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 are the Sigil 6?

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.

Bat/Human Skeleton Subject Divider

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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

Bat/Human Skeleton Subject Divider
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THE END
Who are the Sigil 6 and what are they up to?

Who are the Sigil 6 and what are they up to?

Real World Origin Story

When the pandemic had just begun my friend got the flu. We had no idea if he had covid or what that might mean. As everything closed down, I called him and asked if he needed me to grab something from the pharmacy or the grocery store and leave it on his front steps. He said, “No, I’ve got that covered. Could you run a game online?”

“Damn right I can.”

That was more than two years ago and we’re still going. We played Trophy Gold for a while and had an amazing time. Then we started with Five Torches Deep and eventually settled into D&D 5e. Character descriptions and links to our AP blog posts are below.

The Sigil 6: Outlands Expedition Team
Made with assets from Thomas Novosel's patreon: https://www.patreon.com/thomasno?fan_landing=true
and Feral Indie Studio's amazing products: https://feral-indie-studios.itch.io/

Made with assets from Thomas Novosel’s patreon: https://www.patreon.com/thomasno?fan_landing=true
and Feral Indie Studio’s amazing products: https://feral-indie-studios.itch.io/

Who are they?

Most of the team met when the Lady of Pain sentenced them into the Maze, a kind of otherworld prison sideways to Sigil. The group was in there for 15 years until the Lady of Pain pulled them out and asked them to serve Sigil as an Outlands Expedition Team, defending imbalances in the Outlands. The team is ambivalent about their mysterious and otherworldly patron.

Logo, Outlands Expedition Team / Deputized by The Lady of Pain / Clerk Ward, Sigil

Jusko Hajek

A human fighter sent to the Maze for banditry and murdering his squire; he was guilty as charged. Nowadays he’s a glorious jumble of honor, bravery and love for his friends.

DM’s Notes: Hajek was the family name of Drew’s character in our old Burning Wheel game; it is a nice tip of the hat. The Hajek family is burning there in the background.

Some of my favorite of Drew’s decisions is when he uses Hajek to highlight the greatness of the other characters.

Sigil 6 Subject Divider

Bugwump

Bugwump is a crotchety, frog-kin wizard. When the campaign began, it seemed like he had been put into the Maze for petty reasons but then John mentioned that Bugwump had been an Arch-mage with an eye towards deity-hood and conquest who had his powers stripped when he was sent Maze-ward. It was suggested to Bugwump that perhaps he is only a clone of the powerful Arch-Mage he remembers and that thought still haunts him.

DM’s Notes: Whenever we meet a famous wizard or lich I ask John if Bugwump knew this person when he was an Arch-Mage. As mentioned in a previous blog post, this arch-magery is a gift.

John does cool stuff in making Bugwump’s magic very amphibian and unique through his descriptions.

Sigil 6 Subject Divider

Trundle

A Dwarf Ranger who makes arcane carvings out of wood, eschewing his stone and iron heritage. The Holdfast where he was raised was besieged by Abyssal forces, a detail I haven’t delved into nearly enough. Trundle took up the holy symbol of a Dwarven priest of portals and became a Mist-Walker while in Barovia.

DM’s Notes: Trundle isn’t a power-house in combat but Teo boxes clever with him and he often pulls out the wild card that ends up saving the team.

Sigil 6 Subject Divider

Kuru

A Halfling Rogue (Arcane Trickster) who took the fall for a heist gone wrong. Sometimes Kuru has lots of heart and other times he ends a problem with a ruthless backstab before it can escalate. The town where he was raised was a kind of ninja-enclave.

While in Barovia Kuru earned the nickname, Kuru Heartbreaker, after destroying Strahd’s crystal heart artifact with a Wand of Lightning Bolts.

Spirit Costume meme with pic of actor who played Bilbo, in costume, double flipping off the camera.

TEXT: Kuru
Wand of Lightning Bolts
A Wild-ass plan that just might work
Ball bearings
Something that EXPLODES

DM’s Notes: In every group there’s that one character who will jump on a dragon’s head to try to get at the dangerous beast’s eyes. Kuru is that character; Anthony is that player.

Sigil 6 Subject Divider

Helewynn

Helewynn joined the group later, an elf (Eldadrin) Barbarian who serves a moon goddess. She has her own strong ideas about honor. Her rage in combat will become stuff of legend and her comrades benefit from her totemic Wolf powers. While in Ravenloft, Helewynn became a werewolf, an honored caste of soldier among the Moon Goddess’ people. The werewolves, wolves and dire wolves of Barovia refer to her as the Queen of the Moon. Helewynn delivered the fatal strike against Strahd.

