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Curse of Strahd and Strongholds

Hawk Diesel

Explorer
So I have begun running Curse of Strahd with a relatively new-to-D&D group. They have all been pulled into Barovia from their native realms, and thus have no real ties in the game world. They just got trapped in the Death House. Normally completing the Death House event results in the house being ruined. But I got to thinking with Matt Colville's Stronghold Guide coming out, what if I allowed the players to use it as a Stronghold? My thoughts are that it would allow the players to get some roots in the community, and if the players chose not to exercise Rose and Thorn they could remain as friendly spirits. I'm not sure how such a move could impact the overall atmosphere or mood of the game though. So I'm wondering if anyone ever tried this, or if anyone has suggestions.

Of course I know the players could eventually get Van Richten's Tower or the Instant Fortress as potential strongholds down the line, and I would consider those upgrades in a sense with more traditional stronghold advantages. But that is also a ways away.
 

darjr

I crit!
They would have to get the house in their side. Probably by working with the kids ghosts. Or by exorcism
 

DEFCON 1

Hero
I wouldn't be worried about the mood so much as worried that the players just wouldn't really end up using it. The first section of CoS has them doing the stuff in Barovia just like in the original I6 module... but once the team visits Madam Eva and receives the quests to find the three artifacts... there's very little reasons given to ever get the players back to Barovia. Instead, it seems as though most of their time is going to be spent in the central and western ends of the Baratok Valley-- using Vallaki and Kresk as potential home bases to adventure out of than Barovia ever would. There's just not enough encounter areas in the eastern end of the Valley to inspire adventuring, unless you get the rare result of one of the artifacts being in the Barovia chapel. But even then... they probably would go the chapel first immediately after receiving their tarroka card reading, claim the artifact, and then head west to go deal with all the other adventure sites. So again, they'd have no reason to ever return to Barovia.

Now you could try and make the Death House cool enough to make them want to return down the mountain back to Barovia to use it as a home base... or you could add in or move a handful of other adventure sites to in and around Barovia (in the forests or in the Svalis Marsh). But I don't know really if you gain enough to warrant putting in that much effort. I mean, I myself re-added the Lysaga Hill convent ruins (from Expedition to Castle Ravenloft) onto the mountain road heading up right before the Tser Bridge and had a part of the main quest force them to go there and deal with a hag sister I placed there... and that barely inspired my players to continue down the mountain and go back to Barovia to rest. Without a quest site like that... the groups would never have gone any further east than the Castle once they made the first journey to Vallaki early in the campaign.

So while making Death House a stronghold is certainly an option for you... I suspect they'd probably end up getting more mileage out of claiming Wachterhaus for themselves once they dealt with Lady Wachter in Vallaki. But your mileage may vary.
 

WarpedAcorn

Villager
So I have begun running Curse of Strahd with a relatively new-to-D&D group. They have all been pulled into Barovia from their native realms, and thus have no real ties in the game world. They just got trapped in the Death House. Normally completing the Death House event results in the house being ruined. But I got to thinking with Matt Colville's Stronghold Guide coming out, what if I allowed the players to use it as a Stronghold? My thoughts are that it would allow the players to get some roots in the community, and if the players chose not to exercise Rose and Thorn they could remain as friendly spirits. I'm not sure how such a move could impact the overall atmosphere or mood of the game though. So I'm wondering if anyone ever tried this, or if anyone has suggestions.

Of course I know the players could eventually get Van Richten's Tower or the Instant Fortress as potential strongholds down the line, and I would consider those upgrades in a sense with more traditional stronghold advantages. But that is also a ways away.

Of course you are free to change things as you see fit as the DM, I would lean away from making the Death House a player home. I personally like it more as an eternally cursed home that the players can not "defeat". They can burn it down, but it returns. They can escape, but they can't stop others from getting caught in its evil.

As an alternative, what about an abandoned home in Barovia? In those random encounter tables it shows that a lot of the homes are abandoned, so maybe the players can lay claim to a little townhouse. I'm sure the "Mayor" would allow it.
 

toucanbuzz

Villager
Playing CoS now and also highly doubt players will want or need a stronghold. Agree with Defcon and add other issues:

1. The House itself. [sblock] It's not friendly and it loses a lot of its horror value if tamed. Horrible things were done there that have empowered it. Doubtful a low-level party could overcome the will of the Dark Powers to cleanse it. I had the house collapse in the end after the party escaped. When they return, it will have rebuilt itself for its next victims.[/sblock]

2. The entire valley doesn't have much of an economy. Assuming you get past point #1, there's not a lot of options to fix it up, whether it be skilled labor or economics.

3. Even if the party lays stake to another more central location, the risk of random encounters makes getting to any base risky. Plus, the party's campaign goal is to get out. A stronghold mini-game would clash with the theme.

4. The theme of the campaign also shouldn't make the party feel safe. Ever.

5. And Strahd. [sblock] At some point, they'll piss Strahd off enough that he'll decide to kill them. Mobility is an ally and having a set base is an invitation for disaster. Just ask Ismark and Ireena's father.[/sblock]
 

Uller

Explorer
I wouldn't be worried about the mood so much as worried that the players just wouldn't really end up using it. The first section of CoS has them doing the stuff in Barovia just like in the original I6 module... but once the team visits Madam Eva and receives the quests to find the three artifacts... there's very little reasons given to ever get the players back to Barovia. Instead, it seems as though most of their time is going to be spent in the central and western ends of the Baratok Valley-- using Vallaki and Kresk as potential home bases to adventure out of than Barovia ever would. There's just not enough encounter areas in the eastern end of the Valley to inspire adventuring, unless you get the rare result of one of the artifacts being in the Barovia chapel. But even then... they probably would go the chapel first immediately after receiving their tarroka card reading, claim the artifact, and then head west to go deal with all the other adventure sites. So again, they'd have no reason to ever return to Barovia.

