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Curse of Strahd was released in 2016; since then, there have been many supplement books with extra races and subclasses.

Are there any combinations of races/classes I should advise players to take in our session 0 tonight?

For example: one of my friends was eyeing up the Aarakocra race, who can fly. Although this is unlikely to break the game (and not unique to Aarakocra), it could theoretically spoil an encounter. I'm just using this as an example as I do not know many of the new races/subclasses!

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    \$\begingroup\$ Biomage, the spoiler tag is for questions that "Contains information pertaining to a book/movie/etc. that is only revealed part-way through that piece of media--so this post might spoil the surprise for you if you haven't already read or seen the source material it's referring to" (from the tag's excerpt) and as such isn't an appropriate use for this question so I've removed it. \$\endgroup\$ – Purple Monkey Nov 14 '18 at 10:46
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    \$\begingroup\$ While this question may be too broad for the stack format I invite you to come to Role-playing Games Chat where people will be glad to help \$\endgroup\$ – Sdjz Nov 14 '18 at 10:46
  • \$\begingroup\$ Do you have any recommendations? I'm struggling to think of a narrower definition, maybe 'inappropriate for the theme' or 'over-powered' thanks! \$\endgroup\$ – Biomage Nov 14 '18 at 14:02
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    \$\begingroup\$ It might be better if you limit it to just the Aarakocra and it's ability to fly. Else any answer is going to have to list things that are naturally better against undead, etc.etc. and it turns into a "too broad" close. Simply asking 'will my player being able to fly permanently be a problem for Curse of Strahd encounters?' sounds like it'd be something answereable. \$\endgroup\$ – Theik Nov 15 '18 at 13:48
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I recently finished a CoS campaign with a small, somewhat oddly-built party. As a module, Curse of Strahd does a pretty good job of keeping the pressure on with very little work from the DM. It's fairly easy to tweak encounters, although as a warning it is also not too hard for the PCs to wander off-track and bite off more than they can chew!

Aarakocra and Flying Players

For your specific example, I think Barovia is a fairly safe place to have a player be an Aarakocra. There are a lot of things you can bring in to make things easier.

Terrain

A lot of the valley is forested, and the forests are described as incredibly dense, twisted, dark, and foggy. Flying in there would likely be difficult if not impossible.

The forests are also, like everything else in the valley, an extension of Strahd's will: if it's narratively useful for the trees to claw our Birdman from the sky, they could.

As a side portion of terrain, there are a lot of indoor scenes where flying wouldn't put you meaningfully out of reach.

Enemies

Flying may not put you out of reach of your foes here. While some humanoids might not have a ranged weapon it would be easy enough to add one, and additionally, this is gothic horror with a vampire baddie. There are quite literally endless bats.

Perhaps more dangerously, Strahd and Bucephalus can fly as well.

There is also the Roc of Mount Ghakis, which I had planned to have chase any PC that got too high up. I viewed this "Fly too high, attract the big fish" mechanic as a way to prevent reprisal-free fireballs from 200' by a flying sorcerer.

Weather

Barovia's weather is miserable. It's always overcast, often rainy, and storms are common. Flying in a rainy windstorm sounds like a great way to let the DM move you every turn. Lightning is a very real thing that I'd totally have intersect with a 150 lb chainmail-wearing bird on its way to the ground.

But really, the number one in my mind is: unless this is formal AL play (since they ban L1 Aarakocra anyways), don't worry about it too much! As this excellent answer on flying PCs explains, it is often a self-limiting feature that you as the DM should be aware of, but not worried about.

General Class Balance

I had a party of largely Unearthed Arcana multiclasses, and found it balanced out pretty well. Honestly, for a group going into a campaign with a known vampire big bad in it, they went pretty light on the Divine magic.

With one exception (see spoiler), I didn't see any combo in-game or during spitballing sessions with my players that would seriously de-fang anything in the game. Be sure to pay attention to action economy and estimated encounter difficulty, and you should be fine.

The one exception: Strahd himself. The climactic fight is written to be largely party-vs-Strahd. He's relatively tough and hits hard, but he's losing in action economy and the Sunsword will remove a lot of powers and cause him serious harm.

I found you need to play him very carefully and very smart. But remember: he's a master strategist and has been spying on the party via his animal and human servants, and with Scry.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Nice answer, +1. My 2 cents: while the forests are dense, the players will usually stick to the roads (which are relatively wide because of the wine transport) and the roads aren't "condensed" as the forests are. \$\endgroup\$ – Kuerten Dec 14 '18 at 23:51
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I don't see any powerful race/class combinations, but some races can be troublesome.

Most DMs out there will point out that the flying races (Aarakocra, Flying Tiefling) can be troublesome, and they are available only in specific circumstances for Adventurers League for a reason (you can't create a level 1 aarakocra character, for example).

In Curse of Strahd, most part of the combat situations will be outdoors, so a flying PC can use their wings extensively. Being able to fly also facilitates some situations that are meant to be quite hard.

Entering Castle Ravenloft without an invitation, for example.

Remember that if a PC fly too high to get some sort of advantage, you can make the mists embrace it up there too.

For classes, one or two archetypes get a little better (but not overpowered) because they are themed around undead (and there's quite a lot of it in this campaign), like the Cleric's Grave DomainXGtE or the Undying WarlockSCAG, but that's it.

I both played and DMed (a bit) the Curse of Strahd adventure.

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