Curse of Strahd

Abomination Nation, Part 1
Session 18

Thud is released into the pit by Kiril Stoyanovich, along with six children. Stoyanovich explains that they have all been cursed with lycanthropy, but only the strongest or the most ruthless of them may join the tribe. Thud—clearly the strongest—tries to prove to the frightened children that she is not the most ruthless by pointing out that children in Barovia often get eaten.

The sentiment is not well received. The children panic, and half of them embrace their curse on the spot in an attempt to get the drop on the half-orc. Thud fights back and discovers one blow too late that while these are werewolves, they are also still children, and children are not renowned for their ability to take lethal orc beatings.

Chaos breaks out: another of the children embraces their curse after witnessing Thud’s kill. Her attempts to escape are misconstrued and the one of the others cuts her down. The children turn on each other and on Thud, who attempts to wild shape her way out of the pit by turning into an elk.

[[Thud’s fey friend]] asks, “Are these not the ‘abominations’ you spoke of?” but Thud—not especially eager to kill more children—postpones debate on the issue until such time as she has killed Kiril Stoyanovich. She almost succeeds (although another werewolf child is gored by elk antlers in the attempt), but Stoyanovich escapes through a secret hatch in the rock, fleeing down into the den and running straight into Grey, Ezmerelda, and Brenna coming the other way.

Ezmerelda—who once took her school all the way to nationals in werewolf wrasslin’—easily subdues Stoyanovich long enough for Grey to forcibly extract Thud’s whereabouts from him. Then she forcibly extracts more things from him. And then a few things from his corpse. Ezmerelda deems this to be literal overkill, and she and Brenna bond over how weird Grey is. The other werewolves in the den, save for the unconscious Zuleika Toranescu, flee for parts unknown.

Thud, driven to de-curse the last surviving werewolf child (and, incidentally, herself) as atonement for the deaths of the others, knocks the kid out and reunites with the rest of the group. Grey and Brenna, having just lost one friend, promise Thud that they’ll find a way to fix her before the next full moon in two days. Ezmerelda’s on the fence about the whole thing—and is eager to get to Castle Ravenloft—but decides that accompanying the party to Krezek is safer than sleeping in a werewolf den.

On the way out, the party revives Zuleika and—though Thud is both highly suspicious of anyone who would embrace lycanthropy and loathe to give up the child he just swore to save—gives the boy to her. For her part, Zuleika is upset that the party killed so many of her clan besides Stoyanovich, and bitterly informs that those among them who stole from her shrine to Mother Night—Brenna and Ezmerelda—are cursed by the Goddess of Darkness. Not with lycanthropy, though. Different curse.

Parting with Zuleika on icy terms, the party resumes their journey to Krezek, but Grey gets into Tom’s stash and goes on a different trip. To the Underdark. Where she lives in a cottage with a slightly sexier version of her familiar. Still a skeleton, though.

The rest of the party finds the frozen corpses of Anna Krezkova—wife of burgomaster Dmitri Krezkov—and an escort of guards, victims of yesterday’s avalanche, and decide to deliver the bad news after they’ve had a good night’s rest in Krezek.

Brenna and Ezmerelda, however, prove incapable of such a thing. Instead they are visited by Shar, the Goddess of Darkness, who gives the pair a physically painful vision of a temple hidden on the slopes of Mount Ghakis far to the south. If they want to bargain their way out from under this curse, they can do so from there.

The party visits Krezkov in the morning, only to find him already distraught, not over the death of his wife—which he did not know about—but over the death of his sonIlya. Ilya died of consumption a few days ago, and the mysterious, reclusive abbot of the Abbey of Saint Markovia made a rare appearance in Krezek to make the grieving burgomaster an offer: if Krezkov could provide him with a sufficiently resplendent wedding dress, he would raise Ilya from the dead. Nobody in Krezek has the skill to craft such a dress, but there are two noble families in Vallaki who should each already possess one: the Vallakoviches and the Wachters.

When the party breaks the news to Krezkov that an avalanche claimed his wife and her retinue, he concludes that the entire bargain was a ruse by Strahd to first tempt him and then punish him for his hubris. The party, however, is prepared to take the abbot up on his offer if it means resurrecting Tom Mason, and they depart for the abbey.

