Dungeons the Dragoning: A Mighty Ensemble!™
Wiki: Ravenloft - Legato of Tears
Natives of Barovia
In what could have only be an unfortunate series of events, the ancestors of those living in Barovia must have, at one point, made a very poor decision.
- Krelian Edreich = Arvi
- Nostrof Karkesku = Boom
Outsiders to the Plane of Dread
Many are those who come from beyond the Mists, willingly or otherwise. These “stranac” as they are called are even more distrusted by the common folk and should tread very carefully in this strange land
- Anya = Chichoy
- Aranel = Migs
- Leomorne = Chino
- Nix = Anton
Inhabitants of Ravenloft
Our Land of Mists
A world dominated by a single continent called the Core, surrounded by small island groups to the east and west, its actual size is ill-defined as a whole, but territories within the Mists are easy enough to measure. The Core is divided roughly in two by the Balinok Mountains into the eastern and western Core, with the center covered in Mists called the Shadow Rift.
To those who have come from Elsewhere (a term for those who come from outside the world), this place is called the Demiplane of Dread, though very few of the locals believe such nonsense and consider it the exaggerations of those losing their grip on sanity
A guide to travelers from Elsewhere
Those who visit the Demiplane would do well to consider the following during their travels there:
1. Magic is Real: Though most folk may never see true magic, they are aware that it exists. Attitudes vary from region to region, though suspicion and outright fear are among the most common. Practitioners of the arcane should show discretion in the use of their abilities.
2. Magic is Unreliable: Magic cannot detect morality, accurately divine the future, or cross into other worlds. It cannot be used to travel between nations reliably. Many spells that do work, such as those that raise the dead, often have unintended and dangerous consequences. DM NOTE: Depending on the situation, spells cast may force a roll on the Sorcerer’s Wild Magic table or some other equally unpredictable effect
3. Monsters Exist: Most people die a natural death never having encountered a creature of the night, yet it is widely known that very real dangers lurk in the shadows. To most visitors, this is not as threatening as it may seem, but fair warning is given.
4. Superstitions Abound: Adherence to rituals helps people feel safe. No doubt many of these traditions have a meaningful impact, yet not all tales or “knowledge” may be entirely accurate. Despite this, some practices do have a noticeable effect and this is enough proof for most to perform them as tradition dictates.
5. People Are Isolated: The average person lives their entire life within thirty miles of where they were born. The farthest most folk travel is the neighboring town or village. This is most enforced by the strange creatures that they believe inhabit the dark forests.
6. Humanity is Predominant: The various inhuman races are rare, almost unknown in many lands. At best they are viewed as less than human, and at worst they are seen as animals or monsters. This is especially dangerous if such a creature is also of the arcane persuasion.
7. Technology Advances: The progress of science has created modern wonders, such as clockworks, firearms, gaslights, and some steam power, though not all realms have access to this technology. As a counterpoint to this, some realms actively do not believe in magic and have no experience in such matters. The most prominent example are the two neighboring lands of Darkon and Lamordia, where the latter is a realm of science while the former is a land of the undead ruled by an Archlich. Even with the thinning of the Mists, Lamordians still refuse to believe that “magic” fuels the rotten automatons.
8. The Gods Are Silent: While prayers are sometimes answered, the gods themselves do not talk to mortals. Those who claim to hear the voices of gods are labelled as madmen as often as they are seen as prophets. Experienced travelers of the Planes may find this situation similar to that of Sigil, although without an entity like the Lady of Pain in this world, it is unknown why this is the case. Leaned scholars have hypothesized that “Dark Powers” may be responsible, though they cannot say if they are actively malevolent or simply acting out their nature.
9. Respect the Power of the Vistani: These wandering vagabonds are often considered thieves, but the Vistani can also be entertainers, traders, craftsmen, and mystics. Yet, the potency of their curses and use of the Evil Eye keep the Vistani from being barred from towns.
10. Beware the Mists: The Mists act as border and boundary. One may easily become lost, and many are the tales of the Mists displacing travelers in faraway lands or even other times. There are known ways through them, but they are unreliable and can trap travelers for days on end and could find themselves anywhere, even in other planes.
