Session 19: The Wizards of Wines
The oppressive Barovian mists closed in around the party as they made their way down the winding shingled path towards the Wizards of Wines winery. They could see the wooden dilapidated construct looming ominously out of the fog one hundred yards ahead. Davian Martokoff had led them so far, but refused to take another step. Taking charge of Kevon the mastiff, he ushered Engong and Her Associates onward. They had been told to expect druids…
Last night was the 19th session in my group’s ‘Curse of Strahd’ campaign. We have been playing via Skype and have found this a really versatile platform for playing Dungeons and Dragons – in spite of some of the more recent technical issues with the latest update. These problems have included issues with crackly audio, jolty video, and constant lagging and crashing. Thankfully, session 19 managed to avoid all of these.
Sadly, our party was down by one player again last night. The gnome druid Brundle Swash was continuing his fire safety course. But other than that there were no real problems or interruptions technical, infant-based, or otherwise. This was the second week in a row where we had no external disruptions, but as we now know from experience this roll of good fortune is unlikely to last.
Back in Barovia
In our previous session we agreed to help out Davian Martokoff who was having some problems with a band of “pesky, perverted druids” that had overrun his building. The druids arrived a couple of weeks ago and the Martokoffs tried to defend themselves, but had to retreat to the nearby woods two days earlier. Which is where we found them. Last night’s session saw us enter the winery and begin exploring.
Engong and Her Associates
Engong: Half-Orc Monk, taciturn, really fast, not a “people person”;
Gimble Timbers: Gnome Fighter, inquisitive, wearing a top hat and eye-patch, has a pet mastiff called Kevon;
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.
Brundle Swash: Gnome Druid, disheveled, enigmatic, turns into a bear. ABSENT;
They closed in on the wooden outbuilding. Engong, who was in the lead, noticed many shadowy figures shambling through the shrubbery. They appeared to be twigs animated by some foul magic and were slowly drawing in around the party. Some stood out as larger than the others, some were even man-sized.
The monk quickly relayed this information to the others and they dashed into the building’s main shed. The door had been forced and showed signs of a recent break-in. There were scratches across it and the lock had been shorn away. Fearing there may be monsters lurking inside, Kosef stepped forward and crept in, keeping to the shadows.
This was exciting. For the first time since joining the party my character Kosef was going to have a chance to show off some of his stealth and exploration skills. This was a good thing. So far Engong and Her Associates have proven themselves to be anything other than stealthy and subtle; they tend more to barge in shouting than trust in their sneak abilities.
With a solid 23 stealth check I felt confident Kosef could creep in undetected and have a good look around. The first thing to notice was the horrific smell of putrefying fermentation. I made my way through some more doors which had clearly been forced open and passed a chute that came down from the ceiling and continued past the floor. I figured that this was for rolling barrels down into the cellar, but my poor insight check meant I couldn’t be sure. It looked just like a super-fun-happy-slide. I resisted the strong urge to try it out.
In the next room were six large circular vats in two rows separated by a wooden stairway leading up. These were clearly the source of the disgusting smell. The DM mentioned that if I were to tap on them they would sound empty. I didn’t take the bait and refused to test this out. Suddenly a scuttling noise could be heard from above and I saw a dark shape scrambling around on a balcony over one of the vats. Fearing an imminent encounter I returned to my companions and told them what I had seen. This would be the end of our stealth mission.
Back to barging straight in, with the same old results
At this point we decided to go in and approach what we assumed was a druid. The problem was that we couldn’t decide on a good plan. Baräsh was keen for us not to kill the druid, and wanted us to capture her instead. We did not have a good track record where this was concerned.
Worried that we were spending too long in discussion, we went in and let Baräsh attempt diplomacy. He called out loudly: “Hello friendship. Please show yourself.”
“Go away!” came the rasping reply. “This place is ours now”
“Well, not really. The Wizards of Wines belongs to the Martokoffs and they would very much like it returned. This is their home.”
“All that grows here belongs to us. The Lord Strahd demands fealty. We worship his might.”
Convinced this wasn’t going to get any better, and enraged at the mention of Strahd’s name, Baräsh threw a javelin. Unfortunately it missed due to the druid having partial cover. At this point Baräsh said “I think we should definitely just knock her out and not kill her.” This had nothing to do with the fact that he had missed his target entirely, suggested Gimble Timbers. “Oh that? It was a warning shot. I only meant to stun her. With my javelin.”
Another discussion ensued. Meanwhile the druid was busy preparing herself. We heard scuttling in the canopy above us. Engong attempted to jump to the upper floor, aided by Baräsh. An acrobatic roll of four meant a saving throw was required to grab onto the ledge above the vat. Engong rolled 22 and was left hanging on, desperately clinging 20 feet above the bubbling, soiled wine.
