Curse of Strahd, Session XI, Plans Within Plans and the Broken Angel

Curse of Strahd, Session XI, Plans Within Plans and the Broken Angel

Curse of Strahd

In which the team starts to plan and make plans within plans and meet the broken angel known as the The Prophet…

Session XI, Plans Within Plans and The Broken Angel
Human/Bat Skeleton Subject Divider

Who are Trundle, Helewynn, Bugwump, Kuru, Jusko and Failed Soldier?

  • Jusko returns, new allies from the B&E into Castle Ravenloft join the group. The B-Team has some strength now (but is still the cause for many jokes.

    The Drow caution Lady Belora not to repeat her story (of being Tatyanna reborn) unless she is in a space blocking Strahd’s scrying eye. I explain that the Drow are used to operating under fear of scrying in their political House feuds.

    Jusko dreams of Strahd, who asks to enter his ancestral home in the dreamlands. They spar and look forward to the time when they will meet in battle. “I am still intrigued but soon I will become irate and you will not like it.”

  • On the way to Krezk to meet the Prophet, within Bugwump’s Leonine’s Tiny Hut, they group plots and plans. They even have a FAKE plan that they discuss in the open, about the Lady of Pain sending an army from a portal within the Amber Temple and that they are in constant contact with Sigil from within the Tiny Hut.

  • They are putting together Strahd’s weaknesses and learned of his Crystal Heart but not where he keeps it. Trundle is working on his amber box, in which he hopes to trap Strahd’s mist form. They know they want folks to run, if needed, with the teleportation stones they stole but the rest of the plan remains mirky.

  • Trundle listens to Damius tell him old Vistani tales. A few names come up in the old tales of the Vistani escaping from shadowy places: Osybus, Shami-Amourae and Tenebrous. The group considers what they have to offer the Shadow Lords who made Ravenloft in a bargain of some kind.

  • Bugwump contacts The Forgotten One, the evil archmage who inhabits the staff he got in the Tomb of Annihilation. The Forgotten One says that his power will work against Strahd but it is now easier for the staff to take over Bugwump; his Charisma save of 20 to not be possessed by the Forgotten One will now be at a Disadvantage should he use the staff’s charges.

    The Forgotten One suggests that Bugwump is merely a Clone of the original Arch-Mage, a way to avoid the Lady of Pain’s sentence into the Maze. Bugwump is a bit rattled… (I’ve been waiting to drop that theory for MONTHS).

  • They arrive in, hear the Burgomaster Krezkov’s sad tale, having just lost his child to a disease; Jusko awkwardly drops gold into the man’s hand. Then they go into the Abbey, where they can hear someone playing violin.

    Inside is The Prophet (the Abbot in the book, if you are a Curse of Strahd fan following along at home) who is trying to teach a Flesh Golem how to dance. It doesn’t take long for the group to hear the angel’s plan to reform Strahd through love; it is a bad plan. The angel believes the Flesh Golem is a perfect human. The Frankengal is awkward and frightened.

    Kuru sees the angel’s terrifying true form (Biblical sphere with a thousand eyes and countless wings) with the Gem of True seeing. The mongrel-person violinist skulks away.

    The Prophet agrees to make Failed Soldier a new, perfect body…

  • They had left the B-Team (a Ranger and his Huntress wife, a Cleric of Portals, a young Vistani lad, a werewolf, a Drow assassin, a Drow fighter, and their Chultan Ranger guide – and the Dire Wolves who follow Helewynn about) out in the village where they got up to shenanigans. As I thought about the map of the town and what they could get up to, I knew what was going to happen and I laughed to myself.

    As they were talking to the Prophet, the clouds grew darker and a storm closed in. Lightning struck nearby and thunder seemed to hold Strahd’s own voice; the Drow Assassin charged in, “You won’t believe what just happened…”

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More?

Prelude in Sigil

Questions Before Curse of Strahd

Session I Welcome to Barovia

Session II Battle of Ravenwatch

Session III Wolves and Souls

Session IV Ghosts & Bones

Session V – I fucked up numbering; there is no Episode V. 

