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Ryan Veeder
I am terrified of everything.
I am terrified of everything.
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Here I preserve the Max Level Five Star speech for Serra in Fire Emblem Heroes. Me and Serra are married now I guess. Congratulations and best wishes!
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3/21/17
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DUNGEONS & DRAGONS: CURSE OF STRAHD
APPENDIX B: SUBTERRANEAN NEGOTIATIONS

There is so much flipping backstory involved in this one I don't know where to begin. The long version is here: http://homebrewery.naturalcrit.com/share/r1aeCuNDx

The basic facts are: Barovia and Koboldia got mashed together because of magic. The kobolds of Koboldia aren't all happy about this, but Princess Bolinda wants them to live peacefully with the humans of Barovia. Isolationist aristocrat Isabol does NOT want to live peacefully; she wants the humans to get the heck out.

Isabol was gathering support with worryingly effectiveness, and Bolinda knew she needed to A) figure out why and B) shut it down. She got together a team consisting of one fairly terrible kobold negotiator, Yurd the urd, and three basically effective kobold bodyguards: Bolhit the barbarian, wielder of the Blood Spear of Kavan; Boltulmak the sorcerer, supposed descendant of Kurtulmak the kobold god; and Brock the sniper, who is from Fallcrest and was just doing bodyguard work for the fun of it.

In their pre-negotiation session, the main idea that Yurd came up with was buttering Isabol up with human foodstuffs. Brock suggested talking to an Isabol supporter and figuring out what their whole deal was. Bolinda pointed him to Rabol, a local aristocrat. Yurd suggested he bring some fried cheese curds.

In his palatial (by kobold standards) home, Rabol explained to Brock that the problem with the humans was that it would be impossible to integrate the two societies. He went on at length on this subject. When Rabol was done, Brock had an incrementally more complete understanding of the very bizarre political situation he had gotten himself wrapped up in.

The negotiation team reconvened, and together they formulated a plan: They got the human Über-Burgomaster Ismark Kolyanovich to agree to hand Castle Ravenloft over to Isabol if she would agree to sit down to negotiations. They would bring snacks to her hideout and present this deal to her.

They went on a trek to the Zobol Mine to execute this plan. The story on the mine is, about a hundred years ago, a kobold named Zobol had a mine. But he dug too deep, and he stirred an ancient hydra, who murdelated numerous miners before being sealed away.

The negotiation team knocked on the door. At length it was answered by some kobold guy, and at length he let the team in. He tried his hardest to get the visitors' gifts without letting them see Isabol, but they would not be swayed. Eventually Isabol appeared, and, doing the absolute minimum to conceal her contempt for the party, she led them on a tour of the mine.

The entryway was decorated with two statues, depicting Fifteen Teeth—the George Washington of Koboldia—and Zobol—who had a big opinion of himself. Deeper in the mines, Isabol pointed out the door that was used to seal up Dashagriva, the hydra who had ended Zobol's career. Even deeper in hte mines, Isabol pointed out an impressive chasm that she estimated must descend all the way to the Shadowdark. Then she turned invisible.

The party knew they had been bamboozled, but they didn't know how bamboozled they were until they found the way out of the mines barricaded, and then they found a couple of Giant Shadow Lizards, or Shadow Giant Lizards, that tried to eat or at least kill them.

So they destroyed those monsters, and then they started looking for a way out of the mines. Yurd's raven familiar was able to find what looked like a secret door. Turns out, it was a secret door, and the guys opened it up and entered a secret passage.

A secret hidey-hole was found to contain a collection of arcane equipment, including a clearly magical full-human-length mirror. The significance of these paraphenalia was not obvious.

The other end of the passage opened up onto, whoops, Isabol's throne room. She was hanging out fondling a strange black orb, and she was not surprised at the intruders' appearance. Right away she sicced her tiny beholder on them, and then she ran away.

A battle ensued! Brock the Fallcrestian kobold was disappointed with his coworkers' approach to diplomacy. While Boltulmak ran after Isabol, and Yurd and Bolhit tried to handle the beholder, Brock poked around the throne room and found a bunch of gems and stonework—the wealth left behind after Zobol abandoned his mine.

Bolhit handled the tiny beholder by throwing his bearskin cloak over it and shoving it into his backpack. This freed him and Yurd up to run after Boltulmak and Isabol.

Isabol exercised her invisibility powers to evade those guys. They instead ran into Sibolius, a priest of Tiamat who was Isabol's main lieutenant. Sibolius magicked her weapon and started in on smacking it into Isabol's enemies.

Yurd kept running after Isabol, but didn't manage to find her because she was invisible. He spent several rounds sending his raven around the tunnels looking for her, but no dice.

So it was Bolhit and Boltulmak against Sibolius, but then HIBOLGO, the guy from before, showed up, and he stabbed Boltulmak but good. Brock and Yurd didn't know that Bolhit was now outnumbered, but their players figured that they should head back that way anyway. Yurd was kind of far away so his return trek took a few rounds. Meanwhile Brock strolled in, pulled out his battleaxe, and smacked Hibolgo around a few times.

Now Sibolius was the outnumbered one, and he asked permission to surrender and take Hibolgo away to get some medical attention. In exchange he offered to pull Boltulmak back from the brink of death. Brock, who had decided he was now in charge of negotiations, found this a satisfactory arrangement.

At this juncture, an ELF showed up! A beautiful lady-elf with magical black hair! She asked after her beholder, and Bolhit returned it to her. She asked after Isabol, and demanded that the guys go find her.

