Ravenloft: Curse of Strahd

The Druids of Yester Hill
week 17 game log

The party turned and dealt first with the druid poisoning the vat of wine, allowing the twig creature escape to the far side of the room. It climbed the side of the easternmost cask, and disappeared into a large crack on the side. The druidess fought with the self-sacrificing determination only a crazed zealot could posses. As the first blows of the fight were landed the party could see the twig creature re-emerge from the crack it had just crawled into. Followed by another, and another. The huge cask rocked slightly just before the crack burst open pouring forth dozens and dozens of the wicked plant monsters all over the eastern portion of the room. The mass swarmed towards the group as quickly as the creature's little legs would carry them. As she lay mortally wounded the druidess called forth a twisted and barbed bramble of plant growth to engulf her enemies, but it only delayed the inevitable briefly.

With the druidess felled, the group turned their attention to the twig blights. They fought back the wave after wave of the little creatures with the assistance of some ravens that had been perched on the beams above.

After the battle, the party tended to their minor wounds and took the opportunity to help themselves to several bottle of wine. Both from the poisoned vat, and from the non-contaminated ones. They then explored the remainder of the first floor including some storage areas, the crushing tubs, and the barrel maker's workshop, but nothing notable was found. The party proceeded back to the spiral ramp in the eastern part of the winery, and went up to the 2nd floor.

Looking down a short hallway the group could see into a room with a ten-foot-square hole cut into the middle of it. Looming over the hole was a wooden loading winch positioned above the cart previously seen in the loading dock below. Perched atop the winch was a man with wild hair, rotted teeth, and skin painted red with blood. He wore no clothing and waved a gnarled staff made from a black branch as he babbled incoherently at you.

Acting quickly, Rolen cast a thunderwave at the man causing him topple over backwards and crash into the wall 10 feet behind him. The rest of the party moved to subdue the man while he was prone.

The druid managed to land one blow against Visenya with his black staff before he was overcome. As the weapon struck the life seemed to drain out of her, rejuvenating the crazed druid as red blood oozed from the staff's pores.

Even with such a wicked weapon at his disposal, the druid was no match for combined forces of the party. Visenya decided that the dark staff was better in her care, then left out in the world for anyone to fall victim to.

Rask noticed a from this area to the adjacent master bedroom, and moved on through two more children's bedrooms before coming upon a room dominated by a large contraption, presumably some kind of printing press. Rooting through some of the cabinets in this room was one final druid along with two accompanying vine blights, who were all vanquished by the party in short order.

The party signaled to the Martikovs hiding in the nearby woods that it was safe to return to their home. As the family thanked the heroes, the topic quickly shifted to the missing gemstone. Dag said "If none of the druids here had the gem, they must have already taking it back to Yester Hill." Once again the family pleaded with the party to recover the stolen gem, not only for themselves, but for all the people of Barovia.

The group left immediately for Yester Hill. After an hour's trek they emerged from the thick woods leads to a hill covered with dead grass and cairns of black rock. Dark, ominous clouds gathered high above, and a single bolt of lightning struck the hilltop. West of the hill, the land, the woods, and the sky vanished behind a towering wall of fog. Dirt trails ran along two concentric rings of cairns that encircle the hillside. Each cairn was a ten-foot-high mound of slimy black rocks.

That is when the spirit of Kavan, a long-dead barbarian chieftain, reached out from beyond the grave. Rask heard a whisper, a deep voice carried on the wind "Long have I waited, for one who is worthy. My spear hungers for blood. Retrieve it, and rule these mountains in my stead, just like the mighty warriors from the early days of the Whispering Wall." Rask felt drawn to one of the cairns on the hillside. As he approached it, he could sense the presence of Kavan's magic spear under the rocks. The rocks of the cairn were heavy but rolled aside, revealing a blood spear lying amid Kavan's moldy bones. Rask took possesion of the spear adn the party moved on.

Atop the hill was a wide ring of black boulders and smaller rocks that collectively formed a makeshift wall enclosing a field of dead grass. Lightning struck the edge of the ring from time to time, illuminating a ghastly, fifty-foot-tall statue made of tightly woven twigs and packed with black earth. The statue depicted as a towering, cloaked man with fangs. It bore an eerie resemblance to Strahd von Zarovich. Closer inspection revealed roots sprouting from the ground around its base wrapped around the statue, providing added support and durability.

As the characters inspected the statue further, a dozen druids rose up from hidden "graves" scattered around the hilltop and began muttering a ritualistic chant. At first the party held their ground at the top of the hill, but when they realized the druids were more focused on completing their ritual than advancing upon them they began to worry. The group started trying to subdue the chanting fanatics, but it was too late. Lightning was now striking the statue repeatedly as the ritual came to a climax.

A horrific thirty-foot·tall plant creature burst forth from of the statue, sending twigs and earth flying. The creature resembled a undead treant with green light seeping out of it. several of the surviving druids cried out the name "Wintersplinter!" in gleeful triumph.

The Wizard of Wines
week 16 game log

As the party crossed the vineyard heading to the winery a half dozen animated scarecrows roused to meet them. After a flurry of blades and hay, the party noticed an old man standing at the border of the vineyard and the western woods. He beckoned them to come to him before returning to the thicket. Suspicious of a trap, Rolen dispatched her summoned lions to investigate. The lions followed the man's scent to a small clearing in the brush where his trail went cold.

