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Curse of Strahd Advice

SerHogan

Explorer
The adventure has some many rich encounters and side quests. Any DMs out there that can suggest which ones to drop? Drop none? Let me know, seems like the PCs can lost out there in a sea of encounters. They are looking for the tome and the sword, etc. but there's so much to do beyond that.
 

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I think that there is so much material in the book, and most of it is very good, but I don’t think most games need all of it.

I ran it for characters that were higher level than the intended starting point, so I had to alter a few things, and drop some others. The things that I dropped that spring to mind most readily are Arghynvostholdt (sp?), the winery/druid plot, and the Izek Strazni as a stalker of Ireena subplot.

Arghynvostholdt just seemed a bit redundant....do we need another castle with undead in it when the main location of the adventure is going to be Castle Ravenloft? There’s some interesting backstory there, but ultimately the adventure works just fine without it.

The Wizard of Wines winery I used, but just as a way for the PCs to help out the Martikovs and strengthen their relationship. I didn’t find the blights and the dark druids all that compelling to really worry about it, and neither did my players, so we did not follow those hooks at all.

The town of Vallaki was the main settlement in our game. The PCs spent the most amount of time there, and they used it as a base of operations. I found all the situations in Vallaki to be interesting, and my players really latched on to those threads. There’s really a lot going on there that has a lot of potential. Izek Strazni is the muscle of the town’s mayor. I felt that he was menacing enough in that role and didn’t need the fixation on Ireena that’s offered in the book. Just seems like another redundant theme to have this creep stalking Ireena who is already being stalked by a much worse and more compelling villain.

I think those are the major threads that I let slide from my game. I’m sure there are one or two more I can’t think of, and I know I significantly altered a few others to fit aome ongoing threads from our campaign. There really is so much material in the book that you can really take things any way you want, and just focus on what’s interesting to you and your players and ignore the rest. And then you head to Castle Ravenloft for a final showdown.

One other thibg I’d recommend is deciding ahead of time (or determining randomly ahead of time) where all the items are located. This will let you prepare a bit more.
 

MNblockhead

A Title Much Cooler Than Anything on the Old Site
I'm running CoS now.

I started with the adventure as written (AAW) but let things evolve based on the party's actions.

I don't see the need to remove anything. Let the party explore. One thing I love about CoS is that the number of locations and plot threads and the tarot-reading mechanic allow it to play very differently from one campaign to the next. Let the characters by their actions determine what is "left out." If they are completionists and want to follow up on every plot thread--well let them.

The one thing I would watch out for, however, is how quickly the players find the items/individuals in tarot reading. My players found everything fairly quickly, when they were still lower level, except for an item that they are certain is in Castle Ravenloft. This gives the feeling that all the other quests and locations are side quests that are you completing just to level up to take on Strahd. Luckily they are interesting on their own, but they work best when the party feels they are learning about Strahd and finding items and NPCs to help them. In hindsight, I might be tempted to have all items and NPCs place OUTSIDE of Castle Ravenloft. Just leave the location of the final showdown there.

Also, keep in mind that even if a goal of Tarokka reading is not in a location, it doesn't mean that location has no role in advancing the party's objectives.

For example, say you have no items in Werewolves den. There are still plot threads that could allow the party to turn the werewolves against Strahd and elicit their aid against him.

Barbarians are an interesting group that could just be random encounters. But they have so much potential. Aboriginal peoples who've thrown in with the Druids--and therefore--Strahd. Perhaps they only support Strahd because the Druids, who they have an affinity towards have been corrupted. Perhaps they follow him because he is the "strong man" of the area. But there are some seemingly throw-away plot hooks that can make them important allies. First, there is the special event at Yester Hill where the spirit of a Barbarian chieftain leads them to find the Blood Spear of Kavan. Second, there is the special event at Tsolenka Pass where the party encounters Sangzor ("Bloodhorn"). If the party has the Blood Spear and kills Blood Horn, and if they've already defeated the druids at Yester Hill and/or the Wizard of Wines, perhaps the Barbarians will change their allegiance to the party.

Now, storming Castle Ravenloft with a large number of Werewolves and/or Barbarians (or villagers, etc.) kinda kills the flavor of that awesome dungeon crawl. But a barbarian leader/hero and/or a werewolf leader, however, could join, giving the party a boost without turning it into a miniature war game.

Generally, once the party seems powerful enough (level 9 or 10 or perhaps lower levels with powerful allies), you can have them receive the invite to Castle Ravenloft. But if the party is having fun with the various side quests, you needn't force the end.
 

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