17
\$\begingroup\$

This question includes NPC lore spoilers for Curse of Strahd, proceed at your own risk.

While running Curse of Strahd and prepping ahead, I have happened upon a rather glaring contradiction in the backstories of two of the important NPCs. I'm wondering if anything has been said by the developers regarding this...

This contradiction centers around

Ezmerelda d'Avenir and "Rictavio" (Rudolph van Richten)

In the former's backstory, we have this little snippet regarding their first encounter with the latter.

When Ezmerelda was a little girl, her family kidnapped van Richten’s teenage son, Erasmus, and delivered him into the clutches of a vampire. Even today, years later, she can still hear Erasmus’s pleas for mercy. That event haunted her childhood. Van Richten tracked down Ezmerelda’s family soon after the kidnapping, but not before the Vistani had sold the boy. Though van Richten could have done them harm, he instead interrogated Ezmerelda’s mother and father on the whereabouts of his missing son. Satisfied with their answers, he spared their lives before departing with the information they had given him. Ezmerelda witnessed van Richten’s act of mercy and was deeply moved by it.

Curse of Strahd p320

However, in Appendix F (Handouts) we have the...

Journal of Rudolph van Richten

In which we find this entirely contradicting statement...

When I found the caravan [that had kidnapped Erasmus], I threatened to set the zombies on the Vistani unless they returned my dear boy. They replied that he had been sold to the vampire, Baron Metus. Something inside me snapped. I released the zombies, and the entire tribe was eaten alive.

After this, it goes on to explain

That this is where van Richten got is "monsters kill everyone you love" curse.

I know that if you go back to the AD&D2E Ravenloft books, the story from the Handout is how things actually went down, and the character who is the subject of the first story is a new character that was invented for the 5E Module.

Has anything been said about this backstory contradiction? It's kind of a big deal if these two characters turn out to be important to the plot (which they will in the game I'm running).

If the first story is true then...

Ezmerelda's family was not killed by van Richten, but the event that should have caused van Richten to get cursed never happened.

If the second story is true then...

Ezmerelda's origin and relationship with van Richten doesn't make sense, as she should have died with the rest of her family...and there was no 'act of mercy' for her to witness that made her want to seek out van Richten.

\$\endgroup\$
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ fwiw, I did snag a homebrewed 'solution' to this conundrum. Digging about on the curse of strahd reddit, I found a rewritten version of the handout that fixes the contradiction without undermining either character: LINKED DOCUMENT CONTAINS SPOILERS. But I am still very much interested in finding out if there's any actual developer commentary on this. \$\endgroup\$ – guildsbounty Apr 2 '18 at 18:57
15
\$\begingroup\$

AFAIK there is no errata on this

However, this is how I resolved it ...

They’re both true

Ezmerelda simply doesn’t know that the zombies had anything to do with Richten. She saw him leave and assumed that he spared their lives. Then the zombies came and killed many but not all of her family and Richten assumed that all of them had died. Richten now knows the truth but Ezmerelda doesn’t - it was this that was at the heart of the breakdown of their relationship.

Now, how much fun is that going to be when it all comes out?

\$\endgroup\$
  • 5
    \$\begingroup\$ [slooooow clap] \$\endgroup\$ – nitsua60 Apr 2 '18 at 23:36
  • \$\begingroup\$ That doesn't quite mesh with the statements in the handout. It implies that he didn't leave until it was ending. \$\endgroup\$ – guildsbounty Apr 3 '18 at 0:39
  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ @guildsbounty You’re right and since everything everyone has written down is always 100% factual it can’t have happened the way I describe \$\endgroup\$ – Dale M Apr 3 '18 at 1:03
  • \$\begingroup\$ @DaleM Fair point. \$\endgroup\$ – guildsbounty Apr 3 '18 at 11:51
7
\$\begingroup\$

I'm running a game of Curse of Strahd slowly for some people, if it comes up, I think there are a few different ways that you can handle it. The answer that Dale M gives can make sense.

