Dread Domain Detectives Illustrated, Session 3 – The Missing Mentor

Dread Domain Detectives Illustrated, Session 3 – The Missing Mentor

After more than a month away from the game, we eased back in, looking into a cold case, their mentor is missing.

The Lamordian House of Lords debated changing penal law so that any found guilty of a felony could have their body offered to science to better our understanding of the natural laws (inspired by the Bas Lag’s books’ ReMade).

Dread Domain Detectives Illustrated

Dungeons & Dragons

Weird Science,


& Gothic fantasy!

Ripped from the 
pages of
Van Richten’s Guide to

With Art by Storn A. Cook

Viktor and Talis dig into their unfinished caseload - a missing person and a burglary.

What became of their mentor, Mathias Vimmer?

Who burgled the University's hallowed laboratories?

Who hunts the streets of Ludendorf?
Private Eye but the eye is an eye.

Started the session on Warlock Cliff, a cliff-face just outside of Ludendorf where magic doesn’t work. When I started to describe it, Jeff and Storn jumped in, offering further details – fog coming in from the sea and a lighthouse below the cliffs, throwing light through that fog – a bell on a dinghy from somewhere in the waves. Good stuff.

They spoke with their mentors nemesis, Emil Enh, a corrupt constable who was arrested and thrown onto a prison hulk. The old villain was sick, with a bone-rattling chest cough and wanted them to take him into custody so he could help them look for their old mentor, Mathias Vimmer (our Commissioner Gordon).

They got 3 cases – a murder case involving a university student, a casefile from a man named Adam, who was currently serving on a Prison Hulk for Breaking and Entering, Assault and Illegal Possession of a Firearm and a missing person case about a young woman named Elise, who had been arrested in the past for thievery and body-snatching.

There was a fun series of scenes where the crew was trying to gain access to the Inspector General’s safe, the current Inspector General didn’t know it was there. We found ourselves butting heads with D&D a bit (more on this later).

In the end, they got some important files from cases Mathias was keeping, along with a pistol and knife from the war and a picture of his ex-husband.

Ravenloft Lore Icon (raven on a skull)

Viktor tracked down Dr. Lukas Kronecker who teaches (I hesitated, not sure what subject he taught and Storn said, “Pantheons Beyond the Borders.”) Mythography, allowing me to drop some St. Ezra lore.

It turned out, the ex-husband didn’t know anything and was bereft that he didn’t know where Mathias had gone. Viktor told him that they found a picture of them together in Mathias’ safe. When he left, Viktor could hear the Mythographer crying.

Talis took the pistol and knife to a Vistani woman, who could, at this point, only say that Mathias was not anywhere in Lamordia alive and if he was dead, his spirit was not restless. She would work to look beyond the borders but that would take time and resources.

DeKalb, the Tiefling from their last case, was out of work because of things they did. He was hired by the Kranev Investigative Guild and would be an administrative aide and added muscle when needed.

D&D 5e doesn’t seem to be helping us much in our goal of playing an investigative gothic fantasy buddy crime story. We’re discussing other options.

The End, with human/bat skeleton, wings fanned out.

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Dread Domain Detectives Illustrated, Session 2 – Awaken Thrilling Horror

Dread Domain Detectives Illustrated, Session 2 – Awaken Thrilling Horror

Dread Domain Detectives Illustrated

Dungeons & Dragons

Weird Science,


& Gothic fantasy!

Ripped from the 
pages of
Van Richten’s Guide to

With Art by Storn A. Cook

Who is the Horned Man following Killian and what is the Asmodeen Personal Security Firm? 

learn the nature of Killian and Lady's Relationship!

Ludendorf. Bastion of Weird Science. Frigid. Cruel and getting more cruel. 

Talis & Viktor’s third case, The Bone Key, with the Kranev Investigative Guild Concludes.

“I'm sorry, cousin. I saw your way of life as you getting away with something,”
- Baroness Maja von aubreker.

Inspired by the Unscene from Jason Cordova’s amazing Victorian horror RPG, The Between, I start each session with some kind of flavorful scene within Ludendorf (while they are in Ludendorf). This week the constables mobilized their municipal flesh construct, metal bars reinforcing its fists and armor all over its monstrous frame, directing it to knock down the locked and barred door to a drug lab. The lab’s guards let loose a volley of bullets, all absorbed with barely audible grunts, by the construct, who the constables hid behind, before running down the drug-makers with clubs. Elsewhere, parliamentarians discussed broadening the Flesh Rights laws so that felons would be altered by science to show the world their crimes.

