Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Curse of Strahd: Actual Play 7—Final Session

We finished Strahd today. It was pretty epic.

The party starts in Strahd's study, takes a short rest and explores a bit. Nothing major, but they do find Helga and she joins them, asking them to rescue her and offers to show them the way to the crypts. They keep going back and forth about where they want to go, because they know their last Tarokka clue was wine-related, but they kept forgetting it obviously said "tomb" in there and for some reason were going to have her take them to the wine cellar. So I had to keep reminding them it was a tomb.

The rogue wants to make a detour at the throne room, so Helga takes them there. He wants to search for secret doors looking for the treasury, but as we're on a tight schedule here I took the random encounter of bats and just made them fly around the throne room. It was obvious if he wanted to search for secret doors that the bats would attack, so the party just went to the chapel instead. With Helga leading them they bypass the dummy, the zombies on the balcony, and hit up the chapel. Obviously they stop to investigate the alter, and I swap the armor on the body out for plate mail since the module doesn't seem to have any way for them to have bought it or found it in the sections I ran so far. They spend extra time in the chapel donning armor and identifying the made, so I threw the Rahadin and unseen servant encounters at them to let them know resting there was possibly dangerous. I roll the wine cellar for Rahadin, so Helga pretends to be afraid and refuses to keep going with them unless they hit up the wine cellar (which really means the elevator trap). She had already told them to take the stairs from the chapel to the crypts, so they just do that without her.

So finally, its around 7:30pm and they're in the crypts. They explore a little, learning that no greedy deed goes unpunished, but stop shy of their Tarokka goal because they find Sergei's tomb. They open the portcullis and go in, realizing he's got magic armor they do another armor change and put one set of plate on Periwimple and the paladin takes the magic plate. They dispel the magic preserving Sergei and plan on animating him and Strahd's mother, but the bard wants to wait till he can use one 4th level slot to do it. The rogue spots Strahd standing at the edge of their light on the other side of the portcullis.

Thus begins their epic battle with Strahd. The party is in Sergei's tomb with the portcullis down, so Strahd just sits at the edge of their light radius and casts fireball for a few rounds. They freak out and for some reason thought keeping the portcullis down was the best plan, and take an extra fireball or two for their troubles. Strahd is playing it cool and they're not doing much damage with ranged attacks. He finally get the shadow lair action off, but the shadow is quickly slain. After a bit, Strahd backs off to let his regeneration kick in a bit and the party is dumbfounded not knowing where he is. He casts greater invisibility just for fun.

At this point the players decide they've got to get out of there and open the portcullis, just in time for Strahd's two spawn to waltz in and make their attacks. Strahd seals the portcullis with his lair action trapping them inside again. At this point the party makes a few moves and Strahd realizes the paladin is wearing his brother's armor and goes into a bit of a rage. He spider climbs through the wall and is invisible behind the party watching as they lose a few actions and shatter the portcullis so they can get out. Then he drops another fireball and finally uses his legendary actions to start in on melee attacks, downing the blood hunter and getting a bit of healing from a bite. Strahd is in place to majorly fuck up the party now with lair actions and a couple spells.

Enter the paladin. On his turn he's got the sunsword out and gets 3 attacks because he's hasted. He deals 86 points of damage to Strahd killing him. And, because Strahd is in sunlight, he doesn't get mistform and actually dies. 1d8 for the sunblade + 1d8 because sunblade deals extra damage to undead. 3d8 for divine smite with a 2nd level slot and another 1d8 because divine smite deals extra damage to undead. 5 damage from his strength, 2 from duelist, and 2 from the blade's magic and another d6 from hunter's mark. That's 6d8+1d6+9 damage per attack (plus the sunlight damage), and that's how you kill Strahd. Which was needed because the paladin was grappled and Strahd was about to drag him up onto the ceiling to use him for cover and try to bite the paladin and then drop him on the ground. The blood hunter was down and the bard was close to dropping, so one more fireball might have done enough to drop some PCs.

Rahadin enters after, mutilating the swashbuckler who was hiding from Strahd behind the tomb, hitting with 3 attacks (one a crit) and dealing his crazy psychic damage. Again the paladin comes in and murderizes, doing just enough damage to drop Rahadin before he gets a chance to act again which would have done psychic damage to 4 of the heroes plus getting 3 scimitar attacks in.

So, they saved Barovia after alienating most of the Barovians, and did it all with just Periwimple (who's really fucking tough!) and the sun sword at level 8. Well, their obnoxious antics enraged Strahd, so if he were coolheaded he would have retreated to one of the other tombs and maybe murdered them still, but alas. A game well done.

I really liked the adventure, though I think I could have used one more read-through of everything to put a few more pieces together (like how really important it is to have sunlight to fight Strahd). Because I've got so much of it prepped, I'm considering running it again in the fall. I did it in about 35 hours of play not by cutting things per se, but just by removing a dozen or so cards so they wouldn't need to explore some things, and I made a couple minor changes to keep them on track. I could have pulled more random encounters and taken an extra session, or let them do more and taken another 3-4 sessions, so my guess is it'll take something like 50-60 hours if you just ran it by the book, more if you don't start them at level 3. I've got a couple ideas for condensing the adventure differently, blending the towns of Barovia and Vallaki and moving a few other plots there to run something closer to the original module but with a few of the fun bits included, which might make the adventure more like 30-40 hours total with the pacing a bit slower. But most of the work is behind me and if I think I have the time and some interested players, I might see about running it again here in the fall.

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