Friday, 17 November 2017

D&D - Curse of Strahd - Part Two - 'Death House'

Our DM has decided to gather a team of adventurers to attempt to rid the land of Barovia from an ancient curse...of course we thought we were merely rescuing the absent daughter of Lady Daggerford from a nearby village...

None of the players have done this adventure before and we've all been understandably banned from looking at the source book. Therefore how close our DM is following the actual book is a mystery to us...

Daniel aka Hans Velsing - Human Ranger, Monster Hunter
Louis aka Sven McHammer - Human Barbarian, Luskan Mercenary
Harry aka Alec Ivanovich - Human Evoker, Former Barovian Resident and Guide
Dave aka Kole Foresthelm - Human Fighter, Captain in Lady Daggerfords Guard
Garreth aka Elran Elarius - Half Elf Sorcerer, aide to Lady Daggerford
Tom Williams aka every person and creature we meet...
Links to earlier adventures in this campaign and some other ones from various systems can be found HERE. Alternatively Part One of this particular adventure can be located HERE.

Part Two - 'Death House'
After being bought together for a rescue mission to locate the missing daughter of Lady Daggerford the adventurers have found themselves manoeuvred unwillingly through a strange misty forest along a path surrounded by a impenetrable creeping fog. Eventually the forest path became one of gravel and terminated at a village of tall dark houses, closed-up shops and a street deserted accept for two small and somewhat distressed children.

After calming the young boy at her side the elder of the two children declared that there was a monster in their house. A fact that immediately drew the interest of both the monster hunter Hans Velsing and his Barbarian companion Sven. With their guide oddly silent Elran decided that it might be wise to gain some information from the terrified children before venturing into the unknown...

'Rose and Thorn'
The elder girl (Rosavalda) and the young boy (Thornboldt) had no idea what the 'monster' looked like as they claimed that their parents had managed to keep it trapped in the basement from which they had heard it's 'terrible howls' but of their parents current whereabouts they had no idea. They were however quite concerned about their baby brother Walter who was apparently in his nursery on the third floor. The children were understandably too terrified to return inside the house but seemed willing to seek safety in the village while the party of adventurers investigated the building.

It was immediately obvious that neither Hans or Sven could be dissuaded from searching for this basement dwelling horror and the mention of a trapped infant had convinced the others also. Elran could discern no falsehood from the children's account and as the choice was either to follow the rest of his group inside or remain outside alone he decided to enter also after ushering the children towards the village. The fact that the fog was once again closing in was also a deciding factor.

First Floor
The entrance-way had a hinged iron gate with a lock upon one side but was unlocked though creaked alarmingly when opened. The area was lit by oil lamps hanging from chains on the ceiling which flanked a set of heavy wooden doors. The area also contained a coat of arms, several portraits and a set of double doors led into a main hall area.

The main hall appeared to run the width of the house and had a large marble fireplace at one end and a sweeping staircase of red marble at the other. Elran began a fairly systematic search of the room as his experiences of such luxurious homes was that they were usually riddled with secret passageways but disappointingly found none. He did however notice that within the images of vines and flowers on the wooden panelling there were also various serpents and a lot of skulls. Evidently the owners of this place had some interesting ideas about what passed for tasteful decoration. While Elran liberated a black cloak and atop hat from the cloakroom the rest of the adventurers began to search the other first floor rooms for the cellar entrance...

Another of this floors rooms was a hunters den containing three large stuffed wolves, a fireplace with a stags head above it and chairs draped with animal furs. Several weapons were in a locked cabinet against one wall and the lock was far to sturdy for Elran to force open with his dagger though Kole managed the task fairly simply with his sword. None of the weapons within were any better than the ones they already possessed though several of the party helped themselves to some spare crossbow bolts.

After it became evident that the wolves weren't about to come to life and that this seemed like a very unlikely place for a cellar entrance to be located the group moved on. The rest of this floor seemed to consist merely of a kitchen and dining area so Kole moved to the stairs leading to the second floor while Alec seemed content to wait in the main hall area while the others explored as they wished. The barbarians interest of course turned to the kitchen pantry.

