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5E Curse of Strahd - What am I missing? (Possible spoilers?)

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
We charged the sunblade up to max and then rested in the crypts, all the while laughing that this should not be possible. But it did. Somehow. Did the DM misread how the sunblade worked?

Also, the DM emphasized how important our alignment was going to be during session 0. That it would influence things we could and could not do. But I don't think our alignment ever came up during the course of play. Is this something else that fell through the cracks?
There are a few things in CoS that care about alignment, but it’s really not that much. The one thing I can remember off the top of my head is like... a cool idea, but there’s basically no way for the players to actually find it.
 

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Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
Many of the official modules are full of this stuff. Things like "if you say the right prayer to the right god in front of this statue, you get a magic weapon"... :rolleyes:
I think the writers assume DMs will throw in clues here and there that attentive players might pick up on. This is a useful technique and I use it all the time. The problem is, if the adventure doesn’t say to do it, a lot of DMs won’t. A related phenomenon is how many adventures have intentional loose ends for the DM to come up with their own solutions to, but then neglect to explain that the DM is meant to fill those blanks in themselves. Look at the third Wizard of Wines gem for an example.

I think the folks who write these adventures take for granted a certain degree of initiative on the part of the DMs to personalize their games, but then they’re never actually explicit about it in the adventures themselves. That’s why I recommenced DMs who want to run curse of Strahd watch Chris Perkins do it. Seeing how much he goes “off script” on an adventure he wrote is I think a really informative experience, to show DMs that they are expected to make changes to the adventures, even if they’re never actually told that it’s expected of them.
 


jayoungr

Hero
Supporter
There are a few things in CoS that care about alignment, but it’s really not that much. The one thing I can remember off the top of my head is like... a cool idea, but there’s basically no way for the players to actually find it.
There's an axe at Yester Hill that will prick you for 1 HP of damage if you wield it and are not of Good alignment.
 



toucanbuzz

Adventurer
We charged the sunblade up to max and then rested in the crypts, all the while laughing that this should not be possible. But it did. Somehow. Did the DM misread how the sunblade worked?
The Sunsword has no limit to how long the sunlight stays active. So that part worked.

However, your DM really didn't play Strahd intelligently. Notably: Strahd only takes sunlight damage if he STARTS his turn in sunlight. So, he could do his "hit and run" into the aura without harm, running through walls, and take out the sentry, or prevent anyone from getting actual rest. Alternately, he has a virtually unlimited supply of undead minions and wolves that he could send in every hour to disrupt the rest. He could cast spells into the sunlight like a nice old fireball. And so on.

Also, the DM emphasized how important our alignment was going to be during session 0. That it would influence things we could and could not do. But I don't think our alignment ever came up during the course of play. Is this something else that fell through the cracks?
It's not a requirement, though there were several magic items (many are easy to miss) that have alignment restrictions, including ones that would be really helpful in defeating Strahd:
  • A Lawful Good sword in the Castle whose mission is to fight evil
  • The sunsword is Chaotic Good, though it doesn't have a specific restriction so long as the user wants to destroy Strahd
  • A holy symbol that damages anyone evil who touches it
  • A holy symbol that can only be attuned to good clerics/paladins
  • An icon that can only be attuned to good creatures
  • A statuette that grants +1 saves to good creatures
  • An axe that damages evil creatures that make attacks with it
Magic items aside, my players and I felt the setting and plots were better suited for good-leaning heroes anyways.
 

toucanbuzz

Adventurer
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?
The Dark Powers may not come up unless someone dies at a lower level and is made an offer they can't refuse.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
If you mean that was the thing you were referring to, I don't see why you'd say there's no way for the players to find it. It's pretty much out in the open. :unsure:
Nah, the thing I was referring to was the mirror in Wachterhaus. The 🥳 was meant as a facetious sort of “woopdeedoo” over the effect of the axe. Just another example of how CoS does technically have effects that care about character alignment, but in practice don’t really make alignment matter to the player experience in a meaningful way.
 

jayoungr

Hero
Supporter
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.
Coincidentally, I was just looking over the Gothic Earth/Masque of the Red Death Player's Guide, which I recently picked up, and it has all this stuff. Your group might find that more to your taste?

 

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.

One example of how I use him is at Kolyan’s funeral. As-written some wolves menace the characters at the funeral as a mysterious shadowy figure watches from the mist. Yawn. I have him attend the funeral, as a mourner. Why the hell would he skulk around the outskirts like some kind of weirdo? He came to pay his respects to Kolyan and offer his sympathies to Ireena, and that’s exactly what he’ll do. Plus, having the bad guy just waltz up to the party, bold as brass, and introduce himself is infinitely more intimidating than hiding in the shadows because it shows that there’s nothing anyone can do to stop him and he knows it.

