‘D&D Curse of Strahd’ Player’s Report: Session 17

'd&d strahd' player's report

Session 17: Chaotic-Lawful-Evil-Good

Engong and Her Associates awoke to the smell of musky books and stale cat. For the second time in a week they had rested in the Library at Lady Wachta’s mansion. Their sleep had been fitful and interrupted by excitable kittens and the house’s other strange occupants. But they felt well rested nonetheless. In fact, there was a newfound confidence growing among the party; they were finally on the right track, or so they thought…

Last night’s session in my group’s online Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition ‘Curse of Strahd’ game was marred by numerous technical problems and domestic interruptions. Because of this, it was one of the more disjointed games and at times got quite frustrating—especially for our DM. But we played on regardless and still managed to have fun.

As per last session, a recent update of Skype was one of the main contributors to the problems. This was compounded by the fighter’s computer deciding it needed an “urgent update” (he ended up playing on his phone which was less than optimal), the druid having to work late and so unable to join, and my eight-month-old son deciding that 10:30PM is a good time to wake up and want attention. Never mind, it was still an enjoyable session.

Alignment

One of the major themes of the last few sessions has been our characters’ alignments. Recently our DM has had us questioning our PCs’ actions and trying to justify them within our character builds.

For some players, alignment can be a bit tricky to get to grips with. I suppose that technically Dungeons & Dragons is a game where you take on the role of a hero, or a perhaps character who aspires to do heroic things. But, and this is especially true of our experience so far of Curse Of Strahd, there are times when your character might behave in a certain way that might not be considered heroic in the classical sense. This is when your character’s alignment plays a huge role.

For some groups, alignment doesn’t matter past the initial character creation exercise and there is no need to justify an action with the reasoning that a lawful good cleric would behave in a certain way that a chaotic evil cleric wouldn’t. But many other groups do. And sometimes it is a useful method of determining how your character should react in a certain situation if you can’t decide for yourself.

This is particularly pertinent to our group now as, having spent some time in Barovia, our “heroes” have started to act in ways which might be contradictory or run parallel to their alignment. Instances include: Kosef the chaotic neutral rogue slashing the Burgomaster’s throat, Baräsh the lawful good paladin pushing an old lady down the stairs, and Engong the chaotic good monk punching multiple priests. Indeed our DM has started to occasionally mention to us that our alignments might be more fluid and changing than we originally thought. Perhaps that lawful good paladin might be evil-adjacent after all…

Still, it can be confusing when we try to work out exactly how our character should behave. Mike Mearls—one of the creative leads at WotC—recently gave the following clarifications when asked via Twitter questions about alignment; I think they’re quite useful:

Lawful good paladin – I enforce the law to benefit society
Lawful neutral paladin – I enforce the law
Lawful evil paladin – I am the law

When an adventuring comrade dies:
Neutral good buries you properly
Neutral leaves you where you died
Neutral evil sells your organs

Chaotic good – do whatever it takes to help others
Chaotic neutral – do whatever it takes
Chaotic evil – do whatever [sic.]

With all this in mind, I wouldn’t say that any of our characters has strayed too far from their original alignments, but it certainly isn’t much of a stretch to say that change may be coming. Kosef could be excused assassinating the Burgomaster, reasoning that a chaotic neutral character does “whatever it takes”—he is an assassin after all. And Engong was only trying to help and do the right thing when she punched those priests—she is socially awkward. But maybe the lawful good Paladin needs to consider how he acts a little more carefully. Do his actions reflect a benefit to society or has he just taken the law into his own hands?

Meanwhile, back in Barovia

It was definitely time for our party, Engong and Her Associates, to be leaving Vallaki. It had been our home for about a week or so and we had done more than enough damage to need to leave rather urgently. This wouldn’t stop us from tying up a few loose ends first.

Last night our party consisted 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;
Kosef – Human Rogue, mysterious, sarcastic, acrobatic assassin, played by me.

d&d strahd new party
Engong and Her Associates: Brundle Swash, Kosef, Baräsh, Engong and Gimble Timbers

Lady Wachta’s Mansion

Now that Lady Wachta was installed as the Burgomaster, the party felt they had an ally in Vallaki. But that didn’t mean they wanted to stay. There was simply too much other stuff to do. There was the mission from Irwin Martokoff to find out what happened to his wine shipment; and they still needed a relic to take back to Father Lucian in Barovia. Not to mention the overwhelming desire to leave this land altogether, although they had now realized that as long as Strahd was in control, this would be nigh-impossible.

What’s more, Baräsh was worried about Ireena. He wanted to make sure she was safe before leaving town, so he and Gimble Timbers set off looking for her. They knew she must be here in the mansion somewhere. That left just Engong and Kosef sitting awkwardly in the Library. They stared at each other noiselessly until the silence was broken by a strange mewing sound coming from the room next door.

“Mee-Ow.”

Poor perception and insight rolls meant neither Kosef nor Engong were able to find out what was going on. It was almost certainly a human voice making the cat sounds but other than that they were stumped. We laughed as sub-par roll after sub-par roll meant our characters wandered around fruitlessly, trying in vain to find the source of the fake meowing.

