Posted by : David Guyll January 10, 2015


Cast
  • Felicia (level 5 human thief)
  • Gamamyr (level 5 elf wizard)
  • Kyr (level 5 living star)
  • Locum (level 5 slayer)
  • Mim (level 5 witch w/ familiar)

Summary
With no other apparent way inside they opted for the path of—hopefully—least resistance, strolling across the drawbridge and through the open gate. The mist was somehow even thicker in the courtyard, so they kept to the cobblestone path, which conveniently lead them right to the front doors.

The doors towered above them, easily over three times their own height, and were reinforced with iron bands. They were flanked by a pair of guttering torches that provided only only meager light. Along the walls they could see darkened arrowslits evenly and strategically spread about. Knowing nothing of Strahd's defenses they carefully moved forward, wary of whatever might be stationed behind them.

Felicia examined the door for whatever traps it might possess, and when she determined it was safe Kyr opened them. The chamber just inside was squalid, unfurnished, and lit by another pair of torches, this time set in the mouths of two coiled stone serpents. They were situated directly across from the entrance, and together framed an archway that led to another room cloaked in darkness.

Locum suspected that there would surely be a trap in here, something along the vein of oil or perhaps flammable gas, but when Felicia again checked she still turned up nothing. Her skills were substantiated when Kyr—who volunteered due to a combination of being completely immune to fire and the most heavily armored—crossed the threshold and nothing happened.

The next room was much larger and more open, which was not necessarily an improvement. Statues of gargoyles squatted high above them, and there were several possible routes to choose from: a staircase wound up and out of sight, a hallway across the room extended into more darkness, and a large pair of bronze double doors stood before them. Mim consulted her bones, and with some slightly circuitous phrasing determined that the quickest path to Strahd's book was through the doors.

They opened into a long hallway that extended well beyond Kyr's light. The filth and cobwebs were at this point expected, the statues less so: they were innumerable and varied, both in appearance and condition, and lined both walls. By themselves they would have been ominous enough, but as they cautiously moved through the hallway it seemed as if they were watching them.

Once they ventured into the hall Felicia heard a faint scratching noise behind her, and spun about to see a pair of gargoyles skulking towards them. She shouted a warning and tried to skewer one, but her rapier glanced ineffectually off of its stony hide. Mim's hammer proved much more effective, demolishing one with a single blow, but the other managed to tear into Felicia before Gamamyr could enclose it in a magical cage.

Everyone circled around the cage, preparing to attack once Gamamyr dismissed it, but as soon as it vanished two more gargoyles fell upon him. In the chaos that ensued the one that was trapped tried to flee, but Kyr gave chase and hacked one of its wings off. It crashed back to the ground, where Felicia was able to finish it off with a dagger to the head. Locum hacked one of them off of Gamamyr, who managed to crawl away and again use his magic to imprison the other.

They destroyed the last gargoyle—thankfully without another "interruption"—and at the end of the hall found another set of double doors. These were made of wood and bore the crest of the Silver Raven, Barovia's patron deity. Locum had learned from the villagers that at one point Strahd might have belonged to the Order of the Silver Raven. Gamamyr confirmed this, and further elaborated that Strahd had been jealous of his brother's fiance and youth, so killed them both, and for this he was cursed.

Felicia wondered if he was trying to resurrect his brother's fiance, or turn her into a vampire. The mayor's missing daughter gave credence to their theory, and unfortunately she'd already been gone for several days, so there was no telling what Strahd had done with her.

The doors opened into a chapel. In addition to the signs of neglect they had grown to expect, there were shattered stained glass windows, pews flung about in disarray, and most interestingly a corpse. It was sprawled across a dais that lead to an alter, atop which stood a statue of a raven that looked to be made entirely of silver.

Locum could tell that it had been dead for a while, but not more than a month or so. It was wearing a suit of chainmail underneath black ropes, and a holy symbol around it's neck depicted a black skull holding a rod made of gleaming ruby in clenched teeth. One arm was extended towards the raven statue, which on closer inspection looked to have been damaged: the wings were a bit bent, and the face had been scratched up.

While everyone else busied themselves investigating, Kyr flew up to check out the balcony in case gargoyles or something else was lurking about. Not only was it something else, it was the very something that none of them wanted to bump into, especially alone: Strahd. His skin was pale, his hair long and black, and most of his features were concealed in a black and red cape. In contrast to the castle that he inhabited, he looked meticulously clean.

