Strahd von Zarovich has seen many centuries, and he’s been featured in many different editions of DnD. This conniving count is the TTRPG’s very first vampire, as well as one of its most iconic and long-lasting villains. A cold-hearted manipulator, master tactician, and tormented immortal, this bloodsucker makes a terrifying and challenging encounter for any D&D party.
Originally introduced in Dungeons and Dragons’ 1983 Ravenloft module, Strahd was created by original Dragonlance writers Laura and Tracy Hickman. The Ravenloft setting he hails from has been revamped in almost every D&D edition since. Immortality is clearly still a good look for Strahd, as you can even find him lurking in some of fifth edition’s best sourcebooks.
We could write entire tomes recounting the history of Strahd von Zarovich. Unlike the count, however, you probably don’t have an eternity to dedicate to reading – so we’ve kept this guide snappy. Here you’ll find an up-to-date, fifth-edition-focused discussion of Strahd – with all the stats and history snippets you’ll need to bring him to life.
Is your stake-holding-hand feeling steady? Then enter the realm of Strahd von Zarovich.
Who is Strahd von Zarovich?
Once an accomplished conqueror, Strahd’s jealousy and obsession led him to become DnD’s very first vampire. He bargained with dark powers in an attempt to woo Tatyana, who was betrothed to his brother Sergei. Strahd murdered Sergei and drank his blood on the day of his wedding to Tatyana, and the devastated bride flung herself from the walls of Castle Ravenloft.
Strahd’s deeds meant the castle and the surrounding lands of Barovia were dragged into the dark plane of Shadowfell. Barovia became the first Domain of Dread, and Strahd in turn became the first imprisoned darklord.
Trapped in Barovia for centuries, Strahd is plagued by boredom, failure, and a thirst for blood. Tatyana is reincarnated over and over throughout history, and Strahd vainly tries to win her love each time. He can be charming and intelligent company, but Strahd can never feel the companionship of an equal. Instead, he feeds on his remaining Barovian subjects, creates vampire thralls to amuse him, and longs for an end to his immortal curse.
Everything you need to know about Strahd’s 5e iteration can be found in two DnD books – Van Richten’s Guide to Ravenloft and Curse of Strahd. Curse of Strahd is an adventure entirely dedicated to our vampire friend/foe, and it’s one of the more beloved pre-written 5e campaigns.
While both books offer advice on roleplaying Strahd, they offer slightly different interpretations of the character. In Van Richten’s Guide to Ravenloft, Strahd is described as “infinitely egotistical, cruel, and manipulative”, and he’s known for “revelling in the fear he causes”.
The Curse of Strahd adventure paints von Zarovich as manipulative and cruel too, but there’s far less emotion behind these traits. This version of Strahd has so little humanity left that he’s unable to feel woe or joy – even the joy of torturing others.
Strahd 5e stats
Curse of Strahd also offers a monster stat block for the vampire. Here’s the key info you’d need to bring Strahd to life in combat:
|Armour class||16 (natural armour)|
|Hit points||144 (17d8 + 68)|
|Saving throws||Dex +9, Wis +7, Cha +9|
|Skills||Arcana +15, Perception +12, Religion +10, Stealth +14|
|Senses||Darkvision 120ft, Passive Perception 22|
If his Challenge Rating (CR) didn’t give you the gist, Strahd von Zarovich is one tough cookie. He’s resistant to nonmagical attacks that do necrotic, bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing damage.
He can transform into a bat or wolf – or even a cloud of mist that’s immune to all nonmagical damage. Strahd will automatically transform into a mist cloud if he drops to zero hit points outside of his coffin instead of falling unconscious. If he’s not prevented from transforming by sunlight or running water (at which point he would die), Strahd can zoom off to recover in a cloud of vampire vapour.
Transformation isn’t the only way this vampire can get about. He’s also got the spider climb ability, which means he can travel upside down on ceilings and over difficult surfaces like it’s nothing.
If Strahd fails a saving throw, he can choose to succeed instead three times a day. He can regain 20 hit points at the start of his turn as long as he’s got one HP left (but only if there’s none of that pesky sunlight or running water about).
Strahd’s also a ninth-level spellcaster with the following Wizard spells ready to use:
- Mage Hand
- Ray of Frost
- Comprehend Languages
- Fog Cloud
- Detect Thoughts
- Gust of Wind
- Mirror Image
- Animate Dead
- Greater Invisibility
- Animate Objects
Strahd can bite, charm, or use unarmed strikes against enemies as well as spells. He can also summon swarms of bats, rats, or wolves to his aid.
Luckily for you, Strahd has plenty of vampire-specific weaknesses. Sunlight deals 20 radiant damage and gives Strahd disadvantage on attack rolls and ability checks. Running water deals 20 acid damage, and driving a stake through the heart of an incapacitated Strahd will paralyse him until it’s removed. Additionally, Strahd can’t enter a home without its owner’s permission – bloodsucker he may be, but he’s also a gentleman.