Poof! The Racoon faded out and the berserker gypsy suddenly existed. Exploring the house we found a room full of mirrors. Inside one of the mirrors, Ambrus saw the placard hanging on the wall. He sent his mage hand into the mirror world, grabbed the placard, and pulled it out of the mirror. Meanwhile, his mirror image stepped through and attacked him. Kharn ran in to attack the image and then an image of him stepped out to fight us. Patrina cast darkness and Kharn vanished but her own was still there since she can see in her darkness... oops. Patrina’s image dispelled the darkness and mirror Kharn reappeared. Then Lord Q cast fog cloud. During this, the monk stayed out of the room and did a fog horn imitation allowing the people inside the fog to navigate without activating the mirrors. Someone got the idea to cover the mirrors and Kharn then covered the mirror with a billowing cloak. In the next few turns, the party scavenged moldy tablecloths, blankets, and curtains to block all the mirrors in order to negate the mirror images. Once most were covered the fog was disbursed and the remaining mirror had a second crest. Ambros cast invisibility and went in the mirror and grabbed it while everyone else stayed outside the room. So we seem to have two crests.
While exploring the rest of the house Lord Q came across a phantasm figure wearing armor. Meanwhile, Ambross and Kharn had a short rest to heal up from beating themselves up in the mirror room. Since Lord Q had no backup he closed the door. When everyone was ready we all went in but Ezera effectively soloed the phantasm with one 20 HP hit and another critical smite 82 HP. The ghost just wanted to end his life in glorious combat instead of by poison. Hopefully being one-shotted by the paladin counts. Although the monk wanted the armor as a wall trophy, it was finally decided it go to the paladin.
Continuing our exploration we found a magical haversack that finally went to the monk. Later explored the bedroom we originally stayed in during the groundhog cycle and found it full of zombies. One with a big glowing fist. We won after a short combat, partially due to the undead being limited to having to attack through a doorway. The zombie with the glowing fist had a bracer that gave +1 damage and hit to natural weapons and unarmed attacks. The monk got this. It was late but it was hinted that there was only one more room on this floor so we continued. The next room over we found the second half of the bracer set that gave an additional +1 hit and damage (total +2). Yay! At this point, it was after 1:00 AM so we called it a night.
We had this letter we found on the now dead sheep herder with an offer for him and his father to come shelter at a nearby estate and ride out the winter. With the devastated sheep stores, starvation for the town of Krusk was a real possibility so we took upon ourselves to look into it. We had some discussions on how to do that. Is there any authority figure left we could bring? Not really. We decided to have Lord Q do the talking, bringing the bad news about the deaths and go from there. With Lady Patrina making the announcement, the butler was impressed enough, at least with those two, to let us in and give us an audience. But we had to give up our weapons at the front door. All complied except for Ezra who chose to guard the front door rather than give up his Holy Avenger. Loki left his pistols with him.
She was hosting a big party for nobles across the land. We talked to her in her study but she had no idea what we were talking about. When shown the letter, she agreed that it was in her hand with her seal but had no recollection of writing it or sending it. She and her party seemed to be out of step with the current world conditions. Loki asked her what year she thought it was. What an odd question? Why do you ask? You seem out of touch. That did not go over well. Brian had Dave make a persuasion roll to see if he could have possibly said that without sounding insulting. With an 8 charisma, no proficiency and a roll of a two, it did not go well. Loki stopped talking. (Dan: This happens over and over. Not proficient with a charisma skill? Just shut up and let the charisma character talk, roleplaying isn't going to do it.) Despite this, we were given a tour of the house, given a couple rooms to freshen up and invited to join the party. A couple of words on the tour. We saw no weapons on the guests or all the walls. Being players, we were planning on trouble. Ambrus noted that the locks throughout were of the highest quality. Maybe 30+ guests?
We mingled. Everybody rolled terrible so anyone that tried something, failed and those that just wandered about, heard some random things. This family is known for their tech and architecture and had designed Ravenloft castle. Ambrus tried to break into a room but only rolled well enough to determine it was going to take a 35 roll to do it. Attempts to get some background on the guests and servant were dead ends. There was mention of a hedge maze out back that was known to be unsolvable. But the key items came from the host or about her. She had recently broken off her engagement with Dimitri, the leader in Krusk. However, the man we had met a wife and grown kids. She also thought the guy in charge was his long dead father. We again concluded that this place was outside of time somehow. Lord Q did manage to talk her into letting the Paladin of the Morning Lord come in with his sword and join dinner.
She excused herself from dinner and the next thing heard was a scream from the butler. She’s been poisoned! The players were ready to jump into action but held at bay while Brian described the grisly scene. Basically, all the guests died a horrible, bloody death but none of the players had any trouble. Once all dead, the mansion transformed into a run-down older version of itself and all the bodies were gone. Again, players were trying act but Brian skipped all that and just put us together in the main room with our weapons. We went to her salon and found her body. Before we could act, a vortex of time bending energy swirled. A spirit emerged from her body and said something about being betrayed and they should all rot in hell or some such. It then flew through the wall.
Ambrus watch it through a window and it went to the hedge maze. To no one’s surprised. Lady Patrina found two keys on her now decayed body. There was some discussion about what to do but Ambrus was so eager to reinvestigate the lock that had thwarted him, he must have mentioned it 5 times in 2 minutes. But it was as good a plan as any. The first room was some sort of study. It had high quality artwork including what we assumed was a portrait of the most famous family member. It was obvious something important had been removed from the wall. Beyond was a passageway leading down into the basement, crypt, ??? We deferred that. The next room was a private office with various books and ledgers. Among those was a journal which Lady Patrina was about to shove into her pack but Loki asked about the date of the last entry. It was 25 years ago, as we had expected. In addition, it told of her intention to break off her engagement prior to her upcoming party. She figured that would avoid a scene and allow her to start finding someone new. So, we concluded he, Dimitri whom we had just tried to save the night before, had poisoned them all. She did not want to give up her life and lands and titles. She also said something about him never finding her family vault as it was not in the basement but in the hedge maze and only someone with both family crests could possibly penetrate it. So, we need to find those, I guess. One has already been taken.
Also in that room was a locked chest. Ambrus could not open it by skill. Ezra could not open it by force. But Brian gave Amrus another try and that opened it. Inside was a throve of magical items.
Charlatan’s Die – rolls any number you want. I.e. cheat - Ambrus
Cloak of Billowing – dramatically billows on command - Lord Q
Portable Hole - Lady Patrina took to hold her books. At the bottom of which was …
Dagger +3 - Ambrus
Scroll of Arcane Lock – Lady Patrina
Scroll of Guards and Wands – Lady Patrina
Scroll of Knock – Lady Patrina
Wand of Conducting – makes symphony music, 3 charges – Kharn because he wasn’t there to say no.
That took up some time and it was almost 12 so we stopped. The offer of extra food seems like it’s 25 years old so we’re not going to succeed there. (Dan: As mentioned the lady didn't recognize the letter. Either its a ghost thing to not remember it or it was some wierd plot twist. If Demitri was sane I assume he would have remembered he killed everyone here and told us not to bother or it was a trap.) Loki did do a search of the grounds during the party in hopes of finding a storage building but rolled bad so maybe another search is in order. I suppose we will try to solve the hedge maze and try to put this spirit to rest. But we’ll want to search the rest of the house for those crests first. No one could recall seeing something like that at Dimitri’s house but if you poisoned 30+ people, would you keep a reminder of that around? We might look for plans of Castle Ravenloft as well in case we ever have to sneak into it.
The party woke up find the chickens gone. The house owners had made breakfast and left for the day. So in between the time we woke up and the people in the house cooked breakfast they were gone (eaten). We spent the day looking over the sheep, talking to Luca and then the villagers. No one knew anything. We even interrogated the sheep. Luca was mentally challenged due to a head injury, so was a bit frustrating to talk to. They knew nothing as well. We all knew it was Ilya, the resurrected boy with an unnatural appetite but there was no proof. Patrina even left her book/familiar with the sheep to spy on them. Then we left. After hours of getting the run around it came to a boil when all the sheep went missing at once after we left for a few hours. The familiars were gone and Luca had left the sheep alone after telling them to look after one another. During this discussion, he took out a letter stating that due to his father’s friend he could find shelter and food for himself and his companions. I must have blinked because this seemed a bit contrived. So perhaps the villagers won’t starve? (hint: yes they still will)
The villagers noticed soon after we did that the sheep were missing and formed two mobs. Kaladin tried to reason with the crowd but failed despite a decent roll (14 but no bonuses). As usual, the people without charisma skills shouldn't bother to try to roleplay. Lord Q tried afterward and failed too (with advantage he rolled two 1's. Maybe it was fated.). Just they were about to attack, Ilya ran up, looking obviously emaciated, and demanded food. We all attacked since this was the proof we had wasted two hours trying to get. However, he was a legendary creature. He swallowed random villagers (his mother specifically) to regain hit points, as an interrupt action spat poison area effects and basically two shotted most of the party. Patrina was fairly effective using darkness and chilling touch to reduce his hits and negate his healing some of the time. Naturally, we still mocked him for using an ability similar to his infamous Plant Growth fail. Luca got nailed the first attack and lay dying on the sheep field. It was difficult healing without the goodberries but we had some healing potions, a paladin, and Patrina who had some sacrificial healing abilities. Ilya seems to still have some life to him but after a final attack and health absorption, he ran his house near the sheep fields. Patrina did her sacrificial heal to Kaladin who had gone down earlier and he then flew after Ilya in his house. The heal was well-timed because he was 2 failed death saves down. We charged after him and once again kept going down. It was even worse in the confined space. (It wasn't helped that the map had the two floors stacked on top of each other and kept flashing each floor randomly. Very confusing and frustrating, especially with the wall obscurement of FG that never matched the floor you were on. I would strongly recommend that the GM spread out the maps so they aren't on top of each other even if it needs those annoying gates at the entrances) The warlock eventually claimed the final blow. Most of the others didn’t even get a hit in and were just hit point buffers.
Dimitri (Ilya’s father) was informed of the news rather brutally by Patrina (she was criticized by the rest of the party for being far too blunt, though it was amusing), then again by Ezera (who was just as blunt, he just worded it differently. It could be questioned who was nicer). His mind snapped, then he recovered and they did it again. I was actually wondering if they were trying to drive him mad. He ended up catatonic and disavowed by the village mayor. The paladin was disgusted by this attitude (nobody else was happy with it though they didn’t want to take responsibility for it either...even though it was pretty much Patrina and Ezera that drove him mad) and righteously washed his hands of the whole matter. Leaving the entire village to starve while we head off to explore the dead Luca’s inheritance and its stash of food. That’s Ravenloft. Even the paladins are evil.
We emerged in the middle of Yester Hill. Evidently, we had taken a short rest so eventually we just got going. Vasili was nowhere to be found but our wagon was still there waiting for us. The small window of sunlight was quickly left behind. During the first day, we came across a strange furry man, hanging upside down from a tree limb with a couple of other bats. He claimed to be Batman! and mostly spouted batman cliches about thwarting evil. Slightly amusing and mostly pointless. Eventually, we just left him behind and moved on. That night was uneventful and we got a long rest. The next day, scouting Kaladin spotted 3 shambling figures ahead on the road. Loki went first and hit the first one 4 times, dropping it. When they went, floating ghost-like jellyfish emerged from the bodies and attacked. They did psychic damage and one teleported to behind the wagon. A couple of us took some damage but it was over pretty quick. We got back on the road after burying the bodies. Two bodies looked like the druids we fought and one looked like he came from Kresk.
Moments after we started moving again, everyone on the wagon took significant psychic damage from screams in their head. Half on a wisdom save. Lord Q was then attacked but since he was the only one in the wagon, no one else saw it. He was almost out in one round. On his turn, he tried to jump through the window but first he had to take more screams damage and was out. The NPC went next, raised the alarm and pulled him out of the wagon. There was much confusion. Kharn and Loki managed to get to the back of the wagon and take a couple of shots at the assistant to Stradhanya we had fought before. He growled to the raging Kharn that “he was not the target” and then misty stepped away. Some healed Lord Q, fearing he’d be killed by the AOE or attacked again. Others searched for the attacker but he was never seen again. Evidently, he had made a monster Stealth roll and no one saw him get in the wagon during the first fight. (Dan: It was deduced that he had +14 to his stealth skill... and he rolled a 20. Basically even without a 20 roll we wouldn't have been able to see him). I suppose Lord Q was a target because he has access to a great power that could be a threat to Stradhanya? Certainly more than a raccoon with some pistols. There were some discussions and we rearranged the positions but ultimately, we just got going again.
