<img class="image-dark" src="https://publish-01.obsidian.md/access/7db64b11c71d88572ddc6cd06b888976/images/cover-dark.png"> <img class="image-light" src="https://publish-01.obsidian.md/access/7db64b11c71d88572ddc6cd06b888976/images/cover-light.png"> **Unbalanced encounters. Unorganized chapters. Overwhelming lore. And *Dungeons & Dragons'* most challenging villain.** *Curse of Strahd* has earned its reputation as 5th Edition's most notorious module—but the official campaign can often be more difficult for Dungeon Masters than their players. That's where ***Curse of Strahd: Reloaded*** comes in. As your personal *Curse of Strahd* guide, *Reloaded* will help you take your players on an unforgettable journey through the Mists—one that's been revised to be as easy and enjoyable as possible to run. Whether you're looking for a guide to roleplaying Strahd von Zarovich, a comprehensive history of Barovia, or a full *Curse of Strahd* campaign walkthrough, look no further—for you've come to the right place. > [!info]- **I'm a new DM. Why use a guide at all?** > > The official *Curse of Strahd* module is an engaging, dramatic, and conceptually vivid gothic horror experience. It's 5e’s most popular campaign for a reason! > > However, *Curse of Strahd* also has a large number of debilitating flaws and features that make it difficult for a new DM to run: > > * The book isn't organized in chronological order, requiring DMs to figure out the structure of the adventure on their own. > * Critical information is scattered throughout the book's multiple chapters and appendices, often requiring DMs to read or re-read the entire book in order to recall the relevant details of a single NPC’s goals or backstory. > * Chapters are split up by location, rather than narrative beat, forcing DMs to piece together the narrative and dramatic tension of each area independently. > * The adventure is a sandbox with little direction other than the Tarokka reading, and no strong hooks to the Tarokka reading other than the Mysterious Visitors adventure hook. > * Many combat encounters (e.g., the Bonegrinder coven) pose a high risk of TPK, especially at low levels, while others are trivially easy (e.g., Izek and the entirety of the Werewolf Den). > * The random nature of the Tarokka reading can allow your players to obtain the most powerful artifact in the campaign—the Sunsword, which is capable of killing Strahd automatically in seven turns—at level three. Alternatively, the Tarokka reading might place all three artifacts in Castle Ravenloft, depriving your players of any real reason to adventure around Barovia. > * Multiple narratives—including Ireena's encounter with Sergei at the blessed pool in Krezk, as well as Strahd's eventual resurrection in the epilogue—are incredibly unsatisfying to the vast majority of players. > * Strahd's statblock is poorly made, such that a mid-level party can easily defeat him outside of Ravenloft without the Sunsword, but a high-level party will find it literally impossible to defeat him inside of Ravenloft (due to his phasing ability) unless the DM intentionally or accidentally makes a mistake. > * Strahd is an incredibly challenging villain to run, making it easy for an inexperienced DM to railroad their players into an unfun, depressing experience instead of allowing them opportunities for real victory and growth. > > No matter what you do, if you want to run *Curse of Strahd* as a fun, engaging, and memorable adventure, you're going to have to make at least a few changes—and, most likely, a significant number of changes. > > Many new DMs have to work hard just to remember what's in the book and figuring out how to run it at the table. New and even intermediate DMs also often don't need or want to do extra homework in order to interpret or piece together the contents of the adventure, and might struggle to adequately fix any problems even if I'd noticed them. > > If you're in the same boat, then you might want to use a guide to help you run the adventure—a published work by an experienced DM who's already run the module multiple times, identified and addressed these problems, and playtested their solutions with the broader online Curse of Strahd community. **If you're going to need to solve the campaign's problems anyway, why not use a guide that's already done it for you?