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Thursday, September 29, 2016

Curse of Strahd - The "Prequel" Adventures

Arabelle and a halfling
This article has a lot of details and backstory on Curse of Strahd entities from previous editions. I fell down a lore rabbit hole and did my best to find more information on things from Curse of Strahd. I originally was just going to write about the 4e adventure Fair Barovia, but I ended up using the 3e Expedition to Castle Ravenloft, too:
I enjoy unraveling the lore in these 5e adventures. It looks like quite a bit of thought went into the NPCs and how they are linked to the past. If, like me, you were a D&D Insider subscriber for years, you likely have Fair Barovia sitting on your hard drive. Most of the time, I would flip through the new issue of Dungeon, get annoyed that nothing in it was relevant to my campaign at the moment and then forget all about it. Years later, I go back and look and there's all sorts of awesome stuff that I barely remember.

Dungeon Magazine #207 has 2 adventures and one location in it:
  1. Starhaunt: Astronomers spot some star spawn in the night sky who send a meteorite into their observatory that has a magic item in it. 
  2. Timbergorge: A new domain of dread that involves a werewolf-hunting treant with a mouth lined with silver.
  3. Fair Barovia: An adventure where Strahd enlists the heroes in taking down a rival vampire.
Fair Barovia features Vallaki, the village of Barovia, and an excursion to the front door of Castle Ravenloft. It has a lot of weird little links to Curse of Strahd.

This note from Curse of Strahd page 25 seems to come into play quite a bit: "When a being with a soul dies in Barovia, that soul remains trapped in Strahd's domain until it is reincarnated in a newborn. It can take decades for a bodiless soul to find a host, and Barovians who share the same soul over generations tend to look alike."

From what I can tell, a number of the NPCs in Curse of Strahd are either NPCs from previous adventures reborn, children of previous NPCs or, weirdest of all, their own grandchildren.

Strahd's Family
4e Barovia
Strahd's parents are referred to as King Barov and Queen Ravenovia.

Where Ravenloft got its Name: As a mortal, Strahd's army was at war with the Tergs. The Tergs were led by a warlord named Dorian, who Strahd killed. Dorian's fortress became known as Castle Ravenloft, named after Strahd's mother.

Ravenovia Worshiped the Morninglord: In the White Sun Monastery in Fair Barovia, there is a portrait of Ravenovia, wife of Barov von Zarovich and the mother of Strahd. She was the monastery's first patron.  She had raven black hair, gentle blue eyes and a noble bearing. 

Strahd has two Brothers: Strahd has another brother - Sturm, who is scholarly.

Strahd Faked his Death: Strahd fakes his death sometimes. The people of Barovia think that the current Strahd is a descendant of the original. Most people don't know he is a vampire.

Leo Dilysnia, the Bad Guy

Leo Dilysnia: He is a member of an assassins guild called the Ba'al Verzi. He served under Strahd when he was a mortal. Leo tried to overthrow Strahd during the fateful wedding of Sergei, but failed.

Link to the Wachters: At some point, Leo's henchmen had killed Lorvina Wachter's family. "Years later, with the help of a loyal subject named Lorvinia Wachter, Strahd found Leo." Strahd actually turned Leo into a vampire and sealed him in a mausoleum inside the Wachter estate, so that he could starve for all eternity.  

I think that Leo Dilysnia is a big part of I, Strahd: The Memoirs of a Vampire. 

The Ba'al Verzi: A secret society of assassins. Their signature weapon is a curved dagger with a hilt wrapped in black, red and gold.

Leo's Bones: Leo Dilisnya's bones are on page 113 of Curse of Strahd. It says he was an enemy of the Wachter family. "He escaped from Castle Ravenloft, only to be hunted down and killed by the vampire Strahd. The Wachters keep his bones under lock and key so that Leo can't be raised from the dead."