Late that day, we pulled into the winery. They were busy, trying to save their crops. The druid stone was buried and a couple hours later, things were improved. By the way, that ended Lady Petrina’s personal quest and Brian received a bonus feat. Ironic since that character had just started. We stayed the night and nothing happened. We got a nice bottle of wine for the abbot in Kresk and Ezra got a new shield to replace the one he left behind in the Gone. The journey to Kresk was uneventful. Once we showed them the witches broomstick, I mean told them we had restored the winery, we were greeted as heroes. The BurgerMeister invited us into his home. And we got the run down. Life here is hard. It’s so cold, the chickens are kept in the houses so they wouldn’t freeze. The sheep had been disappearing and he asked us to look into it as they feared they wouldn’t survive the winter if it continued. Also, his only remaining son was recently brought back to life by the abbot. He had died from some disease. That was met with suspicion but the only thing noted was that he seemed to be eating a lot.
We also got some back history about the town. The town hero lead a rebellion against Stradhanya but her attack on the castle ended in death for all involved. They had sent someone to check on the wine whose description matched the body we fought the day before. The guy in charge of the sheep is simple mined but does a good job. The abbot seems to be working on a project to defeat Stradhanya or some such. (Dan: Ravenloft's typical means of fighting back is finding something even more evil than what they are fighting. I hear they cancel out that way.) Very busy but very great. At least according to these people. We slept through the night. Lady Patrina used her short sleep cycle and awaken mind to virtually patrol the area but saw nothing. We were treated to a fine breakfast and the nobles left for their day’s activities. The only thing noted was the chickens were all gone. Loki made a roll and was convinced that there were chickens here yesterday. There were no signs of attack or force entry. It seemed odd that our hosts either did not notice or did not mention anything. Andy, BTO and DG were dragging so we called it an early night.
Return from the Between and the Gone
We were still in the Gone. We had a brief discussion about the disposal of our beloved heritage items but no consensus was reached. We decided to press on with the search. Soon enough, we came across 4-5 Druids. They seemed to be search for the exit as well. However, players being players, they were meet with suspicion. They sort of spread out around us while we talked. Ezra did his Detect Evil thing and while they did not register as evil, his scrutiny did notice a string or cord attached to the leader. It seemed to lead into the darkness. Once pointed out to the rest of the group, all of the Druids seem to have them. Initiative. So, they cast Druid spells but also had these pods that attacked for a ton of damage. And oddly, sometimes they didn’t attack at all. Only some of us had lights and the darkness was always at the edge which complicated things. Some attacked the Druids and some attacked the cords. It seemed that the cord needed magical weapons to affect and were certainly harder to hit. But it only took about two hits to sever the cord at which point, the Druid would drop as if it was a puppet without its strings.
Eventually, Loki grabbed the held Lady Patrina’s light enchanted veil and double moved into the darkness. There he found a huge blob demon thing. Now the fight really started. It did a lot of damage with two reach attacks per round. Plus cast, on the same round, a variety of spells. Plus, the Druids were still pressing from behind. And those that were dropped, eventually reattached and got back up. It first cast a high DC Confusion spell getting several of us. It then dropped that and cast a Fear spell that got even more of us. Somewhere in there, it stopped animating the Druids to concentrate on us. It looked dire. Half of us were fleeing or out and we hadn’t done anything to it. We considered fleeing but as usual, that’s easier said than done. It would be hard for everyone to outpace it and with some out, someone would likely be left behind. Ezra charged it, doing his extra smiting damage. Loki shot it and then used his cloak to hide in plain sight. It then cast a Hypnotic Pattern, incapacitating those that missed the save. Many did. It took an action of someone not affected or some damage to give another save. I.e. no free save a the end of your round. The NPC shook a few loose and berries were given to the fallen. Ironically, no one knew where Loki was so he was never shook free. But the damage finally started to add up. With several players on a handful of hit points, it Dimension Doored away. Somehow, we survived again. Nothing of value was found. It was a bit dissatisfying to see it get away but the last demon we fought, exploded killing Zolton so perhaps it was for the best.
We were desperate for a short rest but didn’t feel we could, standing on a floor of bones surrounded by darkness that was eager to grab the unsuspecting. We headed down the stairs that Kharn found when he was affected by the Fear spell. We found a magical chamber with a statue of one of the Druid gods. And a great pit in the center of the room. The foot of the statue seemed to be worn as if having been touched by 100s of Druids over the years. Kharn went first, and saw a vision of him leaving his wolf tooth in the hand of the statue. And then leaping into the pit. We took a short rest and then the rest went. It was mostly the same. Leave your item here and jump. Ezra, who refused to use his shield, realizing before the rest of us that it was an evil tool of Stradanya so his vision was a little different. Noticing that Vasili, who we had left outside the cave entrance, looked a lot like Stradanya. He could be a brother? I’m not sure that Lady Patrina had one. And of course, Ambrus could not leave his tattoos behind. Kharn had the hardest time, fearing the tooth was allowing him to control his curse. Or was it the cause? We all left them including Ezra and took the leap and ended up in an earthen chamber with no exits. All had a feeling of renewed vigor in our mission to rid the land of evil. Loki’s was slightly different. He felt a sense of accomplishment, as this was part of his personal quest journey. He received some upgraded guns as a reward. Kharn’s curse was indeed lifted so no more teen wolf, I guess. Ambrus still has his tattoos but at least they stopped hurting him, which they had been since we came in here.
Loki started digging and could see a bright light and something blue below. We quickly realized the light was sun light, uncommonly bright and the blue was blue sky, never seen in Barovia. Our orientation flipped and we climbed up out of the ground in the Druid circle we had fought the day before. Obviously, we had done some good as the weather looked “normal” to those from a plane other than here. We could still see the gloom on the horizon though. We stopped there and made 6th level. Loki’s new guns were magical and although they didn’t get a bonus to hit, they did an extra 1d4 of necrotic damage. But it’s the magical part that will be the real boon, given the number of magical foes we face. Otherwise, they functioned like regular guns. Next will be delivering the stone back to the winery and then back to Krusk. Several have business to attend to there.
So, after a brief discussion about whether we should even go down this hole, we started piecing together a plan. Not only would our Darkvision not work but none of our heritage artifacts would either. The last time that happened was in the church so we postulated that maybe this was holy ground. Druid holy ground? Ezra sent more rope up. Kharn hauled up Loki, gave him a lit torch and lowered him back down. It turns out, the pool wasn’t that big nor was the chamber. With an athletics roll, he managed to swing Loki to the dry land. He tied the rope to some roots and Loki did the same onto some rocks. Eventually everyone came down and reequipped. The dim light seen in the distance turned out to be a Driftglobe which Loki took. (Eventually it ended up with Kharn.) At this point, characters started disappearing. Along with our rope. What followed was a series of induvial encounters as we wandered the maze of The Between. One background oriented and one combat oriented. Some worthwhile information was gained but I’ll probably forget some of it. In no particular order.
We started with Loki. He encountered his mother raccoon. She advised him to get rid of his evil bag of bones. When his turn came around again for his second encounter, he fought Wintersplinter. He only lasted two rounds before dying. Kharn fought and died at the hands of the legendary Yeti. His other encounter was a ghostly Vastini girl. I don’t recall what she said.
Lord Q got a visit from the Raven Queen. She said that this place was outside of Stradhanya’s control and any auguries he had done came from Stradhanya. Dave was a bit perplexed since his Warlock powers come from the Raven Queen. Or do they? She told him to get rid of the bird cage as it was controlled and powered by the Kraken/Drowned God/rival evil power in this land. I believe she hinted that the means to destroy it was down here. When Lord Q requested proof she was the Raven Queen and not Stradhanya again, she gave him a Light cantrip and recharged his spells. I’m not sure that was proof but no one else got so much as a lousy t-shirt. For his combat, his fateful servants came out and demanded that he sign a new contract, pledging to the Drown God. They had been secretly working for him all along. Dave did his usual arguing and they eventually attacked. Unfortunately, they didn’t have any real powers so it didn’t really go anywhere. I think the Kraken then arose from a pool and swallowed him whole.
Kaladin fought Granny Momo. She pumped Magic Missiles into him and he tried to entangle her in her own dress. That got a little weird, with Brian playing the part of an old woman. I think he was killed eventually. On his next spotlight, he encountered his grandfather, a silver dragon. He demanded to know why he hadn’t returned to his castle in Barovia. Kaladin asked where it was. I can’t remember the name. He said it was a castle that hosted the silver knights which protected this realm before Stradhanya came. Grandad suggested he restart those knights. Pointing out that he was a Monk and not a knight was dismissed with a wave. Kaladin asked about the dream telling him to kill his friends. He was told that the evil gold coin was messing with his head. He advised he should destroy it. He asked how. In this land between realms, it was possible to do so. Evidently it has been enhancing his dragon powers.
Ambrus saw that human lady that was once his friend, Esmerelda. She was concerned that he was dead, in the land of The Between. It was clear, they were once very close. She was glad to see that he had rid himself of that “awful dagger”. The dagger other visions had indicated had the ability to kill the vampire. With Ambrus’s memory loss, he was at a loss. She told him his lock and key tattoos had the power to break the connection assumed that’s how he did it. So maybe he could do the same for the rest of us. He already did so for Zolton? She awaits him in Kresh, evidently. Now that the wine has returned, maybe we can get in there. She, and several others, advised us that the only way out was down. His combat was against the demon we encountered in the sewers; I think. Again, he had no chance although Brian seemed to enjoy beating on everyone regardless. Ambrus was one of the few that actually got away.
Lastly was Ezra. He encountered the vampire Father Lucious. With his smites and save bonuses, he managed to get some significant damage onto him. But then Wade started using his legendary actions and Ezra was killed. His back history encounter was with that lady from his past. She encouraged him to continue the fight. I’m not sure what else. She did ask him to visit her final resting place. When he asked where that was, it turns out she was that spirit that raised us from the dead so that we could defeat that child stealing demon. That is where we got the Holy Avenger sword. I’m not sure if anyone but Wade had pieced that together.
Eventually we all ended up in the last room with a pit going down. Some were prepared to just jump in as a leap of faith but it was pointed out that it was climbable. It was 120 feet down. Kaladin had 100 feet of rope which would give us advantage on the first 3 climb rolls with 1 without. We took a long rest first since those that were killed earlier were at 1 hit point. We had Good Berries to eat and 3 magical lights so that wasn’t a problem. Kharn went first, forgoing the rope. The rest went in turn. Ezra fell and took 6d6. Irena fell and took 9d6 and was knocked out. Ambrus fell and took 6d6 and Lord Q fell and took 4d6. Love those skill challenges. Kaladin stowed the rope and flew down. Except that it was too tight so he had to make a roll as well. He missed and used 2 inspirations to succeed.
That got us down to another plateau with another 50 foot climb. This time we were smarter and had Kharn lower us down, one at a time. And then he climbed down. And then Kaladin was to fly down but when the light sources had all left, he was attacked by the darkness. (Dan: Yeah. That happened. If I had magic missile I would have attacks the darkness back) He then flew down. There were millions of bones, littering the floor of this vast chamber. We could hear dogs howling in the distance. We started along the cliff bottom, staying together. We passed stairs going up but we were told to go down to get out. Eventually we were attacked by dogs, charging in from the darkness. There were those 2 headed Death Dogs with 2 attacks of small damage but a poison save. There were two Death Heads that flew, did damage and restrained on a failed save. And there was one Death Hunter caster. He did a Death Bolt which did 4d8 plus a save for something. He Counter spelled Lord Q’s Fog Cloud. He finished off Ireena with a Chill Touch. So, it was a fight. We did a decent job, concentrating fire on injured ones. We could not see the caster so he was untouched for several rounds. Kaladin was paralyzed (restrained) by a Death Head and fell from the sky. But he saved the next round and avoided being turned to stone. Loki was poisoned by a dog, giving him disadvantage on attacks but the tide had turned by then so it wasn’t a big deal. Ezra cured that disease with his Lay on Hands. Ireena started low due to her long fall and was out fast. But she made several death saves until Loki could get a berry into her. After 3 rounds, it was just the caster and a dog. We pummeled him but he used a Dimension Door and got away. There was no treasure, of course.
