Session 12: Be cool…
Engong awoke as the guards roughly locked her into the stockade. It took her a moment or two to gather her senses and realize where she was, and to remember why she was there. She could hear Baräsh in the stocks next to her softly humming a dragonborn hymn. “Great,” she thought, “he’s here.”
The guards left, heading for the Burgomaster, and Engong began looking around for any sign of Gimble Timbers or Kevon, but any movement was heavily restricted due to the rigid wooden frame. She could just about work out that there were two others beyond Baräsh clamped in the stocks at her side.
Meanwhile, in the relative safety of the shadowy rooftops, Kevon skulked from chimney to chimney keeping an eye on his imprisoned companions while searching for the gnome. The top hat should give him away, he thought. He spotted Gimble Timbers and attempted to get his attention by dropping a couple of loose roof tiles over the side of the building. This only served to startle the gnome, as a tile narrowly missed his head. He looked up but could not quite work out where it had come from, so continued wandering aimlessly.
12th Time Lucky
Last night’s ‘D&D Curse of Strahd’ session went off without a hitch; no baby troubles (baby Billy is feeling much better now) or technical blips (we have appeased the internet gods). It’s taken 12 attempts but we’ve finally got this online RPG thing sorted. For the moment at least.
We were playing level three characters, and at the end of the last session our dungeon master (DM) suggested we have a look at what happens at the next level. Of course most of us forgot to do this, and so at the point in the game when we eventually rested and leveled up, only one of us were prepared for level four. Thankfully this didn’t cause too much of a problem, as it happened at a convenient midway point in the session, and so allowed our DM to fill in with some useful flavor descriptions.
Level four presents a bit of a quandary for most players as they have to decide either to increase an ability score, meaning their attacks might hit with more certainty or their defense stats improve, OR depending on the DM, they can choose to take a feat. In 5th edition, there are a number of feats which offer boons to characters, each with varying degrees of usefulness. One in particular sticks out as potentially being a bit over powered. ‘Lucky’ gives you three luck points per day which can be used to manipulate attack rolls both for and against you. Naturally this is the one which the paladin picked; everyone else chose to increase their stats.
Last time, we fought a group of vampire spawns who were trying to stop us from claiming the holy bones of St. Adell. The battle took place in the coffin maker’s shop and by the end the building was completely destroyed, burnt to the ground with Hendrick the coffin maker dead inside. This was not good for our image. The opinion polls were in and our approval rating was at an all-time low.
Our party consists of:
Gimble Timbers – Gnome Fighter, inquisitive, wearing a top hat and eye-patch, wandering around aimlessly;
Engong – Half-Orc Monk, taciturn, really fast, not a “people person,” down to 1hp and locked in the stocks;
Baräsh –Dragonborn Paladin, pious and self-righteous, very stupid, also in the stocks;
Kevon – Tiefling Wild Magic Sorcerer, paranoid, recently undead, currently skulking on the rooftops, played by me.
As we started the session, there were a few unanswered questions:
Where had the bones of St. Adell gone? We feared they were lost in the fire.
What was in the vampire spawn’s box? More bones?
What was with the padlock Gimble Timbers found? It was locked and had no keyhole.
What did the vampire spawns have planned for the town? Something unsavoury I’m sure.
So, with all these questions in mind, Gimble Timbers started to look around for his lost companions. He quickly found Engong and Baräsh in the stocks and rolled a high stealth check, managing to sneak up to them without anyone else noticing.
Baräsh had a plan to get them out and once the gnome arrived, he let Gimble Timbers know it. He was going to lie to the Burgomaster to convince him that the Vistani had tried to disrupt the festival. He was also keen to fight Izek, having divined earlier that the head guardsman was entirely evil. This was not a great plan.
You gotta be cool
A high charisma roll meant Vargos the Burgomaster believed Baräsh’s lies, and both he and Engong were miraculously released from the stocks. The interaction with the Burgomaster also revealed a little more information on the upcoming festivities, and at one point Vargos worked himself into such a frenzy insisting that everyone smile and be happy that he started to foam at the mouth as he anxiously fiddled with a small silver knife.
“You gotta be cool.” He insisted. “Why can’t everyone just be cool? Just smile, be happy. Be cool. If people mess with my festival, my land, I would just have to kill them. So be cool, be cool. You don’t understand, I’ve kept this town safe. It’s my energy. Be happy. Just harness the energy and smile. This guy,” he pointed to one of the other prisoners in the stocks. “This guy was messing with my festival.” He brought his dagger up the man’s throat and slashed across it in a terrifyingly quick motion. “That’s not cool. And if you mess with my festival you gotta die.” The prisoner’s limp body slumped in the stocks where it stood. “So be cool.”
We got the message.
