Session ten: A cunning plan
The tenth session of my group’s ‘Dungeons & Dragons Curse of Strahd’ campaign happened last night and went off mostly without a hitch.
While we did manage to start on time and without internet problems, there were some interruptions of the small angry infant variety.
My six month old son was the perpetrator. He has recently decided that he no longer wants to go to sleep at a convenient time. Usually my wife is happy to allow me to play D&D while she tends to him. Last night I was also required. No matter. All this meant was that for a short time we had an extra little helper in our party. Albeit one who mostly just stared and giggled at the screen. However, I now think that Baby Billy’s decision-making might be far superior to ours, so I will be nominating him as the new leader of our merry band.
Now, back to the game
The party is currently in a small town called Vallaki. We traveled here, experiencing much toil and hardship, to transport Ireena, a young lady who was being plagued by night time visits from obsessed-evil-vampire-lord Strahd von Zarovich. Ireena’s brother Ismark, the new Burgomaster of Barovia, thought she would be far safer here in the church of St. Andell, and so he charged us with her protection and accompanied us on our journey. If that wasn’t enough, we were also on a mission from Donavich, the priest in Barovia, to find and bring back a relic of St. Andell so that he could re-consecrate his church after it was destroyed, in part, by us. We had been warned that the current curator of the bones of St. Andell would most likely not part with them without some persuasion.
So far, in our time in Barovia, we have learned the following: You cannot leave Barovia; it’s full of scary monsters, witches, wolves and undead fiends; there is no permanence in death here; a small Vistani girl named Arabel has gone missing; shambling mounds are scary; the local towns have run out of wine; shambling mounds are scary; Strahd is an ass; and Barovia is both the name of the area and a small town within that area (I know, it’s confusing!).
The Bluewater Inn
In the last session, on the road to Vallaki we passed several rows of heads on spikes. We heeded the warnings of a raven not to explore an abandoned windmill. We fought a ghost on a bridge. We met some Vistani travelers. And we nearly got into a fight with the town’s guards. So, once we eventually entered the walled town, we headed straight for the first tavern we could see, The Bluewater Inn and took a much needed long rest.
As ever our party consisted of:
Gimble Timbers – Gnome Fighter, competitive and feisty, wearing a top hat and eye-patch;
Engong – Half-Orc Monk, taciturn, 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.
Morning was just approaching as the party awoke in their rather uncomfortable beds. The town was covered in a fine pithy mist and already bustling with the sounds of various goings-on as the townsfolk got ready for the coming festivities. The Inn’s proprietor was Irwin Martokoff. He had already prepared a rather sparse breakfast for the party when they arrived in the main hall; “Roasted bread, that’s all you’re getting,” he snarled at Gimble Timbers when the gnome had the audacity to request some cheese.
A finely dressed man sat alone at a table in the corner. Conspicuous due to his brightly colored shirt with extended cuffs and ruffled collar exposing a rather hairy chest and large gold medallion, the man introduced himself as Rictavio, the owner of the traveling carnival and circus in town. He was a friendly character, and one the paladin was sure was wholly good.
We spent a while talking to Rictavio. He was keen to hear our stories, especially of Strahd and of Kevon’s demise in the ‘death house’. We told him of our wish to leave Barovia, but he could not help us with this, other than to confirm our concerns that a potion given to Engong by the Vistani as an elixir to escape the mists was nothing more than snake oil.
Rictavio then told us about the town’s many festivals and to beware of Vallaki’s Burgomaster Baron Vargos, and of the leader of the guard Izek Strazni with his deformed gigantic hand. “You must keep a happy face or you may end up in the stocks. Or worse,” he warned. Before we left him, Rictavio pointed us in the direction of Father Lucian and the Church of St. Andell, where we hoped to be able to ‘acquire’ some sort of relic.
Whilst in the tavern, we also heard from Irwin that he had run out of wine. This is the second bar we have been in that has run out and we were told that the Wizards of Wine vineyard has not sent any out for a while, and so the landlord asked us if we could go and investigate. We said we could, but it would have to wait until our present business was concluded. “Yes, we have to go steal a rel…” “Shut up Baräsh!”
We decided to head straight for the church and came up with our first plan of the evening. We would leave Ireena there, in the care of Father Lucian, and scout out the area at the same time. Then, when the town was busy with the festival preparations, we would sneak in and take it. We also decided it would be best if Engong the half-orc monk didn’t punch anyone, Kevon the undead demonic looking tiefling didn’t try to intimidate anyone, and Baräsh didn’t talk to anyone. That was the plan at least. What could go wrong?
Along the way we met a few of the more colorful locals: a pair of wolf hunters who offered us their services, we were instantly suspicions of them; a toy-maker with a pet monkey who had an exact replica of Ireena in doll form, the toy-maker’s name was Blinsky and we would meet him again later; and finally, we met a strange man smoking a pipe in the shadows who warned us not to trust anyone – like we needed him to tell us that!