The Wachters: In Curse of Strahd, Lady Wachter of the Wachterhaus is Lady Fiona Wachter, an apparent descendant.  In the library, On Curse of Strahd page 114, the group can find an old letter to "Lady Lovina Wachter" (It's "Lorvinia" in Fair Barovia) from one Lord Vasili von Holtz, thanking her for her loyalty over the years. Characters can realize that the handwriting in the letter is identical to Strahd's handwriting.

Also, there is this note in Fair Barovia: "There are no surviving members of the Wachter family in Vallaki.." I assume the Wachters in Curse of Strahd moved to Vallaki from elsewhere.

Strahd's Alter Ego: When Leo is dealt with, a luxurious coach shows up drawn by twin black stallions driven by strong middle-aged man holds the reigns. The driver is Vasili von Holtz - Strahd in disguise. He takes them to the mists and lets them leave.

The Morninglord: "The Morninglord was originally a religion brought to Barovia by traveling adventurers." Also, Fair Barovia page 51: "...this church is dedicated to a deity the Barovians call the Morninglord, who promised an end to the misty darkness that engulfed the land."

Barovian Saints

Fair Barovia gives us a list of the saints in Barovia. Some of them are detailed in Expedition to Castle Ravenloft:
Saint Andral: This is the only saint I couldn't find details of. Maybe I missed it. Andral's bones are stolen in Curse of Strahd on page 97. The bones create a hallow effect inside Andral's church in Vallaki.

Saint Bogdan: He worshiped Pelor. His presence brought good luck to his friends and bad luck to his enemies. He died of natural causes at the age of 104.
  • St. Bogdan's Fingerbone: Gives a +1 to saving throws. 
Saint Ecaterine: She established a convent near Barovia on Lysaga Hill. Apparently she ended up being buried alive in Castle Ravenloft.
  • Saint Ecaterina's Burial Shroud: This is from Expedition page 215. It heals all diseases.
  • The Ecaterine Husk: A burned-out tower on Lysaga Hill. The Lysaga Hill map in Fair Barovia is almost exactly the same as the Husk map in Expedition.
Saint Markovia: She followed her heart and became a priest of the Morninglord shortly after her 18th birthday. On Curse of Strahd page 146 it says that Saint Markovia was a priest who took a stand against Strahd, but she ended up being destroyed along with most of her followers. Saint Markovia is buried in crypt 6 (Curse of Strahd page 86).
  • Saint Markovia's Thighbone: (Curse of Strahd page 222) is the equivalent of a mace of disruption.
  • Saint Markovia's Abbey: This is where The Abbot and his bride are in Krezk.
There is a stained glass window that depicts Saint Andral, the Morninglord and Saint Markovia on page 138 in Curse of Strahd.

White Sun Monastery: This was the home of monks who used rituals to make it so that Strahd is weaker if he enters.This is where Leo is hiding. Strahd wants the group to take him down.

The abbot of the White Sun is Father Yevgeni Miroff. There is a Yevgeni Krushkin on page 100 of Curse of Strahd. He is one of the wolf hunters. Might be a coincidence.

There are two NPCs in Fair Barovia that might join the party:

Arabelle Zarovan: A vistani seer and a spy for Strahd. She doesn't like Madame Eva. She foresaw a dukkar coming soon, an evil being that will bring woe on the vistani. She actually can do a tarokka reading for the group. There's a full page of details.

In Curse of Strahd, Arabelle is the little vistani girl who was kidnapped. She has alabaster-white skin and raven-black hair. She is a descendant of Madame Eva with the blood of Barovian royalty in her veins.

Falstan Mitrache: A halfling guide. Amiable and competent. Is secretly an agent of Strahd spying on Vallaki.  He is haunted by the memory of his beloved Yera, who fell over Tser Falls.

