Foreword

This blog is one group’s experience of the 5th Edition Curse of Strahd campaign.

We decided to offer it up here for a few reasons:

First, it is offered for the enjoyment and inspiration of Dungeon Masters running or intending to run the Curse of Strahd campaign, so they can benefit from the successes and failures of the things I attempted as a DM.

Second, it is offered up for players who have already finished the campaign and are curious to hear of others’ experiences of it.

Third, once we have concluded, it will be preserved for posterity sake so that my players can go back and see things from the other perspective, and possible even see what troubles they avoided without realizing it, or what decisions led them to trouble.

It will be SPOILER-FILLED and is not intending for current players (especially my own!).

After some initial posts about campaign preparation, most posts will be made on a session-by-session basis, with the intention being to have three posts per gaming session:

  • One post detailing the preparations and key decisions I made as a DM for the specific content of that session prior to running that session.
  • One post written by one of my players (usually the same one, but it may vary at times), detailing their experience of that session, decisions they made, and why.
  • One post written from my perspective, as DM, detailing that session from my perspective, including any changes I was required to make on the fly, in reaction to player decisions (or indecisions), and what I think worked or didn’t work.

Feel free to use or discard any of the ideas presented here.  It is presented here “as is”, so that it might heighten their enjoyment of our fellow gamers as they experience the Curse of Strahd campaign.

Where I have taken or adapted ideas from others, I will try to provide links and offer due credit wherever possible, though I have only recently begun bookmarking for this purpose, and may not be able to easily for things I came across some time ago.  I am more than happy to give credit where due: without the generosity of these kindred spirits offering their accounts and ideas, I’m sure our own experience would be that much less, and they are the ones who inspired me to share our tale likewise.

Note:  At present, I’m still “finding my stride” and thinking of things I’d not considered, so most posts, even Campaign Prep items, may be in a state of flux for a while, until we get farther into the campaign.  Ergo, they are subject to change.

 

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Session 50 Execution: Castle Ravenloft

Dinner

I forgot the dinner itself is supposed to be real, and not part of the illusion.  But I think it works better as a part of the programmed illusion.  Otherwise, unless they are arriving via Black Carriage near-immediately after receiving a dinner invite, how has be timed it to be there and ready?  Further, given one of the PCs penchant for fine food, it was all the more insulting/disappointing when poor Cali discovered the illusion.

The group delayed attacking, long enough to realize it was an illusion, and therefore didn’t lose resources to this ploy.

The Guard’s Hall

A pipe organ begs to be searched for secret doors, and before long the PCs were downstairs.  The PCs fought the skeletons, which took a few resources (e.g. spell slots) but not much, and then when they tried to rest Strahd made his first surprise appearance.  Thanks to some unlucky rolls in his surprise round combined with some clever work by the PCs at keeping the bat swarms out, this attack fell flat, though at least the PCs were now aware of one of his Lair Actions (phasing through walls).

Strahd’s Second Atttack

The group found the skull of Argynvost straightaway.  In hindsight, I think this is unsurprising:  From entering through the front door, the lighting/music directs them to the organ.  The organ begs for secret-door searching.  The secret door begs them to follow the cobweb-filled hall, where it becomes a coin-toss as to whether they go up and down, and considering they are looking for the tombs, primarily, it’s not even a fair 50/50.  Once downstairs, they will stumble into Argynvost’s skull within two rooms.

The group took the skull and headed upstairs to leave, so I had Strahd launch another attack, embarrassed at how poorly the first one went.  The revealed two more Lair Actions this time – the spectre and the doors/windows trick.  This attack was a little more interesting, but with his minions being Vampire Spawn, it didn’t take long for the group to repel him.  I did manage to sow a little seed of doubt by having a charmed character cut off from the group but left unharmed.  Again, because of the Sun Sword, the Vampire Spawn aren’t much help as minions go, but I wasn’t ready to reveal his best tactics just yet.  They will come later, as the group gets closer to their goals.

I did decide that Strahd would be familiar with Fritz, and offer to re-unite him with Piddlewick II (the first time the PCs have heard the name, but they quickly deduced what it was) in exchange for turning on the group.  He did, but somehow when the Vampire Spawn were dispatched, the group was content to let him live.  He will turn on them each and every time Strahd appears.  Removing him from the group should be easy.

Next Up

We ended the session there, with the group planning to leave with the skull next session.  Of course, the gargoyles and red dragon wyrmlings will have something to say about that.

