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”)
Vash casts hold person on Emil, forcing the werewolf to fall off of him. Sly continues to attack Fletcher. Ireena attempts to control Krossa’s mind, but it doesn’t work. Gilly uses her monk energy to create a water whip and slams it into Malis.
Ezmerelda and Malis simultaneously cast lightning bolts at Gilly, and end up destroying her.
Fletcher tries to keep his distance from Strahd, while Cairie fires an arrow that pierces straight through Ireena’s back and heart, turning her to dust.
Cairie flees into the other room, where Malis and the still-invisible Ezmerelda wait, knowing that she has earned Strahd’s ire. Krossa closes the gap to Sly, intending to attack the evil halfling vampire. Strahd, indeed, burns with rage as he teleports into the other room, and begins attacking Cairie.
Milivoj kicks off of Vash, turning over in the air where gravity is reversed, and lands on the ceiling. He rushes to the unconscious Khurz and tries to assess the damage, but cannot. He grabs the holy symbol of Torm that he wears, which Khurz gave him, and utters a prayer, stabilizing the half-orc.
The swarms of ravens race into the other room and surround Strahd, attempting to peck at him, but doing almost nothing. Cairie turns invisible and tries to flee from Strahd, and Ezmerelda and Malis distract the lord of Barovia with spell attacks of their own. Strahd is able to get close to Malis, and deal three deadly blows with his sword. He then grabs her and bites her, draining some of her life, while Ezmerelda finally frees herself from being tied to Malis’s shadow.
Lady Petrovna runs up to Vash and casts a point-blank cone of cold in his face, freezing his body solid, and ending the hold person effect on Emil. Urwin and his swarm of ravens then races through the room and pummel Vash’s icy form to pieces.
Krossa unleashes three brutal attacks on Sly, leaving his face a pale mess of splotches. But Strahd releases his hold on the gravity…causing everyone in the other room to fall back to the floor. Milivoj sees the bone chandelier above him and the unconscious Khurz disconnect from the ceiling and fall toward them. He rolls, and lays across Khurz’s body to protect him, taking the brunt of the damage.
Lady Petrovna rushes over, and feeds Khurz a potion. The cleric awakens to find several allies surrounding him. He thanks them, and heads toward the other room where Strahd holds Malis.
Strahd flexes his control over Castle Ravenloft, causing all of the doors in the hall of bones to slam shut and magically lock, separating him, Malis, Cairie, and Ezmerelda from the others.
Malis then drops a point-blank fireball on herself, careful to wrap it around Ezmerelda. While damaging Strahd, this knocks her out. No longer interested, Strahd drops Malis’s form to the floor. Ezmerelda lashes out at Strahd, still invisible, with her silvered sword.
Khurz casts guiding bolt on Sly, who stuck to the ceiling instead of falling, and reduces him to little more than a scorch mark blasted across the vaulted ceiling.
He then casts spiritual weapon and spirit guardians to prepare himself for the other room. Fletcher could not open the door. But Krossa runs up and slams through with his hammers. He harasses Strahd while Fletcher and Khurz press themselves against the wall by the now-open doorway.
Cairie comes back to the archway and starts firing off arrows at Strahd, now that she can sneakily hit him while the devil vampire has his attention focused elsewhere. Khurz sends the spirit guardians into the room to shred Strahd, and casts cure wounds from the icon of Ravenloft on Malis, bringing her back up.
Emil runs into the room as Strahd summons his armor to him, and cannot lay a scratch on his former master. Lady Petrovna casts globe of invulnerability on herself, and tries to cast banishment on Strahd, twice, but it fails each time.
Strahd bats Emil aside, and sees into the main hall, sees Lady Petrovna, and casts a very high-level disintegrate at her, which pierces through the globe, hits the burgomistress of Vallaki, and nearly drops her to nothing…but she holds on, still alive.
Krossa wails on Strahd with a series of attacks, and the fury of it all finally surpasses Strahd’s ability to control it…and he transforms.
Strahd doubles in size, growing to monstrous proportions, bulking up so much that his armor breaks and sloughs off. His fancy clothes rip to allow for huge muscles to bulge through. Giant bat wings rip and spread out from his back. His face and head become that of a giant, monster vampire bat with glowing red eyes.