Now the druid leapt to her feet, grabbed Baräsh’s javelin and yelled “To me, my twigs!” And she threw the javelin at Engong but missed. Both Kosef and Gimble Timbers went to dash up the stairs, but before they reached the first step an explosion of twigs and bramble erupted from the closest vat to where they stood.
This was not a great way to begin a battle. Once more we managed to mess up a pretty straightforward situation through a combination of haste and poor dice rolls. Our monk was still hanging from the rafters above us; the fighter and rogue were surrounded by four swarms of twig blights; the paladin was still attempting to negotiate; and our enemy had the higher ground.
After an initial surprise round from the twig blights that saw both Kosef and Gimble Timbers take damage, Engong managed to pull herself onto the upper level. She threw two darts at the druid who then tried to entangle the monk in magical vines before running away.
Meanwhile, on the ground floor Baräsh charged at the first swarm he could see. He dealt some good damage too, all while laughing and roaring with the excitement of battle. Kosef and Gimble Timbers fought against their attackers and both continued to take damage in reply. By this stage Kosef, who had suffered from two critical attacks was looking pretty worse for wear.
Engong decided to follow the druid, who went through a door on the upper level. She dashed after and found a corridor with three exits. One of the doors was slightly ajar, so the monk carefully pushed it open and stepped inside. The room looked like some sort of office with a desk on the far side and two twig blights pretending to be office plants. As Engong entered, she startled a bedraggled man as he refiled through the desk drawers. She recognized him as another druid. She calmly stepped into the room, closed the door, and mimed rolling up her sleeves (her arms were bare). She then walked over to the druid and attempted to punch him twice. She missed both attacks. Somehow the druid’s barkskin repelled her hits. Sensing this was a poor start to the battle, Engong turned, opened the door, stepped out of the room and closed the door, leaning against it. This really made us all laugh and even earned Engong a point of inspiration from our DM.
Downstairs, Gimble Timbers, Baräsh and Kosef managed to defeat the swarming twig blights. Gimble Timbers decided to explore the downstairs rooms but found nothing of interest.
At this point the original druid whom Engong had tried to follow reappeared in the main room with Baräsh and Kosef. They engaged her in battle and just as Gimble Timbers and Engong reappeared to help, Kosef put his rapier through the druid’s throat and she fell to the floor dead.
After this battle we regrouped and tried to decide what to do next. Stealth didn’t seem to be an option. Inevitably, but before we realized it, Gimble Timbers wandered off and began exploring on his own. The first room he came to had a large mill-wheel by a hatch with a chute that led downwards. Next to the wheel stood a filthy, hairy man, naked except for a loincloth. He held a black wooden staff above his head and was chanting. Shocked, he looked up and growled at the gnome. Certain that he didn’t want to interact with this druid alone, Gimble Timbers doffed his hat to him and stepped backwards out of the door, closing it after him.
By the time we all returned to the room, the druid had disappeared. He had apparently escaped down the chute. Deciding I couldn’t resist any longer, I jumped down the chute too. This turned out to be a big mistake.
Kosef barreled down the spiraling barrel chute and thumped into what felt like a bramble bush at the bottom. Of course this was no ordinary bramble bush. The two needle blights that had waited for him scratched at his face fiercely and he cried out for the rest of the party to join him.
Kosef had landed in the winery’s cellar. This was a small dank room, partitioned by a half stocked wine rack. In front of the bottles stood the semi-naked druid, manically cackling and clutching his blackened staff. Kosef got up and wrestled himself free of the blights, but stumbled into the path of the Druid’s staff. As the wood connected, he felt a dark sensation wash over him. His body froze. He couldn’t move. He was paralyzed. END
This was another great session, and one which I’m sure I will be thinking about all week before we can play again.
For the second week in a row we experimented with streaming the session live on Twitch.com. This week we managed a whole two new followers! Having fewer followers may not be such a bad thing though.
Having watched some of the stream back subsequently, I realized that I need to work on my posture while playing if we are going to carry on streaming. For over 50% of last night’s game I was hunched over taking notes, and this made it look like I was either not paying attention, or asleep; only the left half of my face is shown on the screen and I’m rarely ever looking into the camera. Also, for the first ten minutes I can be seen in the back of shot changing my son’s diaper. I’m not sure the world really wanted to see that.
Next week we hope to have a full complement of players and I think we’ll need all the extra help if we’re to finish dealing with these pesky druids. I really don’t want to have to create another a character, I’m just getting used to playing Kosef…