The Curse of Dirwin: the Outback Druid in Ravenloft, part.1

Hi everyone,

It has been a really long time, and I’m sorry for that. Life got busy with new jobs for us both, our wedding, hobbies and stuff.

But now we’re back with our go at the Curse of Strahd D&D campaign. Having abandoned the original Dirwin campaign (James was disappointed in how it was planned to end, given that my character had affected the setting so much that it seemed inappropriate and kind of railroady to end it like it was written…) we did a brief recap before getting into the new territory:

Sione the jolly, eternally young human wizard has moved on, the wanderlust taking over again; Dandy the halfling cleric and chef has been away from his home for a year and a day, so it’s time for him to return; Nanny Ethel the geriatric human assassin wants to go and live closer to her grandchildren; Kazi the seafaring gnome is taking her role as Admiral of the Coastguard very seriously; and Merka the furry barbarian half-orc who dresses as an eagle has to go home to lead his tribe. So Dirwin and friends have one final party together before they part, and they give Dirwin a gift they all pitched in to make together; a Cloak of Charisma, raising his stat score to 19. When he wore it, this loving gift from his friends seemed to make his inner goodness shine out through his rugged face.

So let’s get on with the diary entry of Dirwin (wrapping up four days worth of roleplay):

“I haven’t kept one of these diary things before, but Ricktavio says that memory can trick you here in Barovia, so I think I had better start.

Day Zero

I left Phlan mid-spring and wandered away from the lake. After a few rather uneventful weeks seeing the sights and helping farmers with small nuisances, I found myself in Daggerford. Probably Dandy’s sort of place – every sign in town has a pun. The sign on the way in said “Welcome to Daggerford – knife to meet you!” I left Matlida at the “Stab-les” and went to the tavern where I met a man named Joor who really struggled to make dagger puns. We got kicked out after he made an axe pun. I asked him about what was happening to get everyone so on edge (oh no, I didn’t mean that intentionally, but appropriate I suppose) and he said that there were werewolves. Turns out he was right – that night there were attacks. I was in the stables with Matilda and the horses, trying to keep them calm.Castle_1

Day One

The next morning I went out and tried to offer my help to the ConSTABulary. After a misunderstanding which lead to me in the shape of a quokka being jailed, I offered to go out to the farmstead that was attacked the night before and investigate.

The scene was grisly, but the tracks were clear. On foot I tracked them into the forest. It started to get misty… then it got very, very heavy. I paused to cast Detect Magic and heard an unnerving laughter on the breeze. I could tell I was somewhere very different from before.

Soon I came to a road and to speed up the journey I decided to travel by kangaroo. Halfway through my trek I had to return to human form to look at some strange large gates, human figures but beheaded. There I felt the eyes of wolves on me and very quickly surprised them by speaking to them directly. They said the master would look forward to meeting me, and off they went. I resumed my bouncing and that brought me to the town I would later come to know as Barovia, a dingy little village underneath the looming facade of a dark, forbidding castle.

Not a very friendly looking town, and for the most part an unfriendly people, until I met Ismark. He immediately recognised I was not from around here, I suppose that made him desperate to trust me, because his poor sister had fallen victim to nightly visits from a vampire. I soon had it out of him: the vampire was none other than Strahd, the occupant of that massive castle above the town.

We were on our way to visit Ireena when we met two children in the street who begged us to rescue their baby brother from the monster in their basement. Woe that we ever set foot in that house, the doors of which slammed shut behind us and locked tight! The first two floors were eerily clean and Ismark did not recognise the paintings of the occupants, the Durst family, or their crest. But he did recognise the building on their crest – a windmill out of town known as Old Bonegrinder.

Finally when we reached the third floor of the house the mood changed. It was most definitely haunted, as the ghoul and the skeletons of the dead children attested to. We found the hidden room in the library, in which we uncovered the will of the Durst patriarch, and the deed to the house and the mill, and we learned that the Durst adults were cultists of some sort.

We descended to the basement where we found a full-on cult monastery. We even encountered the adult Dursts, as ghouls. But the worst of it was when we found the god they worshiped… a monster made of refuse. The fight was hard, as it barely seemed to register my crocodilian teeth ripping it limb from limb. Despite all my chompings he swallowed Ismark into his disgusting maw. I tore him in half to rescue my ally, and as the beast fell, so too did the house begin to crumble. 