Brian said that it was possible to finish the dungeon in another hour but no one believed him so we stopped there. Ezra did a Prayer of Healing, Ireena used her last two healing kits, Loki loaded his last shots and we took a short rest. We’ve been told that 6th level awaits us on the other side. The means to destroy these artifacts may be Ambrus and the key may be that this place, beyond her reach, is the place that it can be done. It seems pretty obvious we are to get rid of them. I, for one, will be sad to see mine go. It’s the best thing about my character. (Dan: So far the only thing I used from my heirloom was the 10 feet addition movement. Now its only 50' instead of 60'. On the other hand no one is mind controlling me or trying to turn me into an Illithid, so I guess I came out aghead.)
We started with a series of “but firsts”. We wanted to head back to the winery with the recovered gem but first we wanted to check out the grove of trees nearby. But first we wanted to take a short rest. But first we wanted to search the bodies of the fallen Druids. But first the unholy aura of this place seemed to be tapping into the feral nature of Loki and Kharn. Loki felt the urge to take a small bite out of one of his friends. Just a nibble, they won’t mind. He turned into a rat and tried to bite Ezra who looked more appetizing that Lady Katrina. Luckily, he missed because Ezra only had 1 hit point. Ezra grabbed him and he came to his senses. Kharn felt compelled to feast on the blood his fallen foes. He turned into a wolf but manage to resist the urge to actually dig in. The bodies were searched but nothing was found. Druids and barbarians are much for stuff and we didn’t really kill that many of them. Ezra did a sense evil and determined that outside the walls was less evil than inside so we decided to do a quick bandage but put off the short rest until we reached the trees. Everyone’s heritage artifact was giving off a faint evil vibe, by the way. Visili did not although Ezra, in particular, did not trust him. Luckily the surviving Druids had all fled because we were in no shape to face them.
In the trees was an old black gnarled oak with a small tunnel under its roots. There was an inscription that was in Druidic. Lady Katrina cast a ritual Comp Languages and it said something about the unworthy being smited if they dared to enter. Loki vaguely remembered the area from his time in captivity but could recall nothing useful. We took a short rest and debated our options. Visili caused some trouble, asking questions. He talked to Loki about his artifact and questioned whether it was safe to use, given the bite he tried to give Ezra. He talked to Kharn about his curse. Both probably told him too much. While talking to Kharn, Kharn sort of drifted out. When he regained his thoughts, Stradhanya was on his mind and he tasted cherries. Visili then stated that he did not intend to go into the cave and advised Ireena to do the same. More suspicions, questioning and skills rolled but nothing much came of it. He stayed but she went. Loki felt the cave was the way to go so eventually, we went.
The entrance was tight and all had to crawl to get in. With Loki leading the way, it was a series of tunnels dug out of the dirt and roots. We found the body of the Vistani girl that Stradhanya took. Loki thought it very unlikely that she would have killed her and put her down here and was going to pass it by but someone had to look for a cause of death and it turned into 4 swarms of Rot Grubs. That fight was its usual annoying with half damage but not hard. I don’t think anyone got hit. There was no actual body. We found a room full of Stirigs, seeming to be feeding from the black roots. They didn’t seem to notice us but we went another way. The body of Zolton was found and again, we could not leave well enough alone. More Rot Grubs. We fought them a little better this time, using hit and run tactics to avoid getting attacked. More Stirigs which were avoided again. Another body which we finally let lie. We also found a talisman in a wall, an adventurer’s pack with a potion in it and a tarot card.
The last room, assuming we didn’t miss anything along the way, was a large chamber with holes in the floor. It was pretty obvious something or somethings lived in here. Loki successfully snuck halfway across and readied his guns. Ambrus went next and his 20 stealth was not good enough. A huge Remoraz appeared. I was tough. High AC, immune to fire and cold and a long reach. However, it’s most devastating power was that any melee attackers took 2d6 of fire damage from the heat of its body. No to hit and no save. Since we heavy with melee characters and did 2-3 or more attacks per round, that 2d6 really added up fast. Our usual advantage of multiple attackers and attacks was working against us. Some were taking more damage than they gave. Loki, with his ranged pistols was doing well, but then the Remoraz tunneled into the ground, appeared 20 feet away and attempted to swallow him. That attack did 50+ points and Loki was knocked out in one blow. Luckily, with all the other attackers, it was too distracted to swallow him.
Ambrus managed to use his cunning action to grab him and get him out of harm’s way. A good berry later he was ready to start shooting again. Meanwhile, things were getting dicey. Kharn was also hit with that massive attack but manage to stay conscious due to his rage induced half damage. But he was restrained in its maw and wouldn’t last long. But Lord Q managed to finish it off in the nick of time. No treasure was found. We discussed fleeing at this point and facing an “I told you so” from Visili however the GM nudged us to keep going one more room. The last room had talisman hanging from the ceiling. There was a burned-out fire pit and carvings all over the walls. And another even smaller tunnel exiting. With the help of another Comp Languages, the carvings were goodly Druid stuff about the century old role of this tree in spreading life throughout the land and such. It seemed like this was a rite of passage room that predates the rise of Stradhanya and the corruption of the Druids. Over the tunnel was something about the worthy passing through the challenge ahead. But it seemed like a safe place for a long rest. With a couple torches for fuel, we started the fire. The items were identified. A Potion of Climbing, a talisman that allowed the holder to understand Druidic for an hour once a day and the finder of the tarot card (Lady Patrina) gets a free death save success on her next attempt. The talisman went to the Druidish Loki. I think Lady Patrina held onto the potion?
It was late at that point but we decided to press forward a bit more and tackle the always contentious skill challenge that awaited us at the next tunnel. So, it was to be a Dex check to squeeze through. The predetermined DC depended on the size, armor and gear of the character. Loki had it easiest, being small. Ezra had it worse with his heavy armor. Next was a bunch of debates about what would help and not help in this challenge. Removing armor, gear, oiling up, who had oil, would acrobatics help, can one help another, one at time, how about this spell or that spell, etc. Sadly, Loki who could only miss with an automatic miss 1 was the only one that had to use an inspiration die. A couple got stuck but we managed to work around it. Loki discovered that it ended at the top of a vast chamber with water 60 feet below. Kharn managed to lower him on a 50 rope, only because he was small and we stopped there. And no one’s Darkvision was working. Not Loki’s subclass enhanced or Lady Patrina’s feat driven devil sight. So, will it be more skills or more fights or both? Tune in next time.
We arrived a Yester Hill. We were short firepower with the absence of Kaladin, Ambrus and Lady Petrina although Brian showed up before any real action. (Note from Dan: Jon's game was canceled and they sent the last minute invite to the wrong e-mail address.) We debated briefly possible avenues of approach however the cliffs were too tall and numerous to realistically climb so it pretty much had to be up the main road. Since there was little cover, sneaking seemed unlikely but Brian said he’d do that with a couple of group stealth checks. So, we did that. People rolled well enough to get to near the top. When there, we heard a voice. Basically, a warrior from the past was looking for a worthy champion to take possession of his magic spear. And evidently, Lord Q fit the bill. So, we found a cave in which were the bones of a warrior and a magic spear. Lord Q said a few words of reverence and we moved on before the patrol came around again. We didn’t have time to Identify it, and Lady Petrina was late arriving anyway, but I think Brian let Dave attune to it while we snuck so that he could use it as his pact weapon in the upcoming fight. If it does anything more amazing that be magical, we did not discover it.
When we got to the highest tier, we saw and heard a bunch of stuff. There was a high stone wall around the whole area with occasional lightning strikes from the brewing storm touching down on the tops of it. We could also see the top of a huge statue made out of wood, sticks, leaves and mud in the shape of a female with fangs. We could see something glowing in its chest. So, we figured that this was what these Druids wanted from the winery. The magic gem from the old Druid gods to power their new idol of Stradhanya. We could also hear chanting and although no one could understand it, its intent seemed pretty clear. The clock was ticking. We circled around to the back door. Lady Petrina sent her flying invisible Sprite over the wall and it was instantly vaporized by a lightning bolt. Evidently Brian missed the lightning threat part of the description. Basically, it was a ring of chanting Druids around the idol and then a ring of berserking barbarians around them, guarding. And a lot of both. We started to discuss a plan of action however when Brian had us roll initiative, it was pretty much every man for himself.
Ireena went first and peaked around the corner. Brian had turned on the POV so the map was troublesome. Loki went next and turned into a squirrel. He figured an innocent squirrel running along the rocks that formed the wall in the middle of the forest would not be noticed. He was instantly noticed and a couple barbarians started his way. Evidently, they had orders to keep anything and everything away from the idol. Even squirrels. Lady Petrina went next and used Disguise Self to turn into the Druid we killed at the winery. She ordered the barbarians to leave her animal servant alone. All the barbarians instantly saw through that deception (no rolls needed) and started to charge her. It was all downhill from there. The barbarians pretty much bottled up the party at the entrance through the walls. Off the path, it was difficult terrain (i.e. half movement). The squirrel got hit but for some reason Brian said that it had Loki hit points all be it squirrel AC. When DG realized that his Goblin feat transferred, namely the bonus action disengage, he decided to double down on his foolish plan and keep heading to the idol.
The barbarians were formidable and Ezra and Kharn were losing hit points fast. Lord Q was helping and Ireena and Visilli were helping a bit but they were having trouble getting past. Lady Patrina tried to help Loki from a far and successfully Held one barbarian but another couple took his place. Loki was doing pretty well, moving and dodging and disengaging and actually managed to get onto the statue. Some of the Druids stopped chanting to fire spells at him. When the head Druid cast the dreaded Plant Growth spell and everyone’s movement went to ¼, we all wept. We kept hoping something would disrupt the chanting. Lady Patrina hit them with a Slow but that didn’t do it. She hit them with a Fireball and that didn’t do it. Plus, all of Loki’s distractions. Finally, Brian had enough of us asking and said that as long as one Druid kept going, nothing would stop. I.e. you’ll have to kill them all. Crap. The squirrel was finally hit with a Thorn Whip and pulled off the statue, with the gem almost within reach. The head Druid then put up a Wall of Fire, trapping him and a couple of Druid between it and stone wall. Meanwhile, the rest were still pretty much bottled up (not that they could cover any distance regardless) and hadn’t really made any progress against the barbarians. It was looking bleak.
One of the trapped Druids, went over the wall, saved for half on the lightning and was never seen again. Loki, thinking out the box, changed into a Loki, then changed into a badger and then tunneled under the Fire Wall. Lord Q put up a damaging darkness field near the idol and then one of the Druids put up a Fog Cloud over on the players. It was a mess and hard to keep track of. Kharn sort of broke free and added a bit of movement by leaping over the overgrown plants. The badger was hit with an Erupting Earth and knocked into a Loki. Evidently that form worked like a Druid. It was a big confusion but he had most of his hit points. However, he really hadn’t done anything other than distract some bad guys so it was about a wash. Loki managed to climb into the idol, weaving through the lattice work with a barbarian right behind him. On his next turn, he could grab the gem. But 8 rounds were up and the statue turned into a huge evil Trent thing. He and the barbarian were expelled and were left hanging on the outside. By this point, Brian was sick of having to deal with all these zones and declared that the burst of magic that animated the monster, cleared out all of them. He then stated that the Druids and Barbarians, having completed their mission and released their rampaging beast, started to flee the area. There were some parting attacks of opportunity but soon enough it was just the Trent and the players. All total, I think we took out maybe 3 barbarians and 1 Druid using most of Lord Qs and Lady Petrina’s spells and most of Ezera’s and Kharn’s hit points.
So, the Trent got two reach attacks and two grapple attacks per round. If you started your turn grappled by its roots, you took automatic damage and it took your whole round to try to get free with another save. At least you could still fight while grappled. Its AC was low but it’s hit points were huge as is typical with a big boss. The two NPCs contributed pretty well. Ireena proving adept at getting people un-grappled and Visilli doing some actual damage. Of course, they weren’t being targeted. But quickly Ezera and Kharn were out. Kharn, in particular, was in big trouble because he was still in the grapple and was taking damage (and a death save failure) each round. The NPC got them both a Goodberry to keep them alive. Then Loki and Lord Q were on the ropes. At the end, those two were grappled and one round from going out. But Loki managed to take its last handful of hit points and kill it. We stopped there, being 2 AM, but we did recover the gem from its body. Brian says there’s some clean up to do here. There are still barbarians and Druids fleeing but our 4 fighter types probably have maybe 10 hit point between them. So, a short rest is on the top of our list. Still 5th but maybe we’ll be 6th next time, depending on what we do.
