D&D Session 37: The Battle in the Basement
“You do not understand. No one can keep Strahd from his bride.” Lady Wachta stood in the doorway. Ireena was by her side, dazed as if under some sort of spell. Brundle tried to push the door closed, as he did he saw six figures standing with Lady Wachta: the vampire spawn they had fought before. Brundle froze. “Vampires, now is the time you have waited for,” hissed Lady Wachta. “Seek out your prey and finish them.”
Session 37 of our weekly online Curse of Strahd Dungeons & Dragons game began with us trapped in a basement, the only exit guarded by six vampires. This was going to prove troublesome.
Equally troublesome were the occasional ‘technical’ hitches we experienced as we played.
To begin with, our monk’s PC needed an update, and being the latest update for Windows it took far, far too long. He was texting us progress reports throughout, and even once it was ‘successfully’ completed, it naturally still didn’t work properly. Secondly, my now 1-year-old son, who for the last few weeks has managed to stay fairly inconspicuous during our gaming sessions, wanted to let everyone know he was having some trouble with his teeth and that he couldn’t possibly go to sleep right now as neither Dippy the dinosaur nor Teddy the monkey were showing any sympathy at all. This meant I had to be away from the keyboard for a couple of pivotal combat moments, in which naturally my character took lots of damage. And thirdly, our Dungeon Master’s decidedly decrepit cat thought that his webcam looked a lot like a tasty Christmas treat and tried to ingest it whole. At least now we all know what the inside of her mouth looks like (it’s gross).
Technical interruptions aside this was a fairly straightforward session. Mostly combat, it was the third time we had faced these vampire spawns, who our DM plays as a corny British pop group from 20 years ago. We definitely bore a grudge from our last encounter, as this was when my previous character, Kevon the tiefling sorcerer, was killed, so when Lady Wachta moved back to reveal them we all knew this would be a fierce fight.
Engong and Her Associates are:
Engong – Half-Orc Monk, pyromaniac, leader, not a ‘people person’;
Gimble Timbers – Gnome Fighter, has a pet dog called Kevon;
Baräsh – Dragonborn Paladin, Oath of Vengeance;
Kosef – Human Rogue, impatient, played by me;
Brundle Swash – Gnome Druid, disheveled, turns into a bear;
Victor – Human (Teenage) Wizard-in-Training, has issues, NPC
Brundle managed to slam the door shut and Engong dived against it, putting her whole weight behind her. The pair held the door tight while their companions prepared for the fight. Kosef loaded his crossbow and pointed it towards the door. Gimble drew his silver shortsword. Victor began encanting a spell. And Baräsh cast a blessing on the party.
They took a collective deep breath and opened the door. Kosef let a bolt fly from his crossbow as the others went to dive through the door weapons drawn. But the bolt flew across an empty room and stuck into the damp wall on the far side. “Huh. Where’d they go?”
We looked around but the room was empty, low investigation checks didn’t reveal anything useful, so we let out a sigh of confused relief. We didn’t have to fight the vampires; but where did everyone go? We were only here to rescue Ireena and face Lady Wachta, but she’d got the best of us and had vanished with our friend. You could sense we were all a bit frustrated as once more our DM had pulled the rug from under us.
Baräsh ran out of the room and started dashing up the stairs to see if he could chase down Lady Wachta and Ireena, he ran straight past three cultists dressed in dark robes but paid them little mind. As he made it to the top of the stairs Gimble Timbers walked out of the room too. When he did, he glimpsed a dark shadow out of the corner of his eye but wasn’t able to dodge out of the way as the vampire spawn crawling on the ceiling dropped down and hoisted the gnome into the air.
As soon as our DM said those inevitable words we realized how stupid we had been. Of course, the vampires were still in the room. Why would they leave us there? Instead, they just managed to split us up and get a surprise round. As ever, our DM was laughing – I’m starting to get the impression he’s enjoying our time in Barovia far more than we are.
At first, only three of the vampires made their presence known. One had Gimble Timbers grappled while hanging on the ceiling and he tried to bite the gnome. The other two, also crawling on the ceiling, dropped down and charged at Brundle and Kosef and slashed at us with their sharp claws. Baräsh, who was now outside the building had to turn around and run back into the cellar. It took him a couple of rounds to do this, as he barged past the cultists he’d passed moments before. Engong was sitting stunned in the corner while her player waited for the Windows update.
After they’d made their surprise attacks we all rolled initiative and the battle began. One thing we had forgotten about vampire spawns was their ability to regenerate some of the damage they took, as long as it wasn’t radiant. The only one of us that could deliver radiant damage was Baräsh, who for the first two rounds remained outside. It turns out vampire spawns can deliver a lot of damage in two rounds. Especially when the other three vampires that were hiding in the corners of the room joined in and got combat advantage on their attacks.
