On 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”)
The furious Abbot charges at the group of adventurers, his intense, glowing eyes fixed upon Malis. He bludgeons her with his huge, radiant mace. Y’shaarj goes on the attack, moving away from the celestial and casting spells at him. Krossa goes for Vasilka, Strahd’s bride-to-be, and holds her with a crossbow bolt to the neck, while Rolen takes aim at her with his own crossbow. Ezmerelda turns herself invisible, while Cairie uses her stealthiness to take cover.
The Abbot’s attention immediately turns to Krossa, who holds his prize creation – the key to freeing Strahd’s cursed heart, and therefore the entire Barovian valley – and bristles with fury. As the Abbot’s form begins to shift once more, he commands that Krossa let Vasilka go. The Abbot’s body grows bigger, and bigger. His feathered wings attach to his arms and spreading down his back. The feathers melt together and take on a metallic sheen, becoming skin-like.
Soon, a young golden dragon stands in the courtyard. It breathes a gas out in the hope of weakening his foes. Malis is affected, Krossa is not. The dragon charges at Krossa, and towers over him.
Fletcher, having been about to fill a wine bottle with the wine they brought down into the cellar of the North wing, hears the commotion and comes back outside to find the dragon just outside the door, and Krossa gripping Vasilka. He fires an arrow at the beast, while an invisible Ezmerelda strikes at it with her swords.
Clovin Belview, the two-headed mongrelfolk man who had agreed to help Fletcher and the others in exchange for wine, bursts out of the East wing to see what was happening. He rushes to Y’shaarj’s side, and casts moonbeam on the dragon, pleading his master to stop. The Abbot resists the spell’s effects.
Krossa moves past Fletcher into the North wing, forcing Vasilka in with him. Fletcher, left in the dragon’s path, takes a full barrage of savage hits from the furious beast as it shouts, “MOVE!”
Fletcher bleedingly obliges by disengaging from combat and fleeing across the courtyard toward Malis, Y’shaarj, and Clovin. Rolen and Cairie remain close to the dragon, and are attempting to attack it with their ranged weapons, but it doesn’t work too well.
That’s when Clovin’s moonbeam finally succeeds in robbing the Abbot of his changed form, forcing him back to his angelic state. As the Abbot kneels there, breathing heavily, Rolen takes the opportunity to launch a Fireball at him, engulfing the Abbot in a fiery explosion.
The Abbot shrugs it off, stands with his mace, and stalks into the North hall.
Fletcher asks Clovin for advice. The sudden presence of a two-headed man alarms Malis as the Belview mongrelfolk responds that they must run – the Abbot will not leave this place. Everyone agrees. Y’shaarj goes to tell Rolen and Cairie that they’re leaving. Cairie asks about Krossa as she heads toward the courtyard gates.
Fletcher runs back toward the North hall, intending to inform Krossa of their plan to escape. As Fletcher goes, Clovin takes out his viol, and furiously plays a quick series of notes, which inspires Fletcher.
Inside the North hall, where the adventurers met the Abbot and Vasilka, the constructed woman finally breaks free of Krossa’s tight grasp, and then calmly moves away from the dwarf, leaving nothing between him and the furious Abbot.
Krossa sees a window to his right, and dives for it! CRASH! He lands in a heap right in front of a headstone that reads, “Petrovna.” He gets up, and runs for the gatehouse of the Abbey, seeing everyone else now leaving the courtyard and heading in his direction.
The Abbot goes to Vasilka and checks her, making sure she is unspoiled. Fletcher successfully sneaks in while the Abbot’s winged back is turned, and heads down to the cellar. He fills the wine bottle with wine, and then attempts to sneak back up and out.
The Abbot has moved, and sees Fletcher standing there. The two have a quick, quiet moment of staring at each other…before Fletcher dashes out as fast as he can. The Abbot does nothing.
Fletcher catches up to everyone outside of the empty gatehouse. Ezmerelda appears as well, dropping her Greater Invisibility. Everyone catches their breath, and attempts to rationalize what just happened. Fletcher fulfills his promise to Clovin by handing him the bottle of wine. Clovin nods, taking it. Badly hurt, the group decides to descend back down to Krezk, where Fletcher has a cottage in which they can all stay for the night.
Along the way, Fletcher introduces Clovin to the others, and explains that he may fulfill the “two-headed man of music” criteria of the card reading the group originally received from Madam Eva. Clovin has agreed to come along so far.
Once in the village, which is little more than a sparsely populated forest within protective walls, they head to Fletcher’s extremely modest – if not bare-bones – cottage. Everyone settles inside around the fire, finding so much comfort in its warmth. Clovin immediately starts on the bottle of wine.
Ezmerelda opines that the group makes an awful lot of stupid decisions, to which they ashamedly agree. Malis owns up to attacking the Abbot first, which Fletcher did not know. He gets up to leave, needing to see the burgomaster. While he goes, Clovin starts to fill in some of the details of his family’s history with the Abbey…and the crazed Abbot.
Fletcher goes two cottages down to the one belonging to the Krezkovs. He knocks, and is greeted by Anna Krezkova, who lets him in. She goes into the other room to fetch Dmitri, and their heated voices carry throughout the small cottage. As Fletcher tends to their dying fire, Dmitri barks from the other room, beckoning his loyal guard to join him in the second room. Fletcher goes, and finds a sorry sight.
The burgomaster kneels beside a small bed, occupied by a fourteen year-old boy, who is so obviously ill. Fletcher knows this to be Ilya, the last of the Krezkov progeny – the other three having all been claimed by illness. Fletcher says he is retiring his post as guard, and is returning the uniform. Dmitri is troubled by this, as he has enjoyed Fletcher’s time in Krezk. Fletcher wishes he could have been more help, and Dmitri mysteriously says that maybe he still can.