DM’s Notes: B is new to D&D and makes great outside-the-box combat decisions that are always interesting and fun. When I ask B a question about Helewynn’s thoughts on a topic, the response is always delightful.

Sigil 6 Subject Divider

Shepherd

Corpseflea (from Five Torches Deep: Origins) Grave Cleric who has left the body of a dead thief deity and is currently inahbiting the body of a flesh golem made by an angel in Ravenloft (shit got complicated and strange). Failed Soldier Shepherd has taken his desire to usher souls to their destinations when they have died. The Corpseflea has helped refugees from a dead world mourn the death of their home. Failed Soldier Shepherd inhabited the body of a dead God of Thieves from a dying world, giving the Sigil 6 access to the Godroads; now he inhabits a flesh golem made for him by the lost angel of the Morninglord in Ravenloft.

DM’s Notes: All of these characters are delightful surprising thanks to the wonderful player choices but Shepherd is a particularly odd one. Not only because he’s a mote of consciousness who can inhabit corpses but because J players them with complicated soul.

Sigil 6 Subject Divider

What has the Sigil 6 been up to?

Book I: Starting in Sigil

In which we get our feet under us in the Outlands…

Revisiting Planescape

The adventures in the Outlands were supposed to ripple out into the rest of the planes of reality.

Tables for the Outlands

I don’t think of the tables as Random Encounter Tables but as Inspirational Encounter Tables.

Back in Sigil

“How do you say last rite’s over a world?”
“Maybe the same way we’d say good-bye to a dear friend…”

Not Random but Inspirational

Why did I roll these encounters? There weren’t any fights.

Feuding Gods in the Portal City of Xaos

I wrote down Water, Chaos of Limbo, Feuding Deities.

The Godroads

A few years ago I wrote some notes in a notebook about the Godroads.

Sigil with Rule of 3 Rings
Sigil 6 Subject Divider

Book II: Even Death May Die

In which the Sigil 6 travels to Chult because someone broke death.

Even Death May Die
Tomb of Annihilation as played by the Thursday Night Delving Club
made like a movie poster

Chultan Skies

They are flying on pterodactyls…

Bugwump’s Gift to the D.M.

I know that adventurers (particularly, bards) dating monsters is a kind of RPG-twitter cliche. Tonight it made a dangerous and interesting totally unbalanced encounter even more interesting.

Landing in the Lost City of Omu

Jusko was worried about the letter of introduction Vandrilla Shadowmantle gave them to give to the Red Wizards, worried they might get Rosencrantz-&-Guildenstern’d.

Wizards, Derring-do and a Legendary T-Rex

Trundle and Kuru ended up on the Queen of Feather’s head…

Robbing Yuan-ti and Contemplating Magicide.

In which Yuan-ti are robbed and multiple magicide is discussed.

Identity and the Tomb

“Who are we? Are we people who crawl into our allies’ camp and slit their throats while they sleep?”

Hit-and-Run Finale

I forgot lots of stuff in the room that would’ve made he fight harder. It was still fun, still felt epic.

Sigil 6 Subject Divider

Book III: Killing Strahd

In which the Sigil 6 enter a demi-planar prison to kill a legendary parasite.

Prelude in Sigil

Trundle got into the spirit of things, wearing a Devil mask and doing a public carving celebrating their last adventure…

Questions Before Curse of Strahd

Helewyn – How do you (or your Goddess) feel about lycanthropes who change shape with the full moon?

Session I Welcome to Barovia

In which the team arrives in Ravenloft and the Siege of Ravenwatch begins…

Session II Battle of Ravenwatch

Kuru, being followed by Strahd, throws a fake amulet in another direction so he can get to Jusko and turn invisible. Deception with Dex bonus; Strahd falls for the sleight of hand.

Session III Wolves and Souls

In which the Outlands Expedition Team heads to the village of Barovia and is tested by a pack of wolves.

Session IV Ghosts & Bones

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.

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

Session VI Enter the Amber Temple

In which the Amber Temple is entered

Session VII Dark Gifts

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.

