btstrahd

All Will Be Well

The party’s rest is interrupted at dawn by a Vistani knife at Mira’s neck. Her assailant demands to know who the party really are as they lead her to the Tser pool. The pristine water has been transformed into a lake of blood. The Vistani are furious that the group has brought Strahd’s wrath upon them. Madame Eva manages to defuse the situation but suggests that the party don’t stay for breakfast.

They continue through the mountains towards Valaki. Along the way they spy some neatly folded clothes hidden in a bush dusted with raven’s feathers. The rogue takes the feathers and slices the collar of the shirt. Later they fight off a pack of werewolves seeking prey. Meira suffers multiple bites, which probably doesn’t mean anything.
They spot a coloruful carriage making it’s way toward Ravenloft. Soon after they come upon They come upon the windmill depicted in the Death House, now in a deadful state of repair. A flock of ravens act erratically as if they were tyring to warn the group away. Taking the birds advice the party contineues, finally reaching Valaki at dusk.

Unfortunately the city does not look quite as safe as they’d hoped; the pallisades are papered with layers of faded party announcments, streamers, patrty favours, and colourful signs. Wolves heads on pikes line the walls, remnants from the Wolves Head Jamboree. The top layer of signage announces the upcoming Festival of the Burning Sun. The door to the town is locked and they are refused entry until the rogue bribes the guards with Hermans Dream Pie.

Valaki is littered with the refuse of dozens of disappointing parties. The citizenry bear wide, false smiles and meaninglessly call “All will be well!” to passers-by. The party visit a chuch overburdened with refugees before finding rooms at the Blue Water Inn. It’s owner, Urwin Martikov, welcomes them and fills their cups. He laments that the that the wine isn’t their finest; no shipments have come from the Wizard of Wines in over a week. He tells them that if they are able to get the wine flowing it will be worth their while. He also introduces the group to the only other guest of the inn, a colorufully dressed Elf called Rictavio.

They party spend the rest of the night at the inn gathering information. Except for Herman, who engages in a drinking contest with two local hunters and nearly kills them. Rictavio in particular shares quite a bit. They learn:

  • the Burgomeister, Vargas Vallakovich, is obsessed with happiness. He has forced the town into bi-weekly festivals for what feels like forever. Unhappiness is a crime.
  • Vallakovitch has a cruel henchman called Izek that enforces his bidding.
  • The Wachters are a wealthy family that oppose the Burgomeister.
  • Purple lights have been emanating from the Burgomeisters attic.
  • A town called Krezk is further down the road and much safer, although rumour has it something stange is afoot with the Abbot there.
  • The church is a safe haven for refugees and is protected by a powerful divine source.
  • The general lay of the land (lake to the north, Vistani camp to the east, Krezk to the west)
  • Rictavio is a travelling entertainer who has found his way into Barovia by accident. he’s been stuck here for a month.

Addtionally, the rogue has a strange encounter with Urwin after dressing in a disguise that included the raven’s feathers; the innkeeeper grew very serious and demanded to know where the feathers came from. The rogue defused the situation. He was also able to pickpocker a few electrum and a key from the wealthy Wachter brothers.

In the morning the party explore further, searching for safe haven for Ireena. In the town square they witness a cruel-faced man have children toss rocks at people in stocks for the crime of unhappiness while a gigantic wikcer sun is erected. They decide to explore the lake based on Madame Eva’s property but instead find the image from Galens dream journal: in the middle of the lake sits a dull-faced man in a row-boat. Across from him sits a burlap bag. Half the party rush toward him in a boat as he tosses the bag overboard; a young girls voice screams within. The dull-faced man drops into the water in resonse to their screams and grabs the bag. Herman dives in and slices his fingers off as Galen levitates the boat into the boat with Trin.

Trin opens the bag to find a very angry Vistani child. The girl demands to be taken to her father immediately…

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The Road to Valaki

Strahd places a magical charm on Herman and asks he retrieve a pound of flesh from Galen for Ireena’s injury. Galen doesn’t like the sound of that so he levitates out of reach, but Strahd calls the wind and smashes the halfing into the Pillar of Ravenloft. Galen gets stuck on an outcropping as he crashes to the earth, just in time for Herman to hurl an axe into him.

Briza, Trin and Mira retreat into the church where Father Donavich madly chimes the bell. Ireena runs toward the santuary but is set upon by Strahd. Ismark panicks and bites the Vampires throat to free his sister. His plan works, but he is violently thrown and knocked unconscious. Donavich’s mad ringing causes the the bell to break free and it crashes into Mira. The creature under the church grows even more wild at the first sight of the outside.

