Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Curse of Strahd: Actual Play 2

This session went better than the previous one, but slower. I was much more prepared. Probably because I types up 6 pages of notes on places I expected the party to go and what they might do there. Obviously they went off the rails right away, but that's always expected. They got a lot of info talking to the Abbot and Ezmerelda. And made some enemies and bad decisions. Obviously spoilers may ensue.

Starting off, the party began at St. Andral's church in Vallaki. They had planned on taking Ireena to Krezk as Donovich had suggested, so they set out to do just that. Strahd's stolen carriage was left with some locals to paint, so they moved at draft horse speed towards Krezk. I had thought they'd take the carriage with them and was planning on having Strahd show up to deal with them, but since they didn't I just used the first random encounter on the road they got: 3 werewolves in human form. The werewolves attempted to pass themselves off as travelers from Krezk, asking about the news from Vallaki. The party dropped a little too much info, so as the wolves got close they suddenly said they had lied and the party is what they were looking for. Lamentably they rolled poorly and I neglected to have the wild sorcerer roll for spell failure. Next time he'll draw from the low deck of Tarokka cards and a draw of the Berserker (6 of swords) or Anarchist (6 of glyphs) will be his surge. After killing one wolf the others fled, but ranged attacks brought one of the two down so only one escaped with his life. A bit to the bard did make the party a little wary, however.

When they got to Krezk my notes said they'd be turned away towards the winery, but a knock spell by the bard opened the gates and the party was reluctantly escorted to the abbey. Along the winding road Ireena was suddenly drawn to the sacred pool when she glimpsed it, but the party stopped her before she could get too close. So her identity had basically been ascertained, but she wasn't safe. They continued on to the abbey.

They wandered into the abbey, and I had wanted to draw attention to the gravestone there so moved it to a reasonable spot and a nat 20 on a perception check meant the paladin spotted it. I need to stop pointing out some of these cool things because it meant time was wasted on it rather than furthering the plot. Once they got into the abbey itself they realized this might not be a safe place, but the paladin used his powers to detect a celestial in the abbey so figured it must be somewhat safe. This was another lengthy red herring, but after some nice RP with the abbot, they had decided to stay one night (and convinced Ireena to do it). Upon their tour they asked to see where the music was coming from and saw the body yet to be sewn together. More RP ensued as the Abbot explained about Barovian souls. After the bard cast a reckless cantrip messing with things the Abbot told the party they were no longer welcome to stay the night, but he would still take in Ireena and Ismark. They didn't go for it, but the Abbot suggested they talk to Ezmerelda if she were there.

See, one weird thing about Strahd is that there's no "what are safe and unsafe places for Ireena" table. So I made one before this session:

Safe (and not-so-safe) places for Ireena
The book doesn’t actually give too much guidance on this. They players could try to leave Ireena in a number of places, but the assumpetion is they eventually get her to Krezk and she is saved by Sergei.

  1. Blue Water Inn (Vallaki). The Martikovs will strive to keep her safe and hidden.
  2. St. Andral’s Church (Vallaki). After the bones are restored, she’ll be safe there.
  3. The Abbey of St. Markovia and elsewhere (Krezk). If the PCs haven’t stopped her from the pool initially, this isn’t a safe place if the Abbot is around. The Abbot will eventually hear her story within a few days and send her to Strahd. If the Abbot has been slain Ireena is safe from Strahd’s minons.
  4. The standing stones (Berez). If Baba Lysaga is slain, Ireena can camp undetected at the standing stones.
  5. Baba Lysaga’s Hut (Berez). If the PCs convince Baba Lysaga that Ireen spells trouble for Strahd, she can keep Ireena safe in her hut (possibly with the help of spells like mind blank, nondetection, and sequester spells.
  6. Tower of the Mad Mage. If the PCs restore the Mad Mage’s sanity, he can watch over her and prevent Strahd from finding her, or teach them spells like nondetection and Mordenkainen’s private sanctum.
  7. Anywhere. If the PCs have the right spells, they can keep Ireena safe. Note that some spells like nondetection has a cost of 75 gp per day (3 8-hour castings) and may require one of them to guard her. The player might portray the party’s great ally, or create a new (possibly temporary character) by taking on the roll of an NPC (Millivoj, Ismark Kolyanovich, Lucian Petrovich, Szoldar Szoldarovich, Yevgeni Krushkin, Escher, one of the Belview’s, or any of the potential great allies the PCs have met might do).

So, they meet Ezmerelda. They bond over being monster hunters a bit, and eventually she does a card reading for them with her deck (yes! I got to use both Tarokka decks!). Ezmerelda gives some solid clues about the locations they're being sent to, and is willing to try to work with them but needs to get her stuff first. The party reveals Ireena's likely true identity to her and she agrees to take Ismark and Ireena with her while the party goes to Yester Hill (though they stopped at the winery first).

So basically they gained Ezmerelda as an ally but are definitely not welcome in Krezk or the Abbey again. And since they dropped the news to the Abbot, he's going to report Ireena's location and such to Strahd and work with Strahd to find her since he believes love is the one thing that can save Barovia. So there might be a group of mongrelfolk attacking the party soon since he still thinks Ireena is with them.

The party made it to the Wizard of Wines without incident, and even talked to the ominous figure and were warned about the druid attack. Unfortunately, the bard's buffoonery left him with one third level spell slot and he rolled a few 1s on the damage roll for shatter, ensuring that the druids in the winery are aware that something is up and the blights really got to them. Partly my fault because I think their first volley should have been long range so disadvantage... Alas. The sorcerer doesn't have any area attacks and the bard was out of spells, so they wisely retreated. Unfortunately they might try to take my advice of staying with the Martikovs in the woods overnight where there are mongrelfolk on their trail and blights/druids coming after them.

I figure someone will need a good stealth roll to hide wherever they try to camp and maybe that'll get them a long rest. Otherwise they might be hunted by both mongrelfolk and blights at the same time so they could get a reprieve when those two collide.

Overall I think we'll have to see if we can't schedule another session, since they still need to collect their powerful weapon and ally, and will likely do some tomfoolery in Vallaki still (Bones of St. Andral at least, maybe get run out of town during the festival). Hopefully two sessions outside the castle, then if we can schedule a bonus session two in the castle. Then they might kill Strahd. Might.

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