Session 50+ Prep: Castle Ravenloft

From here on out, there’s not much individual session prep, because I cannot predict the path the group will take within the castle.  I have to keep the whole castle prepped all the time.  But I do have generalized strategies for how I see the Castle and final confrontation playing out, along with a few tricks up my sleeve in terms of Strahd’s tactics.

Changes in Castle Content

None, really.  I don’t have any specific plans to change anything within the Castle in terms of its contents, wandering encounters, treasure, etc.  My changes/strategy focuses only on Strahd and how he will deal with their presence.

A Beefier Strahd

As I’ve stated in many previous posts, I found it necessary to re-write Strahd to be much more powerful.  I took advice from a number of sources, and ultimately came up with this:

Strahd in his Castle

Most of my changes focus on his survivability:  increased AC, hit points (including the Heart of Sorrow), saves, more flexibility in his movement and shapechange, more defensibility in terms of spells/reactions…. all are designed to cope with the fact that the party is:  6 PCs + 2 NPCs + 1 Shield Guardian.  Their damage output in a single round when they are allowed to focus, particularly when there’s a lit Sun Sword going on, is tremendous.  They are a force to be reckoned with.  But reckon with them he will.

Strahd’s Strategy

Strahd knows he can’t stand toe-to-toe with the group.  He intends to grind them down slowly with surprise attacks, draining resources and picking them off one-by one.  I intend to have Strahd play cat-and-mouse with the group with an effectively endless supply of minions, and more often than the wandering monster rolls should necessitate.  I’m anticipating a Strahd encounter, however brief, each session from here on out.

I have Ezmerelda and Rictavio in reserve in case a PC dies, but ultimately my goal is to actually whittle down their numbers – and their spell and ability reserves – in order to force two things:  1.  Finding and Destroying the Heart of Sorrow feels like a necessity and an accomplishment, and 2. By the time they reach the final showdown, it’s likely just the PCs left, and with little of their usual firepower.  It’s a knock-down-drag-’em-out final push, with the group unleashing everything they have on him in the tomb of King Barov, when, at long last, they FINALLY have the opportunity to be the ones getting to act in the surprise round.  They will revel in it, I’m sure, but then… they will still need to desperately struggle to reach his coffin to finish him for good…

Strahd’s Tactics

The biggest threat to Strahd is the Sun Sword, so most of his tactics are about neutralizing it.  While the group has it and is willing to use is constantly, it makes his Vampire Spawn rather ineffective, and greatly lowers his potential as well.

I have come up with a number of tricks, one of which I already sprung on the group – he used a Disarm attack when they fought Enestra to get the sword out of Ireena’s hand and then kick it away.  But he has more…

Session 50: Player Perspective

Synopsis

We begin in the dining hall of Castle Ravenloft, with Strahd welcoming us to eat.

Cali reaches for some food, but it is an illusion! A moment later, Strahd himself disappears and then reappears to repeat his earlier welcome message. Illusions everywhere! We investigate the organ and find a secret door behind it which leads to an octagonal room.

We move in, and find a number of arrow slits looking out onto the courtyard as well as a variety of mirrors stacked against the walls. We follow a southern hallway to find a similar arrow slit guard room, and also some spiral stairs going up and down.

We go down the stairs, and discover a short hallway, a wide arch and a sturdy door.

Through the archway we find an ancient barracks. As we investigate, skeletons rise from the floor and attack us. We deal with them quickly, but Kasimir is badly wounded and we agree to a short rest.

During the rest, Cereus hears the squeaks of a huge number of bats approaching quickly. Cali pulls an iron door badge from her robe and implants it in the archway to seal the flying rats out. Strahd steps straight through the wall behind Cereus and attempts to feed on him, but fails. Frustrated (and perhaps a little embarrassed) he steps back through the wall and disappears. After the rest, we continue on.

We investigate the sturdy door and beyond we find the room Luccaria had seen a day or so ago. A room where all furnishings and decorations are constructed of–or coated in–bones! As she recalls, the skull of Argynvost is bolted to the wall here. We collect it and Glim conjures a floating disc to carry the huge thing up and out of this place.

As we reach the organ, Turk and Parpol struggle to get the huge dragon skull out through the narrow gap. It is wedged in place. Suddenly, Strahd and a trio of pale friends appear in the hallway outside of the dining hall!

