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Darth Paul
Posted by the GM
Curse of Strahd
Chapter 20: Dinner With the Count
After a restful night in Vallaki, the heroes opted to head to Krezk to meet with the Abbot of the Abbey of St. Markovia. Along the road, as the heavy rain turned into wet snow, they saw a skeletal horseman plodding down the trail. The clop and rattle of the bony horse, the jingle of his rusted mail - all mournful sounds they had heard before. They stood aside to let this mute horror, this sign of Strahd's merciless wrath, pass in peace. It was not to be. A cold light burned in the skull's empty eye-sockets and the figure brought up its rusted lance. A raspy voice echoed from the hollow skull. "I will have my sword!" It was Vladimir Horngaard, his spirit now possessing this undead thing!

The former commander of the Order of the Silver Dragon charged Shokk, whose armor narrowly turned aside the lance. In an instant, the group fell on the dead knight and his skeletal horse, and they both fell under a flurry of blows and shattering spells. "I will be back..." the voice cried hollowly, fading off into an eerie echo.


This skeletal rider was no harmless phantom.

The rest of the trail was clear, and the heroes headed straight to the abbey. They climbed up the old switchback trail that led out of the village and up to the cliff where the abbey stood. Otto Belview greeted them in his cheery yet mildly insane way, escorting them through the gates of the main building. The courtyard was quiet, and it appeared that his cousin had finally broken her chain and flown off. They had briefly conversed with one of the guards, and learned the bells of the abbey tolled at odd intervals, both day and night. As they were escorted into the main hall, they saw the Abbot there with his creation, Vasilika, and the simulacrum of the archmage Mordenkainen that Evan had created with magic wrought from a scroll found in the Amber Temple.

The Abbot greeted them, and they remarked on how fast Vasilika's education was progressing. The heroes told him of their difficulty with the night hag, Morgantha, and the Abbot was hard pressed to grant them any aid. He had been barred from the other realms, or so he said, and could do no more than offer them shelter. The simulacrum of Mordenkainen offered a solution. It had an enchantment that could grant the recipient true seeing, enough to see things not of this world. If the heroes could use this spell when one of their number fell into a nightmare, they could see the hag as she hovered near her victim. A charm to dispel magic would be enough to bring her forth. The charm around her neck, it explained, was the key to her power to fade into the ether. If that were taken, she would be vulnerable and could be slain.

The heroes agreed to stay the night, and enacted their plan. Cira waited patiently with the simulacrum as the others slept, and when Verity began to writhe and moan in the throes of a nightmare, she cast her spell. The hag appeared! With a furious snarl, she began to leap at Cira while she clutched for the small pendant around her neck. But Kyne was faster, and snatched it away. Morgantha howled with fury and unleashed her claws and spells, but she fell to Volta's axe and Shokk's sword. She was slain, and her body faded back into the nothing of dreams.


Morgantha had haunted their dreams for the last time.

Freed of her dogged haunting, the heroes thanked the Abbot come the morning and left. They opted to head back to Castle Ravenloft, taking advantage of what hours of daylight they had left. They arrived a few hours before sundown, in the midst of a storm. The black coach was waiting for them past the gates of Ravenloft, and the heroes chose to ride to the castle. The coach stopped in the courtyard, and they stepped out. The doors to the castle remained open, and the heroes entered cautiously. The foyer had four dragon statues, one perched in each corner, and the inner doors led to a vast, octagonal hall. Stairs to the north led up, a door to the east led back, and a hall to the south led to more stairs and another door. They could hear the thunderous, mournful tunes of an organ being played from behind that last set of doors.

A dusky-skinned elf with black hair wearing the rich garb of a castellan came down the stairs. "The master," he said in solemn tones, "is expecting you. He would like you to join him for dinner." Though Shokk and Cira prepared to walk off, Caxius turned with a smile and approached the double doors. Worrying for their friend, the rest of the group went with him. Beyond, there was a large dining hall, the huge table laid with a great feast. Across the room, playing the organ, was a dark-haired figure in black and red clothes. It was none other than Strahd von Zarovich himself. He turned as they entered.


