The Land of Barovia:
Once a breathtaking valley, Barovia is now a dank, joyless, wasteland whisked away into a demiplane mastered by vampire Strahd von Zarovich. The entire area is now surrounded by deadly mists and is a Domain of Dread. The valley of Barovia is home to three communities. Each village is VERY different and offers your players NPCs to interact with, problems to solve and lots of crazy fun! But they can be difficult to keep straight…
Below you will find overviews of each of the community, complete with history, areas, secrets and events! Keep these up for a quick reminder of what your players can do in each location!
The Land of Barovia
Environment Quirks Worth Noting
- Barovia is inescapable, no matter what magic or feat your players attempt, they will be thwarted.
- If a character uses a spell to contact beings from other realms, Strahd senses it and can choose to make himself the recipient.
- Opportunities for Resurrection: if a human who has been dead for 24 hours returns to life, they gain a form of madness as determined by in chapter 8 of the Guide.
- Only about 1 in every 10 Barovians has a soul. This can be checked by pricking them (as Morgantha pricks children before taking them to Old Bonegrinder Mill). It can also be observed in slight mannerisms: The soulless never laugh or cry, and have little imagination or charm. The souled usually dress with a slight splash of color in their wardrobe. If a citizen dies, their soul cannot leave the demiplane of Barovia and is trapped there until reincarnated in a newborn. But even babies can be born without souls.
- Barovians are barely aware of non-humans (except the dusk elves of Vallaki). They will likely be frightened or cold to non-humans they encounter.
What All Barovians Know and Lore
This information can be discovered if your party befriends a Barovian in any location:
-Strahd and Vampires
- Strahd is a curse on the land from centuries ago. (This is false, but it is believed).
- Vampires stay in coffins during the day. They can transform into bats, wolves, and mists. The human form of a vampire is enchanting.
- A vampire can only enter a home if invited in.
- Running water burns a vampire, and sunlight makes them burst into flame.
- The fog chokes and incapacitates those who enter it.
- All strangers drawn to the land die or disappear before long
- The locations of the villages, and their burgomasters.
- Wine is life.
- A mad wizard haunts the foothills of Mount Bartok. He is not a friend of Strahd.
-Beliefs and Superstitions
- The Morninglord and Mother Night keep watch over the Barovians. With the arrival of Strahd the sun no longer shines, and the Morninglord no longer answers prayers. The presence of Mother Night is felt at night, but prayers to her are unanswered, and many believe it was she who brought Strahd here as punishment for Barovian sins long ago.
- The Vistani serve Strahd; they and they alone can leave the land.
- Never harm a raven, or else.
There are 3 major communities in Barovia: The Village Barovia, the Town of Vallaki, the Village Krezk.
The Village of Barovia (p41-48)
History of Barovia
- Castle Ravenloft overlooks the town of Barovia, and Straud has his eye on a girl there named Ireena (the soul reincarnate of Tatyana). Ireena is the adopted daughter of the burgomaster and the lost sister of Izek in Vallaki.
- Barovia is “the saddest place in all the land.” The residents live in terror of Strahd and rarely leave their homes. Almost every shop is long abandoned and looted of valuables. Claw marks cover the walls.
- Unlike the other towns, Strahd visits Barovia often. Like every night up until recently.
- The town is filled with resigned villagers, rat swarms loyal to Strahd, and zombies.
- March of the Dead: Every night at midnight spirits gather in the cemetery. They are aware of nothing but their goal- to march to the castle and finally conquer Strahd.
What people know in Barovia
- Not much more than the general Barovian.
Areas of Barovia
- Bildrath’s Mercantile: A trading company dealing in overpriced Adventure Gear. Bildrath Cantemir’s business theory is if you want it badly enough, you’ll buy it. And if you give him trouble he’ll call on his thug nephew to set you straight.
- Blood of the Vine Tavern: a dilapidated tavern whose occupants include its Vistani owners, a barkeep, and the village Burgomaster’s son, Ismark, whose friendliness (albeit reserved) stands in stark contrast to the rest of Barovia’s citizens. The Vistani only really pay attention to patrons if they arrive accompanied by other Vistani.
- Mad Mary’s Townhouse: occupied only by a despondent Mary and the doll she holds.