Brian thankfully skipped the long search through the mansion and just declared nothing was found. So, the wine wizard family returned and we were treated to a celebration. During that, a couple of things were revealed. The head guy confided that they were anti Stradhanya and while not fighters, have been using their travels to gather information. Information they were willing to share. Loki asked about the immediate problem about the Druids but he said he had given everything he knew already. (Which would turn out to be untrue.) He also gave us a (i.e. 1) limited edition wine goblet that when presented at an establishment that serve their wine, would entitle the bearer to unlimited wine. We thought that ought to go to the native Barbarian. However, he also revealed that it’s magical and would not cause impairment, no matter how much was consumed. We then thought it should go to someone with a low CON, but the lowest CON in the group, and the most popular, was 14. I’m not sure where it ended up. It was also noticed that the folks seemed to be wary of Lord Q. When we tried to inquire about that, we were told it was a night of celebration and not questions. So, we went to bed. And had more dreams.
Brian put a lot of work into the words of these dreams which I cannot possibly recall. I’ll do my best to recall the gist, as best I can and the meaning, as best we could figure. Ezra dreamed about saving a noble woman from Stradhanya, using the power of the Morning Lord. There were a lot of details that the rest of us didn’t get but Andy said it was very illuminating to him. Kaladin dreamed of his dragon father who urged him to prove his worthiness for greater power by killing one of his companions. And soon or else he’ll take away the powers he already has. He didn’t talk much about that dream. Ambrus dreamed again of avenging the female dark elves by killing Stradhanya with this magic dagger. There were also some ties to a human woman who, once reminded, was the operator of the magic store outside of the city of Valockia. Lord Q had a dream of his patron, the Raven Queen, trying to tell him something however Stradhanya was blocking most of the transmission. The next morning, he sent his messenger mephit to ask the Raven Queen to resend the message. The response back was something like “Nice try, S”. What implications this may have to his patron driven powers, remains to be seen. Loki had a nightmare about the bones again. His sentient animal friends asking him why he’s eating them. In his dream, he wretched them all up. He woke, sick, on the floor but with a bag full of bones. Lovely. Lastly was a 2-line clue that was meant for Lady Petrina but since Brian didn’t attend, it came to the NPC instead. Ironically, I think we spent more time debating this one than the rest. The first line was about chopping the branch but the trunk remains. The Daves took it metaphorically, assuming it meant we’d accomplished something but there was more to do. Andy and Jon instead started thinking about actual trees. The tree on Hester Hill or the tree in his character history, respectively. We shall see. The second line was even more cryptic. Taking action quickly?
The next morning, Brian split us into 3 groups around the winery and imparted more information of us. As we had surmised, it is difficult to grow things in this land and they are using magic to do so. What they revealed was that the 3 Druid gods gave their ancestors 3 gems which were place around the area. One was taken generations ago. One was taken fairly recently by Baba Someoneorother and taken to a ruined village nearby. That is the village we were supposed to go to next to rescue the sister of the magic shop lady. The last was taken after they got taken over by these Druids. They assume they took it back to Hester Hill. They said that if they didn’t get at least 1 gem back within a day or two, all the vines would die. And this valley would become that much darker. So that’s the plan. Hester Hill. We also dug into their aversion to Lord Q. They felt that his bird cage was slightly evil. They asked if he was evil or been known to kill birds, ravens in particular. We said no. Remember that there were a lot of ravens in the area and that they came to our aid. He then asked Ezra directly if he had detected evil or him or his cage. He didn’t recall doing that specifically but certainly hadn’t noticed. Ezra did reveal that he was convinced that all of these heritage items were cursed. (That seems more and more likely as we’ve gone along.) He does not use the powers of his Morning Lord shield and in fact covers it in prayers to keep its curse at bay. He had already warned Kharn that his item isn’t doing what he thinks it is. We were reminded by one of these Vistani seers that she thought these items are what have brought us to this place and marked us for ridding the land of her.
About then, Stradhanya’s black carriage arrived. She and her grumpy elf chamberlain got out. She wanted to know why we hadn’t made good on her dinner invitation. Loki said we’ve been busy, trying to ease the suffering of all her subjects. She decided to take the Vistani girl we had rescued from the Balrog as a means to ensure our prompt attendance. Ezra interposed. Loki tried in vain to defuse the confrontation. When the elf grabbed her, Ezra attacked. He did a bunch of damage with a smite. Kaladin attacked him as well. Loki tried in vain to break her free. Ambrus joined the fray but Lord Q continued to drink his morning tea upstairs. Using a legendary action, she grabbed Ezra and tossed him 30 feet. The elf had an evil whispers AOE that did 4-5d10, save for half. A round later, after we were all bloodied, she put up a wall of ice, the elf drug the girl in and the drove away. (So, a waste of time but within character, especially for Ezra. And I suppose if we’re supposed to kill her someday, knowing some of the things she can do is worth something.) As she rode away, we heard the girl say, “She’s got …” whatever than means. And she tossed that accountant that gave us that book on vampires out the door. So, an NPC trade. He said she invited him into the carriage this morning in Valaki and you really couldn’t say no. He was surprised to find himself all the way here in such a short time but we know about travel time. Ezra greeted him with great suspicion but I guess he’s with us now.
So, we bandaged and headed out to Hester Hill. Ezra tried to get any information out of these guys about what we were walking into but got not much of anything in return. Something about berserkers? The next day, we were attacked by some zombie’s that all looked surprisingly like Kharn. They weren’t much of a threat however they were annoying. Whenever they were killed, they got a save based on their negative value and if they made it, they had 1 hit point. The point being, we had to kill them multiple times. It was a grind but we hardly took any damage. We burned the bodies. By the way, the doll that looked like Kharn that Ambrus took from the Druid at the winery, talked. It said “Get up, get up” every morning, “to Barovia and beyond” from time to time and other stuff. The perfect item for a guy who sneaks around for a living. He left it in the wagon but when it annoyed Lord Q, he tossed it into the fire. If we had a wizard, maybe he could have Identified it. Evidently it could have been programed to say things at certain trigger points. However, it’s only real use was to annoy the players and amuse the GM. We ended, pulling up to the hill. It is immense and tall with no cover. It looks like it’ll be up the main road but we can debate that next time. Still 5th. Jon’s AD&D next time.
We started in the cold basement. We searched the Druid but he had nothing of note. Lady Petrina started a Detect Magic ritual and eventually found nothing. We assumed the ramp on the far side went back up to the vat room however there was a door down here. It was examined but it was not the source of the cold. Ambrus did manage to find the source, a crack in the wall between to two rooms. An investigation discovered a secret door. When opened, it was a short hallway that ended in some sort of room. It was very cold in there and there was brown mold on the walls. The last mold we encountered was vulnerable to fire so Lady Petrina fired a Fire Bolt down there. The mold grew. We debated and concluded that cold would be the best bet. Kaladin was talked into using his cold breath weapon and that killed off some. Unfortunately, he took cold damage when he moved into the room. More debate. Lady Petrina had a Dragon’s Breath spell that could last for 10 rounds. More debate and eventually cold resistant Kaladin volunteered to go back in and clear out the mold. He took damage once more but saved this time for minimal. (Dan: After using an inspiration) Unfortunately, the hall was a dead end and had nothing of worth. It was simply a means to keep the wine cold down here. So all and all, a waste of time but we didn’t know that going in. (Dan: Our epic fight against the fridge monster.) About this time, we started to hear load noises from somewhere in the building.
We opened the door which had stairs going up into a glass bottle workshop. There were a couple of windows to the outside and another door. Ezera opened it and saw a Druid and an army of the small Twig Blights. Rather than charge them all, he closed the door. Unfortunately, she spotted him. We barred the door and went back down. There was much debate and indecision at this point. Eventually, we headed up the ramp but ran into a Twig. Ezera managed to kill it and close the door. There was a hallway beyond it that seemed to go outside. Ambrus was eager to flee but was reminded that the outside was full of the big Needle Blights. Our plan was to find who was controlling them in here. We started up the ramp, hoping to avoid the army, and get to the controlling Druid without having to fight them. That lead to a hallway which ended in a room where wine barrels were loaded into a wagon below through a hole in the floor. In there was the head Druid, Needle and Twig Blights as well as some new Vine Blights.
The Druid recognized Loki and demanded the return of his heritage Bag of Bones. Evidently, these Druids had lost their connection with the animal kingdom and could no longer turn into animals. They had been harvesting the bones of animals to allow them to do so however for some reason, they had to be sentient animals. So, this guy claims the only reason Loki and the rest had been given the gift of intelligence is to fill the bag he stole. That bag, which had finally allowed him to escape successfully, represents years of their evil efforts. And they wanted it back. (That’s not quite the backstory DG wrote but compelling. Assuming this guy isn’t lying like these Druids have been doing to Loki since day one.) So, after some clever banter between them, it was back to kill or be killed.
We had all kinds of technical difficulties at this point. The Twig army was not visible to the players on the combat tracker. The more advanced head Druid Brian had created seemed to have been lost. Eventually we rebooted. Brian declared that the door Ezera was holding, in fact had a bar on it, which would hold them at bay long enough such that he did not reload that room and lessen the burden on Fantasy Grounds and his PC. Loki was attack by a Vine Blight that had reach, grab, squeeze and could move people towards them. It held him over the hole. Lady Patrina could get them all in a Fireball, including Loki unfortunately. He had a +8 save but could not and took 24 ish however it did a ton of total damage to the 7 villains in the room. That really softened them up but Loki then fell through the hole. As usual, the spell caster was the real threat, even if he was a Druid, although those Vine Blights were a pain. Despite several others being dropped into the hole and much damage dished include a heat metal on Ezera, we took them out. Towards the end, the Druid from the other room showed up, damaged, but quickly fled. Evidently the friendly Ravens had taken out the Twigs. When she was run down, it was over.
We haven’t searched the rest of the house but it was quiet. The Druid indeed have that magic staff. Lady Petrina did an Identify on it. It could do a Vampiric Strike and Summon these various Blights. Perhaps it could control them with more research. However, it looked and felt evil. It attuned itself to her by growing tendrils into her flesh, for example. When the Paladin said it was indeed emitting a big evil aura, we agreed to destroy it. People started to log off but Brian cut some debate short and said we threw it in to the glass blower’s furnace and after a brief show, turned to ash. And all the Blights disappeared. He revealed that the longer we waited, the more dire the consequences for those that handled it. Not that we needed more convincing. He also gave us a short rest and an Identify on the cloak. It granted, to a Druid or Ranger, the ability to do a Hide action as a bonus action while in light cover. Unfortunately, Loki already got this from his Goblin race although this allowed him to do so while being observed so maybe it’ll be of use. Until we get a Druid, he’ll take it. We stopped there. We’ll need to do a quick search of the house and then bring the wine makers back in. So far, we haven’t seen a link to Loki’s “save the Druids 3 times” destiny but we think we’ve moved Ezera’s and Patrina’s a bit. Next week will be Jon’s first edition AD&D and then back to this in two weeks.
We started, still in the encampment of the former residents of the winery. The head guy provided a sketch of the outside of the one building, surrounded by grape vineyards. There were several entrances but only one road. We attempted to get more information out of him (secret underground tunnels? (Plants have dark vision?, other roads?, numbers?, etc) but got nothing of any value beyond the map. We also grilled him for potential motivations for these Druids. Evidently, they had been harassing them for months but a week ago, they just attacked and took over. Questions about whether there were any druid ruins under this place or near the area again came to naught. Motivation was a reasonable line of questioning given that the Druid we fought last time seemed to return to his normal self before he died. So, we were thinking maybe if we could figure out why they were corrupted, maybe we could fix that and therefore save them. We also revisited Loki’s back story during that. He remembered that Stradhanya had somehow captured/corrupted/banished the 3 gods of the Druids so now they must worship her. (Not quite the backstory DG wrote but whatever.) Loki’s destiny was to free the 3 gods or some such. But ultimately, we ended up back at the “attack the winery” adventure as it was our only lead. At the very least, we needed information.
In the middle of all this, Lady Petrina did a tarot reading on Loki to try to get more information out of him. Again, we got nothing new. But while that was happening, the NPC started asking questions about this Petrina behind her back. I mean we didn’t really know anything about her other than she was a player character. But that’s true of all of us really. Anyone of us could be a spy. That launched a big discussion about her backstory and the backstory of the Dusk elves. Some of this was rehash for Andy who missed last time. She didn’t seem to eat or sleep. Someone with that name was stoned 200 years ago. How do we know she wasn’t a vampire? (She a Reborn.) She did have a reflection in a mirror. Ambrus tried to unlock her memories with his tattoo. But ultimately, we ended up back where we started.
