Session 21: On the Road Again
In the melee, the evil, rancorous scarecrows slashed and mauled at Engong and Her Associates. The heroes valiantly defended the innocent traveller against the patchwork fiends. 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?”
Last night’s session in my D&D group’s ‘Curse of Strahd’ Campaign was essentially a classic road trip movie played out over the internet through the medium of Dungeons & Dragons. It was our 21st time playing and it was good to see that Skype seems to have sorted out some of the annoying technical problems we were experiencing before. What’s more, my nine-month-old son Billy managed to stay asleep for the entire session – this is something he hasn’t done for some weeks.
Last week we were actually able to do something that was almost heroic. Since starting the campaign, everything we have tried to do has ended in tragedy, so it was nice to bring some joy to Barovia. We had been asked to investigate why the winery had missed its latest deliveries and discovered it to be overrun with evil druids. We managed to dispatch the druids and thus return the winery to normal function. For our daring deeds, we were generously rewarded with three barrels of the finest Barovian wine, which we were told we could use however we saw fit.
There was, however, one minor problem created by our victory over the druids. During the fracas, Gimble Timbers, our gnome fighter, suffered a curse on his right arm that caused it to wither and decay. We couldn’t heal this affliction ourselves and would need to find somebody who could cast Greater Restoration or a similar spell. The winery’s owner, Davian Martokoff told us that the Abbott in Krezk would be able to help us and that it was only a day’s wagon travel away. Thus our destination was decided and we were ready to set off.
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, impatient, acrobatic assassin, played by me.
They had only been traveling for a couple of hours when Engong and Her Associates heard the commotion on the road ahead. If they’d have known it was Victor, the idiot wizard son of the ex-burgomaster of Vallaki, they might have left him to the scarecrows. But then they would never have discovered how delightful his companionship would be.
First, they had to deal with the scarecrows. Baräsh and Engong were in the thick of the melee; Engong kicking and punching at one scarecrow, while Baräsh dived between Victor and another, protecting the young magician. The dragonborn’s shield glowed with the holy protective light of St. Andell and Victor cowered in safety. Soon both scarecrows fell to Engong and Baräsh, leaving three more to be dealt with.
Gimble Timbers, riding his dragon-clad mastiff, lowered his sword like a lance and charged into the fray. He caught one scarecrow, skewering it and spilling out dead ravens from its insides. Brundle Swash followed suit, holding his staff aloft. It glowed with druidic energy as he charged in, burning his target as it made contact. Kosef had hung back from the battle, keeping close to the wagon. He looked up coolly, loaded his crossbow, and in one quick motion let the bolt loose. It fizzed through the air, right into the centre of the melee and the head of the last scarecrow.
This was a fun start to the session; it’s always good to begin with some light combat. Then, once the scarecrows were taken care of we could continue on our road trip. We had not expected to meet Victor Vallakovich along the way and were doubly surprised when he told us he would be joining our party. We had previous with this young wizard. He was the son of the ex-Burgomaster of Vallaki, whose regime we had toppled in an earlier session, killing him in the process. He was also the subject of a prophecy we had received about a potential ally.
Our DM was clearly having a lot of fun playing with us at this point. While we knew Victor was a possible associate, foretold to us by Madame Eva, we clearly did not like him or have any faith in his so-called magical abilities. What’s more, along the way he managed to anger each of us in typical annoying-road-trip-companion fashion. It was like traveling with John Candy AND Steve Martin from Trains, Planes and Automobiles!
First, he got on the wrong side of Gimble Timbers, claiming to be far smarter and luckier than the gnome. Gimble Timbers was not impressed, “Don’t matter. Brains’ll only get you so far and luck always runs out,” he gnome as he rubbed his still festering withered arm.
Next, he annoyed Brundle Swash, expressing his surprise that Engong and Her Associates allowed such a scruffy, wild-looking druid to join their ranks and commenting on his occasional absenteeism, “Well, I guess you get what you settle for.”
Kosef also got frustrated with the teenager, uttering loudly that he must be a brilliant wizard to have gotten himself into such trouble as he did. “Sarcasm is just losers trying to bring winners down to their level,” replied Victor.
“Wow, you’ve really opened my eyes to what a loser I am,” said Kosef. “How much do I owe you for those pearls of wisdom?”
A leadership battle
Eventually, although no one knows why, we agreed to let him travel with us. We could do with the extra firepower, but only under the proviso that he ran alongside the wagon, and not inside it.
After a couple more hours, we stopped to rest our horse and take some lunch. It was at this point that Victor decided to tell us that he was our new leader. Apparently, being the son of a Burgomaster had created some entitlement issues within the young mage.
Naturally, as we had only just elected Engong as our leader last week, as well as for other obvious reasons, we were reluctant to let Victor take charge. But, sensing this was a good opportunity for us to see what he could do, we challenged him to show us some magic and if it was good enough, we would let him lead us. He refused our offer and so we would have to wait until later to see his talents.
The journey continues
Once we set off again we were only a couple of hours away from Krezk. This was just enough time for us to argue some more with Victor – he really was VERY petulant – and to encounter a pack of wolves.
The wolves didn’t pose much of a problem and were quickly scared off after Brundle Swash used his druidic wildshape ability to turn into a bear. This had the added bonus of unsettling Victor, who became much quieter than before. Clearly, he was worried that we may let the bear eat him.
After the wolves, the road wound onwards and we eventually crested a hill which revealed the town of Krezk not far in the distance. High above the town, a mountain loomed, casting a long shadow on the plains. A tall, thick wall surrounded the settlement interspaced by imposing watch towers that abutted a sheer cliff to the east.
The Gates of Krezk
Thick mists began to close in on us as we neared the great gates of Krezk. Victor suggested we demand entry to the city, “They’ll be sure to let us in because we are amazing. Me especially.” Ignoring the wizard, Engong decided that we should try to enter the city peacefully and under no circumstances should we burn it to the ground. We agreed.
As the wagon drew to a halt in front of the impressive wooden gates, four heavily armoured guards watched nervously from their perch twenty feet above. They were not used to unknown visitors seeking entry and had no luck with foreigners lately.
Baräsh called up to them, “Hello friendships. We are Engong and Associates and seek entry into your fair city. We have wine.” At first the guards seemed hesitant to allow the party in, but with the promise of wine, something they had been without for some time, they ceded and the gates began to slowly open up.
With a thud, the gates lurched apart and the party glimpsed the cramped city streets with the mountain rising up behind them. A richly dressed man with a well-trimmed beard stood beyond the gates watching Engong and Her Associates alight the wagon. At his sides more heavily armed guards stood, their swords and shields menacingly visible.
“You may enter our city. But first, hand over your weapons.” END
This was a much slower paced session than we were used to, and it was a relief not to have been constantly battling. It’s amazing that we actually managed to end up where we set out for without any real hiccups or distractions. And like a classic road trip, by the time we had reached our destination we had all warmed a little to our new companion. Sort of.
In our previous session, we defined our character roles a bit more clearly than we had done before, and it was fun to play on that a bit more last night. Engong was able to take on the role of our official leader and decision maker; Baräsh continued to be the face of the party with his now highly anticipated catchphrase, “Hello friendship”; Gimble and Brundle as the explorers scouted ahead and alerted us to the presence of the wolves; and Kosef, the inventory guy, kept a close eye on rations and loot.
Next week we will explore Krezk, and hopefully get Gimble Timbers’ necrotic arm sorted out. We just have to hope that the impudent victor doesn’t cause us too many problems.