Tobold's Blog
Wednesday, April 03, 2013
The Favorites of Selune campaign - Ravenloft Session 2

In the previous session the players had arrived in Barovia, a domain in the grim parallel world of Shadowfell. This session starts with the players in the house of the recently murdered burgomaster Kolyan Indirovich, with his son Ismark Kolyanovich and daughter Ireena Kolyana, as well as the village priest Donavich. Donavich is just leaving down the path towards the gate, with Ismark watching him from the porch, when giant bats arrive. Ismark tells the players to guard his sister, while he runs after the priest to protect him. But the bats, and two vampires that also arrive appear to be after Ireena and leave the priest and Ismark alone. So battle begins, centered around the porch and the main entrance.

In the second round of combat the players get attacked from behind by a vampire lord, Count Strahd von Zarovich, the master of the domain of Barovia and Castle Ravenloft, trying to kidnap Ireena. The group's cleric succeeds in a religion-based monster knowledge check with a hard difficulty, and thus I get to tell the players the complete impressive list of Strahd's powers. Strahd is a rather fearsome enemy, with lots of regenerative powers making him nearly impossible to beat. So the heroes pull out all stops and manage to kill the two minor vampires and the bats. Strahd dominates the rogue and deals some serious damage, but then transforms into a mist and flees when all his allies are dead. Although they won the fight, the group is visibly impressed by Strahd, which is how it should be.

During the night there are no further attacks, but the characters have nightmares that leave them with psychological after-effects: I am using the despair deck from the Shadowfell boxed set for added atmosphere. After each extended rest each player draws a card with a despair effect giving him some penalty. Those can be transformed into boons with a saving throw after each milestone (two combat encounters).

The next morning there is the burial of the burgomaster, and the group leaves Ismark and Ireena with the priest Donavich. Then they set out to visit the Vistani camp at Tser Pool. The Vistani are travelers, and the only ones able to cross the mist in and out of Barovia, but they explain that this power only works for themselves, and they can't take anybody with them. But because the group helped some other Vistani in Harkenwold, the Vistani leader Madam Eva is willing to help with advice and a tarot card reading (I bought a deck of tarot cards for that and performed a "reading"). The players learn that they need to kill Strahd to escape from Barovia. The are advised that the way how to beat him can be found in a book in the castle. And they hear of a woman at the heart of the story, who in spite of being dead might be able to help them. Finally they get the hint that once they know how to beat Strahd, they can find him under the sky, behind fire.

They proceed towards the castle, and at the crossing before the castle a black carriage is waiting for them, which takes them through the castle gate and to the main entrance of the central keep. There Igor the butler opens the door for them, wielding a huge spoon like a master of ceremonies baton. Igor tells them that they can find the master and his guests in the dinner hall (from where organ music can be heard, Toccata and Fugue in D minor playing on my iPad), but then rushes off to "stir the goulash" in the kitchen down the stairs from the dinner hall. The players find themselves alone in the hallway of Castle Ravenloft, ready to explore, which we then left for the next session.

While the events leading up to the castle were more or less linear (due to the geography of Barovia), the players now have complete freedom to explore Castle Ravenloft in any order they want. They have some hints from the Tarot reading (wonderful tool for DMs), but only the most basic knowledge of the layout of the castle. And no, they asked, there are no signs above the doors telling them which door leads where. :) The main "risk" of open exploration is that I as DM have no control over the sequence, and thus can't mix combat encounters with roleplaying encounters; they could have sessions with only fights or only roleplaying. We will see how that goes next time.

You sir are giving me wonderful ideas!

I once used a tarot deck to "read" the adventurers fortune and it worked really well. Its an awqesome tool to give information and it adds a dimension to any rpg game.

A must have tool!

Thanks for sharing! I'm reading almost all your post and most of their comments but i really enjoy "The Favorites of Selune" the best.
Haha awesome, having the song playing in the background too would have been very cool. Looking forward to the castle exploration section too! :)
I really like that concept of the hard lore test resulting in substantial revelations.

You ever get tempted to fudge the roll/difficulty in order to give hints if the group is demonstrating an interest?
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