Hostages of Ravenloft

Welcome to Barovia
Come freely. Go safely; and leave something of the happiness you bring

You and your company of adventurers have gathered at the Tunland Overlook Inn in Eagles’ Peak to sign and seal your Adventuring Charter. An adventuring charter is a document common among the Kingdoms and City-states around the Dragonmere (Cormyr, Sembia, and the Dalelands), the Sword Coast (Neverwinter, Waterdeep and south to Baldur’s Gate), the Moonsea, and the Silver Marches. It grants the bearers of the Charter rights to bear arms and spells, free travel amongst the realms, and protections would befit free folk and subjects of the Crown. In return, the company is required to bear open blazonry proclaiming their association, obey the laws of the realm, and provide support to local magistrates in enforcing those laws. An annual fee of 360 Gold Pieces (called Gold Lions in Cormyr) payable to the royal treasury is charged to maintain the charter.

Lord Gathrel Nightstorm, Baronet and War Wizard is present at your table, representing the Crown in this case. He patiently explains the rights and obligations of the charter and stands as witness as each of you sign each copy of the Charter. Considering there is a copy for each member of your company, and an extra copy for the Crown, this process takes a fair amount of time. Gathrel completes the Charter with his own signature and fixes the royal seal of Cormyr to each copy (a wax seal of purple with a gold and silver ribbon bearing the coat of arms of Cormyr). As he witnesses your signatures, he speaks.

“It is customary to wave the first years’ fee for a newly-chartered company for an exchange of service to the realm. In your case, there is a large swamp, the Farsea in the valley below Eagles’s Peak. The homesteads which lay next to the swamp, have seen beastmen lurking at the edges of the swamp, and recent campsites. By their description, it would appear that there is a pack of gnolls scouting the homesteads there.

Go and find this pack, drive them out if you are able, and discover if they are working for a larger tribe moving into the Farsea. The pioneers are Cormyrian subjects, settling this valley in the name of the Crown, and deserving of Royal protection. That is your assignment. If the gnolls are too numerous for you to overcome on your own, return with what intelligence you can gather on them, so the Crown may dispatch a force suitable to clear the Farsea Swamp.”

Lord Gathrel finishes signing and sealing your Charter, rolling each copy into a scroll case and handing it to you. The document reads as follows…

Know ye all by this good and true document that these bearers, known as (the name of your adventuring company) are granted the right and privilege to wield steel and weave spell within the territories and protectorate lands of the Crown of Cormyr. Let no War Wizard, Purple Dragon Knight, or officer of the Crown restrict these rights so long as this charter remains in good standing with the Throne.

Members of the (adventuring company) are required to wear a badge of coat-of-arms identifying themselves as such at all times and have this document readily on hand whenever it is called for. The (adventuring company) is expected to obey, and when called upon, to help support local magistrates in enforcing the posted laws of the Realm. This charter requires an annual tax of no less than 360 Golden Lions of Cormyrian mint on the anniversary of the signing of this document, payable to the Crown or a representative of the Royal Treasury. These rights shall extend to the members of the (adventuring company) listed below. Any changes in membership requires a re-issuance of this charter at the time of paying the charter tax.

(your signatures follow)

Let it also be known that any untoward behavior acted against the bearers of this charter shall be taken as a threat against the Crown and accepted civilized behavior as witnessed by Heralds of note an standing everywhere. Consider, and conduct thyself accordingly.

I, Lord Gathrel Nightstorm, Baronet of Splynweirth Tower acting as the will of His Majesty, King Foril Oberskyr to grant this Adventurers’ Charter within the territories and protectorates of Cormyr, and do authorize the validity of the statements made herein on this, the 7th Day of the Melting in the Year 1492 DR

(Lord Gathrel’s signature, and the Royal Seal)

You left the High Road the morning after signing your Adventuring Charter and followed a trail down the slope of the Stormhorn Mountains into the valley below. You spend the night among sheltering rocks near a spring that has been a stop for travelers following this trail for decades.

Overnight, a thick fog rises from the Farsea swamp. In the morning you make ready to break your camp and venture forth, confident the fog will burn away when the sun rises fully over the Stormhorns behind you. You travel through a damp chill and bear South, following the edge of the Farsea Swamp, and searching for the homesteads that Lord Gathrel indicated had seen the beast-men.

The fog grows thicker and it becomes difficult to tell how long you have been hiking. You think you may be wandering into the swamp, as more and more trees appear from the grey haze. Yet, the ground grows firm under your feet, and the marsh resembles more of a forest. Soon, you discover a road and your traveling becomes easier.

The fog begins to clear, revealing a setting sun casting long shadows over the outskirts of a village. The homes are pressed close together crowding narrow streets. From across town you can see the spires of an old church and the peaks of a manor.

The town is still and quiet, and though you cannot recall Lord Gathrel mentioning a Cormyrian village in the valley, you are too tired to care. You turn your attention to finding a tavern or inn to spend the night. A tall three-story building catches your attention. Above the front doors, carved wooden letters spell out the name “DURST HOUSE” and a sign posted in the front yard reads “Travelers Welcome. Rooms to Let”.

Strangers in a Strange Land
A Brief History of Castle Ravenloft

I first came across Dungeon Module I6 Ravenloft in 1983 at a bookstore (Bookworld on S. Illinois Ave) in Carbondale Illinois. The Clyde Caldwell cover art is what drew me to the adventure and the listed level Range (5-7) was perfect for the Gaming Groups I played in.Back then the maps of Castle Ravenloft completely blew me away, isometric maps! Incredible! it was so 3-D. I destroyed most of the decks of playing cards my folks owned to tell fortunes as Madame Eva (sorry, Mom).
And dayum! Strahd was freakiin’ cool! He was what a Vampire/ super-cool NPC was supposed to be. I remember boosting him up a little bit (maybe a lot-bit) to take on our super-powerful characters (we’d call them “munchkins” today). When I DM’ed the adventure, I honestly wanted Strand to win, I wanted him to rediscover his lost Tatyana and for him to be happy (hey, I was a teenager and discovering romance.) I’d never run across an adventure that had a real Antagonist before. We’ve had what are called Boss Monsters today which were mainly piles of hit points with some special attacks and a pile of loot for adventurers to get rich off of.
Strahd was different, Ravenloft gave strategies and tactics to use against the player-characters. Tracey and Laura Hickman went way beyond just telling the DM to “play Strahd smart” but they told us how he operates, right on PAGE 3! That’s right, Strahd is introduced to the DM before the adventure even begins. I’m sad to say that at age 13-14 I didn’t know how to take full advantage of Strahd, but my friends and I all knew, that I6 was something special as adventures are concerned.

So special, in fact that Ravenloft has taken on an (un)life of it’s own. For over 30 years, Campaign settings, novels, adventures, and a board game have been written and experienced by a community now well into its second (and third) generation. For a more comprehensive (and dare I say better written) history, read the Wikipedia page on Ravenloft

This campaign, Curse of Strahd, is the latest, 5th Edition D&D campaign for Ravenloft. Written by Tracy and Laura Hickman. And through the campaign, I hope to reintroduce those of you who remember Dungeon Module I6, and those new to D&D to a 21st century retelling of a classic adventure.

… welcome, the Master of Ravenloft is pleased you have arrived.


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