Item: Curse of Strahd
It took me a while for me to get some decent gameplay content in this blog, if for no other reason than to deter spoilers in my Curse of Strahd tables. Now that everybody’s past the Vallaki chapter, I think I can tell you now about the tweaks I made to the town, and in retrospect, I think it might need some revising before I put it in Tatyanna’s Revenge.
It all depends on how I depict Zombies on my table, which is a combination of the classic slow zombies from Romero with the modern fast zombies from movies like 28 Days Later. They remain stupid and mostly unstoppable, but will sprint if they see someone that has a brain. They are made by necromancy, but the spell produced creates a virus that…Oh, the party hasn’t gotten to that point yet.
Well in the cannon campaign, Baron Vargas has set up festivals after festivals to try to instill a sense of happiness and hope into his villagers, in an effort to overcome “The Devil’s Strahd’s Influence upon the land.” He still has done that in my version, although he doesn’t know about two points. One, Strahd isn’t the one influencing my version of Barovia, but the Dark Power itself. The second point is more important, though, resilience and hope in a person’s soul—especially in Barovia—isn’t something that’s cultured by countless festivals or staged song and dance routines. It’s intrinsic and born out of the soul of the person itself. Also, it’s not shown by people smiling and laughing, but by the presence of perseverance, grit, and inner strength.
It might surprise some people, especially Baron Vargas, that Strahd actually encourages such traits in the humans here. Improves the quality of the blood.
Naturally, the failure of creating what would be, for all intents and purposes, Disneyland under the nose of Castle Ravenloft, Baron Vargas went off the deep end in what would be the last festival in Vallaki. He somehow got a hold of the necromantic virus I mentioned earlier, and will unleash it to an unsuspecting citizenry at the latest festival meeting. Once everyone’s turned into gleeful mindless zombies that can outrun Usain Bolt, Baron Vargas hopes that they’ll make a mass beeline up the mountain to Ravenloft.
How he would guide them, however, when he’s one of them himself, is up in the air. He didn’t think that far ahead I guess.
In both of my campaigns, the party thwarted the virus before it was released, killing the Baron in the process. Vallaki will be in recovery for some time, grateful for the end of all the senseless merry-making and of dodging a deadly bullet from someone who makes Strahd a fucking angel in comparison. The notes that the party found led the source of the party to an agent in Argynvostholt, which the Wednesday party dealt with.
The Saturday party haven’t gotten there yet, so I’ll keep that part hidden for now, but I’ll reveal the other tidbits in the town:
St. Ardral’s Church: I’ll keep the Bones of St. Andral in here (I’m taking Millivoj out of the campaign) so that, if the viral shit did hit the fan, the party will have a place of egress. The Bones keeps the Dark Powers at bay much like the crystals in the Wizard of Wines.
Blue Water Inn: The Wereraven still run this Inn, being Barovia’s answer to the Harpers after all. Rictavio/Rudolph van Richten might be in a different location in the published document, however. He might be roaming around having been warned by an anonymous informant (He’ll recognize Strahd’s handwriting, however) that something even worse than The Devil is lurking about the realm. In future campaigns, I might have Rudolph appear, either as himself or as Rictavio, to help the party in case they get stuck.
Burgomaster’s Mansion: I didn’t have much about Baroness Lydia since she’s pretty much a trophy wife. I had her just sleeping in bed oblivious to what happened, and in one case, she got spirited away into Ravenloft. Strahd gets another one into his herd.
Baronet Victor, however, is a different case: He’s almost got teleportation spells down pat and has even gotten some help from Lady Fiona in perfecting the ritual. There is also a special way for the party to escape Barovia using the ritual with the three artifacts in the fortune, but the destination will not be the Realms. (I could separate this into a stand-alone quest where the party ends up in Æthercoil if I can get away with it.)
Wachterhaus: Lady Fiona is one of Strahd’s brides (Really, did you think he’d stop at just the ones in his castle?) and a trusted ally, she moved to Vallaki to have a herd of her own and to keep an eye on the Baron’s shenanigans. She knew he was up to something particularly nasty, but didn’t have any details until the party found out. Stella isn’t in the house but is sequestered in Ravenloft, where Strahd dressed her up as an anime catgirl in a frilly Lolita dress.
Coffin Maker’s Shop: It is Wachterhaus that has a portal to Ravenloft (N4t. Cult Headquarters), and if necessary, the Strahd Vampires will port to Vallaki from there. I doubt that will happen. Otherwise this location remains intact.
Rictavio’s Carnival Wagon: No doubt be moved. Maybe he partners with Madam Eva and they both form a party. In my revision, I don’t really have to have Rictavio be Vistaniphobic, as he was in the cannon version.
Blinskey Toys: I can keep this untouched.
Town Square: This too, since this is the scene where the aforementioned viral shit goes down.
Vistani Camp: Also untouched, although this is a special case. I don’t consider this place to be part of Vallaki, and it’s only added in the book because of its proximity. I won’t change this because of the Arrigal sidequest which is part of the Fortunes mechanic.
Item: Æthercoil playtest
It took me longer to get enough people together for a session than I care to admit. Remind me to kick Mr. Murphy in the nuts for this one.
This session went through the Goblin Hideout scene (formerly the Cragmaw Hideout from Lost Mine of Phandelver) and succeeded in rescuing Karl, who told them about a map to a secret relic from The Lost Age. Nobody knows what it is, but they did know that someone named “The Black Dragon” has it.
That soured Justin a bit. While he wouldn’t say that he hates dragons, he did have a bad experience with it. As hinted in his story in Æthercoil Magazine #1, he was going to be that one forsaken child given to a green dragon to save his former village. However, he escaped and fled to the forest before he was handed over to a Gods know what fate. The Dragon is understandably peeved, considers Justin the cause of what happened to his village (although it was the dragon who destroyed said village) and…well, that’s not important right now. The point is that almost all of his initial meetings with any dragon tend to be colored in this way, and his caution won’t waver until he gets to know any dragon he comes across. Like the headmaster in the college he went to.
So when he hears about a bad guy who calls himself, “The Black Dragon,” naturally, he’d want to shoot it.
But that’s for later; he still has a village to rescue.
Also in this session is a rare event for me: An actual on table PC kill. This one was Grace. Yes, the GFF of my power gaming frenemy, Denzil. Not only was her character a bit anti-social from the start, she did the cardinal sin of breaking from the party and trudging off on her own, eventually finding the treasure cache and wanting to get it for herself.
Of course, I wouldn’t have that in a game I’m playtesting, so I did the most sensible thing a DM could do to a problem PC…
I dropped a gelatinous cube on her.
Using the basic stats in the Monster Manual against a Level 1 character, I pretty much reduced the poor girl to a skeleton while everyone else was focused on the rescue. Until Karl told them about said gelatinous cube. I think the party would’ve just left the cave unless someone said, “Hey, aren’t we one short?”
In afterthought, I think Grace didn’t think that character would fit, so she had her killed off so she can start over. Can’t say I blame her.
Item: BasedGamer Worldbuilding Blog
This part came right out of left field for me. While I did sign up to this site, a #gamergate-friendly user-sourced video game review site, I didn’t think I could make appropriate content for the site. I do tabletop games, D&D in particular. I doubt it’ll fit.
Jennie Bharaj from that site thought otherwise. It seems that people like hearing about Æthercoil, so I decided to start a worldbuilding blog there to supplement the magazine and spread the word: I’ve already given a “Hello World” post there and will make another post on how #gamergate (actually their detractors) influenced the design of the campaign world.
I’ll be setting up BasedGamer as one of the affiliates as well as putting their logo on the mag. I hope this doesn’t become a trend.