D&D 5E My Curse of Strahd Homebrew

Libertad

Hero
Ye Be Warned, Spoilers for Curse of Strahd!

It’s common for many people to stack the deck for Tarokka readings, given that some results are less than stellar. For Strahd’s Enemy, the Darklord (King of Spades) is regarded as particularly undesirable given that it prevents the party from gaining the aid of any allied NPC. But what if the Darklord card created an alternate outcome, where the PCs do gain an ally? But not just any ally, but one who is a Darklord from another domain?

But Barovia’s borders have been closed by the Mists for centuries! How does that work out? Well, the Darklord in question doesn’t have to be present physically…

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Clockwork Assassin by WillOBrien on Deviantart

Darklord (King of Spades): “Look for the machine with a far-away visage at the bottom of the greatest lake. The machine’s wielder will pledge to help you fight the Devil.”

Background: the Dilisnya dynasty of Borca are a powerful family who still bears a grudge against the miseries wrought against them by Strahd von Zarovich. Ivan Dilisnya, one of Borca’s current darklords, has made use of various clockwork devices and servants to make up for his aging form. Making use of obscure magics and Vistani scouts, he learned of Barovia’s current climate and found ways to scry the people and places there. The Ba’al Verzi are no longer around, but Ivan knows that the corpse of his ancestor Leo Dilisnya is under guard by Strahd’s servants and seeks to have them recovered.

To that end, Ivan built a nimblewright agent, a construct of peerless speed and swordsmanship to operate in Barovia. Its faceplate has a two-way scrying glass visor on it, not unlike a modern television or computer screen, which Ivan can magically choose to show whatever illusory image he desires on the nimblewright's side. But the construct was heavily damaged during a failed infiltration of Vallaki, and currently lies inoperable at the bottom of Lake Zarovich. The machine can be repaired by 300 gold pieces worth of replacement parts by anyone proficient with Tinker’s Tools and/or an appropriate magical knowledge or background (Fabricate spell, Forge Domain, Artificer class, etc). Gadof Blinsky, Exethanter, Victor Vallakovich, the Abbot, or a similar character can help repair the nimblewright. The Keepers of the Feather or the Vistani may have specialists among their people to help with this as well. Although in the Vistani’s case, they may recognize the nimblewright and not want to risk Strahd’s wrath save for a significant favor such as finding and saving Arabelle.

Retrieving the Nimblewright and Side Quests: The nimblewright was ambushed by the vampire spawn in Vallaki’s coffin shop, who noticed the construct sneaking about town. Not recognizing it as one of Strahd’s minions, they attacked, forcing the nimblewright to retreat. Only partially understanding lore of vampire weaknesses, Ivan commanded the construct to take refuge in Lake Zarovich to evade them, and soon the machine became inoperable due to water damage of its interior parts.

Due to this, repairing the nimblewright can serve as a clue for PCs looking for the bones of St. Andral as Ivan is aware that there are vampires in Vallaki. It is possible through this sidequest that the PCs may mistake the bones of St. Andral for Leo Dilisnya. However, Ivan will quickly spot an irregularity in the bone structure that doesn’t map to what is known about his ancestor.

PCs have opportunities to learn about the nimblewright via several ways: one is if they get on Lady Fiona Wachter’s good side, who through one of her imps learned that a rogue construct was lurking around town and escaped north. The construct also visited Gadof Blinsky in hopes of repairs, attempting to pass off damaged limbs as prosthetics without showing their whole body, and Blinsky has one of the replaced pieces in his possession which can serve as a scrying vector or means of tracking down the nimblewright. PCs can also track the nimblewright’s path to the shores of Lake Zarovich, and learn from one of the people who live nearby (Bluto, the dusk elves, or Vistani) that they saw a cloaked person walk into the lake and never surface and point out the specific stretch of shore. This last part can be particularly pertinent if the PCs mention the Tarokka reading result of machines or other things at the bottom of the lake.

As for physically reaching the nimblewright, the PCs need some means of swimming to the bottom and retrieving it. Curse of Strahd doesn’t specify the lake’s depth. Via quick Googling, the average depth of a lake is 30 feet (around 9 meters) although much larger lakes such as Lake Superior (the largest in the world) can be 483 feet (around 147 meters). The much smaller but still large Lake of the Ozarks has a maximum depth of 130 feet (around 40 meters), so we’ll go with that. Ideally a PC capable of carrying around 250 pounds (nimblewrights are made of wood and metal but of lightweight construction) can hold their breath long enough to dive in and out. Otherwise, the Water Breathing spell can provide a safe egress, although the spell doesn’t show up anywhere in the module either as a potion/scroll or for an NPC to cast. If the PCs don’t have any classes which can cast this or contain races that can breathe underwater, certain NPCs such as Rictavio or Victor Vallakovich may know the spell and be willing to help out in exchange for money, a favor, or the kindness of their heart depending on the NPC in question.

Once the nimblewright is repaired, its scrying visor will light up to reveal a richly-appointed room full of clockwork gears embedded into the walls, with carpets of exotic beasts lining the floor and toys of all kinds scattered haphazardly throughout the room. An emaciated man suspended in a mobile bed with pincer-like legs is busy playing with one of the toys, but his attention is caught by a shrill beep ringing out three times. Quickly piloting the bed over to the visor, he will excitedly ask who found and repaired his “most precious of possessions.” Ivan is well aware that the Dilisnya name is not regarded fondly in Barovia, so he may not be entirely forthcoming with the PCs depending on their answers and possibly the appropriate use of interaction skill checks on both sides. Once he’s certain that they’re no allies of Strahd, Ivan offers to “lend” the nimblewright to their aid.

Ivan Dilisnya’s two major goals in Barovia are to recover the bones of his ancestor Leo Dilisnya and to defeat Strahd. He doesn’t know the locations of the bones save that they’re somewhere in Vallaki, and he correctly suspects the Wachters of knowing their location. If the PCs manage to recover the bones, Ivan will be ecstatic and direct them to a dead drop around Krezk near the Misty Border. Once they do so, a Vistana who has no fondness for Strahd will pick it up and deliver the bones to the Dilisnya estate in Borca. Over the next few days (1d3 or DM’s discretion) Ivan will deliver a rare magic item to the PCs as compensation. Ideally the item should be in line with Ivan’s nature, being clockwork and/or poisonous.

If Not the Fated Ally: Ivan and his nimblewright can still be a plot point in Curse of Strahd, although in this case the Borcan nobleman will be less likely to work with the PCs long-term. Sensing that overthrowing Strahd won’t be so easy, his first and foremost goal is recovering the bones of Leo Dilisnya, and can accompany the PCs in searching around town for this. But Ivan regards them as loose ends and doesn’t want word getting out to Strahd that the descendant of one of his hated foes has retrieved his ancestor’s remains. The “dead drop” in Krezk will have a rare magic item, but also bear false treasures which are a pair of folded-up iron cobras (Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes) that will come to life and attack the PCs.

