Excerpts 10/06/2006

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!


Expedition to Castle Ravenloft centers around the vampire Strahd von Zarovich. As Dungeon Master, you must play him as carefully as the players run their characters. Always keep in mind his motives, his activities, and his plans.

The following text provides Strahd's full statistics block, along with important notes and explanations. You can photocopy these pages for reference during the adventure. Variations on this statistics block appear elsewhere, in tactical encounters involving the vampire, since he might adopt different forms or prepare different spells to maximize his options in different circumstances. In such cases, Strahd's statistics are abbreviated to fit into the tactical encounter format; see the Undead and Vampire Characteristics sidebar for a summary of these shortened ability entries.

Undead creatures -- especially vampires -- are a recurring theme in Expedition to Castle Ravenloft. Full descriptions of the special abilities, resistances, and weaknesses of these creatures would make their stat blocks unwieldy as well as repeating large amounts of text. To save space, this sidebar summarizes the details common to such creatures. Where an exception exists, such as Strahd's ignoring typical vampire aversions, that fact is noted in the creature's stat block.


An undead creature has the following characteristics (MM 317).

Undead Immunities: Immunity to all mind-affecting spells and abilities (charms, compulsions, phantasms, patterns, and morale effects), poison, sleep effects, paralysis, stunning, disease, and death effects. Not subject to extra damage from critical hits, nonlethal damage, ability drain, or energy drain. Immune to damage to physical ability scores (Strength, Dexterity, and Constitution), as well as to fatigue and exhaustion effects. Not at risk of death from massive damage, but when reduced to 0 hit points or less, it is immediately destroyed. Immune to any effect that requires a Fortitude save (unless the effect also works on objects or is harmless).

Undead Traits: Darkvision out to 60 feet. No Constitution score. Uses its Charisma modifier for Concentration checks. Not affected by raise dead and reincarnate spells or abilities. Resurrection and true resurrection turn undead creatures back into the living creatures they were before becoming undead. Negative energy (such as an inflict spell) can heal undead creatures. Undead do not breathe, eat, or sleep.


A vampire has the following characteristics (MM 252). Vampire spawn share many of these abilities.

Vampire Abilities: The DC for all saves against these abilities is 10 + 1/2 vampire's or spawn's HD + vampire's or spawn's Cha modifier unless otherwise specified (MM 252).

Fast Healing (Ex): A vampire heals 5 points of damage each round so long as it has at least 1 hit point; a vampire spawn heals 2 points of damage each round. If reduced to 0 hp in combat, a vampire or vampire spawn automatically and immediately assumes gaseous form and must reach its tomb within 2 hours or be utterly destroyed. Any additional damage it takes in gaseous form has no effect. Once at rest in its crypt, the vampire or vampire spawn is helpless for 1 hour. After 1 hour, it regains 1 hit point and is no longer helpless, then resumes healing at the normal rate per round.

Spider Climb (Ex): A vampire or vampire spawn can climb sheer surfaces as though with a spider climb spell.

Energy Drain (Su): Living creatures hit by a vampire's slam attack gain two negative levels, and the vampire gains 10 temporary hit points. Living creatures hit by a vampire spawn's slam attack gain one negative level, and the vampire spawn gains 5 temporary hit points. See DMG 293 for more information about energy drain and negative levels.

Alternate Form (Su): A vampire can assume the shape of a bat, dire bat, wolf, or dire wolf as a standard action. This ability is similar to a polymorph spell (CL 12th), except that a vampire does not regain hit points for changing form and must choose one of these forms. A vampire in animal form loses its natural slam attack and its dominate ability.

Blood Drain (Ex): A vampire or vampire spawn can suck blood from a living victim with its fangs by making a successful grapple check. If it pins the foe, it drains blood, dealing 1d4 points of Constitution drain each round the pin is maintained. On each such successful attack, the vampire or vampire spawn gains 5 temporary hit points that last for up to 1 hour. This ability does not affect elementals, plants, or creatures that lack a Constitution score.

Children of the Night (Su): Once per day, a vampire can call forth 1d6+1 rat swarms, 1d4+1 bat swarms, or a pack of 3d6 wolves as a standard action. The creatures arrive in 2d6 rounds and serve the vampire for up to 1 hour.

Dominate (Su): A vampire can crush an opponent's will just by looking into his or her eyes. This is similar to a gaze attack with a range of 30 feet, except that the vampire must use a standard action and choose a single target -- those merely looking at it are unaffected. The vampire's target must succeed on a Will save or fall instantly under its influence as though by a dominate person spell (CL 12th).

