Curse of Strahd: Reloaded – Guide to Castle Ravenloft, Dinner with Strahd & Final Battle

Curse of Strahd: Reloaded

A Campaign Guide by /u/DragnaCarta

Chapter 15: Castle Ravenloft

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Table of Contents

W?????? ?? C????? R????????

H?????? ?? ??? C?????

W?? Y??’?? H???

W??? ?? Ex????

R???? & D??????

T?? M???

T?? S??? ?? S?????’? P????

K?????? ?? O????????

R?????? C????? R????????

L??????? & S????

R?????? & R????????

A???? ?? ??? C?????

E???????? ??? Ex???

P????? & P?????? A????

T?????????? ?? ??? C?????

A?????????

V??????

L???????

R??????

S?????

R???????? ?? ??? C?????

S????? & S????

C????? S???????

G????? & L??????

G????? & P????????

O????????? ?? ??? C?????

D?????? ?? ??? C?????

M????????? & M?????? T??????

M??? F????

C???? ?? ??? C????

R???? ?? W??????

L?????? ?? I?? O???

D??????? & C????????

G???????? & D???????? E?????????

M??? F????

C???? ?? ??? C????

R???? ?? W??????

S????? ?? R????????

L?????? ?? I?? O???

D?????? ??? C????????

S??????? A?????? & A???????

M??? F????

C???? ?? ??? C????

R???? ?? W??????

S????? ?? R????????

L?????? ?? I?? O???

D?????? ??? C????????

H?????? & E???????????? D??????

M??? F????

C???? ?? ??? C????

R???? ?? W??????

H?????: W???

S????? ?? R????????

D?????? ??? C????????

H?????: B???? M???

S?????’? R????????

T?? B?????

R????? E?????????

B??????????

T?? B?????? R???

T???????

D???????

A??????’ P????

C??????? I??????????

C?????? W????

V????? ?? ??? C?????

1. T?? D?????

S?????’? I?????????

S?????’? R???????

T?? B???? C???????

W?????? ?? R????????

G?????? D??????

T?? D?????

T??? ?? ??? C?????

D?????? ???? ??? B?????

G???? ???? ??? C????

2. T?? H????

G?????? I?????

T?? T??????

3. T?? F?????

I??????????? ??? C?????

I?????? ?? D?????

C??????? ??? W??????

D?????????? ?? W??

S?????’? U????????

R??????? ??? H???????

S?????’? T??????

S?????’? S??? B????

C????? T??????

A?????

A?????

H?????

R??????

C??????? ? S???????

M?????? & NPC E?????????

R????? E?????????

R??????

B???? ?? A??????? A?????

C??????? C????

S??????

S????? ?? B???

C??????? S????? Z?????

W?????

B??????? W????

V?????? S????

S????? ??? Z???????

M??? F????

R?? D????? W????????

G????????

A??????? H???????

V?????? S???? (H???? ?? S?????)

V?????? P???????

C???? ?? ??? C????

S????? Z??????

S??????

V?????? S????

W?????

W????? ??? S???????

H???? R????

R???? ?? W??????

S????? ?? R???

I???????? S??????

G???? S??????

S?????’? A??????? A????

A????????? K???????

S????? ?? R????????

R?? ?? S?????????

G??????? P???????

E?????

V?????? S????

B??????? W??????

L?????? V????????

L?????? ?? I?? O???

B???? P??????

S????????

R??????

S????? D????

D?????? ??? C????????

G??? O???

S????? Z??????

I??? G?????

S????? ?? B???

T??????? T????

P????? A????

W????? & S????????

S???? I????????

P?????? V????????

G???? W??? S??????

A????? P??????

G?????

H??? H????? ??? W?????

B??????????

A????????? N????

A????? & A????

B?????????

L??????? A??????

M???? & A???????


Chapter 14: Castle Ravenloft

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Welcome to Castle Ravenloft—the only location in Curse of Strahd more terrifying for a DM to run than Vallaki. Strahd’s castle is the core of the Curse of Strahd campaign. It is the heart from which his power extends, the symbol of your players’ fears, and the inevitable site of the adventure’s final battle.

Castle Ravenloft is one of the largest and most complex structures in Barovia. It is also one of the most lived-in, with more inhabitants than any  location other than Krezk, Vallaki, or the village of Barovia. It has numerous entrances, exits, and a maze of twists and turns that can leave a player’s head spinning—let alone a DM’s.

It is extremely likely that your players will visit Castle Ravenloft at least once, if not multiple times throughout their adventure. However, fear not—for Strahd’s castle is not impossible to run. It might be tough to piece together all of the information in the original 46-page chapter. However, with the right mindset, proper organization, and a helpful guide, this massive fortress can soon become quite manageable.

To give proper context for Castle Ravenloft, we’ll start with a brief history of Castle Ravenloft, followed by its significance to major NPCs. We’ll explore why your players are here, and what you (the DM) should expect. 

We’ll go over sections such as the mechanics of running Castle Ravenloft, the guide to navigating the castle’s chambers, and a list of castle residents. We’ll walk through the major quest objectives located in the castle, a list of loot, and take inventory of the traps, monsters, and hazards that lurk within. 

We'll walk through the tools that Strahd can use while within his castle, explore the three reasons your players are likely to visit the castle, Strahd's disposition and tactics while in the castle, and a full compendium of tactics for every monster and NPC

Finally, we’ll explore a quick list of audio tracks, artwork, and battlemaps that might come in handy while your players are exploring this towering, haunted fortress—and with any luck, we’ll finish it all in time to be home for dinner.

Sounds like a lot? Don’t worry—it is. But you’re not alone, and thousands of DMs have ruled this castle’s halls before you. With their guidance—and a little bit of preparation—you’ll do just fine.

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Castle Ravenloft was not built until after Strahd conquered Barovia, following his conquest and near-total genocide of the Forest Folk and Mountain Folk who had once occupied the land. After summoning settlers of every race and ethnicity from the diverse lands he’d conquered, Strahd commissioned a small army of wizards to construct the seat of his power: Castle Ravenloft. It was named in honor of his beloved mother, Queen Ravenovia.

 Under the direction of the architect, Artimus, the mages wrought Castle Ravenloft from the Pillarstone of Ravenloft itself, carving the castle in whole from earth and enchanted stone. The foreboding and formidable fortress was guarded on all sides by steep cliffs, connected to the road by a simple drawbridge, and shielded from external threats by the eastern mountains of Barovia.

One of these mages, the archmage Khazan, chose to settle in Barovia, and would later build the tower at Lake Baratok. His body, and his staff of power, lie in the crypts of Castle Ravenloft to this day.

The castle completed, Strahd summoned his surviving family—his mother, Ravenovia, and his younger brother, Sergei—to join him at the new seat of the von Zarovich line. Queen Ravenovia, who was old, and in poor health—perhaps due to the whispered curses and dark prayers of Baba Lysaga—passed away during the journey. Sergei arrived alone, and joined his brother at Ravenloft.

Rahadin, Strahd’s most trusted general and adoptive brother, came to reside at the castle as Strahd’s chamberlain. At some point, the Duchess Dorfinya Dilisnya journeyed to Barovia alongside her beloved fool, Pidlwick, hoping to win the hand of Count Strahd von Zarovich. In an effort to earn Strahd’s favor, she commissioned the legendary toymaker, Fritz von Weerg, to build Pidlwick II, a clockwork effigy of Pidlwick. The Duchess, however, soon succumbed to illness after a harsh winter trapped her in the castle for several months. Pidlwick perished as well after falling victim to the murderous envy of his clockwork counterpart.

In time, a new suitress came to Strahd’s door: the dusk elf archmage Patrina Velikovna. Strahd was taken by her passion for the secrets of immortality, and voyaged with her to the Amber Temple to forge a pact with the dark gods that lay within. When he returned, however, he learned that his brother, Sergei, had found a new romance with a Barovian peasant girl named Tatyana—and Strahd’s heart was set aflame with jealousy and lust. 

Patrina was swiftly set aside, and Strahd became consumed with envy for his brother’s impending marriage. On the day of the wedding, Strahd lured Sergei to the royal chambers, slit his throat, and drank his blood. This sealed his pact with Vampyr, one of the vestiges of the Amber Temple. The guards of the castle fell upon Strahd, killing him—but Strahd was resurrected as a vampire. Newly immortal and fueled by the power of undeath, Strahd rampaged through the castle, killing his own guards and subjects. Many of those slain still linger in the castle today, whether as wights, skeletons, or zombies. Tatyana fled from him—and leapt from the Pillarstone of Ravenloft into the abyss below to escape. Her body was never found.

Rahadin, eager to distract his master from Tatyana’s death, helped Strahd lure more women to the castle, lavishing them with jewels and fine clothes before Strahd drained their lives and turned them into vampire spawn. When Patrina heard of Tatyana’s death and Strahd’s rebirth as a vampire, she returned to Castle Ravenloft. However, this time Strahd saw that she craved only his power, and Patrina came to understand that he would never love her. Soon after, Patrina was stoned to death by the Dusk Elves at the direction of her brother, Kasimir, and her body was laid to rest in the crypts below the castle.

Over the five centuries since Strahd’s death, many adventurers have traveled to Barovia,most unintentionally, lured there by the mists and Strahd’s own desire for entertainment. In that time, all have fallen. Their spirits live on as ghosts, rising each night from the earth of the cemetery in the Village of Barovia and marching along the Svalich Road toward the castle. Once there, they fling themselves from the top of the highest tower, plummeting to the catacombs below as their spirits relive their deaths, surrounded by the vampiric husks of those they once called “friend.”

So too, shall it be, for all others who challenge Castle Ravenloft—unless and until Strahd is slain.

W?? Y??’?? H???

There are six main reasons why the PCs might find themselves in Ravenloft: Invitation, Exploration, Infiltration, Negotiation, Assault, and Imprisonment.

Invitation. Strahd may invite the PCs to Castle Ravenloft: either because he seeks to meet with them over dinner, because he wants to gloat while getting married to Ireena, or because he seeks to lure them to their deaths.

Exploration. The PCs may choose to venture into Castle Ravenloft unbidden simply because they are curious about the secrets and treasures the castle holds, or because they are curious about Strahd and wish to meet him. This happens infrequently, but is most likely to be done at low levels and by individual PCs, rather than an entire party.

Infiltration. The PCs seek to raid Castle Ravenloft to obtain an item, such as a Tarokka treasure, the skull of Argynvost, or Tasha Petrovna’s holy symbol; to rescue a kidnapped Ireena Kolyana or an imprisoned ally, such as Ezmerelda or another PC; or to make their way to Strahd’s foretold location and slay the vampire, once and for all.

Negotiation. The PCs journey to Castle Ravenloft to cut a deal with Strahd—likely for the release of hostages or the freedom of an imprisoned ally.

Assault. The PCs have declared all-out war on Strahd (or vice-versa), and are seeking to attack the castle with a team of allies against the army of undead within.

W??? ?? Ex????

R???? & D??????

Castle Ravenloft is the deadliest location in Barovia. Compared to the Amber Temple, the castle has few high-intensity, win-or-die combats, save for the ultimate battle with Strahd himself. Compared to Berez, the castle has no face-offs with powerful spellcasters or invulnerable brawlers, save for the iron golem trap in area K78 (Brazier Room).

Rather, the danger of Castle Ravenloft is twofold:

  • First, once your players enter, the maze-like nature of the castle and its abundance of traps make it unlikely that they will escape again, unless Strahd wishes them to.

  • Second, the constant trickle of combat encounters and hazards will wear down your players’ resources, forcing them into a slow battle of attrition.

These aspects, combined with Strahd’s own power and mastery of the castle, make Castle Ravenloft dangerous for even a high-level party—deadly if those characters have drawn Strahd’s wrath.

T?? M???

Between the twelve different staircases linking seven enormous floors and a multitude of secret doors scattered throughout almost ninety separate rooms, Castle Ravenloft can be challenging for even experienced DMs to navigate. On top of this, the book presents the castle in isometric form by default rather than supplying a standard two-dimensional map. For your convenience, here is a link to my preferred two-dimensional version of the Castle Ravenloft maps to help you follow along as we walk through Ravenloft’s full architectural plan.

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Castle Ravenloft is the seat of Strahd’s power. It is the base of his operations and the headquarters from which he projects power across Barovia.

At its core, Castle Ravenloft is where Strahd keeps his coffin and tomb—the one place which he must always return to each morning. It is where he stores his legions of undead wights, specters, and vampire spawn. 

It is where his most trusted confidants make their home, from his brides—Ludmilla, Anastrasya, Volenta, and Escher—to his trusted chamberlain, Rahadin.

It is where the arcane secrets and ancient treasures of the von Zarovich family lay undisturbed, from the teleportation brazier of area K78 (Brazier Room) to the Daern’s instant fortress that defends Strahd’s treasury in area K41 (Treasury).

Finally, it is Strahd’s lair. It is the epicenter of the rot and corruption that suffuses Barovia, the source of Strahd’s powerful and combat-ready Lair Actions, and the home of his hordes of bats, rats, and other creatures of the night.

Outside of Castle Ravenloft, Strahd is a challenging and worthy opponent. Inside of his castle, Strahd is an indomitable—and deadly—foe.

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Organization is one of the most common challenges that DMs face when running Castle Ravenloft. It can be taxing and confusing to constantly flip between different parts of the chapter as your players traverse different areas and floors, especially if you’re routinely referring back to maps of the castle or campaign guides such as this one.

Depending on which medium you’re using to run your Curse of Strahd campaign, here are a few suggestions for keeping orderly, organized, and understandable notes while running Castle Ravenloft.

Roll20. Create a one-document file using Google Docs or OneNote. For each section of the castle, create a new section header; for each room of the castle, create a new section sub-header. In each room’s section, paste or type the description text that your players see when entering that room, as well as a brief bullet-pointed list of the important features of the room. Then, create a brief list of exits from the room, with each exit hyperlinked to the section sub-header of the room that it leads to (if using Google Docs, place a bookmark next to each room’s section sub-header to allow hyperlinking). Whenever your players leave a room, click the hyperlink for the exit they used to automatically scroll to their destination.

Foundry VTT. Create a new folder in the Journal titled “Castle Ravenloft,” then create a separate subfolder for each floor of the castle. In each floor’s subfolder, create a new journal entry for each room. Paste or type the description text that your players see when entering that room, as well as a brief bullet-pointed list of the important features of the room. Drag and drop each journal entry onto the map into the center of the room it refers to. When your players enter a new room, double-click that room’s journal entry to pull up its information.

Pen and Paper. Using post-it notes or adhesive dividers, mark off and label the first page of each floor of Castle Ravenloft in your Curse of Strahd book. If desired, do the same with each “transition room”: rooms that connect directly to a room on a different floor (e.g., K20, the Heart of Sorrow), to easily allow you to flip back and forth when your players are ascending or descending staircases. Finally, paste or type up all monster stat blocks that you might need in Castle Ravenloft, then organize them by floor and room. Use post-it notes or dividers to mark off and label the first page of each floor of Castle Ravenloft in these printed “monster” notes.

R?????? C????? R????????

L??????? & S????

Nearly all of the inhabitants of Castle Ravenloft possess darkvision. As such, each room of the castle is naturally dark, save for those where the book’s description naturally indicates otherwise—e.g., K8 (Great Entry, illuminated by torches), K15 (Chapel, illuminated by moonlight), K37 (Study, illuminated by the fireplace), or K78 (Brazier Room, illuminated by the brazier)—or where the room’s inhabitants would require illumination to function—e.g., K30 (King’s Accountant, occupied by Lief Lipsiege).

As such, any PCs without darkvision will need to bear a source of light, such as the light spell or a torch, in order to see. However, these light sources will make them far easier to spot. A character who attempts to hide from a monster or enemy within Castle Ravenloft while bearing a source of light should automatically fail in almost all situations.

Your PCs should then face a dilemma: Do they explore the castle in darkness, risking ambush by the many denizens who can easily see in the dark? Or do they march brazenly through well-illuminated halls, risking the attention of unwanted eyes?

R?????? & R????????

Just as Pidlwick found himself smothered in his sleep by his clockwork clone, only a fool would think to rest in Castle Ravenloft. If the PCs are unwelcome, then even in the best of cases short rests are potentially dangerous within the castle walls, and long rests near-impossible. If Strahd is within the castle, aware of the PCs’ presence, and actively pursuing their deaths, the PCs shall find no rest for as long as they remain within the castle.

An adventuring party must check for a random encounter every 10 minutes they spend resting in the castle. Over the course of a single 60-minute short rest, the average party must check for a random encounter six times, giving them a measly 38% chance of taking their rest undisturbed. On the bright side, not all encounters are hostile, and the PCs have only a 32% chance of encountering an enemy or monster during this rest.

A long rest is far more challenging. Over the course of a single two-hour period, there is only a 14% chance that the PCs will go without an encounter, and a 47% chance that the PCs will face a hostile enemy. Moreover, if the PCs are unwelcome, there is little chance that they can hide themselves from Strahd—and even less chance that Strahd will allow his uninvited guests to enjoy their sleep.

 A short rest is “a period of downtime, at least 1 hour long, during which a character does nothing more strenuous than eating, drinking, reading, and tending to wounds.” A character that attacks—or is attacked—must therefore end their short rest prematurely and re-start from scratch, regaining no hit dice or class features. As such, if a short rest is interrupted by a hostile random encounter, it is null and void, and must be restarted. Strahd understands this, and will gladly create his own hostile encounters if he is aware of the PCs’ presence.

Long rests are slightly more forgiving of interruptions—but far more difficult to survive. Not only will a long rest risk far more random encounters, wearing the party’s resources down over time, but Strahd’s exceptional +14 Stealth score allows him to easily surprise any PC assigned to stand watch. After all, the Holy Symbol of Ravenkind can project sunlight for only so long, and even the Sunsword’s wielder must sleep eventually.

Using his mist form, Strahd can easily slip through any door or open window and swiftly charm the PC on watch. Due to the wording of this ability, Strahd can use his charm ability while in bat and wolf form as well, allowing him to repeatedly attempt to charm his target while in clear view. If Strahd is discovered, he can simply dissolve to mist form, exit the room, and come back later. After all, the PCs must sleep to heal. Strahd—with his vampiric regeneration—has no such restrictions.

Unlike Berez or the Amber Temple, Castle Ravenloft is first and foremost a battlefield of attrition. In this sense, it is the purest application of the “5-8 encounter adventuring day” proposed by the designers of 5e Dungeons & Dragons. However, by a cruel, intentional joke, taking short rests to regain resources are and should remain nearly impossible within the castle’s walls, condemning any party of unprepared adventurers to a slow, painful death.

In short: Under no circumstances should a hostile Strahd permit any invader to take a short or long rest within his castle. He is watchful, well-informed, well-hidden, and highly mobile, and far too cunning and brutal to allow it.

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E???????? ??? Ex???

There are several ways to enter Castle Ravenloft, each with their own challenges and dangers.

Main Entry. The main first-floor entrance of Castle Ravenloft (area K7). Leads into a foyer with adjoining corridors to the chapel (K15) and the Dining Hall (K10), plus a staircase to the Audience Hall (K25) on the second floor. Guarded by eight gargoyles in the foyer who attack any unwelcome PC that returns after leaving, and four statues of red dragon wyrmlings that attack any PC that attempts to leave the castle without Strahd’s permission.

Servants’ Entrance. An auxiliary first-floor door located in the back courtyard of the castle leads to the servants’ entrance (K23), which has an adjoining staircase that descends to the servants’ hall (K62). It also connects to the servants’ quarters (K24), which contain a staircase that climbs to the servants’ upper floor (K34), which contain a secret door providing access to the Heart of Sorrow (K20).

Overlook Window. A trio of stained-glass windows overlooking the village of Barovia from the tomb of King Barov and Queen Ravenovia (K88). Located 900 feet above the church in the village of Barovia, and 110 feet below the Overlook (K6). Only accessible by PCs with climber’s kits or magical flight. Known outside the castle only by the Keepers of the Feather. Leads into the catacombs (K84).

Tower Rooftop. The rooftop of Castle Ravenloft’s third-highest tower (K57). Connects to the tower of the Heart of Sorrow (K20) via a windy bridge (K58). Descends via a staircase to the Familiar Room (K54), where the familiars of the Barovian witches lurk. Accessible only by flight or long-distance teleportation.

High Tower Peak. The tallest spire of Castle Ravenloft (K59) and the top of the high tower shaft (K18a), which runs all the way down to the catacombs (K84). Connects to the top of the high tower staircase (K18), which descends directly to the chapel on the first floor. The roof has crumbled, creating a hole that allows the castle’s bats and Strahd’s nightmare, Beucephalus, to easily enter and exit the castle. Accessible only by flight.

Parapets. The inner walls of Castle Ravenloft’s keep (K46), adjoined to the third floor of the castle. An open doorway leads into the Heart of Sorrow tower (K20) on the north side, while the Guards’ Stair (K64) on the south side leads down to the South Archers’ Posts (K11) on the first and second floors—including secret doors that provide access to the Dining Hall (K10) and Audience Hall (K25), respectively—and the Guards’ Quarters (K69) in the basement. Accessible only by flight.

Chapel. While the chapel has no doors, its stained-glass windows make for an extremely suitable place for dramatic entrances, especially if Strahd’s wedding is currently underway.

