Curse of Strahd – Campaign Diary Session 4

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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.

You can read the first three campaign diaries here, 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.

Preparation

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.

This is just one of a great series of Strahd DM videos

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.

Ireena

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.

Father Donavich

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.

Cursedly Yours,

Slick Dungeon

This page contains affiliate links. If you purchase a product through one of them, I will receive a commission (at no additional cost to you). I only ever endorse products I have personally used. Thank you for your support!

Curse of Strahd – Campaign Diary Session 3

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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 Strahdwait until you finish to read this post. That goes for my players too!

Preparation

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.

A hungry wolf looking for supper

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.

Gates of Barovia

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.

Ismark

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.

  1. 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)
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

If you want to get a physical copy of Curse of Strahd for yourself, check it out below.

Cursedly Yours,

Slick Dungeon

This page contains affiliate links. If you purchase a product through one of them, I will receive a commission (at no additional cost to you). I only ever endorse products I have personally used. Thank you for your support!

Curse of Strahd – Campaign Diary Session 2

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Hi Everyone, Slick Dungeon your friendly Dungeon Master back with more campaign diaries for the Curse of Strahd.

You can read the first campaign diary 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 player too!

Preparation

My players were left stranded in Barovia on the road leading to the village and the first building they came to was a house. Outside were two children who beckoned them to come in and save their little brother from a monster in the basement. The players readily agreed but did not know they were entering the so called, “Death House.”

The Death House is a module for 1-3 level players that you can find in the appendix to Curse of Strahd. You can also get this as a free module to play as a stand alone one shot adventure here. This is a great module to do if you want a bit of a grinder haunted house for low level characters. I think it would probably be fun to run around Halloween and I would say it takes about four hours total to run so it’s not a huge session commitment.

I prepared for this part by reading the Death House section in Strahd, then I took a look at this reddit thread and used some, but not all of the changes in there.

I am kind of an over preparer so I made notes between the book and the thread and wrote an outline that I then printed out. If you do that when you run a campaign, remember not to rely solely on your notes. It’s still fine to improvise right in the middle of what you are doing and there is no predicting what your players will do. I often find myself happy to have the crutch of the notes but then only kind of glancing at them during the session.

With that all set up, we were ready to play.

The second session

Lady Ellarian and Miles Adelard have entered and explored the first floor of Durst Manor. They found a few curious items such as a book that told Miles’ life story in exact detail up to the moment he was in, with the last page saying a creature attacked and then a blood splatter at the bottom of the page. When Miles went to look behind him, there was no creature. Lady Ellarian looked into a mirror and found herself reflected back but ten years older. There was a room where some stuffed wolves moved but… only when they were not looking.

They made their way up to the second floor at which point they made their first mistake. They rushed past a suit of armor only to discover that it was animated. The suit kept trying to push them off of the balcony but they eventually defeated it. Miles did have to make some death saving throws first though. He passed them and his character is still alive.

The battle was pretty vicious but the characters got to level up as a result. They explored all the rooms and realized that the only way to go was up.

In one room they found a note written by Strahd Van Zarovich and they freaked out. It was pretty awesome because they were convinced Strahd was there and were panicked about what to do. That’s perfect in a horror setting because you always want the players to feel unbalanced and like anything could happen.

Eventually they encountered a few ghosts, ghasts and spirits and started to piece together what happened years ago at Durst manor. They story is that the father of the house had an affair with the nursemaid. The mother who was already going a little off the deep end lost it. They had been conducting rituals with a cult in tribute to Strahd in hopes of gaining his favor. One night, the mother, locked her two oldest children in their bedroom so that she, her husband and the cult could complete this ritual. But before that happened, the wife killed the nursemaid, the husband hung himself and then the wife sacrificed the baby. The ritual worked, but it didn’t call Strahd, it called a Shambling Mound instead. That creature devoured everyone who was left in the basement dungeons, including the wife. Strahd thought this whole family was pathetic and was pretty much glad to be rid of them for annoying him with their stupid rituals in the first place. Poor Rose and Thorn starve to death in their room, thinking that there is a monster in the basement, because that’s what their mother told them. In addition, they are pretty sure someone took their baby brother Walter down there. That’s why Rose and Thorn ask anyone passing by to help out.

After a few encounters with these ghosts who are in the house (all of them non-combative) and finding some keys, the party was able to unlock some secret doors that would allow them to go down into the basement dungeons. They also picked up a dog that is still following them around.

