Barovia Goes to the Birds: Curse of Strahd Session #6
“I Heard You Like Quest Hooks”
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: 4
Previously, the party had prepared to set out for the village of Vallaki, which promises to be a safe haven for their charge – Ireena – from Strahd.
Before leaving, Ahk-wa skins some wolf pelts from last session, and we take a short rest.
On the trek to Vallaki:
- We find some man-clothes in the wood.
- Landroval learns that his Mage Hand is skeletal. Spooky factor is at Defcon 3
- We learn Ireena’s adopted, isn’t super fond of her brother, and was trained to fight by Perriwimple, the nephew of the soulless shopkeeper in Barovia. She changes into fightin’ gear. We tentatively add her to our list of allies against Strahd.
- We look at the pretty falls
- We pass through a gate, and get attacked by scarecrows. It’s not a super hard fight, but also not a pushover.
We see a windmill off the main trek, and figure it’s the one we have the deed to. But a raven is chilling and Aial talks to it (with magic). It warns us away, and says the witches who bake children into pastries live here. After some debate, we decide to return with a plan and better rested after visiting Vallaki.
We see a break in the woods leading north to a lake. We check it out. A fisherman is dumping a body-sized bag into the water. Aial and Gwaihir investigate, the former as a giant octopus. Yup, it’s a living girl. Gwaihir ignores the fisherman and we all help to rescue the girl. Arabelle. Bit snooty, but nice. We make friends with her, and learn she’s Vistani. We’ll accompany her back to their camp near Vallaki, and she promises a reward.
As we walk, we learn about a Mad Mage on Mt. Baratok, north of the lake. Apparently on loan from the dungeons of Undermountain, but we’re looking for wizard, so that’s cool.
Charming With Charm
We get to Vallaki along the shoreline of the water. And we split the party, with Gwaihir and Ahk-wa accompanying Arabelle and the other two heading to town.
Up first is the Vistani camp. The grateful father of Arabelle rewards us with some jewelry. Gwaihir also charms him (which he won’t be aware of since it’s from the Feat and doesn’t work the same as the spell, apparently), and we get a healing potion and more information of the surrounding areas. More quest hooks, including our Dragon House (haunted mansion to the west of town), and the name of the cemetery with a tree on a hill (Yester Hill).
While leaving camp, we make another friend (a Dusk Elf, Kasimir Volakov) who hates Strahd for ruining his family years ago. He tells us about the source of Strahd’s power (The Amber Temple) and its rough location. He’d like to accompany us to attempt to bring back his deceased sister. We add him to our allies, and the Amber Temple to our list of stops.
A successful trip, all said, and we head into Vallaki to meet up with the other two at St. Andral’s the church in town.
Intimidating With Logic
Meanwhile, St. Andral’s isn’t as welcoming, with a vaguely racist priest and the information that it’s not a safe sanctuary since the bones of St. Andral’s were stolen. Ireena may still be in danger. The priest has a solid lead on the bones: the grave digger, who’s a kid (Millivage [sic]). Aial and Landroval then proceed into a comedy of failed intimidation/persuasion attempts when talking to the snarky kid, with a notable attempt by Aial to “intimidate him with logic.” Giving up in a flustered huff, they ask about other points of interest. The priest directs them to Blinsky’s, the doll maker we heard about previously.
Is No Fun, Is No Blinsky
Blinsky’s a weird dude who makes Spook Level 4 toys and has a literal monkey in a tutu on his shoulder. Aial and Landroval don’t get a lead on the missing girl from Barovia, but they see a doll that looks exactly like Ireena. A dude named Izaak Stronsky [sic?] – right-hand man to the Baron of Vallaki – commissioned it. Another lead! Izaak has a “creepy arm.” Ireena buys the doll.
We also see a bunch of fliers for a festival, and learn there’s a new one each week to ward off Strahd. We get the vibe that everyone puts up with it, but kinda hates the festivals. Ahk-wa is sad that they just missed the Wolf’s Head festival, where she could rock her wolf’s head cowl, and where “harpoons will be provided.” Alas. The festival of some Sun thing will have to suffice. It’s in a few days.
We meet up shortly after and decide to head to a nearby Inn to rest, but save the actual long rest for next session.
I’m not sure if it’s apparent from the writeup, but we went from 2-3 quest hooks and some vague prophecies to like 8-9 this session. I realize this won’t be the norm, but it’s an interesting decision on the designers’ part to seed so many hooks into such a tight space. However, it was my first time with this level of hook density, and it was oddly fun for us as players. Because now we have some tough decisions about next steps, with the knowledge that certain things will be happening in places we decide NOT to go.
I like it. Maybe not all the time. But I should try to run a game like this sometime.
It also comes on the heels of Hoard of the Dragon Queen for 1-2 of our players, and for one of them, Hoard was her first campaign. Hoard is much more linear and has basically one goal the entire time, so it’s a much different experience.
It’s apparent that I’m not going to have the versatility of my playing companions. Druids and Bards scream versatility in 5e anyway, and despite a more one-track spell list, magic is still magic for the Sorcerer, and will give him more options. And with my “feat over stat boost” decision at lvl 4, even my proficient skills are often one less than either the Bard or Druid (Perception, Survival, etc.). And the Charisma characters are our talkers, for obvious reasons, so I’m a background player in most social scenes. But now with Sharpshooter, I do damage. Like, a lot of it. So I may have to start embracing my role as a dealer of death. But that’s fine; I’ve gotten away from being full min-maxer in D&D, in favor of narrative storytelling, but I can channel my old WoW-playing days to squeeze the most out of my DPS (or DPR: damage per round), so to speak. Ahk-wa can protect her siblings by just killing the sh*t out of their enemies.
I actually have no idea for a change. The will of the group could pull us several different directions…