Excerpt from
Expedition to Castle Ravenloft
By Bruce R. Cordell and James Wyatt

One of D&D's most infamous villains awaits destruction -- and your character can be the one to bring it. Count Strahd von Zarovich is a foul being with vile goals, and now you can face him down in Expedition to Castle Ravenloft. Take a look at a few excerpts, worthy DMs, and see what horror you can bring to the table. Below you'll find the introduction, Strahd's statistics, some information about the adventure, plus part of the adventure itself.If you're curious about the sections in this adventure, please take a look at the Table of Contents we provided earlier!

Introduction

Not the least glimmer of light escaped the castle's tall black windows. Its broken battlements sketched a jagged line across the darkened sky. Castle Ravenloft brooded over a bleak, mist-shrouded valley. Constructed on the sheer side of a thousand-foot cliff, the terrible fortress was occupied by something ancient and evil.

A blot of night detached from the shadowed walls of the castle and moved out onto a narrow balcony. Lightning revealed the sneering countenance of Count Strahd von Zarovich.

His eyes, burning with a never-satisfied hunger, took in the drizzling twilight, the looming peaks, and the few sad lights of the village below. He clutched one hand to his chest and muttered, as if making a promise, or perhaps delivering a curse, a single name: "Ireena . . ."

Strahd grimaced, and his sharp canine teeth promised mayhem. A bitter wind spun dead leaves about him, billowing his velvet-lined cape.

Another fit of lightning burst from the storm's underbelly, casting stark light across Strahd's face. The angular muscles of his visage and the taut lines in his hands revealed a man accustomed to exercising complete authority. In that face, no pity lived -- but, perhaps, hints of growing madness?

His eyes narrowed as he spied the newcomers. A group traveled down Old Svalich Road toward the village. His grimace transformed into a hideous smile. He knew they were coming, knew why they came, and relished what would be their ultimate fate. No plan could be called good unless blood was spilled during its execution. All the pawns were finally assembled; all the pieces, prepared for so long, were in place and waiting to play their parts. Even from where he stood on the balcony, Strahd heard the unceasing pulse of the Dayheart; its beat throbbed up through the castle stone into his rigid flesh. Its horrid semblance of life sustained Strahd with a vigor even more potent than the unholy existence he had enjoyed these many centuries. Precious few weapons could permanently harm him anymore.

Soon enough, Strahd would personally attend the newcomers.

WHAT IS EXPEDITION TO CASTLE RAVENLOFT?

The Expedition to Castle Ravenloft campaign adventure is designed for four 6th-level Dungeons & Dragons characters (though player characters who survive to the adventure's finale should gain three or even four levels). This book presents an expanded, revised version of the original adventure module I6: Ravenloft by Tracy and Laura Hickman. Like that module, this adventure is a classic gothic horror story; however, modern elements of terror also infuse this book.

The original, ground-breaking adventure had several memorable features:

  • The fantastic orthogonal maps of Castle Ravenloft designed by David Sutherland proved such a powerful aid to play that a generation of Dungeon Masters still fondly recall them and reemploy them whenever possible.

  • Characters had their fortunes told by an enigmatic gypsy. The results of the card reading determined not only the placement of an important treasure in the castle, but also set the antagonist's goals for the adventure.

  • Finally, Count Strahd von Zarovich has become one of the most infamous villains in D&D history.

Expedition to Castle Ravenloft retains these exciting features and updates the classic adventure with a new look and a new encounter format. The game material in encounters reflects the most recent edition of the rules, and many of the familiar elements of the original setting now include expanded (and sometimes reimagined) backgrounds. This adventure also presents entirely new features, threats, and rewards for player characters.

In addition to adventure material, the appendix of this book contains information for player characters, including special items and magic items, new feats, and a prestige class specific to the Ravenloft setting: the knight of the raven, ideal for PCs who wish to take up the mantle of Barovia's ancient order of holy knights.

THE ENCOUNTER FORMAT

This updated adventure breaks some new ground of its own as the first publication to use a new format for presenting encounters: the combats, traps, and other challenges that await adventurers in the village of Barovia, in the wilderness areas around the village, and in the forbidding environs of Castle Ravenloft itself.

Every encounter in the adventure is displayed on facing pages. In most cases, that two-page spread contains all the information necessary to play out that encounter at the table -- a description of the situation and how it unfolds, statistics for monsters and traps, and a keyed map of the area in which the encounter takes place, so that the event can be set up and run on a battle grid using D&D miniatures. The encounter spreads do not all provide exactly the same kinds of information, and they don't all look the same on the page. Each one is tailored to provide the essential details particular to that event -- the encounters that take place in the village (Chapter 2) aren't built the same way as the ones in the outlying lands of Barovia (Chapter 3) -- and the encounters in the castle are in yet another style, one that best suits that group of events.

On rare occasions, an encounter spread refers to an earlier page in the book for other information that might or might not be needed, depending on how the encounter unfolds. Most of these page references are a way of preventing frequent repetition of certain pieces of text -- for instance, we don't include information in every infected creature's statistics block about how to properly treat the necromantic infection, because we didn't think those details needed to be called out every time they might come into play.

WHAT YOU NEED TO PLAY

This adventure is intended for use in any Dungeons & Dragons game. The setting can be dropped into any campaign and played out as an extended series of challenges, or it can be truncated to span just a few playing sessions. It's even possible to experience the threats and thrills of Castle Ravenloft in a single afternoon or evening of play. You need the Player's Handbook (PH), Dungeon Master's Guide (DMG), and Monster Manual (MM) to make use of the material. This book draws from some D&D supplements as well, particularly Libris Mortis: The Book of Undead. However, all the information a DM needs to run the adventure is provided in these pages.


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