The Bardic Chef

Broiled Beholder and Other Dungeon Delicacies

This is a really pointless post about a character I adore . It’s far too long, I thought about this way too much, but my god is he interest...

Curse of Strahd: Victor Vallakovich and his many personalities

By 9:08 AM , , ,

This is a really pointless post about a character I adore. It’s far too long, I thought about this way too much, but my god is he interesting to me. It’s not often a minor NPC gets so many vastly differently interpretations, game-altering ones at that, and I had to write out something about the subject.

TO BE NOTED: I have a 101 degree fever and the most massive bronchitis as I write this. In like a week, after this has passed, I will probably look at this post an say “Arella, what the fuck, Victor isn’t THAT interesting stop it”. BUT THE FEVER DELUSIONS TELL ME TO CONTINUE ON, SO I MUST.

Could it be that my fascination with this character stems from the fact that he’s her boyfriend in one of the games I’m in? Possibly. It’s probably why I pay closer attention to him in every Curse of Strahd game I see him in. The lingering fascination comes from realizing he’s different every single time I encounter him. Strahd doesn’t vary much, Madam Eva doesn’t vary much, even minor characters seem to have steady personalities, with DM voices and tones that match from game to game. Victor, however, is the major exception.
Victor doesn’t get a whole lot of fleshing out. A DM knows, going in, that he’s neutral evil, a secret wizard, an “awkward and offputting” type of guy, and that he really wants to get the hell out of this place. He’s also an option for the tarokka cards to pop up as an ally against Strahd. He sits up in his attic workshop and plucks away at his teleportation circle, has already murdered multiple staff testing it out. Even his appearance doesn’t get a whole lot of description. We get pictures of his parents, but not him. He’s described as thin, dark hair, with a premature grey streak. He’s got a completely batshit family too - more of that point later. OH. And he really likes making skeleton cats.

He’s meant to be a minor blip character, unless he’s drawn for the tarokka reading, but I’ve yet to find a game where he isn’t thrown into some kind of spotlight. He’s too powerful, ability-wise, to just be an easily ignored character. I have witnessed three separate occasions where he was the sole cause of a TPK - the players encounter him at fairly low levels, and he is so far above them in terms of spells that it’s ridiculous. If they deem him a villain, he’s seen as a boss fight, one they put off until later levels and come back to for a big showdown, and by then the legend of THE WIZARD BOY OF VALLAKI has grown into it’s own beast.

Shown Above: What remains of the level 3 parties who attack him.

But here’s the thing.
Even though he’s neutral evil.

He is rarely ever used as a villain.

I find that the interpretations generally fall under five major categories, with their own unique spins here and there. I WILL COVER THEM NOW, because this is the thing I find most interesting about this boy.

TYPE ONE: The Snot

The version of Victor most often turned into the villain they have to kill. When Victor’s insufferable, constantly whining about everything, throws himself dramatically on every piece of furniture in the room, and scoffs like his haughty mother at anyone beneath him, people just want to punch his face. His hair is slicked back, his clothes are expensive, he doesn’t like touching things that get his hands dirty, and he is absolutely not willing to let the party in on his “get the fuck out of dodge” plans. He tends to be a lowkey daddy’s boy, hating his father’s constant parade of festivals, but approving the extreme measures he takes in punishing his people. He’s often viewed as the least redeemable in this state - after only a couple of conversations, the party deems him an asshole that deserves to be punished, and leave it at that.
Preferred spell: Cone of Cold
Similar characters: Draco Malfoy, Angelica Pickles, Loki

TYPE TWO: The Doofus

Simultaneously the most beloved by players, and the most dangerous to them. The Doofus Victor is far more friendly, still holds amazing power that gets slowly revealed to the party over time, leaving them astounded, saying “Wait— Vic— you can DO that?!”… “Well yeah, can’t you?”. He’s isn’t the most pathetic, but his parents are the most likely to die out of all the Victor types - because damn it, they’re hurting the precious baby and they must be destroyed so he can be free! In every case, the party takes him along like an excited puppy… and he usually gets kidnapped, gets lost, or does something suitably dumb that hinders the plot. He’s also the one that will bond to a certain character, either romantically or like a second parent, and turns into a sort of sidekick for them. He’s the type with the most catchphrases. He turns his neutral evil self-serving attitude from “I do everything for myself” to “I do everything for myself AND THIS OTHER PERSON I ADORE”.
Preferred spell: Fireball
Similar characters: Andy Dwyer, Joey Tribbiani, Michael Kelso

TYPE THREE: The Angsty

Admittedly the version that I use in my own Curse of Strahd game, the Angsty Victor can be off-putting to the party the first few times they meet him. He hates his life, sighs a lot, makes depressing comments that cause them to roll their eyes in annoyance, and probably paints his fingernails black to be edgy. He’s the most likely to be played up to be more physically attractive than his counterparts, and despite not being a complete basketcase like other forms, he often has the most tragic of the backstories fueling his anger. He’s a ticking time bomb, likely to kill his own family if it comes down to it, and will never truly see anything wrong with the deaths of innocents if it means he gets what he wants. Despite this, he’s never held up as a villain by the players. They often identify with him, especially when they’ve experienced rough upbringings themselves. They get his rage, his depression, and admire his determination to get the fuck out of dodge. When removed from the insanity of his home, and put with a more positive group of people, his anger can be directed into more productive means (like taking down Strahd). His personality will usually shift from off-putting to charming, and he becomes intensely loyal to the people who treat him like he’s normal.
Preferred spell: Invisibility
Similar characters: Tate Langdon, Damon Salvatore, Tyr Anasazi

