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“Chasing angels or fleeing demons, go to the mountains.”
― Jeffrey Rasley, Bringing Progress to Paradise: What I Got from Giving to a Mountain Village in Nepal
Curse of Strahd is my favorite module of D&D 5e. I’ve run the campaign several times, earning me the advice I give! I’ll focus on Krezk today. I prefer to focus on the adventure as written, but Krezk is so barebones that I think it demands some tweaks to make it more interesting. Let me know which of my suggestions inspires you.
Of the three active Barovian villages, Barovia and Krezk typically take a backseat to the commerce and intrigue of Vallaki. I found that Krezk as a village was briefly interesting until the players interacted with the cliffside abbey. I experienced success sowing intrigue and emotional connection when I developed the villagers. I’ll expound on how I did that.
The Village of Krezk
“Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home; that wildness is a necessity” ― John Muir, Our National Parks
Krezk has high walls and ample supplies of wood from its alpine trees. They raise chickens, piglets, and hares while they farm beets and turnips. Wine is a common import to raise their spirits. They’re a self-sufficient lot. Though it may be tempting to make a Dwight Schrute NPC who helps farm the beets, that may be too comical for gothic horror. Humor has its place, but know your group and whether it’ll be too much.
We need to make Krezk more interesting. I found that players earnestly wanted to explore the place, but I prepared little beyond the module’s content. The group enjoyed Krezk, nonetheless, but I want to help other DMs do outshine me. I’ll focus on the abbey briefly in this article, and I’ll have a separate article to address it specifically.
Reasons to Enter Krezk and How to Get in
I find that Krezk can be tricky to prod players toward without a prophesied relic being there. Reasons to travel to Krezk include the following:
- Deliver the Martikov’s wine shipment to Krezk after clearing the winery.
- If the guards on the Krezk wall dispense the quest, they might say something like this:
- “We have enough dogs at our gates without letting you lot in, but maybe you can make yourselves useful. The burgomaster hasn’t been able to secure a wine shipment in weeks, and we’re mighty thirsty. If you secure our wine shipment and escort it ‘ere, I reckon we can get you an audience with Dmitri. His will be the final say. Go on, now.“
- If the guards on the Krezk wall dispense the quest, they might say something like this:
- (Homebrew) Guard a rare mercantile wagon trip from Vallaki as hired by Vasili von Holtz. I say this is rare because Krezk doesn’t typically trade. Vasili can arrange for the cursed armor of Strahd to be in the caravan as a bait item for the players.
- Vasili’s recruitment of the party might sound like this:
- “I have procured a mercantile selection that is sure to win Krezk’s notice, but the road is risky. Vallaki cannot spare the guards at this time, so I turn to you. Your appearance suggests you are capable of fending off stray mongrels and moaning corpses. What say ye escort the caravan? I’ll reward you with masterwork armor if you can get the wagon and its merchants to Krezk safely.”
- Vasili’s recruitment of the party might sound like this:
- Seek a cure for Stella Wachter’s kitty madness.
- Take Donavich’s advice to escort Ireena to Krezk because he believes the Abbey of Saint Markovia is still a bastion of benevolence.
- Flee Vallaki after the Feast of St. Andral’s leaves Ireena with no safe haven. Ismark will know he can invoke their nobility to seek refuge from the Krezkovs. Allowing Ismark to invoke his nobility at Krezk’s gate should earn the audience of Dmitri.
- Due to recent troubles, Dmitri will require the party to prove they can be wounded by mundane weapons:
- “The new price of admittance to Krezk is a stray finger. Each of you cut off a finger to prove you have not fallen in with the wolves in the woods.” His goal is to prove that these outsiders are not werewolves in diguise, but he knows his test is crude. He’ll entertain alternative ideas for the party to prove themselves. You can omit this finger game if it seems overly brutal for your game or the character of Dmitri.
- Due to recent troubles, Dmitri will require the party to prove they can be wounded by mundane weapons:
- Help with the werewolf problem, which the players could learn about as rumors from Ezmerelda, Rictavio, Vasili, and anyone else who would make sense to you. Baron Vallakovich may want to get them out of the way by telling them about the werewolf issue in Krezk.
