Tobold's Blog
Monday, December 13, 2021
Curse of Strahd - Session 12

In the previous session, the group reached level 9 and arrived at the main attraction of the Curse of Strahd campaign: Castle Ravenloft. Now the original Ravenloft adventure module contained only the village of Barovia and Castle Ravenloft. The new 5E campaign added a lot of other locations to the lands of Barovia, in order to get players to the level where they can face a vampire lord. I understand the idea, but there are obvious flaws in that campaign structure: Curse of Strahd is a relatively open world, sandbox style of game. Castle Ravenloft is a large dungeon crawl, with 88 rooms plus 40 crypts to explore. The styles are very different, and it isn't obvious to change the complete play mode from one to the other.

As a result, the group did something that is rarely seen in a large dungeon adventure: They ignored all the lure of exploration and possible treasure, and instead went for the most efficient way towards their final goal: Beating Count Strahd von Zarovich. This was especially remarkable in the Brazier room:
This room is thirty feet square, rising to a twenty-foot-tall flat ceiling. A stone brazier burns fiercely in the center of the room, but its tall white flame produces no heat. The rim of the brazier is carved with seven cup-shaped indentations spaced evenly around the circumference. Within each indentation is a spherical stone, twice the diameter of a human eyeball and made of a colored crystal. No two stones are the same color.

Overhead, a wood-framed hourglass as tall and wide as a dwarf hangs ten feet above the brazier, suspended from the ceiling by thick iron chains. All the sand is stuck in the upper portion of the hourglass, seemingly unable to run down into the bottom. Written in glowing script on the base of the hourglass is a verse in Common.

Two nine-foot-tall iron statues of knights on horseback, poised to charge with swords drawn, stand in deep alcoves facing each other. The brazier sits between them.
[SPOILER warning] This is actually one of the deadliest rooms in the Castle. Groups might be tempted to try to destroy the brazier, hourglass, or statues. In which case the two statues animate as iron golems, likely to decimate the party. Other parties might end up not touching anything in the room, because it is a bit of a leap of faith to use the brazier. But my group read the inscription on the hourglass, correctly interpreted it, activated the brazier, and teleported straight to Strahd's tomb, where they wanted to go.

After removing the grave earth from Strahd's coffin, thus making it impossible for him to regenerate after dropping to 0 hitpoints, the group left his tomb and went into the large catacombs, the one with the 40 crypts. They looked only at very few of them, before finding a staircase up and deciding they now wanted to go straight for the boss fight. Between the Fortunes of Ravenloft tarot reading having told them where to find Strahd, and their knowledge of the castle from finding the architects model in the Amber Temple, they advanced without delay to the study. They found the secret door, and the second secret door behind the false treasure chamber, and are now right before Strahd's location. So we ended the session there, as boss fights tend to take some time.

Do you think you will run Strahd as written or will you tinker with his spells? Maybe you already answered this in a previous post?

When I played through curse of strahd the first time it was at a game shop and the week we were set to face strahd, like 15 people showed up and there was only one worker to run games that night. We basically just went clockwise around the room poking at him until he was dead. The next week when it was back to our regular group, the dm insisted on a repeat of the encounter.
As the group is quite strong, I’ll use an upgraded version of Strahd, probably.
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