In Curse of Strahd, as part of the Tarokka card reading, the party are told the locations of three "treasures"; the Sunsword, the Holy Symbol of Ravenkind, and the Tome of Strahd.

Looking at the Holy Symbol of Ravenkind's description in Appendix C (p. 222), it looks like something that a group of adventures wanting to take down a powerful vampire would want to have. The Sunsword is also an obvious thing to want when going up against a vampire; in fact, the excerpt from the Tome of Strahd (p. 252-253) describes how it's something that Strahd fears.

But in what way does the Tome of Strahd help the party? They don't really need to know that Strahd fears the Sunsword because any vampire is right to fear any sun blade, and we don't need to read their diary to figure that out. The adventure at least implies that it's as important as the other two items by including them in the same Tarokka card reading that guides the party throughout the adventure.

However, I can't see what makes it as important as the other two items when all it does is give you a bit of history. It might be interesting for the players to learn about, but the party could quite happily skip the part where they collect that book (although they'd miss out on some background lore) and take Strahd on with only the Sunsword and the Holy Symbol of Ravenkind and still have the same odds of winning.

Having the book on their person doesn't seem to confer any benefits to the party whatsoever. Not that every item needs to be some super-powered magic item, but I was at least expecting it to tell you a secret that would indirectly make the fight against Strahd easier or something like that. I thought the idea was that if they marched straight up to Strahd's castle at the start of the adventure, he'd wipe the floor with them, but each of these special items they acquire along the way increases their chances of success against him, but it seems that having the Tome doesn't affect their chances whatsoever.

The only effect it appears to have is that it makes Strahd angry, but I imagine storming his castle with the other two powerful items and trying to kill him would be enough motivation for him to be angry enough already. From the Tome of Strahd's description in Appendix C (p. 221):

If Strahd sees, or learns from a minion, that the tome has fallen into the party's possession, all of his other objectives (see chapter 1, "Into the Mists") are put on hold until the book is recovered. When Strahd attacks, his preferred target is whoever has the tome.

The reason I ask is because of in-character motivation. Why would the party want this thing besides "because the card reading told us where it was, and the other two items it told us about seem pretty important so I guess this must be as well..." - I don't want my players to find it, Sunsword in hand, and go "oh, it's just some lore that doesn't actually tell us anything useful at all... what was the point of that?" Note that my players aren't all number-crunchers, they do enjoy the narrative primarily, but they still need an in-character reason to care about this Tome.

So, is there any benefit (mechanical or narrative) that the Tome of Strahd gives the party against Strahd (directly or indirectly)?

  • \$\begingroup\$ I know it's too late for your campaign most likely, but for any others having this concern... might I suggest google.com/… It's not mine I'm just planning on using it grin \$\endgroup\$ Commented Sep 16, 2020 at 0:37

6 Answers 6


It reveals some key backstory that makes the PC's journey much easier.

It helps with certain encounters involving Sergei and Ireena.

p156 notes this.

If Sergei and Ireena are brought together, Ireena is no longer within Strahd's grasp. Strahd blames the characters for his loss and seeks to destroy them from this moment on. Not long afterward, he has one of his servants deliver a letter to the characters, inviting them to Castle Raven loft. If the characters open and read the letter, show the players "Strahd's Invitation" in appendix F. If the characters head toward the castle, they have no threatening random encounters on the way

The PCs have no obvious way of learning that Sergei and Ireena should be brought together outside of the book. Knowing what the book says makes it much more obvious what is up and lets them avoid bad encounters.

It helps with decoding a letter about the abbot.

Characters who have read the Tome of Strahd realize that the handwriting in Lady Lovina's letter is identical to Strahd's handwriting, suggesting that Strahd and Lord Vasili are one and the same

It helps you learn this from p114 which helps you rally locals against the abbot and his efforts.

It influences Strahd.

If Strahd sees, or learns from a minion, that the tome has fallen into the party's possession, all of his other ob­jectives (see chapter 1, "Into the Mists") are put on hold until the book is recovered. When Strahd attacks, his preferred target is whoever has the tome.

He himself is really worried about the PCs learning his past was a talkative man who made a pact with a dark power rather than just a vampire god, with an end result that he will fanatically pursue the PCs or whoever they give the book to. This lets them lure him into an ambush.

Notably his preferred method of attack is an excellent one to encourage PCs to use the information within. p6 explains this.