We were then invited to join the Burgomaster at his mansion and be the guests of honour at the festival. For some reason we felt it was an offer we couldn’t refuse, no matter how much Gimble Timbers protested; “Hey guys, I just remembered that we’ve paid a deposit on our rooms at the tavern tonight so we won’t be able to stay with Vargos. And I left my other tunic drying in the room. And I told the cat I’d be back to stroke it.” Sadly, a poor deception roll meant his trickery didn’t work, and we had no choice but to accept Vargos’ offer.
We were led to the Burgomaster’s grand house and entered through large ornate oak doors. Inside was a hotbed of activity as maids and servants prepared for the next day’s festival. At one point Vargos told a joke and all the servants burst into hysterical, and uncontrollable fits of laugher. We were then introduced to Vargos’ wife and she took us to our quarters for the evening, explaining that it was usually the butler’s quarters but he had been missing for a while, so we could make ourselves comfortable.
A mysterious son
It turned out that the Burgomaster’s wife was the sister of Father Lucian, the priest that had sent us off after St. Adell’s bones in the first place. She also told us she had a son called Victor, but that we weren’t to disturb him. Naturally, this peaked our interest.
As we settled into our lodgings for the evening, Kevon suggested a barricade on the door which was derided by the others. As we argued over the issue, a jet of purple light suddenly appeared in the window and illuminated the room. Baräsh, Gimble Timbers and Kevon all wanted to ignore the light and go to sleep, but Engong decided to go and investigate. This led her along a corridor that ended in a large wooden door. There was a sign on the door that read “Go Away”. Eerie sounds emanated from inside and flickering multi-colored lights cast odd shadows beneath the door. Letting her curiosity get the better of her, Engong put a hand on the handle to open the door, and was sent hurtling backwards down the corridor as a glyph of warding was set off instantly sending her unconscious.
Engong’s comatose body was brought to us by a rather grumpy Izek and we were told to keep quiet and not disturb anyone else. This time we took the advice and went to sleep, finally leveling up in the process.
Rats and Pretend Cultists
In the morning we spent some time with the house keepers, as the Burgomaster stayed in his library and didn’t want to be disturbed. They were quite talkative and gave us a number of plot hooks to follow. Having breakfasted, we journeyed out into Vallaki and decided to investigate the remains of the coffin makers and the building where Gimble Timbers had chased the vampire spawn the previous night.
At the ruined coffin maker’s shop we managed to find some of the missing holy bones we were looking for, eight bones in all, but the derelict building was devoid of any vampire spawn and there was no trace of the mysterious crate Gimble Timbers had seen them carrying off. We were, however, beset by three swarms of rats and thus began our first and only combat of the evening. The rats were dealt with fairly quickly and we headed off to explore Vallaki,
We were interested in the empty houses that seemed to populate this land, and were looking for some clues to the missing locals. The first two houses we investigated had nothing of interest, but the third one did. As we approached the seemingly derelict building, the windows were boarded up and the grounds were in disrepair, but we heard v0ices coming from inside. It sounded like chanting. Cultists.
Kevon’s instant reaction to cultists was to go into full-on paranoia mode and he had to be restrained by the monk and paladin as the fighter walked towards the house and knocked on the door. After a couple of seconds the door swung open and we were greeted by a man in a black cloak and hood. Kevon fought against Engong and Baräsh, but his strength stat is only 9 against their 20 and 18, so they hardly noticed the struggle.
The cultist who greeted us spoke, and his voice suggested he was perhaps only a teenager, “Hello, er, welcome to the cult. Join us in our evil reverence.” He paused and handed Gimble Timbers a leaflet. We could see that behind him stood about a dozen more men and women in dark robes, their heads shrouded by dark hoods. Each held and candle and began to chant. “We will walk in his shadow and join him in eternal night.”
Not altogether convinced, Gimble Timbers pushed his way into the room and started to question the other ‘cult members’. “Who are you? What are you doing? How old are you?”
The only response he got was squeaking unbroken voices shakily repeating their mantra, “We will walk in his shadow and join him in eternal night.”
The first cultist followed Gimble timbers in and pleaded with him, “Please join us. Surrender your weapons and we can all meet the mistress. It’s really easy.” By this time, the ever-impatient Engong had also barged into the room and, bored of the conversation, decided to punch the lead cultist, he fell to the floor clutching his face and the robed figures all dropped their torches and drew scimitars. “We will walk in his shadow and join him in eternal night,” they chanted.
Another really interesting session, and again it was one without much combat, but there were lots of things going on, especially towards the session’s climax. We all really enjoyed the idea that the fake cultists might just be LARPing or preparing cosplay for the festival. I only hope Kevon can get over his PTSD surrounding cultists after he died last time he met some, I don’t think we can afford to burn down any more houses in this town…