That’s where things started to get serious. They started by entering the crypts of the house. Somehow, even though I gave pretty much every clue possible they couldn’t figure out that the crypt labeled Walter Durst was for the baby. I don’t think that was my failure in this case, I just think that they missed it.

They found some treasure which was exciting for them but then promptly fell into a spiked pit trap which was also exciting but in more of an oh no we are going to die here kind of way.

While exploring the Larder they were viciously attacked by a Grick. This one knocked out Miles with ease and although he technically died in the encounter, he was brought back although he is not sure how. I do but I’m not going to spoil the surprise here because it should come into play in a later session.

The Grick was a lot tougher creature than I remembered though and it had a pretty easy time going after the adventurers.

In their next encounter they had a little more warning because Lancelot (the dog that they found) started whimpering when a hand rose out of the ground. The fought courageously against four ghouls and stood their ground.

After that they moved onto a room with a statue in it and the statue was holding an orb. Miles touched it and boom, now Strahd knows the adventurers are in town. Of course the players and PC’s don’t know that but I do.

As they delved further into the basement they realized that there were ghostly specters performing rituals over and over again. The characters were either going to have to stop the ritual or stop whatever the ritual called forth. Or I guess they could have sacrificed the dog and completed the ritual but, who wants to kill an innocent dog? So the Shambling Mound was summoned and there was a loooong battle. Miles hit it with some magic and Lady Ellarian stuck it with her longsword more times than I could count but in the end they were triumphant.

Then chaos broke loose. The house began tumbling down around them. We ran a skill challenge for them to escape before sudden death. They had to succeed on four skill checks before getting three failures. Using dexterity, stealth, acrobatics and deception, they were able to avoid various obstacles and survive.

What did they find once they got outside of the house? A gift basket from Strahd himself with four potions of healing and a thank you note for dealing the the “Death House” for him.

To say the players feel off balance would be an understatement I think. They are essentially stranded on a road that leads one way and have to basically walk into the town where they know things can’t be good.

What I would do different

Here’s what I would do different next time I run this part.

  1. I would use Lancelot more as an early warning for characters to realize combat is coming.
  2. I would give even more clues about the whole situation of what lead up to the death of the Dursts.
  3. I would probably ratchet the Grick down a bit depending on how experienced the players I am playing with are. That thing hits really hard once it has hold of you.
  4. I would find more opportunities to have Rose and Thorn show up. (By the way if you use Rose and Thorn, showing their picture just kind of makes it so the characters won’t trust them. They can actually be helpful to the characters so I hid their picture from my players.)

I’ll be back next time to tell you what happens on the road to the Village of Barovia.

f you want to get a physical copy of Curse of Strahd for yourself, check it out below.

Cursedly Yours,

Slick Dungeon

This page contains affiliate links. If you purchase a product through one of them, I will receive a commission (at no additional cost to you). I only ever endorse products I have personally used. Thank you for your support!

Curse of Strahd – Campaign Diary Session 1

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Hey everyone out there, it’s your friendly Dungeon Master Slick here. I’ve had a lot of time to hang out with some friends lately and we decided to play a little game you may have heard of called Dungeons & Dragons. We wanted to go with Curse of Strahd since none of us had played it before. I got to be the Dungeon Master and I have two players playing. Before you ask, yes we did this while practicing social distancing. I stayed in my dungeon and they stayed in theirs and we played online. If you click the link above for Strahd, do be advised that it is for Fantasy Grounds that is an online platform you can use to play Dungeons & Dragons, not just a PDF you can download. I will also provide a link at the end of the post where you could get a physical copy of the book if you want.

A couple notes before I get into the game session here. First, if you have been reading my Kids Kill Monsters series about playing Dungeons & Dragons with kids, this post is not about that. I will get back to doing those posts soon but I really do not recommend Strahd for kids or dungeon masters new to the game because it gets a little complicated, there are dark horror elements to it, and there are so many ways this can end up going wrong. That said, if you have a kid who loves horror (I have since I was like eight years old) and you feel they are mature and sophisticated enough to take on some pretty dark stuff, have at it. Also, there will be spoilers for the module of Curse of Strahd so if you are a player who is either about to play or is currently playing this campaign, you should probably not read this. That goes double for my players! Don’t read this guys.

I’ll wait for players to exit the room and we have all Dungeon Masters or would be Dungeon Masters here.

Okay the coast is clear, DM’s read on.