At a cautious pace the party caught up to where the lions had lead them, but there was no sign of anyone. Only a conspiracy of ravens in the surrounding trees. Then cutting off the brief silence was the shrill, creaky voice of an old man "Call off the hunting cats!"

The party acquiesced. The same old man they had seen from a distance stepped out from behind a nearby tree. He introduced himself as Davian Martikov, owner of the vineyards and winery. He explained that he and his family were driven from their home by evil druids and their wicked minions, taking refuge in the nearby woods. From behind trees all around them at varying distances, out stepped the members of Davian's family as he introduced them:

  • Adrian, his eldest son
  • Elvir, his youngest son
  • Stefania, his adult daughter
  • Dag, Stefania’s husband
  • Stefania and Dag’s four children: a teenage son named Claudiu, two young boys named Martin and Viggo, and a baby girl named Yolanda

The party asked Davian directly "What's up with the ravens?" The old man was flustered and began to angrily deflect when Stefania stepped forward "It's ok, we can tell them papa." As Davian grumbled stubborn objections, Dag stepped forward rolling up his sleeve revealing his forearm. With a few shakes of his exposed arm he suddenly revealed a set of gleaming black feathers from his wrist to his elbow. "We are called wereravens. We are men, not beasts. We mean you no harm."

The party asked the family why these druids were attacking the winery. Stefania explained that the druids of Yester Hill, along with Baba Yaga's animated scarecrows, have been a not uncommon nuisance in the vineyards over the years. It was only an uncharacteristically large assault directly on the winery building in the early morning hours that caught them off guard.

Davian's youngest son, Elvir, asked "Shouldn't we tell them about the missing gems?"

Davian's face became red with exasperation as he raised his walking stick and whacked his eldest son in the back of the head "You're proving to be no smarter than your idiot older brother Urwin!"

Together Stefania and Dag related the story of the winery, with Davian's cranky interjections interspersed throughout the tale.

The Wizard of Wines was founded by a mage whose name is buried in the annals of history. The wizard fashioned three magic gems, each one as big as a pinecone, and planted them in the rich valley soil. These “seeds” gave rise to healthy grapevines, which produced sweet, plump grapes. Even after Strahd’s curse settled over Barovia, the gems kept the vines and their grapes from succumbing to the darkness.

The winery is known for three wines: the unremarkable Purple Grapemash No. 3, the slightly more tantalizing Red Dragon Crush, and the rich Champagne du le Stomp.

Ten years ago, one of the vineyard’s magic gems was dug up and stolen, and as a result, the winery stopped producing its best vintage, the champagne. No one knows what happened to the gem. Davian blames his middle son, Urwin, for the loss because Urwin was on watch the night the gem was taken. Davian is convinced that Urwin shirked his duty to spend time with his betrothed, and the two have been at odds ever since. To this day, Urwin steadfastly denies his father’s accusation.

The party agreed to help the family take back their home and recover the stolen gem. The party crossed back over the open field toward the winery building. As they drew near to the house scores of blights that chased the party into the loading dock area of the winery. The door into the main building from the docks was torn from the hinge laying off to the side. The party scrambled to re-secure the doorway against their pursuers.

The party found themselves in a small hallway with a closed door and a smooth spiraling ramp down to the basement, which the party ultimately decided to follow. The basement was noticeably cooler than the upstairs was, with the party seeing the own puffs of breath hanging in the air. Wooden pillars and beams supported the ten-foot-high ceiling of the ice-cold cellar, which was split in two by a five foot-thick brick walls. A thin mist covered the floor. Each half of the cellar featured an eight-foot tall wooden wine rack. The western rack stood empty, but the eastern one was half filled with wine bottles.

Something moved behind the eastern wine rack. Through the holes, the party glimpsed a half dozen humanoid figures hiding in the shadows, and heard a gravelly voice muttering the words of a spell.

The party sprang to immediate action hoping to act before the spell was finished. They forced the large wine rack bisecting the room toppling over. Sending it, and the dozens of bottles it held, crashing down on top of their foes.

The group dispatched their enemies and went on to explore the rest of the basement in more detail. The cellar got markedly colder the closer to the north wall. Against that wall rested three frosty barrels containing Purple Grapemash No. 3, a fact emblazoned on each barrel's side.

A secret door between the two halves of the wine cellar was found and opened, revealing a freezing cold passageway. A dark tunnel stretched on for fifteen feet, ending at an archway to a shallow cave. The characters could see a brown mold covering the walls, floor, and ceiling around the archway and the cave beyond. Rolen sent her lions in to investigate. As soon as they drew within a few feet of the mold a ferociously dangerous cold seemed to absorb all the heat from their bodies, causing the summoned creatures to instantly disappear.

Other than the oddity of the brown mold to explain how the wine cellar was kept so cool, the passageway had nothing interest to offer so the party moved on to the western end of the basement and up the stairwell they found there.

Back on the ground floor the party entered a large large, two-story chamber filled with the rich smell of fermenting wine, dominated by four enormous wooden casks, each one eight feet wide and twelve feet tall. A wooden staircase in the center of the room climbed to a ten -foot-high wooden balcony clinging to the south wall. Stacked against the wall underneath the balcony were old, empty barrels with "The Wizard of Wines" burned into their sides. The balcony climbed another five feet as it continued along the west and east walls, ending at doors leading to the winery's upper level. Underneath these side balconies were several doors, some of which hung open. Beneath the sloping roof stretched thick rafters, upon which scores of ravens were quietly gathered. They seemed to watch the party with great interest.