Create Spawn (Su): A humanoid or monstrous humanoid slain by a vampire's energy drain rises as a vampire spawn 1d4 days after burial. A victim slain by a vampire's blood drain returns as a spawn (4 or fewer HD) or as a vampire (5 or more HD).

Gaseous Form (Su): As gaseous form at will (CL 5th), but the vampire or vampire spawn can remain gaseous indefinitely and has a fly speed of 20 feet with perfect maneuverability.

Vampire Aversions: A vampire or vampire spawn cannot tolerate the strong odor of garlic. It recoils from a mirror or strongly presented holy symbol. When recoiling, it must stay at least 5 feet away from a creature holding the mirror or holy symbol and cannot touch or make melee attacks against the creature holding the item for the rest of the encounter. Holding a vampire or vampire spawn at bay takes a standard action. A vampire or vampire spawn can't cross running water (though it can be carried across) and can't enter a private building unless invited.

Vampire Vulnerabilities: Vampires and vampire spawn share the following vulnerabilities.

Sunlight: If a vampire or vampire spawn is exposed to direct sunlight, it is disoriented and can take only a single move action or standard action in the first round of exposure. In the next round, it is destroyed utterly.

Running Water: Immersing a vampire or vampire spawn in running water deals one-third of its hit points in damage each round. If it reaches 0 hit points when immersed, or at the end of three rounds of immersion, the creature is destroyed.

Wooden Stake: If a vampire or vampire spawn is helpless, a foe can take a full-round action (similar to a coup de grace) to drive a wooden stake through its heart. This renders the body inert, like a normal corpse, and makes it vulnerable to normal attacks so that it can be destroyed. If the wooden stake is removed before the body is destroyed, however, the vampire or vampire spawn returns to unlife, although it has 0 hit points and assumes gaseous form.

Count Strahd von Zarovich CR 15
Male vampire (human) necromancer 10
LE Medium undead (augmented humanoid)
Init +7; Senses darkvision 60 ft.; Listen +13, Spot +13
Languages Common, Draconic, Elven, Giant, Infernal

AC 27, touch 15, flat-footed 24; Dodge
hp 70 (10 HD); fast healing 5; DR 10/silver and magic
Immune sunlight; undead immunities
Resist acid 10, cold 10, electricity 10, fire 10, positive energy 10, sonic 10; +4 turn resistance; ring of counterspells (dispel magic), nondetection
Fort +6, Ref +11, Will +13
Weakness vampire vulnerabilities (except sunlight)

Speed 30 ft. (6 squares), spider climb 20 ft.
Melee slam +9 (1d6+4 plus energy drain)
Base Atk +5; Grp +9
Atk Options Combat Reflexes, energy drain, magic strike
Special Actions alternate form, blood drain 1d4 Con, children of the night 1/night, dominate (Will DC 18), gaseous form
Combat Gear bead of force, lesser Silent metamagic rod, ring of counterspells
Wizard Spells Prepared (CL 10th; prohibited schools abjuration and illusion):
5th -- cloudkill (DC 20), fell draining lightning bolt (DC 18; creatures that take damage also gain one negative level), mind fog (DC 20), waves of fatigue
4th -- dimension door, enervation (+8 ranged touch), fear (DC 19), enervated scorching ray (+8 ranged touch, +50% damage to living creatures, half damage to unliving), scrying (DC 19)
3rd -- deep slumber (DC 18), fireball (DC 18), haste, fell draining magic missile (creatures that take damage also gain one negative level), ray of exhaustion (+8 ranged touch, DC 18)
2nd -- blindness/deafness (DC 17), false life, fog cloud, scorching ray (+8 ranged touch), see invisibility, spectral hand
1st -- chill touch (+9 melee touch, DC 16), expeditious retreat, mage armor (2), magic missile, ray of enfeeblement (+8 ranged touch), true strike
0 -- detect magic (2), ghost sound (DC 15), message, touch of fatigue (+9 melee touch, DC 15)

Abilities Str 18, Dex 16, Con --, Int 20, Wis 17, Cha 16
SQ create spawn, forest sign, mountain sign, swamp sign
Feats Alertness[B], Combat Casting*, Combat Reflexes[B], Dodge[B], Enervate Spell**[B], Fell Drain**[B], Improved Energy Drain**, Improved Initiative[B], Lightning Reflexes[B], Positive Energy Resistance**, Scribe Scroll[B], Spell Drain**
*If you are using the taint rules in Heroes of Horror, replace Combat Casting with the Touch of Taint feat from that book.
**Feats described in Libris Mortis.
Skills Bluff +17, Concentration +16, Diplomacy +7, Disguise +3 (+5 acting), Hide +13, Intimidate +11, Knowledge (arcana) +18, Knowledge (religion) +18, Listen +13, Move Silently +17, Search +13, Sense Motive +17, Spellcraft +20, Spot +13
Possessions combat gear plus ring of protection +2, cloak of resistance +3
Spellbooks See "Strahd's Spellbooks," below.

