I must create a system, or be enslaved by another man's. I will not reason and compare: my business is to create.

- William Blake

Sunday, September 27, 2020

Curse of Strahd Guide - Part III - Minimum resources

The third part in the series (here is part II) would originally be a rant about how curse of Strahd is somewhat incomplete and badly organized, and that you need additional resources (and not jut the book) to run it without a headache.

However there's already a huge trove of fan-produced stuff for the campaign online, for free. Because of that I have little to add, other than a few links and comments. 

In fact, there is so much good material out there that's what I thought it would be more useful to do the opposite: tell you the bare minimum additional resources you need to run this campaign. Because there's so much decent stuff online bet you could run this company forever, but I'm guessing this is not your goal.

Some of the essential stuff you need is in the official DM's screen. Now, I don't use or recommend using DM screens, but that's the subject for another post. The material contained in this screen, however, is very useful to have in hand. One might even guess that some of this was left out of the book on purpose... But they wouldn't do that, right? I mean, you can find some of this stuff in the book, but it is badly organized. See this rant if you want to know what I mean. 

Anyway... Let's take a look at this. 


It contains: 

* Lists of random encounters for Barovia and for the Castle, with page numbers.
* A few maps of the castle. 
* A map of Barovia. 
* A list os locations in Barovia, in alphabetical order, with page numbers

Half of the screen is useful whenever you are traveling outdoors through Barovia, from one settlement to another - which means, almost always. The other half it's only useful when you're within the castle- which means, in a small aprt of the campaign.

Other than that, you need a good player map. There is no reason the characters wouldn't know the geography of the valley after talking to a few people, so there's no reason to hide the map from them (although you could certainly rip the edges of the map to make some locations  more mysterious). 

There's a map in the book, of course, but it is big and unwieldy. It is also too beautiful and detailed - doesn't look like a map you'd find in Barovia -  and in divided in hexes, which is not useful (see below).

Here's a better one (if you know the author, please give him credits in the comments): 

The last thing you need is a guide to the distances in Barovia, so you don't have to count hexes. The map of Barovia makes the campaign look like an hex-crawl, but there is no reason to look at it this way. The characters will not be exploring unknown locations (like they would on a hex-crawl), but the only traveling through roads and trails, and going to cities, castles, ruins, etc. 

This should be organized as a point-crawl, but apparently they were not familiar with the concept. Going "off road" is possible but not expected and should carry explicit consequences.

You can find this in many forms, even a detailed spreadsheet, but the most useful would be some kind of map with the distances written down. Here's one example, although the distances are off I (they should be one third of that). However, you can play with the distances as you want. 

Here's my suggestion (click here for the full map): 

Each marking represents one hour of travel, AND one check for random encounters (yes, I tweaked things a bit). Of course, you could also number and describe in advance each of these places... But this is not necessary. 

Why do distances matter? Because you should never be out at night in Barovia. But that's the subject for another post.

But anyway, this is enough to get you started:
  • Two good maps - one for players, the other for the DM. Notice that the map can include the next two bullet points.
  • An alphabetical index of locations, with page numbers (or write them down in the map).
  • A guide for distances in Barovia.
  • A copy of the list of encounters; add a copy of pages 29-33 (encounters) to avoid flipping back and forth.
If this is not enough... well, the sky is the limit. Here is that trove of resources I mentioned earlier:

If this is useful, let me know in the comments!

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