I ran Curse of Strahd for the first time last year, finishing early this year. My notes are considerably less detailed than for my other campaign journal, but I think I can make a short post once a day. _________________ My campaigns are multilayered tapestries upon which I texture themes and subject matter which, quite frankly, would simply be too strong for your hobbyist gamer. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Mp7Ikko8SI
The Curtain Opens: Backstories for the characters
The Hillsdale Public House is a pillar of the village of Hillsdale, a small rural community nestled in the hills, far from cities. It serves simple hearty drinks to the farmers and craftsfolk of the village and countryside. Halflings, gnomes, and hill dwarves meet under its roof to share a pint or a bowl or a pouch in peace and friendship, and it has been so for as long as the oldest gaffers and gammers of the village can remember. The occasional human traveler, or elf from the nearby monastery, can be found within its walls as well, though they are more rare and often provoke stares and murmured comments from the regulars.
Tonight it is especially festive, for besides the abundant harvest and mild fall weather, and the group of traveling bards playing for the patrons, the pub is also hosting two old mates, native-born but long since gone, back in the village. Friends from youth, they have not seen one another for years. Timzz is a gnome who grew up rather too bookish for his family and the small community. Sent to the capital, he 'prenticed as a sage until his talent for magic was recognized, and he has recently completed a 'prenticeship to an actual wizard. He is back in the village now to celebrate his graduation to journeyman wizard.
Helter is a dwarf from a local family of metal-workers, devout followers of the Forgemother all. She learned the crafts of her family while also volunteering as a maiden in the local shrine. When she came of age she moved to the closest market town and spent years there as an acolyte in the Forgemother's Kirk. She has just taken holy ordinances and been named a priestess, but is using her time "on leave" to visit old friends and family before she is given her temple assignment.
Others in the community come and go, joining the two for a drink while paying their respects, but Timzz and Helter have remained at the same table the entire evening, catching up on their years apart. When the conversation lulls, Timzz entertains the patrons with his prestidigitation of sparkling lights and Helter adds booming thaumaturgical sound effects so that the overall impression is one of miniature fireworks within the tavern, which add to the celebratory mood.
In the corner, alone, sits a wood elf monk, wordlessly watching the crowd. Her brothers and sisters in the monastery watch over the village, or so they claim, although many of the villagers believe that the dangers the monks say they protect them from are more imaginary than real, concocted to wheedle supplies of food and drink from the hard-working folk of the village so as to support the monastery and its strangely silent elves who do little besides contemplate life's mysteries all day.
An hour ago a human arrived, disrupting the otherwise festive occasion. He wore his weapons outright, but claimed he came in peace and wanted only a place on the floor to lay his bed roll down in the common room after the patrons had left for the evening. He was, he claimed, a servant of the god Lathander, come to Hillsdale to research 'the Morninglord', said to be an old aspect of Lathander, worshiped centuries ago by the people of the region. All those present roundly told him that no one in Hillsdale worshiped this Morninglord, or Lathander, or any human god besides, and that he was wasting his time - but he remained nonetheless, it being too late to travel the roads in any event and this being the only place in the small village with rooms to let. Once nearly all the locals had told him, very politely, that he was not welcome in the community, the festivities had resumed in earnest and the good folk of the village largely ignored him. On her way to the privy, Helter, newest Priestess of the Forgemother, had locked eyes with the stranger, smiled and shrugged as if to apologize for the provincialism and prejudice of her kin and kind, and kept walking.
(Post for Sept 11) _________________ My campaigns are multilayered tapestries upon which I texture themes and subject matter which, quite frankly, would simply be too strong for your hobbyist gamer. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Mp7Ikko8SI
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A decade ago: The first magic gem from the Winery goes missing.
A year ago: A powerful wizard arrives in Barovia and gets the people to join him in attacking Strahd. The people are killed, the wizard is defeated and cast down from the tops of the mountains.
Several Months ago: The vampire hunter Rudolph von Richten decides to go after the most powerful vampire of all, Strahd. He begins to research how to enter Barovia.
Months ago: Ezmerelda D' Avenir learns that her mentor von Richten is seeking Strahd. She begins looking for him.
Some weeks before now: The Swamp Witch Baba Lysaga has scarecrows attack the Wizard of Wines Winery. The Martikovs believe that the witch used the attack as a distraction for her to steal the second magical gem. Nightly attacks on the house of the Burgomaster of Barovia Village begin.
A week before now: The true messenger from the Burgomaster was killed while attempting to leave Barovia with a message.
Morning: Strahd sends a false message to the party.
Evening: The PCs meet the Vistana Arrigal at the Hillsdale Public House; he delivers the false Burgomaster's message to them.
Night: The Burgomaster dies of a heart attack during an attack on his home.
(Post for Sept 12) _________________ My campaigns are multilayered tapestries upon which I texture themes and subject matter which, quite frankly, would simply be too strong for your hobbyist gamer. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Mp7Ikko8SI
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The PCs walk to Barovia in the morning.
Fog closes in as they enter the village itself, and they are guided to the Death House, where two children ask them inside because there is a monster in the house. They enter the house in the afternoon.
They explore the first and second stories of the house and defeat an animated broom, animated armor, and the spectre of the children's nanny. Two of the PC's are possessed by the children, who turn out to be ghosts. They loot some of the basement, but the ghost of Thornboldt refuses to enter the sub-basement. They pass the night in the Wolf room.
All of them Level to 2nd.
(Post for Sept 13) _________________ My campaigns are multilayered tapestries upon which I texture themes and subject matter which, quite frankly, would simply be too strong for your hobbyist gamer. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Mp7Ikko8SI
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In the morning, the party enters the basement again and finds the crypts of Rose and Thorn. When they collect their remains from the attic and lay them to rest, the spirits leave them and they are no longer possessed. In the basement, they face ghouls, ghasts, a mimic, and shadows. The ghasts have a nice treasure haul. The shadows guard a secret ladder to the Wolf Room on the first floor. They return to the Wolf Room to rest.
All of them level to 3rd.
(Post for Sept 14) _________________ My campaigns are multilayered tapestries upon which I texture themes and subject matter which, quite frankly, would simply be too strong for your hobbyist gamer. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Mp7Ikko8SI
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In the morning, the party returns to the sub-basement. They refuse to make a sacrifice to appease the House, and are attacked by “Lorghoth the Decayer", a shambling mound animated by the spirit of the dead baby Walter. After slaying Lorghoth, they lay the body of Walter to rest in his crypt.
The House itself attacks them as they leave but they make it out to the streets of Barovia Village, where they meet Morgantha, a traveling pastry vender.
When they ask about supplies, Morgantha directs them to Bildrath's Mercantile. Timzz accepts and eats a dream pastry - and promptly passes out for eight hours, but has wonderful dreams.
Carrying Timzz (thankfully a gnome and the smallest of them), they meet Ismark in the local tavern. He asks for their help, and when they agree, he takes them to meet Ireena in the Burgomaster's Mansion, where they pass the night. The Burgomaster lies dead in the parlor, but his two children tell them that the handwriting on the message the party was sent is not his.
(Post for Sept 15) _________________ My campaigns are multilayered tapestries upon which I texture themes and subject matter which, quite frankly, would simply be too strong for your hobbyist gamer. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Mp7Ikko8SI
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In the morning, the party guards Ismark and Ireena as they take their father to the church for burial. Donovich performs a service, during which they are attacked by a dire wolf. The priest recognizes Vann's god Lathander as an aspect of the Morning Lord and tells him that he is concerned for her safety. The best places to protect her from the Devil are holy ground - the church of St. Andral (in Vallaki) or the Abbey of St. Markovia (in Krezk). The party agrees to escort her and Ismark at least to Vallaki.
They set out after the service. The two Vistani they meet on the road are strangely deferential to Ireena. They camp in the woods just past the crossroads gallows. Vann and Ismark, on night watch, see torchlight on the road but do not investigate.
(Post for Sept 16) _________________ My campaigns are multilayered tapestries upon which I texture themes and subject matter which, quite frankly, would simply be too strong for your hobbyist gamer. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Mp7Ikko8SI
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The trail climbs into the mountains. At the entrance to the forest they are attacked by five living trees (needle blights) which appear to be guarding the forest or the way beyond. They reach the high bridge over the river with several hours of daylight remaining, but choose to make camp rather than spending the night on the same side of the river as the castle of the Devil.
Helter (a priestess of the forge) transforms most of their metal treasure in a single platinum ingot to make it easier to transport.
(Post for Sept 17) _________________ My campaigns are multilayered tapestries upon which I texture themes and subject matter which, quite frankly, would simply be too strong for your hobbyist gamer. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Mp7Ikko8SI
Last edited by Kirt on Sun Sep 19, 2021 1:48 pm; edited 1 time in total
Before dawn the party's camp is attacked by four Strahd Zombies - Ismark and Ireena recognize them as former citizens of Barovia village who attacked the castle of the Devil a year ago. Helter does not participate in the battle so that she can complete her rest for the night.
After daybreak, they cross the bridge and sneak past a wild man guarded by twig blights. They pass the turnoff to the ominous-looking windmill and remain on the main road to Vallaki, camping just inside the woods at nightfall. Timzz (the evoker) has turned in, but the others are still awake, when they are attacked by nine normal wolves. One of the wolves tries to run off with a piece of the monk Fuine's sleeve*. Later that night another group of eight wolves attacks.
*[Strahd is trying to collect an item from the party to make his scrying spell more powerful.]
(Post for Sept 18) _________________ My campaigns are multilayered tapestries upon which I texture themes and subject matter which, quite frankly, would simply be too strong for your hobbyist gamer. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Mp7Ikko8SI
The party, Ireena, and Ismark arrive in Vallaki and go to Church of St. Andral. Father Petrovich agrees to keep Ireena safe - except that the church itself is not safe with with the bones of the Saint missing. Vann pledges to help.
They get a room at the Inn, and in the common room below meet Rictavio, two hunters, and the Vallaki Martikov family. Fuine waits outside the church and secretly follows Milovaj home, as the party suspects that he is behind the disappearance of the bones.
Everyone but Vann spends the night at the inn; the paladin does an all-night vigil at the church.
There are three days until the Festival of the Blazing Sun.
The Winery is attacked by druids who take the third magical gem.
(Post for Sept 19) _________________ My campaigns are multilayered tapestries upon which I texture themes and subject matter which, quite frankly, would simply be too strong for your hobbyist gamer. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Mp7Ikko8SI
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The party rises before dawn and goes the Church of St. Andral for a sunrise service - the investiture of Vann as a full paladin.
In the morning, the winery Martikovs, led by Davian, attack the druids at Yester Hill but fail to recapture their gem.
Later in the morning the party explores the town square. The leatherworker buys the wolf pelts they kept after their battles on the way to Vallaki. The apothecary buys some of the books they removed from the Death House, and, when Timzz asks who in town might be able to provide him with spells to copy, writes them a letter of introduction to Lady Wachter. They talk with the 'criminals' in the stocks - whose only crime appears to be that of criticizing the constant mandatory celebrations of the Baron.
Later, they visit Wachterhaus, near the Inn, and meet Lady Wachter and her factor Ernst. She proposes that should something should happen to Izek, the captain of the Town Guard, she might be able to 'convince' the Baron to step down and make way for a more rational civil government.
Back at the church of St. Andral, they speak with Milovaj on his lunch break, and get him to admit that he sold the bones of the saint to the coffin-maker in exchange for money to help feed his family.
Upstairs in the coffin-maker's shop they find the bones but are attacked by vampire spawn. They slay two before Helter turns the others, who run out of the building and seem not at all inconvenienced to be moving about the town in daylight! When the effect of the turning wears off, it is they who are forced to flee rather than face the four remaining spawn. Fuine leads the spawn on a merry chase through the abandoned buildings of the town while the others head for the church and replace the bones of St. Andral. By the time Fuine reaches the church, the spawn behind her cannot enter the re-sanctified ground, and they withdraw, cursing.
Due to the presence of the spawn somewhere in the town they decide to remain on church grounds for the remainder of the afternoon and evening.
Father Petrovich leads a service at night thanking the Morning Lord for his protection. During the service Vann notes a woman crying. Speaking with her later, she relates that the Baron has imprisoned her son. Vann resolves to return him to her.
The party overnights at the church.
Everyone but Helter levels to 4th
(Helter is shy due to her not participating in defending against the zombies outside the castle).
At night, the druids attack the Winery with an army of plant creatures and drive the Martikovs from their home.
Two days to the Festival of the Blazing Sun.
(Post for Sept 20) _________________ My campaigns are multilayered tapestries upon which I texture themes and subject matter which, quite frankly, would simply be too strong for your hobbyist gamer. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Mp7Ikko8SI
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The party leaves the church at dawn and checks the coffin-maker's shop but the spawn and their resting places are gone.
They go to the Inn; there are no customers there and they wake up the innkeeper. Urwin Martikov explains that the inn does not open until noon. When none of the them returned the previous night, the Martikovs were worried about them, but did not report them to the Baron. They ask how they can help, and Urwin explains that he will need more wine for the Festival of the Blazing Sun, but that shipments from the winery are long overdue - he asks them to investigate and hopefully return with wine in time for the festival. They plan on using the festival as a diversion, knowing that the Baron will be officiating, to sneak into his mansion and free the crying woman's son.
It is still morning when the party of four leaves Vallaki. Ismark and Ireena remain behind at the Church of St. Andral, where Father Petrovich has promised to protect them, especially Ireena. On the road they pass an undead Knight of the Silver Dragon, but after he recognizes Vann as a paladin he does not bother them. By using a forced march they arrive at the Winery after dark. Davian Martikov has his extended family hiding in the vineyards - he explains that the winery has been overrun by evil druids and animated plants. The party attacks the winery grounds at night and slays a number of needle blights, but when a druid with thorn blights emerges, they retreat.
They rest overnight in the vineyards, guarded by the Martikovs.
Helter levels to 4th.
One day until the Festival of the Blazing Sun.
(Post for Sept. 21) _________________ My campaigns are multilayered tapestries upon which I texture themes and subject matter which, quite frankly, would simply be too strong for your hobbyist gamer. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Mp7Ikko8SI
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In the morning, the party attacks the winery grounds again, this time defeating the druid and her twig blights, as well as some remaining needle blights. They seem to have secured the grounds, but retreat for a short rest. Later in the morning they enter the winery itself and defeat needle blights and vine blights, as well as three more druids including an old one with a magic staff. Davian breaks the staff, which seems to end the druid's ability to summon or control the blights.
The Martikovs prepare their horse-drawn wagon and the party rides in it with the wine shipment back to Vallaki. It is driven by Adrian and Elvir Martikov, who during the trip tell the party about the magic gems, the druids, and the swamp witch Baba Lysaga. Many ravens helped the party in the winery and they now seem to assist the Martikovs in scouting so that the journey back to Vallaki is free of encounters except for one wolf pack which they avoid.
They arrive at the gates of Vallaki at dusk, just before they close. The guards tell them to make their delivery to the inn but then to go immediately to the Festival in the town square, since attendance at the festival is mandatory. Vann leaves the wagon when they pass the church - Father Petrovich is attempting to keep some town guards from forcing Ireena and Ismark to attend the Festival, but Vann defuses the situation and the siblings agree to attend (the party had earlier told the Kolyanas that 'something bad' was going to happen at the Festival and they should avoid it). Petrovich, Vann, and the Kolyanas walk to the town square together.
Fuine leaves the wagon when they near the Burgomaster's mansion. She sees purple light in an attic window, sneaks in, knocks out two guard dogs, finds a room full of creepy dolls of Ireena, frees Udo Ludovich the cobbler (the son of the crying woman from the church), but trips a glyph of warding while investigating the attic and retreats before facing a mage.
The wagon is approached by Ernst before reaching the Inn; he helps the three remaining party members unload the wine, but also tells Helter and Timzz that Lady Fiona Wachter is ready to assume control of the town if the party can take care of Izek. The party learns that the innkeeper Urwin is Davian Martikov's third son and Adrian and Elvir are his brothers.
[Story awards: For getting the wine to Vallaki, the party has won the favor of the Martikov's of the Inn - they do not have to pay for lodging and food at the inn and sometimes the Vallaki ravens will assist them. For rescuing Udo Ludovich the cobbler, the party has gained an allied craftsman in Vallaki. He owes the party his life and will provide them with information and make most common leather goods for them at no charge]
Everyone from the Inn goes to the town square, arriving just before the Burgomaster. The Burgomaster gives a speech about how hope and happiness are the key to resisting the Devil, and then tries to light the huge wicker blazing sun, but his torch goes out in the gathering rain. When one of his own guardsmen laughs at the Burgomaster, Izek drags the man to the Burgomaster's side for punishment, but Vann intervenes and attacks Izek. The party sends Ernst to the Burgomaster's mansion to bring Fuine for help in the fight. The Burgomaster attempts to order the guards to arrest the party, but he is enveloped by a swarm of ravens, and Lady Fiona tells the crowd that it is time to rise up against the cruel and insane Burgomaster. The crowd keeps the guards from attacking the party. Together Vann, Timzz, Helter, Ireena, and Ismark manage to kill Izek. When Izek is struck down, the guards give up and the crowd turns on the Burgomaster, who gallops back to his mansion on his horse. Izek's body is found to have a single key on it. Fuine finally arrives and leads the party through shortcuts back to the Burgomaster's mansion, way ahead of the crowd, which is slowly rolling the wicker sun to the house and calling for the Burgomaster's head. Ernst says he had been trying to call for Fuine outside the house but had not received a response.