The balcony creaked, drawing eyes to a wild-looking figure hunched over the westernmost cask, pouring a flask of thick syrup into it. She wore a gown made of animal skins and a headdress with rams horns, her hair was long and unkempt. Suddenly, the party saw something skittering across the floor. It looked like a tiny creature made of twigs. It moved from its hiding place under the stairs and disappeared behind the easternmost cask.

The Wounded Elf
week 15 game log

After turning Bluto over to the authorities the party immediately got moving to get Arabelle back to her encampment outside Vallaki before it got dark.

About a mile outside of town, and down a path from the main road, the woods parted to reveal a small, grass-covered hill with low houses built into its sides. The homes had elegantly carved woodwork and decorative lanterns hanging from their sculpted eaves. Atop the hill was a ring of barrel-topped wagons surrounding a large tent.

As the party approached they saw three dusk elves standing guard outside one of the hillside houses. The guards saw that the party had the missing Arabelle with them and advised the party go directly to Luvash and Arrigal, the leaders of this Vistani clan. As they started to leave Rolen noticed that one of the guards, a young elf named Phann, was openly gawking at her.

Piled outside the tent were several empty casks of wine. From inside the tent came the crack of a whip followed by the howls of a young man. A barely conscious and shirtless teenager was tied to the central tent pole, his wrists bound with rope and his back streaked with blood. An older, larger man in studded leather armor was lashing the young man with a horsewhip, causing him to scream again. Standing in the bigger man's shadow was a third man also clad in studded leather. "Easy, brother," he said to the whip-wielding brute. "I think Alexei has learned his lesson."

The two men in studded leather armor were the leaders of the Vistani camp – the brothers Luvash and Arrigal. Luvash was punishing a Vistana named Alexei for failing to keep a watchful eye on his daughter. The characters' arrival with Arabelle instantly dispels Luvash's rage, and he ran to embrace his daughter forgetting about Alexei.

Luvash was overjoyed and as thanks he told the party they could choose any one treasure from the his treasure wagon. After looking at the different options the group opted to take an onyx jewelry box with gold filigree (worth 250 gp) containing six pieces of cheap jewelry (worth 50 gp each) and a potion of poison in an unlabeled crystal vial (worth 100 gp).

After selecting their reward, Luvash invited the party to dine and spend the night with the clan. Noticeably absent from the meal was any wine. Arrigal explained that they often purchase their wine from a regular shipment made to Vallaki from The Wizard of Wines, but the latest shipment was several days past due.

After dinner Rolen, Visenya, and Rask went down to the guarded house built into the hillside. There they met with Kasimir Velikov, the leader of the dusk elves. Kasimir invited the party to hear his story.

Centuries ago, the dusk elves eked out a modest living here at the hilltop and had limited contact with the outside world. Then Kasimir's sister Patrina started acting strangely. Suffering from what they thought at first to be simple sleepwalking, Kasimir eventually became convinced that she was in fact a concubine of the devil Strahd. Thinking it a better fate than becoming a vampire bride, Kasimir and his fellow dusk elves stoned Patrina to death. Strahd was enraged. As punishment for depriving him of his bride, Strahd butchered all the women in the dusk elf tribe, and Kasimir’s ears were cut off to punish him for instigating the stoning. Strahd took away Patrina's body, which is now sealed in the catacombs below Castle Ravenloft.

Patrina now speaks to her brother in dreams, telling him how years of guilt and regret have cleansed her tortured soul. Kasimir wants to see Strahd destroyed so that his sister can be rescued from her eternal damnation.

Patrina has told Kasimir that the Amber Temple, an ancient vault hidden in the Barovian mountains, is where Strahd forged his pact with evil powers and became a vampire. Kasimir has been spying on the temple for years, but he needs adventurers to help him survive its perils. He thinks that the secret to breaking Strahd’s pact and freeing Barovia from its curse might be hidden there, but more important to him, he believes that the Amber Temple holds the secret to restore his sister Patrina back to life.

At that point Kasimir directly asked the party if they intended to destroy Strahd. After they confirmed, Kasimir told them he had a powerful item to help in their quest, but he would only relinquish it if they party swore an oath to return to him after defeating Strahd and accompany him to an expedition to the Amber Temple. The party agreed and promised to return and see Kasimir after confronting Strahd.

From a secret compartment built into the fireplace Kasimir removed a large amulet connected to a heavy chain wrapped in a fine white cloth. As he unwrapped it he explained that it was the Holy Symbol of Ravenkind, a unique and ancient artifact sacred to the good-hearted faithful of Barovia. The holy symbol is a platinum amulet shaped like the sun, with a large crystal embedded in its center. The holy symbol recharges itself every day at dawn and has several powers for battling vampires and other undead.

After meeting with Kasimir and returning Arabelle to her camp, the party returned to Vallaki. After an uneventful afternoon the party went again to the Blue Water Inn. The group knocked on the door to Ismark's room, but he did not answer. They entered the room to find a note stuck to the wall with a small dagger. The note read "I have Ismark. I will release him unharmed if you bring Ireena to Old Bonegrinder before the new moon (5 days away). She is being held prisoner in Krezk."

The party briefly debated whether to storm the windmill right away in an attempt to free Ismark, but ultimately decided to try and track down Ireena before doing so. The party gathered up supplies in their stagecoach and left Vallaki heading west. The 4 hour trip along the Old Svalich road to Krezk was uneventful.

