D&D 5E [Let's Read] DM's Guild Ravenloft Sourcebooks

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*Note: The Hedra Group's official site has a special discount link where you can get One Night Strahd for 50% off. I can't directly link as the site has some non-sexual nudity, but if you Google "Hedra Group One Night Strahd" you should find it easily enough.

If you go on the DM’s Guild and sort by Ravenloft, One Night Strahd is likely to be one of the top-selling items. For a time it appeared quite frequently on the front page of the Dungeon Master’s Guild, too. But like quite a bit of products out there, reviews for it are sparse and brief. And when looking it up on Reddit and elsewhere, there’s often confusion or unawareness about the title, with people assuming that those asking about the adventure are looking for ways to turn the official modules into a one-shot, and not as a unique fan-made adventure in and of itself.

One Night Strahd’s stated purpose is to condense the “full campaign experience of Curse of Strahd into a one-shot adventure,” although this is a bit misleading. First off, ONS (the abbreviated form) is very much its own adventure, with the only similarity being that it’s a gothic D&D adventure with Strahd as the villain to slay…or Ireena, but we’ll get into that later. While the PCs do visit Castle Ravenloft and meet other iconic characters of the adventure, it has a rather unique take on its iteration of Barovia. For example, the Vistani of ONS aren’t Romani-counterpart humans ruled by matriarchal diviners, but a race of fire giants who worship the Morninglord and Mother Night, wandering the planes in mobile fortresses. And as for Irena,* she also suffered at Strahd’s hands but became a villain in her own right: a once-proud paladin who fell to evil and resurrected her beloved Sergei as an undead minion.

*The book spells it with one “e.”

The overall setting feels a bit more otherworldly as well; whereas the official Castle Ravenloft adventures often had Barovia as a seemingly normal yet eerie place where people know about monsters who are lurking in the darkness at the edges, the supernatural taint of the Dark Power’s and Strahd’s reign is apparent, even where there is not but ruin of tragic stories already told. During one section the PCs will be going through an adjacent domain via the giant boughs of Yggdrasil to find a portal to the domain of Barovia. Another section may have the PCs ascending a Tower where they fight an elven archmage in a magical duel where both sides announce their attacks as certain concepts given form. One Night Strahd is very much its own thing in its interpretation of the vampire count’s fall, much like Expedition to Castle Ravenloft and Curse of Strahd are overhauled interpretations of the original I6 module.

Another thing is that ONS isn’t really meant to be run as a one-shot unless you make it into a dawn-to-dusk marathon session. Instead it’s meant to be the length of a short campaign or adventure with multiple parts, with recommended game time being 16 hours across 3 or so sessions or 12 hours for a condensed marathon such as at Halloween. It can also be run with one group of players or two simultaneously, with each group taking their own route through the module. The book briefly touches on the adventure format and encounter flows along with the general plot outlines of the three major Acts, but we’ll cover those in their appropriate sections.


Dramatis Personae sets us up with the major characters of this tale, as well as some side characters who are likelier than usual to reappear.


The Central Villains are Strahd Von Zarovich and Irena Von Zarovich, and the DM chooses which one will be the main antagonist for their playthrough. The other will have been defeated and imprisoned, their form constituting the Heart of Sorrow in Castle Ravenloft. Strahd’s backstory is much the same, although given the campaign’s briefness the book says to be more dramatic with his negative personality traits given longer campaigns can afford a slower buildup. ONS’ Strahd has become jaded from centuries of boredom, loss, and slumber, and his immortality only makes him act more reckless and narcissistic. His once-charming side has long since given way to a brutal, uncompromising evil.

And what of Tatyana and her reincarnation? She is not a damsel in distress nor an ally for the PCs to escort and protect. Instead she was a paladin dedicated to a benevolent god, but was born in a Barovia that had become a cruel empire that was wrought upon imperialism and ethnic cleansing. It was inevitable that a person like Strahd would come to power in such an environment, and his jealousy for her and Sergei’s death played out the same. But while Irena counts Strahd as an enemy, she stared too long into the abyss to be a hero. She turned Sergei into an undead out of desperation, dealt with fiends, and even led massacres that resulted in the deaths of almost all life in Barovia in her campaign against Strahd. Now she views the PCs as new pawns to continue her fruitless war against her object of hatred. Just as the vampire count pines for Tatyana, so too does Irena pine for the old Sergei back.


The Damned are the rest of the major/recurring characters in One Night Strahd, each of whom has their own reasons for visiting this hellish domain. We have Gertruda, who is a vampire messenger for the Dark Powers, the Darklord of the Domain of Desolation where the PCs start. She is the reason why the party has been summoned to the Domains of Dread, and was a former lover of Irena who over time hated what she became, but also hates Strahd for hurting her and is willing to help the PCs fight him up to the point that the Dark Powers let her. Gertruda’s role in the story is that of an all-too-nice and helpful ally who feels too good to be true. She doesn’t outright oppose the PCs, but treats the whole affair as some refreshing chaos in a cycle that’s become clockwork.

Sergei Von Zarovich is now a skeletal undead, unable to speak but still possessed of a keen intellect. He is bound to serve Irena, but takes no joy in it, for he knows that her path will just result in more ruin, and the book emphasizes making him a tragic figure the PCs can feel sympathy towards. He is unable to speak verbally but can speak in sign language, and the book provides various language and role-playing means for him to get his points across.

The Brides of Strahd were mighty druids in life and now rule the Svalich Woods in Strahd’s name. Four of them willingly entered into his service as vampires. Each Bride has a poetic name relating to the seasons, such as Midsummer, That Was Given; or Autumn, That Was Loved. Winter, That Was Taken, is the fifth bride and the one who doesn’t remember how she became undead. Although she initially fights the PCs in the adventure, it is possible for her to switch sides and aid them, possibly filling in as a replacement PC.

Bur & Burr are actually a single being: Burr is an arcanoloth in a similar role as the original Ravenloft’s Inajira, being an arcanaloth trapped in the Domains of Dread, and Bur is his simulacrum. They are encountered in the Amber Temple where they are trapped by powerful magic, and will attempt to bargain with the characters into freeing them in exchange for help in their adventure. This is part of a greater plan to eventually escape the Domains of Dread altogether.

For four hundred years ballads were sung of the Vistani Esmerelda, a Fire Knight who became the greatest vampire hunter whose tales are known across the planes. Her last fated expedition was to put an end to Strahd, but she and her party were betrayed by Patrina, an elf archmage who collapsed the tomb they fought inside in a hopeless gambit to ensure that evil would not rise again. The Dark Powers didn’t want to give up such a shining example, and brought back Esmerelda as a ghost caught in the same cycle. Much like Curse of Strahd she can tag along with the PCs as an NPC companion, but only in a playthrough where Strahd is the main villain.

Maple is the last free Feypact Werewolf. Barovia’s werewolves marked themselves with brands in a coming of age ceremony to devour any non-branded adult wolf. They served the five druids, but when they defected to Strahd they betrayed the Feypact and now the lycanthropes are a banished people. Maple escaped the branding ceremony via Gertruda helping them* in secret and via a half-giant Dryad known as Sesame. The young wolf has never known a life in Barovia, and can be a potential ally of the PCs, and can join them as an ally in a playthrough where Irena’s the main villain.

*Maple is genderfluid and adopts pronouns based on the form they assume. The book uses “they” for general purposes.

Omu is one of the lords of the Slaadi. He views his time in the Domains of Dread as something akin to a scenic vacation, having built himself a secure extraplanar bubble to serve as a lair and workshop. Omu finds the tragic cycle of Strahd and Irena’s struggles as a mythos in need of some unpredictable elements. He gets along with Gertruda due to this, and has set up several forms of aid for the PCs such as the Small God statues in the Amber Temple or the Instant Fortress in Castle Ravenloft’s Treasury.

Patrina Fireheart is old enough to have taken part in the original wars between Lolth and Corellon Larethian. She served Corellon even as it meant taking up sword and spell against friends and kin. Having lost everything, she wandered until coming upon the kingdom of Barovia, serving Strahd for a time as his court mage. Tragedy struck again when she found herself aiding another violent reign, and formed a resistance movement where she introduced Irena to Sergei as an ally against oppression. Barovia soon grew to become a multiplanar empire, and while off on a hunting trip with Gertruda Patrina arrived too late to save Sergei from being murdered by Strahd. Barovia had fallen into the Mists, and after many more ill-fated campaigns the elf eventually gave up, turning to inaction and retreating to a tower, now neutral in the war between Strahd and Irena.


I don’t know the best term to describe it in a few short words, but One Night Strahd’s adventure flow is closer to a Choose Your Own adventure novel than a traditional module. The major Acts are separated into major areas linked by a series of smaller event and encounter locations. One greater area may involve the PCs being hunted by the five druids in the Svalich Woods, another might have them venturing through the depths of the Amber Temple. These places have their own flowcharts of encounters and events, with the choices the PCs make (and certain resolutions such as the outcome of a skill check or the death/capture of an NPC) leading on to other encounters before an eventual goal that segues into the next location. Group checks are avoided in most cases, and retries aren’t possible save where the adventure indicates they can and how many times a task can be retried, often with penalties of some sort.

Here’s an example of what a singular encounter in a greater area may look like:


Add on top of this the fact that there are certain location-neutral events known as Event Triggers. These include things such as Winter’s death which may not happen in a particular location or battle. While the book has a handy list of cheat sheets for this as well as the major Acts and their events, it’s honestly a lot to keep track of. Honestly I can’t tell if these handouts will make the overall flow of the adventure more of a help or a confusing mess, given the sheer size of the book. DM’s Guild reviews have described them as both, so it’s likely the kind of thing you can only figure out once you run it yourself.


Character Creation is self-explanatory. One Night Strahd is balanced for at least one group of 4-6 6th level PCs, and it can be played with two groups with their own GMs alternating separate paths or even as a modified West Marches campaign where groups complete a single location per session.* ONS’ guidelines for characters are 27 point buy, no races with permanent flight, no subclasses from the DMG,** some restrictions on what equipment they start with such as the fact they can only carry a maximum of 3 flasks of alchemical equipment per PC. PCs never level up during this adventure, although they increase in power from magic items, possible bargains made with supernatural entities they probably shouldn’t be bargaining with, and the aid of helpful NPCs such as Esmerelda and Maple.

*I don’t know how well this actually flows for this adventure, as West Marches campaign are usually much closer to sandboxes than ONS’ tight schedule.

**which are the Death Domain Cleric and Oathbreaker Paladin, so pretty much bad guy options.

Our last four sections in the introductory part of One Night Strahd are new minor rules. Rites are special narrative actions that PCs can activate by spending Inspiration and a standard action. They’re meant to serve as a crutch for PCs who may have been built weak, lost an important resource, or are feeling options paralysis but still want to contribute with something meaningful. Individual Rites can take a variety of forms, but they all follow a universal guideline: the PC rolls two DC 17 skill checks from a list of 3 sample skills. On a failure they take 2d4 necrotic damage, but on 1 success they deal 2d8+2 radiant damage to a target, 4d8+4 radiant on both successes. Once a PC gains access to a Rite they can use it at any time as long as they have Inspiration. Alternatively desperate PCs can perform a Rite when they’d ordinarily make a death save, being a “Last Stand” where they automatically deal 2d8+2 radiant damage to a target and grant Inspiration to 2 other characters but instantly die. This Last Stand doesn’t cost Inspiration or an action to use.

I should note that Rites aren’t available at the beginning: instead they occur after the party encounters the Amber Sarcophagi at the end of Act I, and the Last Stand Rite is available only during the start of Act III, although the book at this point doesn’t explicitly spell this out initially.


One Night Strahd is a rather deadly module, and Incarnations are a metagame means of ensuring that players of dead PCs are pulled back into the action. When a PC would die, they are given a handout that runs them through a brief narrative scene in a manner similar to a CYOA section where their spirit returns to the world in a new body and thus a new character sheet. There is still some penalty for coming back, such as losing Inspiration and starting with fewer and fewer hit points and/or Hit Dice every subsequent incarnation. There are times in the module where too many losses and Incarnations by the PCs in a single fight can cause a defeated or Nonstandard Game Over scenario.

An exception to these rules is to allow the player of a slain PC to take control of an NPC ally such as Winter, Maple, or Esmerelda when they’d ordinarily reincarnate.

Hunt Encounter Rules serve as chase scenes for certain encounters, usually involving the PCs pursuing or being pursued by a hostile NPC(s) or monster(s). It represents the hit-and-run tactics of a longer-term action scenario rather than having initiative be rolled multiple times. A Hunt often has skill checks during mini-encounters that let the PCs outmaneuver their adversary and get in some hits, or take some blows themselves or lose their quarry. In reality they aren’t that much different than the default skill/save challenges with retries save for the fact that success or failure can allow for opportunities to harm or be harmed by the enemy.

