Session 65: Where Eagles Dare to Strahd
An orange haze hung in the air and the ground beneath began to squelch and wheeze. They had reached the swamp. This was Baba Lysaga’s domain. Toxic bubbles belched up from the resting water beside the path, spreading noxious fumes all around. This was not how the heroes remembered Berez. “It feels like we’re in a field of very powerful dark magic,” said Victor. “Oh, you think?” Gimble Timbers replied.
Last night was session 65 in our Curse of Strahd game. This is our group’s first online Dungeons & Dragons campaign and I don’t think any of us expected it to go on for quite this long. Unusually we are all able to play, although our DM was feeling a bit under the weather last night, but that didn’t stop his murderous attempts to slay our PCs as we battled four very powerful spellcasters.
Last week our session was delayed as I was required to help my son get back to sleep, but thankfully this week he has fallen back into his nighttime routine, more by good luck than judgment, and our session was relatively uninterrupted.
Previously in Barovia…
We have been searching for ways to defeat the evil vampire keeping us trapped in Barovia and have discovered the Tome of Strahd. This is his diary that for some reason details how to destroy him. It was a “gift” from an arcanaloth called Nepharon. In return she asked for nothing other than eternal servitude. We subsequently lost the tome, but still remain in her service.
Before we lost it, that diary told of us a weapon—the Sun Sword—that will help us better the vampire. So we headed off for the Ruins of Berez to find it. This is a desolate marsh, ruled over by Baba Lysaga, legendary swamp witch. This would be our second run-in with Baba Lysaga; the first resulted in us making a tactical retreat (running away) after scorching her home and stealing back a magical gemstone she had taken from an ally. But that was then, and we are much more powerful now. This should be easy…
Nepharon and Associates: The Kosef Division:
Kosef – Human Rogue/Wizard, wants to be the leader, played by me;
Baräsh – Dragonborn Paladin, follower of St. Andell;
Gimble Timbers – Gnome Fighter, numb on his left side, has a pet dog Kevon;
Brundle Swash – Gnome Druid, gets electrocuted a lot;
Victor – Human (Teenage) Wizard-in-Training, NPC;
Ireena – Human Cleric, Strahd’s would-be bride, blessed by St. Andell, NPC.
Baräsh blinked. His dark pact with Yrrga, the Eye of Shadows, allowed him to see through the illusion. So he helped the rest of the party navigate the winding path, avoiding the perilous pools. Eventually they came to the ruined remnants of buildings and settlements that made up Berez. Up ahead they saw what looked like a large floating skull moving through the sky towards them. It was 100 feet away and closing in fast. As it neared, Baräsh saw it was flanked by three witches on broomsticks. Suddenly a twisted crown of jagged iron appeared above Kosef’s head. His eyes glazed over and he turned to Victor.
The session started with a bang as we were immediately thrown into combat. Kosef had failed a Wisdom saving throw and fell under a Crown of Madness spell. This basically meant I attacked whoever the nearest ally to me was. Unlucky Victor. Unfortunate too, as Victor and Kosef have only just made friends after months of feuding. And I rolled highest initiative. And I had sneak attack bonus. Victor took two fierce dagger attacks, one of which was a critical hit. A total of 18 points of damage and he was incapacitated for one round. Ooops.
Brundle Swash, druid, was up next. He missed last session because of stupid work, and our DM ruled that he had been following us from the skies as an eagle. So, spotting the melee beginning on the ground, and Baba Lysaga and her coven of witches in the air, he dive-bombed the floating skull holding Baba and attacked with talons and beak, before rising up and away from the witch. Baba Lysaga didn’t look impressed.
Baräsh the dragonborn paladin didn’t know what to do. Ranged fighting wasn’t exactly his forte so he healed some of Victor’s wounds, decided not to try to stop Kosef—“those guys are always fighting each other”—and ran for Baba Lysaga’s hut, which he spotted 100 feet away.
Gimble Timbers, on the other hand, was an expert archer and attacking from distance was what he liked best. So that’s what he did. Firing two arrows at the witches flanking Baba Lysaga’s floating skull, he scored a critical hit and a critical failure. The witch died from the hit and he dropped his bow. Meanwhile Victor was still incapacitated from Kosef’s crazed attack so couldn’t act this turn and Ireena cast Guiding Bolt at Baba Lysaga, but missed her foe.
Then it was the turn of the witches and Baba Lysaga. Eagle-Brundle was doing a good job of keeping Baba occupied and she was not happy about it. So, leaning over the edge of her floating skull, she reached out with her wooden staff and began swatting at him like a naughty bee, cursing as she did. Meanwhile the two remaining witches were casting spells toward Gimble Timbers and Baräsh. Unfortunately for our DM both Tascha’s Hideous Laughter and Hold Person both require Wisdom Saving throws and our gnome fighter and dragonborn paladin are quite good at those.
Finger of Death
If the first round of combat saw us gain the upper hand, dealing more damage and not taking very much, the second round saw us lose that advantage. First Kosef, having dealt sufficiently with Victor, moved on to attacking Gimble Timbers. Two more dagger attacks, with sneaky-rogue-bonus, left the gnome victim so unimpressed that he threw his net over Kosef, causing him to be restrained. “This is normally just for vampires,” he said. “But under the circumstances I’ll have to make an exception.”
Brundle Swash then continued his aerial assault on Baba Lysaga, but missed with both his eagle attacks. Victor, no longer incapacitated, ran for cover, casting Mage Armor on himself. Baräsh continued his mad dash for the hut, and Ireena followed the dragonborn.