If the PCs end up tipping off the nimblewright’s nature to Lady Fiona Wachter or one of Strahd’s other allies (or destroy it themselves), the vampire count will at the very least acknowledge they’ve been useful in helping him deal with another one of his foes. Unless the PCs have angered Strahd too much (like if Ireena dies or reunites with Sergei), he will give them a precious diamond worth 1,000 gold pieces as a reward. This can be used as a material component for a raise dead or multiple castings of the greater restoration spell, which can be useful. But on the other hand, it can serve as a useful scrying vector for Strahd.


Roleplay Notes: As the darklord of another domain, Ivan is very much evil-aligned, and an immature manchild to boot. As such, he can be an uncertain ally like the other morally-deficient choices for Strahd’s Enemies. At most, he doesn’t care about civilian casualties, viewing the common folk of Barovia as but potential sources of tax revenue for an eventual conquering at best, or as assets of the hated Von Zaroviches that must be destroyed at worst. For example, if the PCs infiltrate Wachterhaus with him, Ivan will have no qualms using the nimblewright to kill Lady Fiona Wachter, her cultist followers, the imps…and even the civilian staff members in order to retrieve Leo’s bones!

Ivan will also be reluctant in doing quests or helping others out of the kindness of one’s heart, but will relent if it means the PCs abandoning him or the task can be justified as part of a greater means in defeating Strahd. Basically he should be like Morrigan from Dragon Age Origins: of a broken moral compass who frequently disapproves of taking the high path, but tolerates staying in the party due to there being strength in numbers.

As for the nimblewright’s constructed nature, it can pass for a humanoid while wearing clothing, and its scrying visor can be altered to appear like a human face; Ivan is fond of using it to appear like a younger, more handsome version of himself.

Stats: Ivan Dilisnya’s nimblewright uses the statistics as the monster of its type (see Waterdeep: Dragon Heist) but with the following changes:

  • Its mental ability scores use Ivan Dilisnya’s stats: Intelligence 12 (+1), Wisdom 14 (+2), and Charisma 16 (+3). This changes Perception and Passive Perception to +4/14.
  • The nimblewright is proficient in Deception (+5), Insight (+4), Intimidation (+5), Persuasion (+5), and has expertise in Stealth (+8) and the Poisoner’s Kit.
  • Ivan Dilisnya can look through and speak through the nimblewright’s scrying visor. Anything that blocks or affects scrying can interfere with this sensor. In such a case, the nimblewright can act autonomously but loses the mental-based skill and tool proficiencies of its piloting Darklord.
  • Add Clockwork Crossbow to Actions, which can be used in place of a dagger for Multiattack. +6 to hit, range 30/120 ft., one target. Hit: 7 (1d6+4) piercing damage.
  • Bonus Action, Poison Dispenser (3/long rest): The nimblewright coats one of its weapons or its crossbow ammunition in a special poison. For the next minute, all attacks with that weapon deal an additional 2d6 poison damage.
In terms of overall strength, the nimblewright is on the higher end of Fated Allies but is still outclassed by a few characters. It is not as physically resilient as Vasilka or Zuleika Toranescu, nor does it have the usefulness of various magic spells that the Mad Mage, Ezmerelda, and Van Richten have. But the nimblewright has a high Armor Class and a lot of melee attacks which can be further enhanced by its rest-based poison, and can make for a passable scout.

But I Like the Old Ivan! Not all fans of the Domains of Dread are fond of the new canon in Van Richten’s Guide to Ravenloft. For those people, Ivan’s backstory and personality can be altered just a bit. Instead of an aging manchild fearful of isolation, classic Ivan’s curse is being unable to find joy in life’s simple pleasures. The use of a remote-controlled nimblewright merely exacerbates this: like someone playing a video game, there is a detachment from the “real thing.” Ivan will never feel the personal satisfaction of sinking a stake into Strahd’s heart, nor feel the life-and-death adrenaline rush of locking blades with Rahadin or the vampire count’s other servants. Even should the party become famed throughout Barovia, they will get much of the glory, and many will find it hard to believe that a mysterious cloaked construct is a dainty Borcan aristocrat. The more invested he gets in piloting the nimblewright, the more he has to neglect other duties of state; he can leave the construct on “auto-pilot,” but that means taking his eyes off the party. And he certainly isn’t going to delegate its function to a servant, not when the stakes are so high!

5e Ivan has the convenient excuse of a man trapped in a self-created world, but classic Ivan is a man who keeps a pulse on societal trends via extravagant dinners and parties. As the campaign goes on, this can be reflected in Ivan increasingly leaving the nimblewright on autopilot, going silent at inconvenient times only to come back sounding tired, exasperated, and/or distracted. The nimblewright doesn’t sleep, but Ivan does, and the more modern phenomenon of hours-long streaming isn’t a commonly mastered art. Piloting the nimblewright during a tense and fast combat is one thing; imagine trying to remain attentive during hours-long overland travel!

During the first few adventures Ivan comes off as charming and dedicated, eager to use the party to defeat Strahd and taking notes on things as they travel. But as the campaign goes on and his curse kicks in, that motivating spark begins to erode and the party gradually sees the real Ivan.
 
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MGibster

Legend
It’s common for many people to stack the deck for Tarokka readings, given that some results are less than stellar. For Strahd’s Enemy, the Darklord (King of Spades) is regarded as particularly undesirable given that it prevents the party from gaining the aid of any allied NPC.
I've run it twice, and both times I stacked the deck by determining the results of Madam Eva's drawings ahead of time. The drawings worked great in the original module because it was relatively short compared to the campaign length CoS became.

I think the Darklord ally is interesting. I'd consider using it.
 

Libertad

Hero
Thank you, MGibster! Glad to hear you like it.

And today I wrote a little bit for gaming groups who prefer the more classic Ravenloft setting and how its Ivan's personality and motivation differs in the nimblewright quest. Overall I feel pretty done in regards to this homebrew, and I think it serves as a worthy Fated Ally as it stands.
 

Libertad

Hero
Altering Rudolph Van Richten's Backstory

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Art by Miles-Johnson of Deviantart.

Ravenloft has had a rather troubled relationship in its portrayal of the Vistani, who explicitly borrow elements of real-world Roma people. Van Richten's backstory and motivating factor in becoming a monster hunter unfortunately repeats the common antiziganist talking points of Roma being kidnappers of children.

The 2020 revision of Curse of Strahd sought to rectify this by making Ezmerelda's family a group of criminals who were pretending to be Vistani to throw people off their trail. But this opened up some plot holes between it and Van Richten's Guide to Ravenloft, and also had the unfortunate effect of making an iconic Fantasy Counterpart Romani character of the setting who departs from common stereotypes (fortune-tellers and seers in Madam Eva and Arabelle's case, criminal thieves and killers in Luvash and Arrigal's case) not actually Romani-adjacent.

