Curse of Strahd (5e) Campaign Recaps - Session #1
"The Mysterious Letter"
T his is the start of our Roll20 Curse of Strahd campaign. We have four players and four characters, all 1st level. We started in 2020, and of this writing, we are at Session #73 and near the end of the adventure. It has been one hell of a ride. Please let me tell you what happened.
Altmer the half elf paladin, with an insatiable love of shrimp
Morden the dwarf cleric, with a hate for all things undead (fortunately)
Kaydon the human rogue, an unstoppable kleptomaniac, and
Zynmaris, the firbolg druid, and his adorable pet mouse Squeeky
It begins in the Rusty Goat tavern, as the PCs are engaging in card play and dinner. The paladin, cleric and druid are all holy avengers and kind of know one another, but the rogue is a different sort of fellow. An opportunist, Kaydon sees financial potential with these fellows, and asks if he can join their table. Wary at first, they let the stranger sit down and they converse for a while over ale and dinner. The Rusty Goat is pretty busy tonight, and the barmaids bustle about. It is thirty or forty miles from the next nearest populated area, so is a common haven for hunters, trappers and travelers.
Suddenly, the tavern door swings open, and a hush falls over the room. Framed by the lamp-lit fog, a form strides through the doorway. His heavy, booted footfalls and the jingle of his coins shatter the silence. His brightly colored clothes are draped in loose folds about him, and his hat hangs askew, hiding his eyes in shadows. Without hesitation, he walks up to your table and stands proudly in a wide stance with folded arms.
In an accented voice he says, "I have been sent to you to deliver this message. If you be creatures of honor, you will come to my master's aid at first light. It is not advisable to travel the Svalich Woods at night!" He pulls from his tunic a sealed letter, addressed to all of you in beautiful flowing script. He drops the letter on the table.
"Take the west road from here some five hours march down through the Svalich Woods. There you will find my master in Barovia."
Amid the silent stares of the patronage, the gypsy strides to the bar and says to the wary barkeep, "Fill the glasses, one and all. Their throats are obviously parched." He drops a purse heavy with gold on the bar. With that, he leaves.
The babble of tavern voices resumes, although somewhat subdued. The letter is lying before you. The seal is in the shape of a crest you don't recognize.
They carefully open the letter and read the contents, not bothering to follow the stranger outside to question him. This is just so very strange.
Hail to you of might and prosperity.
I, a lowly servant of Barovia, plead to you for we are desperately in need of assistance.
The love of my life, Ireena Kolyana, has been afflicted by an evil so deadly - so abominable - that not even the good priests of our village can heal her. She languishes from her wound, and I above all else want her saved from this menace.
There is much wealth in this community. I offer all that might be had to you and your fellows if you shall but answer my desperate plea. The plea of a desperate and honorable man.
Come quickly, for her time is waning. What wealth I have will be yours! Please, help me.
So some dude in another town is asking for help against some vague evil presence? But he mentions wealth several times, and the PCs are broke as hell, so this sounds like an endeavor right up their alley. Of course they’ll help this poor burgomaster and his wife! In the morning. It’s late now and no time to get on the road toward an unknown destination. They’re in a safe and warm inn right now.
[DM Note – Speaking of safe warm inns, I’m using a homebrew rest mechanic that divides rests into “Good Rest, Average Rest, Poor Rest, No Rest”]
In the morning they set off on foot to the west as the stranger indicated, where they will enter the Svalich Woods. Hours later than arrive outside some enormous gates flanked by ancient, weathered statues. Curiously, the stone heads of both statues have been removed, but why or how, they cannot tell. The doors are slightly ajar and they can see a foggy forest beyond.
They enter without hesitation (not even noticing that the gates silently close behind them) and enter a dark wood on a muddy trail. For another hour they travel, deeper and deeper into the forest, but it is eerily quiet until they start to hear distant wolf howls. But the wolf howls are getting closer. Too close.
Being as they are 1st level and quite vulnerable to dying, the general consensus is CLIMB SOME DAMN TREES! The paladin and rogue manage to do so, but the fat dwarf cleric keeps sliding back down, he just can’t get a grip. The firbolg druid stays on the ground, determined to face his foe and maybe use his command of nature to subdue it, but the massive wolf that stalks from the shadows and fog does not look like it will bend to the will of anyone. It’s a huge dire wolf the size of a bear, and the heroes still hear more howls closing in.
From a safe perch, the paladin throws some javelins, the rogue fires arrows, the cleric still clumsily keeps try to get up the tree and off the ground, and the firbolg tosses some food at the wolf to distract it. The dire wolf follows the druid, snarling, but the druid throws fire magic at the ground and turns invisible and tries to retreat. The wolf is FAST though, following, and manages to severely bite the firbolg and drop him to zero hit points. Fortunately, it has been pelted repeatedly from a distance, so when the Dire wolf gets to half hit points it howls in pain and retreats from the battle. The cleric heals the druid and they dust themselves off, not too bad worse for the wear, but that damn dire wolf is still alive, and one or two of the paladin’s javelins are still stuck in its hide.
We had a slow start to the first session with getting sound and audio and visuals set up so we ran out of time, but we pick up next session still on the Svalich Road.
About the author
I am a writer, artist and poet from North Carolina. I recently self published a children's/YA book called Harold and the Dreadful Dreams. You can learn more about it at my blog https://jmhauser.com, as well as other projects.