Finally, Scoring is an optional rule for DMs running One Night Strahd as a tournament module, where groups are judged based on how well they play. There’s a checklist of actions per Act to monitor how many points are accumulated per group.

Thoughts So Far: Whatever you may think of it, One Night Strahd certainly has a uniquely different take on the tragedy of Barovia’s MVP. The more high-magic interpretation of the setting, such as Barovia being an empire that spanned multiple Material Planes or the Vistani being wandering fire giants, make it harder to use in conjunction with existing takes on Ravenloft and may not be to everyone’s liking.

I’m not as fond of the idea of making Irena a villain. When most people play one of the Castle Ravenloft adventures, they’re expecting Strahd as the main baddie, and a module by the name of One Night Strahd echoes that similar sentiment. The fact that the module plays where only one of them serves as the final boss rather than a chance to take down both may cause a feeling of dissatisfaction for those groups who didn’t get to fight the character whose name is in the title. Then again, this module also encourages replay value for repeat playthroughs, so this isn’t as large a mark against it in comparison to a full campaign.

Join us next time as we begin Act I, where the PCs are hired by the Church of Tymora to slay Strahd, fight the count’s brides in the Svalich Woods, descend the branches of Yggdrasil, and make (or break) a deal with an arcanaloth in the Amber Temple!
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Act I: Fight me, I’m Right Here

Glass & Diamonds kicks off the adventure by having what is supposedly the Church of Tymora hiring the PCs to defeat the Vampire Lord of Ravenloft, even though their oracles insist that they’ve been hired in the future so their contract is just as legitimate. This is actually Gertruda setting up the group to be pulled into the Domains of Dread. Then the party finds themselves on an island floating amid an endless silver sky, with other islands drifting across the horizon. The island the PCs are on is home to a greenhouse converted into a shop managed by Omu the slaadi. He’ll answer a few questions the PCs may have and then give them some free equipment. In addition to a Robe of Useful Items with some custom anti-vampire equipment, they can choose one of several gear packets which have 3 magical items each. They have quite a bit of options, and the underlined ones can be found elsewhere in this book. Spellbeads are basically scrolls which anyone can use, and a cursed alchemy jug creates lava instead of mayonnaise, dealing 10d10 fire damage on a failed DC 10 DEX save.


Gertruda then appears to the party disguised as Neon Madonna, a woman that is literally drawn in front of them via magic rods. The faces of certain NPCs appear, who she explains are the major players of how Ravenloft’s present came to be,* while also giving them a Tarot** reading. Unlike other Ravenloft adventures this deck is pre-determined, and each result relates to a future adventure locale. Four cards relate to treasure and where they can be found, with results depending on whether the DM intended Strahd or Irena as the main villain, as well as a “hard mode” entry which changes up some items by having them appear later than they should. PCs can use Sleight of Hand to make it so the cards end up in certain places to control where the magic items are; this is very metagamey and most likely done by gaming groups playing this module subsequent times.

*This is a brief handout which intentionally omits certain key figures. Such as referencing Strahd, but not Irena.

**Not Tarokka, sadly.

The four treasures are the Holy Symbol of Ravenkind, the Sun Blade, and two new items being Morningstar’s Kiss and Druid’s Spine. Morningstar’s Kiss is a silver +1 whip that is treated as a light weapon, with 15 foot reach, deals 2d4 radiant damage as its base weapon damage, and can expend up to 10 charges per day to cast some useful spells: Sanctuary, Counterspell with a 15 foot range, and Haste that is self-only requires no concentration. Druid’s Spine is a +3 leather armor that increases the wearer’s walking speed by 10 feet and has up to 5 charges per day that can be used to turn the wearer incorporeal until the end of their next turn. The Holy Symbol and Sun Blade have the same stats as in Curse of Strahd.

The treasure locations tend to be split up evenly, with two being found in Act 1 areas and two being found in Act 2 areas. Weirdly, not all treasures can be gained in one go: for the Act 1 areas one treasure can be found in Sunlit Shrine, the other in Dog Days. As these areas are mutually exclusive and the PCs can visit only one, they’ll have at most 3 out of the 4 treasures.

Once the tarot readings are finalized, two portals will appear. One leads to the domain of Yggdrasil, the other to the Svalich Woods. We also have a Late Arrival handout for players who show up late, giving a brief rundown of the adventure’s beginning.


Sunlit Shrine places the PCs in the Svalich Woods, with the Brides of Strahd becoming aware of their presence upon entry. They will begin hunting the party, but will pull back once 4 PCs are slain. This is a common theme in Act 1 areas; as the module has been playtested by many people, the authors note that if 2 PCs die then the group may be built suboptimally, and if 4 PCs die that’s a sign to scale back the future encounters.

It’s also here we get a format example of encounter flows in a more detailed explanation. We also get battle maps for pretty much every area that can have combat, as well as sample tactics for enemies in combat.

Winter will be the first to approach the party nonviolently and by herself, vaguely warning them about the hunt before dropping a golden pinecone. PCs who take the pinecone will gain her interest, which is a factor in recruiting her later on, as well as Inspiration. PCs who defeat a bride in combat can gain one thornbow (magical, deals 2d4 piercing damage) or 1-2 antlers that grant inspiration when used.* PCs who decide to stop running during the hunt and make a stand will face four dire wolves in addition to surviving Brides.

*There’s quite a number of magic items in One Night Strahd that grant Inspiration when used. I take it this is a means of encouraging PCs to spend it more when they know they can get it back without DM Fiat.

There are 9 locations of note within this event. The PCs start out at a cairn where PCs who speak Druidic can read about the history of an old druidic order and the rise of “a dark and beautiful king who strides the land as a glorious wolf.” Other possible locations they can visit include a sword in a stone, Year’s End, that was Winter’s sword which she lost,* windstruck cliffs where one of the Brides will attack them with a lightning bolt spell, and a lake with a shrine surrounded by seven minaret pillars. The door to the shrine is magically barred, and depending on the PCs’ skill tests determines how rounds it takes for the door to open as the surviving Brides attack.

*Can be attuned to, deals max damage to objects, can be lit up like a torch to deal additional radiant damage, and via a ritual can absorb other magical weapons into its form and gain their properties. Some weapons in this module cannot be combined with it.

In terms of stats all the Brides save for winter are CR 6 undead with 95 hit points each, AC 16, some limited vampire traits (regenerate HP, weak to sunlight) along with a few innate druid spells. They can shoot with thornbows, although due to their hunger they will prioritize biting living creatures if the situation permits. They’re pretty strong for PCs to fight, even individually; the point isn’t to fell them all in combat but to outmaneuver them. As for Winter, she has the same stats but can also transform into a dire wolf (cosmetic change, same stats), has a higher Strength score, and is proficient in Arcana and Athletics checks.

Winter will only join the party during the Eclipse event of Act 3, and only if they weren’t needlessly cruel to her and give her back her sword, where it will become a new weapon known as Winter’s Fury. If given to her before Act 3, she will disappear, leaving the new and improved sword in its place. Winter’s Fury is a +2 weapon with the finesse property, makes the wielder immune to necrotic damage and resistant to cold even while wildshaped, their attacks are magical in wildshape form, and if the PC who is attuned to it dies, they will reincarnate as Winter. As a party member she is pretty strong; barring some supremely lucky die rolls for a high-CON fighter-type she likely has double or almost double the amount of hit points any other PC has. Amusingly the finesse property of her greatsword is redundant in her hands, as she has a higher Strength than Dexterity.


Shrine Interior leads off from the encounters in the Svalich Woods or their climb down Yggdrasil. Which makes me wonder why it isn’t after Dog Days, then. The shrine is a safe haven, and Gertruda is using it as a living space. PCs who look around can find one of the Tarot treasure results, along with a puzzle involving manipulating the henge monoliths of a diorama telling a history of Strahd. Figuring out the puzzle gives the party a steel lantern in a hidden compartment, and said lantern can be placed on a mote that fits it perfectly to “unlock the ethereal gate far below.” The diorama also gives a visual hint of Strahd’s ability to turn into a giant wolf, one of his boss forms later in this module.

I looked elsewhere in this section along with CTRL + F, and can’t find any other mention of an ethereal gate in this book. I’m pretty sure it’s referencing Strahd’s weakness in having a spiritual form on the Ethereal Plane in Act 3, but as this info is only found out much later in this large book it’s a bit confusing at first. It also says if they read the “Tome” then they’ll know what to do, which I presume mentions the Von Zarovich Tome gained as a treasure in Act 2. Obviously intended to be a kind of New Game Plus for repeat players, but it would be nice to know what the book is referencing as a reward for this puzzle.

Gertruda’s study room has a letter saying she’ll “see you below,” a tarot deck that can cast Augury once per long rest, a golden locket portraying Sesame the dryad, and some books about vampires such as Bram Stoker’s Dracula. This isn’t just an easter egg, it can be used to more quickly decode the Von Zarovich Tome in Act 2.

The way forward is in the shrine’s center, where a staircase leads into a hallway with eight sconces that only contain five torches. The hallways leads to a causeway portraying the Barovian coat of arms, along with a way to the Amber Depths.

The five torch settings for the puzzle in Irena’s Cenotaph are found here. The lock combination varies from run to run, so feel free to leave it abstract. The canonical setting for the first run can be found in THE CRYPTS encounter in the section on IRENA’S TOMB, which details the puzzle. This puzzle must be completed to complete the run.

This is a reference to an encounter later on in Act 2 where the PCs visit Irena’s tomb where eight unlit torches surround her coffin, and the correct combination must be done in order to open it. Basically there are 255 combinations, and the PCs must light the torches in the same pattern as the ones in the hallway…except that this is a circular pattern, while a hallway is presumably straight. While a skill check can remind players of the Sunlit Shrine and there are NPCs in Act 3 who can help the party crack the code, the way it’s written is rather unintuitive IMO.


Dog Days is the other portal option for PCs in the beginning of this adventure, where they end up in the Dead Reaches, a domain of hunger and desolation whose darklord is Níðhöggr, the dragon of Norse myth. He lives at the bottom of the domain as a sea of endless scales eating away at the roots of Yggdrasil, the world tree. Portions of Yggdrasil run through this domain, which makes it a reliable yet dangerous “inter-domain highway.” It is these roots that the PCs will use to venture to the domain of Barovia. Instead of the Brides of Strahd, the PCs will be hunted by a total of seven Feypact Werewolves in smaller groups of 2-3, and like the Brides they will satiate themselves once four PCs are slain. The lycanthropes have lived in the Reaches for generations and are desperate and starving. It’s possible that the PCs may be able to make peace with them via three acts of kindness throughout this event (and also provided they didn’t kill two or more of them). In such a case, they will safely escort the PCs to the town of Last Standing, and can venture through the rest of Yggdrasil without danger.

There are 8 locations in this section. The starting location is a central crown of branches where three Feypact Werewolves appearing as emaciated starving wolves attack the party. They can cast Hex as a concentration spell for up to 8 hours, which they’ll use to mark PCs for the rest of the hunt if possible. Other locations include a ruined stave church containing werewolf children who if fed even a little can be marked as an act of kindness and reduce the skill checks for this section by 3, a makeshift balcony in the branches inhabited by ravens which gives the PCs a grand view of the Dead Reaches as well as lights far below that is the town of Last Standing, and the Skyway, a gondola which is a series of buckets linked to a chain loop connected to the trunk that can be used to exit the domain.

Much like the Brides, the Feypact werewolves are pretty tough monsters, with the same AC and Hit Points as the Brides. However, they are more bestial in their fighting and have several werewolf/wolf abilities such as advantage on hearing and smell-based Perception checks as well as Pack Tactics. They can also cast some warlock-upcast offensive magic, such as Thunderclap (which they can cast while moving half their speed to avoid opportunity attacks), Hellish Rebuke, and Hex. As for Hex, they can as a bonus action control a hexed target’s movement on a failed Charisma save.

The werewolf children are just strong enough to let out eldritch blasts before being slain. This counts as an evil act and precludes the possibility of peace with the Werewolves.

There are some roleplay-heavy locations, too, that have characters who can tell the PCs a bit more about the history of the Domains and the other notable characters of One Night Strahd.

Nidhogg’s Rest is a way station along a road forged of cold iron managed by a fire giant Vistani and dwarf. They are drinking buddies and can be talked to in learn a little bit about the domain. The fire giant is Esmerelda’s sister and will offer one of the PCs a tankard of lava-like alcohol which deals fire damage when drunk, but grants a surviving PC the ability to cast Fireball. The pair will also give healing potions to the PCs if they mention they’re going to Barovia.

