Well hello you little dungeon monsters you. It’s Slick Dungeon back again with a little campaign diary for the ultimate RPG vampire Strahd Van Zarovich.
Before I go too far, fair warning that this has spoilers for The Curse of Strahd.
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.
First, of course, I read the part of the book that deals with the village of Barovia since that’s where the characters are. There are a good number of NPC’s there to manage but it’s not a huge village so it’s more or less manageable. I took notes about each one since I wasn’t 100% sure what the characters would choose to do.
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 re-watched the video below.
The Fourth Session
At the start of this session, Ismark who is now the Burgomaster of Barovia because his father recently died, has two goals. First, he wants to bury his father. Second, he wants to get his sister Ireena to the town of Vallaki so that she might be safe from Strahd’s clutches. The players basically have one goal. They want to get the heck out of Dodge which is proving very difficult right now. They do keep having dreams that feature Madame Eva, a powerful Vistani psychic. They even find a Tarokka card once they wake up. Ismark has told the players he knows where a Vistani camp is and that he will accompany the players to it, if the players help him to bury his father and get Ireena to Vallaki in exchange. Everyone readily agreed.
My players also seem to have some idea that vampires must be invited to enter a building. To my players what this means is that, they want to become experts in Barovian real estate law, and say that Strahd is not rightfully invited to his own castle. I think that’s their plan anyway? It can be hard to tell with players sometimes.
As the players were waiting around to have the funeral start, they explored town a bit. There they ran into a woman with a cart who is selling meat pies. Now, my players are musical theater fans and so the instant they heard the words meat pies, their suspicions were up. If you have read the Strahd module you will know why. And of course, they are right. But so far, the woman has only presented herself as a sweet old lady. A lot of people around town seem to be really into the pies though. My players bought some but then gave them away. Then they bought some more but never ate them. Honestly, I don’t think that the characters actually have to eat these things for the part that comes later in the book to still be horrifying.
Once the party had wandered around, it was time for the funeral. It was a somber affair with a good portion of town showing up. Ismark was of course sad and Ireena was nearly inconsolable. Ismark didn’t even want Ireena to go to the funeral, figuring it was not safe.
If you read far enough into Curse of Strahd, you will get to a character called Rahadin and to me this is one of the most interesting and awesome NPC’s in the book. The guy simply radiates evil. He has killed so many people that if you get within ten feet of the guy, you can hear the screams of all the men and women he has killed in his lifetime. When I first read the module, I felt he was sorely underused. Thankfully the reddit thread I have linked to above gave him a great cameo and I used that.
So, the players meet the Priest, father Donavich. He has a bandage on his hand but is a kindly man. He brings everyone out to the graveyard, not going through the church, but rather around the back, and has a quiet service for Ismark and Ireena’s father.
After the service the players notice a man standing in the shadows. He comes over to the party and they hear the screaming of tons of voices that sounds like it comes directly from him. (Note: I did not use this trait in a combat sense for this encounter because the players were never threatening toward him and vice versa). This of course was Rahadin and he delivered a letter to Ireena and faded away. It was a fairly sympathetic letter from Strahd himself. Hopefully by now my players are realizing that Strahd is fond of correspondence and can basically drop a letter to anyone anytime anywhere.
Miles, the human Acolyte sorcerer player asked Rahadin if he was okay and if he could hear anything odd. Rahadin said no and wished everyone a good day and disappeared into the mists.
That left the players pretty well freaked out. Ismark and Ireena are none too happy either. They said their good nights and got some rest. But before they left, Ismark asked Miles to look into the fact that people have been disappearing in town lately. He’s pretty sure it’s not Strahd’s doing but he hasn’t had time to figure out what’s up. Miles agrees and Ismark tells them that they have a couple of days to get it sorted out since they need to pack at any rate. Also, Miles asked Father Donavich to look around for books related to Barovian real estate law. He said he’d give it a shot.
Wandering around town the next day, the players made it to Mad Mary’s house. To tell you this next part, I need to tell you a little history of Mad Mary. Also, this part is more or less from that reddit thread, with a little from the book. Mad Mary has a daughter named Getruda who she never told anyone about. Gertruda has been locked up in Mary’s house for ages. Well, Gertruda is a fifteen year old girl who wants to see the world. The week before the players arrived, she escaped her house. She has disappeared but it’s totally unrelated to the missing people in town.
Gertruda is the owner of the dog that has been palling around with the players. So as they walked by the house, Lancelot, the dog, runs into the house and sits in Mary’s lap. Mary has been essentially driven insane so she doesn’t make a ton of sense when she speaks to the characters. (That was fun but also a little difficult to role play) The characters do get out of Mary that she has a daughter who is missing but she’s confused on when it might have happened. She also saw someone dragging a body through the streets. She’s sure that the body wasn’t Gertruda and that it was not the same night that she left. The fact that the two events were not the same event wasn’t conveyed very well but then again, Mary is not in her right mind.
The characters explore a little more around town and find a house that seems to have been broken into and has a bloody candlestick holder on the ground. Eventually they made it up to the church. It turns out that Father Donavich had a son who went off to fight Strahd. It did not go as planned and the son who was in his twenties or so, was turned into a vampire spawn. With a little intimidation and some persuasion, Lady Elarian and Miles got the priest to admit the fact that he has been knocking people out and then feeding them to his son to sate his blood thirst.
The players were smart enough to not want to tangle with a vampire spawn on their own so they convinced Donavich to do the right and noble thing and kill the thing in the basement. They helped him sharpen some wood into stakes and waited until the deed was done.
With that accomplished they went back to Ismark and told him what had happened. They also ran across the meat pie woman once more but still did not eat any pies. Shame.
Ismark let them know he and Ireena were ready to go and they are provisioned up and going to set out at dawn.
That’s where our session ended and I’m really looking forward to the next session or two because very likely we will be doing the Tarokka reading for the players which should be quite fun.
What I would do different
For this session, there is not a huge amount of stuff I would change. I did have a couple points though.
- It was really difficult to get my players to understand that Gertruda is missing but no one knows who she is because she has never been revealed to the world. The only real clue to her is the dog and it’s not even guaranteed that the players will come across her in the game but now they think that they have to find and rescue this girl. We’ll see what happens with that because they also think it’s possible this happened years ago, since Mary has not been in her right mind in a long time. They got that impression from an offhand remark Ismark made about Mary being “mad Mary” for a long time. I think I would have someone else provide the clues about missing people if I went with this scenario again.
- You can never fully predict players so I seriously did not expect them to want to become experts on ancient Barovian real estate law. But they do want to be which makes sense in a roundabout way. They also have a deed for a house and windmill so technically there has to be some law surrounding property in these lands. This is not something I would change since I didn’t predict this whole thing, but I think I am going to do all I can as a Dungeon Master to have these characters running around all over Barovia looking for the one guy who knows real estate law. I haven’t exactly figured out how to do it but for now, they were just told to check in the town of Vallaki. In the town of Vallaki I will have someone tell them to go somewhere else and so on until I finally give in and let them meet some random NPC who just loves real estate law. That should be entertaining.
I’ll be back next time to tell you if the characters make it to Madam Eva and what she tells them if she does a reading for them after we have our next session.
If you want to get a physical copy of Curse of Strahd for yourself, check it out below.
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