The Burgomaster has entered and locked the doors. Vann can't control or disperse the gathering crowd, but he tells Ernst to tell Lady Fiona to make sure the mansion is not burned before they get the Burgomaster out so that he can face justice. The crowd plans on setting the "sun" on fire and then rolling it into the mansion to burn the house down, with the Burgomaster inside if he refuses to leave.
The party enters the house through the back and confronts the Burgomaster in his library / study. He says the dolls belong to Izek and that the mage in the attic is his son Victor. He refuses to be captured and the party knocks him out, then leaves him guarded by Ismark and Ireena. In the attic, Timzz, Vann, and Fuine attempt to defeat the mage, but are forced to retreat after six skeletal cat minions attack and the mage uses the spells greater invisibility, shield, ice storm, magic missile, and suggestion on them. Fuine and Vann are knocked unconscious. Victor tells Helter and Timzz to leave him alone, and that he hates this cursed land and just wants to leave.
The party turns the unconscious Burgomaster over to Fiona, then uses his horse to get their two unconscious party members as well as the dogs out the back door. The mob burns down the mansion and possibly Victor. The party retreats to the Church of St. Andral, where Father Petrovich is sheltering the Burgomaster's wife, Lydia Petrovna, from the mob. Even though tonight is the Feast of St. Andral, he declares that there will not be a service, just an open worship given the sobering events of the evening. Udo Ludovich the cobbler is also there, and he promises to make shoes for the party or anything else they need that can be made from leather. The party passes the night in the church.
(Post for Sept. 22) _________________ My campaigns are multilayered tapestries upon which I texture themes and subject matter which, quite frankly, would simply be too strong for your hobbyist gamer. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Mp7Ikko8SI
The party, with Ismark and Ireena, leaves the church at dawn. The burgomaster's mansion has been burnt to the ground and is now just a smoking ruin. At the inn, Elvir and Adrian Martikov are preparing to return to the winery, but agree to wait for the party to talk to Lady Wachter first. Town guards are stationed outside Wachterhaus, and it appears that Lady Fiona has become the new Burgomistress. She thanks the party for their help and tells them that she is keeping the old Burgomaster in her house until he is able to sign a few papers formalizing her new position. She assures Vann that he will face justice for his crimes against the people of the town. She asks the party about Victor (the Burgomaster's son) and Lydia (his wife). The party tells her that Lydia is in the church, under the protection of Father Donovich, and that Victor was in the attic of the house, but that they don't know whether he made it out of the building before it burned. She says that her daughter was married to Victor but that he did something to her and she has not been the same since. Whatever happened to him was justified, in her opinion. She tells them that a young Vistana girl from the camp outside town has gone missing, if they would like to investigate, but that otherwise it appears that everything in the town is under control.
The party leaves Vallaki to return to the winery (Fuine, Ireena and Elvir walk, the other five are in the wagon with empty wine barrels). They meet a skeletal horse and rider, doomed to ride forever seeking, but never finding, an escape from Barovia.
When the party describes to Ireena the staff the druid used to control the plants, she says it sounds like a branch from the Gulthias tree. The Gulthias tree grew from the first wooden stake used to kill the first vampyr. The tree itself thirsts for blood, and a staff made from its branches gives one the power to control plants so that they, too, desire blood. They arrive at the Winery in the afternoon. The Martikovs have moved back in to the house and confirmed that there are no druids or blights in the building, just some strange heat-adsorbing mold in the basement and that the fermentation vats have been poisoned. They will not be able to harvest grapes or make more wine again until at least one of the gems is returned. They tell the party that it will be easier to defeat the druids of Yester Hill (who have one) than the swamp witch (who has the other one). They do not mention the third. The party stays the night in the Winery.
(Post for Sept. 23) _________________ My campaigns are multilayered tapestries upon which I texture themes and subject matter which, quite frankly, would simply be too strong for your hobbyist gamer. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Mp7Ikko8SI
The party leaves Ireena at the winery, under the care of the Martikovs - in particular, she has already become fond of the three young children, and they of her. Ismark and the four party members set out for Yester Hill.
The druids have built a huge wicker-and-mud statue of Strahd in a stone circle on a lightning-struck hill. The hill appears deserted, and they locate the gem in the heart of the statue. They are in the process of removing the gem from the statue when druids and berserkers swarm the hill, rising up out of earthen pits that resemble open graves. The berserkers are particularly fierce opponents but the party holds the field, defeating them all before returning to the winery with the gem for another rest.
The Martikov family tells the party about the Gulthias tree, confirming what Ireena said the day before - the tree is the source of the staffs the druids use to animate plants. The party can't really hope to kill all the druids, since there are untold numbers of them in Barovia among the wild folk, but if they can destroy the tree they may be able to keep them from using the plants as allies. The party stays the night in the Winery, making plans to return to Yester Hill and find the tree on the morrow.
(Post for Sept. 24) _________________ My campaigns are multilayered tapestries upon which I texture themes and subject matter which, quite frankly, would simply be too strong for your hobbyist gamer. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Mp7Ikko8SI
The party and Ismark sets out for Yester Hill; Ireena remains with the Martikovs at the Winery.
At Yester Hill, what is obviously the Gulthias tree is surrounded by moving needle blights, but there are no druids or berserkers about. When the party approaches to engage, however, vine blights and twig blights that had been hiding among the vegetation are revealed as well. All of those would be easy enough to dispatch, but suddenly one of the trees reveals itself as a huge tree blight, Wintersplinter. This tree repeatedly knocks out Fuine and the party is forced to retreat in defeat.
They have reached the outer vineyards but the winery itself is still in the distance when they are accosted by a trio of men who turn out to be werewolves. Despite the party's lack of silver and magic, Vann's use of thunderous smite makes enough noise to draw a flock of ravens and some defenders from the winery, and the werewolves are forced to withdraw.
That evening Helter uses 80gp worth of party metal and another 20gp of scrap metal from the winery to make a pair of silvered knuckles for Fuine. The party stays the night in the Winery.
(Post for Sept. 25) _________________ My campaigns are multilayered tapestries upon which I texture themes and subject matter which, quite frankly, would simply be too strong for your hobbyist gamer. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Mp7Ikko8SI
The party returns to clear out the last of the blights from Yester Hill. Now knowing about the blights, they approach cautiously and are able to kite Wintersplinter until it can be destroyed after two rounds of melee. Once the last defender has fallen, they chop down the Gulthias tree. In the trunk of the tree they find embedded the magical ax Treebane.
On their way back to the winery, they are met by two Vistani, who congratulate them on defeating the druids, since the winery is an important source of wine for the Vistani people. They recommend that the party see the ancient Vistana Madam Eva, who knows the fortunes of everyone in Barovia. The party stays the night in the Winery.
[Story Award: For destroying the Gulthias tree and crippling the power of the druids to harm the winery, the party is told about "The Order of the Feather" - a group led by the Martikovs but containing many other Barovians who oppose Strahd. The Martikovs promise to assist the party in whatever they can.]
(Post for Sept. 26) _________________ My campaigns are multilayered tapestries upon which I texture themes and subject matter which, quite frankly, would simply be too strong for your hobbyist gamer. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Mp7Ikko8SI
The party (including both Ismark and Ireena both) return to Vallaki, arriving before dark. Ernst meets them at the gate and gives them the Burgomaster's riding horse as a gift from Lady Fiona - he says that she has something else for them if they will visit her. They find the church of St. Andral deserted. Ismark, Ireena, and the horse are left at the Inn.
In the Wachterhaus, Lady Fiona says that the Burgomaster did indeed officially transfer his power to her, that she is now in control of the town, that all is going smoothly, and that the people are much better off. She says that the Vistana girl is still missing. She gives the party an invitation to attend dinner with Strahd (she calls him 'the Count', and not, 'the Devil'), and mentions that while she does not know where Father Petrovich went, he did receive the same invitation as they just did.
The party returns to the Inn to tell the Kolyanas that they should remain there while the party looks for the Vistana girl.
Vann talks to townsfolk until he learns about a man named Bluto Krogarov - a man who works as a porter but who spends all his money on wine. His shack lies just south of the town square. Passing through the square, the party sees the hanged bodies of the Burgomaster and his wife, with both covered in the posters that had advertised past festivals. Vann bribes a neighbor of Bluto, who reveals that the man had been holed up in his shack for four days (the same amount of time the girl has been missing) and then suddenly left today to go fishing while carrying a large sack. The party leaves the Lake Gate of the town at dusk and rescues young Arabelle from drowning. They bring Arabelle and Bluto to the Vistani camp outside of Vallaki.
The camp is run by Arabelle's father Luvash, with help from his brother Arrigal - the Vistana who gave the party the fake invitation in Hillsdale. When confronted, Arrigal explains politely that he merely said the message was from 'his master', by which he truthfully meant Strahd while the party assumed it was Ismark's father (due to the admittedly false signature on the message). Luvash and Arrigal allow the party to choose one treasure from the camp in return for having saved Arrabelle.
[Story Award- they choose a jewelry box with six jewelries, which gives them the material components for Chromatic Orb and Identify, as well as a potion which is under illusion magic to appear like healing but which they are warned not to drink. They are also told the Vistani version of the tale of Strahd, which differs significantly from that of the Barovians.]
When they finish their meal, the party returns to Vallaki and convinces the guard gates to let them in even though it is long past dark. They go to the Inn and find Ismark and Ireena, who are full of news. They say that the Martikovs told them that shortly after the party left Vallaki four days ago, townsfolk from Vallaki attacked the church. Their goal was to capture the Burgomaster's wife (Lydia Petranova). Father Petrovich tried to defend her, and he even used the powerful spiritual guardians spell. The Burgomaster's dogs were killed defending Lydia, Lydia was taken to Wachterhaus (she was later rolled in posters and glue and hanged in the town square), and Father Petrovich has not been seen since. No one in the congregation specifically recognized the attackers - they were not members of the church, but they were Vallaki citizens. Since then, the church has been largely empty, but some people still worship there privately.
Ireena and Ismark also say that the Martikovs gave them a letter from Rictavio. In the letter, Rictavio congratulated the party for their work at the Winery, said that they are fast becoming local heroes, and that perhaps one day they will indeed be able to work for his circus. For now, though, he has had to leave town as Lady Fiona has been asking too many questions about him. If the party would like to see him again they can find him in an abandoned tower on the shore of a lake between Vallaki and Krezk. He asked that the letter be destroyed after it was read.
After hearing all this, Fuine returns to Milovaj's house. The boy confirms the Martikov's story of the attack on the church, and says that he thought the bones were still there. Fuine says that if Milovaj hears anything more he should tell the Martikovs at the inn, and that he will be paid for it. Fuine goes to the church, empty now at night, and it looks to her like the floorboards Milovaj and the coffin maker replaced were intact.
The party passes the night at the Inn.
(Post for Sept 27) _________________ My campaigns are multilayered tapestries upon which I texture themes and subject matter which, quite frankly, would simply be too strong for your hobbyist gamer. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Mp7Ikko8SI
In the morning the party returns to the Wachterhaus. Lady Fiona thanks them for rescuing Arabelle and says that it will help the town have better relations with the Vistani, as will her fair and just punishment of Bluto (if the Vistani turn him over). The party asks Lady Fiona more pointedly than before what happened to Father Petrovich, but she just repeats that she saw him receive the invitation from Strahd and does not know what happened afterwards.
Ernst escorts them out and accompanies them to breakfast at the Inn. He tells them that Petrovich was indeed taken to Castle Ravenloft against his will, but admits that saying so in front of Lady Fiona would not be a good idea.
Ireena no longer feels safe in Vallaki with Lady Fiona in charge and Father Petrovich missing. She would be happy back at the Winery, or perhaps trying the monastery in Krezk as Donovich suggested, or even traveling with the party, but she does not want to stay in Vallaki without the party. Ismark agrees. Both the Winery and Krezk are west of Vallaki, but the party needs to go east if they wish to speak with Madam Eva. That means going back closer to the Castle, but even so the Kolyanas decide to accompany the party.
The party, with Ismark and Ireena, leaves Vallaki. It is eerily quiet as they travel east and pass through the gate near the turnoff for the castle. They see no one until they are near the bridge over the chasm; then, they are attacked by a druid and twig blights (the same wild man they saw on Day 6). Later, after they have crossed the bridge and are descending the mountain, they are attacked by two scarecrows, of the kind the Martikovs said that Baba Lysaga makes and sends to attack the Winery. The scarecrows are stuffed of straw but their guts are full of dead ravens and they may have been eating them.
The party camps for the night on the trail to the village of Barovia but the other side of the river from the Castle.
(Post for Sept 28) _________________ My campaigns are multilayered tapestries upon which I texture themes and subject matter which, quite frankly, would simply be too strong for your hobbyist gamer. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Mp7Ikko8SI
From the base of the mountain, the party turns north and finds a Vistani camp at the Tser Pool. The men and women there say that Madam Eva has been waiting for them. She greets them each by name and apparently knows their histories. They present her with a bottle of wine from the Winery and she says that she will tell their fortunes - each of the four party members separately, and then Ismark and Ireena together.
When Timzz selects a card from her Tarokka deck, she says, "This card tells of history. Knowledge of the ancient will help you better understand your enemy." When he turns it over, he reveals 'The Druid' and she says "An evil tree grows atop a hill of graves where the ancient dead sleep. The ravens can help you find it. Look for the treasure there."
The party says, "That's Yester Hill."
Madam Eva peers closer at the card and replies, "Yes, yes - return to the dead tree. Throw the axe into the air and dig where it falls."
When Helter chooses a card, she says "This card tells of a powerful force for good and protection, a holy symbol of great hope." When she turns it over, it shows 'The Shepherd'. Madam Eva says simply, "Find the mother—she who gave birth to evil."
When Vann picks a card, she says "This is a card of power and strength. It tells of a weapon of vengeance: a sword of sunlight." Vann turns over the card and finds 'The Mercenary.' She says "The thing you seek lies with the dead, under mountains of gold coins."
When Ireena and Ismark together agree on a card, she says, "This card sheds light on one who will help you greatly in the battle against darkness." They flip it as one and see 'The Broken One'. She says "I see a man of faith whose sanity hangs by a thread. He has lost someone close to him."
They wonder if she means Father Petrovich of Vallaki. A priest is certainly a man of faith and he lost his sister (the wife of the Burgomaster of Vallaki) when Lady Fiona killed her. Ernst says that he was taken to the Castle; they may need to go there to rescue him.
Finally, Fuine feels drawn to a card and Madam Eva gasps, saying, "Your enemy is a creature of darkness, whose powers are beyond mortality. This card will lead you to him!" Fuine places the card face-up and learns that it is 'The Executioner'. Madam Eva nods and says "I see a dark figure on a balcony, looking down upon this tortured land with a twisted smile. You can always find him there." They imagine this is Strahd at some vantage point in the Castle.
After their reading, the party leaves the Vistani camp. Ismark offers to get supplies for the party in nearby Barovia village but they decline. They return west and back up the mountain. They have no encounters until they are about to leave the western gates - then, two berserkers insist that they return and go to the Castle, saying that the Master has invited them to dinner. They kill the warriors and continue on their way.
They camp on the trail shortly after. They are attacked in their camp by three huge dire wolves.
Ezmerelda D' Avenir finds her way into the mists and enters Barovia from the west. She camps her wagon outside the town of Krezk but is not granted admission to the town.
(Post for Sept. 29) _________________ My campaigns are multilayered tapestries upon which I texture themes and subject matter which, quite frankly, would simply be too strong for your hobbyist gamer. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Mp7Ikko8SI
As the sky lightens, the mist thickens - and Timzz, on guard duty, falls asleep. Only Fuine's fey ancestry saves her from the spell. She hears the soft pad of wolf paws. When the mists clear, the party finds themselves facing the Count Strahd von Zarovich with a pack of wolves at his side. He tells them that he is disappointed they haven't accepted his invitation to dinner - they are his guests in this land, and he expects them to be well-mannered.
Vann says that the invitation did not have a date, and that the party is busy. The Count replies that if they are busy, they may attend to their business first - but they should also know that his patience is not limitless and he does expect them to visit. When they ask if there is anything else they should know, he says that they must make sure nothing happens to 'her' (and he indicates Ireena, who is still asleep from the night before). If something did happen, he would be 'very displeased' with them. He withdraws into the mists, and the wolves go with him. When Ireena awakes, they do not tell her of Strahd's appearance.
As the party travels back to Vallaki, they meet Morgantha, walking the opposite direction from the windmill to Barovia village with her handcart. She tries to convince them to buy more dream pastries but they all refuse, even Timzz. After she is gone, the Kolyanas tell the party that the pastries are addictive, but that they are the only way for people to have pleasant dreams in this cursed land, so that many people buy them as a means of temporary escape from their lives. However, when people desperately want pastries but can't pay, Morgantha accepts their children as payment. Neither Ismark nor Ireena know what happens to the children after they are taken to the windmill.
Soon after this encounter, Fuine finds a foot trail leading off the main road. It ends in a carefully concealed pit trap.
They make it to the closed gates of Vallaki well after dark, but are stopped by a tree full of ravens. A man emerges from the forest - someone they have seen before at the Inn. He says that Urwin Martikov told him to warn the party not to enter Vallaki. Apparently, Lady Fiona has told the Martikovs that they are forbidden from giving lodging to the party at the Inn. Something has happened, and they fear that the party will not be safe in Vallaki with Fiona looking for them.
"First Barovia, now Vallaki," says Ireena, alarmed.
