Barovia Goes to the Birds: Curse of Strahd Sessions #18-19
“Seeds of Romance”
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
Sessions #18-19: “Seeds of Romance”
PC Level: 8
This is going to be abbreviated since I was absent. Instead of stealing the wedding dress in Vallaki (where the birds are wanted as criminals) to give to the Abbot in Krezk – to get in his good graces and get some free, high-level Cleric spells – the gang decides to wait until cover of night. In the meantime, they go to Berez, where they’ve heard of a Baba Lesaga who causes trouble, and has one of the seeds that their allies, the were-raven Martokovs, can use to grow their winery further.
What follows is a much more harrowing encounter with Lesaga than anticipated, as the two deposed Hags from the windmill (see Session #14), are there as well. However, Lesaga’s Hut, which we learn out of character (after the fight) is a tough challenge unto itself, is Silenced early on in a plot to steal the Seed. Thus, Lesaga can’t “awaken it.” However, everyone but Ahk-wa goes down at some point, and the group thinks Gwaihir is dead (both in and OOC due to a mixup in phrasing: “7d8 + 30 damage” vs. “78+30 damage”). So Gwaihir is retconned back to life after the correction, but has his 3rd or 4th near-death experience. Ultimately, they stole the seed, killed Lesaga, and I’m actually not sure what happened to the two hags. However, we ended with a long rest at the winery afterward.
Also, our new ally and Gwaihir’s love interest Ezmerelda helped immensely in the fight.
Before sleep, Aial presents Adrian Martokov (the heir to the winery) with the Seed, and also suggests they go on a date, having had the idea put into her head by Erwin Martokov in Vallaki. He is shy and hesitant but agrees, and they make plans to have a picnic at noon the following day.
Separately, Ahk-wa learns of this and finds Adrian on her own. After some forced small talk, she threatens Adrian if he treats Aial poorly, and flies off.
And On To the Wedding Weird Random Encounter
We still have a dress to steal for the Abbot’s doomed plan, so we time our rest so that we arise in the dead of night.
However, on the way, we see a strange, singular glow walking away from us and it leads us to a tower structure that we knew wasn’t there before. We enter to investigate and see a chest. Aaand zombies pop out, barring exit for Gwaihir and Aial, and a Will-o-Wisp accompanies them. We use the opportunity to try some new tactics – notably Haste spells that buff the holy **** out of Ahk-wa and others. Ahk-wa promptly has some awful turns that don’t use Haste to its fullest, but it’s a learning experience and she thanks her brother Lhando for casting it. Aial gets whupped on a bit, but no one’s in any real danger, and we find like 12 gold piece for our trouble, take a short rest, and get back on track.
And On To the Wedding (Dress)
We enter Vallaki stealthed, but are spotted by a guard at the Burgermeister’s Mansion. He runs inside. We realize the windows are barred as well. Improvising, Gwaihir and Ahk-wa use his Dimension Door after Aial uses Detect Object, and we port into the room, steal the dress (and a mirror that we later learn is magical), and Dimension Door back out. Ahk-wa hates this, pukes, and drops the mirror. Gwaihir only barely saves it, and we signal to the other two to race out of the town with us. Before heading back to the winery.
We rest briefly before Aial has her date, and her brothers preen her feathers so that she looks pristine. Ahk-wa gives her a sharpened stake.
The date is slightly awkward at first but goes remarkably well, as they learn about each other and their goals and dreams. Adrian also presents her with a gift, a random assortment of stuff to build a nest, including something akin to tinfoil, eggshells, and yarn. Eventually they go on a flight together, and end up on a mountainside, where there’s at least a makeout session (at which point it got confusing and hilarious and I think only Aial’s player knows exactly what happened, which is I suppose as it should be). They return about an hour later.
Meanwhile, Gwaihir starts up a card game that’s broken up occasionally by drinking and music. He also ribs the hell out of Ahk-wa, who is nervous about Aial’s date, and ends up drunk. In response to the ribbing, she takes out her Pipes of Haunting (obtained while I was gone), and tries to intimidate all around her. Everyone makes their save, so she’s salty. Ezmerelda joins, piquing Gwaihir’s interest. Somewhere in the middle of this, Aial returns with Adrian, and eventually ends up having a bit of a heart-to-heart with Ahk-wa where Ahk-wa tries her best to be happy for her sister, despite her overprotective instincts. She sort of succeeds.
Ezmerelda offers to give a reading and produces a Tarroka deck. Lhando takes her up on the offer, and – this is all brand new to me – starts asking about Mordenkainen. But, ya know, like that. Apparently Lhando is a bit taken with him due to his power and commanding demeanor. Ahk-wa is clueless and thinks it’s just a professional inquiry, largely because Mark was clueless at the time too. Anyway, the reading is amusing, and gives Lhando a possible clue to winning Mordenkainen’s attention.
Ezmerelda has some girl talk with Aial about the date and Aial whispers to Adrian that they’re trying to get Gwaihir together with Ezmerelda, so she talks up Gwaihir a bit as well. Gwaihir makes sure he has some alone time with her before bed, and it ends amicably, with a kiss on the cheek.
Ahk-wa, who is basically in hell through all of this, goes to bed first. The rest follow eventually.
I’m not even going to try to explain how delightful the dates were. It was all I could do not to make eye contact with anyone when the date with Adrian was happening, which was beyond sweet. Knowing that we were “stalling” a bit before having dinner with Strahd next session, we took our time with the RP scenes, and it was great fun.
The group now wants a “ship” for Ahk-wa too. We’ll see. I’m not opposed to it in theory, but I’ve painted myself into a bit of a corner with her personality. She’s very traditional in terms of aarakocran values, which means she’s very insular and distrusting of anyone outside her clan. She also sees herself as the stand-in parental figure for the group, and is somewhat distressed at what’s going on around her. So Mark’s giggling like an idiot OOC, but in-character, Ahk-wa’s having a bit of a crisis. Makes for some nice familial tension, though.
Absurd as a Goal
So there’s a diminishing return on bettering various stats. Once you’re reliably hitting, say high teens or low 20s in most stats, it’s probably better to go other directions. But it’s also not always as fun to do that. After checking with my DM, I took a UA feat with a legitimately beneficial component (+1 to Dex.) plus doubling my stealth bonus, which I 100% didn’t need. But it’s awesome. Between various spells, buffs and abilities, my goal is a stealth roll of 50+ by campaign’s end (with Pass Without Trace up, my “average” stealth roll is already a 34.5). Completely useless past about 25, but fun. I spoke earlier about “Narrative vs. Mechanical” spells and abilities. I’m not sure if this falls into that same dichotomy, because it’s technically neither. It’s more leaning into something fun, despite not being narrative OR particularly useful in a mechanical sense. But that’s also the sort of thing that makes RPGs great.
So we have dinner with Strahd, the Amber Temple, and…some kind of finale? We can sense the end, I think. This was a nice respite before that storm.
We’re not meeting next week, but are heading to dinner in Castle Ravenloft after dropping off the dress. Time to face our opponent fully.