Why is Strahd a good villain?

The Sigil Six have slain Strahd and cross the Dread Bridge into the Shadowfell. Now word is getting out as they approach 9th and 10th levels, that they have killed the legendary vampire. Sure, the Curse of Strahd hardcover tells us that Strahd will return but I call bullshit on that and talked about it with the players and told them that their actions have meaning and Strahd is dead and gone.

Last game, Hajek related the slaying of Strahd to another monstrous asshole, Lord Soth. I thought it was worth commemorating.

“Know that strahd died screaming in daylight. The Devil was ambushed by the Sigil Six, his crystal heart shattered by Kuru, immortal body turned to ash by his brother’s flaming sword in the hands of Helwynne, a Chosen warrior of the Moon, while his people watched.”
Jusko Hajek,
relating the slaying of Strahd to Lord Soth

A few days ago, Pete asked me, “Why do you think Strahd is such a good villain?” Great question.

Let’s face it, ole Strahd gets by a bit on his name. He is a part of D&D’s mythology and lore (see also – Kaz, Vecna, St. Cuthbert, Mordenkainen, the Raven Queen, Orcus, etc), a name I’ve heard about since I was a young teen playing the game for the first time. But like good bits of modern myth, he has become more than the sum of his parts. Strahd works for me because he is a monstrous personification of toxic masculinity. Ravenloft works for me because it is a metaphor for how the world arranges itself to keep assholes like Strahd from ever seeing themselves as villains, from ever seeking the help they so desperately need and from getting their teeth kicked in. Ravenloft (also a fun metaphor for the prison industrial complex but that is a whole other post) and Strahd as metaphors don’t quite line up perfectly. Not every element works but that is okay. Metaphors in fantasy work best for me when they are their own beast and don’t quite work 100%.

In our game, Strahd was trying to escape his prison and turn Sigil and the planes into his hunting grounds. There were a few moments there, when several characters were brought low by Strahd’s arcane powers, when I thought he might achieve his goal. In the end, through teamwork, Trundle the Ranger’s goodberries and Helwynne’s mighty battle prowess, he perished as Hajek relates in the image above.

Strahd works for me because he is a walking example of assholes I see all over the world and our hobby who walk around thinking that they are cursed and wronged. In our tabletop role-playing games, at least, we can roll d20’s and attempt to kick them in the teeth with our friends, sifting through their ashes when we’re done.

These designs and more in my Threadless shop – t-shirts of all kinds, mugs, stickers and even shower curtains…

Blog of Judd Karlman from Daydreaming about Dragons

One thought on “Why is Strahd a good villain?

  1. Pingback: Thursday Night D&D Crew’s Characters – Githyanki Diaspora

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