The party arrived at a gatehouse built into a twenty-foot-high wall of stone reinforced with buttresses every fifty feet or so. The wall encloses a settlement on the side of a snowdusted mountain spur. Beyond the wall you could see the tops of snow-covered pines and a stone abbey clinging to the mountainside high above the settlement.

After being denied entry by the guards, the party spoke with the burgomaster of Krezk, Dmitri Krezkov. Dmitri explained that he places the safety of his village above the welfare of any strangers. He has seen adventurers before and assumes that they are somehow entangled with Strahd, and he isn't prepared to shelter Strahd's enemies any more than he is willing to humor Strahd's allies.

He then paused briefly before saying there might be a way for the characters to help the people of Krezk, whereupon Dmitri would be required by his oath of office and his honor as a Barovian noble to show them hospitality. Dmitri then asked the characters to secure a wagon load of wine from the Wizard of Wines winery to the south. His people have been without wine for days, and the next delivery is long overdue.

The party then left the gates of Krezk heading south for the winery. The opted to leave the stagecoach behind and took their horses on a shortcut through the woods directly to the winery. After traveling for another hour, the party emerged from the woods and crossed into an open vineyard, there they saw several scarecrows tied to posts at the far end of the field.

As the party drew closer they could see the scarecrows start to move and climb down from their posts.

The Monster of Lake Zarovich
week 14 game log

After a night of rest at their new headquarters in Vallaki the party went to the Blue Water Inn. There they met with Ismark, exhausted after his fruitless search for any sign of his missing sister. He explained that he was going to return to his home village of Barovia and assume his role as the new burgomaster. He begged that the party would continue the search for Ireena, to any length and any cost. He then resumed his rest and encouraged the group to talk to Urwin and Danika, and perhaps the town guard, about following up on any possible leads.

Danika was tending to the bar area when the party emerged from Ismark's room. She relayed a tale of suspicious behavior concerning one of her regular patrons, Bluto Kargarov. The previous day he had been seen carrying a length of rope and a large sack, and seemed evasive when asked about what he was doing with them. He hasn't been seen since Ireena's disappearance.

After talking with Danika the party went to speak with the town guard about anything out of place they may have seen. Guards stationed at the West Gate reported a strange group of self-described pilgrims arriving just as the last traces of daylight dwindled away. Even with low hanging hoods to obscure their features the guards could see that the men had some kind of beastly deformities. Without a full appreciation exactly why, the guards opened the gates and welcomed them into the town. The same group of men were back at the West Gate several hours later, this time leaving Vallaki, and again the guards let them through without a second thought.

The party decided to follow up on Bluto first. The last time he was seen he was heading toward the North Gate, presumably to go fishing out on Lake Zarovich. Once the party arrived at the lake they could see several rowboats on the shore, and Bluto sitting motionless in a rowboat a few hundred feet from the shore.

The party started preparing to take two boats out onto the lake, but as soon as they stepped in the water Bluto stood, lifted a wriggling sack up from the bottom of the boat, tossed it overboard, and calmly sat back down, staring off into the distance the whole time.

The party scrambled to action, hurriedly rowing out to retrieve the trapped victim before the bag sank. They arrived just as the bag slipped beneath the water. Kahn dove in pulling the bag back up towards the surface.  As he swam he could see a huge tentacled horror charging up from the lake's deepest depths.

The nightmarish creature lashed out with with its long barbed tentacles, but its most fearsome weapons was a savage psychic assault. It immediately became apparent that this creature must be the source behind Bluto's enthrallment. Try as it might, the party stood fast against the creature's telepathic probing. During one of the mental attacks one character was able to glimpse a part of the creature's mind.

The beast, called an aboleth by the sages, was an ancient creature from a time before the gods. They are memory incarnate, the sum accumulation of not only from their own immortal lives, but all the knowledge and experience of every creature they have devour.

The creature desired Vistani victims most of all, in the hopes of gleaning the secrets of navigating the mists and escaping Ravenloft. For generations the Vistani in the region have told cautionary tales urging them to give Lake Zarovich a wide berth. As a result, the aboleth has resorted to mentally coercing the town drunkard of Vallaki into herding fresh quarry.

After a fierce battle the party vanquished the beast and watched it sink back into the lake's depths. They immediately opened the sack to reveal a terrified and traumatized Vistani girl. The group brought the girl, named Arabelle, along with Bluto's unconscious body back to the lakeshore.

On the way back through Vallaki they stopped at Wachterhaus and turned Bluto in for his crimes. Lady Fiona vowed to give him the justice he deserved. With a few hours of sunlight remaining the party opted to rush Arabelle home to her encampment west of Vallaki without delay.

Summoning Mortuu
week 13 game log

The party returned to the church after the burgomaster's mansion was overrun by looting townsfolk. After several hours of rest, they returned to the mansion just before dawn. They searched and secured the building room by room until they reached the attic. There they could see a dead looter just outside Victor's magically warded door and an eerie green light emanating from the room beyond. After careful inspection they were able to negate the ward and open the door, but it was too late. Victor was standing in the middle of the room facing a large green glowing glyph in the corner. In the glyph stood a hulking unholy monstrosity with a dog-like head and two sets of arms, the larger of which ended in massive crushing claws.

