07 March 2016

Review of Curse of Strahd

My friend Christopher Robichaud has given me permission to repost the following short review of WotC’s new 5th edition D&D adventure, Curse of Strahd.
The significantly disappointing thing about Curse of Strahd is that it's just the 5e version of I6: Ravenloft. And the thing is, I'm exhausted with that scenario. 
I6: Ravenloft, for its many flaws, is among the greatest D&D adventures of all time. And since no good deed can go unpunished, its popularity and success have made it the single most remade D&D module ever. The 2nd edition remade it with House of Strahd. The 3rd edition remade it with Expedition to Castle Ravenloft. And now the 5th edition has remade it again with Curse of Strahd
All these adventures are basically the same story, with the same maps, told with a different rules set, and getting ever more bloated. (I6: Ravenloft is 32 pages, House of Strahd is 64 pages, Expedition to Castle Ravenloft is 220 pages, and Curse of Strahd is 256 pages.) 
I longed for something more. Princes of the Apocalypse was, in my opinion, an ultimately disappointing reboot of Temple of Elemental Evil. But at least it tried to do something new with the mega-dungeon, as did its predecessor, 3e's Return to the Temple of Elemental Evil, a direct sequel to the original and quite good in its own right. We've gotten very little of that with Ravenloft. The original module has a weird and wild sequel, Ravenloft II: The House on Gryphon Hill, and of course, House of Strahd was part of 2e's entire Ravenloft campaign setting, which in addition to featuring lots of other villains, revisited Strahd on occasion with From the Shadows and Roots of Evil. But that's about it. 
Of all the 5e campaigns WOTC has put out, this one is the biggest letdown. It's just a rehash of I6 with more of Barovia fleshed out, an idea already explored at length in Expedition to Castle Ravenloft. We don't need a 5e version of the same story. You can convert any of the 1e, 2e, or 3e Ravenloft modules just fine. What would've been great would have been a reboot along the lines of Princes of the Apocalypse. Even if it fell short, it would've been something fresh. Alas, it was not meant to be. Curse of Strahd, I'm afraid to say, is as stale as the air in the catacombs beneath Castle Ravenloft. What a shame.
In a follow-up message, Robichaud added:
I didn't mention that I think, as far as it goes, it's a fine 5e version of the module. It nicely expands the lands around the castle in a way that allows players to play in a sandbox more than just showing up and then heading right to the castle.
So perhaps there is a reason to get the adventure after-all (namely, if you want to use I6 in your 5e game, but can’t be bothered to convert I6 to 5e yourself).


  1. It is much more expansie than I6, and is far and away the best iteration to date. It's hard for the old guard to remember this, but not everyone has seen the prior versions of this module. My current group, for example, can't wait to play....NONE of them have ever played a Ravenloft campaign at all, it's just something they've heard of.

    And yes....as a lazy GM I like not having to do a conversion. But I was mostly disappointed that in such a large book they couldn't have inserted a 30 page mini-gzatteer/introduction to the rest of the Domains of Dread. That was the only thing I disliked so far.

    1. Thanks for your comment, Nicholas.

      I'm now inclined to get this book, despite Christopher's negative review, as I've only owned I6 (and no longer seem to have it), so a new 5e version of I6 seems fine to me.

      Alas, I have no idea when I'll be running 5e again...

  2. It's also a great module to use if your group as never played any version of Ravenloft before. The production quality, detail, and layout are excellent (in line with what I've come to expect from the 5E books). I agree that this is largely a rehashing/reboot, but it's a very good one. I think a lot of fans would have been disappointed to find that the module didn't replicate and expand on I6.

    1. Thanks for your comment, Carl-Gustav.

      I pulled the trigger and got this book in the end. :)


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I'm a Canadian political philosopher who divides his time between Milwaukee and Toronto.