** # Your Personal *Curse of Strahd* Guide *Curse of Strahd: Reloaded* aims to transform the original adventure into something far more accessible, cohesive, and resonant. That's why this DM's guide to *Curse of Strahd*: * **Simplifies** your preparation material, presenting the campaign in an organized, Dungeon Master-friendly format. * **Guides** you through complex scenes with NPC profiles, pre-written descriptions, and tips for table management. * **Enhances** your players' experience by filling in gaps, tying off loose ends, and presenting a more immersive and cohesive narrative. * **Elevates** the gameplay and story, pruning and refining adventure material while ensuring all content serves the greater narrative. *Curse of Strahd: Reloaded*, of course, is one of several guides to the *Curse of Strahd* campaign. Here's what sets it apart: * ***Simplicity.*** A focused approach to the campaign, avoiding convoluted lore or extraneous storylines and ensuring a straightforward, streamlined experience. * ***Resonance.*** Enhanced emphasis on the themes of tragedy, pride, hope, and redemption that make *Curse of Strahd* truly memorable. * ***Depth.*** A deeper exploration of Barovia and its inhabitants, bringing the setting and its people to life. * ***Empowerment.*** Game design that allows your players to be the heroes of Barovia, rather than the victims of a dark and soul-crushing survival-horror experience. * ***Accessibility.*** Detailed notes and preparation, allowing you to focus on running engaging sessions instead of getting bogged down in planning and prep work. > [!info]- **What kind of guide is Reloaded?** > > There are four questions that a DM might use when designing a guide or other supplement to a popular adventure like *Curse of Strahd:* > > * What cool, flavorful, or thematic content does the adventure need to really pop? > * What lore or information is missing from the adventure and needs to be fleshed out? > * What guidance or advice does the DM need to effectively execute what's in the adventure? > * What parts of the adventure need to be edited in order to make it functional and fundamentally enjoyable for the players? > > Reloaded does not focus on #1 (adding additional content). It focuses on #2 (filling in gaps) only as necessary to provide DMs with the context they need to run certain characters or scenes. It provides #3 (DM guidance) in places, most notably in the form of NPC roleplaying profiles and fleshed-out scaffolding for social and other scenes. > > However, *Reloaded*'s core focus is, above all others, #4: the need to provide a workable, elegant, and enjoyable campaign experience. It asks the simple question: *What would Curse of Strahd have looked like if it had been playtested and edited more, using only the components, characters, and themes available in the core book itself?* > > For examples, some of *Reloaded*'s most notable changes include: > > * Organizing each chapter chronologically while organizing each chapter by narrative instead of area in order to make the adventure easier for a DM to run and understand > * Incorporating the official adventure only by direct reference while providing all information DMs might need exactly when they need it, > ensuring readers never need to flip through multiple pages or chapters to find what they're looking for. > * Restructuring Vallaki to have a clear and positive “victory condition,” allowing players to earn a sense of achievement and security rather than slogging them down in a morass of politics and bad options > * Combining and simplifying the core adventure arcs involving