Meanwhile a Halfing Rogue has entered the church unseen to survey what is happening and watchs as Herman whips his axe – Galen and all – at his friends. Ireena finally makes it inside, and a sudden shroud of silence descends. Strahd can be heard stalking outside before he too grows silent. Dawn breaks over Barovia, or at least what passes for it. Moments later, the badly mangled corpse of the Burgomesiter is violently thrown through the church window. Strahd floats in the shattered stain glass, bids farewell to Ireena, and flies away.

The Rogue decides now is a good time to figure out what’s been screaming in the basement. He opens the door to the undercroft and is dragged down by Donavich’s son, now a vampire spawn. Mira opens the door to help, but is tackled by Donavich. Galen pulls the Rogue free while Herman, himself again, thinks it’s best to throw the priest into the undercroft. The vampire immediately descends upon its father. Briz tosses a molotov but the Rogue believes it’s meant for him, so he catches the bomb and throws it back. Galen magically floats both father and son into the church as the son feasts upon his fathers blood. The morning light lacerates the monster and the party dispatch it. Overwhelmed with grief Donavich collapses on the remains of his son. And then the Rogue murders the priest.

So that went well.

Ismark is resuscitated and together they come up with a plan: Trin will wear Ireena’s funeral garb and go to the Burgomeisters Manor so people will believe Ireena has not left. The group, including Ireena, will travel in disguise to Valaki. Ismark retrieves their belonging from the inn while they rest up. He hands Galen a familiar looking black journal when he returns containing a fresh entry in it. Meanwhile, Mira makes a quick trip to the local shop which proves fruitless; useful gear in Barovia is as rare as sunlight.

The party follow the mountain round out of Barovia. They come to a crossroads with a gallows; a corpse hanged by the neck twists in the wind. As it spins to face the party it is revealed to be the spitting image of Briza. As they examine the corpse a familiar skeletal rider on a dead horse appears out of the fog and descends from the gallows into the forest. The road sign says the path leads to the Tser Pool, home of Madame Eva; whom both Stanmir and Donavich suggested they seek out. Once again, the party follows the dead rider.

After a few miles they arrive at a clearing on a lake. Vistani wagons and tents are scattered abut. Vistani drink, eat, dance and play music. The group is welcomed and enjoy a few drinks and hot food. while they wait for Madame Eva. Galen and the Rogue play a few hands of cards and cheat their way to victory; no way that can come back to haunt them!

Finally Madame Eva welcomes them into her tent. She recognizes each of them as if she’s known them her whole life. She tells them that there is a way to lift the King’s Curse; to do so, they will will need to find powerful artifacts and allies about Barovia. She performs a Tarokka reading which provides clues to where they might find these treasures.

As night falls the party decide to spend the night at the Vistani camp. Darkness falls over the forest…

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The Burgomeisters Funeral

The Death House reaches it’s terrible conclusion: Badger and Wren are lost in the depths and Basti and Arveen are murdered by it’s traps. Meira, it seems, is the sole surivior.

In Faerun a Duchess asks a group of adventurers for their help ‘relocating’ a rowdy caravan. Dozens of colorfully dressed revellers drink and dance around bonfire and invite the party to join them. Their leader, Stanimir, shared a story of his people, the Vistani, saving the life of a wounded prince. The prince would become a king, but a curse has befallen him. Stanmir is searching for hereoes to help lift the curse. They agree to follow the Vistani to Barovia.

They travel over night and day and night again. Breaking camp, they find themselves on a strange forest rounded surrounded by a fog with no sign of the Vistani. A group of ravens circle overhead until a spear kills. Rounding a bend they find a Dusk Elf, Rahadin. He carries a spear and travels is an ornagte black carriage. He introduces himself as the Chamberlian to the king and warns them to stay away from Ireena Kolyana. As he boards the carriage a wolf pack emerges from the fog and attacks. After the battle the group find a body riddled with spears and clutching a letter from the Burgomeister of Barovia. The letter implores people to turn away from doomed Barovia.

They follow the road to a weary village and discover Meira in the street. Meira, Trin and Galen bring the bodies of Basti and Arveen to the graveyard before regrouping at the Blood on the Vine tavern and inn. They are met by Ismark Kolyana, son of the Burgomeister. He asks they touch a small fetish to proves they are free from the curse, and they do. Ismark needs thier help: the Devil seeks his sister, Ireena, and Ismark wants to hide hide her from him. They agree to help.

