(art by Bojana Dimitrovski)
Precis: Fantasy Transylvania through a Gothic lens.
Conspectus: A realm of thick forests, towering snow-capped peaks, and woodland dales resting in the Balinok Mountains; Barovia is ruled by Count Strahd von Zarovich (cursed more commonly as “the devil Strahd”), who is openly known to be a vampire and who has governed the land since time immemorial; Strahd is a cruel tyrant, but he prefers to rule from the shadows and delegates most of the duties of leadership to his boyars and burgomasters; the Svalich woods surround Castle Ravenloft (Strahd's personal fortress—it is perpetually obscured by what is believed to be a poisonous fog that only the Vistani may pass through unharmed) and the city of Barovia proper; the Old Svalich Road crosses the Balinoks and leads to two major settlements: Vallaki and Barovia; plums grown in the region are used to brew a brandywine called tuika; there are three major ethnic groups living in Barovia: Barovians, Gundarkites, and the Vistani; the Barovians are the native population, the Gundarkites are oppressed immigrants from a conquered land, and the Vistani are gypsy travelers given free reign in Barovia in return for the information they provide to Strahd; Barovians do not attend church except for funeral services, though some Barovians belong to a cult called the Children of the Morninglord—they believe that the Morninglord's coming will banish the darkness that plagues their land; Gundarkites are much more religious—they tend to belong to the Eternal Order religion, which worships a personification of death that they call Nerull the Reaper; incendiary ethnic tensions exist between the Barovians and the Gundarkites, as the Gundarkites are victims of unfair legal restrictions (they cannot own land) and the heavy taxes they must pay; Mount Baratok is known to be haunted by a spirit called Jezra Wagner, also known as the Ice Queen; a young firebrand named Ardonk Szerieza has begun to agitate the Gundarkites of Zeidenburg and Teufeldorf to revolt against the Barovian boyars.
Notes: Things changed--Strahd is known to be a vampire; Things emphasized--the ethnic tensions between the Barovians and the Gundarkites is the perfect situation in which to embroil the PCs.
Considering: as discussed on G+, it might be cool to have a train route in Ravenloft, Barovia would definitely be a stop, but where should it start and where should it end? Hmm.