Brazier Room. The castle also has a one-way exit: the teleportation brazier in the brazier room (K78). Using this artifact, Strahd (and his minions) can travel almost anywhere in Barovia, including the coffin maker’s shop in Vallaki, the Amber Temple, the Abbey of Saint Markovia, and Tsolenka Pass. 

The brazier can also provide an instant one-way trip to several other locations in the castle including Strahd’s study (K37), which is near the treasury (K41) and the king’s bedchamber (K42); the north tower peak (K60), which contains Strahd’s crown and sits atop the Heart of Sorrow (K20); and Strahd’s tomb (K86).

P????? & P?????? A????

The interior of Castle Ravenloft can be divided into two main sections: The “public” areas accessible by the South Tower Stair (K21), and the “private” areas accessible from the Heart of Sorrow’s tower (K20). 

The “public” area includes notable locations like:

  • the Dining Hall (K10) and Chapel (K15) on the first floor, 

  • the Audience Hall (K25) on the second floor, 

  • the Study (K37) and King’s Bedchamber (K42) on the third floor, 

  • the Lounge (K49) and Cauldron (K56) in the towers, 

  • the Elevator Trap (K61) and Hall of Bones (K67) in the Larders of Ill Omen, and 

  • the North and South Dungeons (K74 and K75) in the dungeons. 

These areas are meant to be easily accessible by visitors to the castle.

The “private” area includes: 

  • the Servants’ Quarters (K24) on the first floor,

  • the Maid in Hell (K32) on the second floor,

  • the Hall of Heroes (K45) on the third floor, 

  • the North Tower Peak (K60) in the towers, 

  • the Chamberlain’s Office (K72) in the Larders of Ill Omen, and 

  • the Catacombs (K84) in the Dungeons. 

These tucked-away, interconnected areas were once largely meant to be accessed only by servants of the castle, or the von Zarovich family themselves.

A creature in the “public” area can easily climb or descend the South Tower Stair (K21) to reach any other public chamber.

A creature in the “private” area can easily ascend or descend the stairs of the Heart of Sorrow (K20) and Tower Hall Stair (K20A) to reach any other private chamber. 

To enter the “public area” from outside, a creature can enter through the Entry (K8) on the first floor.

To enter the “private area” from outside, a creature can enter through the Servants’ Entrance on the first floor, proceed to the Servants’ Upper Floor (K34) on the second floor, and pass through the secret door into the Heart of Sorrow (K20).

The “public” and “private” areas connect at four points: 

  • 1st Floor: The High Tower Stair (K18) that descends from the Chapel (K15) to the catacombs (K84). Currently obstructed by a solid stone wall.

  • 2nd Floor: The secret doors that connect the Guards’ Post (K26) to the second-floor Turret Post Access Hall (K13) through the King’s Apartment Stair (K33)

  • 3rd Floor: The door that connects the Study (K37) to the Hall of Heroes (K45) and Heart of Sorrow (K20).

  • Towers: The Bridge (K58) that connects the Tower Roof (K57) to the Heart of Sorrow (K20)

  • Larders: The Kingsmen Hall (K70), which connects the Kingsmen Quarters (K71) to the Hall of Bones (K67)

T?????????? ?? ??? C?????

Strahd’s three most honored brides are not simply mindless spawn—they are devoted and powerful executors of his will, each with their own strengths and portfolios. As such, each bride oversees a separate section of the castle, with the two remaining sections reserved for Rahadin and Strahd himself.

Strahd’s brides are as territorial as they are fierce. While they do occasionally allow their neighbors to complete projects in their domains (e.g., Ludmilla's flying halberds in Volenta’s Heart of Sorrow, or Volenta’s suit-of-armor trap in Anastrasya’s Grand Landing), an uninvited intrusion into a bride’s territory by another bride is met with hostility, if not violence. As such, neither the brides nor any creatures encountered in their territory will willingly follow the PCs past the borders of their own territory. Rahadin and Strahd, however, are not limited by the territories of the brides, and pursue prey wherever they please.

A?????????

As the envoy and hostess of Castle Ravenloft, Anastrasya oversees the entryway, public spaces, and royal quarters of the castle, which include the following locations:

  • K7. Entry

  • K8. Great Entry

  • K9. Guests’ Hall

  • K10. Dining Hall

  • K14. Hall of Faith

  • K15. Chapel

  • K16. North Chapel Access

  • K17. South Chapel Access

  • K19. Grand Landing

  • K20. Heart of Sorrow

  • K21. South Tower Stair

  • K25. Audience Hall

  • K30. King’s Accountant

  • K35. Guardian Vermin

  • K36. Dining Hall of the Count

  • K37. Study

  • K38. False Treasury

  • K39. Hall of Webs

  • K40. Belfry

  • K41. TreasuryK42. King’s Bedchamber

  • K43. Bath Chamber

  • K44. Closet

While travelling through Anastrasya’s territory, the PCs are likely to meet the following random encounters:

  • 1d4 wights, which serve as Anastrasya’s personal guard

  • A giant spider cocoon, left behind by the giant spiders that Anastrasya favors

  • A trinket

  • An unseen servant, carrying a silver goblet filled to the brim with wine or a purple silk handkerchief with white ruffled edges

V??????

The mistress of Ravenloft’s secret places, Volenta lurks in the dark, shadowed chambers of the castle. Her domain includes the following rooms:

  • K20. Heart of Sorrow

  • K20A. Tower Hall Stair

  • K23. Servants’ Entrance

  • K24. Servants’ Quarters

  • K26. Guards’ Post

  • K27. King’s Hall

  • K28. King’s Balcony

  • K31. Trapworks

  • K31A. Elevator Shaft

  • K31B. Shaft Access

  • K32. Maid in Hell

  • K33. King’s Apartment Stair

  • K34. Servants’ Upper Floor

  • K45. Hall of Heroes

  • K59. 60 North Tower Peak

  • K60A. North Tower Rooftop

  • K61. Elevator Trap

While travelling through Volenta’s territory, the PCs are likely to meet the following random encounters:

  • 2d6 crawling claws

  • A crawling Strahd zombie, the desecrated remains of an uninvited houseguest

  • A Blinsky toy

  • An unseen servant, carrying a crystal dinner bell that attracts 1d4 hungry vampire spawn

  • 1d4 + 1 vampire spawn

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An arcane researcher and alchemist at heart, Ludmilla keeps to herself, preferring the isolation and altitude of the castle spires to the chambers of the keep below. Her territory includes the following rooms:

  • K47. Portrait of Strahd

  • K48. Offstair

  • K49. Lounge

  • K50. Guest Room

  • K51. Closet

  • K52. Smokestack

  • K53. Rooftop

  • K54. Familiar Room

  • K55. Element Room

  • K56. Cauldron

  • K57. Tower Roof

  • K58. Bridge

While travelling through Ludmilla’s territory, the PCs are likely to meet the following encounters:

  • 1d4 + 1 flying swords, enchanted by Ludmilla

  • An unseen servant, carrying a gold candelabra with three branches

  • A trinket

  • 1 black cat

  • 1 Barovian witch

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As Strahd’s chamberlain, Rahadin is responsible for the upkeep, oversight, and defense of the castle and its inhabitants. As such, his territory extends through the lower portions of the castle, the areas reserved for its staff, and the defensive posts throughout the keep. Rahadin’s domain therefore includes the following rooms:

  • K11. South Archers’ Post

  • K12. Turret Post

  • K13. Turret Post Access Hall

  • K22. North Archers’ Post

  • K62. Servants’ Hall

  • K63. Wine Cellar

  • K64. Guards’ Stair

  • K65. Kitchen

  • K66. Butler’s Quarters

  • K67. Hall of Bones

  • K68. Guards’ Run

  • K69. Guards’ Quarters

  • K70. Kingsmen Hall

  • K71. Kingsmen Quarters

  • K72. Chamberlain’s Office

  • K73. Dungeon Hall

  • K74. North Dungeon

  • K75. South Dungeon

  • K76. Torture Chamber

  • K77. Observation Balcony

  • K78. Brazier Room

  • K79. Western Stair

  • K83. Spiral Stair

  • K83A. Spiral Stair Landing

While travelling through Rahadin’s territory, the PCs are likely to meet the following encounters:

  • Rahadin

  • An unseen servant, carrying a covered silver platter of moldy scones

  • 1 broom of animated attack, recently escaped from Cyrus Belview

  • 1d4 wights

  • 1d6 shadows

  • A trinket

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As master of Castle Ravenloft, all chambers within the keep are under Strahd’s domain. However, his presence is most strongly felt in the following rooms of the castle:

  • K80. Center Stair

  • K81. Tunnel

  • K82. Marble Slide

  • K84. Catacombs 

  • K85. Sergei’s Tomb

  • K86. Strahd’s Tomb

  • K87. Guardians

  • K88. Tomb of King Barov and Queen Ravenovia

While travelling through Strahd’s territory, the PCs are likely to meet the following encounters:

  • An unseen servant, carrying a spellbook

  • 1d6 swarms of bats

  • A trinket

  • Strahd von Zarovich

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After the three Barovian settlements, Castle Ravenloft is the most well-populated location in Barovia. Before running it, make sure to familiarize yourself with those who reside here.

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Strahd von Zarovich. The titular villain of the module, and the lord of Castle Ravenloft himself. Strahd can be encountered in several locations throughout the castle, regardless of time of day. However, if he is not aware of intruders in the castle, he is most likely to be found in his tomb (K86), unless the PCs’ Tarokka reading indicates otherwise.

Ludmilla Vilisevic. As Strahd’s protege in magic, Ludmilla is the spellmistress of Castle Ravenloft and the master of the coven of Barovian witches that dwell in its highest towers. She has the characteristics of a vampire spawn with 105 hit points and an Intelligence of 18. Additionally, Ludmilla possesses a familiar named Heshka, which most commonly takes the form of a horned viper snake. Heshka has the characteristics of a familiar as defined in the find familiar spell.

Ludmilla is an 8th-level spellcaster. Her spellcasting ability is Intelligence (spell save DC 15, +7 to hit with spell attacks). She has the following Wizard spells prepared:

Cantrips (at will): ray of frost, mage hand, prestidigitation, light

1st Level (4 slots): ray of sickness, sleep, shield, fog cloud

2nd Level (3 slots): misty step, blindness/deafness, levitate

3rd Level (3 slots): counterspell, lightning bolt

4th Level (3 slots): greater invisibility, evard’s black tentacles

At nearly 200 years old, Ludmilla is Strahd’s oldest bride. Where other consorts have been cast aside as Strahd grew tired of them, Ludmilla has survived by keeping to herself while tending to matters he deems important. She serves as the unofficial leader of his harem, and reins the others in when necessary.

Ludmilla first came to Barovia as a little girl, stowing away in a Vistani caravan that passed through her homeland of Amn. When she arrived in Barovia, she made a living by stealing and hiding in the shadows. It was only as a young woman that a kindly family in Vallaki found and adopted her.

Life with a family was better than life on the streets, but the dark color of Ludmilla’s skin marked her as an outsider—and, in some ways, an outcast—to the other citizens of Vallaki. At the age of eighteen, Ludmilla fled Vallaki, following an ancient map that provided directions to the Amber Temple. There, she believed, she would find the answers and belonging she sought.

It was on the snow-covered slopes of Mount Ghakis that Ludmilla met the dusk elf, Rahadin, for the first time. Ludmilla was entranced by him; Rahadin saw her as a pleasurable and exotic distraction for his master. He offered to guide her to Castle Ravenloft, where he promised her a partner, a teacher, and a home.

For the next three years, Strahd taught her the secrets of the arcane arts alongside the minutiae of courtly etiquette. He fed upon her regularly, and was impressed by her stoic, yet thoughtful response to his hunger. Her intelligence and charisma were apparent, and Strahd soon offered her a position as his bride. She gladly accepted.

As a vampire, Ludmilla quickly learned from Rahadin that Strahd would inevitably tire of her—unless, that is, she proved herself useful. She set about serving him in the advancement of his arcane studies, and personally took on the task of recruiting and training his next bride, Anastraya. She now carefully stays out of Strahd’s way unless he requests her presence directly, and has formed close ties to Rahadin.

When not needed elsewhere by Strahd or resting in her coffin in Strahd’s tomb, Lumilla can most often be found in area K55 (Element Room).

Anastrasya Karelova. The diplomat of Castle Ravenloft and a former Vallakian noble, Anastrasya is as skilled with a sword as she is with her tongue—but is sure never to get her hands dirty. Anastrasya has the characteristics of a vampire spawn with 105 hit points and a Charisma of 18, as well as expertise in Deception (+7 modifier). 

Of Strahd’s brides, Anastrasya is most adept with the vampiric arts. As an action, she can use a vampire’s Charm action with a DC of 15. If the target successfully saves against the effect, or if the effect on it ends, the target is immune to Anastrasya's Charm for the next 24 hours. Anastrasya can have only one target charmed at a time. If she charms another, the effect on the previous target ends.

As an action, Anastrasya can also use the vampire’s Shapechange action to transform into a wolf, a bat, or a cloud of mist. However, she lacks the vampire’s Misty Escape ability. Once per day, she can use the vampire’s Children of the Night ability.

Using powerful magic, Anastrasya telekinetically wields a longsword that gains the properties of a flying sword that acts on her initiative. While wielded in this way by Anastrasya and within 50 feet of her, the sword has a Strength of 16 and cannot be targeted or damaged by attacks or spells, as though it were a held item. While wielding it, Anastrasya can use her bonus action to allow it to perform two Longsword attacks against a target she can see using its modified Strength score. Anastrasya also telekinetically wields a shield that acts as if it were an animated shield while under her control.

Anastrasya is Strahd’s second-eldest bride, and the foremost executor of his will among the Barovian populace. In life, she was a Vallakian noblewoman who hosted great celebrations in Strahd’s honor and ruthlessly punished any who displayed traitorous intent. Enamored with the prospect of becoming his bride, she believed that if he could only see her unearthly beauty in person, he would deem her worthy of his hand in marriage.

It was at one of her events that she met Ludmilla Vilisevic, who claimed to be an agent of the count and offered an invitation to dine at Castle Ravenloft with Strahd himself. Anastrasya eagerly accepted.

Upon arriving at the castle, Ludmilla gave Anastrasya a tour of the decrepit keep, pleased with the prospect of unnerving the noblewoman with the macabre sights of Castle Ravenloft. Much to her surprise—and Strahd’s satisfaction—Anastrasya was immediately taken with the displays of Strahd’s power and darkness.

Strahd took to her immediately, and though it meant his waning interest in Ludmilla faded faster, he appreciated his elder bride’s foresight in locating this new consort.

When not needed elsewhere by Strahd or resting in her coffin in Strahd’s tomb, Anastrasya can most often be found in area K37 (Study).

Volenta Popofsky. The trapmistress and self-proclaimed artist of Castle Ravenloft, Volenta delights in hidden passages, lethal mechanisms, and morbid curiosities. She has the characteristics of a vampire spawn with 105 hit points and a Dexterity of 18. 

Volenta has the Assassinate, Evasion, and Sneak Attack features of an assassin. Additionally, Volenta has the Blood Frenzy feature, granting her advantage on melee attack rolls against any creature that doesn’t have all its hit points.

In life, Volenta dwelled in the village of Barovia as a prostitute. She revelled in the pain and suffering of others, and captured several of her customers in the cellar of her home, tormenting and torturing them for weeks before they expired. When her morbid activities were discovered, a mob drove her from the village, forcing her to seek shelter at Castle Ravenloft.

Despite Strahd’s power and intimidating reputation, Volenta showed no fear upon meeting him, and gladly offered herself to him. Strahd, impressed by the depths of her sadistic streak, made her his bride.

Volenta is the most willful of the three brides, gleefully pushing the boundaries of Strahd and Ludmilla’s patience. Her carefree, childlike personality can swiftly descend into a berserker’s aggression when provoked, but her love of secrets drives her to lurk and spy on all visitors to the castle. 

She has continued her passion for torment through the traps she has installed across Ravenloft, including the trapped chest in the False Treasury (K38), the trapped suits of armor on the Grand Landing (K19), and the enchanted trapdoors in the Dungeon Hall K73)—a collaborative project with Ludmilla. She has also indulged her love for the macabre on several aesthetics, and gleefully joined Cyrus Belview in the construction of the Hall of Bones, which she considers her masterwork.

When not needed elsewhere by Strahd or resting in her coffin in Strahd’s tomb, Volenta can most often be found in area K60 (North Tower Peak).

Escher. One of Strahd’s newest consorts, Escher is a dashing vampire spawn with a Charisma of 16 to whom Strahd has shown favor in the past. 

Escher has the Taunt ability of a bard, and is a 4th-level spellcaster. His spellcasting ability is Charisma (spell save DC 13, +5 to hit with spell attacks). He wields a silver lyre as his arcane focus, and has the following bard spells prepared:

Cantrips (at will): friends, prestidigitation, vicious mockery

1st level (4 slots): charm person, heroism, sleep, dissonant whispers, faerie fire

2nd level (3 slots): invisibility, crown of madness

A traveling minstrel with exceptional social graces and adept in manipulation, Escher impressed Strahd with his wit, intellect, and remarkable musical talents. Despite this, however, Escher has little ambition, and is content to enjoy the quiet, hedonistic lifestyle that Strahd provides him with.

Recently, Escher has begun to feel neglected, and has retreated from his position in the castle until Strahd’s mood improves. He dreads the prospect of losing Strahd’s interest, especially if Strahd’s boredom leads to his imprisonment in the crypts below Castle Ravenloft.

Escher strongly (and correctly) suspects the cause of Strahd’s disinterest to be the Count’s growing obsession with Ireena Kolyana. Jealous of Ireena’s presence in Strahd’s attentions, Escher is determined to ensure that the happy couple is never wed, though he justifies his treasonous thoughts through the assumption that a talentless peasant such as Ireena could never be worth Strahd’s affections.

To this end, Escher has forged a reluctant relationship with Sasha Ivliskova, one of Strahd’s former brides, and a prisoner in the crypts below the castle. Should Sasha be released to serve Strahd’s will once more, the pair have agreed to work together to keep Ireena from the castle. This goal may lead Escher to assist the PCs in certain endeavors—so long as his contributions cannot be traced back to him by Strahd or one of his spies.

Escher can be found in area K49 (Lounge).

Helga Ruvak. One of Strahd’s minor consorts, Helga is a vampire spawn who lurks in area K32 (Maid in Hell). Upon encountering the PCs, she claims to be the daughter of the village bootmaker, kidnapped and forced into service by Strahd. Helga plays the part of the innocent damsel in distress to the last, revealing her vampiric nature and ferocity only when she betrays the party and attacks. She is, in fact, the bootmaker’s daughter she claims to be, but she chose a life of evil with Strahd.

Heart of Sorrow. While not a “character” in the traditional sense, the Heart of Sorrow is a notable presence in Castle Ravenloft. While it’s never explained in RAW how it came to be, we can make some decent inferences about what it is and how it was made.

According to the book, "The Heart of Sorrow is held aloft by the will of Strahd. Casting dispel magic on it has no effect." We can connect this to the other instances of "the will of Strahd" throughout the module, plus this description of Strahd's curse in Chapter 9: ". . . Strahd saw the faces of his father and mother in the thunderclouds, looking down upon him and judging him. He had destroyed the family bloodline and doomed all of Barovia . . . For Strahd and his people, there would be no escape."

From this, we can reasonably guess that the Heart of Sorrow isn't a magical artifact at all; rather, it's an external manifestation of Strahd's sorrow and self-loathing, empowered by the Dark Powers and mists of the Demiplanes of Dread.

In other words, it wasn't built or forged. Instead, it sprang into being when the mists tore Barovia away and Strahd realized the extent of his curse

It’s also possible that Strahd uses the Heart of Sorrow as a vessel for the grief and sorrow he feels due to this curse, externalizing his most human emotions to keep them from consuming him. When the Heart is destroyed, as glass and blood rains down the hollow shaft of the tower, all of the rage, sadness, guilt, and pain that Strahd has suppressed for centuries comes rushing back to him. As Strahd struggles to process the emotions flooding his mind, he is stunned for one round as his scream of agony and rage echoes through the castle.

Until Strahd is able to reconstruct the Heart of Sorrow (a process which takes thirty days and nights), he is riveted by pain and driven by rage—specifically, rage toward those who dared destroy his Heart. He may not be as tactful or subtle as he was before, but Strahd will still bring every ounce of his cunning, bloodlust, and power to bear upon his unfortunate victims. With the Heart destroyed, any idea of mercy that Strahd may have once entertained toward the PCs is gone for good.

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Rahadin. The chamberlain of Castle Ravenloft and Strahd’s right-hand man, Rahadin is a dusk elf who betrayed his people and served Strahd faithfully for years as a general of his armies. Today, he oversees the day-to-day operations of Castle Ravenloft, and serves as Strahd’s enforcer in the lands beyond the castle. Rahadin is a fearsome fighter and an adopted son of the von Zarovich line. Only Strahd outranks him within the walls of Castle Ravenloft. He can most often be found in the Chamberlain’s Office (K72), but can occasionally be encountered as a random encounter throughout the castle.

Lief Lipsiege. Lief Lipsiege was pressed into service as Strahd’s accountant many years ago. He records all of Strahd’s riches and conquests, and has inhabited Castle Ravenloft longer than he can remember. He can be found in K30 (King’s Accountant).

