(Image credit: Wizards of the Coast)
Game system: D&D 5e
Players: 2 – 6
Set-up time: Variable
Time to play: Multiple sessions
Average price: $100 / £80
It’s fitting that Curse of Strahd Revamped caught me off guard. From the promotional material I’d seen of the updated Dungeons and Dragons campaign, it seemed to be a dainty box of goodies no bigger than an A4 sheet of paper. And then it arrived at my door. Oh my, what a sweet summer child I was. As is only right for an adventure with so many twists, it’s not what I expected – it’s bigger, more intricate, and unfailingly grand.
Much like its bloodsucking villain, Curse of Strahd Revamped raises one of the best tabletop RPGs from the dead; although it brings back a 2016 storyline, it has its roots in a fan-favorite adventure from the early 1980s. More specifically, players must once again brave the terrors of Barovia in a plot that pits them against the vampire Count Strahd von Zarovich.
It’s suitably imposing as a result. Pull aside the cardboard slip and you’ll find a coffin box covered with gorgeous, embossed patterns that cement its premium feel. Lurking within is artwork of the titular vampire sleeping in his crypt, a softcover version of the Curse of Strahd book, an oversized Tarokka deck featuring raised backs and suitably grim artwork, a booklet on how to read those cards, a two-sided map, four handouts used during the campaign, a separate Monsters & NPCs booklet, and a unique Dungeon Master screen of thicker, harder stock. It even comes with 12 themed postcards with which you can invite your players to the game’s gothic setting.
While all of this earns a suitably high price tag, I’d say it’s worth the investment. For the most part, anyway. Sure, the $100 US cost is on the steep side. But the Tarokka cards, DM screen, and unique monsters can always be carried over to other sessions. There’s plenty of value on offer as a result, even after your group has finished the main quest.
Just remember, this isn’t an all-new adventure. Other than a few small tweaks, it’s the same campaign as the original Curse of Strahd.
Proceed with caution
Not that this is a bad thing. Curse of Strahd Revamped is far from a one-hit wonder. The original campaign was famous for its sandbox of content, and nothing’s changed in that regard. In fact, this is an adventure you could theoretically play over and over again. To be precise, essential tools and boss locations change every time you start fresh – they are decided by a Tarokka reading before the story begins. That means you can never be sure where your party will end up. Plus, Strahd’s cursed nature means that he will always return… eventually (you can’t keep a good monster down, clearly).
You certainly won’t mind another visit to Barovia. As with the 2016 release, this version of Curse is crammed with more locations, scenarios, and ideas than you could possibly encounter in one run. That makes the campaign ideal for those who want to experience D&D at its best, to say nothing of a game without limits or railroading. You can literally go anywhere and do anything; there’s a staggering amount of possibilities on the table here, up to and including character death or possession.
However, that can make it an intimidating proposition for newcomers. There’s a lot to chew on here, be it copious amounts of information on Strahd’s realm or numerous plotlines for each area. Furthermore, it’s not always laid out in a user-friendly way. Considering the fact that the Monsters & NPCs section was given its own booklet this time, I would have preferred to see the same approach with Barovia’s various regions. This would make it much easier to find and flip through content during play.
Basically, new DMs should proceed with caution. It’s an overwhelming prospect, especially because anyone running the game will need to be well-versed in all eventualities and possible outcomes. It’s a big step up from storylines like the one found in the Dungeons and Dragons Starter Set.
This seems to be the only downside I can find, though. The adventure itself is memorable, packed with character, and fantastically atmospheric. The creativity of each area is arresting; the bizarre individuals you’ll find should stay with you for quite a while. It’s unlike anything else in D&D.
The physical props contained within this special edition – including stylised artwork on the DM screen – heighten the mood even further. The Tarokka deck in particular is a delight to flip through, and it provides an eerie tension to gameplay when providing your players with a reading.
Problematic elements of the book’s past also appear to have been exorcised. Namely, harmful stereotypes about a culture inspired by real-world Romani society are gone. This is a more considerate take, and Curse of Strahd Revamped is all the better for it.
As such, fans of the original and DMs who have yet to step into Strahd’s world shouldn’t hesitate to pick up Revamped. No matter whether you want something new for your group, a Halloween-themed detour, or inspiration for a world of your own, this set has something to offer. It’s the definitive version of a beloved classic.