A Monster for Every Season: Summer 2
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  1. - Top - End - #1
    Bugbear in the Playground

    Join Date
    Dec 2014

    Default One of my finest moments as a DM *Unmarked Curse of Strahd Spoilers!*

    In my 5E CoS game, I've been having Strahd communicate with the players through dreams, using the dream spell. This plays out by us sending emails back and forth between the weekly sessions. This particular round got especially intense.

    Spoiler: The PCs
    Sonya is a human Fey Warlock, a disciple of Baba Yaga, also known as Grandmother. She's been a stalwart member of the party, but has been harboring a secret mission given to her by her patron. She needs to find the Midwife (known as Baba Lysaga) and make an example of her; to show all the other hags that Baba Yaga brooks no competition. She is a pretty complex character, but the only relevant part of her backstory at this point is that she burned her home village to the ground after her family got murdered by her neighbors in an act of ethnic cleansing when they torched her house. Both the player and I agree she's probably neutral, with evil moments.

    Acacia is a half-elven Oath of the Ancients paladin. He's been a classic paladin, but he recently got the tar kicked out of him by the Baron's men for defying him.

    Important bit of context: the party just had their first brawl with Strahd on the shores of Lake Zarovich. He was disguised as a wolf at the time.

    Spoiler: Strahd's goals
    Strahd's stated goal is to find a successor. Out of the party, he's identified two: Sonya and Acacia. His unspoken goal? Sow discord and disunity, to turn the party against itself.

    Red text is mine (the DM), black text is Sonya's.

    Spoiler: The Dream
    OoC: This scene takes place during the rest you guys made out in the wilderness, right after the scarecrow attack but before you met the Blueshields.

    You breathe deep, and the chill, pine-and-moss flavored air of the Svalich woods is abruptly replaced with a flurry of new scents. Fire warmed, well worn leather and old hardwoods. Rich, hearty roast beef and pork mingling with the complexity of a good pinot noir. The faint hint of pine smoke interwoven with the coppery tang of blood.

    You open your eyes and see arrayed before you a feast, more food than you've ever seen in your life piled high upon platters and trays. Roasts, fish, desserts, and trifles of all kinds sprawl across the table, with 8 elegant leather backed chairs placed around it. You are seated at one end of the table within the cavernous castle hall; right next to the roaring fire in the hearth behind you. Seated at the head of the table, his back to a broad window looking out over Barovia at night and holding a blood-filled golden goblet thoughtfully in one hand, is Strahd von Zarovich.

    "Welcome, fair Sonya. Please, make yourself comfortable." Strahd smiles faintly, an expression that merely emphasizes his fangs. "Eat whatever you like. You must be hungry, living on the road for so long."

    "I must say, I am rather impressed with you and your companions so far. You hallowed St. Andral's just in time for the feast, and Father Lucien gets to keep his mortal coil for a time yet. Do tell," he leans forward, intrigued, "how you bypassed my minions without a fight?"

    Swallowing down the initial shock of the scenery and aroma, Sonya sits up tall in her leather chair. She is tempted by the food but refrains from taking any, instead, she presents herself with all the decorum of a noble. Unafraid. Not intimidated by the Vampire in front of her.

    "Lord Strahd, I was wondering when we would meet again. I do prefer this to having a wolf pin me to the ground." She observes the room around her, taking in the grandeur. "This is Ravenloft? Its dining room certainly matches its impressive exterior." She finishes gazing about the room before turning towards Strahd and answering his question. "Hallowing St. Andral's was simpler than I imagined it being. Perhaps, you should have chosen more perceptive minions. What were you trying to do with that pile of bones, if you don't mind me asking?"

    Strahd leans back, his chair creaking with age. "Hah, perhaps I should have indeed. My servants are ever eager to please, but not the most observant during the day." He takes a swig from his goblet. "Yes, I must say Castle Ravenloft is certainly a more comfortable setting than last we met. I have to admit though, I thought our last encounter had a certain thrill to it. The gravel crunching beneath our feet, Lake Zarovich reflecting Mt. Baratok in the distance. The magic in the air; the blood on the wind..." he savors the memory like an exquisite wine for a moment. "It's been so long since I've seen someone stand up to overwhelming odds. To see a group of them working together was a meal to cherish. I wonder if they would stand fast alongside you if they knew where your loyalties truly lie."