Cyrus Belview. Cyrus is the butler of Castle Ravenloft and a bestial mongrelfolk: a member of the Belview family that was twisted into monstrous insanity by the Abbot in Krezk decades ago. He holds a key that can unlock the iron chest containing Strahd’s crown in K60 (North Tower Peak), and unwittingly wears a pendant containing the hag eye of the coven in Old Bonegrinder. He is quite insane, and previously collaborated with Strahd’s bride Volenta Popofsky on the Hall of Bones (K67), an unholy work of art. He is totally devoted to Strahd, and will do his best to usher the PCs to “their rooms” in K50 (Guest Room), using the Elevator Trap (K61) to transport them there. He can be encountered in the Servants’ Hall (K62), and regularly lurks in the Kitchen (K65) or the Butler’s Quarters (K66). 

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Pidlwick. The ghost of Pidlwick, the former fool of Duchess Dorfinya Dilisnya, lurks in the Dining Hall of the Count (K36), and can be summoned by a character who plays his harp and succeeds on a DC 15 Performance check. If encountered, he commends the character for their playing, and directs them to his crypt (Crypt 9) in the Catacombs (K84), where the PCs can find a deck of illusions. He dislikes Pidlwick II, who killed him by pushing him down a staircase in Castle Ravenloft.

Pidlwick II. Constructed by the legendary toymaker Fritz von Weerg at the request of Duchess Dorfinya Dilisnya, Pidlwick II, a clockwork effigy of Pidlwick the fool, was constructed with a touch of his creator’s madness. Isolated after the Duchess succumbed to illness during a harsh winter at Castle Ravenloft, and jealous of Pickwick's role in Strahd’s court, Pidlwick II pushed Pidlwick down a long flight of stairs, killing him. Its presence was upsetting to Tatyana for the time that she stayed at the castle, and as a result it was shut away in the guest bedrooms of Castle Ravenloft. From time to time, Pidlwick II snuck out to smother a sleeping guest with a pillow, amusing Strahd with its murderous nature. It now lurks in the rafters of the High Tower Peak (K59), and will try to be helpful if shown kindness—or murderous, if treated meanly.

Patrina Velikovna. In life, before Strahd first met Tatyana, Patrina Velikovna sought Strahd’s hand in marriage, enamouring him with her deep knowledge of the dark arts. Patrina was responsible for showing Strahd the secrets of the Amber Temple, and an enchanted Strahd nearly consented to wed her—before stumbling upon Tatyana Federovna instead. Later, after Strahd became a vampire, Patrina returned to win Strahd’s affections, but he no longer cared for her, now fully realizing that she craved only his power. Kasimir, Patrina’s brother, however, became convinced that she had become a consort of Strahd’s, and directed his people to stone Patrina to death. Strahd demanded—and received—Patrina’s body. Now, her soul is eternally trapped in the Catacombs (K84) below Castle Ravenloft as a banshee that haunts the crypt where her body was laid to rest (Crypt 21).

Sir Klutz Tripalotsky. A clumsy phantom warrior who died by falling on his own sword, the spirit of Sir Klutz Tripalotsky dwells in the Catacombs (K84) of Castle Ravenloft within his crypt (Crypt 33). If the PCs remove the sword that killed him from his suit of armor, Sir Klutz’s ghost appears and offers to fight alongside them for seven days.

Varushka. Varushka was a maid of Castle Ravenloft who took her own life when Strahd began feeding on her, denying him the chance to turn her into a vampire spawn. Her spirit resides in K43 (Bath Chamber), manifesting as a pool of blood that, if disturbed, releases a terrifying (but harmless) apparition.

Strahd’s Animated Armor. The armor that Strahd wore into battle when he was alive lives on today as a headless, animated suit of plate armor. It is imbued with a sliver of Strahd’s malevolent being, and fortified with arcane wards and spells. If the PCs linger on the Parapets (K46), they can encounter the Animated Armor making its patrol. Alternatively, Strahd may have previously gifted the Armor to an unwitting PC, removing it from the Castle entirely.

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Any creatures that Strahd takes prisoner are stored in the North Dungeon (K74) or South Dungeon (K75). He may also store bound and guarded noncombatant prisoners on the second floor of the Treasury (K41) if the waterlogged conditions of the Dungeon prevents him from doing so.

If Strahd captures Ireena, he keeps her in the King’s Bedchamber (K42)—with one exception. If the PCs have previously rescued Ireena, Strahd immediately kills her and turns her into a vampire spawn, then seals her into the crypt marked “Ireena Kolyana” (Crypt 18) in the Catacombs (K84).

Gertruda. A naive teenage girl and the daughter of Mad Mary from the village of Barovia, Gertruda escaped her mother’s overbearing grasp and fled to Castle Ravenloft, her mind aflutter with dreams of honorable princes in beautiful castles. Strahd was amused by her naiveté, and keeps her as his guest in the King’s Bedchamber (K42). Gertruda is oblivious to any danger to herself—especially from Strahd, who has charmed her. Strahd will gladly bite and turn her if he can do so while the PCs look on helplessly. If he captures Ireena, Strahd will relocate Gertruda to the Guest Room (K50).

Emil Toranescu. A werewolf from the Werewolf Den, Emil dueled with Kiril Stoyanovich for leadership of Barovia’s werewolf pack. Kiril advocated forcing the children captured by the pack to fight to the death, thereby allowing only the strongest to live. Emil favored turning all of the children into werewolves, thereby swelling the pack’s ranks. Emil’s actions caused a schism in the pack, and Strahd locked him in the South Dungeon (K75) as punishment. If encountered by the PCs, Emil claims to be a resident of Vallaki who was chased by dire wolves to the castle. If freed, he betrays the PCs as soon as an opportunity arises in order to prove his worth to Strahd. However, if the PCs have previously met his wife, Zuleika, in the Werewolf Den, Emil doesn’t betray the party, and instead works with them to reunite with her.

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There are several reasons why your PCs might visit Castle Ravenloft. Each of these scenarios will be explored in more depth in the sections “The Dinner,” “The Heist,” and “The Finale” later in this chapter. See below for a brief description of the different objectives your PCs might have when entering the castle.

Attending the Dinner. Your PCs may visit Castle Ravenloft to attend dinner with Strahd. This “dinner” can take two forms. In the original module, Strahd sends an invitation to dine when the PCs anger or impress him in some way. When the PCs arrive, they find that the Strahd in the dining hall is an illusion, and the dinner itself was a trap. In the community revisions, the “dinner” is an opportunity for a low/mid-level party to safely socialize with Strahd while observing Castle Ravenloft as guests, before any significant animosity has developed. More information about this “dinner” can be found in the “Visits to the Castle” section below.

Recovering an Artifact. Your PCs may infiltrate Castle Ravenloft to recover the Sunsword, Holy Symbol of Ravenkind, or Tome of Strahd, as foretold by Madam Eva or Ezmerelda’s Tarokka reading. They may also venture into Ravenloft to meet their destined ally, if that ally is Pidlwick II or Sir Klutz.

Locating Tasha Petrovna’s Holy Symbol. The PCs may enter Castle Ravenloft in effort to recover Tasha Petrovna’s holy symbol, which must be returned to the priestess’ grave in Krezk. The symbol possesses no power of its own, but reveals a ring of regeneration if taken to its proper place. This is most often included as part of a PC’s personal quest if you used this guide’s revised Adventure Hook chapter. Tasha Petrovna’s holy symbol can be found in Crypt 11 of the Catacombs (K84).

Retrieving Argynvost’s Skull. If your PCs have previously visited Argynvostholt and heard Argynvost’s request, they may venture to Castle Ravenloft to recover the dragon’s skull and return it to its rightful place in his mausoleum. Argynvost’s skull is mounted in the Hall of Bones (K67).

Exploring & Looting Ravenloft. Certain daring and intrepid—not to mention suicidal—adventurers may venture into Castle Ravenloft to explore its shadowed passageways and loot its priceless treasures. They will likely be most interested in the Treasury (K41) and the contents of the Catacombs (K84)—but beware. Strahd does not easily endure the company of thieves.

Rescuing Emil. If the PCs have previously met Zuleika in the Werewolf Den, they may have agreed to rescue her husband, Emil, from his place in Strahd’s dungeons. Emil can be found imprisoned in the South Dungeon (K75), and will gladly join the PCs if they mention his wife.

Rescuing Ireena or Ally. If Strahd has successfully kidnapped Ireena or one of the PCs’ other allies, such as Ezmerelda, Ismark, or a member of the Keepers of the Feather, the PCs may attempt to rescue them from the castle. To do so, the PCs must first learn where their friend is being hidden, and must then find a way to free them from Strahd’s clutches.

Killing Strahd. Nearly all campaigns will culminate in a final battle against Strahd in the dark corridors of Ravenloft. Can your PCs defeat Strahd within the seat of his power? Or will they fall to his dark machinations—another band of misguided souls now lost to the ages?

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Castle Ravenloft is full of dangers and threats, from traps to hostile creatures, environmental hazards, and more. Here’s a full list of what you should expect (and what your players should fear) while running Castle Ravenloft.

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Castle Ravenloft is full of mechanical and magical threats—traps, devices, spells, and contraptions that trigger when the PCs misstep, often to the party’s horror and surprise.

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K10. Dining Hall. An illusion of Strahd greets the PCs. After three rounds, the illusion vanishes, extinguishing all open flames and torches and causing the castle drawbridge to lift, sealing the PCs inside the keep.

K15. Chapel. The Icon of Ravenloft upon the altar, if touched by an evil character, deals 16d10 radiant damage.

K19. Grand Landing. Both suits of armor lining the staircases to the Audience Hall (K25) are mechanical traps; a creature that steps on a pressure plate in front of a suit of armor causes it to spring forward and attack with its mace.

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K27. King’s Hall. Upon reaching the halfway point of this corridor, the PCs encounter a flying vampiric mannequin disguised to resemble Strahd, which may startle them into wasting spell slots or other resources to attack it.

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K38. False Treasury. The empty chest in this chamber, when opened, releases a cloud of sleeping gas that fills the room, causing a paralysis that lasts for four hours.

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K61. Elevator Trap. When an unwary party places at least 400 pounds of pressure on a 10-foot pressure plate in this hallway facade (e.g., three ordinary Medium creatures or two tanky Medium creatures), they trigger an elevator that rockets them up four floors to K47 (Portrait of Strahd), while also filling the interior with sleeping gas. The elevator is audible throughout the castle, and swiftly attracts Strahd’s attention. Cyrus Belview, if he is with the PCs, will attempt to intentionally trigger this trap.

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K73. Dungeon Hall. Hidden under the surface of the water lurk five submerged trapdoors. For every 10 pounds of weight on a trapdoor, there is a five percent chance that it will open—a Medium character that weighs 150 pounds has a 75 percent chance of triggering a given trapdoor. Each trapdoor, when opened, is linked to a magical teleport trap that teleports its victim to one of the cells in the North Dungeon (K74) or South Dungeon (K75).

K79. Western Stair. The midpoint landing of this staircase contains a hidden glyph of warding. If activated, it conjures an aggressive illusion of Strahd, which may startle the PCs into wasting spell slots or other resources to attack it.

K81. Tunnel. The midpoint of this tunnel bears a trapdoor that opens when 100 pounds of weight or more are placed upon it. When it opens, everyone standing on it slides into the marble chute below (K82), which deposits them into a flooded dungeon cell (K74e).

K84. Catacombs. The three corridors that lead to Strahd’s Tomb (K86) are defended by invisible teleport traps 10 feet across. Any creature that steps inside of a trap is teleported into a coffin beneath Crypt 15, trading places with a wight that attacks anyone who remains near Strahd’s tomb.

Crypt 28. A creature that rings the bell of Bascal Ofenheiss causes magic fire to sweep through the crypt, scorching the chef’s bones—and anyone in the crypt.

Crypt 31. The floor of the crypt is actually the cover of a 30-foot-deep spiked pit. The cover opens if 100 pounds of weight or more are placed on it. It splits down the middle, east to west, and its doors are spring-loaded. After a victim or victims fall into the pit, its doors snap shut.

Crypt 32. Creatures that enter the eastern alcove of this crypt are teleported to the eastern alcove of Strahd's tomb (area K86).

Crypt 35. The floor here is an illusion that hides a 20-foot-deep pit. The sides of the pit are polished smooth; a creature without a climbing speed can't move along them without the aid of magic or a climber's kit. At the bottom of the pit are six starving ghouls. A permanent silence spell suppresses sound in the pit. 

Crypt 37. If the brass-knobbed end of Gralmore Nimblenobs’ staff is placed in the recess in the marble slab, the holder of the staff takes 22 (4d10) lightning damage.

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Several dangerous encounters within Castle Ravenloft are entirely optional—so long as your PCs don’t stray from the path. However, if your PCs insist on unwisely poking the bear, they may activate one of these guardian monsters or defensive combat encounters.

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K20. Heart of Sorrow. If a creature damages the Heart of Sorrow, Strahd telepathically summons four vampire spawn to attack. The tower also animates 10 animated halberds to attack.

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K30. King’s Accountant. If Lieg Lipsiege, Strahd’s accountant, feels threatened, he instantly pulls the rope near his desk, summoning one of the following encounters to protect him, which arrive in 1d6 rounds: 1d6 shadows, 1d4 vampire spawn, 1d4 wights, or 1 wraith and 1d4 + 1 specters.

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K40. Belfry. If a creature pulls the rope and rings the bell, or attempts to climb the rope, it causes five giant spiders to drop from their webs and attack.

K43. Bath Chamber. If a creature disturbs the blood in the tub, they are surprised by a terrifying (though harmless) apparition of Varushka, the tormented spirit of a former maid of Ravenloft.

K46. Parapets. If the PCs linger on the parapets for more than five minutes, they encounter Strahd’s animated armor making its rounds around the keep (unless the armor has previously been provided to one of the PCs as a gift).

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K60a. North Tower Rooftop. Characters who remain on the roof for more than three rounds are accosted by 10 swarms of bats.

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K63. Wine Cellar. A character that breaks the middle southern cask frees a black pudding that bursts forth and attacks.

K65. Kitchen. A character that looks into the pot angers three zombies that rise up from its bubbling depths and attack.

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K74a. North Dungeon. A character that enters this otherwise-empty cell is attacked by an effectively invisible gray ooze.

K78. Brazier Room. If the brazier, hourglass, or either golem is attacked, the doors of the room magically slam shut and lock, and the two iron golems in this room animate and attack.

Crypt 4. A creature that opens this crypt risks possession by the ghost of Prince Ariel du Plumette, who attempts to hurl a possessed PC down the High Tower Shaft (K18a).

Crypt 7. If the bones on the slab are disturbed, one of the gargoyles in the crypt animates and attacks. If it is destroyed, the second gargoyle animates and attacks.

Crypt 14. If a creature lifts the lid of one of the occupied coffins in the vault below this crypt, the wight within attacks.

Crypt 20. Once the vampire spawn in this crypt realizes that the characters aren’t Strahd, she attacks.

Crypt 21. Patrina Velikovna, the banshee inside this crypt, attacks as soon as the door is opened. If her brother, Kasimir, is with the party, she may be persuaded to cease her attack. Once awakened, she is free to roam Castle Ravenloft.

Crypt 38. A character that opens this crypt frees three hell hounds and a wraith that attack on sight.

Crypt 39. A character that opens this crypt is attacked by Beucephalus, Strahd’s nightmare

S??????? A?????? & A???????

Castle Ravenloft is a dangerous place, full of predatory creatures lying in wait for prey to wander past. Here’s a list of the surprise attacks and hidden ambushes that your PCs might face as they explore Castle Ravenloft.

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K7. Entry. Any creature that attempts to leave the castle via this entrance causes the four statues of red dragon wyrmlings to animate and attack. 

K8. Great Entry. The first time the PCs enter this room after leaving it, the eight gargoyles animate and attack.

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K32. Maid in Hell. If the PCs allow Helga Ruvak to join their party, the vampire spawn attacks as soon as she is able to isolate one of the PCs.

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K35. Guardian Vermin. Anyone that tries to move through this area is attacked by four swarms of rats piled atop one another to form manlike shapes.

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K47. Portrait of Strahd. Any person that moves across or disturbs the rug of smothering activates it. If the PCs attack or attempt to remove the rug or disturb the portrait of Strahd on the wall, the portrait (a guardian portrait) attacks.

K54. Familiar Room. If the three familiars in this room see the characters, the witches in area K56 (Cauldron) are notified of their presence and cast invisibility, hoping to surprise any intruders.

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K62. Servants’ Hall. If the characters follow Cyrus, he will attempt to intentionally activate the Elevator Trap (K61).

K69. Guards’ Quarters. When one or more characters reach the midpoint of this hall, 10 human skeletons leap from the alcoves and attack.

K72. Chamberlain’s Office. If he has not been defeated elsewhere, Rahadin is here, waiting for the PCs to arrive so he can kill them. He is swiftly joined by a shadow demon.

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K75a. South Dungeon. If the PCs free Emil Toranescu from his cell, the werewolf attacks them as soon as a good opportunity arises.

K76. As soon as a character moves more than 10 feet into this room, six Strahd zombies rise from the water and attack.

H?????? & E???????????? D??????

Castle Ravenloft is not meant for human habitation—a fact your players will soon discover. Strahd, however, knows every twist and turn of his castle, and won’t hesitate to use these dangers to his advantage. See below for a list of dangerous hazards and environmental risks that can complicate any combat (or peaceful) encounter.

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K20. Heart of Sorrow. The awakened tower shakes and pitches on the Heart of Sorrow’s initiative count. Any creature on the stairs or hanging on a tower wall must succeed on a DC 10 Dexterity saving throw or fall to the base of the tower, falling:

  • 50 feet (5d6 bludgeoning damage) if on the second floor

  • 90 feet (9d6 bludgeoning damage) if on the third floor (e.g., the landing adjacent to the Hall of Heroes)

  • 130 feet (13d6 bludgeoning damage) if on the fourth floor (e.g., the stairs at the same level as the Lounge and Guest Room)

  • 150 feet (15d6 bludgeoning damage) if on the fifth floor (e.g., the stairs at the same level as the Element Room and Cauldron)

  • 170 feet (17d6 bludgeoning damage) if on the sixth floor (the landing closest to the Heart of Sorrow)

  • 220 feet (20d6 bludgeoning damage) if on the seventh floor (the stairs leading up to the North Tower Peak)

Characters who are crawling on the staircase or who lie prone on the stairs succeed automatically.

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K29. Creaky Landing. The creatures in area K28 (King’s Balcony) can’t be surprised by anyone climbing these creaky steps.

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K39. Hall of Webs. Most of this hall is full of giant spider webs. Characters who stray from the unobstructed path through the webs risk becoming stuck.

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These web-filled areas are difficult terrain. Moreover, a creature entering a webbed area for the first time on a turn or starting its turn there must succeed on a DC 12 Dexterity saving throw or become restrained by the webs. A restrained creature can use its action to try to escape, doing so with a successful DC 12 Strength (Athletics) or Dexterity (Acrobatics) check. Each 10-foot cube of giant webs has AC 10, 15 hit points, vulnerability to fire, and immunity to bludgeoning, piercing, and psychic damage.

K40. Belfry. Most of the belfry is filled with giant spider webs. Characters who blunder into them risk becoming stuck.

K46. Parapets. A creature that falls or is dropped off of the walls of the keep falls 90 feet to the castle courtyard below.

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K53. Rooftop. A character must succeed on a DC 15 Acrobatics check to traverse the roof. The check succeeds automatically if the character crawls. If the check fails by 5 or more, the caracter slides off the edge of the room and falls 40 feet to the Parapets (K46).

K58. Bridge. A creature that takes damage while standing on this bridge must succeed on a DC 10 Dexterity saving throw or fall 60 feet onto the roof of the keep.

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Crypt 29. This room is filled with brown mold

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When a creature moves to within 5 feet of the mold for the first time on a turn or starts its turn there, it must make a DC 12 Constitution saving throw, taking 22 (4d10) cold damage on a failed save, or half as much damage on a successful one. 

Brown mold is immune to fire, and any source of fire brought within 5 feet of a patch causes it to instantly expand outward in the direction of the fire, covering a 10-foot-square area (with the source of the fire at the center of that area). A patch of brown mold exposed to an effect that deals cold damage is instantly destroyed.

K87. Guardians. A creature of lawful good alignment can pass through the magical curtain of light into the tomb without difficulty, but creatures of other alignments that do so are teleported back to the top of the stairs behind them. A Small creature can squeeze behind and around one of the bronze statues to circumvent the light curtain.

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No good villain acts alone, and Strahd is no different. A five-hundred-year-old vampire, a former general, and an experienced mage, Strahd can draw upon a wealth of minions, monsters, and resources within Castle Ravenloft to supplement his own formidable skills.

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Strahd’s three most favored brides—Ludmilla, Anastrasya, and Volenta—have proved their worth and loyalty to Strahd many times over. Whether Strahd needs a lieutenant to command his minions in a certain part of the castle, a guardian to protect a valuable treasure or important prisoner, or an envoy to another part of Barovia, his brides are always an excellent option.

Ludmilla. As a mage, Ludmilla is most adept in situations that require cunning, skill, and unique abilities. Whenever Strahd requires a servant to oversee a complex scheme or trap, Ludmilla is his most reliable companion.

Anastrasya. A diplomat and warrior both, Anastrasya is well-equipped to hold her own on the battlefield and in the ballroom. When Strahd requires a diplomatic emissary to the PCs, Anastrasya is his first choice—especially if a betrayal is in the cards.