In these diaries, it’s my intention to tell you what I did to prepare, how the session played out, and what I would try to change or improve the next time. I hope you’ll find the story a little bit entertaining but mostly I hope I can give some advice to anyone interested in running this campaign for themselves. I’m going to be writing these campaign diaries with the assumption that you know at least a little bit about how the game is played but if anything in here seems confusing, feel free to ask about it in the comments. So without further ado, let’s get into it.

Preparation

I’m going to give you the most obvious advice ever but, if you want to run a campaign well, one thing you have to do is… read the module. Yeah, I know, you probably know this already. In order to prepare I did just that. I read the book. After reading the book, I still had a ton of questions on how I wanted to run certain things, and how certain things worked.

If you have read this module you will know that there is this sort of Tarot card style reading using what they call a Tarokka deck. You can use regular playing cards to do this reading, as long as you have all 54 cards in the deck (jokers included). The module tells you to do this reading once on your own and once with players. I highly recommend practicing this a few times. I think I have it down, but that hasn’t been put to the test yet because my players have not gotten to the point where they would have their reading done.

Once I read the module and I felt like I had a somewhat decent handle on how it’s supposed to run, I started scouring the internet for resources. I love the Gothic horror aspect of the campaign, although I do cringe at some of the parts of the module that seem like they might lead into uncomfortable territory for players. I did find a really handy resource though and if you want to run this campaign, I think you should definitely check out this channel, and the resources on it. Lunch Break Heroes has thoroughly turned up the narration and the horror on this campaign to eleven. I linked to the whole play list of his videos for the campaign below so you might want to start with the earliest videos about adventure hooks and running the “Death House” module first.

If you would rather read through his awesome guide, you can get it here on his Curse of Strahd Reloaded reddit thread.

I took the parts that I liked from the module and from the book and added a little of my own flavor to how I thought things should go. Once I was prepped, we met to make characters.

Characters

One player decided to be Lady Ellarian Brysalor, a wood elf noble fighter with a tragic past and the huge burden of having inherited a large estate after her whole family was wiped out in a zombie attack. (My players decided to make it a zombie attack because I have zombie anxiety dreams and they thought it would be funny… so yeah there’s that.)

Also just a side note, I am not sure where the pictures I am posting below come from so if anyone knows, let me know and I will credit the source. Or if you own the image and want it removed just let me know and I will take it down.

The other player created the character of Miles Adelard a human Acolyte Sorcerer also with a tragic back story. When Miles was young, his family was killed by a cult of some kind. Later in life he was adopted by a kind hearted family. They taught him the ways of Lathander and he became a devote religious student. Sadly, his family was also attacked and killed by what may be the same cult as before.

I don’t know why my players both wanted to have their entire families dead at the beginning of this but Strahd is definitely dark enough to encompass this sort of thing.

We decided to start everyone at level one. I’m not going to put all their stats and stuff here but if you really want me to, just let me know in the comments. Since we were going to begin with level one, I had to make a couple of decisions. First, what adventure hook did I want to play and, should I run the so called, “Death House” module that is in the appendix of the book.

I decided to go with the “Mysterious Visitors” adventure hooks with a couple of the changes from the reddit thread I posted above. In this hook, basically, the characters start in Daggerford, are asked to deal with some bandits who turn out to be Vistani from Barovia (the realm that Strahd rules over) who then ask the characters to come and help them. I added in the little plot idea that Madam Eva, an important NPC that shows up later in the game has sent them some dreams that have haunted them for the past few nights.

I also decided to run the Death House module which was a little trickier because we weren’t starting in Barovia. The reason I didn’t want to start in Barovia was twofold. First, my players are quite familiar with The Sword Coast and were pretty good with starting there. Secondly, I like the idea of feeling like you pass from one realm to another, with no way out. Again taking a cue from the reddit thread above, I placed the house, rebranded Durst Manor just outside of the village of Barovia.

After all that was set, we were ready to play.

The first session

At the beginning I leaned hard into the roleplay. I wanted to set the tone and the mood early on, so I didn’t just read the boxed text that says the characters are having dinner with Lady Morwen. She’s a noble character so I thought it made sense that she would know Lady Ellarian Brysalor. Miles was accompanying her because they had in the past befriended one another when Miles was curing one of Ellarian’s townsfolk and asked for no repayment or reward. From then on, the two of them had become fast friends and often traveled together. Ellarian had some business to take care of in Daggerford and got the invite to dinner with Lady Morwen.

While at dinner, Lady Morwen made it known that there had been some trouble outside the gates of town and her guards seemed like they had potentially been the subjects of a charm spell. Naturally the players offered up their assistance immediately.