"You will be safe at the Winery," her brother tells her.
The man from Vallaki asks whether the party needs anything they left at the Inn, since the Martikovs have hidden these things for them, but they say they do not for the moment. They camp for the night in the forest, with plans to skirt the village just before dawn and be on their way to the Winery.
Ezmerelda D' Avenir takes her wagon to the Tower of Khazan. She reasons that von Richten would visit such a place. She camps outside for a week, but he does not appear. She does not force the tower itself.
(Post for Sept. 30) _________________ My campaigns are multilayered tapestries upon which I texture themes and subject matter which, quite frankly, would simply be too strong for your hobbyist gamer. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Mp7Ikko8SI
The party travels to the winery. As they are about to cross the bridge over the Raven River, Fuine notices something glinting under the bridge. It is a small hand-mirror - but it shows those who look in it as greatly aged versions of themselves. Helter takes the mirror.
At the Winery, they tell the Martikovs about their concerns over Vallaki. The Martikovs are worried about their family in the town, but it seems that for now, Lady Fiona is more interested in the party than in them, and she would be mad to try to close the Inn, since the whole town relies on it for wine. They agree that Ireena can stay at the winery as long as need be, and all of the Order of the Feather will defend her against whatever strange interest Strahd has taken with her.
They spend the night at the Winery.
(Post for Oct. 1) _________________ My campaigns are multilayered tapestries upon which I texture themes and subject matter which, quite frankly, would simply be too strong for your hobbyist gamer. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Mp7Ikko8SI
Last edited by Kirt on Mon Oct 04, 2021 6:40 pm; edited 1 time in total
In the morning, the party (with Ismark, without Ireena) returns to Yester Hill. The clouds are still thick and brooding about the hill, but today there is no lightning. The bodies of the druids and berserkers lie where they fell, and do not seem to have been bothered by wolves or other scavengers. Going to the stump of the Gulthias tree, Helter throws Treebane into the air - it arcs up, and then flies off, as if light as a kite and caught by a gust of wind. It lands in the stone circle, at the base of the toppled wicker statue of Strahd. Digging, the party finds a brass-bound wooden chest. Vann opens it with his sword, but he is immediately struck by lightning, as are all of the corpses on the hill from multiple simultaneous strikes from the sky.
The bodies that were struck rise as zombies (fortunately normal zombies, not the stronger Strahd zombies - but even so their undead fortitude makes them difficult to put down). Closing ranks, the party eventually prevails.
After the battle, the party looks in the chest and finds a huge, ancient, leather-bound tome. The majority of this is the personal diary of Strahd! Most of it is illegible, but there are hints of his history. In the back are experimental versions of spells, some complete, some not. Timzz is able to recognize as usable Chromatic Orb, Fly, Haste, and Fireball. This Tome is one of the "Fortunes of Ravenloft" that Madam Eva told them were necessary for defeating Strahd (and is worth 3800xp for each of them!). Everyone levels to 5th.
Helter smashes the wood of the chest and removes the 15gp worth of brass bindings. They return to the Winery. Helter smelts the brass into an ingot. Timzz copies the four spells into his spell book, in his own notation.
(Post for Oct. 2) _________________ My campaigns are multilayered tapestries upon which I texture themes and subject matter which, quite frankly, would simply be too strong for your hobbyist gamer. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Mp7Ikko8SI
In the morning, as Ismark spars with Vann, the Barovian tells the paladin that he is getting faster. If he continues to improve, at some point the party will not need his help any more. But he pledges to stay with them for as long as they are fighting the Devil, as long as they think he is useful.
They leave Ireena and the late Baron's horse at the Winery under the care of the Martikovs and set out, determined to confront the swamp witch Baba Lysaga and win back the second magic gem for the vineyards. They return nearly to Vallaki, but turn south just before crossing the Luna river. The overgrown trail to the ruined village of Berez is long and they are forced to camp for the night. Ismark says that long before he was born, the people of Berez did something to anger the Devil and now the town is abandoned and half swallowed by the river and swamp. They make no campfire but withdraw into the forest where they can hear, but not see, the trail. As it grows dark, Vann hears the clank of armor, and finds another (?) or the same (?) undead knight, who has vowed vengeance on Strahd and who cannot be released even in death.
(Post for Oct. 3) _________________ My campaigns are multilayered tapestries upon which I texture themes and subject matter which, quite frankly, would simply be too strong for your hobbyist gamer. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Mp7Ikko8SI
In the morning they set out, and reach Berez by mid-day. Ignoring a strange light from across the river, they take a path leading past the ruins of peasant hovels. When they attack one scarecrow, others come - but in the daylight, in the open fields, with Timzz' fire magic, they are easy to pick off at a distance.
Baba Lysaga's hut is on top of a huge tree stump and a floating giant skull hovers outside. Outside as well are two iron cages full of ravens, and their constant squawking has kept the witch from hearing the combat with the party. Timzz uses knock to open a cage, and the ravens immediately fly in the hut to attack the witch. Before she can respond, Fuine stuns her with her ki. The witch manages to stagger outside to her skull but cannot get away before the rest of the party kills her. Soon after, Muriel the wereraven arrives, telling the party that she has been watching for them, to help them at the order of Davian Martikov, the leader of the Order of the Feather. Fuine asks if Muriel can make her a wereraven and Muriel says that is up to Davian.
Searching the hut, they find a strange illusion of a baby in a crib (the mother of evil?) over the second winery gem as well as a blood-soaked iron bathtub used for unholy rituals. In a cabinet are plenty of material components. In a glyph-trapped chest are four crawling claws, Baba Lysaga's spell book (which goes to Timzz), 1300gp, five gems, a luckstone (for Vann), ten magic sling bullets, two spell scrolls (taken by Helter), a set of magic pipes, and a vial of oil of sharpness.
Timzz uses identify to learn that the skull and the hut will respond only to Baba Lysaga - without her, they will slowly lose their magic. Helter melts down the cages and the tub to make the front breastplate of Vann's future plate mail. They rest an hour.
Muriel shows them the rest of Berez; a ruined church with a fallen iron bell and a graveyard, a monument to 'Marina, Taken by the Mists' (centuries old but the exact image of Ireena), and the fallen Ullrich mansion. Outside the mansion is a goat pen and a snake-infested garden. Inside is the ghost of Burgomaster Ulrich, who says that he is cursed to haunt the mansion because he angered Strahd and was killed by him.
Before the party turns in for the night, Helter uses the church bell to form the back breastplate of Vann's future armor. The mosquitos and biting flies come in clouds from the surrounding swamp at dusk, but Helter burns incense, allowing the party to sleep fitfully in the hut.
(Post for Oct. 4) _________________ My campaigns are multilayered tapestries upon which I texture themes and subject matter which, quite frankly, would simply be too strong for your hobbyist gamer. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Mp7Ikko8SI
Day 23 (party)
The party is low on rations, so Muriel is sent flying as a raven to Vallaki in the morning with the plan of buying supplies for them and then meeting them at the bridge outside of town, to the west.
Before they leave the village, they try remove curse on the ghost of Ulrich, but he says he is bound to the mansion by Strahd himself. Helter asks Ulrich who the mother of Strahd was, and he says Queen Ravenovia van Roeyen, whose body most likely lies in in the Zarovich family crypt under Castle Ravenloft. She asks Ulrivh where a powerful holy relic might be, and he says possibly in the Abbey of St. Markovia.
The party reaches the bridge and Muriel early in the afternoon, and they camp for the night near the entrance to the road to Argynvostholt, the fallen citadel of the Knights of the Silver Dragon, whose leader was Vladimir Horngaard. They have seen the ruins of Argynvostholt from far beneath it on the road back from Berez.
(Post for Oct. 5) _________________ My campaigns are multilayered tapestries upon which I texture themes and subject matter which, quite frankly, would simply be too strong for your hobbyist gamer. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Mp7Ikko8SI
Day 23 (Winery)
The tale of Ludmilla's assault on the Winery, as told to the party by Adrian Martikov the next day: [Note: this was rolled out 'off-screen' by the DM]
"The devil’s carriage approached the winery in the middle of the day, as bold as brass. Fortunately that gave us plenty of time to ready everyone. The carriage pulled up on the grass outside the stomping vats and Ludmilla got out - she’s one of Strahd’s brides. That was fine - he is ‘our lord and master’ and gives us commands sometimes. But when five wolfmen got out right after her, we knew we were in trouble - they are nothing but enemies for us.
Three wolfmen immediately moved to block all the other exits of the building, while two stayed with Ludmilla. She came to the main door. Dag went to bring torches from the stove in the kitchen - fire is one of the few ways we have to damage the wolf men. Davian opened the door but didn’t invite her in - me and Elvir were with him. Davian told her to get her dogs off our lawn. She told him Strahd had a message for you - for everyone in your party. Davian said none of you were here - but he didn’t say anything about your girl Ireena.
Ludmilla said she would just have to leave a message for you, then - and she signaled the wolfmen and they tried to come in the door. The first one shoved Davian back so hard he fell on the stairs behind him, and that wolfman got inside.
The four of us, and Dag with his torch, managed to get a hold of the wolfman. Me and Elvir got it back out the door, off the porch, and flew it up in the air as high as the second floor of the winery. Davian closed the door and Dag barred it from inside.
Stefania threw open the back door and let the ravens out. They went for the one werewolf back there and tried to pin it down so the children could escape. The ravens were able to knock the wolfman down while the others ran out. Stefania told the boys to fly to Krezk. Normally we would tell them to go to the inn in Vallaki, but we had received the news that Lady Wachter has control of Vallaki now and we didn’t think the children would be safe there. Stefania could have flown with them, even while carrying Yolanda, who is too young to fly, but she stayed to protect your girl, flying just ahead of her and showing her the best way through the vineyard.
Ludmilla dropped back off the front porch and shouted to the wolfmen to break down the doors - she didn’t know that the children and your girl were already fleeing out the back door. Just then the wolfman at the back door began to howl his hunting call, got back to his feet, and started running after Stefania and your girl. One wolfman bounced off the side door, not able to batter it down, and then came around the back of the house. The one on the front porch tried to bust through the vat doors and couldn’t. Another one managed to break down the workshop doors and started calling for Ludmilla. The one me and Elvir had a hold of twisted out of our grasp and fell twenty feet - enough to hurt, but not enough to kill it. They can be hurt by falls, if you didn’t know, and we had planned on flying it higher before we let it go.
Davian and Dag heard the door in the workshop broken in, so they ran there and Dag started attacking the wolfman with his torch. Me and Elvir dropped to the ground and tried to scoop the wolfman back up, but he fended us off. The ravens hung back and managed to knock down the pursuing wolfman again so by the time it got up it had lost sight of Stefania and your girl.
Ludmilla ran to the door that had been smashed, and as soon as the wolfman there saw her, he invited her in so that she could enter the house. That’s when we knew the game was up. We can damage the vampire spawn, but usually not as fast as they can heal themselves. And while they can’t hurt us with their claws, their unholy bite is able to drain the life force from us along with our blood.
The wolfman trying to break down the vat doors didn’t get anywhere. The two in the back of the house ran through the vineyards, but Stefania was leading your girl far away from them fast and they couldn’t pick up the trail. The wolfman that me and Elvir had dropped picked himself up and ran to the open door, but didn’t make it inside before we tried to grab him again. I got a good hold and kept him from entering. The wolfman already in the workshop tried to grab Dag, probably to hold him still so Ludmilla could bite him, but Dag fended him off with his torch and he and Davian fled to the back of the house.
We didn’t stick around to see what happened next - a few of us flew ahead to catch up to the boys, while the rest of us dropped back to guard Ireena. Once it was clear that we were all safely away and on our way to Krezk, they decided to send me back to wait for you here and tell you what happened and where to look for Ireena. This is what the house looked like when I got back. Oh, and I found this letter on the lawn in front of the house. It’s addressed to you."
(Post for Oct. 6) _________________ My campaigns are multilayered tapestries upon which I texture themes and subject matter which, quite frankly, would simply be too strong for your hobbyist gamer. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Mp7Ikko8SI
In the morning they are ambushed by six scarecrows on the road to the Winery, just as they leave the forest and begin to cross the open fields. Later, they arrive in the afternoon to find the Winery building a burned-out shell. Adrian Martikov tells them the story of its fall (see Day 23: Winery) and gives them another invitation to dinner from Strahd. They give him the gem they recovered from Baba Lysaga, though it is small consolation. Adrian says that Ireena and the others are safe (he thinks) and they have all fled to Krezk.
Vann thinks that they should go to the Strahd's castle before he hurts any more innocents on their account, but he also knows that Ismark will need to see that Ireena is safe before anything else. They set out for Krezk. When they camp at night, Adrian and Muriel say that their camp is being watched by wolfmen, but that they are keeping their distance.
(Post for Oct. 7) _________________ My campaigns are multilayered tapestries upon which I texture themes and subject matter which, quite frankly, would simply be too strong for your hobbyist gamer. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Mp7Ikko8SI
The party and Ismark (and Adrien and Muriel) arrive outside the stone walls of Krezk at noon. The Abbey can be seen high on the mountainside above the village. Burgomaster Dmitri Krezkov initially denies them entrance, but Davian Martikov, already within the village and apparently friendly with the Burgomaster, brokers a deal. If the party agrees to destroy the nearby werewolf den, they will be allowed to enter the village (and the Martikovs will gain some measure of revenge for the destruction of their home). Ismark sees Ireena safe on the wall with the Martikov family. The party arranges to buy more rations, and passes the chest from Baba Lysaga to the Martikovs for safekeeping inside the village. Adrian and Muriel guide the party through the forest to the werewolf den - and they say that they are hiding them from wolfman scouts the entire way.
The party assaults the caves and kills four female werewolves, as well as one old man and nine normal wolves outright. In the farthest back cave they find the werewolf Zuleika Toranescu, as well as a statue of Mother Night and a number of children in cages. Zuleika explains that her husband Emil was Leader of the Pack until his rival Kirill betrayed him to Strahd for opposing Kirill's plan for the children. Zuleika seeks the party's aid in defeating Kirill and rescuing her mate, who is likely held in Castle Ravenloft, if he is still alive. Kellen, a boy of about ten, tells the party that the wolfmen capture children, bring them back, and make them fight. The winner gets to become a member of the pack, as he did several months ago. The losers are eaten. Both Kellen and Zuleika tell the party that all the treasure around the statue belongs to Mother Night and will be cursed if they try to take it.
Later Kirill returns and attacks with the rest of the Pack and nine more wolves. All the wolves and some of the wolfmen are killed. Zuleika burns Kirill's body. Three wolfmen flee. Vann, Timzz, and Helter level to 6th.
After speaking with Zuleika, the party agrees to let her go - and possibly receive her help again if they enter the castle. They tell her to wait in Berez (near Baba Lysaga's Hut) until they come for her. They pass the night in the caves.
(Post for Oct. 8) _________________ My campaigns are multilayered tapestries upon which I texture themes and subject matter which, quite frankly, would simply be too strong for your hobbyist gamer. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Mp7Ikko8SI
In the morning, Helter casts remove curse on Fuine and Kellen (removing their lycanthropy) and also Create Food to feed all the children. Timzz' contracted lycanthropy will have to wait. Fuine appears to have recovered on her own from the blood worms she got handling the corpses.
Timzz uses unseen servant to collect much of the treasure from around the statue - Vann fills up bags and passes them out among the children to carry for the party (except for Kellen, who refuses, as he still insists that the treasure is cursed).
They walk to Krezk. The townsfolk are happy that the werewolves have been slain, but surprised at the appearance of the children (who are not from Krezk, or even, as it turns out, from Barovia - the party learns that the werewolves passed through he mists to steal children from another world). Many of the townsfolk are childless, however, and welcome the children. The Burgomaster's wife wants to adopt Kellen.
The Burgomaster says that they are a poor village, and that they have already sold all of their extra food as rations to the party. Neither do they want to draw down the wrath of the Devil. The party is welcome to stay in the town as long as they have business there, but should leave immediately at its conclusion.
Ireena informs the party of what she has learned in her four days in town. The town was built to serve the Abbey above it. Saint Markovia and her followers accepted Strahd as their ruler when he conquered Barovia, but after he became a vampire they assaulted the castle attempting to overthrow him. When the priestess didn't return from the attack, Strahd ruthlessly preyed on the fears of the clerics and nuns remaining holed up inside the Abbey, but ultimately it was their isolation that doomed them. The clergy began fighting over food and wine. By the time their supplies ran out, they had either been killed at each other’s hands or driven hopelessly insane by Strahd’s acts of terror against them. For years afterward, the villagers of Krezk avoided the place, fearing that the abbey was cursed, haunted, or both.
Then, over a century ago, a pilgrim from a distant land came to Krezk and insisted that he be allowed to reopen the abbey. The nameless man was strikingly handsome and extremely persuasive, and the villagers couldn’t help but do as he commanded. Eternally young, he presides over the abbey to this day, and locals refer to him simply as the Abbot. No one from the village visits the abbey anymore. The abbey’s bell rings at odd times, day and night, and the place is filled with baleful screams and horrible, inhuman laughter that can be heard throughout the village.
Burgomaster Dmitri Krezkov operates the village as a commune, with everyone working and sharing what little food they have. Residents never leave the village for fear of being attacked by wolves, dire wolves, and werewolves. Burgomaster Krezkov recently lost his fourteen-year-old son, Ilya, to illness. Ilya was the last of the four Krezkov children, the other three having also died tragically.