Session VIII New Wolves & Old Friends

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

Session IX The Execution of Kiril Stoyanovich

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

Session X The Crypts Under Castle Ravenloft

In which Jusko leads a team of strangers whose lives have been brutally damaged by Strahd 

Session XI Plans within Plans and the Broken Angel

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

Session XII Blood and Philosophy in the Abbey of St. Markovia

We are picturing it like the helicopter approach in the beginning of Predator.

Session XIII The Ballad of Kuru Heartbreaker

The Heart Tower was my favorite encounter that I ran pretty close to as-written.

Session XIV The Death of Strahd

In which the Sigil Six ends of the Curse of Strahd slaying the legendary vampire through sorcery, steel and cunning.

Spending the Ravenloft Fortune

I did not feel like going through the treasure in Castle Ravenloft and tallying it up…

Session XV Loose Ends and Lost Gods

Rahadin and the remaining vampires left the Domain. None are sure where they went.

Books from Castle Ravenloft’s Library

This tome was compiled by Strahd over the years, keeping track of Gloomwrought, through the reports of his messengers.

Curse of Strahd Awards

To hand out to players once the adventure is finished.

Why is Strahd a good villain?

Know that strahd died screaming in daylight.

Curse of Strahd as played by the Thursday Night Delving Club (Friendship, Laughter, Adventure)
Big moon behind a castle with bats flying...
Sigil 6 Subject Divider

Book IV: All Shadows Lead to Gloomwrought

In which the Sigil 6 walk across the Shadowfell towards the City of Midnight.

All Shadows Lead to Gloomwrought
In which the Sigil 6 walk through the Shadowfell

Encounters, Faction and a Map

Or as Trundle said, “We’ve done enough work for the Lady of Pain; let’s walk through the Planes a while and take our time getting back to Sigil.”

S1 Knights and Elves

They got to a bridge from the mists, over a bottomless shadow chasm, leading into the Shadowfell. 

S2 The Zombie Mob

In which the Sigil Six cross the Dread Bridge, Helewynn is given a gift by the Shadar Kai and 300 or so zombies block their path through a deserted valley.

S3 “What would the best version of yourselves do?”

I put them in an unwinnable situation and they shook their heads and said, “Fuck that.”

S4 Somewhere Between Lord Soth and the Moon

“Don’t do anything stupid unless I come running down the hill. If I do, bring all of the stupid.”

S5 Recruit Villagers, Scouting Ahead and Evading a Dragon

In which the Sigil Six recruit the villagers, scout ahead and meet a dragon in the skies.

S6 The Three Who Are One

I grabbed a Skull Lord from Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes and a Zombie Clot from Van Richten’s Guide to Ravenloft. They are fun monsters and it was a fun, challenging fight.

The Three Who Are One
3 skulls melded together

S7 On the Salt Road

Kuru started a conversation with the Shadar Kai riders about their strategies in fighting a dragon.

“We run.”

S8 Bounty Hunters

Three things happened that turned the tide of the battle…

Moments in Actual Play

In which we look at a few moments and decisions in the game, considering the techniques at hand.

S9 The Old Githyanki Gate

Are the players interested in this job? Does it sound fun? Are the characters interested in this job? We talked it over and folks were interested.

S10 The Drow Job Prep

In which Kuru finds trouble in a Drow kitchen and the Sigil 6 prepares for the job.

S11 The Execution of the Drow Job

In which blood is spilled at a spirited Doors of Fate gaming table and Kuru disappears with an Aboleth.

S12 Back in Sigil

In which the Sigil 6 get Kuru back, make a Wish and get back to Sigil.

Sigil 6 Subject Divider

0 Sigil 6 Questions

At this point, I really hope we take it to 20th level. I’d love to be able to get that Gamer Merit Badge. More than 30 years playing these games and I’ve never taken a D&D game from 1st to 20th. I think we’ve go the momentum to do it and hope the scheduling holds up and we get there together.

1 Acorn Problem in Bytopia

The players didn’t come out with their realization that Divast was in fact, Garl Glittergold in illusory disguise until the last minutes of the game. When Helewynn offered him half a muffin, he called it, “an offering,” a slip that Jusko noticed. Failed Soldier had a piece of Gnome-tech from Dosk, allowing him to see the spirits of the dead. During one of Divast’s many (many) temper tantrums, he seemed to be talking to a spirit of the dead and throwing them away. Why would he be doing that?

S2: A Balanced Deal with a Heaping Side of Lore

They brokered a deal between the Druids and Garl, despite the god of the Gnomes trying his damnedest to get them to slaughter them all.