- Burgomaster’s Mansion: First of all, ”burgomaster” just means “mayor.” Glad we could clear that up! This mansion is very dilapidated. It’s been berated by fires, zombie attacks, and wolves casing the property. The Gates have fallen down, the windows are shattered, the walls are covered in smoke damage and claw marks. Inside we meet Ireena and find the body of her father. When I first read through the module my impression of Ireena was that she was a bit of a “damsel”… She is anything but. When roleplaying her don’t shy away from putting her fire and grit on display!
- Church: The church is eerie as all get-out, and Barovians stay clear of it. The priest’s son Doru once joined a raiding party intent on storming Castle Ravenloft, and while he did return he was no longer a boy but a Vampire Spawn. His father trapped him in the basement, where he has remained for a year. He screams out to his father at all hours of the day because he is hungry.
- The Death House: Players will either begin their adventure here, or never know of it. Want to know more about Death House? Learn all about it in this article!
Secrets and Hidden things in Barovia
- Dream Pastries: the night hag Morgantha goes door to door at night selling pastries… special meat pies that send the indulger into a joyful trance for 1d4+4 hours. Your players might follow Morgatha, and if they do they’ll see her take a little boy in exchange for a pastry! They can demand the release of the boy, and learn more about Barovia:
- Strahd’s mastery of the land, weather, and that his spies include that Vistani.
- The location of 2 Vistani camps
- Undead enemies of Strahd who live near Vallaki
- Strahd’s most carefully guarded secret: a temple in the mountains, only accessible by the Tsolenka Pass.
Things your players can do in Barovia
- Explore homes: all either empty, filled with rats, fearful villagers, or Strahd Zombies. (The occupants of the home are determined by a d20 roll.)
- Meet Ismark at the Tavern and agree to help him protect his adopted sister, Ireena.
- Visit Mad Mary’s home near the Mercantile, where they may discover her daughter disappeared a week before (more on her Chp 4, K42).
- Visit Madam Eva (Chp 2, G)
- Meet Ireena at the Burgomaster’s Mansion. If charming or convincing enough, Ireena will let your players in and ask them to help her take her father’s body to the cemetery for a proper burial.
- At the church you meet the priest, can explore some rooms, and discover his son locked in the basement. Your players can kill the son or leave him be; but if they decide to resurrect him, promise him blood, or threaten to kill him they’ll learn the story of what Strahd did to him and the others in the raiding party.
- At the cemetery they can join the priest in burying the Burgomaster’s body. After this, the priest will send them off to another town in their mission to keep Ireena safe.
The Town of Vallaki (p97-124)
History of Vallaki
- Seemingly less oppressed than the village of Barovia, but it’s constructed of false hope rather than true happiness.
- Vallaki was built beyond the sight of Castle Ravenloft by an ancestor of burgomaster Baron Vargas Vallakovich. The Vallokoviches are Barovian royalty, who believe themselves to be superior to the Zarovich reign.
- Baron Vallakovich is convinced that “hope and happiness” will be the citizens’ salvation, ultimately allowing them to escape this forsaken demiplane. He organizes celebration after celebration, but many of the citizens are becoming numb to their false promises.
- It seems he is getting more desperate, and naysayer citizens can find themselves arrested for their doubt.
- The town has a group of cultists who worship devils. They consider their leader to be Lady Wachter, who is a loyal Straud follower and who wants to become burgomaster herself.
- This town has tall wooden walls to protect it from many common terrors of the land.
- There are 3 gates in the wall: one in the North leading to the lake, and another in the West and East. The gates are made of iron and manned by 2 guards, who will make conversation with visitors.. And poke them with pikes if they get too close! Don’t make them mad or they’ll alert the whole guard: 24 able-bodied folks and 50 armed villagers.
What people of Vallaki know
- The Blue Water Inn is good for food, wine, lodging… and has a traveling stranger with pointed ears.
- The burgomaster is planning a festival in 3 days. They already had a huge festival just last week. In fact there has been one every week for the past several years. Some believe these “happy” celebrations keep Strahd at bay; others see them as pointless.
- Those who speak ill of the festivals are arrested… some placed in stocks, and some taken to be “purged of their evil” by the burgomaster himself.
