Strahd von Zarovich
Among the monsters in D&D canon, Strahd von Zarovich is one of the most feared. His stat block and features, however, do not live up to his threatening mystique. In some ways, this should be expected: Strahd’s fearsomeness comes not from his game statistics, but from his strategic and tactical abilities. You can play Strahd’s stat block as written and have little problem TPKing a party of four or five 10th-level players.
This guide focuses on using Strahd’s existing stat block alongside effective strategies to make the final encounter with him unforgettable. The main mechanical adjustment I suggest is to expand Strahd’s spell list, which you can alter based on Strahd’s temperament and situation. If your PCs are particularly powerful, you might also buff Strahd’s armor.
Who is Strahd?
At its core, Curse of Strahd is a gothic-horror take on a Shakespearean tragedy.
A young ambitious prince, Strahd, seeks to conquer a land. His father (the king) is killed, his mother and sister murdered, and one kingdom’s conquest turns into a campaign of vengeance. Our young prince becomes distracted by his forbidden love—Tatyana, a beautiful village girl betrothed to the prince’s younger brother. Waging an uncertain war and obsessed with a love that can never be, Prince Strahd finds help in the darkest of places. A dark vestige from an ancient time promises the young prince victory, power, and immortality. All the prince must do to seal the pact is sacrifice someone he loves.
Embracing macabre, twisted, self-justifying logic, the prince sacrifices his brother under the delusion it serves the greater good and will invite Tatyana to seek him out for comfort and so usher in a loving relationship. However, upon hearing of her fiancé’s death, Tatyana loses her will to live and leaps from Castle Ravenloft to her death.
The prince’s heart is forever broken. His love was gone, and the sacrifice of his brother was seemingly in vain. The prince wins the war at great costs, but without the woman he loved or his brother to share the fruits of victory, life is not worth living.
Having sealed his pact with the dark vestige, Strahd becomes an immortal vampire, his heart and soul twisted by darkness and hatred that permeates the land. Soon, a mysterious mist gathers around Strahd’s claim, forbidding anyone—even their souls—from leaving it.
Cursed with unlife, the dark prince spends centuries pining for the soul of the woman he loves, hoping for a relationship that was never meant to be.
Brokenhearted and racked with guilt over the heinous acts he committed, the immortal vampire Strahd rules with self-loathing and fury, lashing out in hatred of the living.
This is the curse of Strahd.