On Saturday 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”)
After a short rest in the chapel – during which Fletcher attunes to the dead cleric of Asmodeus’s mace of terror, and Khurz attunes to the powerful Icon of Ravenloft they found on the altar – Fletcher explores a little bit.
He goes up to the balcony area overlooking the chapel, where he finds two ornate, wooden thrones covered with cobwebs. Seated in them are two almost mummified corpses wearing tattered livery. Fletcher begins to pilfer one of them when it suddenly lurches for him and attacks. The other corpse does the same.
Fletcher uses his superior strength to toss them both over the balcony, where they fall fifty feet onto the chapel floor below. The zombies get back up and head for the rest of the party, who gang up on the creatures and defeat them with ease.
Fletcher rejoins the group, informing them of the double doors behind the thrones on the balcony. The rest of them also find the two chambers on the ground floor that lead up and away from the chapel. They investigate both chambers, and find that each feature two alcoves housing large, eight-foot tall statues in armor.
The faces of these statues are all shielded by shadows, although – while looking at one – Fletcher sees one of the statues bears a face very familiar to him…that of his mother. He tells the others, but upon re-inspection, he sees nothing but the shadows.
The group decides to go upstairs to the balcony and through the double doors up there, instead of the other sets of stairs they found. Going through the doors, they find a web-choked and dark hall. Fletcher lights a torch and heads in. Cairie, almost halfway down the room, notices ropes and pulleys near the ceiling, well-hidden by the cobwebs. She points it out to the group, and then they hear cackling. They look up and ahead to see the caped figure of a vampire flying at them.
Fletcher reacts quickly and leaps up, grabbing onto the flying figure as it soars over all their heads. He miscalculates when to let go, though, and hits his head on the frame above the double doors, and then hits the floor hard.
Getting up, he explains that it felt like he was holding onto something made of wood, not an actual vampire. Sure enough, the figure then goes sailing back across the room above them, pulled along on the ropes. Tired of all this, the party moves forward.
They come to another set of double doors, and open them to find yet another pair of double doors almost right in front of them. This small, dark, connecting hallway stretches out for ten feet on either side of them, but they push forward through the third set of double doors and into a grand audience hall.
They look around the huge room, which has two sets of stairs to the north leading down, a huge, twenty-by-twenty foot glass window – mostly broken – straight ahead of them on the west wall, and farther to the south – their left – there’s a lone throne sitting on a dais, facing away from them. However, what catches their eyes the most is the female figure standing before the window, looking out, her back to them all. She wears an immaculate, beautiful purple gown.
Strahd’s voice echoes through the room, sourceless, saying, “Being your host, I thought it gentle of me to reunite you with old friends.”
The figure slowly turns around, and the gown fades away into nothingness as if it were an illusion. Malis, Khurz, and Cairie all recognize this woman now wearing dark green-and-black monk robes. It’s Gilrean, her skin deathly pale and a little cracked, their old party member that Strahd took from the Blue Water Inn.
Malis steps through the group with her hands up, and begins to beg Gilly to come with them. She doesn’t want to fight her, she doesn’t want to have to kill her. She says that, together, they will find a way.
Gilly considers this, and then smiles a cold, crooked smile, revealing a fang behind her slightly parted lips. She says, “This is the way.”
Just then, Ezmerelda, near the back of the group standing at the open doorways – still in the narrow passageway between double doors – shouts out in pain and grasps at her back.
Turning to look, Cairie and Khurz recognize another face, this one belonging to a pale-skinned halfling dressed in a black hood and leather armor. Another former party member, the rogue, Sly licks Ezmerelda’s blood from his dagger with a grin, and disappears into the shadows of the corridor.
The group readies themselves, even as Gilly takes out her quarterstaff and goes into a defensive stance. Krossa tries to come after Sly, but cannot find him right away in the darkness of the corridor. Fletcher moves up and immediately engages Gilly.
But he hears a defiant roar coming from the stairs to his right, and looks in time to see a hellish creature wearing pure-black, spiky, full-plate armor come rushing up the stairs and swinging a familiar greatsword at him. The horned demonkin, Raif, also looking very pale-skinned, snarls at Fletcher as he pushes his weapon toward him. Raif still wields the greatsword that he took from the corpse of Vladimir Horngaard.
A slight chuckle comes from the other end of the room, and the others look over at the throne, which faces away from them. They see a leg dangling over the side of the arm, which then disappears…and a figure stands up from the throne. He’s impeccably dressed, and holds an absolutely gorgeous lute. The bard, Vash, his skin also cracked and ultra-pale, smiles and plays, casting spells into the room.
