Baräsh, Engong, Gimble and Ireena all charged at Strahd. Brundle stood protectively over his unconscious friend Kosef. In an instant the vampire transformed into a swarm of bats and quickly flew away. As he did a small vial dropped to the ground at Engong’s feet. Curious, she picked it up and un-stoppered it. A jet of wind burst forth like a hurricane. And there, in the center of the party stood a large blue-skinned man holding two gleaming scimitars ready to fight.
Last night was the 58th session in our on-going, online Curse of Strahd D&D campaign.
Our DM returned after his vacation in Hawaii and took back the reins, from exactly where we left off. Over the last couple of weeks, I had been running a mini-side-quest, it had been fun to be in the DM’s chair, but I was excited to have our official DM back and to continue with the story.
Our group of adventurers, formally Engong and Her Associates, found themselves trapped in the terrifying realm of Barovia, a demonic demi-plane that exists only as a prison to hold the evil vampire Lord Strahd Von Zarovich in eternal torment. We arrived here as his newest playthings, the latest in a long line of heroes sent to amuse him, before ultimately falling by his hand. We, however, have other plans.
In the last 57 sessions, we have fought monsters and ghouls of all descriptions, as well as overthrowing one or two despotic regimes. We have also lost allies and friends along the way. We have been given readings by the mystical Madam Eva, clues of how to defeat Strahd and escape this land. These led us to the Amber Temple where we were corrupted and empowered by powerful entities. Our company was also taken over by a fiendish fox-like Arcanloth called Nepharon, who charged us with doing her bidding, before handing over the Tome of Strahd. The vampire’s diary that details how to destroy him.
Since our arrival on Barovia, we have faced the vampire lord many times, the latest being the previous session. Wherein we actually did some damage to him and he fled, making a strategic retreat, although not before upsetting our resident teenage wizard Victor. We could not pursue Strahd to finish the job as he left behind a frenzied, purple genie to distract us.
Nepharon and Associates:
Engong – Evil Half-Orc Monk, Leader, has a manic grin and is covered in oily fur;
Brundle Swash – Gnome Druid, occasionally turns into a bear, gets electrocuted a lot;
Baräsh – Dragonborn Paladin, death-obsessed bully;
Kosef – Human Rogue/Wizard, craves power above all else, played by me;
Gimble Timbers – Gnome Fighter, numb on his left side, has a pet dog Kevon;
Victor – Human (Teenage) Wizard-in-Training, Missing, NPC;
Ireena – Human Cleric, Strahd’s would-be bride, blessed by St. Andell, NPC.
Torrents of wind and jets of freezing air began swirling around the party, emanating from the large purple man waving two big swords. Brundle stood protectively over Kosef. Baräsh stood between Ireena and the windmilling scimitars. Gimble looked over jealously at the dragonborn. And Engong, oily fur ruffled by the fierce draft, stood in front, fists raised. The djinn, full of anger and elemental fury dove straight towards the monk. Engong braced herself for impact.
We started exactly where we left off. In a lot of trouble. First, the djinn wanted to show it meant business. Whirling its scimitars around like an out-of-control Crazy Golf windmill, it attacked Engong. She became engulfed in its tornado and vanished from sight.
Then Gimble Timbers, still disoriented from the effects of a very strange dream, tried to shoot arrows at the djinn. His first shot missed, but his second hit. Using his Battle Master ability, he made the shot a ‘disarming strike’ and forced the djinn to drop its weapon. This made it very angry. Gimble was thankful he was shooting at it from range and not close by.
Baräsh and Ireena stood 20-feet from the djinn, their weapons poised to defend an attack. Irena started to incant a spell, Banishment, but the djinn was able to resist it, laughing as sparks of electricity flashed across its skin and fizzled out.
Engong, never one to hang back from a fight, ran forward, picked up the djinn’s mighty scimitar and tried to attack. She was clearly not used to the weight and balance of the blade as she missed with each attempt. Again the djinn laughed. Although this time there was more malice in his voice.
Kosef, awakened by the commotion, cautiously opened one eye. He saw the djinn and decided to remain lying on the ground, playing dead. He was still badly hurt from the Strahd encounter. Then Brundle, worried about his friend, began shaking the apparently sleeping rogue until Kosef woke up. The druid dragged him away from the melee and then cast Produce Flame at the djinn. It hit and dealt two fire damage.
What, no wishes?
After we’d all had our goes it was the djinn’s turn, and he wasn’t about to grant us any wishes. Instead, he sped directly upwards, soaring 50-feet into the air and then plummet straight back down, smashing his fists into the ground. This created a 30-feet tall high tornado, a whirling cylindrical vortex that sucked in everything around it.
Over the course of the next couple of rounds, everyone tried to attack the djinn, with varying degrees of success. Gimble struck a couple of good arrow hits, and Engong slashed him twice with the scimitar leaving a deep gash across his cheek. Baräsh and Ireena both charged at him, and managed to hit a couple of times, but were also swept up in the cyclone and became restrained by the fierce winds. Meanwhile, Kosef and Brundle kept their distance using ranged attacks that typically dealt no damage at all.
With Ireena restrained by the whirlwind, spinning wildly 20-feet in the air, Engong tried to use the elements to her advantage. She dashed forward and jumped with all her might at the cyclone. Her hope was that the force of the wind might carry her momentum upward, towards the djinn at the top of the tornado. Two good athletics rolls meant she was able to reach the djinn and strike. Unfortunately, that was where her good fortune ended and she remembered about gravity. he fell 40-feet down to the ground and landed heavily.
