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”)

After such a harrowing day – with the Festival of the Blazing Sun ending in a riot meant to turn the people of Vallaki against Baron Vallakovich, and the adventurers meeting and battling Strahd – the party wants nothing more than to climb into bed and rest.

Unfortunately, it occurs to them that they just started a coup…and then left the villagers to fend for themselves. So Khurz performs some healing on everyone, and they decide to go help. Raif immediately heads out of the Blue Water Inn, and makes for the Baron’s mansion by himself.

The rest of the party remains when they find Rictavio at the bar, speaking with Urwin. They discuss with the bard their plans for saving Ireena and taking on Strahd. Rictavio requests they meet him at a tower on a lake, just west of Vallaki, so that they can speak and form a plan together, once the party has concluded their business in Vallaki.

Ireena and Ismark join the party downstairs. Ireena is upset about the recent goings-on in town, and – rather than wanting an explanation – requests that they resolve this quickly so that they can continue with their original task of taking her somewhere safe and away from Strahd.

Raif arrives at the Baron’s mansion first, and finds a large mob surrounding it out front. Lady Wachter stands with the crowd, calling for the Baron to answer for his crimes. Raif uses nearby guards to push his way through the crowd, and stands between the mob and the door to the mansion. He and Lady Wachter exchange biting words, each blaming the other for what has happened in town.

Raif accuses Lady Wachter of being a woman of words, not action. Lady Wachter responds by grabbing a villager’s torch and flinging it at the mansion, where it catches flame. Raif attempts to throw his greatsword at Lady Wachter, but misses, and impales a villager. Lady Wachter screams, “MURDERER!” and turns the crowd against him instantly.

By this time, the rest of the adventurers have arrived, and have worked their way into the crowd. They attempt to make it to the front to try and protect other villagers, or quell the conflict. Izek Strazni jumps out through the mansion door, and swings his huge axe at the crowd to get them to disperse. Raif jumps down to the people, and swings his sword, killing another villager.

Lady Wachter squares off against Izek, and attempts her magic on him. He gets in two strong blows against her, nearly killing her outright. Rolen succeeds in turning her invisible so she can escape.

Vash and Ismark go to the side of the house and sneak into the den. Vash is after the mounted bear’s head. While he works to take it off the wall, Ismark goes searching through the mansion.

Khurz engages with Izek, but is knocked out thanks to his weakened state from taking one of Strahd’s life-draining bites. Sly and Cairie come to Khurz’s aid, while Ireena battles Raif, and Rolen fights the guards outside. Izek and the guards are defeated. Raif retreats into the mansion. Sly finds a strange doll on Izek’s body, which has a Blinsky’s Toys tag on it. He heads off toward the toy shop on his own.

Ireena runs into the mansion as well, hoping to find her brother, followed by Cairie. The front of the Baron’s mansion, at this point, is engulfed in flames. Raif and Cairie encounter Vash, who is pushing the bear head out the den window. Vash and Cairie head upstairs to find the Baron, while Raif – seeing he is outnumbered and possibly took the wrong side – flees out the window and disappears into Vallaki.

Upstairs, Vash and Cairie discover a precarious situation. The front-side of the mansion is becoming unstable from the fire. Near the back of the upper floor, Vash and Cairie find Ismark battling a guard. They help him dispatch the man, and go into the room he was guarding. Ismark tells them he’s going to find his sister and get out, and heads downstairs.

Vash and Cairie enter the Baron’s bedroom, and find the lady Baroness Lydia Petrovna in hysterics. Cairie agrees to take her out of the mansion if she reveals where the Baron is. Lady Petrovna points to a square in the ceiling of her room, indicating an attic. Vash agrees to stay behind and search the attic for the Baron as the wood structure of the mansion creaks loudly.

Cairie heads downstairs with Lady Petrovna, while Vash makes his way through the smoke-filled attic. At the front end of the house, Vash finds the Baron banging on a door. The Baron explains that his son is in there, and that he refuses to open the door.

Vash attempts to bash open the door, but fails. The mansion groans from the crumbling structure. The Baron rams the door, and breaks the frame, causing the unseen glyph of warding to BLAST the Baron with a huge bolt of lightning! He lands in a heap among some boxes, and doesn’t get up.

Ismark finds Ireena downstairs, and they exit the building. Cairie is not far behind them with Lady Petrovna. They make it out a back door and head around to the front of the house, where the others are waiting with the unconscious Khurz. Cairie discovers that Vash is still inside.

Looking into the attic room, Vash catches a glimpse of a dark-haired young man standing there, looking at him, as the entire front third of the mansion collapses, taking Vash and the young man down with it.

The adventurers can only watch in horror as the mansion falls apart with their friend inside it.

That was a hell of a cliffhanger to end on!! I was so pleased that it timed out so well. I think we went a little over our three-hour game time, but we tend to always do that.

This was the culmination of the party splitting and siding on two different halves of a conflict in Vallaki, and I’m really happy it went down this way. I love that I can rely on my players to remain in-character, and not have them change their minds based on meta-game information. Raif facing off against, practically, the rest of the party was awesome and epic – even though he only physically fought Ireena.

Now, I knew that there was a possibility of the mansion catching fire during this session. I love that it was Lady Wachter’s intense conversation with Raif that caused it. Plus – holy cow! – Raif killed two innocent people! I did not see that coming!

So, for the burning, I was gradually letting the fire spread throughout combat, allowing it to engulf what turned out to be the front third portion of the mansion. Because it had recently rained, I didn’t think the whole building would burn.

When the players started running into the burning building, I knew I had to have some kind of system for knowing how long they had before the structure became unsound, and would collapse. That was always a danger for them, and not something that I just decided to throw in there at the last second. The drama was actually intense behind the DM screen, because I knew exactly how long they had.

Basically, after combat had ended with Izek, Raif, and the guards, I kept everyone in Initiative order, and they acted on their turn as if still in combat. Behind the screen, I used a d20 as a spin-down die, counting down from 10 – I think, I don’t exactly remember the number. They had that many turns before the mansion collapsed.

I love that it turned out that Vash JUST got to the son RIGHT before the mansion caved in on him. Oh, “Is he okay,” you ask?

Find out in next week’s article, “Two Paths, Two Deaths.”

Until then – Well Met!!