The town of Last Standing is located in a crater, its buildings made of obsidian and iron sized for giants. The town is inhabited by the Vistani, and a talking raven can give instructions to Nidhogg’s Rest as well as serve them as a familiar and directions to the Bent Bough if they get enough successes on skill checks.

The Bent Bough is inhabited by Sesame the dryad, who due to her partial giant heritage has hard skin seemingly made out of jade. She can give the PCs some items on successful skill checks, such as the +1 longbow Opener that uses Strength instead of Dexterity for attack and damage, deals 2d6 bludgeoning damage, and once per turn lets allied creatures move up to their speed when the wielder dashes. The PCs may also gain Masterwork Tinker’s Tools/Master Tinker’s Kit* from her as well, although the book doesn’t say what makes these different from the normal tool item.

*the module uses different terms for the same item.

Sesame has quite a bit of backstory. She serves as the mouthpiece of both Yggdrasil and Níðhöggr, although she is not an evil soul. Sesame’s homeland has been devastated by Ragnarok, and now she merely wishes to live out the rest of her life with those she cares about, Gertruda being one of them as well as her current romantic interest. Sesame has no love for the rulers of Ravenloft, and there’s an entire page worth of helpful bits of information she can tell about the module:


PCs who reach the end of this event make their way to an arching root-gate that leads into the Mists. They may find a Tarot-assigned treasure at a Shrine to Mother Night, as well as Sergei the skeleton who wordlessly greets the PCs with a smoking pipe to share as well as a letter reading “The Lord of Ravenloft asks you to dinner.” The PCs will make their way through some woods growing in the shadow of Yggdrasil and then the entrance to the Sunlit Shrine’s Interior.

The Amber Depths happens when the PCs leave the safe confines of the Sunlit Shrine. This encounter only happens in single-group play; in double-group play the second team will skip this section to move on to Totally Safe Ghost Canisters. The Depths are the remains of the Amber Temple, whose foundations were built from the amber sap of Yggdrasil. Burr and his simulacrum Bur are the only inhabitants here, and have placed a series of magical traps and alarms around the place. PCs who manage to get good results on skill checks, disable the traps, and/or make clever use of abilities and spells can get a surprise round on the arcanoloths if combat begins, even if said combat is preceded by talking with the Bur(r)s.

Burr is not initially interested in yet another boring brawl with would-be do-gooders. He is straight and to the point, and wants to strike a bargain with the party. Burr wants to escape the Domains of Dread, but needs a guarantee that the PCs will be able to kill Strahd/Irena where before so many have failed. The PCs must succeed on two consecutive social skill checks to earn his confidence. On a success, he will transfer his simulacrum into a Cursed Ring of Telekinesis to give to the PCs and do his best to guide the party to the Tower event in Act 2. As to why, Burr knows the command words for the animated armors in Patrina’s tower, and given their immunities to the building’s spell drain effect he hopes to use them to smuggle his soul out of Barovia.

But if the PCs fail the skill challenge, Burr won’t be confident in their abilities: instead he will let them pass through the Depths if he lets the party kill one of their own, letting his Simulacrum assume that PC’s form followed by Modify Memory to try and erase the memory of the bargain. The player of the slain PC will then control Bur as a PC.

While the adventure claims the last part to be a “garbage bargain,” Burr’s simulacrum is super-strong at this point in the game. A CR 9 fiend with 17 AC, 162 hit points, a 30 foot fly speed and can teleport 60 feet as an action, telepathy and truesight both out to 120 feet, is resistant to a variety of damage types, and can trade places with a willing ally 60 feet as a reaction upon being targeted by an effect that will hit the ally instead. In regards to spells, Bur can cast Darkness and Heat Metal at will, and has the capabilities of a 16th-level spellcaster using 20 Intelligence as their casting stat. However, they can only cast up to 5th level spells, and due to being a simulacrum cannot recover spell slots higher than 1st level when resting nor recover spell slots. But even then, we have some good spells, such as Counterspell, Mirror Image, Greater Invisibility, and Steel Wind Strike among others. Even should Bur have to resort to melee combat, his claws are magical weapons that deal 4d4+5 slashing damage with 15 foot reach.


Burr has the same stats as his simulacrum but with some spells added such as Maze and Disintegrate, which would make him very dangerous to pit against 6th-level PCs. However he will not go for the kill; Burr will cast non-damaging and less-powerful spells initially, repeating the offer to bargain every round. Only on the 4th and later rounds does he resort to more dangerous spells such as Disintegrate and Fireball. As for Bur, he will use Greater Invisibility to open up combat, then cast Spiritual Weapon to use that as the primary means of attack along with more damaging spells at 4th and later rounds. The arcanaloths will taunt the PCs and leave if at least 4 have been incapacitated or killed, saying that they should have a better understanding of their own capabilities now.

The Amber Depths end with a long rest and some treasure, such as the Arcanaloth’s spellbook, 8,000 gold pieces worth of materials to scribe spells into spellbooks, and the weapon Nienoriel. The book doesn’t exactly say how they get the treasure besides presumably being found while exploring the Depths. Nienoriel is a longbow* that grants advantage on initiative rolls and can expend up to 6 charges to cast Guiding Bolt, using Dexterity as the spellcasting ability and the level of the spell is based on the number of charges spent.

*Boy, there’s an awful lot of these weapon types here.

Totally Safe Ghost Canisters is One Night Strahd’s take on the Dark Powers bargains in Curse of Strahd’s Amber Temple. They too appear as amber sarcophagi, but unlike CoS the dread entities contained within are unknown, left to the DM’s imagination if they ever decide to reveal it. This section does not have any combat, and is instead a means of giving the PCs extra power in exchange for drawbacks. Every player can choose a single Great Patron or Small God for their PC, which persists for that PC only meaning it is lost if another PC comes into play. In double-group play the PCs of both parties will converge here, and they can switch tables if they want.

While the PCs are making camp in the Amber Temple, they will see in the light of their fire blocks of amber carved with names upon them. Bur will show up again, angrily telling the PCs to ignore them, but a disembodied voice from the coffins will offer their powers to the party.

The Great Patron and Small God system is semi-randomized: each power is a card-like handout, and 2 Great Patrons are dealt to a player. Cards cannot be traded, and players can spend Inspiration to draw from the deck for another option. A player may trade in a Great Patron for a Small God of their choice. It’s possible for more than one PC to have the same Small God.

There are 12 Great Patrons and 4 Small Gods. Each Patron has a power, along with a Consequence as a drawback. For example, Star of Ice and Hate grants the PC the benefits of Ring of Warmth and can cast Cone of cold 5 times,* but as a Consequence are terrified by fire as a Flaw. While Tethered Martikov grants a PC silver raven wings that give a fly speed equal to their walking speed, but they take 2d6 radiant damage once per round that they touch a silver object.

*Doesn’t say if it’s 5 times period, or 5 times that are refreshed on a rest.

There is one patron that kind of bucks the trend: Gentler Fenrir grants proficiency in the Giant language and the ability to summon two Winter Wolves to combat who can both take an action by their commanding PCspending a bonus action. But as a Consequence, a PC who dies reincarnates as a winter wolf whose natural attacks are treated as magical and can cast Mage Hand and Chill Touch. This honestly doesn’t sound that bad of a drawback, and the book even notes that a character can ride upon the wolf’s back. Hello sweet, sweet Mounted Combat feat!


As for the Small Gods, they exist for PCs who don’t want to make deals that carry a consequence but are still there for PCs who need a bit of a boost. They are shrines in the same location that are not the sarcophagi, and include the blessings of Mother Night and 3 Orphaned Sisters whose shrines are carved from dragon scales. One Sister grants +2d4 fire damage to a character’s fists which are then treated as magical, another increases their melee reach by 5 feet, and a third raises their AC by 2 unless this would raise their AC above 23.* The shrine to Mother Nights lets the PC spend a bonus action to take 2d6+2 psychic damage to gain Inspiration.

*if their AC is already 23, they gain Inspiration as the being at the shrine nods proudly at them.

Thoughts So Far: One Night Strahd starts off quickly, and the events do a good job of making the PCs aware that they’re in a place they do not belong. The hunt mechanics help give a fast pace and lingering tension even when combat isn’t occurring, and there are meaningful ways for PCs to meaningfully progress via useful treasure and boons when they do a good job in resolving certain encounters. I do like how the arrangement of encounters in the events along with DC for challenges and sample skills helps keep the adventure flowing. Some of the 0 successes having consequences of the hunters getting free attacks on the characters still carries a penalty for failure that doesn’t necessarily involve rolling for initiative.

However, the events are riddled with various small flaws. The Act suffers from disorganization, such as the oddly-placed Shrine Interior being between Sunlit Shrine and Dog Days, or how certain terms such as Sesame’s tinker’s kit or “the Tome” either can’t be found elsewhere in the book or are too vague. The puzzles in the Shrine Interior read as being rather unintuitive, and I can’t see players making the connection between the torches in the hallway and that of Irena’s Tomb without outside help and skill checks. Having not one, but 3 longbows as unique magical weapons feels a bit unimaginative. There’s also the fact that while it may not be morally appropriate for various PCs, Bur’s simulacrum is a very powerful playable option. And finally, it’s clear that Dog Days has more development on the backstory and characters in One Night Strahd; the book even says that it should be run instead of Sunlit Shrine for single-group playthroughs, but this isn’t a mandate so much as suggesting the DM give them incentives to choose one portal over the other at the start. So why not just make it one portal?

Join us next time as we venture into Castle Ravenloft in Act 2!


Act II: Crush Your Enemies

Act 2 follows a bit of a different format than Act 1. Taking place entirely within Castle Ravenloft, it is separated into five different encounters representing major areas of the castle, and in between them the DM runs shorter encounters. Technically all of the areas are optional, although two of them (the Crypts and the Tome) highly encourage the DM to nudge the players in exploring them.

The party will end up in one of the areas as their first based on a statue they find in the Amber Depths in the prior chapter. The statue is holding five different Tarot cards, and depending on which they touch will open up a nearby gate as the other cards vanish leading to a corresponding room. Further areas are thus found by exploring the Castle.

This Place is Trying to Kill You is a collection of the miniature encounters between the main areas. They aren’t full encounters in the “roll for initiative, here are the enemy stats sort of way,” and instead tax the party resources by forcing them to spend Hit Die or spell slots that must be sacrificed in order to proceed. 1 spell level or hit die is 1 Resource, although there are other means for PCs to gain Resources, such as the aid of a helpful NPC ally or certain treasures found in the adventure. PCs with no Resources remaining instead take 2d4 damage for each Resource they’d otherwise spend. Resources in certain encounters can be reduced or negated based on circumstances and abilities, such as resistance or immunity to fire damage in an encounter involving hell hound arsonists.

There are 14 miniature encounters here, all of which have their own table based on how many Resources they consume. They’re narrated entirely in boxed text, and ends with an open-ended question asking how the party managed to overcome the obstacle. Some of the more interesting entries include hellhounds causing a fire breaking out in a section of the castle, meeting a tired werewolf in a moonlit courtyard trapped by a magical exhaustion effect, a trapped room where a portrait of Strahd winks at the party as the doors lock and the place starts flooding with blood, a group of wight fencers with silvered rapiers who seek to duel the party in “honorable combat,” a horde of ghoulish armor-clad dogs cornering the PCs on a collapsing castle bridge, and one encounter that has a unique magical scimitar, Sparrowhawk, embedded within a gray ooze. Sparrowhawk is an intelligent weapon with the soul of a Chaotic Good fey within it, and will automatically cast Crusader’s Mantle when the PCs fight one of the Vampire Lords.


Dinner Date is a recreation of the classic encounters where the PCs sit down to a meal with Strahd in prior Castle Ravenloft adventures. While the Brides present are the genuine articles, the “Strahd” speaking to them is in reality a bound spirit known as the Misery. An unwilling servant of the Vampire Lord, it will reveal more about its true nature during battle as the party deals more damage to him. If Irena’s the villain, the Misery is Rahadin who is seeking a way to betray her and will guide the conversation to topics about her but will make up lies about Strahd. If Strahd’s the villain then the Misery is Van Richten, who wants to reveal the secret of Strahd’s Tome and guide them to the Staff of Power in Kazan’s tomb in the Crypts. Both of them are restricted from talking about certain topics by magic, so they have to do it in indirect ways.

The Brides will be helping set the table and acting as servants while blindfolded, although Winter is partially resisting the magical compulsions. There’s also a Tarot treasure here, and the book suggests adding the Holy Symbol of Ravenkind. Trying to go for it will cause the Brides and the false Strahd to attack, although Winter will tell a character to “grab it and run. Trust Gertruda. I wish I had.”