Editors Note - Yep...we broke D&D rule one and split up....

Sven tested several of the pantries food items and seemed none the worse for the experience though he did complain that the taste was somewhat bland before extolling the virtues of his homelands own various foodstuffs. Hans tested a 'dumb waiter' in one corner to see if it was operational and much to his allies annoyance used a large ham that he'd been about to consume. Seeing no point in messing around with kitchen appliances Elran returned to the main hall but not before noticing that the panelling in this area also had sinister designs concealed within the more obvious ones. This time the trees had twisted faces within the trunks and wolves lurking amid the foliage.

Editors Note - We were also then treated to Svens player Louis asking "So where has the ham gone?" every five minutes for the rest of the session...

Second Floor
Growing impatient with the others searching and once it became obvious that there was no cellar entrance Kole decided to investigate the second floor via the marble staircase with Alec not far behind.

Editors Note - Impatience is the only reason I can think of for why "I think I'll wander off on my own around the house where a monster lives..." seemed like the thing to do...

Kole arrived at an elegant hall containing four suits of armour and a large mantelpiece above which there was a wood-framed family portrait of the children 'Rose' and 'Thorn' and a man and a woman who were presumably their mother and father. Cradled in the fathers arms was a swaddled baby that the mother seemed to be staring at scornfully. Before he could move towards any of the doors within the hallway one of the suits of armour lurched towards him and attacked with surprising speed.

Kole drew his sword and struck the armour with considerable force but caused no obvious damage. The animated armour struck Kole two thunderous blows in return causing him to stagger backwards injured. Alec was almost at the top of the stairs and hurried to investigate the noise and upon witnessing the battle launched several magical missiles at the lumbering suit all of which struck home though without obvious success. Elran had heard the impact of weapon on metal from the first floor and ran up the stairs as fast as he was able. Hans was far too busy attempting to explain to Sven where the ham had gone to investigate what from their location sounded simply like something had fallen over upstairs...

Elran for his part arrived a moment to late to assist as a combination of Kole's swordplay and Alec's magic bought the armoured suit crashing to the ground in a dozen pieces.

Editors Note - This is now a running joke as both Sven and Hans's characters refuse to believe that any such battle took place and rather insist that Kole simply knocked over a suit of armour and made up the battle to cover up his clumsiness...

With their 'ham' debate still inconclusive the monster hunter and barbarian joined up with the fighter, wizard and sorcerer and began to expand their search to the second floor. Stepping over bits of broken armour the group began to explore. A large conservatory area was quickly deemed to contain nothing of interest and so the search continued into the Library. The room contained bookshelves from floor to ceiling along one wall as well as a mahogany desk, several comfortable chairs and a framed picture of a windmill overlooking a rocky crag. Elran began a search of the desk as well as 'borrowing' several of the items it contained including a tinderbox, quill pen, ink and a letter writing kit as well as what was seemingly the family seal. One draw contained an iron key which he quietly pocketed.

Editors Note - Elran might be coming across as some kind of kleptomaniac or obsessive collector of junk...he does however have his reasons for his acquisitions...

Alec meanwhile was investigating the bookshelves and while doing so came across an out of place book which when moved opened a secret door behind a hinged bookshelf. This room contained more bookshelves though these contained tomes of a far more sinister nature which were packed with necromancy and fiendish summoning rituals of a cult referring to itself as the Priests of Osybus which the wizard Alec began to carefully read through. The others were however more interested in a heavy wooden chest with clawed iron feet standing against the secret chambers south wall from which a skeleton in leather armour was half-way in. Elran somewhat gingerly moved closer and discovered that there were three darts protruding from the dead adventurers armour and ribs and in his hand was a scroll.

