It’s been a while since I reported on my Curse of Strahd (Ravenloft) campaign, which started in Death House, so here’s the highlights so far. SPOILERS obviously.
Welcome to Barovia
Death House ended with the party spilling out of the haunted house, having escaped from its horrors. It was quickly clear that they weren’t anywhere they knew, and there was something off with this little town. The party had a look around, starting asking questions, and found out a few details:
- This was the town of Barovia, in the land of Barovia (I’m sure it won’t get confusing). A few of party knew the name, but vaguely, and only from myths and legends.
- The entire land is under the dominion of a man named Strahd von Sarovich. The locals claim he is a vampire, is able to control the weather and various other incredible and terrifying things.
- The sun never shines in Barovia. The weather varies from overcast, to foggy, to raining.
- Most of the people in town are depressed, and have taken to eating ‘dream pastries’ which apparently have some drug-like affects. The pastries themselves are sold by an old woman named Morgantha, who collects children if the parents have pastry debts to settle.
- Throughout the land, there are groups of travellers known as the Vistani. These seem a little more jolly than ordinary folk, and also seem to travel between places much more freely.
- The one shopkeeper in town is an arsehole, who charges an enormous mark-up on all his goods.
- The church in the town is mostly a ruin, and the priest is a broken man. Screams can be heard from beneath the church.
The one friendly face the party came across was a man named Ismark. After filling in the group on the details of the land, it turned out he had a favour to ask: rescue his sister Ireena.
His sister and father (the mayor – or burgomaster) were barricaded in their house, having been assaulted each night by wolves and strange creatures. It seems the vampire Strahd had taken a liking to the woman, and sent his minions to get her.
Never ones to leave a damsel in distress, the party went to her aid, and helped defend her from another night of attacks (although it turns out that Ireena isn’t much of a damsel, and is quite a capable warrior herself). The next dawn they set off from the town, to find somewhere safe for the lady. Her brother suggested west to the town of Vallaki, or the Abbey of St Markovia.
On the Road
Barovia is a simple, small place. It has pretty much one road, so the party followed it. This took them through woods, across rivers and up mountains, even passing close to Castle Ravenloft itself. The group decided against visiting the Vistani camp, or the strange old windmill in the valley, and so arrived at the town of Vallaki before nightfall.
While on the road they came across a wild man who seemed very interested in Ireena, and ran off ranting something about “tell the master”. It was at that point they decided to capture him, and got into quite a fight with him and his plant-like minions. It seems like this Strahd guy has spies and allies everywhere…
Big Trouble in Little Vallaki
The town of Vallaki is very much the hub of the adventure, with links to many of the major quests and plot lines. So the party spent a fair amount of time just asking around and getting to know people:
- The Blue Water Inn (the only inn in town) is run by the Martikov family, who seem to know a lot about what happens in town.
- The inn also has a resident jester/bard, who gets a decent crowd but isn’t exactly Shakespeare.
- The town’s burgomaster is…odd, and is constantly organising festivals to raise the people’s spirits. It’s not working.
- Lady Fiona Wachter is one of the burgomaster’s fiercest critics. She also organises a midnight ‘book club’, which has a fascination with all things occult and vampiric.
- There’s a Vistani camp just outside town, but this hasn’t been visited by the party yet.
- Father Lucien (from the church of St Andal) was in quite an agitated state a few days ago, rushing through town asking questions.
- The town and surrounding area is home to a large number of ravens. They seem to always be around, watching the party.
The party decided to visit the church and find out what was troubling the priest so much. It turns out a holy relic, the bones of St Andal, have gone missing from the church! Without them, the church is no longer hallowed ground, and that’s probably a bad thing when there’s vampires about.
Following the evidence, the party traced the bones back to the coffin-maker Henrik. He’d been approached by a mysterious stanger, and paid to acquire the bones. He hadn’t made the handover yet, and so the bones were still in his house. Unfortunately, so were a den of vampire spawn!
This was one example of Curse of Strahd being brutally difficult, if the encounters are run normally. As single vampire spawn is CR 5, and there were 6 of them!
Of course how you play the monsters makes a big difference. So in this case I had them behave as mindless drones (perhaps they were slightly defective, or newly spawned?), who were simply given orders to stay put and defend themselves. Hence they were easily frightened by fire, fought without tactics, and if the party ran away they wouldn’t pursue. It’s just that the party didn’t run away…
After fighting a losing battle for several rounds, the group decided the best thing was to set fire to the house. Barricading the vampires into the upstairs, they started a fire using the shop’s wood and supplies downstairs, which quickly spread through the house. The startled and slightly singed undead broke out of the house and fled the town into the woods. The bones of St Andal were returned to the church, and Vallaki was safe for a little while longer thanks to the party.
Oh and the coffin-maker Henrik didn’t make it. He was mauled by vampires. Definitely vampires.
The Wine Must Flow
The party’s antics in town did not go unnoticed. A group operate out the Blue Water Inn, led by the landlord Urwin Martikov, and while not much is known about them, they seem to be a force for good in the area.
Seeing that the party’s and his aims may be aligned, Urwin had a job for the players: fetch him some wine. His inn (and every other inn around) normally received wine from the ‘Wizard of Wines’ winery to the west. Lately the shipments have stopped and he’d like to know why.
So it seems the group are on their way to winery next. What will they find? Will they all die? Let’s hope so!