As you can imagine, this is a pretty heavy roleplay encounter, and the book has two pages worth of conversation topics regarding Castle Ravenloft and its inhabitants, as well as appropriate skill checks for the PCs to discover lies and pry useful information out of the Misery. The Misery will grow crueler as the conversation continues, and once the PCs asked a certain number of questions (3-8 based on whether this adventure’s meant to be a one-shot or adventure serial), continue to pry him about Irena which visibly agitates him, or dives for the treasure, combat will begin. PCs who manage to upset the Misery via asking about Irena can grant the party +10 to initiative, and the adventure claims that this causes the combat to be more dangerous by clumping enemy turns. Although in my personal experience, going first in combat is a huge advantage in general.

The Misery is a CR 10 undead with some pretty high skill modifiers, particularly social and wisdom-related ones, along with high saves in Constitution and Wisdom at +7. They can cast Command and Misty Step 3 times per day each, although their primary abilities are multiattacking with a variety of actions: a blade attack, ranged Waves of Misery dealing force damage, Ancient Doom that instantly kills one of the Brides to cast Bestow Curse on a target, and a non-Multiattack Spectral Barrage that summons ghost in an AOE effect dealing piercing damage. As a bonus action he can deal psychic damage to nearby enemies. Ancient Doom will be used on a Bride below 25% hit points, always choosing Winter first if able.

Even though Winter won’t attack, this is a very deadly encounter, and unlike the Act I battles they won’t relent if a certain number of PCs die. Four of the Brides plus a powerful undead is certainly a deadly encounter in campaigns in general. One of the few advantages is a PC who grabs the Holy Symbol of Ravenkind attunes to it immediately for the battle. Additionally there’s a Shaper’s Jade treasure in the broken pipe organ that can be attached as a charm to any weapon or armor to transform into another type of weapon/armor.

Presumably the intent is to run away with the treasure, and the book does note that fleeing is a viable option for the Act 2 areas. In fact, there are two general events that can happen for PCs who do this, both of which involve running across Gertruda. One is if the PCs leave the beaten paths of Castle Ravenloft or aimlessly wander, where they come upon Gertruda disguised as a valiant warrior wearing jade armor and holding a morningstar fighting Midsummer. She gets injured in the battle, and the PCs can gain a variety of boons depending on whether they manage to save her, try but fail, or don’t move to save her. Two of the three options give the party the Jade Knife, a dagger that grants the wielder blindsight by default and has a more powerful version where the wielder takes radiant damage to cast Summon Shadowspawn. The other Gertruda encounter happens if the PCs flee an encounter without gaining any allies, items, or other assets. Gertruda will be eating a sandwich and reading a book, and if not encountered as her real self before, will introduce herself as the Envoy of the Dark Powers. She can answer various questions, including through one use of Commune and grant them a short rest and two Heartseekers, but they cannot do the Tome of Lords area further below.


The Basilica is presided over by the Abbot of the Abbey of St. Markovia from the Curse of Strahd module. He has moved into Castle Ravenloft, continuing his twisted experiments on the last druids. The place is lit up via electrical lights, appearing on the outside as three different cathedrals unnaturally merged together like an abstract painting. The book mentions that this is a pretty deadly encounter, so it gives a handout for altering the enemy stats based on party makeup, such as ones lacking ranged attackers, those who have a low damage output, and so on.

Much like in Curse of Strahd, the Abbot is obsessed with breaking the dismal nature of Barovia by finding the perfect bride for the vampire count, and sees the good in him in spite of the man’s unwillingness to change. The Abbot’s continual failure in this endeavor has slowly driven him insane, and he’s taken to working with a pair of Erinyes known as the Furies. The Furies will take pot shots at the party in various rooms in order to try and drive them away, along with deploying illusions. They won’t strike to kill, as they wish to torment the party before their meeting with the Abbot.

The Abbot will be hostile upon being discovered, although in a sense of honor he will allow the PCs to “catch their breath” and take a long rest before fighting, and during this time they can interview the Furies (the Abbot remains silent) although they dodge most questions.

In terms of stats the Abbot has the stats of a deva, although he lacks a healing touch, cannot change shape, has Storm Sphere instead of Raise Dead, and if disarmed of his mace can attack with flaming fists. The Furies have stats of Erinyes, but are slightly weaker and share the same hit point pool that kills them both once reduced. During the fight if the Furies fall first, the Abbot will come to a sense of awareness of his doomed quest and enter “redemption mode,” and the Furies will heal up and turn their attacks on him. PCs can take the opportunity to flee. If they stick around, either the Furies or the Abbot will aid the party at the end of the fight by answering their questions via Contact Other Plane, and in either case a Tarot-assigned treasure will be found in a bundle at the end of the fight. PCs who decide to flee the Basilica at any point will end up in a quarry nearby, with a waystone containing a Ring of Fire Elemental Command as a “consolation prize” along with other magic items such as a Wand of Magic Missile, a Spellguard Shield, and a Tome of Understanding. The Tome cannot be used within the confines of this adventure, but if the party finds a way to do so the book says that they “deserve the buff.”

The Crypts is one of the not-required-but-kind-of-is areas of Act II. Some encounters are altered slightly depending on whether Strahd or Irena is the villain, and this also determines whether their NPC ally will be Esmerelda (for Strahd) or Maple (for Irena). The Crypts have been magically warped beyond its original foundations, appearing as a shallow lake of blood stretching out beyond one’s vision, with the mausoleums appearing as tiled islands which become magically lit by blue flames as the PCs draw near.

I suppose now’s a good time to talk about the ally’s stats. Esmerelda uses modified fire giant stats, which means she’s a strong ally to have. She has slightly lower hit points and no multiattack, but to make up for it she has a higher Dexterity, is resistant to necrotic as well as fire damage, is proficient in Stealth, and wields a magical rapier that deals 6d6+7 slashing damage and can make a ranged fire attack, and is Medium instead of Huge size. As for Maple, they use the Feypact Wolf stat block. For large parties of 6 or more PCs, adding a fire giant to the mix may make things a bit too easy, so instead Esmerelda is more of an indirect helper, being unable to participate in combat but exists as a ghost who can aid the party via her knowledge and moral support. Maple will still join the party during the Crypts, but will only accompany them for the rest of the adventure if the party has 5 or less PCs.

Esmerelda has her own agenda beyond helping the party. The Vistani knows that defeating Strahd may merely cause Irena or Gertruda to become the new Darklord, but doesn’t want to remain inactive against his evil. If the PCs have the Luck Blade with a remaining wish after Strahd’s defeat, she will ask to use it. In such a case, she’ll cast the Magic Jar spell to inhabit the sword and thus be taken out of the Domains of Dread.


However, Irena will also be here if she’s the villain. She will accompany the party in the form of Tatyana, a paladin vampire-slayer. In reality she is hoping to use the party to help her find the Luck Blade in hopes of using it to return Sergei to his normal form, and will attempt to subtly weave her Charm effect on a PC. She hopes to betray the party at an opportune time once they find the Luck Blade, and also seeks to turn Maple into a vampire thrall. PCs have means of detecting Irena’s secret spells and deception via a variety of ways, from skill checks to a high Passive Perception to asking her questions on subjects that enrage her. Irena doesn’t want to kill the party at this time so much as weaken them. There’s an awful lot of content talking about what she knows as well as what happens if she tails them into other rooms in the Castle, along with possible ambush points. Maple will arrive to aid the PCs in combat by the end of the second round or if the battle’s turning against them. If she’s driven off she will vaguely mention an event known as the Eclipse where she can “kill you all properly.” Even if Irena manages to escape with the Luck Blade. she will be unable to use it due to the Dark Powers intervening.

As for a game with Esmerelda/Strahd, these unique events will happen after the PCs gain the Luck Blade. When venturing back to exit the Crypts they will come upon Esmerelda, Strahd, and his Brides in combat, and the Vampire Lord suggests that the PCs join the fire giant in “keeping the game even.” During the fight he will taunt them, asking PCs the most heroic things they’ve done and why he should take them seriously. PCs who seriously engage with his questions will gain Inspiration, and those who do good enough in storytelling will delight Gertruda, who will intervene by summoning a wave of sunlight along with a Shakespearean speech. This will stun Strahd and his Brides for one round and granting the party immunity to necrotic damage for the rest of the fight.

During the fight Strahd has some unique one-time moves, such as teleporting straight up to briefly ride his nightmare, using a skull to rain fireballs down on the party before jumping down to face the foes in combat once again. The skull pleads not to be used as a weapon, and Esmerelda flinches, recognizing the voice as someone she knew.

Strahd will also test their morals by suggesting to spare them if they kill Esmerelda instead. As Esmerelda is but a ghost, she will tell the PCs to take the deal in hopes of indirectly saving the party’s lives this way, mentioning that she’s died before and that her “fire will not perish.” Strahd is self-confident in his survival, and will unleash his power on the PCs in hopes of getting them to use the Luck Blade or other precious resources. He will retreat from combat once he kills Esmerelda, summoning his bride Midsummer to take care of the rest of the PCs.

There’s a list of quotes and descriptions for Strahd in battle based on certain circumstances. Here’s one example if the PCs somehow get him exposed to sunlight.

There’s no fear in his eyes—just calculation as his face melts and knits, melts and knits, and all through it, his clear cold eyes watch you with a butcher’s dispassion.

Or one for if the party tries to retreat:

He spins his greatsword in salute mockingly, as he says, “Run, mayfly, run.”

And one if the PCs demand to know why he opposes them:

For the first time, his face twists in rage and when he speaks, at first, it feels like a deranged non sequitur, “I despise The Innocent One. The Envoy. All of this is her fault, you know. She turned Irena against me! She introduced Irena to Sergei! And now she brings you here, to my fangs and my claws! When you die, you will blame her too. We will agree in your last moments.”

I love this. It’s quite a bit to keep track of, but all of these touches really cement Strahd as a unique and personality-filled opponent. If Esmerelda survives, she will join the party. If she dies, the PCs get her silver +2 rapier, Gallant, that also applies its bonus to spell attack rolls and can deal psychic or piercing damage on a hit. It is haunted by Esmerelda’s ghost, who can speak with the party and as a curse causes the attuned PC to gain her sense of reckless fearlessness.

I do have to note one discrepancy: this is an incredibly difficult fight, and for most groups will most assuredly result in Esmerelda’s death. The book itself mentions that Strahd will leave combat by the 4th round, but only until Esmerelda is dead. Otherwise he will press on the attack. However the publisher in the Drive-Thru RPG comment section claims that he will leave regardless:



I decided to check if my PDF was updated to reflect. The book was last updated on the Guild in July 2022, and my version was downloaded September 2022. The tactics for Strahd still remain the same as in the above flowchart.

Split into two posts due to length.


There are 8 different encounter locations in the Crypts regardless of who is the villain, being six mausoleums and two crypts belonging to Strahd and Sergei. The order of encounters is up to the DM, although the book has a suggested sequence, as well as encouraging them to obtain either the Luck Blade or Staff of Power magic items during their sojourn. The mausoleum containing the Staff of Power is a bit of a riddle, where the PCs must say the name of the dearly departed in front of his jeweled skull in order to summon the Staff, which a caster can immediately attune to. Maple has made camp on a tomb dedicated to Patrina (who is still alive), which contains 20,000 gold pieces worth of treasure. The Luck Blade is found in Exethanter’s tomb, and is guarded by naught save a door rusted in place. Sergei’s Tomb is in immaculate condition, and is currently home to the undead of the same name who can communicate in sign language and just wants to sit down and share a pipe with the party. PCs who do so will have a silent but pleasant time to rest with him, and to reward their hospitality he will reward them with a suit of +1 plate. Bucephalus’ mausoleum has a statue of Strahd’s nightmare steed whose eyes are valuable gems and whose tack is made of gold. It isn’t a statue but the nightmare itself, and PCs who try to steal the eyes or tack will have the nightmare animate and shift them to the Ethereal Plane (effectively taking them out of the adventure until they can be retrieved much later) if they fail a Dexterity save.

Two tombs of note are Irena and Strahd’s tombs. Both have additional content with respect to whoever is the villain of the adventure. Irena’s tomb is unlocked based on the torch patterns in the Sunlit Shrine Interior’s hallway. If Irena’s the villain then she will attack the party when the PCs unlock it, although she will hold back and not use her legendary and lair actions. A TPK allows the party to reincarnate elsewhere in Castle Ravenloft or the Amber Depths, although PCs who defeat her gain early access to the Tomb of Irena encounter in Act 3, which is intended to serve as an early way to beat One Night Strahd in subsequent playthroughs. Otherwise, if Strahd’s the villain, the tomb has nothing but the old remains of history of a prior age.

As for Strahd’s tomb, it is guarded by a magical barrier that requires magical solutions to bypass, such as a Passwall spellbead, Chime of Opening, or an Earth Elemental to burrow around it. If Irena’s the villain then the tomb contains no coffin, but if Strahd’s the villain then breaking the barrier gives them early access to Strahd’s Tomb encounter in Act 3.