Life of Seclusion
“Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop away from you like the leaves of Autumn.” ― John Muir, The Mountains of California
Krezk secludes itself from the rest of the valley. Its inhabitants are increasingly on edge and skeptical of visitors (more on ‘why’ if you keep reading). My homebrew concepts will exacerbate Krezk’s skepticism of outsiders.
Getting into Krezk will typically involve a quest to fetch wine that hasn’t arrived on schedule, but the book says Dmitri may require other favors that would make him honor-bound to be hospitable. There is also a contingency in case the players decide to use violence to enter the village. Dmitri will order guards to stand down and avoid bloodshed, and then Dmitri will do his best to hasten the player characters’ departure from Krezk. This tense scenario reminds me of Negan visiting Alexandria in the Walking Dead.
Fleshing Out Krezk
“What are men to rocks and mountains?” ― Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice
The easiest way to enrich Krezk is to create more NPCs to enliven this poor provincial town. I don’t recommend making this a Vallaki 2.0, meaning we don’t need the NPCs to be plotting against one another and harboring horrible secrets. This village should feel like more of a place that has cut itself off from the outside world to try and protect its small population, but the infrastructure of this haven is eroding.
The burgomaster’s family has the easiest NPCs to develop as Dmitri and Anna have tragically lost all their children, the last of which passed away recently. It’s important to have their last child deceased within the last week (dead seven days ago with four days in the undisturbed grave, according to the CoS book).
Krezkovs and Martikovs (Taking Creative Liberties)
The Martikov family (the wereravens at the Wizard of Wines) is related to the Krezkovs (of Krezk) through marriage. Tasked by the Krezkovs long ago, the Martikovs became caretakers for the winery. It makes sense that the Martikovs would have a working relationship with Krezk; otherwise, where are Davian’s children getting all these spouses?
To me, it makes sense that the scarecrows exist in the garden of the Abbey of Saint Markovia because the Martikov wereravens probably scout around that area, causing Clovin to place scarecrows to scare the birds away. Maybe this would be a weird reason to have the Ravenkind destined item stuffed in the scarecrows there (it’s a twist, but it could be fun).
The wereraven Martikovs are occupied at the winery recently. Their absence contributes to werewolf intrusions. I like the idea of the Martikovs acting as pseudo protectors of Krezk’s borders with their aerial scouting patrols. The Krezk people aren’t alerted to werewolves without the Martikovs creating commotion when werewolves are near. Krezk is unaware of the Martikovs’ presence as wereravens.
Giving the Martikovs a stronger relationship to Krezk can help you expound on the people who have married into Davian’s feathered family. The Martikov’s in-laws are invested in aiding Krezk for their siblings and parents living there.
Krezk NPCs in the Book
In my experience, excessive campaign modifications and homebrews can confuse a DM. To avoid confusion, I will describe the NPCs of Krezk that exist in the book, followed by the homebrew NPCs I recommend adding. I’ll note ideas that are homebrew as opposed to the module as written.
1. Dmitri Krezkov (Burgomaster)
Dmitri is the local burgomaster. He is lawful good with the noble statblock in the monster manual. Nobles are weak combatants, but they have decent modifiers for Deception, Insight, and Persuasion rolls.
Dmitri’s ancestors built Krezk after Strahd’s armies conquered the valley. Dmitri’s ancestors founded Krezk at the time of Strahd’s invasion. This timing raises questions about whether the Krezkovs were allies of Strahd. It’s also reasonable to assume many people in Krezk share Dmitri’s lineage. I say that would make sense, but you should also keep in mind that Van Richten’s Guide to Ravenloft explains how Domains of Dread (like Barovia) do not necessarily make sense or have logical continuity.
Homebrew Expounding of Dmitri:
While he’s no shirk, the recent pressures of leadership are getting to him. His children are dead, werewolves are threatening their livelihood, and the people of Krezk are wondering who will be his successor. He also embarrassed himself recently when he became drunk with wine and cried loudly in the fetal position over this son’s grave at midnight, sparking local discussion about his mental state, capability to lead, and possible wine hoarding. Dmitri is not hoarding wine, but the rumor does it damage regardless of the truth.
