As a player, I'm going to be playing the Curse of Strahd with my play group. Because the DM is busy, and I enjoy doing this sort of thing, I offered to provide the other players with a primer on the setting of Ravenloft (to set the aesthetic help with character building, etc) but I'm having trouble finding good resources to answer my questions.

When I was playing in various 4e settings (Forgotten Realms, Dark Sun, etc) I'd pick up the relevant "Campaign setting" book, and get a great feel for the world letting me play characters that fit the world better, understand how my character is affected by the world around them, and so on. I can't seem to find a similar resource for Ravenloft. I began to flip through the Curse of Strahd 5e book but quickly realized it had very little non-spoilerific campaign details, so I avoided looking closer. Any advice? I realize our PCs will be dragged into the world from wherever they come from, but worldbuilding questions like:

  1. What races are present?
  2. How are clerics or paladins affected by being removed from the world where their god dwells and has dominion?
  3. How do the locals dress? How do they talk? What's the level of technology?

keep springing up to me and I'm not sure where to look for answers.

  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ The answers to all of your questions are spoilers best discovered through playing the story. I think you are better off not knowing the answers. \$\endgroup\$ Oct 30, 2017 at 1:21

1 Answer 1


Short Answer

Bram Stoker Dracula's Transylvania but with the 12th century technology and magic instead of 19th century technology and no magic.

Long Answer

Barovia is an extension of Strahd and Strahd is a psychotic megalomaniac with depression.

The sun never shines on Barovia. Its foggy, cold and damp. It rains a lot but always in a cold drizzle that you know will soak not only your clothes to the skin but your soul to the bone.

Everyone you meet is both depressed and depressing or, if not, they are a homicidal maniac.

  1. What races are present?

Humans and Dusk Elves. There are three distinct human cultures: the Barovians who are morose and live out lives of misery alleviated only with wine (think East European medieval peasants) only 1 in 10 Barovians has a soul which is endlessly reincarnated - the rest are soulless husks going through the motions of living, the Vistani who are based on a pejorative representation of the Romani people (these are the only people who can enter and leave Barovia) and the natives who are universally represented as mud-caked, insane eco-terrorists. Dusk elves are similar to wood elves but with a darker complexion; they are a tragic race that are exclusively male as Strahd had all the females executed several centuries ago - they live beside the Vistani.

  1. How are clerics or paladins affected by being removed from the world where their god dwells and has dominion?

Not much - they can still gain spells and most work as normal. Spells that contact other-planar entities work normally if Strahd allows them - he can instead intercept them and pose as the other-planar entity. Planar travel spells do not work except that you can enter the border Ethereal but cannot leave Barovia.

How do the locals dress?

Barovians dress in medieval east European guard of drab grays, blacks and browns - those with souls will have a splash or two of color. Vistani dress colorfully and flamboyantly, as do the Dusk Elves. The natives wear caked-on mud.

How do they talk?

A complex interplay of brain, nerves, muscles, lungs, vocal cords and mouth producing modulated sounds that travel through the air to an equally complex interplay of ear, auditory nerves and brain which allows ideas to be exchanged. Beyond that, the discussion above should offer some suggestion of how to role-play them.

What's the level of technology?

Typical D&D

  • \$\begingroup\$ I've always wondered if Tracy Hickman first got the idea for Ravenloft and Strahd after coming down from taking one too many pep pills when trying to meet a deadline one long night ... 8^D As to always rainy and foggy, wasn't the old TV show Dark Shadows an inspiration for him? (Not sure if I read that in Dragon or not ... been a lot of years and a lot of coffee since then ...) \$\endgroup\$ Oct 30, 2017 at 13:22

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