Ravenloft: Curse of Strahd
The Vistani are wanderers who live outside civilization, traveling about in horse-drawn, barrel-topped wagons called vardos, which they build themselves.
The Vistani are flamboyant. They dress in bright clothes, laugh often, and drink heartily. As much as they feel at home in Ravenloft, they know they how to navigate The Mists and can leave whenever they please.
Vistani are silversmiths, coppersmiths, haberdashers, cooks, weavers, musicians, entertainers, storytellers, toolmakers, and horse traders. They also earn money by telling fortunes and selling information. They spend whatever they earn to support a lavish lifestyle, display their wealth openly as a sign of prosperity, and share their good fortune with family and friends.
Each family or clan of Vistani is its own little gerontocracy, with the oldest member ruling the roost. This elder carries the bulk of the responsibility for enforcing traditions, settling disputes, setting the course for the group's travels, and preserving the Vistani way of life. Vistani elders make all the important decisions, but whether by choice or because of their age, tend to speak in cryptic, flowing riddles.
Vistani families and clans are closely knit. They resolve disagreements through contests that end with reconciliatory singing, dancing, and storytelling. Although they can seem lazy and irresponsible to outsiders, the Vistani are serious people, quick to act when their lives or traditions are threatened. They are merciless when they believe they must be. Vistani who knowingly bring harm or misfortune to others of their kind are banished – the worst punishment a Vistani can imagine, even worse than death.
Vistani know or believe certain facts about their people and their surroundings. This common lore is summarized here.
Strahd Von Zarovich
About Strahd, the Vistani believe the following:
- Strahd comes from a royal bloodline. He died centuries ago yet endures as one of the undead, feasting on the blood of the living. Barovians refer to him as "the devil Strahd."
- Strahd has taken many consorts, but he has known only one true love: a Barovian peasant girl named Tatyana.
- Strahd named his castle, Ravenloft, after his beloved mother, Queen Ravenovia. Strangers aren't welcome at the castle without an invitation.
The Land of Barovia
Vistani know the following facts about Barovia and Barovians:
- Strahd conquered this land centuries ago and named it after his father, King Barov. Strahd uses wolves, bats, and other creatures to spy on all of his realm.
- Barovians are simple, frightened people. Some have old souls, but many do not. The soulless ones are easy to spot, for they know nothing but fear. They have no charm, hope, or spark, and they don't cry.
- The Old Svalich Road passes through Strahd's domain. Three settlements lie on the road like beads on a string: Krezk to the west, Vallaki in the heart of the valley, and Barovia to the east. Strahd has spies in each settlement.
- There's an old windmill on the road between the village of Barovia and the town of Vallaki. lt should be avoided at all costs!
- It is wise to stick to the road. Wild druids, wayward ghosts, and packs of wolves and werewolves haunt the Svalich Woods.
Beliefs and Superstitions
The Vistani have deep-rooted beliefs and superstitions that they pass down from one generation to the next:
- The souls of those who die in Barovia can't escape to the afterlife. They are prisoners in Strahd's domain.
- Some Vistani women are blessed with prescience. Of all the great Vistani fortune-tellers, none compares to Madam Eva. If knowledge of the future is what you seek, Madam Eva will tell you your fate.
- A prescient Vistana can't see her own future or the future of another Vistana. It is the burden of the Vistani's great gift that their own fates can't be divined.
- Vistani curses are potent, but they are invoked with great caution. Vistani know that to curse one who is undeserving of such punishment can have grave consequences for the one who utters such a curse.
- Ravens carry lost souls within them, so killing one is bad luck.