Turk charges at the vampire spawn and strikes one badly. A wraith suddenly appears from nowhere, but fails to strike Cereus and then fades away again. Strahd uses magic to extinguish a candelabra and cause it to erupt with thick smoke, blinding everyone nearby. He then convinces Fritz to betray us with a promise of reuniting him with “Piddlewick”–presumably his famous automaton–causing him to strike at Ireena, the person he is supposedly compelled to protect!  The vampire spawn move into the room to attack Ireena, being burned by her radiant blade. Strahd then grabs Turk and pulls her out to the hallway to feed on her, but fails to dig his fangs in. He then charms her and feeds successfully now that she’s willing. He magically closes and locks the doors.

A few moments later, the doors unlock and Strahd is gone. Turk seems confused by what has happened. Parpol strikes at Fritz the betrayer, but we ask him to stop since we quickly decide to let the thing live. We finish off the last of the vampire spawn together.

The Goings On

We begin in the presence of Strahd, who sits at a pipe organ in a room with a long table set with fine food and drink.

Cali moves in and sits at the table. Turk moves in and tries to stop Cali from grabbing some cheese, but she evades and her hand goes right through the food! Illusionary food?! No greater horror exists for a halfling! Strahd then disappears. We cast See Invisible, but see nothing. A short while later, he appears again and repeats a similar welcome. It seems that he, too, is some sort of illusion.

Cereus examines the pipe organ and realizes that there are scrape marks on the floor straight out from the organ as if it had been moved in the past. Cali climbs on the stool and performs the sheet music on the stand. When she gets to a certain note, the organ releases from the wall a little bit. Turk then hauls it away from the wall a couple of feet, which seems to be as wide as it opens.

The room beyond has several arrow slits looking out over the courtyard. The room’s only feature is a collection of mirrors. There are mirrors of all sizes, from full-length to ones small enough to fit in a backpack. We assume that vampires don’t have much need of them. The only other exit is a hallway to the south.

Exploring the hallway, we find many cobwebs and an empty octagonal room with more arrow slits. With no apparent exits, we turn back and explore the hallway in the other direction. At the other end, we find spiral stairs going both up and down.

We take the stairs down. Cereus checks for traps while Cali burns out cobwebs. We reach a lower hallway.

The hallway is wide, and extends to the north a short ways. There is a large western archway, and a normal iron-bound wooden door to the north.

Checking the western archway, Turk finds a cold, damp hallway with many side alcoves. Skeletons lay on straw cots in four of the alcoves. This is an ancient barracks, it seems. Kasimir moves in to investigate, and suddenly bones assemble themselves into the forms of ten skeletal soldiers! They pick up their rusty weapons and attack.

Cali fires her crossbow and strikes one of them, sending chunks of bone flying. Turk and Kasimir are surrounded, and fight off the swarm. Cereus drops three immediately with well-placed arrows. Ireena moves in to help with her radiant sword, but accidentally strikes Kasimir with her booming attack! He’s badly wounded, and even more so when a skeleton strikes him shortly after. We knock down the few remaining skeletons, with Parpol running in and finishing the final one with a throw of his spear!

After, Kasimir asks if we can take a short rest to recover, and we feel guilty enough to agree to his request.

Before the rest even begins, Cereus shushes us. He hears a squeaking noise and it seems to be coming closer. A lot of squeaking. Cali runs over and tears a badge from her robe, which rapidly expands to become a large iron door in the archway! A moment later, Strahd appears behind Cereus! He attempts to strike and grab him, but is unable to. Frustrated, he steps back through the wall behind him as if it wasn’t there.

We manage to rest for an hour. At some point the mass of squeaking stops.

We open the fresh, iron door and move back out into the hallway. We decide to check out the north door.

The room we find beyond is one that Lucy has seen in a vision: the ossuary, where furniture and decorations are constructed of and covered with bones! Over a door hangs the huge skull of the dragon, Argynvost. The skull is bolted on, and we guess that it might weigh 200 pounds or more. Glim excitedly casts her new Tenser’s Floating Disc ritual, and the skull is loaded atop it. We make our way upstairs with it in tow.

We have some trouble getting the disc and skull past the organ, and it becomes wedged in the gap just as Strahd and three pale friends appear at the doorway to the organ room! Turk rushes over and strikes one brutally. Ireena’s sun blade burns at maximum radiance. Suddenly, a wraith materializes behind Ireena but fails to connect as it swings its ghostly claws at her.