Rahadin, the Count's chamberlain.

"Welcome, my friends. I am glad you accepted my invitation. Rahadin," he nodded to the elf, "you may leave us." With a nod, the elf closed the doors behind the heroes. Caxius and a couple of others dug into the feast, while Shokk, Cira, and Verity watched. "We do not need to be enemies," the Count exclaimed, "if fact, I can send you home, provided you agree to serve me for a time first." Questions came, suspicions were raised, and though Kyne felt the offer a fair one, the rest refused point-blank. "Foolish," Strahd chided. "Very foolish. You may stay the night to think on your refusal, but I warn the castle is not...safe." With a booming laugh from the vampire lord, the chandeliers overhead went out as a great rush of cold wind swept the dining hall. The tapers re-ignited, and Strahd was gone. The heroes could hear the doors of the castle booming shut. They might be trapped...


Verity wasn't sure if Strahd was playing a welcome...or a funeral dirge.

They began to explore the area, and found a secret panel behind the organ, which slid forward when one of the pedals was pressed. Shokk moved into a defensive redoubt behind, made his way to one of the castle's corner towers, and followed a cobweb-choked hall to a spiral stair leading up. The rest followed, and they climbed to a small room on the next floor. A white-haired balding man sat chained to a desk in a crowded room, ledgers, books, scrolls, and parchments cluttering every surface and the shelves behind him. He introduced himself as Lief Lipsiege, the count's accountant, and asked for naught save a bit of dinner. When Volta raised her axe to sever his chain, he misunderstood and shrieked with terror. A group of undead warriors and two undead sorcerers, all wights, entered from the stair up and wordlessly moved to attack the heroes. The battle was brief but intense, and the accountant unharmed. In gratitude, he gave them keys to the chests in the room and they took several hundred gold and silver coins and a strange book for themselves. There was another set of stairs that led up and out, the stairwell they had come up, which continued up, and another door that led deeper into the castle. Which way would they go...?
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Mitchell
Posted by the GM
Jingle Bomb Rock
Jingle Bomb Rock Session 1, Part 1: The Sunshine State
There's a heat in the air of Florida, not like back in Lanta. It's searing, it's alive, and it's stark mad.

In that heat budded the hopes and dreams of a man named Dean Earl Armistance. Nedich Prospectors had put him with two other Georgia natives, Sarah Augustine and Bill Forsythe, and sent them on the nearest road south, with all the others that had signed on after prospects started to dry up in Georgia. They had their clothes, their company store weapons, food and water for a day or two, and the promise of good pay should they return with pre-War salvage.

They picked up the trail again some time after lunch, a crumbled highway that had cut through miles of dead grassland. An old sign that used to be brilliant green welcomed their passage into the Slough Wasteland, though it pointed the way to places called "Tampa" and "St. Petersburg". Noon was fiery, yes, but the Slough was wetter than most of the Wasteland; the prospectors knew they were getting close to the colossal, irradiated marsh for which the region was dubbed.

They were approaching the slope of an overpass when a rumbling sound overtook the brush of their boots on gravel. In the distance ahead of them, a pickup truck, moving by some feat of wasteland engineering, crested the peak of the overpass. They saw the passengers, at once acutely aware of the fragility of their mortality; the strange riders were tall, hulking, green-skinned. Super Mutants. Three of them, at least one armed.

The riders had every means to spot the weary prospectors and fire with abandon, as is their kind's custom. They did not.

"They might be waiting 'till they're close. We oughta get the drop on 'em while we..."

Dean cut Bill off. "I'll talk with them. You two, find some cover and back me up."

He looked to Bill, and to Sarah. Their approval was stern. Dean made sure to savor the breath in his lungs as he marched forward to meet the Super Mutants.

He came closer, and another sound welled up over the truck's rumbling engine: music from a radio, featuring a nasally-voiced man singing, "Jingle bell time is a swell time, to go gliding in a one-horse sleigh..."

