Barovia Goes to the Birds: Curse of Strahd Session #15
By MARK WILSON
DM: A Friend
(Me) Ahk-wa – Female Aarakocra Ranger
Aial – Female Aarakocra Druid
Lhandroval – Male Aarakocra Sorcerer
Gwaihir – Male Aarakocra Bard
System, Setting, Adventure: D&D 5e, Barovia/Ravenloft, Curse of Strahd
Session #15: “Wereakocra”
PC Level: 6
Previously, the bird siblings had annexed the hags from the windmill, stopping their child-killing operation.
We sleep off our battle in Vallaki with our pal Erwin Martokov. Ahk-wa has his wife cook up something good with the chickens she killed and eggs she took from the windmill. Erwin agrees to watch the two children we freed – Freek and Mertyl – temporarily, and points us toward the town of Krezk as a potential long-term sanctuary for them.
But First, **** the Tree
Our earlier random encounter with a druid informed us that the only way to fully kill the super-spooky evil tree on Yester Hill would be to uproot it entirely. Not wanting to leave a task unfinished, we investigate (with shovels we pick up from the winery on our way there). There are druids regrowing the tree at a faster-than-normal rate. We run them off with arrows and cantrips (they lack our range and flight), and spend an entire day digging up the tree. We cross our fingers that it is done with permanently. After, we spend the night at the winery and enjoy the company of the Martokovs.
We fly to Krezk – a small, walled commune with a large Abbey atop a hill at its rear – and have a tense standoff with guards at the gate. It doesn’t come to blows, though, largely thanks to Gwaihir’s diplomacy, and we meet the Burgemeister [sic] of Krezk, who is skeptical of us but willing to hear us out and possible make allies of us. We mention the children, and learn he lost his own family and would be willing to take them in.
We also learn that the Abbey is haunted. Or occupied? I missed this part due to being preoccupied with the next paragraph. In any case, it needs fumigation, so to speak. We agree among ourselves to return to it once we’re good with the Krezk-ians, to make the area safe.
He asks us to prove ourselves, and mentions that a group of werewolves have been hunting them. He wants the head of their leader. Ahk-wa is interested in this sort of hunt, and presses him for details. And we learn the leader’s name: Wolfsteak. Ahk-wa (and Mark) is visibly shook, and her mind goes back to their brief encounter with Wolfsteak, where she thought she had made an ally in a fellow hunter. To ourselves, we agree to speak with Wolfsteak first, if possible.
Ahk-wa excitedly – and nervously – leads the group toward the area where the werewolves stay, and we find them fairly easily. There are two in a cave that we accidentally lead out of the cave when Aial summons an elk at its mouth. Lhandroval flies up and demands that they produce Wolfsteak, and we inform them that we’ve been sent to kill them unless we can come to an agreement with the werewolves. The two (in human form) re-enter the cave, saying he’ll be back soon.
Their word is true, and as Wolfsteak emerges from some nearby woods with a hunting party of wolves and werewolves, we confront him. Ahk-wa hopes that he is not aligned with Strahd, and leads with that, hoping to talk with him. Buuut he is, and we end up fighting almost immediately.
Stunned that she misjudged him so badly, Ahk-wa gets right in Wolfsteak’s face, while Gwaihir finds himself harried as he tries to utilize his Sun Sword. Aial becomes an elk herself, and Lhando tries to collapse the cave mouth, though he ends up helping us near the forest eventually as well with lightning blasts. A large group of wolves and werewolves engage us, and between Aial’s elk form and Gwaihir/Ahk-wa’s tactics, we find ourselves in melee range. All three of us get bit by werewolves (*ominous music plays*).
Some focused attacks kill Wolfsteak, with Ahk-wa slightly disappointed that she doesn’t get the killing blow, and we realize that a full fight would be difficult for us, especially since many raced toward the cave for its protective cover. Ahk-wa cuts off Wolfsteak’s head and we fly out – only barely in Gwaihir’s case as he was rendered unconscious by wolves. Ahk-wa manages to pick him up and fly slowly off, avoiding opportunity attacks via her spellcasting. We fly toward Krezk with our prize…
So our DM is running a slightly altered version of lycanthropy rules, but we don’t know exactly how she’s changing it up, because the secrecy is part of the appeal. What we do know is that she made Con. rolls for each of us in secret, so that we have no idea if we failed or succeeded in beating back the disease/curse. So now, three of us are ticking time bombs of possible lycanthropy.
We were also told that if we fail the Con. save, we can decide to “accept” it or not, and that accepting it can alter alignment, though you can control your transformations. Denying it would cause transformations only on the full moon, with no control over yourself. Scary stuff, and also potentially enticing. Aial’s player stated she would flatly refuse it, and search for a cure if she has it. Gwaihir is torn, because while the character is good-aligned, his player really likes the idea of being a were-bird. And I’m torn as a player (not a huge fan of lycans myself), but as a character, I think Ahk-wa is intrigued. The campaign has been leading her down a darker path for a while, she’s already the only neutral-aligned one in the group, and she’s not warmed to the denizens of Barovia in the same ways that her siblings have.
Ironic that the first fight where I felt compelled by the narrative to be in melee for the duration was against werewolves. But that’s roleplaying.
So there’s a lot of tension in the air after this session, which is great. We’ll see how it turns out.
Best. Spell. Ever.
Early on I praised Zephyr Strike as a wonderfully thematic spell despite being slightly sub-optimal compared to Hunter’s Mark. Scratch that latter part entirely; it’s glorious, period. I’m convinced Gwaihir is alive only because I had that spell to be able to airlift him out (none of us would have survived the ~7 opportunity attacks otherwise, most at advantage from pack tactics). The ability to weave in and out of melee at will is beyond clutch.
And as I level, I’ve been able to chain-cast it on successive rounds. In shorter fights, it’s often > Hunter’s Mark in total damage output, albeit with more spell slots burned. AND it’s cool from a flavor/theme standpoint. I had no idea the role it would play in my character’s tactics, but it’s truly changed how I approach combat, which is ridiculous for a 1st-level spell. I can’t recommend it enough.
Cleansing the Abbey in Krezk to secure it. We may also have to deal with the rest of the werewolves. We have lots of other small threads, but I think we’ve left most of them behind for the moment, so we’ll likely see what other hooks exist for us in Krezk. Oh, and maybe dealing with becoming were-birds.