Age of Adventure
My army settled in the valley of Barovia and took power over the people in the name of a just god, but with none of a god’s grace or justice.
-Tome of Strahd
Lay of the Land
The idyllic valley nestled in the Balinok Mountains was a slice of heaven to those who knew of its existence before Strahd’s arrival. The serenity of the place was forever shattered when Strahd led a bloody crusade against the enemies of his family that ended here with the slaughter of hundreds. Struck by the scenic beauty of his most recent conquest and eager to escape the shadow of his father’s legacy, Strahd made the valley his home and named it Barovia after the late King Barov, his father.
Native Barovians have been terrorized for centuries by the one they call “the devil Strahd.” Only a handful of them have the will to oppose him. Barovians congregate in the valley’s three main settlements – the villages of Barovia and Krezk and the town of Vallaki – for fear of falling prey to wolves and other beasts that prowl the woods.
Rolling thunderclouds cast a gray pall over the land of Barovia. A deathly stillness hangs over the dark woods, which are patrolled constantly by Strahd’s wolves and other servitors.
The evergreen trees of the Svalich Woods climb the sides of the mountains that enclose the valley. The largest of these peaks is Mount Baratok, with its snow-covered cap and rugged slopes. Baratok’s slightly smaller twin, Mount Ghakis, is mostly bald with tufts of trees here and there. Between these two mountains stands Lake Zarovich, which is fed by streams of ice-cold water pouring down the face of Mount Baratok. On the south side of the lake rests the town of Vallaki, enclosed by a palisade. West of the two mountains, atop a hill, stands the Abbey of Saint Markovia, around which the Barovians built a walled village named Krezk. Between Vallaki and Krezk lie the ruins of Argynvostholt, the fallen bastion of a knightly order called the Order of the Silver Dragon, wiped out by Strahd and his army. East of the mountains lies the village of Barovia, shrouded in mist and bereft of walls and defenses. The dark silhouette of Castle Ravenloft looks down on this village from its perch atop a 1,000-foot-high column of rock known as the Pillarstone of Ravenloft.
Mists of Ravenloft
A deadly fog surrounds the land of Barovia and engulfs any creature that tries to leave. Even flying creatures are subject to the fog’s effects.
Sunlight in Barovia
By the will of the Dark Powers, the sun never fully shines in the lands of Barovia. Even during the day, the sky is dimmed by fog or storm clouds, or the light is strangely muted. Barovian daylight is bright light, yet it isn’t considered sunlight for the purpose of effects and vulnerabilities, such as a vampire’s, tied to sunlight.
Nevertheless, Strahd and his vampire spawn tend to stay indoors most of the day and venture out at night, and they are subject to sunlight created by magic.
After his armies occupied the valley and slew its inhabitants, Strahd repopulated the area with human subjects drawn from his other conquered lands. As a result, Barovians have a wide variety of ethnic backgrounds.
Barovians are deeply invested in their homes and their traditions. They are wary of strange peoples and customs. The way Barovians deal with strangers can be unsettling to those newcomers. Barovians have a tendency to stare openly, in silence, thereby expressing their disapproval of anything that isn’t familiar to them. Barovians aren’t talkative with strangers, to the extent of being pointedly rude. Most Barovians have violent tempers that boil up through their customary silence when they are provoked. They also have a social cohesiveness (thrust upon them by their weird circumstances) that can make them act together against outsiders if a Barovian is mistreated.
Barovians were a happy people once, but their history and current conditions aren’t pleasant. If one manages to win the trust of a Barovian, one has a friend for life and a stalwart ally.
Barovian children aren’t happy children. They are raised in a culture of fear and told time and again not to wander too far from their homes or enter the woods. They experience little hope or joy, and they are taught to fear the devil Strahd above all.
Barovian adults eke out modest livings. With no new wealth pouring into the valley, they trade in old coins that bear the profile of their dark lord, Strahd, as he looked when he was alive. They hide their precious baubles in their houses and dress plainly outdoors, so as not to attract the attention of Strahd or his spies.
Barovians live within a closed ecosystem. Every Barovian adult is expected to learn a trade or serve a function. Barovians stitch their own clothing, craft their own furniture, grow their own food, and make their own wine. With fewer than three thousand people living in the entire valley, finding the perfect mate isn’t easy, so Barovians have learned to settle for what they can get.
Typical Barovians know certain facts, or have certain beliefs, about their existence and their surroundings. This common lore is summarized here.
The Devil Strahd
- About Strahd and vampires, the Barovians believe the following:
- Strahd von Zarovich is a vampire, and he dwells in Castle Ravenloft. No one is welcome at the castle.
- The devil Strahd is a curse placed on the land because of a forgotten sin of the Barovians’ ancestors. (This is untrue, but Barovians believe it nonetheless.)
- A vampire must rest in its coffin during the day. At night, it can summon wolves and vermin to do its bidding. A vampire can transform into a bat, a wolf, or a cloud of mist. In its humanoid form, it can dominate you with its powerful gaze.
- A vampire can’t enter a residence without an invitation from one of the occupants.
Running water burns a vampire like acid, and sunlight causes a vampire to burst into flame.
The Land of Barovia
Barovians know the following facts about their homeland:
- Anyone who attempts to leave the land of Barovia begins to choke on the fog. Those who don’t turn back perish.
- Many strangers have been drawn to Barovia over the years, but they all die or disappear before long.
- Wolves, dire wolves, and werewolves prowl the Svalich Woods, and hungry bats fill the skies at night.
- The village of Barovia sits at the east end of the valley. Its burgomaster is named Kolyan Indirovich.
- The town of Vallaki lies in the heart of the valley. Its burgomaster is named Baron Vargas Vallakovich.
- The fortified village of Krezk lies at the west end of the valley and is built around an old abbey. The village burgomaster is named Dmitri Krezkov.
*Wine is the lifeblood of Barovia – for some, it is the only reason to keep living. Barovian taverns get their wine from the Wizard of Wines winery near Krezk.
*A mad wizard of great power haunts the foothills of Mount Baratok. He is an outsider and no friend of the vampire’s.
Beliefs and Superstitions
Barovians have deep-rooted religious beliefs and superstitions that they pass down from one generation to the next:
- Two divine forces watch over the Barovian people: the Morninglord and Mother Night.
**Before the curse of Strahd befell the land, the Morninglord watched over the Barovian people from sunrise until sundown. Now, the sun has not shone unobscured for centuries, and the Morninglord no longer answers their prayers.
- The presence of Mother Night is felt most strongly between dusk and dawn, although nighttime prayers to her go unanswered. It is widely believed that she has forsaken the Barovian people and sent the devil Strahd to punish them for their ancestors’ offenses.
Spirits drift along the Old Svalich Road toward Castle Ravenloft in the dead of night. These phantoms are all that remain of Strahd’s enemies, and this damnable fate awaits anyone who opposes him.
- The Vistani serve the devil Strahd. They alone are allowed to leave Barovia.
Never harm a raven, lest ill fortune befall you!