And There’s Nothing I Can Do
Session 17

Already investigating the mysterious tower is a similarly mysterious Vistana: Ezmerelda. She’s been away from her homeland for a long time, and has returned to search for her mentor. Her cart was destroyed when a werewolf triggered a lethal booby trap trying to break in; this is what set off the avalanche that side tracked and/or traumatized the rest of the party; especially [[Ms. Parsley]], who Grey takes behind the tower to calm her down.

Knowing that other werewolves will have heard the explosion and be on the way, and eager to find a safe place to rest to boot, the rest of the party tries to decipher the stone disk on the handle-less front door. Tom, experienced now in both obliterating innocent doors and being attacked by somewhat-less-innocent ones, determines the arcane symbols to be dance instructions and performs the dance. Unfortunately, the door finds his DDR skills wanting and summons a blue dragon to dispose of the interloper and his compatriots.

Relatively unperturbed and largely excited to see a dragon show up in a game of Dungeons & Werewolves, Tom greets the lightning spitter, and finds that the dragon has its own shit to deal with; it doesn’t particularly want to be here. To move things along, the dragon says that this asshole door will let him return home when it is either opened, or anyone hanging around outside the tower is dead. The terms of the race laid out, the dragon attacks the party while Tom tries reordering his dance moves. The monk wins the race handily, and the tower dismisses the dragon.

The tower proves to be quite charming: its a one bedroom with a magic elevator and an incredible view of the lake. Admittedly, the resale value is harmed by the anti-magic field it seems to generate and the considerable structural instability, but Barovia is a seller’s market. The party doesn’t find the seller, but it does seem like someone’s cleaned the place out within the last week or so. Ezmerelda finds some not-completely-burned pages of a book in the tower’s wood stove, but keeps them to herself.

The werewolves arrive. Grey attempts to dissuade them from approaching the tower by impersonating (through documentation) the Barovian Zoning Commission. When the wolves spot a half-orc—that is, a foreigner—talking to a shark outside the tower, they suspect that the Barovian Zoning Commission might not be a real thing, and that someone—definitely a “she”, probably Ezmerelda—is inside. Tom greets the leader of the pack, one Kiril Stoyanovich, to negotiate a “leave us the hell alone” agreement, but negotiations break down when Tom punches him in the face.

The party holes up in the tower and works on augmenting its defenses against the forces Stoyanovich will certainly send against them: Thud leaves the tower and throws up a wall of wind that proves especially lethal to those of the lupine persuasion. Grey oils up the scaffolding leading to the hole in the tower’s third floor while reminiscing with Tom about the vial of Vistani semen they’ve acquired. Ezmerelda, confused and a little disgusted by her new companions’ crudity, proceeds to empty her balls all over the tower, rendering every floor dangerously slippery.

Brenna tries to alter the inscription of the tower door, that the werewolves might get the dance password wrong and re-summon the dragon. The door, however, doesn’t seem to want to be defaced, and the tower spews lightning on those outside, grievously wounding Tom and Brenna and killing Ms. Parsley.

They were ball bearings, before. Ezmerelda had ball bearings. Don’t be gross.

As the werewolves try to invade the tower, many of them thwarted to death by collapsing scaffolding, Thud drags his downed companions inside and strikes the door of the tower, prompting the return of the lightning. In a complete panic, several of the wolves try the dance to open the door at once. It’s a jumbled mess of moves, and the thoroughly offended door re-summons the dragon, who handily obliterates the lycanthropes.

The ancient tower, its magical defenses expended (and also having had lightning spewed all over it by a very annoyed dragon) begins to collapse, trapping the party—now unconscious—in a pile of rocks, ball bearings, and elevator-operating golems. As Tom loses consciousness, he sees Kiril Stoyanovich approach and order what little remains of his entourage to take the party to their den.

The party members awake in cages, disarmed and largely isolated from one another. With a few well-placed message spells, Brenna finds both Ezmerelda and a werewolf sympathetic to the party: the apparently pious Zuleika Toranescu, mate of Emil, the political prisoner currently held in the bowels of Castle Ravenloft. Zuleika agrees to release the pair of adventurers on three conditions:

  • they kill Kiril Stoyanovich
  • they free Emil Toranescu from Ravenloft
  • they knock her out to hide her betrayal of Kiril

Brenna and Ezmerelda agree to Zuleika’s terms, then fulfill the third one and loot the shrine she maintains. In addition to a significant amount of gold and other oddities, they retrieve the party’s weapons just in time to hear Grey shouting from a southern part of the den.