We finally got back to assault plans. Loki offered to do some recon as a squirrel but Petrina revealed her undead sprite familiar. It could fly invisible so Mr. Grey was sent, looking for the best approach path. It seemed an impossible task but then Wade announced it was to be a skill challenge so all these discussions were mostly for naught. The first challenge was an Investigation roll to find the optimal path so he gave that to us based on Mr. Grey. Next was an Animal Handling to understand what the ravens flying above were up to. Kharn thought they were sort of leading the way along the best path. (More fuel for the “not all the druids are evil” notion.) Near the end of the fields was a Stealth check to stay ahead of the closing Thorn Blights. Ambrus rolled that, assisted by Ezra who he had turned invisible in hopes of helping him sneak. Then an Acrobatic dash into a store room which dog Loki lead. Then an Athletics roll to lock the door behind us which Ezra did. I think Ambrus took a couple points from thorn fire but all and all, it was a success.
The storeroom was more of a closet but the next room was 2-3 stories high to hold big vats of wine. There were stairs up to a catwalk above and lots of doors. Kharn went first and spotted a fur clad Druid pouring some thick liquid into a vat. He raged, wolfed and charged up to her. There were also around 6 of the small Twig Blights. Combat ensued. Neither were much of a threat. The Druid did manage one Thunder Wave but hopefully it was dismissed as part of the rain storm outside. Loki used a short sword to stay quiet. Ambrus got knocked into a wine vat. About the only complication was that after most had finally hacked their way through the minions and got up to where the Druid was, Lord Q pulled her down with a cantrip. And she tried to make a getaway. There were some contentious discussions amongst the rule lawyers about how that movement all worked. She did manage to get through a door. Patrina was not able to best her strength to open it but Kharn had no trouble. She was finally cut down. Nothing was learned or earned and no short rest needed. Lord Q questions the ravens in the rafters but they had nothing very useful to say.
After some discussion about what to do next, we went through the door she was trying to go through. It led to stairs going down to a cool basement. We all headed down, in initiative order. It was a wine storage room. The first half, the racks were empty but the second half had wine bottles. Wade pulled us out of initiative order but the next action, Kharn and Loki found another Druid and 4-5 big Thorn Blights in the second area. The Druid cast Entangle but only Loki failed his save. These Blights were much tougher and had range attacks that did like 3d6. Kharn recklessly pursued the Druid, taking several opportunity attacks and got beat up pretty good. The Druid wasn’t too effective but had a lot of hit points. The Blights were tough. When the Druid was dropped at 1AM, the chronicler went to bed. I assume the remaining Blights were finished off and they stopped there. Assuming another encounter doesn’t come down here, we were much louder this time, it’ll be the short rest or press on discussion next time. It appears to be another one of those “fight in every room” type maps.
We started with the aftermath of the Balrog battle. Brian seemed to be playing the young girl who was being sacrificed that we rescued. She was in fact a teen and claimed to be now teeming with sorcerous energy. She wanted her parents buried and we did so, away from this unholy ground. But the most pressing issue was the burning urn. One was damaged, causing its fire elemental to return to its plane and its urn to stop burning but the other still burning. If we messed with it, would a fire elemental come out and kill us all? Or another Balrog? We couldn’t just leave it here for the next passersby to stumble upon. After much debate, we decided to take a short rest and then strike the urn, figuring we could take a fire elemental at that point. But it did not happen. We tossed the remaining golden slag into sacks and got back on the road. With the teen in tow. An hour later, it was sunset and we made camp. We survived and got a long rest.
The next day about the only thing that happened was that Kharn and Loki spotted a big black dog-like thing in the woods. It rattled their souls. We pressed on however some skill rolls were made and it was revealed that these things put some sort of curse onto those who met its gaze. So, it was said. But we figured we wouldn’t be able to find it again anyway so kept going. What’s one more curse. That night, they had bad dreams. The next day we made it to the town. The abbey was on a steep hill, within the city walls. Once again, the city guards were jerks. They would not let us in, despite our name dropping. We lamented that Ezra had PMS but I don’t think it would have helped. After some pointless roleplaying, the local leader told us we had to do them a small task to prove our worthiness before gaining entrance. What is this, Oz? Ironically, it was to go to the wizard winery and figure out why they had stopped shipping wine here as well. He also requested/insisted that we take the monster/bride along with us. Out came Brian’s true new character.
She was a dusk elf although a bit pale. She seemed to be wearing a wedding gown that looked shabby for a second but then looked normal-ish. It was pointed out that all the female dusk elves were supposedly killed by Stradhanya. Evidently, she had been serving as the abbot’s scholar and bookkeeper although her memory was a bit fuzzy past a couple of years. She and Ambrus had a lot in common. They continued to talk. (Dan: Mostly mentioning how little they remembered) The name Lady Petrina sounded vaguely familiar to him. He leafed through his history book and discovered that Lady Petrina was the one that the dusk elves refused to hand over to Stradhanya, choosing to stone her to death instead. This caused the vampire to kill all the female elves in the land. But that’s just a coincidence in names, I’m sure. We debated breaking into the town but Lady Petrina advised against that. She said that the abbot was very busy and had been very distracted of late. Even if we could get to him, he wouldn’t be much help. However, if we brought him some wine, it might go better. They refused to take the teen off our hands. Besides she wanted to be reunited with someone from her family or at least some Vistani. On the road, Lady Patrina overheard the conversations about the Death Dog. According to something she had read, they did indeed curse people. However, she cast a Remove Curse the next morning. The first removed the curse on Loki and the second on Kharn although she felt there was a deeper curse still in play. Unfortunately, this used up her two third-level spells for the day. Brian revealed that the curse would have resulted in fatigue the next day and unconsciousness the next. The moral of that story is to avoid making perception rolls.
Eventually, the road became more of a path which was difficult terrain. Loki, who was walking point as usual, spotted some strange twig like creatures running through the forest. In their midst, was a crazed Druid fey feral thing that vaguely looked like a Druid Loki once knew. Combat was started. Loki and then others tried to talk to the Druid but he was not hearing it. The twigs were weak but there were a lot of them. So much so that it bogged down Brian’s computer so badly that he had to reboot, mid fight. Kaladin’s breath weapon had recently improved and he was doing pretty good with 2 AOEs a round. It didn’t do a ton of damage but enough to be killing 3-4 a round. Others followed suit as best they could. The Druid cast a couple of Thunder Waves and an Entangle but it was over pretty quick. Kharn had grappled the Druid, hoping we could figure out how to help him but Ambrus ran him through with a critical backstab. As he died, his eyes cleared briefly, and said:
Loki...<hack>...<cough>...Is that you?
Our way has become...<cough>...corrupt...
We cannot reach...<cough>...<hack>... the Ladies through Stradhanya.
Find...<wheeze>...the 3 Ladies: The Weaver, The Seeker, The Huntress
Restore their Fanes and return their stolen power!
Find Jenny Grrr...<cough>...<hack>...<death rattle>...
So, then Loki revealed some of his tragic backstory to explain that. (Although it’s really Brian shoehorning his backstory into the module plotlines.) Basically, he and his family had been captured by some Druids. They were attempting to build an army by uplifting animals into soldiers/servants/slaves in order to marshal forces to defeat some “great evil in the land”. He was one of the few to survive the process, most ending in death or twisted abominations. As a survivor, he was subjected to further experimentations, both physically and mentally. He attempted to escape multiple times, finally succeeding with the help of his artifact item. He didn’t see much beyond the Druid encampment but has come to realize that the great evil was likely Stradhanya and the land was likely this accursed place. It’s not hard to imagine that these twig blights are an extension of those uplift experiments. Although he didn’t say this out loud, his greatest fear is falling into the hands of his tormentors once again. And now he is tasked to somehow save them? Or maybe not. The 3 ladies are the gods they worship and a Fane we think is a temple of some sort. No idea who Jenny Grrr… is. Maybe she can be found at Castle Argg…
Jon logged off at this point but we pressed on a bit. Before we got to the winery, we were signaled by a guy in the woods. He and his family were the displaced residents of the winery, distance descendants of the wizard founder. The patriarch told us that the place had been overrun by Druids and their minions. Those minions sounded a lot like bigger versions of the twigs we just fought. He recommended we sneak past the minions and get to the Druids in the house as a frontal assault through the blight creatures would surely fail. We asked him to draw us a map of the compound so we could plan our attack however Brian could not get the draw function to work in FGU. Rather than watch him fart around with it, we called it a night. We’ll debate our plan for hours next time.
While they waited for the rest of the group to trickle into the Vistani camp, Ambrus and Kharn went to talk to the dusk elves. It was clear that they recognized Ambrus although he recognized none of them. Evidently, he’d been missing for a year. Eventually, he was directed to the king who lived in a hobbit hole-like home that was slightly less grubby than the rest. (Brian reminded Jon that Strahd had bragged to Ambrus that Strahd had killed all the female dusk elves in the land as a demonstration of power.) The king gave him some tidbits of information one of which was that he had had a dagger in his procession that he thought could actually kill the vampire. He doesn’t have it now. And that he hung out with a former Vistani (i.e. one that is passing for a non Vistani) by the name of Esmeralda. When asked about his heirloom tattoos, he said it looked like dwarf work, not elf and he should talk to the Vistani potion maker.
And then Zolton asked around about his heirloom pocket watch. He had become convinced that it was not in fact from his grandfather nor the Morning Lord and had evil intent. He was advised to break the connection as soon as possible. One time when Ambrus handled it, he could feel the connection lessen so he decided to try that again. After getting away from the camp for fear of mishap, Ambrus did manage to break the connection. His key tattoo glowed with power. When he touched the key to the lock tattoo on his head, he gained the knowledge on how to destroy it. Take it to holy ground and do an 8-hour ceremony spell. We knew the church was holy ground and knew that spell so it seemed doable. Ambrus cautioned that it must be done carefully and not interrupted. Zolton wanted to know if the Mind Flayer worm was still inside. After more precautions, it was determined that it did not.
Next, we went to the potion maker who lived in the ruins of the city outside of the wall. She had some actual potions for sale and several bought some healing ones. More questions were asked about the watch and the tattoos but no extra information was revealed. Kharn was looking to sell the Yeti skin, worth 2000 gp, and buy the Frostbrand greatsword in one of the shops in town since he had given his Holy Avenger sword to the Paladin. She would not give him the full value in gold, only trade, but he did commission her to act as an intermediary between the two. That way we wouldn’t have to sneak back in and then back out again. That worked although we had to wait until the next day. Her price was for us to free her sister from a hag in a village to the south. It wasn’t really on the way but we could do a monastery, winery, village swing, and return here, hopefully with the sister.
Zolton also commissioned her to pick up his book and armor when it was ready. I believe his words were, “I may not return as the road is dangerous, and I want to make sure the craftsmen are paid for their work.” And Kaladin was finally able to buy his alchemy kit. By the way, Loki noticed he had two new large bones in his bag. When he consumed one, he turned into a medium-sized two head wolf. Much more substantial than the forest creatures he’s had access to so far. However, he also heard a voice in his head saying “Good boy”. Not sure what that meant but it didn’t sound good. No boon in this place comes without a price or at least a risk. It was not the voice of Strahd or the Druid who uplifted him, he thought.
We finally made it on the road. At the first crossroad, we had the option to go by a tower that neither native knew anything about. But we elected to stay on the road to the monastery. Assuming the map was accurate. About dusk we came upon a wrecked Vistani wagon and two bodies on the road. We advanced with caution and eventually noticed to the south, a small body (child) on a sacrifice stone in the middle of a Stonehenge-like circle of stones. There were also two burning urns. When the invisible Ambrus, who took Brian at his word and was ignoring the movement rates, approached the stone, two Fire Elementals appeared from the urns. Unfortunately, since they couldn’t see Ambrus, they attacked the nearest foe, Kaladin. A fight ensued. Once again, we faced a foe that was resistant to non-magical weapons. (Dan: Kaladin found they took normal damage versus cold. Yay, his level 5 ability allows him to reroll 1's with cold damage.) If they hit, the person was lit on fire, taking 1d10 of damage until he spent an action to put himself out. As we saw in the Elemental Evil game, there’s no point in doing that since you’ll likely be lit up again next round. There were a couple of ponds that if you could get to, would reduce it to a bonus action. It was a pretty even match. Ambrus decided to attack the urn, hoping their presence in this dimension was somehow linked to it. The first blow did very little damage but the Elemental certainly noticed. Lord Q put up a Wall of Water in there somewhere. But when Ambrus went again, he scored a good hit and one of the Elementals disappeared. Hurray.