Gambling that the chest was protected by only a single trap the half-elf pushed the body aside and read the scroll taken from it's skeletal hand. The message was from Strahd von Zarovich and painted a less than positive picture of the activities that were taking place in the building as well as highlighting some inconsistencies in the children's story particularly in regard to their infant brother. It also begged the question of why the occupants of the house would have left a body in the location long enough for it to become a skeleton.

The chest itself contained several blank leather covered books, three spell scrolls and a number of personal documents including a deed to the house, one to a windmill and a will bequeathing it all to the children in the event of their parents deaths. Elran handed the spell scrolls to their guide Alec and as the others showed no interest in the documents he carefully rolled them up and placed them in one of his scroll cases before slipping the blank books into his pack. Alec also announced that in his opinion the rituals contained within the books were complete and utter bollocks drivel. With the only other room being a fairly uninteresting set of servants quarters the only option seemed to be to head up to the third floor of the house.

Third Floor
Ignoring both a bathroom and a storage room directly ahead of the staircase other than for a quick glance within the group passed through a set of double doors with stained glass windows into what must be (or have been) a master bedroom.

While most of the party were searching for more secret passageways Elran's eye was drawn to a small but exquisite jewellery box on a table and helped himself to both it and it's contents intending to distribute the wealth at a later date...possibly. With nothing else of interest to discover they all moved on to the area opposite.

These doors led to another elegant bedroom area though this was covered in dust and cobwebs and also contained an entrance to an adjoining area which appeared to be a nursery.

As they entered the centre of the room a ghostly shape began to form within and once fully manifested had taken the appearance of a skeletally thin young woman in the tattered remnants of a nurse-maids outfit. Elran attempted to speak with the creature but got no response as it floated aimlessly around the room though he did note that it became slightly more agitated as they approached the nursery area, The area contained a crib covered with a black shroud but the baby-sized bundle within was simply a tightly wrapped blanket. Noting that the spectral creature was becoming even more distressed and possibly angered by their presence they decided to leave.

Having now effectively explored the entire structure and found no basement entrance the group decided to take a moment to discuss their options. Several members of the party noted that from their brief view of the outside of the house that there was most definitely an attic level and that therefore a stairway or ladder must exist somewhere that gave access to it.

Editors Note - It's also possible that our DM threw the picture of the house he'd shown us earlier into the middle of the table with a look of exasperation on his face...and THEN we remembered that the house had four floors...

With this in mind they began a more systematic search of the third floor and after some time came across a door concealed behind a large mirror. The door pushed open easily and revealed a cob-web filled staircase which must lead into the attic.

The Attic
The first pair of rooms investigated were spare bedrooms and held little other than some basic furniture and miscellaneous mundane items. The third room checked was a storage room filled with old furniture all draped in white sheets and various spare household items including an iron stove. Near this and beneath another sheet was a wooden trunk which upon examination was unlocked. Within this was the skeletal remains of a woman wrapped in a tattered and blood-stained sheet. She appeared to have been brutally stabbed to death. Several of the party members immediately leapt to the conclusion that this was the mortal remains of the spectral nurse-maid they'd encountered earlier.

The final room was held shut by a sturdy iron padlock. Elran tried the iron key he'd found in the library area and the lock clicked open easily. The rooms window was bricked up and flanked by two child sized beds. By the door was a toy chest decorated with pictures of windmills and a dollhouse that's a perfect replica of the house they'd been exploring and the whole area was draped in cobwebs. Lying in the middle of the floor were two small skeletons wearing tattered but familiar clothes. The smaller of the two was clutching a stuffed doll that was also easily recognisable. These were obviously the remains of the two children who they had met outside the house...

As they entered the room the ghostly forms of the two children they'd met earlier formed in it's centre. Elran's attempt to talk to them was interrupted by Sven's attempt to grab hold of the small boy. After failing to grapple the child for the third time the ghost disappeared and Sven's facial expression changed to one of childlike amusement. The girl Rose looked at Sven smiled and the shouted "Boo" at him and then giggled to herself as Sven ran from the room as fast as he could.