Session VI Enter the Amber Temple

Session VII Dark Gifts

Session VIII New Wolves & Old Friends

Session IX The Execution of Kiril Stoyanovich

Session X The Crypts Under Castle Ravenloft

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The End
Curse of Strahd, Session X, The Crypts Under Castle Ravenloft

Curse of Strahd, Session X, The Crypts Under Castle Ravenloft

Curse of Strahd

In which Jusko leads a team of strangers whose lives have been brutally damaged by Strahd into the crypts under Ravenloft in order to rescue Aldjo’s wife.

Session X, The Crypts Under Castle Ravenloft

Who is Jusko?

Bat/Human Skeleton Subject Divider
  • 2 players were missing, which is rare for this group, so we had Jusko run into a group of level 3 strangers. Gotta say, D&D Beyond made it easy to make up characters to hand out.

    Lady Baleron, self-made Paladin, is Tatyanna Re-born, vaguely remembering her many lives in this prison.

    Istebin, Monk, last of the Ulmist Inquisitors, who has died trying to kill Strahd countless times and can barely remember his homeland.

    Gadaar, Druid, branded and tongueless for betraying his evil Druidic Order, realizing that this world is not right and needs fixing.

  • Had a bit of a warm-up fight with some thugs from the castle. Jusko and Aldjo were there to find Aldjo’s wife but the thugs in Castle Ravenloft livery were putting up a notice that she had been arrested for sedition. I was going to make this first fight against Vampire Spawn but I didn’t want it to run that long and didn’t want to kill the entire party by accident. I was second-guessing myself a bunch tonight.

    The player characters decimated them and got to be cool and feel out these new characters. I stand by the decision.

  • I used to hand NPC roles to players whose characters weren’t involved in the scene when I played Ars Magica in college. I forgot what a delight it could be. The way the players unveiled their secrets and their presentation was amazing and they made very different choices than I did. It was a nice change of pace.

  • Jusko asked the group to a nearby hill to get out of the village and discuss their options. Lady Baleron remembered a secret entrance into the crypts, leading to Strahd’s parents’ tomb. In they went…

  • Tense dungeon-crawling and marking traps with chalk. They made their way through a secret tunnel, Jusko saved Aldjo from falling into a chute trap. They made their way into a room with an arcane teleportation device. Lady Baleron rolled so well on her Wisdom check that I said she had helped install this device. They knew how it worked and stole all of the stones.

    From the Observation Deck, down into the torture chamber and through the hall. Finally…the dungeon…

  • They could hear Strahd talking to Aldjo’s wife, Barushka. “Do you think they will come and try to save you?”

    “No, they are an Outlands Expedition Team; they’re professionals. They are gathering allies to come here and put you down.”

    “I hope so. Saving you would be so boring and predictable. I am flattered to have Sigil’s attention. We’ll see…”

    Some chatter with Emil about werewolf stuff and he turned to mist. They couldn’t see any other way for him to leave the room. I asked them what they were going to do in case he left down the hallway they were standing in.

  • Lady Baleron used Divine Sense to make sure they were clear. Usually, this would be no big deal, just a small detail but it ended up changing the adventure entirely.

    I was considering having Barushka betray the group. I knew that she and Aldjo had bonded over both having children who were lost somewhere in the Demi-Plane of Dread’s Domains. Perhaps Strahd offered to find her lost child. But if she had decided to do that, wouldn’t the Paladin notice the evil? I didn’t mention that Barushka was evil.

    Or is Barushka not evil until she actually DOES it?

    I decided that it wasn’t cool to penalize Lady Baleron for playing smart and looking around for undead and evil. Barushak considered it but at the last instant, she decided not to do it.

    Maybe it is more interesting that she was tempted and didn’t do it. We’ll see.

    Despite the lack of a final twist, it was a fun, tense night.

  • Having freed the imprisoned werewolf, Emil, they made their way out of the crypts. Lady Baleron, Aldjo and Barushka used the teleportation device to get to the Amber Temple and would meet up with the rest of the team later.

    Brother Estabin used Shadow Arts and they got out quietly.

  • Running big dungeons is not, nor has it ever been, my strong suit. I need to break the rest of Castle Ravenloft into bite-sized pieces so I can DM navigating it better. Still. it was a fun, tense night with lots of great rolls and players spending everything they had to keep from failing a roll that could get them found.

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More?

