Curse of Strahd

Curse of Strahd -- Session #1
Dining with Lady Morwen

Fate Calls to New Heroes

Six years have passed since the events which took place in Ghosts of Dragonspear Castle and the impacts made by the famous Dragonslayers are still being felt. Lady Morwen Daggerford has become a famous patron of adventuring parties, funding expeditions across the Delimbiyr Vale and beyond.

Although the PCs have all come to the Delimbiyr Vale and Daggerford for different reasons they were all invited to dine with Lady Morwen.

PC Roll Call

Despair – Tiefling Warlock. Despair is a serious lad who sees the world through a darker lens than most.

Lupa – Human Blood Hunter. Lupa has proven herself quite capable in battle but she is haunted by something which still eludes the party.

Onyx Nightshade – Onyx is a wall of muscle wielding a battleaxe but he has already proven his worth. The damage he has survived would have killed most members of the party.

Radiant Servant Elodin – Servant of Amaunator and a valuable addition to the party. Will the light he shines be enough to save them?

Samial Fabra – An enigma to the party wielding power over the natural world. He is resourceful and multi-talented.

Willy Grinn – His foes just wish he would shut up. Willy’s silver tongue is a powerful weapon in and out of combat.

The Adventure Unfolds

While Lady Morwen entertained her guests with the finest food and drink she could afford she regaled them with tales from her younger days as an adventurer. She has traveled far, seen much of this amazing world, and it is obvious she is playfully envious of those who can still continue to do so. Her reputation as a patron is well known to the PCs and when she presented them with quest there was no surprise among them.

For over a hundred years, the town of Daggerford has been haunted by a blemish and a tale of horror known as the Death House. The house is almost as old as the town itself and was built by the Durst family who hailed from Waterdeep to the north. Over time, the Dursts of Daggerford became more reclusive not only from their family but from the rest of Daggerford as well. Pub talk said the family was dabbling in the dark arts but for years and generations that kind of talk was shouted down. While reclusive, the Dursts were upstanding members of Daggerford and few wanted to think the worst of them.

That is, until the children Rosavalda and Thornbolt Durst disappeared. The children had few friends and when those friends began saying they could not find “Rose” and “Thorn” few thought much of it. A few weeks later passersby began to report they swore they could hear the children yelling from somewhere in the house. Only the Durst’s station kept the town guard from investigating properly. When those voices turned to screams of terror the town guard had no choice but to force the matter. What they found inside the home drove some of them mad.

As it turns out, the rumors surrounding the Durst family were mostly true. The family had begun practicing dark arts and communing with evil spirits the Durst called the “Dark Powers.” They had built a cult around their new masters and had begun recruiting members from the local lords and ladies. This discovery was the beginning of a dark time in Daggerford as the Duke of Daggerford (himself untouched by the cult) began routing the evil doers from his midst. Inside the home, the guard found the remains of numerous human sacrifices and dark entities who assaulted their very senses. The Duke recruited a holy paladin to lead his men and the evil forces were routed from the home, the Durst family executed for their crimes, and the home was abandoned.

Rose and Thorn were never seen again, at least, not as members of the living.

The Durst home came to be known as the Death House and its vile reputation has only grown. Ghostly screams, eery lights, and the occasional disappearance around the house have kept the locals at bay. A few attempts have been made to cleanse or destroy the house but all such attempts have met with disaster. At least two adventuring parties have disappeared inside, never to return, and a third emerged ranting and ravings about the dark things they saw.

Not one to rest on her laurels, Lady Morwen has decided it is finally time to do something about the Death House. She explains that she gathered this particular group of adventurers because she believed they possessed the skills needed to at least uncover the deepest mysteries of the house and destroy them if possible. The PCs, being the blossoming heroes they are, accept Lady Morwen’s task.

As Lady Morwen began to retire for the night, Samial politely pulled her aside to ask about his twin sister, Anarra. His quest to find his sister is what brought him to Daggerford where she had come to lead an expedition for a patron. Lady Morwen admitted she did not know Anarra but added that Delfen Yellowknife was also known to play patron and the quest Samial told her about seemed more like something the old wizard would undertake. Samial thanked her and returned to the party.

At Samial’s request, the party ventured forth to Delfen Yellowknife’s tower near the center of Daggerford but found it empty. An old woman pushing a cart of onions stopped and told them Delfen had not been seen in several months which is not all that odd for him. Unfortunately, she could not tell them anything more about the wizard’s whereabouts and she went on her way. Without knowing when the old magic user would return the party decided to head to the Death House to accomplish their quest.