As he suspected, the truck was crammed with a pilot with bizarre ripple marks in his chest, a passenger wielding a minigun, and a third, unarmed passenger standing in the truck bed. The one in back was, with utmost certainty, the leader of the band.

He wore a traffic cone on his head, painted in a glaringly bright crimson that shone in the muted yellow and brown of the scorched earth. His patchy coat, apparently stitched from several human-sized shirts, was drenched in the same color. Beyond that, he had one of the Super Mutants' chain-bags full of various gore tied around his stomach, and a normal, if large, burlap sack slung over his back.

The truck crawled to a stop at Dean's left. His shadow covering Dean almost entirely, the adorned Super Mutant waved his great arm and shouted "HO HO HO! HELLO LITTLE BOY, HELLO SAYS SANTA CLAUS! YOU MUST TELL ME, ARE YOU NAUGHTY OR ARE YOU NICE?"

Dean was unabashedly agape. It struck him now that the Super Mutant resembled the fat, flamboyantly dressed man that he saw sometimes in Lanta, on pre-War billboards and posters advertising Nuka Cola. He tried to stammer out a timely response.

"I'm... nice."

"VERY, VERY GOOD! WELL, SANTA BRINGS PRESENTS TO NICE BOYS AND GIRLS! I HOPE THIS BRINGS YOU JOY THIS CHRISTMAS SEASON!"

Dean was fairly certain the current date was some time in November.

"Santa Claus" flipped his burlap sack over to his front and dug around in it briefly with one hand; then, he flicked it out and two toy cars and a box of snack cakes skittered on the pavement at Dean's feet.

"Thanks."

"SAY, LITTLE BOY, HOW WOULD YOU LIKE TO HELP SANTA? DO YOU WANT TO COME TO THE NORTH POLE AND HELP SAVE CHRISTMAS?" He attempted to smile, though the vats had taken his lips long ago.

The driver turned to Dean. "HE MEANS ELMORE COURT. IT'S A FEW HOURS SOUTH OF HERE, YOU'LL SEE IT."

"YES! SO WHAT DO YOU SAY?"

"I, uh... maybe we can talk later."

There was a hard silence between them until Santa's almost-smile turned into an almost-frown. "YOU DISAPPOINT SANTA." He ordered his driver to keep going; Sarah and Bill regrouped once the truck passed by.

Bill shook his head. "RADs done somethin' foul to this place, didn't they? What in the hell was that?"

"They weren't shooting at us, and they gave me dinner. Good enough for me."

Sarah wiped hew forehead and reflected, "Waggin' the finger ain't gonna get us no closer to town, either. Let's keep movin'."

An hour or two more of stories and jokes passed among the prospectors. The humid musk of rotting plant matter grew stronger by the minute.

Bill suddenly jerked his head around, seeming to scan the yellowed patches of grass surrounding the highway.

"You see town?"

"No, some of that grass moved." He cupped his hands in front of his mouth. "We know y'all are there! We're armed, and you better not try nothin' slick!"

Another patch of grass moved, now some thirty feet off the road. Dean and Sarah drew their shotguns, and Bill drew his pistol.

The rustling advanced towards them regardless of the warning. Mere seconds passed and slowly, gently, a cluster parted in the middle, right on the edge of the road.

"The hell?..."

The grass snarled.

Dean blinked and a brown blur ripped a swath in his shirt. Bill ducked out of the way of a second shape pouncing at his chest. Before he could turn around, a set of claws dug into his back.

Sarah and Dean both took aim at the attackers. Their buckshot only tossed more dust into the air.

Bill grunted and lurched forward to throw off his attacker. Pistol ready, half-blind, he fired two shots in front of him. The scrambling creature howled; one of the bullets lodged in its stomach.

Its comrade made another dive at Dean, caught this time on his boot. It looked to Dean somewhat like a lynx, with wildly discolored eyes and scales along its back. It stuck to him, batting at his knee with paws that made jagged, dirty cuts. A boom sounded beside them; Sarah's shotgun painted the side of the creature a deep red.

