• The VOIDRUNNER'S CODEX is coming! Explore new worlds, fight oppressive empires, fend off fearsome aliens, and wield deadly psionics with this comprehensive boxed set expansion for 5E and A5E!

D&D 5E Sanitizing Curse of Strahd (+)

G

Guest 6801328

Guest
Of course. Know your players is so important.

I quite enjoyed alluding to the kiddie pies without making it obvious. I kept describing how delicious they smelled, and how the Hags may be hideous but they’re clearly excellent cooks. I made it clear there was no meat around... just the children in cages and the rest was up to the players imaginations.

That's a good way to handle it. A better way, really, even if you're not trying to tone down the content.
 

log in or register to remove this ad

tommybahama

Adventurer
I'm thinking about running Curse of Strahd for my friends, but I know that there are aspects of CoS that are objectionable*. My plan is to go through the adventure and make edits as if I were acting as a sensitivity reader. Here's what I've got so far.

CoS is known as a gothic horror campaign. If you remove those elements then you should tell your players up front so they can choose to pass or not on the adventure.

For the Vistani, you can re-flavor them to Scotts-Irish settlers of mountainous regions of the mid-Atlantic coasts travelling in covered wagons like the ones seen in old western films. Instead of a tarot deck fortune teller, how about a cultish religious figure named Jedediah that keeps ivory plates in a black stovepipe hat that he reads signs and portents off of?

1612118931587.png
1612119046692.png
 

Gradine

The Elephant in the Room (she/her)
CoS is known as a gothic horror campaign. If you remove those elements then you should tell your players up front so they can choose to pass or not on the adventure.
Trust that none of my friends that will be in this campaign will have ever even heard of Strahd before.

Do not worry on that end; I know my players will and I know how to set up their expectations up front.
 
Last edited:

Gradine

The Elephant in the Room (she/her)
Funny because if I had to guess I love the other one, and generally avoid the other. :ROFLMAO:

I'll bow out as I do not generally engage with horror, so I cant really speak to it deeply, while grimdark and I are very old friends.
Oh, I had my dalliances with grimdark in my youth. I understand the appeal. I'm just of the opinion that the world could use a little less grimdark right now.

What better metaphor for the terrifying and isolating world we live in than Barovia? And what better escapism is there than to have the power to make things better? Eliminate danger and bring people together?

It's an unconventional take on the setting, I'll admit, but it's one I stand strongly behind, now more than ever. Of course, this is not necessarily the aspect of my plans that I need help with. It's in figuring out how to run the Dusk Elves and the Abbey in a way that there are solutions that bring hope to their people, however difficult or even impossible as it may seem. And, of course, to avoid any unpleasant connotations in the process.
 

Talltomwright

Explorer
Oh, I had my dalliances with grimdark in my youth. I understand the appeal. I'm just of the opinion that the world could use a little less grimdark right now.

What better metaphor for the terrifying and isolating world we live in than Barovia? And what better escapism is there than to have the power to make things better? Eliminate danger and bring people together?

It's an unconventional take on the setting, I'll admit, but it's one I stand strongly behind, now more than ever. Of course, this is not necessarily the aspect of my plans that I need help with. It's in figuring out how to run the Dusk Elves and the Abbey in a way that there are solutions that bring hope to their people, however difficult am our even impossible as it may seem. And, if course, to avoid any unpleasant connotations.
One of the things that I always loved about Ravenloft (and CoS) is that it’s own mini-genre of heroic Gothic horror. There is the possibility of doing some good, defeating a Darklord and freeing its people, if one can survive the corruption of living in that world. (On which note, giving souls back to all Barovians seems like another useful fix so the heroes have something to fight for - I never understood what the soulless added to the game.)
 

Burnside

Space Jam Confirmed
Supporter
So I guess this is where I spill the beans on my full intentions here. Canonically, the best the PCs can accomplish is getting themselves free. In the long run, nothing they do in Barovia solves anything, really. No one is saved, perhaps Ileena ages out of looking like Tatyana (or otherwise dies before Strahd re-forms), but that's it, really. It's bleak and depressing and I absolutely love that as a story.... but not at all as an adventure. Not even a horror one.

The point is, I want the PCs to be to save Barovia. I'll take just a moment to say goodbye to all the people leaving the thread over this heresy. I want what the PCs accomplish to matter. That means freeing Barovia from the Demiplane of Dread, and possibly killing Strahd forever. They could fail in this endeavor, or make things worse by freeing Barovia AND Strahd. This was all discussed in the old "Enhancing Curse of Strahd" thread, but the idea is that the greatest weapon that the PCs can bring to bear against Strahd is hope. In this

PLENTY of people run CoS like this.

The thing is, the players need never know their victory isn't final. Strahd's return is only written into the story because "canonically" WotC still wants him to be there (they may have future plans for the character). But for your purposes and the purposes of your players, you can totally dispense with those concerns. He's dead and it's over and Barovia is free.

All you have to do is NOT share with them the DMs-eyes-only part of the epilogue where the book says he comes back. How would the characters know that, anyway?
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
One of the surviving elf wants to bring back hia sister to life to start the race anew... That is incest and I did not explore that line.
Err... Not necessarily incest, as Kasimir isn’t the only surviving elf. It’s entirely possible that his intent was “just” to volunteer her for a breeding program, but not to participate in it himself. That would still be deeply misogynistic, and I suppose there would need to be incest by the second generation, but I didn’t get the impression that he wanted to sleep with her.

