Gothic Strahd Guidlines
A Gothic Strahd is a Curse of Strahd campaign for Dungeons & Dragons 5e, played in the gothic style of horror. This is a very special running of the Curse of Strahd campaign with expanded plots and the opportunity to continue to 20 level and perhaps defeat the Realm of Dread itself.
Your party of intrepid adventurers will journey to the gothic setting of Ravenloft, where under raging storm clouds, you will investigate the mysteries of Barovia and learn what you must do to save the people from the tyranny of the Devil Strahd, who watches and toys with mortals from the heights of Castle Ravenloft. The sound of the organ music beckons you, even as the lightning flashes and the howl of wolves make your hair stand on end.
This campaign is played on the free version of Fantasy Grounds Unity and is enhanced with dramatic sounds from Syrinscape. You will be provided free access to D&D Beyond player background for the duration of the campaign. We will play fortnightly (once every other week) in a 2.5-3.5 hour session.
The character options to start with are more restrictive than in most D&D 5e campaigns, but it is to fit in with a more gothic-style horror feeling that this particular take on the campaign will thrive in. The darkness is deep, and your characters begin as very little more than ordinary folk. Do you have what it takes to meet the challenges of this campaign, or will you end up like so many empty corpses have before?
If you are using D&D Beyond to make your character please ensure your settings match those above
CHARACTER CREATION OPTIONS
All player characters in A Gothic Strahd will be human (standard or variant) in keeping with the gothic spirit of the campaign. While it is a lot of fun playing different races of creatures, limiting the party to humans will enhance our atmosphere of early modern horror in the tradition of the literary depictions of Frankenstein and Dracula.
Just as every race isn’t appropriate for this particular campaign, some character (sub)classes aren’t suitable for the atmosphere we are going for. The following character classes ARE NOT available for beginning characters in the campaign:
- Anti-Paladins—the characters in this campaign will be struggling with the oppressive evil that is this land; they shouldn’t already have succumbed to it.
- Barbarians—the gothic setting is early modern in nature and doesn’t really fit with the idea of battle raging berserkers from the wild places, at least not as Player Characters.
- Clerics—most clerics don’t have access to their deities to power their magic in Gothic Ravenloft; this leaves them bad fighters with funny fashion sense. Players can, however, play clerics who belong to the Mystic Order, a mysterious clerical order based in a forgotten monastery in the mists. Clerics of the Mystic Order can choose between the following domains: Grave, Life, Light, Nature, Peace, and War.
- Druids—for the same reasons that barbarians don’t fit, there is a prohibition on druids. However, events in the campaign may make it possible to multiclass into druid later on.
- Warlocks—warlocks are pact bound to extradimensional forces and create a particular problem due to the nature of Ravenloft. Just like druids, however, there may be opportunities within the campaign to multiclass into being a warlock later on.
This decision isn’t about hating any of those classes, it is about creating a cast of heroes that will fit within the thematic framework of this particular campaign. I would be happy to have you join me in one of my other campaigns playing one of the above classes, just not this one.
Ability Scores: Use the standard 27-point buy method.
Some Suggested Backgrounds
Some suggested backgrounds (you don’t have to take one of these, but they are very well suited for the campaign):
- The Acolyte (being a member of the Mystic Order from Mystic Falls)
- The Cloistered Scholar: again working with the Order
- Faction Agent: Mystic Order Faction Agent: Mystic Order
- The Haunted One
- The Investigator
- Far Traveler: Being that you are from anywhere else than the Dread Realms.
But be creative, if you have a different, but cool idea, talk to me about it. Start thinking of a good backstory, as a Realms of Dread campaign, you have the option of being a native of one of the realms, or a poor kid stolen from another reality, preferably one that keeps in line with 17th-19th century European backgrounds, but could be modern if you want.
The small village of Mystic Falls was the site of an ancient monastery built deep in the forest, but after the monastery was seized by the mists of Ravenloft, the order of monks based there decided they must dedicate themselves to freeing souls from the Dread Realms. This location will serve as a ‘safe space’ where characters will occasionally be able to return to between story arcs for resupply, training, and to decompress between dives into the more sinister parts of Dread Realms.
