I felt kind of blah about some of the NPC stat blocks for major protagonists in the adventure, so I converted three of those most likely to do some adventuring with the player characters into PC-classed characters. If any of them end up joining the party full-time, I’ll likely have them run in combat by one of the players. They’ll gain experience and level with the party, and if any unrecoverable character deaths occur, the player will have the option of taking one over as their new character. Two of the three use 3rd party classes and archetypes, so this is also an opportunity for me to see how these balance with the PHB material without having to nerf a player’s character if they prove too imbalanced.
First, there’s Ezmerelda. Her spellcasting ability (as well as another rather well-known NPCs) didn’t strike me as very flavorful for the character concept, so instead, she’s a Dexterity-based, stealthy damage-dealing martial type. Ravenloft is the perfect setting for the rare firearm using character.
I expect my party to run into her around level 5 or 6, and as she’s supposed to be pretty competent at what she does, I’ve made her a level 6 character: 5 levels of Fighter, using Matt Mercer’s Gunslinger archetype for fighters from DMs Guild, with a 1 level dip into rogue for sneak attack and expertise and to reflect her use of ambush tactics when hunting monsters. If she ends up being the party’s ally against Strahd, she’ll advance to rogue 2 for cunning action some time after the characters reach 7th level, and then to fighter 6 just before they reach the finale, somewhere between the party’s 8th and 9th levels.
While accompanying the party, she’ll be a ranged combatant with strong single-target damage (much like a warlock or crossbow rogue), and a voice of experience when it comes to monster-hunting.
Next up is Ismark. Another Dexterity based fighter, his role as a Burgomaster’s son has seen him receive some training in the more “refined” art of fencing. Two-weapon fighting and the dual wielder feat give him decent damage potential with dual rapiers, while the Champion archetype makes him simple to run in combat as he’ll use the attack action and a bonus action for off-hand attacks, or take a shot with his longbow with the attack action.
He and Ireena are likely to join the party for a brief time after Death House, so they’re both 3rd level to match the party when they meet, but their builds will prevent them from dominating the action. Ismark will have a bigger role to play in the early story, as he is due to marry the daughter of the Boyar of Graenseskov, a political marriage even more necessary now that the old Burgomaster has died and Ismark is single and heir-less.
Speaking of Ireena, she gets the EN5ider exclusive Noble class treatment. This class, in the flavor of the 4th edition Warlord, adds a bit of support to the party. She’s taken the Path of Bravery, the most martial of the subclasses. A trio of limited-use-per-rest features include a 2-target “inspirational” heal action useable once per long rest, a single “use my action to give you an action” which gets better in what it allows the target to use as it increases in level and is useable once per short rest, and a reaction to reroll a failed save or ability check, also useable once per short rest.
She will be played as brave and strong-headed, and refusing to be Strahd’s victim, though her stubbornness often places her in harm’s way. Medium armor and shields give her decent defenses, but she won’t be a front line combatant, running up only to deliver first aid to a fallen PC. The Healer feat gives her additional support options, and she’ll begin play prepared for this with a healer’s kit.She will extend the over sized party’s hit point range between rests considerably and take some stress off the cleric.