Death_House.jpg

They found the house easily enough and standing before the home were two small children looking up at the windows. The children were whispering to each other and pointing as the party approached and they didn’t notice the adventurers until they were upon them. Although somewhat timid, the older child introduced themselves as Rose and Thorn. The party recognized the name and readied themselves but the children did not react. They spoke a bit about the home (and one of them opened the door to the home with their prestidigitation magic) until one of the party members reached out for them. Rose’s face grew into a demonic visage, her mouth extending far beyond natural and filled with teeth, and her roar stunned the party. Then the children disappeared.

Not ones to be deterred, they pulled the rusted, screeching iron gate open and moved inside. They stopped in the foyer when they noticed lit oil lamps hung around the room lighting portraits of several generations of the Durst family, including the last to inhabit the home (in the living). The room was strangely free of any kind of debris or decay one might expect in a home which had been abandoned for nearly a hundred years. No cobwebs to be found.

Death_House_-_Level_1.png

Beyond the foyer, they found the main hall, as clean as the foyer outside, with several doors to the east and west (north is to the left on the map above) and a spiral staircase leading to the upper levels of the home. The kitchen and pantry were fully stocked and in the dining room, they found a hot meal waiting for them. Only Onyx and Willy were brave enough to try the food but it was flavorless and provided no satisfaction (but they ate it, mwuhahahaha). The door on the west wall led to a hunter’s den (in which they found some crossbows and bolts in a locked cabinet). Samial insisted on a thorough check of the first floor while Lupa began to sneak up to the second level. Although the druid did not find anything significant, he did notice that if he looked closer at the woodwork in the home he could find sinister images hidden within the carvings.

Death_House_-_Level_2.png

Lupa pressed ahead to the second level of the home and was joined shortly after by Samial and the rest of the party. This floor was also pristine and well list like the one below. On the west side of the home, they found a conservatory with a harpsichord and harp. The room was decorated with fine, crystal chandeliers and stain glassed windows depicting children playing. On the east side of the second floor, they found servants quarters and a library filled with shelves of books and a finely crafted desk covered with interesting baubles. However, what drew Lupa’s attention was a painting above the fireplace depicting a lighthouse on a cliff with a forest behind it. Although she could not place the memory, she swore she had been to that location and had seen that lighthouse before. She and Samial mulled over the subject for a bit before pressing on. Among the books, they found tomes on history, warfare, alchemy, and several first editions of poetry and fiction. Samial also stumbled upon a release for a secret door in he southeast corner of the room.

Behind the secret door was a 5’ by 15’ chamber containing additional bookshelves and a heavy wooden chest with the corpse of an adventurer hanging out of it. The books on the shelves detailed fiend-summoning rituals and the necromantic rituals of a cult called the Priests of Osybus. Examing the corpse, they found four darts sticking out of his body, a trap which served its purpose long ago. Nonetheless, Samial was careful to open the chest the rest of the way with his staff while everyone was clear. As the corpse fell away from the chest a letter fell from its hand but no one retrieved it.

Inside the chest, they found three blank books with black leather covers which looked like they would be worth a good bit of coin (25 gp each). They also found three spell scrolls (bless, protection from poison, and spiritual weapon), the deed to the house, the deed to the windmill depicted in the painting outside, and a signed will. The deed to the windmill indicated it was situated in the mountains east of a place called Vallaki but no one knew where that was. The will left both deeds and all Durst property to Rosavalda and Thornboldt Durst.

A haunting scream ripped through the house drawing the party’s attention, and Despair continued up the spiral stairs to the third floor to investigate.

Death_House_-_Level_3.png

The spiral staircase ended on the third floor and Despair found a smaller landed decorated with a single suit of black platemail armor. Unlike the lower two floors, no lamps were lit here and the landing was covered in cobwebs and debris. Whatever was keeping the lower levels clean had shown no such care for the third level of the home. As Despair moved to explore further, the helmet of the armor looked up at him and it dropped from its perch!

Roll for initiative!

Despair called out for help and steeled himself for the assault of the animated armor. Onyx quickly joined him but not before the armor smashed its gauntlet into Despair’s face knocking him to 1 hp with a single blow. From the stairs, Elodin cast a healing spell on Despair while the rest of the party tried to distract the armor. They quickly surrounded it and the armor tried several times to grab Onyx while suffering blow after blow (except by Samial, whose dice were not fond of him).

Throughout the fight, Willy continued to make the most of his Vicious Mockery cantrip and kept the animated armor at a disadvantage. The animated object had little hope of beating his DC and spent much of the battle attacking with Disadvantage.

Finally, the armor turned its attention back to a softer target and grabbed Despair by the collar and bull rushed him off the balcony. The pair fell 10’ to the stairs below and Despair was knocked unconscious. Then the armor rolled off the warlock and fell an additional 10’ to the first floor, taking significant damage along the way.