When I started that description, the constables had pistols but Storn asked some good questions and Jeff offered suggestions and it led to an interesting discussion on these kinds of alchemical pistols and their reliability and use. We decided the door-kickers wouldn’t have firearms for this kind of gig. The possible law changes in Lamordia were clearly inspired by China Miéville’s Perdido Street Station.

“One which would speak to the mysterious fears of our nature and awaken thrilling horror - one to make the reader dread to look around, to curdle the blood, and quicken the beatings of the heart. If I did not accomplish these things, my ghost story would be unworthy of its name.”
― Mary Shelley, Frankenstein

When we last left our stalwart investigators, they were about to meet up near the apartment where Killian and Valentia were having their dalliance. A mysterious blue man in a black suit with black horns atop his head, was also waiting nearby, though he hadn’t noticed them yet.

They were looking at the Tiefling as he sipped tea and waited, trying to figure out his roll in all this. When Storn said, “Wait, he’s a bodyguard.” I created a new rule, where if I hear them say the right guess, we make an appropriate roll and if it over 5, they feel the cosmic tumblers slip into place and know that they are right.

When the couple left the apartment building, dressed as mourning aristocrats, both in black veils, a plan was hatched. Talis would follow and Viktor would stay and dig into the empty apartment.

Talis rolled poorly on this new stealth roll (the context had changed enough to warrant a new roll, even by my Burning Wheel-inspired Let it Ride standards). The high-class Tiefling bodyguard got the jump on him (clearly through sorcery) and put a hand on Talis’ back, making it clear that he’d Arcane Bolt his guts into the street if he moved.

Cut to Viktor, who contacted the superintendent, an old man with a poorly fitted steam-powered leg, who shoveled coal into the basement furnace and fixed things around. He looked at an empty apartment, getting a feel for the layout of the rooms. The owners of the building were barristers with the Holmes & Crick Law Firm, who specialize in property law and Flesh Rights cases, offering those in poverty the ability to sell their bodies to science. I hated them already.

Talis lied big and rolled well, explaining to the Tiefling, whose name is DeKalb, that he represented a client who was looking for a good source of corpses for experimentation. DeKalb offered his card and said he’d run it by his client; Talis suggested he leave word at the Rusty Harpoon, the sailor’s pub under their office.

They ended up with all of the pieces they needed to wrap the case up. Viktor got a used sheepskin prophylactic from a rubbish bin in the apartment (ADDITIONAL CLIENT CHARGE: 1 silk handkerchief). There was a fridge unit with an expensive lock.

“Storn, could you give me an Austrian Surname?”

Storn, not knowing what it is for, “Loos…”

“Loos Locks. I like it.”

They assumed that grave robbing was going on, as Killian and Valentia were taking frequent trips to the expensive and fortress-like series of crypts, the Hausdervorfarhen.

There was an interesting discussion about how to tell Viktor’s cousin, the client, Baroness Maja von Aubrecker. Talis floated some ideas about blackmailing Killian but Viktor wasn’t into it. The conversation went in and out of game, veteran gamers checking in, making sure their character’s foibles didn’t step on our friend’s toes. Good stuff.

When they were done, walking up the stairs to the office above the pub, I asked Jeff how Viktor felt after having had a dream in which they had in fact blackmailed Killian and came away from the deed with a bag of gold, having beaten DeKalb half to death. It was good to get a grip on the character, find their borders and hear Jeff describe them.

In the end, Maja wanted to confront Killian in the apartment where the Dalliance was occurring. They used the empty apartment as a staging ground, renting it for a few months on Maja’s dime, circumventing DeKalb, who was waiting outside.

I find stories about jilted lovers and jealousy tedious but stories about cunning business women using baroque betrothal law that we’re all making up is cool. In the end, Killian was told that he’d be signing a variant of their 5-year-betrothal-contract, one that would leave Maja and her family very wealthy and controlling interests in the Neufurchtenburg factories. The bodies of Maja’s parents were taken out of the fridge and sent back to the crypts. Killian’s family key to the crypts, the Bone Key, was put in Maja’s care. Maja’s parents, it turned out, had pioneered a form of pneumatic seal that they had put on their own tombs, so their bodies were well preserved.

