Barovia Goes to the Birds: Curse of Strahd Session #20
“Dinner With the Devil”
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 #20: “Dinner With the Devil”
PC Level: 8
The birds awaken and Ahk-wa gets some cool arrows from the Martokov’s ornery fletcher while the other three discuss the varying levels of sexiness of were-creatures. We then head to Krezk to drop off the wedding dress with the Abbot, with Ezmerelda in tow. There’s a brief RP scene with the Abbot where we try to get him to reveal more about himself, but this is largely fruitless. We also get a promise that he’ll invite us to the “wedding” of Strahd and the bride that the Abbot has fashioned for him. Secretly, we hold no hope of this working, but we’re supportive of his plan.
Onward to Dinner
We then head toward Castle Ravenloft, where Ezmerelda will wait outside in our cart. Along the way, Ahk-wa attempts to initiate some girl-talk with Aial about Aial’s date. It’s awkward, but Aial realizes the good intentions in her sister. Aial tries to encourage Ahk-wa to open her mind, and tells her there is beauty in many different physical forms. Ahk-wa hesitantly tells her she’ll consider this council.
A carriage awaits us some ways from the Castle. All but Aial enter it and it takes us to the castle, which is appropriately spooky and imposing.
There are also gargoyle statues outside. The birds bristle, knowing them to be the ancient enemies of the aarakocra.
The Sound of Organs
Inside, more spooky atmosphere. Lots of flickering torches. Organ music (side note: in my mind, organ music accompanied everything else that happened in this session). Strahd’s dramatic entrance and greeting, along with Gertuda (a girl we failed to track down earlier, and we learn, Strahd’s “dinner” for the night), and two other vampires. There are place settings that match our individual color schemes. Aial deliberately sits in someone else’s spot.
Some conversation, and Strahd tells us he’s done playing with us for his amusement. He tells us to leave Barovia. We accept (lying), saying we need a day or two to say goodbye to friends. He suspects something’s up, but doesn’t act. Heeding Mordenkainen’s warning, we don’t attack him in his castle, despite wanting to save Gertruda. Aial eggs him on pretty thoroughly though, including asking point blank if he’s going to eat Gertruda.
Knowing that one of our prophecies likely leads us into the castle itself, we gain permission to explore it (at our own risk, he says). Strahd departs abruptly and we’re left to explore.
Hey, A Mega-Dungeon!
We get our first real taste of a large, multi-leveled dungeon as we wander about searching for the crypts. We’re not keen on seeing everything, just what we need for our prophecy.
Along the way, we find a few secret rooms, and a room of thousands of bones. Also a couple annoyed servants. We work together to steal a key from one, that goes to an apparent chest somewhere. We also find the skull of a dragon (whose name escapes me) that we recognize from elsewhere. We found his tomb previously, which inferred some boon should we return his bones to it. But the skull is massive. We make tentative plans to try to return the skull later if possible. Lhando’s Mage Hand is put to good use at several points, to help us try to avoid traps and such.
We also avoided ALL the traps. Not because we’re smart. But because we’re birds. We’re all light (hollow bones), so our weight didn’t trigger certain traps. And we flew over one or two. Aarakocra are seriously cheating sometimes.
We encounter a man (Emil) we discover to be a werewolf, trapped in a cage in about five feet of water. Wolfsteak’s rival, and no fan of Strahd (though still technically evil). We release him (twice, since he hilariously triggered a trap upon escape), upon the promise that he will be allied with us against Strahd. Until we find out he’s married, the siblings try to “ship” him with Ahk-wa. She doesn’t seem interested, given the circumstances.
We also find some zombies, and manage to flush them into the same water-filled cages that Emil was in. Great fun, and it avoided combat entirely.
Near the end of the session, we find a series of gems linked to a presumed teleportation chamber, that can send us to various locales in Barovia. Super handy. Pushing on, we believe that we finally find the entrance to the crypts – which are shrouded in mist – and we walk hesitantly into the fog toward our goal…
Our luck isn’t going to hold. But it was pretty funny not triggering anything particularly bad so far. It was a charmed session.
My fellow players seem determined to “ship” Ahk-wa. It’s become their meta-game as they sense both Ahk-wa’s and Mark’s mild annoyance. The DM may be in on it too. The fletcher wasn’t exactly personable, but might have been a possible testing of the water, since he’s a bird-creature and fellow hunter. But we had no meaningful interaction. Either way, it’s all in good fun, but I’m not sure they’ll succeed.
I haven’t read the Strahd book (not wanting spoilers), but will do so once the campaign’s over. It’s heavy on description, which is good…to a point. There’s a lot of repetition and, frankly, probably needless detail occasionally. I’ve heard this complaint about it from elsewhere as well, despite it being one of the best-regarded books in 5e overall (praise that I largely agree with).
But it makes you think about setting a scene. Some repetition isn’t bad, because it sticks in your mind in the way that other details don’t. So I don’t think I’d shy from repeating myself in adventures, but I’d limit it to the most interesting aspects of a setting.
Session 2 of ?? in the castle dungeon.