Drained and weary of the quarry's resistance, the creatures bolted off back into the grass. Bill sent a few more rounds after them for good measure, before reloading.

The prospectors kept their arms handy for the rest of the journey.

They had marched. They had trudged. They had drooped. The sun was now as low as they felt. Heat bubbled under their skins in place of blood. That was when they came upon a wooden sign welcoming them to the frontier town of Slugg. The odor of wet animal fur floated on the atrophied winds, blowing east from the storied Slough marshland.

"Lord above," Sarah said before she took a swig of dirty water and gasped. "Payday's that much closer."

The town was mostly wooden shacks suspended above the waterways and reservoirs that formed a web in the earth there; scrap bridges and catwalks traded skillful design for stability. The framework was broken in places by pipes and hanging cloth and skins.

Dean thought for a moment on where he would start looking for prospects... then, he found, he preferred to think of what he would ask for his scrap metal.
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Darth Paul
Posted by the GM
Curse of Strahd
Prologue: An Invitation/Death House
A company of six stalwart adventurers sat in the River Shining Tavern in the town of Daggersford. They had been a scant few adventures together - fighting bandits along the Trade Way south, goblins in the Ardeep Forest, and even escorting a caravan north to Waterdeep. They had been fast friends since a young age, and planned to seek fortune, glory, and (for some) redemption, together for years yet to come.

There was Rundoki Wrathblade, a dwarven paladin of Tyr, seeking a measure of justice for himself and those he had wronged in the past. He and another rough youth, a pale human rogue of tainted blood named Kyne Darkblade, had come up together. Kyne had turned from darker pursuits to seeking down criminals for coin. Through Rundoki's religious studies he had met Cira Sundance, a young priestess of Lathander from the Morninglow Tower. She had been friends for quite some time with the bard and adventuress Tiberas Starkiller, a half-elven lass whose tales and songs thrilled patrons in Daggerford and beyond. They had made an unlikely friend in Volta, a young half-orc woman raised by woodcutters to the east of town. She had become a local hero after killing a group of bandits that had slain the granddaughter of Daggerford's ruler, Lady Morwen Daggerford. Despite her rough appearance, she loved her fancy long coat and would whittle toys for the local children. And the most unlikely friend was Evan Timers, nicknamed "the Pants-Plunderer," a gnome and would-be wizard, trickster, and scholar of sorts.


The River Shining Tavern was warm and cozy, but the night was dark...and full of terrors.

They discussed their next venture over cold ale and a warm fire as dark clouds and rain made for a cold night outside. A stranger came into the tavern, a dark-haired man dressed in bright silks under a traveler's cloak. Gold winked from a single earring and off rings on his fingers. He approached the group and offered them a sealed letter. "I have come seeking help for a small town, east of here, on the borders of the forest. You look like the sort that might find such work...attractive?" He spoke with a strange accent, though there was neither menace or pleading in his voice. "Leave on the morrow if you wish to reply," he said, "and follow the trail east into the woods. Coin will be offered for your help, among other rewards. I will take my leave of you, for the chill of the night is on me, and I have miles yet to go ere I rest." Evan was able to identify him as one of the Vistani, mysterious travelers and traders who appeared now and again along the Sword Coast, apparently from somewhere to the south.

With that, the group looked at the letter. It was a missive from the Burgomaster of a small town named Barovia, a town that none of the companions were familiar with. It said that a great evil had fallen on their town, and the burgomaster's own adopted daughter was imperiled by it - a vampire! It was decided. They would leave come the morning.

The heroes set out east, into the highlands and the Misty Forest beyond, following the trail the mysterious messenger had indicated. The morning fog had only thickened as they traveled, and by midday, they were lost. The heroes managed to find a new trail, one that appeared to head west, back to the coast. Volta tried to head east, cutting a trail of her own, but her breath seemed to be caught in her throat. The cold mist was choking her! It appeared there was no other way to go. As they traveled, the heroes realized the very forest around them had changed and the trail rose instead of fell. Evan surmised they had gone through a crossing - a place where the barrier between worlds was thin. They could have crossed into the Feywild...or the Shadowfell.

