Barovia Goes to the Birds: Curse of Strahd Session #4
“The Wizarding World of Barovia”
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
PC Level: 3
Previously, the group had just escaped the cursed “Death House” and entered the village of Barovia.
We all altered our feather ornamentation and coloring slightly to match our Scooby-Doo characters, which has become a thing. I’m Velma, so my feathers are a brownish-orange. Unfortunately, this also means we are obligated to split the party at some point to investigate a mystery, then come back together before forming a zany plan to catch the villain.
The Fates in Bloodvines
We hear some annoyingly loud crying and beat on the door of the boarded-up house from which it comes. No response. Not our problem, so we head to the tavern.
A blonde guy makes eye contact with the men-birds and introduces himself as Ismark. He buys us food and wine. We later find out he’s the son of the Burgameister (hereafter known as Master of Burgers) who wrote one of the two letters we discovered. Ismark confirms that it’s his father’s handwriting on one. And confirms the other as Strahd having lured us here. His sister – the late Master Burger’s daughter – Ireena, is being attacked and periodically kidnapped by Strahd. She has bite marks on her neck. Things are dire. He flat-out asks four birds he just met to help with this, and somehow we agree. Ahk-wa is none too pleased by this once she finds out, but she realizes she’s along for the ride for a lot of this, and that they need allies.
Meanwhile, the femme-birds get cozy with the obviously evil (note: metagaming like mf’ers on that one) finely dressed women who own the place. We learn that they’re Barovian nomads, called the Vistani. Names: Alenka, Mirabel, Sorvia. Their accent keeps changing. The DM says it’s because they’re mysterious. The players pretend to buy this explanation. They snicker at Ismark and tell us a fair bit about Strahd that all seems to track with what we know. They also have a leader – Madame Eva – who knew we were coming. She seems like someone who’s lots of help. Aial runs an insight check; not surprisingly, they’re hiding something.
The Vistani are dressed like Strahd’s lackey who gave us the letter. They’re up to something, but we recognize Strahd as the Big Cheese in Barovia and want to learn about him. It’s worth it to see what the Vistani want from us. We decide to go with them, and promise Ismark we’ll return to aid his sister.
The Vistani Camp
On the way to the Vistani camp to speak with the seet Eva, Ahk-wa tries to fly up really high…and runs into some mists. Failing a self-imposed intelligence check, she tries to break through and keeps going up. Magical exhaustion ensues. She is nigh-worthless the rest of the skill-check-heavy session, but feels like she learned something that will aid the group moving forward.
The camp is having a bonfire party, and Gwaihir plays a tune and makes friends. We trade some Death House swag for promise of horses and cart to be delivered to Barovia in a week. Not bad for some shady minions of a dark lord. Ahk-wa debates pushing this toward an evil campaign while steathily searching the camp, ultimately deciding that she probably couldn’t convince her siblings. Landroval also finds out not to go to Strahd’s Castle (oh yeah, we saw his castle in the distance from Barovia) uninvited. I’m looking forward to breaking that rule.
A male Vistani tells the story of a wizard who tried to overthrow Strahd and fails, being thrown to his death off a 1000-foot falls. This is the first of several wizard references this session, I assume hinting at a lvl 20 NPC that will be joining us next week.
Madame Eva is appropriately creepy and gives us our FORTUNE!!! Lots of vague but interesting plot hooks ensue, included below:
- History – Knowledge of the ancient will give us a better understanding of our enemy. “Avenger” card. This thing/person/whatever lies in a dragon’s house in hands once clean but now corrupted.
- “Evoker” card – A powerful force. Search the crypt of a wizard ordinare [sic?]. His staff is the key.
- “Druid” card – all look at Aial. I liked her. Shame she’ll have to die. More to the point, this card is about an evil tree that grows atop a hill of graves where the ancient dead sleep. The ravens can help you find it. Look for the treasure there.
- Donjon card – Gwaihir’s player makes a masturbation joke (referring to the Don Jon movie). Only I get the reference, and I don’t explain it so that there’s an awkward silence at the table. It’s delightful. Anyway, THE CARD: Your greatest ally will be a wizard. His mind is broken but his spells are strong.
- Tempter Card – Where we’ll find our enemy. A secret place, a vault of temptation hidden behind a woman of great beauty. Evil waits atop his tower of treasure. Or, rearranged into a better form: “The treasure of temptation lies in a secret place hidden atop a woman of great beauty.”
Gwaihir does something charming, per his norm. He gets a private reading. Ahk-wa is cool with this, hating this whole Fate business. He’s told (away from the other PCs but not us as players) that there’s more to his mother than he knows, that ravens are our friends is guiding us toward an ally, and something about a mercenary fighter of great strength. Sounds like we’ll be heavy with NPC allies in about 10 sessions. As a DM, I’d dread that. As a player, hooray!
Aial somehow promises to shut up the crying lady back in Barovia. Ahk-wa suspects we’ll have to kill it.
Bildrath’s & Bloodravens
We go shopping. It’s expensive as all get out. Ahk-wa lacks appreciation for money and overspends on common items, considering herself better off for it. I’m going to be broke all campaign. I don’t think the others buy too much, but honestly forget.
Gwaihir spots a raven. Going to the Terroka reading first was probably the best decision we’ll make this campaign. It leads him to the tavern, “Blood on the Vine.” He talks to the bartender, and gets led to the wine’s source, “The Wizard of Wine” vineyard, somewhere else in Barovia
Also, some people don’t have souls here. We’ve undoubtedly met a couple, including the bartender. Fun place, Barovia.
We’re starting to piece together a rough map of the place from conversations. And figuring out that it’s magically sealed. Or an island, the other theory.
The Wailing Widow
We finally get into the house. Just before doing so, Ahk-wa casts the most useless Primeval Awareness ever, only to learn that yes, in fact, there are undead in this land of like 60% undead.
Mary isn’t undead, she can just cry for days like a mutant. Probably a Pretige Class. She’s a shut-in and her daughter escaped. Daughter is Gertuda. We do some investigation. Scooby and the gang learn that she snuck out on her own. Aial does some tracking (with Ahk-wa still exhausted), including as a Great Dane sniffer dog. The trail runs cold after a bit.
We inspect her doll and get a hook from the friggin’ tag on the doll, which I personally was amused at. Probably the most obscure place I’ve ever found a plot hook, which is awesome. The doll says “is no fun. Is no Blinsky.” Blinsky’s a doll maker outside another town. The hunt is renewed!
But first, there’s the annoying business of saving a cursed young woman from being turned by Strahd. We head back to Ismark’s to probably defend a random human against undead forces.
So, full disclosure, I was going to take the Sharpshooter feat at lvl 4, then fly around at 600 ft. and rain longbow death down on our enemies without disadvantage, too far away from them to ever hit me…
…then the mists topped me off at ~100 ft. Me getting exhaustion in this session was like 90% me working through my rage at having been so easily thwarted. I was like “I deserve this” as I kept having Ahk-wa fly higher. Between that and the lack of Darkvision, we really did pick the worst campaign to be all-aarakocra. Which is hilarious, so it’s all good.
I’m still taking Sharpshooter, but won’t be quite as powerful with it. It’s really the perfect feat for an aarakocra Ranger.
Gloom and depression. And once we get into the D&D session, more of the same.