They rest for the evening at the inn. They notice a curious behavior among some of the locals: they seem empty, almost hollow; they move mechanically and without emotion. A party of Vistani tell them they should speak with Madame Eva at the Tser Pool, a name Stanimir also mentioned. They also warn that the Devil has many spies and many guises. Later, the sound of marching breaks their sleep. Peering from their windows they spy a ghostly procession: the spectres of thousands of warriors march from the graveyard up the step mountain road. The sound of a siege rumbles in the distance.

In the morning they spy an old crone exhcnage a pastry for a four year old child. The crone is delighted by their attempts to scare her and returns the child. She says she’s seen others like them; “a mad wizard”, “silver dragons”; all come to kill the Devil and all dead now, but so exciting to see them try. Herman demands a treat. He gives the child the pastry, which sends him into a dreamy reverie.

Arriving at the Burgomeisters Manor they find a warzone. Ismark introduces Ireena, now twice bitten by the Vampire King. They reveal the Burgomeister died three days ago. Ireena agrees to Ismarks plan to secret her to the town of Vallaki grudgingly, but not until they bury their father – at dawn, according to his faith.

After another night of siege and marching dead the party meet Father Donavich, the mad priest. The interior of the church is destroyed. A voice screams come From the undercroft, begging their father for food. Donavich ignores the pleas. As guests arrive he casually mentions that Ireena is adopted, a fact she does not know herself. Each guest touches the fetish as they enter. The ceremony is brief; afterwards, an elderly guest stands and transforms into Strahd himself. Ismark brandishes the fetish, but Strahd laughs; he created ritual himself to give them a taste of hope. he turns to Ireena and bids her to come; she falls under his thrall and obeys.

Zombies erupt from the graves and chaos breaks out. Briza webs Strahd and Ireena and Isaak; Herman plunges his axe into the Devil to no effect. The baying of dogs can be heard coming closer. Galen sets the web ablaze as Donavich rushes into his church and madly rings the bell. Trin and Herman and Meira pick off the zombies as Strahd lifts Ireena from the web and attempts to leave with his prize. Galen burns Ireena, freeing her Strahds charm. The Vampire raises his claw but Ireena plunges a dagger deep into the Devils neck. Wolves flood the streets attacking anyone and everyone; another pack appears on the roof of the church as Strahd slides the dagger from his neck.

He turns to the party with hate in his eyes…

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The Enemy Revealed

The party decide to rest. Before they do so the ghosts of Rose and Thorn warn that there will be no peace below the house. The children say to use their bedroom while they stand watch. True to their word, the group is able to enjoy a long, event-free rest.

Returning to the dungeon they discover a large room which appears to be a place of worship. A statue of a gaunt-faced man dominates the room. One of his hands strokes the head or a cruel looking wolf, while the other holds a fragile ball filled with swirling gray smoke. Egon reasons this is a perfectly smashable thing so he smashes it. Immediately afterwards the shadows of Egon, Arveen, Badger, Basti, and Wren rip from their bodies and attack.

Basti is nearly killed in the battle, but soon Arveens shadow soon finds itself alone and flees beneath a unnoticed gap in the wall: a secret door. Egon, who is on a roll, throws his lantern at the shadow. The creature escpaes as oil and flame seep under the door. Arveen magically forces the door open, revealing a burning wooden staircase leading out of the dungeon. Wren grabs his sleeping roll to suffocate the flame, but he trips, drags his blanket through the oil, and flings it over the stairs, spreading the flames higher and faster. Badger figures that’s enough of that and slams the door.

With Basti on his feet, they proceed. Basti check a door for traps, which is usually a great idea, but is instead grabbed by the door – actually a mimic- bitten, soaked in acid and nearly killed again. After defeating the mimic the party find the quarters of the cults leaders, Gustav and Elisabeth Durst. Wren opens a footlocker and is immediately set upon by the masters of the house, now Ghasts, who erupt from the clay walls. The party make quick work of the couple; Even Basti stays alive. Wren notices he’s dropped the book he found at the village gate and that there is a note inside in his own handwriting documenting the dream he had the night before. They find a number of baubles, most notably a gorgeous cape which Arveen takes.

