Session seven: Don’t get bit
Last night’s session of our Curse of Strahd online D&D game saw us begin face-to-face with evil-vampire-lord Strahd Von Zarovich. We had just managed to save Donavich the priest from a gaggle of maniacal witches, when from out of the mists the Devil himself appeared. We had a week to consider our options. There were none that we could see. Surely this was the end of our intrepid adventurers?
Last week we had really enjoyed our DM’s interpretation of Strahd. Whilst everyone else we had met so far in Barovia had a very distinct Transylvanian-style accent, Strahd was played as an upstanding member of British Aristocracy, with all the self-entitled vigor and pomp of the Royal Family, “Well hello there. Quite a pickle you’ve got yourselves into here, wouldn’t you say? Do come in for some tea and we can talk about it.” Given the gothic horror setting and our recent encounters, this made our first meeting with Strahd all the more terrifying.
Some technical points: The last few weeks have seen us begin on time and with no major mechanical glitches or interruptions. Unfortunately last night we did suffer occasional audio problems which meant we cut the session slightly shorter than usual. For next week we should have this sorted out. We’re pretty sure it was all due to the paladin’s internet connection and so he’s said some prayers, sacrificed a lamb, and called on his deity to fix the broadband speed to a higher Mbps. However, we were able to begin the session on time.
Once more, our party was made up of:
Gimble Timbers – Gnome Fighter, wearing a top hat and eye-patch, filled with wanderlust;
Engong – Half-Orc Monk, sneaky, taciturn and really fast, not a “people person”;
Baräsh – Dragonborn Paladin, pious and convinced of his own self-righteousness, very stupid;
Kevon – Tiefling Wild Magic Sorcerer, paranoid, depressed, and recently undead, played by me.
“Well, hello. I don’t know you, do I? I hadn’t realized we had guests. Now if you’ll just let me take my righteous friend here, I’ve not quite finished with him yet. Isn’t that right, Donavich?”
The priest cowered behind Baräsh, whimpering. Then he fainted, clearly still reeling from being knocked out by the monk minutes earlier.
As the well-dressed man reached Baräsh, the dragonborn stood his ground, protecting the unconscious priest. He cast a protective spell on Donavich and the stranger flinched. He stopped, looked deep into Baräsh’s eyes, but found his will could not hold dominion. Undeterred, he turned and addressed the rest of the party. “Now, I expect you guys are all getting a little peckish? I know I am. Why don’t you join me for dinner in the castle? It would give us a jolly good chance to really get to know each other.”
A muffled squeak could be heard from the edge of the clearing as Kevon stifled a scream. “And who are you?” asked Strahd. Acting on instinct, Kevon cast Misty Step to teleport 30 feet away, hoping he could avoid the vampire’s gaze. Strahd laughed.
“Well, you all look like you’re going to be a lot of fun. A lot of fun. I think I’m really going to enjoy this,” he said. “Right then,” he rolled up his sleeves. “Let’s get on with it. You, dragonman. Go to sleep.” Instantly Baräsh fell to the ground snoring.
We knew this was coming, but that didn’t mean we were ready for it. The party was spread out around the clearing. Strahd stood grandly in the centre. As Baräsh’s body slumped to the floor, Gimble Timbers dashed up the nearest tree and readied his crossbow.
Engong picked up the unconscious priest, doused him in holy water from a bottle she had been given by Ireena, and ran towards Strahd, using the hallowed Donavich as a battering ram. Sadly, the monk rolled a critical fail on her attack, fumbling the priest and dropping him to the ground. Strahd barely flinched.
On his turn, Kevon moved closer to the edge of the clearing and cast mage armor, using a sorcery point to extend the duration of the spell for 24 hours. Meanwhile, Baräsh continued to snore.
Strahd then moved like lightning towards Kevon and attacked. The tiefling, reacting mechanically, cast shield, and this was just enough to thwart the attack. Strahd attacked again, grappling him and taking him by the throat.
Gimble Timbers, in an act of pure desperation, cast an illusion of raw meat at Strahd’s feet, hoping to attract the attention of the wolves, or at least to confuse them. Amazingly, five wolves began to press slowly towards the vampire. For a second, he released his grip on Kevon. “Now then, my pretties, whatever’s the matter?” At the sound of their master’s voice, the wolves’ tails dropped between their legs as they whimpered and backed off.
Strahd used one of his Legendary Actions to bite Kevon. Somehow he rolled a critical fail and dropped the tiefling. As he hit the dirt, Kevon clapped his hands together and a thunderous wave blasted out towards the vampire and his five wolves. Naturally, Strahd made his saving throw, but still took three points of damage, the wolves all took more and were knocked back 10 feet. Kevon, still on the floor, began desperately crawling away from Strahd and into the woods. “Oh, wherever are you heading? I do hope your friends don’t mind you abandoning them? We who have seen the darkness should stick together, Kevon.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” screamed the tiefling. How did he know my name?
Baräsh, roused by Kevon’s thunderwave, jumped to his feet and dashed between Strahd and Donavich. Strahd turned to him, “Oh, woken up, have we? Enjoy our little nap?” A ball of flame suddenly erupted from his hand as he tossed a fireball towards the dragonborn, just catching the priest and the monk in the blast. They each looked worse for wear after that, but were all miraculously still standing. Just.
