...In my opinion, the question is not why would Strahd leave his castle, but why would he stay? He’s the land, yes, but he’s also the lord of the land. He can go wherever he pleases without the slightest of threat or challenge, because it’s his land, and who’s going to stop him? On top of that he’s so interminably bored....
Yup, I think we’re on the same page. I actually do like to have him show up frequently, but it’s always meaningful when he does.Yep, that's part of it. Perhaps the better way to phrase it is that it wouldn't be in character for him to gallop in on a nightmare, harass the low-level PCs like some sort of gym bully at school, pull down their pants, and ride away. He plays a long-term game. Everything has meaning. In my game, his appearances were few and far between, to send a message. When they sought to elevate the Church in Vallaki as a safe haven for Ireena, Strahd tore down its trappings during a service, slaughtered the priest, and sent a loud and clear message that he is the Land. There is no safe haven. They're trying to interfere with his destiny by influencing Ireena. Yet, he won't kill them for that curiosity bit.
All these other times he's failed, Ireena/Tatyana has been surrounded by natives of the land. The party is a novel factor and one he intends to play into altering a legacy of failed attempts. He just hasn't quite figured that part out yet, and this is where the adventure can take a fantastic spin. I had no idea my PCs would do what they did in the way they did.
Did you go the Amber Temple? That is the main place where the Dark Powers come into Curse of Strahd, but some DMs choose to cut that part.The Dark Powers and their influence were completely absent.
Page 24 of the hardback includes a list of alterations to magic: spells that would allow a party to leave Barovia won't work, and Strahd may intercept any spell that attempts to contact another plane. It also has suggested cosmetic changes to spells (for example, mage hand would appear as a skeletal shadowy hand rather than a normal one); did your DM use those?Magic worked just fine and we never had to roll a Dark Powers Check.
There is a system for tracking sanity and rolling for fear/horror/madness in the Dungeon Master's Guide, which your DM could have added to CoS. I do think the book would have benefitted from a pointer to that section of the DMG and a note on how DMs could incorporate it. To really integrate fear/horror/madness checks deeply into the adventure as written would take a lot of work, though.Fear, horror or madness checks were completely absent, too.
I agree. Plus I've heard a number of people say that Strahd should basically "move around/appear outta nowhere" to torment the party.I agree wholeheartedly with basically everything in this post, but this particular bit I wanted to challenge a bit. In my opinion, the question is not why would Strahd leave his castle, but why would he stay? He’s the land, yes, but he’s also the lord of the land. He can go wherever he pleases without the slightest of threat or challenge, because it’s his land, and who’s going to stop him? On top of that he’s so interminably bored. For centuries he’s been trapped in this tiny snow globe of a domain, with the same souls being recycled over and over again, history repeating itself with only minor variations generation after generation. I can’t imagine him being content to just sit in his castle looking menacingly out a window like some gothic Cercei Lannister. I see him going out among his subjects, feeding on who he pleases, manipulating the populace just to make something happen. That’s why he messed with Donnovich and the Abbot and all the others; he hasn’t been surprised in centuries, so he passes his time just screwing with people in the hopes of getting a mildly amusing result.
My players got VERY excited when they learned about existence of Dark Powers and Amber Temple. For them, it was explanation they wanted (their previous, false explanation was existence of ancient vampire beneath Yester Hill). So, make Wereravens or Gray Elves (or Vistani) talk about Dark Powers and point them into Amber Temple. Also, if one of your players die in the meantime, make him comeback with a little gift from Dark Powers. Have fun!So reading this has inspired me that I should get the Dark Powers involved more and try to add a little more of the old Ravenloft flavor into my campaign. They are just finishing up Vallaki, around 6th level. I wonder when would be a good time to introduce it? Maybe having them unleash it at the Amber Temple?
While I agree the party should never feel safe from him, I also think it’s important to keep an air of menace to his appearances. If he just pops up to slap the players around a bit and then disappear, it risks making him more of a nuisance than a truly terrifying villain. His presence should be like the opening scene of Inglorious Basterds (or the strudel scene, or the bar scene... take your pick really, that whole movie is a masterclass in dramatic tension). You know he could kill you at any moment, and he knows you know it, and he is going to lord it over you every moment of this interaction, all the while wearing a thin veneer of politeness and respectability.I agree. Plus I've heard a number of people say that Strahd should basically "move around/appear outta nowhere" to torment the party.
Oh a pack of wolves? Should be easy like the last pa-yo why is that one particular wolf different from the others?
Oh a knock on the door? Can you come in you ask? Well I'm not sure if I should...Okay yeah su-Strahd grabs the poor smuck as he's given permission, and the guy gets dragged out into the Darkness outside.