The Tower is the location of the elven Archmage Patrina, and is heavily inspired by Neil Gaiman’s Sandman where Dream and Chorozon duel by transforming into weaponized ideas in order to counter each other. As for why the PCs may venture here, they may have learned about the Heart of Sorrow from other characters such as the Misery in Dinner Date or from Burr convincing the party to visit. Much like in Curse of Strahd, the Heart of Sorrow acts as a health insurance policy for Barovia’s Darklord, and destroying it removes their hit point sink in the final encounter. Although not a required section like Crypts or Tome, the book says that it’s one of the most important encounters to complete, and that it will be destroyed whether the PCs win or lose Patrina’s game of concepts. They only lose the opportunity if “things have gone very bad” like the PCs running out of cards and repeatedly dying in a doom spiral where they have too few hit points to effectively take on future encounters.

If Burr/Bur is with the party, he seeks to toss the Heart off the side of the tower, using the ring’s telekinesis if not a simulacrum, or if a simulacrum the DM will privately message that player of the goal. As for Patrina, she doesn’t disagree with their goals, but wants to test their worthiness with the game of concepts.

Upon arriving in the tower, a magical lift will take the PCs up several floors. It is like an elevator but with no walls, passing through the holes of circular levels containing countless books, and PCs can spend an hour to gain a 3rd level spell scroll (taking any longer causes animated stone women to push them onto the lift to continue the ascent). When the party meets Patrina, she will introduce herself at the top level, where above them in the orrery is the Heart of Sorrow. The Heart takes the form of the Vampire Lord who isn’t the villain, imprisoned as their power is drained by the current Darklord. Then, she will challenge them to the Game of Forms.

The Game of Forms in One Night Strahd takes the form of a card-based minigame where the players are dealt Form Cards, and they must use the cards available to counter Patrina’s own form. A card so used is discarded, unable to be used again. Each time Patrina takes a form the PCs must explain how they overcome her form with their own, rolling an appropriate skill check or saving throw. Appropriate Form Cards can grant advantage or even auto-succeed, although inappropriate Form Cards impose disadvantage. The DC and amount of retries varies depending on how far the party has progressed in the Game of Forms. Failing a roll causes PCs who rolled to take damage, 1 success they take half damage, and 2 success they take no damage. Each Form, their results, and their Outros upon resolution of that form (regardless of success or failure) have descriptive italicized text.

Patrina does not draw cards: instead she starts out with a pre-selected form, the Stag Goddess. Upon resolution of that form she asks a question of whether they’d venerate her, rebel against her, or steal her secrets which determines one of three forms she takes next. From then on out the DM chooses the next form from a list of limited options depending on what stage of forms the PCs are in in the Game of Forms. Winning against certain forms can grant the PCs unique magic items, such as the cursed Baldor’s Blade that burns the mark of Grazz’t into the wielder’s hand and gives them a form of permanent madness, but can also deal +2d6 lightning damage when electrically charged with a command word. Or Winter Serpent’s Winter Fortress, which is the same as Daern’s, save it doesn’t cause damage when unfolding and is home to a serpent-shaped eladrin that is non-hostile and PCs must bargain with her to use the fortress.

However, the final result of the Game always has Patrina taking the form of Ennui.

This is a really cool concept, so I’m going to show some of the handouts:



Once the game is resolved she will ask them what they look like in victory or defeat as appropriate. If they win, she will give them a book to read that lets them take on her new form for up to an hour, gaining 20 temporary hit points while doing so. If they lost, she will give them a book devoted to dealing with anxiety-related disorders many shapeshifters suffer from, gaining the benefits of a short rest. They will also be transformed into large cartoon spiders (no stat changes) as Patrina shapeshifts into their new bodies to try them out if they stick around to watch.

Either way, Patrina will let them do what they may with the Heart of Sorrow.

If the PCs are taking too heavy losses such as multiple deaths during the Game, she will stop the challenge, admiring their self-sacrifice but giving them consolation prizes in the form of vouchers that can be used to cast Gate (cannot be used to escape Ravenloft, but can connect 2 points in the plane) and don’t get a chance to destroy the Heart of Sorrow.


The Tome of Lords is One Night Strahd’s equivalent to the Tome of Strahd, sitting up in his bedroom. Like the Crypts, it is one of the “required” sections for One Night Strahd even though it’s possible for the PCs to end up locked out when running away from a fight. There aren’t any monsters to battle here, but the bedroom is protected by a prismatic wall puzzle, and the PCs encounter it in a library that is the next room over. Searching the shelves can unearth books with colored spines that stick out, containing clues for how to shut down individual colors in the spell. There are some other magic items to be found via searching that can help the PCs dispel certain layers, such as a Ring of Warmth in the fireplace, a puzzle box which can be unlocked with Thieves’ Tools (no check required) containing a Spellbead of Absorb Elements, and a set of blueprints and necessary materials on a desk for building a set of Ventilating Lungs* magic items.

*This magic item is in the Eberron sourcebook and not mentioned in the book, meaning DMs who don’t have access to that book may not know what they do. It isn’t relevant to the Prismatic Wall, but lets a character breathe in any environment and has advantage on saves vs gas-based magical effects.

If the PCs are stuck, the DM can let one of them find a secret door containing a chest behind a glass panel that if broken contains a Rod of Cancellation that can dispel the entire wall. The Wall’s Violet section will transport a character to the Ethereal Plane, and Gertruda will eventually retrieve them but not before teasing them a little.

Gertruda is in the bedroom beyond, and the PCs walk in on her reclining on the bed naked, earning an anime-style shock as the door is slammed in their faces as they can hear her from the other side sounding incredibly embarrassed. Within are books piled everywhere, including hammocks that are also full of books. Gertruda is obviously a vampire by the fangs in her mouth, and is friendly to the PCs. She will reveal her role in summoning them to the Domains of Dread unless they seem upset about their circumstances. Some of the books she is reading are references to the real world, such as Ursula K. LeGuin’s Left Hand of Darkness or Helen in Egypt by H.D. Asking Gertruda about the former will mention that she saw it in a cafe in Bordeaux and she isn’t good at speaking French. If they ask her for help in their quest she will give them 3 Heartseekers, unique +2 dart magic items specialized for fighting vampires. They shed light and deal radiant damage, and can be returned to the wielder’s hand like a boomerang. They can also blind a target once per short or long rest as a reaction if they fail a Constitution save, and once per week can cast Contact Other Plane although this puts the character into contact with the Dark Powers with some restrictions: the Intelligence save is DC 20 if questions are asked about Irena or Strahd, the casting is not affected by Ravenloft’s usual anti-divination measures, and failing a save still provides an answer but the character can’t share it with others.

Otherwise the other treasures here are the Thighbone of Saint Markovia and the Tome. As for the Thighbone, it can take the form of a +1 wand or club, and once per short or long rest can restore hit points equal to the damage dealt with an attack or spell. Its other form can be the bone of a formorian giant ending in an eye clenched by the fist, acting as a +1 maul that grants advantage on saves vs being charmed. If the wielder succeeds on such a save they can spend a reaction to make the charmer take 6d8 psychic damage that can be halved with the same saving throw of the charm.

As for the Tome, its contents change depending on whether Irena or Strahd is the villain. It is protected by a ciphered code requiring a DC 25 History check, with 8 hours on a failure or 2 hours on a success, or an auto-success if they have a copy of Bram Stoker’s Dracula from the Sunlit Shrine Interior.

The Irena version details Irena’s life and then undeath, including her descent into villainy. Through a compilation of writings by different authors, it concludes that Strahd has been imprisoned in the Tower and that Irena is now the Darklord of Ravenloft. Gertruda was using the book as a means of keeping new incarnations of Irena up to speed on her prior lives, but she hasn’t done that in a long time since their falling out.

The Strahd version details the OG Darklord’s life and undeath, how souls in the domain are trapped in a reincarnating cycle, as well as two crucial bits of information in defeating him. The first is that he’s been constructing a new tomb on the Ethereal Plane, and that his true death requires both his bodily form and Ethereal spirit to be slain.

Chances are the PCs may be distrustful or even cross with Gertruda. If they attack her she is immortal and cannot be harmed, not defending herself but saying that she wishes the PCs would stop. If they continue she will cast Wish to freeze time and drown the world in sunlight, saying she’s not a “convenient roll on some loot table” before leaving them back in the library but without any treasures. PCs who apologize to her later will have her forgive them, as she knows what it’s like to be alone, desperate, and unable to trust albeit will still remain wary of the party.

The nonlinearity of ACT 2 ends after the DM has run the desired number of encounters.

Thoughts So Far: The locations in Castle Ravenloft are fun and eventful, and each major area has meaningful encounters of some kind along with viable rewards in the form of useful treasure, adventuring companion allies, or some kind of edge against the Darklord such as destroying the Heart of Sorrow. The Dinner Date serves to be an interesting social encounter, and the Tower’s Game of Forms is an awesome concept.

I’m a bit concerned about the lethality of some of the encounters; although the PCs have effective infinite lives, the fact they begin reincarnations with fewer and fewer Hit Points and Hit Dice can cause a doom spiral effect like in Dark Souls, and unlike the Act I encounters not all foes will relent once a certain number of PCs die. There are some things that can help even the odds such as the NPC allies or the shared hit point pools of the Erinyes, although not all of them have such limitations, and the battles with all the vampire brides at once can be pretty deadly in that they can match or even outnumber the PCs with Misery/Strahd on their side. The Basilica encounter is perhaps my least favorite; the Abbot in Curse of Strahd never strongly appealed to me, and unlike the other areas there isn’t as much meaningful character or history development of the overall plot.

Join us next time as we detail the Final Act in One Night Strahd!



Act III: I’ll Be Back

The Eclipse and much of Act 3 is the final stage of One Night Strahd, narrowing down the more diverse choices in Acts 1 and 2 into a funnel to the final boss. While the boxed text changes depending on where the party is in Castle Ravenloft in Act 2, the Eclipse is an apocalyptic change to Barovia: a rising sea of blood is flooding the land, portions of the castle start to fall apart, and a giant blazing eye appears in the sky like some monstrous sun. The PCs will be unable to take any more long rests, as spectral wolves will haunt them from afar and attack as a unique swarm-based monster if they try to long rest. In a two-group game, both groups will come together and provide one last opportunity for table-swapping.

The battles of Act 3 continue on for as long as the PCs keep reincarnating, although the death toll affects the ending. A loss happens if the party gives up, a Qualified Victory happens if the party as a whole takes casualties of 8 PCs or more, and a Victory if they take less than 8.

During the Eclipse, notable NPCs who are still alive have scenes of their own where their story comes to an end or they join forces with the PCs. If Esmerelda’s alive she’ll mention that she’s never been this far before in the nightmare cycle of her doomed quest, giving a worried prayer to Mother Night. As for Winter, PCs have the opportunity to save her from some ghost wolves if they’ve been kind to her in the past. If they have one last wish in the Luck Blade and a Contact Other Plane from the Heartseekers, they can use both charges to free her from Strahd’s service forevermore.

As for Burr, his scene is kind of cheap. He manages to sneak up on a PC, threatening them with a finger-gun gesture pointing right into their back. If the PCs attempt to attack him rather than hear him out, he will get off a free Disintegration on a PC (it can be counterspelled). He is more open to conversation this time, and can help inform the party about future challenges in this Act as well as ways to put down Strahd or Irena for good. Winter can also inform PCs how to defeat Strahd and find his Ethereal coffin, too.

While I know that reincarnation removes the sting a little, having an enemy sneak up on the party without any means of allowing the PCs to intercept/detect this, plus a free use of a spell that will likely kill them, can lead to some sour feelings.

In the case where Winter cannot join the party and Esmerelda is dead, the PCs will gain the aid of three ghostly wolves who broke free of the vampire lord’s hold and use dire wolf stats but with 15 temporary hit points each.


Irena Gauntlet: Tomb of Irena only happens if the PCs are unable to open Irena’s Tomb on their own. This locks them out of a proper boss fight with Irena and instead has them fight Sergei. It begins with the PCs returning to the Crypts of Castle Ravenloft. If the PCs haven’t found a way to open it, surviving Brides of Strahd can help out in exchange for a sacrifice of some kind, such as draining a PC to death, good social skill checks, or if Winter is alive and allied. There are various skill checks that can open up more clues about torch patterns. The PCs can still get through with trial and error, but wasting such time ends up giving all future enemies 20 temporary hit points.

Once inside the tomb proper, they will enter an enormous hall with an ornate coffin at the end. Before the PCs can mess with the coffin, Sergei will arrive to attack the PCs. He is mounted on the nightmare Bucephalus along with three undead assassins who were former servants of the Morninglord with giant bat mounts of their own.

