Friday, March 11, 2016

Curse of Strahd Review

Well folks, this is a rare post on Ravenloft, my second favorite D&D world. Chris Perkins, Tracy and Laura Hickman have outdone themselves to bring back the exact look and feel of the original Ravenloft module in 5E form. Here's a quicky review for those on the fence about buying it.

Maps: Let's start here since maps usually make or break a game. Cartography is done by Mike Schley, Ben Wooten and Francois Beauregard. They keep in quality with previous 5E products, but they have the Ravenloft flare to them, from the fonts to misty borders and of course the distinctive isometric map of the castle itself. Most of these maps are in the form of an incredibly gorgeous two-sided fold out map. If you are a Ravenloft fan, this map is worth the purchase on its own.

Story: The goals, structure and story of CoS is much the same as the original module, making it a remake of sorts. The overall quest to find info and items to help defeat Strahd are expanded upon allowing the PCs to wander the region of Barovia in a more sand-box fashion. The module is for levels 1-10 so needless to say PCs will spend time here, and often be outmatched by threats in certain locations, which is just what you want in a horror setting.

The location of certain plot points just as in the original work are determined by a fortune reading from the Tarokka Deck which figures heavily in the book's design. I believe there is an actual Tarokka deck being printed which would make running this much smoother and add to the immersion.

Art: The art is superior as I would expect for a Ravenloft book. There are some interior images that really bring the setting to life going well beyond anything done before. The aforementioned Tarokka deck artwork showcases a ton of these gothic themed images. And finally, nearly every important NPC has an image of some sort which is a vast improvement over older RL production value. There is so many artists involved in this book I can't name them all, but kudos to all of you.

Rules: There is random encounter charts, plus easy reference stat blocks for all the unique monsters and villains you'd expect in a RL game. Magic items unique to the world are presented here in the updated edition too. One thing I am disappointed in however, is there is no Horror and Madness checks. Now admittedly this is more a function of the Ravenloft setting not the module, so maybe they get a pass. But still, this is something I was hoping for before I heard this book was coming out.

Extras: For those in the know, ol' Chris Perkins put a nod to Greyhawk in this book. I won't spoil it right yet, but it's gonna be controversial. The set-up for the story's start is of course in the Forgotten Realms, but it is so brief that I'm sure anyone could bring over characters from Oerth or wherever if they felt like it. So yes, buy this book. I am jazzed that wizards has branched out a bit after doing three heavy Realms story lines. We can only hope the next one will be as classic as Ravenloft.


Valkaun_Dain said...

When are we doing this?

Valkaun_Dain said...

When are we doing this?

Schwerpunkt said...

Great stuff. Glad i have this and the tarokka deck on pre-order.

Mike Bridges said...

Valkaun: We shall see!

Schwerpunkt: Cool! If the tarokka deck art is the same thats in the book it'll be a good buy.

Anonymous said...

Could someone give me a clue as to where to look for the Greyhawk nod? I totally missed this.

Gamerstable Eric said...

Probably on Sunday, Jayson. Probably on Sunday :(

Mike Bridges said...

Anonymous: It's in the early chapters keyed to the regions of Barovia.