Recent years have not been kind to Dmitri or the shrine. The shrine of the Morninglord has fallen into disrepair while Dmitri has been mourning his children. People of Krezk see the shrine as a symbol of devotion that brings them luck, so recent misfortunes have made the people agitated toward Dmitri’s neglect. Hostilities are rare in tight-knit Krezk, fortunately. The players may use their skills, tools, or spells to assist in the repair of the shrine to gain favor in Krezk and help Dmitri’s reputation since he allowed the party to enter.
During Dmitri’s recent incident of drunkenly crying over his son’s grave, he could swear that he saw a shape in the shadows. There appeared to be two figures judging him. He told Anna about this supposed hallucination, but she took it to heart (more on that later).
2. Anna Krezkov
“It’s only after we’ve lost everything that we’re free to do anything.” ― Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club
Anna Krezkov is a fearless woman and the wife of the burgomaster, Dmitri Krezkov. She is lawful good with the noble statblock in the Monster Manual. She’s not much of a combatant, but she has decent modifiers for Deception, Insight, and Persuasion skill checks. Anna mourns that all her children have passed away, Ilya being the last to perish days ago. Losing her children has awakened a quiet, focused fierceness in Anna.
Homebrew Expounding of Anna:
Losing herself in work has been Anna’s distraction from her grief. She refuses to slow down as she runs from her broken heart and the voices of her children she’ll never hear again. Bottling up these feelings is taking its toll; Anna is angry, and her bubbling rage directs her to the ominous, looming abbey. Dmitri’s recent experience at Ilya’s grave and the blurry figures he reported in the shadows has concerned Anna, prompting her to go on late-night walks to scout for suspicious activity.
Anna has been going out on stakeouts to see if anyone comes around Krezk uninvited. She observed two figures coming down the road from the abbey into the village, so she moved toward her children’s graves to lay in wait. When the figures got close enough, she lit her torch and pretended she was doing chores and tending her children’s graves. The figures quickly hid under a manufactured covering of pine needles and sticks and watched for a while before eventually slinking away.
As an observant woman, Anna perceived mongrelfolk with a shovel and a camouflage net. Since she caught them during their skulking, Anna noticed the single cat-like eye of Zygfrek glowing in the torchlight. Anna focuses on the abbey. She imagines foul conspiracies, and the Abbot is at the core of her fixation. She believes the Abbot has been causing her children’s illnesses and much of the plights faced in Krezk. Mongrelfolk surely have connections to werewolves, Anna theorizes.
Anna’s vindicated suspicion (and obsession) towards the Abbot will culminate in much the same way as the original Frankenstein tale resolved itself: an angry mob with torches and pitchforks. The Abbot is something of a Dr. Viktor Frankenstein with his monstrosity Vasilka, the flesh golem. She’s pieced together in much the same way as Frankenstein’s monster, and the villagers will see pieces of their dead family members in Vasilka’s form.
A commotion such as this may demand the attention of the lord of the land, Strahd von Zarovich. He can teleport directly to the Abbey using the teleportation device in Castle Ravenlofts catacombs, bringing him directly to the north wing. You can choose to include him as a show stopper and decide how he’ll interact with the event. It may be easier to leave him out until after the abbey assault has been resolved.
3. Ilya Krezkov (dead for one week)
Ilya is the recently deceased son of Dmitri and Anna. He died seven days ago and is buried undisturbed for four days.
It’s important that Ilya died recently. He could return to life with a Raise Dead spell, which the player characters may have access to through an alliance with Rictavio in Vallaki, an errand for the Abbot in the abbey, or Sykane the Soul Hungerer Dark Gift in the Amber Temple. The opportunity to raise Ilya from the dead is an interesting moral dilemma. Players may want to save a Raise Dead spell for themselves, should they perish. The option to raise Ilya from the dead can weigh heavily on players if you allow them time with the Krezkovs to empathize with their mourning.
Homebrew Expounding of Ilya:
A gravesite will often be decorated with symbols of love and mourning. Ilya’s favorite toy in his youth was a Blinsky doll with angel wings. Anna used to tell Ilya tales of angels and St. Markovia, beings who made life better for righteous people. Once, the village was visited by an adventuring party that included a woman named Vasilka, a holy Paladin; she comforted Ilya when his siblings died years ago, but Vasilka the Paladin went missing and was never seen again.