S3: The Vampire, the Lich and the Raven Queen

It was an odd night and I might’ve not managed the spotlight as well as I might’ve.

Imbalances in the Outlands with Rule of 3 circles, Key and Sword and Sigil 6 symbol
Sigil 6 Subject Divider

S1 Locate Object

In which the Sigil 6 track down Strahd’s second-in-command, who got away from them in Barovia; she is now a crimelord in Gloomwrought.

S2 Killing Rahadin

In which the Sigil 6 kill Rahadin and most of her vampire gang that has terrorized the streets of Gloomwrought since Strahd’s curse was lifted.

S3 The Second Wave

In which the Sigil 6 loot the vault of the late vampire gang, kill the last surviving vampire, stuff 2 vampire spawn accountants in a bag of holding and face Innistradi Vampire Assassins.

S4 LOOK UPON ABORAZ AND DESPAIR!

In which the Sigil 6 survive their first encounter with Aboraz, the Living Tomb, the Skull that Walks.

https://githyankidiaspora.com/2022/08/18/planescape-tweener-planning-session/

They are going back to Chult, apparently Jusko has an apartment there. Then we’re off to the Radiant Citadel.

S1 Return to Chult

One thing was certain, they needed to go back and grab the lich’s soul jars their gnome friend, Dosk, picked up in looking over her scans of the tomb.

S2 “I don’t know; Scry casual.”

Some players were missing tonight, so we had a low-key scry and chat. It was a lovely downshift.

S3 The Heart of Ubtao Hospital

“He seeks to unite the tribes and peoples across Chult as best he can. Dacaad has placed tablets in all of Ubtao’s deserted holy places, with a litany about what he needs to do to apologize to the people of Chult for abandoning them.”

S4 Slaying the Queen of Feathers

In which the Sigil 6 slay the Queen of Feathers in front of Dacaad and return to Omu, a lost city in the midst of being rebuilt.

S5 Keep on Truckin’ a.k.a. Enter Acererak

In which the Sigil 6 enter the Tomb of Annihilation again but this time they encounter the tomb’s architect.

S6 Beheading Acererak

In which the Sigil 6 used a Wish to avoid Death and then beheaded Acererak.

1 Plans and Deals

In which the Sigil 6 decide to venture into the Shadowfell once more, this time in order to destroy Acererak forever.

2 The Knife, the Jar and the Eye

In which the Sigil 6 find Acererak’s Soul Jar, hidden near the Eye of Vecna – also Lord Soth gains power and a gaggle of necromancers gain the resources they need to make wealth management plans so they can start thinking about saving for their retirement.

3 Just South of the Cairn Hills

In which the Sigil 6 get to the Free city of Greyhawk and purchase a flying carpet to head to the swamps south of the Cairn Hills.

4 Dragonslayers & Lich-destroyers

In which the Sigil 6 slay a Black Dragon and dissolve Acererak’s Soul Jar in the dragon’s acidic drool.

Sigil 6 Subject Divider

What else?

What is an Outlands Expedition Team?

What is the Bingo XP Variant that the Thursday Night Delving Club uses?

Sigil 6 Questions – Why D&D 5e and more…

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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 I: Welcome to Barovia

Curse of Strahd, Session I: Welcome to Barovia

Curse of Strahd I Welcome to Barovia

In which the team arrives in Ravenloft and the Siege of Ravenwatch begins…

Skeleton with bat-skeleton wings, section divider

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

  • The Outlands Expedition Team goes through a portal in an abandoned side-street of Sigil into Ravenwatch, a monastery in Ravenloft, the Demi-Plane of Dread, being used as a chapterhouse by the Ulmist Inquisitors. The Outlands Expedition Team’s mission is to retrieve any living members of the last team to attempt this mission and stop Strahd from breaking free of Ravenloft.

  • The Godroads have been their ace in the hole and their research to find out if the Godroads reach into the Demi-Plane of Dread was inconclusive. They found a vague mention of it in Jusko’s great-great aunt’s diary: “No prayers seem to reach this fell place.”

  • Speaking of Jusko, his family abandoned his ancestral home. Turns out someone (psst, it is Jusko who did it) wrote the family name on a young world and the family has left to live there, as it is their birthright. I’ve been sitting on that detail for months; it was nice to finally have a good reason to share it.

