Session 73: Strahd to Kill
In the depths of Castle Ravenloft Rahadin looked up at Baräsh. His stare was painful. With it came the sounds of a thousand desperate screams. A cacophony of yells, screeches and pleading filled the paladin’s mind as the dusk elf smiled and leaned forward. “Master, shall we kill them now?” Rahadin put a hand on Baräsh’s shoulder and turned him back to see, seated at the far end of the long bone table, a familiar frightfully well-dressed man. Strahd!
Last night was the 73rd session in our Curse of Strahd Dungeons & Dragons campaign and our second ‘live’ game in a row. Once more our DM welcomed us into his home so that there could be no escape as he tormented and tortured our characters. He had created a LEGO floor plan of Castle Ravenloft and was keen for us to have a chance to die in every room.
Previously in Barovia…
Last session, we continued our exploration of Castle Ravenloft, the home of dreaded vampire lord Strahd Von Zarovich. This exploration mainly consisted of running away from pools of animated ooze (two Black Puddings) and falling over. We ended the session low on health, but with most of our spell slots and ability points still intact. This was good because as the session ended we came face-to-face once more with Strahd.
Nepharon and Associates: The Kosef Division
Kosef – Human Rogue/Wizard carries the Staff of Frost, played by me;
Baräsh – Dragonborn Paladin, follower of St. Andell and the Morning Lord;
Gimble Timbers – Gnome Fighter, owner of the Sun-Sword, has a pet dog called 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.
Strahd occupied one of the grand bone chairs that sat around the long skeletal table. His fingers pressed together in contemplation. Only Gimble Timbers and Ireena were in the ossuary with him. Baräsh and Victor stood gawping in the adjacent room with Rahadin. While Kosef and Brundle were still in the corridor reeling from the Black Pudding attack. Strahd stood up. Fierce anger emanated from his body like steam. “You have been a thorn in my side since I brought you here. Now I must deal with you all. At least you brought me my bride.”
As we expected, the session began with an icy confrontation with our nemesis in the basement of Castle Ravenloft. As ever Strahd was polite and welcoming and spoke with our DM’s finest English gentleman’s accent – even in the UK the bad guys are always English! To add to the mood our DM also provided a soundtrack, something we don’t usually have. So as Strahd continued to threaten and curse us, Dracula Das Musical was playing.
Baräsh began to rush forward to protect Ireena, “You cannot have her!” but before he got into the room Strahd clapped his hands together. “Now, now. Let’s not forget our manners.” At once all the doors to the ossuary slammed shut, separating most of the party once more.
Gimble Timbers and Ireena were trapped in the room with Strahd. Not knowing what to do, they stepped as far away from his as possible. “Do sit down and join me at the table for a bit.”
“Not likely,” replied Gimble sounding braver than he felt.
Kosef and Brundle both attempted arcana checks on the doors that separated them from the bone room, neither rolled high, so they began hammering on the door ineffectually with their paltry fists.
In the other room, Baräsh turned to Rahadin, “What happened? Open this door!” When Rahadin did not open the door our dragonborn fighter stepped forward menacingly and raised his sacred hammer.
For once the first to act was Victor, usually last in initiative, he acted quickly and cast Invisibility on Baräsh. This would give the Dragonborn advantage on his attack against Rahadin. But first, Strahd used one of his Legendary Actions to move 30-feet and stand directly in front of Gimble Timbers.
Gimble Timbers then failed a charisma saving throw and Strahd ripped his shadow from him and commanded it to attack the gnome. The shadow missed the Life drain attack, but Gimble was worried. He turned to his last resort: the Sun-Sword. Bright light engulfed the shadow as a 15-feet radius sphere of sunlight shone out from the sword. He slashed the shadow, dealing enough damage to withdraw. Now harmless, it returned to the gnome’s side. Strahd was not impressed. Just being in close proximity to the Sun-Sword was dealing him 20 points of damage per turn.
Ireena ran to the locked door and tried to cast Dispel Magic to open it. The spell failed and she called out. “Save me my Tiny Champion!” Emboldened Gimble Timbers ran across the table to where Strahd now stood and thrust the Sun-Sword towards him. The vampire recoiled, hissing.
Strahd leaped on to the table to face the gnome. His face crisped and peeled in the light of the sword. He punched Gimble twice, dealing a significant amount of damage and knocking him back.
Over the course of the next two rounds, Gimble faced down Strahd on his own. Encouraged by Ireena’s cheers and occasionally healed by her prayers, he struck the vampire three times with the Sun-Sword and Strahd hit him back, repeatedly using his legendary actions to do take additional strikes at the gnome.
In the adjacent room, Victor and Baräsh weren’t faring much better facing Rahadin. Strahd’s dusk-elf man-servant had taken some damage from the dragonborn’s initial assault, but on every turn, both Victor and Baräsh had to make a wisdom saving throw or take psychic damage from the deathly choir of ghoulish screams that affected anyone within close proximity of Rahadin.