- Some see purple flashes of light coming from the burgomaster’s attic at night.
- The burgomaster has an intimidating henchman who keeps his naysayers at bay. Izek.
- The burgomaster and Lady Wachter are opposed to one another, but stay out of each others’ way.
- Wolf attacks are common on the Old Svalich Road.
- Lake Zarovich is too dangerous to fish on, but the town drunk tries (unsuccessfully) everyday.
- The Mad Mage of Mount Baratok roams the lakeshore and electrocutes the fish, but hasn’t been seen in awhile. (Players can attempt to visit him by walking round the lake, or by taking fishing boats across it)
- There’s a Vistani camp in the woods to the southwest. These Vistani are not friendly, and they are not welcome in town.
- There is a haunted mansion west of town, legend has it a dragon died there.
- An abandoned town is to the south. It incurred Straud’s wrath after its burgomaster crossed him.
Areas of Vallaki
- The Gates: Gain access to the city by not offending the guards
- Blue Water Inn: The main source of information in the city. You’ll find a very helpful wereraven family here.
- Baron’s Mansion and Wachterhaus: You’ll probably spend a good amount of time here if your players can fly under the radar. There is much that can be explored… and pocketed!
- Arasek Stockyard and General Store: Don’t rock the wagon.
- Coffin Maker’s Shop: Beware the Attic
- Blinsky Toys: Blinsky’s shop is straightforward and simple. It’s just really, really eerie.
- Town Square: Come one, come all, to yet another festival. Don’t forget your smile!
- Vistani Camp: It’s easy to get on bad terms with the Vistani, but luckily they have a couple problems your players can help solve to warm them up. Dusk Elves also live in the camp.
Secrets and Hidden things in Vallaki
- There is a secret staircase in the Inn.
- There’s a treasure chest in the stable’s upper level.
- Gutsy players can sneak into Rictavio’s guest room
- There’s a secret attic in the boys’ room of the Inn, as well as the parents’ room.
- There’s a silverware set, and book collections, at the Baron’s home worth a pretty penny.
- Creep alert: Izek the henchman has a doll collection that all look like Ireena Kolyana.
- The butler and the lady-in-waiting both recently disappeared from the baron’s residence.
- A citizen is locked in the baron’s closet.
- A Magic Mirror hangs on the wall of the baroness’s dressing room. As does a bridal gown.
- The Baronet (the son, Victor), is working up some secret magic in his spare time. His spell book can be stolen.
- There’s a secret door in the servants’ closet at Wachterhaus. This will lead the party to the cultists meeting in the basement.
- The Wachterhaus den has many items of value.
- Stella Wachter is hidden away in their home, can your players dispel her madness?
- Lady Wachter has a chest of bones hidden away in her room, its lock is armed with poison.
- The Wachterhaus library’s inhabitants hold the key to a secret family treasure.
- The cult headquarters is beyond a secret wall in the Wachterhaus cellar.
- Rictavio’s wagon has a secret treasure in the front seat.
- (pssst: the coffin maker has the bones of St Andral).
- The coffin maker has a treasure in his wardrobe. He also has VAMPIRE SPAWN IN HIS ATTIC! And there is a teleportation circle there that connects to Castle Ravenloft.
- Beware of Arrigal the Vistani. He is a spy of Strahd and will take any item the players may have found and deliver it to Strahd!
- The vistani have a treasure wagon armed with a boobytrapped lock.
Things your players can do in Vallaki
- Explore houses, where they’ll find empty rooms, swarms of rats, townsfolk, or cultists.
- Discover where the missing bones of St Andral have disappeared to.
- Help the innkeeper with his wine supply.. The latest shipment hasn’t arrived yet.
- Build relationships with the wereravens at the Inn, who make up the secret society “Keepers of the Feather.” They’ll offer their protection on future escapades. Your players can also cross paths with other helpful citizens at the Inn.
- Visit and explore the Baron’s mansion.
- Cross paths with Lady Fiona Wachter and explore her home. They can partner with her to overthrow burgomaster Vallakovich, or if they suggest aid in defeating Straud she’ll turn them away.
- Spend time at the Coffin Makers Shop and Blinsky Toys to see what trouble they can discover.
- Free the arrested citizens from the Town Square’s stocks.
