Session 16: A New Reign
“Get out of here! You’ve doomed us all,” shouted Irwin Martokoff. “How dare you kill this man in my tavern. Leave and take your filthy beast with you.” He motioned towards Brundle Swash who had moments earlier transformed into a bear and was busy gnawing at the arm of the fallen Izek Strazny. He shot the bear a look that would shatter stone, and Gimble Timbers took his cue to leave…
Last night was the sixteenth session of my group’s Skype-based play through of Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition horror campaign “Curse of Strahd.” I’ve been relishing the opportunity to play as a character and not the Dungeon Master (DM) as I usually do, and am amazed that we’ve managed to keep it up so consistently and for this long.
As yet, there hasn’t been a session where a character was absent, and even though my son, who is now eight months old and beginning to crawl around, is really not enjoying the current heat wave, he hasn’t complained so much that I’ve not been able to play.
Last night’s game however, wasn’t without its own problems. These were issues more technical in nature, and primarily due to a recent Skype update. It turns out we weren’t the only ones experiencing some pretty major issues with the new edition, as this article from the BBC explains. Microsoft has apparently “rebuilt Skype from the ground up,“ but this has made it buggy and on more occasions than usual caused substantial lag and for players to drop out.
Up until this session we have been very happy using Skype for our online games, I have even recommended others to do the same on social media, but if these problems aren’t fixed over the next couple of weeks, we may have to consider our options. Thankfully these are numerous and it would not be difficult for us to pick another platform.
Still in Vallaki
Our party has spent the last six sessions in Vallaki, a small provincial town run by a maniacal Burgomaster and his heavy handed henchmen, one of whom we dealt with last week. On our arrival, the town was home to roughly 200 people, after less than a week, this number has dropped significantly. This reduction isn’t entirely down to us, but we have played a fairly major part. As such we now feel that it might be time to make our leave from Vallaki. But first there is the aftermath of last week’s bar fight to deal with, half of the party were still in the tavern and the rest were outside, face down in the mud.
Our 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
Before the session got under way the fighter was having some technical issues with Skype, so our DM used the opportunity to ask what our characters’ current motivations were and what they wanted to achieve.
Engong wanted to get out of Vallaki and find a way out of Barovia. Kosef wanted to collect his bounty and leave Barovia. Brundle Swash didn’t know what he wanted – a cheese sandwich perhaps? But he would go wherever Kosef went. Baräsh wanted to turn Vallaki into his own private army and storm Castle Ravenloft in an act of vengeance against Strahd. He was reminded of his Lawful Good alignment and so amended this to finding and saving Ireena – a travelling companion whom we had been sworn to protect, but had subsequently misplaced. And finally Gimble Timbers also wanted to leave Vallaki, investigate the missing wine shipments we had heard about, and then save and maybe marry Ireena.
… As the gnome fighter made it to the door, he paused for a moment and began pushing Izek’s dead body across the threshold, aided by the large brown bear that now had the deceased watch captain’s severed arm clamped in its jaws.
Meanwhile, outside the tavern Kosef stood up, dusted himself off and helped Engong to her feet. The half-orc didn’t appreciate the gesture and tutted loudly. As they stood, they realised a large group of guards were headed their way, with Vargos the Burgomaster leading the charge. From the opposite direction, another group of people marched towards the tavern. They were seemingly led by Lady Fiona Wachta, one of Vargos’ most vocal opponents. Both groups closed in quickly.
It was at that moment that the top of Izek’s dead body began to appear through the doorway, pushed along the ground by Gimble Timbers and Brundle Swash the bear. Kosef and Engong, from the outside, began desperately pushing it back in, hoping that Vargos hadn’t seen it. He had.
This was a great start to the session and had us all laughing as we pushed and pulled Izek’s limp corpse across the threshold of the tavern. What followed was a soliloquy from the Burgomaster, devastated that Izek, his top henchman, was killed. After that, Vargos and Lady Fiona squared off against each other as a crowd gathered and they fought over who should take charge of Vallaki. The crowd’s reaction swung from one side to the other as each stated why they should be the leader.
Eventually, when they had reached a stalemate in their diplomacy Engong, being easily bored, decided to charge at the Burgomaster, intending to dropkick him. Sadly, she failed her Dexterity roll and fell victim to the two large mastiffs that protected their master. Kosef walked up to Lady Fiona and said quietly, “Lady Fiona, we have done as you asked. This is your town now. My friends and I would like safe passage out of this town.”
“Only when I am Burgomaster,” she replied so only he could hear. Kosef nodded, understanding the implicit contract that had been offered. He immediately pulled out his crossbow and sent a bolt hurtling towards Vargos. It struck him on the shoulder and he fell to his knees.
“Aww man! Why’d you go do that for? You’re totally ruining my energy. This is not cool,” shouted Vargos. The crowd that had gathered began cheering us and jeering the Burgomaster. Members of the party dispersed into the crowd and were shouting out “get rid of him,” “what’s he done for us any way,” “down with Vargos.” Spurred on by some solid charisma, performance, and deception rolls, the crowd turned against the Burgomaster. Even once-loyal members of the watch stopped guarding him.
