Far above the village of Barovia sits Castle Ravenloft, the home and fortress of vampire lord Strahd Von Zarovich. Legends claim that Strahd flies with the bats and runs with the wolves to terrorize the countryside. Ancient tales also tell of dungeons and catacombs deep under the castle. Other stories recall the great halls, treasures, and glory of Ravenloft in centuries past.
Undoubtedly, Strahd has installed deadly safeguards to protect his domain.
"House of Strahd" is a revision of the classic gothic horror tale I6: "Ravenloft," one of the most popular adventures ever produced for the AD&D game. It is updated here using the AD&D 2nd Edition rules and those from the Ravenloft campaign set. Count Strahd is now more powerful, and his castle is even more terrifying!
This revised adventure features the following:
- Variable goals for Strahd, making the adventure unpredictable;
- Both original and updated statistics for Strahd (tthe adventure can be played at the original level of difficulty, or with the newer, more powerful Strahd);
- Hints for the DM, including tips on playing Strahd as a genius vampire lord;
- The original gypsy fortune-telling, plus two new methods to suit the DM, including one version using the tarroka deck from the Forbidden Lore boxed set.
NOTE: This product is currently missing several maps. We will update the files as soon as we obtain those maps from the publisher. —DTRPG staff
RM4: "House of Strahd" (1993), by Bruce Nesmith after Tracy and Laura Hickman, is the fourth "RM" adventure (and the tenth Ravenloft adventure overall). It was published in August 1993.
Continuing the Ravenloft Adventures. After RM1: "Roots of Evil" (1993) finished the six-part Grand Conjunction epic, the Ravenloft adventures became more scattered … and often more outré. RM2: "The Created" (1993) was a puppet-themed horrific fairy tale, while RM3: "Web of Illusion" (1993) investigated Indian horror. RM4: "House of Strahd" (1993) was thus a return to form, as it revisited the original Ravenloft adventure.
"House of Strahd" was also the last Ravenloft adventure to use a module code. Starting with Dark of the Moon (1993), TSR did away with them entirely.
Return to the House of Strahd. The Ravenloft campaign setting was built upon the theming and ideas of Tracy and Laura Hickman's original adventure, I6: "Ravenloft" (1983) — a fight against a cunning vampiric opponent played out across his dungeon-like castle. It was a popular adventure that was frequently revisited. A few years later, Jean Blashfield presented it as a super-endless-quest gamebook, Master of Ravenloft (1986). Then the Hickmans returned to their great foe, Count Strahd von Zarovich, in I10: "Ravenloft II: The House on Gryphon Hill" (1986).
Strahd was an important part of the larger Ravenloft setting (1990) from the beginning. He received special attention in the final adventures of the Grand Conjunction sequence — RQ3: "From the Shadows" (1992) and RM1: "Roots of Evil" (1993) — where players had the opportunity to return to his castle. So, it made sense for TSR to update his original adventure as well, and that's what "House of Strahd" did.
Bruce Nesmith needed to revamp I6: "Ravenloft" in three major ways:
- The whole adventure had to be updated to AD&D 2e (1989).
- Strahd had to be powered up, to reflect his status as a Dark Lord.
- The setting needed to be changed from real-Barovia to Ravenloft-Barovia.
The changes in power level were the most interesting, because Nesmith decided to provide stats both for the original (lower) power level of I6 and the newer (higher) level of the Ravenloft campaign setting. As a result, the adventure list a very wide range of PC levels, from "6-13".
The updated adventure is also tied into the Ravenloft setting, which primarily means you'll see references to Powers checks, Fear checks, and other Ravenloft rules. It also means that the Ravenloft: Realm of Terror (1990) box is required for some of the stats and spells for this adventure; it's no longer a standalone.
Adventure Tropes. The original "Ravenloft" adventure was known for its clever use of a playing card deck to randomize the adventure, for its intelligent and thoughtful opponent, for its vivid backstory, and for its architectural dungeon. All of these elements were very innovative when the adventure first appeared, and they continue to be successful in this update … though they're newly polished as well, such as the support for the Tarokka deck from Forbidden Lore (1992).
Meanwhile, the actual design of the adventure shows how much D&D adventures changed between 1983 and 1993. When "Ravenloft" was first presented, it was the first shot in the Hickman Revolution that changed D&D from a game of exploration to a game of storytelling. When players saw the adventure again in 1993, they increasingly saw it as "just a dungeon", albeit with a colorful nemesis.
Even dungeons were being held to higher standards in the '90s. Most of the read-aloud descriptions were revised to be either more expansive or more evocative. Some of the old "Ravenloft" encounters were also revised to make more sense. One of the silliest encounters in the original adventure is the four(!) red dragons in room K7, a 20'x20' entryway. (Yes, that's one dragon on each 10'x10' square!) In the updated room 7, there are now 4 gargoyle golems instead. These adjustments to the ecology of the dungeon reflected the ongoing changes in dungeon design, as the fun-house dungeons that were commonplace in the '70s and early '80s, were nown out-of-tune with the story focus of D&D in the '90s.
Future History. The original "Ravenloft" adventure has been continuously revamped in the years since the publication of "House of Strahd". The Ravenloft Silver Anniversary Edition (1999) presented another 2e version of "Ravenloft", though one that stayed much loser to its original source; while the TSR Silver Anniversary Collector's Edition box (1999) reprinted the original!
In the 3e era, Dragon #315 (January 2004) featured new stats for Strahd and new maps of the classic castle. Then Expedition to Castle Ravenloft (2006) presented the classic adventure one more time. More recently, fans could turn to tabletop games for their Strahd fix with the Castle Ravenloft Board Game (2010).
About the Creators. By the '90s, Nesmith was working full-time with TSR and giving a lot of attention to Ravenloft. Within the year he'd be working on the updated Ravenloft Campaign Setting (1994).
About the Product Historian
The history of this product was researched and written by Shannon Appelcline, the editor-in-chief of RPGnet and the author of Designers & Dragons - a history of the roleplaying industry told one company at a time. Please feel free to mail corrections, comments, and additions to email@example.com.