Expedition to Castle Ravenloft: The Vampire, The Witch, and the Werewolves

  • 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)

Urik extended his arm, and demanded that Kyr relinquish the book they had found in the village's church. Kyr didn't know what Urik was capable of, and wasn't going to take any chances: he charged forward and struck him with Klaus's broken sword.

The force of the blow knocked him to the ground several feet away. Kyr didn't give him time to recover: by the time Urik regained his feet he had closed the distance, and before he could speak or do anything he drove the sword through him.

Urik casually looked down at the sword, then back at Kyr. His face showed no sign of concern as he reached for Kyr's, hands twisted into bestial claws. Kyr released the sword, charged both of his hands with intense heat, and caught both of Urik's arms by the wrists. His flesh began to hiss and blacken, and after a few moments Urik's entire body transformed into mist and swiftly sped away.

Gamamyr was focused intently on the battle, mulling through the spells he had prepared in case he should intervene, when a voice behind him shouted out a warning. He turned around and was shocked to see that the zombies were no longer dangling from the gallows, but shambling towards him.

Worse, they were almost upon him.

Sparing no to time to look for whoever had warned him, Gamamyr put some distance between himself and the zombies; as he began to gather magical energy, a dark, cloaked shape seem to materialize from the mists behind them. There was a bright flash, and one of the zombies was almost sliced in two. It fell to the ground, but didn't seem to notice the stranger as it continued feebly crawling towards Gamamyr.

Zombies were slow even with legs, so Gamamyr chose a target that was still standing. He uttered the words to his only offensive spell, and was surprised when he unleashed a blast of magical eneregy that was so powerful it completely obliterated it's head. He stood there, pleasantly surprised by the results, which made it easy for something else to literally get the drop on him.

Pinned to the ground, Gamamyr could see that it looked like a normal person, except that there was a hole in his chest. So, probably undead, just much stronger and more agile than a zombie. As Gamamyr struggled to free himself, its mouth opened so wide that it tore at the flesh on both sides of its mouth, and he could see that all the teeth inside were fangs.

Properly "motivated", Gamamyr was able to wriggle free before the creature could sink its teeth in, but as he regained his feet and legged it ended up back in the arms of the remaining zombie. Or rather, he would have if the stranger didn't leap off the gallows and cut it in half just before it reached him.

With Urik at least momentarily vanquished and the zombies destroyed, the creature that had attacked Gamamyr loped off into the mist.

The stranger wiped his blade clean and stepped forward to formerly introduce himself to the others: his name was Locum, and he had arrived in Barovia shortly before they did, just in time to get trapped by the outbreak of zombies. After they stopped the zombies he kept an eye of them, judging their actions and intent. While some of their actions were...less than altruistic they at least seemed sincere in their quest to destroy Strahd.

Locum offered to throw in his sword and knowledge of monsters with them. They accepted, and told him that they were heading to a vistani camp to see if there was an easier way to get into Strahd's castle. He agreed that it was a good idea, and the continued on their way.

It didn't take long for them to arrive, and they heard the camp well before they saw it: the sound of singing and music steadily lifted the foreboding, oppressive silence that had surrounded them since they arrived. When it came into view they were surprised with just how much it contrasted the village: Instead of death and rot, the smell of delicious food wafted through the air, and there was a great bonfire lit, surrounded by men and women dressed in colorful garb that danced to cheerful music.

Up until they saw them, that is.

The music and dancing abruptly stopped. Though the people didn't appear hostile, they didn't appear welcoming, either. They stood there, watching the group, waiting for them to say or do something. Kyr approached one of them, hands before him in a gesture of peace, and asked where their leader was. The man pointed to a tent that, while somewhat larger than the rest looked entirely unremarkable.

He thanked the man, and together they walked over to the tent, all the while under the suspicious gaze of the vistani. The entrance of the tent was covered by cloth, but before Kyr could call out a greeting a voice like dry reeds invited them inside, stating that they were expected. They exchanged confused glances before stepping inside.

Scattered about the edges were a small pile of blankets, a pair of barrels and some wooden crates, a desk bearing many small drawers, and a table with a pitcher, some cups, and clay bowls. In the center was a round table with a red cloth draped over it, over which loomed a woman: she was ancient, and dressed like the rest of the vistani in the camp.