The Dark Powers
Terrain and Geography
Barovia is an untamed land ruled by nature, with mountains and rivers crisscrossing the lands and the valleys in between covered by thick forests of oak, beech, spruce and pine. This gives the impression of a wild territory where travel outside the paths are dangerous and many regions are yet untouched by man. The creatures that dwell in Barovia are dangerous to the average peasant and many live their lives never wandering more than a few miles from their villages, surrounded all around by nature in all her wild glory.
The ground of Barovia is especially rugged and broken; running into the forests or riding a horse into one is a losing proposition for those involved. The land is filled with gulches and the roots of old trees, hiding their fair share of game, but their predators as well. While attacks by wild animals are rare, they seem to have a sense for those who are lost, and quickly run these unfortunates to the ground.
The rivers are fast, flowing from the mountains or from beneath the earth in hidden springs. While they can be navigated in short voyages from one point to another, they are filled with boulders from past rockfalls and many villages have built up around these natural stations. This makes for fertile lands and with ready access to lumber, Barovians have little shortage of food or materials for shelter.
Roads in Barovia are limited to dirt paths made over time by travelers, while the six towns have cobbled roads up to their edges. Most paths are not maintained and many rope bridges or fords crossing rivers are liable to be too deep or missing altogether. In winter, most paths are covered in several feet of snow and essentially turns Barovia into a country of completely isolated communities. In spring, floods can threaten the same, turning dirt paths into mud, slowing travel and forcing usage of the rivers. This leaves the summer season as the most common time for trading and travel for most individuals, although couriers who can survive a journey no matter the weather is a high paying trade.
One of the most important roads in Barovia is the Old Svalich Road, which runs in the valley of the Balinok, connecting the Eastern and Western Core in recent times, giving trade and more dangerously, ideas a way to propagate into Barovia. While there is another such path in the north, very few dare to pass the lands of Darkon to use it.
In the most remote regions of Barovia, there are places which are the domains of spirits or other strange creatures. A warm grove hidden in a snowy peak or a pond of perfectly still water amidst the swaying trees are sure signs that one has entered, or rather, trespassed into their territory.
Many tales and legends are abound these places, from berries that bring fertility or health, to waters drawn from these places stilling the very blood of those who drink them with lethal results. While these play a part in most tales, it is their inhabitants that are the center of these stories, from the fools who deal with them for some favor or the brave hunters who slay the dire beasts that make it their home.
While tempting to the brave or foolish alike, finding such places is a quest in itself, as they seem to change locations or are walled in by brush and thorns, where travelers never seem closer to their destination no matter how far they move forward, but can trek backwards with surprising ease.
To those familiar with the four seasons, they are well represented in Barovia. Spring in Barovia is the wet season, starting at mid-February and ending before the end of April. During this season, sleet and rain showers are very common and is the time where farmers plant the seeds for harvest come Fall. Travel is difficult during this time, with roads and most of the land covered in mud churned by flash floods and river swells. During this time, most of a village’s energy is focused on preparing their goods for trade in the next season.
Summer is the most active time in Barovia, starting as the roads dry up and harden, and ending by the start of September. Trade and travel is common in this season, as well as any news or proclamations from Barons or the Count. The Vistani and other traveling groups also take advantage of this season to pack up and move on, settling in new communities before winter closes the country down.
Fall is marked by various flocks flying northward, disappearing into the mists and ends on first snow by mid-October. This short season is also the harvesting season as well as for storing goods to be consumed come winter or for refinement in the spring. Trade is still present in this season, but is mostly for food, oil and clothing for the coming winter. Hunting season for most game starts and ends in this season, as animals fatten for the coming winter on the horizon.
Winter always starts mid-October and ends at mid-February year on year, these four months marking the festival season of Barovia. Long nights and short days mean most of the firewood and oil is consumed in this season for warding off animals as well as for use in the various festivals in the villages. Most of Barovia is covered in snow and in between festivals has to be cleared lest homes be isolated or crushed under the weight. This is also the reason why almost all the entrance doors in Barovia open to the inside and not the other way around – so occupants can open the door and dig their way out in an emergency. It is also during the long winter nights that the Count is known to walk the powdered snow down into the town of Barovia, there to occasionally join the festivities of his countrymen.
