Expedition to Castle Ravenloft: Swamp Meat With The Drowned Lady

  • Felicia (level 2 human thief)
  • Gamamyr (level 2 elf wizard)
  • Kyr (level 2 living star)
  • Locum (level 2 slayer)
  • Mim (level 2 witch w/ familiar)

After driving off a small pack of werewolves, the party returned to Barovia so that they could rest and resupply before heading back the following day: thanks to Mim's divinations, they knew that the Sunblade was somewhere in the swamp, and once they found it they'd find the place of power, too.

They'd been slogging through the swamp for a few fruitless hours when Gamamyr suggested using his magic: it had a limited range, but there was a possibility, however slim, that they were close enough for him to detect the sword's presence.

He had intended to attune his sense of smell, hoping that if there was magic nearby it'd block out the swamp's foul odor. Somehow the spell backfired, and instead of allowing him to smell magic it greatly enhanced his natural sense of smell; given that they were waist-deep in a swamp it had unfortunate yet amusing results.

While everyone else waited for him to recover, Mim gripped her upper and lower jaw and gave them a hard pull. There was a snapping and tearing sound as her body, then her neck expanded and her face peeled back. A serpent slithered forth from her mouth, leaving her former body, clothing, and possessions behind in a crumpled heap.

Shortly after Snake-Mim, well, snaked her way into the water three dark, long shapes drifted out of the mist. They certainly looked like logs, but were floating directly towards them despite each coming from a different direction and the water being perfectly still.

Not taking any chances, Gamamyr held his breath and released his most recently-learned spell: a small orb of flame arced overhead, and as it struck the water between two of the Not-Logs it exploded, engulfing both of them in flame. There was a loud hiss, and a cloud of steam exploded outward. When it cleared they could see that while the objects were on fire, they were still moving towards them, seemingly unaware of the flame.

The fire made it more difficult to see what they were, but once one got close enough and lunged at him Locum they figured it out: zombie alligators.

He tried to move out of it's way, but not only was it surprisingly quick, the water hindered his own movement. It clamped it's jaws around his torso, tearing into his flesh and knocking him into the water. As he struggled to pry it's jaws open, Felicia drove her rapier through an empty eye socket and into it's skull: it twitched for a bit, and then it's jaws relaxed as it stopped moving.

Felicia helped Locum to his feet while Kyr readied himself for the unscathed zombie-gator's attack. Before it could strike Snake-Mim exploded from the water and coiled around it, causing it to flail about wildly as it attempted to shake her off. It was much stronger than she expected, but she was able to keep it restrained long enough for Kyr to strike, slicing off part of it's jaw and fortunately only nicking her.

Given that the only offensive spell he had prepared was fireball and everyone was clustered together, Gamamyr drew his knife and started wading towards it. He was still waiting for an opening when something emerged from the water behind him and dragged him underneath.

Kyr's eyes were able to detect heat, allowing him to see Gamamyr's struggling form even underwater. Whatever had him was radiating no heat, which meant that it was probably undead. He dove after him and Locum, having just finished off the other charred zombie-gator, followed. Kyr's body flared brightly, providing some much-needed illumination, and they could both see that it was the same creature that had attacked Gamamyr back at the crossroads.

Gamamyr was surprised to see Kyr swimming towards him, and since the creature briefly stopped biting him he assumed that it was, too. Knife in hand, he desperately stabbed over his shoulder and felt some resistance. The creature released him, and he kicked away as Kyr and Locum swam past, blades drawn. He surfaced just in time to see Felicia finishing off the last zombie-gator, and Kyr and Locum followed soon after, the latter of whom was carrying the creature's jaw.

With everyone only somewhat scraped up and plenty of time left until the sun set, they decided to keep pressing on. Snake-Mim changed back to her old self—in a similar manner as before—and consulted her runes. They didn't always give detailed information, but they could hopefully narrow down the direction they needed to go. Surprisingly, they indicated that they should go east.

They were fairly certain that they had explored most of the western region, so with nothing else to go off of started in the other direction.

After another cold, wet, miserable hour a pillar appeared out of the mist. When they approached it they saw more, and realized that they looked like they might have at one point flanked a path. They were made of stacked stone cylinders, some toppled, all covered in vines, moss, and strange glyphs depicting creatures like snakes, spiders, and other, more abstract shapes that were more difficult to identify.

