Strahd Von Zarovich
A man of noble birth, Strahd spent much of his life serving causes of goodness and law, most notably as a warrior and leader of armies. Years of such service took their toll upon him however, and by the time he reached middle age, Strahd came to believe he had squandered his life and his youth. With this dark mood upon him, he came to conquer the region known as Barovia, and assumed lordship there, taking as his residence the pre-existing castle known as Ravenloft. From this position of power and security, he called for members of his family “long unseated from their ancestral thrones” to join him, including a younger brother named Sergei.
Some time after this reunion, the Count himself fell in love with a young Barovian woman, Tatyana, though she rejected his affections in favor of the younger Sergei. Filled with despair and jealousy, and brooding a growing hatred for Sergei, Strahd sought magical means to restore his youth. In a moment of desperate frustration, he “made a pact with death – a pact of blood.” On the day of Sergei and Tatyana’s wedding, Strahd murdered his brother and pursued the grieving Tatyana until she flung herself from the walls of Ravenloft. Strahd himself was shot down by the arrows of the castle guard. Even so, he did not die, but went on to rule the land of Barovia as a vampire.
Strahd is the first and best-known of Ravenloft’s darklords. He is a powerful vampire . He is also a master necromancer, a skilled warrior, and the unquestioned ruler of the domain of Barovia. He promised to kill his younger brother, Sergei, in return for the chance to woo his brother’s fiancee, Tatyana. Strahd murdered Sergei on his wedding day and confessed his love to Tatyana, but overcome with grief, she fled from him, hurling herself to her death from the balcony of Castle Ravenloft. Immediately afterward, the Mists of Ravenloft drew Strahd to the Demiplane of Dread.
Strahd has ruled his domain for the longest of any darklord, and as such his knowledge of the workings of Ravenloft are without equal. When Strahd chooses to close the borders of his lands, poisonous mists arise and suffocate anyone attempting to pass through them. There are only two ways to avoid the poisonous fog: immunity to poison (magic does not help, but creatures that are innately immune to poison, like elementals, constructs, and undead, have nothing to fear), or by ceasing the attempt to escape. In addition, the Vistani know a secret antidote which renders the drinker immune to the closed border. This fog permanently rings the village of Barovia as well.
Strahd’s curse is that although he is absolute lord and master of Barovia, to the point where he can enter private homes unbidden because he owns them, once every generation he will meet a woman whom he believes is Tatyana reincarnated. He always tries to woo her, but the scene of his damnation is replayed, and the woman inevitably dies. Strahd is perhaps the most difficult of all darklords to face. His mastery of necromancy is so great he has produced a kind of “super-zombie,” one that is capable of seeing invisible, regenerating like a troll and whose appendages continue to fight on when severed. Strahd has had to battle at least two darklords who had entered his domain in the past; Azalin Rex the lich, and Lord Soth the death knight.
When Lord Soth was in Barovia, Strahd realized Soth’s power as truly a match for his the moment he arrived in Castle Ravenloft. Armies of Strahd’s servants fell before Lord Soth and the havoc and damage caused by Lord Soth caused even Strahd to waver. To be rid of Lord Soth from Barovia, Strahd had to give Lord Soth that which Lord Soth was searching for; the traitorous retainer Caradoc, for fear of Lord Soth causing more damage to his beloved land. When the Ravenloft campaign setting was developed, the events of Ravenloft II were retconned so that Strahd was present and disguised as a human alchemist, and did not die at the module’s conclusion.