Dr. Rudolph van Richten, the missing Vistana Arabelle, and Doru's rebellion in order to provide a single, satisfying narrative that ties together all loose ends. > * Scaffolding a clear progression of the players’ relationship with Strahd, including pre-written encounters with tense and meaningful dramatic conflicts that preserve player agency while promoting an antagonistic relationship with Strahd himself. > * Revising and rebalancing nearly every combat encounter in the adventure in order to create an engaging, dynamic, fair, and challenging experience without risking frequent PC death or TPKs. > > That's not to say that *Reloaded* doesn't add additional content in places. As a general rule, however, the guide does so only where absolutely necessary to serve the purposes of their core, underlying plot, and prefers to do so by extending existing 5th-edition *Curse of Strahd* lore (e.g., the brides of Strahd) or by incorporating classic Ravenloft lore from older D&D editions (e.g., Arturi Radanavich or the Fanes of Barovia) wherever possible. You can [[Using This Guide|click here]] to learn how to use and read this guide. Otherwise, if you're ready to begin your adventure through the Mists, check out the **Table of Contents** below—and get ready for a campaign you and your players won't soon forget. > [!info]+ **Download this Guide** > Want to download *Reloaded* as an Obsidian Vault for use, editing, and review on your local device? You can download all files using the [Github Repository](https://github.com/DragnaCarta/Curse-of-Strahd-Reloaded) . # Table of Contents ## Chapter 1 - Beginning the Campaign [[Session Zero]]. Setting expectations and clarifying player triggers. [[Character Creation]]. Developing character bonds, flaws, and motivations. ## Chapter 2 - The Land of Barovia [[Lore of Barovia]]. A compendium of the magic, geography, culture, factions, and religions of Barovia. [[History of Barovia]]. A narrative history of Barovia and the Von Zarovich family. [[Strahd von Zarovich]]. A guide to Strahd's personality, relationships, goals, allies, and tactics. ## Chapter 3 - Running the Game [[Adventure Summary]]. Summaries of the campaign's six narrative acts. [[Running the Adventure]]. A guide to reading—and running—this guide. ## Act I - Into the Mists [[Act I Summary]]. A summary of the players' first passage into Barovia. [[Arc A - Escape From Death House]]. The players are lured into a haunted house and must escape before a ravenous evil awakens. [[Arc B - Welcome to Barovia]]. The players arrive in the Village of Barovia in the aftermath of Strahd's reawakening, meeting new friends and receiving a cryptic invitation. [[Arc C - Into the Valley]]. The players venture forth to the Town of Vallaki, receiving a mysterious fortunetelling and facing trials and tribulations along the way. ## Act II - The Shadowed Town [[Act II Summary]]. A summary of the players' adventures in the town of Vallaki. [[Arc D - St. Andral's Feast]]. The players investigate a theft of sacred bones from Vallaki's church. [[Arc E - The Missing Vistana]]. The players follow the trail of a kidnapped Vistani across western Barovia. [[Arc F - Lady Wachter's Wish]]. The players are invited to join a dangerous conspiracy to overthrow Vallaki's burgomaster. [[Arc G - The Strazni Siblings]]. The players encounter the dark dreams of Vallaki's Captain of the Guard. [[Arc H - The Lost Soul]]. The players help the children of two feuding noble houses stage a daring ghostly rescue. [[Arc I - The Walls of Krezk]]. The players journey to the ruins of Berez to earn passage to the village of Krezk. ## Act III - The Broken Land [[Act III Summary]]. A summary of the players' adventures across the broader Barovian valley. [[Arc J - The Stolen Gem]]. The players fend off a druidic tribe causing trouble for the Wizard of Wines winery. [[Arc K - The Fallen Abbey]]. The players recruit a new ally and restore the Abbot's tainted divinity. [[Arc L - The