I had some partial inspiration from Gall of the Spider Crone, a Kobold Press adventure that had some similar themes (spider-themed monsters and parasites menacing a fantasy Roma people) although even that adventure had some problematic portrayals. I was once considering adopting it as a "flashback adventure" for an eventual Curse of Strahd campaign, but made further alterations to the point that only those aforementioned spider-like elements are really present, and at this point in my work is just pure backstory. In this revision I'm still keeping Van Richten's Vistani relations as a motivating factor in becoming a monster hunter, but shift the inciting antagonists to be purely monstrous while also tying Ezmerelda's backstory more directly to Van Richten.

Background:
Rudolph Van Richten was once a humble doctor in Mordent. His son, Erasmus Van Richten, was a bombardier in the army, a veteran of their nation’s invasion by Falkovnian fascists. The Van Richtens regularly purchased goods from the Vatraskas, a traveling Vistani clan, who passed through their town seasonally and helped restock his clinic with needed supplies. One day, the Vistani came with an urgent request: several of their people fell victim to parasites of the Spider Empress, a dread monster of the nearby woods. Those so inflicted were doomed to incubate growing spiders within their body who would one day burst out and devour everything within sight. Entire villages have been slain by such fates, and even killing the host would only accelerate their doom.

The only cure was that of a venom gland from the mother, that of the Spider Empress herself. Knowing that the entire clan was at risk, Van Richten sought to do the unthinkable and embark into the forest to kill the monster and harvest its glands. His son as well as one of the Vistani’s finest mages accompanied him, and deep in the woodland they found a tiny village who had long suffered under the Spider Empress’ depredations. The monster regularly demanded sacrifice, and simply hiding in their homes was no relief, for the Spider Empress’ great legs could pierce through the roofs, picking up people like food on a fork to carry off and eat.

It seemed unthinkable that mere humans, only one of whom was a trained soldier, could fight this creature. But Rudolph Van Richten was nothing if not canny, a trait that would serve him well in his future career as monster hunter. That night when the Empress came for her sacrifice, the Van Richtens and the Vatraska mage laid several traps in the village: houses that the locals could afford to lose were filled with pitch and gunpowder so that when it stabbed a leg in it would catch fire. And when the monster sought to roll over to put out the flames, part of its body would get stuck in a pit full of spikes, exposing its soft underbelly. Rudolph and Erasmus would fire down on it from concealed positions in the trees as the village druid bid the beasts of the woods to pick at its limbs and eyes. It was a brilliant plan, but the Spider Empress didn’t die without taking many with it; it recovered, rampaging through the village, grievously wounding Erasmus and the Vistani mage in the process. As Rudolph came to tend to Erasmus’ wounds, he found him beyond saving. Tear-stricken, Erasmus bid him to get the gland and return, so that their efforts would not be in vain.

As Rudolph came to the Spider Empress’ dying form to cut the glands out, she coughed and sputtered in her final words, laughing as she laid a curse down on the doctor:

“Live you always among monsters, and see everyone you love die beneath their claws.”

“You took my son, beast,” Rudolph said back to her. “I have nothing left, but I will not let others suffer for your evils.”

The Spider Empress laughed in pain as her body was cut open. “Guard your heart all you want, you can’t deny your feelings. There is always someone to love, always someone to take…”

Back at camp, one of the Vatraskas grew desperate, fearing that they would all die under a sea of spiders. Taking a knife, the man sought to fix the problem himself by digging the spiders out of his own body. When Rudolph Van Richten returned, he found the Vatraska clan dead, their corpses lying among an uncountable mass of monstrous spiders eating their flesh. The only survivor was a little girl, Ezmerelda. Vowing to save who he could, Rudolph Van Richten adopted her, setting fire to the camp and reducing the spiders and Ezmerelda’s past to ashes.

Fearing the curse and wracked with survivor’s guilt, Van Richten sought to find the Zarovans, another group of Vistani, to adopt Ezmerelda. They agreed in principle, but feared the curse that lay upon the man and thought him to be responsible for the death of Ezmerelda’s clan. When some among their number sought to avenge the Vatraskas by capturing him for an intended execution, Ezmerelda defended Van Richten by speaking of his deeds. Madam Eva saw the truth of her words, and bid her and her adoptive father their leave.

“The man already lost everything, there was nothing left to take,” Eva said. “Let them both be; I sense the two will strengthen each other in the coming years.”

And so Rudolph Van Richten dedicated his life to studying monsters so as to better protect the people of the world against them. He would also teach Ezmerelda what he knew, if only to ensure her safety in dangerous lands, but even then he still treated her like a child to be kept out of danger. Fearing that the curse would take her, too, he abandoned her, telling him not to look for him and he regretted ever taking her under his wing and teaching her what he knew. The triggering incident was her losing a leg at the hands of Scharfrichter, Strahd’s chief executioner,* during a disastrous expedition into Barovia. After retreating to safer lands, Van Richten decided that his business in the Von Zarovich’s kingdom would be best done alone.

As for Ezmerelda, she carries the Vatraska surname. Although she will never truly learn of their ways should she have fully grown up among them, bearing that name ensures their legacy lives on and is not forgotten.

*An NPC from Strahd's Dark Servants, a third party product on the Dungeon Master's Guild.

Ezmerelda.jpg


Artwork by SereneElysium of Reddit.

How to use this in Curse of Strahd: Several changes to Van Richten’s behavior and personal journal will need to be changed. Notably his goals in Vallaki and the purpose of his saber-toothed tiger.

Van Richten and Ezmerelda’s relationship can be foreshadowed by Alenka, Mirabel, and Sorvia, the three Vistani in the Blood of the Vine tavern. They can tell the PCs that their people have a deal of sorts with Strahd that allows them free travel through the domain. But this deal is two ways, for Vistani who act against him are treated as any other foe. Sorvia will bring up what happened to Ezmerelda when she lost her leg, insisting that she was acting on her own initiative. "Only the truly mad would dare challenge Strahd in such an open way.”* If asked about Ezmerelda's clan and/or background, Alenka will say that “they're not around anymore, she's the last one” and to discuss something else given that it's "an unhappy topic."

*They consider Baron Vallakovich of Vallaki to be equally mad.

As for Van Richten in his Rictavio disguise, his mission still remains the same, albeit he has expanded his investigation to the Wachter family. The monster hunter is vaguely aware that undead may be afoot in town due to the bones of St. Andral going missing. He is thus training the saber-toothed tiger to hunt undead, particularly vampires and vampire spawn, using chopped-off pieces of necrotic flesh he keeps preserved in his wagon for such training.

To better avoid the infamous coffin shop TPK, the six vampire spawn may scatter to wreak havoc in Vallaki if the PCs come upon them, splitting off into three pairs. One pair will stay to fight the PCs, one will escape with the bones of St. Andral, and one will go on to wreak havoc in Vallaki. If Van Richten hasn’t left town by then, he and his tiger will kill two of the vampires. Otherwise the Martikovs will have taken care of them in wereraven form. It is suggested that they go after the ones that don’t have the bones, or at the very least join the party mid-fight when the PCs are attacking that pair. This is so as not to rob them of the victory of retrieving the bones themselves. I borrowed the "spawn splitting up to take the bones" idea from the Barovia Gazetteer, to give credit where it's due.