Prelude in Sigil

Questions Before Curse of Strahd

Episode I Welcome to Barovia

Episode II Battle of Ravenwatch

Episode III Wolves and Souls

Episode IV Ghosts & Bones

Episode V – I fucked up numbering; there is no Episode V. 

Episode VI Enter the Amber Temple

Episode VII Dark Gifts

Episode VIII New Wolves & Old Friends

Episode IX The Execution of Kiril Stoyanovich

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THE END
Curse of Strahd, Session IX, The Execution of Kiril Stoyanovich

Curse of Strahd, Session IX, The Execution of Kiril Stoyanovich

Curse of Strahd (with bats)

In which a werewolf is beheaded, a sword is lit and a plan is tossed aside.

Session IV / The Execution of Kiril Stoyanovich

Who are Trundle, Helewynn, Bugwump, Kuru, Jusko and Failed Soldier?

Human/Bat Skeleton Subject Divider
  • I have seen it in a thousand reddit posts on DM’s Academy. “The bridge spanning the chasm is broken but one of the players has wings. What do I do so the flying player can’t be cool for a moment?”

    Toss aside your plan and let the player with wings be cool.

  • The werewolves and their wolves were sprinting after the distant camp where a pair of Drow, a pterodactyl and Damius, a young Vistani Mist-Walker guide awaited.

  • Bugwump and Jusko jumped on their Chultan guide’s pterodactyl to get there first. Helewynn ordered her Dire Wolf pack to allow her friends to ride them (Persuasion 18) to the camp.

    Lots of talking and chatter during the trip. The table was in a chipper mood tonight; it was nice.

  • Helewynn’s player, B, is new to D&D; this is their first game. B always comes up with amazing plans and thinks outside the box in combat. Helewynn rarely ever just hits someone without a cool description or a strategic move that changes the course of the battle. It is amazing.

    B had discussed trying to get Bugwump to use fire magic to melt down Helewynn’s silver chainmail to coat their werewolf’s claws in silver. There was no time but it is an awesome idea. Never stop thinking outside the box, B.

  • Jusko asks to be dropped right in the hedge-gap, where the pack will have enter the camp. Bugwump casts Haste upon him, “As no wizard has ever done before; I cast Haste on the fighter.”

  • The pack Alpha, Kiril Stoyanovich, the one Helewynn’s Wolf Spirit told her she would likely die if she attempted to defeat in battle for pack supremacy, reached Jusko first. Jusko tapped his helm visor down with the pommel of his vorpal sword and got his shield ready.

    First roll.

    20!

    And so ended Kiril Stoyanovich, Barovian Pack’s Alpha, who believed Mother Night had blessed and ordained Strahd with all of the Night’s Power.

  • I rolled a Wisdom Save for the rest of the pack. What did I roll?

    You can guess. Hell, you already know.

    Rolled a 1. Wolf thinking, “Well, shit.”

    The remaining werewolves ran; Jusko kicked their late alpha’s head at them and slashed at one in a burst of arcane speed.

  • The borders are closed. They can’t mist-walk their way out. They consider getting to a border and seeing if Kuru’s magic-cutting knife can cut through. Damius, the other Mist-Walker, asks if the knife is a mighty artifact; it is not.

    Now what?

  • Helewynn talked to the Sunsword, who appeared as Strahd’s brother, Sergei von Zarovich. The sword suggested luring Strahd outside the castle with his beloved or the Book of Strahd, either one would inspire a wrathful pursuit.

    “If you plan to run into the Mists, leave me here for a warrior who will confront the Devil Strahd, so I can do what I was made to do…” The sword also said that Jusko’s vorpal blade had killed more people than 100 Strahd’s…

  • The group debates inside Bugwump’s Leomund’s Tiny Hut. Rahadin approaches with an invitation from Strahd. Jusko tries to get her to lash out but she does not.

    Strahd’s letter, in which I misspelled bounadries

    Lots of jokes about Strahd’s proofreader being out of town or dead or the Olde Barovian spelling of boundary. I joined in. It was funny as hell.

    They are not taking Strahd up on his invitation.