Isabol was hiding in some obscure room, but once she was found, she couldn't inviso her way out. Yurd confiscated her mysterious black orb, but when the elf lady showed up, she asked for it back. It turns out this elf lady was Patrina Velikovna, a dusk elf whose reputation was not known to the kobolds.

It further turned out that this orb was the Onyx of the Skugge Rune, the Declaration of Independence of Koboldia, and Patrina had procured it for Isabol, ostensibly to help her usurp Princess Bolinda. Having discovered via her beholder spy that Isabol was not as adept a protegée as she had hoped, Patrina had returned to confiscate the Onyx. He demanded that Yurd hand it over.

Yurd leant in conspiratorially. He explained that the day had not gone well, negotiations-wise, and he would really appreciate it if Patrina would act like she was making some concession in exchange for the orb. Patrina was a planar-class archmage, but she did have a heart, and she agreed to teleport Isabol into a Koboldian prison. Thus Yurd did, in fact, successfully negotiate something.

Patrina teleported Isabol away, then she took the Onyx, then she teleported herself away. At this juncture, Sibolius and Hibolgo felt it was safe to come out and say they were shocked to learn that Isabol had made some sort of deal to get the Onyx. She had claimed that she went on a grand quest to recover it.

Thus Isabol's isolationist cell was disbanded, and all the kobolds sat down together to enjoy some Barovian bratwurst. The future of Barov-Koboldia now seems very bright indeed, and soon enough we will start spelling it "Barovkoboldia."

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I have a new game out! THE ROSCOVIAN PALLADIUM

It's about rats! It's about a rat executing a daring heist at an art museum. I've already said too much!

http://rcveeder.net/roscovian/

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Listen to me and +Caroline Hlohowskyj talk about: BUG POKEMON

FOR AN HOUR

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e11-VokZ68g

DUNGEONS & DRAGONS: CURSE OF STRAHD
APPENDIX A: LEMBETËNGWE'S MANSION

You probably don't remember, but before the Undead Control Task Force got whisked into Barovia, they were on their way to undertake a bizarre mission for a bizarre millionaire eladrin who was promising in exchange to donate a bizarre amount of money to the Fallcrest Police Department. That bizarre eladrin's name was Lembetëngwe, and his bizarre mission was to make an exhaustive inventory of all the ghosts in his mansion, and after a few weeks of waiting for the UCTF to arrive, he went ahead and hired two other undead experts:

Roger Warren Millaw, a roosteresque aaracokra bard from the Plane of Air and member of the National Understanding of Tormented Souls

Ololamin Montgothsbeard, a halfling wizard who had never shaved his beard in his bizarrely long life

These two individuals managed to show up on time, and their ghost census was fairly uneventful, especially in comparison to what was going on in the UCTF's lives at the same time. But then the UCTF made it back from Barovia, and they arrived at Lembetëngwe's mansion, and there was a moment of fear and confusion as everybody wondered who would lose the contract.

Turns out everybody got to keep their contract, because Lembetëngwe is very wealthy, and in fact everybody was glad to work together, because building a paper database of ghosts is actually kind of tedious. Flint Dourhand and Lara Duane were able to cut Roger's and Ololamin's work in half.

[UCTF officer Alan Smith was not around for this, because he was taking an extended leave to visit relatives in Halfling Village.]

Near the end of the census, Lembetëngwe had to go to a meeting about a "Nentir Rally," but when he got back he was eager to accompany his contractors on their last mission, evaluating the hauntedness of the latest addition to the Dal Nystiere estate.

See, Lembetëngwe has some sort of incredibly powerful wizard or something in his employ, and this wizard-entity is able to teleport parts of other buildings from across the planes and graft them onto Lembetëngwe's mansion all willy-nilly. Lembetëngwe claimed he didn't know anything about this new wing, except that it was supposed to be haunted.

He followed at a safe distance as the party descended an ancient spiral staircase into a dark, dust-covered room. This building had been unoccupied for years and years—unoccupied, that is, except for by ghosts!

The first ghost they found was a dragonborn named Father Tundar, who explained that this building, his monastery, was in the Arkhosian city of Io'vanthor (as far as he knew), and that he and his monks had been murdered by devils when they invaded the city during Arkhosia's centuries-long war with Bael Turath. After learning the disturbing facts of his situation, specifically that his monastery was now an addition to the mansion of an insane one-percenter, he lost interest in conversation and returned to his reading.

After some more exploration, the team confirmed that this was indeed a ruined monastery. Flint Dourhand, a secret door expert par excellence, discovered a hidden passageway leading to a catacomb. He also discovered a pressure plate in that catacomb, and Roger discovered the trapped statues near the pressure plate, and Flint deactivated the traps with expert fingers. It is hard to get one over on a level 10 rogue.

The catacomb contained the remains of many famous Arkhosians, resting peacefully, but it also contained more ghosts—the ghosts of monks who were slaughtered while guarding the crypts. The team got their info for the census, and Lembetëngwe was thrilled to the gills about his new acquisitions. Lara finally used her Fey Presence, to charm a ghost who would have tried to kill her otherwise. The monks didn't know where the devils who killed them had come from; they had seemed to appear out of nowhere.

The team stepped into a big room containing a big magic circle. It was a portal, but it was inactive. Then it activated: Out stepped the ghost of Rahadin, chamberlain to Strahd von Zarovich.