Onyx did not want to waste time reaching the armor before it recovered and he launched himself off the stairs, but his foot caught part of the broken banister. The barbarian fell 20’ and landed on the armor below (causing damage to both of them). Had that fall happened to anyone else in the party they would have died but the Onyx is a stalwart fellow. Lupa followed him with a bit more grace and managed to successfully drop to the first floor to attack the armor.

Samial rushed to cast a healing spell on Onyx which enabled him to get back in the fight and assist Lupa with the armor while Elodin rushed to Despair to stabilize him. After several massive blows, Onyx and Lupa managed to destroy what was left of the armor and its crumbled into pieces on the ground.

Although bruised and battered, the party decided not to rest. The idea of resting inside a haunted home was not an appealing one so they pressed on.

On the east side of the house, they found a bathroom and master suite. Although the master suite provided them no additional clues about the mysteries of Death House they did find an ornate, silver jewelry box (75 gp) with three gold rings (25 gp each), and a platinum necklace with a topaz pendant (750 gp).

On the west side of the house, they found what appeared to be a nursemaid’s suite but they did not have much time to explore before the specter of the nursemaid made her presence known. When Onyx opened one of the doors in the suite the specter launched herself through him. While she did cause him harm, the barbarian was able to resist her Life Drain ability. Did I mention how stalwart that fellow is? Although the specter landed several attacks on the barbarian which nearly killed him, she was not able to drain his life from him.

The party tried to surround the specter but she was ephemeral and continued to pass through them as she pleased. Elodin, Samial, and Despair unleashed their magic on the spirit (Sacred Flames, Thorn Whip, and Eldritch Blast respectively) while Lupa and Onyx maneuvered around it. Willy let his silver tongue (Vicious Mockery again) let him do his work for him. Onyx called upon his rage and revealed his shifter nature to the party to provide him the strength to finish off the specter, but he dropped unconscious just after the specter was destroyed. Before anyone could stabilize him, the barbarian woke himself up (rolled a 20 on his second death saving throw).

Bloody, exhausted, and drained of much of their resources the party decided to finally take a moment to rest before they continued. Thus ended the first session of Curse of Strahd.

DM Wrap Up

Although the party has not reached its first milestone yet they have definitely overcome some significant challenges and collected from treasure for their troubles. They have already learned much about the Durst family but more remains to be seen.

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The Haunted Cabin in the Woods on a Hill: Part I
From the Renown Bardic Adventurer Willy Grinn

Today I began the most extraordinary quest with the most eclectic group of adventurers! It is nearly impossible to contain my excitement over this most prestigious undertaking as it has thus far been filled with drama, intrigue, comedy… and the day has yet to finish! I am taking a moment to reflect upon the events thus far and to write them down in my newly acquired journal so that I’ll have an accurate account for when I recite this most glorious adventure upon our return.

At present, we have boarded ourselves up on the third floor inside a guest bedroom of a most sinister and haunted mansion. Even as I write recapping, (with the group nearly napping), I can hear this tapping – as if someone were gently rapping, rapping at the chamber door. Yet perhaps it’s just the slapping, of mine own foot tapping, tapping on the chamber floor. But let’s not recount the musings of the here and now without first starting from the very beginning – as it’s a very good place to start.

You see, a few days prior I received a * personal * invitation to the great Lady Morrowind’s office to attend the most elegant of hero receptions. Of course, I was delighted to see that my reputation had preceded me all the way to the Mayor of Daggerford, even if she had misspelled my name – I mean, m’s and n’s are right next to each other in the alphabet, so it’s completely understandable. So just like that, with the arrival of the letter came the departure of yours truly from Waterdeep, for there was nothing in the world that would keep me from attending this most elegant of dinners… in front of the most glorious of adventurers… except for maybe the guards.

It appears there was some confusion as to whether or not I was on the guest list. I had to show them my * personal * letter and explain the confusion over the misspelling before I was granted entry. They were apparently expecting someone with a little more “renown” and “experience” in journaling and storytelling the “realities” of life. Thankfully by using a carefully crafted colloquy of opposing opulent orations, I was able to convince them that I was indeed a bard of a certain caliber, and they were indeed in need of one such bard of a certain caliber, and that I was free indeed to fill that need for a bard of a certain caliber… in short as we say in the business… the show must go on.

I soon met up with the courageous group of adventurers that I would be accompanying on this most daring of quests… that is… except for one. I never did get his name, but as the Lady Morrowind explained the nature of our mission with the Durst family’s Death house – I could see the color slowly draining from his face until he was visibly shaken by the time we were ready to leave. I don’t think I even heard him speak once. To me… this all sounded quite fascinating and I have to admit, the journey has not disappointed yet! So there we were… the finest group of adventurers to ever leave for the Durst house: Lupa – quite a daring and intense lady, Despair – a rather brooding magical fellow, Onyx – quite the ferocious beef N’ board, Elodin – a rather holy looking man, Samial – an ominous lad with a background as mysterious as his entrance was, and of course… yours truly.

