On Sunday nights, a group of friends and I gather to play Dungeons & Dragons. This is the chronicle of their tale. (This post contains spoilers to “Curse of Strahd”)
Recovering from the fireball, Fletcher and the lich turn to face Rolen. The half-elven sorcerer turns invisible and attempts to hide from their expected retaliation. Unfortunately, Fletcher now has the gift of Truesight from one of the dark vestiges he took – so he can still see Rolen. The lich casts globe of invulnerability and waits as Fletcher runs up to Rolen, trips him with his battle master superiority techniques and pins him. He warns Rolen to stop this or he will kill him.
Rolen tells Fletcher it’s him who should stop, and attempts to blow him back with a thunderwave, but is unsuccessful. The lich approaches, and raises a finger toward Rolen, telling Fletcher to step aside so he can end this nonsense. Fletcher does so, but requests that the lich not kill Rolen – because, if he does, Fletcher believes that the rest of the adventurers will attack him. The lich seems unconcerned with this idea.
Fletcher heads into the main temple to try and use some of his new gifts. He summons two hell hounds – learning that he can now speak Infernal – and has them stand guard at the entrance to the temple. Meanwhile, Rolen stands up and attempts to peacefully move past the lich, but the lich casts finger of death at the sorcerer, killing him. The lich then moves through the temple back upstairs and toward the library.
Fletcher returns to find Rolen dead on the floor, and attempts to cast raise dead – another of his new gifts – but it does not work. Fletcher, not being very magically inclined, is not certain why it fails. He, instead, attempts to follow the lich back to the library. He waits on the other side of a secret door and listens through the wall to try and hear how the lich interacts with everyone else.
Back in the library, the lich finds the party still searching through the books and attempting to learn as much as possible. He informs them that their half-elven friend is now dead. He was punished for attacking the lich and their other friend, the human. The others seem shocked by this information, and try to figure out why Rolen would have attacked them.
Fletcher attempts to scry on their missing ally Clovin, but it fails. Instead, he joins the group in the library, surprising them all with his new, monstrous appearance. He explains to them that he now feels much more equipped to deal with Strahd than before, as he has gained a substantial amount of power. He also corroborates the lich’s story about Rolen attacking them, and is sorry that Rolen is dead. He admits that he did not want that to happen.
At that moment, an undead Rolen enters the library, and goes to the lich’s side. The lich explains that he feels this a fitting punishment for betraying his hospitality – the half-elf will continue to serve the lich here in the temple for all time. The others are understandably disturbed by this sight, but do not wish to anger the lich any further.
Kasimir decides to go downstairs to the vault beneath the library, where the first three amber sarcophagi rest. Malis follows him. Kasimir heads toward the one that grants the power of resurrection, but Malis stops him, asking if it’s really a good idea. Kasimir says this is what he came for – the way to bring his sister back.
Malis asks if it’s worth it, seeing how Fletcher turned out. Kasimir says that, to save the one person he loves, it’s worth it. He asks Malis if it was her, and she left the temple without doing absolutely everything she could have to save someone she loved, would she regret it? Malis agrees.
Before he does anything further, Kasimir says the item they’re looking for is in his hovel back at the vistani camp. He was going to give it to them when they returned. But in case something bad happens to him, he wants her to know where it is. He tells Malis how to find it. Kasimir then touches the sarcophagus, and accepts the gift, gaining the appearance of a living corpse at the same time. He seems fine, though, no other apparent changes. The two rejoin the party upstairs.
They all decide it’s time to go. They found the book on lycanthropy, Malis is allowed to keep a book similar to the Kama Sutra, they all have what they came for. Except Y’shaarj. He has an armful of books, and desperately wishes to read through them all. The lich seems unhappy with allowing them to leave the temple, as those are exactly the type of books the temple is meant to protect from the rest of Barovia.
The group suddenly feels as though they’re about to lose another of their allies. Y’shaarj explains that if he’s allowed to stay here and read through the books, he might be able to find a way out of Barovia – a way home. It’s an attractive prospect to all the others…so they tentatively agree, so long as the lich allows it. The lich agrees that Y’shaarj can stay and read his books – saying he’s always willing to let another powerful wizard stay with him in the temple.
Fletcher says he’s almost ready to go, and he’ll meet them at the entrance to the temple. He summons his hell hounds from their guard post, and heads down the secret stair leading to the room with the three-eyed ghasts guarding the sarcophagi.
