The party woke to the smell of cat. Kosef sneezed. It was the morning after the night when everything went wrong and the intrepid adventurers had been in need of a good solid rest. Baräsh had spent the night in prayer, coming to terms with his new divine calling. Meanwhile, Engong and Gimble Timbers got acquainted with the new arrivals. Brundle Swash the druid clearly had some personal space issues which seemed in line with Engong’s rejection of societal norms. Meanwhile Gimble Timbers and Kosef traded tales of past adventures and more recent escapades, and they were thankful that it was Kevon who passed away the previous night and not one of them…
The fifteenth session in my group’s online play through of Dungeons & Dragons Curse of Strahd included my first ever bar fight. And boy was it a good one. I’ve often played in games where “you meet in a tavern” was the opening gambit, or where the local inn only served as a place to pick up rumors and adventure hooks, but last night we actually got to throw tables and smash bottles and hang on chandeliers, just like in the movies. It was great.
But hey, in all the excitement, I’m getting a little ahead of myself, more about all that later.
We have now been playing our Skype-based campaign one evening per week for the past fifteen or so (you can read all about it here), and although it’s taken us a little while to get the logistics sorted and to iron out the creases, we have finally found our collective rhythm.
So much so that what initially started out as a party of four player characters (PCs) has now evolved into a party of five. This is a good thing as far as our characters are concerned, as our joint hit points (HP) are now higher meaning fewer of us will die (note that I deliberately wrote “fewer”).
However, it also means that the things we have learned over the last 15 weeks now need to be relayed to our newcomer. Things like DON’T put a snack packet next to your microphone; and DON’T let anyone do the washing up, watch a film, or play the piano in the background; and definitely DO remember to mute the microphone when trying to soothe your screaming seven-month-old son. OK, admittedly I’m the lead perpetrator for most of those, especially the last one. After all, we can all learn from my mistakes.
The story so far
Each week our DM begins with a quick recap of the story so far and this is really useful as it reminds us of the things HE thinks are important—often these are not the same things as what we might have remembered, and are things that we might otherwise have overlooked.
This week, as there are now more of us, and some are playing different characters, we used this time to re-introduce our PCs to one another and share a bit about their backgrounds. Last week, two new members joined Engong and Her Associates (the name given to our band of adventurers) and it turns out they already knew the party’s gnome. This made for some pretty entertaining roleplay, especially when they repeatedly forgot his name, “Gumble Trombonee?”, “Dingle Sumners?”, “It’s Gimble Timbers!”
Last week’s game ended with us resting in the cat-infested library of the ambitious Lady Fiona Wachter. This was after a tumultuous and semi-apocalyptic encounter with Strahd and six vampire spawns in the church of St. Andell. Most of the friendly NPCs we had met so far had died in the church, as had Kevon the Tiefling Sorcerer. In sympathy, Lady Wachter had kindly offered to put us up for the night, but only if we agreed to deal with the town’s psychopathic burgomaster Vargos and his deadly retinue of burly guards, which included a large angry man with a giant clawed hand.
Our new and improved party consists of:
Gimble Timbers – Gnome Fighter, inquisitive, wearing a top hat and eye-patch;
Engong –Half-Orc Monk, taciturn, really fast, not a “people person”;
Baräsh –Dragonborn Paladin, Oath of Vengeance, stupid and self-righteous, revived by the spirit of St. Andell;
Brundle Swash – Gnome Druid, disheveled, enigmatic, turns into a bear;
Kosef – Human Rogue, mysterious, sarcastic, acrobatic assassin, played by me.
Kevon – Tiefling Wild Magic Sorcerer DECEASED
Plans, Plans, Plans
Lady Wachter’s mansion was a hive of activity, and once the party had woken up and breakfasted, it was time to come up with a plan. They had been asked to “take care” of the Burgomaster, which, for the time being, they had agreed to do, and so they just needed to decide how. The main obstacle would be his burly henchmen, specifically Izek Strazny, the monstrous enforcer of the Burgomaster’s will. When the others described Izek to Kosef and Brundle Swash it became clear that the two bounty hunters were interested in this man too. Could he be the man with a claw they had been sent into Barovia to deal with…?
We spent the first hour of the session discussing one outrageous plan after another, most of which involved us burning down the town, or parts thereof, to cause a distraction. We would then simply attack the Burgomaster while his guards were otherwise occupied. Some of the plans involved recruiting the local children to set the fires, and some just had Engong do it all one her own. Needless to say, none of the plans we came up with were any good.
As the party discussed Izek, it became clear that Kosef and Brundleswash might have another agenda in taking out the head guard. A successful insight check from the monk exposed as much, and when questioned they revealed the reason they were in Barovia was thanks in part to a mission to apprehend or destroy the clawed man. Realizing that their goals were aligned strengthened the party’s resolve and set them on their course.
Eventually, Lady Wachter grew tired of our fruitlessly going around in circles and ushered us out of her house. We left, but not before Baräsh and Gimble Timbers had a discussion with the house cook about grilled cheese sandwiches and then went searching for an armory. The paladin and fighter were surprised to discover that not all houses in Barovia had a weapons supply. “No wonder things are going so wrong here!”
