When I finished P.N. Elrond’s I, Strahd: The Memoirs of a Vampire during campaign prep for Curse of Strahd, I knew I wanted to find a way to share some of the magic of the story with my party when we got to finally playing the campaign. I can’t say the book is quality literature, but I had a hell of a good time with it, and it did a lot to inform my own telling of Curse of Strahd and who Strahd von Zarovich is. While reading, I found myself flagging particularly notable scenes, especially pieces that tied directly into people and places I recognized from the adventure: Strahd taking formal control of the castle (one of my favorite bits). Strahd meeting Tatyana for the first time. The first time Tatyana is reincarnated in Berez. When I was finished, I collected these flagged sections, doubled back and specifically marked out paragraphs that might make for good “box text” for the party. With that, the idea of expanding on the Tome of Strahd came to life, and I found a fun way to share more exposition with the party in a more natural way.
In the end, I came up with a list of eleven sections to read. The party would not receive the Tome of Strahd until mid to late game (level six, Argynvostholt), so some of the stories shared through the excerpts would be already known to them, others were revelations. I would definitely avoid doing this until later if they had received the tome at, say, the crossroads or Vallaki. The party also received the the Tome of Strahd text from the adventure, which more or less covers the same information. I wanted them to get to know the Strahd I had gotten to know, someone so much more than a black-caped villain with a Romanian accent, a monstrous overlord lurking in a castle. Not that he isn’t necessarily those things, but he’s other things too.
When we started with the “further study” of the tome, on a long or short rest, someone could sit down to try and read the tome if they wished. I would ask a player for an intelligence check to attempt to “decipher” the faded text and coded script, but I quickly did away with that check as I wanted them to succeed on that anyway. The was no reason or consequence to failing the save, so what was the point? Our first time, I asked if they wanted to attempted to decipher the text front-to-back, or skip around. They decided to skip around, meaning a d12 roll on their part chose which excerpt would be read next. If the number rolled had already been read, I simply proceeded to the next one on the list.
|1||35||12 Moon, 347||Ravenloft Castle|
|2||37||12 Moon, 347||Strahd Takes Possession|
|3||89||6 Moon, 350||Strahd on Mortality|
|4||101||6 Moon, 350||Strahd Meets Tatyana|
|5||135||6 Moon, 351||This Was Dark Magic...|
|6||141||6 Moon, 351||Drinking Alek's Blood|
|7||165||6 Moon, 351||Tatyana's Suicide|
|8||217||6 Moon, 352||I Walk The Land|
|9||241||6 Moon, 398||The Mists|
|10||272||10 Moon, 400||Marina|
|11||304||12 Moon, 720||Strahd Reflecting on Tatyana|
We didn’t end up reading every single excerpt (although there were only eleven, we would often forget to have a reading at a given rest, so we never made it through the full list). Characters who had dreamed of some of these excerpts had fun moments when a familiar story was given context, and I tried to provide a reaction from Ireena (or provoke a reaction, when I’d fully handed off control to a player) when the story directly involved Tatyana.