  • Another bit of lore they dug up, talking to Jusko’s dead great-grandfather, is that Strahd had a wizard counselor who became a lich and left Barovia to rule a domain of his own in the Demi-Plane of Dread. If anyone might know a way out of Ravenloft, it’d be Azalin Rex…

  • The portal is locked on the Sigil-side by a Githyanki psionicist who blocks it with a telekinetic wall. As they enter into Ravenwatch’s cellar, Strahd’s attack begins. Swarms of bats and rats cover the floor and ceiling.

  • Bugwump thunderwaves the swarms back, clearing the path for Failed Soldier and Hellewyn to take the fight to the stairs, where heavily armored vampire spawn are attacking with zombies on chains like hounds. They feel Strahd’s fell presence move by them at great speed but do not see him.

  • In a moment of the battle in which Bugwump thunderwaves the vampire spawn and their zombies, Hellewyn sees a moon-elf, of similar lineage to her own, fighting on Strahd’s side at the top of the steps.

  • Jusko stayed in the room with the portal, seeing himself as the link between the split party. As Strahd passes, he welcomes his cousin, Jusko Hajek, to Barovia. Jusko, vorpal sword in hand, beckons Strahd to come closer. Strahd recognizes the ancient blade and declines. “We will talk under more hospitable circumstances. Welcome to Barovia.” Jusko feels Strahd move away.

  • Kuru and Trundle use oil and fire to clear the swarms, trying to get to a secret armory. The inquisitor is killed by Strahd, who plunges his hands into his chest cavity and opens him up like a can of beans. Kuru’s failed Perception check tells him that the Inquisitor is dead; there is no saving him.

  • I forgot to look at the map I keyed weeks ago and the notes I made for that map. *sigh*

    Still, it was a fun start. We ended in the midst of the battle and will begin there next week.

Return of the Skeleton with bat-skeleton wings, section divider

If you want to read more about the Ulmist Inquisitors, I wrote up 13 fell pages in a pdf.

Post-Tomb of Annihilation/Pre-Curse of Strahd

Post-Tomb of Annihilation/Pre-Curse of Strahd

Omu: the Lost City in their past, Curse of Strahd in their future.
Sigil: The City of Doors

Back from thwarting Acererak (but not facing him directly), the Outlands Expeditions Team returns to Sigil in the midst of the 1000 Faces Festival. Music and dancing in the streets at all hours…

Silver Sword/Lich Queen line separator

I did a few things with the Facebook group to get some details and flesh some things out. I made a poll with a bunch of masks for characters to wear during the festival. Some chose from the choices, others made up their own.

And I asked questions to get into the spirit of heading to the Demi-Plane of Dread.

Jusko – Your family’s ancestral lands neighbored ancient Barovia. What was the Hajek family’s relationship to the cursed von Zarovich clan?

Helewyn – How do you (or your Goddess) feel about lycanthropes who change shape with the full moon?

Kuru – What do you remember of the nomadic Vistani people who would stay for a season near the shire you where you were raised and trade with your family?

Trundle – What was Trundle’s first brush with the darker parts of the forest, where sun never penetrates the canopy and fell beasts hunt the weak?

Bugwump – What had you uncovered about the Demi-Plane of Dread when you were an Arch-Mage?

Failed Soldier – What does your religion’s parables say about the First Vampire, Strahd, a great warrior whose fell deeds drew the attention of fell powers?

Not everyone answers but the answers I get I use. It led to a good discussion about the Vistani and not wanting to punch down in our depiction of them. Those who didn’t answer in type I’ll ask “face to face” over Zoom at the next game; I forgot to do so tonight.

Basic, ask questions and use the answers stuff but having a digital home for the game makes asking the questions easy.

  • Trundle got into the spirit of things, wearing a Devil mask and doing a public carving celebrating their last adventure, carving a triptych of hobbits upon dinosaurs out of a piece of wood the size of an elephant.

  • Anthony described Kuru wearing a kind of rosary beads that Vistani would recognize. I told him that in Barovia the gods are Mother Night and the Morning Lord. Perhaps the beads are Mother Night’s stars. He met an old woman and had his fortune read. I dropped some game details as per the module.

  • Kuru specifically asked about allies, which is part of the fortune telling in the book. I offered a few – a Mad Mage near Mount Bartok, an undead knight in his old order’s keep and the people they would meet upon arriving, could be allies, if any survived. “Your arrival will be covered in blood. I doubt any will survive.”