From the hallway, Strahd casts a spell, a candelabra on the table extinguishes, and thick black smoke erupts from it; blinding everyone within 20 feet. Strahd then says, “Fritz, it’s been a while! Perhaps I could reunite you with Piddlewick, for a favour.” Fritz then turns on Ireena, the damned traitorous machine-man!

Strahd grabs Turk and pulls her out into the hallway, then tries to force her to the ground but fails. Another attempt to feed stymied!

Two vampire spawn move in to attack Ireena. The weakened one burns in the radiance of the sun blade and is then killed by a wild swing from the other. Strahd charms Turk, feeds on her, and then magically shuts the doors of the room we’re in and locks them!

Parpol stabs Fritz. “Ah! I thought he was our friend!” Having fed, Strahd leaves and Turk can hear that his friends are still fighting but the door won’t budge until a moment later when the lock clicks and she can once again open it. We break off the attacks once all of the vampire spawn are destroyed. We spare Fritz now that he seems to have returned to his right mind, though some of the party are keeping a close eye on the unstable monstrosity.

Once calm has been restored, we break for the session.

Session 49 Execution: Entering Castle Ravenloft

Parpol

The group pried Parpol from Bildrath and also got a little more gear from the shop.  This was a fun little bit of roleplay, but not otherwise noteworthy.  There’s nothing serious in the way of gear in Bildrath’s shop at this point, and they have plenty of cash to cover whatever his ridiculous prices demand.

The Black Carriage

After some debate, the group chose not to take the carriage ride.  I had it simply go to the castle and park itself in the shed.

Approaching the Castle / The Missing Revenants

The group still didn’t think to involve the Revenants, so Enestra was “away to the west” when they approached the Castle.  The nearer they got to the Castle the gloomier things got, such that once inside the courtyard it was basically a thunderstorm.  I expect to continue this trend.  In fact, I’m thinking that maybe it’s near-always that way at the Pillarstone of Ravenloft.  One more present from the Dark Powers to constantly push down on Strahd’s psyche.

The group scouted a bit with Arcane Eye.  I’d anticipated they’d do this, but I wasn’t particularly keen to stop them:  having some idea of the layout does nothing to stop the wandering monsters, particularly the surprise attacks by Strahd, so it wasn’t likely to prove particularly fruitful.  There was a chance they’d uncover the location of the Skull of Argynvost, but as it turns out they tired of the searching (It’s a large Castle!) and gave up and headed on in the front door.

Rahadin

I had the group encounter Rahadin in the front hall.  I hadn’t bothered to give him any minions, and I wasn’t sure how they’d take encountering him since he was not initially going to be hostile.  I was not completely surprised when they recognized and attacked him on sight.  He was dead in two rounds, given the group size, with him only getting in a few solid hits on Parpol.  (Still – draining resources from the group one small fight at a time.)  He doesn’t have anything of real value, of course.  It was good to see the group showing some investment in Kasimir’s story.

Strahd playing the Organ

I downloaded a nice Chopin dirge for Strahd to play when they entered his dinner hall.  Given that we were near the end of the (real world) night, we ended the session on his (programmed illusion) welcoming them to the Castle.

 

Session 49 Prep: Entering Castle Ravenloft

Parpol

As previously mentioned, the group will need to find a way to pry Parpol from Bildrath.  This shouldn’t be much of a challenge.

Enestra and the Revenants

If the PCs don’t circle back for the Revanants of Argynvostholt, I’ll have Enestra “away” when they arrive.  I don’t want to make her a recurring villain, exactly, so I don’t want them to fight her again unless/until the Revenants are involved, or definitely won’t be involved.  I see them as “paired off” more or less, a side-plot the PCs just get caught in the middle of.

The Black Carriage

I never did use the Black Carriage encounter.  For various reasons, it was never appropriate when the PCs were passing that crossroads.  I will have the Black Carriage waiting.  They’re unlikely to take it, but it doesn’t matter.  It’s a message from Strahd nonetheless:  I know you’re coming, and I welcome it.

Getting Inside

I’ve been prepping the castle.  I’m not keen on the PCs getting into the basement directly, but that will, even if they discover it, likely strike them as too dangerous to try.  Regardless of how they approach, I don’t intend to make getting inside difficult.  Getting out, on the other hand…

Session 49: Player Perspective

Synopsis

We start out spending the night at Father Donovich’s church. We take precautions to make the place safe, which seems to make Donovich uncomfortable. He seeks out the company of some fellow villagers for the night rather than stay there with us. Probably wise.

