On most Sunday nights, a group of friends and I gather to play Dungeons & Dragons. This is the chronicle of their tale. (This post contains spoilers to “Curse of Strahd”)

Donavich the priest leads the heroes Khurz, Vash, Cairie, and Gilrean to a trapdoor leading to the church’s undercroft, from which the pained cries of the priest’s afflicted son echo throughout. Donavich implores them not to harm his son, Doru, but to save him.

They go underground, and find a figure huddled in the far corner. As Khurz and Gilrean approach, they see a young man, barely in his twenties, skinny and dirty, begging for food. As Gilrean takes a ration out and hands it to Doru, the boy attacks!

He grapples the elf monk, and bares long, sharp fangs. Khurz attempts to free his friend, but Doru bites Gilrean on the neck, and drains some of her life. Cairie and Vash join the fray, and are able to beat Doru back, but it’s a tough fight. They decide it’s better to flee, and leave Doru there, as they only see killing him as a way to save him.

Back in the church, they inform Donavich that they cannot help him, while expressing their anger that they were not told Doru was a vampire. Donavich apologizes profusely, and agrees to help them bury the burgomaster.

Everyone decides they should continue on to Vallaki, and so the party leaves the village of Barovia and heads west. They find a fork in the road that leads to Tser Pool, where the adventurers were told lies a vistani camp. In the hopes of finding Stanimir and the mysterious “Madam Eva” – whom Stanimir told the adventurers to find – the group heads in that direction.

Upon arriving at the camp, Ismark and Ireena elect to remain behind, not trusting of the vistani. The group goes in, and are directed to Madam Eva’s tent. She greets them by name, already knowing of them and of some of their exploits in service to Daggerford. This sets the tone of the meeting.

She knows why they’re here, and says that, to defeat Strahd, they will need help. She reads their fortunes using a tarokka deck, and tells them in riddles where to find various artifacts that will grant them power against Strahd. She also tells them of a possible ally against the vampire lord, and where their final encounter will take place.

After the reading, the group joins the vistani drinking by the campfire. There, they hear the tale of a powerful wizard who led a march of Barovians against Castle Ravenloft, Strahd’s home. The two dueled with such power that it shook the mountains, but the wizard was eventually bested, and fell down the falls not far from this very camp.

The party continues on. The road to Vallaki proved difficult. They came to a fork in the road that leads to Castle Ravenloft itself, but wisely went the other way. On this road, several undead men came out of the forest and attacked the party. They barely defeated them, and were on their way not five minutes before another figure stood in the road. A dirty looking human – man or woman? – with a wooden staff, surrounded by twig blights. However, this group was easily dispatched with some well placed fire spells.

They finally make it to Vallaki, and are told to meet with the Baron in the morning. They go to the Blue Water Inn, run by Urwin Martikov, and purchase meals and a large room for them all, before bedding down for the night.

I have to say, playing Madam Eva was especially fun. Instead of a more ethereally-mysterious woman, of timeless quality, and incredibly insightful, I did a batty old lady who was so strange yet knowledgeable that you almost had to believe her. She was crazy, but she knew what she was talking about. In fact, I cemented her in the campaign well when I unwittingly forgot to draw the high-deck tarokka cards for the final two draws, and so Madam Eva cursed at herself and her cards for being fools, and redrew the final two cards.

For the purposes of the zombie encounter, I made Ismark a coward, so I didn’t have to worry about running him or Ireena during the fight (the group was facing six zombies, after all). The group, after the fight, found Ismark dragging Ireena away from the fight, leaving the adventurers behind. Gilrean did not tolerate that at all, and slapped Ismark for leaving them. My choice made for a great character moment.

Next week, I’ll talk about the absolute MESS that is Vallaki. It’s extremely difficult to run, since there’s literally a thousand plot points to handle. I’ll write out how I planned it, how I handled it, and how everything fell perfectly into place.

In the next story post, the adventurers meet several of the townsfolk of Vallaki, in “Gypsies and Bones.”

Until then – Well Met!