  • The other Outlands Expedition Team has been dubbed, The B Team. Their Ranger, Aldjo, married a woman he met in the village of Barovia. The debate was whether or not to go get her or head northwest and find the Prophet (the re-named Abbot if you are following at home). Adjo insisted that they go northwest and Jusko realized the ranger thought she was already dead.

    The game ended with Jusko and Aldjo jumping on a Jusko’s pterodactyl, lovingly named, Stupid Dragon, and heading for Barovia while Kuru followed along yelling, “BUT YOU’LL NEED STEALTH AND I’M THE STEALTHY ONE!”

    Hence the title of our next game…

  • Next Session: Into the Devil’s Lair

    Strahd’s face in the dark side of a waning moon with a pterodactyl rider’s shadow in the bright part of the moon

    Two players will be out of town so three players will be playing NPC’s as Jusko heads into the shadow of the Castle Ravenloft…

  • “But Judd,” you say, “this is a horror game and everyone was laughing…isn’t that a problem?”

    No, not at all. We don’t play characters with punny names and goof around all night but laughter is part of the game. I would even argue that laughter is a natural result of tension and this game has been dark for weeks. Not saying that we’ve never laughed in past weeks but this session felt like a release valve. If you want to hear more about pterodactyls in Ravenloft, I talk about it on my podcast, Daydreaming about Dragons.

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More?

Prelude in Sigil

Questions Before Curse of Strahd

Episode I Welcome to Barovia

Episode II Battle of Ravenwatch

Episode III Wolves and Souls

Episode IV Ghosts & Bones

Episode V – I fucked up numbering; there is no Episode V. 

Episode VI Enter the Amber Temple

Episode VII Dark Gifts

Episode VIII New Wolves & Old Friends

The End

Curse of Strahd, Session VIII, New Wolves & Old Friends

Curse of Strahd / Session VIII / New Wolves & Old Friends

In which we see Werewolf politics, exit plans, scouting the Mist and Chultan pterodactyls in Barovia…

Bat/Human Skeleton Subject Divider

Who are Trundle, Helewynn, Bugwump, Kuru, Jusko and Failed Soldier?

  • The team debated going after Strahd or just leaving now that Trundle can Mistwalk. They decided to grab their friend’s wife in the village of Barovia and get out of Ravenloft.

  • Trundle and Bugwump step into the mists. Trundle realizes that he can trap the mist (and possibly vampire mist) in an amber container if the make of it is fine enough. The ranger realizes that moving through the Mist is moving through something that is quite alive. Bugwump knows the Mist is sentient and malevolent.

    “This method of travel should not be taken lightly.”

  • Meanwhile, Helewynn turns into werewolf form and howls a challenge to Barovia’s werewolf pack. A Dire Wolf approaches and says that it will pass on the message but it will take a while.

    Long story short – Helewynn takes over the Dire Wolf pack (while Jusko and Kuru watch in awe) and sends two wolves northward to tell the pack that an Emissary of Mother Night (another name for her Moon Goddess) has come.

  • Kiril Stoyanovitch and his wolf pack meet them in the Standing Stone in the Berez Ruins. Helewynn cannot convince them that Strahd is not the annointed of Mother Night.

    “If not, why is he the strongest when the moon rises? Why can none stand against him and live? Why do even the Druids agree that Strahd is the Land and the Land is Strahd?”

    They part ways, Kiril hopes to meet her again some day…

  • During Kuru’s watch, he sees a pterodactyl, like the ones they flew in Chult. It was their guide from Chult, Tefnek. Turns out, their Sigil City Agent, the drider, Quarace Arkenrae, sent a team to get them out of Ravenloft. She plane-shifted a team of Drow, a Vistani and Tefnek with several pterodactyls to Gloomwrought and from there the Vistani Mist-Walked them through the Shadowfell to Barovia.

  • As Tefnek explains that Kuru had cut the chords of their portal and it was inoperable, their Vistani guide could walk them out. As she says that, Trundle feels the borders of the domain slam shut as Strahd hears their escape plan. Up until that point, he didn’t know that Trundle was a Mist-Walker (and he still doesn’t).

  • They heard Kiril’s werewolf pack howl in the distance. Helewynn knows it is the howl of a pack on a hunt sent as an order from Strahd himself. Next session we’ll start with a mad dash to save the team sent to save the team that was sent in to save the team.

