Curse of Strahd Ep. 1 – Welcome to Barovia

These are the journal entries for our D&D 5th Edition Curse of Strahd campaign being played on Roll20. There are 5 PCs: Ragnar (Paladin), Eamon (Cleric), Tec (Rogue), Malfred (Warlock), and Tristan (Barbarian).

Day 1

After finding themselves transported to a strange land while the slept, the heroes, minus Jortran, and after finding Tristan asleep in his cart, made their way down a winding gravel and mud road, through a towering and silent forest, shrouded in mist. They passed through a gate in an ancient stone wall, and wondered as they walked where they might possibly be.

Trampled in the mud of the road they discovered an old, worn winter coat that seemed to be decorated like it was for a soldier, including an old, tarnished medal pinned to the breast. Cleaning it up with magic, they discovered that the medal featured a face in profile that was the same as on Tristan’s lucky coin, which he’d been carrying ever since his first pirate raid.

Eventually the forest began to thin, and ahead the road seemed to open out into rolling fields. Before they could get there, however, a flock of hundreds of ravens descended on the forest, perching along the roadway near the opening to the fields. At the same time, they smelled something horrible, and discovered a body in the foliage just off the road. The poor, dead man, seemingly a commoner, had very obviously been torn apart by wolves and dragged to the spot, but strangely not eaten. At least, not yet. Clutched in the remaining hand of the corpse was a letter with a wax seal bearing the letter B. The letter warned that the daughter of the burgomaster of the village of Barovia had been beset by an evil vampire that had been torturing the population for hundreds of years, and advising any and all who were not already trapped within the cursed lands to stay away.

As they stood around the body deciding what next to do, a chorus of wolf howls began to ripple through the dense forest. It was decided to take the remains with them and head to the village of Barovia which, according to a bird with whom Ragnar spoke, was not far off. They quickly bundled the body into the back of Tristan’s cart, and hurried along the road, past the watchful eyes of the ravens.

Soon they were out of the forest and could see he drab fields rolling away to either side. To the south was a glittering river, and beyond it more forest. To the north the thick woods continued as well, until on both sides they met again on the slopes of distant mountains. It did not take long before the buildings of a village loomed out of the mists of what passed for day time. They seemed sickly and rotting as they leaned out over the road. Many of the buildings were boarded up, or had broken windows. There was no one to be seen on the streets, but a mournful sobbing carried over the slate rooves.

The heroes made their way to the center of the village where they found a large building that seemed to be a mercantile and another that was probably an inn or tavern. The sobbing was closer, and they ventured down a side street to see what it was. The sounds drifted down from an upper window of a small, rundown townhouse with boarded windows. Ragnar knocked at the door and called out, but the sobbing never ceased, and no one answered the door.

Giving up on the small house, they headed back to what looked like an Inn. The sign outside proclaimed it to be the Blood on the Vine tavern. Inside was a depressingly dim taproom filled with tables and chairs, but not many people. A man stood behind the bar, absently cleaning wine glasses while staring into space. At a table in the center of the room, three gaudily colourful women sat and chatted amicably. Behind them, near the dull fire, a halfling sat alone looking bored, and in a far corner, a handsome young man sipped wine and muttered to himself. As the party entered, everyone but the barkeep looked up.

The halfling rushed forward to Tec, greeting him enthusiastically. It was Cutter JoJo Johannson, a member of the Neverwinter Calibashi Thieves Guild, with whom Tec’s uncle had been affiliated. Tec only dimly remembered Cutter, but Cutter was overjoyed to meet another person from Faerun. He explained that he’d been stuck in this new place for a ten day, and desperately wanted to get home. He begged Tec to help him. Tec and Eamon sat down with Cutter to learn more from him, and watch the room, while Ragnar, Malfred and Tristan decided to introduce themselves to the three ladies.

They quickly learned that the women were members of a clan of Vistani that camped near by, and that they owned the tavern. They asked the heroes to tell them all about who they were and from where they’d come, and then suggested the party should go and visit Madame Eva at the Vistani camp near the Tser pool if they wanted to learn more about the land of Barovia, and how to leave it. Ragnar showed them the letter they’d found on the corpse in the woods, and they learned that the man in the corner was named Ismark, that he was the Burgomaster’s son, and that they should speak to him.

Ragnar and Malfred moved to Ismark’s table, while Tristan stayed behind to chat up the women, who seemed very enamoured with his muscles. At the table in the corner, Ismark welcomed Ragnar and Malfred to sit with him, and suggested they share some wine. As they drank, Ismark read over the letter and sadly explained that the man they’d found was one of the family servants. The letter was meant as a warning. His sister Ireena was locked up at home in the Burgomaster’s mansion, doing her best to avoid “The Devil, Strahd”, a vampire who seemed intensely obsessed with her, and who had already bitten her twice.

Ismark asked the heroes if they would help him escort Ireena safely to large town of Vallaki, which had the benefit of defensible walls, and a good militia. He hoped that there she might be safe from Strahd. In exchange he offered that he might be able to help them find a way out of Barovia, but couldn’t really promise much, because he’d seen lots of adventurers come, and none of them left, not even in death.

The heroes agreed to help Ismark, but decided first to take the remains of the servant to the nearby church to be buried. Tristan, who had been in an upstairs room with two of the Vistani ladies, rushed down, pulling up his pants as he went, to join the group. Outside they could hear the sobbing again, and asked Ismark. He explained it was “Mad Mary” and that she was probably upset because her daughter was missing. Then Ismark left them to go check on his sister at the mansion.

Up the road they came to the old, groaning church that seemed to huddle in the shadow of the mountain that rose up behind it. Peering up, they could just make out the cold, grey battlements of a castle perched high above them. The doors of the church appeared to have been scared by claws and fire, and the entire building looked ready to collapse. Inside they found an old priest kneeling at the alter babbling incoherently. Suddenly, from somewhere beneath them, there was a wailing, and weak voice yelled out “Father! I’m starving!”.

They soon learned that the priest’s name was Donavich, and that he’d gone mostly mad listening to the ungodly cries of his son, Doru, whom he’d locked in the undercroft beneath the church. Doru, he explained, had accompanied a group of villagers lead by a strange wizard from another land as they tried to attack Strahd. Only Doru had returned, but he had been turned into a vampire. Ever since he’d been locked away, and Donavich did not know how to help him.

The heroes decided the only thing to do was to dispatch the vampire to keep the village safe. Tristan knocked Donavich out, and they quickly found a padlocked, chained trapdoor. Ripping it open they descended into the dark basement where the ravenous Doru attempted to rush past them to escape. It didn’t take long for them to overwhelm the retch, and with the help of the godly magic weapon they’d found in the Lost Mine of Phandelver, they put the boy to rest, staking him through the heart to blast him to ash. Now they stand, panting, horrified by what they’ve seen so far in the land of Barovia.

UNTIL NEXT TIME…

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