On Saturday 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 resting, the group awakens glad to not have been disturbed, but alarmed to find not one but three faces now staring in at them through the arrow slits in the guard post. They scurry away outside, claws digging into stone, as Khurz points them out to the others.

The party then discusses what they should do next: go back up the tower and try to investigate the crystal heart they found? Go up and find another route through the castle? Go down the new set of stairs at the bottom of the tower? 

    Danika Martikov and Kasimir Velikov both come to their minds. They left Danika in the lounge up in the tower – will she be safe there? Or should they go and fetch her?

They left Kasimir a mangled mess alone in another stairwell, one or two floors below them, hopefully hidden enough so as not to be found by any wandering monstrosities. With his legs badly broken, he would be unable to defend himself well.

    They decide to go after Kasimir. Going back to the tower area, they look up to see that massive webs were built overnight spanning almost the entire inside of the tower above them. Perhaps the spiders that pursued Fletcher got in, and made this treacherous net to capture them all. They go down the stairs in the floor, and emerge in what appear to be some kind of barracks for soldiers centuries dead. 

    Moving into the next room, they find a blasted room with swords and shields all embedded into the stone walls and ceiling, as if driven through by some incredible force. Unnerved, the party inspects both of the doors leading out of this room, and Cairie hears through one door the faintest sound of the crackling of a small fire. She turns herself invisible, opens the door…and finds herself staring into a long hall filled with hundreds upon hundreds of humanoid bones.

    Even the furniture, which replaced the old conventional wooden pieces, is constructed entirely of bones – including a very long table, ten chairs, and a chandelier hanging above it all, are made of disturbingly pieced together bones.

Seated at the far end of the table is a figure obscured by shadows, another figure standing behind them, and a third figure sprawled out on the table before them both.

    Cairie carefully moves into the room, still invisible, and sees that the figure seated there is Strahd von Zarovich.

The figure on the table is headless and dead, and would be difficult to identify, were it not for the bloody, bent, broken mess of two legs – Kasimir. Strahd, seeing the others in the next room from which Cairie came, beckons them all inside with a smile. Slowly, they come into this hall of bones.

    Strahd greets them all, and Khurz recognizes the figure behind him as Ireena Kolyana – Strahd’s newest bride. He apologizes to her, but she says they merely set her free. Now she is eternally with her beloved.

Strahd sees Fletcher, and offers him – once more – the chance to rule Barovia in his stead. To end all the death and suffering. And his friends can go free. Fletcher asks how this can be done.

    Strahd replies, “Come, take it from me.”

    Fletcher tries to fire arrows at Strahd, but they miss, and so he hides behind a chair. Cairie fires her arrows, and they bounce off of a shield of pink energy that protects Strahd. She suddenly recognizes that energy as that which sparked off of the crystal heart in the tower yesterday, and she makes the connection – that heart is what shields Strahd.

    The others, Malis, Khurz, Krossa, and Ezmerelda all attempt to attack Strahd with varying success. Strahd casts a unique spell of his own making, physically binding the shadows of both Malis and Ezmerelda together, forcing them to stay right next to each other.

Then, the party’s former allies begin appearing in the room – Vash, Gilly, and Sly. They attack the party in turn as well, with Gilly going after Malis and Ezmerelda, and Vash casting maddening spells at Krossa.

Thanks to Khurz’s possession of the Icon of Ravenloft, the fight is fairly balanced at first, because the undead have a harder time hitting the party while they’re close to the half-orc.

Then, Strahd stands near the center of the room, and slashes at Khurz as he attempts to put distance between himself and the devil vampire. This knocks Khurz unconscious, lying on the table.

Strahd then casts reverse gravity, sending everyone – and ALL of the bones and furniture – crashing toward the twenty-foot high ceiling.

    Except Fletcher, who sticks on the floor with his spider-climb – as does Strahd. Strahd attacks Fletcher, who holds him off, but takes a hit from Sly. Fletcher moves out from under Strahd and attacks Sly, then attacks Vash.

Krossa finally overcomes the debilitating spells keeping him down, and attacks Ireena – wailing on her over and over and dealing a massive amount of damage. Strahd, in a blind rage, attempts to retaliate against the dwarf, but misses.

Malis attempts to hold Gilly off, while the vampire monk attacks Ezmerelda over and over again, finally biting her in the neck and draining her of life force. Then, Gilly breaks off and starts running out of the room back the way they all came in. Ezmerelda turns invisible. They are still conjoined at the shadow. Malis fires off fire bolts at the fleeing Gilly.

    Cairie continues to try and shoot Vash and Ireena with her bow. Vash casts fly on himself and starts floating off of the floor, having avoided the gravity spell.

    Strahd uses his dark magic to swap places with Khurz, sending the unconscious cleric back to the floor and himself to the ceiling…at which point Khurz again falls up to the ceiling due to the continuing reverse gravity spell. Khurz is nearly dead now. Just then, one of the other doors in the room…

    …And in bursts Milivoj, Lady Petrovna, Urwin Martikov, Yevgeni, and Emil Toranescu. Together, they mount a counterattack on the forces of evil.

Milivoj, greatsword in hand, leaps onto Vash, grabbing onto the bard, and slashing at him. Emil turns into his hybrid form, and leaps onto Vash’s back, slashing him with his claws as well.

Yevgeni tries to shoot, but misses. Lady Petrovna lines up a shot with a lightning bolt that hits Vash, Strahd, and Sly across the room. They all take heavy damage, except Strahd. Urwin raises his arms, and turns into a raven, and numerous swarms of ravens then burst into the room with him, and start circling around the hall of bones.

    Reinforcements have arrived…but will they be enough to totally turn the tide?

And here it finally happens!! The group has found Strahd!! I can’t believe the final confrontation is happening. I’m so excited.

To explain to you my favorite part of this session, I have to first tell you that we have been doing these games over Google Hangouts lately because of the pandemic. So, we’re all video conferencing in.

The best part of this session was when, as I described them finding Strahd, I had my friend, Shane, join the video call as Strahd to the shock of all my players.

See, he and I have been co-masterminding the campaign together nearly this whole time. Shane has been “playing” as Strahd since almost the beginning, acting as my long-distance Big Bad. I run the sessions and then consulted with him on how Strahd reacts to everything.

So, because he’s been playing Strahd this whole time I brought him on to play Strahd in the encounter, providing him with the stats to make it happen!

My players were FLOORED at the surprise. It was easily one of the best moments of the campaign.

So the end is here – one way or another, the game is nearing the close, with the final confrontation against the ultimate evil of Barovia begun.

What will happen next? Who will fall? Who will emerge victorious?

Find out next time: “Sunset and Sunrise!”

Until then, Well Met!