Alternatively, Van Richten and/or the wereravens can help aid the PCs during St. Andral’s Feast before mysteriously retreating. This is to help show that the other accomplished “good guy” NPCs in the adventure aren’t uselessly waiting around, but can be reliable and active characters in the domain.

The pasts of Van Richten and Ezmerelda are quite traumatic, and both would be loathe to share it casually with the PCs unless they take means to earn their trust. Finding the contents of the journey or reuniting the two can let the PCs hear the full story directly from them.

The Journal of Rudolph Van Richten will have to be changed to reflect his new backstory:

For around two decades now, I have undertaken to investigate and expose creatures of darkness to the purifying light of truth and knowledge. “Hero” I am named in some circles; “sage” and “master hunter” I am called in others. That I have survived countless supernatural assaults is seen as a marvel among my peers; my name is spoken with fear and loathing among my foes.

In truth, this “virtuous” calling began in the fires of failure, and it has become for me a tedious and bleak career. Even as my life of hunting monsters began, I felt the weight of time on my weary shoulders. Today I am a man who has simply lived too long. Like a regretful lich, I find myself inexorably bound to an existence I sought out of madness and, seemingly, must now endure for all eternity. Of course I shall die, but whether I shall ever rest in my grave haunts my idle thoughts, and torments me in my dreams.

I expect that those who think me a hero will have their opinions unchanged. Or think of me as selfish, that if I could go back in time I would have never embarked on this dreaded path. Mistake me not! I do not merely feel sorry for myself. Rather, I come to grips with a devastating realization: nevertheless, I must reveal, here and now, that through my own actions I may very well have spelled the true doom of Clan Vatraska. More tragically, my very own attempts to have thwarted the disaster have merely hastened it along!

I have related the story of how my only child Erasmus perished before my very eyes at the hands of the Spider Empress. I explained how her spawn threatened to overwhelm the Vatraska Vistani, and how I was only able to save a single girl. A girl who, in my own paternal desire to protect and as responsibility for my failure, I had raised and taught her the many dangers of the world so that she would be strong against the horrors of the night.

When I penned my Guide to Vampires, she had read the first copy so much that the spine became worn and frayed. When one of the village children at a house she was sleeping over sobbed about finding a monster in his closet, she charged into his room with a silverware knife in hand. Ezmerelda is a smart and courageous woman, and perhaps it was inevitable that she’d follow a similar path after losing her people to monsters. I’d like to think that I helped provide a solid foundation, but she’s still too brash and reckless, not weighted with the patience of years. I always had a fear that the next hunt would be her last, but it was easy enough to suppress. After that disastrous expedition into Barovia, I see her prosthetic leg as a lasting reminder of those words the Spider Empress had spoken all those years ago. A reminder I have now come to realize is a curse:

“Live you always among monsters, and see everyone you love die beneath their claws.”

It is too late to dissuade Ezmerelda from this; the last time I tried harsh words were exchanged, and I left on my own expedition to Barovia. Maybe it is for the best; if the final memories she has of me are bitter, the curse can be averted and my daughter’s life be spared.
 
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Libertad

Hero
Putting the Domains of Dread into Eberron's Cosmology
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Image from Exploring Eberron

Eberron has a rather peculiar interpretation of the Ravenloft setting and how I’m using it as part of my own Curse of Strahd campaign. So I figured to bring it up here. For sources I’m using Keith Baker’s own blog posts plus the Dread Metrol and Exploring Eberron sourcebooks, both of which can be purchased on the DM’s Guild. I should note that this isn't WotC canon, but rather Eberron's creator theorizing (and dropping some subtle hints) how he'd do things with the two settings.

Blog Post about Mabar
Dread Metrol Product
Exploring Eberron Product

By default, the Domains of Dread are located in the Shadowfell, pulling regions from various worlds to serve as planar prisons for the Darklords. Which works fine for the rather setting-generic concept of most campaigns, but there are elements in Keith Baker’s Eberron that put Ravenloft more solidly in his setting’s cosmology.

Mabar, the Endless Night, is one of the 13 planes of existence, strongly associated with shadows, death itself, and negative energy. It is an entropic realm, pulling fragments of other planes into its form to drain of light, life, and hope before they dissolve into oblivion. Most of Mabar is a hyper-deadly negative energy vacuum, but these fragments are capable of holding life; these “safe zones” of Mabar are known as Hinterlands. Mortals who die here reincarnate as shadows or other undead, becoming bound to their fragments so that even should they leave and die elsewhere they’re reborn in Mabar.

Irian, the Eternal Dawn, is the planar opposite, a world of life and light that seeds new environments and dimensions which eventually “drift” into other planes. Going back to Mabar, its denizens include your typical undead, fiends and yugoloths in particular, but also the Dark Powers, the mightiest beings in Mabar which embody particular aspects of that plane and rule their own domains of linked layers. They are unto gods in their particular areas, but have a limited ability to act beyond these layers and Mabar itself.

In the introduction of Dread Metrol, one of the Dark Powers of Mabar is the Empress of Shadows, mentioning how they don’t want to strip all hope from mortals but want to let them have just enough to make their misery all the sweeter. There’s also a sidebar about how Ravenloft can be incorporated into Eberron’s cosmology. The first is the typical “Demiplane of Dread touching various planes across the multiverse,” but another that posits the Domains of Dread being part of Mabar, and that the domains are fragments of other planes kept in the Hinterlands, where the Dark Powers take pleasure in the slow deaths of fragments, but otherwise the other aspects (such as darklords having unwinnable struggles in spite of their power) are more or less the same.

But how does this tie to Khyber and the Cults of the Dragon Below? Well, Exploring Eberron mentions that the worshipers of the Dragon Below have varying beliefs and may not even be aware of who they’re actually worshiping, a common aspect of Eberron’s Underdark equivalent is that it’s full of demiplanes, some of them serving as prisons for greater horrors. Many cultists often seek pilgrimages to these demiplanes in hopes of finding a paradise hidden from all but the most faithful.

Now, as Mabar is a “lower plane” in Eberron’s cosmology and thus tied to Khyber, my fanon idea is that Cultists of the Dragon Below who are aware of Ravenloft may view it as such a paradise. Perhaps they even assume the Dark Powers (rightly or wrongly) as being high-ranking servants of the Dragon Below, if not worshiped as gods in and of themselves. They could get involved with Darklords in two ways: as enemies, continually thwarting their desires in order to keep the domain “trapped” in the Endless Night so the Dark Powers can feed off its fragments, or serving them, viewing them as local godlings of the domains and living representations of an ideal salvation. Basically viewing the darklords’ powers as worth the cost for their respective curses, if they even know the specifics of their torments.

This makes the Cults a rather diverse faction of being minions of a Darklord or even opposing them, although being delusional at best and malevolent at worst means that they’re a “lesser of two evils” for PCs who decide to work with them.