In terms of stats, Bucephalus is treated as being part of Sergei. Sergei/Bucephalus is a CR 13 fiend with 161 hit points, 18 AC, fast walking and fly speeds, can Multliattack in melee with a Cursed Estoc or a necrotic-damaging Choking Grasp, along with some innate offensive spells such as Magic Missile and Blade Barrier that can only be used as lair actions. Sergei also has magic resistance, but he’s unable to use it as well as a bevy of other special abilities (such as legendary and lair actions) when he’s in contact with sunlight. The 3 Servants of the Dead are much less powerful monsters, also being bound to flying mounts but multiattack with daggers, can turn invisible until the start of their next turns after said multiattack, and inflict vulnerability to piercing damage on those within 5 feet of them. Sunlight makes them unable to turn invisible or hide, and they become visible if exposed in such a way.

Irena’s coffin can only be opened at the end of the fight, and her slumbering form appears to be more like a molded figure than an actual vampire. It cannot be staked save by the Sunblade, which speaks out loud for the first time that they’re suitable for the task. Otherwise, some other powerful weapons in this module such as the Luck Blade may suffice. If Winter’s sword is used, this will also kill her, but she is willing to do so as a worthy cause.

If Irena is staked, Gertruda will appear, horrified to see the woman she loved finally die, collapsing to the ground in grief. At this point, the Irena arc is over, transitioning to the Greenhouse.


Irena Fight: A Dark Audience happens if the PCs manage to open the entrance to Irena’s tomb on their own. The angered Darklord will suddenly appear as the entire castle vibrates, dragging Gertruda by the hair. She announces that she will kill the PCs in front of her, although Gertruda is unfazed at her brutish threats. And in pure Cutscene time where the party cannot react, Irena utters a magical command that causes the ground beneath them to fall, as they end up deeper in the Crypts. What if a PC can fly, such as with an ability from Totally Safe Ghost Canisters? Well it happens anyway!

Irena is back up in the throne room of Castle Ravenloft astride Vasilka, her Sphinx mount. As the climactic final battle the book talks a lot about preparations and how to make it feel suitably dramatic along with alterations to encounter difficulty based on party weak points to make it feel challenging enough without being a cakewalk. In terms of stats Vasilka is a gynosphinx but with a modified spell list focusing mostly on various debuffs and battlefield control spells, and is fond of using Pyrotechnics to make smoke that can mess up the line of sight of enemy spellcasters as well as block any rays of sunlight. Irena will also make use of her Charm ability to turn party members against each other. Much like Strahd’s fight with Esmerelda in the Crypts, both Irena and Vasilka have special single-use abilities, where Irena uses Animate Objects to bring to life ten knife-like armor plates, while Vasilka will cast Maelstrom. In both cases the other boss has a Counterspell to shut down Counterspells of the PC’s own.

In terms of abilities both Irena and Strahd have near-identical stat blocks. The only differences I can spot are that Irena can cast misty step and uses a Cestus instead of an unarmed strike. The cestus also allows her to gain 15 feet of bonus movement when making an attack with it. As for Strahd, he uses a +2 greatsword.

But overall, Irena/Strahd is a very powerful final boss for 6th level PCs. They have decent saves across the board but are particularly good in Dexterity, Wisdom, and Charisma, have a modified Charm ability of the vampire that also deals psychic damage to the target and turns those brought to 0 hit points into a vampire spawn, both cast spells as a wizard with up to 5th level spell slots with emphasis on offense and battlefield control, and have legendary and lair actions mostly for bonus attacks for legendary and the ability to manipulate the terrain of Castle Ravenloft as lair actions.

One particularly interesting thing about their stats is that both cannot regain spell slots during the adventure as a particular weakness, which is in addition to the standard vampire ones.


Strahd Gauntlet: Strahd’s Hate has the PCs discover, through skill checks or the help of NPC allies, to realize that the way to the Ethereal Gate to find Strahd’s spirit-form is in the Sunlit Shrine. By the time the party realizes this, Strahd knows that they know. His physical form will take the form of the Godeater, a Gargantuan wolf with a crown of eight blood-red crystals on its head. Each crystal charges up with the death of a character, and once fully charged any attempts at defeating Strahd from then on will be in vain. This is a Hunt scenario, where the PCs have to outmaneuver Kaiju Wolf Strahd as they make a mad dash back to the Sunlit Shrine. The various locations help keep up the sense of danger, with text illuminating this such as rumbles in the ground and heavy breath of a stalking giant predator who may be just around the corner.

In some of these encounters Strahd will toy with the PCs rather than immediately attacking. For instance, in a theater room he will ask the PCs to entertain him; if they do well enough on the skills he will let them go with a head start.

In terms of stats, the Godeater Wolf is very much a giant melee-focused monster. It is a CR 17 fiend with 330 hit points, AC 17, and huge Constitution and Wisdom saves. It has a few innate offensive spells such as Wall of Fire and Lightning Bolt, and is very fast being able to add both Dexterity and Intelligence (+4 each) to initiative along with the ability to grapple as many creatures as it wants and suffers no movement penalties for doing so. And it can deal damage to itself to smash through objects/terrain and attack and grapple multiple creatures it moves through. To top it all off, it has legendary actions, lair actions, and also unlocks Mythic Actions which are more powerful legendary actions if somehow reduced to 0 hit points. In such a case, the Godeater assumes a phase two form where it’s now on fire and almost all of its hit points are restored.

Safe to say, the PCs are definitely encouraged to run, not to fight, here. Much like the original Sunlit Shrine, the PCs will need to find a means to get the shrine door open, and the number of successes determine how many rounds they have as the Godeater attacks them. If they have no successes the door won’t open until wolf-Strahd dies! Good luck with that!


Strahd Fight: Tomb of Strahd sits in the Ethereal Plane. Strahd’s real soul is here, controlling his physical body in Barovia proper. The secret passages beneath the Sunlit Shrine are home to the surviving Brides, who will have one last stand but as the PCs likely have lots of new tricks and allies at this point the DM should shorten it to dice-less narration in how they’re overcome. If Winter is an ally, there will be boxed text instead as she uses her sword and lightning bolts to shatter their weapons and bodies.

Once the PCs find a way to shift to the Ethereal Plane, they will find themselves standing on an enormous cube carved from bone drifting in a vast gray void. Strahd is sitting on a throne at the end of the side the PCs are standing on. Rising from his seat he will mock them, saying that he’s happy to see them as he tosses his cloak to the side with Bucephalus the nightmare appearing from nowhere to lift him into the air. A silver circle bearing the image of a dragon in the cube’s surface opens up, where the undead form of the silver dragon Argynvost rises, Strahd’s coffin visibly embedded in his rib cage.

We already talked about Irena/Strahd’s stats, so let’s cover Argynvost. Thankfully he is nowhere near as powerful as a real adult silver dragon, being a CR 9 undead with 168 hit points, 18 AC, a fast fly speed of 80 feet, and your typical draconic melee multiattacks with natural weapons, a rechargeable cold breath weapon, and a lair action where he can either cast fog cloud or generate an AoE cold wind that deals a low amount of cold damage to all foes within 120 feet.

In terms of tactics Strahd is an aggressive fighter, gleefully burning spell slots all the while; he’s already cast Mirror Image on himself by the time combat begins. He is fond of using Shield as a reaction to negate attacks, much like Irena, as well as using his damaging Charm ability and summoning demons to his side. Argynvost is much more straightforward, using breath weapon and melee attacks if able. There is one oddity in the suggested combat tactics, mentioning that Argynvost has a Paralyzing Breath ability, but his stat block makes no mention of this.


The Greenhouse: Endings covers what happens after the resolution of Act 3’s events, whether the PCs win or lose. The PCs will appear back in the Greenhouse, and there are one of four possible endings: Loss, if the PCs were utterly defeated and gave up, Qualified Victory, which happens if 8 or more PCs died but they still managed to best Irena/Strahd/Sergei in combat,* or Victory if they managed to defeat the final boss while suffering less than 8 PC deaths. In the case of two group games both results are tallied to determine the overall victory: for instance, if one group has a Loss and another a Qualified Victory, the ending will be a Loss, while one group having a Victory but the other a Loss will be a Qualified Victory There is a 4th ending type, a Total Victory, in two-group games where both manage to win.

*Although if fighting Strahd as the wolf in the physical world, they will suffer a Loss instead if they can’t defeat him in 2 or less rounds.

The Loss ending has the PCs come back to the Greenhouse. Omu, sitting down near a sleeping Gertruda, asks the party to sit with them. When Gertruda wakes up she will get philosophical, talking about how the universe is predicated on a cycle of violence and that’s why people hate the concept of endings. But she’ll say that what is also equally truthful is that people love good stories.

In a Qualified Victory Ending, the PCs will walk out of Castle Ravenloft’s shadow to find themselves in rolling hills under a bright blue sky, with the greenhouse from the beginning just over yonder. Gertruda and Omu will be there, inviting them to have a nice sit down with some books, apples, and tea.

In a Victory Ending in the Irena Arc, the PCs notice that the windows of Castle Ravenloft all look out to the Greenhouse from the beginning of the adventure. Gertruda will appear covered in blood and sweat, oddly happy as wild flowers grow around her. She talks about how she loves the characters, their violent ways, and how their victory is a shared truth. Gertruda then becomes sad, knowing that at some point they must leave but lets them know they’re always welcome to return. Castle Ravenloft can be seen off in the horizon past the island they’re on. Looking at it, the vampire will mention that nothing ends with a sad note to her voice, and asks the party what will be next while taking a bite out of an apple. After talking with her Omu will appear driving a crimson carriage pulled by terracotta horses, offering to take the PCs home.

In a Victory Ending in the Strahd Arc, either the cube in the Ethereal Plane or the door leading out of the Sunlit Shrine will open up to/dock at a pier on a lake. Somewhere nearby is the Greenhouse, and Gertruda will be waiting for them along with a golden-furred wolf she calls Poe. Otherwise the rest of the ending is the same as the Irena Victory.

In a Total Victory Ending both groups end up back in the Greenhouse Dream, with Gertruda appearing to tend to their wounds. Otherwise it’s the same as a normal Victory.

The Hidden Path is a Secret Ending, and can be triggered at any point the PCs attack Gertruda and don’t relent when she asks them to stop. If they do 250 or more damage to her in one round, she will die laughing as reality itself breaks around them like a kaleidoscope. The PCs supposedly die, and then see visions of a battlefield near a great sea with towering machines made of steel, shooting spears of fire through the sky exploding into mushroom clouds. Gertruda will say that the PCs are the spear that pierced her side, and how they are now her first, last, and only truth.

Her black diamond eyes glitter with starfire and love. Her attention is endless, and now focused on you. You will live forever. It will be war forever.

Congratulations, folks, you’re never getting rid of her now. This counts as a WIN.

The endings don’t come immediately; the PCs have the opportunity to explore the Greenhouse on their own, for Omu and Gertruda are patient and have lived through many lifetimes. However, this is of particular importance in two-group games, as a group that finishes before the other can interact with various things around the Greenhouse and nearby islands to spend the resources they have left to grant in-game benefits to the remaining group. Resources are measured in points: each Hit Dice, Inspiration, or spell slot level is 1 resource, and 12 resources allow one roll on the Tchotchkes table, 35 resources on the Secrets table which has less results but more powerful ones.

Each random result has the Greenhouse group visit a special place. For two Tchotchkes examples, one is a strange orchard made out of glass trees that lets a PC in the remaining group cast Moonbeam, while another has the party engage in pleasant conversation with Omu where the slaadi appears in battle to cast Delayed Blast Fireball to the remaining party’s benefit. One of the Secrets results finds a replica of the Sunlit Shrine, which Gertruda mentions was her home back in Barovia. It allows the remaining group to place five five-foot squares of sunlight wherever they want in the current challenge/combat they’re in.

Thoughts So Far: Once again, I find the Strahd arc to be better-written. Although Strahd has the inherent name recognition of a D&D villain, there’s something more narratively satisfying about being chased by a giant monster wolf and fighting the vampire count with an undead dragon guarding his coffin. In comparison to Irena, the PCs may not even fight the Darklord, instead being forced to do battle with a dapper skeleton guy who’s been silently polite to them in prior encounters. There’s also the fact that Esmerelda has a few sample lines of dialogue if she survived for the horrors to come, while Maple has none. While I’m sure the DM will do so anyway for role-play, it’s a noticeable contrast.

I like the idea where the first group to win in a two-person campaign can indirectly help the other party. This helps conservative players who didn’t blow through all their resources to still make use of their prudence to aid the other team.

Join us next time as we wrap up the review with Optional Encounters and Appendices!