Why did these Lamordian nobles want to be preserved so well? Maybe we’ll learn that another time.

Had good world-building discussions, inspired by the lock and the fridge. Electro-chymical energy batteries and such. Felt very much like we were doing some quality cooperative world-building in figuring out the details of this strange streampunk nightmare.

Case #0003L2 was closed, information handed to client with some post-case extracurricular services offered to tidy up loose ends to client’s satisfaction.

Case #0001L2 (Missing Persons) and Case #0002L2 (Burglary) are still open cases that will be worked on in the coming days.

No new lore was dug up about the Dark Realms, though a Tiefling bodyguard who had been an agent of the Asmodeen Personal Security Firm will likely be out of a job and Talis showed him enough empathy and kindness that he might’ve turned a future enemy into a future ally. Maybe DeKalb will stop by the offices above the Rusty Harpoon in his dapper black suit and look for some work.

The End, with human/bat skeleton, wings fanned out.

Kranev Investigative Guild: a group patron for one’s Ravenloft campaign

Kranev Investigative Guild: a group patron for one’s Ravenloft campaign

The Kranev Investigative Guild, started by Madame Celia Kranev, has offices of some type in almost every domain in the Dark Realms and Domains of Dread that have grown like a fungus around Castle Ravenloft.

Kranev Investigative Guild
Chapterhouse Ludendorf

Guild Type

  1. Thriving – half a dozen investigators leading teams on dozens of cases at a time in a bustling office building.
  2. Decrepite – one so-called investigator and maybe one administrator in a closet office or office/apartment, one mistake away from bankruptcy.
  3. Plucky – an up and coming investigative team or even two teams starting to take on cases
  4. Embedded – an old and venerable guildhouse that is closely linked to local governmental powers in ways that can be problematic to the casework.
  5. Abandoned – a dusty closet, sealed and condemned after a rough case that destroyed this guildhouse; if you are lucky a ghost remains to tell the tale and the archive remains intact.
  6. Faded – once it was an institution but because of retirements, losses on the job or other problems this guildhouse is a shadow of what it once was.

Guild Contact

  1. Undercover Agent – gathering info for a case among dangerous people who don’t want their secrets in daylight, this contact will meet you in secret and will always be looking over their shoulder.
  2. Retired Investigator – someone who has seen it all and is happy to share old tales from their time solving crimes in the mists.
  3. Ghost – a dead investigator or a murder case that got solved, now they are spending time helping the guild before moving on.
  4. Brain in a Jar – they might be a science experiment gone wrong but they are also a guild contact you can throw in a bag and take with you on the case with the possibility of other psionic perks.
  5. Investigator-in-training – young, naive and full of energy, they are here to welcome you to the guild and learn about the trenches while they teach you how to navigate the office.
  6. Ezran Priest – a learned temple scholar who is here to see to your professional and spiritual needs.
Human/Bat Hybrid Skeleton Subject Divider


Guildhouses – every domain has a guildhouse – it might be a haunted closet above a tavern or might be a bustling office building in the ritziest plaza but it will be a place you can seek shelter for a time and round up resources.

Friends of the Guild– the Guild has helped many people over the decades and Madame Kranev’s reputation is well known. Roll with advantage when using a Charisma check in seeking aid.

Mists – Madame Kranev was born into a reputable Vistani clan and can often get her agents into any domain but getting out is often more tricky, especially if the case attracts the attention or ire of a Darklord.

Old Casefiles – the Guild has gathered decades of eclectic information on all levels of society, if you are able to access the old casefiles in a branch, roll that first Research check with advantage.

Extradition – if you are, Ezra forbid, taken by local law enforcement, it is only a matter of time before Madame Kranev wheels and deals to get you out. Surviving in the local domain’s prison system is your responsibility while those deals go down. If you should die, she will see that your remains are interred as per your intake paperwork.