Strahd bowed, looked Kyr right in the eyes, and motioned for him to approach. Kyr did, though to his credit it was against his will. Strahd apologized for the delayed introduction and welcomed him to his castle. Kyr quickly realized that though he could talk, he could not speak more than a whisper: calling for help would not be an option. They spoke for a time, during which Kyr learned that Strahd had in fact been keeping tabs on them, and though he was surprised they had managed to avoid getting themselves killed, he was also glad.

Though already fairly certain of the answer, Kry nervously asked why. Strahd replied that he wanted to hunt them down himself, and that he was especially interested in Kyr due to his...unique origin. Strahd asked if Kyr bled, and when he nodded wondered aloud what it tasted like. After a brief-yet-somehow-still-too-long pause, he then asked Kyr if he had come to kill him.

Kyr only responded that it was one possibility. Strahd simply smiled, nodded, and turned to leave. As he reached the stairs Kyr offered to introduce him to the others, and without stopping Strahd told him that he would in time. Once Strahd left Kyr found himself able to move and speak normally again, and spared no time flying back to the rest of the party.

During Kyr's absence the rest of the party busied themselves investigating the alter and raven statue. To Gamamyr's senses nothing in the chapel was magical, and Locum could find no hidden compartments on the alter. All the same the raven statue looked valuable, but when Gamamyr tried to load it into his ghost bag it burst into flames. He extinguished it and checked to see if it was still working by successfully producing a bottle of wine.

Since the statue didn't hurt any of them when they touched it, they could only conclude that it was harmful to the undead. Of course they'd have to perform some "field testing" to be sure, ideally by dropping it on various "test subjects". Given its size and weight they decided to tie it to Gamamyr with some rope, who was carrying most of his possessions in a weightless bag.

Kyr returned once they had finished, and told them what transpired on the balcony. Everyone had assumed that they were being watched and hunted, but the ease with which Strahd was able to crush Kyr's mind was more than a bit disconcerting: they would just have to keep their guard up, and hope that if and when they encountered him that their numbers would be sufficient.

Mim continued to consult her runes at every crossroad to help guide them to Strahd's book, and after moving through a few rooms, ascending a very lengthy staircase, knocking over some inanimate skeletons, and pushing a throne to open a secret passage found their way into a narrow passage. The runes directed them up another circular staircase, which eventually brought them to the castle's ramparts.

They could see a few doors, but the height, rain, wind, and flashing lightning understandably caused them to hesitate: they couldn't see the ground, and they'd encountered gargoyles, which had the advantage of flight and were presumably the least of the perils that the castle had to offer. They argued about who should go first and whether Mim's divinations were accurate, until Gamamyr impatiently ventured forth and entered the first door he could find.

Candles dimly lit the room, allowing Gamamyr to see a long table that was covered in plates and silverware, which were in turn covered in dust. A large, tiered cake dominated the center, coated in a combination of white icing and green mold. A woman sat serenely at the far end, wearing a tattered wedding dress. Next to her stood a skeleton, wearing finery that had long been reduced to rags, and playing a haunting melody on a violin.

The women didn't react until the skeleton, seeing Gamamyr, leaned close and whispered something in her ear. She then stood wordlessly and exited the room. Gamamyr asked the skeleton if he would let them pass, but the skeleton said that he could not permit them to impede the master, and then began playing the violin.

Gamamyr, overcome with grief, grabbed his dagger and prepared to slit his wrists, but Locum came barging in and shoved the table into the skeleton. It dropped the violin as it fell to the ground, and when it tried to retrieve it Mim directed rain and wind into the room, hammering it against a wall. The impact shattered a few ribs and both of its legs, rendering it completely helpless, which was when Locum used the violin to cave in its skull.

Behind the Scenes
Nothing much to report besides the fact that I really don't like the isometric maps. I know that they were part of the original Ravenloft module (and maybe some other Ravenloft things), but like so many things from editions past (and frankly even current) I wish they would have ditched them in favor of something easier to navigate. At any rate I'm glad Melissa erased the map over the holidays, because I'm certain that I didn't lay out some of the rooms correctly.

Locum's silver kukri got upgraded a bit, and is now featured in 10+ Treasures: Wonders of the Wyld as Mani's Revelation (which you can see in either of the previews). If you liked 10+ Treasures or 10+ Treasures: Volume II, then be sure to pick this up (or get the bundle and save yourself some cash).

Finally, after talking with Adam we increased the the living star's damage die to a d8 (making it on par with the thief). Other potential tweaks on the table include being able to spend radiance to hover, and reducing the overall radiance to a static number (we're trying out 10 to see how it goes). If you've played the living star and have any comments or suggestions, let us know!

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