  • Bugwump took what the woman said very seriously, having known about the Demi-Plane of Dread from his Arch-Mage days. He sought out an arcane historian and learned that Strahd was the First Vampire and is a capable wizard in his own right. He also learned that Strahd seeks out Tatyanna because she is a capable Planar Arcanist who could help him escape his prison.

  • Kuru visited the tenement building the Vistani were staying with in Sigil and learned that *DUN DUN DUN* /dramatic music Mother Eva had been dead for a week! He had been visited by her spirit. It was a nice way to wrap up a low-key game.

I’m looking forward to getting into Ravenloft just as Autumn approaches. Our next game isn’t for 2 weeks, a friend at the table pointed out that we’d be heading to Ravenloft as Halloween approaches, which is fun.

As we approach Ravenloft, this shirt seems relevant. Check out this design and more at this link.

https://shopofjudd.threadless.com/designs/goth-af
Tomb of Annihilation – Hit and Run Finale

Tomb of Annihilation – Hit and Run Finale

Tomb of Annihilation cover by me.

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

  • The team shamed the Red Wizards into dealing with every other puzzle room. They dealt with a room with anti-gravity and a whirling death fan. Two of the Red Wizards died and when the anti-gravity ended it rained death down on their friends. Kuru the Halfling Rogue subtly mage-handed the magic items on the dead wizards; it was a good haul.

  • Having smart NPCs handle 2 of the puzzle rooms was a fun way to speed it up. I made some rolls on their behalf to see how they did. My disdain of some parts of this adventure were made known to my friends.

  • Then they jumped into the room with the Godling and the Soulmonger, the engine that Acererak was using to make his own death god. The Soulmonger was held up by Adamantine struts. Cut down one strut and the engine falls into the lava below. I secretly hoped that Jusko’s vorpal sword would cut down a strut.

  • They dog-piled the Godling. I forgot lots of stuff in the room that would’ve made he fight harder. It was still fun, still felt epic.

  • Before they entered the final room, Trundle the Dwarf Ranger did the math on the nearest Godroad; it was a hundred yards from the opening of the dungeon back the way they came.

  • While everyone else was killing the Demi-Lich’s Godling, Trundle was poking around the balconies and found a portal to an altar. And there was a doorway to a Godroad. They had an exit plan. Nice work.

  • At one point Bugwump the Frog-kin Wizard made a HUGE Arcana check on the Godling and realized that Acererak would arrive within a few rounds of them killing it due to a spell on it. I rolled a d4 when the Godling died. 3 rounds.

  • Jusko the Human Fighter, Helewyn the Elf Barbarian and Failed Soldier the Corpse-flea Grave Cleric were doing their best on the struts but not having much luck. Then Jusko talked to his word and beseeched it to do its old head-lopping job (what Drew said was way cooler). Nat 20. Boo-ya.

  • They ran out the fading door to the Godroads just as Acererak arrived, screaming in frustration. – mission accomplished.

  • They earned a boatload of levels on the Bingo Board. 7 levels to be divvied up among the party.

  • We’ll do some fun downtime during Sigil’s carnivale/Mardi Gras-style mask party holiday. I’m going to make up funky carousing rules based on what mask they choose to wear.

  • Then we’re off to the Demi-Plane of Dread, where a neighboring Outlands Expedition Team went on a mission and went missing.

Outlands Expedition Team, Deputized by the Lady of Pain, Clerk Ward, Sigil

In honor of those vorpal blade 20’s that come right when you need them, you deserve a Talk Sh!t; Roll Crits t-shirt.

https://shopofjudd.threadless.com/designs/talk-sh-t-roll-crits-d20-edition

Tomb of Annihilation: Chultan Skies

“Find out why this lich is breaking death on this back-water prime world.”

The group is flying south, following the souls of their first guides, found out to be Zhent spies, being sucked southward by the Soulmonger, Acererak’s creation. A gnome with tech gear allows them to track the spirits.

Activate Indiana Jones travel-red-line!

They are flying on pterodactyls, their guide is a merchant prince’s sister, Tefnek. I rolled a herd of pegasi and so she followed them to a safe valley.

“Pegasi are a safe bet; I like to follow them to find a good place to camp for the night. This valley is solid – a pack of t-rexes cover the southern entrance and some ancient ward I didn’t see on the way in must cover the north.