Despite the appearance of a land barely touched by man, Barovia hides a fairly dense rural population concentrated in numerous remote villages, occupied by a population ranging from hundreds and the occasional thousands. Most of these are agricultural in nature, although most have a number of craftsmen to make tools or merchants to send their goods to distant villages. Depending on their location, they may also be associated with fishing, mining or granaries for the alcohol that is ubiquitous with Barovian life.
The six towns are the major centers of population and commerce in Barovia. Inhabited by roughly ten to twenty thousand souls each, they are the main destinations of all goods from all over Barovia; from foodstuffs to refined jewelry, all of it flows into these towns one way or another. With the recent opening of trade to other realms, they have become trade hubs for the lands of the eastern and western Core.
Despite being the major urban centers, the six towns are still in the infancy of industrialization and lack many of the marks of “high culture”, such as museums, universities and the like. They are still the breeding grounds of the intelligentsia, although the best education one can get is equivalent to a middle-class level in neighboring Borca, barring the hiring of special tutors.
Places of Interest
Built sometime in 347 BC by Strahd von Zarovich in honour of her mother, Ravenovia, it has been the central home of the von Zarovich family ever since….
Barovian government can be defined as a sovereign country run and led by a hereditary Count along patrimonial lines. Due to this, all others serve Barovia at the Count’s discretion and not due to any hereditary or elective power of the people. This causes the organization of Barovia to be relatively flat, with only three tiers: The Count himself, those who call the Count’s attention and the various rural boyars and burgomeisters of the various villages.
All authority flows from Count Strahd and he delegates duties and responsibilities as he sees fit. With the recent erratic activity of the Mists, he has been occupied with foreign relations with other powers as well as the management of the military in defence of the realm. From time to time, Strahd also issues various sweeping or formal laws, most famous being the sacrosanct status of the Vistani. Other laws include those punishable by death, such as trespassing on the grounds of Castle Ravenloft and stealing from or otherwise damaging the Barovian government.
The second tier is much more vague as it may very well be defined by the Count’s mood or their importance to Barovia. These include the burgomeisters of the six towns, military officials, successful or influential merchants, learned individuals, Barons (boyars from the Baronial families that hold authority over boyars and their lands), or anyone who has the Count’s interest for whatever reason at any given situation.
The third tier are the boyars and burgomeisters of the many villages of Barovia. Their duty is the governance of their community, which is to say, tax collection to be sent to the Barons or settling the occasional dispute. While normally selected amongst the gentry, the position is not necessarily hereditary, although it may “run in the family” if their reputation is great enough. By law, it is the Count that appoints the new leaders, but in practice, the community recommends an individual and the Count very rarely bothers to contest this. There are cases where it was only after three winters that the acting burgomeister was officially confirmed by the Count.
Law in Barovia can be categorized into four general types. Those proclaimed by the Count, those proclaimed by the boyars and burgomeisters, laws by tradition and formal contracts or commercial dealings.
As could be expected, the edicts of the Count are ironclad and are swiftly prosecuted. While most hold the punishment of death, few are worried about these as they are very specific and hold little relevance to most commonfolk. Examples include:
- Trespassing on Castle Ravenloft
- The Vistani are sacrosanct, and it is forbidden to harm or bar their passage into and out of Barovia or communities within
- Sabotaging or impeding the Barovian government
- All practitioners of the “Arcane, Divine or similar” are to render themselves known to the local boyar or burgomeister on entering their domain
- Hunting or killing Ravens for any reason except to satisfy Blood Feuds
Regarding those proclaimed by the local boyars or burgomeisters, they are in effect until such a time as they are revoked, either by them or a new incumbent taking their place. These often cross into the territory of traditions, and usually the two have similar statutes. Crimes of theft and passion are commonly described by both, as well as those regarding curfews or seasons of hunting for particular game.