Strahd turned to the priest, sensing he was nearly down, “Now, now, Donavich, don’t go dying on me just yet.” He turned and addressed Gimble Timbers, “Ok. Little fellow in the tree, what’s going on with you? Why don’t you come down from there?”
“No chance,” came the reply as the gnome let loose a crossbow bolt. It hit Strahd and the fighter used one of his manoeuvre points to try to make it a goading attack, but the vampire passed his saving throw and pulled the bolt from his arm, seemingly unscathed.
“Is that all you can do? Just a little bee with a pointless little sting.”
Now it was Engong’s turn. She still held the charred priest and was convinced that her plan was a good one. She ran at Strahd, attempting to rub the holy-water-soaked Donavich over him. As she reached the vampire, Strahd recoiled in disgust. “Urgh! You made him holy? How foul. Wherever did you find holy water in My Realm? Yuk, I don’t think I want him anymore. That is gross.”
Baräsh now stood behind the vampire. Realizing this was the moment he had trained for his entire life, he raised his hammer to strike. He rolled a 13 and missed. Strahd,then used another Legendary Action, turned to face the Dragonborn, and struck him across the face, knocking him to the floor, unconscious once more.
As Baräsh hit the ground, we heard a rustle from the undergrowth as Ismark stumbled into the clearing, drunk again. He yelled something, then we saw the realization of our foe hit him, and he turned and fled back into the trees. “O Ismark! Don’t run,” yelled Strahd. “I hear you’ve taken over the family business. How is your sister these days?”
No reply came from Ismark, who had now disappeared into the undergrowth. “Oh well, he’ll be back. His father was a lot of fun. Hey you, small man in the trees, stop being annoying.”
As he said this, he stretched out his arm, casting Blight on the gnome’s perch. Gimble Timbers fell as the tree withered and died beneath him, but he made his dexterity save, allowing a safe landing. “Oh, how cute. A hero pose. We haven’t seen one of those in a while,” said the vampire.
“Leave Ireena alone,” yelled the gnome. He fired another bolt at Strahd, this time going for his ankles, attempting a trip attack. The bolt hit and Strahd fell prone, clearly surprised. At this point, Kevon reached the gnome and asked if there was a plan. There wasn’t. “Maybe we should run,” he said.
“You think?” said the gnome. The sorcerer sent a Firebolt towards Strahd to cover their escape. He missed. Tides of Chaos. He hit. Strahd took one point of fire damage. Then a wild magic surge created a thick cloud of fog centered on Kevon and Gimble Timbers, totally obscuring them from view.
By now, Strahd was getting bored. He stood up and cracked his knuckles, “I’ve decided you are not my type of people at all,” he said. “Well, except maybe you, tiefling. Oh, where are you? Are you hiding in that fog?”
“No.” said the fog cloud. Strahd turned around and easily knocked out Engong as she crept up towards him.
“OK, I think I’m going to be off now. If you could bring your friends along to the castle as we discussed, Kevon, then that would be smashing.”
“There’s no one here,” said the fog.
With that, Strahd’s body turned into vapor and the vampire disappeared into the ether.
This was such a fun encounter. Clearly Strahd was just toying with us and seeing what we could do, and I don’t think he was too impressed with what he saw. In total we managed three critical misses, five failed attacks, and two of us were down by the end of the battle. What’s more, the gnome noticed that each time Strahd took damage, an amulet around his neck would glow and he immediately healed, so we hadn’t even managed to hurt him by a single hit point.
After the battle, Gimble Timbers eventually managed to convince Kevon to leave the safety of his fog cloud, and they used the healing potions from Ireena to revive the fallen party members. Somehow Donavich was then persuaded to return with us to Ireena and Ismark to help bury their father. Amazingly this was managed without him being hit on the head.
The adventurers returned to Borovia and decided to rest before attending to the burial ceremony. An uninterrupted long rest later and the party was back to full health and setting off for the church. After the burial, which was attended by a number of large ravens, Donavich entreated the party to travel to the church of St. Andell in Vallaki to collect a relic so that he could begin to re-consecrate his church. Ismark then asked that they take Ireena with them, “Go away from here and away from Strahd.” They agreed to both requests and decided to set off along the Savalich Road, heading for Vallaki. END
This was a really fun session, and now we’ve got a couple of objectives to boot. More than simply ‘survive’ and ‘escape’ at least. I’m looking forward to seeing how we will manage to ‘acquire’ a relic from a church. I’m certain those things aren’t just given away for free.
What’s more, for the first time in the campaign our party began to bond. It might have been over a defeat, but Baräsh and Kevon even hugged, albeit briefly. Although I’m sure it won’t be long before questions start being asked around Strahd’s mysterious references to Kevon’s revivification, “we who have seen the darkness should stick together.”
Next session we head off to a whole new location and I’m sure the road will be long and full of many perils. I just hope we don’t run into Strahd again any time soon, and perhaps Kevon might even begin to cheer up a little bit?