AvocaD&D and Tabletop RPG Thread: Curse of Strahd Campaign Journal, Week 29

Welcome back to the weekly D&D and Tabletop RPG thread!  Here’s a place where we can talk about Dungeons & Dragons or any other tabletop RPGs that you nerds might be into.  Tell us about the games you’re playing, speculate about future expansions, recruit your fellow Avocados into new groups, whatever you want.

I spent a long time covering the various race and class options in the D&D 5th edition Player’s Handbook.  Those 2 choices go a long way toward determining who a PC is, and you can get by playing the game just fine (from a mechanics stand point) with just that information.  But to really make the most of this role-playing game, it helps to also give your character a background and personality.

5E Classes

The PHB suggests that you choose and write down  2 personality traits, along with an ideal, a bond, and a flaw.  These are story-telling hooks that help inform your character’s thoughts and actions–what causes you believe in, what people or places mean the most to you, or what vice might get you into trouble.  These have no baring or affect on any dice rolls, but rather help you decide how your character might react to a certain situation.

Your background, on the other hand, tells you what sort of training or experience your character had prior to beginning his or her adventure.  Your background gives you 2 skill proficiencies, along with a known language and/or proficiency with the tools of a certain trade, over and above what you get from your race/class alone.  The PHB provides a dozen or so sample backgrounds, which each come with some pre-made traits, ideals, bonds, and flaws that you can choose from.  However, the PHB also encourages you to customize your background however you like.

So, let’s talk about character creation that goes beyond the race and class mechanics.  How do you go about determining a character’s personality and background?  Do you use the samples in the book as written, or create your own? Do you have a favorite personality type to play? Do you write up a backstory to fill in the gaps between the various traits, bonds, flaws, and ideals? Do other games have different mechanisms for imbuing characters with personality?

Our AvocaD&D group is currently running the Curse of Strahd adventure module.  Our version takes place in a pseudo-historical 19th century Earth, and the group is playing as representatives of a railroad company sent to the tiny Eastern European nation of Barovia (ruled by Count Strahd von Zarovich) to negotiate the expansion of the railway through the country.

Dramatis Personae

Our Dungeon Master is The Hayes Code, and the party consists of:

  • Txan Einreique, a Half-Elf Stone Sorcerer; the Company Representative and nominal party leader (Josephus Brown)
  • Kissi Farwood, a Human Fighter; a former solider hired as a bodyguard by Txan (forget_it_jake)
  • Edwin Potts, a Human Cleric of Torm; a government agent sent to oversee the deal and make sure the company isn’t doing anything shady; deceased (torn to pieces by vampires) (Nope)
  • ENGR-23, a Warforged Artificer; a living machine employed as a railway engineer (our only non-Avocado party member)
  • Peter Peregrine, a Human Barbarian; a Professor of Antiquities with a rage-filled alter ego called Kragen Tempest (Doctor Nick)
  • Wickerwelt Tanglewood, a Halfling Ranger/Rogue; a Barovian native brought along as a guide (TheCleverGuy)
  • Carabelle Longstride, a Halfling Cleric of Lathander; a Southern-accented American on a personal mission of her own (Wafflicious)
Spoilers for Curse of Strahd

We picked up this week having just returned to the town of Vallaki after a visit to the cursed marshlands to the south, where we’d successfully snuck into a witch’s hut and recovered a stolen artifact, along with some other treasures and an old diary that seems to have once belonged to Strahd himself.  As we entered the inn, the innkeeper Urwin mentioned that his wife Danika was feeling a bit under the weather.  Wick recognized that Danika was also the name of the raven we had met who helped us at Baba Lysaga’s hut.  We put two and two together and figured that the innkeeper’s wife was the same.  Some careful questioning by ENGR-23 confirmed it, and Urwin told us that ravens are good luck and will always be on our side against Strahd.


We took a rest and ENGR identified some of the items we’d retrieved from Lysaga’s hut.  Among the loot was a vial of Oil of Sharpness, which would give a +3 bonus to any piercing or slashing weapon, as well as a Pipe of Haunting, which when played could cause anyone around to be frightened. Unfortunately none of us knew how to play the pipe, but Cara took charge of it and decided to try and learn. We also had a handful of very expensive gems and a large amount of gold.  Urwin let us trade a single ruby for permanent rooms at the inn, and also gave Cara a few vials of oil for use in making holy oil.

We then spent some time discussing our next move.  We’d now completed 2 of the 5 prophesies that Madam Eva had given us, and we had a handful of other objectives.  We could:

  • Go with the dusk elves to find a castle buried under a mountain
  • Track down a werewolf who may become our ally against Strahd
  • Sneak into Strahd’s castle to recover the skull of Argynvost, the Silver Dragon
  • Investigate the winery west of Vallaki to see what’s holding up shipment to the inn
  • Deal with the hag who’s been haunting the dreams of various party members
  • Attempt to actually meet with Strahd in his throne room

Of all those options, we agreed that it was best to attempt to deal with the hag first, so we wouldn’t have to worry about removing a curse from a different person every day.  Exactly how we’d deal with that hag was unclear.  ENGR proposed offering to return the magic gems and sacks we’d taken from her mother and sister, but Wick was skeptical and thought it’d be best to simply kill the hag.  At any rate, we first needed to find a way to draw her out, so we decided to go back to the windmill where we’d fought the hags previously.  But first, we would take a couple of days to rest and resupply in Vallaki.  ENGR would use the time to make some healing potions for the group.  Wick started carving a set of wooden stakes for everyone in the party, and Cara started to practice with the magic pipes.  The innkeeper told us that oyster season was starting, so Kissi decided to spend her down time oyster fishing (and maybe finding a pearl or two).  Peter visited the church to try and do some research about vampires.

And that’s where we called the session.  Next week, we’ll be taking a break from Curse of Strahd, to give Hayes a break from DMing.  A couple members of our group have proposed one-shot adventures, either in D&D or another game, but we haven’t decided yet which one we’ll be playing this Saturday.  Stay tuned!