Hi all you dungeon creatures, Slick Dungeon your friendly Dungeon Master back with more campaign diaries for the Curse of Strahd.
You can read the first two campaign diaries here and here if you want to.
I am going to tell you how I prepared for the session, what happened in the session, and what I would change if I ran this again.
And once again, warning that there are spoilers below so if you are playing Curse of Strahd, wait until you finish to read this post. That goes for my players too!
After being stranded in the lands of Barovia and defeating the “Death House”, my players were ready to see more of the area. They basically had two choices, try and go through the deadly mists (that they didn’t know yet were deadly) or head toward the village of Barovia. Guess which they ended up choosing?
I knew they would have to walk down the road so I was ready to roll on some random encounter tables and I had stat blocks handy for what they might run into. I also took a look at the reddit thread here. There is a great section on beefing up the village of Barovia since there aren’t a ton of obvious missions to do there. I also made a lot of notes on NPC’s because, there are quite a few in this book.
Finally I took a look at this video to prepare.
With that all set up, we were ready to play.
The Third Session
Right off the bat, I told the players that they were on a road and on one side was a mist and in the opposite direction there was a sign pointing toward the Village of Barovia. They were pretty freaked out by Strahd from the last session so they wanted to try to get out of there as quick as they could. Unfortunately for Lady Ellarian Brysalor and Miles Adelard just entering the mist gives you one level of exhaustion. It didn’t take them long to figure out that they were going nowhere that way. They headed towards the village, along with the dog they found in the Death House.
I rolled on the random encounter table and it came up with four wolves. I was pretty sure that they would totally kill the party if any roles went really bad so the wolves followed and kept getting closer. In addition to that there was a raven that seemed to be leading the part along, although I don’t think my players actually made the connection there. That’s fine though because the raven is actually a Wereraven and will come into play later in the game.
It took them about two in game nights to get there and the wolves did end up attacking. Miles rolled really low again so none of his spells worked (he’s a sorcerer at level 3 at this point). Luckily before the wolves totally overwhelmed them, a swarm of ravens attacked the wolves and the characters made it out of there.
When the pair (or trio if you count the dog and yeah, my players totally count the dog) got to the gates of Barovia they were a bit weary. They knocked on the first door they saw and found a Barovian family with a sick father. Miles leaped into action to cure the father but rather than be appreciative, the people just seemed kind of hollow. This is because they don’t have souls as is written for many Barovians in the campaign book. The players thought it was a little weird that they weren’t more appreciative but didn’t think too much of it.
They made their way over to the Blood of the Vine tavern where they met a few Vistani. Considering the experiences they have had with Vistani so far, my players are not very trusting of those people and I can’t say I blame them, what with them getting tricked into going to Barovia and all. They also met Ismark Kolyanovich, a pretty major NPC in the book. He asked the party to help him protect his sister from the vampire Strahd and so far they have an uneasy trust of him.
They explored the town a bit and made it to Bildrath’s mercantile where they met Bildrath who gave them a quest in exchange for a discount at his store. They ended up finding and fighting an Ankheg, and successfully brought the goods back. Even so, Bildrath is a real cheapskate in this book so he still tried to take advantage of the characters.
Later that day, Ismark wanted to show the players just how dangerous it was to take on Strahd. He told them he would help them find a Vistani encampment in exchange for helping him to escort his sister Ireena to the town of Vallaki where he thinks she will be safe from Strahd. Then he showed them that there was an army of ghosts that walk toward Castle Ravenloft at midnight every night. This is all that’s left of the previous adventurers that tried to take on the vampire. I think Ismark showing them that before he allowed them to agree to their mutual deal gained him a lot of trust from the party.
At that point the players decided it was time for a good long rest but they did spend a few minutes talking to the bartender at the Tavern and to the Vistani there. The bartender is soulless and so that gave the characters a good chance to ask about what was wrong with the guy. They learned that not everyone here has a soul and in fact, there are a lot of people that don’t. The Vistani told them a little bit about what they knew about Strahd but not much. The characters also wanted to know how they could get their hands on Stanimir for bringing them here in the first place. They’re not too happy with that guy.
The next day, Ismark plans to go with Ireena to bury his father’s body. We ended our third session here so I will be back more with what happened next in later posts.
What I would do different
I think most of this session went well but there are a couple of things I would change if I ran this again.
- I think I would roll ahead on the encounter table prior to the session to make sure that whatever the players encounter wasn’t going to wipe out the party at the earliest levels. (I do usually do this but wanted to give it a shot the other way this time)
- Honestly, I am kind of tired of playing merchants who can’t stand their customers so I think I would make Bildrath less miserly the next time I played this. I know it’s kind of a common trope to have merchants that are overpriced and just don’t like that characters and while that fits well with this story, it gets old just telling players that everything is way out of their price range.
- I think the thing that worked best was Ismark earning the trust of the characters but I will be honest, I didn’t feel like I role played him that well. I should have read up on him a little more before the start of the session.
I’ll be back next time to tell you how it goes with the burial of the Buromaster in our next session.
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