Sorry, I didn't mean to imply that your post is without merit. I just took umbrage with some of the language, is all.
if you don't want that sort of thing to happen.) 100% TPK if the party doesn't run or have spectacular luck/tactics or the GM doesn't cheat in their favor somehow Bottom of Death House: party likely level - 2; monster CR - 5 (only so brutal because they're such a low level; it can easily be outrun though) Windmill: party likely level - 3; monster CR - 11 (playing the hags intelligently should always TPK any low level party; also, the party is very highly incentivized to fight, making this even more dangerous; one of the most deadly encounters in the adventure given the party's likely level and willingness to engage) Vallaki coffin shop: party likely level - 4; monster CR - 13 (during the day it's slightly less dangerous since they can run, otherwise it's a CR 13 ambush and the monsters will force a fight; a cleric/paladin is required for any chance at killing them; one of the most deadly encounters in the adventure given the party's likely level and being forced to fight) Church in Vallaki (note: only happens if coffin shop encounter doesn't happen): party likely level - 4 ; monster CR GREATER THAN 20 or "only" CR 15 if Strahd ignores them (the only upshot is that the monsters will likely waste many turns killing innocents, giving the PCs a slight opening to escape, and Strahd will likely ignore them - but forcing an engagement with either the spawn or Strahd is a TPK) The Abbot: party likely level - 5; monster CR - 11 (deva flesh golem) (fortunately a fight can be avoided but good-leaning parties will likely force a fight eventually; at level 5 it's extremely deadly, especially if both golems and lots of mongrel folk join in) Yester Hill, Strahd shows up: party suggested level - 6; monster CR - 18 (18 is assuming the druids ignore the party and the berserkers attack; unlike the church, Strahd will specifically defend the druids here along with his horse; the good thing is that they can run away and will fight a much weaker foe - CR 7 - instead of Strahd) Amber Temple, entrance: party suggested level - 9; monster CR 14 (powerful enemies fighting from an extremely tactically advantageous position who initiate combat on sight and escape to fight again when hurt; the only upshot is the PCs can run, and 5 CR at higher levels is less of a big deal thanks to some powerful spells, but lower than level 9 parties will likely get TPK'd in a straight fight) Castle, Brazier Room: party suggested level - 9; monster CR 19 (it's a trap which can be avoided, but if they pull the 2 iron golems - which locks the doors to the room - pretty much any party is toast; their only chance is to open those doors before they're all dead) Not near-certain TPKs but so deadly at least one PC will likely die Death House, specter: party likely level - 1; monster CR - 1 ("appropriate" CR but listed because the specter insta-kills the majority of level 1 PCs in one hit one failed save - and potentially anyone else soon after since the failed save damage can't be healed; also it has double HP thanks to DR and clerics can't turn at level 1; finally if played intelligently it would hit-and-run until at least one death) Arrigal from the Vistani camp: party likely level - 4; monster CR - 8 (can do well over 50 points of damage to a single target in one round - or much worse if they are surprised, which they probably will be) Mad Mage: party likely level - 5 ; monster CR - 11ish (12 but missing some spells) (extremely high chance for a fight but fortunately the fight will likely be stopped early, although it's still highly possible he will kill someone first) Van Richten's Tower: party suggested level - 6 (the tower itself can kill characters easily if they aren't careful; also the wagon outside can down squishies easily if they aren't careful; fortunately both can be avoided) Van Richten's Tower, werewolf pack: party suggested level - 6; monster CR - 13ish (7 werewolves 9 wolves) (if the pack attacks it will be extremely deadly, but fortunately the party may have the tower to use defensively and there's a reasonable explanation for them capturing some PCs instead of TPKing the group) Yester Hill, just the druids and berserkers: party suggested level - 6; monster CR - 11 (best case scenario is that the party fights this battle, and it's still 3x "deadly" - but at least they can run and return) Werewolf den, Kiril returns: party suggested level - 7; monster CR - 13 to 17 (unlike the tower, the PCs don't have tactically advantageous positions and will likely be pincered; the CR depends on how many remaining werewolves are in the den when Kiril shows up; again, their only hope may be capture) Castle, elevator trap (this trap is designed to make sure at least one character is taken by Strahd as its primary purpose is to split the party; if you don't want to use it this way, just be aware) Castle, Strahd final battle: party suggested level - 9; monster CR 15 - 17 depending on location (obviously Strahd's final battle is intense, but hopefully the PCs will be well-prepared; the worst location for fighting him is in his tomb, since 3 vampire spawn can join him) Other CR spikes to keep in mind Winery: party likely level - 5; CR 6 - 11 (this starts as a CR 6ish but after 5 rounds it's ballooned to a CR ~11; fortunately running is easy) Silver Dragon lair (seriously, who can spell that?
), Chapel: party suggested level - 7; monster CR - 9-10 (this isn't quite as deadly to a level 7 party but three boosted CR 5 monsters would be a serious threat to a low level party; fighting is guaranteed but fortunately they can run) Silver Dragon lair, Vladimir: party suggested level - 7; monster CR 11ish (fortunately they can very much avoid fighting but if it comes to that it will go badly for a low level group) Tsolenka Pass: party suggested level - 8; monster CR 11 (roc attacking while they're on a bridge) Berez: party suggested level - 8; monster CR 11 or 13ish (Baba Lysaga OR her hut; both is worse; fortunately there's a secret way to stop both of them) Amber Temple lich: party suggested level - 9; monster CR 10 but could go to 21 (without spells a lich shouldn't be a problem for a level 9 group even with its legendary actions - although if you added lair actions [a fair choice] it would probably bump this to CR 11 ; restoring his mind would drastically raise the CR but also make it less likely they're going to fight it, but if they did ..would be suicidal) Amber Temple, Amber Vault: party suggested level - 9; monster CR 13 (just wanted to note that 6 vampire spawn here is actually STILL a 2x "deadly" encounter) A note about the Castle: Ironically, there aren't many difficult combat encounters in the castle, especially if they wait until level 9 or 10 to show up.
will force me to be ever cognizant of the land and how some of these areas perhaps should be run. Instead, if I treat the area as a location with some NPCs to interact with... Would she be arrogant enough to follow a few PCs somewhere outside the windmill because she doesn't fear them?
Just as an example: Old Bonegrinder and the three hags. then it comes down to thinking "Hey, would the PCs be able to draw one of the daughters out of the windmill? If that happens, does that make it easier for the party to jump her?
because so much of it needs to be purely story-based.
Wherein I get in the mindset to continually ignore the combat stats of all these monsters and instead treat them almost all as roleplaying NPCs.
and not just a pile of monster hit points in separate locations for the party to wade through. In fact, "stopping the hags" might not even be something they thought the characters would do.
Which I suspect will be a very different mindset for me to get into and run the game. Although, this does conflict strongly with the presumed party reaction to seeing children being prepped for murder, along with the hags' mindset of wishing to continue without issue. And it's set apart from some of the other over-the-top encounters because there's no stated or implied backdoor.
But as I started to expand it, it got too big for one post. here are all the places you may want to watch out for when running the game.
I've tried to take into account the rating of the challenge, the likely level the PCs would encounter the challenge, and the likelihood of the PCs engaging the challenge. My point is: if you run them straight, here are places where you can easily kill the party, so be aware...
The whole point of this post is to warn DMs that if you haven't taken some time and really thought about how these particular encounters could play out, they might be far stronger than you might have otherwise trusted, based on the other encounters you've seen in Wot C Adventure material (or other material). But many of these encounters aren't like that, which is the entire point of that opening quote and two paragraphs.