In the morning we search for manacles, which leads us to Bildrath’s Mercantile again. We buy provisions, and Lucy speaks to Pariwimple whose real name turns out to be Parpol Cantemir. She convinces him to join us on our trip to the castle, and magically compels his uncle to accept this. He arms and armors himself and we set off.

We find an empty black carriage and horses waiting for us at the intersection leading to Castle Ravenloft, but we choose to ignore it. It heads toward the castle, ahead of us. We make our way to a hill overlooking the castle instead. From there, Glimmerald uses her Arcane Eye to scout the location.

When Cereus hears the distant roar of a dragon, we decide to move into the castle to avoid that fight. Stepping into the open entrance, the doors to the castle are magically opened and we move inside. We hear pipe organ music inside and to the south.

A dusk elf appears on the stairs near us and Kasimir immediately knows who it is: Rahadin, the betrayer! Lucy teleports him in to face his enemy, and we cut the beast down quickly.

We move on down the hallway to find the source of the music. We find a large room with a long table set with fine food and drink. A cloaked figure plays the pipe organ at the far side of the room. As we enter, he says, “Ah, finally, you came. Come, sit. Enjoy my hospitality.”

The Goings On

We rest the day at the Church of the Morning Lord in the Village of Barovia. Glim tinkers with Fritz the Shield Guardian some more, while others cover the windows to try to deter unwanted visitors. Come bedtime, Glim produces a Tiny Hut for us to sleep in. Ever the wild card, Turk sleeps in one of the beds for the night. Elsewhere, Donovich does some paperwork and Fritz keeps watch outside the church doors.

At some point during the night, Donovich wanders outside and off into the night. Distrustful, Cereus tags along behind Donovich to keep an eye on him and finds him wandering to a village house where the lights are still on. He speaks to the occupants at the door briefly and then enters the house.

Cereus knocks on the door. An elderly woman opens the door a crack. Cereus asks for Father Donovich, and the woman claims not to know him. Cereus argues with her, in a somewhat threatening manner and she claims to need to speak to her husband. He hears furniture moving near the door. Cereus asks more loudly for Donovich, and the old priest soon appears at the door. He says that it’s nobody’s business where he spends the night. He seems upset. Cereus uses Turk’s name to intimidate him, but it doesn’t seem to change the Father’s mind. Cereus returns to the church shortly after.

Cereus returns to tell us what happened. He then bars the doors of the church.

Ireena decides she needs some manacles, to securely attach her sword’s hilt to her wrist. We search the church for manacles. We try to find the basement, thinking that Donovich probably used some to restrain his son. In a filthy room, under a rug, we find a trap door and immediately head down into the darkness.

The basement is riddled with posts, and in the far corner we see a gaunt and huddled figure. The figure moves around at the far wall until it reaches the bright light of the sun blade. It then hisses and moves back to the corner. Finding no manacles, we return upstairs.

We head to Bildrath’s mercantile to find Pariwimple. Also to buy manacles, if they have any. We learn that they do indeed have manacles, for only 20 pieces gold; a bargain at one tenth the price. Bottles of ink are 100 gold per ounce. This market is out of control. We do not see Pariwimple anywhere around. Glimmerald haggles over child-sized clothing.

We hear Pariwimple out back, and Lucy messages him to ask him to meet her out front of the store. He heads out to meet her. He tells her that Parpol Cantemir is his real name, but everyone calls him Pariwimple for short. She tells him about fate, and how it’s his fate to come with us to the castle. He asks if it will be a date, and Lucy says yes. She tells him not to worry about convincing his uncle, she’ll take care of that.

He tells her that he’s strong but also quick. He knows how to fight! To use a spear! He runs off to get his spear, while Lucy steps inside to convince Bildrath. She magically compels him to support Pariwimple, and also to provide her with a new dress. He complies with both, and finds her a lovely, low cut red dress. She thanks him and we wrap up our dealings. She also mentions that he should offer his nephew some armor, and he tells Pariwimple to take a suit of studded leather, which he does.

Leaving with our new ally, we consider approaching the castle from the east, though the cliffs are dauntingly tall. At least two thousand feet! We realize that we cannot safely approach the castle from that direction, even if there were a secret way in somewhere up the cliffside.