Mim again checked her runestones, and after discovering that this was a place of power Gamamyr began lamenting about his lost book, the Abridged History and Geography of Barovia. Felicia produced it from a bag, claiming that he had dropped it during the zombie attack and she had just forgotten about it. Gamamyr's surprise changed to confusion, then to anger, and then they were tossing accusations, insults, and even some veiled threats back and forth.

Fortunately their argument was abruptly cut off when a voice like dry reeds spoke from somewhere within the mist.

"By all means, kill yourselves: it will make things so much easier."

It sounded familiar, almost like Madam Eva, but something was just slightly off about it... Kyr demanded that whoever was speaking show herself, but she told them that she was the least of their worries: her children were hungry. Kyr looked where he thought the voice was coming from, but couldn't see any signs of life. He then quickly whirled around to look behind th— Huh, still nothing. He wondered if her "children" were undead, or maybe they were somehow cloaked from his si—

Then he looked up.


Winding down the pillars were a pair of massive, worm-like creatures. He shouted out a warning, and when they slithered into view everyone could see that their bodies were a deep red and covered in veins. There were no eyes, and their mouths were circular and filled with needle-like teeth. Locum had encountered these before: they drank blood and were blind, which somehow made them all the creepier, but hunted by sensing vibrations. This made it difficult to hide from or ambush them, but they could be disoriented by loud noises.

Before they reached the ground Kyr rushed over to one of the pillars. He pushed against it, willing fire into his hands. It heated the stone, softening it just enough for him to push it over. It smashed into another pillar, knocking the worm free. The impact didn't seem to hurt it much, and as it writhed about trying to orient itself Felicia dashed over and began viciously stabbing it.

The worm recovered and snapped at her, but she managed to dodge it and scamper onto it's back. She continued stabbing at it, and while she was able to easily avoid it's mouth forgot about the tail: it snatched her up and swiftly coiled about her. Unable to slip free, it brought her to it's mouth and sunk it's teeth in. Her body was wracked with agony as it began draining her blood, and to make matters worse she could see that it's wounds were slowly knitting close.

Locum was rifling through his bag for some kind of explosive, when the other worm simply dropped off the pillar. It didn't land on him, but around him, and before he could react wrapped him up in it's coils. As it brought him to it's mouth, he managed to wrest an arm free, draw his sword and plunge it through two mouth flaps, effectively pinning it's mouth shut.

As the worm tried pulling the sword free, Mim cursed it so that it would be more sensitive to the sound that it relied on, and then started screaming at it. Kyr took a cue, drawing his other sword and banging them together. The worm convulsed with what they assumed was pain, but Locum was still unable to free himself.

Gamamyr again drew his knife. He wasn't terribly skilled with a blade, but he hoped to maybe distract it long enough for Locum to escape. He didn't want to risk hitting Locum, so slowly approached it, only throwing the knife when he was a yard or two away. His dagger grazed the beast and it released Locum. Unfortunately, it did so by throwing him at Gamamyr, and they both went sprawling into the water.

With Locum finally free, Kyr stopped banging his swords and went on the offensive, but with it no longer distracted by the noise the worm managed to pull Locum's sword free just in time to snatch up Kyr with it's jaws and start feeding. Kyr's hands began to glow bright red, and he grabbed onto the worm's head. There was a loud hissing noise as it's flesh began to bubble, and it quickly released him.

Locum and Gamamyr both regained their feet. Seeing Kyr staggering about in search of his sword, Locum quickly scaled one of the pillars, drew his silver kukri, and leaped onto the worm. Since he wasn't touching the ground it couldn't sense his presence, and he literally got the drop on it. The force of the impact drove his blade deep into what he thought was the beast's head, killing it.

Biting back the pain, Felicia managed to get one of her arms free and stab the worm in one of it's mouth flaps. It flailed about and shrieked in pain, which when combined with some of her blood allowed her to slip free. Bloody and dagger in hand, she was still considering her next course of action when there was a bright flash behind her, followed by a second, blinding flash and blistering heat.

The next thing she knew she was on the ground. Much of her exposed skin burned, and she wasn't sure if she still had any eyebrows. When she collected herself, she saw that the worm had been reduced to cinders that reeked of burnt meat. Locum was busy carving something out of the other one, while Gamamyr was walking towards her.

Then the voice again spoke. It was a mixture of anger and sorrow, and told them that they would pay for murdering her children. Skeletal arms burst forth from the water, grabbing Gamamyr and pulling him under. Kyr got to his hands and knees and searched the water, but couldn't find him. Even his sight couldn't detect him.