A pool at the north end of the village provides fresh water throughout the year. Next to the pool, the village’s ancestors built a shrine to the Morninglord in a gazebo. It’s known as the Shrine of the White Sun.
Leaving Ismark with Ireena, the party travels up the road to the abbey. They are let in by strange human-animal hybrid creatures; there is another one chained in the yard. One of the creatures freely admits that he sneaks into the town to rob graves when the abbot tells him to.
The party meets with the abbot - Vann uses his Divine Sense to reveal that he is a disguised Celestial. Helter gets him to admit that he is building a flesh golem bride for Strahd. The Abbot offers to help the party with healing, or even raise dead, if they will help him find a suitable wedding gown for the creature, which he intends to present to Strahd. They agree to help him; the Celestial removes Timzz's lycanthropy.
The party slips out of Krezk without telling the Martikovs or the Kolyanas where they are going. They are hoping to get a wedding dress from the Vistani camp outside of Vallaki. They camp in the woods and are attacked by scarecrows. When Vann tries to rest, he finds that every time he drifts off to sleep, he has incredibly vivid nightmares - rotting corpses, seemingly normal events turning gruesome, glittering coins hidden all over but with a sense of dread, as if something terrible will happen if they are found. He wakes each time with a start, and does not succeed in completing a rest.
Now that Vistani are allowed in Vallaki, Ezmerelda D' Avenir explores the town, looking for von Richten. She doesn't find him, but everywhere there are signs of Strahd, whom she begins to learn about. She returns to the Vistani camp at night.
(Post for Oct. 9) _________________ My campaigns are multilayered tapestries upon which I texture themes and subject matter which, quite frankly, would simply be too strong for your hobbyist gamer. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Mp7Ikko8SI
In the morning, Fuine levels to 6th. Vann has not had a rest and does not regain spells or abilities. They take a short rest in the morning while Timzz heals from the scarecrow fight. Helter would like to make more of Vann's armor - but they realize that they left Baba Lysaga's treasure with the Martikov's back in Krezk. They have the werewolf treasure with them - but Helter hesitates to make armor out of something that might actually be cursed by Mother Night (as Vann's nightmares may be related to his handling of the treasure).
Rather than travel immediately to Vallaki, they decide to explore the ruined castle of Argynvostholt on the way and arrive there at noon. One of the undead knights they met spoke of his undying hatred for Strahd, and how he is cursed with unlife until Strahd is destroyed. He also spoke of the leader of the Order of the Silver Dragon, Vladimir Horngaard, giving the party hope that they might be able to speak with him within and perhaps gain an ally against Strahd. However, what little of the castle they explore contains phantom warriors that attack them, saying that they are cursed to defend the castle whether they want to or not. Vann discovers Horngaard in a throne room, but the undead knight says that he is not interested in destroying Strahd, because he has already been destroyed. Strahd is a prisoner in this land just like them, a punishment for his crimes, and Horngaard has no wish to free him and end his suffering.
They leave the castle bitter and disappointed but find a Vistani with a wagon delivering a coffin to the castle under the orders of the Devil. They get a ride back to Luvash's Vistani camp outside of Vallaki. Along the way Vann is able to rest, sleeping in the back of the wagon. He and Helter have now worked out that he had been cursed by Mother Night for taking her treasure, and that he is unable to rest at night, although he can during the day.
Luvash is happy to have one of his women trade them a Vistani wedding dress for the electrum flute they took from the werewolves, and also give them rations in exchange for an ingot of precious metal. He cryptically says that his brother Arrigal is currently unable to see them. They notice that the houses around the base of the hill on which the Vistani are camped are sized for humans, but built in a style that is neither Vistani nor Barovian. They leave the camp and began to return to Krezk. Unable to sleep at night without nightmares, but now having rested, Vann stands watch all night.
(Post for Oct. 10) _________________ My campaigns are multilayered tapestries upon which I texture themes and subject matter which, quite frankly, would simply be too strong for your hobbyist gamer. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Mp7Ikko8SI
In the morning, Helter casts remove curse on Vann. They will need to wait to see whether or not that removes his night terrors.
They arrive at Krezk at 2pm, but are met outside the gates of the city by Elvir Martikov in raven form. Elvir warns them that the Burgomaster will not let them enter the town. Worse, something terrible has happened.
Two days ago, the party entered the monastery - telling Adrian, Muriel, Ireena, and Ismark that they shouldn't come along - either because it was not necessary, or because it was dangerous - the record on that is not clear. When the party did not reappear [because they left town without explaining themselves or telling anyone], and the bells and howls from the Abbey continued, the Martikovs grew worried. When it had been a full day, they discussed whether they should intervene, but decided not to. That night, Davian sent member of the Order of the Feather out to see if they could find the party elsewhere in Barovia, but no one was able to locate them. By noon of today, when the party had been gone for two whole days, Ismark said that he would try the monastery. Ireena begged him not to go, but he said that the party had saved them so many times, he was not a man if he did not go to their aid in their need. So, just over an hour ago, Adrian, Muriel, Ireena, and Ismark were admitted to the monastery and met with the Abbot.
As soon as the Abbot saw Ireena he began talking about how he would deliver her to Strahd. Ismark attacked him and they all fought. Adrian was knocked unconscious - the Abbot's mace exploded with light and could damage the wereravens, even though it is not silver. Muriel's wing was broken but she managed to drag the unconscious Adrian out of the abbey. They are both still recovering in town, but they do not know what happened to Ireena and Ismark. Everyone is distraught. Elvir takes the party up a steep hidden trail that gets them to the monastery without them having to go through the walls of the village.
The abbey gate keepers, Otto and Zygfrek Belview, say that the Abbot has been waiting for the party and take them inside. Ismark lies dead in a pool of his own blood in the hall while Vasilika the flesh golem practices dancing nearby. Upstairs, Ireena sobs. She is bound to a table while Clovis Belview plays a viol and the Abbot entreats her to stop crying so that he may remove the skin from her face - a frown will spoil his work.
The party shows the Abbot the Vistani wedding dress and lures him downstairs to try it on Vasilika. Vann casts magic weapon while he prays to the Morninglord and the party attacks. Tim is knocked unconscious, twice, but in the end the combination of stunning strike from Fuine and fireball from Timzz brings the abbot down, and Clovis and Vasilika are quickly finished off after. Behind a gold sun on the wall is a potion of superior healing.
Vann prays for guidance and atonement. He learns that the Abbot was once a faithful servant of the Morninglord but centuries of entrapment in Barovia corrupted him. Vann is counseled that nothing can remain good for long in this realm, and that he must be the light, truth, and good he wishes to see here. He takes the holy symbol from the abbot as a reminder of the dangers of corruption.
While Helter labors on Vann's armor (four uses of channel divinity), making a blazing helm with the sunburst design, Vann and Fuine explore the yard, where monstrous Belviews are chained or locked up and await dinner. Otto explains the history of the place under the Abbot while Vann wrestles with whether he needs to release the monstrosities (and have them threaten the villagers), leave them to starve (although they have themselves done no wrongs), or slay them (although they are likely unable to fight back). Fortunately, Elvir Martikov arrives and is taken aback at the disturbing sight. He pledges that now, without the Winery, the Martikovs will take over the monastery and tend to the Belviews as a way of serving the people of the land. But they will also make sure that no new children are born to them so that the madness of the Abbot's experiments will die with the current generation.
Ireena weeps over Ismark's body, says that nowhere in this land is safe from Strahd, and says that she is ready to accept her fate and just give in to him. She asks the party for one last service - to help her get Ismark's body back to their village so that he can be buried alongside their father before she goes alone to the castle.
The party tells her to keep the faith - Helter casts gentle repose on Ismark's body to protect it from becoming undead or decomposing for ten days, and they say they will seek the means to raise him. Ireena is encouraged, and more so when she learns that she can stay in the monastery with the Martikovs. (Ten days of gentle repose left).
Ezmerelda D' Avenir continues to explore Vallaki. She is beginning to think that she may not find von Richten; either he is hiding from Strahd or has already been captured by him. She decides that she will need to confront Strahd herself.
(Post for Oct. 11) _________________ My campaigns are multilayered tapestries upon which I texture themes and subject matter which, quite frankly, would simply be too strong for your hobbyist gamer. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Mp7Ikko8SI
In the morning, Helter makes Vann's left grieve to finish the pair she started the night before. She now has more than half of his armor done (and he is now at AC17, or 19 with his shield). He was able to rest the night - apparently Helter's remove curse broke the power of Mother Night's curse. Helter also casts create food and water for the four of the party, and donates the remaining 33 meals to the Martikovs to help feed the Belviews. After some discussion, Helter also makes Vann's right boot.
At first, the party plans on setting out at mid-day for Castle Argynvostholt, but as they prepare, they realize that it will be about a ten- or eleven-mile march. Starting this late in the day will guarantee they will not arrive before dark. Having to travel at night, or camping with one fewer of them on watch (now that Ismark has fallen), is less appealing than simply recovering for one more day in the monastery. After their midday meal, Helter uses the time to make a left boot and a right vambrace. (Nine more days remaining of gentle repose on Ismark)
Ezmerelda continues to explore Vallaki as well as talking to the Vistani, looking for information that can be used against Strahd. She hears rumors about the Abbey of Saint Markovia, the ruins of Berez, the ruins of Argynvostholt, and the Amber Temple. She decides that the Amber Temple and the ruins of Berez are too dangerous for her to explore on her own - perhaps if or when she is able to find von Richten. She decides to start with Argynvostholt. In the evening when she returns to the Vistani camp, she tries to bargain for a horse but Luvash is not willing to sell her one.
(Post for Oct. 12) _________________ My campaigns are multilayered tapestries upon which I texture themes and subject matter which, quite frankly, would simply be too strong for your hobbyist gamer. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Mp7Ikko8SI
Ezmerelda steals a horse before dawn and arrives at Argynvostholt after dark, pursued by Arrigal.
The party sets out from the Abbey at first light, having already eaten the breakfast from Helter's cast of create food and water. Helter has placed her blessing of the forge on Vann's longsword. After traveling the entire day, they arrive at the castle as the darkness descends. If Vladimir will not ally with them against Strahd, Vann intends to have his sword to aid them in their fight. Timzz uses knock to get in a side gate he saw before. Entering a den, they spy some sort of living flame in a hearth - when Fuine punches it, it explodes to damage them all. When they attain the throne room, Vladimir repeats his promise that he will oppose any who seek to end Strahd's suffering. When Vann attacks him, fully six phantom warriors appear, and the fight is closer than they had planned on. Fuine's stunning strike does not work against him - something to consider for future encounters with undead. In the end, all six phantom warriors dissolve into the ether, the body Vladimir had inhabited is free of him, and his magic sword is Vann's. They withdraw through the northern gate for Timzz to use a detect magic ritual and Helter to cast prayer of healing. Before either spell is finished, though, they hear the approach of a horse, ridden hard, and then someone enter the castle through the front doors.
While the stranger is in the castle, they examine the coffin left outside. Carved with Helter's name, it is full of bats that attack her when it is opened. Shortly thereafter, Arrigal and two other Vistani arrive - he on a horse and they on dire wolves. While Fuine watches them, a Vistani woman emerges from the castle and approaches the hidden party. She says she is Ezmerelda D' Avenir and the other Vistani are looking for her because she stole a horse since it was the easiest way to travel from Vallaki to the castle without having to overnight in the forest, and Luvash refused to sell her one. After a brief discussion with the party, she and they tentatively agree to ally with one another against Strahd. Based on the party's description of him, Ezmerelda identifies Vladimir as a revenant.
The party returns to Krezk with Ezmerelda and talk as they go. They arrive just as dawn is breaking. (Eight more days of gentle repose on Ismark).
(Post for Oct. 13) _________________ My campaigns are multilayered tapestries upon which I texture themes and subject matter which, quite frankly, would simply be too strong for your hobbyist gamer. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Mp7Ikko8SI
The party rests under the care of the Martikovs and Ireena in the Abbey until early afternoon. Then Timzz and Ezmerelda visit the library. Helter continues to work on Vann's armor. Fuine works with the Martikovs to prepare food for the Belviews and clean out their cages from the filthy conditions in which they were living. Vann prays and works to clean and restore symbols of the Morninglord around the monastery as well as get rid of the legacy of the Abbot's 'cures'.
The monastery library is small and has only several dozen works. However, these are all ancient and hand-written. Many have been damaged by time and humidity, so it is slow-going reading through them. After Timzz and Ezmerelda have made a basic survey of the contents and decided what is worth their time to read, he shows her the Tome of Strahd they recovered from Yester Hill. She is amazed that they have been able to recover it, and is sure that it holds many clues to the wampyr's veaknesses.
The part that most interests her initially is:
I have studied much since then. “Vampyr” is my new name. I still lust for life and youth, and I curse the living that took them from me. Even the sun is against me. It is the sun and its light I fear the most, but little else can harm me now. Even a stake through my heart does not kill me, though it holds me from movement. But the sword, that cursed sword that Sergei brought! I must dispose of that awful tool! I fear and hate it as much as the sun.
I have often hunted for Tatyana. I have even felt her within my grasp, but she escapes. She taunts me! She taunts me! What will it take to bend her love to me?
I now reside far below Ravenloft. I live among the dead and sleep beneath the very stones of this hollow castle of despair. I shall seal shut the walls of the stairs that none may disturb me.
From this, Ezmerelda thinks it is important that:
Strahd hates the sword - it could be a tool to use against him if it could be found
Strahd desires Tatyana - this could be a weakness; if Strahd somehow has confused Ireena for Tatyana, she could be used as a distraction or to bait a trap.
Strahd 'resides' below Ravenloft - since his coffin will need to be found at some point to destroy him, they now have a clue for where to look
With respect to the Amber Temple, Ezmerelda says that she had heard whispers and rumors about it in Vallaki, but nothing more. The only volume that she finds in all the library that mentions the Temple is much more recent and in much better condition than the other books. After reading it a bit, she believes that it was written by The Abbot. It is not a journal or a chronicle of events per se, but is more like a record of the Abbot's research and thoughts on Strahd and Barovia. It explains the Abbot's belief that something called the Dark Powers have imprisoned Strahd (and everyone else) within Barovia and contains the Abbot's personal theories on how Strahd might be released. It mentions the Amber Temple as a possible location of the Dark Powers - or at least a physical manifestation of them. The Abbot writes that he would like to visit the temple to research more on Strahd's condition, but that he fears it is too dangerous for him, since he believes that the temple has powerful guardians.
Ezmerelda has not heard or read anything about these Dark Powers before, and she asks if the party knows anything else about them, but Timzz says he has not. Thinking about it, though, Timzz decides to reveal to her that it was Madam Eva's telling of his fortune that led him to the Tome of Strahd. Ezmerelda returns to reading the Tome of Strahd again, and goes over and over one passage in particular:
I made a pact with death, a pact of blood. On the day of the wedding, I killed Sergei, my brother. My pact was sealed with his blood.
She had thought before that "a pact with death" was metaphorical, but now she wonders whether it was more literal and whether Strahd's 'death' was actually one of the Dark Powers - so that what it is saying is that he negotiated some sort of bargain with one or more Dark Powers to make himself a wampyr (rather than having been bitten and created by another wampyr).
After dinner, Helter joins Timzz and Ezmeralda in the library and looks through books for about two hours. She learns that the monastery is named for Markovia, a powerful priestess of the Morning Lord. As a youth, Markovia followed her heart and became a priestess soon after her eighteenth birthday. She proved to be a charismatic proselytizer and, before the age of thirty, had gained a reputation for allowing no evil to stand before her. When Strahd, as a human, was conquering the valley, she mostly worked to provide protection, care, and comfort to the civilians and the wounded soldiers and did not take a side in the war. She even accepted his rulership as Count after he won; although she considered him a mad tyrant, she did not oppose him. But after something called 'the massacre at the wedding' and his rise as a Vampire Lord, Markovia rallied the people of Barovia to stand against him. It was while she was still gathering support that Strahd sent a group of vampire spawn to her abbey. They confronted Markovia and she destroyed them all. Suffused with confidence born of a righteous victory, Markovia advanced on Castle Ravenloft with all her followers. A great battle raged from the catacombs to the parapets. In the end, Markovia never returned, and Strahd long afterward walked with a limp and a grimace of pain. It is written that he trapped Markovia in a crypt beneath his castle, and her remains linger there yet.
Markovia was able to accomplish much of what she did because she wore the Holy Symbol of Ravenkind, a unique holy symbol sacred to the good-hearted faithful of Barovia. It predates the establishment of any church in Barovia. According to legend, it was delivered to a paladin named Lugdana by a giant raven—or an angel in the form of a giant raven. Lugdana used the holy symbol to root out and destroy nests of vampires until her death. The high priests of Barovia kept and wore the holy symbol after Lugdana’s passing and eventually it came to Markovia. The holy symbol is a platinum amulet shaped like the sun, with a large crystal embedded in its center. After learning this, Helter decides to return to forging Vann's armor.
At the end of a day of work with the Martikovs, Fuine desires to help them more with the pitiful Belviews. It will be a constant challenge for them to find food for so many mouths. She offers them treasure to buy food and they gratefully agree. Krezk has not food to spare, but with treasure they can buy food in the markets of Vallaki, especially now that people don't have to devote one day every week to the ridiculous festivals. Fuine sorts the gems from Baba Lysaga and the werewolves by size. There are five very big ones, five big ones, and 16 small ones. She figures her share of them is one very big, one big, and four small. She gives the four small gems to the Martikovs. (Seven more days of gentle repose for Ismark).