The other thing is that both of them could be true, because

van Richten's journal doesn't say that Ezmerelda's family was there. It's possible that this was part of the caravan but she and her family weren't there. He's upset by the caravan so he kills them all, but then tracks down Ezmerelda's family and realizing what he had done was wrong and the additional bloodshed he's caused, he's more willing to forgive them. So both of them could be true simply because van Richten killed off a lot of her family, but not her immediate family.

\$\endgroup\$
5
\$\begingroup\$

There is a long reddit post here discussing this problem, with no satisfactory outcomes (in my opinion). However, one post linked this post on Sage Advice in which Chris Perkins states "one is a falsehood and the other is the truth".

Assuming that we accept this, there are several things we can use to deduce which statement is true. Firstly:

Ezmerelda's backstory is given directly to the DM in appendix D of the CoS campaign guide. If this information is false, then what other parts of the campaign guide are false?

On the other hand,

Von Richten's story is given to us as a journal entry---a handout to be read by the players. It is perfectly reasonable for these to contain falsehoods; consider the two versions of Kolyan Indirovich's letter, for example.

Here's a potential motive for the falsehood:

Von Richten lied in his journal to protect Ezmerelda's identity. Though they fell out, he still cares for her. He knows that he may well die in his attempt to kill Strahd, and in that scenario RvR does not want Strahd to be able to find out about Ezmerelda. He wrote a false story in which Ez dies, and he left this page unburned on purpose (there's no way someone as careful and experienced as RvR would really miss an entire page when burning a journal).

This leaves us with the following questions.

How did RvR get his Vistani curse? If his journal entry is a lie, then what really happened?

guildsbounty's post provides a satisfactory resolution.

I personally would change the curse from written to verbal; the Vistani could just curse him when they're leaving after he refuses to treat their sick.

Finally, to explain the present state of affairs:

RvR and Ez parted ways after he could not get over his mistrust of Vistani and thoughts of revenge. Since then he has added the Vistani to his "monster list" and has killed many. This explains his current plan with the tiger.

ALTERNATIVELY

Ignore the book. RvR did murder Ezmerelda's caravan. Ezmerelda is much younger in this version of events, and even in his rage RvR couldn't bring himself to kill her. He raised her as his daughter and monster hunting protege. She does not remember her family's slaughter. She also doesn't know what her family did to RvR and his son. Ez and RvR split up for the same reason: RvR doesn't trust Vistani. Benefits of this version of events: i) RvR gets a much darker and more interesting character. ii) We gain a narrative device---a secret only RvR knows, which would turn Ez against him if she found out.

\$\endgroup\$
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Small edit, his tweet states "Both, because one is a falsehood and the other is the truth. " \$\endgroup\$ – Akixkisu Jun 23 at 17:29
  • \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to RPG.SE! Take the tour if you haven't already, and check out the help center for more guidance. \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Jun 23 at 17:48
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Akixkisu you're right, but I left that part out because it might be confusing in this context (might be seen to imply that both sides of the story are true). \$\endgroup\$ – binnev Jun 24 at 13:06
3
\$\begingroup\$

Ezmerelda is "traded" for Van Richten's son at this point, so I added to his journal: after he had unleashed the zombie attack and returned to his quarters, his heart sank with guilt at the sight of the young Vistani girl--not because he bore any regret for the treacherous abductors who had stolen his son from him, but because the innocent young girl had no part of this, yet would suffer and likely die on her own. As such, he would take care of her as his own so that she survives, and he tells her that a horde of zombies had descended upon the entire caravan, and he had only witnessed the aftermath. After weeks of disconnect and withdrawal, she implores him to help her learn to fight so she may exact revenge on undeath.

\$\endgroup\$
  • \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to RPG.SE! Take the tour if you haven't already, and check out the help center for more guidance. You should first address whether there's any official resolution to this contradiction, before explaining how you resolved it. \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast May 9 at 23:02

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.