That’s the kind of appearance I like to have Strahd frequently make. Just casually showing up to flaunt the fact that the would-be heroes can’t do squat about it, not to engage in cartoonish pranks.
I still want to play in one of your games (or campaigns!) some day.
 

I think the writers assume DMs will throw in clues here and there that attentive players might pick up on. This is a useful technique and I use it all the time. The problem is, if the adventure doesn’t say to do it, a lot of DMs won’t. A related phenomenon is how many adventures have intentional loose ends for the DM to come up with their own solutions to, but then neglect to explain that the DM is meant to fill those blanks in themselves. Look at the third Wizard of Wines gem for an example.

I think the folks who write these adventures take for granted a certain degree of initiative on the part of the DMs to personalize their games, but then they’re never actually explicit about it in the adventures themselves. That’s why I recommenced DMs who want to run curse of Strahd watch Chris Perkins do it. Seeing how much he goes “off script” on an adventure he wrote is I think a really informative experience, to show DMs that they are expected to make changes to the adventures, even if they’re never actually told that it’s expected of them.
This is a nice articulation of the problem with WotC "demi-sandboxes" that I mentioned earlier.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
I still want to play in one of your games (or campaigns!) some day.
Thank you! I will definitely keep you in mind if I run a game online and have space for another player 😁

(EDIT: or if by chance you happen to live in Colorado I’d be happy to meet you some time and discuss the possibility of joining an in-person game once that’s a safe option again.)

This is a nice articulation of the problem with WotC "demi-sandboxes" that I mentioned earlier.
I like your term “Demi-sandbox” a lot, and I definitely think it’s an apt description of a lot of published WotC adventures. What’s nice about the “Demi-sandbox” formula is that it gives DMs who are comfortable writing their own material but may not have the time or inclination to build an adventure from scratch a good starting point and plenty of room to flex their creative muscles. The problem with them is that they don’t give near enough guidance to DMs who are not comfortable writing their own material. Which is just 5e in a nutshell, isn’t it?
 
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One example of how I use him is at Kolyan’s funeral. As-written some wolves menace the characters at the funeral as a mysterious shadowy figure watches from the mist. Yawn. I have him attend the funeral, as a mourner. Why the hell would he skulk around the outskirts like some kind of weirdo? He came to pay his respects to Kolyan and offer his sympathies to Ireena, and that’s exactly what he’ll do. Plus, having the bad guy just waltz up to the party, bold as brass, and introduce himself is infinitely more intimidating than hiding in the shadows because it shows that there’s nothing anyone can do to stop him and he knows it.
Should I ever be in a situation where I'm running something similar, I am going to shamelessly steal this idea.
 

Raduin711

Adventurer
Out of curiousity, how is the Tome of Strahd supposed to help the PC's? It's great that they found the truth behind Strahd's sordid past, but I don't know how that helps. Maybe I am being blinded by knowing too much and am failing to see the situation from the PC's perspective...
 


Out of curiousity, how is the Tome of Strahd supposed to help the PC's? It's great that they found the truth behind Strahd's sordid past, but I don't know how that helps. Maybe I am being blinded by knowing too much and am failing to see the situation from the PC's perspective...
Its legacy item. In original version, players are entering the castle knowing nothing about its inhabitant, so, Tome was a perfect way to tell the story (because there were few npcs willing and able to).
In new version, DM has plentiful means to tell the story before players even think of facing Strahd, players will probably dig and scrutinise for every bit of info on the Devil (at least mine players did). So, Tome isn't important.
That said, many DMs decide to give it some supernatural value, just to avoid "meh" moment, especially if adventure makes it hard to find. Your call. If you are playing with random or semi-random tarokka reading, just cheese it to place Tome as probably earliest and easiest treasure to get (possibly switching it with Sunblade, you don't want Sunblade to be found too early).
 

Azzy

Newtype
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.
To be fair, CoS is based on the original Ravenloft module which preceded the Ravenloft setting by several years and didn't have those features of the setting. It pretty much was a Generic Spooky Module that you could throw into any setting.
 

To be fair, CoS is based on the original Ravenloft module which preceded the Ravenloft setting by several years and didn't have those features of the setting. It pretty much was a Generic Spooky Module that you could throw into any setting.
What this discussion has taught me was that my expectations for this module did not match for what was in the box.
 

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