Castle Ravenloft is a pretty big place. Despite Strahd von Zarovich being a broody edgelord vampire bad guy, he seems to have a soft spot for company. Within the walls of Castle Ravenloft dwell several roommates who Strahd keeps around for various reasons. In today’s article, we’re going to go over each one of them and take a look at what makes them tick. And in true Lunch Break Heroes fashion, we’ll be making some adjustments to make things more interesting!
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No longer simply mindless, ravenous monsters, the consorts of Ravenloft should each be their own characters. They are challenges for your players to overcome, strong allies of Strahd, and opportunities for moments of roleplaying, rather than basic combat.
Ludmilla is the eldest of Strahd’s current consorts. In life, she drew his attention and with her keen mind. Ludmilla reminded Strahd more than a bit of himself, which is what drew him to take her as a consort.
While dealing with others, Ludmilla is cool-headed to the point of being nearly devoid of emotion. When faced with problems, she approaches them methodically and logically.
Ludmilla is a wizard of significant talent, though not as powerful as Strahd. At present, she is delving into the sciences, including her experiments on lycanthropes at Tsolenka Pass, where she may be readily encountered (see the Tsolenka Pass chapter of this guide). In addition to her scientific studies, she has taken on the daily running of Castle Ravenloft. Ludmilla has a hand in everything from planning dinners to budgeting expenses with Lief.
The closest thing that Ludmilla has to a friend is Strahd’s most loyal servant, Rahadin. That protection and Strahd’s respect for her brilliant mind have kept her from being locked away in the crypts. If Rahadin is slain while she still lives, she will ruthlessly pursue and attack the party until she is slain.
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A former Vallakian noblewoman, Anastrasya is the most proud of Strahd’s consorts. She is deeply jealous of the affection that Strahd holds for the memory of Tatyana, as well as the focus that he has on acquiring Ireena as a new bride.
In her dealings with others, she prefers brute force and violence, but tempers herself with the tact of her noble upbringing. Still, she was accustomed to being obeyed in life and expects the same of anyone that she considers her “lesser” in undeath. She also has a distinct dislike of Ludmilla whom she believes—quite correctly—Strahd holds in higher regard than herself.
Anastrasya orchestrated the Feast of St. Andral (where she is likely to be encountered) in order to kill Ireena; something that Strahd is unaware of. If Strahd gained knowledge of her open hostility and violent desires towards Ireena, her life would be forfeit. She is the second of Strahd’s free consorts and is in grave peril of being sealed away in her crypt once Ireena is in Strahd’s clutches. She may or may not be aware of this peril, at your discretion.
Despite her hatred of Ireena, Anastrasya fancies herself in love with Strahd still, and cannot be turned against him by the characters. She is clever enough, however, to pretend to ally herself with the party in order to later betray them to earn back some favor with Strahd.
Raised as an orphan, and having grown up on the streets of the Village of Barovia, Volenta is the second youngest of Strahd’s consorts. She is skilled at hiding in the shadows and setting traps for others. This, combined with her ruthless nature makes her useful in dealing with intruders to the castle; traits that Strahd finds entertaining enough to keep her around for a few more centuries.
Volenta is a stealthy assassin, blending flawlessly into the shadows of Castle Ravenloft, where she is likely to be encountered. If the characters are within the castle at Strahd’s invitation and are behaving themselves, she will not attack them. Instead, she will taunt them and goad them into attacking her, or will attempt to lure them into a trap.
Escher von Preshlow
In life Escher was a bard in a former adventuring party that was brought to Barovia to fight against Strahd von Zarovich. Before slaughtering the rest of the party, Strahd took a liking to the talented poet and musician’s wit and chose to keep him as a consort.
Escher is clever and outwardly obedient to Strahd, even though he longs for his freedom from the Count. He wishes to escape Strahd’s clutches, having seen his ruthlessness and cruelty firsthand, as well as what becomes of his cast off consorts once they bore him. He distances himself from the other consorts and, as written, remains in the tower rooms as much as possible.
Escher can provide valuable information to the character, and may render aid to them within limitations. He cannot actively cause harm to Strahd or provide the characters with a weapon to use against him. However, he can give clues as to the location of any Fortunes of Ravenloft items that are within the castle. Additionally, he cannot tell the players about the purpose of the Heart of Sorrow, though he can lead them to it.
So long as Escher believes that the characters can defeat Strahd, he will aid them in their quest. Drinking the blood of a vampire (not a spawn) will free him of Strahd’s control, as will slaying him and bringing him back to life with a Resurrection, True Resurrection, or Wish Spell.