"The princes of Hell were willing to pay any price for my black soul," he explained, "but all I asked in return was a chance to get my revenge on you." He meant Lara and Flint. He was able to take them both on, as his head flew off his shoulders to bite Flint and his body stalked toward Lara with a glittering spectral scimitar.

Although Rahadin was dead, the screams of all the people he had murdered still followed his ghost around, and they continued to deal psychic damage to people who were anywhere near his ghost-body or his ghost-head. Lara was reduced to 3 HP in like two rounds, so she Dimension Doored the heck out of there.

Roger valiantly cast geas on Rahadin, hoping to place him under magical compulsion to stop killing everybody (and add the ghost to Lembetëngwe's collection), but Rahadin was unperturbed. Next, Roger tried his best to magically imitate one of Rahadin's fiendish masters, and told him to cease this nonsense. This would never have worked in a million years, but it distracted Rahadin's head long enough for Flint Dourhand to slice it in half with Ezmerelda d'Avenir's magic rapier.

Unfortunately, Rahadin's body was still kicking, and unfortunately for Flint, Lara was not around to stab. Flint got stabbed instead, and he fell to the floor with all his hit points gone.

Roger and Ololamin were not familiar with Rahadin's reputation, but by now they had gotten the idea that he was more trouble than he was worth, so they let loose with a barrage of Magic Missiles. At higher levels, Magic Missile is insane. Lara was trying to help by slinging Eldritch Blasts from the next room over, but she was failing.

Rahadin's body got destroyed; Lara stopped trying to abandon her teammates; everybody rushed in to save the famous Flint Dourhand's life. He was fine. Lembetëngwe was a bit disappointed that he didn't get to keep Rahadin's ghost, but he was calmed a bit when he learned that it wasn't original to the property.

So, why was there a portal to Baator in this monastery? Huh? Ololamin did his best to deactivate it, and the team moved on.

An old rec room was home to yet another ghost, Sister Petisse, who was guarding Father Tundar's office. She was basically nice, but when the team said they wanted to check out that office, she stopped being polite. She was not letting them through. No way.

Roger and Lara spun an extremely convincing story about getting Father Tundar's permission, and they gained entry without having to destroy another ghost. What was in Father Tundar's office?

There was a sarcophagus: Tundar's sarcophagus. Flint Dourhand, who knew a thing or two about coffins, was able to deduce from the presence of Tundar's skeleton and the lack of an exterior seal that the occupant had interred himself.

There was a desk, on which rested a thick stack of paper: A contract written in Infernal, signed by someone named "Tundar" and something named "Undecimus." The contract assured that in exchange for services rendered, certain souls would be permitted to pass into the afterlife rather than being claimed by the forces of Baator—but until Bael Turath triumphed over Arkhosia, all said souls would remain in escrow.

With the mystery more or less solved, basically, the team headed back to make sure they hadn't missed anything. They met a couple of other ghosts, and picked up some old books in Draconic, and they found some scrying circles from which they could peek into the ruins of Io'vanthor. Then Flint and Roger teamed up to unlock a treasure chamber.

The treasure chamber consisted of a clear pool of water, in which lay a ton of coins, a bunch of magic items, and a couple of skeletons' worth of bones. Roger activated his Gem of True Seeing and saw that the pool also contained a couple of disguised water elementals.

Well, elementals were outside the scope of the team's contract with Lembetëngwe, but he said that if they took out the guardians, he'd split the treasure with them, adding that as the property owner he was entitled to two shares of the take.

The party attacked, and the elementals were taken by surprise. Lembetëngwe forgot to get out of the way, though, and he was almost smashed to death by a water elemental before he activated his magic ring and teleported to safety.

More magic missiles made short work of the creatures, but when the battle was over, the team needed to take a short rest. If they had started in on divvying the spoils right away, they could have hidden some of it from Lembetëngwe.

Actually, Lara Duane did do that, picking a snake-shaped Amulet of Health out of the pool and pocketing it. But then Lembetëngwe reappeared, and it was time to do some Treasure Math:

- Each party member got about 6,000 GP, and Lembetëngwe got about 12,000.
- Lara got that Amulet of Health, as mentioned.
- Flint got a Ring of X-Ray Vision. Nobody asked "what's an X-Ray?"
- Lembetëngwe got an Ioun Stone and a +1 greatsword, neither of which he needs at all.
- Roger and Ololamin got shafted, but they got some pretty sweet magic items as part of their character creation process, so. Fine.

Everybody was so thrilled to have completed the ghost census and picked up a bunch of extra cash that they didn't even glance at Father Tundar on their way out.

The last six ghosts brought the Dal Nystiere Confirmed Ghost Population up to 169, a number with which Lembetëngwe was extremely pleased. He handed his independent contractors their last paychecks; he put into motion the execution of his huge donation to the Fallcrest Police Department; at last, he thanked everybody for their assistance and wished them well on their journeys home. If he had meant to tell them anything else about the Nentir Rally, he forgot.

Maglione's Rancho Exotico
Part 1

Nobody in the sanitation department had ever seen an airship before, but everybody knew what it was. Each person entering the office in the morning asked "Did you see the airship?" and everyone said "Yep," and the person then asked "Do you know why there's an airship?" and everyone else said "Nope," and then the person sat down so they could give the same answers to the next person.

Then someone entered the office who was not a sanitation department employee, and who did not ask any questions about the airship. He was an underling of the city attorney, a repulsively polite elf who slithered out of the office as soon as he had served his three subpoenas.