Taking the opportunity to chat to the remaining child while the obviously possessed Sven was cowering in a corner Elran and the others discovered that unlike the illusions that had greeted them outside the child was well aware that she and her brother were dead. They had been locked in the attic room by their own parents to 'Protect them from the monster in the basement' and that they had starved to death while waiting to be released. After asking her nicely to release their friend Rose called her brother and his ghost reappeared at her side. Sven then re-entered the room somewhat sheepishly a few moments later. They then spoke to her about the location of the basement as they had now searched the house from top to bottom and were unable to locate it. They then watched as she walked over to the model of the house and tapped a section of the attic. "There's a secret door...." she said.

As they began to leave the room the children asked to be taken along with them. Elran told them both that they were welcome to come along but they stayed where they were while repeating the request. Elran told them again that they were welcome to follow them but the children once again failed to follow. Hans stopped and pointed at the skeletal remains on the floor "I think they mean literally..." and wrapped the children's remains in an old cloak which he slung over one shoulder. As soon as the bones were removed from the floor the images of the two children faded away. It was now time to investigate the aforementioned secret door.

Editors Note - After a brief delay caused by being informed that we were all now character level 2 which required some of us to make some important decisions about abilities, spells ,etc. We were given a bit of time to do so by our DM before continuing.

The Basement
As they were about to begin their climb down the newly discovered, narrow spiral staircase Elran noticed that Hans was using one of his hands to hold the bundle containing the children's remains leaving only a single arm free. As he had previously seen the monster hunter with a weapon in each hand at times of danger he offered to carry the bundle himself thus leaving Hans with both arms free for this weapons. Seeing the sense in this Hans accepted the offer and handed over the gruesome bundle.

The wooden steps creaked with every footfall upon them and were crammed into a five foot wide shaft of mortared stone. They descended some fifty feet through thick cobwebs until they finally reached a level below the house that more closely resembled a dungeon than a basement. Due to his Elven heritage Elran had no trouble seeing in the dark but the rest of the group began to light the various lanterns they carried with them. As 'Elran' was currently disguised as a human he decided to light a lamp himself as well in order to avoid any unwanted questions.

Editors Note - 'Elran Elarius' is a convenient false identity that he uses when in a courtly or formal environment as masked and cloaked figures tend to put people on their guard, lol. As it was the disguise he was wearing when allocated this mission he's kinda stuck with it for the moment...

As they entered the dungeon area they all began to hear an eerie and incessant chanting echoing throughout it but it was currently impossible to guess what direction it was originating from. Elran moved carefully towards a crypt area ahead and both Kole and Alec followed. Hans and Sven decided instead to search a more open area in the opposite direction. The family crypt contained a series of alcoves hewn from the earth with each sealed with a stone slab. With assistance from Kole, Elran used a crowbar that he conveniently had in his pack to open the two crypts with Rose and Thorns names engraved on the outside and as reverently as possible laid their bones to rest in the appropriate locations. Despite some admitted curiosity they decided it would be better to leave the other crypts alone as the first they investigated was inhabited by several giant black rats and so they went to locate the rest of their eclectic group.

Meanwhile Hans and Sven had worked their way through a dining area scattered with bones, a set of quarters consisting of a table and chairs and alcoves containing mouldy straw beds and a larger adjacent room with a well at it's centre and five side-rooms containing larger (but still dilapidated) beds containing straw mattresses. Each of these rooms also contained a chest whose contents Hans had been looting one by one. His haul consisted of some gold and silver coins whose pouch he quickly discarded as it had all the appearance of being made of human skin as well as a selection of items of varying values which he kept for himself. Correctly assuming that Sven had been paying no attention to what he was doing Hans handed him a mere five gold pieces as his share.

Editors Note - Hans and his player may be coming across as a bit of a dick here but it was established fairly early on at the campaigns start that he currently only considers Sven to be on his 'side'. Every-one else is likely to get in the way or is potentially expendable in favour of the greater good which in his case is 'kill monsters' and 'get rich' mostly in that order. In his defence his character does evolve beyond that over the next few sessions...well...a bit at least, lol.

