Last night, we played through our first session of our duet remix of Curse of Strahd. This is the first time we’ve adapted an official campaign for one-on-one, and we want to share what that process is like with you.
Over the coming months, we’re planning to post a combination of DM and player diaries, scaling guides, adaptation suggestions, and some new DMsGuild titles to make your own adaptation of this or other campaigns easier.
As this is the player guide, and especially since this is the first one, I’m going to keep it spoiler free. As we go, we’ll be careful to signal if there are any spoilers so you can easily skip avoid them.
So, in this first post, I’m going to help with some expectation-setting and preferences for your own Curse of Strahd adaptation!
Expectation Setting in Detail
Curse of Strahd is Dark
Maybe you’re already aware of this but, by and large, first impressions, this is a pretty dark campaign.
Now, there’s certainly a spectrum of possibility depending on how you and your DM want to run the storyline, so make sure to have that conversation.
Looking back on Gothic literature, there are some relatively humorous moments. Take The Castle of Otranto for example. Part of what gets the plot moving is a giant helmet falling from the sky and crushing a sickly prince on his wedding day. Yes, it looks alarming to scale, especially in a black and white illustration, but to our more modern, desensitized sensibilities, it’s also kinda funny.
The giant feather has always been my favorite part.
Know your Genre Preferences and Triggers
So with this spectrum in mind, know going into the campaign that there’s going to be some flexibility in terms of the horror elements. We’ll talk about what your character has to do with that in post two.
When we’re looking at vampires in popular culture, outside of symbolic meaning, there’s often a strong helping of sexual charisma. Vampires’ depictions vary, but this charisma certainly brings up the problem of consent.
This is where I’d recommend a really clear conversation with your DM about what you’re comfortable with. I know a lot of you (though of course not all!) are in a romantic relationship with your duet partner, so you have, very likely, already had these conversations in your real lives. However, I think it bears returning to for the D&D context.
RPGs open up a fascinating mode of playing with and examining the world around us, and sci-fi and fantasy make for incredibly sharp mirrors for working our way through or understanding various forms of evil and good. Maybe you want to dig deeper into consent, or maybe you want to lay a really clear line about what will or won’t be allowed in your game. We talk about this in more detail in another post, which we’d love for you to check out.
I don’t want to sound overly alarmist about the Gothic nature of your campaign. But we all have different preferences when it comes to types and levels of horror.
I like campy “horror” that isn’t actually very scary at all but that has a healthy balance of intrigue, self-awareness, humor, and darkness. This could still be rather vague, so to put it in terms of films, I am happy with our CoS campaign being more like Van Helsing and Underworld than anything that’s actively super scary or horrifying.
Fun Mood Setting
And speaking of, one of my favorite “preparation” things we’ve done so far is watching movies to set the mood for our campaign. We’d watched Van Helsing relatively recently, so we decided to try out a couple others.
My favorite of these so far has absolutely been Underworld. Jonathan thought it might be a good fit since my character, Briseras, is very similar to Selene, just not a vampire. Watching the first two movies (we’re working our way through the franchise) gave me some really great ideas to help develop my character and flavor different mechanics to further personalize her, plus it’s been really fun!
We love about playing D&D together that it gives us a creative and engaging way to spend time together, and watching movies themed around our upcoming campaign was exciting and interesting!
On the darker side of vampiric possibility, we watched Interview with the Vampire, which I think helped set some of the darker tone for beginning our game.
For mood setting during play, we used a few different soundtracks from Syrinscape last night, which was awesome! They offer 10 free tracks in the app, so you can try it out before committing.
We used the Witchwood soundtrack for my character arriving in Barovia (which we’ve renamed Stymhrod for our own campaign context, but I’d try to leave that as much to your DM to decide on as possible). Then, exploring the first place, we used the Dungeon Depth soundtrack.
I hope you’ve enjoyed the first of these campaign diaries!
Check back in for post #2, character creation for Curse of Strahd!
We’d love to know what questions or ideas you have in looking at adapting published campaigns for your own duet games! Post in the comments below!
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