Optional Encounters & Aftermatter

These two scenarios are optional content for One Night Strahd, either to add some new content for repeat playthroughs or just because it would be interesting. Each encounter has potential treasures and boons that can aid the PCs during the rest of the adventure.

The Treasury is the first encounter, detailing the secret treasure room of Strahd Von Zarovich. It can be added to Act 2, such as making up for lost treasure from running away from a major section that would leave the party underpowered. Located in an enormous octagonal room with a sea of coins that would make even dragons blink, a giant magical machine of destruction known as the Fortress plies these golden waves like a ship of doom. The construct is a modified version of Daern’s Instant Fortress, and doesn’t have a single stat block so much as a series of details of stats for sections of the ship, traps, and offensive abilities such as firing cannonballs or blasts of lightning. Both attacks have amazing range increments of 600/2,400 feet, but can only be fired every other turn. The Fortress has a single Lair Action: Fire Main Cannon, which has a 1d6 randomly-generated effect, ranging from a damaging line of coins and gems, the sea of coins acting like restraining quicksand, or a wave of treasure as per the Tidal Wave spell.

In order to disable the Fortress, the PCs must make their way to the ship to safely get within the minimum firing range of the cannons (a mere 10 feet), break through a locked trapdoor or deal 200 points of damage to the hull, and fight off five Gas Spores and one Death Kiss Beholder who is the pilot/heart of the fortress. PCs who can communicate with the Death Kiss can learn that it is magically bound against its will to guard the treasury, and PCs who manage to free it via taking out the binding runes and anchoring crystal will have its gratitude. However, the Death Kiss will explode if the PCs don’t disable the devices in a limited time frame.

As for the rewards, there’s one cannon can be salvaged (disabling the Fortress causes the cannons to go offline) for up to 4 shots, 4 potions of Superior Healing, a number of gemstones containing castings of Chromatic Orb or Revivify based on the number of Lair Actions the Fortress performed, and a unique magic item known as the Bulwark of Argynvost. If the death kiss was rescued, it will transform into a Gazer that can summon five gas spores once per day and serve as a PC’s familiar, albeit will eat an existing familiar if the chosen PC has one. As for the Bulwark, it is a +1 shield that acts as an animated shield, a battering shield, grants a +2 bonus to initiative, and is treated as silver for purposes of overcoming damage resistance.


The Black Lagoon is intended as an optional superboss encounter like in those 90 and 2000s RPGs; think Emerald or Ruby Weapon from Final Fantasy VII. It can be found if a PC uses the Bag of Beans from one of the initial magic item packs at the beginning of the game. DMs who don’t want to pit their party against this encounter can replace the beans with a Spellbead of Summon Construct. The boss fight can only happen during Act 2; otherwise planting it in Act 3 summons Omu to either throw his hammer at an enemy if he wasn’t defeated by the PCs, or if they did the slaadi instead causes all creatures present the possibility of randomly polymorphing into frogs with 1 hit point each.

This encounter is accessed when a PC plants a bean from the bag of beans into the ground at any time in Act 2. The ground surrounding it turns into a tarry black liquid with a walkway of iron lily pads leading into an obsidian pyramid. PCs who venture into the pyramid feel something appear in their bag of beans, being a Thank You note from Omu for “finding my house keys.”

Omu’s pyramidal home contains various works of art important to slaadi culture, such as one tapestry dubbed “War of the Frogs” by Kawanabe Kyosai, or a thin book labeled “C1-The Hidden Shrine of Tamoachan.” However, while grateful for the PCs finding his house keys, Omu won’t be happy if the PCs linger in his house. He’ll shortly show up to explain that the Dark Powers don’t like it when people deviate from the story, and that they should come back another time. Omu will become gradually more threatening if the PCs refuse to leave, at first being polite and giving offers of aid, but eventually summoning a giant hammer and battle gear. If Omu dies in Barovia, he will never be able to return home, so the PCs represent a real threat to him in his eyes.

Omu is a CR 12 slaadi with 166 hit points, 16 AC, an average walking and faster swim speed, and typical slaad traits such as darkvision and blindsight, resistances to the four elemental damage types plus thunder, telepathy, and can multiattack. He is wearing three magic items: a Belt of Hill Giant’s Strength, Gauntlets of Ogre Power, and a Hammer of Thunderbolts, and he can multiattack with the hammer. He also has a phase two ability, where once reduced to 0 hit points he transforms into his true white slaad-lord form, regaining 140 hit points, removing all effects on him, and instantly casts Mirror Image. He can also trade in attacks from multiattack to perform an AoE stun attack that is limited to 3 uses in the battle, or spawn a bubble onto the battlefield that creates a random Wild Magic effect if it touches someone.

Omu also has your typical boss-style Legendary Resistances, Legendary Actions (involving your typical move, attack, and teleport to the thrown hammer), and Lair Actions. In his phase two form he gets mythic actions such as casting a Vitriolic Sphere made of raw chaos that forces disadvantage on saves for lawful characters; or can teleport, attack, and then teleport back to his original location all in one action. The Lair actions are chaos-themed, being a constant Wild Magic effect that surges for any non-cantrip spell cast, including magic items that use or mimic the use of such spells. The Wild Magic table is far smaller than the sorcerer subclass, being a 1d12 with a preference for negative effects, such as shunting a character out of time for one round, petrifying a PC as per Flesh to Stone, or being forced to cast Fabricate with the object being made from the raw chaos of Limbo.

PCs who end up out of commission or who would otherwise reincarnate during the fight instead come back as phase ghosts, afterimages of themselves from alternate timelines where they survived the fight. Phase Ghosts have their own unique stats and are controlled by the player, having the same capabilities of the original PC save they are immune to all damage and condition types, can multiattack with an Annealing Beam that deals radiant damage, can grant an ally either +2 to AC for one round and restore 1d4+4 hit points if the target doesn’t have their own phase ghost, or a single-use and single-target Bless effect. Phase Ghosts cannot move more than 30 feet from the original character’s body, die if their original PC is able to act in the fight again, and the fight is considered “lost” if all PCs end up as Phase Ghosts. Phase Ghosts are basically means of allowing for players with dead characters to still contribute to a fight rather than sitting around, and the book encourages you to try it out in other adventures beyond One Night Strahd.

This encounter can be resolved in a variety of ways. If they defeat Omu, they get the 3 magic items he was wearing in the battle. If the party voluntarily left his home or if they were defeated by him, they will instead be given a copy of The Curse of Strahd: Original Manga Adaption along with either a stern chiding for lack of politeness or as a friendly goodbye and gift.

The Curse of Strahd Manga is a unique magic item that is basically an in-universe fiction of the Curse of Strahd module, but told in manga form. It is also of use for PCs seeking knowledge about Barovia as it is in One Night Strahd, allowing for a DC 15 Investigation check to get a direct hint about all manner of subjects of the encounters of Act 2, although the DC increases by 1 for every time the book is used this way. Failing a roll any time after the manga's first successful use causes the book to harmlessly explode into a swarm of bats.



This is an appendix of supplementary material. It includes a list of 18 pre-generated characters, stat blocks for the unique monsters and NPCs, and a list of new and altered magic items found in this adventure. We’ve already covered the monsters and magic items where appropriate, so we’ll look over some of the pregens. Each potential PC has a single-page character sheet. They all make use of official Wizards of the Coast material with no third party content, and some of the more wordy abilities are condensed to fit as a reference. Some characters have odd things that don’t fit conventional character creation. For instance, Redress Through Violence is an Astral Self Dwarven Monk with a whopping 8 tool proficiencies, and Pura Adelaide is an Arcane Trickster Rogue with 14 Intelligence who somehow has +8 to Arcana and Investigation despite looking like Expertise was taken for Acrobatics and Stealth (20 Dexterity for +11 in each). And while it’s not wrong in terms of stats, Dread Necromancer Emerald is an Abjurer Wizard who doesn’t have any necromancy spells save for Chill Touch. You might imagine it to be a joke, but as these characters come with no flavor text or backstory there’s no real explanation for the odd name.

Thoughts So Far: The Treasury Optional Encounter can be really punishing on groups that don’t have high speeds, as the Fortress can get in a few damaging volleys before the PCs can reach the hull. The idea to board and disable it may not be immediate to the group, who may instead try to fight the thing as a monster and trade longbow shots and eldritch blasts with it, further diminishing their resources. The optional Omu fight feels like something most groups won’t stumble upon, as up until this point the slaadi has been polite and helpful and most players may not be keen on pissing him off out of sheer curiosity. The insertion of a meta-commentary Ravenloft Manga is pretty funny; while it may feel a bit out of line with the gothic horror nature of the setting, One Night Strahd has overall been a rather whimsical and meta take on the greater mythos.

I don’t have much to say about the pregenerated PCs that hasn’t already been said.

Final Thoughts: One Night Strahd is a beautifully ambitious adventure with a concept that immediately sets it out from the rest of Raven-pack on the DM’s Guild. Its tightly-focused adventure paces itself well without unnecessary lulls or filler encounters, and its recurring cast of few but deep characters help weave a greater story around the module rather than feeling like a plot-sparse one-shot. And areas that don’t have combat, such as the Vistani town of Last Standing or the Prismatic Wall Puzzle, still have meaningful challenges that give the PCs access to more information and/or useful items. The artwork is beautifully evocative and reinforces the otherworldly feel of a dangerous realm that still has spots of beauty. The handouts are concise and easy to read, the vast majority fitting neatly onto one page, and along with the maps are easy to print out or turn into assets for virtual tabletops. Being designed for replayability also helps it, for unlike more traditional campaigns where replaying a module may give players access to vital information they shouldn’t know, One Night Strahd’s difficulty is such that there’s still real elements of failure even if the PCs know what’s coming.

While I have high marks overall for One Night Strahd, there are some things holding it back. Notably, the sheer size and scope of the book. Although the plot and adventure are relatively straightforward, being a 524 page product, plus the less than ideal organization and self-referencing, hurts its ability to be an easy one-shot a DM can immediately pick up and run. To get the most out of it, along with its many examples of beautiful artwork and handouts, a DM would need to do as much prep for a typical multi-level campaign. Combine this with not all relevant information being in the places they need to be, and that just adds to its unwieldiness. How much these negatives outweigh the positives may be subjective based on a DM’s ability to cross-reference and self-organize.

But with all that said, One Night Strahd is an intriguing enough option that I’d definitely want to run it sometime in my gaming life. It’s a great labor of love, and in spite of its status as Best Platinum Seller not many people are talking about the specifics that make it unique. That is perhaps its greatest weakness that I referenced back at the beginning of this review; even though many people bought it, other online gaming spaces merely presume it to be a compacted version of Curse of Strahd rather than its own campaign entirely. Interestingly one of the more informative takes on the module was from a gamer musician on TikTok.

This review took a lot out of me, so I’m going to rest for a bit. I may do some reviews of smaller products first, but when I get the energy again I have some ideas on what to cover next.


One more thing I'd like to mention is that the Hedra Group's official site has a special discount link where you can get One Night Strahd for 50% off. I can't directly link as the site has some non-sexual nudity, but if you Google "Hedra Group One Night Strahd" you should find it easily enough.



Product Link
Product Type: Bestiary
Cos-Required? Technically no, but all their backstories tie into the module

What is an evil overlord without minions to carry out their dirty work, to menace the heroes of the story before they eventually fight the Big Bad themselves? Strahd Von Zarovich has his own hand-picked agents, such as the dusk elf Rahadin or his three Brides. But said minions are mostly confined to Castle Ravenloft in Curse of Strahd, and the servants operating in the rest of Barovia are less direct servants and more allies of convenience (like Arrigal and the Vistani) or otherwise left to their own devices that happen to line up with his goals (like the night hags in Old Bonegrinder). Strahd’s Dark Servants is a bestiary of special minions appointed by the Devil Strahd in strengthening his grip over the domain. Some have roles closer to Rahadin, in being combat-worthy enemies who may appear throughout the adventure to menace the PCs, while others aren’t optimized for combat and instead hinder the PCs in less direct ways.

The Apostate (CR 13) used to be known as Kasimir, a priest of Ilmater who visited Barovia in the hopes of saving its souls. Upon discovering that most Barovians were soulless, he drifted from his noble nature and slain them, thinking them to be monsters. He built up a small army and sought to destroy Strahd; instead of a traditional fight as was expected, Strahd confronted Kasimir with his futile ways, causing the priest to surrender and become his vampire spawn.

Now known as Mortimer the Apostate, the priest is Barovia’s closest equivalent to a state-sanctioned religious figure where he travels the domain praising Strahd’s name. The Apostate is able to curse heretics to speak the truth and call down divine flames, sacrificing the slain on an altar.