Victor ordered the summoned beast to take him away "from this prison", but the demon ignored him instead focusing its attention on the glyph at its feet. Victor angrily repeated his command and a moment later the demon smirked, having found the flaw in the novice wizard's ritual allowing it to break containment. The beast seized up the young man in its giant pincers. With a sickening rip, Victor was torn in half at the waist and his halves thrown out the attic window to the courtyard below.

The party rushed in to battle the fiend. Aeon kept the beast occupied by continually hacking away at his mid-section, Rolen and her summoned lions focused their attacks low, Rask took aim with his bow, and Zean fought bravely while getting the life crushed from him by the unrelenting strength of one of the demon's powerful claws.

The monster used all the physical power and magical ability it could muster, but it was not enough to defeat the heroes. The beast tried to flee, but was stopped and felled. As its body slowly dissolved into a thick black mist it swore vengeance on the party.

Besides the scrolls, and spellbooks found in Victor's workroom there was also a mysterious magical mirror and a fancy scrollcase that apparently contained the instructions for the summoning ritual that Victor had performed.

After healing their wounds the party left the mansion and headed toward the Blue Water Inn. Along the way they heard a small commotion coming from the town square. They went to investigate and were disheartened to find the Baroness Lydia along with Hernik both dead. They had been tied to poles and stoned to death by an angry mob during the night. The party gathered the bodies and brought them to the church for a proper burial. Father Lucian was devastated by his sister's death, but did his best to put on a brave face and carry on.

The party then returned to the inn. Rolen had noticed what seemed to be an unusual gathering of ravens perched on the rooftop of the inn. The party questioned the proprietors, Urwin and Danika Martikov, about the events of the previous night. Unfortunately they couldn't offer any helpful information about either Ireena' s kidnapping, or the current whereabouts of Izek Strazni.

After that the group went to Wachterhaus to speak with the new burgomaster, Lady Fiona Wachter. There they were able to negotiate the legal transfer of ownership of the now abandoned Vallakovich Estate to the party. The Lady only had two conditions; that the party follow the laws and established customs of Vallaki, and that they would come to the defense of the town if called upon. The party agreed to both conditions.

Now the heroes are returning to their new home to begin repairs on the damaged house.

The Fall of Baron Vargas
week 12 game log

Rask and Zean drove away the few guards stationed at the baron's mansion, and liberated the baron's prisoners prior to entering the house.

The baron was cornered in his study, apparently abandoned by his guards. He defiantly fired a heavy mechanical crossbow at the party as they breached the room, and Rask returned fire… directly into the baron's heart.

At the same time an angry mob of townsfolk began entering the mansion and looting whatever they could carry.

Meanwhile, Rolen met with Rictavio and returned the escaped tiger to the carnival wagon. After fearing that angry townsfolk might come to harm the beast, Rictavio decided to pack up and leave town in the middle of the night.

The Festival of The Blazing Sun
week 11 game log

After learning about Izek's prophetic dreams of Ireena, the party decided to head back to the Blue Water Inn to warn her and her brother, Ismark. The news unsettled the siblings, and while Ireena was curious that Izek may know something about her past before being found outside of the village of Barovia, she agreed to follow the advice to steer clear of him.

Meanwhile, Zean went back to the town square on a mission to free the townsfolk he had seen locked up earlier. When he arrived he found the stocks empty, so he redirected his focus onto the stockades themselves. He repeatedly bashed at the wooden structure until it started to come apart. The passerby in the square initially just stared on in silence, but after a few moments others stepped forward from the crowd to join in the vandalism. The stockades were ultimately damaged beyond usability, and the gathered crowd dispersed before any town guards arrived.

The party restocked on provisions and waited for the festival ceremony to begin. A somber procession of children made their way into the square, followed by adults carrying a large wicker sun, as a light rain started to fall. The baroness & baron then followed riding on horseback, as the rain slowly grew heavier. Townsfolk began splashing the wicker sun with oil as the burgomaster addressed the crowd. He gave a short speech about the importance of turning in "traitors" of Vallaki, who he claimed were threatening the safety and salvation of the rest. He went on to announce that Henrik would be tried and executed for his "betrayal".

Zean spoke aloud "only if he is FOUND GUILTY", but the baron offered no retort. Instead he finished his address and dismounted his horse, brandishing a large decorative torch. With every step the baron took toward the wicker ball the rain seemed to get heavier, leaving the torch struggling to stay alit. He yelled out "All will be well!" and thrust the torch to the wicker construction, immediately extinguishing the torch.

Lars, the town guard, let out a single unintended laugh, drawing a fiery gaze from the burgomaster. The baron composed himself once more and offered his final statements to the captive crowd before dismissing them. The party circled around Rolen to offer cover as she could discreetly cast some fire magic that she used to ignite the wicker construction. The burgomaster quickly maneuvered to take credit for Rolen's move with the declaration "You see? All will be well!", his arms raised in victory.

When most of the crowd had dispersed, the guards re-grouped across the square. From their vantage point the party could see that the other guards were being ordered to arrest and restrain Lars. He was bound by the hands and feet, with another rope leading from his feet to the saddle of the burgomaster's horse.

The party moved to intervene, but there guards were too numerous. The party certainly could have bested the guards with little trouble, but opted to not spur on outright rebellion (at least not yet). The party watched Lars being cruelly dragged through the mud as the burgomaster rode off back to his mansion.

