The rollout of Dungeons and Dragons 5th edition has not been a rapid release of materials, as in some past editions, but a slower and more steady release of consistently good products, which focus on telling great stories over inundating players with new rule options.
I’m currently running my 10-year-old son and his friends through the Rise of Tiamat storyline – the first adventure released for 5th edition, spread across the two volumes of Hoard of the Dragon Queen and Rise of Tiamat. One of the more intriguing aspects of the storyline is a month-long caravan trip north to Waterdeep, with intrigue and subterfuge as you spy on the dragon cultists in the caravan without giving yourself away. Not necessarily the most natural storytelling option for a group of 10-year-olds, but they handled it well, and it gave an interesting change of pace for those who were used to more shoot-em-up style adventure play from video games.
While considering where to go when the dragon-themed plotline finished up, I was thinking of continuing with one of the other adventure books that’s been released so far: either the Elemental Evil storyline in Princes of the Apocalypse or the Rage of Demons storyline told in Out of the Abyss. Then came today’s press release that Dungeons and Dragons is releasing a new adventure module, Curse of Strahd, that returns to the classic Ravenloft setting.
Ravenloft is the classic, gothic horror setting for Dungeons and Dragons, and has long been a fan favorite. While the traditional enemies encountered are thought of as orcs and goblins, in Ravenloft these enemies look like pussycats (very ugly pussycats, to be sure), as dark forces and undead take a far more prominent role. Ravenloft is a realm where even an orc fears the sounds that come from the dark of the night.
Originally introduced as an adventure module in 1983, Ravenloft became a full-fledged campaign world in 1990 with the release of Ravenloft: Realm of Terror (sometimes called “the black box”). In 1994, TSR released the Ravenloft Campaign Setting (or “the red box”), which included much of the same material and some rule expansions from other supplements, such as Forbidden Lore. A digital copy of the Ravenloft Campaign Setting is available through DriveThruRPG, for those who are interested in exploring it more. There was also the 2006 Expedition to Castle Ravenloft, a reworking of the Hickmans’ original adventure for 3.5 edition (and also available digitally).
This time, though, instead of a board game, Ravenloft is returning as a roleplaying adventure written in collaboration with Tracy and Laura Hickman, the original creators of the Ravenloft adventure setting with their 1983 module. In the adventure Curse of Strahd, players will be drawn into the realm of Barovia and find themselves at the mercy of the fearsome vampiric lord of Castle Ravenloft, Strahd von Zarovich. Their only hope is the guidance of the fortune teller Madam Eva, who directs the adventurers with drawings from her tarokka deck of cards (actually available as a supplement, from Gale Force 9).
The adventure book and tarokka deck are slated to release on the Ides of March … that is, March 15, 2016.
The folks at Wizards of the Coast have a fun way to pass the time until then, by getting in the spirit of taking guidance from the prophecies of Madam Eva:
While waiting for the adventure, experience the power of Madam Eva for yourself. D&D fans can have their own distinct fortunes read each day by retweeting the official @Wizards_DnD Twitter account using the hashtag #DNDFortune. Madam Eva’s fortunes are based on which random card she draws from her tarokka deck and displays for each reading. Check back each day with Madam Eva to see what your #DNDFortune will foretell.