While it’s one of the smaller sections of Castle Ravenloft, the Court of the Count provides ample opportunity to glance into the history of Barovia. With this guide, we aim to provide more interesting elements in this area, and give players glimpses into the past.
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Court of the Count
While this is a smaller area of Castle Ravenloft, the Court of the Count provides ample opportunities to give insight into Barovian history, and the history of Castle Ravenloft.
In this chapter, we aim to give players clues as to what happened on the night of Sergei and Tatyana’s wedding, as well as clues to the personalities of the two young lovers.
K25. Audience Hall
Strahd keeps two items of personal value at his throne: a letter from his brother Sergei is hidden in a secret compartment in the right armrest, and the Ba’al Verzi knife used in the assassination attempt on Strahd pierces the velvet of the armrest.
The Ba’al Verzi knife is a rare magical dagger with a +1 bonus to attack and damage rolls. It ignores any non-magical armor that isn’t adamantine or natural armor, so attacks made with this dagger against any creature not equipped with such armor are against an AC of 10 + the creature’s Dexterity modifier. The dagger magically slips through armor and clothes, leaving behind no trace of piercing. Players score a critical hit on a 19-20 when attacking with the Ba’al Verzi knife.
A character that pulls out the knife or investigates the throne more closely can spot the secret compartment with a DC 14 Wisdom (Perception). Upon opening the compartment, they find a letter that has been crumpled into a ball:
My dearest Brother!
We have had the terrible news about the attempt at your life—my shock and concern could not be greater! I cannot wait to finally visit you in Castle Ravenloft. Please let me know if there is anything we can do for you in the meantime. I will keep you in my prayers, Strahd, as always!
Your devoted brother,
K26. Guard Post
The four skeletons here have not been placed by Cyrus, but are the remains of those who checked the guest list on the night of Tatyana’s and Sergei’s fateful wedding, which ended in tragedy when Strahd became a vampire.
When characters enter this area, one of the skeleton guards produces a dusty ledger that carries the title “Wedding Guests—Sergei von Zarovich & Tatyana Federovna”.
The guard runs its bony finger down a list of hundreds upon hundreds of names in fading ink. It looks up at you, cocking its skull questioningly. You gather that it is asking for your names.
The characters are not on the list, obviously. However, the list is in poor condition and the minds of the skeletal guards are just as decayed as their flesh. They are merely going through the motions of their duties in life and are easy to fool. If the characters succeed on a DC 9 group Charisma (Deception) check, the guards salute and wave them inside; otherwise, they attack.
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K27. King’s Hall
The vampire dummy here is actually a mimic—Cyrus has developed a fondness for these creatures and keeps this one here just as the kettle mimic (see Appendix B) in area K65. This puppet mimic is dependent on the pulleys and ropes for movement while in its vampire dummy form. The pulleys have an AC of 20 and 10 hit points; if they are destroyed, the mimic falls to the ground. If any character approaches within five feet of the mimic at that point, it attacks.
The puppet mimic here uses the statistics of a standard mimic but has the following additional features:
Scary Surprise. The mimic always gets a surprise round when initiative is rolled, unless a creature has a passive Perception of 20 or higher.
K30. King’s Accountant
Leif is the long-suffering accountant of Strahd. Contrary to the module as written, Lief is no longer a living man, but rather a specter with a penchant for moving certain objects on the material plane—primarily his quill and ledgers.
Long ago, Lief woke and rose to attend his duties, not noticing that he had left his corpse behind in bed. He is not physically chained to the desk as in the rules as written, but rather is “chained” by the knowledge that Strahd will set Rahadin after him to bring him back if he ever leaves the castle. Leif has weekly budget meetings with Ludmilla about the finances of Ravenloft, a task that Strahd assigned to her as he cannot be bothered by handling the finances himself.
If he’s not attacked by the characters, Leif mistakes them for employees of his lord. He then impatiently requests that they help him find the rest of the money that Strahd has kept hidden, as he “must account for it.” If asked where the money might be, Lief admits that he does not know, but suspects a treasury of sorts may be on an upper floor somewhere.
If attacked, Leif no longer pulls the rope, as in the written module, as he has no corporeal form. Instead he flees through the wall and will return with Rahadin 1d8 rounds.
Since the elevator trap in area K61 does not exist, as per this guide, this area is a simple storage closet where Cyrus keeps replacement parts for the system of pulleys and ropes that holds the mimic in area K27.
K32. Maid in Hell
Helga is missing her ruby necklace, a gift given to her by Strahd when he mistook her for a reincarnation of Tatyana. Once he found out that Helga was not, in fact, a reincarnation of his lost love, Strahd took the necklace and gave it to Anastrasya. Helga has been furious ever since, and wants the necklace returned to her.
When she first encounters the characters, Helga pleads with the them to help her get the necklace back, claiming it to be a family heirloom. She knows where Anastrasya keeps it (in her crypt in area K84), and wants to see her dead. In all Helga does, she presents herself as an innocent human woman, wronged by Strahd and his minions.
Helga will still betray the characters if an opportunity to ingratiate herself with Strahd presents itself—she wants nothing more than to be in his good graces again. There is a chance the characters become wise to this with a successful DC 17 Wisdom (Insight) check from how Helga tries to imitate the way Tatyana dressed and carried herself. This check can be made with advantage if they have seen the painting of Tatyana in area K37.
K34. Servant’s Upper Floor
This is where Tatyana lived for most of her stay at Castle Ravenloft. Being a peasant girl, it was not proper for her to stay in a nobler wing of the castle. However, Strahd wanted to keep her close and grant her a domain of her own, so this area was the perfect compromise to maintain the proper decorum.
Tatyana was playful and somewhat naive in life. She is responsible for the cavorting fey creatures painted on the doors of the wardrobe here. The dancing dress in this area was her favorite summer dress of hers and still remembers how she sashayed around in it. When the characters first encounter the dancing dress, they can hear a soft song being hummed by a beautiful clear voice:
Sergei, my handsome—
Thrill me, darling,
With the words I want to hear—
Call me darling,
Call me sweetheart—
Call me, call me dear!
The room is in chaos because Strahd smashed it in his fury when he realized that he had lost Tatyana forever. The only exception to the chaos is a single chair by a small nightstand with Tatyana’s diary in it. The diary can be located easily by anyone who looks in the nightstand.
Strahd comes here regularly to read and re-read the innocent account of the girl he fell in love with, writing in wonder of the noble world she has entered, full of love for Sergei and thankfulness to Strahd, as if to a benevolent uncle. Several of the pages that mention Sergei bear scratches, as if someone had clawed them in fury.
In the diary, Tatyana also mentions strange dreams of Strahd watching her from the corner of her room—she dismisses these as mere nightmares, but the diary entry provides enough clues for character to discover the secret door behind the hanging mirror without a check.
A Dance of Death
The dancing dress in area K34 does not simply dance on forever, as written in the module. Rather, it continues its dance down the stairs and into area K24. The dress will then move into area K23 and outside to area K3 if the way is not blocked.
Once outside, the dress will cease its dance and begin to rush toward area K6, the overlook, as if it is being pursued by some unseen agitator. Once at the overlook, the dress floats up onto the railing and throw itself over the edge in an echo of Tatyana’s demise hundreds of years prior.