As we made our way to the haunted cabin in the woods on a hill, I noticed two children standing in front of the house. They appeared to be conversing over the nature of this sinister domicile, so I approached and inquired about said nature in order to get a deeper understanding of what makes this abode so frightening. Needless to say my line of questioning got quite the reaction from the two as the older sister dropped her maw to the ground, quite literally I might add. The two were apparently some sort of apparitions of the late Thornboldt and Rosavalda (the children of this massive dwelling that went missing quite a while ago). I was quite delighted when I saw them disappear right before my very eyes, but not before Rosavalda mentioned something to the effect of “This may be fun after all…” Oh how I do love a good cliff hanger!

We entered the residence and found the surroundings to be dreadfully… horrifyingly… and shockingly… clean. I mean the place was immaculate. We searched the entire ground floor and found some crossbows in a cabinet and quite the dapper top hat in a closet (which of course I procured for future use). The second floor was far more disturbing than the first. It was remarkably unremarkable. That is, until Samial came over with some goodies he apparently found in some secret chest. I wish I was there to witness the master sleuthing, but the spoils were just as nice. In fact, this very book was one of the finds Samial procured from the treasure… along with two other books, some scrolls, and some deeds.

I think it may have been at this moment that I realized Despair was beginning to wander up the stairs again. I followed a little behind and crested the floor (barely) just in time to see Despair start playing with a statue! I do have to admit, I never so armor like that move on its own before. And it sure was putting a hurting on Despair, so I decided to try to distract it with some special abilities I picked up over the years. You see when performing in the many wonderful places I have been, there are always those who don’t appreciate the art as much as others and try to heckle the performance. Needless, to say I may have sharpened my tongue with some quick wit quips of my own.

It was amazing to see how effective mockery can be in battle! The suit of armor kept missing with its attacks while the rest of the party came in to help Despair put an end to the menace. The armor was bashing Despair to within an inch of his life. It was quite the spectacle! He had to receive some healing from Elodin, while Lupa and Onyx slashed and bashed. It was so inspiring to see this level of team work from them that I myself had to send some words of encouragement to them – giving them some of my patented bardic inspiration. I’m sure it was a help for them in battle. Poor Samial sure was trying to help, but he just kept missing. I couldn’t help but let my lyrical mind roam free and penned my first short poem of the adventure… Samial, that Samial. He may be friend, but he don’t fight so well. Note to self – next time I will have to try inspiring Samial instead mocking him. Some people just can’t take a joke, but I should probably save such comments for the enemies.

Turning my attention back to the construct, I saw it grab Despair and bull rush him right over the banister railing. There was a loud bang as the armor crashed on top of Despair and continued falling to the ground floor. The spectacle might have been hilarious if Despair weren’t knocked unconscious. OK, who am I kidding… it was just the beginning of this comedy of errors. Onyx apparently thought the jump looked like fun and decided to follow the armor down as well. And by following him… I mean literally. You see he tripped as he tried to jump and went careening down to the ground floor in a crumpled mess. Amazingly, the beast – meaning our resident beef ’n board – survived the tumble to carry on the fight. That guy is quite the brute! Meanwhile, Lupa wasn’t swayed or deterred by the previous blunders and nimbly jumped her way down to the ground floor to continue the battle.

When all was said and done, the group managed to subdue the armor with a few scrapes and bruises. So we regrouped and went back to the third floor. Upon stepping foot on the third floor this time, I realized that it was nowhere near as clean as the first two floors. In fact, it was a hot mess. There was dirt and grime everywhere. We did find some trinkets in the master bedroom, but we found a lot more in the guest bedroom! A specter. A real live… well dead specter came out of the closet and began to attack us! Onyx of course was paramount to the fight, taking a good number of the blows from the ghostly figure, while the group continued to bombard it with damage. However, the real surprise came when Onyx recovered from being knocked down (for a second time)… He shifted right before my eyes! He grew a snout, his hair elongated and he got significantly more fierce (as if he wasn’t already fierce enough). I had no idea the group had such talent! And apparently, neither did Lupa… for when the fight was over (and Onyx was knocked down again), Lupa crossed her weapons across Onyx’s throat with a line of questioning that has yet to be resolved as I write this. Oh the suspense is killing me! Will he survive the haunted mansion only to be done in by someone in his own group?!? Stay tuned for part two!