The party then returned to the inn, where a large number of townsfolk had started to congregate for the night. Some members of the party tried to incite the crowd at the inn into a general uprising against the burgomaster, and were making some progress when Izek suddenly arrived, bringing all talk to an abrupt halt. Izek strode up to the bar, sat down, and ordered a drink without a word to anyone.

The party was debating on whether to move on the burgomaster's mansion and make an attempt to free the baron's prisoners. Zean started for the door frustrated with the group's inability to come to a consensus, and Visenya objected by means of her quarterstaff to the back of his head. Zean replied in kind to her face with the back of his hand.

Before events could escalate any further, the scene was interrupted by screams from outside. As as a patron nearby the door opened it to investigate, the party could see the Wachter brothers, Nikolai and Karl, fleeing down the street as the mighty roar of a tiger echoed thru the night.

Rictavio and Izek both immediately went for the exit. Rolen stepped outside behind them and could see Izek, Rictavio, and the Wachter brothers, all headed in different directions. She opted to follow Izek. Zean and Rask left the inn destined for the baron's mansion, while Kharas and Visenya stayed behind at the inn.

Izek met up with a number of the town guard and split them up to search for the tiger currently running amok, with orders to kill the beast. Rolen was determined to find the tiger before the guards did. She tracked the creature through the streets and eventually found it, defensively crouched at the far end of an enclosed alley.

Zean and Rask headed to the burgomaster's mansion where they were met by 4 members of the town guard.

Exploring Vallaki
week 10 game log

The burgomaster's mansion was abustle with various servants preparing for the latest festival. After meeting with Baron Vargas, the party discreetly went about checking out the upstairs of the mansion. They found a lavishly-appointed bedroom with a trapdoor opening up to a spacious attic.

This attic was full of forgotten things draped in white sheets, and old furnishings covered with cobwebs and dust. The party noticed a clear set of footprints in the dust winding between the various barrels, crates, and trunks. The trail lead to a heavy wooden door with large skull design carved into it. Hanging from the doorknob was a wooden sign that read "ALL IS NOT WELL!" The party noticed a nearly invisible glyph of warding etched into the skull's forehead, but before they could decide how to proceed they heard someone coming up into the attic from behind them.

It was the burgomaster's 17-year-old son Victor. The party hid among the clutter waiting for Victor to open the magically guarded door. As soon as the door was opened, the party stepped out from the shadows to speak with him. While the boy was startled, the party got a look inside of the previously locked room and could see several items of concern/interest.

Most notably in the room were the animated skeletons of several cats wandering about. There was also a crudely drawn teleportation circle, and a partially sewn wizard's robe. The young man was outraged at the intrusion to his privacy and demanded the party leave immediately. Zean responded to his objection with a backhanded slap, which caused Victor to immediately yell out for the guards.

The party made no attempt to flee, and rather waited for the guards to arrive. While the guards were curious as to what the party was doing uninvited up in the attic, they also seemed to delight in the fact that Victor had been "put in his place". The guards diffused the situation and escorted the party downstairs, leaving Victor to his seclusion. The party confided in the guards about the teleportation circle and other items they observed in Victor's room. The guards admitted they were "generally aware" of Victor's magical aspirations, but that they had also determined he was incapable of doing any serious harm.

The party decided to leave the burgomaster's mansion and made their way over to the Blue Water Inn. There they encountered several different individuals; The Martikov family (owners of the inn), the hunters Szoldar & Yevgeni, Ricatvio the bard, and Nikolai & Karl Wachter. After speaking with everyone in the main room, the party went to speak on current matters with Ireena & Ismark in their room.

Before the party left the inn they were approached by a shifty looking man who introduced himself as Ernst Larnak, faithful servant of the Lady Fiona Wachter. Ernst was delivering a letter that Lady Fiona was asked to relay to them. The letter was an dinner invitation from Strahd.

The party opted to visit Lady Fiona at Wachterhaus to try and learn more about her and/or the invitation letter. Lady Fiona explained that the Wachter family were long-time allies of the von Zarovich's. She has spent the last few years scheming to oust the current burgomaster so that she could assume control of Vallaki. She had even gone as far as trying to arrange a marriage between Victor Vallakovich and her daughter Stella, but that plan fell apart after her daughter went mad and had to be locked away in Wachterhaus.

The party examined the poor girl and while they were not able to provide the cure themselves, they seemed able to identify the correct treatment needed. Lady Wachter said she would be "indebted" to the party if they were able to help her daughter.

From there the party reported back to Izek Strazni for the "formal interview" regarding the vampire nest at Henrik's and the attack on St. Andral's. The pre-drafted paperwork was worded in such a way as to show Baron Vargas in an undeserved positive light. Disagreeing on several pertinent details, the party decided to not cooperate and a visibly annoyed Izek showed them to the door.

With just an hour to go until the Festival of The Blazing Sun kick-off ceremony, the party decided to pay a visit to the local toymaker, Gadoff Blisnky. The heavyset man was sitting behind the counter of his shop talking to a small monkey wearing a tutu. Blinsky believes the burgomaster is right – that the only way to escape from Barovia is to make everyone in town "hyappy." Blinsky is trying to do his part by making sure that all the children in Barovia have fun toys.

While investigating Gadof's collection of creepy toys, the party noticed a doll sitting on a shelf that bore a remarkable resemblance to Ireena. Gadof explained that Izek Strazni has been a loyal customer of his for years, ordering at least 1 new doll every month in the likeness of woman that Izek says haunts his dreams. The party happened to be in the store when Izek arrived to pick up his latest commissioned piece.