Ravens, Ravens, Ravens
We left Lady Wachter’s mansion and headed straight for the Bluewater Inn. We had already met and befriended Irwin Martokoff, the innkeeper, and thought that he might be able to aid us in our objective. As we traveled there, we noticed an oddly large number of ravens in town that were apparently following us. Occasionally, Gimble Timbers and Brundle Swash, both being gnomes, attempted to talk with the birds but this had little effect.
Once in the tavern, Irwin was able to fill us in on the evening’s events. After we had left the festival to fight in the church, an angry mob had formed and tried to burn down the Burgomaster’s mansion. They failed and most were apprehended, with those not immediately killed by Izek and his guards put in the stocks to face judgement today.
When we asked Irwin about Lady Wachter, he said he didn’t know very much about her. “All’s I do know is that she don’t have Vallaki’s best interests at heart. Mark my words, she’s trouble.”
After this, we asked if there was somewhere private we could go to discuss our plan and were shown to the barn. Like the streets of Vallaki, this barn was riddled with ravens, and once more our gnomes attempted to communicate with them. Still nothing. So we tried to ignore the birds and continue planning. They would not be ignored and squawked continuously when a new plan of action was set out. This was most distracting and we could all tell our DM was enjoying himself, but none of us were insightful enough to see if they were trying to give us a signal or just being annoying.
It All Kicks Off
Back in the bar, Irwin told us that if we were looking for the “Order of the Feather” they will surely find us, “and also, please don’t burn down the town,” he added.
As soon as he said that, the door flew open and in barged Izek Strazny, flanked by two guards. Izek strolled right up to bar and demanded a glass of wine. But, as we had already discovered, there was no wine to be had.
The party all stood stock still, rooted to the ground where they stood, silently staring at Izek. All apart from Engong, who was sitting in the corner of the room talking to two gruff woodsmen, and Kosef, who soundlessly slunk into the shadows.
As Baräsh stared with intent at the hulking claw handed-brute, vengeance lit up his dragonborn eyes. Gimble Timbers and Brundle Swash both stepped back sensing danger. The tension grew and grew, but was punctured by Engong turning to the hairy wolf-like woodman beside her and asking loudly, “So what do you think about that Izek?”
The man had no time to reply, as suddenly a crossbow bolt flew through the air and pierced into the back of Izek’s head. He screamed out in agony and spun round to see where the missile came from, blood dripping from his head. The bolt had dug deep into his right temple, erupting out of eye. With his one remaining good eye he could see his attacker draw back the trigger and begin to reload his crossbow. Kosef the assassin had hit his mark.
As soon as Kosef fired the crossbow bolt all hell broke loose in the Bluewater Inn. Being a rogue with the assassinate ability meant he had dealt a critical hit with sneak attack advantage, delivering a stunning 30 points of damage with a single bolt. Our DM was not amused.
The two guards that were with Izek instantly moved around to protect him as both Gimble Timbers and Baräsh moved in to attack. They both connected with their strikes and thus began a frenzied melee that involved Engong chasing down a guard who had run to get help, Brudle Swash the druid getting under a table and sending magical flames against his enemies’ shins, Gimble Timbers and Baräsh continuing to wail upon Izek and his guards, and Kosef being dragged out of the bar by two burly men.
Throughout the encounter it was clear that our less than subtle approach had angered the locals, especially Irwin Martakoff, who, up until then, had been quite helpful and encouraging in our pursuit of Izek and the Burgomaster. Our DM also let slip that the two burly men that dragged Kosef away were Were-ravens and therefore likely members of the Order of the Feather.
Eventually the fight came to its stunning climax.
Baräsh called upon the power of St. Andell, and his mighty hammer burnt with divine justice. With a final devastating blow he smote the clawed Izek with all the holy vengeance he could muster. And Izek felt his fury. It would be the last thing he would ever feel.
Everyone in the tavern heard Izek’s body break. His two henchmen stood, paralyzed by the shock of what they had just seen. Irwin drew his shortsword for the first time in many years, “EVERYBODY GET OUT!” he shouted. “You have doomed us all.”
Realizing the time for action was over and the time for running away had begun, Gimble Timbers made a dash for the door, quickly followed by Baräsh. Brundle Swash turned to do the same, then he heard Kosef’s voice from outside, “Get the claw, Brundle. The claw!” and he knew what he had to do. END
Another great session that finished on a real high point. We were all grinning and excited as the DM called time on the evening’s game and agreed that we could have happily gone on playing for much longer. I’m not sure our DM was quite so happy that we murdered one of his key NPCs though. I’m confident he’ll make us pay for that next session.
It’s nice to see that the group has quickly adapted to having two new party members too, Kosef’s rogue abilities came to the fore this week, and I know the druid is keen to show us all what he can do pretty soon.
The session ended with us all being hurried out of the tavern by Irwin and told never to come back again. As we exited, we saw an angry mob of twenty or so guards cresting the hill and heading straight for us. I think our only course of action is to run away, but we’ll just have to wait until next time to see if “Engong and her Associates” can get the heck out of dodge.