Oh, and she also looked to be about nine feet tall.

Gamamyr broke the silence that followed by asking what she was. She narrowed her eyes at him, but before anyone could respond Locum struck the back of his head. This seemed to endear her somewhat; she introduced herself as Madam Eva and stated that they were here because they sought answers. This prompted a series of questions, the most relevant of which were how to get inside the castle, where they could find a weapon that could defeat Strahd, and where they could find his book.

Madam Eva consulted some cards, and they learned that there were no secret ways into the castle, a blade forged of sunlight was lost somewhere in the swamp south of the village, and Strahd's book was somewhere in the bowels of the castle. They thanked her for her help, but before they left she told them that Strahd had bound himself to the land, his book would tell them how to break the chains, and provided them with a cryptic answer as to where he could ultimately be found.

Per her instructions, the party backtracked towards the village, but when they reached the bridge left the road and started following the river south.

They didn't travel far before a fur-covered, clawed arm grabbed Kyr and hurled him from the wagon. He landed some distance away, and when he regained his feet saw that aside from three massive wolves standing before him, he was quite alone. They stood there snarling at him, as if daring him to run. Instead, he flared brightly, and while they were blinded took to the sky.

Locum snatched up the reins to stop the panicked horses from bolting as a bulky, wolf-like humanoid starting climbing into the wagon: a werewolf. Gamamyr pelted it with his magic, knocking it back off, and while it recovered Mim reached over and plucked a few hairs from it. She was still tying it to one of her poppets when the werewolf appeared again and began clawing savagely at her. It managed to carve several deep gouges in her arm before Felicia pulled her to safety, only to find herself hauled out of the wagon by it.

Locum blasted the werewolf with a gout of magical fire, catching both it and the wagon on fire, which in the thick mist provided Kyr with a much needed landing signal. He landed next to the wagon, and seeing the trio of wolves loping towards Felicia stood before her and started swinging his sword in wide arcs. He caught one with the flat of the blade, but the other two managed to stop in time. Kyr watched them intently, waiting for them to make a move, but instead of rushing him they both glanced at each other and began slowly circling around him in opposite directions.

Gamamyr saw that the werewolf had just put itself out, and was starting to creep around the wagon so that it could catch Mim unawares. He raised his hand and began chanting, but something went wrong: there was a low thoom as he was thrown from his horse towards the river. His head hurt and his ears were ringing, but he was otherwise okay...until vines snaked around his limbs and started dragging him towards a large mass of mud and vegetation.

Locum had encountered such a creature before, and knew that Gamamyr was doomed if someone didn't help him. He abandoned the wagon, hoping that the horses wouldn't flee, drawing his crossbow and a bolt as he went. As he loaded a bolt the string snapped, and he cursed under his breath: spears and arrows were ideal, as they were best suited for piercing the fleshy seed that was at it's core. He dropped the crossbow and drew his sword, using it to slice through the vines that had entangled Gamamyr and pull him to safety.

With everyone else sufficiently occupied by more...immediate concerns, the werewolf regarded Mim coldly. It pulled itself onto the wagon and started stalking towards her, teeth bared and growling. Mim pulled out a strange wax doll, fur bound to it with twine, and held it before her. The werewolf hesitated and examined it closely, unsure what to make of it.

Mim pinched one of the arms between two of her fingers and gave it a twist.

The werewolf yowled in pain as it's arm—despite lacking the necessary amount of joints—mimicked the poppets actions. It recoiled in pain and again fell back out of the wagon, where it lay on the ground writhing and whimpering. The fire had been slowly spreading about the wagon; with the werewolf incapacitated and no way to put it out, Mim hopped onto the horses and cut them free. She managed to calm the horse she was riding, but the other race off into the mist.

Locum and Gamamyr returned to see Kyr and Felicia tooth to sword with the trio of wolves. Kyr had wounded one, but was himself wounded and unable to deal with the other two that had ganged up on Felicia; it was all she could do to avoid getting torn apart. As Kyr prepared to dispatch one, Gamamyr finished it off with his magic, and seeing that the party no longer divided the remaining pair of wolves fled.

This just left the plant-monster.

It was slowly shambling towards them, surrounded by long, writhing barbed vines which worked splendidly against Kyr when he tried to get up close and personal with it.