Human/Bat Hybrid Skeleton Subject Divider
Kranev Investigative Guild
Casework Satchel

3 Pencils
Stenographer's Notebook
Compact Spyglass
Alchemical Medkit
3 Pocket Watches
Sapper's Lantern
Vial Silver-infused Holy Water
3 pieces of Chalk
Pound of Salt
5x5 Folded Butcher Paper
Van Richten's Guide to the Dark Realms, dog-eared copy
Letter to Constabulary with Barrister on Retainer's Address

What does your character add to the satchel?
Kranev Investigative Guild Case Notes Case # Investigators: Uncovering Truth is our chosen vocation. We hold Justice closer to our hearts than Laws. Understand and own the full consequences of the final report that you will hand to the client. If found, return these pages to the nearest Kranev Chapterhouse. Any information herein is the property of the Kranev Investigative Guild. Madame Celia Kranev Investigator General and Proprietor

If you want to read about the Kranev Investigative Guild in play:

Dread Domain Detectives Illustrated, Session 1 – Motives Were Mingled

Dread Domain Detectives Illustrated, Session 1 – Motives Were Mingled

Ludendorf is a port city built around 3 hills upon which are built the university, the baron’s vacated castle – now used by city bureaucrats and constables and the cemetery, a fortress to keep out grave-robbers with a police force all its own.

PRELUDE: A whaling ship bringing in a strange haul, some kind of gargantuan humanoid with something almost squid-like for a head. “Seemed to just be waking up when our harpoons found it,” one sailor said. “Strange aeons, indeed,” another agrees, “Not sure if we are going to get much oil out of this chtonic beast.” Newspaper headlines in the Ludendorf Gazette note that the civil strife in Neufurchtenburg is escalating. The Anarchist Slayer has claimed another victim in Ludendorf.

Link to Session 0

Dread Domain Detectives Illustrated

With Art by Storn A. Cook

Dungeons & Dragons

Weird Science,


& Gothic fantasy!

Ripped from the 
pages of
Van Richten’s Guide to

Viktor von aubreker. 17th in line for the throne. Rogue & Artificer. 

Talis Arsalan. Bard. Newly arrived immigrant.

Ludendorf. Bastion of Weird Science. Frigid. Cruel. 

This is their third case with the Kranev Investigative Guild.

Their first two cases are unsolved  when the next case walks in. 

“I believe my husband is cheating on me,”
- Baroness Maja von aubreker.

Getting together with old gaming friends like Jeff and Storn is just lovely. Their partner banter was amazing.

I’ve got vague ideas about how to use Perception and Investigation and Insight in ways that will make the rolls more meaningful. More on that as it marinates.

Storn has an etsy shop that is well worth checking out and book-marking if you think you might like some character-art for yourself or as a gift to a friend.

We described the office being a bit of a mess with diagrams on the walls from the other 2 unsolved cases – one concerning a theft of university property and another concerning their missing mentor. Storn suggested a bamboo screen to put over this evidence when visitors are in office.

Private Eye but the eye is an eye.

Case #0003L2 Baroness Maja von Aubrecker believes her husband, Killian Furchten, is carrying on an indiscretion. The client is hiring the Arkev Investigative Guild to find out the nature of this dalliance as the 5 year anniversary of the betrothal nears, the time when, according to Lamordian betrothal law, the couple’s holdings become fully entwined.

The tension between Baroness Mara and her cousin, Inspector Viktor, was palpable but there was also some trust that family business would be dealt with in a discreet manner.

The case’s contract was filed by Chapterhouse Ludendorf’s chamberlain, Arek Avakian.

The guild’s Ludendorf Chapterhouse is located above a sailor’s bar on the docks, owned by sailor’s wife, Rosaly, with squid-tentacle tattoos of her husband’s rare prosperous voyages. One such voyage is crossed out.

Lamordian Nobles have taken to slumming it in Ludendorf – the latest style is to done Dementlieu-style masks and stagger from one working class pub to another. This is called a Dementlieuax Pub Crawl.

The Baroness’ manservant, interviewed by Inspector Talis, taken aside under false pretenses. Niklas, said servant, suggested they look deeper into betrothal laws and rites.

Killian has been frequenting university science presentations. The moneyed classes often look to these presentations to find investment opportunities. Viktor’s social status was used to gain entry, as suggested by his sister, a university student.

The investigators made their way to the university, looking at presentations. A list of past presentations was easy enough to find. Storn asked if he noticed anything strange about the list. Good question.

If I’d had a list, I could’ve just unveiled it and left it to him but I didn’t and didn’t feel like creating one on the spot was a good use of our time or my effort. Roll Investigation. It was a solid roll. Yes, you notice that Valentia Doss is the only woman’s name on the list; she presented on Ambulatory Balance in Constructs. The university has some patriarchal bullshit at hand.

