Right in time for Halloween, Wizards of the Coast has released Curse of Strahd Revamped, a re-releasing of the vampire centered Dungeons & Dragons adventure, in a new premium set. Coming in a coffin shaped box, the set includes the iconic adventure from 2016 (with a few minor tweaks), Tarokka cards, a DM screen, postcards and more. Curse of Strahd itself is designed for new characters, taking them from level 1 through to level 10. Let’s dive into this boxed adventure and hope that the revamped pun was on purpose!
Adventures find themselves in the lands of Barovia. Alas, at Castle Ravenloft, Count Strahd von Zarovich notices the arrival of the adventurers into his domain. Unknown to them their fortunes have been predicted by a local fortune teller, Madam Eve, via her trusty Tarokka deck. Over the course of 15 chapters players will navigate the landscape of Barovia, from the village of Barovia itself in the West to Yester Hill in the East. Almost encompassed by the Svalich Woods, and a deadly fog, the area is full of lakes, temples, encampments and of course features Castle Ravenloft. The party will come across monsters that fit the gothic theme, from Barovian witches and ghosts through to the Count himself. Will the adventurers survive? Well, you’ll have to play to find that out.
Before the main story begins Curse of Strahd offers players the opportunity to run a mini adventure, called Death House. This sees the mists of Ravenloft block players attempts to veer off course, funneling them towards a haunted town house. Not only does this set the scene, showing the gothic horror vibes from the offing, it is a nicely sized introduction adventure to D&D for new players. There are choices to be made by the party that will help them get into character and it shows a glimpse of the fun in store. Everyone can enjoy this mini adventure that advances the characters from level 1 to 3, not only new players. On top of this, it offers great potential for a one shot experience.
The aforementioned fortune teller prediction is in fact secretly performed by the Dungeon Master (DM). This gives Curse of Strahd a randomized plot setup. Written in an open ended flexible way, locations may be of utmost importance in one playthrough, yet it may not be in the cards for another. Sections are written to match this flexibility – allowing them to easily be utilized in your own adventures if unused. Most D&D books are built in a way that a party is unlikely to see chunks of the content. Either the party chooses to pursue different quests, or they choose to try to end a quest differently – perhaps parleying with a potential adversary instead of fighting. Curse of Strahd amps this up by the plot setup, therefore instilling a wave of replayability into the adventure.
DMs cannot be afraid of steering adventurers. The party can certainly find themselves in a location full of creatures above their level that will need to be fled from. With that said, Curse of Strahd isn’t an adventure that wants players to feel fully at ease – openly recommending boosting hit points or throwing in an additional mob or trap if things are going too well for the party. Horror is a main focus with the adventure book giving plenty of tips and suggestions to potential Dungeon Masters of how to unnerve adventurers: even if it involves hinting at what horror might soon come their way.
While the lack of a predefined structure may not be helpful to a fledgling DM, it allows them wiggle room. Reminders are sprinkled through the book, reminding the DM what the Tarokka reading revealed – via Fortunes of Ravenloft paragraphs. If one of these is missed the DM can create a reason for something not being where it should – with many other potential locations available. Perhaps an item has been taken by an unwitting local looking to sell something for a quick payday or it was moved for its protection.
Curse of Strahd is normally a 256 page hardcover book. This premium set has split that book out into a 224 page softcover adventure book, a 20 page monster booklet called the Creatures of Horror and an 8 page Tarokka reference booklet. A few sections have been rewritten. None of the overarching plot is changed and this isn’t to add new exclusive content to this set. Aside from a few alignment tweaks, which can be seen in an Errata document released by Wizards of the Coast, these mostly come from an angle of inclusivity and knocking stereotypes on the head. The most important change, which has been noted by all as an improvement, is to the character Ezmerelda d’Avenir. Without spoiling her backstory Ezmerelda has a wooden leg. Being a fairly confident NPC it did seem odd originally the book suggested she made a lot of effort to hide disability from sight. Removing this doesn’t change her involvement in any way. It does seem a more inclusive depiction though and one that seems more fitting.
Putting aside the softcover adventure book, the Tarokka booklet is seemingly identical to the pages originally found in the hardcover adventure book. Including the 18 monster stat blocks, the Creatures of Horror booklet also seems to just be the pages removed from the original book. The monster booklet is still extremely useful though, and features illustrations of some of the characters and monsters included. Thankfully, Strahd’s stat block is in the Creatures of Horror booklet as well as the cover sheet. This makes it much easier to use behind a DM screen – regardless of how epic the front of the cover sheet looks.
Wizards of the Coast don’t seem to do many DM screens, most are officially branded but are instead from Gale Force Nine. A nice sturdy DM screen is included in this Curse of Strahd Revamped set. Compared to the DM screen found in the D&D Essential Kit, the quality of the Curse of Strahd screen is clear. It’s made of thick card, rather than just about card, giving it a robust feel. It features all of the standard bits DMs will need from movement, exhaustion and DC setting. Adjacent to this it has Strahd specific content, such as Barovian names and common features of the lands, to make NPCs and standard things easier on the fly.
Utilizing the stylised artwork from the reverse of the DM screen 12 postcards make their way into the box. Matching the DM screen makes for a great consistent look, with 3 copies of the 4 designs. Perhaps some of the stunning artwork from within the adventure book could have adorned some of the postcards for increased variety. Using the postcards could be an amazing way to invite players to participate. Unfortunately, I doubt many will use them in this way, especially while face to face gaming is limited.
All coming in a coffin shaped box is not only thematically tied to the adventure, it gives the set a striking look. Inside all of the elements fit snugly into their own sections of a well designed insert. Nothing is going to be rattling around between sessions once packed away, with ribbon tabs to easily lift the items out of the box. There are some issues with the coffin shape. Most importantly, while it is easier to make it a statement piece it is harder to store. Measuring 42cm high it’s about 14cm taller than regular D&D books. Therefore, unless you unpack the contents, defeating the purpose of the set, it’ll probably not sit on the same shelf as your other D&D books. Being much deeper than needed to store the content, the lower half of the box opens up, allowing for some miniatures, dice, etc. to be stored within between sessions.
Production wise the contents of the coffin are a bit of a mixed bag. As a premium box it is odd to see that the main book has been made into a softcover book, and two small booklets. A thick double sided glossy map of the castle and Barovia is included. Using the glossy paper certainly allows it to be more robust. It is also great to have some of the important handouts as actual handouts, something missing from most D&D adventure / campaign books. Having the Tarokka cards makes the setup pre-campaign easier, unfortunately despite being large in size they are thin cards, as is the box they are kept in. Still, they aren’t used in abundance during the story, perhaps being seen 2 – 3 times.
As an experience Curse of Strahd is the ideal adventure for those into the halloween mood. The gothic horror vibes can be dialed up and down, though there is a consistent theme across the adventure. The range of characters met along the journey make it memorable long before Strahd starts to impact things. For those that already have the Curse of Strahd adventure book, the minor tweaks and extras don’t make for enough to purchase it again. If you haven’t got to experience the eerie locations and the stunning setting, this is a great way to do it. The extras aren’t all the best quality and none are 100% needed above the standard adventure book, they do round out the gothic set though.
(Editor’s Note: Curse of Strahd Revamped was provided to us by Asmodee for the review. It is currently available from local board game stores! Find your local store here.)