After three rounds of failed saves, the screams intensified and Baräsh was almost unconscious. To make matters worse he crit-failed (rolled a natural 1) on his final attack against Rahadin and fell prone on the floor, dropping his weapon.
The sight of Baräsh falling on the floor scared Victor and he ran for the door. He cast Dispel Magic on the lock and rolled a natural 20 on his arcana check and the door flew open, revealing Strahd and Gimble dancing on the table at the far end of the room.
Meanwhile, Kosef and Brundle were also struggling with a large wooden door. Kosef was very badly hurt from the Black Pudding fight, so he used his action to help Brundle smash the door down on his turn. Brundle obliged. Or at least he tried to. First, he cast a healing spell on Kosef to bring him back up to health and then used his Wildshape ability to turn into a rhino and charge at the door. Unfortunately, this door was magically sealed and his initial attempt did not work.
So on his next turn, he tried again. Still no luck. On the third turn, he was more successful and smashed through the door. His momentum, however, took him further than just through the door and he smashed into the table on which Strahd and Gimble were fighting. The table creaked and flew across the room trapping Ireena beneath it. Strahd and Gimble both somehow made their dexterity saving throws and, like kids jumping over waves on the beach, daintily hopped up as the table buckled and they landed safely on the floor. As they landed Kosef let off a Cone of Cold from his Staff of Frost catching both Gimble and Strahd in the blast.
Re-group in Ravenloft
Seeing the party re-group Strahd looked worried. He had taken a fair amount of damage from Gimble and the Sun-Sword and now that we were all in the same room the odds had turned against him. On his next turn he cast a third level Sleep spell and Victor and Ireena both fell unconscious. Our DM later admitted disappointment not to have caught more of us with the spell. Baräsh was just out of range, otherwise, he would have certainly been affected.
Strahd then summoned four Ghouls to join the party, something he can do whenever he likes within Castle Ravenloft. The ghouls kept Kosef and Brundle occupied for the next couple of rounds as Strahd continued to focus his ire on Gimble Timbers. The gnome was valiantly standing his ground.
When Baräsh eventually got up from the ground he saw Ireena and Gimble facing Strahd but was too far away, and engaged with Rahadin, to do anything about it. But he was not useless. He cast a Magic Circle around Gimble and Ireena, creating an impenetrable barrier around them and protecting them from Strahd. The vampire was furious and turned to attack Kosef.
Somehow the vampire missed his first attack, but his second hit, taking Kosef down to less than 10 hit points. Strahd was now out of the main bone room, with Kosef stood between him and Gimble Timbers. This meant Strahd was out of range of the Sun-Sword, but not of Gimble Timbers.
Lightning strikes twice
For a moment the gnome considered throwing a Lightning Bolt at Strahd (he had gained the ability to do this from our stay in the Amber Temple) but he couldn’t get an angle without striking Kosef. This wouldn’t be the first time he’d hit the rogue with Lightning. He hesitated. “Do it!” yelled Kosef. So Gimble let loose.
Dexterity saving throws from Strahd and Kosef were required. I was confident that Kosef would be OK. Now he was level seven he had Evasion, an ability that means you can negate damage taken after a dex save. Thankfully he was. Strahd took half damage. Now he was really mad.
Gimble Timbers ran towards Strahd, Sun-Sword raised and he struck the vampire. Strahd let out a mighty howl that shook the walls of Ravenloft. Now, seeing that the tide had turned against him and his ghouls were defeated he began to sink silently into the floor. Gimble struck out again, only for his blade to cut through the air above the ground where Strahd had just stood. Strahd had been swallowed by the castle and escaped to lick his wounds. END
At last a real Strahd battle on his home turf! It was great to see Gimble Timbers hold his own one-on-one with the vampire in the depths of Castle Ravenloft. And Rahadin proved to be a real pain-in-the-behind NPC that almost took out both Baräsh and Victor with ease.
We were amazed at the number of legendary attacks and lair actions that Strahd has inside Castle Ravenloft and our next encounter with him is going to be really hard. Especially seeing as I doubt he’s going to let us rest and heal ourselves or regain any spell slots.
What did we learn?
DM Tip: Legendary and Lair Actions can make all the difference in a big boss battle and can turn an enemy from medium difficulty to super-hard. Strahd has lots of extra actions that he uses on the player character’s turn, the most useful of which is his 30-feet of movement. This means he can essentially travel up to 150-feet in one round if he wants to and he doesn’t provoke opportunity attacks.
Player Tip: Some people have cats. And some people are allergic to cats. If you fall into the latter category and have been invited to play D&D at someone’s home, make sure you check with your DM or host if there are likely to be any cats. Otherwise, you might end up like me: a coughing, wheezing, dribbling mess barely able to read the numbers on a dice through bright red eyes streaming with tears of foolish regret.
Next week we try to pick up the pieces following the fight. We’re stuck in the basement of Ravenloft, badly hurt and in need of a long rest. Why do I get the feeling that’s not going to happen?