The latest Dungeons & Dragons release from Wizards of the Coast comes just in time for Halloween – Curse of Strahd Revamped has now hit store shelves. This beastly special edition of one of D&D 5E’S greatest adventures comes with a lot of extras to justify its $99 price tag. But it also serves as a chance to modernize the adventure during a time when many are calling on D&D to be more culturally sensitive.
While many on social media might shout for Wizards to right itself overnight, the truth is that changing preconceived norms takes time. In the D&D world, those norms are that fantasy races must stick to their archetypes. Orcs have to be scary and violent, elves have to be intelligent and proficient in magic, so on and so forth. The D&D products of 2020 have shown a gradual shift away from this thinking. The latest adventure made a point to include same sex couples and NPCs with they/them pronouns. The upcoming Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything is going to do away with race-based stats. Now Curse of Strahd Revamped takes a hard look at stereotypes.
…Sort of. Aside from all the cool physical items included in the collector’s package, CoS Revamped is supposed to “revamp” the adventure’s description of certain characters. Of most interest were the Vistani, who were depicted in the original CoS like stereotypical gipsies. That term is harmful to the Romani people, however, as is the characterization of them being superstitious cheats and thieves. The Vistani play a prominent role, with many serving Strahd himself. So how does the D&D change them without re-writing half the book? Turns out they just tweak a few sentences.
There were a few references to Vistani in the original CoS that implied they were inherently sinister. They’re also frequently called lazy. This culture of suspicious folk would often have players of CoS clutching their coin purse whenever they entered a Vistani community. This wasn’t helped by the fact that many Vistani were agents of Strahd and so were actually villains.
The first big change is a clarification of what makes some Vistani “bad guys.” Rather than use blanket terms like “evil,” the Revamped book explains that some Vistani choose to be Strahd’s servants and so are corrupted by his dark designs. Also gone are any descriptors that imply laziness. Vistani are still described as superstitious and can still utter curses to afflict players who cross them. Overall, though, the major change was the section on Strahd’s Vistani Servants which emphasizes that Vistani are a diverse people with free will.
Ezmerelda d’Avenir Changes
The original CoS introduced monster hunter Ezmerelda d’Avenir. Her shameful secret was that she had a prosthetic leg. Here in 2020, we recognize that disabled people have every right to be heroes. So Ezmerelda gets one new paragraph in her section of the NPC book – she is described as losing her leg in a werewolf attack and commissioning a special prosthetic for it. She then trained herself to fight while wearing it, and now she’s back in action and wears her wooden leg openly.
Tiny Rule Tweaks
Dungeons & Dragons is a living game, one that’s constantly shaped by player feedback. But unlike video games, the D&D team can’t just put out a patch to download. Their solution is Sage Advice, a free PDF that collects rules clarifications and errata. That said, CoS Revamped offered a unique opportunity to just update errata directly. As pointed out by ENWorld user brimmels, Revamped adds things like flat-out saying that Strahd can use Unarmed Attack as a wolf but not as a bat or cloud of mist. These sorts of changes are appreciated, but will probably not be noticed by all but the most dedicated DMs.
Overall, Curse of Strahd Revamped doesn’t include a lot of changed or new text. Slight rewording takes away the generalization of Vistani, Ezmerelda now embraces her prosthetic, and some rules are more clear. These changes are still welcome, even if they’re not that in-depth. D&D is becoming a more welcoming hobby over time, and we can only hope it keeps improving.
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Sergio is the Lead News Editor for TheGamer. But usually he asks people to call him “Serg” because he wants to sound cool like the guy from System of a Down. He began as a convention reporter for FLiP Magazine and Albany Radio’s The Shaw Report to get free badges to Comic-Con. Eventually he realized he liked talking to game developers and discovering weird new indie games. Now he brings that love of weird games to TheGamer, where he tries to talk about them in clickable ways so you grow to love them too. When he’s not stressing over how to do that, he’s a DM, Cleric of Bahamut, cosplay boyfriend, and occasional actor.
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