On the subject of incest though, it’s also worth considering Izek and his incestuous feelings towards Ireena. Personally, I excise this from my version of CoS. I actually soften Izek quite a lot in general. I have him be one of the PCs’ long-lost brother rather than Ireena’s - preferably a Tiefling PC if anyone is playing one, though that’s not entirely necessary. If it works with any of the players’ backstories, I have their family be tied to Barovia (specifically, I tie them to the Durst family so that they have a claim to the Old Bonegrinder), but fled with a group of Vistani when Izek and the PC were babies. If it doesn’t work, I just have it be that Izek got lost at some point and taken to Barovia by the mists. Either way, he got taken in by the Burgomaster as per the adventure as-written.

I keep the part where he dreamt about his sibling every night and has Blinsky make the dolls of them (and man does that make finding the dolls an infinitely spookier moment for the players than finding the Ireena dolls), but he knows it’s his sibling, and his obsession manifests as a belief that they’re still alive, rather than lusting after them. He does it because he likes dolls, and he wants them as a sort of record of the changes the lost sibling in his dreams goes through over the years.

When he meets his sibling, he’s positively delighted - for as long as he can remember, he’s believed they’re still out there somewhere, and everyone he’s ever told about it has told him he was crazy, it was all in his head, a manifestation of the trauma of losing his family, but now here they are. And he will do absolutely anything in his power to make sure he doesn’t lose them again. This potentially makes him a staunch ally of the PCs, and in fact I have him take Perrywimple’s place as one of the possible fated allies against Strahd in the Tarokka reading.

Finally, as I mentioned earlier, I soften Izek up quite a bit. He isn’t a cruel sadist, not really, but he has a reputation for being brutal because a.) he’s the captain of the guard in an authoritarian police state and b.) he’s huge and muscular and he has a scary demon arm, of course people are going to assume the worst of him. But in my take on him, he serves in the guard not out of a desire to have power to exploit over the weak, but out of a misguided sense of loyalty to Vallaki and to the Vallakov family in particular. They took him in when he was lost and alone, and he sees them as family. And he values family above everything else.

When everything goes down on the festival of the Blazing Sun, where Izek stands depends on his relationship with the PCs, and his sibling in particular, and how they feel about the Vallakovs. If the PCs oppose Vargas, Izek will be torn between his two families, but ultimately he will side with his sibling, as long as they’ve shown him understanding and compassion. They may even be able to get him to see that his loyalty to the Vallakovs is misguided, though part of him will always love them, he can come to understand that they were not good for Vallaki.
 
Last edited:

Zardnaar

Legend
Generally I don't put incest in my games. I'm running parts of the Savage Tide and itshintef at with one of the villains but he's gonna end up skewered soon.

It's not something I would put into my own games under my own power.
 

Gradine

The Elephant in the Room (she/her)
PLENTY of people run CoS like this.

The thing is, the players need never know their victory isn't final. Strahd's return is only written into the story because "canonically" WotC still wants him to be there (they may have future plans for the character). But for your purposes and the purposes of your players, you can totally dispense with those concerns. He's dead and it's over and Barovia is free.

All you have to do is NOT share with them the DMs-eyes-only part of the epilogue where the book says he comes back. How would the characters know that, anyway?
Eh, that doesn't feel very satisfying at all, at least not to me.
 

delericho

Legend
1) The Vistani. This is probably the biggest one. There are so many negative Romani stereotypes here. My plan: turn then into more modern Wiccans, and portray them more positively. Replace the drunken degeneracy with joyous revelry. The tarot already fits. Some can still be corrupted by Strahd, an off-shoot that is less "Mother Gaia" and more "LeVayan Satanism".
IMC I recast the Vistani as halflings, and had them be mostly just traveling merchants (with some sort of deal with the Dark Powers allowing them to move back and forth) - strip out the trappings from any real-world cultures. I still left their fortune-tellers in place, but those were unique individuals and not an iconic part of the culture.

I am, however, inclined to the feeling that if WotC are serious about cleaning up the problematic areas of the game, the Vistani really need to be removed from entirely. But that's another topic for another day.

2) Dead Children. I think I can sell my friends on Gothic Horror, but killing kids is almost certainly a step too far. I'm reframing Death House entirely, so no worries there. I'm running of turning the hags' victims into the elderly of the communities. Not quite as grotesque, but maybe a family gets desperate enough to sell a child, to push the heroes into action.
Personally I don't have a problem with this, but I can certainly understand that you might. I think your solution here is fine. Or just have the hags take anyone they can get, not just children (or the elderly).

3) Dusk Elves. Their "curse" and the "solution" are extremely gross. The former, as a symbol of Strahd's misogyny, is justifiable. The latter is not. I still haven't figured out how I want to resolve this; maybe some type of infertility curse, or something unrelated entirely to reproduction. I do want all want the Amber Temple to house the solution to it, in any case.
The simplest thing here is probably to have Kasimir motivated solely by a desire to recover his sister (not really caring about the continuation of his people), and when the curse is lifted state that it brought back all the female elves of the clan?
 

Remove ads

Top