Talis and Viktor attended a presentation about the science of where skills and attributes are stored in the body. A pair of corpse-arms, acquired legally through a flesh contract, was inspired to play a haunting violin tune through electric stimulation. Does this show the fiddle-skills of the arm’s former owner or the skill to inspire such a tune through electric manipulation?

NOTE: This led to a productive discussion about the type of weird science tech that is common, getting us on the same page.

Talis followed Killian leaving a presentation with a promising post-doctoral student, Valentia Doss, who has won the esteemed honor of serving as Viktra Mordenheim’s lab assistent last semester. A Tiefling with dark blue skin and black horns under a custom stove-pipe hat was also following the couple to an apartment in an expensive part of the city. Talis paid a young lad, Peter from Oil Street, to notify his partner of his whereabouts and his wife that he’d be home late. His wife was not notified. The horned man has not noticed Talis yet.

That is where we begin next week – a cold Ludendorf street as the sun sets. A well-married noble in an apartment with a bright science academic and a devil-folk in a dark suit standing outside this apartment, staking it out as our investigators meet up down the block to discuss their next moves.

The Dread lore gathered in this session concerns a distant Domain called Dementlieu, where masquerades are the fashion.

“The circumstance on which my story rests was suggested in casual conversation. It was commenced partly as a source of amusement, and partly as an expedient for exercising any untried resources of mind. Other motives were mingled with these as the work proceeded.”
― Mary Shelley, Frankenstein

Dread Domain Detectives Illustrated, Session 0 – All the Pieces Matter

Dread Domain Detectives Illustrated, Session 0 – All the Pieces Matter

Skull and bones header
Dread Domain Detectives Illustrated

A new thrilling crime tale
from the casefiles of
Talis and Viktor!

the Arcane
side by side w/
the alchemical!

On the cold, learnèd streets of Ludendorf

from the team that brought you Sons of Kryos!

the most

Arcane Science!
Forensic Science!

as used
by the 

Getting together with Jeff and Storn to catch up last week was lovely. The conversation turned to gaming. Storn has been gaming regularly (Stonetop and a project he’s playtesting) and Jeff hasn’t gamed in a few years. I pitched a idea that I’ve been sitting on for a while – pair of investigators in an Investigative Guild in Ravenloft – Gothic Fantasy Horror Crime buddy-action-flick and they were in. A week later we got together to make characters and talk Session 0 stuff.

Kranev Investigative Guild

Jeff said something about being mad science-y and Storn spiked that volleyball set with an idea about one being mad science and the other being arcane magic. It was quickly apparent that Lamordia was the domain There’s 2, maybe 3 pages of material about Lamordia in Van Richten’s Guide to Ravenloft and there’s a sweet map. That is about perfect for us.

I talked about keeping my trap shut about grand theories and ideas concerning Ravenloft’s true nature, thinking that we’d get plenty of mileage out of Lamordia before we started looking into those kinds of greater mysteries of the nature of the world around them. I tossed out the idea that maybe their first case was a murder at Strahd’s supper party but they want Strahd to be a myth to be met (or not) later. Thank goodness; I like what we ended up with much better.

Was the chapterhouse of their investigative guild a bustling and established branch or a haunted closet above a pub or a worn down mess? We went with a worn down mess; they are the only investigators and there is a House Chamberlain, Artem Aviet, missing an arm from a wound taken on the job as an investigator. On the drive home it occurred to me that Artem rides a bicycliopede to work.

Victorian bicycle from pixabay.

Starting at third level for a few reasons – it allows me to not fret about killing the characters. Also, it means they had a case or two already. Discussed options and took it a step farther, going full hit points at every level so I can really lean into the monsters and not worry much about an awkward total-party-kill.

Immediately started discussing the past cases.

Case #1: The Inspector General of the Ludendorf Constablery, Mathias Vimmer, went missing and the case is not closed.


His Second-in-Command, now acting Inspector General Leopold Kandel, who doesn’t like them (also the brother of…more on this later)

His Ex-Husband, Lukas Kronecker, professor of biology

His daughter, Robin Vimmer – ??? who is she?

His Nemesis, unnamed as of yet, who was on a prison hulk when Mathias went missing.

Case #2: High-end burglary, using science and arcane skillsets. They got the suspects, the Shallows Gang, off. Jeff rocked out with the name and details about the gang being named for the street they prowl, where the city’s first cemetery had been but flooding kept washing away bodies. Sometimes today, floods still unearth bodies that were missed and not moved. Recent thought, the cemetery was moved so it could be better fortified against corpse-thieving anatomy professors at the local university.