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The Haunted Cabin in the Woods on a Hill: Part II
From the Renown Bardic Adventurer Willy Grinn

So, it turns out Onyx was not meant to die at the hands of Lupa the Blood Hunter after all. If anything, maybe Lupa felt a wee bit of sadness at the unfolding back story of Onyx the Barbarian. But then again, the loathing never did seem to leave her face… even after Onyx wove the tale of how he was born into his shape shifting ability… how his lineage had been bred into the curse… how his family had long suffered enslavement due to this curse… and even how he now longs to reap vengeance on those who forced his family into the chains of his heritage.

[On a side note, maybe I should get the rights to Onyx’s story now and see how his part in this journey pans out. It could make for a fantastic story in its own right!]

Well in any case, we took a nice long rest while continuing to rummage around the bedroom. I did manage to find a treasure chest in the side antechamber. I was about to open it when I remembered the not so well-known tale of Stevil the Sly and how he died from a heart attack induced by some potent poisons positioned precariously in a precisely locked stocked box. Clearly, he should have checked for traps first… which is exactly what I did… and guess what I found? A TRAP! There was actually a trap! It was magnificent. Here we were in a haunted mansion and the treasure chest actually had a trap! Well, I made quick work of the triggering device and was even able to harness the poison dart for potential use later. Despair mentioned something about my being a “small arms” dealer. The pun wasn’t lost on me… In fact, I may have to use that one in a future narration… I mean who knew he even had it in him? Inside the chest were some valuable Potions of Healing (which will no doubt come in handy later) and a curious note from a certain sister of a certain member in our party… I’m sure you’ve guessed it… None other than Sam-i-al. Apparently, he has an interesting backstory too and has been looking for his sister who went missing and previously came by this way. I may need to think about securing his story rights as well.

In any case, upon further searching around the room, we came across a secret door leading to the attic. This was probably the secret passage that Samial’s sister mentioned in her note. We made our way to the attic and found ourselves in a horribly dingy, grimy, and horridly stuffy floor. The boards were creaking with every step and the rest of the party was being awfully wary with each step they made. The surface seemed perfectly stable to me, so I had no problem running around and checking out all of the rooms.

The first one had a massive padlock on it. We left it alone and figured we might find a key in another room. The next one however was truly creepy… there were white covers over all the furniture and yes – even over body mannequins. It gave the room quite the eerie feel. Needless to say, our search turned up a trunk which apparently held the remains of the nurse maid ghost we fought down below. Elodin was kind enough to say a prayer over her remains. Hopefully she’ll be able to rest in peace now. We looked into the two other open rooms, but didn’t find much of anything.

Well, except for a letter written to me from my dad. I have to admit, I was surprised that he had the wherewithal to know I, myself would be venturing in his footsteps. I mean I had no idea he had traveled all the way to this very haunted mansion that I now found myself. I mean I knew he was a wanderer. Yeah, a wanderer. He’d roam around and around and around and around… well, that doesn’t matter right now. What does matter is that he was here at some point and never told me about it! I guess he just wanted me to experience my first haunted house on my own and not through him. I’ll have to remember to thank him… and yell at him.

Well, since no key was found, we opted to let Onyx use his universal lock pick. Sure enough… his battleaxe worked like a charm. We entered what looked to be the old bedroom of poor Rosavalda and Thornboldt. They even appeared again over what looked to be their very own bones. Elodin again said a prayer, although they did not seem to be all that impressed. We did find out from them that there was some bit of nastiness that was in their basement. We also noted that there was a perfect replica of the house here in this room. After spending some time observing the doll house, we found there was another secret door in the spooky room. This passage led down down down into the dark recesses of the basement.

It was dark, so I managed to light our way by casting a well-known cantrip on Lupa’s axe. IT came in handy as we explored the tombs of the family. We walked along and came across a particularly dark part of the basement that seemed to absorb the light. Upon further inspection a Shadow Imbued Glick appeared with tentacles spouting from its head like an octopus! I mean I had only heard about them in stories, but here before us was a real live one! Of course, the stories made them seem much scarier because we were able to quickly dispatch him. I’ll have to remember to personally update those stories about that creature at home.

We continued our exploration and found some cult-like bedrooms with a few minor treasures in and about. I think the weirdest part was these past-time cultists held their coins in pouches of human skin! It was quite disgusting actually. I did pick up a silver sword however and a rather neat looking eye-patch that I was able to add to my costume repertoire (right next to that dapper top hat).

Rounding a corner and performing some separate searches, we uncovered two decrepit looking creatures and a gate that sprang to life in the form of a man-eating treasure chest! We focused our attention on the toothed chest as Elodin ran into the room and shown his holy symbol with all its glory. It was enough to freeze the ghasts right in their tracks while the rest of the party took care of the other creature.