Following the path, Volta found a dead body off the side of the road. It was a man, badly mauled by wolves, and he carried a letter. This too was from the Burgomaster, one Kolyan Indirovich. But instead of pleading for his adopted daughter Ireena, he urged those who received the missive to call upon holy men and seal up the ways to his land. For it was cursed, and ruled by a vampire named Strahd von Zarovich. There was no other way now. Feeling trapped by the mist and the dark trees, the heroes nevertheless pressed on. They reached a pair of massive gates, marking the entry to this land. As they passed through the great iron portals flanked by headless statues, the gates slammed shut behind them, like the doom-laden toll of a great, black bell.


The gates of Barovia, which slammed behind the heroes like the door of a tomb shutting for the last time.

Making their way forward a few miles, the heroes came across tended fields under overcast skies and a small village. No doubt this was Barovia. Night was fast approaching, and as they thought to seek an inn, the group saw a pair of children in the road ahead. It was a girl of about 10 and a shy boy of about 8. She wore a fine, gray dress and a red cape, and the boy wore a hooded gray coat, both with silver stitching and lined with fine fur. The girl introduced herself as Rosavalda and the boy as her brother, Thornboldt. She also said that there was a monster in her house, and her parents were trapped in a very matter-of-fact manner. Volta, wasting no time with children apparently in danger, followed them back to a narrow four-story home that appeared to be in need of some repair.


"Mama and papa call us Rose and Thorn," the girl said, as the children led Volta and the rest to their house.

The heroes went in past the rusty gate and through the heavy wooden front doors, after no one responded to their knocking. The group made their way in through the foyer to a great hall, one with polished black marble floors, a massive hearth on one end, and on the other a rosy, marble staircase that spiraled upwards. Doors led to a kitchen and pantry, a dining hall, and a den complete with stuffed wolves and some functional crossbows in a locked cabinet. The walls were paneled with carved wood showing forest and pastoral scenes, some with disturbing things hidden in the designs. Seeing no way downstairs, the group tried to ask the children where their parents were...only to find Rose and Thorn had vanished!

Making their way upstairs, the group found a library and a conservatory on the second floor, along with servants' quarters. As Tiberias played the harpsichord she found and Kyne searched the conservatory, the rest investigated the library. Cira found a secret room - complete with books of dark, infernal lore and the skeleton of what had no doubt been a thief slouched over an open chest. As the cleric approached it, the skeleton animated and books flew off the shelves, attacking like a swarm of bats with razor-edged wings! Although Evan was left bloodied and hurt, the group managed to dispatch most of the books and the skeleton without too much injury.

Something was definitely amiss in the house. Some rooms appeared fresh; others overrun with cobwebs and dust. Making their way to the third floor, the group was attacked by a suit of plate armor mounted on a stand at the head of the stairs that animated and tried to kill them! It was quickly dispatched, and they found abandoned bedrooms and a dusty nursery. When Volta entered, seeing that the cradle was occupied by a suspicious bundle, a misty apparition appeared! It was a young woman, possibly a nursemaid, though her eyes were hollow and her face contorted with wrath. She was translucent and gave off a ghostly blue-white light. "Nooo!" She cried, "leave the child alooone!" This horrid specter attacked, and only with Cira's holy fire and Rundoki's sacred blade was the thing finally defeated, dispersing into a silvery mist with a wail. Volta had taken what she believed to be a baby to safety, only to find it was no more than a bundle of blankets.


The wail of the nursemaid's specter chilled them to the bone.

