AvocaD&D and Tabletop RPG Thread: Curse of Strahd Campaign Journal, Week 32

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.


This week’s discussion topic is the game world, or setting.  By default, D&D is set in a world of high fantasy like the Forgotten Realms.  In a setting like this, there’s room for all of the lore presented in the core rulebooks, from the various peoples and societies that exist to the important artifacts that the players might uncover. But it doesn’t have to be like that at all.  As the DM, you can create the game world however you see fit.  You can decide where the rivers flow, how many people live and work in each city,  and what sorts of beasts and monsters roam the wilderness.  In every campaign, every aspect of the world is up to the DM to decide on.

Your setting might be a world where magic is rare, and wizards are looked on with distrust by ordinary people.  You could decide that your world just doesn’t contain races like tieflings, genasi,  half-elves, or half-orcs because there’s simply no way for a human and an elf or orc to produce viable offspring.  Halflings in the Dragonlance setting are called Kender, and are a race of wandering kleptomaniacs; while in Eberron, they’re dinosaur-riding cannibals.  You could even tie in aspects of the real world, either by imaging that the modern world evolved to include elves, dragons, and magic, or that somehow those aspect have started to cross over and invade the real world from some other plane of existence.


What’s your favorite setting for a D&D campaign?  Do you prefer to use an official guide and add to it as you see fit, or do you just make up your own world out of whole cloth?  If you have a homebrew world, tell us about it!

Our AvocaD&D group is playing through 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)
  • 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 (The Wasp)
  • 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’d left off last week in the middle of exploring a winery that had been overtaken by a group of druids.  We started off by taking a short rest (and learning how Hit Dice work) before continuing on to explore the upper floor of winery.  davianIn the first room we entered, we found an old druid, babbling in Druidic and trying to escape down a winch onto the wagon in the loading dock below.  ENGR ran back down the stairs to try and meet the Druid on the bottom floow, while Wick rushed over to the railing and dropped a net on the druid to keep him from escaping.  Wick and Peter followed the old man down the winch and we heard the horde of twig blights outside stating to stir as the druid was muttering something and using his staff.  Peter tried to intimidate him to call off the blights, and the druid paused their advance, but then turned into bat and escaped the net. ENGR sent its flying lobster companion after the fleeing bat, but unfortunately the lobster couldn’t hold the bat, and the druid escaped.  The blights started to stir again, and Wick, Peter, and ENGR climbed back up the winch.  With the first blights starting to climb up after us, Wick cut the rope to slow them down, and we barred the door behind us as we left the room.

Continuing to explore, ENGR found the master bedroom, covered in vines, with someone sleeping in the bed. Pulling back the covers, we found a druid woman passed out and clutching an empty wine bottle, with 3 more empty bottles scattered over the floor.  We surrounded the druid and woke her up to interrogate, with Cara casting Calm Emotions to keep her from fleeing immediately. Unfortunately, the druid resisted the spell, but ENGR and Peter got very mellow for a while.  The druid turned into a squirrel and tried to escape, but Wick was ready this time and pinned the squirrel to the wall with an arrow, causing the woman to revert back to human form.  vineblightThe vines on the floor started to gather into some sort of plant creatures and attack, but Peter was able to pull them apart easily.  We managed to get the Druid to tell us that she and her people had come looking for a magic gem.  A local witch had stolen one already,1 but the druids had taken another back to Yester Hill.  After some debate, we decided to leave the druid pinned to the wall with Wick’s arrow and hope it would be enough to hold her.

We’d cleared out the winery, and most of the twig blights scattered after the old man had flown off.  We reported back to the winery owners and asked about this magic gem.  They told us that they had originally had 3 gems, but all had been stolen–one by the witch (which we’d already recovered and returned), one by the druids, and a third that had been lost 10 years before. No one knew where that gem went, but it was lost while under the care of Urwin, who is now the innkeeper in Vallaki. We spent some time helping the owners clean up the damage we had done to their establishment, then spent the night at the winery. The druid we had left in the upstairs bedroom had escaped after all, by shifting into an eagle form. In the morning we headed south to Yester Hill to try and retrieve the stolen gem.


As we approached the hill, we could see storm clouds gathering above and lightning striking the standing stones at the top. Wick snuck up to get a better look, and saw a stone wall surrounding a field, with no one apparently around.  Inside the wall,  was a single huge tree and a large statue made of twigs, woods, and vines of a man with long fangs.  Wick motioned the others up, but then a number of figures began to rise from the ground, and a black horse with a mane of fire flew down from the sky, carrying a pale man in all black–Strahd himself.  We hid and watched as the druids began some kind of ritual.  Suddenly, the tree on top of the hill animated and started to walk down the hill along the path to the north.  It passed by our hiding place without seeing us, and ENGR, Peter, and Txan followed after the tree to see where it went, while Wick, Cara, and Kissi stayed to see what the druids would do.  The tree turned toward the winery, and ENGR sent  her lobster back to alert the others.

treeblightSince Strahd and the druids didn’t seem to be doing anything once the tree left, we caught up to the rest of the group.  As the tree reached the winery and started tearing grape vines out of the ground, Kragen attacked, but the thick trunk was too hard to penetrate.  Wick managed to sink 2 arrows into it, and Txan cast Shatter, but only chipped at the trunk.  Cara hit with a Guiding Bolt, lighting the tree up for Kissi and the Sun Blade, who hit it twice, taking a deep gouge out of the trunk.  ENGR used an emergency scroll to cast Inflict Wounds on the tree. The tree monster hammered Kissi with its massive branches.  At the same time, roots sprang up from the ground to ensnare and try to crush Peter and ENGR, though the Warforged managed to escape.  Peter savagely broke out of the vines restraining him, while Wick fired another arrow into the tree.  Txan struck with his hammer and the Tree managed to avoid Cara’s Sacred Flame.  Kissi cut into the tree with Sunny, but almost had the sword jarred out of her hand.  23’s crossbow bolt went wide, sailing into the non-animated trees in the distance.  The tree bashed Peter, and again tried to use its roots to grab Kissi and Txan, but both manage to avoid being entangled. Kragen recklessly attacked with his maul, and with two massive blows, destroyed on of the tree’s legs, felling the tree monster!

With the danger passed, the folks from the winery came out to started cutting up the tree into logs.  We searched inside to see if we could find the gem, but instead we found a battleaxe embedded in the center of the tree. Its handle was carved in vines and it felt lighter than a normal axe. ENGR cast Identify and said it was an Axe of Plant Slaying and that it can only be used by those who are aligned with good.  We discovered though some experimentation that Peter could wield it, but his alter-ego Kragen Tempest would have to deal with being pricked by thorns growing from the handle if he tried to swing it.

Stopping the tree was enough to push us all to Level 8!  We decided to stop there for the night and level up our characters over the week.