"Why don't we get subpoenas?" Haxor groused. The other person who didn't get a subpeona was Morelle, and she didn't seem to mind.

"We have to appear at a parole hearing for Natalya, the necromancer—from the sewer cleanup. Before your time," said Mirada. "I wonder what they want us to say. That she should stay in prison? We barely talked to her. How are we supposed to know if she's rehabilitated?"

"We should visit her in prison before the hearing, and get to know her, and then we can make an informed judgment," Haxor said.

"I don't know if we'll have time," said Mirada. "The hearing's in two days."

"Two days?" cried Fellissiya. "I'm leaving town tonight. I have to pick up Quëssendo from the vet."

"I think you have to go to this thing," Mirada said, inspecting the subpoena for any possible loopholes. "Or they'll hold you in contempt of… parole hearing. I don't know how it works. Can you get someone to pick up Quëssendo for you?"

Fellissiya shook her head. "It's all the way in the Underdark."

Morelle swiveled her chair away from the conversation.

Haxor piped up. "Hey, boss. I think you should tell Fellissiya to ask me to go to the Underdark to pick up Quëssendo for her."

Mirada looked at Fellissiya. Fellissiya looked down at Haxor.

"Would you really do that for me?"

"Of course I would!" Haxor patted Fellissiya's leg reassuringly, then turned to Mirada.

"Hey, boss. I think you should ask Morelle to go with me to the Underdark to pick up Quëssendo for Fellissiya. In case I get killed."

Morelle buried her face in a crossword puzzle.

Mirada frowned. "What if there's a sanitation emergency while you two are in the Underdark and we're at the parole hearing?"

Haxor shook his head dismissively. "I'll get whatshisface to cover. The gnoll guy. Don't worry about it."

"Works for me," said Mirada. "Morelle, are you cool with this?"

Morelle did not look up. "Yeah," she squeaked. "I guess."

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I was having fun with gouache and painted some scenes from kobold history in our D&D setting. G+ no longer does captions on photos I guess so I'll explain what's going on up here:

1. Crushed Wasp (left) and Fifteen Teeth (right) are the Hero Twins of kobold myth. Their exploits are too numerous and lengthy to recount here. Their final adventure was to recover the Onyx of the Skugge Rune from the flying ziggurat of a cloud giant. The giant was slain, but then Fifteen Teeth turned on her brother, killing him and claiming the rune for herself. This betrayal created a schism in the kobold community, the upshot of which was that Fifteen Teeth and her followers emigrated to the Shadowfell.

2. Years spent as Shadowfell nomads caused the descendants of Fifteen Teeth to develop dreary worldviews and skin tones. Eventually they came to settle in a (curiously uninhabited???) valley which they named Koboldia. Current-day monarch Princess Bolinda (center) is here pictured with bodyguards Bolton (left) and Archie (right). Bolinda is a devotee of the Raven Queen, the goddess of death and patron of the Shadowfell.

3. The lifting of an ancient curse recently triggered a planar overlay between Koboldia and the culture that had occupied the valley hundreds of years before. The Shadowfell kobolds must now contend with the sudden appearance of human settlements scattered across their homeland, and the humans likewise must contend with the kobolds. The future of this arrangement is uncertain, but we see here that there is potential for integration and synergy: Kobold barbarian Bolhit (right) now wields the Blood Spear of Kavan (left), an ancient leader of human berserkers in the same valley.

4. Meanwhile in the Regular World, the followers of Crushed Wasp have led a slightly more comfortable existence, albeit mostly spent underground hiding from larger humanoids. Beneath the city of Fallcrest, cute, happy kobolds like Oakley (left) frolic through the sewer system and have a grand old time. Oakley is lucky enough to have befriended a giant lizard (right), naming it Roxanne and probably trying to train it as a mount in case that ever becomes necessary.

The two races of kobolds, the Shadowfell and Regular World tribes, had been enemies ever since Fifteen Teeth's betrayal, but recently they have been able to patch things up. Interplanar communication and unity will be very important for the kobold diaspora going forward, because they didn't have much of a chance to begin with.

5. My new character, the drow princess Atropa (center) recently hired a group of kobold sailors named Larold, Mobold, and Shemp (I don't know which is which) as her personal valets. This probably isn't a notable event in the grand scheme of kobold history.

PROBABLY
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11/25/16
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rcveeder.net/clash

Some new episodes with Buster Hudson have come out this month! Buster showed us his games FOO FOO and HER MAJESTY'S TROLLEY PROBLEM, and Ryan presented AN EVENING AT THE RANSOM WOODINGDEAN MUSEUM HOUSE, easily besting Bust Huds at cramming titles full of words. Check em all out!

DUNGEONS AND DRAGONS: CURSE OF STRAHD
PART XVII: FINALE

§1: SONIA'S FATE

Sonia Kholm, devotee of the Raven Queen, knew exactly what was supposed to happen when she died: Her soul would wake up more or less immediately in Letherna (the Raven Queen's frigid Shadowfell desmesne), where one of the Queen's subordinates would guide her through the labyrinthine bureaucracy that ensures every soul ends up in the correct afterlife.

But Sonia also knew that the laws of death were suspended here in Barovia, and so she was distressed but not surprised when her soul remained near her body. Time seemed to slow down, and the Mists drew in closer and closer until she was surrounded, a mere mind nowhere, with no point of reference in space or time.