Now you could try and make the Death House cool enough to make them want to return down the mountain back to Barovia to use it as a home base... or you could add in or move a handful of other adventure sites to in and around Barovia (in the forests or in the Svalis Marsh). But I don't know really if you gain enough to warrant putting in that much effort. I mean, I myself re-added the Lysaga Hill convent ruins (from Expedition to Castle Ravenloft) onto the mountain road heading up right before the Tser Bridge and had a part of the main quest force them to go there and deal with a hag sister I placed there... and that barely inspired my players to continue down the mountain and go back to Barovia to rest. Without a quest site like that... the groups would never have gone any further east than the Castle once they made the first journey to Vallaki early in the campaign.

So while making Death House a stronghold is certainly an option for you... I suspect they'd probably end up getting more mileage out of claiming Wachterhaus for themselves once they dealt with Lady Wachter in Vallaki. But your mileage may vary.
He could have Deathhouse follow them around...this is Barovia after all.

"As you wearily make your way into the village you see a house that looks very familiar..."
 

TerraDave

5ever
Way, way back when, my PCs ended up using castle Ravenloft as a stronghold, but thats another story.

I wouldn't be worried about the mood so much as worried that the players just wouldn't really end up using it. .
It does seem very early for setting up that kind of base. Both in this specific campaign, but also really for any starting campaign, unless the whole point is to have a home base that is the focus. (And even then, it probably won't be the PCs own stronghold, at least at first.)

Usually the characters would need to establish themselves and get the lay of land first. Low level PCs don't normally have their own keeps or equivalent.

But my real concern is the "new to D&D part". CoS is a challenging adventure, and I would be worried about them getting up to speed normally, without adding a stronghold to manage on top of that.
 

Hawk Diesel

Explorer
Thanks everyone, I'm really digging the feedback. I'll admit, I hadn't really thought about this until a flash of thought this morning. I backed Matt's kickstarter and was wondering how I might be able to use it for the current campaign I'm running.
[MENTION=7006]DEFCON 1[/MENTION] that is a good point about there not being much around Barovia. But I don't think they would want to make a "home" of Vallaki what with that mayor being so persistent about people being happy and participating in those parades and fests. Of course, I also have no idea how this group is going to proceed or react. I am changing the script for some things regarding Lady Wachter and her relationship to the Baron and Izek based on some suggests I've found on these boards, so who knows who will survive that event. But the Blue Water Inn already makes a pretty nice base of operations, even if not exactly a player controlled stronghold. Krezk would be more reasonable, but the players may stumble into Van Richten's Tower by then, which has stronghold written all over it.

Also, I know that Death House is like... super cursed. But I like to reward my players for creativity. I won't say it's impossible to break the curse. And I don't even know if they would want to claim the house as theirs. But outside of Castle Ravenloft and the Amber Temple, it is the most like a traditional dungeon crawl. And with them trapped in there and being forced to put some much work and effort into clearing it and surviving, I definitely see them being invested to the point that they may want to claim it for themselves.
[MENTION=19270]toucanbuzz[/MENTION] I definitely hear you about the Dark Powers and the difficulty associated with cleansing the house. But this could also be a double-edged sword for the players. Clearing the Death House is the thing that may pique Strahd's interest in the players, and by his will he may allow them to believe the house is clear, only for him to use it as a means of observing the characters while their.

As to the campaign goal of getting out... that may be true. But I can't assume that the players will want to get out by the end of it. For all I know, one or all of them may want to take Strahd's place, with the Dark Powers jumping on the opportunity to corrupt an individual or group even stronger than Strahd.

As for the safety piece, I disagree. As even pointed out in the book, horror themed campaigns require some instances of safety and levity. There needs to be a rhythm. If it is all horror, all the time, it can hamper the fun factor. It also creates difficulty as a DM or storyteller because you are always having to raise the bar to scare or creep out the players. The players need instances where they can believe they are safe (whether it is true or not) for the horror to be impactful.

And the fact that having a base of operations makes them an easy target for Strahd is a perfect lesson for the players to learn in game.
[MENTION=22260]TerraDave[/MENTION] I definitely see the concern about having a stronghold early, and especially for new players. But I'm not making this a true stronghold that requires upkeep or assume downtime unless that's what the players want. I don't even know if they are going to want to claim this place as theirs. But I've learned that even with new players (perhaps especially with new players because they don't know the rules well enough to make suggestions or intentions bounded within them) I need to be prepared for everything and also be prepared that none of my preparation will matter. So I'm just kinda testing the waters with proposing the idea in case that is what the players decide they want. Also, to see any blind spots I have in considering the idea.
 

maxed

Villager
One of my players took the deed for the house and presented it to Strahd when he invited them to dinner, claiming it was his house as he was in possession of the deed. A week or so later, after they had pissed off Strahd, they returned to the village of Barovia to find the house had been burned down. They were pissed! And I just giggled...
 

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