“In a few days we’ll reach The Heart of Ubtao, a holy site of floating earth where priests once went to have visions. It might be an auspicious place to keep tracking the path the souls are taking.”

Because the FB event needed a cover.

https://shopofjudd.threadless.com/designs/thursday-night-delving-club

Made a t-shirt for the Thursday night D&D group.

Outlands Expedition Team

Outlands Expedition Team

Outlands Expedition Team, Deputized by the Lady of Pain, Clerk Ward, Sigil

The Lady of Pain expends most of her energies making sure no one attempts to gain power within Sigil. She has spies and allies in the Outlands and beyond, making sure the planes do not become imbalanced in a way that could spill out across creation and endanger her home – the City of Doors, where gods are banned from entry.

The Outlands Expedition Teams were put together as a way to counter those imbalances and forge friends between Sigil to the planes. When the teams return to Sigil, they sit in a forum, held in a plaza near the community where they live and discuss the outcome of the mission. This allows the community to interrogate the teams their taxed gold supports and allows the varied

Teams are called upon to think outside the box and adapt their approach based on the mission-at-hand but often, an approach rises to the surface.

Team Types

Mazers | A team brought out of the Labyrinth, serving the rest of their sentence in service to the city that imprisoned them.

Spies and Diplomats | Sometimes a more subtle and nuanced approach is necessary.

Watchdogs | Other times you have to cut off the arm to save the body.

Scouts | Some places are so dangerous all the team can do is look, assess and report back.

Scholars and Librarians | The planes, its inhabitants and the way they evolve need to be catalogued.

Mercantile Opportunists | Others see the planar scales as nothing but a way to make some gold.


O.E.T. Perks

Lifestyle

As long as you find your way back to Sigil, you can live a modest lifestyle for free. Your housing is paid for by the city and no one in the City of Doors would force an Expeditioner to pay for a meal or a cup of tea.


Known

In Sigil, if you make a CHA check to find someone, you always roll with Advantage. You are well known in the City of Doors. This Advantage also applies on a mission if the city officials have had time to put assets in place to support the team.


Diversity

Before a mission, city officials will ask anyone who has lived near or studied the forces at work. The team will have access to people who have on-the-ground knowledge of the forces causing or effected by the imbalance.


Gear

Specialty gear can be asked for to help support a mission. Time is often of the the utmost importance but Sigil is a good place to find things.


Portals

The City of Doors has doorways to everywhere and anywhere if you know the right key that opens the right portal. It might take some doing but if an Expeditioner needs to get somewhere, they should be able to get there or somewhere near it if they are willing to get the right elements necessary to make the key the portal demands.


O.E.T. Contact

City Clerk | Official, a bit cold and businesslike but also staking their career on this team’s success or failure.

Retired Expeditioner | Someone who once went out and get things done in the trenches; often opinionated on the best approach for a given mission.

Faction Leader | A philosopher who wants to see their faction’s point of view reflected across the planes.

Labyrinth Priest | A minotaur priest who worships the labryinth, an idea that our choices ring out across the planes and sustain reality.

Box | A Rogue Modron, still dedicated to order and setting the planes just so.

Cynic | They have been in Sigil too long and only see the problems, none of the beauty. Will likely be adopting a doomful philosophy.


Team Roles

Those who try to find a pattern to find the best paths of life and fate that make for a successful Expeditioner or what blend of people from what backgrounds makes for a good team have come up with nothing concrete just yet. Still, factions will argue about it in cafes and taverns all over Sigil.

Basher | Folk Hero, Knight, Marine, Mercenary Veteran, Soldier

Spellslinger | Investigator, Noble, Urchin, Sage, Hermit

Spiv | Charlatan, Criminal, Spy, Gambler, Pirate

Primer | Entertainer, Far Traveler, Folk Hero, Outlander

Kneeler | Acolyte, Cloistered Scholar, Urchin, Sailor, Sage

Greybeard | Archeologist, Cloistered Scholar, Haunted One, Sage, Noble


Academy Quests

No single d6 table will show the breadth and width of the many kinds of imbalances in the Outlands and beyond.

For more on this, check out this blog post if you’d like to see how I do it.

Inspirational Tables for your own Githyanki Invasion at the Dungeon Master’s Guild

https://www.dmsguild.com/product/356828/Silver-Swords-of-the-Lich-Queen-Inspirational-Tables-for-a-Githyanki-Invasion
Silver Swords of the Lich Queen: Inspirational Tables for a Githyanki Invasion

Silver Swords of the Lich Queen: Inspirational Tables for a Githyanki Invasion

Check out my Inspirational Tables helping you say cool shit when depicting a Githyanki Invasion.