The mists parted, and Sonia saw that she was floating high above Barovia. The Raven Queen was there with her. In so many words, the Raven Queen thanked Sonia for her assistance in handling the Barovia situation, and let her in on some backstory that the other characters would never hear:

Even when Strahd was just a kid, his mother Queen Ravenovia could tell he was dangerous. She prayed to the Raven Queen (COULD THERE BE A CONNECTION?) to protect the universe from the boy and the evil he would wreak.

RQ was obliged to grant this boon, and so when Strahd made his dark pact to become a vampire, she had to negotiate her butt off with the Dark Powers to get Strahd sequestered in a demiplane. Then she had to spend the next several centuries maneuvering worthy heroes into Barovia. She had to team up with some shady characters to get this particular team on this particular adventure path, but this time it had worked: Strahd was gone, the curse was lifted, the barriers of the demiplane were dissipating, and the valley of Barovia would be re-imposed into the Shadowfell where it belonged.

Sonia had also recovered the Holy Symbol of Ravenkind, which was something of a big deal in itself. Although she had in fact fallen in battle, she had accomplished quite a bit, and the Raven Queen was pleased to offer a spot in her exarch placement program. Sonia could only accept, and the two of them sped off for—we do not know where.

§2: IREENA'S FATE

Up until Strahd was destroyed, Alan was still charmed into hunting Lara, and so a Deadly Game of Cat and Mouse ensued through the castle's halls. Lara managed to turn invisible and evade capture until Alan came to his senses; then they made haste to find the others.

Eventually everyone met up in the chapel where the final battle had taken place. They laid out the corpses as nicely as possible and took shifts taking a long rest. Flint was on watch just before dawn, and he noticed Ireena wake up and step through the broken stained glass window to the castle courtyard.

Flint woke everyone else up and they followed her to the overlook. Then a guy appeared: Sergei von Zarovich! Strahd's dead brother! His was the same handsome face that had spoken to Ireena from the pool back in Krezk, and he addressed her again as Tatyana. He said that her long Strahd-cursed existence was at an end, and it was time for them to pass on together.

Ireena remembered who she was, how much she loved Sergei, et cetera, and she took his hand. The two of them walked into the air above Barovia, into a sky where clouds parted to reveal at last a shining sun. Ismark freaked right out at this.

As people started making preparations to leave the castle, Ismark got it in his head that this Raven Queen goddess of Sonia's seemed like a pretty cool individual: A defender of the sanctity of death

did I just stop writing this paragraph? I guess? sorry

§3: KASIMIR'S FATE

There was a lot left to resolve in Barovia, and I'll be lucky if I remember all the different plot threads, much less remember them in order. But the first thing to do was to transport the party, and the two dead bodies, through the teleportation brazier to the Amber Temple.

Here the party expected to find Patrina, but they did not expect to find her having a study party with Exethanter the lich and Reddick the duergar. Apparently Patrina had found her lich friend in a skull-addled state, then found Reddick hanging around, and she had helped the cleric level up enough to cast Greater Restoration on Exethanter until he was himself again. Now the three of them were researching something in the Amber Temple's collection of fell tomes. They did not volunteer additional information. They were very interested to learn that Strahd was dead. Like, suspiciously interested.

The Fallcrest party asked Reddick to come along with them, and he acquiesced, realizing that he had probably run out of vacation days long ago.

Patrina was lukewarm about the delivery of her brother's corpse, and she wasn't sure what she wanted to do with it. The party offered to get him revived by the Abbot of the Abbey of Saint Markovia, but Patrina chortled mockingly and said that she wouldn't have any trouble reviving him herself, if she decided such action was merited. She thanked the party for their assistance and then basically kicked them out of the temple.

§4: FLINT'S FATE

The cold of the Balinok Mountains was less stinging than it had been, and the mists south of Barovia were receding to reveal that there was a whole rest of the world down the road—but the party needed to handle stuff in Barovia before they went running around. As the main group began trudging down the mountain, Flint Dourhand assumed raven-form and flew to the Wizard of Wines to negotiate the acquisition of a wagon.

The winery was a full house, as the whole family had assembled to celebrate the reappearance of the sun and escape the bad stuff going down in Vallaki. The only Martikov missing was Elvira, and when Flint showed up, old man Davian started asking after her.

It emerged that Davian was pretty sure that Elvira and Flint were married, or at least engaged, and he assumed that she was back at the honeymoon sweet in Marrymore or something. Flint managed to keep a straight face and did not betray his confusion. He got his wagon, although Davian insisted that one of Flint's new brothers-in-law ride out with him, for an awkward day or two, until the rendezvous at Tsolenka Pass.

§5: VALLAKI'S FATE

Soon after that Martikov brother was gone, Elvira flew in to make some explanations to Flint. Davian wouldn't have let her bestow the curse of wereravenhood on Flint unless the two were married, so she, uh, lied. Flint was remarkably cool about this.

Elvira also explained what was going on in Vallaki: Burgomistress Fiona Wachter had turned the whole town to devil worship. Soon after the sun returned, an actual devil appeared in town and had gone into the Wachterhaus for some sort of meeting. Shortly after, Fiona had ordered the gates of the town sealed. Now people were getting up to some shady business behind those walls.

There were no guards at the gates so Flint just climbed the wall and lowered a rope. Then the group stormed the Wachterhaus semi-stealthily and soon found the cat-infested library where Fiona and a horned devil were plotting Vallaki's fate. Battle ensued.