Instead, we follow the road around and up toward the top of Tser Falls, and to the intersection where we will find the road leading to the castle. Parked at the fork in the road and facing east is a black carriage with two jet black horses. The door of the carriage opens. We see nothing inside. Pariwimple starts to charge at it, saying “I got this!” but Turk grabs his shoulder and Lucy stops him with a quick “Pariwimple, please wait!”

Cali hops in the carriage and the rest of us briefly pause to consider getting in the carriage, but choose to spurn the offer. As Cali exits and closes the door, the horses break into a trot and pull the carriage off to the east. We make our way along the road following it, and break off to a hill overlooking the castle before we reach a point where we would be visible to the castle.

The lowest spire is about 200 feet, while the tallest is a bit shy of 400. The lowest ramparts are just shy of a hundred feet up. The gates are open, and the doors to the castle beyond appear to be open as well.

Glimmerald casts Arcane Eye to scout the entrance of the castle.

She thinks that the wood of the drawbridge is weakened, and the drop below is perhaps a thousand feet. The outer wall of the castle has a gatehouse where the drawbridge’s chains connect, about a hundred feet up. A thick fog swirls around the courtyard. As the eye moves into the courtyard, the weather turns to rain and thunder and lightning threatens the clouds above. The gatehouse has ironbound doors with built-in locks, and the lock holes are big enough to peek in. Each of the gate house rooms have flagstone floors, mechanisms for raising and lowering the drawbridge, a latch mechanism, but are otherwise sparse.

Some walls separate the front half of the courtyard from the back half. Twenty foot high and wide archways provide access to the other half of the courtyard, blocked by a portcullis.

There is a stone carriage house, with the doors open a crack. Inside she can see the carriage.

Opposite that, a slender wooden door reinforced with iron bands leads into the keep.

Another interior wall separates the back courtyard into two smaller courtyards.

As the eye is crossing over to the other quarter yard, it sees iron gates leading to some sort of overlook. There are flowers. The overlook is a balcony over a long drop. When the eye reaches the balcony, there is a flash of lightning that illuminates the rooftops of the village of Barovia below. A chapel separates the two back quarter-yards. In the southeast courtyard, she finds nothing of interest and no means of entering the structure.

She moves the eye to the keyhole of the ironbound back door. The door is swollen and stuck in its frame… too tight to fit the eyeball past its edges.

Above, the windows are stained glass and seem to be boarded up from the inside. On the front there were the large open front doors with light spilling out from inside. Above, a large broken stained glass window is about 50 feet up. It looks like it’s been broken for some time. She sends the eye into the front doors.

Ornate outer doors of the castle hang open. Twenty feet inside are another set of doors, which are closed. The ceiling in this space is thirty feet tall. We cannot see the broken stained glass window from here. Torches light this entrance.

Back at the group, Cereus notices two sets of footprints on the road, matching Van Richten and Ezmerelda, he believes.

Through the inner doors, Glim sees a room. Cobwebs stretch between columns. It’s a dusty hall. Torches in sconces sputter. Eight stone gargoyles squat on the rim of the ceiling, which features frescoes covered by decay. There are bronze double doors to the east. To the north is a wide staircase climbing into darkness. To the south is a hallway.

Going up the staircase, she sees a discarded toy on the edge of the stairs. A Blinsky? It looks like a spring-loaded, wind-up set of wooden teeth with its fangs painted white. Etched into it in tiny lettering, it says “Is no fun, is no Blinsky!”

Continuing up, the massive stairs rise to a landing. Stone arches support a ceiling covered in frescoes, depicting knights on horseback. Everything is dusty. At each end of the south wall is a staircase rising into darkness. Between the staircases are a pair of alcoves containing dusty suits of armor on stands, each clutching a dragon-headed mace. Both suits of armor are covered in dark stains. Above each alcove is written something, but she can’t read the scratched out lettering. She takes the stairway to the right.

The stairs climb to dim light from outside through the broken window to the courtyard. She realizes both stairs lead to this same room. This immense room is full of brooding darkness. Empty sconces are found on the walls, and cobwebs adorn everything. Across from the window are a set of double doors. To the south, a single door leads away. At the southern end of the room is a wooden throne on top of a dais. The throne faces away from most of the room. She doesn’t notice footprints through the webbing.

