The first time Beth and I played through Strahd we skipped Death House because we were over-leveled for it. For the Duet Revamp, I decided to take us through this iconic haunted house and I couldn’t be happier with the results.
Beware! Beyond this point there are tons of spoilers for Death House and even some for Curse of Strahd.
I am going to present what I did for our duet game of Curse of Strahd. I’ll let you in on the tweaks and adjustments I made. Additionally, I’ll let you know how these things worked out in our game. I’ll make these sections gray, so you can skip them if you like.
For the Duet Revamp, I wanted to approach Barovia from a new direction. Literally. The Duet Revamp starts on the opposite side of the map from the town named after Strahd’s father. This means that Death House needs to change locations as well. I made Death House a free standing structure with a carriage house and a barn on the outside as opposed to a rowhouse as described in the book. It’s spooky, it’s remote, and it offers some shelter from the freezing rain that began falling on the party.
In our game, the primary character was fighting a vampire that I introduced early in our duet campaign. As she dealt the final blow, blood began gushing out and swirling. I described the vampire essentially escaping through the bood-nado which I predicted (correctly) would lead to the primary character leaping in. This blood tornado portal brought our characters to Barovia and deposited them alongside the road to the South and East of Krezk.
You certainly don’t have to do a blood tornado and could just use what’s in the book. But a blood tornado would do the trick.
On the porch of Death House stands a pair of children. A tall, thin girl beckons to the characters and seems visibly distressed.
DragnaCarta’s Death House Reloaded
As written, Death House is a fine, if somewhat straightforward haunted house crawl. However, I was delighted when I discovered u/DragnaCarta‘s excellent work on Death House Reloaded. For the actual mechanics of the duet, I ended up running things pretty closely to how he describes the sequence.
I did, however, make the following adjustments to ensure that the combat encounters more duet-friendly. We played this with one primary character, a level 5 Demon Hunter, and one level 5 Ghostsworn DMPC. Both classes are homebrew and may soon be available on Dungeon Master’s Guild.
With two level five characters, I didn’t tweak HP of combatants for this adventure that would typically span levels 1-3, just numbers of combatants in some instances.
Here are the tweaks to the combats.
Area 15. For the duet, run the “friendly” encounter with the Nursemaid specter as outline in Death House: Reloaded.
Area 29. 2x Ghouls
Area 31. 1x Shadow
With fewer players available to pass the checks presented in the Escaping Death House Skill Challenge (which I highly recommend) you may need to be somewhat forgiving with the consequences of failed rolls. You want to push and challenge your player, but (probably) not eviscerate their primary character on the first day in Barovia.
After narrowly escaping Death House with the bodies (and spirits) of Rose and Thorn, our party was very shaken. The house destroyed itself behind them. They took shelter in one of the two out buildings before they were prompted by the kids to lay their bones to rest in the nearby town of Krezk, a place that the kids had heard of as being safe and devout.
The Duet Revamp picks up as the players approach Krezk!
Please let me know if there is anything more you need to know in order to run Death House with one player and one DM.
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