Den of Wolves]]. The players stake out and infiltrate a den of werewolves. [[Arc M - Argynvost's Beacon]]. The players investigate a haunted manor and unearth the message of the silver dragon Argynvost. [[Arc N - Tales of Vallaki]]. Coming soon. [[Arc O - Dinner with the Devil]]. The players dine with Strahd and his court at Castle Ravenloft. [[Arc P - Ravenloft Heist]]. Coming soon. > [!tip]+ **Under Construction** > *Curse of Strahd: Reloaded* is an ongoing project. New releases, including additional arcs and edits to existing arcs, are released regularly. You can sign up to receive update notifications in your email inbox by joining the author's free community on [Patreon](https://www.patreon.com/DragnaCarta). > > Alternatively, if you'd like to read drafts, outlines, and notes for upcoming releases, you can do so by becoming a paid supporter of DragnaCarta's [Patreon](https://www.patreon.com/DragnaCarta). Doing so also allows you to join an exclusive Discord community of new and experienced DMs running *Reloaded* themselves. > > The guide is currently projected to be completed by the end of summer 2024, with regular additions and revisions released approximately once per month. If you'd like to read a list of the most recent updates, you can also check out the guide's [[Changelog|changelog]]. If you'd like to provide suggestions, feedback, or critiques regarding the current version of the guide, you can do so [here](https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSc3Sfz-BBrJSNnqd327mAXznr0Bx3lBzGe7mUCO69KnH88kjA/viewform). ## Act IV - Secrets of the Ancient [[Act IV Summary]]. Coming soon. [[Arc R - The Tyrant's Trials]]. Coming soon. [[Arc S - The Amber Temple]]. Coming soon. [[Arc T - The Fanes of Barovia]]. Coming soon. ## Act V - The Curse of Strahd [[Act V Summary]]. Coming soon. [[Arc U - The Curse of Strahd]]. Coming soon. [[Epilogue]]. Coming soon. ## Appendices [[Non-Player Characters]]. A compendium of every major NPC in the adventure. [[Amber Shards]]. Fragments of ancient evil to tempt and taint your players. <hr> # Acknowledgments ***Curse of Strahd: Reloaded*** is written by **DragnaCarta**. You can support his work by joining his [Patreon](https://www.patreon.com/DragnaCarta). This unofficial free guide is made available under the Wizards of the Coast [Fan Content Policy](https://company.wizards.com/en/legal/fancontentpolicy). You can purchase the official *Curse of Strahd* campaign module on the *Dungeons & Dragons* [website](https://dnd.wizards.com/products/curse-strahd-revamped) or via [D&DBeyond](https://www.dndbeyond.com/sources/cos). This work includes material taken from the System Reference Document 5.1 (“SRD 5.1”) by Wizards of the Coast LLC, available [here](https://dnd.wizards.com/resources/systems-reference-document). The SRD 5.1 is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License available [here](https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/legalcode). ***Art.*** Cover and background artwork by [JamesRPGArt](https://jamesrpgart.com/), available on [Patreon](https://www.patreon.com/jamesrpgart). Additional illustrations by [Caleb Cleveland](https://calebisdrawing.com/). Battlemap diagrams made using [Dungeon Scrawl](https://app.dungeonscrawl.com/). ***Special Thanks to*** **Twi**, whose deliberation and creativity made this revision possible; **Ziopliukas** and **Paintknight** for their encouragement and support; **Cheese** and **Nancy** for their assistance in balancing and playtesting encounters; **Friendly**, **Faisal**, **shmamy**, **yaboicorny**, **Busdriver**, **Eliza**, and **Scarfe** for their frequent counsel and feedback; and [**GPT-4**](https://chat.openai.com/) for assistance in brainstorming and revision. ***Additional thanks to*** a_Kyrill, ActualPaperweight, Aeristria, aevinpaos, Alantes, AlexanderThulin, Alfie, Anp117, Aonbarr, Aquilon, arkansandragoness, Arkayne, Arow-Remade, Autumn, AvengingBlowfish, Az, BeaverBoy99, BenD, Berzingh, BetaMax-Arcana, Booyahg, Bruuneri, calebisdrawing, chroma900, continuity, CrazyEnough1757, Crazymajor, Cryptid, Daeplin, Dakota