Back outside, hiding among the trees on the hill, we’re getting quite wet. It’s a full thunder and lightning storm now.

Atop the main building, we see that there is another large window at the top of the building, up above the broken window. A ten foot wide walkway surrounds most of the keep. Four large panes: enclosed by a lead framework. The sections have small iron hinges built into them, with small iron latches to lock them in place.

From the west, Cereus hears a familiar roar in the distance. The dragon! We decide to move to the courtyard before it arrives. Cali crosses, holding the rope, and gets across safely. Pariwimple crosses then. Cali ties the rope to something secure. We begin to move across, one by one until we’re all on the castle side of the bridge.

On the gatehouse above us someone sees a patch of green slime, which we easily avoid.

We approach the front doors. Cereus pokes his head into the lit interior, looking up. In the corners of the high, vaulted ceilings there are shadows of four statues. Not gargoyles, they’re shaped like dragons. They look like they’ve been painted red. Cobwebs cover them. Cereus feels uneasy, of course. There is no sign of charring on the floor.

Cali steps in, and as she does so two things happen: First, the doors to the east open on their own, revealing the octagonal room beyond. Second, we hear organ music. It sounds like it’s coming from the east, and south, seemingly from the southern corridor.

We step in and investigate the hall to the south. Large double doors hanging slightly open at the end. There is a suit of armor in an alcove just before the doors.

Almost upon us, we finally hear the footfalls of a dark skinned elf coming down the stairs. He stops, looks down at Cali, Turk, and Pariwimple. He says, “My master is expecting you.”

Hearing the elf’s voice, Kasimir grabs Luccaria’s arm for support. She knows immediately that this is the elf who slaughtered so many of his people. She takes Kasimir aside and teleports them both to near the betrayer, and then she steps forward to confront him.

Cereus sneaks in and sticks three deadly arrows into him. Parpol runs up and makes a couple of quick stabs, though his attacks don’t seem as effective as our own. Cali mocks the elf viciously, and Glimmerald slings six magical missiles at him.

Suddenly, in her mind, Lucy hears the anguished screams of the thousands of Rahadin’s victims! Parpol seems badly affected by it, though Lucy resists.

Kasimir unleashes a barrage of magical darts, which brutalize Rahadin and drop him dead where he stands.

Catching our breath, Kasimir casts Detect Magic and tells us that Rahadin’s scimitar is non-magical. In fact, Kasimir detects nothing magical at all on him. There are three darts in his bracer, each in a tiny scabbard; probably poisoned.

We head down the southern hallway, and find a side passage leading to a spiral staircase just before the suit of armor.

At the southern door, which is slightly ajar, Cali sees a table set for a great meal. There are three huge crystal chandeliers. In the center of the room is a long table set with a white cloth and food dishes of all kinds. Places are set for each of us. At each place, we see amber liquid in goblets. At the far end of the room is a huge pipe organ and seated at the organ, a single caped figure pounds the keys in raptured ecstasy. Strahd slowly turns toward us. “Ah, finally, you came. Come, sit. Enjoy my hospitality.”

Here we end for the evening.

Session 48 Execution: En Route to Castle Ravenloft

The Revenants of Argynvostholt

The PCs forgot what their actual arrangement was.  They think they need to retrieve the skull of the dragon first.  No matter.  Enestra won’t be on guard when they reach the castle, in case I need to hold her in check for the Revenants later.

Ezmerelda/Van Richten

Cereus never entered the tower.  The Magic Mouth didn’t trigger, though the group found various other clues I made up on the fly.  They eventually came to the deduction that Ezmerelda and Van Richten had likely gone to the castle, though they weren’t sure why.

Vallaki

The group went to Vallaki, so I played up the cowed nature of the population there, and even had a little girl come out to ‘attack’ Ireena (and gave a hint of how dangerous Fritz the Shield Guardian might prove).  The group isn’t treating the town as another Cat-Up-a-Tree (thankfully), and moved on fairly quickly.  They did go after some Holy Water.  (Which I didn’t have a problem with.  It’s not terribly effective at their level, but provides a little resource to fall back to.)

Barovia

The group decided to investigate Mad Mary.  This was a surprise, but a non-event.  They just wanted a description so they’d recognize her.

The group elected to rest for the night and deal with Pariwimple in the morning.

They then settled in for the night at the chapel, and acquired a little more Holy Water.