He uses the hounds and his new magic to defeat the ghasts, freezing all of them and his hell hounds in place with a powerful cone of cold. He accepts the last three dark vestiges from the Amber Temple, and then rejoins the party as they head toward the exit. Together, they leave the nightmarish place – three party members down.
The adventurers make their way down the mountain. They reach the bridge they crossed before, and stealthily make their way across – hoping to not alert the roc that attacked them last time. They make it across without incident.
They next approach the gatehouse and the guard tower. This is where a portcullis wreathed in green flame blocks their path. Kasimir is still willing to dispel the magical flame for them to pass, but Fletcher merely flies around the wall to bypass it. However, this action causes the two demonic vulture statues atop the wall to come to life and attack Fletcher! The others hurry to go through the portcullis to join Fletcher in the fight against the two vrocks.
Toward the end of the conflict, the party notices a bestial figure approaching fast. A saber-toothed tiger wearing fitted half-plate armor leaps through the air and pins one of the vrocks to the ground! It begins to attack. With the upper-hand suddenly tipped in their favor, the adventurers quickly dispatch the vrocks.
They all stare quizzically at the tiger, which sits there eyeing them back, as if patiently waiting for something to happen. A few of the party members suddenly notice another figure approaching them from down the mountain, coming through the heavy snowfall. A humanoid figure walking with a cane.
He wears a long coat and a wide-brimmed hat. His slightly pointed, half-elven ears poke out through neat, pulled-back hair. As he joins the group outside the portcullis, Cairie recognizes him as Rictavio, the bard from Vallaki. Her blood starts to boil, for it was he who sent them to the tower on the lake that got Sly and Vash killed.
Rictavio bows to them, removing his hat as he does. “Greetings,” he says, standing up.
Upon rising, Rictavio reveals a completely different face. He is a much older human, with gray hair and a messy beard. “I’ve been looking for you.”
Wow, you guys, we are so deep in the lore of Barovia and the Curse of Strahd campaign. The players have successfully navigated through the Amber Temple – the one place in the book that has an online reputation as being a TPK machine – and more-or-less come out unscathed. They lost their ally, Clovin, the one person that Madam Eva told them to recruit in their fight against Strahd, and haven’t been able to find him again. Maybe that’ll change, who knows where Clovin went?
They also lost Rolen, the sorcerer. My good friend was playing this character, but his work schedule suddenly changed so that he could no longer attend our sessions. I had been NPCing him for quite some time, so it was nice to find a way to sunset the character in a natural and fitting way so that I did not have to run a PC anymore. Knowing Rolen’s backstory, however, makes me very sad that he will never leave Barovia and make it back home.
Y’shaarj is a similar tale. I had known for a couple months that our player was going to become extremely busy with school and other things very soon, so I was trying to work out a way to sunset that character too. I had been NPCing Y’shaarj for a couple of sessions, and thought it would perfectly fit the wizard’s backstory – and link to the Living Gate (being a shardmind) – to become enthralled with the library of ancient and forbidden knowledge within the Amber Temple. This could be the perfect place to leave the character behind. The player agreed, and so this session saw that happen.
So now we’re down to four players – Seth as Fletcher, Dawn Marie as Malis, Mark as Krossa, and Aubrey as Cairie – who also happens to be the only character still alive since the beginning of the campaign. Funny enough, these four players are also the original four players that started Curse of Strahd with me a couple years ago. It’s fitting, in a way.
I’m still very happy to have them with me, and to be running this game for them. I love to see how far they’ve come as players. In the next session, we’ll see Aubrey’s character kind of take the spotlight with Dawn Marie’s, and that just makes me so happy that one of my more timid players is now more comfortable in speaking up in character and – at least from where I was sitting and could tell – actually feeling the emotions of the character. It was beautiful to behold. More on that next time.
So now it would seem that Van Richten has finally caught up with the party! I’m so excited to see where this goes! He and Ezmerelda have a shaky past, and so I feel it’ll be fun to play that out (as much as I hate role-playing two NPCs talking to each other).
Now that the famed monster hunter is with them, do they have a better chance at destroying Strahd? What about the boy in Krezk? Can he be saved? What’s with the saber-toothed tiger? Find out next time, in “Enter Van Richten!”
Until then – Well Met!