And in its place arose a Balrog (Dan: Balor per D&D. The DM admitted that the elementals weren't giving us the challenge he wanted so at 11:30 PM he pulled a Balor out of his ass.). Boo. That is a greater demon and well above our pay grade. We had faced foes that we were not expected to possibly defeat several times before and I think we assumed this was another one. However, because we were in difficult terrain, it had wings and as it turns out could teleport at will and appeared right in the middle of the current fight, there was really no hope of getting away. So, its to-hit was so high, it could hardly miss. It had a 5d6+8 whip and a 3d8 sword. Anyone that started near it took fire damage. Its saves were high and it had advantage on all of them so spells weren’t going to much use. And it was resistant to lots of stuff including, of course, nonmagical weapons again. (Dan: He was resistant to cold but not acid. Kaladin can't rerol 1's on acid so he was bummed out.) We were in for the fight of our lives. However, once the last fire Elemental was killed, it was all of us against it.
So, there were two things that saved us. One was that we rolled extremely well with lots of crits. This was helped greatly by the fact that now that we were 5th, everyone was getting multiple attacks and therefore multiple chances to crit. And Kharn was giving all the meleers advantage which also boosted the odds. Ezera’s crits were critical. With his Holy Avenger sword and his smites, all of that got doubled on a crit. He did 85 points in one round and was routinely doing 30-40+ on normal hits. Ambrus did a crit backstab and Lord Q had all his hex dice all of which were doubled as well. We were dishing out a ton of damage. The other thing was that Brian misread one of its powers. It was supposed to do 3d6 of fire each time it was hit with a melee attack but Brian played it as each time it hit. Despite the fact that it never missed and did tons of damage, it only got 2 hits a round. But on our side, we were hitting multiple times per character. If we took damage each time, we would have been dead pretty quick. We joked that Kaladin would have been taking more damage than he was doing.
So, after the first round, it attempted to gate in help and thankfully it missed that roll. After the second round, Ezera had been dropped however Zolton poured a cure potion down him and he was up in time for his next holy swing. After 3 rounds, it was dropped. However, as a parting shot, it exploded for 69 points of damage. Everyone but the NPC was within that 30 area. Kharn and Kaladin saved (Dan: Kaladin did not save but takes half damage from fire and cold. After 24 points he had 14 left. I think that the highest in the group) and with their fire resistance, managed to stay up. The rest were knocked out if they saved or killed instantly if they did not. (If you go negative your max hit points in one blow, you are killed instantly.) I think that was Ambrus, Lord Q, Ezera and Zolton. However, upon recalculations... We had to add the Paladin’s save bonuses. Ezera had his shield feat which if he could make a dex roll, took none. We used all our inspirations. (Tragically we had “wasted” a bunch of inspiration dice on skill challenges last time trying to get out of the city.) When the dust settled, only Zolton was left on the dead list. He missed his save reroll and there were no inspirations left. So, Brian said that he had heroically placed himself in front of the NPC and the rescued child. And was disintegrated. The optimistic can hope that he returned to his home plain. (Dan: The DM said that he expected this to be a party wipe and us having to use the time reset. Kind of annoying since it was just spontaneously tossed at us but typical Cthulu/Ravenloft I guess. Zolton was given the option to have us pay to resurrect him or accept permadeath with heroism. I think he was getting frustrated by being hunted by the city, so he will be making a new character, hopefully, one not having to skulk through the city). By then it was after 1AM and we called it a night. I guess we’ll short rest and then long rest since it was sunset. And hope we live until morning.
The first order of business was this gaseous vampire. Zolton was keeping it in that form by hitting it with radiant damage (cantrip) every minute. Research in the book the NPC got revealed that only had to happen every hour. Holy water could not kill it, however, it could do the equivalent to the cantrip. The Holy Avenger could not since it was incorporeal. As for finally killing it, a Ceremony spell could do it but neither Ezera nor Zolton had it memorized. Unlike Wizards and their spellbooks, divine casters have to have ritual spells memorized, and casting it as a ritual simply saved them a spell slot. So, we needed a long rest however it was only 1 PM and Brian said we couldn’t go to sleep yet. So, we decided to hang out down here, with Zolton zapping it every hour. Loki and Kharn went up to cover our tracks. And we needed 250 silver pieces worth of silver dust to do the ritual. We successfully argued that between Loki’s gunsmith kit and Kaladin’s alchemy skills (we still haven’t found him a kit), we could create it from silver pieces (Dan: Whoot! Finally was able to use this skill in-game. So happy!).
In the meantime, armed with a short rest, we’d explore the lower chamber of the crypt. Down the stairs was a corridor that opened into a large chamber. There were pictures of subjugated demons on the walls and a scroll in a recess in the far wall. As Ezera approached it, two invisible demons attacked with surprise. One hit Kharn and one hit Kaladin as they walked towards the chains in the corners of the room. They did a claw, claw, bite(Dan: A classic!) and were resistant to various things including necrotic (Dan: My monk can use all the elemental energies and tried them one by one. All of them did half damage. I almost didn't try the last one because I was distracted for a moment but my final attack with an acid fist did full damage. My massive 10 points of unresisted damage was clearly the deciding factor.). We concentrate fire on one, Ezera doing most the damage since they were fiends, dropping it in one round. The other gated in a third and a will o wisp also appeared. They did some significant damage but it was all over in a couple rounds. The wisp went invisible and various people tried various things to track it down. But to no avail. Secret doors were searched for since it seemed to end here. Eventually, the scroll was read by the draconic-speaking Kaladin. Something the greatness of demon summoners or some such. Once done, we heard stone grinding on stone.
Loki ended up nearest the door that opened and looked in. He found an ancient study with rotting books. At the desk was a skeleton. And then a Specter rose and demanded to know who had disturbed his studies. Loki claimed to be a lost woodland creature and apologized for disturbing him. I think a talking raccoon threw him off a bit. He demanded to know what year it was and was angered that no one from his Valki family had been down here in hundreds of years to consult with him. Loki played on this knowledge angle and asked his advice on dealing with vampires. He correctly concluded that Strahd was still in charge. He said that she had made a deal with a “dark power” and was now immortal. Lord Q asked for advice on how to kill her and his response was to summon an even bigger demon(Dan: When asked how we would get rid of this demon he responded that you would summon a bigger demon. We dropped that line of questioning as unproductive.). Still, he was impressed that we had taken out his guards and declared that we’d earned a boon. We could take any one item from his desk. We took that meant Loki. Zolton cast a quick Detect magic. There was a ring, a wand, an amulet, and a scroll. Loki took the ring, hoping it would be the most versatile choice. Lord Q asked a few more questions as he eyed the other items. (Get the sword.) But the Specter grew tired of the audience and slammed the door shut. Ezera was itching to vanquish the evil undead thing but we successfully argued that he was down here, not a threat and that we should concentrate our efforts on the undead that were roaming the streets.
An Identify revealed that it was a Ring of Spell Storing which could hold 5 levels of spells. It currently had a Web and a Counterspell. It could be reloaded by any spell caster and used by anyone. Pretty good. There was some debate as to who should get it but we ended up with the Warlock who gets so few spells a day (Dan: No one disagreed but it occurs to me that my monk gets even fewer spells a day;). We took our long rest, cast the Ceremony, and put the Father to rest. That put us back to what to do next. More debate and we ended up with getting out of town and still going to the abbey. We wanted to get a new priest in place. This was made more complicated by the fact that it was festival day. Ezera would talk to the junior church guy and give him a note for Lady Watcher. The rest would sneak out of town asap. Loki decided to turn into a dog and stick with Ezera, figuring it’s always better to have 2 characters. The first group got out okay. Unfortunately, it was another skill challenge and without Ambrus, Kharn, Ezera, or Loki, they were short on skills. They managed, using an inspiration to get past one roll and Spider Climb spell. Andy had assumed he could leave through the gate since he wasn’t wanted but the gate was closed for the festival. So, he and dog Loki had to sneak as well. That did not go so well. Loki could not roll a 10 or better on a perception roll. First with advantage then with his inspiration, then Ezera’s. He rolled a 2, 3, 1 and 5 or some such. Ezera pretended to be chasing Loki over the walls and the guards we too confused to do anything. Comical but I think everyone made it to the Vistani camp outside the walls.
Our trusty raccoon-shaped plucky hero went to Disneyland, so the half-dragon is narrating the night events. As is typical, when a player is missing we enter an alternate reality where they never existed. We really missed the berries and the gunpowder.
The night starts with Iribella (bratty seer kid) talking to Zoltan about the link of the amulet to the plane. He further talks about his dreams in regards to the tadpole in the amulet. Using his racial fear resistance he looks inside amulet and sees the tadpole he dreamed about. Yay, at least his dream made some sense. Shuts the lid of the amulet quickly, so the tadpole doesn't escape. Zoltan wanted to break the bond to the item but Jon's character, who started to do so previously, is not there. PMS, Player Missing Syndrome. Afterward, Paul talks about his desire to kill the humans in his dreams and the little seer clarifies how the amulet restricts it.
With the other part of the group, Bray(the child) told Ezera that the guards are looking for Zoltan and Lord Q at the Bluewater Inn. Our paladin casts Gentle Repose and wakes the party. Ernst and Riktavio come to discuss 'donations' for 'clothing' and invites him to discuss what Lady Watcher (Fiona) can do for him and the church. They dress Lord Q in a disguise and Kaladin as well. Meanwhile, Karn wanders over to the church since we never showed up. The sword from the huntress of the Ogre magi reacts as he comes into the church. Ezera realizes it was the sword of his fiancee and Karn and him swap weapons. One of Fiona’s servants goes to get (and disguise) Zoltan so he can join us with the meeting.
We discuss an alliance against the government(Revolution) because Fiona’s daughter, Stella, was driven mad. She now acts like a cat. Zoltan tried to use detect thoughts but found nothing. Karn attempted to communicate with animals and did not get anything either. The brilliant plan is to create a disturbance to “show the town how it really is”, however, the party needs to go to the Abbey before they commit. It's so stupid it just might work! Or not.
During the meeting, a servant ran in to get us. One of the servants was wounded and the Father’s body was stolen. Karne was able to start tracking the scent of the dead body. We trailed behind with a pathetic attempt not to be seen together. We tracked the body back at the church. People dressed “like us”, as in people trying to be incognito, had taken his body and run back through the church to the crypt. Lord Q, who had stayed behind with Fiona, eventually wandered lazily through town with an escort. When we finally break into the crypt Lord Q finds his way there, despite doing his best to avoid going there.
After putzing around for an hour in the crypt(this was the DM delaying things rather than the players), we finally pushed the sarcophagus aside and found a hole under it with a rope ladder leading to a large cavern. We found a stairway down and a stone table where Father Lucian’s body was. Ezera sensed evil so we determined we were too late. He had been turned into a monster in the hour or so it took to catch up to him. When we tried to put him to rest (kill him) 6 wights flew out of the ground. One jumped up and hit Kaladin. Apparently, wight guys CAN jump. After a round Ezera did a critical smite on the dormant Father and did 86 points of damage... it only did moderate damage. His eyes did open though. On his action, he leaped onto the ceiling, only to be grappled on pulled off the ceiling on Karne’s action. Despite being a Legendary creature Karne rolled a natural 20 (30 modified) and Father Lucian rolled a natural 1(modified 5). He did make up for it by biting Karne and healing a little. He then turned into a bat to escape, then summoned 8 swarms of bats.
Zoltan was irritated by this, so he dropped a fireball on EVERYONE. 22 points to everything in the room... almost. The paladin had his aura from the holy sword up which gave everyone an advantage on saves and a few had resistances (Kaladin took 5 points) so it worked out. Father died... but used a Legendary action to make his save. Then immediately died again but used ANOTHER Legendary action to turn into a mist. Kaladin did his breath weapon twice and took a few bats out as well as Zoltan. We had no healing berries, so the paladin had to heal him. Then Karn went down, and Zoltan healed him. We finally got rid of the wights.
At this point, it was 1:30. So we storyboarded Ireena using her vampire lore book to inform us that the misty vampire was using the desecrated table/altar to heal. The solution was to have the cleric and paladin consecrate the altar so he couldn’t recover. Brian gave Ireena the kill. “Well done, Ireena Kolyana that’s the deadliest thing you’ve put down in your adventuring career.” Kaladin’s deadliest enemy is a swarm of bats... ouch.