In Vallaki, the body of Lady Lydia Petrovna, wife of the former Burgomaster and sister of Father Petrovich, still hangs in the town square, some twenty days dead, rotting and covered in tarred-on posters. Sometime after sundown it animates, with the undead spirit of Vladimir Horngaard in it. To the terror of the townsfolk, it rips itself free of the gallows, walks west through the town, scales the inner walk of the palisade, and jumps down outside. It walks for the rest of the night west to Krezk, arriving just before dawn. It selects a spot outside of town where the forest comes close enough to the road for an ambush. There, it waits for Vann. It can feel him, and his possession of its sword, keenly.
(Post for 14 Oct) _________________ My campaigns are multilayered tapestries upon which I texture themes and subject matter which, quite frankly, would simply be too strong for your hobbyist gamer. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Mp7Ikko8SI
The party wakens to the sound of Helter banging out the final gauntlet of Vann's armor. He puts the last piece on and greets first light of day in the armor. (now full plate, AC18). They leave the monastery shortly after breakfast, taking the road east out of Krezk. Ezmerelda wishes to recover her wagon before they together explore the Amber Temple for clues to Strahd's power.
They have not gone far when the spirit of Vladimir Horngaard, now in the body of Lydia Petrovna, ambushes Vann. Without his armor, sword, and six phantom warrior defenders he proves much easier to defeat, and the party now has a chance to see Ezmerelda fight. In response to her questions, Vann reveals that Madam Eva foretold that he would find a weapon of light with which to defeat Strahd. He took Vladimir's great sword thinking that was it, but apparently it was not. Now Vladimir wants it back? Ezmerelda nods and simply says "Revenants". They leave the body where it lies.
They continue on the road, cross the Raven River, and travel for an hour more before making camp on the side of the road. The camp is extra-long so that Helter can magically forge herself a breastplate. They set out in the afternoon, guided by Ezmerelda, and soon cross a causeway onto a small island in Lake Baratok. There, Ezmerelda has parked her magic wagon outside the Tower of Khazan.
Fuine opens the magically defended tower and they command clay golems to take them to the top of the tower. Apparently, the place was used by von Richten as recently as two weeks ago. They discover a single page from his burnt journal, a map of Barovia, and a strangely preserved Vistani head. They spend the night in the tower and Helter continues to work on her armor.
(Six more days of gentle repose on Ismark.)
(Post for Oct. 15) _________________ My campaigns are multilayered tapestries upon which I texture themes and subject matter which, quite frankly, would simply be too strong for your hobbyist gamer. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Mp7Ikko8SI
In the morning the party questions the Vistani head in the tower (using speak with dead[/i[) and then they set out traveling in the magic wagon. Ezmerelda shows Vann a box stored inside and tells him to grab it if they ever need to leave quickly - it has holy water, stakes, a mirror, a holy symbol, and other such items. They travel further south than they have been so far in Barovia, up the slopes of Mount Ghakis, with it getting colder all the while. They camp for the night in the narrow Tsolenka Pass. Helter continues to work on her own armor.
(Five more days of [i]gentle repose on Ismark.)
In Vallaki, the body of Baron Vargas Vallokovich, former Burgomaster, still hangs in the town square, some three weeks dead, rotting and covered in tarred-on posters, now watched by a member of the town guard under the orders of Lady Fiona. In the morning it animates, with the undead spirit of Vladimir Horngaard in it. The guard runs to inform the Burgormistress, while the townsfolk scatter before it. The body walks to the house of the Baron, or what ashes remain of it, and digs through them until it finds the Baron's rapier. By that time Lady Fiona is there, and attempts to speak with it, but Horngaard rebuffs her and leaves town through the open southern gate. The body walks all day, crossing the Luna River at the bridge outside of town, following the road to the turnoff to Argynvostholt, and then cutting across the woods to the road that leads to Tsolenka Pass. In the woods it come across three Strahd Zombies, and it goads them until they begin to follow it. It continues walking all night until, just before dawn, it has nearly come upon the wagon in which the party and Ezmerelda are camped.
(Post for Oct. 16) _________________ My campaigns are multilayered tapestries upon which I texture themes and subject matter which, quite frankly, would simply be too strong for your hobbyist gamer. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Mp7Ikko8SI
They have not been traveling in the wagon for long in the morning when the trail takes them above the tree line and up the bare slopes of Mount Ghakis above Luna Lake. A stone wall with a portcullis blocks their passage. They fight two vrocks and use dispel magic to suppress a curtain of green flame just long enough for the wagon to pass. They cross the Luna River at a bridge guarded by an apparition of Strahd. They climb high up the mountain to where the ground is covered in snow, glad of the little coal stove in the wagon. They arrive in the late afternoon at the entrance to the temple, but decide to pass the night there recovering from their fight with the demons rather than immediately descending the stairs.
Horngaard and his zombies follow them the whole day, a few miles behind all the way. With the vrock guards gone, they can climb around the green flame wall. When the wagon stops outside the temple, Horngaard waits until the cover of darkness.
Ezmerelda parks the wagon at the entrance of the temple, out of the worst of the wind. With Helter on watch, Ezmerelda looks through Baba Lysaga's spell book with Timzz. She is able to help him identify some of the fourth level spells; Evard's Black Tentacles and Polymorph. She says that perhaps when they get some place more comfortable, they can exchange spells from their books.
Horngaard uses the darkness, snow, and wind to lead the Strahd Zombies practically on top of the wagon and then hides himself. As the party emerges to fight the zombies, Horngaard (in the body of the Baron) ambushes Vann and does enough damage to knock him unconscious, but Ezmerelda drags Vann away and Helter heals him before Horngaard has a chance to kill him. Timzz uses a fireball that causes nearby avalanches of rock and snow, but also alerts a group of wild men camping in a room of the Temple. After Horngaard and the zombies are destroyed, the wild man scout is seen and driven off by the party, and then followed back to the room where there are many others. The party decides to withdraw from the mountain rather than be ambushed in the night by the wild men.
Ezmerelda attempts to drive the wagon back to the bridge, but after two hours in the freezing cold she is exhausted. They camp just below treeline, hiding the wagon off the road in the woods. They talk of Revenants and try to stay warm in the wagon. Nothing bothers them for the rest of the night.
(Four more days of gentle repose on Ismark)
(Post for Oct. 17) _________________ My campaigns are multilayered tapestries upon which I texture themes and subject matter which, quite frankly, would simply be too strong for your hobbyist gamer. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Mp7Ikko8SI
In the morning, with everyone recovered from the exhaustion and cold (6am), they return up the mountain to the temple (arrive 8am). In the daylight, they have to assume that the wagon has been seen long before they get there, so they don't try to be subtle, but while the others wait outside Fuine sneaks inside the temple and finds the inner doors to the room wherein the wild men are still camped (the last time they had found a short tunnel entrance through the mountain).
They attack from both sides, but as they cross through the temple, something within shoots a fireball and magic missile at them. In the room itself, they fight five wild men, their powerful female leader, and a dire wolf. Despite the spells from deeper within the temple, nothing bothers them in the room for the ten minutes it takes Helter to cast Prayer of Healing. From the wild men they gain heavy winter clothes, fur-lined sleeping rolls, and, if they don't mind eating wolf, plenty of meat.
When Helter is done with her prayer of healing, Ezmerelda notes that whatever was shooting spells at them had ten minutes to come after them - and has not. She didn't see any wagon tracks on the way up to the cave either - meaning no food is brought here. She suggests that the Temple is defended by undead, or constructs, or monsters that teleport in when you step on a trap. She recommends that they explore it slowly and carefully.
After an hour's rest (now 9:30am) they take ten minutes to detect magic on the wild mean's gear, but don't find anything. Fuine puts darkvision on Vann (lasts until 5:30pm).
They open a set of interior doors and find an incinerated corpse. Timzz casts unseen servant and they send it into the hall (9:50am), drawing the attention of three flameskulls. They destroy them in a fight but then pull back to their room and close the doors, taking a long rest (until 4pm).
When they try the doors again, however, they find that the flameskulls have reformed themselves! Two fireballs and two flaming spheres later, Helter turns the two remaining skulls and then the party is able to cut them down one at a time. This time they sprinkle the smashed bones with Ezmerelda's holy water and watch them turn to ash. They return to their room of rest, but are unable to start a long rest immediately (because they have already taken one today).
In Vallaki, at sundown, Horngaard finds the body of Izek Strazni, buried in a shallow grave. He claws his way up through the earth, rises, and begins his walk to the Temple. It is 25 miles of difficult terrain, through the forest and over the snowy mountain. It will take 16 hours. During the night, he picks up a tail of four Strahd zombies.
(Three more days of gentle repose on Ismark.)
(Post for Oct. 18) _________________ My campaigns are multilayered tapestries upon which I texture themes and subject matter which, quite frankly, would simply be too strong for your hobbyist gamer. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Mp7Ikko8SI
At midnight the party begins their long rest, finishing it at 8am.
They all level to 7th.
In the morning, the party retries the hall of the flameskulls and finds that they have not reformed. They explore a room full of dried-up potions, find a corridor leading to stairs down, investigate a model of Castle Ravenloft, find a full and tempting banquet table but are careful not to touch anything, and cross the great hall under spellfire from a huge statue.
On the east side of the temple, they enter a room with a hole in the floor but pass through into a long corridor. The corridor beyond appears to have some structural damage - Helter thinks from an earthquake. They fight an amber golem guardian, but it easily succumbs to Timzz' black tentacles spell. No sooner have they engaged it when they are set upon by three more flameskulls, arriving through the hole in the floor! Fortunately, the mage hand of the skulls lacks force. With Vann holding the door against them, and Fuine covering the arrow slits in darkness, they are able to fight the golem and then the skulls separately rather than both at once and easily prevail over both. Finally, they enter what appears to be a wizarding classroom, with a blackboard and another frozen corpse.
At 10am Horngaard, in the body of Izek Strazni, arrives at the Temple with zombies in tow. He prepares an ambush in the room the party camped in overnight, reasoning that they will return here to rest once they are wounded.
Helter works on the great iron chains holding up the blackboard, and transforms them with fabricate into a set of manacles (hands and feet) for whatever body Horngaard is using next - upon consultation with Ezmerelda, they believe that the Revenant will have an inexhaustible supply of bodies if they keep killing it, but if they are able to capture it rather than kill it, Horngaard will be trapped in his current body.
The party takes a short rest while Timzz examines the spell book that was found on the corpse. Many of the spells are already known to either him or Ezmerelda or both, but novel ones include Suggestion, Counterspell, Ice Storm, and Cone of Cold.
Arising from their rest after lunch, the party searches the room from which the golem emerged, and a connected room with a smashed obsidian statue. There is also a small chamber with a arrow slit looking out at the back of the statue and little more.
Fuine steps through the shadows to find a mirror room to that with the smashed statue, but the statue intact. The functioning statue, however, attempts to bewitch her into staring at it and doing nothing else. She resists, but at its feet are the remains of two others who starved to death while enraptured by it. She finds a similar room to the other with just an arrow slit.
Fuine returns to the party, and they plan a transit across the open hall exposed to the statue in order to get back to their camp and access the lower level. They are attacked by spells on their way across, and as soon as they reach the room Horngaard springs the ambush. It could be disastrous, but Helter's Prayer of Healing keeps Vann in the fight and Timzz's fireball removes the zombies. Working together, they manage to get the manacles on Strazni / Horngaard and knock him out. By the time he awakes, Helter has turned a candelabra into an iron ball that covers his fire-shooting devil hand (with which he certainly would have killed himself if he could not break free of the manacles). After she takes a short rest, she also fashions a helmet so that he can't see or bite, fills in the locks of the manacles, and makes a shoulder harness to lock down the helmet. By the evening he is completely secured.
Timzz uses inks found on the corpse in the school room to copy Counterspell into his book. By 8:30pm Helter has cast create food and water and the party has begun a long rest.
(Two more days remaining of gentle repose on Ismark.)
(Post for Oct. 19) _________________ My campaigns are multilayered tapestries upon which I texture themes and subject matter which, quite frankly, would simply be too strong for your hobbyist gamer. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Mp7Ikko8SI
The party finishes their long rest at 4:30am. With nothing else at the back of the temple on the upper level, and ignoring the rooms at the front of the temple, they decide to descend to the lower level after checking the stairs for traps. The stairs from the left flameskull room open into a hall decorated with numerous statues of wizard familiars. There are many doors off the hall, some arcane locked, but there is also an open section of the wall which allows the statue to see and fire upon them.
One of the locked rooms has had its amber doors smashed, and from it emerge four eyeball men. When they begin to probe Fuine's mind, she sets upon them and the party rapidly finishes what she starts. The room the men were in has three amber sarcophagi, but one of them is smashed. The party examines them but does not touch them. The two that are intact have flitting dark wisps inside.
Two other rooms on the hall are arcane locked. Timzz can knock them, but that will bypass the lock for just ten minutes. They look at the other doors first. An unlocked one leads to a wizard's bedroom, but one in which everything is smashed. While investigating it, they are attacked by a poltergeist. Even though it is unseen, Vann's divine smite finishes the undead in one blow. They find a wooden scroll tube in the room.
They decide to open one of the arcane locked doors and Timzz uses knock. Vann goes inside the apparently empty room and is immediately attacked by a Death Slaad. This is a close battle, with the frog thing slashing Vann into unconsciousness and using a cloudkill on the rest of them. Finally, a series of repeated magic missiles from Timzz and Ezmerelda bring it down. Before the lock resets, the party convinces Ezmerelda to touch one of the three sarcophagi in the room, whereupon she is contacted by Yog the Invincible, who offers her invulnerability. She does not accept.
Ignoring a locked room to the south, Fuine enters the main temple, successfully hiding from the statue. She finds a room with four more poltergeists, kills one, and flees.
Vann searches an abandoned but unhaunted bedroom.
The party batters down an amber door, fights an invisible amber golem, retreats to a room of vampire spawn, and somehow manages to survive. At this point it is only 6:20 in the morning, and they won't be able to start a long rest until 4pm. They spend a long time reflecting on the possible nature of the Dark Powers and Amber Sarcophagi and why Strahd would have placed spawn to guard the three sarcophagi in this room. Ezmerelda tells them how vampires cannot enter a residence without permission, and how it is easy to kill spawn with a stake to the heart as long as you can find them resting, but how dangerous their bite is.
This evening they are forced to eat rations, as Helter is out of third level spells.
(One more day of gentle repose on Ismark).
(Post for Oct. 20) _________________ My campaigns are multilayered tapestries upon which I texture themes and subject matter which, quite frankly, would simply be too strong for your hobbyist gamer. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Mp7Ikko8SI
Their long rest over at midnight, Fuine ventures up the spiral stairs of their chamber and finds a library lit by ever-burning candles. Every book she examines is blank. Timzz finds a secret passage to the room of a lich, Exethanter. The lich is under a powerful curse of forgetfulness. The curse can be removed by greater restoration, but at present the party can only cast [/i]remove curse[/i] on him to give him a temporary lucidity. He is the guardian of the temple, but is kept in a state of amnesia by the Dark Powers. From him, the party learns that the books in the library can only be read with Truesight, and learns the nature of the Temple and the sarcophagi. After helping him back to his room, the party is ready to attack the invisible amber golem guarding the treasure vault.
This golem proves harder to defeat than the first one, but since they are at full spells and health it does not take long. They sort through the treasure and Timzz uses a detect magic on everything that is not a coin, finding several bottles of magical ink. These are packed away before they continue exploring.
The party decides to explore the eastern hall where they have not yet been. As they cross the line of sight of the statue, Ezmerelda is held and Helter hangs back to free her, while the others are attacked by a trio of Barovian witches and their animated brooms. Making short work of the witches, the party finds two abandoned bedrooms, but one with a shield guardian and its amulet of control. Two other rooms have arcane locked doors. Timzz knocks one and they enter a room with three amber sarcophagi and a large hole in the roof - presumably leading to the hole in the floor on the first level from which the flameskulls emerged.
Timzz sets the shield guardian to attack the statue that has been shooting spells at them. When Fuine tries to join the attack, she accidently finds a secret door in the back of the statue, leading up to a chamber where an arcanaloth resides. Fuine knocks the daemon out, but when it recovers it sets off a chain lightning spell among the party. When it is slain, the party recovers its spectacles, cloak, and spell book.
Helter takes two hours (2am-4am) to forge two boots (9/15) for her armor from two hundred pounds of the iron ingots in the treasure vault. Fuine and Ezmerelda take the rest of the easily portable treasure to the wagon and bring back the last of Ezmerelda's food.
Timzz casts detect magic as a ritual and finds that the arcanaloth's robe was a robe of useful items - if someone attunes to it, they will be able to pull the patches off and have them function. The spectacles are not magical, but the thick rose-colored crystal lenses and gold frames appear valuable - perhaps just a vanity item? When Ezmerelda is done loading the wagon she goes through the daemon's spell book with Timzz and together they are able to recognize many of the lower-level spells, although others still escape them.
Everyone takes a short rest (until 5am).
The party agrees that they should have a long rest before they finish exploring the temple, but they are only five hours into the day and will need to wait quite a while before they can rest again.
Helter continues to forge while they wait (5am to 7am). She uses the last fifty pounds of iron ingots, then turns to the weapons, using all of the war hammers and picks to make two gauntlets (11/15). The idea is to use the cheapest and heaviest items first, here in the temple, so that they will need to pack out only the lighter and more expensive goods.
At 4pm they eat Ezmerelda's food and are able to begin their long rest, which ends at midnight.