At this point, the djinn was looking pretty beat up and so summoned an air elemental to assist. The elemental headed straight for Gimble Timbers, effectively taking the gnome archer out of the fight.
Baräsh then tried to copy Engong’s jumping maneuver. Although this time he went to grab Ireena, and pull her out of the cyclone’s grasp. He was able to and fell to the ground, spinning as he did, to cushion Ireena’s fall.
Once all their allies were out of the way Engong, Kosef and Brundle were able to deal more damage to the djinn. Kosef used his Staff of Frost to send a Cone of Cold at it, Brundle cast Moonbeam, and Engong threw the scimitar. After that, the djinn started to get worried.
Djinn and tonic
“Peace! I have fulfilled my bargain. Lay down your weapons and let us talk.”
We then proceeded to parlay with the djinn and agreed to end hostilities. He told us he had been trapped in the vial by Strahd and that it was his job to delay whomever opened the stopper. He had done this and there was no point in anyone dying. As we were also in bad condition, we agreed to a ceasefire.
The djinn conjured a large cask of wine and we spent the next hour or so drinking and laughing with him, swapping stories of how much we disliked Strahd. He then offered to help us get past the green flame barrier at the guard-house so that we could continue our journey back into the heart of Barovia.
Victor comes home
Once past the guardhouse, we bade farewell to our friend the djinn. Constitution saving throws were in order as we had all imbibed a large quantity of wine and everyone passed except Kosef who rolled a natural one. He had clearly drunk more than his fair share. He passed out. Rather than wait for Kosef to wake up the party wanted to move on. Brundle used his last Wildshape of the day to turn into a giant ant. Slinging Kosef onto his back, he led the way down the mountain pass.
After traveling for an hour Brundle bumped into an invisible force and couldn’t proceed any further. Then he heard a familiar, petulant teenage voice. “Go away. I don’t want to be an Associate any more. I’m going solo. All you do is trying to kill me.”
Victor. Last seen being pushed off a cliff edge by Kosef in an attempt to save him from a lightning bolt. The lightning bolt came from Gimble Timbers but was intended for Strahd. This wasn’t the first time Victor had been caught in the crossfire. He had a point.
Kosef was still passed out from the wine and so couldn’t defend his actions and it took a long time and a lot of haggling for the rest of the Associates to convince Victor to stay. In the end, Engong made a deal that he could be promoted to full Associate (until now he was only referred to as a trainee), that Kosef would stay away from him and be nice to him, and that once Strahd was dealt with they would go their separate ways.
Almost an ambush
The Associates continued along the path. They were heading for the Ruins of Berez but had decided to stop at Argon Vost mansion along the way.
After a while, Kosef woke up and while pleased to find Victor returned safe, he was not happy to see the rest of the associates had taken Victor’s side. They seemed to be favoring the teenage wizard unfairly and Kosef was upset that Victor showed no gratitude for being saved from Strahd.
They continued along the path until they saw eight figures up ahead. “Hello Friendships” called Baräsh, and the men greeted the party. They claimed to be merchants and traders, specifically looking for silvered weapons. Kosef, still in a foul mood skulked off into the woods while the rest of the party spoke with the men.
From his vantage point in the woods, Kosef could see the rest of the party talking animatedly with the merchants. Something didn’t add up. Why would they just be standing in the road asking strangers if they had silvered weapons? Was he just being paranoid? Probably. He crept a little further into the woods and heard hushed voices ahead. Hidden amongst the trees, watching the road intently were two dozen burly men and women. Their bulging muscles visible through ripped clothes. If Kosef didn’t know any better he’s say that some of them had something wolf-y about them. He sensed an ambush. END
This session had some really fun moments. It was nice to have a combat encounter that ended peacefully, and the roleplaying elements of drinking with the djinn and then arguing with Victor worked really well. The ending was unexpected too. I wonder if our DM had planned for my character to see all of the wolf-people hiding in the woods or if that was unintentional?
What did we learn?
DM Tip: Not all fights have to end with one side murdering the other. If it looks like both sides are equally matched then why not have the NPCs notice this and sue for peace? There’s also always the option of running away to consider too. In fact this whole session was predicated on the fact that Strahd had fled and left a djinn behind in order to delay us following him. Once the djinn had accomplished his mission why would he fight to the death? Also, this djinn clearly had more than one method of delaying us – wine anyone?
Player Tip: Some players always seem to roll well and some badly. But you shouldn’t let that hamper your enjoyment of the game. Embrace it. Brundle, our gnome druid, has rolled more ones during the whole campaign than the rest of us put together. He is consistently last in initiative and regularly only deals one or two points of damage per turn. Although frustrating, he still has lots of fun playing his character. In fact, it has become something of a ritual to celebrate the poor rolls, and his character now has a reputation for slow reactions, low power attacks and poor perception checks, which he plays up to. So when he eventually does roll well, and mathematically it has to happen sometimes, there is a real sense of achievement and it always comes at pivotal moments during battles where we think all is lost.
Next week, we’ll see if we make it past the merchants peacefully and hopefully continue on the path to Argon Vost. Thankfully at least three of us have silvered weapons. But even that might not be enough if two dozen wolf-people have anything to do with it.