Alan Smith and Lara Duane teamed up against Fiona, and pretty soon the Burgomistress was a smoking spot on the floor. The devil was more of a problem: He was able to handle multiple assailants at once with his red-hot pitchfork and his barbed tail. But soon he realized he was outmatched, and seeing as his contract with Fiona Wachter was no longer in effect, he requested that he be allowed to just run back to the Nine Hells. Lara Duane kindly cast Banishment on him, which means now a Malebranche owes Lara a favor.

The team exited the manor and Ismark Kolyanovich called the Vallakians to the town square. He addressed them in a booming voice, saying that their days of devil-worship were over, and he pledged as Burgomaster of Barovia Towne (and, some would argue, de facto Count of Barovia itself) that he would return Vallaki to a state of non-insanity. Arrangements were made for Muriel the overpowered wereraven druid to take the position of Burgomistress.

§6: HELGA'S AND GERTRUDA'S FATES

Seeing the coffinmaker Henrik van der Voort in the crowd, Ismark singled him out and asked after the fate of Helga and Gertruda, who had been sent through the magic brazier to his house.

Turns out that Helga Ruvac was in fact a nasty vampire lady, and she had shown her true colors as soon as she apparated into the coffinmaker's house. She had imprisoned Gertruda and the coffinmaker in that building as she went about Vallaki, trying to figure out what the deal with this town was. Unfortunately for her, she was outside when the sun rose over Barovia, and she was quickly incinerated. Now Henrik was taking care of Gertruda all on his lonesome, but he eagerly remanded Gertruda into the care of the adventurers.

(Eventually Gertruda got back to her mother in Barovia Towne.)

§7: THE ABBOT'S FATE

The people of Krezk were very pleased to allow the party into their town another time, and they said that something had gone down up at the abbey, but they knew not what. The adventurers investigated.

They were met at the gate by the flesh golem Vasilka, who greeted them warmly and bade them enter. This was interesting, because when last they met, Vasilka could barely hold a spoon, much less speak.

Vasilka explained: When the borders of Barovia opened, the god Pelor was once again able to see what was going on there. He saw that his servant the Abbot (who was actually an angel all along, fun fact) had turned from his path and gone insane. So he sent in a stronger angel to correct the situation. A mighty battle ensued, and the Abbot was destroyed. The angel saw that the mongrelfolk Belviews who inhabited the abbey needed a leader, and so he imbued some angelic spark (his own? the Abbot's?) into Vasilka, giving her the intelligence, wisdom, and charisma that every Abbess needs.

The party advised her to address the people of Krezk, and Ismark the newly-minted Barovian demagogue endorsed her as their new leader. This could only have pleased the old Burgomaster and his wife, who now could die knowing that Krezk was in good hands.

§8: KAVAN'S FATE

Alan Smith wanted to return the Blood Spear of Kavan to the cairn where he had found it. Kavan vehemently disagreed: He wanted to go on being wielded by Alan, killing dudes and drinking their blood. But Alan was the one with legs, so he and the party traveled back to Yester Hill.

They were surprised to find a little hamlet on top of the hill. They were more surprised to learn that it was inhabited by kobolds. The kobolds said they had been there all along. Something weird was going on: Strahd's Barovia had apparently been cut-and-pasted on top of the corresponding geography that had gone on existing in the Shadowfell for all these centuries, and so now Barovia was in the same place as a valley of kobolds. Unsettling, especially for native Barovians who had no idea what a kobold was.

Alan knew from kobolds, though, and he asked if there were any tough fighters among them. A beefy kobold named Bolhit came forward. Alan determined that Bolhit was sufficiently bloodthirsty to wield the Blood Spear of Kavan, and he bestowed the weapon on its new owner with a great solemnity. "It looks like Alan is saluting Bolhit, but really he's saluting the spear," Emily explained, and the Dungeon Master's heart was touched.

§9: ARGYNVOST'S FATE

The party took the wagon back to Ravenloft, they laboriously extracted the dragon skull from the Zone of Bones, they loaded it onto the wagon, they took the wagon way back over to Argynvostholt, and they sealed the skull inside the mausoleum.

His body thus put to rest, the spirit of Argynvost took the form of a shining beacon inside his castle's high tower, shooting out a ray of hope across the valley of Barovia and beyond.

The revenants from the Order of the Silver Dragon saw that Argynvost was at peace, and they finally forgot their misguided quest of revenge. Their spirits departed their bodies. Sidequest: Handled.

§10: MADAM EVA'S FATE

The team had been planning to get back to Tser Pool to thank Madam Eva, but it had become clear after walking through Vallaki back and forth over and over again that the Vistani over at the dusk elf encampment had packed up and gotten the heck out of Dodge. A visit to a deserted Tser Pool seemed to confirm that the Vistani had hastily departed from Barovia as soon as the sun came out.

However, the party did notice a parting gift waiting for them in the sand by the pool: A parcel with a note from Madam Eva, reading: Thank you very, very much for your assistance. The parcel contained Madam Eva's Tarokka deck. Ezmerelda asked if she could hold on to that.

The party moved on to Barovia Towne.

§11: EZMERELDA'S FATE

By now it had been weeks since Strahd's defeat, and it was a lucky thing Rudolph van Richten was still in the valley. He was just heading back into town from a fact-finding mission in Ravenloft. He was satisfied that Strahd was well and truly destroyed, and he congratulated Ezmerelda on her success. He insisted that the curse on his head was still in effect, however, and he could not let her rejoin him on his vampire-hunting journey.