The day is starting to grow late, and the party is scheduled to join in the kick-off ceremony in the town square before long…

The Massacre at St. Andral's
week 9 game log

The rest of the party saw Zean flee from Henrik's carrying a heavy wooden box, with three vampire spawn hot on his trail.

The chase took the party through the winding streets and back alleys of Vallaki as they made their way toward the church. Zean was able to deftly leap over a cabbage cart whilst simultaneously knocking it over, causing two of his pursuers to lose their footing and allowing the rest of the party to gain some ground in the chase.

As the party raced through the town they entered the crowded town square. At the north end of the square stood a row of stocks, locked in which were several men, women, and children wearing crude, plaster donkey heads. There at the apparent order of burgomaster Vallakovich.

Rolen transformed into a large sturdy horse, as Kharas hopped up on her back for an express ride. The horse lowered her head and charged, quickly catching up to one of the vampire spawn and brutally trampling him in the process.

After a series of twists and turns Zean was able to spot someone entering what looked like a private home. Being knowledgeable about vampire lore, he bolted directly for the residence before the occupant had a chance to close the door. He threw his full weight into the closing door, forcing it back open as he crashed into the home. The vampires stopped a few feet from the door, aware as Zean was that they could not enter the building without being invited. One of the vampires gestured to the other and they quickly turned and fled the scene, the party did not give chase allowing them to leave.

With the furious and stunned tenant yelling at them to get out, the party worked to force open the box from inside the commandeered home. After a few minutes of struggling they managed to force it open revealing an incomplete set of brittle, aged bones.

After liberating the bones, the party hastened back to the church, but as the building came into view it was immediately apparent that the church was under attack. Panicked parishioners could be seen frantically fleeing in every direction with horrid screams emanating from inside.

Upon entering the church, through doors now torn torn free of their hinges, the horror of the massacre was fully realized. A dozen bloodied bodies, including several children, lay strewn about the pews while the same three vampires from the chase were corralling the remaining survivors into the front corners of the room. Father Lucian was spotted slumped over a pew toward the front clutching a grievous mortal wound to his abdomen, quickly bleeding to death.

Rolen healed the priest while Kharas and Zean confronted the vampires, drawing their attention away from the trapped and helpless townsfolk. Zean called upon his deity, The Morninglord, to turn away the undead creatures, forcing them away to the back of room. Unable to come any closer, one of the vampires began muttering some kind of enchantment. Kharas noticed that the ground around the graves in the cemetery outside began to stir apparently as the bodies buried underneath began clawing their way to the surface.

With Father Lucian's guidance the party was able to find the bones' hiding place under the altar, and upon returning them the vampires were immediately driven from the newly re-consecrated grounds of the church, and the dead from the cemetery returned to their rest.

The bodies of the dead were gathered, and Father Lucian led the few remaining congregants in a prayer for the souls of the dead. Among the dead were Yeska (Father Lucian's altar-boy) and the siblings, Freek & Myrtle (the children rescued from the hag coven at the windmill). The children were apparently all playing together toward the back end of the church, and were the attacking vampires first victims.

A short while after the sun went down, Izek Strazni was seen standing in the doorway of the church. He made a insensitive sarcastic comment about "good times" following the party everywhere they seemed to go.

Izek was sent to communicate a message from Baron Vallakovich. He said that the burgomaster was very displeased with the evenings events; Several of his guards had died in the bungled assault at Henrik's, the party ignored Izek's instruction to withdraw from the fight, the fire the party started caused significant damage to a number of buildings and claimed the life of yet another guard, and finally a huge crowd of townsfolk had gathered that clearly saw the vampires, the party doing battle with them, along with a huge jungle cat (very rare for these parts) that came crashing out of the building before fleeing the scene.

The burgomaster "strongly suggests" that the party should quietly leave town by the following mid-day so the town could begin the process of healing from this series of tragic events ahead of the start of the Festival of The Blazing Sun tomorrow.

The party decided to set a watch to ensure the church remained safe during the night. All was quiet and still until a few hours past midnight, when Rolen could see breaks in the soft light trickling in through the gaps in the wood left after hammering the church doors temporarily back in place for the night.

Rolen quietly crept towards the door, trying to gain an angle from which she could see what was creeping outside. She had to get fairly close to the door to see, and there she she saw the devil Strahd himself. Standing motionless with his hands folded in front of him, head slightly cocked with an inquisitive look in his eye, sporting a barely perceptible grin. He met Rolen's gaze for as long as she held it, but otherwise made no movements.

Rolen slowly backed away from the door and roused her comrades. Zean began donning his armor, taking a few minutes before approaching the door to investigate. He could see nothing outside. He slowly opened the church doors and eventually stepped a few feet beyond the door. The air was very still and quiet. There was only the sounds of chirping crickets and wisps of fog clinging sparsely the ground. After remaining outside for a brief time, Zean turned to re-enter the church. At just that moment, an unusually loud and beastly sounding wolf's howl pierced the stillness. It was apparent that this howl came from a creature that was very close by, possibly just around to the side of the church. Zean opted to rejoin the others inside, and re-sealed the church door. The remainder of the night passed quietly and was uneventful.