Ilya spent much time at the sacred pool in Krezk, and about a month ago, he was there when the Abbot descended from the abbey to stare at the pool for a while. Curious to learn more about him, Ilya rushed to his side to ask him questions. The Abbot wouldn’t even look at Ilya, and Ilya couldn’t tell if he was rude, deaf, or deep in thought.
Determined to have a conversation with the Abbot, Ilya introduced him to his angelic doll, Vasilka. The Abbot, suddenly interested in conversation, slowly turned to look at Ilya. “What an innocent creature you are.” He stared at Ilya in uncomfortable silence and softly placed his hand on Ilya’s head until Anna came running. “Ilya! Get away from him!” Pulled away by his mother, Ilya couldn’t help but look back curiously at the tall man.
A sudden illness took Ilya’s life, and Anna couldn’t help but think the Abbot had cursed her sweet son. Anna’s aggression toward the Abbot and those who dwell at the abbey continues to fester today. She believes the Abbot cursed Ilya with the disease when he touched Ilya’s head.
If any of Argynvostholt’s revenants perish, they’ll Rejuvenate into another body in Barovia. Ilya’s corpse would make an interesting new body for a revenant of Argynvostholt. Parties with Sir Godfrey as their Destined Ally seek Godfrey in a new body when felled. Interacting with him in the body of young Ilya would be a sight.
Homebrew Krezk NPCs
“Those who travel to mountain-tops are half in love with themselves, and half in love with oblivion.”
― Robert Macfarlane, Mountains of the Mind: A History of a Fascination
It’s a sparse population, so players inevitably interact with someone outside of the Krezkov family. In my experience, players will hope to find traders, herbalists, taverners, and anyone who is hospitable.
The village has four guards and two scouts (archers). When the alarm bells sound, the town gathers as a militia. The Krezk militia includes forty commoners with axes, so they’re a formidable force when they need to be. Militia participants could be anybody since forty of them can gather, so I’ll focus on the guard and scout statblock NPCs below.
Adina Adamovich (Scout): Her children, Timothy and Tsarina, were taken by the werewolves. Adina lost her husband to an avalanche years ago, so she relies on other villagers to help keep an eye on her children. The village’s failure to protect her children while she was on duty is something that weighs on her. She considers going solo to recover her children because they mean the world to her.
Iosif Sokoloff (Scout): The agile brother working in village security (Manuel is the other). He aspires to be a paragon of masculinity. He fears creating a soulless child, so he shuns romance.
Larisa Pavlova (Guard): Wife to Kaden, the blacksmith. She keeps her hair short. Loves cheese. She is jealous and suspicious of Kaden since he works with Valancia (who is very beautiful). Larisa is 25. She can skin and butcher an adult deer twice as fast as the next fastest butcher in town, so she occasionally helps with food brought in by hunters.
Lidia Orlova (Guard): Soulless woman who possesses great strength. Her brother Luca is a guard, too. Lidia is indifferent to children, which makes her unpopular with many people in Krezk who have children. Her indifference toward children has recently turned into a detached, motherly concern because she knows it’s her job to protect the village. Lidia’s prudent nature causes her to urge the burgomaster to obtain silver for the guard’s weapons. She carves her name into trees whenever she is bored.
Luca Orlov (Guard): Soulless man who possesses great strength. His sister Lidia is a guard, too. Luca lacks emotions and doesn’t feel boredom, making him an excellent watchman on the wall.
Manuel Sokoloff (Guard): The burly one of the brothers working in village security (Iosif is the other). Manuel loves women, causing him to show off when an opportunity presents itself. He’s 20 years old, though he has a boyish look that makes him look younger. He loves drinking milk and often leaves a milk mustache unknowingly on his face.
Tanners (leatherworking couple)
Yelena and Abram Rodin: Their son, Artyom (12), has been taken by werewolves. They have one younger son, Alanzo (7). Yelena and Abram used to be the life of the village because they’re master storytellers. With Artyom missing, all they do is brood and sow rumors about the burgomaster. They attempt to rally people to fight against the werewolves, but they haven’t gained support because they don’t possess silver for harming the lycanthropes.
They’ll make a deal with the player characters if they can obtain silver. One place to obtain silver is melting down the special mirror in the Vallaki burgomaster’s mansion if the player characters know about it.
