For the next 30 days, I’ll be undertaking the 30 for 30 Challenge!
Now, this may sound like some exercise or drinking challenge, but no this a 30 day RPG character design challenge! Usually, I am behind the screen and do not get the opportunity to create characters like the rest of my players do. So I thought I’d flip the script and try my own hand at character creation!
Sadly I’m not a power gamer in any way. I like to make my characters maybe with a sense of need for the rest of the party, but primarily I want to make a PC that is fun and interesting to play and lets me DO a lot of things.
It has been a while since I have played Dungeons and Dragons as a Player Character instead of the Dungeon Master. I think the last time was in 2015 when I played in a friends game running the Lost Mines of Phandelver. At the time I was in the middle of a re-read of the Dresden Files series and I was enamored with the character of Micheal, a literal Knight of God who defends the world from the supernatural enemies of good. My favorite thing about Micheal is his unwavering goodness. He is just a fount of positivity and good and a crutch for the main character in the novels. So, I made a Paladin modeled after him. And it was a disaster.
One of the tropes that I’ve often joked about when creating Role-Playing game characters with my friends is the most commonly used background, “The Orphan Sex Slave”. The joke is that everyone always makes their characters orphans, or escaped slaves (and or), and often they are sexy sex pots characters, particularly when it’s a female character played by a hormone raging and repressed male player. So everyone makes orphan sex slaves! I only mention this because two of the first fellow characters I met in the Phandelver game… were orphaned brothers who were sold into slavery working in a kitchen. Their Names: Homefry and Skillet.
Homefry and Skillet were played by two of my friends Beckett and Todd. I hadn’t met Beckett before this game so I was really worried about what kind of player he was. I have anxiety about playing games with people I do not know. Most of that is probably related to feelings of inadequacy in gaming and that everyone is smarter and more clever than myself. Beckett for sure is, but he also certainly made me NOT question my concerns of playing with people I do not know. The very first thing his character did in the game was to attack my player. I knew, playing a Lawful Good (and probably a bit Lawful Stupid) Paladin of Torm, it was going to be a long campaign.
The good news is the game lasted only 3 sessions, so I didn’t need to deal with it for too long. If you’ve played LMoP you know there’s the Goblin Ambush and then the hunt back through the woods to their lair. Well, we never made it past the Goblin Ambush. The Sorcerer cast sleep on the goblins and knocked them all out. Thus started the great Alignment Debacle of 2014. It’s a lot to go into here, but I was a younger and more naive man, and played my alignment too straight. “No, I wouldn’t kill a group of incapacitated Goblins! They should be taken back to town to face justice!” Ahh… well, whatcha gonna do.
And that is the story of the last Dungeons and Dragons character I made. Until tonight!
Stay tuned for the first D&D character I’ve made in 5 years!
Hi Everyone! A quick break from the posts about D&D.
Wanted to talk about a game we played last night at our board game group that I wanted to talk about a little bit.
So we played a game that I’ve owned for awhile and have played a few times, but never as successfully as we did last night.
Deception: Murder in Hong Kong
Deception Hong King is a reimplementation of an older game called CS-Files that was kickstarted back in 2015. I don’t think I got it as part of the kickstarter but i game across is a bit later seeing a friend post about it on Facebook.
At my bi-annual private cons we have here in Frostburg with my friends, we always have a strong group of 6 – 8 people we play games with for about 3 days straight. One problem with that is that there is not a whole lot of games you can play with 8 people and not get tired of them. There is only so much of Secret Hitler and Codenames you can play. So I’m always on the look out for good party games I can pick up that play well with 8 people.
I always like to look at the Board Game Geek top rankings for various games, and I tend to try and acquire games in my favorite categories that are listed there. So when i saw that Deception: HK was on the top 10 list on Board Game Geek I immediately wanted to pick it up. So I did!