Dukkars: These are beings prophesied to endanger Vistani. Fair Barovia mentions two:
  • Hyskosa the Mad Seer: Hyskosa was part of the 2e Grand Conjunction string of adventures.
  • Mollochio Aderre: Mollochio is from 2e sourcebooks. He hunts and kills vistani, even half-vistani.


Burgomaster Lars Kjurls: In Fair Barovia, Vallaki has a Burgomaster but the town is ruled by a council of merchants and landowners. In Curse of Strahd, the Burgomaster is Baron Vargas Vallakovich

Curse of Strahd page 123: Lars Kjurls is a member of the town militia. He ends up being arrested for an ill-timed outburst.

Brom and Bray Martikova: In Fair Barovia, Brom is the Innkeeper of the Blue Water Inn. It says: "Brom is the younger brother of Bray Martikova. owner of the Blood o' the Vine tavern in the village of Barovia."

Curse of Strahd page 102: Brom and Bray Martikova is the name of the children of the Blue Water Inn. Their father is the owner, Urwin Martikova.

Karl and Nikolai Wachter: In Fair Barovia, they were cousins killed by Leo Dilysnia. In Curse of Strahd, they are brothers - sons of Lady Fiona Wachter.

Other Locations: There are a bunch of locations in Vallaki in Fair Barovia that are not detailed in Curse of Strahd: Aresek's Wares, Tibor's Smithy, the Thaani Quarter. There are also three taverns: The Blood-Red Rose, the Lakeside Tavern and the Svalich Pub


St. Andral's Church: In Fair Barovia, the priest is Father Lucian Petrovna. It says he has a deranged cousin named Yagno who tried to kill Lucian's newborn nephew. Yagno is the darklord of G'Henna.

On Curse of Strahd page 97: The priest is Lucian Petrovich, not Petrovna. Tasha Petrovna (page 87 Curse of Strahd) is in one of the crypts. She was the "...healer of kings, light unto the west, servant, companion." If the group goes in her crypt (which actually has a sunlight effect vs vampires), her ghostly voice tells the group about her hidden holy symbol in the Abbey. I think this means she served under Saint Markovia.

Kasimir and Patrina: Kasimir is detailed in Fair Barovia. At this point, the Velikovna elves have taken over Vistani campsite, led by Kasimir Vilikovna. It says that he has led the elves for over 60 years. He is ashamed of his sister Patrina, who courted powers of shadow. In Fair Barovia he is a druid who sells potions.

Patrina wants to team up with Strahd and kill the dusk elves.
  • Patrina wanted to become Strahd's vampiric bride.
  • She was caught trying to feed on an elf child to seal her transformation.
  • She was stoned to death.
  • She was interred in a crypt in castle ravenloft.
  • She rose up as a banshee.
  • COS page 89: "Patrina's spirit can't rest, however, until she is formally wed to Strahd." Even if destroyed, her banshee body eventually reforms.
  • In Fair Barovia, she is "the Witch of Lysaga Hill." She is using the evil energy of Lysaga Hill to turn dusk elves into her undead servants.
In Curse of Strahd, Kasimir wants to resurrect his sister. She can be brought to life. She becomes an archmage, but she's still evil and will ditch the group.

Rahadin mutilated Kasimir - he cut off his ears. Kasimir was given the name "Velikov" by a vistani who passed away 1,000 years ago.

Kasimir is having dreams of Patrina and he thinks she has repented. Kasimir wants to go to the Amber Temple to find something to bring her back to life.

Page 196 of Curse of Strahd: Kasimir gets the dark gift of Zhudun (which I believe is the dark gift Diath got on Dice Camera Action). Patrina is neutral evil and will go back to Strahd.