I ALREADY PLAYED CURSE OF STRAHD, CAN I PLAY THIS CAMPAIGN?
Yes you can, due to the peculiarities of the Realms of Dread, your previous play through can be wrapped up into the story you weave in this campaign.
DO I NEED A PAID FANTASY GROUNDS ACCOUNT TO PLAY?
No you don’t, I have an ultimate license, so you can play using only a free account and still enjoy the most powerful VTT official rule set and take advantage of all the sweet rule automation and beautiful maps that you can only get with Fantasy Grounds Unity.
I HEARD FANTASY GROUNDS IS DIFFICULT TO LEARN.
There is a substantial learning curve for DMs to begin playing with Fantasy Grounds, that is true, but for players I found it actually easier than Roll20 and it is so very much more powerful. But have no worries, I’ve been using the VTT for years now and I will be happy to help you learn the system.
DO I NEED A PAID D&D BEYOND ACCOUNT TO PLAY?
You do not need a paid account, but as a member of the campaign you will have premium content shared with you for as long as you are in the campaign. You can use this information to make your character and plan your advancement in between our game sessions.
WHAT IF I CAN’T AFFORD TO PAY FOR A GAME?
I get it, there are a lot of reasons why you might not be able to pay for a game, the last year has been devastating for me, and I am sure many of you are in the same situation. I have the ability to give a few people a ‘no-fee’ seat in the campaign, but you’ll need to agree to take some of the workload from the DM (me) in exchange. The most obvious way you could do that is to agree to one of two ‘special duty’ assignments:
- be the Investigative Officer and take notes on all the mysteries in the campaign. Keep detailed public notes of the people and places you visit during your time in Ravenloft as well as an inventory of all the ‘clues’ the party uncovers.
- be the Group Historian and take notes on the events that happen during each session and then read back a recap of events at the beginning of the next session.
If you find yourself unable to perform the duties of the position you agreed to during every session, you will be given the option to either leave the campaign or to join as a paying member.
HOW TO PREPARE
After you sign up for the campaign here you will receive an invitation to join the campaigns special D&D Beyond page where you will have the books and information you need to make your character shared with you. You should then download the free/demo version of Fantasy Grounds Unity (if you don’t already have FGU installed) and the Syrinscape online player. We use Discord for voice chat and campaign messaging outside of the session. You will be provided all the relevant links after your join.
WHAT I PROVIDE
I bring the adventure and all of the maps and technical necessities. I also provide access to a D&D Beyond campaign where all of the character creation options are shared.
WHAT ELSE YOU SHOULD KNOW
Even though this is a horror-based campaign, the goal here is to have fun. We will use some basic safety tools to make sure nothing gets too intense for anyone, but the goal is to have a thrill as we battle the evil that lurks in the dark. I am inviting to all kinds of players but require that you treat other players with respect and I expect that you will be playing as a team—there are already far too many predators in the mists of Ravenloft to have any within the party. If you are unable to comply with those expectations you will be removed from play.
If you need any special accommodations for accessibility, please send me a message and we’ll see what we can do to make your experience as fun and painless as possible.
During the campaign you will be confronted with mysteries, combat, and social interactions of all kinds. The campaign is a bit of a sandbox, so each party can focus on what they enjoy the most, but there are always deadly hazards lurking just out of sight.
This is a horror campaign, so there will be descriptions of violence and frightening situations as one might expect from an R-rated gothic horror movie. If those scenes are unsuitable for you, you should join one of my other ‘non-horror’ campaigns where I stick pretty consistently to the buddy-adventure format.
We will use a Yellow Card—Red Card system that any player can utilize if the scene is getting too intense, the use of these cards is done through clicking on an icon on the Fantasy Grounds screen, it is anonymous which player presented the card, but I will take immediate action when one is presented. A Yellow Card lets us fade-to black and continue with the story on the other side of the disturbing content, a Red Card stops the game and invokes a 15-minute break. After the break we can discus what was going wrong and how we can best fix it for the group. To reiterate, this is a scary story which we are sharing together, but no one should leave the session feeling worse for being a part of it.
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