Locum knew that it was vulnerable to fire, they just had to dry it out first. Mim hexed it with a "dry spell", as Locum trying digging around for some salt; unfortunately he had come to Barovia prepared to deal with vampires and therianthropes. This meant it was time for plan B: hitting it until it stopped moving. He circled around the creature, which didn't seem to react to his presence until he stabbed it: vines erupted from its body, knocking him away but leaving his sword stuck.

Before Locum could recover Mim rushed in with her silver mace. She hoped to hammer the sword further in, but only succeeded in breaking the sword off at the hilt; her eyes widened with panic, both because she'd broken Locum's primary weapon, and because there were now vines snaking towards her.

Kyr's arms burst into flames. burning through the vines that bound him and easily allowing him to tear himself free. Still aflame, he plunged into the creatures mouth hand first and incinerated it from the inside out: apparently Mim's curse had worked, or at least worked sufficiently enough.

As its smoldering body was reduced to ashes they found the remains of quite a few people inside, along with a gem-encrusted golden cross and a silver kukri that both appeared to be quite valuable. They took stock of the aftermath: most of them were wounded, Locum's crossbow needed a new string and his sword was broken, they were short one horse, and the wagon was in a barely functional condition.

They decided to return to Barovia for the three R's: rest, repair, and resupply.

Behind the Scenes
This marks our official first Extra Life session (three hours down, twenty-one to go), and I want to thank Bay Chang and Chris Seuss for helping us hit our goal on the first day. On that note, Chris is participating in the game as Locum, using a slayer that someone created (not sure who, but maybe he can chime in and credit whoever whipped it up).

I wanted to make this session into a podcast, but for some reason you can't hear anyone playing via Hangout, just Melissa and myself (not sure why, I have an awesome mic and we could hear everyone just fine). This week I'll see if people are willing to try Hangouts on Air (or whatever it's called).

It's kind of nice that I was able to work in the optional side quests this time around: the last time I ran this with Dungeon World the players just went straight to the castle. I mean, they'll still have to go to the castle to get the book, but at least they're aware that they can make their mission much easier if they go through some extra motions before trying to confront Strahd.

Yes, I own a copy of Three Dragon Ante, which I have only played once. It's not that interesting of a card game, but I suppose it makes for a nice prop. I accidentally read the expanded explanations for the Sunblade and tome, which is partly why they knew that the Sunblade was in the swamp. Oh well, I at least caught my self near the end, so they aren't sure exactly where Strahd can be found.

In the official adventure, the location of Strahd, various items like the Sunsword and Strahd's tome, and how to "awaken" them is randomly determined during a fortune reading with Madam Eva. The book explains how to do this with not only a normal deck of cards, but also tarot cards and the cards from the game Three-Dragon Ante (which is what I used since I actually have one).

In the conversion I've created several tables that you can just roll on if you don't want to deal with cards. I don't provide all the cryptic riddles (not sure if I can "legally" do that), so if you don't own the pdf you'll have to create your own dialogue, or just outright tell the party the locations.

I feel like whenever I run Dungeon World, that the players seem to miss much more often then when I'm playing. Almost everyone raked in enough "miss XP" to account for just over half of 2nd-level, and all but two players made it to 3rd (and the ones that didn't are only one point away). I'm sure I said it elsewhere, maybe even before, but I guess it's good to get these out of the way as early as possible: things won't go so well if they're still on the Miss-train when they confront Strahd.

Adam is still playtesting the living star, which is great because seeing it in action I think that we need to revisit the blinding move. Like, maybe make it a roll and hold that allows you to distract or gain a bonus against an enemy (so you shine brightly instead of just flashing): as it stands he's been able to blind entire groups of enemies with ease.

The creature that attacked Gamamyr is the same thing that Kyr accidentally attacked a few sessions ago. It's a ghoul, but a ghoul more inline with the mythological ghoul, meaning that it can look like whoever it's killed, but also change it's shape into a variety of carrion animals. So, yeah, that'll make it easy to sneak up and spy on the party.

Finally, somewhat related, we released The Vampire a few days ago. It's our fourth undead-themed class, and if you're interested in running Ravenloft, some other undead/grimdark/dread-themed setting (converted 4th Edition Shadowfell, anyone?), or just giving your players a non-"traditional" class option, you should at least check out the preview.

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