It wasn’t long before Vargos was dragged to the stocks and Lady Wachta stood before him. At this point we all remembered an incident from a previous session when Vargos killed a helpless man in the stocks just to make a point to us. Kosef, who wasn’t a party member at the time, but had witnessed that event, turned to Lady Wachta, “Madame Burgomaster,” he said. “Make your decision.” She turned to the crowd and they yelled “Kill him!” She nodded at Kosef. He took out his dagger and drew it quickly and silently across the ex-Burgomaster’s throat. He fell limp in the stocks and blood started dripping to the ground, he managed a weak “not cool” and died.
This left the two mastiffs growling fiercely at anyone who approached. In an attempt to calm the situation, Brundle Swash, in bear form, tried to intimidate the dogs. However, he rolled a three and his vision of a roaring ferocious beast turned into a dancing teddy bear. The children in the square laughed and cheered. The dogs were not intimidated. Gimble Timbers then tried to pacify them with an animal handling check, calling on his innate connection to nature. He rolled a natural 20 and became a dog whisperer. One of the dogs laid down at his feet and rolled over, “can I keep him?” asked the gnome. The DM allowed it.
After installing Lady Wachta as the new Burgomaster and collecting the 200 gold pieces reward, we decided it would be a good idea for Engong and Her Associates to leave Vallaki, but having remembered one of the first sessions we played where we failed to properly search the Death House, Engong, Barash and Gimble Timbers were keen to go back to the Burgomaster’s Mansion and ‘explore’. By which they meant ‘loot’.
When we arrived at the mansion Brundle Swash, still in bear mode, frightened a pair of elderly servants who were cowering in a cupboard. He changed back into a gnome and in spite of his wild appearance managed to convince them to prepare some food in the kitchens. He followed them and they began miming preparing food. It didn’t take the 18 insight check he rolled to realise there was something wrong with them and so he began searching for the ingredients for a cheese sandwich.
Meanwhile, the rest of the party began looking around the mansion. We recognized the interior, having once been guests of the Burgomaster, and soon stumbled upon his wife, the Baroness, in a hallway. She was understandably upset when we told her of Vargos’ fate and began desperately begging us to leave Victor, their son alone. We had heard about Victor before, mostly that he was a mad magic user and very dangerous. Engong had even been shocked, nearly to death, by a warding glyph on his door.
We pushed our way past the Baroness and approached the door. Engong was naturally cautious and decided head to the roof to make her own way in. Baräsh convinced Victor to let us in and the door swung open.
As Gimble Timbers, Kosef and Baräsh surveyed the room, they saw amidst the remnants of past meals, pentagrams, and discarded laundry two skeletal cats prowling by the window. But there was no sign of Victor.
Baräsh began to focus his mind, sweeping the room for evidence of arcane magics. “There’s no need for that,” said Kosef. “He’s just invisible.” He drew out a felt pouch from beneath his cloak and tossed the contents in the centre of the room. One hundred ball bearings spilled into the space and the party heard a thud as Victor fell to the ground. His spell lifted and they saw a teenager wearing a tablecloth-cloak splayed on the ground. He clutched an ancient leather bound book.
At that moment Engong came smashing through the window. She had climbed to the roof and used Kosef’s rope of binding to swing heroically into Victor’s dormitory. Stunned and panicked, Victor began furiously turning the pages of his mystical tome. Baräsh began to scold him as you would a puppy who stole your milk, and he grabbed the book from his hands. But it was too late, as a swirling portal opened up above the would-be wizard. “Aha! It worked” he yelled, and dove through. Baräsh tried to grab hold of him but could not manage to retain the child.
At that moment Brundle Swash ran up the stairs carrying a silver tray, “Guys! Guys I made cheese toasties!” END
Considering we all had decided that this session we would leave Vallaki, we didn’t really accomplish that much. Although Brundle Swash did get his cheese sandwich, and Baräsh now has a pretty powerful spell book – although I don’t think he can use it.
There were some other interesting artefacts in the Burgomaster’s mansion, which included a room filled to the top with Blinksy-made Ireena dolls. There was also a magic mirror that showed a man with a knife in its reflected image. Having had issues with mirrors before, the party decided to smash the mirror and ended up freeing a trapped soul. After the session finished our DM told us this was actually an Assassination Mirror and that if we had asked it to kill someone, the reflected man with a knife would leave the glass and do as asked.
The player playing Gimble Timbers was also really pleased to be allowed to keep the Burgomaster’s mastiff as a pet. He intends to purchase a bridle and saddle and ride the canine into battle. When asked what he would call it he instantly replied “Kevon!”
Finally, as the session ended our DM told us to be prepared to be level five next session. This is particularly exciting for me as level five is when my rogue gets Uncanny Dodge, a really useful ability that lets me halve some damage taken. I have a feeling I may need this boon before too long.