    "That pile of bones? Tsk, tsk my dear. Didn't your parents teach you to have a proper reverence for holy things?" he shakes his finger at you in mock disapproval. "St. Andral was a good man, a long time ago. He gave his life to protect Vallekia from me, and I felt he deserved a more fitting resting place than that miserable pile of rocks they call a temple. My ossuary in Castle Ravenloft comes to mind."

    He takes another sip and raises his goblet to you, briefly. "I wanted to thank you for killing that brutish thug Izek. He came to my attention when he grabbed your friend, and I was intending to end him personally when he slipped from my wolves' jaws. I have to ask though; why kill Izek and not the Baron or his family? The Baron nearly killed your friend for defying him, and Viktor tortured that poor girl Stella for fun until she went mad. I thought, given your past, you frowned on bullies abusing their power?"

    Without missing a beat Sonya responds, pouncing on the sentence like a cat capturing a mouse. “The Baron is scum and his family is the dredges on which that scum resides. They deserve to burn,” She takes a breath and resumes her curated demeanor, “but, for now, they are not a concern of mine. Did you forget that I am an extra peice on your chess board? I don’t play your game; I have my own to finish. Once mine is done then I’ll consider playing yours. In the meantime, you should try to learn how I move.”

    Strahd laughs delightedly. "Oh ho! I do believe I've struck a nerve!" He ponders you silently for a moment, a smile slowly creeping across his face. "Fair Sonya, I'm afraid you are mistaken. Everyone plays my game; whether they realize it or not." He reaches forward, grabbing something obscured from your view by a mouth-wateringly delicious suckling pig. He leans back, twirling a dark feather idly between his fingers in his left hand, his goblet in his right.

    "Still, your restraint and dedication to your patron does you credit; the Midwife is certainly appreciative of your efforts. I do believe that's the first time she's sent that many scarecrows to seize just one person."

    The aroma of the feast before you suddenly becomes overpoweringly strong, and despite your best efforts you feel a spasm of hunger. Strahd waves his hand invitingly to the food before you. "Please, eat. I give you my word as a von Zarovich that this food will not harm you." He takes a drink from his glass. "I'm sure you have questions for me. Ask away."

    Sonya ignores Strahds offer to eat. Instead, she concentrates on finding comfort in her hunger, something that she used to do when she had to go with out food. Hunger is familiar, gluttony is a stranger.

    “I do have questions, of course. The Midwife... the only common fact among my sources is that she claims to have aided in the birth of a great evil, thus the ridiculous pseudonym. It seems that she rose to power just before you. Is that “great evil” she was referring to you, lord Zarovich?”

    "I presume so, though I don't know why that delusional old crone thinks she had anything to do with my birth. The arrogance of that creature! King Barov and Queen Ravenovia formed me, guided me, until I was strong enough to seize destiny myself. No decrepit, bug-infested bog-dweller could ever bend me to their will; royal blood flows in my veins!" Strahd stops his rant abruptly, half-risen from his chair, suddenly remembering his decorum. He slowly settles back down to his chair, half-smile firmly in place once again. "At least, it used to flow. It's still there."

    He takes another drink, twirling the feather between his fingers with inhuman speed. It's almost... hypnotizing. "My turn. What would persuade you to stay here, in Barovia? I've quite enjoyed your company, and would hate to see you leave this land forever."

    "I am flattered that you enjoy my presence, but you should reevaluate your desire to keep me. Wherever I go, chaos burns in my wake. Quite literally. Unless you want your villages to go up in flame, I shouldn't stay. Besides, even if I wanted to I couldn't. I cannot be bound to Barovia when I am already bound to the Mother of all Hags." Sonya smiles fondly as she mentions her patron and eyes the feather spinning among Strahd's fingers. "Speaking of Grandmother, she sent me here to teach the Midwife a long-awaited lesson. It seems that you might also benefit from my success in that. Or at least, it would amuse you greatly to see the "Midwife" be reminded of her place. Am I wrong in this assumption?"