This monstrous Strahd devours two handfuls of ravens and then savagely attacks Emil and Krossa, then – with supernatural speed and strength, smashes through the wall around the open doorway, knocking Khurz, Fletcher, Lady Petrovna, and Yevgeni aside through the debris.
He stops right in front of Milivoj, who drops his sword in fear. Strahd grabs Milivoj with one, giant hand and lifts him off the ground.
Khurz gets up and immediately fires a guiding bolt at Strahd’s back. Ezmerelda fires a magic missile at him as well. Cairie deals massive damage shooting him with her bow. It’s all too much for Strahd now, in this form, he starts to…melt.
His size diminishes, and his form dissolves into mist, dropping Milivoj to the floor.
Malis immediately casts fireball at the ceiling, and Cairie casts flaming sphere, but neither seem to have much of an effect on the mist. Fletcher fires an arrow, but to no avail.
The mist then escapes underneath the double doors in the center of the room. Ezmerelda insists that they must not let him escape, and so they rush to the doors. Once again, Krossa smashes them open, and the group chases the mist down the long hallway while their allies regroup with Milivoj and head out through the door through which they came.
Fletcher tries to swipe at it with the gulthias staff, but nothing happens. Khurz takes out the glowing sword and grips the holy symbol of Ravenkind tight. Khurz’s sword declares that they shall vanquish this evil! The misty form of Strahd suddenly reaches out to Fletcher’s outstretched arm and tries to drain some of his life, but it does not work. The group follows the fleeing mist up the stairs, doing everything they can to simply keep up.
Finally, Khurz makes it halfway up the stairs and once again casts guiding bolt. This time, when the spell hits, it holds on the misty form like a lasso. The holy symbol of Ravenkind begins to grow hot in Khurz’s grip as sparks start to pop off of the mist of Strahd.
Khurz points the holy symbol at the mist and uses it to create bright sunlight on the staircase. The mist begins to burn and smoke, turning black, and dripping. It folds in upon itself, becoming a hot, glowing ball that suddenly bursts outward with energy.
Night-blind, the sunlight gone, the party waits for their vision to adjust.
They are alone on the stairs. No mist.
Eager to see what happened, they run up the stairs to find themselves on the main floor, and exit out through a doorway to find themselves outside in the rear courtyard of the castle.
Looking out at the Barovian valley in the distance…beyond the forests…no fog holds the valley in place. The constantly overcast sky is now only partly cloudy, and the sun is on the rise, bringing a foreign feeling of warmth to the adventurers.
But even more so…the feeling of hopelessness, of the ever-pervasive fear that they have all felt since they each first arrived in Barovia…is gone.
They head around the courtyard to the front of the castle to find Lady Petrovna, Milivoj, Yevgeni, and Urwin waiting for them there. Agreeing that it would appear as though they have defeated Strahd, they begin to head across the lowered drawbridge.
But…Fletcher stops. He looks back at the castle, and thinks– no, he knows that it could be so much better. Strahd ruined it. But, this time, it could be so much more… Malis stops, and forces Fletcher to turn and walk with them. She says he does possess that kind of evil. A little voice in Fletcher’s head thinks to him, no, he doesn’t have to be evil. But Castle Ravenloft had so much potential, and Strahd never seized it. But Fletcher…
No, they continue together across the drawbridge and down the road and away.
They make it back to Vallaki by late morning, and are greeted by a strange sight: Barovians out in the streets, tears in their eyes, looking up at the sky, seeing the sun, and laughing with joy. They swarm the adventurers that saved them from Strahd, shaking their hands, blessing them, and kissing their cheeks.
Urwin hangs back with Milivoj, and arranges a group of town guards to accompany him back to the castle to find his wife and children. He urges the party to go on ahead to the inn and begin celebrating. He will return.
Back at the Blue Water Inn, the party finds the celebration already in progress. People fill the taproom, and food and drink are passed around at constant intervals. They find a familiar figure standing at the bar speaking with a Barovian – a man made of crystals. They greet their ally, Y’shaarj, the shardmind wizard with warm smiles and greetings.