Volenta. Volenta is blunt, violent, and sadistic above all else. Strahd does not care to use her for fine, detail-oriented tasks, but he is glad to make use of her bloodlust for any battle or objective that can be summarized with the words: “Kill it ‘til it’s dead.”

When necessary, Strahd can also call upon the services of two additional brides: Escher and Sasha Ivliskova.

Escher. A skilled musician and fanciful conversationalist, Escher is adept at luring Strahd’s guests into a false sense of security, even when among the dark spires of Castle Ravenloft. Though he will do his best to avoid Strahd’s attention in times of strife, he can also be commanded to wield his musical talents to bind and incapacitate Strahd’s enemies in battle.

Sasha. Though currently imprisoned beneath Castle Ravenloft, Sasha is useful to Strahd in other ways—specifically, as a triple-agent meant to gain the PCs’ trust. Desperate to prove her worth (and win her freedom) for Strahd, Sasha will gladly do her best to persuade the PCs that she stands with them against Strahd—only to betray them at the worst possible moment.

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Castle Ravenloft is full of dark and deadly creatures, from vampire spawn to wights, Barovian witches, shadows, swarms of bats, and much more. You should assume that Strahd is always aware of the location of all random encounters throughout Ravenloft, and that—if given sufficient time (i.e., at least one hour), he can organize and assign all potential random encounters to specific posts or tasks throughout the castle.

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Beucephalus, Strahd’s nightmare, is one of his most lethal weapons. Using his Ethereal Jaunt ability, this demonic horse can lurk in the Ethereal Plane close to Strahd’s side, constantly prepared to enter the Material Plane and whisk Strahd away to safety. If Strahd has the ability, foresight, and time to do so (i.e., at least one hour), he will always rouse Beucephalus from his place in the crypts below the castle to assist him in combat.

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Using this teleportation device, not only can Strahd instantly transport himself and/or his servants (e.g., Beucephalus, Rahadin, one of his brides, or any number of minions) to one of several locations throughout Barovia. Additionally, the magical brazier can provide access to several locations around the castle, including the Study (K37), Strahd’s Tomb (K86), and the North Tower Peak (K60). 

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The plundered riches of Strahd’s secret hoard in the Treasury (K41) form a priceless collection. Only teleportation or the Polymorph spell can allow another creature entry; otherwise, only Strahd and any creature that knows the command word (“Mordite”) can open the sealed adamantine door at its base or the adamantine trapdoor on the roof. As such, this magic tower can serve as a prime location to store the PCs’ stolen weapons and magic items (e.g., the Sunsword or Holy Symbol of Ravenkind), as well as a high-security prison in the event that the North and South Dungeon (K74 and K75) are suboptimal or undesirable.

However, under no circumstances does Strahd make use of the magic items within this hoard. The +2 shield of the Order of the Silver Dragon bears the emblem of an order he despises; the helm of brilliance deals damage to him and his undead minions; and the +1 rod of the pact keeper, potions of greater healing, and alchemy jug are functionally useless to him. He may, however, use the gold and jewels within as rewards for loyal adventurers.

D???????

In the event that Strahd captures a PC or an allied NPC, he can manacle and imprison them in one of the empty cells of the North Dungeon (K74) or South Dungeon (K75). If he does so, he confiscates all of their weapons, holy symbols, arcane focuses, and other equipment, and stores it in the Treasury (K41).

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Castle Ravenloft is a classic medieval keep, and keeps were built for the explicit purpose of defense. As such, any ranged attackers—such as wights, Barovian witches, or charmed Barovian scouts that Strahd has kidnapped from Vallaki or Barovia—are free to use the South and North Archers’ Posts (K11 and K22) on the first, second, and third levels to fire at any unwanted intruders. That especially includes anyone that might attempt to enter the castle by air.

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Several of the inhabitants of the Catacombs (K84) are deadly when unleashed, and can make excellent obstacles to a party of PCs invading the castle through its lower floors. The giant wolf spiders (Crypt 27) and the hell hounds and wraith (Crypt 38) can prove useful shock troops, as can the hundreds of swarms of bats (2d4 swarms per 10-foot square), which attack when provoked or on Strahd’s command. 

Additionally, Strahd will make full use of the many traps and hazards throughout the Catacombs, especially the invisible teleport traps, the brown mold (Crypt 29), the spiked pit (Crypt 31), and the ghoul pit (Crypt 35).

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Two cracked walls exist in Castle Ravenloft, each one wide enough to allow Strahd’s mist form to pass through: one between the Wine Cellar (K63) and the High Tower Stair (K18); and one in the High Tower Stair (K18) between the Chapel (K15) and the Catacombs (K84). Should you choose to remove Strahd’s Lair Action that allows him to pass through walls, floors, and ceilings (see Strahd’s Tactics below for more information on modifying and using Strahd’s stat block), these two passages can prove invaluable for allowing Strahd to move quickly through the castle.

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There are several occasions on which your PCs may visit Castle Ravenloft. These visits may be voluntary, born from desperation, or by Strahd’s will alone.

Here’s what to expect in some of the more frequent types of visits to Strahd’s keep.

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In the original module, “Dinner at Ravenloft” is a trap laid by Strahd. When the PCs do something sufficiently impressive or aggravating, Strahd sends them a letter inviting them to dinner at Castle Ravenloft. They are peacefully escorted to the castle by the Count’s black carriage, greeted by Rahadin, and directed to the Dining Hall where they  encounter an illusion of Strahd. The illusion summarily vanishes, the castle drawbridge lifts, and the PCs are left trapped in a castle of nightmares.

The dinner didn’t become a “true” dinner (in which the PCs actually dined with Strahd) until the earliest community guides. In these versions, the dinner was either an opportunity for Strahd to sow seeds of division in the party, or it was the starting point of the final battle, where Strahd delivered his ultimatum to a party that had become too powerful or bothersome to contain.

Today, however, most DMs use the dinner with Strahd as an opportunity for a low-level party (anywhere between 4th and 6th level) to encounter Strahd in-person—potentially for the first time. Not only does this let the PCs socialize with him in a low-stakes, low-conflict context, it also familiarizes them with the villain of the campaign and his lair while giving Strahd additional insight into their histories, secrets, and motivations.

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Strahd invites the PCs to dine at Castle Ravenloft the first time that the PCs complete any of the following objectives:

  • Restore the bones of Saint Andral to the church in Vallaki

  • Fend off the attacking vampire spawn during the Feast of Saint Andral special event

  • Overthrow Baron Vargas Vallakovich and reinstall a new Vallakian burgomaster

  • Defeat the Forest Folk at Yester Hill

  • Clear the werewolf pack from the Werewolf Den

  • Neutralize the night hag coven at Old Bonegrinder

His goal in extending this invitation is as follows:

  • To take measure of the PCs as people and as heroes

  • To flaunt his power over these newcomers to his land

  • To scope out potential successors or new consorts

When the PCs draw Strahd’s attention by completing one of the listed objectives, he sends Rahadin, his chamberlain, to hand-deliver his invitation to dinner. (If, for some reason, Rahadin is indisposed or is poorly disposed toward the PCs, Anastrasya delivers the message instead.) 

Rahadin arrives in Strahd’s black carriage, and informs the party that their presence is expected at Castle Ravenloft. He does not depart when the invitation is delivered; rather, he waits for the PCs to accept or refuse the invitation in person.

If the PCs accept the invitation, Rahadin bows, and notes that his Lord awaits their presence eagerly. If the PCs reject the invitation, Rahadin activates his Deathly Choir ability as a warning sign, and reminds them that Count von Zarovich does not take kindly to those who refuse his hospitality. (If the PCs again reject the invitation, Rahadin nods and departs, but warns the PCs that they may come to regret their rudeness).

If the PCs ask Rahadin for more time to decide, he curtly informs them that the date of the occasion is marked on the invitation, and warns them not to offend his Lord by rejecting his hospitality. He then departs.

No matter what, Rahadin assures the PCs that their travel to the castle will be a peaceful one; that they shall be free to come and go as they please during the dinner; that no harm shall come to them by Strahd’s hand or that of any creature that serves him during the dinner; and that, should they accept, their transportation to dinner will meet them beyond the Barovian Gates to the east of Vallaki.

The invitation is as follows:

My friends,

I am honored to have hosted you in this land, my home, and look forward to meeting you in person. I have heard tell of your activities in my domain, and wish to know those who have arrived in my beloved land of Barovia. As such, I bid you dine at my castle in three nights’ time so that we may meet in civilized surroundings. 

Your passage here will be a safe one, and you shall have full privileges of hospitality and guest right for as long as you remain at Castle Ravenloft. 

I await your arrival.

Your host, 

Count Strahd von Zarovich

S?????’? R???????

If the PCs refuse or defer Rahadin’s invitation, Strahd visits them in person within the next forty-eight hours. He may appear without pomp or circumstance, but is more likely to arrive while the PCs are preoccupied with or have recently completed another major task (e.g., battling the Forest Folk at Yester Hill). 

When he does, he appears atop Beucephalus, and may be accompanied by Anastrasya, if he feels that her diplomatic skills may be useful.

He greets the PCs warmly, inquiring after them by name even if he’s not met them personally before. He congratulates them on their most recent accomplishments, praising the specific achievements of individual PCs (especially those who he sees as potential consorts or successors), and shares his experiences with their current tasks or recent objectives. 

For example, Strahd may reflect on the mythology of the Wall of Fog and the history of the Forest Folk if the PCs have just cleared Yester Hill, or he may discuss the history of the Vallakovich family if the PCs have recently overthrown Vargas’ rule. He then asks how the PCs are enjoying their time in Barovia, and gently reminds them of his invitation. He then asks to confirm their attendance.

If the PCs accept Strahd’s invitation, he bows, notes that he looks forward to seeing them and getting to know them better, and leaves.

If the PCs reject Strahd’s invitation, his mood darkens, and he asks them—politely—if they mean to offend him. If necessary, he will (truthfully) reassure the PCs that no harm will come to them for the duration of their visit, aiming to proactively dismiss any fears they might have regarding his honesty.

If the PCs continue to reject his invitation, Strahd shares his regrets that his hospitality was not to their taste, and states simply that he shall not make the mistake of offering the party his friendship again. He then leaves. 

From then on, Strahd will actively seek to torment the PCs, both personally and through proxies, while working to forcibly remove Ireena (if present) from their party. After all, it would be unbecoming of him to entrust his bride’s safety to the hands of uncivilized brutes.

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When the PCs arrive at the western Barovian Gate, they are met by Strahd’s black carriage, which opens its door at their approach. On the carriage seat, Strahd has left a parchment-wrapped parcel and a small note sealed in crimson wax.

The note reads simply: “A gift for your arrival.—S.v.Z.”

The parcel contains multiple black, velvet-lined traveller’s cloaks with silver trim, accompanied by pairs of gloves of similar make, with one set included for each visitor that Strahd is expecting.

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When the PCs arrive at Ravenloft, they are greeted by Rahadin in the Great Entry (K8). He welcomes them to the castle, and notes that the lord of the castle, Strahd, is currently occupied, but will be with them shortly.

The group is swiftly joined by Escher and Sasha Ivliskova. Escher jovially greets the PCs, and shamelessly flirts with any attractive male party members (while making equally shameless vampire puns). Sasha, who has been freed from her crypt for the duration of the evening, keeps to herself and greets the PCs with quiet, monosyllabic responses.

If the PCs have not otherwise prepared for the occasion by cleaning themselves and purchasing formal wear, Rahadin notes his mild disgust for the PCs’ dirt-stained, blood-marked clothing, and informs the PCs that they must make a good first impression if they are to be allowed to dine with the lord of Ravenloft. He then directs the PCs to follow Sasha and Escher to the guest room and lounge upstairs, where they will be cleaned and suitably dressed for the occasion.

If the PCs refuse to change, Rahadin does not force them to do so, but makes his displeasure clear. He does, however, request that they wait in the lounge with Escher and Sasha until Strahd is ready to receive them.

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If the PCs agree to dress for the occasion, Escher and Sasha lead them to the lounge (K49), where Ludmilla is waiting for them. If the PCs have previously encountered Ludmilla at the Feast of Saint Andral, she apologizes for her actions, and notes that Count von Zarovich has disciplined her for her errors.

Each PC is asked to enter the Guest Room, strip to their smallclothes, and allow Ludmilla to use the prestidigitation cantrip to slowly and carefully remove any grime, blood, and sweat from the PCs’ skin. The PC is then directed to dress in a set of fine clothing chosen by Strahd himself, and returned to the lounge, where Escher happily and chattily brushes their hair using a tarnished silver hairbrush.

Any creature that exits the lounge is swiftly met by Rahadin, who instructs them to return to their companions.

When the PCs leave the castle after dinner (see “Gifts from the Count” below), Sasha returns them their clothes, now neatly cleaned and folded. When the PCs go to change, they will each notice that a small garment of theirs—e.g., a stocking, a sock, or a belt—is now missing.

Escher carefully cleans the hairbrush between brushings, and provides Strahd with the hairs (and the stolen garments) for use in scrying.

T?? D?????

When the PCs are fully dressed, or at a suitable moment after they’ve waited in the lounge, they are summoned downstairs by Rahadin to enter the dining hall.

There, Strahd is waiting for them, playing a mournful melody on the pipe organ as described in the original module. When the song concludes, he turns and greets them warmly, by name.

Strahd welcomes the PCs to Ravenloft, and inquires after their health, their enjoyment of their journey to Ravenloft, and their time in the valley of Barovia. He asks how they have enjoyed their time in his land, and asks their opinion on Castle Ravenloft. During this time, Escher and Sasha, assisted by a pair of unseen servants bearing trays of wine glasses and bottles of Red Dragon Crush wine, serve drinks and small refreshments to the party.

When Strahd feels that introductions have come to an end, he invites the PCs to take a seat at the table. Once they have, Escher and Sasha, once more assisted by the unseen servants, swiftly bring forth an assortment of delicious foods and drinks, as described in the original module. Strahd himself takes a glass of wine alongside a plate of roast pig and root vegetables, but a player with a passive perception greater than 15 notices that Strahd never touches his food, and that the liquid in his wineglass is a deeper, fuller red than that in the players’ glasses.

While eating, Strahd engages the PCs in a lively conversation, exploring their histories, interests, goals, passions, and experiences. If needed, he shares information from his own past, such as his conquest of Barovia, his tales of previous guests of the castle, or his relationship with King Barov and Queen Ravenovia. He is instantly intrigued by any PC that studies magic or deals with dark powers, and enjoys theological discussions and debates with clerics, paladins, and druids. He may ask PCs where they studied, how they gained their experience, or what drew them to their field of interest. While he may share information about himself as-needed, he prefers listening to speaking, and will always turn an anecdote about himself into a question regarding a PC’s history or interests. He displays genuine interest at all times, and is glad to be vulnerable, even to the point of discussing the nature of the curse of vampirism—with three exceptions: 

  • He never mentions his brother, Sergei, or acknowledges the nature of his death

  • He never mentions or acknowledges the nature of Tatyana’s death, or the events of her wedding day

  • He never shares or discusses the source of his vampiric curse (the Amber Temple), or his reasons for obtaining it

Halfway through the conversation, Escher informs the party that they’ve run out of wine, and asks for help in bringing up a fresh barrel, claiming that it’s too heavy for him to carry alone. If a PC accepts, he guides them downstairs via the South Tower Stair (K21), over the Elevator Trap (K61), and through the Servants’ Hall into the Wine Cellar (K63). The Elevator Trap has been deactivated, leaving a noticeable divot in the stone floor.

The door to the Kitchen (K65) is open; as they pass, the PC clearly notices a dead Barovian—a young man or woman—hung upside-down from the ceiling, their blood slowly draining into a large basin below. Escher notices their glance, and, shrugging, asks: “You didn’t forget that you were having dinner with monsters, did you?” He flashes a fanged smile and continues forward, retrieving a fresh barrel of Red Dragon Crush before returning upstairs.

While Escher is downstairs, Strahd occupied himself in conversation with one of the other PCs specifically. Sasha, taking advantage of the distraction, slips a note into one of the PCs’ laps while refilling their drink. The note, if unfurled, reads: “Not everyone here is an enemy.”

This note is a lie. Strahd directed Sasha to deliver it to the PCs as payment for being permitted to leave her crypt for the evening. However, if confronted, Sasha insists that the note was genuine, and will willingly assist the PCs with any schemes they may have in Castle Ravenloft—even while keeping Strahd informed as to their plans and secretly working to trap or sabotage them.

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After dinner, Strahd offers the PCs a tour of Castle Ravenloft. If the PCs accept, he leads them on the following route:

  • Guests’ Hall (K9)

  • Great Entry (K8)

  • Hall of Faith (K14)

  • Chapel (K15)

  • North Chapel Access (K16)

  • Creaky Landing (K29)

  • King’s Balcony (K28)

  • King’s Hall (K27)

  • Guards’ Post (K26)

  • Audience Hall (K25)

The PCs face no random encounters as they explore. Additionally, the Strahd zombies have been removed from Area K28, and the Flight of the Vampire trap has been disabled in Area K27. The “floating” skeletons from Area K26 have been similarly removed. Strahd and Ludmilla have also placed a glamor over these public areas of the castle, covering up the cobwebs, dust, and other signs of desecration or disrepair. A detect magic spell, however, or a character inspecting their surroundings too closely reveals the illusion.

During the tour, Strahd shares the history of the castle, including notable guests (e.g., Duchess Dilisnya, Pidlwick, or Patrina Velikovna), its major architects (Khazan and Artimus), and the religious symbolism of the Morninglord and Mother Night. If asked about the fate of the castle’s guests or builders, he shares solemnly that their bodies rest in the catacombs beneath the castle.

If asked for a tour of other parts of the castle, Strahd apologizes, noting that several areas of the keep are devoted to private quarters or are under reconstruction, and may be too dangerous to host visitors.

Strahd does not move to stop any PC who attempts to sneak away during this tour. However, all doors are locked (using Strahd’s lair action), and any PC whose Stealth check fails to exceed Strahd’s passive Perception is swiftly met by Rahadin, who confronts them with catlike grace and insists that they return to their companions, lest they fall into danger while exploring somewhere they shouldn’t. A PC that goes undetected by Strahd has 2d4 minutes to explore the castle alone, after which Rahadin finds them and attempts to return them to the party.

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When the tour concludes in the Audience Hall, Strahd and the PCs are met by Ludmilla, Anastrasya, and Volenta, as well as a number of magically animated instruments. As the music plays, Strahd invites the PCs to dance with each other or any of his brides, and personally dances or converses with any PC who may make a suitable successor or consort. During this time, Strahd pries deeper into his dance partner’s history and goals, and attempts to gauge their worthiness for his throne or companionship.

During this time, Anastrasya looks to dance with the PC who appears most easy to manipulate, and looks to extract any secrets or hidden information that she can.

Ludmilla dances if she must, but is tight-lipped and unfriendly.

Volenta happily latches onto whichever PC appears most visually striking, and serenades them with joyful babbles and questions regarding her morbid interests (e.g., “Did you know how much blood is in a churchmouse?”) . After she’s regaled the PC with her childlike, but disturbing hobbies, she asks the PC if they’re interested in seeing her artistic “masterpiece.” Regardless of their answer, she attempts to drag them downstairs to the Hall of Bones (K67) via the King’s Accountant (K30) and the South Tower Stair (K21), where she gleefully presents the ossuary she’s constructed alongside Cyrus Belview—including the enormous dragon’s skull she found mounted in the castle courtyard.

At some point, either before or after Volenta has departed, Escher enters the hall alongside Lief Lipsiege, Strahd’s accountant. Lief does not dance, but will sip a glass of wine while glowering from across the room.

G???? ???? ??? C????

When the dancing has concluded, Strahd escorts the PCs to the Great Entry, where Rahadin awaits. If the PCs have impressed Strahd during the dinner, Rahadin is accompanied by three unseen servants, each one bearing a silver tray that holds one or more parcels.

Each parcel contains a small, personalized gift for one of the PCs (excluding any that insulted or failed to impress Strahd during the visit). These gifts are nonmagical, non-valuable trinkets, but are tailored to the PCs’ individual interests. They may be a book of hymns to the Morninglord, a well-crafted instrument, a platinum dagger, or a notebook of alchemical theorems.

Before they depart, Strahd then offers the PCs a job. He informs them that an infamous assassin named Rudolph van Richten with a genocidal hatred for the Vistani has come to Barovia, and that van Richten seeks to slay Strahd for his role as the Vistani’s protector. He warns the PCs that van Richten may appear to be an old man, but that he is a dangerous, wiley, paranoid individual with a lifetime’s experience in death and a vast collection of lies and cover stories at his disposal. If the PCs apprehend him—alive—and return him to Castle Ravenloft, Strahd truthfully promises them each a treasure from his vault.

Whether the PCs accept his job or not, Strahd bids them farewell, and provides them safe return passage to their choice of Vallaki or Barovia via his black carriage.

2. T?? H????

There are several objectives within Castle Ravenloft that the PCs may want to complete before entering their final battle with Strahd. They may seek to fulfill a personal quest by returning Tasha Petrovna’s holy symbol to the Abbey of Saint Markovia, put the revenants to rest by restoring the skull of Argynvost to its crypt at Argynvostholt, locate a foretold Tarokka treasure from the castle’s depths, or rescue a kidnapped ally (or Ireena) from Strahd’s clutches.

G?????? I?????