On the topic of contracts, these are more formal and binding, and are generally upheld not only by the opposite parties, but their stakeholders as well. While not in Barovian law, many see their value and communities enforce these agreements, especially when it comes to trade into and out of their villages.
In most of the villages in Barovia, the rule of law is very much in the hands of the community, and given weight and formality by the local boyar or burgomeister. Due to the small population of their communities, crimes are exceedingly difficult to conceal; if one villager is missing a pig and another is in sudden possession of a new pig, it doesn’t take the advise of the rural intelligentsia to find out the culprit. More often than not, crimes of passion are the kind being committed.
Regardless of the crime, the appropriate punishment is still decided by the community and is usually that of reparation; to continue the example, that of returning the pig as well as giving an additional pig as fine for the crime. In other cases, the punishment is simply releasing the accused to their family or exile if the crime is great enough, but not grave enough to warrant lynching. In all cases, the objective of the punishments is to reach consensus to head off Blood Feuds and vendettas which are a “time honoured” tradition in Barovian families. This can lead to favoritism or parity to a more popular side, but peasants have the right to petition the Count for an appeal. While appeals are rarely given a reply, many boyars or burgomeisters suddenly change judgements as they risk losing their positions (and possibly their lives) when too many petitions come to the Count’s attention.
In more complicated cases where the community is divided, the boyar or burgomeister may have to “kick up” the issue to the local lawyer, judge or even Baron. These are the cases if the crime involves families as a whole. While the terms lawyer or judge may give one an idea of legal authority on the matter, they are still merely advisers tasked by the boyar or burgomeisters on the correct course of action as they are still essentially the law of their community. Adversarial legal systems are practically nonexistent in Barovia and stranacs may find themselves woefully surprised in any legal proceedings.
Politics and Intrigue
Due to fears of Blood Feuds, extreme distance and isolation of villages and the ever-present threat of the Count’s attention, politics in Barovia have never truly matured, and intrigues for power or influence take very strange turns.
To give an example, if a certain individual or group would like to remove a boyar, the “accepted practice” in other realms would perhaps be to poison or discredit the target in question. In Barovia, it is more likely that they would get the boyar drunk and “accidentally” shipped to a neighboring village (which in Barovia, might as well be traveling to Invidia). If the conspirators are more skilled, they may even time this with the visitation of the Count’s representative to have a new boyar instated with the village’s approval. Even if the ex-boyar could return, they may find it difficult to return to their former position, wherein they may try to simply remove the new boyar with some similar scheme.
This gives the feeling of an amateurish atmosphere to the outside observer, but there is still the conspiratorial bent present. Barovians who participate in such things are not foolish, but they have a tendency to think outside the box simply because they are unfamiliar with its dimensions.
Whatever method they choose, participants in Barovian politics avoid the appearance or evidence of blame or confrontation at all costs. This bleeds into even conspirators themselves, who usually do not meet in person or even know the identities of those in league with them.
A rather infamous aspect of Barovian culture, Blood Feuds in Barovia are different from the usual animosity and violence that surround such affairs. While death or loss of property may be a reason to ignite such conflicts Elsewhere, Blood Feuds in Barovia follow a single condition to be declared, even if they are somewhat open for interpretation.
The most defining condition is that the future of a family must be deliberately endangered by another family, with intent to strike down the family line. The most famous enduring example of this is the assassinations conducted at Castle Ravenloft by Leo Dilisnya, where two of the three male members of the von Zarovich family were killed. Of course, ideally one would hunt down every member of a given family quickly, so that there is no one left to declare a Blood Feud when the dust settles.
Blood Feuds are traditionally declared by gathering the blood of a raven into a vial, which is then given to the offending family. Given is a loose term as it usually involves smashing the vial into the front door of the offending family, though there have been instances of said vial being thrown at family members. This soon spreads across Barovia and all know to give a wide berth to members of such families, for violence is sure to hound them wherever they go. May it be in duels, mercenaries or intrigue, each attempts to finish the other off through any means necessary. Many allies of the families invariably get involved through debts or favors, with the risk of the Blood Feud expanding. It should be noted that this is an inviolate part of Barovian tradition and not even the Count can halt the acts of one family upon the other. Being beyond the control or protection of the law, the cycle of violence rarely lasts through a second winter before one declares the Feud ended.
