Curse of Strahd

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.

Where Wolves?
Session 1

Arrigal, a nervous, possibly-incompetent envoy from Kolyan Indirovich, Burgomaster (it's like a mayor) of a village called Barovia, accosts Major Tom Mason on the road south of Daggerford and begs him for help on behalf of his boss. Tom finds Arrigal's pharmaceuticals enticing and agrees to help. Together, they recruit Thud, a wandering druid beset by visions. Arrigal departs on horseback to report back to Barovia, while Tom and Thud make their own way on foot.

Later, Grey, a girl on the run who owes the Harpers a favor, meets with one of their representatives: Zelarun Roaringhorn, who tasks her with partnering with a sorceress named Brenna Beren to eliminate some werewolves that have been terrorizing the region. While getting their weapons silvered, as one does when one is prepping to fight werewolves, Grey asks the metalsmith to describe Roaringhorn, and he describes someone other than the man with whom she met.

As each duo heads toward their destinations, they are consumed by a thick, oppressive, fog. When it clears, they are faced with an unfamiliar land… and with each other. Because of the circumstances of their meeting, and who they are as people, Thud and Grey are highly distrustful of the others and each other. Tom surmises that they're on another plane of existence.

The party heads east in search of civilization, and encounters a Vistani family. Brenna attempts to ingratiate herself with them by fashioning a clockwork toy for the children, only to have the ungrateful wretch declare that it "is no fun, is no Blinksy!" Undeterred, Brenna tries in vain to add lights to the toy. The family's patriarch—Gregor—tells Grey and Brenna that there have been no werewolf incidents in the village of Barovia for a long time.

The party also learns that some Vistani women have the gift of prescience. Madame Eva, a woman who resides at a camp just west of Barovia, is particularly adept. Tom, who periodically believes himself to be prescient, is interested in meeting her. The others don't care and eat the Vistani family's food.

Watching how they interact with the Vistani, Thud concludes that she doesn't care for her new traveling companions, but she's stuck with them all the same. Besides, she believes she's meant to pass through the gates of Barovia for some unknown purpose, and that's the direction these people are going.

Grey's paranoia prompts the party to check their belongings for missing things, and sure enough, Tom finds that an unopened letter from his father is missing. When Gregor's younger brother Donovan turns out to be suddenly unavailable for questioning, the party takes off in pursuit. They find a corpse (not Donovan) clutching a different letter, but Tom doesn't seem to like this one as much.

The party pursues Donovan to the gates of Barovia, where they witness him deliver Tom's letter to a man in a black carriage. Tom announces himself, and the carriage's elvish driver kills Donovan in a manner reminiscent of Scanners, then turns the carriage around and flees into the mist. The carriage leaves no tracks, which Thud deems to be bullshit.

Upon arriving in the village, the party is coaxed into a townhouse by a pair of illusory children and poor (read: fatal) weather. The house belongs to a well-off family by the name of "Durst", and the literal skeletons in the closets indicate that it may not be up to code. Meanwhile on the second floor, Thud discovers that metal armor hates druids as much as druids hate metal armor.


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