The Hags of Barovia

The hag situation is confusing. Lysaga Hill has been around since 3rd edition at least. Baba Lysaga, I think, is new for 5e. So that means that Lysaga Hill was probably retroactively named after her. We get a history of the hill:
  • It was home to cultists.
  • St. Ecaterina wiped them out and built a monastery
  • The monastery mysteriously collapsed.
  • The ruins became home to Red Lukas
  • Strahd and Sergei cut his head off
  • In Fair Barovia, it is the home to the banshee witch Patrina Velikovna.
In Expedition to Castle Ravenloft, there is a hag coven in Barovia. You'll never guess who the first hag is:
  • Madame Eva: She is a hag in disguise! This idea seems to have been scrubbed away in Curse of Strahd. In CoS, she is Strahd's half-sister, her original name being Katarina. She made a pact with Mother Night, trading her youth for the power to undo the evil that Strahd had wrought. That means that if Strahd dies, Eva and Arabelle are the rightful heirs to Barovia, right? It says that Eva wouldn't want to rule. So... Arabelle.
  • Baba Zelenna: She leads a cult of witches who gather at Lysaga Hill.
  • The Drowned Lady: A wretched monster who knows the secret to unlocking the power of the Sunsword.
The Witches of Lysaga Hill: They worship a demon named Chernovog, the Green God. Baba Zelenna wanted to summon Chernovog to destroy Strahd. In Expecition, the witches actually summon Chernovog. Chernovog has a whole bunch of warlock-type powers - Eldritch blast, beshadowed blast, hideous blow, etc.

Baba Lysaga and her Hill: Baba Lysaga has been around since Strahd was born according to Curse of Strahd page 228. She was obsessed with baby Strahd, so Queen Ravenovia banished her. Baba Lysaga must bathe in the blood of beasts on nights of the new moon, or else she will age and turn to dust in seconds.

Sasha Ivliskova

Sasha from 3rd Edition
One of the NPCs that I thought had a lot of potential in Curse of Strahd was Sasha the jilted vampire bride (Curse of Strahd page 89). I didn't know she was featured in Expedition to Castle Ravenloft! We learn a lot more about her:

Expedition page 13 says Sasha was transformed into a vampire during a "romantic liason" with Strahd. Normally she is kept in a crypt, but Strahd lets her go out to spy on the heroes.

Sasha was the Burgomaster of Barovia 40 years ago. " a time when Strahd's depredations were growing worse every year, Sasha somehow dealt with the Master of the Castle, causing his raids and evil cleansings to cease."

We even get a big journal entry from her that the heroes can find. She admits that she hates Strahd and provides clues to help the group defeat Strahd.

Ireena's Crypt

In both Expedition and Curse of Strahd, crypt 18 is for Ireena. Expedition actually has a depiction of her plaque and a bit of descriptive test of how when Ireena sees it, she flips out and shouts a challenge to Strahd that goes unanswered.

Also, Fair Barovia has a nice map of the gate to Castle Ravenloft:


Dennis Archer said...

I spoke with Claudio Posas about Fair Barovia, as I was trying to pin down a date for when it occurs. He replied that it takes place a generation after CoS.

Sean said...

Dennis Archer: After..! Wow. So then the Arabelle in Fair Barovia might be little Arabelle from CoS all grown up. Wow. I don't get it though. In CoS, they have Leo's bones in a closet. Thank you for the info!

Dennis Archer said...

It is the same Arabelle. It also mentions that the priest Donavich has "just lost his son". CoS was written after, so one can assume that Posas was building off of Expedition to Ravenloft, in which the party supposedly cures Doru of his possession... only to have him die of some other cause years later, apparently.

A way to better fit this into the future of CoS would be if Doru was cured of his vampiric curse after Strahd was defeated, or the party simply wasn't able to slay him during the adventure. Perhaps in the latter case, Van Ricten (or his successor) slew him years later?

Apparently, Leo gets set free (someone cuts themselves on his bony fangs, or bleeds on his bones... perhaps purposefully, perhaps accidentally) and he regrows into a vampire. I can see someone from the Ba'al Versi stealing into the Wacter Haus and doing this. Then, Leo regains his strength as he feeds on the rest of the occupants until he's strong enough to relocate.