We started with people finishing off their leveling up to 5th. Mostly picking new spells. It was pretty well agreed that we needed a short rest before we could venture out of the church but everyone had things they wanted to do first. Brian added some descriptions from the aftermath of last time including getting Dan caught back up with the rest of the group. Zolton wanted to do an Identify on Kharn’s sword that seemed to be vibrating in this church. The 'identify' revealed nothing beyond +1 sword. Ambrus could hear someone talking in his head, but only when outside of the church. Ezera realized the Ceremony spell he happened to have memorized would prevent someone from becoming a vampire for a week. But it would take an hour to cast. He started it. No one was sure how long it would take for the father to rise, if it was possible inside this holy church, but it was agreed that the characters would have no idea on such things. Part of the problem was that while some had their max hit points reduced from the drains, only Kharn was really down significant hit points. So only he would benefit from the short rest which meant everyone else was looking for something else they could do in that time. Eventually, the 15 minutes was spent. When Zolton started to cast another 10-minute 'Identify' ritual, Kharn and Loki revolted and declared their intent to go back into the city to rescue the NPC, put out the fire, and kill more spawn. All but Ezera agreed to go. That was the right decision for his character but would leave him out of any action.
So, we retraced our steps towards the fire. When we got to the town square, we found two vampire spawn feasting on the city folk in the stocks and cages. Initiative. Ezera was allowed to join us after a “feeling” was sent to him by the Morning Lord. Armed with the 5th level power increase, we thought we could take out 2 spawn. But then Zolton’s upcast Bless was Counterspelled by a vampire atop a statue that we hadn’t noticed. And she had a junior vampire with her. Fire was concentrated on one spawn and it was out soon enough. The Vampire cast Blindness which got Loki and Lord Q. The downed spawn rose a round later. The good news was that Brian realized we should have been getting a CON save against that level drain. But after a couple of rounds, the junior vampire was on the ropes so the vampire flew down, grabbed her hand, and teleported away. The last spawn was scared off by Zolton and with that head start, got away too. So, we only managed to kill one of them but did save some townsfolk at least.
At the coffin makers shop, we found the building a raging fire from the fire spells Zolton cast last time. It hadn’t spread to the nearby buildings yet. No sign of the NPC. That became another skill challenge. (Dan: Yay. I can't say I am a fan of these. Powers like flying over to rescue a child, using the ability to breathe underwater or swim as fast as you can fly, using draconic charisma to intimidate, or ice breath to subdue a flame aren't allowed because they aren't skills. It gets to feel pretty contrived.) Lord Q put on the guise of a city official and ordered the crowd to form a bucket brigade. Kharn saved a kid in the nearby building with an enraged Athletics check. Zolton missed an Animal Handling roll, tripped up by more chickens. Kharn was the only one with that skill but he had gone already. Ezera made another Athletics check, making sure the water kept coming. And finally, Loki missed a Survival check but that was 3 over 2 and the city was saved.
Around then, one of Lord Q’s minions returned, stating that the NPC had taken the coffin maker to the prison. We headed over to make sure she was okay. That turned into a big thing. Brian was playing up the totalitarian regime aspects and our talkers were asking what we thought were reasonable questions. (Dan: Lord Q may have been muted or he might have been first to be arrested) Somehow Zolton managed to piss off the guards, what was actually said will be debated through the ages, and arrested. (Dan: Zolton was very aggressive in wanting to talk to Ireena and although Zoltan doesn't remember doing it, most people remember him trying to walk in past the guards to ask her if she was okay. Zoltan only remembers looking in the window, seeing she was there, asking about her, and then being arrested. The conversation was a bit heated but the DM did give many clues that these guys didn't accept anyone talking back). Brian spent a bunch of time populating the arraignment center with guys to impress upon us that we wouldn’t be able to fight our way out of this. (Not that anyone was planning to.) (Dan: Originally it looked empty so it's a good thing he mentioned that or we may have tried something stupid) Eventually, initiative was rolled. Zolton managed to talk to the NPC and determine that she was okay. He then used a Misty Step to escape the building. (Dan: Zoltan massively misread the situation because as soon as he escaped he walked back to the front door with the guards as if nothing had happened. The guards recognized him immediately and called out that the escaped prisoner was here). With no one willing to start fighting, it turned into a chase scene for him. He managed to pull together just enough skills to getaway. (Dan: Zoltan was worried that he had no skills but handily beat the target skill rolls each time). He used his last Misty Step to get over the wall and ended up at the Vistania camp. Kharn also ended up there, wanting nothing to do with a city guard in a city that hated Vistania.
The rest went back to the church. Ezera finished his spell and I think we took a long rest. I assume the hit point maxs recovered? The NPC showed up eventually. She said that the accountant had shown up and helped her. He happened to have a Vampire Lore book that he lent her. One of the kids said the guards came by the Blue Water Inn, looking for Zolton. Now a wanted man. They also wanted Lord Q for impersonating a city official. That’s gratitude for you. And looking for the rest of us for questioning. But we knew we would run afoul of the government eventually. I just didn’t think it would happen after saving the city multiple times. It’s not like we’re going to be able to blend in so I think the plan was to get out of town and take the Father’s body to the head Abbey. Hopefully, if they can’t raise him, they can keep him from becoming a vampire. And then swing by the Wizard Winery. (Dan: I had the DM verify that the guards really do protect against vampire spawn. Apparently, they do. If they didn't protect the people I would be all for a guerrilla war to eliminate all the guards. Since they do help it would likely do more harm than good. However, we may have to eliminate pockets of guards if they keep hunting us. As player characters, it may be hard to resist doing more if they keep poking us and our pride/anger gets involved. Zoltan already wants to kill them all... and he's the cleric. Admittedly the cleric of some kind of mindflayer god but he _thinks_ he's good. The spirit of the murder hobo may be instilled upon us.)
We started at breakfast at the Blue Water Inn. There was only one other patron who seemed to be watching us. Given our species makeup, you can’t really blame him. As Loki mixed some gunpowder, a finely dressed young man entered. He was the local accountant who helps many of the local merchants keep on top of their tax responsibilities. He offered his services to us however since no one ever pays us to all these good deeds we do, accounting for our profits has not been an issue. We asked him a few questions about the local merchants but nothing much came of it. We all agreed that returning the Saint bones to the church and restoring its protections was top on our list. However, Zolton wanted to visit the armorer next door first. He commissioned a shield/book and a chain shirt that opened like a vest so that it might not look so much like armor. We were all confused by his descriptions. Basically, he wants to look like an unarmed Wizard but still have the AC afforded a dexy Cleric. He had the half-up front money but will have to borrow to finish the work. Ambrus went to the local leatherworker to commission a holster for his Immovable Rod. (Insert 10 minutes of “rod” jokes here.) It wouldn’t be a problem. There were other shopping and miscellaneous city tasks to do but we managed to get back on track and head to the coffin maker.
He lived in the poor part of town. His house/shop was all boarded up and closed. After knocking, we were told to go away. After trying to convince him, Ambrus picked the lock with ease and we entered. Basically, Ezera used his holy stink eye to get him to confess. Some woman whose name I can’t recall hired him to get the bones. They were upstairs in his bedroom, awaiting pick up. However, she left several vampire spawn up there to guard them. He was scared out of his wits. Most believed him although Lord Q believes nothing. Zolton had started casting Detect Magic during the interrogation, hoping the bones were magical, and when we went upstairs, he could see magical wards on the doors. We attempted to avoid them by coming in through the windows but they were warded as well. We decided to use the carpentry tools to cut a hole in the ceiling. Unfortunately, the rattled coffin maker blew his spacial awareness roll and told us to cut in the wrong place in his own house. When the hole was big enough for Kharn to see several feet watching his progress, one of the spawn attacked, free grappled, and pulled him up the hole. He turned into a werewolf, managed to free himself (with an inspiration die) and jump back down. One came after followed by several others. They were tough. They got a claw with a free grapple and a bite with a free hit point drain. That drain not only reduced your max hit points (and thus your current hit points) but healed them as well. It was looking very dire. We faced one spawn in Barovia in the church 1 level ago and it was dicey. Now we’ve got 5?
A couple of rounds later, several of us were hurting and only one of them was damaged much at all. Despite some fun shield bashing from Ezra. It became clear this was yet another fight we couldn’t possibly win. Brian said as much however it was clear their intention was to grab the bones and run. And there wasn’t much we could do about it. Except for our invisible wild card, Ambrus. He had Misty Stepped up the hole on round one. He managed to follow the lead spawn and could see him about to jump out the window with a sack of bones. He delayed and used his invisible mage hand sleight of hand skill to swipe the bones as it jumped. A moment of glory that took advantage followed by 3 inspiration dice to get a roll above a 5. But he had the bones. Except that the spawn just Spider Climbed back up that same round. Two others surrounded him including one Zolton had turned downstairs. Ambrus managed to beat a grab with a nimble acrobatics roll and when his turn finally came, he Misty Stepped out the window and started running to the church.
We then transferred to another skill-based chase scene. Brian had set up 3 challenges from here to the church, each of which could be bested by one of 3 skill checks of 15 or 12. Along with the usual arguments about using powers instead. It was easy for some and not so easy for others but we all ended up at the church with two spawns on our heels. (By the way, we could hear the city folk panicking from the spawn running amok. 50 years, vampire-free and we show up and the next day, vampire attack. Sorry.) Combat restarted but again there was no real point to it. The head vampire lady (i.e. the devil herself) crashed through the ceiling, grabbed the priest, and demanded the bones. Her appearance ended the possibility of winning via combat and put us back to winning via plot. Ambrus ignored her, ran the bones into their camber thus restoring the protections. She killed the priest, tossed him aside, and fled. The 2 spawn in the church turned to dust and we won. Sort of. There are probably spawn still on the loose since the protections end at the church door. We also sort of left the coffin maker’s house on fire due to a Flaming Sphere. So, plenty to do. We think the hit point maximums will recover with a long rest, whenever we’ll get one of those. We made 5th. And destroyed the city.
We started by getting Kharn caught up. He made it to the Vestoni camp where he parked the wagon. This camp was run by a young man rather than a Madame Eva type. They had an expert bowyer elf traveling with them. As Kharn changed his clothes in an effort to look less Vestoni, he was approached by a man. His teenage daughter had gone missing. Evidently, she often snuck into the city, sometimes spending the night. But she hadn’t come back for a couple of days. She had recently befriended a local fisherman. Kharn promised to look into it, adding it to our growing list. Next, he had to get into the city. He went through the same process and other than the smartass out of character remarks by him and the peanut gallery, he had no problems. He was at the west gate which happened to be near the orphanage so we ran into him without any issues. Speaking of lists, we summarized ours on our way to the Blue Water Inn. The hour was getting late. At the top was the missing bones to restore the protections of the church. That meant talking to the coffin maker to whom they were sold. There were also 3 orphans who had gone missing, probably due to the demon we vanquished last time. The bones seller had hired someone to look for them. We also wanted to visit the toymaker to inquire about the dolls that looked like Kharn and his sister. And we still had that sister with us who felt safer with us rather than an unprotected church.
The inn was more of a bar that served stew with rooms upstairs. They only had 8 beds, spread into 3 rooms but luckily, we were the only out of towners. Lord Q insisted on his own room so a bed was moved from a small room into the big room. The NPC would room with the raccoon. But there was no rest for the heroes as we started talking to people and getting more tasks. The owner’s wine had run out and he asked that if we went out of town, to check on the Wizard Winery. We ran into the wolf hunters who had been hired to find the orphans. They were “working on it” and if they had any leads, they did not share them. It just so happens that the missing girl hung out here and played with the inn owners’ boys. She sometimes slept in the shed which had no clues. That drunk fisherman was named Bluto. Local Ezera knew where he lived. Kharn also mentioned that he’d heard that some dark elves were in the city so that went on Ambrus’s list. And some more. The more we heard about this girl, the more worrisome that story sounded so it moved to the top of the list. We searched his house and found nothing. The only other lead was that he could be fishing on the lake to the north. Ezera asked the guards and they said he did leave recently, with a big bag of squirming “bait” about the size of a young girl in a sack. Some guards. The gate was closed due to the late hour so we went over the wall and to the lake.
