Updated: Nov 6, 2020
My guest appearance as Strahd.
About a week ago I asked an old friend of mine, an actor, writer and director named Rajneel Singh, who had directed a short film I had been in, circa 2005, called Big Bad Wolves, to do an interview with me for YouTube.
To my surprise, after the interview was uploaded I was contacted by the Dungeon Master of Rajneels D&D game, a fellow named Steve Austin-Crawford, who had been moved by the interview and we struck up a conversation. During that conversation Steve asked me outright if I'd be prepared to do something crazy! Would I make a guest appearance, unbeknownst to Raj or the other players, as Strahd in their campaign!? I would have full agency to play the NPC as I wanted once we established his lore and limits and some basic guidelines. Well, being an actor----and one obsessed with Vampires-----who was I to decline such an offer. Not only would I get to play one of the most iconic villains in D&D lore, literally D&D's version of Dracula, but I'd get to shock the pants off my friend Rajneel who had no idea this was coming! So of course I responded:
HELL YES! Immediately Steve and I hit it off and became instant friends. We spent countless hours on Zoom over the next few days as he got me up to speed with his Barovia, his players, their story so far, my backstory, and our interpretation of Strahd. We went into minute detail about the moment that the next scene would begin in the game and how we would introduce Strahd. We shared documents, wrote dialogue, discussed the details and tactical implications of the characters exact locations in the scene. We even made some minor alterations to Strahd's spell list: We used the same level spells------we just decided he had prepared some less offensive ones tonight. His new spells included Thaumaturgy, Cure Wounds and Greater Restoration, which seeing as they were hurt and cursed, I would use in an attempt to gain their trust. If they read this: they should know Strahd will probably not offer to do this for them again after making it very clear they did not appreciate his assistance, hospitality or respect!
Finally the day came (last night at the time of this writing). We spent all day making last minute preparations on Zoom and using google documents etc. As the time grew near, I waited on Zoom with my mic and camera turned off. My profile picture was a shadow and my screen name was simply, "The Stranger". Finally the other players started to enter the Zoom session. During this seemingly endless wait I had to pee about three times out of nervousness. Finally Steve gave me my queue, a line he had created for the purpose of introducing me, "“I am unlocking the door to The Stranger, but he is not invited in.”
This was a reference to a Barovian tradition that allowed strangers to enter houses only if they were not in fact vampires. I turned on my camera and my microphone at this point, flashing into view as Strahd, and began with my first monologue.
“Greetings and Salutations. I am the Baron, Strahd von Zarovich, son of King Barov and Queen Ravenovia, Count of Barovia, Slayer of Dragons, Bane of the Dusk Elves, Patron of the Vistani, Unifier of Tribes, Master of the Night and All its Creatures. I am the Ancient. I am the land. Welcome to Barovia.”
I heard the players collectively gasp. Rajneel told me later that he had nearly spat his drink. This turned out to be one of the most fun, powerful, exciting----and also hilarious----experiences I've ever had playing D&D, thanks to Steve Austin-Crawford and his team of talented players (credited below). Thank you Steve for inviting me! Here is the full length video of the session. Below is a improvised monologue I had to pull out of my ass when they decided to attack me (which I really should have expected ...). I think they will live to regret this. =p
Note: Not all of the dialogue in the session was prepared but I had prepared enough catch-phrases and snippets that I would be comfortable improvising most of it. I also had numerous charts, references and lists on various monitors and google docs and I had spent days memorizing names and places and relationships for this session. To me, it was a massive rush and was absolutely worth every moment of preparation.
Short Improvised Monologue:
DM: Steve Austin
Helga Ungarst: Heidisuzzanne
Isla Ivanhoe: Benjamin Teh
Hulozar Kind: Todd Dixon
Ada Otomtrowel: Ruby Tuesday
Seeta: Rajneel Singh
Strahd: Russell Kirkby
Improv Monologue: https://youtu.be/WsuurldToJs
Excerpted 2nd Scene - The Town Square "Stocks"