This whole time, however, Cairie refuses to believe that they have done it. She protests to her friends that she’s been here too long to believe in any kind of hope. She has simply been here too long. Ezmerelda puts her hands on the elf’s shoulders, and tells her, “Then maybe it’s time you went home.”
The party goes on throughout the day. Around sunset, a procession including three wagons comes to Vallaki, to the road outside the Blue Water Inn – where the partying migrated to. The wagons each are laden with several barrels from the Wizard of Wines Winery, and the Martikov family drives them, and greets the adventurers with hugs and congratulations. Anna Krezkov and her former-werewolf son, Ilya, are with them.
After nightfall, Urwin returns with Danika, and their sons Brom and Bray, as well as Milivoj. Urwin hugs each of the heroes tightly, and kisses them deeply on the cheeks. The family of wereravens goes inside to find some rest.
Nearly twelve hours of partying and celebrating later – with Fletcher going off into the town to find some fun, admiration, and frivolity – the party starts to call it a night. Khurz thanks and congratulates his long-time companion, Cairie, and expresses his gratitude that she felt he was valuable enough to bring back from the dead.
Malis sidles up next to Ezmerelda and talks about home. Ezmerelda wanted to stay in Barovia and help to rid it of the rest of its monsters and demons, but now she is not sure…now she wants to leave.
Malis says that she could come with her back to the Sword Coast, where it is beautiful. Ezmerelda admits that it’s been so long since she’s seen the sea. Malis begins talking about home, and that Ezmerelda is welcome to come with her, but as Malis starts to babble on nervously, Ezmerelda grabs her, and kisses her passionately. The two then decide it’s time to get some sleep, and head inside.
Khurz finds his way to St. Andral’s Church, where he waits throughout the night in order to watch the sun rise. When it does, moving Khurz deeply with its beauty, he feels a small, comforting touch on his shoulder. When Khurz looks, no one is there.
The party reconvenes in the morning, with two wagons being supplied for travel. Khurz, Cairie, Malis, and Ezmerelda sit in one wagon. Krossa and Y’shaarj sit in the other. Together, the two wagons of adventurers ride out of Vallaki, and then past the gates of Barovia…and then out of the valley entirely.
Eventually, Khurz, Cairie, and Malis start to recognize the rolling hills that spread out near Daggerford on the Sword Coast. They don’t recall how they got here, and they look back for the other wagon…but it’s gone.
Krossa and Y’shaarj come out of the forest to find a huge lake before them, a lake that is familiar to them – Lake Faras. Krossa knows of a dwarven settlement to the north, where his family and he help to run the Foireann – the guild – together. They are home, in Muluth. Everyone is home.
Fletcher, head pounding from his night of debauchery, wakes to an aching body and bones that crack as he stands. He breathes in the air to try and clear his head, but the air is musty, and stale. There’s an unpleasant odor about him. Fletcher looks around to get his bearings, and finds himself in a room that has stairs leading up and out. On the opposite wall stand three empty alcoves. But in the middle of the room lie the blasted remains of a wooden structure, and burn scorches cover the floor, walls, and ceiling of this room.
Strahd’s tomb in Castle Ravenloft.
A small voice whispers in Fletcher’s ear: “This time, it will be so much better…”
And that’s it!
That concludes the Curse of Strahd adventure campaign! It’s been nearly FOUR years of playing with this amazing group of players, and I am so happy with how it went. There were hiccups, and there were long periods of time without playing, but the end result was well worth the wait.
This is also my very first campaign that I have run to completion! I can now say that I love Curse of Strahd. It is incredibly well-designed – save for a few nitpicks that I have, personally – but it’s so much fun. The elements of horror that are baked in are incorporated extremely well, and the space you have to create and play is immense.
I cannot recommend the campaign enough. I would absolutely run it again for a new group of players, if I someday had the opportunity.
I hope you have enjoyed reading this campaign diary for our adventure! Thank you for coming along on this journey, and hopefully you will join me for the next one, which will be starting soon!
If you have any questions about Curse of Strahd, please feel free to send me a message, or comment below.
Until next time, Well Met!