Finally they descend to the lower level. The chanting becomes clear and deafening: an invisible choir repeats “He is Ancient; He is the Land”. Stairs descend to a porticullus, behind which is a large, water filled room with large alter in its center. Egon and Badger force the porticullus open; the chanting immediately stops. They and Wren enter the room while the other three stay outside.

As Wren reaches the top of the alter ghostly images of the cult ring the room chanting “one must die, one must die”. The group realizes they are asking for a human sacrifice. Egon realizes this is another good time to throw a javelin. The chanting changes: “Decayer: Decay. Decay.” A pile of corpses, bone, leather, wood, metal, scum – all the assorted trash of a thousand rituals- suddenly moves as a single mind. Mira recognizes it immediately: this is an unholy version of a shambling mound, and they have no chance. The whole dungeon shakes in displeasure. She screams for the group to run.

Wren kicks the creature, and is immediately knocks him out. The paladins determine they must save him before fleeing and attack the creature, fighting for their friends life. Mira runs to the exit but waits; Basti rushes upstairs.

And then Arveen magically slams the porticilus, damning her friends to death in service to her evil god, before rushing past Mira up the stairs.

Holy shit. Just… man.

Mira, Arveen and Basti return to the secret door in the statue room. Basti scales the walls leaving pitons for his frineds to climb. He throws open a trap door to find himself in the hunters den, where Arveens shadow attacks, but is easily killed. The trio enter the room to find the house has changed; the windows are gone and the fireplaces belch black, poisonous smoke. All of the doors are gone, too, and swignig blades now slice through their frames. The building rumbles in rage; it’s not quite finished with them yet…

Downstairs, the paladins get Wren to his feet and fight bravely but the monk is engulfed by the monster and Badger and Egon are badly wounded. The paladins get the portcullis open, and Egon manages to handcuff himself to Wren and pull him out from under the beast, but tragedy strikes when the creature kills Egon. Badly wounded, Badger now stands alone against the beast…

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Beneath the House

Basti inspects the corpse in the chest and determines the victim to be a hapless adventurer killed by a poison dart trap. As he is about to inspect the chest Egon decides to make sure the chest is really a chest – yeah – and hurls a javelin into the narrow chamber and deep into Basti. So I guess the chamber was still dangerous, but not for the obvious reasons.

Inspecting the chest and corpse nets a number of items, including:
- a battered message on the corpse containing a plea for help from the the Burgomaster of Barvovia, Kolyan Indirovich.. A great evil has befallen someone close to him and he is offering a reward for assistance in ridding them of their woes.
- the deed to the house and a windmill, and the last will of the Durst family.
- A handful of magic scrolls.
- a letter from Strahd von Zarovich to Gustav Durst. The elder Dursts seem to worship Strahd as a messianic figure and perform rituals and sacrifices in his honour. Strahd thinks nothing of them at all. Additionally, it would seem there is a dungeon and alter to be found.

The party completely explore the rest of the house, finding a few valuables and an assortment of crossbows, before finally playing the harpsichord. Something in the house grinds to life. The party return to the attic to find a newly exposed, narrow spiral staircase descending deep into the house.

Following the stairs down they find themselves in a series of narrow, man made tunnels. An undecipherable, persistent chanting echoing through the halls. They discover the family crypts and lay to rest the corpses of Rose or Thorn- or maybe not, they kind of mixed the bones all up. They discover the empty crypts of Gustav and Elisabeth as well. Badger opens the matriarchs resting place and is assaulted by a massive swarm of colourless, silent wasps. Mostly in the mouth.

After they deal with the wasps, Basti scouts ahead to find a dining room littered with human bones. The room contains a number of exists and a small larder. Egon opens the larder and is violently attacked by a Grick. The monster is able to knock Basti out and attempts to leave with its new meal, but Egon grapples the creature to the ground. Wren delivers an elbow drop from the top of the table to finish the beast off.

They press on, finding accommodations for both the leaders and the members of what is clearly a cult. One hall contains a descending staircase, from which the chants emanate. As they explore a particularly tight corridor they are ambushed by ghouls erupting from the walls. The battle goes really well; Wren, Badger and Mira do their part and butcher the ghouls. Egon is about to have a highlight of the night moment when he grapples a ghoul Zangief-style. Before he can unleash the ’gief Basti fucks it all up and almost stabs Egon in the eye, causing him to drop the monster. Arveen turns the creature, sending it running, but Basti is pretty sure he can fuck that up too and tackles the fleeing creature in a hallway far from the rest of the party. The ghoul thanks him then quickly knocks the rogue out. Badger rushes to save his friend(?), only to be caught in a spiked pit trap, felling him too. Arveen finally ends the pain by kill the last ghoul and stabilizing her friends(?).