Official, DarthHarambae, dead_dads, DerkLucas, Dice, DND Ravenloftenjoyer, Dumaka, Eban921, Ebonhawk, ElderDovah, ELQUEMANDA4, Ep, ericthealfabee1, Eve, Exdeth, Faisal, farlet10, Ferrisderby, Fezznick, FinRingil, Franz, Fugi, Fugicara, Galahadred, glorious-blue, gloriouslarper, greenglowstix, hakich, Helan, Howard, InconditeCullion, IneptHackberry, InsideNervous, Ishna, Ispanicos, jabberdoot, JaeOnasi, Jakers, Jeby, JehutyPT, JoeyGrizzle, joshuacc, JRL, justadmhero, Kaiya, KrempelRitter, LFrog, Lif, LiquidAnalog, Llewinidas, LordMordor, Lucky Actor, LususNaturae, Lyrics42, Massiah, mattjanor, Maurycy-skell, Miata07, Mon5teRico, Mr_Gelan, MSD, murdoc, Murhapuro, Numerous-Ad-1357, nyletak, nyrafernvale, Ostheim, pgsmith2000, PJ, PM_me_your_PhDs, pookmeister, presley, QueenOfThorns, RaePi, rave98, rawnan, redhavirr, Rofeletan, Rustyroo, Schelling, shananigans, ShapKees, Sherlock, Sigmarius, Silver, SkroxiousDM, snarkycatboy, snickduck, Starless, stevexec, StoRmVoRtex, styx, sunirgerep, szemere, taffer, TehBestAtGames, terrible_boots, terribleOpera, Timetheif, Tirrigon, Unyielding_Capybara, Werben, whatistheancient, Windsock, Wolkensieger, XeroChance0, xxItsAJackalxx, Yazstromo, Zifbox, and Zumarius for feedback, playtesting, and review. # About the Author **DragnaCarta** first began DMing in 2008 with the 4th Edition "Red Box." Since then, he has run three complete *Curse of Strahd* campaigns, including [*Curse of Strahd: Twice Bitten*](https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fiu6bM9RxbM), a Rules-As-Written Actual Play featuring five other *Curse of Strahd* DMs as players. Dragna first began writing his [*Lessons from Running Curse of Strahd*](https://www.reddit.com/r/DnDBehindTheScreen/comments/76v6q4/lessons_from_running_curse_of_strahd_barovia/) series in 2017, which soon evolved into the first draft of [*Curse of Strahd: Reloaded*](https://www.reddit.com/r/CurseofStrahd/comments/9bpzbh/curse_of_strahd_reloaded_compilation_thread/), a series that aimed to "guide DMs through running *Curse of Strahd* while also making additional expansions to make the adventure more engaging." Dragna began a wholesale revision of *Reloaded* in December 2022, and released the first chapters of the revised guide in June 2023. Dragna is also the author of numerous *Curse of Strahd*-related additional materials and resources, including [A Comprehensive Guide to Strahd's RAW Final Battle Tactics](https://www.reddit.com/r/CurseofStrahd/comments/t49no0/a_comprehensive_guide_to_strahds_raw_final_battle/), [So You Want to Run Curse of Strahd: A Primer on Preparing (and Running) the Game](https://www.reddit.com/r/CurseofStrahd/comments/f3w658/so_you_want_to_run_curse_of_strahd_a_primer_on/), and [How You Can Use *Curse of Strahd's* Four Adventure Hooks to Shape Your Campaign](https://www.reddit.com/r/CurseofStrahd/comments/h98xgv/how_you_can_use_curse_of_strahds_four_adventure/). Beyond *Curse of Strahd*, Dragna is also the creator of [Challenge Ratings 2.0](https://www.gmbinder.com/share/-N4m46K77hpMVnh7upYa), a comprehensive mathematical encounter balancing system for *Dungeons & Dragons* 5th Edition; a former writer for the [FlutesLoot](https://www.flutesloot.com/author/dragnacarta/) *Dungeons & Dragons* blog; the creator of the "Dungeon Master Fundamentals" series on [YouTube](https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GgJHxv-jzxI&list=PLKMakNcXqsI7eGeQdoL-aJWQKfxEB1ZHi); and an occasional publisher of *Dungeons & Dragons*-related content on [Substack](https://dragnacarta.substack.com/). He currently runs an active homebrew campaign for nine players and hopes to publish *The Dungeon Master's Guide: Reloaded*, a textbook for new and intermediate DMs, after completing *Curse of Strahd: Reloaded*. You can contact Dragna with feedback, questions, and suggestions at [email protected].