    "I think a few blazing buildings would go a long way towards brightening up dreary Barovia, don't you think?" he smirks, then continues. "Still, the offer stands. Think on it carefully."

    "No, no you are not wrong. While I bear the Midwife no ill will specifically, I do enjoy watching my subjects quarrel. It helps separate the wine from the blood, as they say. I might even be willing to offer you assistance, but first, answer a question for me." Strahd sets his golden goblet down on the table with a dull thunk.

    He leans forward, looking you deep in the eyes. "Don't you find it galling to be subservient to another? To have no power to shape your own path? I understand using Grandmother for your own purposes, but how does this end? To be a servant at her beck and call forever?"

    "Baba Yaga gave me a new life," She said simply, casually breaking eye contact with the vampire across the table. "a life in which I was freed from the societal bonds that once dictated my existence. Of course, I made the choice to escape, but she taught me to navigate a world of power and gave me rank among them. For that I owe her. I have already shaped my own path from when all the odds were against me, and I continue to do so with my choices. What is the end, really? I find no need to ponder my future so intensively. I am no Madame Eva after all."

    "Interesting... you truly have no plans beyond making an example of the Midwife? You don't crave more power? Revenge? Wealth? Peace? You truly serve Baba Yaga, the Grandmother of Hags, out of gratitude?" Strahd mutters in surprise.
    "Have you asked her what will happen to you after you defeat the Midwife?"

    "Oh, don't misunderstand me Lord Strahd, I certainly do not lack ambition. I'll keep that to myself if you don't mind. For now, I am quite content basking in the chaos Baba Yaga implores me to create. It's fun." Sonya gives him a mischevious grin, not unlike that of her patron. "Hmm after the Midwife... Well after I break all her fingers, sew her mouth shut, and bury her alive in her own anaerobic bog sludge, hopefully, Grandmother will send me off on another mission." She impulsively laughs at the thought. "That is, assuming I'll be able to leave Barovia." Filled with a sudden puckish recklessness, Sonya picks up a goblet of wine and tries a sip. "So, will you help me with my chaos?"

    The wine is arguably the best vintage Sonya has ever tried. Strong, rich, and complex, with lots of warring undertones. Strahd stands up and bows deeply towards you. "My dear, fair Sonya," he says with a smile, placing a hand over the shriveled lump of flesh that was once his heart, "You have but to ask."

    Sonya puts down the goblet. "Lord Strahd, I can't help but feel that you want me to ask you for something directly. So instead, I'll ask this: what is the price for your help? I highly doubt that all you want is for me to think fondly of you."

    Strahd strides around the table to stand before you, moving with the same impossible speed you saw when he fought your party on the shores of Lake Zarovich. Before you can react, he snatches your right hand with his left, holding it firmly but gently in his cold, lifeless grip. You are painfully aware that he could break your hand in an instant if he so chose. He looks down at you and says, "Of course, there is always a cost. You know that better than most. But let us keep this transaction painless shall we? I'll grant you information no one else has in exchange for an honest answer. No need for anything more... tangible than that."

    Up close, the scents of the food fade away. Instead, beneath the layers of fine perfumes and the coppery tang of blood, you smell the faintest whiff of the dark, dusty scent of an unhallowed grave disturbed, the soil resolutely clinging to his finery he so fastidiously tries to clean. "Tell me, fair Sonya... what would it take for you to betray Acacia to me?"

    Sonya is suddenly sick with the idea that Strahd can feel the blood pumping in her veins. She tries to regain her composure. "That answer depends on what you plan to do to him."

    Strahd's smile broadens, highlighting his fangs. "Now, now Sonya. We wouldn't want to spoil the surprise." His grip tightens ever so faintly. "I'm not asking you to betray him to me yet. But again, what would it take for you to betray Acacia to me?"

    "Honestly, an escape. Allow me to leave Barovia and go back to my home plane when I ask to. Though, it is important to note that Acacia is a good person, infuriatingly so. He wants to fix everything, even if the problems are institutionalized and innate. He wants to take on Barovia. If you want a successor who cares, he's your paladin. I'm sure you knew this."