Standing Stone

Saint Ezra in the mists. 
Standing stones like this one from a farmer's field outside of Ludendorf can 
be found all over Greater Ravenloft, depicting Saint Ezra in tasks from his 
gospels or more obscure and even heretical depictions.

The Bluetspuri War – there is a war in a faraway land. When soldiers return they have uniform scars on their heads because there is a disease in that foreign land and the medicine has to be administered through the brain cavity for some reason. The Bluetspuri War, in the craggy, surreal lands of Bluetspur, where mountains are said to be as large as gods and no one can quite agree on what the Bluetspuri are like or what makes them seem inhuman.

Why Dread Domain Detectives Illustrated? Because Storn always draws while we game (see below). Today he was taking notes but I can’t wait to see him rock out again. CLICK HERE to hire him to create art that embodies your character(s) or hire him to stuff your book with amazing art.

Talis Arsalan is Storn’s character, whose dad remarried into a Vistani Clan and runs a merchant caravan. He’s an immigrant to Lamordia and his ladyfriend, Larissa Kandel, is 8 months pregnant. She was in the war, from a military family, 95th Infantry (Ranger). Her all military family is not a fan of him about now.

We agreed Talis has a good relationship with his step-mom.

Viktor Aubrecker is Jeff’s character, is a cousin to the ruling family of Lamordia but he’s far away from any throne, 17th in line. Maybe he’ll go Rogue; maybe Artificer or some blend. His family is not happy that he let his scoundrel friends con his betrothed out of money, soiling a profitable match for the family. Rich kid turned rogue scientist – thinking about Perdido Street Station‘s Isaac Dan der Grimnebulin and his fringe-science-buddies in their warehouse apartment. Viktor’s nose is still crooked from when his father broke it. His sister is in university and they get along.

A beloved auntie knows Celia Kranev and put a word in for him. Celia hired him to get the Ludendorf Chapter House running again as a branch of her Investigative Guild.

I’m going to read up on Insight, Investigate, Perception and Persuasion – so when/if I make some changes it will be from an informed place. Discussed this and some options, confident that we’ll find houserules that work for us. Can’t wait to show them Bingo XP.

I’ve got a few half-written tables for creating cases and a few ideas on some strange jobs related to the Investigative Guild. Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein on audiobook is ready to roll after I’m done with War of the Worlds.

I have been daydreaming about what kind of case to write up for the first game and I think I’m going to go with classic noir trope mixed with betrothal contracts among Lamordian noblity, “I believe my husband is cheating on me and will pay you to prove it…”

Writing notes now, can’t wait.

The End, with human/bat skeleton, wings fanned out.

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All Shadows Lead to Gloomwrought, Session 6, The Three Who Are One

All Shadows Lead to Gloomwrought, Session 6, The Three Who Are One

In which 5 of the Sigil 6 destroy the Three Who Are One.

All Shadows Lead to Gloomwrought / Session 6: The Three Who Are One

Who are the Sigil 6 – Trundle, Helewynn, Bugwump, Kuru, Jusko and Failed Soldier?

Sigil 6 Subject Divider
  • Jusko’s player was sick (just the flu) and so when Jusko and Kuru evaded the dragon and arrived at the Dread Bridge, Jusko had the Shadow Disease, in which someone’s shadow tries to kill them. Kuru paid the bridge-warriors for some aerial support while the villagers travel. They will escort Jusko back if he should defeat the Shadow Disease.

    “It is common when Prime Material folk come to the Shadowfell. Coin flip if he defeats it or his shadow devours him…”

    Feel better, Drew!

  • Helewynn’s newly bitten werewolves divided into 3 packs and scouted the 3 castles where the Three Who Are One could have been. I had Helewynn’s player roll a Perception check, acting through her packs. It was a solid success. They knew where the undead abomination, a conglomerate undead of 3 siblings who wanted to carve a Kingdom of Heaven from the Shadowfell’s darkness.

    I grabbed a beautiful map from Dyson Logos’ site and threw it in our Jamboard. The map I chose was a Dwarven castle, so yeah, the Paladins took on a ruined Dwarven keep when they settled here. I am really enjoying giving the players the maps as often as possible. We did a little entryway planning, took our hour-into-the-session break and got to it.

  • 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 for 5 level 8 and 9 characters.