I ran as fast as my beaten body could handle, Ismark slung over my back. Somehow I managed to get to the courtyard of the crumbling house… and that is where I blacked out.

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Day Two? Or Seven perhaps…

I awoke in the camp of some Vistani. I didn’t know at this time of their reputation as the spies of Strahd, so I was open and friendly with them, thinking them a kind and jolly people. Their elder woman took me in to her tent and did me a fortune telling with some strange cards. I wrote then what the predictions were, and I’ll repeat them here:

– 6 of Swords – Berserker – Mad Dog’s Crypt, beneath blackened bones (history/knowledge)

– 2 of Swords – Paladin – the holy relic, the sleeping prince, servant of light, brother of darkness (protection)

– 7 of Glyphs – Charlatan – the mill on the precipice, could it be Old Bonegrinder? (weapon/sword/power)

– The Ghost – fallen paladin in dead dragon’s lair (ally)

– The Artifact – darkness, sacred place where light once shone (enemy)

It was then that she got a nasty gleam in her eye and told me she’d give me a head start against Strahd. So I hopped in kangaroo form desperately back towards Barovia village, opening to find my fallen comrade. On the way there I was attacked by, of all things, six enchanted scarecrows who were terribly strong. I was nearly dead when a raven flew out of nowhere and sacrificed itself so I could run away. Why would a raven do such a thing?

I made it back to town and tried to learn what had happened to Ismark. I asked animals around town. A crow laughed in my face and said that Ismark had been swallowed by the ruins of Death House. Running to the site of the ruins, I found another thing to fear: the house had been alive, and we had not managed to kill it. It was slowly but surely repairing itself, and no one but me and I suppose the crow had noticed. That house remains a problem that I must deal with.

Next I asked a local cat about Ismark’s sister. Had she met a girl who was starting to smell less and less alive, or like herself? She knew the one I spoke of, and led me to the house of the burgomeister. It turns out Ismark and Ireena’s recently deceased father had been the leader of this town. The house was in disarray. Claw marks decorated the outer walls and the boarded-up windows. Holy symbols lay askew inside, and a coffin was open and bloodstained in the parlour. In the kitchen, I noticed that nothing remained by perishable foods. Upstairs Ireena’s bedroom closet had nothing in it but the most impractical dresses. But it did have her cloak in it. I checked her brother’s room. His travelling cloak was also within. But then I understood once I reached her father’s room: she had taken his large cloak, perhaps to look more masculine and take the road out of town. Also in the house I found a book Ismark had promised to lend me: a copy of Van Richten’s Guide to Vampires.

At a loss for a moment, I went to the church. I realised it did not look as if it had been visited in a while. As I entered a head-splitting scream rent the air. I ran to the aid of a figure I saw in the distance by the altar, but he was not the source of the scream, but instead of a steady, murmured stream of prayer. The priest’s name was Donavich, and the scream was that of his son in the basement: a man half torn between the state of human and vampire, bitten when he had joined a previous outlander on a mission to destroy Strahd.

I convinced Donavich to come with me and we would journey to try and find a cure for his son. My good deed was almost instantly undone by the next thing I did. I saw an old woman selling pastries on the street and I bought one for me and Donavich, thinking it would cheer him. If only I had known what that would lead to…

The next thing we see down the road is that same old woman selling pastries to a desperate couple in exchange for their son! I couldn’t help myself, I rushed right into the situation and demanded to buy the child’s freedom. I parted with 50 gold for the boy, but later I realised what a fool I had been – that witch likely bought more children that same hour. But importantly, I had rescued the boy, one Radovan Gregorovich. I asked if he wanted to come with me or return to his parents, but I knew that was no real choice. So now I have a son.

That night, after I checked the borders of the village hoping to track the missing Ireena, we slept in the half-destroyed house of the Kolyana family. Donavich ate his cursed pastry and I realised then it was a drug.

Day Three

In the morning I had to live with my regret over buying Donavich a pastry, as he very nearly refused to leave town with me to seek either Ireena, or the abbey of Kresk where they might know a cure to vampirism. He was so wrapped in his newfound addiction to the pastries, which made him dream that all was well with his son Doru.