The gentle repose on Ismark will end on the morrow. _________________ My campaigns are multilayered tapestries upon which I texture themes and subject matter which, quite frankly, would simply be too strong for your hobbyist gamer. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Mp7Ikko8SI
Their long rest over by midnight, the party thereafter finishes exploring the temple. Helter turns the remaining poltergeists in the parallel treasure vault, but there is nothing in there other than the destroyed gear from the four tomb raiders who died to some guardian long ago. The vault itself has long since been plundered. On the lower level, there is another room with amber sarcophagi (the first arcane locked room Timzz found), and some sort of crypt area, where the remains of the wizards who once protected the temple are kept. Two rooms are full of their bones; a third is empty. They were once covered by amber shrouds, but these have been smashed and anything of value that had been buried with them has been taken. On the upper level, four guard rooms, or perhaps student dormitories, are empty except for a more recent corpse with a wand that the party takes.
Confident that they have learned all the secrets of the temple, the party sets out at 1am. Ezmerelda encourages a doubtful Timzz to take the Shield Guardian with them. "It is too loud to sneak anywhere," she says, "but it may protect you in a fight." She uses her light cantrip to light the way down the mountain, and once Timzz orders the construct to follow the wagon, it can move fast enough to keep up.
It is warm inside the wagon, but so cramped with all the treasure that only Timzz has enough space to rest and relax. In the first hour of travel (1am-2am), he gains the benefits of a short rest while Helter forges, turning ten thousand copper coins into her right vambrace (12/15). After using a channel divinity to turn the poltergeists, she has only one other use available to forge today.
For the next hour (2am-3am), Ezmerelda continues to drive the wagon down the steep, snowy mountain slopes, eventually dropping below treeline. Now rested, Timzz cedes the only comfortable spot in the wagon to Helter so that she can rest.
Once Helter has rested, she forges for the next two hours (3am-5am). She uses another twenty thousand copper pieces to make the left vambrace and a right bracer (14/15). There is now space in the wagon for two of the smaller people to rest. Helter rests for the next hour (5am to 6am).
Helter has been forging again for the better part of an hour when Ezmerelda stops the wagon and stomps on the roof with her metal leg (6:45am). It is light outside; the sun has risen somewhere behind the thick gray clouds that always cover the skies of Barovia. They have come to the stone bridge over the Luna river; the one on which the image of Strahd appeared on their way to the temple. Fuine agrees to ride next to Ezmerelda for the crossing. Halfway across the bridge an enormous roc swoops down on them; it attacks the illusionary horse and gets a beakfull of bridge; it tries to carry off the shield guardian but fails when it misunderstands how heavy a creature made entirely of metal can be. They manage to drive it off with Fuine riding its back - she slips off just before it flies away. Most of them tumbled from the wagon in a hurry; treasure is all over the bridge. They gather it up. Helter's ritual has been spoiled and she will have to begin again, but she has not lost any of the materials.
Helter brings down the curtain of green flame with a Dispel Magic and they continue down the road for one hour. During that time Helter finishes her armor - she now has a complete set of full plate.
Ezmerelda pulls off the road and everyone takes a long rest (8am-4pm). After many long hours of listening to the cold wind blow off the mountain, they continue. After dark, Ezmerelda uses her light cantrip to illuminate the way.
[At 9pm Ismark's gentle repose expires, and the body slowly succombs to the natural forces of decay.]
Ezmerelda drives along the lonely Barovian roads through the dark forest for ten hours (until 2am).
(Post for Oct. 22) _________________ My campaigns are multilayered tapestries upon which I texture themes and subject matter which, quite frankly, would simply be too strong for your hobbyist gamer. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Mp7Ikko8SI
Day 40 (Abbey of Saint Markovia)
The tale of Strahd's capture of Ireena, as later told to the party by the Martikovs. Note that this was rolled out by the DM 'off-screen'.
Strahd appears at the gates of Kryzg with his coach and six dire wolves.
As he is Master of Barovia and rightful ruler of the town, the gate guards let him in.
He takes his coach up to the gates of the abbey and dismounts. He uses his charm ability on Otto Bellevue (7; fails Wis save). When Otto invites him into the monastery, he is no longer affected by its forbiddance even after the change in its residents. He and the wolves enter the grounds and he passes into the main building.
Several swarms of ravens have already woken the Martikovs at his approach. Stefania stays with Ireena and the children upstairs. Downstairs, Davian, Adrian, Elvir, Dag, and Muriel prepare to face Strahd in their hybrid wereraven forms.
Strahd explains that he would like to talk to Ireena. He makes a point of saying that he has brought wolves with him, so unless they are able to make Ireena fly, she will not be able to run away like she did at the winery - besides, there is nowhere else for her to go in all his lands.
The Martikovs deny him passage upstairs. He calls up the stairs that he has given the foreign adventurers plenty of time to return from the Amber Temple with something to raise Ismark, but his gentle repose has run its course - the adventurers are not coming and Ismark is now dead. If Ireena wants to see Ismark raised, she needs to accept Strahd's invitation to his castle tonight. Ireena refuses him and remains upstairs. Strahd says that he will have to bring her down, then. The Martikovs attack.
Strahd (Main action): 2 strikes to Davian. 22 slashing (immune while in wereraven hybrid form) plus 26 necrotic.
Davian: 1 hit (AC19), 4 piercing.
Adrian: 1 hit (AC18), 8 piercing.
Elvir: 2 hits, 14 piercing
Dag: 1 hit (AC16), 6 piercing [total 32 to Strahd for the round is reduced to 16 for nonmagical damage]
Muriel: Summons 4 swarms of ravens
After the wereraven's turn, Strahd uses a legendary action to make another unarmed strike on Davian, doing 9 slashing (immune) and 19 necrotic - Davian has taken 41 total and is down.
Strahd (main action): 2 strikes to Adrian. 19 slashing (immune) plus 32 necrotic. Adrian is down.
Four swarms of ravens - two hits, 17 damage.
After the raven's turn, Strahd uses a legendary action to make an unarmed strike on Elvir: 8 slashing (immune), 19 necrotic.
Davian - makes life save.
Adrian - makes life save.
Elvir, Dag, Muriel: Six hits, total 34 damage [total 51 to Strahd for the round, halved for resistance to non-magical piercing is 25 for round, total 41 for combat.
After the wereraven's turn, Strahd uses a legendary action to make another unarmed strike on Elvir, doing 8 slashing (immune) and 17 necrotic - Elvir has taken 36 and is down.
Strahd (Main action): 2 strikes to Dag. 15 slashing (immune) plus 32 necrotic. Dag is down. Bonus Action: Strahd cuts his connection to the Heart of Sorrow.
Four swarms of ravens - all miss, highest is AC13
After the raven's turn, Strahd uses a legendary action to make an unarmed strike on Muriel: Critical hit; 24 slashing (immune), 21 necrotic.
Davien - makes second save
Adrien - 1 save, 1 fail
Elvir - 1 fail
Dag - makes save
Muriel - 2 hits, 14 piercing (14 damage is 7 to Strahd after resistance; Strahd has taken 48 damage in the combat. He is down 7 points and the Heart of Sorrow is down 41 points)
After the wereraven's turn, Strahd uses a legendary action to make an unarmed strike on Muriel: Miss
Strahd (Main action): Strahd summons 4 swarms of bats to drive off the ravens. Regeneration: Strahd regenerates the 7 damage he took last round is is again at full hp.
Ravens - fighting bats
After the raven's turn, Strahd uses a legendary action to make an unarmed strike on Muriel: Miss
Davien - two saves, 1 fail
Adrien - two saves, 1 fail
Elvir - two fails
Dag - two saves
Muriel - 1 hit, 8 damage [does 4 to Strahd; Strahd has taken 52 total in the combat]
After the wereraven's turn, Strahd uses a legendary action to make an unarmed strike on Muriel: 12 slashing (immune), 13 necrotic - Muriel is down
Strahd makes a Perception check on the field to make sure there are no Hidden opponents. He regenerates the 4 damage from last round and is again at full.
With no conscious wereravens, the bats drive the raven swarms off.
Davien - two saves, two fails
Adrien - three saves, stable at 0
Elvir - one save, two fails
Dag - three saves, stable at 0
Muriel - one save
Strahd goes upstairs and confronts Stefania and Ireena.
He casts Sleep at 5th level and puts 48hp to sleep: Baby Yolanda, the youths Martin and Viggo, and Ireena all fall asleep. Only Stefania remains conscious.
Stefania misses once (AC15), then hits for 8 [4 after resistance, 56 total for the combat]
Davien - three saves, stable at 0
Elvir - two saves, two fails
Muriel - one save, one fail
Strahd charms Stefania (failed Wis save) and tells her she had better tend to her wounded family downstairs and that he will not harm Ireena or those upstairs. When Stefania departs, he carries off the sleeping Ireena and puts her in the coach. He regenerates the 4 damage he took the round before and is again at full hp.
Stefania successfully makes a medicine check and stabilizes Elvir.
Muriel - one save, two fails
Strahd returns to the building and carries off the dead Ismark, then puts him in the coach next to the sleeping Ireena.
Stefania makes a successful medicine check and stabilizes Muriel
Strahd leaves the abbey and returns to his castle with Ismark and Ireena
When the Martikovs later tell this tale to the party, they can confirm that:
Strahd has AC16
He took 56 damage in the combat without seeming concerned
He is affected by vampire forbiddance
He has a charm ability
He gets at least two legendary actions, allowing him to make one unarmed strike on the turns of other creatures in the combat
His unarmed strikes do both slashing (up to at least 11) and necrotic damage (up to at least 19)
He can summon multiple swarms of bats.
He has spell slots at least up to 5th level
He can cast sleep
(Post for Oct. 23) _________________ My campaigns are multilayered tapestries upon which I texture themes and subject matter which, quite frankly, would simply be too strong for your hobbyist gamer. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Mp7Ikko8SI
Day 40 (Party)
[12am - Strahd comes to the monastery and takes Ireena and Ismark]
Ezmerelda drives along the lonely Barovian roads through the dark forest until 2am, and then stops to talk to the party (after waking some of them up). She explains that Krezk is now just a few hours away. She can continue, but risks getting exhausted (forced march Con checks). If the party wants to go on, she asks that they handle any fights, since she does not want to risk fighting while exhausted. They agree.
Ezmerelda continues until 4am, when they are nearly to Krezk (she makes both a DC10 and DC11 con check at 3am and 4am and is not exhausted). Just before the turnoff to the town, the wagon is ambushed by five werewolves. Ezmerelda casts greater invisibility and tries to stay out of the combat, but the lycanthropes scent her anyway and she takes as much damage as any of the characters who are actually fighting. Afterword, she asks Helter for a remove curse in case she has been infected with lycanthropy.
After the combat the party levels to 8th.
Leaving the bodies of the werewolves where they fell, the party continues on to the gates of Krezk. On their last visit, the Burgomaster told the party that while he very much appreciated their help with the wolfmen, their presence in his town made everyone a target for the Devil, and he did not want them to return. Thus, they remain inside the wagon as Ezmerelda approaches the gates. She is let in, and the wagon is driven up to the abbey, arriving at 4:30am.
Inside the main building, the Martikovs are awake but despondent. They describe how Strahd appeared earlier that evening and took Ireena, nearly killing all of them when they tried to stop him. He also took the lifeless body of Ismark.
They are relieved and enheartened to see the party, though, and want to know how they can help. In particular, they describe Strahd's attack in detail, hoping that the party can learn something from their defeat. They also say that while cleaning and ordering the library, they found two spell book spells that Timzz may be able to use, as well as a small supply of magic inks.
The party takes a short rest (4:30am-5:30am), during which Fuine attunes to the wand of secrets that was found in the Temple. The party decides to give the robe of useful items to Ezmerelda, and she finds it does not require attunement.
Timzz copies the new spells (Cloud of Daggers and Leomund's Tiny Hut) into his spell book. He also successfully transfers the Wall of Fire from the scroll into his book before the scroll crumbles into dust. He has two bottles of ink left (enough for a first level spell, or a second level if it is invocation).
Throughout the day, the party watches as the Martikovs care for the deranged Belviews with patience and compassion. They say that the monstrosities are much more docile now that they are eating regularly, but it is certainly a lot of mouths to feed. The party talks amongst themselves and pulls out 21,000sp and 800ep and gives it to the Martikovs, requesting that they use it to buy food for their charges.
Davian is very grateful. He says that there is little food to be had in Krezk, but this much coin can purchase a lot of supplies in Vallaki, and he will see to the arrangements.
As they speak of the situation in Vallaki, the party decides that the town is their next destination. The reports of the Martikovs at the Blue Water in are that Lady Fiona is growing increasingly tyrannical. She is not obviously insane or incompetent like the old Burgomaster, and largely lets the townspeople do as they please. However, she does not tolerate any dissent, and her punishments for disobedience are harsh. She has told the people that they must respect the Devil, whom she calls the Prince. Also, there are wanted posters up all around town for the party, who Fiona says must be brought to justice for disrespecting the Prince.
After everyone is rested, Esmerelda does not think she can make it to Vallaki before nightfall. They decide to pass another day with the Martikovs at the Abbey.
Helter makes long steel claws, covers them with a thin layer of silver, and then attaches them to the shield guardian's hands. Timzz 'teaches' the guardian to recognize everyone in the party as well as Esmerelda, so that he can give commands involving the concepts of 'us' and 'them' and 'anyone but us'.
(Post for Oct. 24) _________________ My campaigns are multilayered tapestries upon which I texture themes and subject matter which, quite frankly, would simply be too strong for your hobbyist gamer. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Mp7Ikko8SI
The party wakes at first light and sets out. They cross the Raven River and agree to Esmerelda's suggestion of taking the lesser trail north - it is longer but less traveled then the main road. She doesn't want to be seen by any of the Vistani from Vallaki (who may still be mad that she borrowed a horse from them) and the party does not want to be seen by any of the agents of Lady Wachter. They reach the bridge over the Luna River, just to the west of the town, by 2pm, and take a short rest there. Setting out at 3pm, Esmerelda draws her cloak and hood around her and requests that Vann ride next to her and do any talking should Vistani appear.
They make it past the few houses outside of the town walls without attracting undue attention despite the distinctive wagon and the shield guardian lumbering behind. At a gap between houses just before the gate Vann slips inside the wagon and Esmerelda lowers her hood. She convinces the gate guard to let them in without arousing his suspicions. As the Martikovs had said, the town palisade around the gate is covered with wanted posters, each bearing a crude drawing of one of the party members but fortunately none of Esmerelda, whose last time in Vallaki was before she met them.
She drives the wagon past the Blue Water Inn - Fuine tumbles out the bottom and enters the inn - despite it being afternoon, she is not seen. She manages to attract the attention of Danika Dorakova (wife of Urwin Martikov) without any of the patrons seeing her. Fuine gives her 150sp and 60ep and she promises to put 15 rations on Wheely (the barrow is in the stable, with JFS the horse) when she can do so without anyone noticing.
Meanwhile, Esmerelda has driven the wagon to a large open field just inside the walls of the town but near the back of Wachterhaus. The party gets out but keeps between the wagon and an obscuring tree; Timzz commands the guardian to attack anyone but them who approaches the wagon. Fuine walks confidently through town to where the wagon is parked and is not noticed by anyone, even the cult fanatics.
The party approaches the house from behind - Fuine rapidly knocks out the two town guardsmen at the front door, and the party drags them inside and off the street in less than ten seconds after Timzz knocks open the door.
Esmerelda sneaks upstairs, but at the top of the stairs she is attacked by a vampire spawn. As the party ascends behind her, the fight is joined by another spawn and Lady Wachter's two sons, Nikolai and Karl (although they die quickly to Helter's spirit guardians). Lady Fiona appears at the bottom of the stairs and attempts to hold Helter and Vann but fails - a flaming axe blow from Helter nearly fells her. A spawn drags her away from the fight even as another spawn arrives. The party recognizes the four spawn as the ones they did not kill in the coffin-maker's shop.
Vann goes out to the street trying to find where Lady Fiona has fled - there is a huge, red devil skull floating over the house and it is summoning fanatics and cultists from across the city. Vann engages them while Fuine tracks down and kills Fiona. The party roots out Ernst and slays him as well. Helter's spirit guardians kill both the unconscious guards and three of the four housemaids as the dwarf moves through the rooms of the house.
At this point there appears to be nothing left in the house. Fuine and Helter return upstairs to search for treasure, Timzz and Esmerelda take a secret door to the basement, and Vann remains on the street intimidating the cultists as they arrive and trying to get the crowd on his side and convince the town guard to stand down.
In the basement Timzz and Esmerelda find the coffins of two of the spawn and fight eight skeletons. Once the Martikovs arrive from the inn, Vann is able to join the others for the end of the fight against the skeletons. Together, they also find a secret room with four more cultists. Upstairs, Fuine and Helter find the body of Lady Wachter's husband in bed, preserved with gentle repose. It appears Lady Wachter still shared a bed with him. They find a lead-lined box with bones (possibly those of St. Andral), and a chest in a secret room beyond the library from which they take a silk bag containing 180 ep, each coin bearing Strahd’s stern visage in profile, and a leather bag containing 110 gp. There is also a letter from Lord Vasili von Holtz to Lady Lovina Wachter (not Fiona). The party recognizes von Holtz as the name of the man who paid Henrik van der Voort, the coffin maker, to house the spawn in his shop. But the letter is more than a hundred years old.