Then the witches dived down to the hut, in front of Baräsh and Ireena. One cast Hold Person on Baräsh, but he passed his wisdom save (again!), while the other cast Tascha’s Hideous Laughter on Ireena and she fell to the floor in hysterics. At that moment, Baba Lysaga’s floating skull swept down closer to the hut and, leaning over the edge once more she pointed a gnarly, withered finger at Baräsh and muttered some terrible words under her breath. At once, the dragonborn felt all of the life drain from him, his body withered as he fell victim to Finger of Death. He took an unbelievable 62 points of necrotic damage and screamed loudly.
The next couple of rounds didn’t see us fare much better. Although I was able to finally pass a wisdom saving throw and beat the Crown of Madness. The only problem now was being caught in Gimble’s net.
Meanwhile, Brundle kept attacking Baba Lysaga in her floating skull until eventually she had enough and cast Blight at him. We all winced as she did. Blight is another very powerful spell that this time dealt 50 points of damage. This caused Brundle to drop his eagle form and come crashing down the ground, 40 feet below. This happened just as I got free of the net and thankfully I was able to cast Featherfall, allowing Brundle to float harmlessly to the ground. This was lucky, as after the Blight spell he really didn’t have enough HP to survive the falling damage.
While this was going on, Gimble Timbers, Barash, and Ireena were facing even more wisdom saving throws as the hags cast Slow, Hypnotic Patter, Bestow Curse, and Polymorph one them. Somehow they were able to save against almost all the attack, except for Gimble Timbers who was turned into a mule. At least he was a slow, cursed, confused mule.
Cloudkill and Power Word Stun
After a couple more rounds of fighting, we were really on the back foot. Baräsh wasn’t having any luck with his attacks so he started using his buff and healing spells instead. This was really useful and we wondered why he didn’t always do this? Ireena was also proving her worth as she cast Mass Cure Wounds twice and restored most of us to at least half our full hit points.
However, just as she did, Baba Lysaga cast Cloudkill. We all failed our constitution saving throws and all the healing Ireena did was washed away. Kosef was knocked unconscious, but restored moments later by Brundle, and the rest of the party were able to drag themselves out from the area of effect. One good thing about this Cloudkill spell was that it also affected the hags too and they didn’t seem to be enjoying it either.
Fleeing from the deadly cloud, Baräsh ran into the hut only to find it teeming with insects. They lined the walls and floor and swarmed at him as he crossed the threshold, before exiting the hut and forming a disgusting defensive wall around Baba Lysaga. Baräsh ran out of the hut, only for Baba Lysaga to cast another high level spell at him: Power Word Stun. We were shocked. The DM asked if Baräsh had 150 HP or lower—of course he did—he was stunned. He couldn’t move, speak, attack, or cast spells, and attacks against him had advantage. Things were not looking good.
We Begin to Bounce Back
Apart from Baräsh, the rest of the party started to experience something of a second wind at this point. Ireena cast Mass Cure Wounds again which really helped, and Gimble Timbers reverted back to normal after one of the hags cast a lightning spell at us. Naturally the lighting hit, and dealt a fair bit of damage, but it also gave our gnomes an idea.
Simultaneously, Brundle and Gimble cast Call Lightning and Lightning Bolt at Baba Lysaga. In one turn, she took a massive 56 points of lightning damage. This then inspired Kosef and Victor to try something similar. The two would-be wizards cast Ice Storm at the swamp witch, causing two gigantic icy meteors to crash into her floating skull dealing another 38 damage.
Bludgeoned and bloody, Baba Lysaga was looking desperate. Her magical energy was fading. Sensing the adventurers clustered together beneath her, she pulled together the last remnants of her arcane power and pointed a twisted, warty finger towards the group. Thick black, oily tentacles erupted from the ground around them. They grasped and clasped and flailed at the adventurers clubbing and slamming into them. It was going to take something special for Nepharon and Associates to get out of this one. END
It’s been a while since we had a purely combat-based session and this one was really tough; and the encounter’s not over yet.
Baba Lysaga is a very powerful enemy and she’s assisted by the three hags at her side. Fighting four spellcasters at once is hard. Two very deadly spells were used against Baräsh last night—we think the DM really has it in for him now. Finger of Death dealt a massive 62 necrotic damage, which if it was more than his max HP would mean he would be instantly killed and return as a zombie. Luckily he is our tank and has 70 HP. In perspective, Kosef has 44 HP, so it would have killed me instantly.
At the other end of the magical scale, Grease has always been my favorite spell in 5th edition, even if it is only 1st level, but Featherfall is really starting to challenge that mantle. It’s a great way of keeping your friends happy in dodgy situations.
What did we learn?
DM Tip: If at first they pass the save, keep trying. Eventually the dice will have to favor you. Our party includes two gnome characters who have the innate racial trait Gnome Cunning; this gives advantage on all Wisdom, Intelligence, and Charisma saving throws to resist magical effects. Unfortunately for our DM, the majority of the spells the witches had in this battle required wisdom saving throws, so Brundle and Gimble were able to shrug off a lot of the effects. Not all though. Gimble did fail polymorph save. Eventually.
Player Tip: Try to build a character with at least one ranged attack, but don’t despair if you haven’t got anything. Our paladin used to carry javelins with him, but has long since lost them and so now is fairly useless in combat situations where he can’t engage in melee. But this did mean he played the part of the healer and “buff-er” and this proved a very useful role.
Next we have to finish off the job. Baba Lysaga has taken a lot of damage, but so have we. Will we be able to outlast her and find the Sun Sword? Sure, what else could possibly happen?