We passed another line of wolf heads on spikes, and saw a young lad digging a grave. Eventually we got to the church. Inside we saw Baron Vargos, the burgomaster whom we had already met, talking to a priest, who we thought must be Father Lucian. Baron Vargos left, reminding us to “Smile and be happy guys. The festival is tomorrow night and everyone must be cool and be happy! Oh I’ve got to go, I have so much to do.”
With our detailed and very specific plan in mind, Baräsh went straight up to the priest and talked to him about the relic. It was a good job he did, as it soon became clear that all was not well, and with a few good charisma rolls we ascertained that the bones of St. Andell had gone missing. Father Lucian, agreeing to take Ireena off our hands, gave us a couple of clues about who might have taken it and we went off in search of a group of orphan children who might know more, leaving both Ireena and Ismark behind.
It was now time to make a new plan. This one involved finding Blinsky the toy-maker and purchasing some toys to trade with the orphans for information. We went to Blinsky’s Toy shop in the center of town and bought a number of toys with which to lure the local children. And yes, by this time we had realized how creepy our plan sounded, but we went along with it anyway.
Before we left Blinsky, we asked about the Ireena doll we spotted earlier and he became very quiet, clearly not wanting to tell us about it. Remembering the earlier plan, Engong and Kevon did their thing; first Engong hit him and then Kevon tried to intimidate him. Between them it worked and they managed to get him to talk. “It’s Izek, He tells me to do it. And now he will kill me for telling you.” He started sobbing and we began to feel bad about making him cry. “He says he will pay me but never does. Now he says not killing me is payment enough.” Feeling guilty, we gave him some gold coins for helping us and said we will deal with Izek for him. As we left Blinsky had cheered up a little and gave us a couple more free toys on the way out.
We headed off in search of an orphan called Yeska and found him crying in the street. It was clear he hadn’t stolen the bones, but he agreed to help us find them. He told us that he remembered mentioning the bones of St. Andell to a bully called Mylos a few days earlier and that he might know where they were. When asked why he told Mylos about Father Lucian’s relic, he said that Mylos is a bully and he was just trying to impress him. Engong, in a rare act of compassion gave Yeska her spade (not any of the toys we had spent all our gold on!) and this cheered up the child immensely.
Mylos was easily found in the graveyard by the church. He was the boy we’d seen earlier. Ironically we’d spent the last hour and a half trying to work out how to find him and he was there the whole time. No wonder our DM was clearly enjoying this session. Now we had a load of toys we couldn’t possibly find a use for and almost no gold left.
An intimidation from the tiefling quickly convinced Mylos to tell us what happened. He stole the bones and sold them to the coffin-maker to make money to help his little brother. Again we fell for a sob story and ended up giving him the last of out gold for helping us. Unlike Blinsky, he didn’t show any appreciation at all and so, frustrated, Engong hit him causing him to fall unconscious, and she took back the gold.
On our way to the coffin shop, we came up with another plan. Kevon and Engong would enter the shop as a distraction, whilst Baräsh and Gimble Timbers snuck around the back, found the bones and got out.
Failing that: swords.
Kevon and Engong pushed against on the door but it was clearly locked. A voice rang out from inside, “We’re closed Go away.”
“Please, this is urgent,” they lied, “We have lots of money,” they lied again.
“Don’t care. Go away.”
Undeterred, the monk broke down the door to reveal a small man sitting behind a desk in a room filled with empty coffins and wooden crates. “Just give us the bones and we’ll leave,” shouted the monk. On the far side of the room was window through which the head of Gimble Timbers could occasionally be seen rising and falling as he tried, and failed, to make a stealthy entrance.
Baräsh joined Kevon and Engong and strong-armed the coffin maker into disclosing the location of the bones. “They’re upstairs,” he shouted and pointed to a door. “OK, but you’re coming too,” said the paladin.
Upstairs, the tiefling and dragonborn entered a large drafty room filled with cobwebs and boxes. “Just take the bones and leave me be,” cried the man, now panicking. He pointed to a coffin on the far side of the room. Baräsh went over to it and lifted the lid to reveal the holy bones of St. Andell buried in the dirt.
The man turned to dash out of the room, but was caught by Kevon in the doorway. “You must flee,” he yelled. “Forget the bones. You’re madmen!”
As he screamed out, a crash of lightning outside lit up the room, silhouetting the six crates that stood on the far side. Suddenly the lid of each crate flew into the air, as from each one leapt a snarling, spitting, screeching vampire spawn. “The bones belong to us. This town belongs to us!”
Ahhh! What and ending. How will we survive this? We only just managed to make it through an encounter with one vampire spawn a couple of weeks ago, there is no way could endure six! I hope something happens that means we can escape this, otherwise it’s surely the end of our party.
Nevertheless, we really enjoyed this session. In the lead up to its climax, we absolutely went the long way round getting to the bones. Speaking to the DM afterwards, he was sure we would arrive at the coffin-makers and fight the vampire spawn this session, but seeing as we were all relishing making up our far-fetched plans, he let us run with. So much so that we ended up playing a whole two and a half hour session without any combat at all. For me this was a first, but I really enjoyed it. I think I only rolled dice two or three times.
Next week, we’ll see what happens in the coffin-makers, hopefully it isn’t our final session. Perhaps one of us will survive to tell the tale…