The most impressive item as far as Hans was concerned however was a silvered shortsword that would undoubtedly come in useful. With the immediate area thoroughly looted Hans moved further into the dungeon complex where he came across a set of rooms that were superior in decor as no doubt befitting some-one of importance. Pleased with his haul so far he began to search these areas also...

In a parallel area the rest of the party found a room filled with skeletons shackled against the walls and also containing a painted wooden statue of a gaunt, pale faced individual dressed in a black robe holding a crystal orb. The chanting that could be heard in this room was coming from the western exit.

Unfortunately then Elran's curiosity got the better of him and he reached for the orb in the statues hand. The instant his hand made contact with it the shadows in the room coalesced into three humanoid forms and lashed out at him simultaneously. Only a Shield spell cast an instant before the attacks connected prevented Elran from being instantly torn to pieces but the damage was still severe enough to send him crashing to the floor near death.

Kole ran forward and slashed at the closest of the shadows putting himself between them and his fallen comrade while Alec unleashed orbs of elemental energy and magical missiles into their midst. Alec bought down one of the creatures and Kole destroyed a second in close combat but was severely injured before he could finish the third. A last desperate volley of magical missiles dissipated the final enemy before it could finish off the fallen adventurer.

Hans was busy working his way through a large wooden footlocker in what he presumed was the quarters of some-one important. An eclectic variety of items were in the chest including an unusual cloak, a strangely decorated dagger, several red coloured potions in a wooden container, a vial of a sticky substance, a chain-shirt and several books including one completely soaked in blood. He surmised that these had been taken from previous 'visitors' to the underground dungeon complex.

Amongst these items was a strange bag which after a brief experiment seemed to be able to hold items within without any increase in weight. Satisfied with his haul and after being sure items could be removed from the bag as well as placed within he donned the chain-shirt and stowed everything within his bag of holding before going to investigate the noises he could hear in the distance. He found the area in disarray and Elran lying injured on the ground. Hans vaguely remembered that healing potions often had a red hue and this seemed like an ideal opportunity to test out one of the items he had found so he gave it to Elran to drink. The potion bought around the fallen adviser who was suitably grateful for the life-saving intervention. Despite having several more of the potions he kept this fact to himself as Kole despite being injured didn't need the potion to keep him alive.

While giving Elran and Kole a moment to recover Hans decided to experiment with some of the items he'd found earlier. Being unsure of what exactly the viscous liquid was he placed a small quantity in his lamp and attempted to light it...and just managed to hurl the device to one side before a flaming explosion destroyed the lamp and a large area of the wall at which he'd hurled it. Ignoring the looks given him by his comrades he changed the subject quickly by informing them all that he'd passed a stairway in an adjacent passage that looked like it led further down to an even lower level.

Editors Note - We were informed that had he failed the Dex save to hurl the item aside he'd have been dead as a can of spam. Suffice it to say that he didn't mess around with it again...

The Ritual Chamber
The chanting grew stronger as they made their way down the new stairway and as they reached the bottom the words "He is the ancient, he is the land." could be clearly discerned. They then turned the corner and found themselves in a chamber filled with alcoves.

Within each alcove was a niche containing an item that presumably held some mystical significance to the cult. Of the thirteen items only one seemed interesting as it had the appearance of a magical Wand of Polymorph but on closer examination disappointingly turned out to be a poorly made forgery. The rest (despite their sinister appearance) were deemed to be worthless having no detectable magical aura or practical application outside of the obvious.

A passage on the side of the chamber led to a prison area with rusty shackles on the walls. Only one of these sets of shackles had an occupant, a human skeleton in a tattered black robe. Presumably not every member of this cult was as loyal as was required. As the others returned to the reliquary Elran slipped a gold ring into his pocket that he spotted on one of the skeletons bony fingers.