-Note to self… Come up with some new material. Your insults were a little flat here and practically non-existent. If you’re not up for performing, then get off the stage!-

In any case, as we turned our attention back to the creepers, we found that Elodin’s holy symbol might have also had an effect on us, since we all seemed to have trouble hitting those shamblers. But time is all it takes for any good beating and the same held true here.

We decided to take a short rest after the fight and continued into the next room. Here we found a statue holding an orb and after searching the area we found yet another secret door. I tell you, this place is truly amazing! We decided to head into the passageway, but not before of course grabbing the orb. That’s when things got interesting. As I touched the orb, we noticed the room got noticeably darker as 5 shadowy figures appeared. Maybe this wasn’t such a good idea…

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The Haunted Cabin in the Woods on a Hill: Part 3
Now With More Half-Elf!

Sensing the power within Radiant Servant Elodin, the shadows leaped at the cleric and delivered unto him an unholy beatdown. Before anyone who could help him, he was beaten into unconsciousness.

The room erupted into chaos as the party tried to break up the shadows to create some kind of tactical advantage. Unfortunately, their weapons did little to harm the creatures and several of them found themselves close to fallen alongside Elodin. Calling upon his dark powers, Despair unleashed a blast of necromantic energy that engulfed the party and their shadowy attackers. He did not know the shadows would be immune to that particular power while his allies were not. Lupa was knocked unconscious and several others were nearly so as well.

It was at this moment the party was joined by Terra Lynn, a half elf rogue who had been sent into Death House to find them. She would tell her story to the party but not before she added her blades to their defense. With some quick healing and Terra’s aid, the party turned the tide against the shadowy monsters and destroyed them.

While they recovered, everyone introduced themselves. It seems Terra was sent by Lady Morwen Daggerford with another party to find this one because they had been inside Death House for several weeks. The party exclaimed they had been inside the house a day or less and Terra explained to them that time worked strangely in this haunted place. The house had killed or driven mad most of her party and she was captured by a shadowy cultist and held a prisoner in a cell on a lower level for several weeks. She had finally managed to escape and was looking for her friend, Asher, when she stumbled into the battle.

With some questions left unanswered, the party decided to press on to explore the lower level Terra had mentioned. She guided them down to the cells where she was held and they uncovered a large room she had not seen before. Inside was a large, stone altar covered with blood stains standing in the middle of a pool with raised platforms around the outside of the room. The west side of the room had collapsed in and a refuse pile had been started there.

Shambling_Mound.png

Despair announced he had a plan and made his way out to the altar. He then proceeded to urinate on the altar. A portcullis dropped to block the exit and then it got bad.

DM’s Note: This is a nasty habit for this player. I might ask his wife to shoot him with a nerf gun the next time he suggests it.

Shadowy cultists appeared around the room and began to chant, “One must be sacrificed!”

The party refused to give in to such a ludicrous demand and as they moved to leave the pile of refuse burst to life, revealing itself to be a shambling mound.

The party quickly surrounded the massive, smelly beast and paid the price for it. Samial Fabra transformed into a large, predatory cat and leaped onto the mound, raking it harshly with his claws. He then leaped back to his perch on the stone steps. The mound turned on him and smashed him with both fists knowing him unconscious. Onyx, Lupa, and Terra tightened the circle around the beast while Elodin and Willy attacked (and insulted) it from afar. Bits and pieces of the creature flew off in every direction but they could not drop it before it turned on Terra and nearly knocked her unconscious with its fists as well. It would have finished the job but Onyx and Lupa landed mighty blows, drawing its ire. The party continued to hack away until finally the shambling mound fell and shambled no more. The shadowy cultists faded into the darkness.

The party recovered and found the mechanism to open the portcullis had been damaged. Samial transformed into a rodent, climbed inside the works, and forced the portcullis to open.

Escaping the room, they found the house had taken a disliking to them. Terrifying noises began to fill the halls of the dungeon and doors transformed into bladed death traps. The group insisted they needed to retrieve the body of the children and lay them to rest. They climbed back up to the attic and used sheets from the room with the antiques to gum up the blade traps so they could pass safely into the children’s room. Unfortunately, they found the remains were no longer there (if they had ever been there at all).

DM’s Note: Props to the group for trying to keep their vow. Death House may be cruel but I give you credit for taking this risk for the good of the children’s spirits. It will be repaid before the campaign is over.

Samial used his entangling vine spell to gum up several more sets of doors but they were forced to brave the final door themselves. Each of them leaped through one at a time and although some of them suffered grievous wounds, they all survived. The doors to Death House slammed themselves shut.

