How to Prepare an Engaging Campaign for Running ‘Curse of Strahd’: A Detailed Guide

Adventuring through the gloomy world of Barovia in the Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) campaign, Curse of Strahd, can be a daunting task for Dungeon Masters (DMs) preparing this gothic horror themed narrative.

This adventure pits players against the vampire Strahd von Zarovich in the oppressive land of Barovia, filled with eerie forests, towering castles, and fog-shrouded villages. To create a captivating and memorable gaming experience, you should make careful preparation part of your DM regimen.

For preparing the Curse of Strahd, one should not overlook the fantastic FREE resource – the Legends of Barovia. This comprehensive guide offers essential insights into plot hooks, key NPCs, and intricate details of the campaign setting.

Step 1: Understand the Story and Setting


Begin by immersing yourself in the gothic-horror genre, from which Curse of Strahd draws its inspiration. Read the Ravenloft novel ‘I, Strahd’ and the original ‘Ravenloft‘ module to get a feel for the land of Barovia and its denizens. Next, read through the entire Curse of Strahd module. You need to grasp the overarching narrative, character motivations, and key events to navigate the campaign successfully.

Step 2: Dive Deep with Legends of Barovia

Utilize the Legends of Barovia guide to delve deeper into the campaign’s complexities. It provides excellent suggestions for role-playing key characters, managing player’s movement through Barovia, and enhancing the horror atmosphere.

Step 3: Establish the Atmosphere


Horror relies heavily on atmosphere. So, determine how you’ll incorporate elements of horror into your gaming sessions. Create playlists of eerie sounds and music to play in the background. Use descriptive language to heighten tension and develop a sense of dread. The Legends of Barovia guide provides excellent tips on setting the mood and maintaining tension throughout the campaign.

Step 4: Plan Encounters Mindfully

Encounters in Curse of Strahd should inspire fear and highlight the oppressive nature of Barovia. This means you should carefully consider when and where encounters occur. The campaign guide has a multitude of encounters, but feel free to add or modify them according to your party’s dynamics.

Step 5: Understand and Role-play Strahd

Strahd isn’t just another villain waiting at the end of the campaign for the final showdown. He’s a central character who should make his presence known throughout the campaign. Understand Strahd’s personality, motives, and tactics to portray him convincingly. Legends of Barovia offers a detailed analysis of Strahd, assisting DMs in portraying this iconic villain compellingly.

Step 6: Use Tarokka Deck Effectively


The Tarokka Deck reading can dramatically shape the adventure’s course. Practice performing a Tarokka Deck reading to give it a real sense of occult mystery during the game session. It’s a powerful tool that can change the location of key objects and encounters, enhancing the campaign’s replayability.

Step 7: Prepare for Player Choices

Barovia offers many paths, and your players won’t always choose the one you expect. It’s crucial to prepare for their choices. Read ahead and be familiar with various locations and encounters. The more prepared you are, the more naturally you can adapt when players veer off the path you’ve anticipated.

Step 8: Feedback and Adjust


After each session, ask for feedback from your players. Did they enjoy the session? Was the horror atmosphere engaging or overdone? Use this feedback to adjust your approach in future sessions.

Running Curse of Strahd is a rewarding challenge. The story is complex, the characters memorable, and the setting iconic. With the right preparation and resources like Legends of Barovia, you can create an immersive, chilling, and thrilling D&D experience. Remember, the most important goal is for everyone to have fun. Happy adventuring in the land of Barovia, and may your encounters with Strahd be as thrilling as they are terrifying!