Are you running Curse of Strahd for the second time? Do you have players who’ve run or played it before? If so, you can shake things up by starting your game on the other side of the map in the town of Krezk.
In today’s article, we’re going to go over the issues that people face when starting their Curse of Strahd game in Krezk, as well as the solutions to each of those problems. We want to make sure that you can start your game on the western side of Barovia as smoothly as possible and have a great time!
As usual, you can get all the information you need from the video below or the text below that. Or if you’re particularly awesome, you can get the beautiful full color PDF over on Patreon!
Get the full color PDF over on Patreon!
What issues will you face?
First up, let’s cover the major issues that you’re going to face when starting in Krezk.
For starters, there’s no Death House. That little mini-adventure simply doesn’t exist in Krezk, so the party will need to get to level 3 somehow.
Next, unlike the village of Barovia, your characters can’t just walk into Krezk. If they want inside the town walls, they’re gonna have to do some work. That’s not a big deal until you realize that all of the encounters in the western part of the map are geared toward level 5 characters. That’s bad news for low level characters, so we’ll have to make some adjustments.
On top of that, there’s a lack of introductory information in the west. Ismark in the Village of Barovia is the one who generally gives characters the lowdown on what’s going on, so we’ll need someone else to be an information dump.
And speaking of information, in order to know what to do and where to go, players need a Tarokka reading. Unfortunately, Madam Eva’s almost all the way across the map, so that means we’ll have to find some other way of directing the characters.
Lastly, a lot of the campaign revolves around escorting and protecting Ireena. She’s nowhere near Krezk, so we have to figure out a way to get her and the party together somehow—preferably without the party having to hoof it all the way to her hometown.
So those are our big problems. Let’s go over solutions to each of them.
The absence of Death House is an easy fix. Just pluck it from the Village of Barovia and move it outside the western gates. This way, it’s the first building that your party encounters after they’re drawn into the mist. I kind of talk about this in our other Death House video, which you can find right up here.
This will get your party up to level 3 just like normal!
Getting into Krezk
Just like it’s written in the module, the burgomaster of Krezk isn’t going to let some random group of adventurers into the town. When your party first arrives, he’ll set them on a task in order to earn entry. “Go get us our wine,” he says, “And check on our vassals to the south.” At that point, he tosses down a crudely drawn map of Barovia and lets the party go about their business.
This not only introduces the untrusting nature of Barovians, and gives your party something to do, but it also gives them the lay of the land with that handy map.
Once the party is down at the winery, you’re gonna have to make a few changes. First, have your party battle it out with some twig blights before they meet the Martikovs. This introduces the threat in the area, and gives a valid excuse as to why the Martikovs haven’t just gone off to Krezk on their own—remember, the party has no idea what the Martikovs really are at this point.
Next, you need to rebalance the encounters here for a 3rd level party.
There’s thirty-or-so needle blights outside the winery. Only have two groups of 3 or 5 engage the party at any time—the rest hang back as window dressing.
Next, replace the 24 twig blights in area W9 with two vine blights, and have the druid in area W16 and a berserker show up on the fourth round of combat.
Lastly, decrease the damage of the brown mold in area W15 from 4d10 to 2d10.
Don’t bother with any Wintersplinter stuff here, or the kidnapping subplot I introduced in my Winery video up here. We don’t want the party going down to Yester Hill and getting themselves killed just yet. You can always introduce that stuff later on after the characters have levelled up a bit.
Once the threat at the winery has been defeated and some wine has been delivered to Krezk, the parties will be allowed entrance. Dimitri and his wife—and their still living but very ill son, Ilya—will put them up for the night. In the morning they’ll be asked to do some chores, such as defeathering a chicken, chopping firewood, and whatnot. You can even run the “Something New” special event at this time.
Once that’s all done, Dmitri takes the party to the Shrine of the White Sun and gives them a lot of the same information that Ismark usually would.
He explains that the land is ruled over by the immortal Strahd von Zarovich, and that he’s aided by dark hearted Barovians and Vistani.
He gives them background information on Saint Markovia and her failed crusade against Strahd, and also some limited information on the Abbot.
He also tells them that they aren’t the first adventurers to be drawn in through the mist—in fact, another one came in a few days ago: a woman with a prosthetic leg who was last seen entering the Abbey on top of the hill.
Where to go and what to do
Now that the party has some baseline information about Barovia and its current situation, it’s time to clue them in on their destiny. To do this, we’re going to substitute Madam Eva for Ezmerelda, who is also capable of giving a Tarokka reading. But first, we have to get your party to meet her. You can do that by drawing your party into the Abbey by kicking off the “Something Old” special event.
A messenger runs up to Dmitiri and announces that Ilya has succumbed to his illness and died. This prompts Dmitri to bring his son to the Abbey for help, insisting that your party come along.
With your party now inside the Abbey of Saint Markovia, they get to meet the enigmatic Abbot who will of course raise Ilya from the dead, if only to further his own agenda. Unlike in my Abbey video, seen up above, the Abbot here still wants a wedding dress for Vasilka.
After your party has a run-in with Ezmerelda somewhere on the grounds, she introduces herself and insists on conducting a Tarokka card reading to discern the fates of your adventuring party. Just be sure not to put any Fortunes of Ravenloft items in either Krezk or the Winery.
Once all that is done, the Abbot invites everyone to a rather awkward dinner where he can give a bit more background on Strahd and Barovia, introduce the party to Vasilka, and pressure Dmitri to have your party go fetch a wedding gown from Vallaki.
This is a nice little parallel to the dinner with Strahd later on.
What about Ireena?
Before your party leaves Krezk, Dmitri has one last parting gift. His own scouts found a body on the road bearing a letter, which he believes will interest your party. It’s the same letter that’s normally found on the body of Dalvan Eloensky in Area C. After reading it, Ezmerelda compels them to search for her mentor, Rudolph van Richten, before the devil sinks his fangs into Ireena one last time.
By now, your party should have a lay of the land. They should know about the Fortunes of Ravenloft and the importance of protecting Ireena. But how do they meet Ireena at this point?
Rather than having the party hoof it all the way to the village of Barovia, let them encounter Ireena either in Vallaki, on the road, or maybe at Old Bonegrinder. She was in the company of some other adventuring party that met a grisly end, and she’s been left in dire straits. You get to whisk her away to safety, as it were. And with a dead adventuring party on the road, you get not only a warning of the dangers of Barovia, but it’s also a good chance for the party to score some basic loot.
From there, everything plays out pretty much as written.