The Staff of Ravenloft
Rahadin von Zarovich
Every villain needs a servant of unquestionable loyalty, and Strahd Von Zarovich is no exception. Before Strahd, Rahadin served the Zarovich patriarch, King Barov, with exceptional loyalty. In return, Barov rewarded the dark elf with the surname Von Zarovich, a tremendous honor for the servant. His flawless fealty passed from father to son and Rahadin serves his master well.
The count’s chamberlain obeys his master’s orders unquestioningly. In return, Rahadin von Zarovich is the only being in Barovia whose council is valued by Strahd.
The closest thing that Rahadin has to a friend is Strahd’s eldest active consort, Ludmilla. The elf is fiercely protective of her. He will not betray either Ludmilla or Strahd under any circumstances, and will follow their commands to the letter. If those orders are ever contradictory, Rahadin will follow Strahd’s orders, though he will avoid harming Ludmilla if at all possible.
Originally a cobbler’s daughter from the Village of Barovia, Helga caught Strahd’s gaze with her beauty and auburn hair. At first, he mistook her a reincarnation of his long-lost Tatyana, but after turning her, Strahd was disabused of his delusion.
Rather than destroy Helga, which was his first instinct, Strahd kept her around as a servant at Ludmilla’s suggestion. These days, Helga cleans just enough of the castle to keep herself from being locked in the catacombs, and regularly endures verbal and emotional abuse from both Ludmilla and Anastrasya.
As written, Helga will attempt to trick characters by pretending to be a damsel in distress and then betraying them at an opportune moment. She will make every attempt to slay or subdue the characters in order to regain her status as a consort, rather than continue an afterlife of servitude.
Cyrus is the latest in a long line of Belviews gifted by the Abbot to Strahd as a servant. He suffers the madness of the others in his family, while still being useful for the most basic of tasks. The Abbot instructed him to keep his eyes open and report back to the on the moods of his new master, the goings-on within the castle, as well as the arrival of any new consorts.
In Cyrus’ room (K66), hidden within a desk, is a journal with crude observations in scrawled, messy handwriting. Pages have been torn out, where Cyrus has used them to send the Abbot messages via a trained bat that Cyrus keeps as a pet and messenger.
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 in 1d8 rounds.
Contrary to the module as written, Mad Mary did not get her nickname by crying over her lost daughter, Gertruda. Instead, Mad Mary got her nickname because the entire village knew that she kept her daughter locked up in a bedroom, and had for decades.
Also contrary to the module, Gertruda is not a 16 year-old girl. She is, instead, a woman somewhere around 26 to 28 years old. This aging-up of Gertruda does three things. Firstly, it eliminates any pedophile association with Strahd; he is already enough of a villain and this does not fit into the narrative of the existing module. Secondly, it makes Mad Mary’s deeds much more heinous, adding an entire decade on to the imprisonment of her own daughter. Finally, it takes players by complete surprise when they expect to find a child, but instead find a fully grown woman.
At some point Gertruda escaped her captivity. Perhaps her mother left the door unlocked by mistake. Perhaps her mother indulged in a dream pastry and passed into a deep sleep, allowing her time to pick the lock and flee. She then quickly found out, likely after going to the local tavern, about her mother’s nickname and its origin. This knowledge would have ignited a fiery hatred within her in regards to the villagers, thus speeding her flight to the castle.
The specifics of her escape are up to you; Gertruda will gladly share the story with the party if asked.
Gertruda now lives as a guest of Strahd. Naively, she dreams of one day becoming a bride of her “rescuer”, not understanding that she has simply traded one prison for another. Strahd has no intention of turning Gertruda into a consort. Instead, he plans to use her as a willing blood meal until he can no longer stand her aging countenance. He then may turn her, in which case she will share Helga’s fate as a second maid to serve to clean the castle for eternity.
Shortly after the characters depart from the Village of Barovia, Rahadin and several vampire spawn arrive in the night to capture Mad Mary and spirit her away to Castle Ravenloft. Once there, she is locked in the dungeon with no explanation from her captors. She can be found in area K75a, in place of Emil Toranescu.
Mad Mary’s imprisonment is the result of Gertruda’s whims and hatred of her mother. After settling in at the castle, she requested that Strahd lock her mother in the dungeons as repayment for her own captivity. Strahd, always willing to encourage the darkest side of his subject’s personalities, acquiesced.
Gertruda now makes daily trips down to the dungeons to visit her mother, and to bring her stale food and water. She then alternates between furiously hurling vitriolic insults at Mad Mary, and seeking maternal comfort.