    Waxing moon, howling wolf outline. Pterodactyl visible in the moon.
  • Am I the type of nerd who writes a 1500 word story about an NPC who is working in the background to support the PC’s?

    Yes, I am.

    Am I the type of nerd who would make a book cover with canva?

    Yes, I am.

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More?

Prelude in Sigil

Questions Before Curse of Strahd

Episode I Welcome to Barovia

Episode II Battle of Ravenwatch

Episode III Wolves and Souls

Episode IV Ghosts & Bones

Episode V – I fucked up numbering; there is no Episode V. 😛

Episode VI Enter the Amber Temple

Episode VII Dark Gifts

Human/Bat Skeleton THE END
Sincerely, Tatyanna

Sincerely, Tatyanna

Adventurers, Monster Hunters, Zealots, Tomb Robbers, Treasure-Seekers and Heroic Fools,

Welcome to Ravenloft. I have lived many lives here and remember most of them.

Most know me because the monster known as Count Strahd von Zarovich desires me. Many might know that when Strahd built Castle Ravenloft he called forth many wizards and architects to build a castle his mother would be proud to inhabit. Few know that I was among those learned folk. I was an up-and-coming wizard who had written on demi-planar mechanics. The act of using magic to create liminal spaces such as in Leomund’s Tiny Hut, Bags of Holding and Mordenkainen’s Magnificent Mansion was my passion and specialty.

Three books and more than a dozen well cited scrolls on demi-planar mechanics all went out the window after I fell to my death running from Strahd on my wedding day after he butchered beautiful Sergei. Sergei was to be my groom; we were going to leave Barovia after the honeymoon and live in Sigil, so I could continue my studies in an urban academic community. He was hoping to join an Outlands Expedition Team.

I have lost count of how many times my soul has been churned out into another life in the mists of Ravenloft. I realize that some powerful entities from the Shadowfell have created a demi-plane to imprison monsters. I know that much.

You might think that a monster like Strahd being locked up is a good thing and makes the planes a safer place. Once I might have agreed with you. The problem is that the prison has become a hungry sentient creature. The prison craves power and the only way prisons gain power is by having more prisoners. A beast with this kind of hunger doesn’t just imprison monsters; it creates monsters so that it can have more kept here against their will under its fell mists.

The Demi-Plane of Dread does not care about justice. Many of us survivors are imprisoned here too. You might say that we are here to cause the monster pain but I never asked to spend lifetimes torturing a murderous parasite.

If you should kill Strahd, I hope I am next to you in battle. If not, seek me out in whatever incarnation Ravenloft’s Mists have seen fit to put me in (probably buxom with good hair). It would be my pleasure to shovel the hole at the crossroads in which we bury his head. But know that when we kill the Devil-Strahd, as the Vistani call him, our work is not over. The only way to truly do good is to abolish this prison, disperse the mists so that its powers are sent out among the planes and this cycle of suffering can end.

Sincerely, Tatyanna in cool gothic font

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Curse of Strahd, Episode VII, Dark Gifts

Curse of Strahd, Episode VII, Dark Gifts

Curse of Strahd / Session VII / Dark Gifts

In which Dark Gifts are bestowed and a bloody decision is made about the nature of this mission and which priorities will be elevated above the others.

Human/Bat Skeleton Subject Divider

Who are Jusko, Bugwump, Trundle, Kuru, Helewynn and Failed Soldier?

  • The Amber Golem was decimated by the group. None missed and the golem never got a shot off. It was brutal and confidence-building.

  • Vilnius, a wizard the golem was chasing, was grateful but after a solid roll Kuru and Jusko realized the wizard was evil and would betray them. Kuru back-stabbed the evil wizard with a fiery knife. Vilnius died in fire and blood.

  • Vilnius’ Quasi familiar, Chester, led them to Vilnius’ teacher’s corpose and suggested they look into the statue more carefully for secrets. They did and found a wizard within and the hilt of the Sun Sword they were seeking.

    Bugwump bound Chester as his familiar. Chester suggested they head back to Darkon and take over. “Azalin Rex is gone; the domain is in chaos. A group like you could wreak bloody havoc and own that place.” The Team nixed this idea.

