AvocaD&D and Tabletop Gaming Thread: Curse of Strahd Campaign Journal, Week 43

Welcome back to the weekly D&D and Tabletop Gaming thread!  Here’s a place where we can talk about Dungeons & Dragons or any other tabletop games 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.

The AvocaD&D group is rapidly approaching the end of the Curse of Strahd campaign, and we’ve begun discussing what to do next.  Hayes will probably be taking a break from DMing for a bit, and a few of us are considering the possibilities of running an adventure or two.

What are some good, short (one- or two-shot) adventures that make for a good learning experience for a first-time DM?  Would you stick with official material from Wizards of the Coast, or look for an adventure by a third-party publisher on a site like the DM’s Guild? Or, would you say to just dive right into the deep end and write an original adventure of your own?

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)
Curse of Strahd

Tonight we started off preparing to delve into the catacombs below Castle Ravenloft, to search for a captive werewolf.  We went through the Hall of Bone into a room that looked like something had exploded inside.  Broken bones and pieces of armor lay scattered across the floor and bits of shields and swords were embedded in the walls.  We continued north into a room that was much neater, and found a dusk elf seated behind a desk, Rahadin the Chamberlain. RahadinHe didn’t seem too pleased with us wandering around the night before, and though Txan tried to talk him down, it was pretty clear we were about to fight. As we approached, we could hear the howling of tortured souls coming from the air around the elf.  Kissi’s struck first, her Sun Blade flashing out to hit the dusk elf. The blade dealt some damage, but didn’t have the same effect it would on an undead creature.  Peter unleashed his Hell Hounds, and one of them managed to sink its teeth into the elf’s leg.  Peter then unleashed Kragen and attacked with the Blood Spear, but the small, crowded room made it difficult for him to maneuver and his attacks were deflected.  From outside, Wick shot 3 arrows, but only one managed to connect.  ENGR reached through the door to cast a Haste spell on Txan. Cara fired off a Guiding Bolt, but the Rahadin dodged out of the way.  The Chamberlain pulled out a scimitar and swung in an arc slashing both Peter and Kissi, but missing the Hasted Txan.  Everyone near the chamberlin heard the screaming of the tortured souls, causing Kissi, Txan, Peter, and ENGR to take psychic damage.  Txan, under the Haste spell, used his magic to give Kissi some protection, then cast Magic Weapon on his hammer and swung at the elf, hitting once.  Suddenly a demonic creature appeared out of the shadows and struck Kissi badly. Shadow Demon Txan was able to retaliate against the demon with a solid hit of his own.  Kissi ignored the demon to focus on the elf, and hit him again with her sword.  The Hell Hounds also continued to harry the elf, and Kragen’s reckless attack finally connected as well.  ENGR cast Bless on Peter, Txan, and Kissi.  Wick used Hunter’s Mark on the elf and got off a solid shot.  Rahadin slashed out with his scimitar once more, hitting Peter and Kissi again, and the psychic screams pierced into the brains of everyone in the room.  Txan hit the elf with his hammer, but the shadow demon slashed out at Txan, scoring a savage hit across Txan’s back.  Kissi, Peter, and the Hell Hounds continued their assault on the Chamberlain, while ENGR stabbed the shadow demon, but the creature seemed to resist most of the damage.  Wick’s next shot struck home and pinned the elf to the wall, killing him.  Wick moved his Hunter’s Mark to the Demon and pegged it with a second shot, but again the demon resisted most of the damage. Cara cast Sacred Flame, scorching the shadow beast a bit.  The demon lashed out and struck Kissi again, but Txan retaliated smashing it with his hammer again. He then stepped back and shot a Fire Bolt at it.  Peter’s Hell Hound caught the hurting demon in its jaws and shook until the shadowy form dissipated into nothingness.