Ezmerelda was fine with this, however. She knew there were vampire spawn of Strahd's left inhabiting the valley, and while Rudolph went on to seek out other monsters in other vaguely eastern European lands, Ezmerelda made it her mission to stick around and 100% Barovia.

§12: BLINSKY'S FATE

Flint met up with Blinsky and showed him the rattling puzzle box he'd found in the depths of Ravenloft. Blinsky showed Flint how to open it, revealing that it contained: NOTHING. CREEPY.

Then Blinsky explained how he had constructed a puzzle box that rattled when there was nothing inside, and Flint was ultra-impressed.

§13: ISMARK'S FATE

Ismark returned to his home, the town to which he had in fact been Burgomaster ever since his father died, except he had spent the past month or so of his tenure being out of town killing vampires, and discovered that another town had appeared right next to it. It was another town of kobolds.

It emerged that this valley, the non-Barovia version of this valley that is, was in fact Koboldia, the home of the kobold tribe that had moved to the Shadowfell following the betrayal of Crushed Wasp by his sister Fifteen Teeth deep in the mythic past. These kobolds had recently made peace with their cousins in the Prime Material Plane, who lived in the city of Fallcrest, and so the Koboldians were able and eager to lead the Fallcrest Undead Control Task Force back to their home.

Ismark, meanwhile, was left with many jobs to handle. He had to negotiate this whole planar overlay busines with the Koboldian leader (the graceful Princess Bolinda). He had to facilitate Vallaki's transition into not being ruled by a psychopath. He was working on becoming a paladin of the Raven Queen. He had to figure out what neighbors Barovia now had in the lands that previously had been only mist. On and on and on. We hope that Ismark is a smart guy. We hope he has great advisors. We hope nothing terrible happens.

§14: THE UNDEAD CONTROL TASK FORCE'S FATE

Flint Dourhand had tasted fame during his stay in Barovia: He had learned its sweetness, and its bitter aftertaste. He decided to leave without saying goodbye to Elvira Martikov, and he knew that his choice meant he probably could never return.

The UCTF eventually returned to Fallcrest, where they had been missing for so long that everybody assumed they were dead. The police department had already picked their replacements. Captain Van Buren was relieved that the OG UCTF was back, but she was also furious that they had been gone so long, and delivered a tongue-lashing/debriefing session for the record books.

Everyone was also glad to see Reddick was back, but they weren't as worried about him, because Reddick is the kind of guy who you expect to go missing for long periods of time—and honestly he's the kind of person you expect to end up dead and never find out about it.

At the end of the day there were no hard feelings, even if there were a few days of hard feelings preceding that particular day. There was, however, one thing that really needed to be taken care of: The UCTF's original mission, that of conducting a census of ghosts in the Dal Nystiere mansion of eladrin billionaire Lembetëngwe, was now something like two months overdue.

But we'll get to that when we get to it.

T H E

E N D

DUNGEONS & DRAGONS: CURSE OF STRAHD
EPISODE 0

I ran a one-shot version of Ravenloft as a dry run before the main campaign got there. Here's what happened.

Five heroes stood facing the drawbridge of Castle Ravenloft:

Morgan Ghoulscourge, a bear of a cleric with a flaming mace and an insane hatred of undead.
Thelloth, a paladin of Pelor with an intentionally difficult name.
Bollaka, a kobold monk of serene aspect and outgoing temperament.
Zecheriah Grey, a halfling sorcerer who wanted everyone to like him.
and Rathbone, a tiefling duelist with a mysterious past.

Four of these adventurers had been drawn into Barovia by its insidious mists from other worlds, but Rathbone was a native to this dark land. He had never known his father, but based on odd comments from his mother, plus the fact that he had horns, he suspected that he may in fact be the son of Strahd von Zarovich. He aimed to find out for sure.

The others had a different goal in mind: Morgan had heard of a magic sword hidden in Ravenloft's catacombs, in the crypt of Baron Eisglaze Drüf. The word was a Luck Blade, with the power to grant three wishes. Its owner, according to the tale, had used one wish to escape Barovia; this did not work. So the Baron wished for Strahd to be destroyed, but this only caused Strahd to appear at his side. Thus the baron perished. The tale stated that the sword survived, however, and that it had one wish left. If the wish was chosen carefully, it might actually get granted.

The guys walked across the drawbridge and entered the courtyard. The front door was open; they ventured inside. They followed the sound of organ music to the grand hall, where Strahd von Zarovich himself greeted them.

"Sit down! Please, eat. Nobody ever eats any of my food; they think I'm going to poison them, as if that would be any fun at all."

Bollaka was the only one to touch his food; pretty soon he was eating everybody else's.

Strahd tried to give a mocking speech, but Morgan could not control his rage, and swung at the vampire with his mace. The illusion of Strahd dissipated into smoke. The lights went out; the doors of the castle slammed shut as its drawbridge magically raised itself.

The group ventured down a spiral staircase and found an innocent-looking hallway. As they stepped through it, a mechanism activated! Iron bars trapped the group in a 10x10 section of hallway; gas filled the chamber, and the compartment whooshed up like an express elevator of death.

Thelloth's player had to take off and we ruled that he was killed by the gas. Two of the characters withstood the gas's effects, though, and they were able to wake up the other two. When the elevator stopped, they exited the trapdoor in its ceiling and found themselves in a tiny hallway.