These castle infiltrations—or “heists”—will most likely take place while the PCs are between level 6 and level 8. As such, the PCs may not even have the Holy Symbol of Ravenkind or Sunsword when they undertake this dangerous mission. Therefore, the PCs’ first priority upon entering the castle is the same: Evade Strahd’s attention, and avoid his wrath at all costs.

Strahd is not omniscient. While he has many spies and servants throughout Barovia and the castle, he does not have eyes and ears everywhere—including within Castle Ravenloft. As such, we can assume that there are four ways for Strahd to learn of the PCs’ presence:

  1. The activation of the drawbridge trap following the PCs’ conversation with the illusion of Strahd in the Dining Hall (K9)

  2. The activation of the Elevator Trap (K61)

  3. A random encounter with Strahd himself within Castle Ravenloft

  4. A foretold encounter with Strahd in the location predicted by the Tarokka reading

Only the third and fourth possibility bring Strahd directly to the PCs; in the first and second case, Strahd hears the trap from his coffin and arrives at the PCs’ location in 4d4 rounds.

Strahd’s brides are jealous, territorial, and prideful beings, and are under strict orders by Strahd to guard the grounds of Castle Ravenloft with their lives; if bested by the PCs, they will sooner die than flee. Rahadin is similarly dedicated, and will fight to the death if encountered.

However, if Strahd is notified of the PCs’ intentions ahead of time (e.g., through his disguise as Vasili von Holtz, through a timely scrying spell, or through a report from his bestial or human spies that the PCs are heading toward the castle), he will track the PCs from the moment they enter the castle. 

If Strahd has previously been suitably impressed by the PCs on a previous occasion, he may even allow them to carry out their mission unmolested. After all, the symbol of a dead saint holds little interest to him, the skull of a dead dragon is hardly more than a sentimental object, and he can always retrieve Ireena later. 

The only exception is if the PCs retrieve one of the three foretold Tarokka items from Castle Ravenloft (the Holy Symbol, Sunsword, or Tome of Strahd). If he is aware of the PCs’ presence and learns that they have obtained one such treasure within Castle Ravenloft’s walls, Strahd will not allow the PCs to depart until that item is retrieved.

There are, however, two possible occasions when the PCs can visit Castle Ravenloft while Strahd is not present:

  • Red Moon. Once per fortnight, halfway between the New Moon and Full Moon, a red moon rises over Barovia. On this night, Strahd visits the Wall of Fog on Yester Hill atop Beucephalus, where he gazes into the vision of his ancestral homeland beyond the mists. The PCs can learn of this from the Forest Folk, Mordenkainen, Rudolph van Richten, Ezmerelda, or Strahd himself (who may mention it to the PCs during the dinner at Castle Ravenloft or following the ritual at Yester Hill).

  • Blood Tax. Should Fiona Wachter become Baron of Vallaki, she soon implements an old custom: the Blood Tax. Once per month, on a night chosen by Strahd, the vampire rides to Vallaki in his black carriage at midnight. There, he selects one Vallakian—always one with a soul—as tribute. The chosen townsfolk vanish with Strahd into the black carriage, and are never seen or heard from again.

A sufficiently ingenious party may also attempt to lure Strahd out of Castle Ravenloft through other (difficult, and likely complex) means.

T?? T??????

There are several objectives that the PCs may target while infiltrating Castle Ravenloft. Their purposes, locations, and means of access are as follows:

Tasha Petrovna’s Holy Symbol. If one of your PCs has been given a personal Tarokka reading by Madam Eva that instructs them to recover Tasha Petrovna’s holy symbol and restore it to the saint’s grave at the Abbey of Saint Markovia, they can find the symbol in Tasha Petrovna’s crypt (Crypt 11) in the Catacombs (K84). Once obtained, the symbol can be returned to the Sun’s Grave in the Graveyard (S7) of the Abbey of Saint Markovia, where the PCs will receive a ring of regeneration as a reward.

Skull of Argynvost. If the PCs have previously undertaken Argynvost’s quest at Argynvostholt, they can locate the dragon’s skull in the Hall of Bones (K67). If they have previously attended dinner with Strahd, they may have recently seen the skull when shown Volenta’s “masterpiece.” The skull is heavy—250 pounds—and must be properly and carefully transported to the Dragon’s Mausoleum (Q16) in Argynvostholt. Once placed there, the spirit of Argynvost will illuminate the beacon at the top of the highest tower, laying the revenants’ spirits to rest and providing a +1 bonus to AC and saving throws for all creatures who oppose Strahd von Zarovich.

Tarokka Treasure. There are several locations within Castle Ravenloft where Madam Eva’s Tarokka reading can place one of the Tarokka artifacts: 

  • The chapel (K15).

  • The audience hall (K25)

  • The study (K37)

  • The treasury (K41)

  • The north tower peak (K60)

  • The wine cellar (K63)

  • The Hall of Bones (K67)

  • The crypt of Artank Swilovich (K84, Crypt 5)

  • The crypt of Endorovich (K84, Crypt 7)

  • The unnamed crypt in the catacombs (K84, Crypt 31)

  • The crypt of Gralmore Nimblenobs (K84, Crypt 37)

  • The crypt of General Kroval “Mad Dog” Grislek (K84, Crypt 38)

  • Sergei’s tomb (K85)

  • Strahd’s tomb (K86)

  • The tomb of King Barov and Queen Ravenovia (K88)

Strahd is either unaware of the treasure’s location there (in the case of the Sunsword), has forgotten its presence (in the case of the Holy Symbol), or has spared little thought to it (in the case of the Tome of Strahd).

Kidnapped Ally. If Strahd has kidnapped one of the PCs’ allies (e.g., their foretold ally, one of the Martikovs, or another friendly NPC), they have been shackled, gagged (if capable of spellcasting), and imprisoned in the empty cells of either the North (K74) or South (K75) Dungeons.

If Strahd has kidnapped Ireena, or if Ireena has ventured willingly to Castle Ravenloft, she can be found in the King’s Bedchamber (K42), charmed by Strahd. For the duration of Ireena’s stay, Gertruda has been relocated to the Guest Room (K50). However, if Strahd has already wed Ireena, she can be found in her crypt in the Catacombs (K84, Crypt 18) as a vampire spawn.

3. T?? F?????

All Curse of Strahd campaigns must end, and yours is no different. Unless the party has gained Strahd’s favor and therefore their freedom from the Barovian mists, their only escape from this cursed land is through Strahd’s death. As such, once they feel sufficiently prepared—most likely after reaching level 10, obtaining all three Tarokka items and their foretold ally, and potentially reconsecrating the Fanes of the Ladies Three, the PCs may choose of their own volition to storm Castle Ravenloft and slay the vampire at the location foretold by Madam Eva.

Throughout the campaign, Strahd will likely appear to the PCs time and time again, both in casual conversation and in open, hostile conflict. However, once the PCs grow sufficiently powerful (e.g., possessing both the Holy Symbol of Ravenkind and the Sunsword while at level 8 or above), Strahd will not dare face them in open combat. As such, he may choose to initiate the final battle by forcing the PCs into a position where they must enter Castle Ravenloft—his lair and the seat of his power—and so fall by his hand.

I??????????? ??? C?????

If the PCs aim to kill Strahd in accordance with Madam Eva’s fortune telling, they can enter the castle via any of the entrances listed above before making their way to the foretold location. If Strahd locates the PCs via random encounter or because of the Elevator Trap or drawbridge trap, he retreats once wounded. If Strahd is encountered in the foretold location, he fights to the death to defend his lair (see “Strahd’s Tactics” below).

I?????? ?? D?????

If Strahd believes that the PCs may be tempted to leave Barovia rather than killing him (and if he believes that none of the PCs are capable of flight), he sends the following invitation via bat, Vistani, or (if he still lives) Rahadin:

My friends,

It would appear that we are at an impasse. While I have enjoyed this game that we have played, I am not without mercy—or without a sense of practicality. 

It is my understanding that you seek to depart my lands for greener pastures. It has been a pleasure to host you in my domain, but it may yet be that your time in my lands is growing short. 

Know that it was by my will that you entered Barovia, and by my will alone that you may yet leave it. I entreat you to join me at Castle Ravenloft to dine at your earliest convenience, where we may discuss the terms of your departure face-to-face. 

I look forward to your arrival.

Your gracious host,

Count Strahd von Zarovich

This invitation is, of course, a trap. When the PCs arrive at the castle, they are directed by Rahadin (or another of Strahd’s surviving trusted servants) into the Dining Hall (K9). There, they are greeted by the illusion of Strahd described in the original module, which soon causes the lights to extinguish, the doors to slam shut, and the drawbridge to raise—trapping the PCs within Castle Ravenloft. From then on, Strahd pursues the PCs throughout the castle, aiming to hunt them down one-by-one.

If this invitation goes ignored, and if the PCs continue to pose a threat to Strahd or his interests, he triggers the “Declaration of War” finale (see below) instead.

C??????? ??? W??????

If Strahd has previously kidnapped Ireena, or if the Ireena has made her way to Castle Ravenloft of her own volition, Strahd soon issues the following invitation to the PCs (which arrive via bat, or are delivered to their most common place of residence, such as the Blue Water Inn in Vallaki):

Count Strahd von Zarovich

son of the late King Barov and the late Queen Ravenovia, Conqueror of the Delmoreans, and Lord of Barovia

and

the Lady Ireena Kolyana

daughter of the late Burgomaster Kolyan Indirovich and the late Ira Mironova

request the honor of your presence

at their wedding

upon the First Eve

of the Feast of the Moon 

at sundown

The Chapel of the Sun

Castle Ravenloft

Should your PCs decide to attend and attempt to disrupt the wedding, run the (paid) “Wedding At Ravenloft” expansion by Wyatt Trull.

D?????????? ?? W??

If Strahd has exhausted all other means of stealing the Tarokka artifacts, ambushing the PCs in greater Barovia, or luring the PCs to Castle Ravenloft, he instead selects a more nuclear option: an outright (though veiled) declaration of war.

Once Strahd begins to believe that the PCs pose a true threat to him, he begins to gather charmed Barovian scouts from Vallaki and Barovia, until a total of 24 scouts are housed at Castle Ravenloft. The scouts are split into two groups of 12, which are stationed behind the arrow slits in the north archer’s post and south archer’s post on the third-floor Parapets (K46). The scouts are staggered in three shifts, with eight scouts sleeping on the stone floor of the archer’s posts at any one time. These sharp-eyed and sharp-eared archers are joined by a pair of wights, who employ their darkvision to constantly scan the night sky and drawbridge for approaching PCs.

If he believes the PCs may approach by air (and so gain entry via the Servants’ Entrance or Tomb of King Barov and Queen Ravenovia), Strahd also directs six wights and eight swarms of bats to defend the Overlook (K6). Additionally, Ludmilla instructs the coven of Barovian witches (if alive) to set their black cat familiars to guard the Servants’ Entrance (K23) and the staircase beneath the Tower Roof (K57), alerting the coven to the presence of any intruders.

While the PCs are next away on a quest or mission, Strahd and his minions kidnap the children and other NPCs that the PCs have grown most attached to throughout the module. This may include:

  • Brom & Bray Martikov

  • Alana Krezkova

  • Felix (from Saint Andral’s Orphanage)

  • Milivoj and Yeska

  • Stella Wachter (if cured)

  • Kaldur (of Yaedrag)

  • Doru

Employing Beucephalus, his black carriage, and the assistance of Rahadin, his brides, and any Vistani or Vallakian spies, Strahd oversees a mass kidnapping effort and one or more nights of terror throughout Barovia:

  • A charmed Vallakian invites Strahd’s forces into the living chambers of the Blue Water Inn, where Urwin and Danika are nearly killed and Brom and Bray are locked in silver manacles (which burn their skin and prevent them from transforming)

  • Dmitri Krezkov’s house is burned to the ground (forcing the family and their children into the unprotected village grounds)

  • Felix is forcefully removed from the Orphanage (by a charmed Ernst Larnak or other Vallakian spy)

  • Milivoj and Yeska are forced into the black carriage (if the Church of Saint Andral is unconsecrated or destroyed)

  • Strahd requests dinner at Wachterhaus, and charms Fiona and Stella, forcing the girl to return with him to Castle Ravenloft

  • Chief Sigrid’s tent is burned to the ground (forcing her family and her children into the unprotected and icy grounds of Yaedrag’s crater)

  • Doru is forcefully removed from the church in Barovia, and Donavich slain if he resists

The children are manacled, blindfolded, and gagged, and placed on the second floor of the Daern’s instant fortress within Strahd’s treasury (K41). Strahd also kidnaps and charms Parriwimple, who he sets alongside a charmed Doru (if present) to guard the children from attack.

S?????’? U????????

Immediately after the hostages are taken, Strahd instructs one of his Vistani spies (or, failing that, a charmed Vallakian or Barovian) to deliver the following message to the PCs:

My dearest friends and subjects,

It has been too long since I have enjoyed the pleasure of your company. As such, I bid you join me for dinner tomorrow evening at sundown at Castle Ravenloft.

I understand that a two-party dinner is a lonesome affair. As such, I have taken the liberty of inviting several of our mutual acquaintances to join us for this momentous occasion. I am delighted to share that they are currently enjoying the hospitality of Castle Ravenloft, and look forward to your imminent arrival.

For the safety of my retainers and our guests, I must insist that you come alone and unarmed, save for the holy relic and blessed blade you now carry. Should these requests prove overly burdensome to you, I fear that I may be unable to offer my hospitality to you, or to continue offering it to our treasured guests.

I am sure you have grown weary of this game we play. Fear not—it shall end soon. 

Sincerely,

Your Lord and Master,

Strahd von Zarovich

If the PCs travel to Castle Ravenloft at the predetermined time, they face no random encounters along the way and are met by the black carriage near the western Barovian gate, which transports them to the front gates of Castle Ravenloft. Once inside, the PCs are directed by  Rahadin (or another of Strahd’s surviving trusted servants) into the Dining Hall (K9). 

There, they are greeted by Strahd, the charmed Barovian scouts, and Gertruda. Strahd greets the PCs warmly, and describes the terms of the hostages’ release: the unconditional surrender of the Holy Symbol of Ravenkind, the Tome of Strahd, and the Sunsword, and the immediate exit of the PCs from his lands. Strahd (falsely) promises that the PCs will be allowed to depart Barovia unharmed and unmolested, and that the hostages will be safely released to their families once the transaction is complete. If the PCs refuse Strahd’s offer, he promises in veiled terms that the hostages may not survive to the following sunrise.

In truth, Strahd has no intention of upholding his end of the bargain (a fact he will shamelessly and repeatedly deny). Once the PCs hand over the items they hold, Strahd causes the lights to extinguish, the doors to slam shut, and the drawbridge to raise—trapping the PCs within Castle Ravenloft. Strahd then immediately attacks.

R??????? ??? H???????

The password to the instant fortress is set to the name: “Ravenovia.” Without the password, the fortress can only be entered via teleportation (e.g., misty step) or transformation into a Tiny creature or smaller (e.g., polymorph or gaseous form). 

If the PCs have restored the Sunsword at the blessed pool of Krezk and instilled it with Sergei’s spirit, Sergei can share the names of the royal family and any other potential passwords if asked. Sergei can also suggest potential places that the hostages may have been stored: the dungeons, the catacombs, the high tower peak, or the third-floor treasury (though Strahd has walled off the former entrance via the parapets and Sergei does not know how to gain entry via the study).

If contacted via Sending or similar magic, the hostages can share the approximate elevation of their imprisonment (an upper floor of the castle), but not their exact location or means of entry. Parriwimple and Doru both know the password to open the instant fortress (having overheard Strahd saying it), and will provide it to the PCs if Strahd’s charm is broken or suppressed (and, in Doru’s case, if he is sufficiently intimidated or wounded).

If Strahd becomes aware of the PCs’ presence in the castle before the hostages are rescued, and if the PCs delay their arrival by ten minutes or more (e.g., by casting Prayer of Healing, taking a short rest, or wandering the castle for a long period of time), he retrieves the PCs’ most beloved hostage from the treasury and brings them to the foretold Tarokka location, where he waits for the PCs to arrive. Parriwimple, Doru, or any of the other hostages can inform the PCs that Strahd removed the chosen hostage shortly before their arrival.

When the PCs arrive at the foretold location, if Beucephalus is still alive, Strahd commands him to escort the charmed hostage to a secure place (likely the North Tower Peak or Strahd’s Tomb, whichever is further). He then taunts the PCs before engaging them in battle.

If the PCs choose to take a short rest after saving the hostages (e.g., within the instant fortress, whose protection shields the PCs from any hostile encounters for the duration of their rest), Strahd brings any surviving Barovian scouts from the third-floor parapets to the foretold location, where they stand guard at his side.

S?????’? T??????

S?????’? S??? B????

Strahd’s as-written statblock, while directly templated from the vampire entry in the Monster Manual, can be severely underwhelming for a party of 10th-level PCs in Curse of Strahd. The reason for this is twofold: the Holy Symbol of Ravenkind and the Sunsword.

As-written, Strahd actually has a CR of 19 (which can be determined using a standard online CR calculator). However, this CR assumes that Strahd is fighting in a vacuum; in other words, it assumes that he is fighting in his preferred territory (e.g., darkness).

If Strahd’s Sunlight Hypersensitivity feature is taken into account, we can make the following adjustments to his statblock while he is in direct sunlight or within range of the Holy Symbol:

  • The average attack bonus for Strahd’s Claws attack is reduced from +9 to +6 (due to disadvantage from Sunlight Hypersensitivity)

  • Strahd’s regeneration is negated

  • Strahd has two fewer Legendary Resistances (as he is forced to use it each time he is affected by the Hold Vampires ability from the Holy Symbol of Ravenkind, which he has only a 65% chance of making his saving throw against. This assumes an average combat encounter length of four rounds)

  • Strahd has approximately 80 fewer hitpoints (due to damage from Sunlight Sensitivity, assuming an average combat encounter length of four rounds)

Under these circumstances, Strahd has a CR of 12—barely more than Baba Lysaga or her Creeping Hut. When placed against five 10th-level PCs and Ezmerelda (the equivalent of an 8th-level PC), Strahd alone barely registers as an Easy encounter using the DMG’s rules for encounter building. 

Averaged together, these best- and worst-case CRs give Strahd’s given RAW Challenge Rating of 15. However, we can assume that most parties can defeat an Easy encounter in 1-2 rounds—which means that if Strahd allows himself to enter the range of the Sunsword and Holy Symbol for even a single round, he risks defeat. In other words, if Strahd ever faces the PCs in a head-on combat after they obtain the Tarokka artifacts, he will be utterly demolished.

While you may choose to supplement Strahd’s forces with other monsters from Castle Ravenloft (e.g., the brides, wights, shadows, etc.), aside from Rahadin, the vast majority of Strahd’s potential allies are either far too weak to make a difference (in the case of the werewolves or Barovian witches) or equally vulnerable to sunlight (in the case of most undead). As such, buffing Strahd’s encounter level with the addition of other monsters and NPCs is a difficult and suboptimal task.

Under these circumstances, Strahd’s strategy is simple: Do everything he can to whittle down the PCs from afar while forcing them to waste their resources. This “guerilla warfare” strategy is detailed in-depth in my article, “The Genre-Savvy Strahd: A Guide to Running Combat for D&D’s Most Dangerous Villain.” 

However, it is my firm belief and experience that this strategy is unfulfilling for both the DM (who must oversee a boring game of cat-and-mouse for several hours), and the PCs (who, without the use of Telekinesis or Wall of Force and an exceptional amount of luck, are physically unable to win). A final battle using Strahd’s RAW statblock is binary: either Strahd is destroyed in short order, or the players are destroyed over the course of a long, hopeless slog.

Therefore, I’ve designed a customized Strahd statblock to meet the following goals:

  • Tough enough to last the length of a full high-level combat encounter (5-8 rounds)

  • Powerful enough to match the PCs in action economy

  • Resourceful enough to address or escape most compromising situations

  • Flavorful enough to provide an engaging, exciting, and in-character combat experience to the PCs

To this end, I have made the following changes to Strahd’s statblock:

  • Increased his Hit Dice to 30, increasing his hitpoints to 255

  • Added +1 to his Proficiency modifier

  • Increased his spellcaster level to 10

  • Replaced his spell list with more standard, useful, and interesting spells

  • Replaced his lair actions with a new suite of flavorful, powerful, and diverse lair actions

See below or click here to view the full statblock:


Strahd also gains the following Lair Actions while in Castle Ravenloft:

  • Strahd targets any number of doors and windows that he can see, causing each one to either open or close as he wishes. Closed doors can be magically locked (needing a successful DC 20 Strength check to force open) until Strahd chooses to end the effect, or until Strahd uses this lair action again.

  • A 40-foot radius sphere of fog appears centered on a point within 120 feet of Strahd. The sphere spreads around corners, and its area is heavily obscured. It lasts until Strahd uses another Lair Action or until a wind of moderate or greater speed (at least 10 miles per hour) disperses it.

  • Grasping ghostly hands sprout from the ground and walls in a 10-foot cube starting from a point within 90 feet of Strahd. For the duration, these hands turn the ground in the area into difficult terrain. A creature in this area must immediately make a Strength saving throw or be restrained by the grasping hands until this effect ends. A creature restrained by these hands can use an action to make a DC 18 Strength saving throw; on a success, it frees itself.