Eventually the DM gave in and had us bump into the crazy cat-lady. Who, as it turned out was the fiancé of Victor, the teenage wizard we dealt with last week. Victor was there too and asked if we would return his spellbook. We weren’t able to comply with his request. This was due to the fact that at that exact moment Baräsh was in the kitchen using its pages to wrap up sandwiches he had just made as our rations for the day.

Alongside Baräsh in the kitchen were Gimble Timbers and Ireena. They had found her doing the dishes and absently staring into space. Although still dazed from recent events—her brother had been eaten by Strahd in a previous session—they determined that she was safe here, collected their sandwiches, and headed out, meeting Engong and Kosef along the way.

“Hey guys, we made sandwiches,” said Baräsh.

“Cool thanks, I think we should give Victor his spellbook back.”

“Hey guys, I made sandwiches,” repeated Baräsh.

“Oh, right. Never mind.”

This was the second time we’d met Victor and the second time we screwed him over. I mention this because I know that he is the ally whom Madam Eva told us could help our cause, but none of the other players seem to have remembered this fact. What’s worse is that my character Kosef wouldn’t know as he wasn’t with the party back then, so I can’t say anything. Somehow I don’t think Victor will be aiding us now.

Irwin and Blinsky

When we left the mansion we had two planned stops before leaving Vallaki, first Blinksky’s toy shop to pick up some barding for the fighter’s mastiff, then to Irwin’s tavern for a final farewell and a pointer in the right direction. Blinksky was happy with us for dealing with Izek Strazny a couple of sessions earlier and rewarded us with a free saddle and harness for the dog.

“Thank you so much. You have made me very happy,” he said. “Now I can spend my time making toys for the children and not those silly Ireena dolls Iszek made me create. Here have this.” He went to fetch something from the other room and came back holding what looked like a brightly colored leather saddle with cheerful red and gold spikes. “This is for your dog, little Kevon. It’s from a rocking horse so should fit. Well actually it’s from a rocking dragon, but you get the picture.”

'd&d curse of strahd' player's report. Gimble timbers riding Kevon
Gimble Timbers riding Kevon his dragon-clad mastiff mount – image by Mat Phillips Illustration

So, with our gnome fighter in a top hat riding a mastiff wearing a dragon costume, we headed off to Irwin’s bar. He greeted us kindly and apologized for the show of force after the tavern brawl the previous day. He told us all about the Order of the Feather, a mysterious society of were-ravens who protected travelers and opposed Strahd. He said they would help us in times of need, and at the same time asked us to investigate the missing wine delivery. We agreed and finally headed off, intending to leave Vallaki.

Amazingly, it seemed that as we left the tavern, we had managed to make amends for our misdeeds since arriving in the town. We had settled our grievances with Irwin and Lady Fiona and even made friends with the Order of the Feather. However, our newfound good grace was destined not to last.

One final thing

As we neared the final gate that led away and out of town, we passed the deserted church where three days before Kevon fell as we battled Strahd. All but Baräsh were keen to walk past and not enter the church, but the paladin insisted on trying to find the tiefling’s body so he could bury it properly. So Engong, Gimble Timbers, and Baräsh entered the church, leaving Kosef outside with the mastiff, convinced something bad was going to happen. Predictably it did.

Dead bodies and debris were scattered around the church’s interior and from a mound of corpses rose the reanimated body of one-time ally Father Lucian, now a vampire spawn. A quick but fierce battle ensued that saw Baräsh use three spell slots empowering his weapon with Divine Smite. Engong and Gimble Timbers aided in the fight, while Kosef waited outside and shared a sandwich with Kevon the dog.

Once they had dispatched the vampire spawn, Kosef overheard Engong and Gimble Timbers discussing what they should do about the rest of the bodies. He overheard the words “cremation” and “pyre,” and instinctively got to his feet and began walking quickly to the deserted town gate.      

Sure enough as he looked over his shoulder seconds later, Kosef saw thick pillars of black smoke billowing from the shattered stained glass windows and three familiar figures mischievously hurrying away from the church. They quickly caught up with him and a taciturn nod from the gnome was all that needed to be said.

As the party made it past the abandoned gate they could hear the distant cries of “Fire, Fire!” as the remaining townsfolk all ran to battle the blaze. END

Afterthoughts

After this session I think I may have to change my mind about us playing to our alignments. I can’t believe we burned down the church. We had only just managed to convince the locals we were all right and then we destroyed a major landmark in the town. Sure, the paladin and monk may try to justify it with the excuse that the bodies needed to be dealt with. But I don’t think the townspeople will appreciate the adjacent buildings being put in danger. It doesn’t seem like a Lawful Good thing to do.

The party is now level five and we all looked forward to using our newfound abilities in this session. The fighter and monk both gained an extra attack, which was very useful against the vampire spawn, the rogue learned Uncanny Dodge, and the paladin now has Misty Step.

We ended the session exiting Vallaki and starting our journey to the Wizards of Wines winery. Hopefully we will have a full complement of heroes next week. Let’s just hope we can all act in appropriately heroic ways…

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