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Sewer Monster by Eryk Szczygiel

But how can we tie this into Curse of Strahd? Glad that you asked! One particular Cult devoted to Sul Khatesh, the Keeper of Secrets, managed to find a way into the Mists in the nation of Aundair. Led by Arcanix graduate and warlock Alexandre Dufresne, they negotiated passage with Strahd due to them having dragonshard crystals as a valuable magical resource. Even if he didn’t share their religious views, Strahd was fine with entertaining their delusions about Barovia being a hidden paradise of Khyber if it meant getting more of those magical crystals. However, the Cult is aware of Barovia’s ties to Mabar, and over time they learned about Strahd’s particular torment in pursuing Tatyana’s incarnations. Even if it’s unlikely that Barovia shall be freed, a one in a million chance is still a chance given enough time. So the Cult figured it best to keep her out of his hands, even potentially outright killing her, so that the Dark Powers can dissolve more of the planar fragment over time.

Strahd eventually learned of this plot, and thus the Cult became his enemies. When Dufresne crossed the Mists into Eberron, Strahd used that opportunity to attack them, scattering the survivors to be hunted down like animals across Barovia. Hearing the calls of the Vestiges in the Amber Temple, the surviving Dragon Below cultists holed up there.

Complicating matters is the fact that this Cult of Sul Khatesh has gained much of their funding through secret deals with the Church of the Silver Flame. Desiring Khyber dragonshards but not wanting to risk their own devout warriors, some priests opted to hire cultists to do expeditions in Khyber. The rationale is that by having wicked fiend-worshipers brave the monster-filled depths, there won’t be anyone to miss. If the expedition fails the cultists die, if they succeed the church gets more dragonshards. The expeditions were successful, and through this the Cult of Sul Khaesth conducted planar research of various hidden demiplanes, coming upon the Land of Mists. Eventually the Cult grew big enough to start causing trouble, using Barovia as a sort of hidden base from which they could raid local Aundairan towns. The Church of the Silver Flame sent a strike team known as Brushfire to deal with them: led by Mazareth Jholareth, this aged elf was chosen once due to manipulations and double-dealings. As one of the higher-ranking members growing aware of the Church’s misdeeds, it is hoped that he would die in battle against the Cult, or if victorious be used to send a message to the Cult of who is holding the purse strings.

Jholareth’s party ended up in Barovia, but quickly fell prey to its many horrors. He and a few survivors fortified a cave up in the Balinok Mountains, seeking to replenish their numbers with local Barovians. Recruiting from lepers, orphans, the terminally ill, and other such unfortunates with nothing to lose, Jholareth taught them enough to be a step above the average peasant. This new Brushfire is cut off from the Church in a low-magic world, the bulk of its members being nomadic patrols with minimal training whose primary means of dealing with monsters and curses is to burn it all down. Farmsteads whose occupants have become zombies, haunted houses, and other such places are put to the torch so that their danger can (theoretically) be mitigated. Most members don’t have spellcasting potential, but have been instructed in useful knowledge about dealing with monsters and dark magic. Only a few of them know the organization’s origin beyond vague talk of “outlander adventurers,” as Strahd’s many spies encourage Jholareth to rely upon secrecy and tests of character for inducting members up the ranks.

In prior times, priests of the Morninglord or knights would take care of Brushfire’s tasks, but now they serve as the next best thing. They have a mixed reputation in Barovia; on the one hand, viewed as a necessary service. On the other hand, it is a fate nobody voluntarily wishes for, and the sicknesses and outcast nature of many of their members often bar them from mainstream society.

Brushfire members with terminal conditions often drink a powerful stimulant to enhance their physical capabilities in order to overcome their pain and weakness. The herbal drug has the side effect of causing rapid muscular dystrophy, which has given rise to the term "going out in a blaze of glory" among the group.

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Izek Strazni fanart on Me And My Best Friend The Void blog

For a potential hook into Barovia, the PCs may be in a town where recent murders bear signs of Cult influence. The responsible party is Alexandre Dufresne, who was allowed passage back to Eberron by Strahd upon learning through a Vistani traveler that a hated enemy of the Cult was in town. Alexandre eagerly sought to “take care of some personal business,” but Strahd had ulterior motives for letting him through. Realizing the Cult’s treachery in their plans to keep Ireena from him, he wanted their most powerful leader elsewhere while he took revenge upon them. He plans to let Dufresne back into Barovia, where he hopes to administer a most personal torment for him. It is through Dufresne that the PCs will enter the Mists in pursuit, with neither side knowing that they are equally doomed in Strahd’s eyes.

Thus the Cult of the Dragon Below is a potential major hook for bringing Eberronian PCs into Barovia, but they are a secondary antagonist. By the time the PCs come into Barovia, their forces have been decimated, but evidence of their links (and eventual falling out) with Strahd can still serve as a recurring hook and eventual revelation about Barovia’s true nature. And all the more reason to save not just Ireena, but also the entire domain from this endless cycle of gradual planar death.

For specific NPCs, we can make a few alterations. The Martikovs of the Keepers of the Feather know about both the Cult of Sul Khatesh and Brushfire, mostly that they are outlander organizations who are mutually hostile to each other. The former being religious tradesmen who aroused Strahd’s ire, and the latter being would-be exorcists and monster hunters who are in over their heads. PCs who help out the Martikovs can learn more information in line with a progression of rewards, such as saving the winery and recovering the wine gems.

Ezmerelda may temporarily ally with Brushfire, and may be accompanied by one of their patrols (1d4+1 members) during the party’s encounters with her. But much like the peasant rebels in Castle Ravenloft, they are very weak, most likely using either the Commoner or Guard stat blocks but a third of their number carrying flasks of alchemist’s fire or holy water. They have rudimentary instruction in the supernatural, giving them proficiency in the Arcana and Religion skills (+2).

Izek Strazni of Vallaki is a bit of a loose end in the default adventure. There’s no mention of how he got that creepy arm, and his status as Ireena’s sister is vague enough that it won’t pop up in most campaigns. Well, there are living appendages known as symbionts used by the Cults of the Dragon Below, including a Crawling Gauntlet that provides its host with a claw-like hand. And the ruler of Vallaki seeks to openly defy Strahd. Let’s put two and two together…

When Strahd razed the Cult, their members scattered across Barovia. Those who couldn’t make it to the Amber Temple went into hiding in Vallaki. Izek Strazni ingratiated himself to Baron Vargas Vallakovich, winning him over with some dragonshards and magic items that are common in Eberron but unique in Barovia.* Izek and several Cultists joined Vallaki’s militia, and while they keep their religion under wraps Vargas figures not to pry too much. They’re allies against the Devil with valuable items and skills, after all!

*And if the Fortunes of Ravenloft place one of the treasures in the Baron’s house, it was Izek who found it and gifted it to him.