Further searches apparently angered something within the house, as while Volta and Evan found a secret panel in one bedroom, a sheet and a sword in the master bedroom attempted to murder Kyne and Tiberas, while Rundoki and Cira fought an animated broomstick! Dealing with these threats, the group went upstairs, finding a dusty, cobwebbed attic with a room full of furniture on one side, a few cramped bedrooms, and a door closed with a padlock. Kyne was able to slip the lock, and inside they found a room furnished for two children, complete with toys, a dollhouse fashioned as a replica of the house they were in...and the bones of a boy and girl of about 8 and 10. Rose and Thorn appeared, leaving no doubt as to their ghostly nature. "Don't leave us," they implored, but fear had gripped the hearts of the heroes. Rundoki tried to reason with the restless spirits, but as they attempted to possess some of the others, blades and spells were brought to bay. Tiberas was nearly slain, as a ghostly hand passed through the bard's heart, causing it to cease beating for a brief moment. But blades and spells dispersed the ghosts, and their remains were bound up in sheets and taken, with Rundoki, Cira, and Volta hoping they could be laid to rest.

Kyne searched the dollhouse and the toys, finding a strange label on them. "Is no Blinksy, is no fun!" The labels declared. The dollhouse was more interesting, as it showed a secret stair spiraling down from the attic to...something...below. He found a matching secret door in the room with the sheet-covered furnishings, and opened it. They followed a wooden spiral stair down, until it became stone, and then down further into a series of narrow, packed-earth tunnels braced with heavy wooden beams. A series of crypts lay beyond, and they found a pair of unoccupied ones, labeled "Rosavalda Durst" and "Thornboldt Durst." The children's remains were laid to rest with a prayer, and they reappeared briefly, waving goodbye silently (and sadly, it seemed) as they vanished into a silvery mist. Despite the dark and the terrors around them, the heroes felt uplifted for the briefest of moments. With their hearts eased and their nerves steeled, they continued to look for the monster under the house...

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Epic!
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Brian
Posted by the GM
Curse of Strahd
Introduction


After the orc hordes captured Loffeldorf and Bodemot, it became apparent that they had allies inside the Empire. The Emperor has ordered an all-out effort to uncover witches, and their fey and demonic allies, and has called a grand conclave of the inquisition at Diephof the Imperial capital. You are part of the delegation from Donnerstein, led by Curate Harold Klarmann. Many of you are inquisitors, witch-hunters, and exorcists, working directly with Bishop Viktor Edvik Carol, and representing the best the Church of Donnerstein has to offer. You have probably tangled with a minor witch or two, and even some elven changelings.

This journey is the first time any of you have been to the rich and cosmopolitan imperial capital, and it makes you realize just how backwater Donnerstein is. Even more impressive is the array of powerful men and women, gathered at the conclave; you get to meet with inquisitors that have far more experience of the supernatural than you.

After the conclave, you journey back to Donnerstein. The Curate, impatient to be home soon, leaves behind most of the retinue, and travels with a smaller group: himself and you. While nearing Donnerstein, you camp one quiet night in woods. In the high mountain passes, the air grows chill. Your horses whinny and crowd closer together. The fire sputters as a low mist gathers around the edges of your camp, growing closer as the night wears on. When you wake in the morning, the fog hangs thick in the air, turning the trees around you into gray ghosts. Then you notice these aren't the same trees that surrounded you the night before. Above the mists, unfamiliar peaks reach to gray skies. Even worse, the Curate is gone and you are alone.
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Ando
Posted by the GM
Echoes of Glory
CAMPAIGN NOTES: First Session (2/21/2016)
After individually feeling the calls of Destiny, our various and sundry heroes met up on Woodridge Isle, hesitantly agreeing for now to work together to find out why they have been drawn together, especially since a common thread in each of their lives is The Void.

Curious to see how they worked as a team, they accepted a mission to attempt to stop a band of kobold thieves from robbing a nearby magical weapon and armor store. After successfully defending the store and defeating the kobolds, the party met Shar’Medrash, who gave them some cryptic words about future glory and destiny, and revealed a plot about a group of missing persons last seen near the nearby Acorn Lake...
Session: Our First Game Session - Sunday, Feb 21 2016 from 12:30 PM to 5:30 PM
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Tags: Introduction