We searched the room and found a hidden staircase leading down into the darkness below.  At the bottom we found a room with a stone brazier burning in the center, but no heat came from the white fire.  There were 7 stones, each a different color, set around the edge of the brazier.  Two statues of knights on horeseback were on either side of the brazier, and a large hourglass hung over it, with an inscription on the bottom and all the sand magically held in the upper portion.  The inscription read thusly:

Cast a stone into the fire:
Violet leads to the mountain spire
Orange to the castle’s peak
Red if lore what you seek
Green to where the coffins hide
Indigo to the master’s bride
Blue to ancient magic’s womb
Yellow to the master’s tomb

We decided to ignore it for now and moved passed, through a door leading south.  The door opened, but we couldn’t see into the room due to a red velvet curtain stretching across the doorway. Wick peaked through the curtain and saw they were on a balcony with two large wooden thrones, looking over the room below.  Looking over the rail, we could see that the room below was partially flooded. We could make out the shapes of furniture of some sort around the room.  We tossed a weighted rope over the edge to get a sense of the depth of the flooding.  The water was only about 3 feet deep, but something in the water rippled in reaction to our sounding rope.  Cara used Detect Evil again and found that there were 6 undead things in the room with us.  ENGR sent her driftglobe to illuminate the water, and we saw a half-dozen zombies pop up and start moving toward the light.  Once the zombies were bunched up surrounding the light, Cara called on her divine patron to Turn Undead and destroyed 4 of the 6 zombies instantly.  We put down the remaining two pretty easily and then jumped down into the water.  Wick opted to ride on one of the Hell Hounds, since 3 feet of water was enough to be over his head, and ENGR walked on ceiling.  We could now see the furniture in this room was actually torture implements.

We followed a flooded hall towards another stairway leading up.  There were two iron doors about halfway down the hall, and we could hear faint cries for help behind one of them. As Peter walked down the hall, a trap door suddenly opened beneath his weight and he fell through.  Peter found himself in a flooded cell, with the remains of a dwarf in rusted armor.  He could hear someone calling out to him, and he called out in return.  The rest of us could now hear Peter’s voice behind the same door as well.  Wick avoided the trap in the floor and managed to push open the iron door.

We found a long hallway lined with cells.  Peter was in the first cell on the right, and Wick managed to pick the lock on the bars and let him out. We checked the other cells, and found a man hanging by his ankles from the ceiling with his head underwater–he was pretty clear long drowned.  In another was a skeletal figure in long blue robes chained to one wall.  In the last cell on the left was a dark-skinned, bald man clutching the bars of the cell. He said he was from Vallaki and he was chased here by dire wolves.  ENGR mentioned the name Zuleika1 and he responded and said he was her mate, Emil! emil.png Wick opened the lock on Emil’s cage and we told him that Zuleika had promised as aid in our fight against Strahd if we freed him.  Emil said he’d once considered Strahd an ally, but after having been locked up for so long, he was no longer so favorably inclined to the Count.  Before leaving, Wick tried to pick the other locks to try and loot the bodies in the cells, but the locks on those cells didn’t want to open. Not wanting to waste too much time, we left them behind and brought Emil back to the balcony room, then out of the castle the same way we came in.  We gathered our cart and headed back toward Vallaki.

When we reached the town, Emil went on ahead to meet up with his wife in the caves near Krezk.  We spent the night in town, then set out to return the Dragon Skull to Argynvostholt. We entered the ruined castle, and had ENGR’s Shield Guardian carry the skull towards the mausoleum in the cemetery.  Inside the mausoleum we saw the inscription that said “Here lie the bones and treasure of Argynvost.”  We placed the skull down in one of the alcoves, returning it to its rightful place of rest.  Outside we saw a glorious light blasting from the top of the tallest tower.  All of us got a permanent +1 to our AC and all saving throws, and another level!

And that’s where we ended our session for the night.  Next week, we’ll pay another visit to the werewolves and see what aid Emil and Zuleika can offer us, then we’ll had back to Ravenloft for a final encounter with Strahd!