Table of Contents / Page 1 Table of Contents and Using this Supplement / Page 2 Githyanki Invasion Encounters / Page 3 Local LEaders’ REactions to Githyanki Invaders / Page 4 What do Githyanki Want around here? / Page 5 What is creating tensions among invading GIthyanki? / Page 6 What are the dragon-riders fighting? Winning? / Page 7 What did soldiers leave behind? Githyanki Reaction / Page 8 Githyanki Name Generator / Page 9 Githyanki Logistics / Page 10 Arcana Check and History Check / Page 11 Blank d6&6 Table HAlf Page / Blank d6 Table / Page 12 Blank 2d6 Reaction Table and Fast Githyanki Names / Page 13 Blank 2d6 + 1d6 Table / Page 14 Blank 2d6 Table / Page 15

The Godroads

A few years ago I wrote some notes in a notebook about the Godroads. They were pathways from shrines to temples to cathedrals taken by the gods. Whispered prayers could be heard on the wind. In the D&D houserules-turned-game I had notes on how players could become deities and the Godroads would be available to them. I think of this project as:

Project Ampersand / House-ruled and Homebrewed, because I got emblem templates today and got excited about using them.

In our last session, the players were tasked with stopping a feud between a trio of gods, the last survivors from a dying world. Their characters were caught in a battle between a toad-wizard-god and a bandit-god. They killed one another; the players helped them along.

Jesse is playing a corpseflea, a nifty and delightfully strange heritage from Five Torches Deep’s Origins sourcebook. We skipped a week and so I totally forget that last game, Jesse told me that he was going to transfer into the body of the dead bandit-god.

Holy shit. As they left the Portal Town of Xaos, Jesse’s character noticed a portal that had not been there, behind the traveler’s shrines on the way into town. And so the players discovered the Godroads.

Baska’s elf’-barbarian navigated the roads through faith to her moon goddess.

When it became clear that the Mists of Ravenloft were infiltrating the Faery party the players were looking after in an attempt to snatch the sun and world being born (the party was celebrating the birth) the players talked to the party’s host. With the Fey Queen’s permission, they took the stone and the sword that represented the sun and world being born and headed into the Godroads, Demi-Plane of Dread hot on their heels. That is where the game ended.

I thought about what might live in this place, what the ecology of a place so alien might look like. I don’t need to create a whole eco-system but I wanted the encounter tables to hint at such a thing.

I like having this written up a week before the game. Having these to daydream on allows me to use them as more of a menu. I can roll when I want a surprise and choose when I have an idea. There is an eco-system inferred here. I think there were griffons once upon a time but they were domesticated and so now the manticore are running a bit rampant. Angels probably get together with paladins and sphinx and go Manticore hunting from time to time to clear the roads up.

Are unicorns and manticores and sphinx bog-standard D&D monsters? Yes, absolutely but I’m hoping but jamming them together into a series of secret roadways used by gods will give them new context. If I want to spice them up I can add a little planar conditioning and roll on the table below to see which plane(s) have had an effect on this particular herd or pride.

I need to re-write these tables. The icons with 3 d6’s confuses folks who think they have to roll 3d6, instead of rolling 2d6, one white and one black.

The group was sent to the Labyrinth for 15 years by the Lady of Pain. Teo asked a really interesting question, asking the players if they thought it was a fair sentence based on their crimes. During that fascinating conversation I found out that the Frog-kin wizard, Bugwump, was far more powerful a wizard before being sentenced.

When I rolled an Arch-mage encounter, I asked John about Bugwump’s rivals and Cret, lizard-person/saurian arch-mage was born. I role-played him as cloying fake and the players hated him right away. Kuru, the hobbit thief, cut past his wards with his magic knife and stole some books from Cret’s camp. His black robes have twinkling stars on them and every so often a shooting star launches across his arcane raiment.

Now we have a new rival, Arch-mage Cret, Saurian Wizard, and his apprentices.

They never saw the manticore but did see an angel fly overhead, delivering a message from some deity. I’m thrilled the Godroads made it out from the notebook to the table. I hope we get to learn more about them.

https://shopofjudd.threadless.com/collections/tabletop-role-playing-games

Find this design and more in the Tabletop Role-Playing Game collection…