They quickly discovered they were no longer in Daggerford but had somehow been transported somewhere else. They stood on a well-traveled road leading west into a heavily forested valley and east into a thick, ominous fog. They decided to avoid the fog and head west to see if they could find shelter. After several hours of walking, they stopped for the night to camp and get what rest they could.

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Elodin's Dream

Sometimes I can still hear the screams. In the dead of night, when the radiant glory of Amaunator’s face has turned from the realm and the denizens of darkness hold sway, the terrible memory haunts me still.

I am just a child of seven (or eight perhaps, I am not sure) and the caravan has stopped for the night on a wild, remote section of the trade route between Scornubel and Baldur’s Gate. I play with the other children as the adults inspect the horses and prepare camp. Suddenly, I feel something, a growing sense of unease and impending doom. I hardly have a chance to process the strange sensation when a wall of flame, 20’ high, erupts from the ground, encircling the camp. This is when the screaming begins, screams of terror that increase as a huge, winged humaniod entity falls from the sky and lands near the center of the ring of caravan wagons, no more than fifteen feet from where I stand. I catch a glimpse of its dragon-like wings, horned head, and smoldering eyes, and as it raises a terrible flaming whip high into the air, the terror fully grips me and I clap my hands over my eyes. The whip cracks, I feel an explosion of heat and fire, and the screams of terror become screams of pain and agony. Men, women, children, beg for mercy in the face of relentless slaughter, their voices at times drowned out by cruel laughter and speech in a tongue so dark and hideous it seems to eminate from the depths of the Abyss itself. I stand alone admidst the carnage, surrounded by death and frozen in terror. Desperate for the nightmare to end, I cry out for my mother and father, but they do not answer. The only responses I receive are more screams.

Eventually, after what seems like an eternity, the screams cease. I begin to wonder if it has gone, if the nightmare is finally over, but I am too frightened to open my eyes. It matters not. I feel it approach, the heat from its body growing in intensity as it draws near. Its stench, a sickening mixture of burning blood and sulfur, is overwhelming. As it comes to a stop several feet in front of me, it speaks, and I am shocked as I realize that I can now understand the words:

“Hello, little worm. Did I hear you call for your Mommy and Daddy? Well, I brought them to you. Open your eyes and see.”

My heart leaps at the thought of my parents, and I allow myself to consider that they might have been spared. Slowly, I open my eyes. And I see them. I see their scorched, severed heads, faces frozen in silent screams of agony and fear, held aloft by the demon. Tears blur my vision and I scream at the beast in anger and despair. Howling with laughter, it raises the fire whip above its head, and I drop to my knees and close my eyes in anticipation of the killing blow. I hear the hiss of the whip as it rips through the air toward me…and then…CRACK. Instead of the enveloping darkness of death, I feel an explosion of pain as the barbed end draws across my face, searing a swath of flesh from my left temple to the right side of my jaw. My mouth opens in a silent scream, the pain far beyond my ability to handle or comprehend. I fall backward and the whip cracks once, twice, and a third time, tearing into my chest, abdomen, and right leg. The agony is unbearable, and darkness begins to overtake my vision as the demon speaks:

“Thought I’d give you something to remember me by, worm.” It leans in closer, its voice a low, menacing growl: “Don’t worry, we will meet again.”

I see no more.

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A Time to Despair
The backstory!

“You thought you could betray ME?!” The Old One, a Being Who Should Not Exist, screams in outrage at the slight figure standing before him. “I gave you my power through the Pact. I GAVE you the power to fulfill your lifes mission. Many have felt your vile touch and ended up exactly as you desire! HOW DARE YOU REFUSE TO UPHOLD YOUR END OF OUR BARGAIN!!!”

The small figure smiles defiantly up at his ‘benefactor’. “Our bargain was your power for my soul. Your power has been granted and my soul is forfeit BUT your end of the bargain is not complete.” He takes a low, mocking bow. His next words drip with venom. “My lord.”
“The bargain was for your power until I can fill the world with my namesake! Many suffer but not nearly enough! Not even by half! I say it is YOU who is trying to betray our bargain!” Crimson eyes flash in a brilliant display of rage and power.

The Old One glares angrily down at the young tiefling and tries to find flaw in his logic but cannot. He is indeed trying to take the soul of this powerful yet headstrong warlock. But he will not admit defeat nor admit he was trying to cheat. So he took it upon himself to alter the situation in his favor. He became fixated on erasing this foolish mortal from existence. Drawing forth the entirety of his incredible power, the Old One unleashed a wave of force with a singular purpose. To destroy all it touches. This included the forest around them, the countless numbers of creatures within and most importanly the annoyingly smug warlock Despair.