  • A 10-foot diameter sphere of fire appears in an unoccupied space of Strahd's choice within 60 feet. Any creature that starts its turn within 5 feet of the sphere must make a DC 18 Dexterity saving throw. The creature takes 3d6 fire damage on a failed save, or half as much damage on a successful one. The sphere ignites flammable objects not being worn or carried, and it sheds bright light in a 20-foot radius and dim light for an additional 20 feet. It lasts until Strahd uses another Lair Action or until dispelled.

  • Strahd magically calls four swarms of bats or swarms of rats. Each swarm appears next to a hostile creature that Strahd can see, makes an attack against that creature, and then exits the area.

At full strength, this revised Strahd is CR21—comparable to Acererak of Tomb of Annihilation. While within sunlight, Strahd’s revised CR is 14. Assuming Strahd spends half of the final battle in sunlight (as his RAW statblock does), this results in an average CR of 17, or a Medium encounter for a party of five 10th-level PCs plus Ezmerelda.

C????? T??????

This revised Strahd is a far tougher and capable opponent than the RAW version. Even so, he is still, first and foremost, a skirmisher. While fighting in Castle Ravenloft, he sets up an ambush, strikes hard, and retreats when moderately wounded (179  HP) if Ireena is not present, or severely wounded (102 HP) if she is.

Strahd places the greatest value on his 5th-level spell slots; he uses these slots only to cast Animate Objects. He always reserves one 4th-level spell slot to cast greater invisibility in case he needs to escape, and uses counterspell and dispel magic as-needed to block spells of 3rd level or lower that would empower his enemies (e.g., haste or fly). 

He uses his Legendary Resistances only to avoid any incapacitating effects (e.g., hold monster or the Hold Vampires ability of the Holy Symbol); otherwise, he relies on absorb elements and his regeneration to protect him from direct damage.

Strahd’s tactics can be divided into four phases: ambush, attack, harass, and retreat.

A?????

During the Ambush phase, Strahd seeks to establish surprise when he attacks the PCsboth to avoid the sunlight of the Sunsword for as long as possible and to gain the upper hand on his first attacks.

During this phase, he uses his Spider Climb ability to relocate to hard-to-reach places (such as the ceiling), and uses his high Stealth to conceal himself from sight. He relies on his high Perception to detect the PCs as they approach. If the PCs leave for another part of the castle, he follows them in the form of mist (if they’re in the main castle) or the form of a bat (if they’re in the catacombs or moving quickly), always taking care to avoid the radius of sunlight. 

Strahd will then aim to isolate and distract the PCs, either by:

  • Using his Lair Action to summon swarms of bats to harry a concentrating spellcaster

  • Casting Blindness/Deafness to weaken his prey or incapacitate a spellcaster, or 

  • Casting Animate Objects or using his door-locking Lair Action to separate his target from their companions

If the PCs are outdoors, Strahd may also cast fly on himself to keep out-of-reach of any melee attackers.

When the conditions are right, Strahd strikes, using his Legendary Actions to approach his target as quickly as possible.

A?????

During the Attack phase, Strahd hits hard and fast, focusing almost entirely on his chosen prey. He uses all three legendary actions, plus his multiattack, to take his target’s health down as quickly as possible. If he can hit four or more targets without hitting Ireena, he’ll cast Fireball first. He’ll use his Lair Action to imprison his target with ghostly hands, and cast Absorb Elements to protect himself from any elemental damaging spell of 3rd-level or higher while enhancing his Unarmed Strikes.

H?????

If Strahd is moderately wounded (179 HP) and Ireena is not present, it’s at this point that he’ll move to the Retreat stage. However, if Ireena is present, he’ll instead move to the Harass stage. 

Here, his goal is to weaken his prey for future encounters, taxing their resources and health. He will aim to use his movement, plus his legendary actions, to stay out of the reach of the Sunsword, while attacking his target with multiattack Unarmed Strike attacks or Fireball (with the same restrictions as before). If any PC is at or below 30 hit points, Strahd casts blight from afar, aiming to take them down to zero.

Strahd will spend his reaction on Shield, but only against attacks with magical weapons by rogues or paladins or melee attacks from monks. He’ll use his Lair Action to summon the flaming sphere, focusing on blocking or harassing enemy interlopers while he focuses his damage on his target. 

R??????

When Strahd is severely wounded (102 HP), he will Disengage and move to retreat. If he has enough spell slots, he’ll cast Misty Step instead of Disengaging. He uses his Lair Action to summon a fog cloud, and uses Shapechange to shift to bat form (though he prefers mist form if he can escape through a door, or Greater Invisibility if he’s within sunlight). 

He’ll use his Legendary Actions to get out of sight, then Hide to conceal himself. He’ll lick his wounds for a few rounds, letting his regeneration go to work, and follow back around when he’s fully healed, returning to Stage 1 (Ambush) once again.

C??????? ? S???????

Strahd is a tactical genius. As such, Strahd never enters combat without a plan, a backup plan, and an escape route. Moreover, these plans are never complicated, and never rely on more than one moving part. He also never enters combat without first gauging his enemies’ strengths, weaknesses, and tactics.

If you’ve been using Strahd’s spies and Scrying spell correctly, Strahd should swiftly learn what spells the PCs are able to cast, what magic items they have in their possession, and what benefits their class features offer. He should know what strategies they favor (e.g., Does the sorcerer routinely polymorph the monk into a Giant Ape? Does the paladin wait for the wizard to cast Telekinesis before rushing in with a Divine Smite? What animal forms does the druid favor, and how adept is the rogue at picking locks?), and prepare accordingly.

He’s seen the Sunsword in action before, and his +10 to Religion means that he almost certainly knows what the Holy Symbol of Ravenkind is capable of.

When running Strahd in combat, preparation is king. Review your PCs’ character sheets and magic item lists in-depth, and jot down any special abilities or spells that they reveal to Strahd or his spies. 

Whenever possible, Strahd prioritizes killing spellcasters first, followed by skirmishers and strikers (such as rogues or monks), and finally tanks and melee combatants.

Strahd’s favored strategy prefers an area with plenty of entrances and exits. He favors larger spaces, through not wide-open areas where the PCs can spread out-of-range of Fireball. If possible, Strahd prefers to avoid risking damage to his possessions (e.g., the collection of books in the Study). Additional hazards are a bonus, but not necessary. As such, he prefers to fight in the following spaces:

  • Entry (K7), Great Entry (K8), or Heart of Sorrow (K20) on the first floor

  • Audience Hall (K25) or King’s Hall (K27) on the second floor

  • Tower Roof (K57) and Bridge (K58) in the spires of Ravenloft

  • Elevator Trap (K61), Servants’ Hall (K62), and Hall of Bones (K67) in the Larders of Ill Omen.

  • Dungeon Hall (K73), Brazier Room (K78), and Catacombs (K84)

In the Entry (K7) or Great Entry (K8), Strahd lures the PCs into the chamber, activating the gargoyles or red dragon wyrmlings.

In the Heart of Sorrow (K20), Strahd casts fly on himself and attempts to lure the PCs to a higher floor. He then grapples them using his Unarmed Strike and drops them down the center of the shaft. A PC must succeed on a DC 10 Dexterity saving throw and a grapple check to grab hold of Strahd before being dropped.

Near the Elevator Trap (K61), Strahd uses his Unarmed Strike to grapple two PCs who together weigh 250 or more pounds, then pulls them onto the pressure plate that activates the trap, using a Legendary Resistance to resist the magic sleep gas if necessary.

In the Dungeon Hall (K73), Strahd uses Spider Climb to cling to the walls, luring the PCs into crossing over the hidden teleportation traps.

In the Brazier Room (K78), Strahd lures the PCs into the center of the chamber, then moves just outside one of the doors. He casts Ray of Frost to attack one of the iron golems within, causing the golems to animate and attack and the doors to magically slam shut and lock.

Finally, in the Catacombs (K84), Strahd uses his door-opening Lair Action to release the wraith and hell hound inhabitants of Crypt 38 (General Kroval “Mad Dog” Grislek), and his nightmare, Beucephalus, from Crypt 39. He lures the PCs past Crypt 27 (containing three giant wolf spiders) and across the teleportation traps outside of his tomb (K86). If he has grappled a PC, he will also use Spider Climb to drop them into the shaft in Crypt 14 (Stahbal Indi-Bak) or the ghoul-filled pit in Crypt 35 (Sir Jarnwald the Trickster).

M?????? & NPC E?????????

There are dozens of potential encounters in Ravenloft, and many of them have the potential to turn hostile for your players. Here’s a full list of monsters and hostile NPCs your PCs might face, how you might choose to approach them, and a collection of tactics they’ll prefer in battle.

R????? E?????????

R??????

If encountered as a random encounter within Castle Ravenloft, Rahadin attacks only if the PCs attack him first. As such, we can assume that his response depends largely on the strength of the PCs that attacked him.

If Rahadin takes moderate damage before his first or second turn (41 damage or more), he immediately uses his full movement to Dash away from the PCs (Disengaging if he doesn’t have enough space or spell slots to cast misty step first), and then takes the Hide action on his next available turn. From this point onward, he stalks the PCs through the castle using the tactics described in the Larders of Ill Omen section below.

Given his high Insight and Intimidation modifiers, we can assume that Rahadin prefers a “shock-and-awe” approach if he believes he has little to fear from his opponents. If Rahadin takes only light damage before his first turn (14 damage or less), he focuses his attacks on the PC that attacked first (or opened hostilities, if that PC rolled low on initiative). He attacks three times with his scimitar and attempts to maximize the number of targets caught by his Deathly Choir ability. If he believes the PCs too weak to easily kill him (e.g., if the PCs are of 7th level or below), he commands the PCs to lay down their weapons and immediately cease their attack.

If the PCs obey, Rahadin sheathes his weapons and commands the PCs to depart Castle Ravenloft immediately. If the PCs defy him, Rahadin continues to attack, focusing his efforts on the PC that most actively defied him.

Rahadin is a cruel and ruthless killer. If one of the PCs is a cleric, a paladin, a druid, or a bard, he assumes that the party is capable of magical healing, and continues attacking any unconscious PCs with his scimitars (dealing an automatic critical hit and inflicting two failed death saving throws on a hit) until they are dead.

B???? ?? A??????? A?????

A broom of animated attack is a simple dumb construct with no special tactics or features—save for one: its Animated Attack reaction, which allows it to immediately attempt an attack against a creature that grabs it.

When spotted by the PCs, the broom continues sweeping for a moment, then gently sets itself against a nearby wall. If the PCs ignore it and continue past, it sweeps into the air and attacks from behind. 

However, if a PC grabs hold of it, the broom immediately uses its Animated Attack reaction to make a Dexterity check contested by its opponent’s Strength check, flying out of the creature’s grasp and making an immediate melee attack with advantage before combat starts.

The broom has a +3 Dexterity modifier, giving it a slight statistical advantage on this feature (as most Strength is one of the most common PC dump stats). However, if it fails and the PC continues to grapple it, the broom doesn’t mind—it’s not tough or intelligent enough to confidently make flyby attacks against melee opponents, and it’s perfectly happy to remain adjacent to the nearest target available.

Once it’s made its first attack, the broom continues attacking with its multiattack until destroyed.

C??????? C????

Given their low CR (CR 0), crawling claws are pretty much only good for a jumpscare. Notably, however, they have a climbing speed of 20 feet and a decent Dexterity modifier, suggesting a preference for Stealth. As such, the mob of severed hands doesn’t skitter toward the PCs so much as drop on them from above, surprising any PCs whose passive Perception failed to exceed the claws’ Stealth check.

It shouldn’t be obvious to the PCs upfront that they’re being attacked by severed hands upfront, though. To play up the creep factor, let the PCs notice the hands part before they notice the severed part. One hand wraps around a PC’s mouth and clamps it shut while a second hand latches around another PC’s throat and starts to squeeze. Another PC finds something cold, clammy, and foul holding their hands in a tight embrace, even as another pair of hands forces a final PC to play “peekaboo.”

As-written, at least one of the hands may attempt to scurry into a PC’s backpack to hide. However, time in and out of Ravenloft is short. If your PCs are in Ravenloft for the final confrontation, rather than an earlier visit, consider having a hidden hand pop out the next time they take a short rest, instead.

S??????

As-written, the shadows in Castle Ravenloft are non-hostile unless attacked or directed to attack by Strahd—perhaps they’re the shadows that Strahd has previously stolen from other adventurers?

In this case, if attacked in dim or bright light, a shadow doesn’t strike back; instead it Dodges and moves as far away from its attacker as it can. There it waits, ever-curious about these newcomers and desperate to be in the company of a living creature once more. If the PCs leave the shadows behind, they follow from a distance of 30 feet, fleeing if attacked again and separating from the party if the PCs enter a chamber occupied with other NPCs or monsters.

If ordered to attack by Strahd, a shadow immediately latches onto the nearest PC, draining their strength until dealt radiant damage, struck with a magic weapon, or turned by a cleric or paladin’s Turn Undead. In this case, a shadow Disengages, moves out of view, uses a bonus action to Hide, and waits for a new victim to come within striking distance.

S????? ?? B???

A swarm of bats has high Dexterity, average Constitution, and exceptionally low Strength, making it a shock fighter. A swarm’s natural resistance to bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing damage (magical damage included), plus its 30-foot fly speed, means that a swarm has no compunctions against making flyby attacks against melee or ranged creatures.

If the swarm is accompanying Strahd in battle and Strahd needs assistance with an ability check (e.g., hiding from a perceptive party or escaping a grapple), or if it’s been reduced to 11 hitpoints or fewer (reducing the damage of its Bites attack by half), the swarm will take the Help action to assist Strahd or any of his allies who are present. Otherwise, it makes a Bites attack.

C??????? S????? Z?????

A normal Strahd zombie is only CR 1, leaving this bisected zombie little more than a jumpscare for even the lowest-leveled parties. Lean into that. Use the RAW description text of “the deathly groans of something vile” to encourage the PCs to hide from whatever horrific thing might be coming, then reveal its true nature as the zombie pathetically crawls past. If any PCs try to engage it, don’t worry about rolling initiative. Just let them deal with it (or ignore it) as they’d like.

It might not risk killing them, but it’ll do an admirable job of ramping up tension and instantly defusing it—giving your players a flash of humor and relief while ramping up their anxiety before the final fight with Strahd.

W?????

Wights are tough fighters, but their Perception and Stealth proficiencies (plus their average Intelligence and decent Wisdom) suggest more intelligence than their undead nature might indicate. They hate the living and hunger for destruction, but there’s no reason they have to do so barbarically.

When the PCs first hear the sound of the wights’ approaching footsteps, if they fail to hide from the wights’ passive Perception (13) or if they’re carrying a light source, the footsteps instantly stop as the wights attempt their own Stealth checks to conceal themselves from possible intruders. The wights take full advantage of their darkvision as they creep forward, then attack with their Longbow multiattack as soon as the PCs are in their sights. 

Once combat has begun, the wights move their full movement every turn to approach while making more Longbow multiattacks, switching to their Longsword multiattack once they’ve closed the distance to melee range. 

Once an opponent is reduced to 18 hitpoints or fewer, a wight uses Life Drain as its second melee attack. When its target is knocked unconscious, it continues to attack, using Life Drain as its first melee attack, rather than the second, aiming to revive the PC as a zombie under its control 24 hours later.

Wights are capable of speech, and these particular wights once served as guards of Castle Ravenloft. They remember nothing of their lives—only the undying rage they harbor and the bitterness they feel toward those who still live.

B??????? W????

Barovian witches as a group are poor foes for PCs of any level; a single Barovian witch is barely even a speed bump.

Witches are, however, decently intelligent. If encountered solo, a witch will quickly tally the number of foes she’s facing. If she’s only up against one PC, she’ll inspect the PC for any holy symbols or cleric’s robes; if she sees any indication that she’s up against a cleric, paladin, or druid, she’ll cast ray of sickness to attack. Otherwise, she opens with Tasha’s Hideous Laughter and attacks on subsequent turns with ray of sickness.

If the witch finds herself up against a group of enemies, rather than a single foe, she’ll cast invisibility before turning tail and running. Even witches can do math.

Witches are evil, but they have a strong sense of self-preservation. If cornered or moderately wounded (reduced to 10 hitpoints or fewer), a solo Barovian witch immediately surrenders.

V?????? S????

Though the module suggests that the vampire spawn fight until destroyed, vampires are opportunistic predators, preferring the weakest or sickest prey when possible, and prioritizing feeding over all else. As such, when the PCs encounter a pack of vampire spawn in Castle Ravenloft, the vampires prioritize any PC that’s moderately wounded (60 percent of its hitpoints or fewer), any creature that isn’t wearing heavy or medium armor, and any creature that’s surprised.

A vampire spawn uses its first Multiattack to attempt to grapple its prey; once it’s succeeded in doing so, it Dashes away, dragging the grappled victim to a dark, isolated corner where it can feed. Its regeneration is strong enough that it doesn’t fear triggering attacks of opportunity or drawing PC fire—but it does prioritize pulling its victim as far away from sunlight as possible. As such, a pack of vampire spawn drags its prey in opposite directions, forcing any un-grappled PCs to split up and reducing the chance that any single vampire spawn is stuck in sunlight.

Ultimately, however, these vampire spawn are under the control of Strahd von Zarovich and have been commanded to defend the castle against intruders. If cornered in sunlight or moderately wounded (reduced to 50 hitpoints or fewer), a vampire spawn stops dragging its victim and immediately lashes out with a Claws/Claws attack. All vampire spawn continue to fight until destroyed.

S????? ??? Z???????

If the PCs do not pose a threat to Strahd (e.g., they’re level 7 or below, and they’re missing one or both of the Sunsword and Holy Symbol), instead of attacking immediately, he disguises himself in mist form and follows them through the castle, keeping his distance to avoid any sunlight or unpleasant area-of-effect damage. If he thinks he can get away with it, he’ll transform into a bat and attempt to draw the attention of a PC with low Wisdom, using his action to charm them without giving away his identity.

If the PCs do pose a threat to Strahd, he immediately enters combat, attacking the most vulnerable PC with a Claws/Claws multiattack. However, he doesn’t stay for long, warning the PCs that unwelcome visitors will not last long in his castle before sinking into the shadows using his Legendary Action movement, his dark laughter echoing through the castle as he regenerates any damage dealt to him.

From this point on, Strahd stalks the PCs through the castle, aiming to see them driven from the keep—or better yet, dead. For more information on Strahd’s combat tactics, see the “Strahd’s Tactics” section above.

M??? F????

R?? D????? W????????

Most dragons—wyrmlings included—will do their best to take full advantage of their natural fly speed. But the statues of red dragon wyrmlings in the Entry (K7) aren’t here to stay alive—instead, their instructions are to make sure no uninvited guest leaves Ravenloft alive.

Notably, the dragons don’t wait until every PC has entered the room—just the first. If the PCs are already engaged in combat when they enter this room from the Great Entry (K8), you’ll probably have to wait until the dragons’ initiative to let them attack (though waiting for their initiative to let them animate could be a nasty surprise for your players—to keep things as fair as possible, I’d have them animate and drop down to the floor as a reaction as soon as a PC takes the first step into their chamber).

The dragons don’t want to kill guests—just keep them from reaching the exit. On their first turn after animating, they take wing, flying five feet off the ground, and form a line down the center of the corridor to prevent any PCs from passing through. 

The dragons’ Fire Breath ability is a recharge, which means that it’s always their preferred attack when available—on one condition. According to the DMG, a 15-foot cone should hit at least two opponents; as such, a dragon only uses its Fire Breath if it can hit two or more enemies. Otherwise, it defaults to Bite.

If any creature gets past the dragons and makes a break for the door, the dragons immediately attack with Fire Breath (or Bite, if Fire Breath isn’t available) if that creature is heavily wounded (i.e., reduced to 30% of its health or less). Otherwise, the dragons use their +4 Strength modifier to attempt to grapple the intruder before they escape; if successful, the dragon flies its captive back to the entrance of the Great Hall and returns to its place in the line.

A note about Fire Breath: For a PC with a +3 to Dexterity saving throws, this attack will deal an average of 17 fire damage per dragon. If a PC is unlucky enough to be caught in the center of all four dragons’ fire breaths, it’ll take an average of 69 fire damage—enough to outright KO any non-martial class with a +2 Constitution modifier or less. Ouch!

G????????

Unlike the dragons in the Entry (K7), the gargoyles of the Great Entry (K8) are free to roam wherever they like once animated. Their goal isn’t to block the players from advancing, but to simply cause as much damage and destruction as possible.

Also unlike the dragon wyrmlings, the gargoyles have the False Appearance feature, which makes them indistinguishable from a normal statue while motionless. So long as the PCs don’t regard the unmoving gargoyles as potential threats, the gargoyles can and should surprise every PC once combat begins.

For bonus points, don’t describe what the gargoyles look like until after the lights go out—and even then, only describe their appearance to PCs with darkvision or magical light sources. For characters who have been suddenly plummeted into the dark, the gargoyles’ attack should feel like a sudden, terrifying assault by a flurry of unseen assailants.

Due to their damage resistances to (most) nonmagical weapon attacks, gargoyles don’t fear attacks of opportunity. As such, gargoyles prefer flyby attacks whenever possible, abusing their 60-foot fly speeds to duck down, slash at their prey with a Bite/Claw multiattack, and then immediately fly back up to the ceiling to ready itself for another attack.

No matter where the characters flee in Castle Ravenloft, the gargoyles will follow—unless the PCs block themselves in a room or corridor by closing (and reinforcing) the door. Any surviving gargoyles will happily spend a full round making Shove attacks against the door to force it open (contested by the PC holding it shut, who makes their check with advantage if they’re able to lock it or otherwise reinforce their position). After one round of unsuccessful Shoves, the low-Intelligence gargoyles abandon their quarries and return to their posts.

