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After countless adventures, Curse of Strahd must finally come to an end. The module spans level 1-10 although it can also end sooner, or if the DM chooses it, expand it to higher levels.
By definition, en epilogue is the section of a book that explains whatever happened after the story concluded, it’s an afterthought. The goal of this part of the story is to bring closure to it. There are many ways in which this adventure may finish, however it does, you should be ready with an epilogue; a recount of things that happen in the story and any known characters after the adventure ends.
The final confrontation with Strahd should be a deadly affair, a difficult challenge impossible to circumvent. It only has two possible outcomes, either Strahd prevails or he is defeated. Let’s explore both alternatives.
This is the “sad” ending for the module, either Strahd wins in a final fight, or the fight never takes place. If the party is defeated in the high range of levels 8-10 by Strahd or any other threat, it really makes no sense to create a new party of adventurers to continue an adventure that was almost over. In this case, the group should accept the TPK and move on.
Another alternative is Strahd’s Negotiation. The count senses the adventurers have grown too strong so he offers them a way out, unharmed. This is under the threat of laying waste to the poor Barovians in the villages. We’re again talking about a higher level party. If they comply with Strahd, he will let them through the mists and the adventure is over.
If you, as the DM consider that a PC has proven himself worthy of being Strahd’s successor, you should follow this plotline. It’s important to understand that only a PC that has demonstrated to be ruthless, cruel, strong, and classy (or high born) would be considered. A good option would also be a PC who took any or several dark gifts from the Amber Temple. Now here’s the thing, Strahd is only looking for a successor because he believes that might be the way to end his curse. That is not true. If either Strahd wins the last confrontation, or the party is allowed to leave Barovia, said party member will be asked to stay and claim his place as the future Count of Barovia. Strahd will turn him into a vampire spawn and take him into his mantle. Later on, probably months, it will be clear to Strahd that it did not work. He would then have the PC vampire spawn brought to the crypts to stay indefinitely.
Be sure to include in the epilogue whatever happened to any important NPC’s in Barovia after the party is defeated or gone. Particularly Ireena since she might end up turned into a vampire spawn.
Strahd is defeated
Defeating Strahd means killing him in battle and then rushing down to his crypt to stab him with a wooden stake. This can be a great task in itself. After turning to mists and fleeing to his coffin, all of Strahd’s minions will try to step in the party’s way to help their lord. A party might well end up dead in this race against the clock.
The epilogue chapter in the book includes a bit about Rahadin going bananas after Strahd is destroyed in his coffin. I loved that and you should totally use it. They way I see it, after Strahd is destroyed, everything said or done is part of the epilogue. I see no need to run this fight. You can just ask the players what they would do with Rahadin and describe accordingly. In my games they always chose to kill Rahadin. There is no need to roll initiative, Rahadin is in a state of utter terror. The paladin can step in and in a swift movement end the old elf’s life.
There is also a big read-aloud description in page 207 about what happens with Sergei and Tatyana(Ireena). It’s got a major flaw. It assumes Ireena Kolyana survived the adventure and was not reunited already with Sergei in Krezk’s pool.
In my experience with my games and others, Ireena seldom survives this adventure, either she is killed, turned into a vampire spawn or reunited with Sergei in Krezk.
You can read it as is, if those conditions are met. If Ireena was killed or reunited with Sergei it really makes no difference since souls stay in Barovia. If that is the case, they can show up as ghosts and explain Ireena’s past lives. The only case where this does not happen is if Ireena was turned into a vampire spawn and never destroyed.
After this is dealt with, you can now be really creative with the epilogue descriptions. After Strahd is defeated, the mists that surround the valley thin and recede. People are now free to go back to the realms. The first to go, right after Strahd’s destruction are the Vistani. Afraid of Barovian punishment for being accomplices with the demon for centuries, they are gone through the mists at first light. There is light now, by the way, real sunlight at last.
There’s the dilemma of the soulless Barovians who populate the towns. As described in the book, there’s no real head count but they could be as many as 80 out of 100. No one vanishes with Strahd’s defeat, which is odd enough since they are supposed to be projections of Strahd’s consciousness (this is a clue that Strahd is not really gone). Barovians really have not much outside of Barovia to go back to, since the last generation that knew the outside world died centuries ago. Still, some of the bravest gather their belongings and join the long exodus back to the realms. Only not many make it. As the soulless depart and cross the mist border, they evaporate and fade into nothingness. Remember there is no real way to differentiate soulless and soul-bearing humans. Any NPC known to the party might turn out to have been a soulless projection all along. Vistani, the PCs, and any outsider of course have souls.