  • The wizard’s name was Nef and told them that he was the last of the Amber Wizards who made this temple. He led them into the vaults so Helewynn could bind the spirit of a Great Wolf, a daughter of the Moon and take her Dark Gift.

  • Nef offered to send the teams out of Ravenloft through the Mists if Jusko would follow them to his family’s holdings, where they were cruelly ruling a young world. Jusko declined.

  • While Helewynn bound the wolf spirit, Trundle bound himself to a Raven Spirit, the Mist Walker. He can now walk the mists as the Vistani do.

  • Nef asked Failed Soldier if he would like to leave his murderous sin in Ravenloft and take it off his soul’s ledger. Failed Soldier elected to hold on to that sin.

  • The team has decided to kill Strahd. First they plan on finding the Mad Mage who wanders the forest and the Prophet in the north, who is said to have fallen from the Heavens. There was talk of Helewynn binding the werewolf packs to her will.

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Curse of Strahd, Session VI, Enter the Amber Temple

Curse of Strahd, Session VI, Enter the Amber Temple

Curse of Strahd / Session VI / Enter the Amber Temple

In which the Amber Temple is entered, two members of the lost team are saved from Flameskulls and a bedraggled wizard is found running from an Amber Golem…

Human/Bat Skeleton subject divider

Who are Jusko, Bugwump, Trundle, Kuru, Helewynn and Failed Soldier?

  • The vaulted chamber of the temple had a statue of a wizard whose face was shrouded in darkness and (inspired by DragnaCarta’s Curse of Strahd Reloaded) it asked those who entered to leave a secret or something holy at the feet of the statue. That prompted cool shit from the players.

    Jusko whispered, “I belong here,” while pressing his family signet ring into some wax on the statue. EEK.

    Failed Soldier wrote a sealed note about the sailor he killed in a previous adventure in a shrine to a storm goddess.

    Kuru tried to get by leaving a cheap coin and pretending it was holy to him but the statue was on to his bullshit.

    Trundle left one of his carvings of the world they saw born in a previous adventure.

    Helewynn left her holy symbol since the moon here seemed to be godless.

    Bugwump left a mask of himself from back when he was an arch-mage that he wore during a 1000 Faces Festival in Sigil.

  • They found the two lost members of the other team surrounded by 3 Flameskulls…

    One of the Flameskulls unleashed its fireball, doing some healthy damage but all in all, the 3 were dispatched without too much trouble. The other team missed in a terrible first round of to-hit rolls, prompting Jusko to fuck with them later…

  • Trundle engaged Crum, a Dwarven cleric of Portals, who wears a key holy symbol. I rolled to see how informed he was on getting in and out of Ravenloft and rolled a 20. He knows shit.

  • Bugwump’s Arcana checks are off the chain since he has a magic staff from Tomb of Annihilation. They know all about Sergei’s Sunsword, the other team believes the sword is here somewhere.

  • There was some talk about just heading back to Ravenwatch and getting to the portal. I reminded folks that Kuru had cut up the portal with his magic-cutting knife and it wasn’t a sure thing that it was working.

  • Helewynn hasn’t seen moonlight since being bitten by the werewolf. When she does, we’ll make some rolls and see what happens.

    Chekov’s werewolf bite…

  • Failed Soldier gave Lem the Nine Gods Orchid he picked for her from the previous adventure. I said that it felt like a lifetime ago that she asked him for that but thing is, it actually does kinda feel like a lifetime ago. It was cool that we got to see that completed.

    What does Nine Gods Orchid do? I’m thinking some kind of cool tea that inspires prophetic dreams.

  • After a short rest, the team heard someone screaming for help and found a wizard with a quazit familiar running from an Amber Golem. Kuru and Trundle stealthed over and engaged; we’ll start there with everyone else rolling initiative next week.

    “Thank Vecna you folks showed up to save me,” the burned, half-starved wizard said.

Human/Bat Skeleton subject divider

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Leomund’s Tiny Hut in Barovia

Leomund’s Tiny hut in Barovia

In my head-canon, Leomund is a brilliant apprentice to Mordenkainen, saw his magnificent mansion spell and said, “What if we scaled it down and gave young, up-and-coming adventurers the safety they need?” and Leomund’s Tiny Hut was born.