I forget whether they tried to look under the carpet and the portrait of Strahd started attacking them, or they tried to look behind the portrait and the carpet attacked, but anyway they fought a magic portrait and an animate carpet, but neither was much of a challenge. The carpet got burnt to a crisp by Morgan's mace; the portrait, slashed by Rathbone's rapier.

One room off the hallway contained a bored vampire spawn by the name of Escher. Morgan really wanted to kill Escher to death, but the rest of the party held him back. With the threat of Morgan's mace hanging over him, Escher was convinced to give up the location of some treasure, and further he was convinced to lead the party to it.

On the way there the team had to fight four huge swarms of rats.

Escher brought the group to the castle's study. He revealed that the raging fire in the hearth concealed a secret door; by pulling on the poker or something, the door opened, but the fire still impeded entry. This was solved by smothering the flames with hundreds of dead rats.

Somewhere around here, Escher realized his plan to turn on the heroes wasn't going as he planned, or the heroes turned on him, and he was obliged to run away. He busted through a window onto the parapets. The heroes pursued him.

Escher climbed down the castle wall like a cowardly gecko and disappeared, but while they were out on the parapets, the party got to meet a magical suit of armor that wanted to kill them. It was actually kind of a pushover for four level 8 PCs. Once the armor was destroyed, the guys returned to the study.

Beyond the fireplace was a secret chamber: A false treasury, with a non-impressive amount of coin and a chest containing some paralytic gas. There was a puzzle to be solved here, however, and by manipulating torches and sconces the guys revealed: A spiderweb-choked hallway. This, according to Escher, would lead to the real treasury.

First it led to a nest of giant spiders, but the guys managed to avoid angering them.

A secret door opened to reveal the treasury: A tiny room containing a tiny adamantine fortress that left little room for anything else. The team was able to see that this fortress contained treasure galore, but they couldn't figure out how to take any of it away, so they decided to get back to their original goal of entering the catacombs.

First they tried a neat trick where they opened the treasury door a bit, shot a Fire Bolt out into the web-filled chamber beyond, and then closed the treasury door.

The webs outside must have been burning up quite a bit, since the heroes could hear agitated spiders moving around outside, plus a bunch of smoke was flowing into the treasury through the door. Eventually they were forced to run out into a hall of flaming webs, out through the false treasury and the fireplace, into the study, where a bunch of giant spiders were running around being on fire. The guys chose to just run away.

They took the stairs down to the level the book calls "Larders of Ill Omen" and met with the barracks full of skeletons, the Zone of Bones, and I think possibly Cyrus Belview. They entered Rahadin's office and found a note saying he was at the Amber Temple and would be back soon. They found the secret passage to the brazier room, but a note on the brazier said it was out of order.

From here they continued to the torture chamber. They jumped into its black waters full of rusty spikes and battled a bunch of zombies. I believe we ruled that Bollaka died here because his player had to take off. The zombies weren't too tough, though, and pretty soon it was time to slog through some more disgusting water.

Obviously those unbearable teleport traps got activated, and everyone ended up in different flooded cells. Nobody had any lockpicking tools, so it was up to Morgan to destroy the locks with his mace.

Ascending the stairs from the flooded dungeon, the guys again found the hallway where they had activated the elevator trap. The elevator compartment was way at the top of its shaft, so they were able to pass through safely and take some stairs to the servants' entrance in the castle's rear. They exited into the stormy night.

They found their way to the overlook, where they saw the town of Barovia all sad and spooky in the misty stormy night, and they also saw the crypt windows way underneath the overlook.

Rathbone activated his Cloak of the Fluttermouse and flew down to check it out. He busted the window open and reported back that there was a crypt in there. Zecheriah cast Feather Fall on Morgan and himself and I bent the rules so that Feather Fall would let them maneuver safely down to the windows. I also bent the rules of time and space, because that window wasn't broken when the guys in the main campaign found it years later.

The trio poked around the tomb of the King and Queen and then, finally, they found themselves in the main catacomb area. They looked around at the names on the crypts for the insignia of Eisglaze Drüf. Pretty soon they found it: They opened it up and revealed a bunch of Brown Mold. They dealt with this somehow and retrieved the Luck Blade.

Now they had to decide what to wish for.

I read the players the parameters of the Wish spell, and they debated amongst themselves what to do, wondering what could help them, or help future adventurers, and what wishes would work at all. As they discussed this, Strahd von Zarovich strolled down the catacomb halls toward them.

They had run out of time. Morgan wished to make Strahd vulnerable to fire damage. Reality shuddered violently for an instant; the wish was granted.

Strahd went easy on the party, letting them hit him with fireballs and fiery maces. He responded with his own fireballs, with unarmed strikes and vampire bites. He killed Morgan; he killed Zecheriah; before he killed Rathbone, he explained that he had no idea who the guy was and definitely didn't know his mother. Then he killed him.

All five adventurers were turned into vampire spawn (except Rathbone, who was turned into an awesome skeleton) and forced to guard the castle they had sought to pillage on Strahd's behalf. Strahd was incredibly embarrassed that the mortals had managed to give him a weakness, however. He cut out Morgan's tongue so that he could never reveal his wish to anyone, and he spent a few months forging a Ring of Fire Resistance. As long as that ring never left his finger (and his finger never left his body), he would take normal damage from fire.
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