Grey, having made good use of her cage time re-summoning Mr. Whooper—now a skeletal rat instead of a raven—spots Tom, who was rather inexplicably not caged. Unable to hide her excitement, it echoes throughout the den and a fight breaks out. In addition to a pair of werewolf guards (who are dispatched, of course), the party faces the pack’s wolf keeper: Skennis. Though Grey renders his pack of wolves especially sleepy, Skennis himself proves especially ruthless, nearly drowning Grey and—for reasons unknown—taking special care to kill Tom Mason outright, tearing out his throat.

But since the party still has Skennis outgunned, they call for his surrender, and the tired old werewolf agrees. He claims that he’s sick of his clan’s infighting and holds no loyalty for either Stoyanovich or Toranescu. In exchange for his life and—perhaps more importantly—the lives of his wolf charges, Skennis agrees to head for Castle Ravenloft, to scout for a secret entrance to the castle along with Gregor and Marta Drazkoi.

An impromptu funeral is held for Tom, and Grey shaves her head in his honor, bringing the number of party members who have been bald at one point or another to three. Tom was nothing if not a trend setter.

And all the while, Thud remains caged, not in the den but somewhere outside it, overlooking a makeshift fighting pit as the sun goes down…

Snow, Thine Enemy
Session 16

Outside the now closed gates of Vallaki, the party discovers a hidden bag containing 400 gold pieces and a piece of parchment containing each of their likenesses and “NO —L”. After a brief discussion about hair, eyebrows, and whether the latter count as the former, the party divides the gold amongst themselves and presses on, circumventing the town and the Vistani camp nearby.

Heading towards Krezek, the party encounters the revenant Hans Cantemir on his regular patrol. It’s not going great for him, but the party rushes to his aid, engaging a pack of vine blights that are trying to constrict him to death. The battle is won, but [[Thud’s Fey companion]] prompts a crisis of conscience in the half-orc druid by asking why one pledged to the defense of the natural world would side with a ghost against that world. The crisis is interrupted by the acquisition of new toy: a rather shoddy wagon that Brenna magically reassembled.

Eager to get to Krezek before the weather turns, Grey hitches the wagon to [[Ms. Parsley]] while the party questions Hans. He claims that blights like those that attacked him aren’t normally found this far from Yester Hill. Hans—evidently a superstitious sort—suspects that activity aligns with children’s stories about an old Barovian bogeyman called Baba Lysaga. He probably believes in ghosts, too.

The party luxuriates in their wagon as they ascend into the mountains, sampling the local snow and generally taking a load off, when the mountain is rocked by an explosion originating from the nearby Lake Baratok. The party, exhausted from their travels and anxious to get to Krezek, is content to simply remember that something blew up over there, but the snow of the mountain is super curious about it, and rushes down the mountain to investigate.

With a combination of druidic and arcane magics, ropes, and the hasty conversion of a wagon into the least aerodynamic toboggan ever devised, the party manages to stay together and more or less survive the avalanche. Having ridden—well, rolled—well, been thrown down the mountain to Lake Baratok, the party discovers a tower at the end of a peninsula on the lake. After overcoming their intense disappointment that this tower is—like the Old Bonegrindernot a lighthouse, the party discovers a smoking crater near the tower laden with corpses and debris, and finds that they are not the only ones investigating the tower…

The Prophet’s Riddle
Session 13

Having had a night to think about it, Freek and Myrtle decide that their home life—in which they are sold to hags to be made into pastries by their pastry-addicted parents—is less than ideal. They don’t want to go back to Barovia. However, despite the loss of Ireena, the party isn’t taking on new members at this time, so they stop at the Tser Pool Encampment to see if the Vistani are taking on new hires in the 5–10 age bracket. They are!

The camp’s new melodeon-wielding storyteller, Vargas Swilovich, informs the party that:

  • the camp’s previous storyteller—with whom Tom shared a tender evening—has died of old age
  • Madame Eva is expecting them in her tent
  • a melodeon is a kind of accordion

Madame Eva can see that the party has been having a rough time of it, and is willing to answer the queries that Grey and Tom have for her if they provide her with a little—pause for effect—entertainment: she challenges them to Prophet’s Riddle, a card game that’s really more of a puzzle. The party must determine the rules of the game while playing it, and if they can beat Madame Eva at the game in fewer than three tries, she’ll tell them what they want to know. Through copious note-taking, the party triumphs in the second game.