Fuine knocks out Stella Wacter, Fiona's daughter, who appears to think that she is a cat, perhaps as a result of whatever the son of Baron Vallakovich 'did to her'. Later, Fuine decides to kill her, rather than have her wake to find that the party has killed the rest of her family.
The Martikovs are still calming the townsfolk when the party emerges from Wacterhaus. Vann charges Urwin Martikov with returning the bones to the church while Fuine takes Wheely out of the stables but leaves JFS.
The townsfolk are glad to be rid of Lady Fiona, and many of them try to 'turn in' cultists for the party to kill. Others start to say that the presence of the party will bring down the wrath of the Devil on the town. The gate guards have no qualms about letting them leave town. They continue along the road to the east. There is no room in the wagon for four of them, their accumulated treasure, and Wheely, but Timzz finds that the shield guardian can easily push Wheely behind the wagon, his new claws notwithstanding. They stop after dark on the shore of Lake Zarovich to camp.
(Post for Oct. 25) _________________ My campaigns are multilayered tapestries upon which I texture themes and subject matter which, quite frankly, would simply be too strong for your hobbyist gamer. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Mp7Ikko8SI
The wand of secrets regains both its used charges at dawn. The wagon pulls away from the shore of the lake as soon as the party has broken their fast. The Guardian pushes the wheelbarrow behind. They leave the forest and move up into the hills. The windmill is on the highest spot around. They arrive in the late morning. No one answers the door, but it is unlocked. The floor of the baking room is littered with children's bones. Vann finds Morgantha on the second floor where the millwheel is grinding bones into flour. When he asks her "Where are the children?", she tries to set him up with her daughters. As it turns out, the three are together a coven of night hags. The party wins the ensuing fight, but the hags are throwing around some pretty high-level spells, slots, and counterspells. They also summon a dretch demon from a barrel full of ichor.
On the fourth floor of the windmill are two children in cages (Freek, 7 years old, and Myrtle, 5). They are happy to be out of the cages, but don't want to stay in the creepy windmill with the dead hags. They want to go back to Barovia Village, but are content to go with the party and 'wait in the wagon' while the party is in the castle. (You have a wagon!)
In a cabinet, the party finds three elixirs, labeled "Youth", "Laughter", and "Mother's Milk".
In the afternoon, Helter crafts an iron basket so that the shield guardian can carry Timzz on its back.
(Post for Oct. 26) _________________ My campaigns are multilayered tapestries upon which I texture themes and subject matter which, quite frankly, would simply be too strong for your hobbyist gamer. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Mp7Ikko8SI
Last edited by Kirt on Wed Oct 27, 2021 2:55 pm; edited 2 times in total
The party leaves the windmill at first light. Although some of them are reluctant to take the Barovian children with them, that does not dampen the enthusiasm of Myrtle and Freek. As they climb inside Esmerelda's wagon, they gape at all the wealth inside.
"Look at all the treasure!" Myrtle squeals.
"Are you bandits?" Freek asks.
Some five hours later they enter the gates that warn them they are approaching the Castle. The original plan was that the children would wait in the wagon while the party entered the castle, but if they go directly from here, they will arrive around noon - hardly time for dinner. Or perhaps the children, honest and wholesome like few things the party has seen in Barovia, have softened their feelings. The party members ask Esmerelda how long it would take to get the children at least to Madam Eva's camp. She says they could perhaps be there by nightfall - and she does not mind the longer journey.
When the road splits, she takes the path to the south.
Two hours later they cross the bridge over the Ivlis River, a drop of a thousand feet below. Once on the other side, Ezmerelda stops the wagon and thumps on the roof. When Vann climbs out, she indicates a woodsman up ahead in the fog, crossbow pointed at her. She says she has caught glimpses of others in the woods on either side of the road, but she does not know how many. Vann raises his shield and prepares to charge, but the man pulls back without a shot fired and withdraws into the fog. Perhaps the sight of a large and fully armored warrior made him rethink whatever plan he had in mind for the solitary unarmored Vistani woman.
Down the side of the mountain they wend until well after dark. Ezmerelda casts light and keeps going (making the necessary Con saves to travel beyond ten hours). By 7pm they pass the crossroads with the gallows and graveyard. By 11pm they finally reach the village of Barovia. "Come out, childrens," calls Ezmerelda. "You are needing now to show us your houses." The children, long since asleep, say that they do not want to go home - their parents will just sell them back to the hags for more dream pastries. Instead, they suggest, the party can leave them with Father Donovich, who sometimes cares for orphans.
The candles in the church are on, the priest awake and praying in a hoarse voice. Donovich puts the children to bed and promises to find them good homes in the morning. But as they say their prayers, Vann wanders the church - and hears a voice from behind a locked trapdoor, calling "Father, I'm starving!"
Vann confronts the priest. He tearfully admits his sins. A year ago, the mad mage led Barovians to attack the Castle. The Devil killed them all - all but one. Donovich's son was turned into a creature and sent back as a message. Donovich keeps him locked in the undercroft, and feeds him villagers about once a month. At first it was just fresh corpses brought to the cemetery for burial. Lately Donovich has taken to giving him live villagers, the last one a man who refused to stop beating his wife. Donovich says that he knows it is wrong, but that he does not have the strength to end his own son. He begs Vann to do what must be done.
The party kills the vampire spawn. Donovich asks to accompany them to the Castle, for he must atone for his sins by facing Strahd. The party has discovered another of Madam Eva's Fortunes, the "man of faith whose sanity hangs by a thread, who has lost one dear to him." Eva foretold that he would help them greatly in the battle against darkness [when Strad is present, Donovich can, once per turn as his action, give one of the party members Inspiration].
(Post for Oct. 27) _________________ My campaigns are multilayered tapestries upon which I texture themes and subject matter which, quite frankly, would simply be too strong for your hobbyist gamer. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Mp7Ikko8SI
Donovich takes the children into town and to good families who want them and aren't addicted to the pastries. He also uses party funds to buy five days of rations for six people at Bildrath's mercantile (-300ep). He is back at the church and ready to go by 7am.
The party is still unsure that they want someone who would feed villagers to a spawn traveling with them, although Vann notes that he is still a priest of the Morning Lord. They let him come, but insist that he ride in the wheelbarrow pushed by the Shield Guardian rather than in the wagon with them. He accepts this as part of his penance.
Esmerelda takes the wagon high into the mountains on the first day of travel, but now she has no reason to push on after dark, so they make camp at dusk. Everone's thoughts are on what awaits them in the castle of the Devil.
(Post for Oct. 28) _________________ My campaigns are multilayered tapestries upon which I texture themes and subject matter which, quite frankly, would simply be too strong for your hobbyist gamer. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Mp7Ikko8SI
Day 45 (day)
Soon after they start out, Esmerelda's wagon crosses the bridge high over the Ivlis. By 10am they come again to the crossroads, and for the first time ever they take the eastern branch, leading to the Castle. They are barely out of sight of the crossroads when they encounter in the road a fine black carriage pulled by two pitch-black horses. At first thinking it is Strahd, they open the carriage but find it empty. They sabotage a wheel and continue on to the castle. The midnight horses labor behind them, and will arrive much later.
The castle is set on a huge pinnacle, precipices of thousands of feet on each side, the only way there from the mountain road being an ancient drawbridge and gatehouse. Esmerelda parks her wagon and they continue on foot. The rotten wood of the drawbridge groans under the weight of the Guardian. As they move into the courtyard it begins to rain. It isn't yet two in the afternoon but the sky is black and lit with lightning. There are lights coming from within the Castle.
Without entering the open front doors of the main keep, they move through the courtyard; the Guardian lifts the portcullis in a curtain wall. Fuine peers into the boarded-up windows of a domed structure on the back of the castle. As Father Donovich suspects, it is a chapel. Fuine moves through shadows to an overgrown garden. There, on a Balcony looking down on Barovia village far below, is Strahd. He welcomes them to his home.
Strahd leads the party back to the front courtyard of the castle. At his gesture, the portcullises raise and lower themselves, and the doors open and close. They pass inside through statued foyers. In a grand entry hall a dusk elf descends stairs. He calls Strahd 'my Lord' - Strahd tells him to ready Ireena for their guests and to have a table set for tea. Vann uses his divine sense - the elf is neither charmed nor undead, but evil by choice. Those who get close to him can hear the screams of all those he has ever killed - and there are thousands. He returns up the stairs. The party waits in the foyer, and eventually Ireena descends. She has been weeping, but is coolly composed now. She calls Strahd 'my lord' even while he calls her 'my love' and sometimes 'Tatianna'. She asks permission of Strahd to have the party pay their respects to her brother Ismark while they wait for the tea to be set. He assents, but sends Rahadin the dusk elf with them. They walk to the back of the castle, to the chapel that Fuine saw through the boarded-up windows. Ismark's body is lain on the alter. Ireena 'mentions' that the silver statuette at his head is the Icon of Ravenloft, the family holy symbol that was taken from her home before her father died. She says that she asked Strahd to return it so that it could watch over Ismark and he agreed. Timzz distracts Rahadin while Fuine explores a balcony overhead where two corpses on thrones overlook the chapel. The party takes the Icon, with the permission of Ireena, and Helter begins to attune to it. Rahadin objects, but the party tells him it is Ireena's to give.
They return to the front of the castle where an elaborate tea, with wine, meat, and pastries, is set. Strahd does not eat, but encourages the party to do so. He thanks them for rescuing Ireena from the insane Abbot and protecting her in general. He asks them about the Amber Temple, but says he is disappointed that they did not accept the gifts of any Dark Powers that would allow them to Raise the Dead, since that is what they told Ireena they were going there for. He says that Ireena had been holding out hope that they would be able to save her brother, but it appears that they are not heroes after all. The party tells him that he should go to the Temple to get that power himself. He says that he may do so, in the future, but at the moment he is busy planning his marriage to his love Ireena. He says that the party could go if they actually cared about her or her brother, and they tell him they just want to leave his nightmare realm. He tells them that they are free to leave - he will part the mists for them and they can go home. The party notes that he is dwelling on how they have failed to help Ireena, and is likely manipulating her into thinking that he is her only hope in order to twist her thoughts into loving him. They attempt to goad him with insults; he remains civil, but he and Rahadin leave them to the tea.
Ireena tells the party that Rahadin lived in Barovia before Strahd came. He was wronged by the elven prince who ruled the dusk elves, and got his revenge by helping Strahd's father, King Barov, conquer the dusk elves when Strahd, as a human, took over the land. For his services, he was adopted into the Zarovich family and technically he is Strahd's 'brother'. He continued to serve Strahd after he rose from death as a vampyr.
The party asks Ireena how to get to the crypts. She doesn't know much about the castle beyond where she is allowed to go, but she says that there is a big staircase going down in the chapel, and Father Donovich agrees that it would likely lead to the crypts so that people could be interred after a funeral service above.
The party tells her to return to her rooms, but when Strahd comes to her tonight to try to convince him to go to the Temple to get the power to raise Ismark. She says that she will try, and that they have restored her hope just as she was about to give up and marry Strahd.
(3pm) The party finds the stairs in the chapel, but they are walled off as described in Strahd's Diary. They use the pit from Ezmerelda's robe of useful items to open a hole in the floor and also the ladder from the robe to climb down. The Guardian nearly breaks the stone stairs when it jumps down.
Altough they crack, they hold.
Far below the castle is the crypts - there are dozens of crypt chambers with their doorways sealed by stone slabs. The floor is full of bones and shrouded in fog - the ceiling is crowded with bats. In addition to closed vaults for Patrina Velikova (Bride), Animus (Builder of the Keep), Sasha Ivliskova (Wife), and Sir Erik Vonderbucks, there are open vaults for Ireena and Fuine.
At the end of the gallery are stairs down and a curtain of blue light. Fuine jumps to the other side and finds the crypts of Strahd's father (King Barov) and his mother (Queen Ravenovia). On the queen's crypt is the penultimate Fortune, the Holy Symbol of Ravenkind. Helter gives the Icon to Donovich and begins to attune herself to the Holy Symbol.
The party moves north and passes by a trapped crypt entrance for Saint Markovia (Dead for all time). In the center of the north wall, they find stairs down to a crypt for Strad's brother Sergei. They open his coffin; his body is perfectly preserved, but the sword Vann is looking for is not there.
In the far wall are alcoves with statues - one man, two weeping angels. Fuine uses a charge from the Wand of Secrets but finds nothing. The party lowers the portcullis. Helter and Donovich focus on attuning while the others stand watch.
(3:50pm) Three shadows pass silently through the portcullis, but the party quickly dispatches them, without Helter or Donovich having to break their concentration on attunement.
(4pm) Donovich learns the properties of the Icon: besides the protection from fiends and undead effect, it can be used to cast Augury, Bane of the Undead, and Cure Wounds. Helter learns the properties of the Holy Symbol: Hold Vampire, Turn Undead, Sunlight.
Having found the chamber in the north for Strahd's brother, and in the east for his parents, they look in the south and find an entryway. The shield guardian is sent toward it first, but triggers a magic trap, switching places with a wight. Shortly thereafter, Vann falls prey to the same trap. After the wights are beaten on the crypt floor, the party shouts for Vann but cannot hear a response.
Fuine jumps through shadows beyond the trap, and then beyond the portcullis. Under pass without trace, she approaches Strahd's coffin, opens it, and pours in an entire flask of holy water. His screams echo throughout the castle, and even Vann, trapped in a sealed stone tomb at the bottom of a dark pit, hears them. Strahd's three brides rise from the earth floor of his tomb and attack. In fighting them off, Helter's spirit guardians pass into nearby tombs and bring forth hellhounds and giant spiders. By the end of the fight Donovich is dead, many in the party are wounded, and Timzz is low on spells.
Vann finds his way out of his tomb, fights off another wight, and manages to climb out of the pit using the light of a branding smite.
(4:10pm) With the combat over, the party strips the jewelry off of the vampire brides. Over the squeak of the bats above they finally hear cries from Vann, then locate and open the vault in which he is entombed. Somehow in the bottom, a half-dozen skeletons are attacking the Shield Guardian. It does not resist, but is regenerating as fast as they can damage it. Timzz is lowered down and casts fly on it, then commands it to follow them. The skeletons are left trapped in the pit.
Eager to find the "sword of sunlight", but not wanting to fight more tomb guardians, the party methodically opens the crypts along the walls but avoids the free-standing ones in the center of the place.
In the crypt of St. Markovia, the spirit of the long-dead priestess tells them to use her thighbone as a weapon to destroy the vampire. Fuine takes this.
In the crypt of Sir Sedrick Spinwitovich is wedged a funeral barge covered in gold coins. This appears to be a clue to the location of the sword until the coins are discovered to be clay fakes.
In the crypt of Baron Eisglaze Drüf is a curious mold that attacks them with cold, but when Timzz detects magic, they find a rapier luck blade.
The crypt of Tatsaul Eris — Last of the Line, has torches that ignite when they enter but nothing else of interest.
In the crypt of King Dostron the Hellborn a stuffed owlbear watches over the sarcophagus. They open the crypt but don't enter.
Having checked all the tombs along the east wall, they cross the crypts and begin going up the vaults along the west wall.
Sir Jarnwald the Trickster - The crypt appears empty, but there is an illusory floor. The Shield Guardian falls in, and six starving ghouls at the bottom start to climb out. The ghouls are slain and thrown back in the pit. The walls are too slick to climb, but Sir Sedrick's funeral barge, fetched from the other crypt, allows the Guardian to get out.
The crypt of Ivan Ivliskovich is painted with scenes of a wood in winter. Ivan's skeleton appears normal.
The crypt of King Troisky, the Three-Faced King, has a large helm on the marble slab. The Guardian retrieves it, and sets of a poison gas trap, to which it is immune.
The next crypt says "Herein lie the ones who walk the path of pain and torment". Opening it reveals a long, fog-shrouded tunnel. The party ventures inside, but first the Shield Guardian, and then Vann, activate a pivoting trap in the floor, sending them down a long chute and into a flooded prison cell. The party wedges the body of Donovitch into the trap to keep it open, and Timzz slides down after the captured duo.
(6pm - sundown)
(post for Oct. 29) _________________ My campaigns are multilayered tapestries upon which I texture themes and subject matter which, quite frankly, would simply be too strong for your hobbyist gamer. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Mp7Ikko8SI
Day 45 (night)
(6pm - sundown)
With Vann and the guardian working the rusty bars of the cell, they are eventually able to free themselves, at which point the others join them. Vann finds a glowing sword in another cell; it is an intelligent weapon that hungers to attack Strahd, but says it can only give Vann its powers once he has attuned to it.
Ezmerelda finds a door out of the dungeons under the level of the water; they find another dungeon across the hall with former prisoners - an emaciated wizard, a bard hung upside down until drowned. They cut the bard down and take the 12 feet of rope, leaving the body to drift in the stagnant water
A hallway outside the two dungeons has many teleport pit trips, but the Guardian is too big to fall in them and finds most of them. A large chamber beyond is a flooded torture room, with a dry observation balcony, apparently to watch the torturing. The skeletons strapped to the implements of torture are just normal dead, but lurking in the water are six rotting and water-logged zombies. Once the party has cleared these out they ascend the balcony - there is just enough room for a tiny hut between the railing and a heavy curtain in the back of the room. Timzz begins his ritual, Helter starts a prayer of healing.