- Visit the Vastani Camp outside of Vallaki, help them out, and maybe make some friends. Maybe. Both the Vistani and the Dusk Elves have quests for the players.
- Attend the Festival of the Blazing Sun.
- Help reign in an escaped saber toothed tiger that has been specially trained to hunt Vistani.
- Fulfill the actions so St Andral’s feast doesn’t need to take place… or let it happen.
The Village of Krezk (p143-156)
History of Krezk
- Far in the West of Barovia, tucked in at the border, is the humble Village of Krezk. While far from Strahd’s Castle, the fear of him here is palpable. The people are so afraid of Strahd and his wolves that they never leave the walls of the village
- The village was founded and fortified after Stahd conquered the valley centuries ago.
- The current burgomaster, Dmitri, believes strangers are either allies or enemies of Strahd… neither of which have any place in his village. The only way of gaining entry is for the players to make themselves useful to Krezk in some way.
- Days ago, the burgomaster’s last child died; a cloud of darkness hangs over the town as everyone wonders what will become of the Krezkev line.
- It’s a family-centric village: every cottage has its own family cemetery where family members are interred. But unbeknownst to anyone, all the coffins are now empty.
What people know in Krezk
- The town is fully self-sufficient: Krezkites grow their own food, their own wood, and draw all their water from a pool. There is no reason to leave the walls, and the only commerce of the town is the monthly wine delivery. Which is late.
- At the edge of town is the pool and a shrine to the Morninglord. The Abbey of Saint Markovia sits at the highest point of town. It was named in honor of the priestess who led a raid of Castle Ravenloft, but she and her followers were destroyed.
- The abbey was once a hospital and convent, but now is avoided at all costs. After Markovia’s raid on Castle Ravenloft its inhabitants went mad one way or another as Strahd recoiled: The clerics and nuns locked themselves inside and either fell prey to Strahd’s attacks, succumbed to starvation, or turned to cannibalism. The place is considered haunted.
- The Abbot arrived a century ago. A friendly, convincing, and good-looking man now oversees the Abbey of Saint Markovia. He mostly keeps to himself, but demands tributes of wine. His origin is unknown, and many citizens think he could be a servant of Strahd, or even Strahd in disguise.
Areas of Krezk
- The Pool and Shrine: the town’s water source and a place of peace. The shrine is called “Shrine of the White Sun” but no one knows why, or what a “sun” even looks like. Because Barovia.
- The Abbey: Inhabited by mongrelfolk who all have some sort of madness. Only 3 of them are ever allowed outside: Otto, Zygfrek, and Clovin.
Secrets and Hidden things in Krezk
- All of the coffins in town are empty; the Abbot’s gravediggers dig up the bodies under cover of darkness.
- The pool bestows a lesser restoration spell the first time one drinks of it.
- If the emblem of Tasha Petrovna (found in her crypt in the castle) is placed on her grave, sunlight shines and a ring appears
- The Abbot is creating a bride for Strahd with parts from the collected bodies.
- The Main Hall of the Abbey has many treasures.
- The Abbey is filled to the brim with Mongrelfolk.
- There is a teleportation zone in the Abbey loft.
- Ezmerelda, the vampire hunter, is hiding in the abbey, convinced that Strahd will be visiting soon.
- If the players bring Ireena to the village pool, she (with Tatyana’s spirit) is whisked away peacefully to be reunited with Sergei. Strahd knows immediately, and all attentions are turned on the characters who stole her away from him.
Things your players can do in Krezk
- Befriend the burgomaster.
- Explore the Abbey and its grounds.
- Try to keep the Abbot from bringing the burgomaster’s son back to life, because he will come back insane (see environmental considerations at the top of this article).
- If the players don’t find a dress for the corpse bride, all hope is lost for Krezk. Orrr they can stop the mongrelfolk before they prey on the village.
- Reunite “Tatyana” with Sergei.
Each community of Barovia is unique and interesting for its own reasons. As the DM, you should remember the overall events and NPCs of each in order to weave them together into an interesting experience for your players. This guide is a helpful resource to do just that, but it certainly isn’t a replacement for the adventure book. Be sure to pick one up from your local game store!
I hope this guide gives your CoS game advantange!
Until next time, my friends!