Options for New Characters in Barovia!
So you’re playing Curse of Strahd! Congratulations! You’ll probably die. And when you do, you’ll need to roll up a new character. But what character? Here are some ideas to help you out.
These are “races” and backgrounds that are unique to the setting of Barovia and will easily fit into the story. Included are both options for local Barovians and for outsiders that are drawn to the land. These are not mandatory, just suggestions!
Most of these races / backgrounds will require some work with me, the DM, and I’m willing to give you more information about any of the listed options and how we might implement them.
Local Barovian Races:
The dour, pale skinned humans that inhabit the land of Barovia are a desolate sort. Barovians were a happy people once, but their history and current conditions aren’t pleasant. Barovians are deeply invested in their homes and their traditions, and are wary of strange peoples and customs. They are raised in a culture of fear; told to never stray far from the road or wander into the woods. And yet some brave souls do…
Use the racial stats / features for Humans, Variant Humans
With story involvement, can also be Tieflings, Aasimar, and Genasi
Tiefling: Old blood is Barovia is said to be tainted with demonic influence, said to originate from the profane rituals partaken in by the noble families of yesteryear (See the Dursts). This taint is dormant in most, but every now and then a child is born with discolored skin, inhuman horns, or other devilish features.
Aasimar: (*) The gods can’t seem to extend their grasp through the mists of Barovia, but that doesn’t stop some from trying. Celestial influence from… somewhere… causes the odd Barovian to be born with ethereal, enthralling features and an inborn warmth and light. Such children are often of great interest to the realm’s Dark Lord…
Generally well accepted around Barovia; benefit from the community the people have cultivated over years of adversity.
Know snippits and tidbits of Barovian history; what has been passed down to them through oral tradition.
The shadowy, knife-eared wards of the Vistani that reside in homes in their camp outside Vallaki. These elves are somber, long-lived and, strangely, exclusively male. They are not able to leave Barovia, despite their relationship with the Vistani, and harbor a seething hatred of the realm’s Dark Lord. Their leader is a mutilated wizard named Kasimir.
Use the racial stats / features of any Elven Subrace.
Receives some of the protections of the Vistani
The colorful, jovial nomadic folk that call Barovian their homeland. They travel to and from beyond the mists in large caravans and trade with civilizations across the realms. Their relationship with Strahd is complicated, but they enjoy protections while in his land in honor of an ancient promise… or so they say.
Can use the racial stats / features of Humans, Elves
Heavily distrusted by the Local Barovians
Vistani that work against Strahd will lose their protections. Make sure to consider this.
Forest Folk (*)
The “uncultured savages”, as the Barovian’s call them, that reside within the Svalich Woods, worshipping “false gods”. No one knows how they’ve managed to survive the dangers of the groves once the mists descended upon Barovia, but hunters swear they have spotted mud-caked humanoids gathering herbs and hunting wolves in the forests to the west.
Can use the racial stats and features of Humans, Orcs, Goliaths
Mountain Folk (*)
The near-mythical tribesman that roam the frigid peaks of the sister peaks, Mount Baratok and Mount Ghakis. Very little is known of their culture, except they are largely considered to be extinct, but stories of their size, strength, and wisdom have been passed down generation to generation.
Beastfolk (Tabaxi, Lizardfolk, etc.) (*)
Strange subhuman humanoids that have been spotted in the hills north of Krezk to the far west. No one is certain where these beasts came from, but they seem to have a semblance of sentience buried within their inhuman forms.
Cannot explain too much without getting into spoilers, but can use the racial stats / features of Tabaxi, Lizardfolk, Dragonborn, or other Anthropomorphic races, within reason.
Basic explanation is that you were born of a corrupted bloodline or are the product of a madman’s experiment
Local Barovian Backgrounds:
For any of these backgrounds, we’ll use the Custom Background rules in the DMG. Essentially, for each background you can choose:
Two Skill Proficiencies
Two Tool or Language Proficiencies
A Background Feature (can either use one from another background or suggest your own)
A Barovian of a simple, unassuming background and occupation—a farmhand, a fisherman, a guardsman, etc.—who lives in Vallaki, the Village of Barovia, or Krezk. You have lived your life enduring the adversities of Barovia, but circumstances have driven you to stand against the darkness.