But before that destructive wave could harm a single cell of anything within its range the world shifted. All color drained from the sky, the leaves, the creatures and even the power unleashed from the Old One. All became motionless, stopped in the moment. All save for the Old One and Despair. And one other.

“I think that will be QUITE enough out of the two of you!” Chronos bellowed as he stepped forth through a rift in time. “I absolutely despise stopping time like this but you’ve left me with no other alternative. Do you know how much energy this takes?! The only larger drain on my power came from a group of fools traveling backwards in time to try and rewrite history!” The powerful figure of the Lord of Time stopped in the direct center between the Old One and Despair. He turned his fury first to the Old One.

“This is your SECOND warning in as many aeons! You can’t simply destroy an entire ecosystem because of the irritation caused by a mortal! Any further infractions will result in erasure!”

The Old One’s head shifted forward. Not quite a bow but more of a sad, sulking measure. “What’s the use of all this power if I can’t destroy the things that irritate me?”

Chronos shook his head and waved his hand in a negligent manner. “You can destroy your irritants, by all means! Just KEEP the destruction to what is irritating you! No more mass destruction unless brought about by prophesy!”

“Yes Lord Chronos.” the Old One intoned sadly. As he turned away and began sliding back to his own plane of existence a lowly muttered “Asshole.” could be heard faintly before he disappeared altogether.

Chronos finally turned to face Despair who had been watching the Old One get torn a new orifice with the greatest amusement. “Wipe that smile off your face, insect!” Despair’s face melted from amusement to glaring hatred.

“I am no in…” “SILENCE! You continue to exist ONLY because I did not want to listen to this Plane’s protector file a complaint! I’ve been keeping my eye on what you’ve been doing with this power.” Chronos held up a hand to stop the protest he knew was coming. “Yes, yes. I know. ‘I am Despair. My goal in life is to spread my namesake to the world that shunned me simply for existing.’ I am WELL aware of your intentions, your reasons. I even don’t begrudge you your desire either. You mortals, who live so briefly yet so fiercely, are free to live your lives as you see fit. No. What I have been watching is HOW you’ve been doing it. Using the power granted from the Old One to twist the minds of those around you into doing things they should not do and only freeing their minds when the task is complete so they can live the rest of their lives in utter misery at doing precisely what they would never do.”

At this point Chronos paused to take a breath from his tirade and gave Despair some time to speak. However limited that time would be depended on how Despair answered. “I used magic to charm those heartless bastards, yes. I cannot nor will I deny it. I’m proud of it. BUT! I did not twist any minds. Every person charmed. Every person who did such unspeakable acts. Did so because the desire to do it was within them in the first place! A husband’s desire to remove his family from the picture so he could have the woman that wanted nothing to do with him when she found he was married. A child’s desire to kill their friend so they can have that coveted toy. All we mortals possess darkness. I simply help them draw it out!”

Chronos looks thoughtfully down at Despair, stroking a beard that seems to eternally shift from the coarse black bristles of youth to the gray wispy strands of old age. “You have a point, warlock. All you mortals do in fact possess darkness. But few act on it. And those majority that do not, do not for a reason you have failed to pick up on. All mortals ALSO possess light within them. That husband wouldn’t have ever acted on his desire because his desire was fleeting. That woman completed his soul. His children gave him reason to lead a good life to set an example for his legacy. That child would never have acted on the impulse to kill his friend because he knew his friend was always willing to share his toys with his friend. You see only the darkness, Despair. Because you have blinded yourself to the light.”

Stormy gray eyes bore into the mortal before him. “Very well. I WAS going to destroy you utterly for your actions but I will not, now. I will give you a chance. This moment and all before it will be forgotten by you. By even your very body. I will turn back the clock for you and you alone. Your body will de-age to the point before your magical studies led you to forming a pact with the Old One. You will forget all spells and all powers granted by him. You will forget all time from that moment until now. All moments save for the knowledge that you became a warlock. The knowledge that you wished to fill the world with despair. And the knowledge that something profound has changed. And this shall all happen.”

NOW!” Despair shouts as he wakes from his dream. “Bloody nightmares! Always shocking you awake and leaving you with a feeling of dread but no recollection of what the damn thing was about!” The sound of crunching paper turns his crimson gaze to what is held in his hand. Unfurling the length of parchment he begins to read. “An invitation from….Lady Morwen? To her estate in Daggerford? What in the planes is a ‘death house’?” After some brooding over what to do and taking some time to shake off the remaining feeling of dread from that dream, a small smile tugged at his sinuous lips. “Maybe these folks need a little despair in their lives. And Despair is only to happy to provide!”

As he exits a house he cannot for the life of him remember living in, he utters in a voice dripping with venom words he doesn’t remember uttering a thousand times before. “I just hope there aren’t any bloody halflings!”

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