In this case, Izek’s obsession with Ireena changes. His bedroom full of dolls is replaced with different kinds of incriminating evidence: a handful of Khyber dragonshards in the wooden chest, secret rolled up letters in the empty wine bottles with details on Ireena’s living quarters in the Village of Barovia, her physical appearance and regular routes about town and hobbies, a brief writing from Alexandre Dufresne that she “is the key to Barovia; we must keep her out of the Darklord’s hands at all costs,” and notes about the PCs and their capabilities if he and the Cult managed to gather any reliable information about them. The Ireena doll will still remain in Blinsky’s possession, it being a personal commission by Strazni who is relying upon a toymaker instead of a painter to get an accurate image of her.

As for Lady Wachter, she is vaguely aware that Izek is not from Barovia and his monstrous arm is evidence of the supernatural. She also knows that several of his fellow outlanders are members of the town guard. Lady Wachter doesn’t know about Eberron or who they worship, only that they are “troublemakers from elsewhere the Baron has taken under his wing.”

The Abbot is aware of Barovia’s presence in Mabar and the fate that awaits such domains at the hands of the Dark Powers. Thus, he views his desire to provide Strahd a bride as the utmost goal to save Barovia from cosmic oblivion.

As for the Amber Temple, the humanoid inhabitants can be reflavored into Cultists of the Dragon Below. The noncasting berserkers thus become the lower-ranking “muscle,” their attacks and armor reflavored as aberrant symbionts grafted onto their bodies. Exethanter the lich can either be a senior member of the Cult who set up magical defenses to keep them out of Strahd’s perception (only to be weakened and suffer amnesia in the process), or the transformed state of Alexandre Dufresne after making a deal with one of the vestiges. The nothics and death slaad are transformed cultists.

The Vestiges in the amber sarcophagi called the surviving cultists forth, sensing their wickedness and desperation. Several cultists already made deals with them, which may add their unique boons as per DM’s discretion. In fact, it is possible that the vestiges may be the essences of a trapped daelkyr or overfiend, depending on what feels most appropriate for the DM’s campaign.
 

Libertad

Hero
Curse of Strahd in the Beast World

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Source: Mourning Robin by DesuBox

The Land of Mists is a drifting island in the Multiverse, the cast-off remains of other planes washing up on its shores. In the most common interpretation it is a demiplane, or a group of demiplanes in the Ethereal Plane or Shadowfell, where the Dark Powers carve out chunks of other worlds and create worlds anew to torment their Darklord captors.

But what if the Domains of Dread were part of a different cosmology? The cosmology of the Beast World?

Cosmic Foundations: The campaign setting of the Beast World is made up of various planes of existence known as worlds floating among the seemingly endless Astral Sea. There are different types of worlds which share similar properties, but the Domains of Dread are a cluster of solved worlds drawn together by some malevolent cosmic force. A solved world is in danger of stagnation, abandoned by deities and unable to fundamentally transform. In the case of Barovia, it is stuck in a cyclical doom, repeating the tragedy of Strahd’s surrender to darkness in his pursuit of Tatyana. While life still persists, most people are either reincarnations rebuilt by foul magic or soulless entities. Without the presence of Divinity, the gaps are filled in by magic hewn from the Fanes of Barovia, acting as a magical net that keeps the existing souls in a trapped state of reanimation.

Barovian History: The Von Zarovich family was an old noble line within the Kingdom of Allemance, their ancestral lands sitting within the foothills of the Mantle amid the great forests of Glasrún. During the tyranny of the Howling King, their knights were among the first to invade the lands of Oria. The Allemagnian takeover of this land was a doomed endeavor, yet Strahd Von Zarovich managed to hold onto a valley for some time, naming it Barovia and building Castle Ravenloft as testament to his legacy.

But over time, as the decades wore on the support for the occupation of Oria dwindled, with more Allemagnians questioning the purpose of their fighting. When peace was declared between the two lands it seemed as though the world had no need for Strahd the Conqueror. Seeing Tatyana, the woman he was smitten with, going into the arms of his younger brother Sergei, reminded Strahd of his aging nature. When his mother died, he grew fearful that the world would move on without him. He would not let himself be forgotten; turning to the one deity who would listen, he pledged himself to Veronette and learned the ways of necromancy. And later on, he joined a society of vampires to avert the death of ages.

The Wedding at Castle Ravenloft was supposed to be a joyous occasion. The Kingdom of Allemance pledged to return seized territory to Oria, and Sergei was proving to be a forward-thinking peacemaker in the negotiations. Castle Ravenloft would still stand, but the lands it sat on would be Oric, the Count an ambassador rather than a baron. Strahd would not let all he worked for slip through his fingers! He murdered his brother in a mad attempt to win the favor of Tatyana, and with Veronette’s aid the land upon which Castle Ravenloft sat was torn asunder from the Beast World to be his and only his to rule. But it was all for naught: Tatyana died, as would many of her future incarnations, and now Veronette would claim it without the competition of the other divinities. But Strahd knew that the goddess wasn’t to be trusted despite making a deal with her, so using the power of the Fanes he called up the Mists to shield even Barovia from her, turning it into a Solved World trapped in an endless cycle of doom.

Veronette is angered that a mortal managed to outwit her, and she hungers to break through the Mists and lay claim to Barovia as her own. Her presence can be felt in the Amber Temple, where through mad devotees and rites she finds ways to torment the land and its inhabitants. Be it sending her agents to violently take Tatyana out of Strahd’s grasp time and time again, or offering desperate Barovians a way out of the cosmic cycle, she has many ways of making her presence felt.

As for Strahd, his primary obsession is to somehow win back Tatyana's love. But his own arrogance and refusal to admit wrongdoing, combined with the demonic spirit urging him towards violence, hinders whatever attempts at grace he does. No matter how jovially friendly nor polite and regal he may act, buried within is a simmering cauldron of rage. Rage at Tatyana's continued refusal, rage at his domain being a shadow of its former glory, rage at what he gave up for in the pursuit of undeath.

Barovia Today: The valley has vestiges of the Beast World, and while its history texts speak of that land’s inhabitants they’ve been separated long enough that the world beyond their mist-shrouded land may as well be a distant tale. They know nothing of the recent Invader Wars, and in terms of Delving culture it is nonexistent save for the lone bunch of travelers whose wagon gets lost within the Mists. Such souls are rare enough that the domain’s Darklord and the valley’s other power-players take interest in using them for their games and machinations.

Barovia is a mixture of Allemagnian and Oric culture. Like Allemance, most people live in farming villages near the major towns, the Von Zarovich family tree mentions long-forgotten nobles of the Lupine Throne, and most coinage is stamped with faces of kings and queens from the Tibelle dynasty. But the settlements at the rural level have closer Oric influence, be it the decentralized nature of governance, lodge houses that serve as communal “town centers,” and the sacred nature of summerstones which take on a new prominence in an undead-rich land.

Species: In terms of species, Barovia is sparsely-populated but quite cosmopolitan due to its history. Bovines and cervines are a common sight among the Barovian farmlands and mountain villages, while canines (particularly lupines) are prominent in the family trees of several noble families such as the Vallakoviches. A small community of celerine known as the Dusk Hares live outside the walls of Vallaki, and ovine are the most common inhabitants of the village of Krezk. Other species of the Beast World can be found here to one degree or another.

