Tobold's Blog
Tuesday, March 19, 2013
The Favorites of Selune campaign - Ravenloft Session 1

The previous session of my D&D campaign ended with the players being sucked through a rift between worlds in the Keep on Shadowfell. Given the known history of that rift, it isn't much of a surprise that the players now find themselves on the parallel world of Shadowfell. After what seemed like an endless fall, they tumble down on a forest path, surrounded by a grim and lifeless pine forest. A stone arc with an iron gate, rusted open, spans one end of the path, leading into a swirling mist. The other direction is unremarkable. The priest's mace, which usually can detect undead, flares up and stops working, as if from overload. Meanwhile the warrior's artifact, the axe Aecris, is lauding him for taking the fight to the enemy, making a frontal assault on the undead in their own world.

While the stone arc looks more interesting than the other direction, the players mistrust the mist, and after a short examination and long discussion decide to go the other way. It isn't long before they come across two burly men in foreign peasants' garb, carrying shepherd's canes and being accompanied by two large dogs. Although their greeting isn't very friendly, the players are eager to find out where they are, and start talking to the shepherds. The men tell them that they are in the domain of Barovia, not far from the village of Barovia, and even draw them a crude map with their canes on the ground.

While the players study that map, the men suddenly transform: They are werewolves, in shepherd's clothing :), and their dogs are in fact wolves. A rather tactical fight ensues, with the combatants circling each other to get flanking advantage. The werewolves are eager to bite as many of the players as possible, and manage to bite four of them. The wolves actually deal more serious damage, and are quicker in their movements. But in the end the fight isn't overly hard, and the heroes win. But now the four of them who got bitten feel somewhat feverish, and a heal check reveals that they got in fact infected by a moon frenzy disease.

The players continue towards the village of Barovia, which turns out to be a not very welcoming place. Nobody is on the street, and shutters and doors get closed when the players approach. Through the silence a desperate sobbing is heard, coming from a house whose door is open. So the players investigate, and find the source of the crying upstairs: An old woman sits in the middle of a curious room, decorated all in pink, painted in bright colors, with castles, knights, and princesses painted on the walls, and lots of toys around. Approached gently the old woman, Mad Mary, tells the players of her daughter Gertruda, who was kept in this room for all her life to protect her from the harsh world outside. But now she is gone, and her mother fears the worse, babbling about the master of the castle, and beseeching the players to bring her daughter back to her. Not being able to get more information out of Mad Mary, the players continue towards the center of the village.

There they find life in a tavern, whose sign has been changed from the original "Blood of the Vine" to say "Blood on the Vine". When they enter, the peasants in the inn stop talking, and only three Vistani keep on talking while playing cards. A young man with better clothing sits alone in a corner. The players ask the innkeeper Arik for a room, but Arik refuses to rent them one, and only sells them food and drink. The players being upset about this, and starting to become threatening towards Arik, the young man in the corner rises and welcomes them to Barovia. He introduces himself as Ismark Kolyanovich, son the later burgomaster Kolyan Indirovich, and says that in spite of his house being in mourning, he would be glad to offer them his hospitality for the night. The Vistani are also leaving, passing close to the players. The warrior, mistrustful of the gypsies, checks his purse. To his surprise not only is his money still there, but he also finds a message from the Vistani: "We know you! Come to meet Madam Eva at the Tser Pool!".

The priest of the group is asking for the church of the village, and learns that the village priest, Donavich, is at the house of the burgomaster. Thus they accompany Ismark there, and find Donavich and Ismark's sister Ireena Kolyana praying before the bier on which the burgomaster lies in state in a coffin. Donavich agrees to cure the infected players of their disease, for the cost of the components, and even gives the group a book with the Cure Disease and Create Holy Water rituals. The players learn that the domain of Barovia is ruled by Count Strahd von Zarovich from his Castle Ravenloft, overlooking the village from a cliff above. Count Strahd had send a letter to the burgomaster, asking that his daughter Ireena Kolyana was to be sent to the castle on her 18th birthday. The burgomaster refused, and three days later he was found dead on his doorstep with a crossbow bolt between his shoulders. The Holy Symbol of Ravenkind, usually warding off evil from the house, was stolen.

On this, we ended the session, as it was getting late. Readers knowing Dungeons & Dragons well will have identified this adventure as being my take on a classic D&D module: I6 Castle Ravenloft. One of may players even DM'd that adventure a long time ago. But no worry, I've changed the adventure a lot, trying to keep its spirit while adapting it to 4th edition and the time constraints of my campaign. Playing such a classic is always a challenge, but the first session went well, and everybody appeared to be having fun.

Aw, and here I was hoping the classic module you were redoing was going to be the tomb of horrors, ending in a horrible TPK 5 minutes in =(

Oh well, Ravenloft is so iconic that not even knowing the module in detail I'd have to imagine them being excited.
Looking foward to revisiting the original and seeing how you tweak it for real time constraints and 4th ed.

Too bad the PCs didn't even get a chance to transform at least once and stress out a bit more.
I hate to be "that guy" but...

Should not "besieging" be "beseeching?" Similar sound, and "besieging" can mean to pester with requests, but "beseeching" is more or less "abject begging" and seems to fit better in that sentence.


And with that out of the way, sounds like a fun intro session. I'll be interested to see how the moon frenzy disease progresses, as well as how the adventurers deal with the module.

Out of curiosity, what would they have found if they'd gone through the gate?
Thanks, fixed. English is my second language. Fortunately you weren't there for the session itself, because that is done in French, my third language, and you'd have even more to correct. :)

If they had gone through the gate, they would have gotten lost and come out at exactly the same gate. The mist is the "border" of the domain of Barovia, and only the Vistani can travel through it.
Since you've said that you're in Belgium, is Flemish your 1st language then?
No, I'm a bloody foreigner. My first language is German.
Level 5's facing Strahd? This should be interesting. Well I suppose they may not need to -face- him himself but still, I kinda recall it being a higher level adventure based off the older D&D stuff.

Tomb of Horrors would certainly be party kill though, and I think is something the GM runs to get rid of high level players. :P
The original I6 Castle Ravenloft is for character levels 5 to 7, so my remake is actually right on spot for the level.
Never played Raveloft, looks like I have missed a classic. Need to see if the original adventure is available somewhere.
The third edition version of Ravenloft is available as pdf on
The players meet two sheperds who help them, and then turn into werewolves, attacking them? I'm not sure I can understand their motivation. Why would they help them if they were going to attack them? Why would they attack the when they're obviously going to get themselves killed?

It seems like a very weak plot device to a) give the players a map, b) give the players a disease (a reason for visiting the village priest) and c) give the players a fight.

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