I did not post last week’s game because we had a tragic death in our family and I was not really up for it. I still went and DM’ed for my group, mainly because I was in shock over our loss and wanted to keep to our regular routines as much as possible. The game must go on, right?
The previous week, Guunt had turned himself into the Vallaki guards for the murder of Izek Strazni. He was crucified in the town square but after a few hours was rescued by a group of cultists. Ombra returned to the group in time to track his scent and followed the group to the house of the Wachters. Guunt awoke in bed next to Lord Wachter’s corpse, where the polite lady of the house returned his gear to him and invited him downstairs to eat. Ombra watched from outside the window and when they exited the bedroom Ombra snuck in, took a look around, picked the lock on the chest and stole the bones of the guard who participated in the murder of Strahd. I let him make an Arcana check to recognize the name on the plaque inside the chest. I don’t see the point in having characters find things when there is no way for them to know what those things are. Meanwhile the rest of the group, Sir Saggamore, Bonk and Esmerelda, left Ireena and her brother in the care of the church and went to the Blue Water Inn. They had been ordered to leave the town by nightfall but were of course going to take the longest route possible. They did not want to leave without the rest of their party. Muriel, a were-raven who had warned them about the Vistani back at the camp, told them they could hide safely at the Lake north of town, or the Vistani camp to the south, but they never made it there this week. Instead, they met the people inside the Inn and then decided to find the rest of their group.
Lady Wachter fed the big Barbarian and asked him if he would do herself and the town a favor and kill the Burgomaster. Given Guunt’s crucifixion at the hands of his guards, it was not tough to convince him. She told him about the mirror on the second floor of the Burgomaster’s house and the words to activate it. Doing so would summon an assassin that would kill the Burgomaster without leaving any evidence they had been involved. Being a Barbarian though, she also said that if him and his friends decided to kick in the door and kill everyone, that would as well. So the party reunited and rode to the Burgomaster’s mansion.
First Ombra went ahead and snuck into the mansion window at the rear of the house, sneaking passed the two guards that were on patrol. Two more guards stood at the front doors, their faces hidden by their grinning masks. Ombra snuck into the window and found the mirror. Unfortunately, Ombra is blind and could not see what was happening when she spoke the words. So Guunt decided to join her, climbing up the wall to the second floor. Unfortunately he was spotted by the guards who began shooting at him with their heavy crossbows. Ombra was quick to get to his aid as he clung to the side of the building and cast Silence on the guards. They quickly dispatched them and hid the bodies in the nearby bushes before climbing back into the house. This time Guunt went to the mirror and of course he ordered the invisible assassin to kill Strahd. Strahd appeared, tried to charm him and then bowed to him and disappeared. This gave me the seed of an idea.
At the front door, the other three members of the party engaged the guards, dispatching them easily. They rushed into the house and began spreading out through the downstairs floor, searching for the Burgomaster. Instead they found a room full of ladies, one wealthy, the rest poor and hungry, sitting around eating biscuits and drinking tea. They left them alone and headed to the kitchen, where the cook made a hasty retreat out the back.
Upstairs, the Burgomaster heard the screams from the floor below (the poor Vallaki women ran for their life, I believe!) and sent out his guards. The guards ran downstairs, leaving a clear path to the Burgomaster for Ombra and Guunt. A bloody battle ensued which horrified Esmerelda. She might be a bard, but she was a nice old granny and was not ready for the brutality that Sir Saggamore unleashed on the guards. Ombra and Guunt found the attic and Guunt took Victor’s sigil full in the face when he walked into the room. Victor remained invisible but Ombra could sense him and coaxed him out. Upon seeing a Tabaxi woman, Victor appeared and ran into her arms. He offered to help them rid the town of his father and asked if they could help him leave Barovia. Seeing his skeleton cats and knowing he knew some magic, they took the boy with him.
The Burgomaster was soon cornered and tried to beg his way to freedom. At this point I wanted to add a bit of drama, so I rolled to see if Strahd could stealth into the room, as tight as it was. I rolled a 17, with his +14 there was no way the party detected him. He turned from mist into human form and rammed both his hands through the Burgomaster’s back, then pulled him apart like a melon. Then he cordially invited the party to dine with him at his castle. They told them they would come and he left as a bat. They were impressed by how polite he was. The Baron’s giant hounds died of fright from the sight of Strahd.
So they left with Victor riding Guunt’s shoulders, proud of themselves for saving the town of Vallaki. They had saved the church and cancelled the festival. They wanted to see Lady Wachter but when they went to her house, her two sons answered the door and refused to let them in. They snuck in and made their way to the basement, but when the skeletons began to rise of from the ground the beat a hasty retreat. They were not ready to face another battle, having sustained some serious wounds at the hands of the guards (I used the Knight stats, which means the guards had great swords and plate mail). They returned to the Inn where they were given a room and introduced to the Keeper’s of the Feather. They also met Rictavio, who invited them to his tower after telling them the story of Strahd and how he became a vampire. I believe they felt sympathy for him and are beginning to wonder whether he is really a monster. He also told them about Argynvostholt, where one of the relics they are searching for might be hidden.
The next morning they returned to Lady Wachter’s who invited them in, overjoyed that her “Book Club” was in control of the town. They also took Victor, who saw Stella and told the group their relationship. Lady Wachter told them everything; that she served Strahd, that she would take control of the town and see that the people were treated better. They asked why he sent Zombie Beholder’s after them and she explained that he often tested newcomers to his realm, that it was rumored that he might be looking for someone to replace him on the throne. So a bunch of new paths opened to the players, and I believe I added another layer of depth to the story line. They were a little bit suspicious of Lady Wachter’s cult taking over Vallaki, but it was better than the previous regime. I made the Burgomaster such a fiend that there was no doubt he had to go.
Next week I have a ton of stuff to do for my family who is still coming to grips with our loss, so I am kind of railroading the players toward The Wizard Of Wines. Dealing with the grief and loss in real life has changed the direction of the campaign. Right now we all need a little hope in our lives. Let’s see how it goes. . . .