Most of the time, the Blood Feud ends with one family being completely annihilated, all records of their history and passing struck from every record, although they may persist through song or tale. In rare occasions, the two families (or sides) may come to terms and mutually declare the Blood Feud ended. A Blood Feud is formally ended by the surviving families finding and raising a raven egg, which they will to set free on first flight.
Blood Feuds in the present are almost non-existent, although there are singular survivors of families who wander the countrysides and roads, carrying a single sanguine vessel on their person.
While a learned and well read outsider may consider it strange, the largely illiterate people of Barovia have a very vibrant and active folk culture. This is due to the fact that every village and even the six towns become closed off for four months in the winter and any way to while away time is welcomed. This is supported by the government and the various religious groups who have made the winter months the unofficial festival season in Barovia in spite of the weather.
Almost all of Barovian culture is based on oral and visual performances, and even if most in a village cannot read, one can find at least a dozen children who know the different chapters making an epic song or ballad. The most famous examples are the ones concerning the pivotal moments of Barovian history, such as the Daughter of Barovia, which is a detailed account of the Neureni Invasion and the Martyrdom of Strahd, which is a very embellished telling of his last stand in Sergei von Zarovich’s wedding, wherein he sacrifices himself to buy Sergei and his love, Tatyana, time to escape, but it was not meant to be.
Most songs and stories are conducted by many players and different villages have different portrayals of the principal characters. For example in Vallaki and Zeidenburg, the two biggest towns, the villainous Leo Dilisnya is portrayed as a scheming intelligentsia in the latter, while in the former it is the heroic Strahd that is associated with the modernist mindset.
Despite the clashing portrayals and interpretations, folklore is a large part of their culture, with fantastical creatures, dark fae and other strange beings sharing a place in the various works. Some themes are also very common, such as star-crossed love, blood feuds (that between the von Zarovich and the Dilisnya being the most common) or obsessions over a loved one they can never have. In opposition to their closed nature to outsiders, Barovians are quite receptive to new stories and will gladly listen to a minstrel from Lamordia about the monstrous Created, creatures animated not by necromancy but with man-made lightning. These tales were integrated into Barovian culture in the space of a few generations, but set in more familiar locales such as the Balinok mountains.
Still in the infancy of industrialization, Barovians interested in more “formal” plays or opera will have to visit Krezk or Teufeldorf, which have respectable playhouses and a wide range of actors. For those with an appetite for reading (an acquired taste in Barovia) or with a mind to publish their own words, Vallaki and Immol have a few newspapers in circulation as well as publishing houses, although they currently reprint works from other lands more often than they do for local authors.
For those with ambition for a wider audience, emigration is the only option, although some have found success in Dementlieu, such as the composer Antonyn Dyvorak, who is known for operas based on Barovian folk tales
While it may seem like otherwise, Barovia is actually extremely flat as a society. Due to the Tergish Invasion of old, debt peonage and serfdom was done away with by Strahd to gather as much resources as he could to wage war. After winning their freedom once more, the people of Barovia owed a debt to the von Zarovich family which they could never fully repay, and as a result, all of Barovia are effectively serfs to the Count. Endearing him further to the people, Strahd never truly enforced his will upon the people, and as such, societal positions are more governed by one’s standing in a community.
At the very top is of course the Count himself, with the gentry divided into the Baronial and “common” families, and finally the peasants. The people can also be divided into economic classes, but only the Count and the Baronial families can be truly considered rich, with gentries being well off and the peasants having enough for food and shelter, as well as the occasional luxury. Serfdom never resurfaced after the Tergish Invasion and many families own land, so social standing has more to do with perception than breeding.
The greater and lesser aristocratic families of Barovia draw their power and influence from Strahd, the Count of Barovia. While it is true that they have established positions, wealth and rights, they are not nobles in the hereditary sense and only exist in their uplifted state due to the Count, who is still the final authority of Barovia. It has been such since the conquest of General-Princess Nicoleta von Zarovich, the attempted assassinations of Leo Dilisnya, and especially after the Tergish Invasion, which cemented their family’s rule.