So, the lake encounter started as a “skill challenge” which never quite works in the system. People have somewhere between a combined 4 and 6 skills but dozens of powers. (class, subclass, race, feats, spells, artifacts, etc.) So, everyone wanted to act with powers but instead we had to wait for the scene to be set. We saw the fisherman in the middle of the lake throw a wiggling sack into the water and could see it start to sink. And we could do nothing. And then it was an athletics roll to row out there, perception roll to find the sack, medicine roll to save her, etc. No one could go twice but with our big party, not everyone got to go. The upshot, although it was a painful process, was that she was brought back to shore and revived. (Dan: Karn rolled first to row the boat close, then Zoltan rolled perception to target the sack, then Q rolled swimming with advantage to reach the girl... and failed. This failure resulted in the sack getting targeted by the fisherman with an oar hit. So Kaladin flew out and rolled acrobatics to intercept the fisherman's oar strike. Apparently, a failure would have knocked him out but a success meant it was just a glancing strike. Then Karn's sister and Zoltan rolled medicine to device the girl.) Not that she was that grateful. She didn’t seem very concerned about the whole thing. Unfortunately, Lord Q had chosen to stay in the lake to try to decoy Bluto so when the Water Demon emerged and started attacking, we couldn’t run for dry land and leave him for dead. This was a high-level ancient god sort of thing with legendary actions. One of those actions was an enthralling attack which Loki failed his save. (Dan: Q got enthralled first. He failed and was promised a fun time down in the lake depths. Tentacle sex jokes ensued. Fortunately, it seems a short-lived effect since you make a save each round) So, when Lord Q finally got back to shore, we still couldn’t run because Loki was trying to join him in the water. He transformed into a fish to do so but Lord Q hit him with collateral damage from a Green Flame blade. Since a fish had 1 hit point, he turned back into Loki. Then Ambrus hit him with a Laughter spell. Then Kharn grabbed him and the rescued girl hit him with Hold Person. Somewhere in there, he was also diseased by the demon. (Dan: I remember it was just before you got enthralled. Still, the good news was this was the first monster in ages that didn't take half damage. It just had incredible hit points, 4 attacks per round, and a +9 to hit.) So, he was jacked up to a new record level. But the beast was half dead and about the time we could start running with Loki in tow, it just sank back into the depths. (Dan: You make it sound like he was running like a sissy but we were actually thinking that after all that damage he took and that we took, he was still half alive and we were wondering how to effectively run away ourselves.)
Bolstered by a Protection from Evil, Loki made his save. Ezera used his lay on hands to cure the disease. We delivered the teen back to the camp outside of the city. They were grateful but had nothing of worth to reward us with. Kharn did inquire about a strength bow that Brian said was possible but he needed time to think about it. We snuck back into the city and finally went to bed and got a long rest. Brian then delivered to each, another dream sequence. They seem to be getting a little more defined. A little more linkable to our various backstories. We’re still 4th, awaiting resolution of the bones storyline. Assuming we don’t get waylaid by something else
The big news was the welcomed return of Andy. He replaced his Wizard with a Human heavily armored, sword and shield, classic Holy Paladin named Ezra. (That’s not right. It started with an E and was Biblical but I can’t remember.) Several theories were offered up as to the reason for the change before he returned from dinner. Andy stated that the Wizard “wasn’t working as he’d hoped”. In particular, the subclass power tree, while powerful, was completely negated if the target made that first save. Regardless, it was good to have him back and a Paladin will certainly be useful in this place.
The snow finally abated and we start back on the road to Valackea. As agreed, Kharn took the wagon over to the Vastini camp and would make his way into the city via another gate. Good thing, since the entrance criteria was extensive. First, we had to swear we were not Vastini and were not under the influence of the Devil. Only then, would they open the gate to really start the process. (I’m sure I’ll forget some.) We had to jump over a waterskin, allow a silver piece to be placed on our forehead and touch the wooden threshold. We had to answer some questions for their records. Point of origin was a little tricky for some of us but the guard didn’t really care as long as he got something on the form. They stopped short of a full search but all weapons had to be declared and recorded. That included Loki’s claws and Kaladin’s teeth. Lastly, we were given an extensive list of rules. It was mostly the usual, don’t make trouble, ones but with a couple of unique ones. The Devil’s true name could not be mentioned. Everyone must participate in the weekly festivals. And everyone must be happy at all times. Even after all that, we were not invited in. Only allowed to enter.
Our destination church was on the other side of the city so we went through the heart. Of note, this city was a bit more lively than the boarded-up ghost town we came from. There were actual shops with actual goods although we didn’t stop at them. We watched a puppet show put on by a half-elf that the kids particularly enjoyed. A passerby bid Ambrus a GOOD DAY with a forced smile which we took as an encouragement to stay happy. Loki remarked that perhaps they think the happiness will keep you know who at bay. The half-elf noted that it was working. We made it to the church without issue. As we entered, any always-on magic we had, turned off. E.g. Lord Q’s servants popped out of their cage, Loki’s claws got smaller, Zolton’s eyes looked normal (for him), etc. We could hear the priest telling a sick-looking young man to go home and rest. Like the rest of the city, the church was in good shape. We got to business, with Zolton doing much of the talking. We need to drop off the kids. There’s an orphanage next door. Our NPC needs sanctuary. She can stay in the woman’s dorm room that is currently unused. We dropped her stuff there but she agreed to stay with us until the kids were seen to. The bad news about the priest in Barovia. He’d contact the bishop. How did he die? Er… uhm… There was a vampire spawn in the church that we took care of. Meanwhile, Ambrus searched around the church, missing stealth rolls as he went. When he found no chained undead, he declared that he had a good feeling about it. The priest asked a Paladin by the name of Ezra to show us to the orphanage and help us get settled into the city.
At the orphanage, we met the stern tired-looking headmistress. She was accepting a small coffin. Evidently, a child had fallen from a 2nd story window. That, of course, triggered our paranoia. Which in this place, is just good common sense. Ambrus questioned a couple of kids. They seemed happy enough. We filled out some paperwork while Ambrus went upstairs. He ended up in the attic where he found an odd child, whittling. We got a bunch of plot threads which lead to some investigations. It was the usual chaos as different groups of characters went in different directions and then intersected randomly. The dead kid was new and had a silver locket. When examined, it had an X scratched onto it. Zolton did a detect magic and then an identify. It was some sort of vessel to hold an extra-dimensional creature. Now empty. We found evil runes, carved into the beds of some of the children. Some kids had recently run away. Ambrus and Loki re-questioned that kid upstairs. He managed to out intimidate Ambrus, mostly bad rolls, but the fact that an 8-year-old boy could even try was noteworthy. The sick grave digger from the church lived here. He was very sick and had runes on his bed. Several of the girls seemed to recognize the NPC. When questioned by Loki, one of the dolls in the dollhouse looked like her. A search also found one that looked like Kharn. Evidently, it was a standard doll in this city, on sale at the toy store. Eventually, we decided to get everyone out of the house and into the church, hoping whoever was possessed would be revealed. However, when Lord Q went ahead to give the priest a heads up, he found that the protections had stopped. The altar boy had recently told the gravedigger of the sacred bones that were interned under the altar. They were now, gone.
We still moved everyone over but then Loki noticed the odd boy was not there. We left Zolton’s familiar at the church and searched the house. The bones were not in the coffin nor the gravedigger’s room. Nothing was found until we got to the attic where first in line Ezra saw a shadow demon emerging from the boy. Initiative. The attic was bigger than we thought and Ezra could not move and attack so he empowered his Sacred Weapon. Ambrus moved and delayed. Unfortunately, the demon then crawled onto the high ceiling and advanced out of everyone’s reach. That was going to be a problem with our hand-to-hand heavy group. Loki got up there and started blasting away with his guns and did very well. Kaladin flew up but kept missing. Jon reasoned that there must be supporting rafters to hold up the roof. Brian agreed so Ambrus climbed up and attacked but missed. Ezra only managed a hand axe throw. Lord Q cast his own spider climb. But ultimately, the demon missed a bunch. It was attacking with 10-foot reach claws and a mind-control magic but didn’t hit. Ezra tried to use Protection from Evil to break the connection to the kid which didn’t work however Zolton did manage to break it and the PfE kept him from repossessing him. About then, it was vanquished and went back to its home plane.
The kid didn’t remember anything. The gravedigger regained consciousness. Under the authoritative glare of the Paladin, he confessed to stealing the bones and selling them to the coffin maker in order to pay someone to search for the lost kids. We decided to leave those loose ends until next time as we’re sure they’ll lead to more quests. We’re still 4th although Brian said we’d probably make 5th next time.
We started encamped on the road between the Old Mill where we had killed the dream pastry peddling Granny Momo and our destination city of Volockea. In the middle of the 3rd watch, the log Zolton was sitting on (it had to be Brian) suddenly rose up and reveal itself as a Yeti. Not a normal 9-foot Yeti but a legendary one. Initiative. Since Zolton and the missing Ambrus were on watch, they were the only ones awake. Brian allowed everyone to roll into action pretty fast (I don’t think anyone sleeps soundly in this land anymore) but those with armor beyond leather were deemed unarmored. I think that only affected Lord Q though. Luckily the fast-acting Yeti merely roared on his first action. Everyone else charged into action, guns a blazing. As is typically the case, its AC was low but its to-hit, damage, and hit points were high. He got 2 claws and a chilling stare that, on a failed save, did a lot of damage and cause frozen paralysis. Someone got hit with that early but I can’t remember who (Dan: The monk was first. One-shotted again. His fiery fists caught his attention. Fortunately he wasn't flying when he was paralyzed.). It did not like fire but didn’t seem to be taking any extra damage from it (Dan: it caused it to attack with disadvantage but with a +11 to hit this wasn't that much of a hindrance. It was the raccoon ranger who made a very high survival/monster lore roll to identify this weakness). It merely targeted those who were wielding it. As an added complication, it rose up next to the horses who started to drag the wagon into the forest (Dan: The children were in the wagon and got mildly tenderized).
So as usual, things were looking pretty dire. Then Zolton hit it with a Whispers spell which caused it to run away. As it left, Lord Q crit it with an opportunity attack and hit a ton of damage. He had his hex blade and a hex going. So, it was now pretty damaged. Next to go was Loki but it ran so fast, it was no longer in 'long range' of his pistols. So, he started to unload the tent in case it came back. The enraged werewolf Kharn charged after it, pulling out a longbow. Lord Q did the same. With its next round, it saved and started coming back. It critted Kaladin with a claw, then finished him off with another. And it icy stared Zolton at long range and paralyzed him and knocked him out. The next round, it took out Kharn. Somewhere in there it also did a cold breath weapon. Luckily that never recharged. The upshot was that we went from having it on the ropes to having 3 players out. However, the NPC aided Zolton, Loki got Kharn a good berry and then Kharn got one to Kaladin. Armed with 1 hit point, they continued the attacks and it was taken out. All told, it took 6 rounds. Loki skinned it as we figured it might be worth something. We took a short rest, since we had just had a long rest, and pressed on into the snow.
During that journey, the NPC cried out and started talking about returning to Barovia. She had been talking to her brother via the Sending Stones. Evidently, the whole town was hooked on those pastries. We sorted of knew that since the kid’s parents had sold them to get more. However, beyond everyone getting sick, evidently, people were rioting, searching for any remaining pastries (Dan: Out of the 3 sisters in the tavern only one is known to have survived. No one cared, even Karn who spent the night with them). The NPC blamed herself for not foreseeing this and at least warning her brother. Those damn pastries. (Dan: She noticed that Brian was a cleric and started confession. The book Brian had read 'The Cleric's Correspondence School of hard Knocks' had covered this so he faked his way through as she confessed her guilt over the situation. Then he blew it all by interrogating the girl about exactly what a priest/cleric was and how they were different than a wizard. It was awkward.) A couple of skill rolls and mentioning the kids we had in our care managed to get her back on track. Lord Q explained what happened (i.e. children’s bones et al) via the stones and Ismark said he’d try to get the situation under control there. We pressed on (Dan: Despite blowing all our heals, spells, and recovery dice because we had just had a long rest) however the snow got worse. And then a half dozen dire wolves attacked. They had their pack tactics and free trips however it wasn’t too tough. Towards the end, one tried to grab the prone Lord Q but only came away with a boot. With that, it headed into the woods and the others followed. That struck us as odd but we could not stop it before it disappeared into the mist. We took out the rest. Kharn, who can evidently understand wolf, said it was evident from their talking that they were on a mission to get a possession from one of us. A high arcana roll by Zolton confirmed what the players suspected. It would aid any scrying attempts. But we can’t go into the mist so that was that.
The snow was so bad, we had to stop. We began to think that someone didn’t want us to get to this city. The NPC asked Zolton to hear her secrets (i.e. confessions) since he was a priest. That didn’t really reveal anything but it allowed him to pursue his wizard vs cleric backstory some more. That night, we all got another disturbing dream. They seem to tie into our backstories, sort of, but it was hard enough to figure out our own, let alone understand everyone else’s. Kharn had one about going a picnic with his twin sister, the NPC, and an older brother neither of them remembered. Paul roleplayed some discussions with her, trying to get more meaning out of it. To no real avail. Zolton’s was about his Mind Flayer storyline. We talked some about that but since we’re not high enough level to stop it or reverse it, it’s pretty much going to happen or not. Short of killing him. We stopped there, still on the road to the city.