Once Strahd becomes aware of the adventurers, he and his spies watch them closely. When the time is right, Strahd invites his "guests" to Castle Ravenloft. He aims to turn them against one another, torment them, and kill them, as he has done with so many other visitors. Some will become undead thralls. Others will never rise again.

He spies on them, invites them to come to his castle, and seeks to turn them against each other. He may well seek to induce several PCs to kill their companion for the sake of the book or otherwise reveal key details. His method of attack isn't to directly attack the PCs- they will normally have time to layer on buffs and protections if they can resists his temptations.

He also explicitly likes to try to turn PCs against each other. If he wants to kill one player his desire to kill that player will be obvious as he will incite people to slay them so he may take the diary back. This is only obvious after taking the diary.

It's also exploitable - all the buffing/healing/resistance magic can be piled on the PC that Strahd will target allowing the rest of the party to act without worrying about being targets.

It levels you up.

Finding Artifacts. The characters gain a level when they obtain the Tome of Strahd, the Sunsword, or the Holy Symbol of Ravenkind.

The PCs gain a level when they find it. A level is helpful.

The benefits are rather lackluster, but there are the benefits. I personally make it a magical diary like Tom Riddle's diary and give it useful commentary and information on events around the characters from his perspective.

  • 14
    \$\begingroup\$ I like this answer (+1), but my criticism against the "It influences Strahd" section (regarding luring him into an ambush, etc) is that the party have no way of knowing that acquiring the tome would have that effect on his behaviour. At least, they would have no way of knowing outside of metagaming, as far as I'm aware... \$\endgroup\$
    – NathanS
    Commented Nov 6, 2019 at 10:01
  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ Strahd is a talkative person who likes to spy on people and try to drive emotional wedges between them. They can simply ask him when he appears. \$\endgroup\$
    – Nepene Nep
    Commented Nov 6, 2019 at 14:10
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    \$\begingroup\$ PARTY: "By the way, Strahd, whilst you're here, if we were to get hold of your Tome, what would you think of that? Would you, perhaps, target whichever one of us was holding the tome at the time?" STRAHD: "Why yes, that's exactly what I'd do. If you ever get your hands on my Tome, you'd better hope that you give it to the party tank and put lots of buffs on them, because that's exactly who I'd target first. You're not thinking of doing that, are you?" PARTY: "No, of course not, Strahd, we were just asking a hypothetical. Now, we must be on our way, no reason in particular; chat again soon..." \$\endgroup\$
    – NathanS
    Commented Nov 6, 2019 at 14:31
  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ In other words, I don't buy that as an explanation. Why would the party suspect that having the Tome of their person would influence Strahd's behaviour or battle tactics in any way at all, and if they did somehow suspect that, why would they ask him for clarification, and why would he answer truthfully even if they did? I'm going to need a better explanation than that... \$\endgroup\$
    – NathanS
    Commented Nov 6, 2019 at 14:33
  • 5
    \$\begingroup\$ @TylerH Preferred doesn't have a mechanical definition, so it's just the plain english meaning. \$\endgroup\$
    – Cubic
    Commented Nov 7, 2019 at 14:21

There are a few reasons

  1. Milestone EXP:

    There is a section that states:

    Finding Artifacts. The characters gain a level when they obtain the Tome of Strahd, the Sunsword, or the Holy Symbol of Ravenkind.

  2. Incentive to go to the location:

    The Tome of Strahd can be in multiple locations and those locations do not contain solely the Tome. Other helpful items, NPC's, and the like can be in those areas as well.

  3. Backstory/Plot:

    Amongst the descriptions of the Tome is the following small plot piece:

    Characters who have the Tome of Strahd (see appendix C) realize that the handwriting in Lady Lovina's letter is identical to Strahd's handwriting, suggesting that Strahd and Lord Vasili are one and the same.

  4. Strahd's Actions:

    Acquiring the Tome has some effects on Strahd's actions though it's not an incentive for the party (they couldn't even know this in the first place) it's still a significant result of acquiring the book:

    If Strahd sees, or learns from a minion, that the tome has fallen into the party's possession, all of his other objectives (see chapter 1, "Into the Mists") are put on hold until the book is recovered. When Strahd attacks, his preferred target is whoever has the tome.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Vasili is an alter ego for Strahd. In the novel, he visits the Wachters under the guise of von Holtz to find out where the traitor Leo Dilisnya is holed up in anticipation of hunting him down. In the campaign, Strahd visits Henrik the coffin maker and the Abbot as von Holtz so he's the agent of corruption in those arcs. Lady Wachter has a letter from Vasili that is written in Strahd's hand. Holtz is essentially a rabble-rousing unknown noble that the party is designed to discover (shock!) is actually Strahd. It's kind of a mini mystery within the campaign. \$\endgroup\$
    – Rykara
    Commented Nov 6, 2019 at 19:10
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ @Rykara the von Holtz mystery seems like it would work better if von Holtz himself actually made physical appearances, communicated with the players, or if he was a generally well known character in Barovia (similar to how many of the nobles and mini-bosses are well known by Barovians). His text appearances are too infrequent and insignificant for players to give his mention anything more than a "huh", so in my campaign he was basically a name that was quickly discarded and forgotten. Seems like an oversight by the authors, or maybe an idea that was never fully developed. \$\endgroup\$
    – Andrendire
    Commented Nov 6, 2019 at 20:02

It could indicate that Strahd has been killed before, thus changing the objective of the heroes from killing him to instead try to defeat him a different way.

The epilogue of Curse of Strahd indicates that if he is "killed" as per vampire rules, Strahd will rise again in a couple months. I think a lot of DM's skip over this because it seems like a bad way to end the story; however, if this effect was taken as RAW, then the Tome of Strahd would be an excellent way to reveal this as a mid-campaign plot twist - with a story about prior party of invaders or thieves killing him.

How does this manifest in such a way as to preserve the major elements intact? That is - what prevents the population from razing or inhabiting the castle and disturbing his Resting Place for his eventual reset? Maybe The Mist begins pouring out of his resting place until it consumes the castle for a few months, but it's up to you.


It really isn't

However it can relatively easily be added to/amended to make it more interesting and/or helpful. Obviously this means a 'rewrite' of the physical version in the book but adding in hidden text (with an investigation roll) or simply printing something out in a similar font isn't the end of the world. If I'd had more time I would have scrawled some handwritten notes from another protagonist of some sort but there's only so much time :)

If I ran the adventure again I'd replace it for something else or just remove it.

My players were genuinely confused about the existence of the Tome. They (apart from laughing at the 'old school' cheesiness of it) saw it as a poorly conceived maguffin along the lines of a Bond villain explaining all his plans shortly before Bond escapes and uses that information to avert disaster.

As a milestone it is almost entirely pointless other than the fact the party may have done something to gain it.

I heavily adapted CoS content-wise (partly to make a more 'believable' setting, partly to create more drama) and so had numerous other 'mini-bosses' on which to base milestones. Strahd's daughters were the most fun of these - three spell-casting vampires that more or less carried out Strahd's temporal duties in Barovia. Killing them was necessary to weaken Strahd and so they made excellent levelling milestones.

As is, it really makes little sense that the tome is important to Strahd. In the scenario he drops all other activity to pursue the group once they find it. Why? It holds no power in it's own right and, perhaps other than being a snippet of his personal diary - his guilt if you like - it holds no real, equitably dramatic, significance.


The Tome of Strahd is mostly a roleplay item but it serves a variety of functions if you understand how to use it:

  1. It confirms just how much of a scumbag he really is. Players likely know he’s a villain, but they don’t know how far his villainy goes. The Dark Powers turned him into a vampire. That much is true. But he never reveals his part in it. Ireena/Tatyana means a lot to him, but it’s never revealed if the Dark Powers are tormenting two lovers for crimes as of yet to be revealed, or because Strahd brought it upon himself. The Tome reveals EXACTLY what happened and players realize that Strahd is a villain through and through. They will also learn about Sergei and his importance to this story.

  2. It reveals how strong he really is. Anyone who knows anything about vampires (such as Van Richten or a PC who has a history of killing monsters) will be surprised to learn how Strahd can’t die from a stake to the heart. Hurting him and killing him are two different stories and staking him is pointless when he has countless minions ready to yank it out of him because you couldn’t figure out how to kill him.

  3. It reveals his handwriting. I won’t get any further into that because other people have already explained it


I am actually planning on having the Tome of Strahd be not just a diary for the vampire lord but also a living entity that has taken on a life of its own. And it pulls a Tom Riddle's Diary and transports the party to ancient Barovia. And they will participate in the events that lead up to the Curse of Strahd falling upon the Valley. Though they will have some ability to influence things and have those things have repercussions in the new future/present they create.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to RPG stack exchange! We like to have answers backed up by cited facts or actual experience. This seems to be merely an idea. You could improve your answer by citing information from the book backs up your idea or how a similar approach has worked out in the past. \$\endgroup\$
    – Anagkai
    Commented Dec 6, 2020 at 7:33

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