It started off so cool, too.

Battered and bloody the party lick their wounds and consider their options: two more paths remain, one to the west, and one that leads deeper into the dungeon and to the source of the strange, persistent chanting…

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Doom and Broom

The party agree to help the children. They enter the townhouse to find it immaculate; the floors are waxed, the doors oiled, the rugs beaten. The first two floors contain great halls with a number closed doors. A portrait of the family on the second floor identifies the owners as Gustav and Elisabeth Durst and their children as Rose and Thorn. Gustav proudly holds a swaddled infant, Walter; the artist captures Elisabeths disdain for the baby. A number of artifacts identify the family crest as a golden windmill on a red field. A painting clearly illustrates the source: an old windmill atop a rocky crag. Things appear to be perfectly normal, other than evil symbols Basti finds hidden in the ornate panels of the walls.

The house undergoes a dark change on the third floor: the temperature plummets, the furniture lies rotted and tossed about, the floors and walls cracked and splintered. Everything is draped and cobwebs and dust. The party are suddenly assaulted by suits of animated armour. Badger and Egon are nearly killed before they’re stopped. An upside to the attack is that Egon was bashed deep enough into a wall hard to reveal a secret stair leading upwards. Trying to be positive here.

The stairs lead to an attic where Egon bashes open a locked door revealing a childrens bedroom. The window is bricked over and two familiarly dressed skeletons are heaped on the floor. Next to the corpses is a dollhouse that is a perfect replica of the house. Arveen examines the toy and uncovers the floor plan, including a hidden spiral staircase and a secret room behind the library. As they examine the room the ghosts of Rose and Thorn appear and demand to know who the party are. They learn that the children are long dead, having died of starvation when their parents locked them in the attic to protect them from the monster in the basement. The evil in the house manifests the ‘children’ outside to lure victims in. They beg the party to bring their remains to their resting place so they might finally rest. Arveen asks how to access the hidden stairs; the children point at a harpsichord in the music room and tell them to play the tune on the music sheet.

Heading downstairs in search of Walter the party find the nursemaids room. Egon explores the silent bundle in the crib which turns out to be empty, but also provokes the fury of the nursemaid as a specter. Somehow they make easy work of it. Fed up with surprises, they head back to the attic find a way to the hidden stair, but the house prevents them from entering. They do manage to find the murdered remains of the nursemaid. A cameo around her neck with a picture of Gustav suggests a secret relationship.

Te party open a broom closet and are attacked by an animated broom that must be the Steven Seagal of animated brooms. It somehow takes out both paladins before being stopped. Battered but not beaten a few of them don suits of display armour. Suitably protected, they seek out and discover the hidden room in the library. A fresh corpse riddled with poison darts lies face down in an open chest, it’s secrets waiting to be uncovered….

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New World, Old World

Six strangers awake on a strange forest road engulfed in a dense, impenetrable fog. None of them recognize their surroundings, nor have any notion how they may have arrived. The forest around them is ancient and dark and the world seems drained of colour. They spend a few moments awkwardly introducing themselves. [Egon] throws a javelin into the mist; it never makes a sound. That seems like a good reason to start moving. 

They hear the sound of a horse ahead. The animal sounds wounded, it's footfalls uneven and arythmic. They catch up to the horse and rider to discover both long, long dead. The rider does not follow the curves of the road and instead silently vanishes into the fog. 

They continue, following the road to a huge stone wall and a rusted iron gate. Each side of the gate is flanked by an enormous stone statue of a warrior. A raven roosted on a statue watches them approach with great curiosity and unusual intelligence. One of the group finds a nearby feather and shows it to the bird. Upon approaching the gate it wearily creaks open for them to pass. Wren explores the wall for any signs of machinery or magic, but instead finds a long dead corpse bearing a small black leather book. Leafing through the pages he watches the words simply vanish, eventually leaving the entire volume blank. He pockets the book. 

As the last of the group passes through the gate it shuts behind them. They find themselves in a wide clearing on the edge of a dreary town. They approach the silent village cautiously, eventually discovering two children weeping in front of a townhouse. The children explain there is a monster in the basement of their house. Their parents are inside, and so is their baby brother. They beg the party for help… 
 

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