The description of the spell:

A 10-foot-radius immobile dome of force springs into existence around and above you and remains stationary for the duration. The spell ends if you leave its area.

Nine creatures of Medium size or smaller can fit inside the dome with you. The spell fails if its area includes a larger creature or more than nine creatures. Creatures and objects within the dome when you cast this spell can move through it freely. All other creatures and objects are barred from passing through it. Spells and other magical effects can’t extend through the dome or be cast through it. The atmosphere inside the space is comfortable and dry, regardless of the weather outside.

Until the spell ends, you can command the interior to become dimly lit or dark. The dome is opaque from the outside, of any color you choose, but it is transparent from the inside.

PHB, page 255
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The Thursday night crew needed a rest after a dramatic entrance into Ravenloft from a portal in Sigil. Bugwump magicked up the tiny hut. There was a thread in the DM’s of Curse of Strahd and Ravenloft FB group about it.

First a group of wolves came and sniffed around the edges of the spell’s bubble. Of course the packs of wolves in Barovia are commanded by Strahd. The First Vampire has to be curious about these newcomers but even with curiosity is some boredom. He’s seen this shit before. Strahd has lost count of the number of scrappy adventurers. He’s an accomplished wizard; he knows what this spell is. Shit, he’s probably met Leomund.

More about this session here if you’d like to see the full write-up.

Kuru, the Halfling Rogue on watch woke everyone up to let them know about the wolves but then the wolves left. They returned with a villager, who the largest wolf pinned to the ground by his throat. The villager began reciting, “Strahd is the Land and the Land is Strahd!” over and over. Strahd was curious as to what they’d do. The characters jumped out of their bubble of safety and saved the villager. It was a fun fight.

Strahd got the measure of the heroes. He saw the fighter’s vorpal sword in action. He saw how they worked as a team and got the measure of their morality. They will leave safety to save a villager…somewhere Strahd smiles a feral grin.

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Strahd is circling the party like a shark. What is the scariest part of a shark movie? Let the players sit in their tiny hut. Yes, it infuriates Strahd that there is a bubble on his land that he can’t Scry. Yes, they are safe but the hut doesn’t last forever. Having that kind of safety for a little while is good for horror.

Ask the players questions about their characters while they sit and wait.

Was there a time when your character felt trapped?

What was a safe place the character can remember?

Tell me about a time when your character’s home was broken into and what happened. Was anything stolen? How did it make the character feel?

Jaws, comparing scars

Send the players an email before the game asking them to daydream about a short campfire story about what their character’s homeland says about vampires. It isn’t the DM’s job to single-handedly set a scary tone without any help from anyone else; tone (especially horror) has to be done together as a table.

Sit in Leomund’s finite bubble. Compare scars. Tell stories. Moments of safety with doom all around is great horror content.

Strahd is patient. He’ll be waiting in the Mists.

Curse of Strahd, Session V, Grappling Werewolves

Curse of Strahd, Session V, Grappling Werewolves

Curse of Strahd, Session V, Grappling Werewolves

In which the werewolf pack is defeated, the pack alpha is grappled to death and the first living member of the lost Outlands Expedition Team is recovered…

Human/Bat Skeleton Subject Divider

Who are Jusko, Bugwump, Trundle, Kuru, Helewynn and Failed Soldier?

  • The team found a pack of 6 werewolves surrounding Adjo, a Human Ranger, who was on a clifftop, shooting silver arrows down on them.

  • Bugwump spit lava at them. Jusko and Helewyn engaged the pack alpha and their second. Jusko and Trundle dealt with the rest at the cliff. In the end, the were wolves did very little damage.

  • Helewyn, wearing silver armor, wrestled the alpha to the ground and the rest of the pack fled (2 other members of the pack were already slain). Those engaged in melee took their opportunity attacks. Kuru sheathed his blade and said, “Make better life choices,” as the werewolves fled.

  • Helewyn had a bunch invested in this fight. Where she’s from, serving a moon goddess on a lunar temple, werewolves are special operations teams. Seeing a pack dedicated to Strahd was unnerving. Her wrestling the alpha to the ground was the turning point of the fight and was SO bad-ass.

    She was bitten. “Is she cursed now?”

    “Maybe there’s a save?”