The inclusion into the Gentry is a fluid one and simply requires that the community acknowledge the status. This is usually a combination of wealth, public renown and respect as well as performing a vital service to their village. This means that anyone successful can become one of the gentry, and those gentry who have become impoverished or disgraced can be brought down to the level of peasants once more.
The most established gentry families are those ratified by the Count and have authority over the boyars of villages. These “Baronial” families usually serve a vital function in Barovian society, and have the ear of the Count regarding their responsibilities. These families are de facto nobles as far as Barovian society is concerned.
The people of Barovia are not as homogenous at it may seem to outsiders, with different groups contributing to the total population. Their differing features and cultural backgrounds have in old times been the sources of cross-ethnic violence and conflict, but these were brought down to a more manageable situation by Count Strahd after the Tergish Invasion. Although that is not to say isolated incidents of violence do not spill out in short, if bloody pogroms.
While grouped by ethnicity, they are not grouped closely together geographically, with all of them more or less scattered throughout Barovia, either by choice or uprooted and settled elsewhere by the Count to prevent larger conflicts from igniting. Despite their differences, all ethnic groups in Barovia place great stock in family relations, and it is common for families to maintain contact even when they are settled in opposite sides of Barovia, most likely their messages passed between towns where other relatives make their home
Economy and Currency
As it is still at the infancy of industrial advancement, Barovia ’s economy is largely run by the natural resources of their country. Villages all over grow just about everything under the sun and the timber industry is ever expanding to meet the demand of newly established villages. Mining is also another source of wealth, although this is mostly the purview of the Dwarves and the Katsky family who deal with them.
Craftsmen are found all over, although more specialized tasks, such as jewelry or sculpting are more often found in select villages or the six towns – the skills of their trade passed on in the family. Mixing of skills and techniques have begun with the intermittent trading with other lands beyond the mist, along with strange technologies of the people who carry them.
Most of the trade and goods in Barovia flow into and out of the six towns, may it be local or foreign in origin. Barovian goods find high value with other lands and the six towns have started to develop more advanced infrastructure in the form of primitive pavement and gas lights to accommodate the nearly constant activity in the summer months.
Most commercial exchanges are done via bartering, with villages exchanging goods or services to one another. For merchants or trades of a larger scale, currencies come into play. The standard Barovian currency is the Dinar, most commonly minted in copper and silver, although gold is also in circulation, but rarely used outside of merchants. Other precious metals, such as electrum or platinum are very rarely issued, more often found in the abandoned places in the wilderness or pressed in limited quantities on the orders of the Count as awards for bounties or deeds on behalf of Barovia.
For very large transactions or as a more secure form of carrying currency, marks of credit are issued and honoured by merchants and trade unions. While not officially under Barovian law, they are still recognized by the government as legal tender of the equivalent stated amount on the mark. While the marks come in different forms, from specially minted bars or treated parchment, they are all treated as equal in so far as when one uses them to purchase goods or services or even in converting them to their equivalent value in currency.
For a land of farmers and simple folk, Barovia has the capacity to raise an army in short notice thanks to various factors:
- History: The various invasions and military campaigns that Barovia has participated in, such as the Tergish Invasion and the more recent Gundarak Conquests have left its people with a ready pool of warriors from which to draw its soldiers from.
- Tradition: Making a career as a soldier is a respected trade in Barovia, as they form the core of the defence to its sovereignty as well as against threats coming from the wilds in between villages.
- Leadership: The various Counts over the history of Barovia have always been skilled military leaders, and the military has always been able to provide generals to carry out the necessary orders and actions.
- Population: To the dismay of past invaders, the number of Barovians is surprisingly large, and combined with the above make them one of the most formidable armies in the southern Core.
While it has the capability for conquest, Barovia, and by extension, the Counts have had a distaste for invading other nations to gain territory and only do so for future security, such as as what happened in the Gundarak Conquests so ensure that a stable border can be established in the west. Another limiting factor is the nature of the mists, which seem to thicken even more when large groups gather at its periphery, as if intent in blocking their path. Most of the time, the Barovian army is composed of a core of career soldiers who garrison forts in borders and dangerous lands, as well as patrolling villages and camps within a day’s travel.
