Barovia Goes to the Birds: Curse of Strahd Session #5
“It’s Always Cloudy in 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
Session #4 | Session #6
PC Level: 3
Previously, the party had entered the residence of Ismark, to try to aid him in protecting his sister Ireena from Strahd.
Bed & Breakfast
The mansion looks awful; all kind of signs of attempted entry. We’re told Strahd can’t enter (he needs to be invited), but he’s been able to charm Ireena into coming out. We’ll lock her in her room and hold watch, with the eventual plan of getting her out of the town.
We learn that their recently deceased father is rotting in the closet. Will we bury him? Beats fighting him later, so sure. We’ll need to take him to the church cemetary, where there’s a priest who lost his son and apparently his mind. Oh joy. We’ll take him the following morning and try to talk to the priest.
We have dinner, then sleep. Bats come in the night, but don’t enter.
The priest has indeed lost his marbles. We try talking to him, with little success. He seems to be lucid about 1 every 5 or so questions. There are yells from the basement. Eventually we pry out of him that it’s his undead son. The son’s cries seem somewhat reasonable though.
Aial has a cunning plan to ask the priest the same question over and over, waiting for him to be lucid and answer coherently. It sort of works. We agree to help him with his son, which seems to be the source of his madness, and head down. Doru (the son) is a vampire who hates Strahd. He was magically coerced into working with the wizard from Session #3 who fought (and lost to) Strahd. But he needs blood, and eyes us hungrily. He seems genuine, so Ahk-wa/Aial go hunting and return with rabbits and a live deer, which we feed to Doru. He’s grateful. We learn how to kill a vampire (stake through the heart while it’s in its coffin). Awesome, cheat codes for the boss fight! We can’t bring ourselves to try to kill Doru. But we promise to do what we can to find a cure. Priest seems pleased at this. The siblings (minus Ahk-wa) join him to pray to the Morning Lord (their deity here) to placate Ismark, Ireena, and the priest. It’s lovely, if a bit awkward.
Doru proves a useful chap. We also learn not to tell Strahd our true names. We muse that the Vistani already know them, so Strahd might too. But ok. And Doru gives us some leads on safe places to take Ireena (the town Valloki or the Abbey of St. Markovia).
We spend the night in the church (more bats) and wake up prior to the dawn to bury the father.
Beautiful pre-dawn? Nope. Mists, wolves and Strahd himself. Wait, isn’t it morning, we ask. Nope, just before. And besides, the DM says, it’s always cloudy in Barovia. Poooop. Anyway…
Strahd introduces himself and asks our names. Velma, Scoobert, Fred and Lando, we tell him, bringing our running Scooby-Doo gag full circle (Lando/Landroval went first, so we were one short of going all-in on the joke).
He calls Ireena a different name: Tatiana, and charms her, saying she’ll be his. She starts moving toward Strahd in a daze. Ahk-wa tries to hold her back, but is thrown off easily, and realizes that Ireena has uncommon strength (the players gulp at this, but the clueless birds don’t realize what it means).
The wolves prove to be not too much of a hindrance. Ismark goes kamikaze and attacks the Big Man himself, seemingly succeeding with a crossbow hit, but Strahd turns into mist and it goes through him.
Strahd taunts us a bit and flies off. We realize he’s playing with us.
Not to be deterred, we bury the body and have a somewhat solemn ceremony, interrupted by the sisters arguing about Aial’s bear form. Ahk-wa thinks it’s cute, and Aial is annoyed. The priest holds it together through the wolves and vampires, surprisingly.
Heading back to town, we make plans to leave for Valloki asap. The brothers head out, and run into like four horror movies wrapped into one. An old lady (Auntie Morgantha) is selling dream pastries (drugs) to destitute people (poverty), who sell their son (child slavery, addiction) for the pastries. Some probing questions reveal that the pastries are probably made FROM the children (scratch slavery, but add murder and cannibalism). The sisters are hailed for their aid. We purchase the boy and act intimidating to get the lady out of town. Gwaihir is noticeably shaken.
The boy – Lucien – is sent to Ismark to figure out his situation, since the kid’s parents can’t be trusted. Gwaihir attempts to give Ismark a stirring speech about leadership, since he doesn’t seem to want to lead his town. Won’t be our problem soon, as we’ll be leaving for Valloki shortly.
A lot of what I see on alignments these days is largely dismissive. 5e has downplayed their role by not tying certain classes, archetypes, abilities and spells to them like they have in past editions. And as someone who believes in organic roleplaying, I like this trend.
But I’m finding it a useful tool for shaping that roleplaying. My role as elder sister in the group influenced my alignment and how it manifests. I’m True Neutral, and have been able to parlay that into an indifference toward the fates of those in Barovia. Ahk-wa’s two motivations are her freedom and the safety of her siblings. And that’s it. So she’s not without morality, but it’s her personal morality, and doesn’t manifest in a good v. evil dichotomy.
Now, with two “Good” siblings and another who’s technically neutral but whose decisions so far have trended toward good, Ahk-wa is likely along for the ride against Strahd. Which she’s fine with, as she just wants to protect her siblings in this land, and hopefully escape. But if it weren’t for that influence, her motivations might lead her down darker paths than we’re likely to take, and she’s openly mused on things like allying with the shadier forces in Barovia. But it makes for nice tension at the table, and I’m definitely getting used to playing the reluctant older sibling who tolerates the antics of the others while trying to guide their actions in small ways.
Ran everything from my tablet, minus dice rolls, this session. Note taking is a bit harder, but I’m also new at it. And I’m using D&D Beyond for my character sheet. I like D&D Beyond for a few DMing purposes (mostly quick NPC creation), but was reluctant to use it as a player. It’s not perfect, but their recent character sheet updates made things much easier to find, track and edit on a character sheet. I’m confident that I won’t have to go back to paper.
The Road to Valloki, and finding safe haven for our possibly vampiric companion…