A??????? H???????

The ten animated halberds around the Heart of Sorrow are simple constructs: Once they spot a target, they attack it until it’s dead. Like gargoyles, their False Appearance feature grants them surprise against any PC who doesn’t already suspect their true nature. After that, though, they keep attacking until destroyed.

(Note: Normal halberds have a reach of 10 feet, but these animated ones don’t. If you think that’s an oversight by Wizards, feel free to upgrade the reach of their attack to 10 feet instead of 5, forcing your players to get more creative in how they combat these hovering, speedy weapons)

V?????? S???? (H???? ?? S?????)

If encountered on the lower levels of the Heart of Sorrow’s tower (e.g., on the second floor or below), the vampire spawn sent to defend it behave similarly to the vampire spawn described in the “Random Encounters” section above: They grapple a vulnerable PC (attacking with surprise if possible), and attempt to drag their victim off to a dark, shadowy corner to feed.

The vampires behave similarly if encountered at upper floors of the tower, unless the PCs are wielding sunlight from the Holy Symbol or Sunsword. In this case, the vampires—with few other places to go—use their Claw/Claw multiattack to grapple their chosen prey (using their Spider Climb feature to maneuver along the walls if needed), then leap from the staircase to the distant ground below, pulling the PCs with them.

(To make this fairer, you can let the grappled PC make a DC 15 Dexterity saving throw to catch onto the edge of the staircase, followed by a DC 10 Athletics check to hold the combined weight of themselves and the vampire spawn now dangling from their ankle.)

A vampire spawn starts with 82 hitpoints, which means that it only uses this grapple-and-leap maneuver if it’s fairly confident that it’ll survive the fall, or if it’s sure that it’s about to die no matter what. In the former case, it first uses its Spider Climb ability to pull its prey down to the sixth floor (the landing closest to the Heart of Sorrow), or the third floor (if it’s been reduced to 50 hitpoints or less); in the latter case, it jumps from the highest point possible out of spite.

As it descends, a vampire spawn relies on its natural regeneration to restore its health (clinging to the undersides of staircases to block sunlight wherever possible), while also biting its grappled victim to restore its own health. Once it reaches the bottom, the vampire drags its prey downstairs through the Tower Hall Stair (K20A) or toward the front of the keep through the Turret Post Access Hall (K13), eager to enjoy its meal in private.

V?????? P???????

For a link to Volenta’s revised statblock, click here.

With her Assassinate and Sneak Attack features, Volenta always prefers to strike from hiding wherever possible. With her childlike personality and the additional insurance provided by her Evasion trait, she plays combat like a game. She strikes her chosen target with incredible force before Dashing away the next turn, laughing as she regenerates any damage she’s suffered and vanishes into the shadows. Of the three brides, Volenta is most likely to rely on her Spider Climb feature, tucking herself away on ceilings or ascending to inaccessible areas as she skitters along the darkened stone of Ravenloft.

If cornered, however, she is no less deadly. Volenta always prioritizes the weakest or most injured PC first, relying on her Blood Frenzy feature to grant her advantage on her attacks (or to nullify the disadvantage granted by sunlight). Once her playful attitude has turned to mindless bloodthirst, Volenta fights like a maniacal berserker, and never disengages from combat until her thirst is fully sated, or she’s been destroyed.

C???? ?? ??? C????

S????? Z??????

The two Strahd zombies on the King’s Balcony (K28) remain motionless until one of them is disturbed, or another creature comes within their reach. A zombie initiates combat by grabbing the target’s wrist, hand, or leg, then slowly looking up to meet the target’s eyes as the zombie’s tongue lolls from its shattered jaw and the skin across its face sloughs down, revealing the bone-white skull beneath.

S??????

If summoned to defend Lief Lipsiege, these 1d6 shadows slip into the room through the crack beneath the door leading to K21 (South Tower Stair). If any of the characters are standing in dim light or darkness, the shadows each make a bonus action to take the Hide action, attacking with surprise if successful. If the room is well-lit, the shadows instead surround the characters from the walls, with each one attacking a separate PC.

V?????? S????

If summoned to defend Lief Lipsiege, these 1d4 vampire spawn are, like their peers throughout Castle Ravenloft, more interested in finding a meal than in protecting an old man. The spawn enter K30 on the ceilings, skittering through the doorway and dropping down to assault the closest prey. See the “Random Encounters” section above for more information about running this encounter.

W?????

If summoned to defend Lief Lipsiege, these 1d4 wights attack in an immediate show of force, arriving from the Audience Hall (K25) after entering through the secret door from the southern Turret Post Access Hall (K13). See the “Random Encounters” section above for more information about running this encounter.

W????? ??? S???????

If summoned to defend Lief Lipsiege, a wraith arrives through the wall separating K30 (King’s Accountant) from the Elevator Shaft (K31A). Rather than prioritizing the most antagonistic foe, it immediately attacks the most Good character present, driven by its malevolent compulsion to kill the greatest paragon of goodness in the party with its Life Drain. If injured by radiant damage or silvered or magic weapons, the wraith turns to attack less dangerous prey—but immediately returns to the most Good-aligned PC once its safer prey is dead (and turned into a specter using the wraith’s Create Specter feature).

The 1d4+1 specters that accompany it arrive by passing through the northern wall, and quickly latch onto the nearest living victim. However, a specter will only reluctantly follow a wraith into sunlight, and once the wraith dies, the specters will quickly flee for darker pastures. Otherwise, if a specter takes radiant or magical weapon damage, it Disengages and moves to a new place of safety 50 feet away, then swoops in and attacks a new target in the next round. If a specter suffers 7 or more points of any damage from one opponent in a single round, it flies to a new target and attacks immediately without worrying about opportunity attacks, relying on its damage resistances to protect it. If hit by a ranged attack, the specter immediately dive-bombs the ranged attacker and engages them in melee.

H???? R????

Helga’s strategy is simple: Attack any isolated PCs, or when commanded to do so by Strahd. When she strikes, she acts as any other vampire spawn would (see the “Random Encounters” section above), with two exceptions: if the PCs enter her room with sunlight and obstruct the exit, Helga shies toward the back wall, hissing in pain as the light burns her vampiric flesh, before lurching forward to strike whichever PC is currently blocking her escape. Otherwise, if Helga is already accompanying the party when the sunlight of the Sunsword or Holy Symbol is activated, she hisses and quickly scuttles away into the darkness, clinging to the walls and ceilings as she beats a hasty getaway.

R???? ?? W??????

S????? ?? R???

When the PCs approach or attack these rats, the two “manlike shapes” they form slowly turn to face the PCs. The swarms are covered only by threadbare black cloaks, which reveal beneath them two standing mounds of writhing, furred flesh, with faces covered in wormlike tails, flashing white teeth, and dozens of glinting black eyes. Once their anger is aroused, the rats begin to rush down the figures’ sides, the manlike shapes slowly melting away as their “body” dissolves into hundreds of chittering, wriggling rats.

I???????? S??????

It’s unlikely that your PCs will trigger this encounter. However, if they do, the invisible stalker should prove a memorable—if horrifying—encounter. With its high Strength and Dexterity (but only decent Constitution), plus its exceptional 50-foot fly speed, this monster is a shock attacker, lunging to strike its prey before retreating into the air once more.

The stalker makes good use of its invisibility and fly speed, and doesn’t hesitate to trigger opportunity attacks via flyby attacks, relying on its resistance to nonmagical attacks. However, because of its invisibility, an invisible stalker will almost always have advantage on its attacks against its quarry (who effectively suffers from the blinded condition relative to the stalker’s presence). As such, it doesn’t bother taking advantage of its sky-high Stealth modifier, except to gain surprise at the start of combat.

Whenever possible, an invisible stalker always begins and ends its turn out of any opponent’s melee reach. When it reduces its quarrythe character that stole the cake’s groom figurineto 0 hitpoints, it doesn’t stop fighting. Instead, it keeps attacking until that creature is dead.

G???? S??????

The giant spiders in the Belfry (K40) only attack if attacked first or if the bell is sounded. In both cases, we can safely assume that they’re attacking defensively, rather than for food. 

Giant spiders are reasonably speedy, with a high Dexterity, decent Strength and average Constitution. They prefer to first attack from range using their Web attack, repeating it whenever it’s recharged. Since these five spiders are living together in such a tight space, we can assume that they form a social nest—which means that they’ll focus-fire their Web attacks on one target at a time, to ensure that each enemy is restrained before moving into melee.

Once an enemy is restrained by webbing, one or more spiders moves in to retrieve them, first by grappling the target (rolling with advantage, while the target rolls with disadvantage), followed by pulling the target up into the spiderwebs above, further restraining the target. Once it’s done so, each spider dives in, using their Bite attacks to inject as much venom as possible. Once a victim is reduced to 0 hitpoints, one spider uses its Web attack to wrap it inside of a cocoon, and ties it off in the web to be consumed later.

The belfry is far too small and constrained, leaving the spiders with nowhere to go. If heavily wounded (reduced to 8 hitpoints or less), a spider will beat a hasty retreat to the top of the Belfry, where it clicks its mandibles toward the PCs threateningly. If cornered, it will fight to the death.

S?????’? A??????? A????

Unlike its other animated peers, Strahd’s animated armor is almost as intelligent as an average human, allowing it to use some basic tactics. Its Armor Class is exceptionally high, and its Strength and Constitution are high as well, making it a trueborn tank.

In combat, the armor opens with Shocking Bolt (favoring attacks against opponents wearing metal armor), followed by a series of Greatsword attacks as soon as it closes within melee range. Against a spellcaster with an AC of 15, it can deal an average 8 damage per Greatsword attack. Once in melee range, it will always prioritize more vulnerable opponents first (using its multiattack to grapple an unarmored or lightly armored opponent before attacking that same turn), and will instantly focus its attacks on a caster that attempts to cast dispel magic on it and fails.

Shocking Bolt has a lower to-hit bonus and deals less damage, making it an inferior choice to Greatsword in all close-ranged scenarios. Even with advantage on its Shocking Bolt attack against an enemy wearing armor, it still deals slightly less than 8 damage per attack on average, making its Greatsword a safer (and more powerful) choice.

A????????? K???????

For a link to Anastrasya’s revised statblock, click here.

When encountered in Castle Ravenloft, Anastrasya is never far from the sword or shield she wields with telekinetic grace. However, she prefers civility to open violence, relying on her high Deception modifier and Charm ability to keep her enemies talking while she wraps them around her fingers.

While speaking with the PCs, Anastrasya will use each round to target a PC with her Charm ability, preferring to prioritize classes without proficiency in Wisdom saving throws. When Anastrasya uses her Charm, have each PC make a Perception or Insight check, but secretly modify the result of her victim to use their Wisdom saving throw modifier, rather than the appropriate skill modifier. If the victim fails to beat Anastrasya’s Charm DC (15), secretly let them know that they are now charmed by her and what that entails.

When this happens, have Anastrasya make a Stealth check. If any PC makes a Perception or Insight roll that beats Anastrasya’s Stealth result, secretly inform them that they noticed Anastrasya’s eyes flash crimson-red, followed by her victim’s gaze growing slack and distant a heartbeat later.

If possible, Anastrasya will prioritize the strongest or most charismatic PCs for her Charm first, relying on the goodwill of those she’s already bewitched to suppress any notion of violence. If she has any indication that things are about to go south, however, she quietly uses her Children of the Night ability, summoning 2d4 swarms of rats or swarms of bats to assist her should combat erupt.

In battle, Anastrasya uses her bonus action to attack with her modified flying sword while taking the Dodge action, relying on the additional AC provided by her animated shield to protect herself. Elegant and graceful to the last, Anastrasya only attacks with her Claw/Claw multiattack if cornered, and only drains a victim’s health with her Bite if she is moderately wounded (reduced to 60 hitpoints or fewer) and a weak, vulnerable victim is easily available to her.

Otherwise, Anastrasya immediately flees battle if she is exposed to sunlight or heavily wounded (reduced to 30 hitpoints or fewer), transforming into a bat (if indoors), a wolf (if outdoors), or a cloud of mist (if nearby to one of the cracks in the wall that lead to the High Tower Stair). Once out of sight, if she isn’t already in mist form, Anastrasya transforms into mist and conceals herself amid the decay of the rest of Castle Ravenloft. If commanded to do so by Strahd, however, she will (reluctantly) remain and fight to the death, unable to defy her master’s will.

Anastrasya never travels alone. In Castle Ravenloft, she is always defended by an honor guard of four wights that stand guard at each entrance to her current chamber, and who violently attack any creature that threatens her.

S????? ?? R????????

R?? ?? S?????????

Due to its False Appearance feature, the rug of smothering always attacks with surprise—but because it can’t attack while restraining a target, that’s likely the only attack it will ever get. It will, however, use the Dodge action on all subsequent turns to avoid taking damage, and will attack the nearest target with its Smother if its original prey somehow frees itself. It fights to the death.

G??????? P???????

Like the Rug of Smothering, the guardian portrait’s False Appearance feature allows it to always attack with surprise (though, given the fact that it only attacks if the rug is attacked or either item is moved, this is only relevant in the latter case). 

The portrait can’t move, however, and has no damage-dealing attacks, meaning it has to rely on one of its three combat-ready spells: crown of madness, hypnotic pattern, or telekinesis (though it automatically casts counterspell any time an enemy casts a spell of 3rd level or lower). Each of these three spells uses concentration and two of them require an action each round to maintain, which means that once the portrait casts one of them, it won’t cast another spell until it sees a reason to switch.

Given the portrait’s low AC and hitpoints, it will likely only have the chance to cast one of these spells, which means it has to make it count. Let’s take a look at these options:

  • Crown of Madness charms one humanoid of the portrait’s choice within 120 feet. While the target is charmed, it must use its action before moving on each turn to make a melee attack against a creature chosen by the portrait. The most likely use of this is to force one of the PCs to attack their fellows while reducing the number of combatants attacking the rug.

  • Hypnotic Pattern has the potential to affect every creature in the room (aside from the rug, which operates on blindsight alone). This includes the portrait, however, as the room is too small to exclude it. However, because the entire party is likely to be crammed into the room, this means that the portrait has a decent chance to charm approximately half of the party (assuming an average Wisdom saving throw of +2).

  • Telekinesis is the portrait’s highest-levelled spell, allowing it to restrain a creature in its arcane grip. It’ll prioritize a low-Strength enemy, like a rogue, wizard, sorcerer, warlock, or druid, and fling them against the ceiling twenty feet overhead, forcing its target to take 2d6 falling damage when the spell ends.

Generally speaking, hypnotic pattern is most effective against a larger group, while telekinesis is best against a small group. Crown of madness, which removes approximately one-and-a-half PCs from combat, is somewhere in between.

According to the DMG, a spell with a 30-foot-cube area of effect like hypnotic pattern should generally affect at least six creatures. As such, the portrait won’t bother casting this unless it has at least that many enemies (counting both PCs, NPCs, and beast companions/familiars) in range.

Telekinesis, on the opposite side of the spectrum, the portrait keeps tucked away for encounters with two or fewer enemies—one for the rug to handle, and one for the portrait to keep pushed away. Finally, the portrait casts crown of madness if it finds itself in the sweet spot of facing three to five enemies, prioritizing obvious melee attackers first (preferably a low-Wisdom combatant like a fighter, rogue, or barbarian).

Interestingly enough, the guardian portrait can speak Common, plus up to two other languages; its average Charisma modifier also implies that it may be interested in speaking with the PCs (though it’s unlikely that it’ll do so before it attacks, in order to preserve the surprise from its False Appearance feature). While it’s not actually Strahd, it’s likely the portrait retains some of his mannerisms, and will taunt and insult the PCs in his voice while battling them.

To keep this encounter interesting, make sure to include these two nuggets of detail from the portrait’s information section, as well:

  • “When a guardian portrait attacks, the figure in the painting animates and moves as though alive (albeit in two dimensions)”

  • “When it casts a spell, the figure painted on the canvas makes all the appropriate somatic gestures and verbal incantations for the spell”

E?????

As described in the original module, Escher prefers conversation to conflict and fleeing to fighting. However, if cornered—or ordered to do so by Strahd, Ludmilla, or Anastrasya—Escher reluctantly enters the fray.

In combat, Escher prefers the following options:

  • Heroism, which he uses only if Ludmilla orders him to cast it on herself

  • Dissonant whispers, which he casts to move a Sunsword-wielding attacker away from Strahd (while providing Strahd with an opportunity attack), or which he uses to clear an exit route after charm person has already failed

  • Faerie fire, which he casts to nullify Strahd’s disadvantage on attacks while in sunlight, or to empower any other undead allies that may join him

  • Invisibility, to conceal his escape after clearing a path to safety

Otherwise, he either attacks with a Claws/Claws multiattack (if there’s no sunlight present) or casts vicious mockery, insulting everything he can find—whether that’s the target’s fashion sense, their physical appearance, or their mother’s resemblance to a particularly ugly species of warthog.

V?????? S????

Should they wander in through a window, the vampire spawn in these towers behave identically to the spawn described in the “Random Encounters” section. If possible, they drag their victim out of the window they came through, using their Spider Climb feature to cling to the stone and forcing their victims to stay in their grasp—or fall to the cold, hard ground 170 feet (17d6 bludgeoning damage) below.

B??????? W??????

A barovian witch has low Strength, average Dexterity, and barely above-average Constitution. She has decent Intelligence, but otherwise average mental stats.

Her attacks are both lackluster: Claws requires a 2nd-level spell slot and concentration, and her Dagger attack deals an average of 2 piercing damage with a +2 bonus to hit. Neither is worth usingleaving the spells.

  • Ray of sickness is always a good go-to, though it doesn’t really mesh well with Tasha’s hideous laughter (which drops its victim prone, imposing disadvantage and dropping the average damage by more than half).

  • Sleep is not worth using against any PC of 4th level or higher.

  • Tasha’s hideous laughter imposes an excellent condition (prone and incapacitated), but the witch has no easy ways of following up on it. As such, the witch will only cast this if joined by a melee attacker.

  • Invisibility doesn’t allow the witch to attack, which means that it’s only good for escaping and attacking surprised enemies. The witch has only +0 to Stealth checks, meaning that any opponent with even a passable Perception modifier is pretty likely to detect her before she attacks.

  • Ray of frost is a usable cantrip, but not worth casting unless there are no spell slots to cast ray of sickness with.

In general, spellcasters prefer to preserve scarcer spell slots for spells at that level. However, alter self is almost never worth casting, which means that a given witch will always reserve one 2nd-level spell slot for invisibility (in case she needs to make a quick getaway) and one 2nd-level spell slot for an upcasted ray of sickness (if she hasn’t already spent it on another invisibility spell to attack with surprise).

If notified in advance by Ludmilla or Strahd to expect company, however, a Barovian witch can swap out her spells for new (and more useful) ones using the spellbook in area K56 (Cauldron). Potential choices include:

  • Burning hands—an auto-include anytime the witch expects open combat

  • Charm person—worth including if the witches expect to encounter only three or fewer enemies (allowing them to focus their casts)

  • Mage armor—same as burning hands above

  • Misty step—same as burning hands and mage armor above.

Using this swapped-out spell list (assuming they had time to prepare it that morning), the witches prepare for combat by casting mage armor and invisibility as soon as they’re alerted to expect company by one of their feline familiars. The witches immediately open combat with burning hands.

In this case, a Barovian witch will prefer misty step to invisibility for getaways if and only if she is lightly wounded (reduced to 14 hitpoints or less) and immediately adjacent to a melee opponent. In this case, she’ll misty step out of her attacker’s reach and immediately move to a safer position—or Dash away to safety if she’s decided to flee.

No matter what their spell lists are, Barovian witches, to quote the module, “have no scruples. They will deal with anyone in return for power. They will also betray anyone for the same reason.” While they fear Strahd and would never willingly betray him, they will happily surrender to the PCs as soon as they feel endangered—say, if they’re cornered (e.g., if they have no spell slots remaining for misty step or invisibility) and reduced to 5 hitpoints or fewer, or if they’re cornered and at least half of their compatriots have already been killed.

L?????? V????????

For a link to Ludmilla’s revised statblock, click here.

In combat, Ludmilla focuses first on immobilizing and incapacitating her enemies. Against lower-level enemies, she will incapacitate melee fighters by casting levitate; against higher-level foes, she will begin by casting evard’s black tentacles if she can catch at least four enemies in its radius. Otherwise, she begins by casting blindness/deafness to blind any spellcaster that she deems a large enough threat, followed by misty step to avoid the reach of any melee attacker.

If Ludmilla is alerted to the PCs’ presence beforehand, she will begin by casting greater invisibility, and will stalk the PCs until they are sufficiently close together for her to cast evard’s black tentacles. 

Once the PCs are restrained by evard’s black tentacles, Ludmilla takes advantage of their restrained condition to attack with lightning bolt, taking care (if possible) to hit at least three PCs with the spell whenever possible.

Ludmilla has three options for her reaction: counterspell, shield, and her recharge ability Misty Escape. If she is facing an enemy spellcaster with the ability to incapacitate her (e.g., via hypnotic pattern), or if she is heavily wounded (reduced to 32 hitpoints or less) and attempting to escape, she holds counterspell in reserve. She uses misty escape to block attacks by rogues, paladins, or monks, though she switches to shield if caught within sunlight.