Dmitri pulls back the sheet covering the sweat-soaked Ilya, revealing a skinny boy without a shirt, showing several bloody bandages covering his lower torso. Fletcher quickly puts together that Ilya is not afflicted by the same disease that claimed the burgomaster’s other children.
Dmitri says Ilya was found like this, and that he fears the boy was attacked by wolves outside the village walls. He fears that the fever affecting him so is the curse…and that Ilya will soon be lost to “the pack.”
It suddenly occurs to Fletcher that he is aware that not only wolves haunt the woods surrounding Krezk, but werewolves as well. Fletcher is unsure of what Krezkov wants him to do.
The burgomaster says that, should his last son die of his wounds, vengeance on the beasts would be nice. However, he holds out hope that his son may survive…if the curse can be removed. He asks Fletcher, now that there is a group of would-be heroes in town, to try and find something – or someone – who could end the curse and save his only child. Maybe the vistani, who know curses well. Fletcher agrees, and leaves.
Back at Fletcher’s cottage, the old man fills everyone in on the burgomaster’s request. He turns to Ezmerelda, hoping for some insight. Ezmerelda responds by saying, yes, her people can bestow misfortune on others, but that does not make them witches or experts on the many curses of the world, heavily implying that she is tired of the stereotype. She says that her master may be able to lift the curse, if she could just find him.
The raven-haired vistana speaks of finding traces of Rudolph van Richten within the tower at which she was staying. That is, until she became too headstrong, and thought she could take on Strahd by herself. She admits to infiltrating the castle, and then getting wounded so that she had to flee back to the tower, where she met the adventurers.
The party wants to go to the tower to find clues on the whereabouts of van Richten, but Ezmerelda fears that now Strahd may have it watched. Fletcher suggests the sneakiest of them go alone. Ezmerelda seems too fearful to want to try, and she’s possibly ready to give up.
This inspires talk of hope from Malis, who cannot believe that their goal is impossible. Ezmerelda agrees to continue to fight with them, for as long as she can, but that they must do so with a plan.
Quickly, the group gathers their thoughts, and fill each other in on the Fortunes of Ravenloft – the items and information that Madam Eva told the original four adventurers to find. They now have the Tome of Strahd, and they have found the two-headed man of music.
All that remains is a holy symbol – a treasure owned by a wounded elf, and a sword of light – which would be found in a drowned village.
Ezmerelda knows of gray-skinned elves that live near Vallaki, at a camp of her people, and also offers that the drowned village is most likely Berez, an “evil” place. Fletcher asks for a map, and Ezmerelda produces one of her own making. She points out the places of interest: Krezk, the lake and the tower, Vallaki, the winery, and where she believes Berez to be. Argynvostholt is mentioned and identified on the map, and Ezmerelda fills Fletcher in on what they all found there, including a wounded elf named Savid.
A plan is formed. In order to help save Ilya as fast as possible, they will seek out van Richten by going back to the tower to find clues. If that doesn’t work, they will go to the vistani camp outside of Vallaki and try to ask about a cure and to find the gray elves. That plan in place, the group settles in for a long rest.
This campaign keeps getting better and better AND BETTER. Every session I run is wonderful, and I’m having a ball. Being a DM is the best.
So, before this session, when I knew the Abbot was going to fight the group, I did some research and latched on to the ability that Deva’s have to Change Shape. The only limit that seems to be on this ability (not a spell!) is that it has to be into a creature of the same CR or lower. So, I started looking up CR 10 creatures – and BOY ARE THERE SOME.
The most interesting ones to me were the Guardian Naga and the Young Golden Dragon. But, seeing as how the Deva is a righteous figure – even if he is corrupt and evil now – he would believe that he is still a being of light and justice. Therefore, he’d definitely choose the Young Golden Dragon over the Naga.
Ha ha ha, the looks on my players faces as they realized that the Deva turned into a dragon was the BEST. Unfortunately, this kind of backfired on me in a small way – now most of the party members thought the Deva WAS a dragon.
I resolved this by having Ezmerelda and Rolen (who I am now NPCing) explain how Clovin’s magic spell worked. That it reverted the Abbot to his true form (the angel).
Speaking of Clovin, I had a huge problem with this character from the get-go. When I played the session that had Madam Eva’s tarokka reading, I cursed myself when I drew Clovin as the potential ally to the group. Clovin is kind of a nothing character. He can’t do much. He’s not powerful. He doesn’t know any spells. This was the stupidest inclusion to the list of potential allies that you could draw, in my honest opinion.
So I solved this by, basically, turning him into a bard. I made my own character sheet for him, and took a few of the PHB’s bard feats and abilities for him. Now he’s useful. Now he can cast spells. Now he can inspire people. He’s still not incredibly powerful, but maybe if he sticks around long enough, he’ll start to level up with the party. Who knows?
So it seems the party is planning on returning to the tower! Last time they were there, TWO party members died! And Strahd attacked them! It was a crazy session, and I’m excited for them to finally see what’s inside the tower.
They’re also planning on heading back toward Vallaki, so I have to prepare that town for the possibility of them returning. Hoooo ho. Are they in for a treat! But I have a feeling on how things are going to go, and I’m prepared. I’m excited.
This campaign is going swimmingly, and – surprisingly – it’s going very much how I’m expecting it to. I’m quite pleased. I kind of feel like Strahd, because he’s in total control of the domain, and I feel like I know exactly (for the most part at least) what’s going to happen next…and it all seems to go more or less how I expect it. It’s wonderful.
Next, the party returns to the Lake Baratok, and finds something truly unexpected. Come back next week for Curse of Strahd – “Getting Ahead.”
Until then – Well Met!