Extra Option – Dark Gifts hidden cost
If the party visited the Amber Temple then they had the chance to deal with the evil vestiges trapped in the Amber Vaults. They offered them dark gifts and they came with a price. The vestiges never explained the price only the benefit and vaguely. This is how Strahd came to be what he is. He’s immortal and powerful but it had a cost and he’s been trapped in his realm for centuries trying to achieve Tatyana’s love with no success. His power was his curse, so I decided that if any PC accepted a dark gift, it did not matter which, there would be a dear price to pay.
Once the mists recede and the party exits the valley, any who accepted a dark gift fades into a non-existing state. They become a type of ghost that is completely invisible to others, unable to physically interact or communicate with anything. They won’t ever see a living thing again. They can go, but will be forever doomed to be invisible observers. Or they can return and live the rest of their days in Barovia in a normal way. This was inspired by the ending of the movie Silent Hill, where the main character returns home, only home is now empty and grey and there is no way to interact with her husband who is actually sitting in the same room. But they can never see each other.
In one of my games we had a 5 PC party. After the Amber Temple, 4 of them took dark gifts, only the female paladin refused, and she did not like their companions anymore, but she needed them to defeat Strahd. During the way back to Castle Ravenloft, two of them got into a fight due to their new personality traits and alignments and one killed the other. He had the Vampyr’s Gift, so he drank his former friend’s blood and became a Vampire. The PC abandoned the game after this, under his new villain agenda. I handed modified stronger versions of Rudolf Van Richten and Ezmeralda d’Avenir to those two players so they could participate in the final confrontation, because that was all that remained of the adventure.
After a long fight they finally defeated Strahd, Rudolph and Ezmeralda lost their lives but were revived by the female paladin. The other two PCs who had taken dark gifts survived the fight too.
(After this it’s all epilogue description) The PC who had taken the Vampyr’s Gift took Strahd’s place as the Lord of Ravenloft. He took over the castle, however his ties to the dark powers were not as strong as Strahd’s. The mists receded and he had no control over the beasts, vermin or weather in Barovia, they just ignored him. So did the rest of the party.
Weeks later, after tying some loose ends (like picking up the children rescued from the werewolves, which were in Krezk; or helping Ismark and/or any NPC deal with any missing thing) they finally joined the people leaving the valley.
The mists were thick but traversable, none could see half a meter in front of themselves. After stepping out from the mist curtain, the female paladin looked around and saw herself surrounded by Rudolf, Ezmeralda and her two companion’s empty horses. She had known all along she had no need to soil her sword with her companion’s blood. Their actions had such evil connotations the cost had already been paid. They were never seen again.
From the affected PCs’ points of view, as they crossed the mists they lost sense of their horses and found themselves walking. They eventually got out of the mists only to find the realms under a grey veil. They saw their companions and horses a few hundred feet from them. As they approached the paladin and her companions, they couldn’t believe their eyes. The closer they got, the fainter she became until she actually disappeared as they got close enough, along with her companions. They tagged along their unreachable friends and got back to Daggerford. The situation did not change, they could only see people from afar, getting closer only made them fade away. There was no way to communicate or touch anyone, they were trapped in the land of no one. One of the PCs decided to stay in Daggerford as an invisible observer. The other one was a warlock and had received the Gift of Lichdom, only he didn’t have the power to make it happen (level 17). He decided to go back to Barovia where it was still possible to interact with the world. He returned to the Amber Temple and was taken by Exethanter as his pupil. Maybe one day he’d find a spell the would let him go back to the realms as a free man.
The last description in my epilogue was the throne room in Castle Ravenloft, 10 months after the paladin left:
The new and younger lord of Barovia sat in the throne (the other PC). His body leaned to the side as if looking through the stained glass window in the room, he was now wearing fine clothing and jewels stolen from Strahd’s rooms. His neck was broken and his dried blood bathed the throne and the floor. Wooden stakes impaled him to the chair, one in his chest, one in his right hand and one protruding from his eye cavity.
Outside in the castle grounds a lonely man walked east. He reached the balcony that looked down on the eastern part of the valley, directly down to the meager Village of Barovia. For all his surprise he found himself returning to this castle, the castle was named after his mother, long dead. The valley was named after his father, long dead. He traded his humanity and place in the world, doomed himself to eternal suffering, all for the love of Tatyana Federovna, long gone.
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