Valancia Orlova: Daughter of Luca and Priscilla (deceased). Valancia is 22. Other women don’t like her because she’s too flirty with the men, but she hasn’t felt affectionate towards anyone since her childhood crush died (Krezkov’s son Hyrum). She remembers everyone’s birthday in Krezk.
Kaden Pavlov: Husband of Larisa of the Krezk guard. Kaden is 27. He writes poetry and fancies himself a romantic. He hasn’t been able to provide Larisa with children. Kaden has a burn scar on his right arm from a forge fire that got out of control.
Angelina Polakova: She hasn’t gone out on a hunt recently due to her pregnancy. When the player characters reach Krezk, there is an event where a soulless baby is born. Angelina is the mother. She is a painter and a sewer when she’s not hunting. Angelina loves her baby even if it has no soul.
Fabio Polakov: The inability to go hunting recently has been advantageous for Fabor because his wife, Angelina, is about to give birth. The baby arrives when the player characters do, but the baby has no soul. The soulless nature of the infant causes Fabio to become distant as he takes the news hard. Both of his parents were soulless, and it was hard on him.
Pavel Duskin: Former Vallki resident who migrated to Krezk and earned his keep by functioning as a hunter. He previously worked with the Vallaki hunters, so it was a natural fit to hunt for Krezk. Pavel is still not fully trusted by Krezkites, so he feels uneasy about his inability to go hunting due to the werewolves. If he can’t hunt, he can’t earn his place in Krezk. He’d be eager to go hunting if the player characters implied he could accompany them.
Kidnapped Children (taken by werewolves)
Timothy Adamovich (taken): Son of Adina, the scout/archer. His father died in an avalanche years ago. He is tough and hardy. Spiders make him squeal with fear. His sister, Tsarina, was also taken.
Tsarina Adamovich (taken): Daughter of Adina, the scout/archer. Her father died in an avalanche years ago. She is smart and calculating, but she loses her cool when she’s hungry. Her brother, Timothy, was also taken.
Artyom Rodin (taken): Son of the tanners, Yelena and Abram. He has asthma, so he’s not likely to survive the werewolf ritual of making children fight to the death if the player characters don’t prevent it. Artyom is a picky eater who prefers a vegetarian diet. He loves animals and hates to see them suffer. Artyom once got in trouble for letting a goat out of its pen because he wanted to free it.
Loners (suspected werewolves, not trusted)
Constantine Antonoff: This veteran used to be a hunter for the village, but he went missing two weeks ago and was gone for several days. He was assumed dead until he returned with his fur trapper clothing ragged and tattered. Some say he was covered in blood. Because of recent circumstances, the village speculates that Constantine became a werewolf and is now a spy within the walls.
The truth about Constantine is that he had been rendezvousing with a Vistana lover (taboo to Krezkites) named Adi at Khazan’s Tower. His recent trip to meet her ended in tragedy when he discovered she had been mauled by a tiger. Unbeknownst to Constantine, Rictavio’s tiger killed her since she was a Vistana, and Rictavio fled the tower before Constantine arrived. Upon finding her body, Constantine decided to do the right thing and return her body to the Vistani encampment outside of Vallaki.
Unfortunately for him, Adi was having an affair with Constantine. Yep, she was a married Vistana, and her husband was Luvash himself. Adi was the mother of Arabelle, sister-in-law of Arrigal, and wife of Luvash! As Constantine approached, the Vistani became enraged with Luvash up first to attack. Constantine barely made it out alive by jumping into the Luna River, but it would be several days before he could return home. He is ashamed and unwilling to tell anyone about what happened to him, and he’s oblivious to rumors circulating about him because he has become anti-social and reclusive.
This story will give Arabelle a deceased mother (the module doesn’t mention her mother) while linking plotlines between the Vistani and Krezk.
Krezk secludes itself from the rest of the valley. The inhabitants are increasingly on edge and skeptical of visitors. Here are several rumors floating around the village:
- Werewolves have surrounded the village and are demanding children as tributes.
- The werewolves are eating the children because young flesh is tastier.
- Some Krezkites claim to have recently seen Strahd von Zarovich looking over the abbey wall to survey Krezk. They worry the werewolves are doing his bidding. “Strahd has sent werewolves to destroy Krezk by eating our children!” The villagers have heard rumors before of Strahd’s history culling populations (they don’t know they’re referring to the Dusk Elves).