Possession is Nine-Tenths of the Law
Session 12

Their sleep cycles all fucked up, the party begins the journey east to Tser Pool and the Village of Barovia—to check in with Madame Eva and deliver the bad news about Ireena to Ismark—at nightfall. The pouring rain makes the journey especially unpleasant, but not unpleasant enough to keep the party from investigating the strange phenomenon of a seemingly-endless stream of ghostly warriors originating from somewhere in the east charging towards Castle Ravenloft.

Following the glowing specters to the gates of the great castle, Mr. Whooper scouts around. He finds that the spirits are throwing themselves from the castle’s highest tower, but can’t track down the person, persons, monster, or monsters that the party is sure are watching them.

Unsettled, but with spirits on her mind, Thud recalls the Kenobi-esque presence she felt two long days ago, and starts to think loudly, hoping that source of the feeling was still around and could be communicated with. Surprisingly, it works! A spirit—specifically Thud’s only friend from her childhood in the Kryptgarden Forest—reveals itself to the party. Grey, who’s spent many a sleepless night poring over texts to be able to summon an animal companion, becomes jealous when the incorporeal spirit molds itself into the shape of an eagle. When she tries to commiserate with her skeletal raven over the matter, she discovers that the spirit and Mr. Whooper aren’t aware of each other’s existence, even when they’re together.

Continuing on, the party arrives at the Durst family windmill, where they find an irate Jeny Greenteeth angry that the hags who inhabit the windmill won’t let her use their oven. Hoping to enlist the party’s aid in accessing the oven, she tells them that the pastries the hags in the windmill have been baking and peddling are composed primarily of children from the Village of Barovia. The party is dismayed, in part because of the potent combination of child murder and cannibalism, but mostly because Barovia has ground them down to the point where altruism feels more like a legal obligation than a genuine desire.

While Grey attempts to scale the windmill to free the children that haven’t yet been converted into their final forms, Thud, Tom, Brenna, and Greenteeth assault the coven directly. Lots of dretches and lightning later, two members of the coven are dead, but the eldest among them has escaped. Greenteeth eagerly tears open the oven and begins devouring the bounty within. The pastries do their dark work quickly, transforming Greenteeth into a taller, (even) more sinister looking version of herself. Alarmed, Thud and Grey attempt to restrain her. It goes poorly. Two scrolls of remove curse and one retreat later, the party (along with the liberated children: [[Freek and Myrtle]]) and makes camp near the main road.

In his dreams, Tom is visited by the escaped hag, who introduces herself as Morgantha. Taking revenge for the loss of her home, she curses him with an unnatural weakness, and then does… something with a bag. I dunno. Dreams are weird.

Burning Down the House
Session 10

The party, along with Elvir and Davian Martikov, escorts their cargo west from the Raven River Crossroads into the mountains, ultimately arriving at the village of Krezek. While the Village of Barovia is open to all, and Vallaki is closed to Vistani, Krezek is normally closed to everyone. However, Krezek’s Burgomaster—Dmitri Krezkov—is so relieved to receive their long-overdue shipment of wine that he permits its escorts inside the walls.

Elvir’s eager to explore the forbidden village, while Davian’s more interested in completing the remaining deliveries. Tom points out that the abbey on the side of the mountain could hold one of the treasures they’re after, according to Madame Eva’s fortune telling, and that’s enough to convince the party to go in.

While Grey and Brenna stock up on supplies in the village shop, Thud decides to check up on the Burgomaster (who Mr. Whooper has been trailing since the party entered town, while Tom questions some of the locals about how the town functions without so little trade and nobody coming or going. When the subject of the abbey comes up, everyone clams up. “We don’t go to the abbey no more.”

Thud discovers Elvir peering through the window of a cottage the Burgomaster and another woman apparently entered not long ago… Elvir can’t see much, but screams draw Thud inside, where she finds the Burgomaster’s wife delivering a new citizen of Krezek into the world.

Burgomaster Krezkov is angry about the intrusion, but Tom arrives and smooths things over by implying that Thud’s orcish nature renders her incapable of understanding proper etiquette (or even property). Tom smooth-talks the Burgomaster into allowing the group to visit Krezek again in the future, and the party leaves to complete their deliveries.