The Apostate is the most powerful of the servants in this book. He is an undead who casts spells as a 13th level Cleric, specializing in offense but with a mixture of divination and utility magic. He has Legendary Actions and five motes of necrotic energy floating around him that he can expend for a variety of effects, such as gaining one-round flight or forcing a creature to save with disadvantage against his spells. The motes are recharged whenever he reduces a creature to 0 hit points.

Thoughts: I like the Apostate’s backstory, and it’s a cautionary tale of how even if most Barovians are soulless that doesn’t excuse treating them with cruelty. His fall is all the more poignant and also shows Strahd’s cunning, for the Darklord didn’t have to defeat him in battle but merely had to confront the priest with his own hypocrisy. But beyond that his role feels a little unnecessary. Strahd’s name is already feared in Barovia, he doesn’t need an inquisitor-priest to go around reminding villagers about him. Additionally, the domain’s existing religions already serve ready social functions: the Morninglord provides hope, and Mother Night already fills the role of “Barovians are being punished for their sins” in the form of a wicked deity of monsters and the darkness.

Rat Mongrel Jibben is a mongrelfolk with batlike features, living in the attics of Castle Ravenloft. Strahd barely registers him, using Jibben every so often to deliver messages or annoy new travelers. But he is loyal nonetheless, and hopes to be gifted with vampirism one day.

Jibben is a CR 3 creature with a natural fly speed and a decent blindsight. He doesn’t do a lot of damage on his own, instead being more of a mobile kite where he opens up casting Darkness to blind foes and stays aloft before coming into melee when the opportunity presents itself. He can move half his speed as a reaction if an enemy ends up within 5 feet of him, along with being able to bite and cast Vicious Mockery as a cantrip in the same round. His main offense is the Vampiric Touch spell.

Thoughts: Although not part of the Abbot’s community, Curse of Strahd’s mongrelfolk (and the monster type in general) have unfortunate implications that haven been discussed elsewhere.

As a foe, Jibben is less of a direct danger and more of a nuisance, a little-acknowledged servant with an impossible goal. He is tragic in an altogether different way, serving a Lord who uses him without respect in hopes of earning said respect. For tactics, he isn’t much of a danger on his own save to beginning-level PCs, as ranged attacks and means of countering kiting tactics are common in the arsenal of many classes.

The Glum Coachman is Igor, Strahd’s carriage driver, and unhappy about his current lot in life. Strahd never uses the carriage, instead being primarily a vehicle to transport adventurers to Castle Ravenloft. Igor is resentful about the fact that Strahd seems to have forgotten hiring him in the first place which helped lift him out of poverty in Vallaki. He takes his anger out on the adventurers he transports, insulting them in hopes of provoking them to violence so he can use the magical carriage to kill them.

In terms of stats Igor is CR ⅛ and barely a threat on his own. His special abilities come with a once per day ability to grant his draft horses advantage on attack rolls along with hitting with his whip as a bonus action. Said whip can also cause targets to drop items on a failed Strength save. As for the Black Carriage, it is a CR 3 construct inhabited by the soul of a murdered and bloodthirsty human. It has a multitarget overrun attack, can also do an AoE attack dealing necrotic damage to targets of its choice within 60 feet, and is weak to the prone condition and can’t recover from it save through outside help.

Thoughts: The Glum Coachman is most likely going to be a one-time servant, most likely when the PCs receive an invitation to Castle Ravenloft or when the carriage is encountered near Tser Falls in the default adventure. It basically turns that encounter into a role-playing one with the possibility of combat. I do feel that choosing the name Igor is kind of unimaginative.


The Head Chef prepares meals for Strahd’s guests, but his food isn’t fit for living consumption, such as ricin cakes and strychnine laced wine that are designed to poison and harm the guests. He is inordinately proud of his work, and is paranoid about people stealing his secret ingredients. So anyone he catches sneaking in the kitchen he will capture and force-feed to death.

In terms of stats the Head Chef is CR 2, but honestly his offense is rather below that. In terms of stats the Head Chef is CR 2, but honestly his offense is rather below that. You can read the bulk of his entry in the left-side stat block, but he also has a poison that deals 3d6 damage in food he prepares. It doesn't say whether this damage is resisted or negated by a save, so I presume it applies automatically.

Thoughts: The last of our non-combatant opponents, the Head Chef is similar to Igor in likely being a one-time or side character. By the time the PCs encounter him in Castle Ravenloft he will be a trivial nuisance, and during dinner the party’s focus is going to be on Strahd and his Brides. The poisoned food goes well with Strahd’s personality in being a danger lurking beneath a veneer of politeness, but it’s bound to turn a social encounter into a combat one as soon as the players hear “the Barbarian takes 8 poison damage.”

Content Warning: Animal cruelty for the next entry.

The Hound Marshall is the closest thing Barovia has to a military commander. The domain does not have a standing army, so Strahd’s marshal took to raising hounds as the “perfect soldier.” He lets loose swarms of them around Castle Ravenloft, and deliberately keeps them hungry and starving. The Hound Marshal lets them feed once a week by taking them to Vallaki to attack and devour those too slow and sick to escape indoors.

In terms of stats the Hound Marshal is a CR ½ NPC who primarily grants beneficial status to his allied beasts, from giving them a constant advantage on Charisma saves to whipping them as a rechargeable ability that lets them make a melee attack as a reaction with an additional damage die. He can use this ability along with a whip attack during the same round as a multiattack.

His Swarm of Hounds is a CR 2 creature that basically uses dog stats but as a swarm and with more hit points. The Swarm can make 2 bite attacks that can knock a target prone as well as a rechargeable Throat Gnash attack that deals additional damage to prone targets and also grapples and restrains them.

Thoughts: The Hound Marshal is one of my higher-rated servants. Unlike most of the other entries he doesn’t have a monstrous or supernatural gimmick, but instead is a cruel human that just as much deserves a violent end at the PC’s hands. He can serve as a good recurring foe for low-level PCs, in that while individually not much of a threat the presence of seemingly feral hounds throughout Barovia can serve as a precursor to his appearance.

The Jester is the source of humor for the court of Castle Ravenloft, as well as Strahd’s specialized torturer. She doesn’t receive anything in regards to pay besides having a roof to sleep under, but her sadistic nature views the jobs as reward enough. When not on duty she wanders Barovia looking for random townsfolk to murder, and is often sent to harass adventurers Strahd takes interest in what she calls a “true test of character.”

In terms of stats Jester is one of the more powerful characters in this book, as a CR 9 NPC who can cast a variety of spells as a 12th level sorcerer. She also has access to sorcery points and metamagic, and the book offers some tactics of hers such as Twinned Dominate Person. In spite of being an arcane caster she likes to get up close and personal with a poisoned dagger and legendary actions themed around agility, such as a damaging somersault strike that grants her free movement or a Tendon Cut that damages and reduces the speed of a target.

Thoughts: Evil clowns and jesters are a semi-common archetype in horror, so a wicked court jester in Curse of Strahd fits right in. It does bring to mind what sense of humor Strahd has, as most portrayals of the vampire count paint him as a rather humorless person. Even so, it still paints a more humanizing portrait without necessarily reducing his villainy.

The Jester can serve as an in-built recurring foe, but she is pretty dangerous to deploy against low-level PCs. Her poisoned dagger can do a lot of damage and even cripple a fighter. That the poison is automatic and can’t be resisted by a saving throw only compounds this, so I’d save her for middle and higher level PCs.


The Last Stalker was once known as Luirlan, and is the last remaining female dusk elf. Strahd captured and broke her to his will, removing the memories of her old life. She now patrols the Svalich Woods, keeping the forest sacrosanct against poachers and lumberjacks as well as any who see her.

In terms of stats the Last Stalker is a CR 4 enemy with the Cunning Action of a Rogue and the hiding among foliage ability as the Wood Elf subrace. She has a rechargeable Trap attack where she moves up to her speed and lays a hidden trap of indefinite duration that can damage and restrain targets who pass through its space. She also has an arsenal of special ammunition in the form of arrows with various abilities, such as a Barbed Arrow that has -2 on attack rolls but deals +1d4 slashing damage, or a Rechargeable Cursed Arrow that never misses and deals 2d8 psychic damage and affects the target as per the Bane spell.

The special arrows can be looted off of her, save for the Cursed Arrows.

Thoughts: The Last Stalker is a cool enemy that is best deployed by a patient DM. She can afford to put distance between herself and the PCs via traps and Cunning Action, and her arrows can keep the party guessing in cause they grow too used to her attacks. Her backstory tying in with the Dusk Elves is also a nice touch, for it reveals that Strahd isn’t ever satisfied with just beating his opponents. He must make them suffer for challenging him at all.

The Pickled Zombie is stored in a barrel of wine in Castle Ravenloft, both to preserve it as well as to give the wine a rather unique taste. Strahd has a twisted sense of sentimentality for this particular zombie, as it’s the corpse of a soldier dating back to a war during a time before Barovia was absorbed into the Demiplane of Dread. Strahd brings out the zombie and wine only for special occasions, and any PCs who destroy this monster will earn the vampire’s special enmity on top of whatever else they did that may earn his ire.

Statwise the Pickled Zombie is a CR 3 undead that has predictable multiattack bite and claws along with being able to fall to 1 hit point rather than 0 if it would otherwise die from non-fire, non-radiant damage sources up to 3 times per day. The Zombie also has legendary actions, including a special AoE miasma that can inflict poison damage and the poisoned condition. The zombie is also intelligent and can speak Common.

Thoughts: The Pickled Zombie is rather underpowered for most PCs venturing into Castle Ravenloft. It is also lacking in ranged attacks, although given the close confines of the dungeon this may not be as big of a hindrance like in larger open spaces. But in terms of backstory it is rather lacking in comparison to the other entries, being more or less an unknown soldier whose history will be made up by the GM if the PCs deign to engage the zombie in conversation.


Scharfrichter is Strahd’s personal executioner. When the Darklord wants someone personally dead but isn’t otherwise a big enough problem to personally take care of (typically people who criticize him in public or break laws he cares about), he sends Scharfrichter out with a signed letter marking the guilty party for death. Scharfrichter’s name and identity is unknown, as he never takes off his hood nor does he speak in conversation. The executioner also carries with him a bag of severed digits and limbs as trophies, which in addition to humans include some more monstrous prizes such as werewolf teeth.

Statwise Scharfrichter is a CR 4 NPC who specializes in melee combat. His signature weapon is a greataxe he can attack twice with as a multiattack, and has advantage on all attack rolls against creatures he attacked during his last turn, as well as a rechargeable special attack that can cripple or even sever a limb on a failed Dexterity save in addition to damage. He also has legendary actions, such as a Foot Sweep that can knock prone and even sever the limbs of a struck target.

Thoughts: Scharfritchter is another one of my favorite minions in this book. He is a kind of minimalist horror, where what people don’t know about him allows others to fill in the blanks, and the warrant of execution being an in-character handout is an amusing and brief way of telling you what he’s all about. Like the Pickled Zombie his lack of ranged attacks and mobility is a weak point, although his ability to sever limbs (along with rules for reattaching and healing them) imposes a risk in fighting Scharfritchter that ensures PCs will take him seriously.

Knorka the Werewurm is a unique pet of Strahd’s, a lunar parasite that was born in an outhouse and is most fond of attacking people who seek to relieve themselves.

The Werewurm is a CR 8 shapechanger that can take on lycanthrope-like alternate forms, which isn’t so much a worm as a vague insectile serpent with a lamprey-like mouth. It is primarily melee-focused, with a bite and constrict attack along with a rechargeable AoE where it spews a cone of bile that deals poison damage and the poisoned condition. Those bit by it also risk contracting lycanthropy.

Thoughts: I’m not feeling the Werewurm; it’s too silly in comparison to the rest of the servants, as well as Curse of Strahd’s darkly serious tone. Even when the module goes for humor there’s still a lingering sense that you’re in a Domain of Dread, like with Blinksy’s macabre toys. And this applies even in contrast to the other entries, such as Jester’s demented sense of humor or Scahfrichter’s warrant.

Overall Thoughts: Strahd’s Dark Servants is a mixed bag for me. There are some NPCs who work for me and have cool potential, others not so much. The servants in question have a variety of roles and backstories, which I like, and only a third of them are exclusively in Castle Ravenloft with the rest being able to plausibly appear elsewhere in Barovia.

My main complaints would be that some of them don’t exactly feel lore-friendly or make sense with how Barovia and Strahd are imagined in the module, such as the Apostate putting a religious spin on enforcing Strahd’s will or the Hound Marshal menacing Vallaki whose current baron is hostile to Strahd. Or how around half don’t have reliable ranged attacks, notably the Glum Coachman, Head Chef, Pickled Zombie, Scharfrichter, and the Werewurm.

But I don’t regret this purchase, and of the minions I liked I like enough to incorporate into the next time I run Curse of Strahd.

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