The goal of this revamp is to make the excellent curse of Strahd work with one player and one DM. To that end, this revamp will tackle three things that need to be addressed for this excellent module to work as a duet.
I will post area specific tweaks as Beth and I encounter them. I hope, when it is all said and done, that these posts will enable and encourage duets to play through this excellent book and experience all of the terror and wonder that is Barovia.
In addition to my own experience with the campaign, this revamp owes a lot (including calling it a revamp in the first place) to the genius of u/MandyMod on the Curse of Strahd subreddit. u/DragnaCarta and his work in Curse of Strahd Reloaded has also been influential.
Finally, Justin Alexander’s phenomenal work in the Alexandrian’s Waterdeep Remix is the inspiration for some of the layout and design.
Beware! From here on out, Curse of Strahd spoilers abound!
The following conceits are made throughout the Curse of Strahd: Duet Revamp.
- Once Strahd learns of the primary character’s existence, he will set about testing that character’s fitness to be by his side and will work (in a Strahd fashion) to bring that character to his side.
- The people of Barovia have enjoyed nearly two decades of relative peace unmolested by the vampire’s direct presence. By no means is the wilderness safe, but generally people are secure behind their walls.
- The adventure starts south of Krezk instead of east of Barovia.
My duet partner, Beth, has some experience in Barovia. Because I’m running this module specifically for her, it did not make sense to just start with the mists of Barovia and having the adventuring party enter from the easternmost stretch of the map. For that reason, this revamp begins on the opposite end, just south of Krezk.
Additionally, to make sure that this experience with the book feels fresh, this revamp is set some twenty years after an extended absence of the lord of the land. The reason that things have been quiet is up to you. Perhaps an adventuring party came to Barovia 20 years ago and defeated (temporarily) the lord of vampires? Or perhaps Strahd is just taking an extended nap?
Setting our revamp at the end of a time of relative peace allows for a great number of interesting possibilities. What do the people of Barovia accomplish in the absence of their greatest source of terror for a whole generation? They still can’t leave, but necessarily there will be several noticeable differences in the region.
Important note: While the revamp introduces a different opening and sequence than the book, it still relies heavily on the text. The aim of this series is not to provide a setting guide for Barovia 20 years on after the events of the book. It is to use the material presented in the book in a fresh way that will be familiar, but surprising and new for a player character playing one-on-one even if they have some experience with the book as presented.
Regardless of why Strahd has been inactive in your game, the arrival of the primary character seems to awaken the Dark Lord once more…
For the duet, we need a quick and compelling way for the primary character to become meaningfully involved with the area and the dangers it presents, especially when it comes to the titular dangerous denizen. For that reason, Strahd in this revamp will not spend his time listing after Ireena. He will be targeting the primary PC. This solves several problems for our duet.
One of the biggest things this adjustment does for our revamp is that we have to worry less about primary character death. A solo operator in Barovia stands little chance against the horrors of the land, but if the land itself is vested in keeping the primary character alive but challenged and ever-pressing towards its master, then we have some more flexibility.
Additionally, we have a really clear reason for the primary character to explore the land and prepare to defeat Strahd.
Finally, this revamp is going to retool the encounters in each area to be more fun balanced with one primary player character and one DMPC or Sidekick. The types of encounters that work with large, diverse groups aren’t going to play the same or be as much fun with two people at the table.
For each area, I will include a table including the area of the map and the tweaked encounter.
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