By the time the party makes it back to the Raven River Crossroads (this time headed for Vallaki), the party realizes they’re being followed. Stopping to investigate, the party discovers a pair of werewolves. They kill one; the other flees. Eventually, the group reaches its second port of call: the Vistani camp outside Vallaki. As co-presidents of Arrigal’s fan club, Grey and Brenna are disappointed to find that he isn’t there, but leave their fan mail with Luvash, who—grateful for the wine—agrees to pass it along. Tom and Thud attempt to trade with the dusk elves, but the downtrodden elves are convinced that Tom’s overtures are intended as a shake down and negotiations fail.

There’s a sundown church service in progress on the day of the Festival of the Blazing Sun by the time the party makes it back to Vallaki. Mr. Whooper spots a figure clambering around on the roof, but the party is more concerned with delivering the wine to the Blue Water Inn and checking in on Ireena. Upon reaching the town square, the party finds Lars Kjurls dead; clearly bludgeoned to death while being dragged behind a horse. The party’s concern intensifies.

At the Blue Water Inn, Danika tells the party that Irene has been exiled. When the “sun lighting” ceremony in the town square was spoiled by pouring rain, Kjurls couldn’t stifle a laugh at the Burgomaster’s expense. The Burgomaster didn’t take it well and when Ireena attempted to defend the guard who’d saved her life just days before, the Burgomaster had his right hand man with a demonic right hand confiscate her gear and remove her from Vallaki. Danika has already sent her husband Urwin to steal Ireena’s gear back from the city guard. The party sends Davian and Elvir to the eastern gate to see if they can find Ireena, while they head back to the western gate to begin a search.

Arriving once again at the church, the party finds it under siege by vampire spawn. When the party storms the church, they watch the Burgomaster and his family flee the church as a bat transforms into Strahd von Zarovich and murders the priest. Not only does the party see Strahd; he sees them too, and he realizes Ireena isn’t with them. He leaves immediately to hunt for her while the party tries (largely in vain) to save the townspeople from becoming vampire food.

Ultimately, Grey concocts a plan to barricade the church from the outside and set it and the vampires within ablaze. It works, and when Grey and Brenna reveal Izek Strazni’s obsession with Ireena, the party conclude that Isek must be holding her somewhere. The party rushes to the Burgomaster’s mansion to question to Burgomaster, only to find that the townspeople have taken swift revenge now that they know that the years of injustices they’ve been subjected to weren’t keeping them safe from Strahd. They’ve followed the party’s lead and set the Burgomaster’s mansion on fire with the Burgomaster and his family inside.

Among the townspeople, the party spots a newly-disillusioned Blinksy. He tells the party that Isek lives in the mansion, and Ireena is almost certainly inside. While Blinksy tries to appeal to the assembled townspeople for help, the party storms the burning building to search for Ireena.

Brenna searches the ground floor, Tom and Thud take the second floor, and Grey grapples her way up to the attic. In the attic, she discovers the Burgomaster and his family gathered in a teleportation circle made by the Burgomaster’s son. Grey—who’s been casting spells for over twenty-four entire hours—realizes that the circle isn’t put together properly, but her warnings fall on deaf ears and the family is obliterated as though they all just ate an Infinity Stone.

Tom and Thud find Ireena, Izek, a positively horrifying number of flaming dolls, and Strahd. Izek’s unnatural arm is no match for Strahd, who restrains him while Ireena murders him with his own axe. Strand and Ireena then leave together, and Tom’s attempts to separate the pair are very nearly lethal for him. As Strahd takes Ireena to his mount—a Nightmare—at a side second floor window, he spots Grey descending from the attic and recognizes her. Meanwhile, while Thud revives Tom so they can escape the house, she spots a pair of plaques previously used to label his shelves of dolls: “Ireena Strazni” and “Inessa Strazni”.

Tilting Away From Windmills
Session 5

The party begins their journey west at sunrise of their second day in Barovia. On the bridge passing over Tser Falls, they encounter a hag traveling in the opposite direction. The hag, one Jeny Greenteeth, claims to have at one time been a resident of the Sword Coast who emigrated to Barovia to peddle her magical services with basically no competition and pursue her ill-defined but creepy hobbies and experiments.

