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”)
The party continues their fight against the vampire versions of Vash and Sly, their former party members. Sly continues to try and pick off people by popping out of the shadows and firing arrows at them, but Malis uses wall of fire to cut him off from the room.
Krossa tries to approach Vash, but Vash successfully casts hold person on the dwarf, freezing him in his tracks. However, with the threat of the sneaky Sly taken care of, the rest of the party turns to Vash and prepares their attacks. Seeing himself outnumbered, the vampire bard escapes through a dimension door.
For the moment, seemingly out of danger, the group relaxes, but then Cairie is nearly ambushed by a couple of vampire spawn coming up the stairs at the end of the large audience hall. Everyone rallies, with Krossa and Malis dealing the respective final blows.
Now out of danger, Cairie begins searching around the throne for anything she can find, while Khurz administers healing to some of the party members who sustained large amounts of damage during the fight. Cairie unexpectedly finds a secret door in the stone wall behind the throne, and pushes it open. She calls everyone over to it.
Beyond the door, they find a narrow, cobweb-choked hallway. Krossa and Fletcher volunteer to go in. Krossa goes right, Fletcher goes left. Fletcher uses the end of his longbow to carefully move the spiderwebs out of the way until he finds a full skeleton hanging suspended off the floor in the webs at the end of the hall, blocking the way to the dark space beyond. Fletcher stops, and goes back.
Krossa uses a hammer to move through the cobwebs, and eventually finds a large, octagonal room with arrow slits in the walls that overlook the courtyard below. Krossa and Fletcher report back what they found. Cairie goes back into the large audience hall, and goes to a door they had previously overlooked. She checks the door for traps, and then goes in.
In this room, Cairie finds a small office of sorts, lined with scrolls and books, the floor absolutely littered with even more scrolls and books. Against one wall there stand four wooden, locked chests. At the other end of the room, facing the chests, is a large desk at which crouches an frail old man on a stool. A long rope hangs to his side coming down through a hole in the ceiling. Directly across the room from the door Cairie peeks through is another door.
The man’s manic scribbling on an endlessly long piece of parchment stops as he stares at Cairie. The elf fires off a number of questions at the man, who trembles upon his stool, only answering that his name is Lief. She asks what he’s doing here, and Lief says shakily that he keeps the books. Cairie steps out of the room, and Fletcher pokes his head in. Lief’s eyes go wide at the sight of the cursed man, and he asks what he is. Fletcher grins wide and only says that he’s very dangerous.
Lief immediately reaches out and pulls hard on the rope hanging from the ceiling. A huge, loud gong sound reverberates throughout the castle, sending a couple of the party members into a panic. Cairie immediately crosses the room and opens the other door, finding a thin, spiral staircase going up and down. As they debate what to do, Ezmerelda says that they might want to hurry. Malis checks with her, and Ezmerelda points to the two sets of staircases at the other end of the audience hall.
The sound of scrambling claws and feet grows louder from that direction.
Lief tries to move past Cairie down the stairs, but Cairie draws her rapier on the man, who doubles back, trips, falls over, and hurries backward on the floor to the wall between the chests. Cairie threatens him, while Fletcher climbs onto the desk and cuts the rope at the ceiling with his sword. Cairie wants to go into the spiral staircase, while Malis suggests the secret door they found. They all then agree: secret door.
The group leaves Lief’s office, closing the door behind them, and then squeezes through the secret door. They push it shut and wait quietly, stealthily, and listen. The sound of running feet grows louder, and then they hear the unmistakable sound of Lief’s creaky office door opening, followed by muffled, unintelligible shouting through the stone. Eventually, the feet scramble away…and the area is quiet again.
In order to move forward, Fletcher suggests the end of the hallway down which he found the skeleton. Malis agrees, but suggests that they stop for a while and rest in the octagonal room, which has only one way in or out. Everyone agrees. Upon reaching that end of the hidden hallway, Fletcher finds another path off to the right that they had not explored, but it merely led to another, smaller archer’s post.
This leads Fletcher to start actually mansplaining the benefits of archer’s posts and how they work, complete with a professional analysis of how the arrow slits in the walls are manufactured to give the largest advantage to the archer against his targets, while also providing them with the most cover possible.
Malis, unable to stand this anymore, has a silent argument with Ezmerelda on who will be taking a watch with Fletcher. They agree, instead, to take a watch together to avoid him altogether.
Cairie and Khurz take the first watch, with Khurz performing several ritual prayers of healing to help boost the effect of the rest on everyone. Then, Fletcher and Krossa take a watch, during which Fletcher convinces Krossa to play dice with him. Fletcher cheats, and wins a gold piece from Krossa. Finally, Malis and Ezmerelda take their watch. Ezmerelda admits to Malis that she has been feeling inadequate, succumbing to her wounds more often than any of the others, making her feel weaker.
Malis convinces Ezmerelda that she belongs with them, but then notices…above Ezmerelda’s shoulder, and through one of the arrow slits in the walls, a pair of eyes watching them from outside.
Malis points this out to Ezmerelda, who turns suddenly, and the face skitters away up the stone wall out in the rain. Malis believes their time of safe rest has come to an end, and they rouse the others. Fletcher checks outside, and notes that it is probably some time in the middle of the night. Not the best time to hunt for a vampire.
And the first encounter with the vampire party is over! At least two of them are confirmed to have survived, and are still at large in the castle! One remains a mystery! How exciting!
The gang met Lief Lipsiege, Strahd’s accountant, and it didn’t go very well. But just wait, this guy gets even kookier. The party now seems to be a bit between the idea of searching the castle and finding and defeating Strahd. They had originally told me they were more focused on exploring, which is fine, but the more they do that, the more they become unsettled about the place. Which is BETTER than fine!
I really liked a lot of the character moments that shone through in this session in particular. Malis once again utilizing wall of flame to their extreme benefit (last seen in the Werewolf Den) was a stroke of genius. Fletcher actually devolving into mansplaining archery and archery posts to the group was absolutely hilarious and totally in-character, I loved it.
Cairie is completely goal-oriented at this point, and is on a one-way path straight to Strahd (in her mind). I think this is outstanding, because she’s kind of the one character in the party that’s like this right now. While Krossa is at his best in combat, like the good fighter/barbarian he is. He loves getting to swing his hammers.
Now that one of my favorite moments and one of my favorite encounters in Castle Ravenloft is over, for now, we’ll have to wait and see what happens next, as the party delves deeper into the deadly and infamous location. What will happen? Will they stumble across Strahd himself? Or is the vampire lord playing a long game? Is he toying with them?
Find out next time, in “A Dark Descent.”
Until then, Well Met!