    The Three Who Are One opened with Finger of Death and took Kuru the Halfling Rogue down to 4 hit points. That set the tone as Bugwump messed up the Three Who Are One’s plans by creating a gravity well that sucked the monsters into a hallway that the Three was going to make a kill zone.

    The players had a rough dice night. The Three bought itself a round with Mirror Image, forcing Helewynn to swing at illusions for a round. When they destroyed the Zombie Clot and had the Three Who Are One down to 2 hit points, it cast Dimension Door and got outta there.

    Failed Soldier found it with magic and they ran through (or Misty Stepped) through a Cloudkill and made their way through an Ice Storm and Trundle missed twice (the d20 was cruel to Trundle tonight) and Kuru jumped on the monster’s back and finished it.

  • As it fell, its skulls splitting into pieces, Trundle said, “We will watch over your people; you can rest now.” Failed Soldier offered a ritual to put the dead to rest. Trundle took on a Cleric level and has begun to worship a God of Portals. He is going to make his way through the keep, getting to know the place by learning about its doorways and doors. Kuru wants the magic items. We were a half hour over time to finish the fight. We’ll get to all that next game.

DM’s Notes: That was a fun fight, and in some ways, a tougher fight than Strahd. But as we discussed after the game, not everyone was there and they charged right in and took the monster on head-on, something they worked hard to avoid with the First Vampire.

Next Game: The village heads northward along the Salt road towards Gloomwrought, City of Midnight. We’re call it Shadowfell Oregon Trail.

Sigil 6 Subject Divider

More Actual Play posts about the Thursday Night Delving Club’s shenanigans? Links Below:

These designs and more in my Threadless shop – t-shirts of all kinds, mugs, stickers and even shower curtains…

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.

Bat/Human Skeleton Subject Divider

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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
Curse of Strahd, Session II, Battle of Ravenwatch

Curse of Strahd, Session II, Battle of Ravenwatch

Curse of Strahd / Session II / Battle of Ravenatch with bats fluttering in the light of a huge moon

In which Ravenwatch falls…

human/bat skeleton

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

  • 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.

  • Battle on the stairway continues with Failed Soldier, Corpseflea Grave Cleric, Helewynn, Moon Elf Barbarian and Bugwump, Frog-kin Wizard. Interesting judgment call when the cleric cast Daylight. Does it count as sunlight against vampires? Third level cleric spell, I said it does (to great effect). It doesn’t say so in the spell description but…seems clear to me.


  • Failed Soldier opened a portal door near a shrine to Ulmed to what usually leads to a Godroad but it was only a closet with old scrolls with desperate unanswered prayers. No Godroads in Ravenloft, it seems.

    There was a prayer from a young lady who has dreams about being chased and killed by Strahd…

  • Jusko tried to intimidate Strahd but they tied. Would it have damaged Strahd’s mystique if he had pulled back his forces after an intimidation check? Maybe.

    It was a cool-ass speech.

  • Trundle tried to save the Cardinal Inquisitor’s life after his chest was ripped open by Strahd but they died for good when Strahd threw a fireball at Kuru, the Halfling Rogue, Jusko, Human Fighter and Trundle, Dwarven Ranger. He damaged them badly, some folks were in single digits at that point.

    Jusko talked shit to him about throwing a spell.

  • Then Jusko and Trundle joined the battle on the stairwell, leaving Kuru alone and invisible in the room with the portal to Sigil. Strahd polymorphed into Jusko and begged the City Agent to take away the telekinetic block on their side of the portal. The block came down and Kuru attempted to destroy the portal with his knife that can cut spells. He did 18 of 20 points of damage but didn’t quite bring it down. Next round, Strahd would walk through the portal into Sigil.

  • Helewynn traded blows with a Moon Elf sworn to Strahd. Helewynn expressed disdain for one of her own kind serving a monster; the Moon Elf sister answered, “You should learn more about the Lady of Pain before judging me for serving Strahd.”

    For those following at home, Rahadin is now a Moon Elf maiden.

    In the end, Rahadin misty-stepped away as Strahd departed.

  • Jusko tackled Strahd and Trundle cut him with a flame-brand short sword, leaving a scar. Strahd turned to mist and withdrew as Bugwup took position in front of the portal, rocking a, “YOU SHALL NOT PASS!”