    “We’ll roll the save when the moon next rises…”

  • Trundle noticed that the dead leader had a tattoo of a black moon, upon which a night goddess of some kind was offering a crown to Strahd.

  • “Drew, Jusko can see something on Adjo that lets him know that he has no intention of leaving Ravenloft with the rest of his team. What is it he sees?”

    “He has a traditional Barovian wedding ring on, with a black piece of marble with a sliver of white on it, representing hope in darkness.”

    DUDE.

  • Kuru levelled up, Jusko is the only member of the team still at 4th level.

  • They tracked the two remaining members of the lost Expedition Team. Teo rolled a 10 on Trundle’s Nature roll (with advantage for Adjo’s help), so they caught up to them in time to see them enter the Amber Temple…

    That is where we’ll start next week.

Human/Bat Skeleton Subject Divider

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Curse of Strahd, Session IV, Ghosts and Bones

Curse of Strahd, Session IV, Ghosts and Bones

Curse of Strahd, Session IV, Ghosts & Bones

In which the dead are spoken to, a father is left to decide his son’s fate and hunted comrades are tracked across Mount Ghackis.

Human/Bat Skeleton Subject Marker

Who are Jusko, Bugwump, Trundle, Kuru, Helewynn and Failed Soldier?

  • Kuru talked up the three Vistani ladies who owned the Blood of the Vine Tavern.

    “Judd, what is the name of the tavern?”

    “Blood of the Vine…”

    “Of course it is…”

    They learned that the previous team had been driven from town for assaulting an old lady who is a witch – the bad kind, that the Vistani saved Strahd when he was mortal and some serve him as penance for helping create such a devil.

  • Trundle, when he entered the inn, offered a prayer against fiends (his chosen enemy) in Infernal. Just a nice bit of color that I loved.

    Also, we learned that Jusko’s family, the Hajeks, rule a city in the west, Vallicki.

    These details didn’t mean anything today but I adore them and sometimes they end up being THE thing that changes the campaign. Ya never know.

  • The team witnessed the March of the Dead, in which the ghosts of adventurers who have fought Strahd and died rise and march to re-live their deaths as they walk to Castle Ravenloft.

  • They dug up the body of one of their former comrades from another team, Dylan was a warlock. Strahd ripped out his heart with his bare hands. When they asked Dylan how he suggested they proceed he said, “Don’t. This mission is folly. Pay the Vistani whatever they ask and make your way to Gloomwrought. From there you should be able to make your way home eventually through the Shadowfell…”

    They learned that the previous team had headed west to find something called the Amber Temple on the western slopes of Mt. Ghakis.

  • They found Father Donavich holding his son, Boru, in the undercroft while sobbing. The boy, inspired by strangers recently in town. After some discussions about morality and such, they decided to chalk this up as a local conflict and leave it be. They vampire-bitten young man had gone berserk right about when Bugwump cast Leomund’s Tiny Hut (scrying doesn’t penetrate the hut).

    As they left, the priest to the Morninglord was sitting atop the undercroft door, sobbing quietly.

    Ah, Ravenloft…

  • They tracked the previous team as they went off the road and headed west. They team left glyphs to let any other Outlands Expedition Teams know that they were headed to the western slope of the mountain and that they were being hunted by something following them.

    One of the awesome players at our table suggested that these glyphs teams leave for one another are an off-shoot of thieves’ cant; so rogues can often tease out more details or leave more nuanced messages.

  • The pack of werewolves hunting the team (7 in total, Trundle the Dwarven Ranger could tell) suddenly headed westward, up the mountain. It didn’t make much sense. They found a barrow adorned with goat and deer skulls where one of the werewolves was interred, having been killed by silver arrows and a pit trap and some more silver arrows. Helewyn wisely dug out the silver arrows.

  • Next week we begin with the pack trying to flank a lone archer on an old goat path known as the Blood Moon Path.

  • This game being a mission, where they want to get their comrades out and get back home to Sigil has changed the tenor of the game. Destroying Strahd is a tertiary goal. The team is very willing to leave situations be and not get embroiled in what they see as endless local nonsense. They are invested but they have their eye on the prize – getting their friends out. Very interesting…

Human/Bat Skeleton Subject Marker

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Check this shirt out and more in the Tabletop Role-Playing Games Collection…