Assuming that whoever was speaking had taken him, they set off in the direction of the voice. Mim used her magic to conjure a storm that blew the mists away, and Kyr shone brightly as he lead them forward. They moved between the pillars, and after a few minutes saw who—or maybe what would have been a more accurate term—had been speaking to them.

She stood before a ruined, overgrown ziggurat. Her hair and robes were both grey, ragged, and filthy, though the latter was a somewhat darker shade. Her eyes looked like empty sockets, and her skin was pale and wrinkled, like old parchment that barely clung to her bones. One hand held a metal knife in the shape of a long, slender fang that she was sharpening on her teeth with smooth, practiced motions. The teeth looked to be made of stone, and the knife sparked and made loud scratching noises until she finished, after which she licked the blade clean with a long, snake-like tongue.

Before her was a squat, stone alter, clearly stained with blood and surrounded by the bones of numerous humanoid victims. Gamamyr was tightly bound to it with thorny vines, and the party could see that they were biting into his wrists. He craned his head to see them, with Kyr shining at the forefront, but when he opened his mouth to speak vines quickly snapped over it, muffling him completely.

The ancient crone placed two bony, clawed fingers over his mouth and said, "Shh...it'll be over soon."

Behind the Scenes
Again, I want to thank both Christon Suess (who is playing in the campaign as Locum) and Bay Chang for their generous Extra Life donations that Melissa, Adam, and myself are gradually working off (nine hours, now, though if I counted my Shadows of Mordor playtime we'd have been done by now several times over).

I like actually playing through this as I convert it, as it gives me more stuff to cram in the document once it's good and ready to go. Take the zombie gators and tremor worms: if we hadn't actually played it I might not have thought to include either of them.

Zombie Alligator Group, Stealthy
Bite (d8+2 damage, 1 piercing) 10 HP 1 Armor
Close, Messy
Special Qualities: Crushing jaws
Just as strong as when they were alive, and their hunger can never be sated. Instinct: To drown and tear apart prey
  • Drift about unnoticed
  • Suddenly spring from the water
  • Tear something apart with it's jaws

Tremor Worm Large, Group
Bite (d8+1 damage) 10 HP 1 Armor
Close, Reach
Special Qualities: Sense vibrations, drain blood
These blood-red worms were created by the Drowned Lady to protect her from any who enter her dominion. Their ability to drain blood is makes them especially effective against vampires. Instinct: To drain blood.
  • Track someone without seeing them
  • Wrap someone in their coils
  • Heal by draining blood

Also? I might have not described the Drowned Lady the way I did. Dunno why I thought of it, but I just liked the idea of her sharpening a knife on her teeth. I think she's supposed to be the craziest of the three hag sisters.

Similarly, it's nice seeing how another player runs with the living star. Adam's doing a great job asking questions and coming up with some creative uses that we hadn't anticipated (like igniting his hands while grabbed). We haven't yet seen whether our tweak to blinding flash is still too good or bad (originally on a 10+ it let you blind everyone around you: it now only lets you blind one target that can see you, and on a 7-9 the GM chooses someone else to be blinded), but so far everything else seems pretty solid.

I ended up cracking open 10+ Treasures for the loot roll. I was trying to think what they could fish out of the tremor worms when someone—I think Chris, maybe Adam—said something along the lines of "If only there were a couple of books filled with pre-fabbed magic items". I flipped a few pages in, saw the chameleon ring, and figured it would make a lot of sense: it makes it harder to see you, but the worms don't hunt by sight, so there ya go. Here it is straight out of the book:

Now that we've played with the witch some more, we've decided to change the storm-brewer move so that it doesn't take several minutes, but just a few moments. The damage for a witch is as low as it can be (d4), so storm-brewer is a great way to give her some ranged damage. I think that the fact that it's an advanced move and you really can't use it underground or inside most dungeons is going to "balance" it out.

Speaking of which (witch?), Ben is a regular reader here, and a while back emailed me with some questions about The Witch playbook. We started talking back and forth, and he decided to not only run his own Expedition to Castle Ravenloft one-shot, but even wrote up a play report for it.

Give it a read: the names are kind of silly, but it sounded like they had a blast (which is frankly the most important part). I especially love the part where the pirate character tried staking someone with her peg leg. Never would have thought of that.

Fiiinally, if you want you can follow me on Google+, Facebook, or Twitter!

Image Dump
Over ten drawers for minis: you'd think I'd have some snakes in there. >_>

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