Humans, kobolds, and dragons are by far the rarest species in Barovia, with the former two not having inhabited the land during the Howling King’s invasion. When such beings are found, they have come from lands beyond the Mists. Interestingly, there’s a family of bats living in Barovia known as the Martikovs, and unlike the ones in the Beast World it seems that they have been here for a while. They are rather cagey about their origins, and tend to avoid doing anything that can be seen as (openly) antagonizing Strahd von Zarovich. A group of silver dragon knights fought against the Howling King but lost due to Strahd’s superior forces, and a draconic PC may be one of the survivors or descendants. As for Jackals, they may or may not exist deep in the Svalich Woods, a hidden community shrouded by illusion.

Religion: Pirhoua the Beast Mother used to be the most popular deity in Barovia, like she is in most of the Beast World. But centuries of planar isolation, combined with a deep stirring for the lost sun ever since the Mists rose, saw a surge in popularity in Aubade the Sun Bull as the most commonly-worshiped deity. As his faith is already prone to divergent localized traditions, Aubade’s faithful in Barovia encourage their followers to live in order to be remembered. The despair and sapping of hope is seen as a test, and many a traveler or monster hunter sought to call upon Sunblood so that they may go down in a blaze of glory and send a message to monsters that think them easy prey. The most famous of Aubade’s worshipers have been canonized as Saints, their corpses laid deep within summerstone deposits so that their holiness permeates the surrounding land. It is through such rites that the Bones of Saint Andral in Vallaki protect the church with a hallowed aura.

Veronette is well-known yet despised, viewed as the source of all undead in the valley. And yet, desperate and power-hungry souls still seek her aid, particularly those who become aware of Strahd’s betrayal to her and mistakenly take her to be an ally against the Darklord. She can be heard most clearly in the Amber Temple, whose trapped vestiges are but former liches she discarded like unwanted playthings when they had no more use.

The Vistani: The Vistani are a nomadic ethnic group of various species trapped within the Domains of Dread who found ways of traversing the Mists. Contrary to what some may think, they have no relation to the delver culture of the Beast World, although the recent arrivals of the latter have been met with open arms in both sides talking shop on ways to improve their mobile homes in a dangerous land. Varasta, the Handsome Idiot Dice Fox, has recently begun walking among them in disguise as a tradewind vulpine, and takes a keen interest in the PCs. Barovia’s cyclical nature has become rather dull to him, so he wants to shake things up with a friendly game of Tarokka…

Changes to the Module

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Source: Mists In the Ruins by Jan Rozanski

NPC Fursonas: Perhaps the largest and most wide-ranging change is turning Barovia’s rather humanocentric NPC cast into various anthropomorphic species. With the abundance of furry art, NPCs can be whatever feels the most appropriate with the right replacement of illustrations. However, some suggestions are listed below:

Strahd and the rest of the Von Zarovich family are wolves, in reflection of that species making up the nobility of Allemance.

Madam Eva is Varasta in disguise as an elderly tradewind vulpine.

Ireena should be of a species of animal associated with typical “heroic” qualities of valor, bravery, and the like. Canines would be the most appropriate. A DM who wants to play up the “hunter and hunted” nature of her relationship with Strahd can make her a prey animal, such as a cervine (elk), celurine (rabbit), murine (mouse), or even feline as a contrast to Strahd’s wolven nature. A tradewind vulpine colored red can be a nice callback to Ireena being a redhead (who are considered bad luck in Barovia). Alternatively, she can be of whatever anthropomorphic species people in the gaming group might consider attractive, if one wishes to have her as a romance option for a PC.

The Durst children of Death House should be species that are considered small and nonthreatening. Celerine (rabbits) are an ideal choice, as are murine (rodents).

Father Donavich has a bit of a molelike appearance in his official character art, and his son becoming a vampire spawn (fiend-vessel in the Beast World) lurking in the basement is ironically appropriate.

The Martikovs are bats, and their shapechanging nature comes from druidic traditions rather than lycanthropy. Anthropomorphic bird species don’t exist in the Beast World by default, but in terms of winged creatures bats are appropriately gothic.

Rudolf Van Richten is a cervine disguised as a feline.

Baron Vargas Vallakovich is a dog that is basically an anthropomorphic version of his two pet mastiffs. Lydia Petrovna is also a dog: a hyena, reflecting her laughing at her husband’s every comment. Their gloomy son Victor takes more after his mother’s side for extra irony.

Izek Strazni should be a bovine, ursine, or similar species known for having a large and imposing frame. He could even be a dragon, where his demonic arm that throws fire is actually his breath weapon!

The Wachter family are all felines. Stella Wachter is afflicted by a curse that is causing her to lose her willful nature, becoming more like the base animal from which the Beast Mother uplifted her kind.

Gadof Blinsky is a laetine ferret, given that said species counts many renowned inventors among their kind in the Beast World.

Kasimir Velikov and the Dusk Elves are instead the Dusk Hares, a clan of Oric celerine who fought against Strahd’s forces during the Howling King’s campaigns. Their numbers have been all but wiped out, reduced to a few struggling families living in a burrow outside Vallaki.

The burgomaster of Krezk, Dimitri Krezkov, and his wife Anna are both ovines. The mongrelfolk in the Abbey are instead regular species of the Beast World who have been warped by the Abbot’s foul magics. Otto Belview is an equine donkey, while Zygfrek Belview is a canine wolf.

The Abbot is functionally ovine, but takes the form of a more fierce-looking ram.

Vasilka the flesh golem looks to be whatever species the DM chose for Ireena.

Ezmerelda d’Avenir should be a species noted for their craftiness and alert senses. Feline or vulpine are appropriate choices.

The hags of Old Bonegrinder take the forms of elderly sloths to appear non-threatening.

Baba Lysaga is an ancient ursine whose body is as mighty as her mind.

The ghosts of the Knights of the Silver Dragon are quite literally, the ghosts of dragons. In this case they’d be renamed the Silver Dragon Knights.

Beyond just swapping out Barovia’s humanocentric NPC cast for anthros, some special considerations need to be taken in line with matching up to the lore of the Beast World.

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Source: Werewolf by Antonio J. Manzanedo

Lycanthropy is a more recent invention, a tool of biological warfare by the Ferals creating a disease that afflicts only humans in a twisted attempt to make society view them as monsters. In Curse of Strahd, lycanthropes serve two distinct uses: the werewolves are willing servants of Strahd who kidnap children to spread their infection, and the wereravens are part of an underground resistance movement.

Werewolves are an important aspect of gothic horror as well as a popular monster among furries, so it feels a waste to just do away with them. In the Beast World, the Ferals are an anti-human hate group who refuse to forgive Brethren as a whole after the Invader War. Finding their organization vilified in many lands, one of their cells conducted research into extraplanar travel both to better stage attacks from a fortified position and also to hunt down the imagined “hidden human bastions” in the Broken World. One such expedition landed them in Barovia, and while Brethren were largely unknown here the Ferals found it an ideal world to be free of humanity’s taint. They entreatied Strahd for an alliance, which the vampire accepted after hearing horror stories of the Invader War and believing that their forces still pose a major threat back in the Beast World.

