Book Review: Curse of Strahd

Amazon Cover

Curse of Strahd (Dungeons & Dragons, 5th Edition) by Wizards RPG Team


Unravel the mysteries of Ravenloft® in this dread adventure for the world’s greatest roleplaying game
Under raging storm clouds, the vampire Count Strahd von Zarovich stands silhouetted against the ancient walls of Castle Ravenloft. Rumbling thunder pounds the castle spires. The wind’s howling increases as he turns his gaze down toward the village of Barovia. Far below, yet not beyond his keen eyesight, a party of adventurers has just entered his domain. Strahd’s face forms the barest hint of a smile as his dark plan unfolds. He knew they were coming, and he knows why they came — all according to his plan. A lightning flash rips through the darkness, but Strahd is gone. Only the howling of the wind fills the midnight air. The master of Castle Ravenloft is having guests for dinner. And you are invited.



A group of my friends after one hangout session decided they wanted to play the Ravenloft. While we were all gamers (and women), none of us gamed together in any combination, and I haven’t gamed for real-real in about a decade. I don’t even know where my dice are. They tossed the Curse of Strahd at me and volun-told me I was the DM (I’ve DM on and off since I first started playing, more “on” than “off” when I am at a table).

So now I got (1) learn the fifth edition, (2) remember how to DM, (3) meld a new gaming group, and (4) rediscover Ravenloft in its new format (which I previously only played as a character).

Fifth edition and Curse of Strahd is making this herculean task possible. I wouldn’t want to do this module as a new DM, but as one with experience in storytelling as well as dungeon-mastering (is that a word?), it is exceptionally well set-up. The chapters are easy to follow, all the dungeons are mapped well, the monsters and their reasons for being where they are are logical, etc. You do need the Player’s Handbook and Monster Manual and Dungeon Master’s Guide to play the module – but using the core books should be expected.

With the new party, I decided to do the optional appendix for game play 1-3 level of experience as well as the “draw them to Ravenloft” portion in the introduction. These add-ons work as good as the rest of the book.

There are some “holes” in the book, deliberately left for the DM to fill in. For example, the third gem from the Wizards of Wine which disappeared a decade ago has no further backstory than it is gone. I’ve decided to use that “sandbox” area the Ravenloft creators left for DMs, to make part of the module my own. It’s awesome they left an area to individualize the game to the DM’s interests, giving them room to tell their own story and be more invested in Curse of Strahd. So much more fun for me.

The instructions say read the book through before DMing it. YES! DO THIS! So many of the sections interact with each other getting the general lay of the land will make the game much, much better for players and the DM.

Ravenloft is one of the first, the first? – yeah, the first, storytelling-oriented module (instead of dungeon crawl-dice roll) and the company brought back the original writers to expand the module out for fifth edition. Everything remains true to the original, but works with the new 5th edition rules.

Vampire the Masquerade story-telling-centric style would likely not exist without Ravenloft.

Curse of Strahd captures the heart of Ravenloft and carries its legacy well.