While a conscription army, this is not enforced in times of peace and the army becomes a profession with many taking an enlistment term of twenty years. At the end of such a term of service, they are given a parcel of land, and they are in their late thirties when they do – considered prime husband or wife material in Barovia. Due to the almost universal practice of partible inheritance (land and property divided according to seniority, rather than all of it going to the eldest), many of the younger sons and daughters take up this profession. This works well for the villages they settle in as it forms an able core of militia as well as potential reserves in times of war. Not surprisingly, the land being given recently is located in the former lands of Gundarak to counteract any attempts at independence.
Below are the various military ranks in Barovia. Note that listed below are their duties in peacetime:
Voivode: Literally “war leader”, the one holding this position is in charge of an entire military campaign in active war and only the Count can assume this rank. Being peacetime, this rank is vacant
General: In charge of the six groups that comprise the Barovian military, they are all technically based in one of the six towns but they have duties that usually take them far from their offices. Four of them watch the borders of Barovia, one for each side, while another is in charge of the garrisons within Barovia. The last general is tasked with keeping order in the western lands, ensuring no armed revolt or uprising occurs from the old Gundarak lands.
Polkovnik (Colonel): Under direct orders from the generals, they manage groups of garrisons and are normally stationed in one of the many forts.
Kapetan (Captain): Usually in charge of a garrison in the villages or camps and the soldiers within, they also assume command of the militia in case of an emergency.
Poruchnik (Lieutenant): The right-hand man of the Kapetan, they are commonly tasked in safeguarding the main roads or in hunting down bandits or worse
Narednik (Sergeant): Literally the “organizer” or “arranger of rank and file”, they lead the patrols in the side roads and inside villages
Kapral (Corporal): An experienced soldier, they usually have specialized roles such as tending the wounded, holding the squad’s single firelock or most importantly, rationing the liquor
Rivov (Private): The rank and file, they form the bulk of the army and various patrols
The ranks can also be further modified with Starshiy (Senior), Mladshiy (Junior) or the prefix -pod (Under) to further specify rank and experience
As could be expected from a culture steeped in tradition and superstition, Barovians are a very religious people, with a large pantheon of gods and deities to call upon for aid. It should be noted that due to the peculiarities of the Demiplane of Dread, these divine beings are very rarely felt directly, if they exist at all, although divine powers are attributed to them. The origins of their religion has been lost to a time long past, long before there was even Barovia as a country. It is suspected that their religion was a mix of those found elsewhere in the Core, with different groups having different names for gods of the same domain. This would assume a time when men were free to travel through the mists or there there were no mists before, however.
Whatever the case of its origins, the religious structure in Barovia is highly fragmented, with teachings and dogma largely passed on in oral and written tradition from priest to priest. Most operate as a network of peers, with those worshiping the same deity exchanging rituals or practices to have a somewhat uniform structure in their services.
While there are usually clashes in Covenants between those who worship different gods, especially when it comes to the Solar and Lunar Pantheons, violent altercations are rare, each congregation uneasy with starting conflict with their neighbors.
The two main pantheons in Barovian religion, to follow a god means taking a Covenant with that deity and following their doctrines as declared by their priests. Of course, some Covenants conflict with each other and this can be the source of complications for villages harboring opposing Covenants.
Education and Literacy
The technological base of Barovia is roughly on par with that of the Faerun, specifically of the Sword Coast, but it has slowly been advancing thanks to scholars from Borca and distant Lamordia, introducing new schools of thought. This being Barovia, change is strongly resisted and has not been wholly felt by the common Barovian. That being said, the six towns are in various states of development, the emerging intelligentsia urging this on despite the protests of the conservative boyars and gentry.
A few examples are the use of lanterns, which have almost overturned torches as the most common source of personal illumination, and the slow transition from parchment to paper in the production of marks of credit. Of note is that primitive forms of firearms have made their way to the military, but their usefulness is limited owing to Barovia’s humid climate and their shoulder-mounted nature.