In this change, the werewolves are kidnapped and infected by Brethren enchanted by Ferals. Like their original plan, they seek to use the werewolves as a tool of terror in order to instill hate in the hearts of Barovia’s inhabitants against humanity. In this case, Kiril Stoyanovich and Emil Toranescu are not werewolves, but Feral canine wolf scientists. Their factional split in this case is one of clashing egos rather than the survival of the pack: Kiril has grown content serving Strahd and has no desire to return to the Beast World, while Emil is still an ideological zealot who feels that Strahd’s single-minded pursuit of Tatyana/Ireena is a detriment to the cause. Thus, Emil seeks to murder Kiril and assert control over the Ferals in Barovia. Should Emil be the Ally from the Tarokka result, she hopes to defeat Strahd in order for the Ferals to escape the Mists.

As for the wereravens, one idea is to remake the Martikovs into bats. The Keepers of the Feather can be renamed Keepers of the Sky as a metaphor reflecting their connection to the Astral Sea. Instead of being a family of cursed people waging a covert war against Strahd, the Martikovs are outsiders from the Astral Sea who took pity on the people of Barovia and seek to bring down the Darklord. The gems within their winery are astralcrafted magic items that have limited links to their home plane, allowing them to grow and produce food regardless of the climate. They use such gems to grow the grapes for their famed wines.

Even so, DMs who want a bit of feather with their fur can still keep the Martikovs as wereravens. Their base forms will still be bats or some other common species in the Beast World.

Vampire Spawn face a similar change. In the Beast World, the child of a vampire and one of their thralls is a being known as a Fiend-Vessel Spawn, who don't have a demon seeking to take control of their body. But they still have their vampire parent's thirst for blood. The vamprie spawn in this campaign variant are Strahd's various children, and due to being raised by a cruel man many take after his evil alignment. But this doesn't have to be the case: Donavitch's son, Doru, was wired out of wedlock with Strahd as the father.

But What About the Wagons? Beyond its anthropomorphic inhabitants, Beast World is markedly different from Ravenloft. For one, it is a setting where dungeon delving for gold and glory is a new yet thriving industry, and PCs are expected to spend their hard-earned gains on improving their wagons. Curse of Strahd, by contrast, is a very treasure-light game that prioritizes survival in a hostile world where allies are few and far between. The delver community of Littfield and abundant magic doesn’t mix well with CoS’ survival horror.

The most simple and straightforward solution is to use the Dungeon Treasure table in Chapter 1 of the Delver’s Guide to plot out expected monetary rewards based on level. Combined with the level recommendations for the locations in Curse of Strahd, treating each place as a dungeon unto its own (Death House and Village of Barovia being 3 in one), we should have something like this:

  1. Village of Barovia (1st-3rd): 4,800 GP
  2. Town of Vallaki (4th): 8,000 GP
  3. Old Bonegrinder (4th): 8,000 GP
  4. Village of Krezk (5th): 8,000 GP
  5. Wizard of Wine’s Winery (5th): 8,000 GP
  6. Van Richten’s Tower (6th): 8,000 GP
  7. Yester Hill (6th): 8,000 GP
  8. Argynvostholt (7th): 8,000 GP
  9. Werewolf Den (7th): 8,000 GP
  10. Tsolenska Pass (8th): 8,000 GP
  11. Ruins of Berez (8th): 8,000 GP
  12. Castle Ravenloft (9th): 16,000 GP
  13. The Amber Temple (9th): 16,000 GP

All in all, this gives us 106,800 GP. Presuming that the party spent 75% of their earnings on wagon equipment (80,100 GP) and split the loot evenly among a party of 4, they’d have 6,675 GP in savings per PC. Which just squeaks on by the minimum for 9th to 12th level PCs (6,500-15,000 GP per PC). Far beyond any money which can be found in the entire module.

Having gobs of coins may feel at odds with the dismal, rural nature of Barovia, but like the treasures in the Tarokka result such ephemeral “money” can instead be converted to upgrades and attachments for the wagon. In its crudest form, PCs who salvage from crypts, ruined towns, and forlorn castles can be justified as getting enough parts to make a new upgrade; doubly so if they have appropriate skill or tool proficiencies or class features! Talented mechanical and magical minds can be consulted as reward for completing relevant quests:

  1. Rictavio should know a thing or two about tools useful in the war against the creatures of the night.
  2. Blinsky’s tinkering aptitude can be used for more than just making toys.
  3. The Vistani know a thing or two about keeping wagons in tip-top shape when on the lonesome road.
  4. Victor Vallakovich or Lady Wachter of Vallaki can call upon their familial funds and personal magical expertise.
  5. The Abbot of Krezk is a powerful entity of divine might.
  6. Vladimir Horngaard of Argynvostholt may know of some hidden treasures of the fortress that Strahd has yet to find.
  7. PCs who manage to fell Wintersplinter, the blights, or other monsters of the druids may think of reforging their wood into reinforcing their wagon.

As you can tell, there’s many such people in Barovia who can help with wagon upgrades, even if they’re not delvers!

But enough about upgrades, what’s the point without getting opportunities to use the wagon? Well, having a mobile home and fortress is a pretty useful thing to have in a place like Barovia. Beyond making travel along the Old Svalich Road just a bit safer, there are certain events and locations in the module that can be spiced up with a wagon:

  1. Fighting skeletal riders as a random encounter
  2. Searching for Arabelle in Lake Zarovich with a wagon customized for water travel. Perhaps make a lake-dwelling monster the main thread instead of (or in addition to) Bluto.
  3. Fighting Strahd’s carriage on the road, containing one or more of his minions such as Rahadin or his brides.
  4. A hasty escape out of Vallaki should the PCs outstay their welcome.
  5. Chasing after the fiend-vessel spawn in Vallaki should one of them escape with the Bones of Saint Andral.
  6. Transporting the Martikov’s wines to Barovian communities…and keeping them safe from raiding monsters!
  7. Fighting the Roc of Mount Ghakis in Tsolenka Pass, Wintersplinter in Yester Hill, Baba Lysaga’s Creeping Hut in the Ruins of Berez, or some other massive monster.
  8. Letting Ezmerelda hitch a ride when you (hopefully accidentally) explode her wagon.
 
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Libertad

Hero
Ravenloft's modular nature in connecting to various campaign worlds is a veritable treasure trove of "put it in X setting" ideas. Beast World's been on my mind on account of them releasing their second KickStarter, and Curse of Strahd because we're around one week from October.

I don't know what I'll make for my next homebrew post; currently I'm working on reviewing more DM's Guild Ravenloft in the interim. Maybe I'll get another idea during that time...if I don't split my efforts up too much.
 

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