The game itself is a bit like Mysterium in that there is a mystery component. You are an investigator and you are trying to unravel a murder. The Forensic Scientist runs the game (like a GM) and helps to coordinate all the pieces. The Forensic Scientist is similar to the ghost in Mysterium as they are trying to give you clues without talking to pinpoint the murderer and their murder weapon and the key piece of evidence. These two items the murder will show you in a Werewolf style “Everyone Close your Eyes” segment to start the game.
The first time I played this game at a Dan Con I didn’t understand the rules very well and it went VERY poorly. Everyone was confused and messed up and no one had a good time. I feel bad because I think i turned everyone off of the game as I haven’t gotten that group to play it again.
We played it a few more times with some other friends, but two of those people dont talk to us anymore, so maybe that went even worse? I’m not sure.
So to try and correct this problem I went for the best avenue to learn how to play a board game.
I found two great youtube videos that helped me learn how the play the game correctly! I’ll share those below so you too can learn the game! It’s really fun and quick and once you get the hang of it, it’s a great time accusing your spouse of being the murderer. It has the fun of accusational pieces of deception games, with none of the 2019 awfulness of accusing someone of being a Fascist or Secret Hitler.
Sidenote: I really do miss playing Secret Hitler. It was a always a blast to play and we have many great experiences playing it. Unfortunately in today’s world its too real and has lost some of its fun. Also, cant play with kids because having an 8 year old scream “YOU ARE SECRET HITLER! I ASSASSINATE YOU!” isn’t as fun as it sounds.
I finally got a chance to break it out again this week (Labor Day game fest 2019!) play it with a bunch of friends.
We played a few rounds of the game, and after a shaky start in the first game with myself as the Forensic Scientist (we lost, the murderer won, once again… I suck at Gaming) we had a better try the second round! In that one my lovely wife was the murderer and killed the victim with eggs laced with illegal drugs! Is that poisoning? I guess?
Either way the game plays really quick and is actually pretty light weight in terms of ruling. We got through 2 playthroughs in roughly an hour and a half. Game box says 1 game is about 15-30 minutes long, and we certainly could have gotten into that time range if we had cut out the cross talk and held people to 30 secondish long presentations between rounds.
Overall it’s a very fun game thats great for parties / party sized gaming groups that I will certainly keep in my bag for future game nights.
I probably wont get a chance to do another game night for a few weeks due to my sons soccer scheudle, but SOON!
Anyways, here are the two How To Play videos which helped me the most. Enjoy!
I talked briefly last time about setting a hookt/trap for my PCs. I had them fall in love (platonic?) with one of my NCPS by having her be a supportive helpful and kind old woman who helped to hand hold the group get their tavern started.
While we haven’t played again yet (we play tomorrow), I just wanted to share a few pieces of feedback I got from my group in the subsequent days.
So, I feel kind of bad? But also feel kind of awesome that I’ve gotten such emotional reactions out of my players over “just a game”.
I’ve talked before about the Dungeons and Dragons game that I’m running. I use roll20 for the virtual table top, and we’ve recently switched to discord for the audio/video. Roll20 is a great tool for virtual table top game playing and I recommend it to everyone who is thinking of trying to get into playing RPGs over the internet.
As part of the new campaign I’m running, Waterdeep Dragon Heist, the party was given a tavern. This got this tavern from the very opening of the campaign when they took on a job to find a friend of Volothamp Gedarm. Volo’s friend, Floon, was kidnapped by Zhenthariam thugs, and then double kidnapped by Xanathars Gang. Thats not the important however. The important part is they were given a tavern.
Unfortunately, the tavern was in quite disrepair, and if the group wanted to reopen it to make money off of it, they had to put in a lot of time doing repairs themselves, or hiring and paying workers to take care of it. When planning out the campaign, I really didnt want the players to get stuck playing Sim Tavern for too much, and rathered had them focusing on the overarching plot of the campaign, or engaging in faction side quests that , at least I felt, were more engaging and would keep the interest of everyone playing.