Frustrated that Greenteeth doesn't seem to operate out of a static location and that they cannot purchase a casting of raise dead in advance, the party presses on towards Vallaki. Along the way, they stop at a decrepit windmill inhabited by more elderly spellcasting ladies. After an unfortunate introduction during which Tom damages the building while trying to kill yet another nosy bird (an incident smoothed over by a careful application of mending from Brenna), the party learns that this windmill is where the pastries being sold in the Village of Barovia come from. Since nobody in the party wants to go on another flour-and-butter-fueled trip, the inhabitants of the windmill demand they be left alone. The party obliges and continues westward.

Walking along the banks of Lake Zarovich, the more sharp-eyed members of the party (Tom and Grey) spot a man in a boat dumping a suspiciously mobile sack overboard. Tom quickly retrieves the sack and brings it ashore to find a little girl contained within. The party concludes that they were too late: the girl is dead. This, in turn, leads Ireena to conclude that none of her escorts have any medical training, and she resuscitates the girl. Tom proclaims himself a hero.

The girl introduces herself as Arabelle, a Vistana who lives with her father and uncle in a camp west of Vallaki. She claims to have been kidnapped while spying on carts coming and going through Vallaki's west gate, and that she did not get a good look at her kidnapper. The party is divided on whether or not they should travel through Vallaki with Arabelle, since her kidnapper (who has since rowed away into the mists of Lake Zarovich) may be a resident of the town, but the matter is settled when they learn that, by order of Vallaki's Burgomaster, no Vistani are permitted in Vallaki due to their people's ties to Strahd.

As the party travels around the town to deliver Arabelle home before entering Vallaki, they are beset by dire wolves. With the aid of a guard manning the south wall, the party barely survives the assault; only Tom, Ireena, and Arabelle remain conscious. The guard (who under the circumstances, does not think to determine if any members of this group are Vistani) brings the group into Vallaki, where the owners of the Blue Water Inn agree to let them recuperate.

What Happens at Tser Pool…
Session 4

Free from the clutches of the Durst house, the party explores the Village of Barovia, and learn that because only Vistani have the power to freely travel to and from Barovia, they control the region's economy; everything's expensive, there are very few choices, and everyone is miserable (it's basically an airport).

Tom buys a pastry from a old woman in the street and it takes him on an incredible trip. Once Thud slaps some sense into him, Grey buys a couple more pastries and kicks off an episode of CSI: Barovia with Brenna, who studies the pastries and determines that they are magical, not pharmaceutical, and that their trip-sending properties dissipate after 24 hours.

In The Blood of the Vine, a  Vistani-owned tavern, the party meets Ismark Kolyanovich, the new Burgomaster of Barovia who inherited the title from his late father, Kolyan Indirovich. Kolyan died "from fright" after two visits from Count Strahd von Zarovich, who has taken a romantic interest in Ismark's younger sister, Ireena. Ismark is not well-liked in the community, and has been given the nickname "The Lesser". Given this, along with his father's recent death and the interest that "the devil" has taken in his sister, Ismark has been spending the past few weeks drinking instead of taking over his late father's Burgomasterly duties.

The party agrees to help Ireena and Ismark bury their father at the local church, but when they do they are set upon by (possessed) wolves, who attack everyone except Ireena. Just as it seems like the wolves have been driven back, a familiar black carriage arrives. Still pissed over last night's theft, Tom (with Thud in tow) attacks the driver, who nearly kills them with a look. Only a restraining hand from the man inside the carriage—almost certainly Strahd—keeps his driver from exploding everybody's heads. The party, along with Ireena, Ismark, and the village priest—a wild-eyed, sleep-deprived fellow named Donavich—barricade the church and wait for Strahd to leave.

Father Donavich tells the party that his son, Doru, was killed a year ago when he accompanied another outsider—a wizard—to Castle Ravenloft to kill Strahd. The wizard vanished in the assault and the villagers who accompanied him were slaughtered. Then two weeks ago, Doru returned as a vampire in Strahd's thrall. Donavich was able to trap his son in the church undercroft, but doesn't know what do to next and hasn't slept since (not surprisingly, this has not helped him think of a solution).