Fast Healing (Ex) If reduced to 0 hp in combat, Strahd automatically and immediately assumes gaseous form and makes his way toward his crypt (area K86).

Vampire Vulnerabilities As long as the Dayheart remains intact, Strahd suffers no ill effects from sunlight.

Energy Drain (Su) Living creatures hit by Strahd's slam attack gain two negative levels. At the same time, Strahd gains 10 temporary hit points and a +2 bonus on skill checks, ability checks, attack rolls, and saving throws for 1 hour. (This bonus derives from his Improved Energy Drain feat.)

Whenever a spellcaster opponent loses a prepared spell due to energy drain, Strahd gains the ability to cast that spell once (as if he had prepared it). The spell's effect is treated as if the original spellcaster had cast it. The spell remains in Strahd's mind for up to 1 hour, and he can keep up to three stolen spells at a time. This ability has no effect on spellcasters who don't prepare spells or on characters who have no spells prepared. (This ability comes from his Spell Drain feat.) If you are using the taint rules in Heroes of Horror, Strahd's energy drain also increases the target's depravity score by 2 points or its corruption and depravity scores by 1 point each (because of his Touch of Taint feat).

Magic Strike (Su) If Strahd hits with his slam attack, the attack is treated as magic for the purpose of overcoming damage reduction.

Alternate Form (Su) See below for Strahd's statistics in his animal forms. In animal form, Strahd cannot use his equipment or cast spells, nor can he use his dominate ability.

Blood Drain (Ex) If you are using the taint rules in Heroes of Horror, Strahd's blood drain also increases the target's corruption score by 2 points (because of his Touch of Taint feat).

Gaseous Form (Su) Strahd's Armor Class in gaseous form is 15 (19 with mage armor active), touch 15, flat-footed 12.

Forest Sign (Su) As a result of his connection to the forests of Barovia, Strahd benefits from a constant nondetection effect on himself and his gear, as the spell (caster level check DC 19). If Strahd's connection to the Forest Fane is severed, Strahd loses this benefit and his CR is reduced by 1.

Mountain Sign (Su) As a result of his connection to the mountains of Barovia, Strahd is surrounded by a field of force armor that grants him a +6 armor bonus to AC. Because it is made of force, this armor protects him against incorporeal attacks and applies when Strahd is in gaseous form. If Strahd's connection to the Mountain Fane is severed, his Armor Class is reduced to 21 and his CR is reduced by 1.

Swamp Sign (Su) As a result of his connection to the swamps of Barovia, Strahd has resistance to acid 10, fire 10, and sonic 10. If his connection to the Swamp Fane is severed, Strahd loses these resistances and his CR is reduced by 1.

When in bat form, Strahd has the following changed statistics:

Bat Form CR 15
LE Diminutive undead (augmented humanoid)

AC 22, touch 16, flat-footed 20
Ref +7

Speed 5 ft. (1 square), fly 40 ft. (good)
Melee --
Grp -12

Abilities Str 1, Dex 15
Skills Disguise +3 (+13 to mimic bat), Hide +24, Move Silently +16
When in dire bat form, Strahd has the following changed statistics:

Dire Bat Form CR 15
LE Large undead (augmented humanoid)

AC 26, touch 15, flat-footed 20
Ref +11

Speed 20 ft. (4 squares), fly 40 ft. (good)
Melee bite +7 (1d8+4 plus energy drain)
Grp +12

Abilities Str 17, Dex 22
Skills Disguise +3 (+13 to mimic dire bat), Hide +12, Move Silently +20

When in dire wolf form, Strahd has the following changed statistics:

Dire Wolf Form CR 15
LE Large undead (augmented humanoid)

AC 20, touch 11, flat-footed 18
Ref +7

Speed 50 ft. (10 squares)
Melee bite +11 (1d8+10 plus energy drain)
Grp +16
Atk Options trip +11

Abilities Str 25, Dex 15
Skills Disguise +3 (+13 to mimic dire wolf), Hide +8, Move Silently +16
Trip (Ex) In dire wolf form, Strahd can attempt to trip an opponent he hits with a bite attack.

Strahd calls himself the "first vampire," but the claim seems unlikely. The details of his story are set down in the Tome of Strahd, with key excerpts presented on page 22. Strahd is a tall man, standing just over 6 feet. His body is lean and hard, and his gaunt face has strong features and prominent cheekbones. His eyes are dark and hypnotic, like deep pools with subtle reflections of red light, but when he is enraged they burn like red-hot coals. His skin is usually pale, but it becomes flushed with each feeding and retains that healthy-looking color for several hours. His elongated and thin fingers have long, sharp nails. His fangs are not obvious unless he wants them to be noticed -- he can speak and even yawn without revealing his true nature. When he attacks, however, the fangs lengthen to protrude from his mouth. Strahd prefers to wear black with touches of white and red. His clothing style is the tailored, layered look common to the nobility.