Ludmilla always keeps one 2nd-level, one 3rd-level, and one 4th-level in reserve to cast misty step, counterspell, and greater invisibility, in case she needs to escape. Ludmilla places a high value upon her own life, and will flee as soon as she is heavily wounded (reduced to 32 hitpoints or less). 

Whenever possible, Ludmilla is joined by 1d6 Barovian witches or 1d4 + 1 flying swords, which she personally enchanted.

L?????? ?? I?? O???

B???? P??????

The black pudding in the Wine Cellar (K63) has the ability to corrode weapons and armor, hang from the ceiling, and Split when struck by slashing or lightning damage. A Large black pudding retreats when reduced to 34 hitpoints or fewer by non-slashing, non-lightning damage; a Medium pudding must be reduced to 16 hitpoints or fewer; and a Small pudding must be reduced to 8 hitpoints or fewer.

S????????

By the time they reach these skeletons in the Guards’ Quarters (K69), your PCs should be long-since used to their presence in Castle Ravenloft (following their run-ins with Cyrus
Belview’s skeletal “guards” elsewhere in the keep). In combat, eight of these ten skeletons immediately attack the PCs with their shortbows while two remaining skeletons closest to the door block the exit, attacking the PCs from behind with their shortsword. A skeleton switches to its shortsword as soon as any PC engages it in melee.

R??????

There are two circumstances under which the PCs may fight Rahadin here: Either the party has entered his office after breaking into Castle Ravenloft, or the party is working to steal the skull of Argynvost from the Hall of Bones (K67) nearby, and they’ve made enough noise to attract him to their location.

Rahadin has a high AC of 18, a high Constitution, and a godlike Dexterity (+6). His mental stats are all well above average (with a notably high Charisma) and his other physical stat (Strength) is fairly good as well.

Rahadin also has darkvision, a move speed of 35 feet, and proficiency in two of the big three saving throws (Constitution and Wisdom); given his exceptionally high Dexterity, he’s unlikely to fail many of those saving throws either.

While Rahadin’s Mask of the Wild feature is exceptionally useful in the wilderness, it is near-useless in Castle Ravenloft unless the PCs encounter him outdoors (e.g., on the Tower Roof or in the castle grounds). As such, we can safely ignore it here.

Rahadin’s actions are simple: He attacks three times with his scimitar, dealing an average 27 damage; or he attacks twice with his poisoned darts, dealing an average 26 damage. These attacks have the same to-hit modifier, leaving them roughly equivalent in value—especially when we consider that the normal maximum range of Rahadin’s poisoned darts (20 feet), plus his natural speed of 35 feet, doesn’t allow him to escape a PC who dashes after him as he retreats.

Rahadin has three features that allow him to enhance his action economy through bonus actions: the misty step spell (which he can cast three times per day), the magic weapon spell (which he can cast once per day), and his Deathly Choir ability

Misty step increases Rahadin’s mobility even further, allowing him to teleport up to 30 feet away to a place he can see. However, Castle Ravenloft is full of enclosed corridors and chambers—and a closed door blocks the line of sight that Rahadin needs to cast it. As such, misty step is probably less of an escape feature and more of a means of avoiding opportunity attacks when Rahadin needs to withdraw from melee.

Against an enemy with AC 15, Magic weapon increases the average damage of Rahadin’s scimitar by 1.4 per strike, increasing his average melee damage output by 4 slashing damage per round. However, he can only cast it once per day; if the PCs are of sufficiently low level (5th level or lower), or if he doesn’t plan to engage the PCs in melee (as he can’t cast magic weapon on more than one poisoned dart) Rahadin won’t bother casting it. Otherwise, he uses a bonus action to cast it on his scimitar on the first round of combat.

Deathly Choir deals an average of 13 psychic damage to any creature caught in it (assuming his targets have a Wisdom modifier of +3). For a target with a higher Wisdom saving throw modifier, such as a cleric or druid, that average damage decreases to 11, which is still comparable.

Because Rahadin’s two attacks are roughly equal, his decision to engage in melee or ranged combat comes down to the positioning of potential targets. According to the “Areas of Effect” table in the DMG, Rahadin’s Deathly Choir ability should target at least two enemies most of the time; as such, if Rahadin can guarantee that he’ll be able to damage at least two enemies with his ability while attacking with his scimitars, he’ll enter melee combat immediately, relying on misty step to escape to an exit if he gets in over his head.. 

Otherwise, Rahadin’s Constitution, while high, isn’t quite high enough to allow him to enter a lengthy combat alone against a team of coordinated and powerful opponents. As such, if he can’t guarantee at least two targets for his Deathly Choir, he’ll take potshots from 20 feet away with his poisoned darts before retreating his full move speed, tempting the PCs to waste their action by Dashing. Whenever possible, Rahadin ends his movement behind full cover (e.g., a wall or closed door), forcing the PCs to relocate to hit him.

Rahadin knows Castle Ravenloft like the back of his hand, and his exceptionally high Stealth modifier (+14) means that few, if any enemies, will be able to track him. While the book says Rahadin fights to the death, he knows his value to Strahd, and has no plans to allow his master’s enemies to roam the castle freely. As such, when Rahadin is moderately wounded (reduced to 70 percent of his maximum health, or 95 hitpoints), he uses his full movement to Dash away from the PCs (Disengaging if he doesn’t have enough space or spell slots to cast misty step first), and then Hides in a dark, tucked-away space. 

From then on, Rahadin, like the Alien of Alien: Isolation, takes full advantage of the narrow, twisting, dark corridors of Castle Ravenloft to tail his prey through the shadows with his +11 Perception modifier, striking from a distance before immediately withdrawing once more. According to the PHB, we can expect Rahadin to carry no more than 2d4 poisoned darts (average 5), leaving him to rely solely on his scimitar after all darts have been thrown.

Once he’s latched onto a group of invading adventurers, he doesn’t stop his pursuit until all of them are dead—with one exception. If the PCs ever take a short rest while Rahadin is stalking them, he departs to report their location to Strahd, who appears to confront the PCs within 6d10 minutes.

Rahadin is a cruel and ruthless killer. If one of the PCs is a cleric, a paladin, a druid, or a bard, he assumes that the party is capable of magical healing, and continues attacking any unconscious PCs with his scimitars (dealing an automatic critical hit and inflicting two failed death saving throws on a hit) and Deathly Choir (automatically inflicting a failed death saving throw) until his target is dead.

S????? D????

For a shadow demon, staying out of light is a must. It’ll do its best to avoid bright light, and will do whatever it can to avoid an enemy capable of inflicting radiant damage. 

In combat, the demon Hides in dim light or darkness, giving it advantage on its first attack from hiding and boosting its damage. Using its Incorporeal Movement feature, the demon will dodge in and out of the Spiral Stair Landing (K83a) to avoid PC attacks, and to re-conceal itself before attacking again. It will prioritize the weakest and most vulnerable targets first, but will retreat to reposition itself if its first blow either doesn’t deal at least severe damage (60 percent of the opponent’s maximum hitpoints) or if the second doesn’t finish them off.

If the PCs move away from the walls of the room and illuminate the chamber’s corners, the demon is out of luck, and will skulk away, tailing the PCs from afar until a suitable time comes to strike again.

D?????? ??? C????????

G??? O???

When the gray ooze in the North Dungeon (K74) detects a PC, it waits for them to step close enough before attacking with surprise through its False Appearance feature. Once it’s engulfed a victim, it slowly moves away from other living beings at its full movement speed and keeps attacking—corroding any metal its target is wearing—until the ooze is reduced to 8 hitpoints or fewer or the PC is completely digested (i.e., dead).

S????? Z??????

As before, I highly recommend removing the Loathsome Limbs feature of the six Strahd zombies in the Torture Chamber (K76) while keeping their statistics otherwise unchanged. Otherwise, this is a fun, spooky encounter that will set the stage for the rest of this area while letting your players feel powerful.

If any of your PCs are capable of flight, or if they wind up climbing on top of the balcony to escape the zombies, let the zombies climb on top of each other—at half speed—to reach the higher elevation. Whenever a zombie at the bottom of the stack takes damage, any zombie on top must make a DC 10 Dexterity saving throw or fall back into the water.

I??? G?????

These two iron golems are Strahd’s secret weapon. If he is able to lure the PCs into the Brazier Room (K78), your party is in serious danger.

As mentioned in the “Strahd’s Tactics” section above, if Strahd finds himself adjacent to this room while the PCs are inside, he’ll attack one of the golems with a weak ranged attack, causing the doors to slam shut and letting the golems immediately animate and attack. Because the PCs are already aware of the danger Strahd poses, they won’t be surprised (unless Strahd is hidden and doesn’t trigger anyone’s passive Perception).

Once they animate, the golems fight as described in the original module.

S????? ?? B???

There are a few lines of text that are easily overlooked in the Catacombs (K84): 

  • The bats in the catacombs fly out in the evening to hunt at night; in other words, if your PCs arrive in the catacombs after dark, the ceiling will be empty of bats (which means Strahd can’t command them, as described below).

  • The bats will attack intruders if provoked or specifically commanded by Strahd. How many bats is that? Well…

  • If any bats within a 10-foot square on the map are attacked or harmed by a spell, 2d4 swarms of bats form in that area and attack. There are roughly 90 squares in the catacombs that fit that description, resulting in 225 swarms of bats. If Strahd commands them all to attack… Yeouch. (Don’t fight a vampire in a cave full of bats, kids).

In combat, each swarm will attack the PCs as long as its hitpoints remain above half, and will switch to taking the Help action (to assist Strahd or another of his minions) once bloodied. 

However, to be fair to your PCs, if Strahd commands his bats to attack, give them a reasonable warning: On the turn that Strahd commands his bats, he must spend his turn verbally directing them to attack—during which a maelstrom of thousands of bats forms overhead, threatening to eclipse the PCs with their mass.

If the PCs stay in the catacombs after that, that’s their own damn fault.

T??????? T????

A quick note about the three teleport traps outside of Strahd’s Tomb (K85): Once triggered, they make for an excellent moment of horror, both for the victim and for their companions.

Remember: The traps are completely invisible, which means that there’s no indication why the person disappeared. One moment they’re there, the next, they’re just—not. They might have triggered a trap, they might have turned invisible, or they might have been teleported away by a spellcaster.

Make sure not to reveal the fate or location of the victim until their left-behind companions have decided what to do (including, for example, fighting the angry wight that has just teleported to take their friend’s place). If they keep walking into the trap, keep yanking them into the trap’s destination (the vault beneath Crypt 14). If they decide to look in the wrong place for the victim, let them wander for a bit before turning the camera back.

Once you refocus on the victim, play up the claustrophobia hard. Let them know that the dim light of the catacombs has been replaced immediately with pitch-black darkness, that they can barely move their arms or legs, and that the air they’re breathing is stale, rotted, and thin—too thin to breathe comfortably. From there, let them work out on their own what’s happened and how they can escape.

I do have to add this disclaimer, though: If you know that the player in question has a real phobia of tight spaces, ignore everything above and instead make it immediately clear how they can escape. Horror is fun; anxiety attacks aren’t.

P????? A????

It’s unlikely the PCs will trigger the encounter with Prince Ariel’s ghost in Crypt 4, but on the off chance they do, remember that, like all ghosts, Ariel’s goal is the resolution of his trauma. In this case, that trauma is his death at the hands of his ill-begotten wish to fly.

However, no ghost wants to be destroyed and risk leaving its trauma unresolved. As such, if wounded by magic weapons or radiant damage, Arial will swiftly Disengage and retreat at his full speed away from the group. If repelled by Turn Undead, Ariel keeps away as well.

It’s unlikely Prince Ariel will have reason to use his Horrifying Visage attack, but on the off-chance that the PCs manage to upset or anger him (perhaps by dismissing his dream of flight), Ariel uses this action immediately and reflexively in response. To encourage them to converse with him (and to make the stakes clear), consider having him rant and rave about how he’ll “fly” from the highest peak of the tower before possessing a PC.

On his third failed Athletics or Acrobatics check to escape if the PCs grapple his possessed target, Ariel will relinquish control of his victim and immediately try to possess a different target that hasn’t already resisted his possession ability. If no such targets exist, he flees back to his crypt, wailing in insane despair.

W????? & S????????

If summoned by the teleport traps near Strahd’s crypt or awoken by a creature that opens its coffin, the wights in Crypt 14 immediately engage with the PCs in melee with its longsword and, eventually, with its Life Drain ability. It otherwise behaves as described in the “Random Encounters” section above.

Any animated skeletons brought to life when a wight dies in this vault behave identically to the skeletons described in the “Larders of Ill Omen” encounters section above.

S???? I????????

Sasha, a vampire spawn (Crypt 20), has been locked in her crypt for decades. As a result, she’s blood-starved, and, at her lowest points, very nearly feral—save for the compulsions Strahd has placed on her and her desperate, twisted hope for freedom.

If the PCs open the door to her crypt, she immediately attacks with a Claw/Bite multiattack. If she previously delivered her message to the PCs during the dinner (as described again), she immediately surrenders and apologizes when the PCs raise a hand against her, claiming that she thought they were someone else. If questioned, she hints that this “someone else” may be Strahd (though a DC 14 Insight check reveals that she’s lying). 

If the PCs ask her to accompany them, she asks if they can protect her from Strahd, attempting to glean information about their capabilities. Regardless of how they anwer, Sasha immediately agrees (so long as the light of the Sunsword or Holy Symbol is kept low enough to avoid harming her). As she travels with the party, she does her best to be “helpful” by providing directions to her companions—until a suitable moment comes to misleadingly direct them to a trap or stab them in the back.

If attacked, Sasha Dashes away in panic, moving to the ceiling if needed to escape the reach of the Sunsword. Until Strahd commands her otherwise, she has one wish: freedom (and, once she reaches easier prey, food).

Strahd, of course, soon catches up with her, and eventually makes Sasha’s momentary freedom a nightmarish hell.

P?????? V????????

As mentioned RAW, the banshee Patrina (Crypt 21) attacks the characters immediately—but immediately after doing so, if Kasimir is with the party and claims to be here to resurrect her, she ceases all hostilities, though asks her “dear brother” why he might wish to revive her now, after murdering her and letting her spirit lie fallow for centuries.

If Kasimir isn’t with the party or can’t persuade Patrina to stop attacking, she attacks with Horrifying Visage the turn after using her Wail while using her fly speed to stay aloft in the air, away from enemy weapons.

From the third round onward, Patrina strafes her opponents with Corrupting Touch, flying down to attack before flying back up out of reach. She first prioritizes enemy spellcasters, marksmen, and skirmishers, picking off those at the edge of the group, rather than those at the front or center. Under no circumstances does she willingly end her turn adjacent to an enemy holding a magic weapon—one of the few things capable of gravely wounding her.

G???? W??? S??????

The two giant wolf spiders of Crypt 27 are little more than a jumpscare. Spook your players with an intimidating physical description as they jump out, threatening a much larger, more deadly arachnid foe—but then reveal their true nature and let your players easily dispatch them.

A????? P??????

If the PCs don’t have mage hand or anyone capable of teleporting past or lifting the portcullis to Strahd’s tomb, these teleportation portals are their only access point to the tomb after Strahd has fled to his coffin in mist form to rejuvenate. In the rare occasion that this occurs, let your players wander through the catacombs in search of a hidden trick or secret—it’ll be a race against time as they carefully search every crypt for a way to open the door (possibly triggering several dangerous encounters as they do), and they’ll be excited to find this area when they finally succeed.

G?????

It’s unlikely the PCs will venture into the seemingly-empty crypt (Crypt 35) containing the six starving ghouls, but on the off chance they do, the ghouls won’t be starving for long. This is one of Curse of Strahd’s classic punishments against traditional dungeon-crawlers: A PC that ignores the warning of the “charnel stench” within this space and investigates for hidden treasure will have a very unhappy time.

H??? H????? ??? W?????

The wraith of General Grislek (Crypt 38) behaves identically to the wraith described in the “Court of the Count” section described above. Meanwhile his three hell hounds will zero in on the most vulnerable enemy and attack with their Pack Tactics feature. If there’s a second enemy close enough to the first, the hounds will use their Fire Breath feature (provided it’s available) to roast both prey, but if not, they’ll just stick with their Bite.

B??????????

Beucephalus, Strahd’s nightmare steed (Crypt 40), is the Dark Lord’s valued transportation service, and smart enough to know that. As a result, while he’ll put up a fight against character he hasn’t met yet, if heavily wounded (reduced to 62 hitpoints or less) within the first two rounds of combat, he will immediately use his Ethereal Stride to retreat to the Ethereal Plane.

When transporting Strahd in combat, Beucephalus will ready an Ethereal Stride action to occur immediately after he attacks (if the nightmare goes first in initiative), or allow Strahd to ready an attack action to take place immediately after Beucephalus transports them to the Material Plane (if the nightmare goes second). When in the Ethereal Plane, Strahd’s regeneration can’t be stopped by sunlight, making Beucephalus a treasured tool—and a dangerous enemy—for the PCs.

A????????? N????

A few minor notes of personal opinion:

  • Leave the “silly names” in the Catacombs (K84) unchanged. It might feel like you’re ruining the horror mood by having the PCs cross paths with “Isolde Yunk” and “Elsa Fallona von Twitterberg,” but spots of light and humor are essential for making the moments of dark and horror hit harder. Moreover, these evocative names encourage the PCs to explore their crypts—without them, it’s just another array of Generic Fantasy Names for the PCs to skip.

  • Strahd is not omniscient, and that’s doubly true in Castle Ravenloft. As written in previous sections, he is only alerted to the PCs’ presence in the castle if they trigger a noise-making trap, find him in the predestined location, find him as a random encounter, tip him or one of his spies off ahead of time to their presence, or summon him by letting another encounter (e.g., Rahadin) escape to report their presence. Though your PCs should feel terrified of the possibility of running into him, never be unfair; if they sneak through the castle without being stupid, let them escape.

  • Yes, I removed Strahd’s phasing lair action in Castle Ravenloft. It’s incredibly unfair and punishing, and turns fights into a binary “he dies immediately, or we all suffer for six hours while he invincibly picks us off, one-by-one.” Seriously, don’t use it.

  • Remember: The castle is a living, breathing system, and its occupants are the same. If the PCs smash a table when they visit the first time, that table should either be cleaned up or still smashed when they return. If the PCs kill or alienate a bride of Strahd, that bride stays dead—or pissed-off—when they come back. If the PCs tied up Cyrus Belview and intimidated him into spilling Strahd’s secrets, he should be very unhappy to see them again. Track what your PCs do in Castle Ravenloft, and make sure to keep those details in order when they return.

  • Don’t feel imprisoned by the random encounter table. Instead, each time the PCs visit Ravenloft, pick out ten interesting encounters and scatter them throughout the castle, using the “Territories of the Castle” section above for additional guidance.

  • Don’t use the Vistani thug or Barovian commoner random encounter if you can avoid it. The former plays up some pretty awful stereotypes about Vistani, and the latter is just unnecessary and immersion-breaking (how does a society survive so many angry mobs?)

  • It’s okay for the PCs to trash a low-level encounter when they’re travelling through Castle Ravenloft. The castle (minus the brides and Rahadin) isn’t actually that dangerous to most adventuring parties; if a 3rd-level party can somehow evade any wights or vampire spawn they encounter, they should have a pretty easy time getting to their destination.

  • If your characters are in Castle Ravenloft at midnight and are in a good position to view it, don’t forget to run the finale of the March of the Dead encounter from the Village of Barovia! It’s spooky, bizarre, and wonderfully foreboding.

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I strongly prefer the free battlemaps created by /u/pigonthewing, which you can find here—they’re high-quality, easily scaled to a virtual tabletop, and wonderfully detailed. 

If you’re looking for another style, however, I recommend the (paid) battlemaps by Venatus or G Jensen.

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JamesRPGArt (also known as /u/brochiefwave) has put out some amazing artwork depicting locations throughout Castle Ravenloft. Check out his renditions of the Chapel (for weddings), Dining Hall (for dinners), and Study, and follow his Patreon for still and animated versions of these locations and others locations throughout Barovia.

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Swordcoast Soundscapes has published some excellent ambience tracks for Castle Ravenloft, including the main castle and the catacombs.

However, if you’re looking for something a little more instrumental to use in your sessions, my personal playlist for Castle Ravenloft is as follows:

  • Graveyard (Midnight Syndicate)

  • Opus 186—Eternal Night (Sigmund Kr?he)

  • An Ominous Place (The Witcher)

  • Ominous Ambience (The Witcher 3—Blood and Wine)

Finally, my playlist for the final battle with Strahd includes the following tracks, which can be easily found on YouTube:

  • Ludwig the Accursed Holy Blade (Bloodborne)

  • Bloody Tears—Orchestral Version (Castlevania)

  • Bloody Tears—Orchestral Cover (Castlevania)

  • Sir Alonne, Crown of the Old Iron King (Dark Souls II)

  • Slave Knight Gael (Dark Souls III)

  • Battle Music (The Witcher 2—Assassins of Kings) 

  • Archangel (Two Steps from Hell)

  • Diabolic Clockwork (Two Steps from Hell)

  • Fight the Darkness (Two Steps from Hell)

  • One Against All (Two Steps from Hell)

  • Sariel (Two Steps from Hell)

  • Tyrianis (Two Steps From Hell)

  • Unforgiven (Two Steps From Hell)

  • Divided We Fall (Two Steps From Hell)

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