A Barovian charged with facing the dangers of the Old Svalich Woods, specialized in dealing with threats in a specific region of the forest. They may be experts at hunting wolves in Wolfrun, or undead in the Heartlands. They are well respected by the locals of Barovia, though they have no cohesive order or organization.
A Barovian who shirks their responsibility to the community and instead leeches off of others. They may be thieves, conmen, or liars; all egregious crimes in any Barovian settlement. They are only tolerated due to that same sense of community, although they may be missing a few fingers for their antics.
A Barovian who makes their living exploring and looting the forgotten graveyards, abandoned villages, and ancient ruins that riddle the Old Svalich Wood. Such work is looked down upon by Barovians, who dislike the notion of their ancestors being unearthed and frisked,. But the wealth graverobbers bring into the valley through trade with Vistani is undeniable.
A Barovian who abandoned the tightly knit communities of settlements for a solitary life. You may live in a hut in the wilderness, performing some personal work or worship. Or maybe you’re a wealthy noble whose estate is fortified enough to guard against creatures of the night. The reasons for your isolation are unclear; maybe you are a practitioner of occult magic, or bear a curse that brings misfortune to those close to you.
A high ranking member of the Barovian nobility from a prestigious bloodline, for how little that is worth these days. Now you’re little more than a particularly wealthy commoner, with nothing but deeds and stories as reminders of your blue blood. Your ancestral estate has long since been abandoned when your family fled to Vallaki. Perhaps the town your family governed was too small or poorly fortified to stand against the creatures of the night, or it was destroyed in a natural disaster, or you were driven out by some other menace.
A practitioner of strange magic that has long been thought forgotten. You may have incorporated into the Barovian populace, or live a solitary life out in the Svalich Woods.
A Vistani who has been cast from their clan and sentenced to exile for crimes against the clan or, more often, crimes against Strahd. You may live among the Barovians or try and make a home for yourself in the Svalich Woods. As a result of your exile, you have lost most of your Vistani gifts, and can no longer escape the mists.
Backgrounds for Outsiders
If you’re not a local of Barovia, your options for races are less limited of course. You can be of virtually any race or background, although of course take keep same considerations outlined at the start of the campaign in mind.
You are an adventurer (or the descendant of a former adventurer) who was drawn into the mists and did not rise to the challenge of facing the dark. Instead they settled down, either in one of the Barovian settlements or making their own home in the Woods. Perhaps they entered Barovia with an adventuring party: what happened to them?
You are an adventurer who, at an undetermined point in the past, was placed into a magical stasis from which you have only just awoken. You don’t know how you were placed into stasis, how much time has passed, or what fate befell the companions that traveled alongside you.
Kidnapped by Werewolves
You were only a child when the beasts laid waste to your home and dragged you kicking and screaming into the mists. Fortunately, you were rescued from the werewolves, but found yourself trapped and alone in a strange land shrouded in fog. Who rescued you and how you grew up are largely variable.
You are a ward of the Vistani who has been escorted into Barovia under the colorful folk’s protection. While in their company, you are free to exit the mists, but something in this land of mist has compelled you to actions; to risk losing your right to leave. Perhaps you thirst for power, or are motivated by a sense of duty to protect the innocent. Or maybe you just earnestly messed up and didn’t realize you were risking your privilege to leave.
You are an outsider who has just received a deed declaring them the inheritor of a large estate (or other piece of property) within Barovia, a land you’ve never heard of. Through your investigation, you eventually find your way in through the mists, not realizing that you’ve doomed yourself.
Connection to PC
You are a close relative, friend, or compatriot of one of the current PCs who has been drawn into the mists for unknown reasons. You may have been investigating the disappearance of the PCs in the hamlet outside Daggerford, or followed the trail of the Vistani.
Centuries ago, your family fled as refugees from the land of Barovia, running from the grasp of a cruel conquering warlord. You see it as your duty to return to the land of your ancestors and free it from the control of that warlord's dark dynasty.
However these are all optional, you can just as well have been swept up unawares by the mists and dropped in Barovia. These are just some ideas for you to use.