Before either of them can complete their spells, the balcony is suddenly covered with fog - then a fireball explodes amongst them. "I inwite you as guests to my land, I give you food at my table, but did you think I would let you take all of my treasures?" Strahd asks them as he attacks. He has apparently re-animated five of the six zombies they had left floating in the water. He makes Fuine's own shadow turn against her, and uses a blight spell on Helter. He has the zombies attempt to wrest the amulet of golem control away from Timzz. By concentrating all their attacks on him, the party manages to overcome Strahd's crystal heart protection and begin to actually damage him when Helter uses the Holy Symbol of Ravenkind to summon real sunlight. Strahd flees, climbing the walls and then the ceiling like a spider to escape melee. As the vampire lord enters the hallway out of the torture room, Vann uses misty step to teleport after him - arriving on the ceiling with the vampire. Vann attempts to grapple him but fails and falls down into the water. Strahd drops down from the ceiling onto prone Vann, hitting him for 74 damage with two blows (one critical). When Vann loses consciousness, Strahd takes the intelligent sword from him and flees up the stairs at the end of the hall before Helter can arrive with the sunlight. She casts Aura of Life to restore Vann to consciousness as they finish off the last of the zombies.
During the battle, Timzz burned away a portion of the heavy curtain, revealing a door in the wall behind the balcony. Helter heals the party while Timzz begins his ritual of tiny hut, again. This time he places it further back from the balcony, with one edge blocking the door.
Strahd retreats, dropping the sword he took from Vann off in a secure hiding place. Since Helter destroyed his coffin, he can regenerate but can neither rest nor recover spells. He does not intend to allow the party that option so long as he can't. The sunlight summoned by the Holy Symbol will last just ten minutes, which means that it will run out a few minutes before their gnome wizard completes his hut spell ritual. Strahd intends to strike just after the light is gone. He gathers minions (five swarms of bats) and returns to the room just beyond the balcony and waits.
At the moment the sunlight is extinguished, Strahd can still hear the gnome casting his ritual. He commands the door to open, and the bats to attack the gnome, while he casts mirror image. Now without the protection of the crystal heart, he must nevertheless remain in melee range for long enough to reclaim another one of his treasures from the party, and all while under the disadvantageous influence of the Icon of Ravenloft.
The fight is brief - the bats succeed in breaking Timzz' concentration on the hut, and Strahd manages to rip the Holy Symbol away from Helter despite her spending an Inspiration on a re-roll. When Helter casts Daylight, Strahd, who is down to a single image and wounded, retreats.
Helter's daylight will last an hour. Strahd hides the Holy Symbol, but there is now little he can do to interrupt Timzz' spell. Between the daylight[i] and the [i]Icon, his undead minions will be largely ineffective, and his other minions would be cut down before they could disrupt Timzz. Even if they managed to break the gnome's concentration, during the hour of the daylight spell the gnome would have many chances to start again, and as a ritual he is not spending spell slots with each failed attempt. Strahd will have to nurse his anger, gather his minions, and bide his time.
Timzz completes his spell - the hut[i] is up, and the party has a safe place to rest that neither Strahd nor his minions can enter.
(7:35 pm: [i]hut at 1hr 10 mins)
A group of Barovian commoners, lost in the castle and shouting for Strahd's downfall, passes nearby. Normally he would enjoy toying with such rabble before turning them into undead, but right now he prefers to watch the party. Inside the hut, an hour has gone by. The party has taken a short rest and healed.
(7:45 pm: hut at 1hr 20 mins)
Three Vistani thugs have arrived at the castle on some dark errand. Rahadin has told them that the Lord is busy with guests in the basement. When they arrive, Strahd arranges them on the landing of the staircase leading to the larders, ready to fire upon the party should they seek to escape that way.
(9:45 pm: hut at 3 hr 20 minutes)
Inside the hut, the party has begun a long rest with no intention of leaving. Helter has attuned to the Icon and can now use its full powers. Fuine has attuned to the luck blade and the thighbone of St. Markovia.
Outside the hut, it is clear that the party is not just taking a short rest to heal and attune themselves to the treasures they have stolen from the crypts. At this point, Strahd dares leave his watch of them and gather more minions. Since his coffin has been destroyed and they are no longer useful as guards to his resting place, he brings all of the wights remaining from the teleport trap and places half of them in the room with the iron golem. He commands them, should the party enter, to attack one of the golems and activate them both. The other half he hides at the entrances to the flooded dungeons, to block the party should they try to leave that way. He also gathers three shadows, and places them on the spiral staircase leading to the larders, to block off that method of retreat as well.
(2:15am; hut at 7 hrs 50 min)
Sensing the imminent end of the hut, and his long rest nearly complete, Timzz works within the hut to recast the ritual while the others watch for threats outside. All of the party are now 9th level, and with his new level Timzz wants to add more spells to his book. From the Amber Temple spell book he selects Cone of Cold, and in Strahd's own diary he is able to piece together notes allowing him to reconstruct an Arcane Hand. He tells the others, just waking up, to make themselves comfortable. Normally it would take him ten hours to copy these over, but because they are both evocation spells it will take only five. Ezmerelda provides him the inks.
(Post for 10/30) _________________ My campaigns are multilayered tapestries upon which I texture themes and subject matter which, quite frankly, would simply be too strong for your hobbyist gamer. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Mp7Ikko8SI
(7:55am; hut at 13 hrs 30 min)
With the dawn, two of Strahd's vampire spawn return - they had been out all night patrolling around the castle. He stations them on the walls in the flooded torture chamber, but tells them not to engage the party until he calls for it - Strahd would rather they party fights the iron golems than slipping away through water-filled hallways.
(9:25am; hut at 15 hours)
Strahd's ambush is chanced upon by four crawling claws. These he puts on the stairs to the crypts, where they will be completely hidden by the fog that covers the floor. One of the witches who serves Strahd also passes by, looking for her cat familiar. Strahd commands her to defend the stairs at the end of the flooded cells from the party's retreat.
The party emerges from the hut and looks out over the quiet, flooded torture chamber. There is no sound besides the drip of water. They decide to head through the door to the north. As soon as Vann enters the chamber he is set upon by the wights. The other party members battle their way inside, although Helter is left behind. Fuine uses Saint Markovia's Thighbone to devastating effect on the wights. In the center of the room is an ever-burning fire, suspended above it a huge hourglass with writing they cannot read from the floor. There is a huge iron statue on each side of the room and three doors in the back.
One of the wights strikes at an iron statue. Both statues animate - they are iron golems! The door to the room slams shut in front of Helter and she can hear it lock. Inside the room, Strahd remains hidden - he doesn't want the party to flee just yet, but to wear down their health and spells before he reveals himself.
The golems have a terrifying poison breath weapon. Ezmerelda damages both of them and a wight besides with a lightning bolt.
Timzz throws a fireball that helps clear out the wights, but actually heals the iron golems! Helter batters the door down finally and enters, casting spirit guardians to protect the party. Her dwarven resistance to poison proves key to her maintaining her concentration on the guardians. Vann tries to hold off a golem by himself while the others concentrate on the second one, but he is struck down and loses consciousness.
Helter uses mass cure wounds to bring Vann back and help the others as they continue to battle. When some of them call for a retreat she encourages them to hold fast. The shield guardian breaks off its right claw inside a wight.
Timzz climbs up into his basket on the guardian's back, for protection and to read the inscription on the hourglass. He is hoping it tells of how to deactivate the golems but it only hints at magical transport using the fire. Vann begins to pour all his spell slots into smiting the golems. After a massive sword blow from one he goes down again. Helter reads the scroll of mass healing word she got in the Death House to restore him and the others. Finally, the last golem falls to the accumulated damage from the spirit guardians.
When Fuine walks nearly on top of Strahd he decides it is time to strike, attempting to wrestle the thighbone from her hands. She resists, and then strikes him with it, each blow exploding with radiant light. Satisfied that the thighbone will now be destroyed at the end of the battle whether he takes it from her or not, Strahd decides it is time to retreat, hoping to lure someone in the party into chasing him into the wights he has placed in the flooded passage. He uses his legendary action to flee, but pauses in the doorway when faced by Vann. The paladin is low on health and could be brought down in one blow - brought down and easily carried off to charm or kill and animate. Strahd's arrogance leads to a fatal mistake, and he strikes at Vann rather than continue to flee. This gives Helter the time she needs to cast daylight and move so that her spirit guardians envelop Strahd, and allow Vann to connect with his sword and smite.
Timzz and Ezmerelda unload magic missiles into Strahd at their highest levels while Helter uses spiritual weapon. Even as Strahd flees the room Fuine pursues, running across the wall and then top of the water in the flooded torture chamber. Her stunning strikes force Strahd to use all of his legendary resistances. He makes it to the tunnel of the prison cells, and tells the vampire spawn he hid in the room to cover his retreat, but they don't wish to face Helter's daylight any more than he does. The specter he summons to attack Helter does little, but he easily avoids the guardian of faith she places to stop his retreat.
Vann leaps over the balcony and into the filthy water, then misty steps in pursuit of Strahd. Catching up to him, his final sword blow, empowered with the wrath of Lathander, rends Strahd's form. His connection to the crystal heart broken, his coffin destroyed, Strahd disintegrates into a cloud of hungry mist.
Vann exults in righteous triumph, but the fight is not over. He is alone and now realizes that he is surrounded by wights. In the torture chamber, what were two vampire spawn, with the death of Strahd, have become much more powerful free-willed vampires.
Vann makes for the stairs but the witch drops him with a hideous laughter spell. Before the wights can rip him apart, however, the shield guardian and Fuine arrive. Vann has the satisfaction of killing the witch himself. Meanwhile on the balcony of the torture chamber, Esmerelda, Helter, and Timzz face off against the two vampires. Ezmerelda curses one and then lightning bolts it - Timzz follows up with shocking grasp when he sees that it is vulnerable to lightning. Both vampires are burning, and not regenerating, in Helter's daylight.
Finally, the party overcomes their foes. Gasping and bleeding, they talk of their next goal - to find the sunsword before the castle falls down around them! Even now, the holy thighbone is crumbling to dust.
They take the spiral stair the witch was defending up eighty feet to a landing. A door leads off, but the stair continues up. Helter says that she suspects they are still underground, so they continue up the stair half again as far and emerge on another landing. Although the stair continues up, they recognize the room beyond the landing as the antechamber of the dining room in which they sat at table with Strahd. Ezmerelda has said that with the 'death' of Strahd, all his spawn have become free-willed vampires, like the two they just fought. She says that they will be hungry, and anyone alive in the castle will be in danger - including Ireena. This produces a lukewarm response from the party. Vann acts more out of obligation than interest, and the rest of the party reluctantly goes along, although they would rather be looking for Strahd's treasure hoard. Ireena came down the stairs into the Grand Foyer at tea, so they reason they should look for her at the top of the stairs - but when they cross the Grand Foyer what were statues before have now become eight animated gargoyle constructs. Like most constructs, the creatures are not intelligent, and they quickly destroy themselves by charging into Helter's spirit guardians.
At the top of a second flight of stairs is Strahd's throne room, with two curious features. A large picture window overlooks the courtyard - but the day is clear! The sky is blue, with just a few clouds. It is the first time that they have seen the sun since their arrival in Barovia over a month ago. The throne itself is set at the far end of the room, but faces the wall, not the room.
Vann steps into the sunlight and kneels in prayer to Lathander. The Morning Lord reveals to him that they have done well in destroying the material form of Strahd, but that the Dark Powers will not let their prisoner go so easily, and They are even now reforming him. However, while They are thus occupied, They cannot maintain the barrier around Barovia that separates it from other worlds - the Mists have fallen. Lathander is busy guiding all the souls that were trapped in Barovia to their next stage of existence - for while Strahd was in power and the Mists isolated the realm, anyone who died in the land was either reborn here or was cursed to wander here as a ghost - souls could not leave or enter without his permission, regardless of whether they were good or evil.
Strahd will return remade at midnight. Lathander tells Vann that he has until then to save Ireena and extract whatever treasure he can find from the castle as his compensation. As long as they are all out of sight of the castle by midnight, Lathander will see to it that they are able to return home.
Vann explains this revelation to the rest of the party. They try the large doors leading out of the throne room but these lead only to a balcony overlooking the chapel. Ismark's body is undisturbed, but, without the icon, is starting to smell.
A small door off of the throne room leads to a book-lined study where an ancient man is chained to a desk. Leif is Strahd's accountant, and is imprisoned in this room because many years ago he neglected 'to carry the two' and his Lord was displeased. He assumes the party are guests in the castle and they agree. They ask where the bedrooms are and he explains that their bedrooms are in the tower far above, but the Lord's bedroom is the next landing up and over. Reasoning that is where they will find Ireena, they give him some crusts of bread and leave.
The landing is just 30 feet up, but they have to fight their way past several swarms of rats. Beyond is an ancient and abandoned dining hall, set for a wedding feast, and then a study, very well maintained except that the fire in the huge hearth has long since gone out. The doors to the bedroom are braced from within by furniture, but when Ireena hears their voices she lets them in.
Once the party explains that they have killed Strahd, Ireena pulls back the heavy curtains and sees the open sky for the first time in her life - but also sees a spirit. Sergei, Strahd's younger brother, is floating at the window. He explains that Ireena is actually his beloved Tatyana - cursed to be continually reborn in Barovia, pursued by Strahd, and killed before Strahd can marry her. Even as he says this Tatyana's memories return, of all her former lives, including her first one when she loved Sergei. With the Mists down, they have the chance to finally be together, and to leave this place. They walk together across the sky.
Vann wants to put his frustrated libido to work by searching for the sunsword and Strahd's other treasures, but the castle is huge and they now have no leads. Helter says that she has locate object and could use it on the short sword or the holy symbol taken by Strahd, but it isn't prepared. Eight hours would still give them several hours before midnight, and a directed search seems better than aimless wandering and running into hungry and free-willed vampires. The party returns to the ground floor and prepares to rest in the Grand Foyer inside the hut.
(11am-7pm) The party takes a long rest.
It does not take long for Rahadin to discover the party's hut on the ground floor. He burns with rage and desire for revenge on those who would dare attack his Lord, master, and adopted brother. But he cannot enter the hut. There are few of Strahd's minions left in the castle. In the entire time he waits outside the hut he is able to collect only a single swarm of bats, a number of crawling claws, and a legless Strahd Zombie. These he carefully arranges on the steps to the throne room. He plans to throw his poisoned darts at the characters as soon as they emerge from the hut. If he can get them to chase him, and they are slowed by the minions on the stairs as well as the silly armor trap, he may be able to get one of them to draw away from the rest and then eliminate just that one. One will have to do for now.
As the party leaves the hut Rahadin indeed throws his darts, and succeeds in getting Vann to chase him, but the others are not far behind. His Deathly Choir and scimitar are powerful, but not strong enough to bring down even one of the party before they finish him and the minions.
With the evil dusk elf out of the way, Helter can cast locate object - and she easily picks up on the sword - which is above them and to the northeast. They follow the first casting back to the balcony over the chapel, where Helter indicates that the sword is directly above them - but they see no way up before the spell ends.
They ascend the tower back to the study, whereupon the second casting of the spell reveals that the sword lies on this floor but behind the cold hearth. They find a secret door in the back of the fireplace, a small room with a treasure chest, and another secret door leading to a web-cloaked passage to the castle's belfry.
In the belfry a third casting of the spell, Helter's last, points at a third secret door, behind which is both the sword and the holy symbol Strahd took from them. On their way back out they check the treasure chest, discovering a gas trap that paralyzes both Helter and Timzz.
With Timzz's last command to the shield guardian having been "defend Vann", they load the paralyzed gnome and dwarf in the guardian's basket. The guardian seems content to follow Vann. They check with Leif, and break the news to him that his Master is dead. Leif allows them to sever his chain. He follows them into the throne room where he gazes in wonder at the setting sun through the window. Before its last rays fade he dissolves into dust, whatever magic Strahd used to have kept him alive and toiling for centuries now spent.
The three members who can speak all agree that they have had enough of the foul castle, and attempt to leave through the front door, only to be set upon by four statues become red dragon wyrmlings. Fuine distracts them while the others flee to the courtyard - the dragons don't leave the castle.
On the other side of the drawbridge, Ezmerelda's wagon is still parked - but another wagon is parked next to it. Rictavio greets the party warmly until Ezmerelda says that his faux accent is ridiculous, and reveals him to be Rudolf von Richten, her mentor. Von Richten claims that he had been keeping Strahd busy, using his higher-level spells to scry on the movements of the old vampire hunter around Barovia to give the party a chance of entering the castle. He had thought to slip in himself once Strahd was playing cat-and-mouse with them, but did not expect the party to be able to defeat him before he arrived. Of course, he hadn't counted on them having his protégé Ezmerelda with them, either, since he did not know that she had followed him to Barovia.
Vann says that they have perhaps some four hours to get out of sight of the castle so that Lathander will allow them to leave Barovia, and von Richten begins bringing his wagon about. Ezmerelda says that she is not going, to everyone's astonishment. She says that Vann's god revealed that Strahd was not truly dead, and she intends to be here and waiting for him when he returns. In the meantime, she will eliminate as many of his servants as she can, what few remain after the party's work. Von Richten says that he is too old for that, and intends to retire.
The party moves their treasure from Ezmerelda's wagon to von Richten's, and they begin down the road away from the castle. It is by now well after dark and although it is the first starry night they have seen in Barovia, in the depths of the dark woods a mist is already rising from the ground.
The next morning, free of Barovia, the party levels to 10th.
(Post for Oct. 31 - Happy Halloween and Blessed Samhain everyone!) _________________ My campaigns are multilayered tapestries upon which I texture themes and subject matter which, quite frankly, would simply be too strong for your hobbyist gamer. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Mp7Ikko8SI
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