Once Strahd departs, Ireena and the party start the journey west to Vallaki, where Ismark believes that his sister may be able to hide from Strahd. Ireena insists that Ismark stay behind and start acting like a Burgomaster, which presumably means helping Father Donavich with his vampiric son, which the party concludes is a problem that can probably wait.

Shaken by his experiences in Barovia thus far, Tom starts firing sunbeams from his palms at anything that approaches the party during their journey. Mostly birds. When the party happens upon a corpse that bears a certain resemblance to both Grey and Ireena, they search it to find another glass orb filled with smoke. Thud—the only one strong enough to pry the orb from the corpse's grip—comes down with a case of the butter fingers, but Brenna is able to reassemble the shattered orb with ease.

Fearing another wolf attack if they camp alone, the party follows the sounds of an actual party to Tser Pool, where a band of Vistani are having a grand old time swapping stories and also bodily fluids. The party members all switch their wallets to their front pockets before joining in the festivities (to varying degrees).

Eventually, the party members are drawn away from the outdoor festivities by Madame Eva, the fortune teller that [[Gregor's family]] gave five stars to on Yelp. She tells the players that they are going to have to take on Strahd if they ever want to leave Barovia, and that she can help them in a vague, frustrating, deck-of-cards-based sort of way…

"This card tells of history. Knowledge of the ancient will help you better understand your enemy… The treasure you seek is hidden behind the sun in the house of a saint."

"This card tells of a powerful force for good and protection, a holy symbol of great hope… I see a sleeping prince, a servant of light and the brother of darkness. The treasure lies with him."

"This is a card of power and strength. It tells of a weapon of vengeance: a sword of sunlight… It is hidden in a small castle beneath a mountain, guarded by amber giants."

"This card sheds light on one who will help you greatly in the battle against darkness… Find the leader of the feathered ones who live among the vines. Though old, he has one more fight left in him."

"Your enemy is a creature of darkness, whose powers are beyond mortality. This card will lead you to him! I see a secret place—a vault of temptation hidden behind a woman of great beauty. The evil waits atop his tower of treasure."

One Must Die!
Session 3

The party encounters the ghosts of Gustav and Elizabeth Durst in the basement. Leveraging their experience being the Durst children, Grey and Tom learn that the "grown up parties" the Dursts held were actually meetings of a cult that worships Barovia's immortal lord: Strahd von Zarovich. Elsewhere in the basement, the party finds a crude statue of Strahd holding a glass orb filled with smoke, one eerily similar to one Grey already owns.

The cult members now exist only as spirits and shades, and they demand a sacrifice. When the party doesn't oblige, the cult helps them along by animating a massive corpse golem named Lorgoth the Decayer. Lorgoth quickly engulfs Brenna, reducing her to 0 hit points instantly. However, before the golem can get her to the altar to complete the sacrifice, Brenna rolls a 20 on her death save, waking up inside the shambling mound with 1 hit point. She casts thunderwave, escaping Lorgoth's body and shoving it off the altar. Everyone is suitably pumped about all this as they flee the house, which manifests ghostly scythes, swarms of rats, and noxious fumes in a futile attempt to kill the party.

The party escapes the house at midday of their first full day in Barovia.

A House is not a Home
Session 2

Having survived an assault by the Durst house's décor, the party decides to sleep in the house. Upon waking, Thud spontaneously becomes a bear, and everyone does that one trust building exercise in which they share the dreams they've had about murdering each other. You know the one. Anyway, after the party listens to each other talk about their dreams and aren't intensely bored by it, they determine that the dreams must have supernatural origins.

Resuming exploration of the house, the party discovers the ghosts of the Durst family children—Rosavalda (or "Rose") and Thornboldt (or "yeah, you get it")—who tell them how they died: their parents locked them in their room while they had a "grown-up party" downstairs. Then a man (one who, according to Thornboldt, is on the region's money!) arrived in a black carriage, stormed the house and killed the grown-ups, leaving the children to starve to death.

(On a lighter note, the children inform the party that "Is no fun, is no Blinksy!" is the slogan of a toymaker in a nearby town.)

The children—who have been very lonely for a very long time—panic when the first company they've had in many years tries to leave, and decide to go along; Rose possesses Grey and Thorn possesses Tom. Brenna ends the possession by depositing the childrens' remains in the crypt in the basement. Grey and Tom are left conflicted by the experience.

The basement turns out to be significantly larger than the house and also infested by a grick, which the party eliminates.


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