Round by Round
By the end of the first round, both Gimble and Kosef had been bitten. Victor had missed with his Frost Rays, Brundle had been attacked by two vampire spawns and Baräsh was nearly back in the room. Engong, our intrepid monk, was still absent, the Windows update was at 6%.
By the end of the second round, we had at least managed to score some hits on the vampires and dealt some damage. Gimble Timbers even managed a critical hit on his second attack, escaping the grapple and nearly cutting off one of his attacker’s arms. Kosef dealt some pretty solid damage to one of the vampires, landing a sneak attack (lots of extra dice to roll) and hitting another with his crossbow thanks to my ‘Crossbow Expert’ feature. Victor cast Magic Missile on another which only angered the vampires and Brundle Swash hit his enemy with a stick. Engong, our inspiring leader was still absent, the Windows update was now at 9%.
By the end of the third round, Barash had joined us in the room, just in time for the cultists he saw outside to attack him with scimitars and magic spells. He wasn’t distracted and headed straight for one of the vamps. He charged his weapon with divine energy and struck him dealing 72 points of damage. We all cheered, but the vampire still lived. Now there were six vampires, three cultists and the five of us all in this very cramped basement, with no sign of Lady Wachta or Ireena. Engong, our half-orc heroine was still absent, the Windows update had hit 22%.
By round four, the tide began to turn in ‘the Battle in the Basement’. Seeing that Baräsh had bloodied his opponent, Kosef leaped at him running him through with a sneak attack with his rapier. This was enough to kill the vampire. Only five more to go. Then the cultists proved their worth attacking the gnomes (Brundle and Gimble), allowing their vampire attackers to score some pretty deadly hits. One cultist even cast a Hold Person spell on Kosef, paralyzing me. Victor was starting to panic and was rifling through his spellbook. And Engong, our gallant defender was still absent, the Windows update had passed 50%.
Round five was a big one. First, the vampires all seemed to either miss their attacks or dealt very little damage. Then Baräsh and Kosef connected with some pretty hefty hits against one. Gimble Timbers used his combat superiority to gain the advantage on his attacks and scored another critical hit, brutally wounding another. Brundle Swash, who had climbed on top of one of the vampires used his druidic wild shape ability to turn into a bear, squashing and pinning the vampire under him. And then Victor stepped forward. He looked panicked and severe. Raising his arms he cast his most powerful spell, Cone of Cold, and everyone in the room had to make a dexterity saving throw or take 35 damage. Everyone, allies included. This instantly killed the two remaining cultists, and most of the vampires were clearly hurt by it. Thankfully most of us were able to cut the damage by half or more. Victor had reversed the tide of the battle, we all cheered. Engong our fearless champion was still absent, the Windows update had completed but the PC needed to restart.
The Belle of the Battle
By the end of round six, things were starting to go our way. Bear-Brundle was still pinning down his vampire and clawing at its face. Gimble Timbers was goading his attacker after landing two good hits. Baräsh was charging his weapon with divine energy once more, ready to smite another vampire. Kosef was ducking and dodging around two vampires like the acrobatic rogue he is. Victor was still recovering from such a strong attack the previous round. And Engong our ‘Belle of the Battle’ had finally arrived.
Engong, revived from her moment of languor stood in the doorway, staring into the carnage. Icicles hung from the ceiling from Victor’s icy blast. She could see Gimble Timbers fiercely locked in combat with one vampire. There was Baräsh on the far side of the room, his holy hammer glowing in his arms as he swung at his foe. Kosef danced around two more vampires in the middle, ducking and dodging past their blows and stabbing into one with his rapier. In another corner a vampire was pinned to the ground by a huge snarling bear, she knew this must be Brundle Swash.
Breathing slowly she stepped into the room, she could see her breath in the magical cold. Her knuckles cracked and she made towards the closest vampire. Engong could see that this must have once been a rather beautiful elf before she became one of Strahd’s minions. The vampire saw her approach and snarled, baring sharp white fangs. Engong smiled. END
After this session, we all agreed: Our DM is cruel. The evidence is as follows: first, he tricks us into thinking that the vampires have left us alone. Then he splits us up and puts a trio of evil cultists between us. Then he forgets to remind us that the vampires are visibly regenerating until halfway through the battle. Then, as our absent party member finally rejoins the group, he calls time and ends the session.
What is clear to us now is that Lady Wachta and Ireena have definitely gotten away. At least once we finish off these vampires we’ll be able to level up. But first, we have to defeat them. Knowing our DM, we’ll start next session believing we can win the fight, just as a fire giant or an ancient dragon descends on the mansion killing us all. I hope he doesn’t read this and get any ideas.