- Dmitri has become a drunkard who will fail to lead the village.
- The Krezkovs are hoarding wine and telling the village that shipments have ceased.
- Werewolves have routed all roads, stopping wine shipments.
- Constantine is a werewolf spy.
- Howling from the abbey is actually the sound of werewolf cubs. The Abbot has aligned himself with the werewolves.
Wine/Food Shortage and Rationing
“Either give me more wine or leave me alone.” ― Rumi
Werewolves have caused the village to limit or cease venturing out to forage and hunt, and now the wine has stopped arriving. Krezk’s people grow paranoid and suspicious in their soberness. The wine allowed them to find joy in their leisure time, but now they only feel claustrophobic within their own walls.
The Krezkovs ration the wine, and the people have started wondering if the Krezkovs are drinking more than their fair share. Dmitri was recently found wandering outside his home at midnight in a drunken stupor as he sobbed over his last son’s grave.
The werewolf pack poaches children from Krezk to curse them with lycanthropy and bolster the werewolves’ numbers. Emil and Zuleika partially do this to save children from potentially being eaten by Night Hags, or at least that’s how they justify it to themselves. Kiril has taken this practice one step further by making children fight to the death to earn their place and strengthen the pack.
The children’s memories are blurred when they become feral werewolves, so they are disinclined to return to Krezk. This creates conflict because most of the werewolves are clearly children who should be saved, not killed. If your players interact with their families or the kids themselves, you can use the homebrew child NPCs I described earlier.
The Pool of Krezk can be homebrewed with the capability to cure lycanthropy if a willing person prays to the Morning Lord and submerges in the pool. This can create a “good ending” if the players want to resolve the werewolf conflicts in Krezk and at the werewolf den itself, but nobody in town will know the pool can accomplish this miracle. Emil, Kiril, Bianca, or whichever werewolf is in charge will not take kindly to a cure. Mother Night has blessed them with the ability to survive and hunt, and any other fate is a death sentence in their eyes.
The situation with the werewolves has made Krezkites exceptionally suspicious of any outsiders as they could be werewolves in human form. If the players enter Krezk by force, Dmitri may assume their aggression is owed to lycanthropy. He vows they’ll take no more children and that justice will visit them when their den is discovered. The players may find this intriguing if they are ignorant of Krezk’s dilemma.
Players can act quickly to prevent the ritual at the werewolf den where they force children to fight to the death to earn Mother Night’s blessing, lycanthropy. The party might seek an alliance with the Abbot after speaking with him, and he may help them if they return the favor. This can set up the Abbot as a friend, only to reveal his madness later.
The Abbey of Saint Markovia
“I seemed to have lost all soul or sensation but for this one pursuit”
― Mary Shelley, Frankenstein: The 1818 Text
Art of Krezk can make it easy to miss that the hamlet is not in a valley or plain but a gradually elevating mountainside. Krezk is already built on a hill, so the Abbey of Saint Markovia truly rests in the cliffs as it looms four hundred feet above Krezk. The abbey seems to stand over Krezk like an overprotective parent. Its presence mimics that of Castle Ravenloft to the village of Barovia.
I’ll have another article to talk about the abbey and its inhabitants. Some details from that article will be shared below since they overlap so much with Krezk.
Assault on the Abbey
“It’s so much darker when a light goes out than it would have been if it had never shone.”
― John Steinbeck, The Winter of Our Discontent
I mentioned earlier in my homebrew expansion to Anna Krezkov that her story may culminate with angry Krezk residents assaulting the abbey to destroy its corrupt inhabitants finally. From the Abbot’s point of view, he may be puzzled at their anger. His conviction may cause him to appeal to the mob with his logic and understanding of what must be done, but this will surely lead to a fight. The Abbot will not back down from his views (the book explicitly says so), so he will be up for a fight if the people threaten Vasilka.