As the source of the chanting originated from neither of the rooms they'd investigated so far a more thorough search was made until a concealed door was found in the first chambers south wall parallel to the prison section. This was blocked by a heavy portcullis though this was easily moved by the more physically capable party members. The chanting stopped as soon as they entered the ritual chamber which was a room some forty feet across with a high ceiling supported by stone pillars. Murky water covered much of the floor with the exception of a walkway and a raised altar area above which chains dangled down from the ceiling. The altar itself was carved with strange shapes and covered in dried blood. As the altar was approached the chanting once again started and thirteen cloaked figures appeared at either side of it holding dark torches. The chanting had now become "One must die!" repeated over and over...

Not one to be perturbed by a load of random cloaked apparitions Sven walked up to the nearest figure and attempted to grab hold of it without success as it disappeared as he attempted to grasp it only for it to reappear as he stepped away. Also not one to take a hint he tried this a second and third time at which point all the figures disappeared and movement could be heard from an alcove in the far wall. A large mound of what had appeared to be refuse had risen from the aforementioned alcove and moved towards the altar. Standing half as tall again as the largest member of the party and equally as wide it shambled forward.

As Sven and Kole moved to engage the monstrosity Hans launched several bolts from his paired hand crossbows into it's form with little obvious effect. Elran used a warlock Hex to physically weaken the mound and enhance his own attacks before launching several magic missiles into it and as each of the missiles struck home necrotic decay began to spread from the impact locations. Alec used his own powers to create a sphere of energy which became icy cold as he launched it towards the slowly advancing monster but it seemed to have much less effect than would have been expected. Sven hit the creature like a battering ram and began to cleave into it with his axe. In response it moved to grapple him with it's limbs but apparently realising it's own recently inflicted weakness lashed out instead causing several minor injuries. Kole added his sword to Sven's axe as he joined his fellow warrior in the melee. Elran and Alec continued to use their magic while another round of crossbow bolts from Hans weapons this time struck more deeply into the mounds flesh. Apparently perceiving the Barbarian to be the greatest threat the mound engulfed his body but underestimated his strength considerably. However enough of Sven was now submerged within it to make hitting him with their own missile attacks very likely indeed. The creature was by now severely damaged by axe and sword, crossbow bolts, magical missiles and a variety of elemental damage and so hadn't the strength to stop the barbarian from tearing himself free. This internal trauma was more than it could stand and the remaining shattered pieces of flesh grew still.

Unfortunately the chanting figures reappeared and resumed where they had left off as the creature was destroyed and it seemed obvious that a sacrifice must be made in order for the party to be allowed to escape. After some discussion Elran pointed out that there was no mention that the sacrifice had to be an actual person and suggested they kill something else on the altar to see if that would work...perhaps some of the large rats they'd encountered in the crypt. Before he could offer to use his powers of illusion to lure some of the vermin to the altar their guide instead went to fetch one personally. Alec emerged somewhat scratched and worse for wear a few minutes later with one of the creatures and they killed the unfortunate rat upon the altar. As they did so the chanting returned to it's original cry of "He is the ancient. He is the land.". Taking this as their cue to leave they made their way out of the dungeon and out of the cursed house.

Once out of the cultists house many of the items they carried began to age alarmingly. Though many of the documents taken by Elran were now yellow with age they were still intact. Unfortunately this ageing process also extended to the food that Sven had eaten while in the pantry and he became violently ill. On a brighter note the fog that had surrounded the building had now dispersed somewhat allowing them access to the town they had observed before getting sidetracked...

Editors Note - We were also now apparently level 3 as our DM is using an achievement based system that the Curse of Strahd campaign has as an option.

To be continued in Part Three 'Barovia'...

The maps I used at the beginning of each section are the work of a gentleman called Mike Schley whose website containing many useful map packs can be found HERE. I've paid for the map pack and I'd urge any-one who likes them to do the same.

Thoughts and comments are (as usual) most welcome.


  1. Fun read! Keep them coming, please!

    1. Glad you enjoyed it. I'll try to get the next bit written up for next weekend.


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