Walking down the castle hall just min-gets blasted by a Fireball as Strahd laughs manically and phase back through the wall.
Basically, your not safe from Strahd no matter where your at on his home turf.
Maybe even sooner than the Amber Temple, as that is getting late game.So reading this has inspired me that I should get the Dark Powers involved more and try to add a little more of the old Ravenloft flavor into my campaign. They are just finishing up Vallaki, around 6th level. I wonder when would be a good time to introduce it? Maybe having them unleash it at the Amber Temple?
...Strahd did show up a few times in my experience. He'd smack us around, just like a bully @toucanbuzz, then he would toss a off a one liner and disappear. I personally found this annoying because if a villain is so out of my league, I feel that the moment I become remotely threatening he should show up to end me. But that doesn't make for a good game...I am definitely getting the impression that my expectations and the module did not line up. Bummer.
How in the world did the party get a long rest in Strahds Castle?
He heals 20 HPs per ROUND and can walk through the walls.
Dark Powers? What are these Dark Powers? I've played I6 a few times and read I6 and I10 many times. I don't remember any references to Dark Powers. Did they get added in a later book?First off, this didn't feel like Ravenloft to me. If it didn't say Strahd on the tin it could have easily just as been Generic Spooky Setting. The Dark Powers and their influence were completely absent.
Curse of Strahd seems to get universal acclaim. I was excited to play it. Yet, I found my experience lacking. I wouldn't say I hated it, that may be too strong a word, but I definitely found it disappointing. Now, I was a player and I have no idea what the DM altered, cut, or just simply forgot about. So it is entirely possible that my experience will be completely different than yours.
First off, this didn't feel like Ravenloft to me. If it didn't say Strahd on the tin it could have easily just as been Generic Spooky Setting. The Dark Powers and their influence were completely absent. Magic worked just fine and we never had to roll a Dark Powers Check. Fear, horror or madness checks were completely absent, too. Everyone seemed scared of Strahd but that was it. He was just this boogey man in a castle. There really wasn't any evidence of his influence and hold over the people other than their fear.
Around level 4, the campaign started to take a turn towards silliness. Everything went from "Oh my goodness, how are we going to survive?" to "Wolves? Again? Alright." Now, this was shortly after our only PC death (The bard died saving the paladin and letting the warlock escape) so I don't know if the DM pulled back on some things, if events occurred behind the scenes that we simply weren't aware of, or if Level 3 to Level 4 is a big power jump for players. I'll admit my 5E system mastery is not amazing. It's not that I wanted a meat grinder of a game but there were a few times were we just had the paladin face tank encounters. The worst example would have been the coffin maker's home. Now it may be that we encountered that fight much later than we were supposed to due to the sandbox-y nature of the module but I feel like a big fight with vampire spawn should not devolve into the paladin casts Protection from Good and Evil and laughs as the monsters feebly scratch at his armor.
Maybe my group falls into the Thick as Mud category but, I feel like we had some unclear agency. None of us really cared about Barovia. We just wanted to leave. Well, the bard cared but he died and so went the morale compass of the party. And so most of our adventuring consisted of looking at the map of Barovia and going "Well, we haven't been here yet. Maybe what we need is there?" and then later putting a big red X on the map and asking Ezmerelda for help on what we should be doing. Yes, we had the vistani prophecy but none of us really could make heads or tails of what we should be doing with it.
I did not like Ezmerelda. Parts of the campaign felt like we were just following her around and she felt a bit too much like a Mary Sue.
We dumped Irena off on Rictavio and the two of them hid in Valaki without any problems. So Irena's plight just sort of ended with a whimper.
I feel like the end game of the module was weak, too. Strahd showed up when we restored Argonvost and through a combination of crazy tactics and dumb luck we managed to trounce him. Now, the party was going to poke around and try to follow up on a few ideas we had still: the ghostly army and the mage that fell over Tser Falls. But then it started to snow and Ezmerelda (The DM?) was like "No, we need to go to the castle. Now." Which leads me to...
The Sunblade. Now, the impression I got from all the NPCs was that this was the key to getting an edge in fighting Strahd. An edge. That little bit that might just tip the scales in our favor. Not turn the last dungeon into LOL GG EZ mode. We cranked that sucker to full power, beat on Strahd for a bit (he escaped), and then had a nice long rest in his castle before hunting him down and finishing him off. I think he had some generic skeletons with him at the end but they were almost an after thought at that point. It was hardly the grand showdown with a Dark Lord that I was expecting.
This isn't to say that you are having bad wrong fun if you enjoyed this adventure. I understand that not every campaign or style is for every player. Maybe this just wasn't for me. I'm just wondering if my experience was atypical. Was there something I was missing? Did my friends and I completely bungle our way through the adventure and fail upwards?