Readers should note that BC stands for “Barovian Calendar”, which has become the de facto standard used across the Core once some contact was made with other lands. It has 361 days divided into twelve months, with October having thirty one days. The months are further divided into four weeks of seven days each, and the lunar cycle is twenty nine days long.
230 BC Neureni Invasion – The barbaric Neureni invade, pillaging and razing most of the Barovia before being stopped by the legendary General-Princess Nicoleta Von Zarovich, pushing them out though the passes of the Balinok mountains from which they came.
314 BC The War of Knives – The court intrigues of the Dilisnya, Katsky, and Petrovna families spark the War of Silver Knives. The acts of assassinations and revenge lasts for two years, weakening much of Barovia before the conflict is stopped by Barov von Zarovich, who intervenes and placates the gentry with new parcels of land.
320 BC Tergish Invasion – The Tergs invade the greatly weakened Barovia, and unlike the Neureni, were intent on conquest and settlement. In five years, most of the noble families are displaced from their lands, and even the von Zaroviches suffer this shame. On his family’s honour, Strahd von Zarovich, Barov’s eldest son, swears to take Barovia back inch by bloody inch. He eventually reconquers the whole of Barovia after twenty seven grueling years of brutal conflict, although his parents do not live to see the first sunrise of a free Barovia.
347 BC (Circa) Construction of Ravenloft – Named in honour of her mother Ravenovia, Strahd had a castle built to be the home of the von Zarovich family, which has now stood for several centuries.
351 BC Curse of Leo Dilisnya – Under the employ of Leo Dilisnya, the assassins of the Ba’al Verzi strike at the wedding of Sergei von Zarovich, killing all the guests, including Strahd himself. Fortunately, Sturm von Zarovich was unable to attend, ensuring the continuation of the von Zarovich line, much to the cost of the Dilisnya family. It is said that Leo Dilisnya put a curse upon the von Zarovich line, although of what manner is unknown.
It would be after this event that the ruling patriarch of the von Zarovich line would take the name of Strahd, in honour of the hero who freed Barovia. Curiously, all of those who take up the name of Strahd share a similar look to their predecessor that is almost uncanny.
470 BC The Vistani – A nomadic people appear from across the Mists and begin to wander Barovia. Forming a pact with Strahd IV, they have been deemed sacrosanct under penalty of death and are free to roam where they please across Barovia. Rumours abound that they have provided a vital service to the von Zarovich family, but neither party will discuss the matter.
542 BC The Wizard King – A powerful wizard by the name of Azalin Rex arrives from the Mists, brokering an alliance with the von Zarovich family. The alliance abruptly ends on 579 BC, without anyone else knowing the details of the alliance or why it was severed.
550 – 740 BC The Great Upheaval – During this period, the Mists become erratic, revealing new regions or isolating familiar territory. To the north, the lands of G’Henna disappear, replaced by a great chasm called the Shadow Rift. To the south, the nightmare lands of Bluetspur disappear, with Hazlan suddenly forming a new border with Barovia. To the east, where once Hazlan lay, now the nation of Nova Bassa, the former northern neighbor of Hazlan, has taken its place. To the northwest, the nations of Borca and Dorvinia have merged, retaining the name of Borca. Finally, the lands of Gundarak were revealed to the west, in a state of turmoil.
740 BC Gundarak Conquest – Gundarak lay in chaos as the Duke Gundar was assassinated by parties unknown. Strahd XI takes this opportunity to seize half of Gundarak after a nine month siege of their last strongholds, while the Invidians take the rest, forming a new border between Barovia in the east, and Invidia in the west. The Gundarakites have ever since been considered as second-class citizens, but citizens of Barovia nonetheless. Mysteriously, the Mists reform around the borders of the new lands of Barovia, cleanly demarcating the enlarged territory. Most see this as a sign that validates the Barovian invasion.
762 BC Game Present Timeline – The Mists become more tempestuous, reaching farther and farther across the Multiverse, taking visitors from Elsewhere, as even now the Mists that separate the different regions of the Core grow thinner every day…