When Miles and Ellarian approached the Vistani wagons, they wanted to go in stealthily but Miles failed his stealth check badly so he fell on his face and the Vistani were well aware that the characters were traipsing around the camp.

In the book, Stanimir is supposed to be the leader of the Vistani here and tells a little story about Strahd and how he is more or less cursed and a tyrant. Then he is supposed to ask the players to come and free Strahd. I felt like that was a little too straight forward so I played Stanimir as if he was a little sketchy bur really friendly and warm. I think the book expects for the players to suddenly think these people are totally harmless even though Lady Morwen is suspicious of them. If I did this over, I think I would have just made Lady Morwen ask the characters to conduct some business on her behalf instead of cast the Vistani in a poor light right from the get-go. I did even have one player say during the story that it felt like an adventure hook. He was right of course and he’s an experienced player so I am not surprised by it, but I didn’t want it to feel quite so railroaded. I also took the advice from that reddit thread above to say that the characters could share stories with the Vistani before Stanimir did his. Miles told an excellent impromptu legend about a dragon that swooped in to save some heroes during a mighty battle. It was a really great role playing experience and was my favorite part of the session. Then Stanimir started talking about the same woman that the characters had seen in their dreams, Madam Eva. I won’t say it convinced the players to go, but it didn’t hurt.

In the module Lady Morwen basically wants the characters to leave by dawn but the characters are supposed to go with them. I felt like this part did not work at all because also in the module the Vistani in this camp agree immediately to leave at dawn anyway. So mission accomplished. Like I said above, if I ran this again I would change a bit of what Lady Morwen is asking here. Lesson learned for next time.

After a bit of back and forth, the players went back and reported to Lady Morwen what they had seen. The players were still really suspicious of Stanimir. In order to get them to sympathize a little more with the Vistani I revealed that Lady Morwen’s servant had been caught trying to steal the Vistani’s wine, so they roughed him up for that. I even had Lady Morwen go apologize to Stanimir to get them to agree to go in the wagons toward Barovia.

In the module as written, the characters travel a while with the Vistani and then the forest suddenly becomes unrecognizable as the fog creeps in around everyone. The players don’t know it but this is a plane shift. Of course, when I described it to them, the players lost it on Stanimir and got pretty mad at him. Stanimir talked them down a bit as if it was no big deal but told them that it would be a bad idea to go into the fog on their own.

In order for the Death House module to work, it made the most sense to me to have Stanimir leave the characters when they were just outside Barovia. He stops the wagons, confesses that Madam Eva has banished Stanimir and his group and that his punishment is to bring people to these lands until someone frees Barovia of Strahd. He then splits out of town in a hurry.

The rain starts to pour and it gets late. As the characters are stumbling around in the dark, they see a lantern. They make their way over to it and see a girl with her little brother. The girl tells the characters that there is a monster in their house and they are worried about their little brother. I honestly thought I would get to role play this part a little more. Rose and Thorn are the siblings here and I did find them pretty interesting in the book. But the players were just like, yep, let’s go save that kid, find the basement! Hehehe… trap sprung.

I will say that one of the really smart bits of advice in the reddit thread is to not call this part Death House. I’ve just been referring to it as Durst Manor. I think the players are aware that they are in a haunted house but they have no idea what they are really in for.

They spent the rest of the session trying to figure out how to get to the basement. In the dining room there was a magnificent feast laid out and Miles took a huge bite out of a pheasant. I had him make a DC 15 wisdom save. He rolled a 7. After a minute the food turned rotted and to what it really was and Miles is currently poisoned.

It wasn’t all bad for poor Miles though, as he did find a very serviceable crossbow in one of the cabinets. The players then figured out that there was no access to the basement from the first floor, that the front door was locked, and that the only way to go on is up.

That’s where we will be headed next time.

What I would do different

Here’s what I would do different next time I run this part.

  1. Reduce the role of Lady Morwen and her demands or start the characters right in Barovia.
  2. . Play up the dreams that Madam Eva sends more (this is straight from the reddit thread not from the Curse of Strahd module so don’t look for it there)
  3. Find a way to get a little more star time for Rose and Thorn.
  4. Make the Vistani a little less suspicious but definitely keep the storytelling around the fire.

I’m sure there are lots of other mistakes I made but I would say overall it was a really fun session. I’ll be back to tell you all how the next session goes once we have had it.

If you want to get a physical copy of Curse of Strahd for yourself, check it out below.

Cursedly yours,

Slick Dungeon

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