We went to the outskirts of town and met Mata, who owns horses. Yes, one of hers had been stolen, but the thief had left money! I was certain it was Ireena, but strangely the theft had only happened the same morning… 

We got on the road, both Donavich and Radovan on my back as ravenlofta kangaroo. We had a fairly uneventful time for the most part. We strolled past the precipice on which Old Bonegrinder sat, trying to get a good eyeballing of the place. We carried on down the road and right outside Valaki saw a slight figure being attacked by needle-shooting blighted plants. We united to take
them down. Radovan proved he had a mean arm when it comes to throwing rocks. Once the blights were dead I introduced myself to Ireena and told her of her brother’s demise. We walked into Valaki filling each other in as much as we could about what we knew. It was then that we realised something unfortunate: the empty coffin had belonged to her father… so where was his body?

Vallaki is a strange town where everyone has to seem happy all the time, but the best part of it is that it is heavily fortified. We had lunch at the inn and then planned to carry on to Kresk before the end of the day. Even Ireena saw the value in helping Donavich’s son. But our efforts to find a horse led us to waste all the hours of daylight. We learnt from the innkeeper that the friendly horse in the stable belonged to Ricktavio the circus man. So we hunted him through the whole town. We found his circus wagon, in which I was unlucky enough to spy, in spider form, a large feline! I scampered out quickly and was going to try and communicate but the owners of the stockyard rushed us off. We went to the shop of Blinski the toymaker for Radovan. His toys are rather morbid but I was happily able to get information from his monkey, Piccolo, who had been sold to Blinski by Ricktavio! She said he was a good man but did not look as he smelled. That was deeply suspicious to me…

Back at the inn we finally met Ricktavio. He was telling a story, and was quite good at commanding a crowd. Luckily once the two of us started talking, he saw in me a potential person of trust, for he invited me up to his room. I took Ireena with me, and I am glad I did, for as our mysterious discussion went on she realised – Ricktavio is non other than Van Richten! With such a great ally in front of me I felt more open to discuss all the things we had seen and done, and his advice was very valuable. He gave me a task – more on that when I perform it. But he did say, unfortunately, that Doru was a lost cause, and it would be best if Donavich could end him. Ireena and I agreed to take Donavich back to Barovia post-haste.

And it turns out it would happen sooner than we thought, for when we returned to our dormitory Donavich was gone! We begged Ricktavio to babysit Radovan, and rushed off into the night. Ricktavio’s horse was gone, and the direction: Old Bonegrinder. The addiction had overtaken Donavich.

We rushed through the night to beat Donavich to a curve in the road, cutting through deep forest and getting hurt by blights on our way. But we could not make it in time – Donavich made it to the witch’s door and bought a pastry. We tried to reach him secretly but the witch zapped me from inside the mill and her laughter chased us down the hill. Donavich was at first apologetic, then aggressive with me, as if I were holding him back. We took the pastry off and told him the bad news: we would return immediately to Barovia and end the unlife of his son. 

Luckily he saw the sense in this, though he was understandably miserable. On the way to Barovia Ireena found a strange smoking pipe which blows out clouds in the shape of skulls. Not a Blinski, surprisingly. But we made it into Barovia without being met on the road. We went to the crypt where Ireena had been hiding all week and witnessed the procession of souls of those who failed to destroy Strahd. We made our plans to end Doru, importantly finding his favourite herb flower, as Van Richten’s guide had said to use herbs to keep the vampire at bay, especially if those herbs had been of significance in life.

With stakes and herbs we went into the church and readied ourselves at the trap door. I wrenched the door open and he was almost immediately upon his father. I summoned a crocodile and became one myself, thinking to pin the undead man. This was a very successful strategy. With the leadership of Ireena and eventually the holy magic of Donavich, we managed to weaken the vampire enough so that his father could drive a stake through his heart. The screams were hideously, but finally – thank whatever gods were watching – the boy said thank you to his father before finally expiring.

Donavich would accept no help from Ireena or myself, and so I write this in the dim light in the crypt before I lay my head to rest. I hope Donavich will be filled with determination now to help us defend this land from the things that would take his son from him. I hope Radovan and Ricktavio are all right. I didn’t mean to dump my son on such a respected figure at such late notice. I hope neither of them are offended. 

I hope Ireena isn’t in more danger by associating with me. She’s already asleep, a few feet away from my own bedroll. Hard to believe I only met her less than a day ago but she has already proven to be a tremendously capable ally and a trusted, level-headed companion. 

Well, time for me to sleep also. It has been a long entry. Grant it so that I might get to write again!

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