Barovia Goes to the Birds: Curse of Strahd Session #28
“Out With a Bang”
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 #28: “Out With a Bang”
PC Level: 10
Previously, the bird siblings had resurrected their father, reincarnated Ireena then reunited her with Sergei, and were prepped to visit Strahd in his castle to finally take him out.
Discussions With Wolves
But first, we get a couple dire wolves on a random encounter chart and Aial decides to chat with them (burning a spell slot) and try to bring them over to Team Us. This is amusingly unsuccessful, and her conversation meanders as she overshares our plan to kill Strahd. The other siblings begin to usher her away from the conversation as she tells the homicidal wolves to have a nice day.
Dance With the Devil
Aial casts Locate Creature and we identify Strahd’s whereabouts, inside a small chamber which – we later learn – has a separate magical tower inside of it (with loot!). We proceed without stealth, find Strahd, and engage him (along with a couple plate-armored vampire minions and spectres summoned from Lair Actions).
Aial and Lhando quaff potions of invulnerability beforehand, and Aial turns into her Air Elemental form.
It doesn’t start off spectacularly well, with Strahd charming Lhandroval, who – because of his power lust – may actually be convinced to turn against us. He protects Strahd for a bit with Force Wall before eventually breaking free of Strahd’s charm effect. But not before being promised a glorious spot alongside Strahd as ruler of Barovia…a promise that definitely appeals to Lhando even after the Charm is broken, due to his power-hungry curse.
Realizing that he could be charmed again, but wanting the kingdom of Barovia for himself and not wanting to turn against his siblings, Lhando realizes that Strahd needs to be dealt with quickly.
So he breaks his Staff of Power.
Mechanical note: the Staff can do a TON of damage when this happens. Like, insta-permanent-death levels of damage even for lvl 10 characters. Everyone but Aial is somewhere in the blast radius. We all brace for some scary math and saving throws. There’s also a chance that Lhando will plane shift. He rolls and does, but there are rules against this in Barovia, so he stays and has to roll against his own damage, at the epicenter of the explosion.
Almost impossibly, it goes exactly right. Lhando makes his save and has the potion of invulnerability, taking 240 damage down to a “this will knock me out but not quite kill me” 60 damage. Gwaihir is just far enough away that the base damage is 120, and he makes his save, similarly averting insta-death but being knocked unconscious (a failed save would have been death). Ahk-wa is another order of magnitude away from the blast radius and makes her save; she remains up but badly wounded.
Mordenkainen…dies. But is revived moments later by Gwaihir’s Revivify.
And Strahd, having taken a bit of damage previously, just barely dies. In the sunlight of Gwaihir’s sword, he can’t make an escape, and is gone forever.
We pick up the pieces with some healing, shocked and damaged, but alive.
We get some exposition about Strahd’s death and the land being bathed in sunlight. Ahk-wa goes on a joy-flight while the others sit on one of the castle’s parapets, admiring the victory.
Then we loot the magic tower, which has all kinds of money and magic items. One of the brothers ends up with a Helm of Brilliance (Lhando probably). Aial gets a Alchemy Jug. Ahk-wa ends up with a +2 shield and – finally (probably from DM generosity, not actually written in the book) – a +1, magical bow.
We can’t hold all our spoils, so we take what we can and leave the castle, victorious over Strahd…
Breaking the staff was such a baller RP decision. How many players give up a massively powerful item, risk the death of themselves and their party, because it was absolutely the right character decision? Lhando’s player took the DM aside to discuss it beforehand, but everyone was on board with it, including those of us who heard the damage amount and assumed we were all dead. Seriously, someone (I forget who) rightly exclaimed “I can’t believe none of us died there” after it was over.
Frankly, the fight was never in a ton of doubt otherwise. We had Strahd lapped in power, even if he had managed to turn Lhando against us for any length of time. A more conservative fight strategy would have been fine. But this felt satisfying.
We don’t technically have a Session #29. But we’re meeting at a bar next week during our normal time to debrief the campaign and close up whatever loose ends remain. But all through conversation, not with dice.
I’ll likely include that as a brief “session writeup” along with a campaign retrospective in a week or two. And I think the campaign debrief is a cool concept. A “Session Omega,” if you will.
IRL bar meetup, then 2-3 weeks of break before the next campaign.