Should the story progress in the way that I suggested for Anna, the Abbot will address the angry mob of Krezk villagers. He will attempt to appeal to his righteous goal, begging them not to ruin their chance at salvation:
“Halt and be still, people of Krezk. This cursed land has turned you against he who would save you from that curse. My bowels are full of mercy and compassion for you. Know that my path leads to your salvation, and you must be patient. Your outrageous outburst bids me hide my face, but I will not, for I would gather you in safety as a mother to her children.“
That last part about mothers and children will really tick Anna off, compelling her to interrupt, “You curse our children and pillage our graves, and yet you speak of compassion and mercy? The greatest curse on this land is you and those mongrels who do your bidding. We’ve had enough! This is the end for you, you two-faced bastard!“
The Abbot does not flinch as his posture remains upright and resolute. “I cannot allow you to damn this land. I swore to abate the mists that no soul would suffer in this realm, but you have set your alabaster faces against me. The curse has overcome you. I possess no anger, only pity for your wretched mortal understandings. If only I could save you in your ignorance. Alas, I will rebuke you that you may know my cause is just and true.“
At this point, the Abbot will reveal his true form to scare the mob away. It’s up to you whether your story will involve the mob turning tail and fumbling down the hill or not. I don’t believe Anna would back down, no matter what. If the player characters are present, they may influence how this mob behaves and how the situation resolves.
I reckon a deal could be made about the mongrelfolk. The Abbot may sorrow over the mob wanting to burn down the mongrelfolk prison in the southeast wing, but he’d gladly pay the price if he could guarantee Vasilka’s survival. The greater good demands that he protect her at all costs.
Without a negotiation, Mongrelfolk will be unleashed from their cells if the Abbot wills them to be a counter mob. The jailor flesh golem will be a formidable hurdle to the Krezk mob. Without intervention from the player characters, the Krezk mob will be doomed.
The Abbot will not allow himself to fall because he believes his death would damn the realm. If he becomes overwhelmed, he will pick up Vasilka and fly away, abandoning the mongrelfolk as he seeks Strahd for guidance.
An assault will put the fake sentries and guards to work as the non-military Krezkites won’t know about the decoys lining the walls. This may slow them down if the player characters intervene by sneaking in to see the Abbot during the mob’s ascent.
If the Abbot perishes, he will lament how all is lost and the final light has gone out. But the Abbot could emerge victorious, at which point he’d address the fallen people, saying: “Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear they who can destroy both soul and body.“
Strahd and the Abbey
“If we don’t like these monsters we’re creating then maybe we should consider the Frankensteins we have ourselves become.” ― Jacob Riggs
Strahd may intervene during the assault. As I mentioned before, this event could get his attention, and I’d like to see the Abbot beg for his help in protecting Vasilka. It would be interesting if Strahd chose this moment to show the Abbot how hopeless everything is by killing Vasilka, the Abbot’s one hope at helping the tragic figure (in his mind) that is Strahd.
I think it’s natural to assume the player characters may try to steer Krezk’s rage toward Strahd. Many rumors about the werewolves and the Abbot involve Strahd, and the player characters could do a lot with a mob to attack Castle Ravenloft. History truly repeats itself in Barovia, but maybe this time, Strahd will lose…
Alternative Idea: Starting the Campaign in Krezk
Redditor Qunfang posted in r/CurseofStrahd about how starting the players in Krezk instead of Barovia can be a profound DM strategy. It’s one of the better concepts I’ve heard for facilitating a Krezk kickoff. It involves the Abbot seeming like an ally at first and using the Abbot’s quests as starter quests. This concept also has a way to change the pool scene between Ireena and Sergei if you’re eager to change that.
Summary of Krezk
Curse of Strahd is a rich adventure module with much to offer. Krezk is a straightforward place for exploring the gothic horror theme.
Krezk is a prime location to have your party explore themes of seclusion, depression, and mistrust. Once the abbey is introduced, the themes expand to include body horror, existentialism, and more. There are interesting people in Krezk, and it deserves culminating stories with the abbey and werewolf den. This module needs proper lynch mobs, and Krezk is the place to do it. Give Krezk the proper attention it deserves, so it doesn’t feel like a throwaway village in Barovia!
Share your own ideas and stories involving Krezk by casting Sending in the comments section below (but make sure Strahd isn’t eavesdropping). Check out our other content about Curse of Strahd and Ravenloft by following this link or a link below.
- Death House’s brilliant foreshadowing
- DragnaCarta’s review of Van Richten’s Guide to Ravenloft
- All Flutes Loot Ravenloft articles
- Using tarot cards in D&D for many purposes
- General DM resources
Thanks for reading. Have a spooky adventure this weekend!