D&D 5E How to run Death House without killing your entire party


From my impression of Barovia in general I would expect the risk of TPK in the introduction to be a feature, not a bug. The entire setting should be a near-constant risk of a TPK from what I've understood (might be wrong). Making the players paranoid and start coming to terms with the thought that the characters probably won't make it to the end could be useful for later on in terms of expectations.

log in or register to remove this ad


It's really important to let go of the idea that if a PC dies, it's because the DM killed them.

One the best things (maybe the best thing) about running somebody else's adventure is that the DM can say "K I'm just running this as-is without balancing it to your characters" and the players can really dig in without blaming the DM for the difficulty.

(A DM can and should run their own material this way as well, but it's more obvious how to do so with published adventures.)

If someone finds your advice useful that's good. Just sharing a thought occasioned by the way you framed your advice.

Make sure the players know beforehand that nothing is really balanced and they need to learn to make their own choices if something can be taken on by themselves and a straight up fight is something they should avoid when possible.
Use inspiration for good roleplay if their character takes a risk even though the player knows better.



Death House is the introductory adventure for the new Curse of Strahd campaign. The linked article contains spoilers for that adventure, so don't read it if you may be a player of the adventure.

The unwary DM who runs this adventure as written will have a TPK on her hands at least once, if not multiple times, in the adventure. I point out the problem areas and offer solutions if you don't want to kill the entire party.
Good analysis and suggested solutions. Thanks.


On a side note: How much would I have to beef up "Death House" for 5th level PCs?

For 5th level PCs, I personally would probably run it more as a "roleplaying" adventure than one with a balanced combat focus. To beef up the combat for 5th level PCs, you'd need to level up the type of monsters that appear-- changing ghouls to wights or ghasts, shadows to spectres, that sort of thing. You also probably wouldn't hand out the two PC levels like the adventure does to get characters from 1 to 3 (since there's not nearly enough there for you to justify a jump from 5 to 7.)

But if you treat the house merely as a mystery/roleplay encounter location to solve, and treat the monsters therein as more driving the story forward than actual combat foes worthy of your party, you'll probably find it more satisfactory. Because quite frankly I find the intrigue of making your way up the house to the attic then finding the reasons for going back down into the basement to solve the problem to be the more interesting aspect of it. This is especially the case if you were going to run the entire Curse of Strahd adventure, since I definitely see this location as a cool place to put one of the special items (assuming of course CoS includes things like the Tome of Strahd, the Sunsword, or the Icon of Ravenloft.)


First Post
Is that just for AL people or something? I didn't get that pdf when I downloaded it from Dragon+.

Please see attached PDF for additional instructions on running "Death House."

I believe that the 12-16 hours estimate is for when running it as a series of 2-hour sessions like Encounters. Personally, I intend to run the entire adventure as two 4-hour sessions. "Death House" is more of a mystery/exploration adventure, though there is some combat, and I intend to run it semi-"Theater of the Mind" style with no grid but still using miniatures for relative locations.

May the mists be with you. . .


    193.4 KB · Views: 778


Don't forget that the party will be 2nd level and recently had a long rest by the time they reach those (potential) combat encounters. WotC's XP calculations for combat encounters are way off (too high) anyway, especially if the party has fewer than 8 combat encounters per adventuring day. I am running it as-written for a party of 5 and do not expect a TPK but would be slightly disappointed if no one dies; preferably due to another party member "sacrificing" them.

The original poster must think "deadly" = unbeatable.

That may be true for new players but not for many veteran minmaxers.

If you're running it for newbs then I guess the blog post makes sense... Only it uses an awful number pf words to say just "pull back on monster numbers to make it easier", almost as if encounter difficulty was an exact science.

Which it most definitely is not.

Remove ads