difference between an anticlimactic fight they easily win and an anticlimactic fight they cannot possibly win? They're both frustrating and unsatisfying. So don't do either one. Ratchet up the tension. Inject drama and horror. Don't let them off so easily with a TPK. Or do and have them come back as vampires. Now they have all those powers too. Now the game is about breaking free.

There's a whole universe of options between "boring easy win" and "boring TPK." You're the referee. Pick a different option.
 

Again, if he does that and runs away, he wastes their charge of sunlight. Hits and runs until he gradually wears them all down, with his regeneration outpacing any of the party's healing. Eventually they run out of healing, and they all die, without afflicting a single, lasting point of damage on Strahd.
That's not challenging or fun. It might be realistic, the way Strahd would actually do it. But it's hardly a way to end the campaign for a bunch of new players.
It would kinda stink, actually.
It is not all or nothing though. He wouldn’t have to do it all the time. The DM has control of these things.
 

Clint_L

Hero
The thing with Strahd is that you have to run him like the immortal, evil genius that he is supposed to be. He's famously easy to defeat if he's poorly played and the the DM just lets the party tank'n'spank him (any mob is, but Strahd particularly so, because of all the anti-Strahd gear the party is likely to have by that point). So you have to be crafty and go into it with a plan. Like Strahd would.
 

toucanbuzz

No rule is inviolate
Again, if he does that and runs away, he wastes their charge of sunlight. Hits and runs until he gradually wears them all down, with his regeneration outpacing any of the party's healing. Eventually they run out of healing, and they all die, without afflicting a single, lasting point of damage on Strahd.
That's not challenging or fun. It might be realistic, the way Strahd would actually do it. But it's hardly a way to end the campaign for a bunch of new players.
It would kinda stink, actually.
Strahd is trickier to run than any other Boss out there because he shouldn't be run like any other Boss out there.

1) He's bored. His universe is mostly shades and shadows. He doesn't have new things to entertain him, and that's part of his curse. There were several Ravenloft novels put out back in the day ("I, Strahd" is his personal story that has tons of source material to flesh him out), and for Strahd powerful beings new to his realm are playthings. He doesn't destroy his toys. Killing the PCs is the easy part. Breaking their morality is a task. Surviving Strahd can be a roleplay balance of keeping him interested in you (if he breaks you too quickly, he gets bored).

2) He's eternal. That can't be stressed enough. He can't die. Even if you destroy him he can't die. He'll just come back. The Dark Powers that created this prison from his darkness love the suffering. Fighting is boring to him. Corrupting another into hopelessness, the game is on. One of the worst parts of the module was the suggestion Strahd randomly shows up in the country and attacks ("haha, I'm a godlike being and you're 3rd level nobodies, haha, eat fireballs, haha"). Whoever wrote that bit hadn't read any of the novels. But if he ever gets to the point he has to "lower" himself to a physical resolution, and he's not the one who would ever start it, he'll finish it.

3) He's a wifebeater, sorta. It's a character flaw, his obsession with making Ireena / Tatyana love him through coercion and his dark powers. He wants to isolate them, make them see how awesome he is and how lame others around them are. Having a character flaw should play a part in defeating him, not simply be backstory fluff. Same with his diary. You've got a chance to give a treasure trove of insight and see what PCs can do with it. But, it makes what he's doing more exciting than combat. He's playing psychological games designed to break Ireena down, make Ireena feel like the reason everything bad is happening is because of her "choices," until the only choice is to go to him.

4) The unwinnable battle. This is the epitome of what distinguishes this Boss from any other. Every other Boss stands up, you dish out some HP damage, there's a phase 2 where the Boss gets some second wind or help, and the PCs dish out some more HP damage. His design, however, can frustrate players who expect every encounter to be balanced and winnable, because they have been conditioned this way through game design. Monsters are supposed to stand toe-to-toe and slug it out. Strahd plays to win and that means not playing "fair" for players. Beating him should be a major accomplishment, achieved through understanding how to overcome his invincibility.

That said, you indicated your players are "new." If they are used to the formula of: monsters spotted --> roll initiative --> kill monsters, this can be an opportunity to chat about how Barovia isn't that place. There's going to be monsters who don't play by the rules, who might be way over your power level, and you'll probably die in a straight up fight. Or in the late Gygax's words about one of his dungeons, this is a "thinking (wo)man's dungeon." But don't make it too easy. After all, many have entered Strahd's realm. No one has ever killed him...
 

Strahd is trickier to run than any other Boss out there because he shouldn't be run like any other Boss out there.

1) He's bored. His universe is mostly shades and shadows. He doesn't have new things to entertain him, and that's part of his curse. There were several Ravenloft novels put out back in the day ("I, Strahd" is his personal story that has tons of source material to flesh him out), and for Strahd powerful beings new to his realm are playthings. He doesn't destroy his toys. Killing the PCs is the easy part. Breaking their morality is a task. Surviving Strahd can be a roleplay balance of keeping him interested in you (if he breaks you too quickly, he gets bored).

2) He's eternal. That can't be stressed enough. He can't die. Even if you destroy him he can't die. He'll just come back. The Dark Powers that created this prison from his darkness love the suffering. Fighting is boring to him. Corrupting another into hopelessness, the game is on. One of the worst parts of the module was the suggestion Strahd randomly shows up in the country and attacks ("haha, I'm a godlike being and you're 3rd level nobodies, haha, eat fireballs, haha"). Whoever wrote that bit hadn't read any of the novels. But if he ever gets to the point he has to "lower" himself to a physical resolution, and he's not the one who would ever start it, he'll finish it.

3) He's a wifebeater, sorta. It's a character flaw, his obsession with making Ireena / Tatyana love him through coercion and his dark powers. He wants to isolate them, make them see how awesome he is and how lame others around them are. Having a character flaw should play a part in defeating him, not simply be backstory fluff. Same with his diary. You've got a chance to give a treasure trove of insight and see what PCs can do with it. But, it makes what he's doing more exciting than combat. He's playing psychological games designed to break Ireena down, make Ireena feel like the reason everything bad is happening is because of her "choices," until the only choice is to go to him.

4) The unwinnable battle. This is the epitome of what distinguishes this Boss from any other. Every other Boss stands up, you dish out some HP damage, there's a phase 2 where the Boss gets some second wind or help, and the PCs dish out some more HP damage. His design, however, can frustrate players who expect every encounter to be balanced and winnable, because they have been conditioned this way through game design. Monsters are supposed to stand toe-to-toe and slug it out. Strahd plays to win and that means not playing "fair" for players. Beating him should be a major accomplishment, achieved through understanding how to overcome his invincibility.

That said, you indicated your players are "new." If they are used to the formula of: monsters spotted --> roll initiative --> kill monsters, this can be an opportunity to chat about how Barovia isn't that place. There's going to be monsters who don't play by the rules, who might be way over your power level, and you'll probably die in a straight up fight. Or in the late Gygax's words about one of his dungeons, this is a "thinking (wo)man's dungeon." But don't make it too easy. After all, many have entered Strahd's realm. No one has ever killed him...
This is a fantastic way to look at any BBEG or semi-important NPC. I haven't run the module yet, but your post is gold for fleshing out some interesting encounters (of all 3 pillars) with Strahd.
 

Remove ads

AD6_gamerati_skyscraper

Remove ads

Upcoming Releases

Top