Cairie attempts to attack from afar, taking advantage of her roguish techniques to inflict high amounts of damage. Malis uses her spells, too, but Vash has a decent amount of cover from the throne.
Ezmerelda moves into the room and presses her back to the wall to keep from getting stabbed from behind again. Malis casts a lightning bolt at Gilly and Raif, but Gilly dodges most of the damage, and Raif seems to absorb some of it into himself.
When Raif next attacks Fletcher, he unleashes that lightning energy onto Fletcher. Krossa decides to come help Fletcher with Raif and Gilly, fighting with his hammers, while Cairie switches her targets to them as well. While Gilly uses her monk abilities, and Raif tries using some of his eldritch knight spells, Fletcher continues to lay down the hurt.
Vash introduces a friend he’s dying to have them all meet, and – seemingly coming out of the wall behind Vash and the throne itself – a large, brown bear comes charging into the room.
Malis tries to stop it with a few scorching rays, but that only angers it and draws it to her. Malis moves in front of Ezmerelda to protect her, but then Ezmerelda moves in front of her, and casts lightning bolt, hitting both the bear and Vash – but only a little.
Then Khurz jumps in front of them, and spins in place with his greataxe, and kills the bear. In retaliation, Vash casts silence on most of the room. Ezmerelda is hit with an arrow in the back, and goes down, unconscious. Malis attempts to subtly cast fireball at Vash with her sorcery abilities, but Vash successfully counterspells it.
Fletcher maneuvers around Gilly and Raif, and stands right in front of the window – a small area that is not affected by Vash’s spell. He casts cone of cold on his two opponents, finishing off that Dark Gift he got from the Amber Temple. Fletcher gestures to Raif, taunting him. Raif takes the bait, and charges at Fletcher, attempting to push him out the window, but Fletcher stands his ground, and holds the charge.
Out of the zone of silence, Fletcher says to Raif, “Welcome to defenestration school.”
Khurz takes out the Icon of Ravenloft, and uses it to Hold Vampires. It seems to work on every single one. Malis takes out both of Ezmerelda’s shortswords, the silver one, and the talking one, which also casts the room in bright light.
She’s hit in the back by an arrow – just like Ezmerelda was – and turns to the open doorway through which they entered. She casts fireball into the corridor just as Vash’s paralysis ends his silence spell.
The resulting explosion rocks the whole room, and rings out loudly through the whole floor at least. With the vampire versions of their once allies frozen before them, Krossa is able to charge at Raif, and shove him out the window. Raif falls to his death.
Fletcher then picks up Gilly, carefully climbs out the window with the aid of his spider climb ability, and then simply drops Gilly to the courtyard below. She breaks out of her paralysis, gets up, and then runs away around the castle grounds, disappearing from sight.
Khurz uses the Icon to heal Ezmerelda, and bring her back to consciousness. Malis hands Khurz the talking sword, and the two seem to agree on the swift action needed to vanquish evil. Cairie casts flaming sphere right behind the paralyzed Vash, ready to chase him down with it should the need arise, but happy to simply burn him in place for now.
With two of the vampire opponents now out of the fight, two still remain, and at least one is paralyzed by the Hold Vampires action, if not both. The group prepares themselves for the rest of the battle.
Okay, we were able to meet again! Thanks for coming back! I’m still so excited that we’re finally in Castle Ravenloft after all this time. I’m even more excited that the party went to this room.
So, what I did with Ravenloft is this. I truly dislike random encounters and encounter tables. So instead of that, I went through the Ravenloft chapter of the book and wrote out what would/could happen in EACH of the locations areas listed in the chapter. I either left it as-is from the book, or I added my own details for customized encounters.
This room, the audience hall, is one of the latter. This is the room where I wanted the party to find the Vampire Party – that is, the vampire versions of their fallen former allies. I was so pumped for this encounter, but because Ravenloft is so huge, the group literally could have gone anywhere and not found this encounter by game’s end (though, if that happened, I may have moved the encounter into their path, because I love the story of it so much).
But I didn’t have to worry, because they – more or less – went right for it! How lucky am I?
So they’re about halfway through the battle now, and they’ve already defeated or gotten rid of two of the evil vampire party. That’s pretty good! We’ll have to see how well they fair against the rest of them, in “Unanswered Questions!”
Until then, Well Met!