TYPE FOUR: The Prince

His parents are jerks, his teleportation circle isn’t working out the way he wanted, these damn adventurers just waltzed into town and caused a political uproar, what’s a boy to do? Take over, of course. A fairly common route that a lot of DMs take a page from, when Victor realizes he’s not going anywhere (usually the party tells him to fuck off when he asks to join them), this particular version of Victor makes the decision to change things for himself. This version is highly intelligent, can put on charm at the drop of a hat, is pretty damn smarmy, has major awkward/dork moments, and is destined to become a great leader (because being a good person benefits him here more than being evil does). When the people of Vallaki realize he’s actually pretty capable, they adore him immediately, which angers his father. He’ll often reach out to the players to help him with his political goals, if it means killing his parents, or just finding a way to boot ol’ dad off the throne somehow. I find that in almost every case of this, Victor is also played up to be gay OR gender-swapped to “Victoria”, which intrigues me. This is the version of Victor with the highest chance of death as well, as either his still-living family comes back for vengeance, Lady Wachter assassinates him, or Strahd doesn’t like someone of his power level in that kind of a position. If he (or she) lives, Stella Wachter has a 80% chance of becoming a spouse, based on nobility alone (they adopt a lot of cats).
Preferred spell: Suggestion
Similar characters: Tamaki Suoh, Prince Naveen, Rachel Green

TYPE FIVE: The Woobie

The most pathetic of all the Victors, the woobie takes his lot in life incredibly hard. He didn’t WANT to kill those people, he really meant to teleport them somewhere and then was mortified when it went wrong! Tears flow freely, he shakes in dark corners, hides in closets, and is sometimes even de-aged to a child for the sake of emotional fodder for the players. He’s friendly to players, latching onto them, being over the top adorable, but also a burden. Victor is destined to lose everything he loves in this form, from his parents, to his spellbook, to his little skeleton cats (that WILL be named to make the blow on you harder). Of course he has to come along with the adventurers, SOMEONE has to look after the guy, but he’s often struck with terror or sadness and is unable to use any magic to be of help in battle. This Victor has one of two destinies - going completely batshit evil when his mind breaks, or going completely batshit badass when his mind breaks. Either way, the party is in for one hell of a ride.
Preferred spell: Remove Curse
Similar characters: Butters Stotch, Jeri Katou, Vivi Ornitier

I’m always discovering new versions of Victor, as I talk to other players and DMs who have encountered him. Of all the NPCs I’ve ever seen in all my years of D&D, he’s the first with such a broad range of personalities, reactions, and destinies. I wonder what makes him like this? Stella Wachter, the put-upon daughter of Lady Wachter (who is the other choice when drawing Victor’s “The Donjon” tarokka card) is just as blank-slate like as he is. There’s no physical description of her, no personality written out, but most DMs play her the exact same way. It baffles, and fascinates me. I hope to see a lot more versions of him in the future.

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  2. In our game, i created a bonus achievment in case PCs convince all of certain NPCs to join their cause. These are the same listed as options for the Card reading "Strahd's enemy" and the group may invite any of them, once recruited, to travel with them.

    So, if Victor was a spoiled boy who kills servants without remorse, i knew he wouldn't be an option for them. So i explored some gaps in his BG in order to give him reasons, shades of grey and common points with the group. He's still a young noble necromancer, but i guess he's more interesting now.

    I turned him into a precocius genius. I mean, he's a self-taught wizard who's level 9 with 19 years old. Learned spells in his father's library and doing experiments.

    Also, he didn't kill the servants: if he could test it with any creature stepping on it, why would he send the servants? He could test it with one of the undead cats. Missing people call attention. Evil is not dumb.

    Victor turned Stella's dead childhood cats into undead just to be offensive and spoil Lady Watcher's plan to marry them. The Baron covered the scandal of a necromancer son. When asked about that, he defends himself saying neither him nor Stella wanted the marriage and that he had to do something shocking to stop it. He knew he would be stuck with a family, being the new burgomaster, something that he saw as becoming his father and rejected completely.

    He sees the group as his way out of the valley.

  3. I personally have a depressed antiestablishment anarchist who fell into necromancy after his ex (even more minor NPC Escher) left him for Strahd and his parents tried to shove him into a heterosexual arranged marriage. Kid's basically just stopped CARING, and is just desperate for an OUT, which has made him a tiny bit of an angry snot.

  4. I know this is rather late to append, but I ran across this post via a google search, and thought I'd share how I'm handling Victor, and how this is impacting my portrayal of Stella Wachter.

    I'm...portraying him as an amoral psychopath who wants to further his magic and escape Barovia, but cares about little else. It was fueled by the fact that I was utterly unimpressed by the description that Stella went mad because 'Victor said cruel things to her.' Then it occurred to me that Victor is a wizard and judicious use of spells accessible to him (by expanding his spellbook a bit) could shatter the mind of the most stable of people.

    Full details ended up on reddit, if you're interested: