Session 20: The Wizards of Wines part 2
Twig blights and animated vines closed in around Engong and Her Associates. They were surrounded. Their enemy, a filthy half-naked druid, was waving a blackened staff that seemingly controlled the fierce plant creatures around him. He let out a manic cackle as he struck Kosef with the staff. The rogue was paralysed, and could only watch as Bärash, Gimble Timbers and Engong punched, kicked and stabbed at the enchanted bramble-creatures. This would be a really good time for Brundle Swash to make his appearance, Kosef thought to himself…
Last night was the 20th visit to Barovia in my D&D group’s ongoing ‘Curse of Strahd’ campaign. I’m amazed that we have been able to keep this up for twenty weeks. What’s more, only one of our party has died (properly) so far. As we began session 20, I couldn’t help but think that statistic was soon about to change.
A lot has happened in the past 20 sessions. None of it good. There was our initial encounter in the Death House, where Kevon my teifling sorcerer first died. Then we had a battle with a vampire spawn in the basement of a church. This was followed by an encounter with vampire overlord Strahd Von Zarovich, who quickly put us all to shame. Since then, we’ve battled wolves, scarecrows, and town guards; we saved Vallaki from some amateur cultists, and then burned it to the ground; we’ve met and rejected a potential ally, Victor the teenage magician; and we discovered there is a strange, dark power preventing us from leaving Barovia.
Finally, we fought Strahd once more. During this battle, Kevon died again (this time for real), as did Baräsh, our dragonborn paladin (but he was subsequently resurrected). Kevon was then replaced by Kosef the human rogue, and later replaced again by a dog with the same name.
In session 19 we journeyed to the Wizards of Wines winery to clear out a druid infestation for vintner Davian Martokoff. Unfortunately, we underestimated the strength of the druids and ended the session facing odds that were quickly stacking up against us.
Last night, however, our own druid Brundle Swash was with us after a spell of absence, so we were hoping he might be able to help us out of our sticky situation…
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;
Brundle Swash: Gnome Druid, disheveled, enigmatic, turns into a bear;
Kosef: Human Rogue, mysterious, sarcastic, acrobatic assassin, played by me.
No time for catch-ups
Gimble Timbers dangled above the group of angry animated twigs that surrounded his friends. He could see Kosef paralyzed in the center, but he could do nothing about it. He had abseiled down into the room through a trap door and now hung above a particularly dangerous looking needle blight. In one seamless movement, the gnome pulled out his crossbow, loaded a bolt, and let loose at the fiend, all while clutching the rope between his tiny, powerful thighs. Seeing his foe drop to the ground, the fighter loosened the tension between his legs and allowed himself to fall gracefully to the floor, landing crouched, with one hand on the ground and the other on the hilt of his sword.
This was another great start to a session, followed by another classic hero pose from our enigmatic gnome. A natural 20 on his acrobatics check meant he could pull it off in style. This was becoming something of a habit.
We had gone straight back into the action from last week, leaving no time for discussion or strategizing. Kosef was still paralyzed and would remain so until the end of the battle; Engong was having no luck against one druid; Baräsh used his lightning breath and took out a few enemies; and Gimble Timbers tried to chase down the druid leader, but he had dashed just out of reach.
A few rounds of fighting passed and very little changed. We were not having much luck and things looked dire, especially for Kosef who was still taking damage and could do nothing to break free from the madness-induced paralysis.
Thankfully we had another party member in the building, and just as things looked about as bleak as they could, Brundle Swash ran into the room crying “Shillelagh!” His spear was alight with druidic energy and his arrival spurred on the rest of the party, turning the tide of battle.
I was really impressed by the setup for this encounter, our DM had outdone himself. We all knew that the druid would most likely be taking part in the battle, but we had to wait until the most climactic moment. By then all the party’s spells, abilities and hit points had been used up, so we really were getting desperate.
Once Brundle Swash had arrived, Baräsh was able to take down the lead druid, and Engong, Gimble and Brundle between them managed to deal with the remaining twig blights. By the time the encounter was over, Kosef’s paralysis ended and I was able to rejoin the party, albeit quite distressed by the day’s events.
We were keen to find out what Brundle had been up to for the last few days. Prior to the session, the DM had been able to work out a quick backstory with the druid to explain his absence. He had investigated the druids on his own after hearing locals mention them in Vallaki. His investigations led him to the Wizards of Wines winery and he had been welcomed among the druids. However, he knew something was wrong. They kept talking about dark, sinister rituals and an evil tree that ruled the forest. So he bided his time and when he heard a battle going on he knew that this must be Engong and co. so ran to our aid.
Withered Arms, Trap doors, and Brown Mold
After the battle, we couldn’t find the strange black staff the druid was using and presumed another druid must have escaped with it. As we looked around the room, Baräsh noticed a trap door that was slightly ajar. He called to Engong to investigate and the half-orc lit a torch to help them see. This caused the brown mold on the door to instantly expand as it consumed the heat of the fire. Engong and Baräsh both failed their constitution saves and took ten points of cold damage.
The brown mold began expanding and Brundle, sensing danger, cast Produce Flames on it. This did not have the desired effect of destroying the mold. In fact, the opposite was true. This time we all failed our con saves and took 14 damage each. Kosef shouted that perhaps a Frostbite spell would be better.
After the incident with the brown mold, we left the cellar. Just in time to see the last druid running across the fields away from the winery. He was just in range of Kosef’s crossbow and fell to the ground as the bolt stuck him. Gimble Timbers then ran across the field to fetch the staff. But as he lent down to pick it up, a surge of malevolent, necrotic energy hit him and instantly his left arm began to blacken and wither. Gimble Timbers screamed.
Davian the Were-Raven
At that moment an impressively large raven landed in front of the party and squawked angrily at us. We were too concerned with the gnome’s withered arm to pay it much consideration. But when it transformed into Davian Martokoff, the winery’s owner, it got our attention.
Davian thanked us heartily for scaring off the druids, but lamented that they seemed to have stolen a precious magical gem that fueled his enterprise. He answered our questions about being a Were-Raven and suggested that we should head for Krezk to look for the Abbot who could heal Gimble Timbers’ wasted arm. He offered us board and food for the night, as well as three unspoiled barrels of wine to take to any destination of our choosing. We thanked him for his hospitality and assured him that once we had healed our gnome fighter, we would return and retrieve the stolen gem from the druids.
Victor / More scarecrows
In the morning Baräsh cast Purify Food and Drink on the remaining wine in the winery to rid it of the druids’ poison and we set off for Krezk in our wagon. Davian told us it was only half a day’s journey away, and by midday day we were not far from our destination. We traveled in the wagon, with Gimble Timbers riding Kevon the mastiff alongside.
Engong and Her Associates were enjoying some well-earned down time in the wagon, when Gimble Timbers heard a scream and saw four evil scarecrows attacking someone on the road. Instantly Engong, Baräsh and Kosef jumped down from the wagon and dashed to aid the innocent traveler.
Gimble Timbers lowered his sword like a lance and slapped his mount to charge the foul attackers. He knocked one from the road, skewering the rancorous scarecrow and Kevon let out a howl. Baräsh echoed the canine’s call and yelled “TO BATTLE!” charging at the second fiend, and attempted to get between it and its victim.
Then Kosef, who had tactically fallen behind Engong and Baräsh, called out to his companion, “Light them up Brundle!” The Druid replied by sending a magical flame at the head of the third scarecrow, just as Engong engaged herself with the fourth, punching and kicking it into submission.
A few seconds was all it took to go from a gentle wagon ride on the road to Krezk to the total chaos of combat. In the melee, the scarecrows slashed and mauled at their adversaries, while Engong and Her Associates valiantly defended the innocent traveler. Amidst the fighting Kosef caught a glimpse of the scarecrows prey and dropped his crossbow in disbelief. “Victor!” he called out. “What are you doing here?” END
This was another fun session, and it was good to get the whole party back together again. Although I’m sure our gnome fighter isn’t very happy about the prospect of playing the next few sessions with a withered and decaying arm!
It was also very funny that the innocent victim of the scarecrows at the end of the session would be Victor. We’ve had a pretty checkered history with him so far, and he certainly hasn’t proved to be much of a wizard. However, it will balance the party out to have another spellcaster traveling with us.
During this session we also reassessed what our characters’ roles were within the party. It’s taken us a whole 20 sessions, but we finally realized that we need to play much smarter if we’re going to survive Barovia. Last night, this was played out by Kosef having a revelation as he came out from his paralysis. He decided that he didn’t want to die like his predecessor Kevon and decided that the party needed to clearly define their roles. Below is how we decided to separate responsibilities:
Engong: The Leader / Decision-Maker, has the ultimate say in what we do.
Barash: The Face, does all the talking and public relations.
Gimble and Brundle: The Explorers, making the most of their tendency to wander off.
Kosef: The Inventory Guy / Problem Solver, keeps all the loot for himself and occasionally picks locks.
Somehow I managed to convince the others that Kosef should keep track of our inventory, I didn’t even need a deception roll to pull it off! Although I fear we may regret letting Engong the pyromaniac have the final say in our decisions. Next week we should arrive in Krezk and hopefully get Gimble Timbers’ arm restored. I just wonder how useful Victor our new ally is going to prove in our on-going battle against Strahd…