The next morning the party woke and laid out their plans for the morning. They were to go see Ismark and Ireena at the Blue Water Inn, retrieve the discarded wooden box that held the bones (the box apparently served as protection from and scrying and other detection attempts), before meeting back up at the church ahead of the burgomaster's mid-day deadline to leave town. But upon leaving the church they immediately made a grim discovery, piled by the side of the church were the decapitated bodies of the same six vampire spawn from Henrik's responsible for the slaughter at the church.

The party decided to take these bodies to the burgomaster's mansion, to demonstrate that the vampire threat was now over. Kharas insisted on keeping the vampire heads as trophies, and he and Rolen had a brief disagreement when Kharas suggested tethering the severed heads to their carriage horses.

Carting the vampire bodies from the church across town to the baron's mansion caused a slight stir amongst the people. By the time they arrived at their destinations, some of the guards on duty had received some notice about what the party was up to. At the mansion gate you saw Lars Kjurls, a town guard you recognize from having spent time with him outside of Henrik's.

Lars stated that he was instructed to take possession of the vampire bodies and escort you inside. The party reluctantly agreed after initially making demands for the burgomaster to come meet them outside. Inside the house they saw the Baroness hosting another one of her infamous tea parties. Once noticing the party she excused herself from her company and approached. She offered sincere thanks to the party for stopping the massacre at the church and for saving the life of her brother Father Lucian.

The party made an attempt to appeal to the lady's decency to stand up in opposition to her husband methods of governance, but quickly realized that this poor woman had so thoroughly compartmentalized her emotions on this matter for so long that she was firmly entrenched in her myopia.

A short time later the party was greeted by the Baron, along with his ever-present mastiffs. While he didn't openly admit it, it seems that the events of the previous night had created a buzz amongst the citizenry. In the eyes of the public, these travelers new to the town had discovered the vampire nest at Henrik's, drove the creatures out of hiding, and finally slew the creatures after they descended upon the church. While opinion on the subject is not universal among the citizenry (some blame the party for the vampire's coming out of hiding to attack) public opinion is strong enough that the burgomaster is apparently trying to position himself as the party responsible for directing the heroes to deal with the vampire threat.

In the face of a potential public relations nightmare, the baron is trying to spin this as a great victory for the town ahead of the upcoming festival, scheduled to kick off at sundown. He wants the party to attend the lighting ceremony as his "guests of honor". He has asked if the party would be so kind as to provide a formal statement of events "for the record". The debriefing will be handled momentarily by the Baron's right-hand man, Izek.

In the meantime the Baron has other business to attend to and has offered one of his servants to provide you with a tour of the estate and something to eat while you wait.

The Vampire Nest
week 8 game log

Zean went to the bugomaster's mansion where he saw a villager named Udo being escorted by guards through a side door. He then met briefly with the Baroness, before speaking with Burgomaster Vallakovich about the vampires hiding in Henrik's shop. The burgomaster wanted things handled quietly, so as to not negatively impact morale ahead of the upcoming Festival of the Blazing Sun. He dispatched 8 guards along, with his "right hand man" Izek Strazni, to assist the party in dealing with the situation.

The party members that remained behind searched the ground floor of the shop. Along the way they removed several lamps from the walls and doused the rooms in flammable oil. Henrik pleaded with the party to not "burn down everything he has" but they continued on with their plan. Henrik, apparently trying to pick between the lesser of two evils, fled upstairs to awaken the vampires in an attempt to save his livelihood.

The party set the oil ablaze as they fled the shop. They saw thin wisps of smoke coming from a few of the windows for a short time, but before long the shop was quiet and still once again.

Zean, Izek, and the town guards arrived some time later and knocked on the door of the shop. When nobody answered, Izek demanded that Henrik open the door or they would break it down. Henrik complied hesitantly.

Izek spoke briefly with Henrik, had him arrested, and taken to the burgomaster's mansion "to be purged of his evil." Half of the dispatched guards setup a perimeter around the house, while everyone else made their way into the shop.

Evidence of the small fire set earlier (now extinguished) could be seen on the first floor. The floor was thoroughly searched before everyone moved upstairs. A large neglected junk storage room with a dozen crates dominated the 2nd level, and when no evidence of vampires were found, the party decided to open up and search some of the crates. As soon as one of the crates was opened, the 6 hiding vampires burst from their concealment and attacked.

The vampires proved far too formidable for the town guards, who were cut down mercilessly. After putting up a brief fight, Izek made the call for everyone to retreat outside. While he left immediately, the remaining party members withdrew more slowly, trying to block the path behind them with flammable debris. Another fire was set, this time on the stairs, with the aim of trapping the vampires.

While this was going on, Zean had moved to search some of the other rooms of the 2nd floor prior to his escape. He found Henrik's bedroom, and the wardrobe Henrik had mentioned, but the bones weren't inside. Zean noticed a secret compartment in the bottom of the wardrobe that contained a dark, locked box with heavy iron fixtures. As he opened the secret compartment, a vampire, turned earlier by Zean, watching from outside the window let out a bellowing screech as an apparent signal to his comrades.

Zean dove out the window into the alleyway, quickly followed by 3 of the vampire spawn. He tried to open the locked box without success, so the paladin decided to make a run for St. Andral's with the vampires giving chase.

The remainder of the party joined Izek and the guards, along with a growing crowd on onlookers, across from the front of Henrik's shop as the fire inside began to grow more intense. Rolen in particular made a notable entrance before the gathered crowd when she, in the form of a ferocious lion, crashed thru a 2nd story window into the street.


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