Strahd differs from standard vampires in a few key respects. He enjoys an unnatural connection with the land of Barovia (see below), which has given him three significant defensive abilities: force armor, energy resistance, and a constant nondetection effect. Strahd has no aversion to garlic or mirrors. Though he can be turned, characters cannot keep him at bay simply by presenting a holy symbol. He can enter any building in Barovia, whether he is invited or not. Finally, the artifact known as the Dayheart (see below) grants Strahd immunity to the destructive effects of sunlight.

In addition to the standard alternate forms assumed by vampires, Strahd can take the shape of a batlike humanoid ("werebat" form) and a bestial humanoid with wolfish characteristics (feral form). These special forms appear in Strahd's statistics block for encounters in which he assumes them.


More than simply a treasure to be won by skilled or lucky PCs, Strahd's spellbooks represent a wealth of additional tactical options for the vampiric genius. The following lists additional spells that Strahd knows in addition to those he has prepared. Feel free to substitute different prepared spells to account for the party's capabilities and weaknesses. If you have access to sources other than the Player's Handbook, particularly Spell Compendium, you can substitute spells from those books for others in Strahd's repertoire.

5th -- cone of cold, hold monster, magic jar, prying eyes, teleport, wall of force.

4th -- animate dead, arcane eye, bestow curse, confusion, contagion, detect scrying, Otiluke's resilient sphere, solid fog.

3rd -- clairaudience/clairvoyance, gentle repose, hold person, slow, stinking cloud, vampiric touch, wind wall.

2nd -- bull's strength, cat's grace, command undead, darkness, detect thoughts, glitterdust, gust of wind, Melf's acid arrow, see invisibility, Tasha's hideous laughter, touch of idiocy, web.

1st -- burning hands, cause fear, charm person, comprehend languages, identify, obscuring mist, shocking grasp, sleep, unseen servant.

0 -- all except abjuration and illusion.

The Wilderness Fanes: In the countryside of Barovia stand ancient sites of worship. Strahd appropriated three such wilderness fanes located near his castle -- one in the Svalich Woods, one in the swamp to the east, and one high in the mountains. Performing dark rituals at each once-sanctified altar, Strahd bound himself to the land and the land to him, gaining great powers in the bargain. Stripping him of those powers requires visiting each fane and performing specific rituals to sever his connection to the land.

The Dayheart: This massive crystal, fed by dreadful energies, grants vampires linked to it immunity from the effects of sunlight. The Dayheart occupies the highest part of one of the castle's spires. For more information about this artifact, see area 60A in Castle Ravenloft (page 158) and the Appendix.

Legacy Items: Two legendary magic items of great power can overcome many of Strahd's defenses. The Holy Symbol of Ravenkind predates the arrival of Strahd's family in Barovia and is a potent tool against vampires, but has been lost for centuries. The Sunsword, the original model for all sun blades, is the bane of undead. Strahd attempted to have the weapon destroyed, but unknown to him, its blade survives. For more about these two items, and the rituals needed to fully awaken their powers, see the Appendix.


Strahd believes that Ireena Kolyana (see page 31) is the reincarnation of Tatyana von Zarovich, wife of Strahd's brother Sergei. Strahd's unrequited love for Tatyana drove him to madness and plunged him over the precipice into irredeemable evil. Having seen Ireena in Barovia, Strahd believes his ancient love has returned to him, and he seeks to claim her. This obsession is the primary motivation for everything he does.

Strahd wants to "win the love" of Ireena, but in the evil manner of a corrupt immortal, such wooing occurs over the course of three visits. He believes that in this way he is "building a relationship." During the first two visits, Strahd lulled Ireena into complacency through domination. He maneuvered her into being alone with him so he could bite her neck and drain some of her blood. He hopes to deliver the last bite during their third meeting, making her his vampire consort.

Strahd never directly attacks Ireena, nor does any creature under his command. However, he had her father, the burgomaster, killed for attempting to interfere in their romantic "destiny." He keeps an eye out for any opportunity to separate Ireena from the PCs, should she join them, then bring her into a new realm of existence. Domination is Strahd's ace in the hole -- ten days remain before the effect ends, though Ireena doesn't realize she is under the vampire's control. Strahd calls upon this advantage only when he deems the time is ripe to bring his bride-to-be into the fold.

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