    Strahd could’ve made it through the portal but he would’ve been damaged during daylight (it was day in Sigil) in a strange new place. He had seen a Githyanki mage and a Drider on the other side. Nah, he’ll withdraw and come at it another way.

  • They grabbed what they could from the monastery and headed out into the forest.

    Stuff: magic sword from Cardinal Inquisitor, map of Barovia, Book of Strahd, Holy Symbol of Ravenkind, Books on Monster Hunting, Books on Demi-Planar Theory, cloaks, foodstuffs, etc.

    One of the dead vampires was a member of the former Outlands Expedition Team

  • No levels this session via the Bingo Board XP:

human/bat skeleton

This design and more in the Tabletop Role-Playing Game Collection…

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.

Ravenloft Domain: The Jaggard Fleet

Ravenloft Domain: The Jaggard Fleet

Listen here and come to know how Gentleman Bill Jaggard, the most polite pirate to ever sail the Summer Ocean, became a consort to a Storm Goddess, a pawn of the Mists and a wraith on the Dread Seas.

When he was living Gentleman Jaggard robbed the Summer Queen’s ships for the better part of a year from his ship, The Forbidden Folio. Her majesty put a price on his head, demanding that he be brought to her alive. The Queen wanted him alive as a courtesy for his mindful manners, as a method to enrage her jealous husband – the King, and as a centerpiece for one of her famous parties.

The King’s most leal captain was irate that he could not kill the pirate outright. Captain Robin “Puck” Goodfellow set a trap for Bill and captured him aboard the H.M.S. Merry Wanderer but could not kill him because of the Queen’s powerful magic. Instead, he took the captured pirate to a fell shrine honoring the Mother of Storms, a vicious stone statue of a mermaid as tall as a castle tower made of sharp stone and coral. The shrine was a finger of land only inhabited by vicious crabs and mocking seagulls. Captain Goodfellow put Bill in a crow’s cage hanging from the Storm Goddess’ trident. Puck spilled blood to the Mother, asking her to destroy any ships that approached to try and save the pirate.

And they tried. Pirates from every corner of the sea came to try and save Bill. Starving, dehydrated, hanging on the crow’s cage, Bill’s hope died as he watched familiar sails approach on the horizon and unnatural storms sink them one by one.

Finally, a young captain named Petra Quince, guiding his ship, the Roaring Lion, got closer than anyone had yet. Petra had been born on Bill’s ship and had come up through the pirate ranks and now had her own ship. When the Roaring Lion set anchor, an ugly laughter tried to escape Bill’s dry throat. The bloody laughter turned to agonizing sobs as a storm approached and smashed the rowboats into the Mother of Storm’s shrine, sinking the Roaring Lion under the waves.

As the crabs ate the last of his friends who had given their lives to try and save him, the Mists rolled in and Captain Jaggard’s Fleet was born. The Jaggard Fleet is made of the dead friends he watched sink trying to save him, now his undead armada.

They say he is not a gentleman no more. He likes to say that he is the Mother of Storm’s consort and often makes sacrifices to her, turning prisoners without use into chum.

There is no known way to kill Captain Jaggard or keep his fell fleet sunk. Since the Mists have adopted him he has been drawn and quartered, tossed into a Leviathan’s mouth, cut into pieces and fed to a Dragon Turtle and beheaded by a named Holy Avenger whose blade’s edge had been kissed by an angel. The only way to exorcise him and his fleet from the seas forever would be to capture him and bring him to the Queen of the Feywild.

But what crew could take and hold an undead pirate and what ship could survive the Mother of Storm’s wrath? It is said all of the elements of Jaggard’s bloody path to Ravenloft were captured by the Mists from the Mother of Storm’s fell shrine to the Puck’s Merry Wanderer. However the Summer Queen kept the Mists at Bay with her arcane might, despite her part in Jaggard’s rebirth. In order to exorcise the wraith pirate, he would have to be brought outside of Ravenloft to the Summer Court. No sailor has navigated the Domain of Dread’s seas (Sighs, Souls, Secrets, Storms, Shoals, Sorrows) into the outside world…not yet.

Until someone does, when mists roll in on ports and bloody laughter is heard by the City Watch, the Jaggard Fleet will follow, bringing death and devastation in their wake.

Captain Bill is a Wraith while his crew is a mix of Ghouls, Wights and Zombies.

Darklord: Captain Bill Jaggard

Hallmarks: Nautical Horror, Port and Island Domains

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