I was scanning through the 4e module Fair Barovia this morning, looking for the encounter at the base of Tser Falls to adapt into “my” Barovia for this evening’s game, when I came across this module’s version of the Tarokka reading again, here given by a grown-up Arabelle.
Powersore RPG has a fun lore deep-dive into past versions of Barovia that spends a fair amount of time on Fair Barovia and the various connections between the NPCs featured in both. Fair Barovia is interesting as it cannot be nailed down as a clear sequel or prequel— For example, Kolyan Indirovich, burgomaster of the Village of Barovia, has not yet found and adopted his daughter Ireena, while Arabelle is a grown woman and a gifted Vistani seer in her own right. Given the cyclical nature of time and generations in Barovia, I’m not sure it matters too much anyway. Best not to think about it too much.
Arabelle’s Tarokka reading offers a small boon (or curse!) in a specific location based on the suit and face of the card drawn. The module’s reading uses a handful of cards from a standard deck of cards, but can easily be adapted to the Tarokka deck we’ve grown to love. I’ll weigh our adapted list in favor of boons since I see this reading as a potential reward for saving Arabelle from the lake, but as with everything else in this wretched valley, there is still a certain amount of risk when playing with fate. For this reading, we’ll only use the low deck (1-10 of the four suits).
To start, we’ll identify the locations where the effects of the reading apply:
Coins: (Diamonds): Krezk / Monastery / Fidatov Estate
Swords (Spades): Argynvostholt
Stars (Clubs): Berez
Glyphs (Hearts): The Winery / Yester Hill
You could swap out any location, including Castle Ravenloft or the Amber Temple, but I chose these four as I expect the party will need their full faculties in the final two dungeons of the game.
The Fidatov estate is the manor home featured in DDAL04-09: The Tempter, one of my favorite modules from the Curse of Strahd AL season. Check out this chapter of Fleshing out Curse of Strahd from the CoS subreddit for an idea on how to integrate the estate with Krezk, and I’ll try to write up a post on running the estate within a Curse of Strahd campaign as well— it was one of my favorite “side quest” sessions the last time I ran the campaign, as there is no better reward for a DM than dropping a cursed honeypot in front of a bunch of greedy PCs who will greedily snatch up piles of gold despite knowing it is 100% cursed and a bad idea.
I assume when I do this reading, the party will not have visited any of these locations, so we can look to the descriptions given for the treasure locations in Chapter One for ideas on how to describe the locations without explicitly naming them (Curse of Strahd, pp. 12-15).
Have each player draw a card (or Arabelle draws for them). The suit determines the location, while the value applies the affect from the list below. Have Arabelle read the italicized text when the card is drawn.
- Advantage on initiative rolls
Danger lurks around every corner, but your reflexes are heightened in this place, and your guard remains up where your companions may falter.
- Disadvantage on initiative rolls
Blades will be drawn when you least expect it.
- Bonus 1d4 to health gained from second wind (Fighter), dark one’s blessing (Warlock, Fiend patron) and hit dice rolls
Your blood will sustain you in this place.
- Automatically roll 51 on Barovian nightmare d100 rolls. This does not affect haunting from a Night Hag if the party has made an enemy of Morgantha and her daughters.‡
Rest easy in this location, for the first time in too long, an easy, dreamless sleep comes to you.
- Advantage on INT/WIS/CHA ability checks and saving throws
Your soul is shielded from from evil in this place.
- Disadvantage on INT/WIS/CHA ability checks and saving throws*
Your soul is laid bare and vulnerable in this place.
- Advantage on STR/DEX/CON ability checks and saving throws
Strength courses through your veins, you draw newfound power from this place, finding yourself capable of new feats.
- Disadvantage on STR/DEX/CON ability checks and saving throws*
The place saps your life, atrophying your very being and wasting away as long as you remain.
- Advantage on Concentration CON saving throws†
The weave is closer in this place, your connection and concentration stronger for it.
- Disadvantage on Concentration CON saving throws†
The weave is thin and frayed in this place, your connection to your magic holding by a thread, easily broken.
* One of the Fair Barovia possibilities limits the curse to until the character is bloodied (a 4e term, reaching half hit points or below), and in the same light, the broad curses on checks and saves could end once the PC reached 0 HP for the first time in the chosen location. If you wish to do this, add “…but ebbing life sustains you.” to the prophecy.
† If you draw either of these for a non-spellcaster, quickly roll a d8 and use that result from the table instead.
‡ To add an unfortunate twist on this one, (or you’re not a sadist penalizing sleep as I do), when resting, the character falls into a deep slumber, and cannot be woken except by taking damage, after which they will gain no benefit from the long rest.
Credit where credit is due, some of the above lines (and of course the core idea) of the table above are adapted or lifted directly from Fair Barovia, by Claudio Pozas, published in Dungeon Magazine #207. The original reading can be found on page 47.