    You didn't think his smile could get wider, but it does. It looks far more fitting on a wolf's muzzle than on any human's face. "Indeed, fair Sonya. Indeed I did."

    He releases your hand and bends low, his fangs just inches from your throat. His breath would tickle the hair on your neck, but he has none. He whispers into your ear. "When you fight the Midwife, Baba Lysaga, she will have a great many allies arrayed against you. She's been expecting someone like you for years, gathering trolls, witches, and others to her in preparation of that fateful day. Her greatest weapon though, is her abode. Don't try to fight it, but get inside. Look for the green glow, a sickly light like the marsh fires burning in the mist. Extinguish the source of that light, and the Midwife's greatest asset will fall."

    He stands up again, looking down at you. "Farewell, Sonya. Until we meet again." You suddenly feel your chair tipping backwards, towards the roaring fire behind you, but you can't move. For the brief of moments, you realize how Izek felt. Just as the heat rises to an unbearable intensity as your chair plunges downwards, you strike the ground.

    With a start, you're back in the Svalich woods. No castle Ravenloft. No food besides the reassuringly boring trail rations. No Strahd. Just the old, cold, lichen encrusted forest, your sleeping friends, and your thoughts.

    I realize it's poor form to brag, but I have the best players : )

    Bonus points: I was listening to this song on loop for the entire conversation. All 8 hours of it.
    Last edited by NRSASD; 2019-01-23 at 02:13 AM.

  2. - Top - End - #2
    Pixie in the Playground
    Join Date
    Nov 2016

    Post Re: One of my finest moments as a DM *Unmarked Curse of Strahd Spoilers!*

    You only mentioned two players. Who're the others?

  3. - Top - End - #3
    Bugbear in the Playground

    Join Date
    Dec 2014

    Default Re: One of my finest moments as a DM *Unmarked Curse of Strahd Spoilers!*

    I have 6 regulars and one recurring player. They are...

    Inda Os Pital: Wood Elf Life Cleric. She was a nonmagical combat medic with a Dr. McCoy attitude, until one day Whippletree, a fledgling god, chose her to be its prophet and messiah. She's a very straight laced, serious individual, which is undermined by her god's immense naivety and randomness. She's doing her best to teach Whippletree how to be a god, but it's a long, uphill struggle.

    Calendula: Half-Elf Sunsoul Monk. Acacia's half sister, the quiet, serious muscle that keeps the party alive. She's famous for having either terrible or impossibly good rolls, which results in her taking on 5 dire wolves alone at 4th level and coming out on top but then failing a swim check repeatedly. Very protective of Acacia and deeply suspicious of Sonya before this whole scene.

    Acacia De'Turo: Half-Elf Oath of the Ancients Paladin. Brave, heroic, loud, and strong, but not terribly bright. The moral center of the group, which is never a good thing to be in Barovia. Half sister of Calendula.

    Perisoreus: Kenku Revised Ranger Hunter. Wise-cracking and pun slinging, he is very fond of solving problems preemptively with violence. Uses twin shortswords and eviscerates his way through wolf packs. Being a Kenku, he confuses the hell out of the Barovian wereravens.

    Guépard: Tabaxi Land Druid. Very fond of solving problems with spike growth. Has a pet Sabretooth Tiger (formerly Rictavio's) named... Tiger. Has stolen the show on several occasions with ridiculous yet effective solutions to problems.

    Sonya: Human Fey Warlock. Well.... see above.

    Arlec: Human Swashbuckler. Our recurring character, he's a renegade carnival performer. Probably. Almost definitely.

  4. - Top - End - #4
    Halfling in the Playground

    Join Date
    May 2018

    Default Re: One of my finest moments as a DM *Unmarked Curse of Strahd Spoilers!*

    Amazing back and forth! The stuff DMs all dream of. You played Strahd especially well. Hats off to you and your group!
    Read a finished campaign journal of a homebrew Ravenloft game here

  5. - Top - End - #5
    Bugbear in the Playground

    Join Date
    Dec 2014

    Default Re: One of my finest moments as a DM *Unmarked Curse of Strahd Spoilers!*

    Thanks! It's been a wild campaign so far, and things are only getting worse (for the players) haha

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