Another quandary i had was how to make sure the “Hook” for the 3rd phase, really the opening of the 2nd half of the campaign, would catch the party and ensure they were engaged in the plot to come. Its one thing to have a fireball explode in the street in front of the tavern your repairing and hear someone got away with something vs something a bit more personal. Some of the materials that help DMs run Dragon Heist call out this specific bit as a difficult point to overcome. There are actual NPCs (Officials of the City Watch) that tell the party to NOT be involved. And I worry the players will say “If the DM is telling you to not be involved we’ll go back to grinding Faction XP and fixing up our house!”. Definitely don’t want that to happen.
SO I figured I’d have someone close to the party die in the fireball that explodes to start chapter 3 of the campaign. I had some discussion on reddit about the best way to do it. In the hard cover module for the campaign, there are mentions of a group of halfling children who inhabit the alley the manor/tavern is set in. Killing random kids who live nearby seemed a bit heavy handed. Having those kids be NPCs that engaged the players often and nudge the players towards adopting or at least taking them under their wing… and then killing them (as some redditors recommended) seemed even worse and even more cruel. So I had to come up with another NPC who would ingratiate themselves into the good graces of the PCs, not be too obviously bait, and still grab the party focus and desire for vengeance. Enter Mazzy.
So I spent some time drawing up (not literally drawing) an NPC that would be well received by the group. I made Mazzy a woman in her later years. Retired, if thats even a thing in Faerun, and helpful. In her youth she had worked at the tavern the PCs now own, and her familiarity with the tavern, the ghost who resided there and her connections with craftspeople of Waterdeep would allow her to help them make the repairs easier.She knew who to hire that was reputable in the quarter who could repair the roof, fix the plumbing and clean up the water damage. She knew where to buy brewing equipment and plates plans. She could help with getting the windows replaced and the kitchen restocked. I even gave them a discount on all the repairs they needed if they worked through her. In short she was their project leader for the Tavern. I also made sure to call out that she always wore vivid bright red dresses every day, and red ribbons in her hair. The PC’s probably assumed this was because red is my own favorite color…
I didn’t put her in for free. The party had to pay her a wage for the work she was doing, and she discussed being a partner for the party in running the tavern, while they stayed out adventuring. They offered her a nice wage and she agreed to take on the job and run the tavern in their stead. It seemed like a great setup for them to be the wealthy owners, but not be stuck with any of the drudgery of actually RUNNING the tavern.
But not only did I have Mazzy as the “tavern keep” of a tavern they were investing in. She also ran the home portion of the manor house, above the tavern. This was where the party lived and had rooms. Mazzy helped them repair their furniture, install new washrooms and clean up the house. And when the group would return back to house after a day of chasing Xentarium Thugs, or hunting down a talking horse, she was there to listen to their stories and pour them a mug of ale. She had sort of become the Edna Garrett of the house for the Party.
So with how loved Edna, I mean Mazzy had become, it made perfect sense that she’d be the unintended collateral damage of the fireball cast to kill the Gnome spy running from the Zhentarim. Here we had an NPC who had won over the hearts of the party, and had gotten into a place of trust and affection. I may have even laid it on a bit too thick by having the Fireball take place on the day the Tavern was set to open. I could tell my plan had worked when the party had decided to give Mazzy a raise for a job well done, and then open the first cask of their expensive wine from the Stoutfellow farm, (their special batch vintage even!) and one of the PCs gave a toast to Mazzy and all the hard work she had done. They seemed to be really grateful and appreciative of her! So it probably shouldn’t have been a surprise at how hard they took her death.
I closed the session with a brief description of their morning. The spirit that had taken up residence in the taproom, a former bartender who met an untimely demise, had even made them coffee for their morning. I then had a giant explosion shake the entire manor house. When the PCS ran out of the house they all rushed forward to see the unmistakable sight of Mazzys bright red dress on one of the charred bodies lying in the street.
Today I want to talk a little bit about a neat experience I’ve had in my most recent game I’m running. We’ve been playing Dungeons and Dragons for about 10 sessions now, running Waterdeep Dragon Heist, and it’s been a blast. I am the GM for the game and have a number of friends playing in the game. I have some post on my Patreon about game prep and occasionally twitch while prepping. Check it out at the links above!
Most are players who have played before and even who have played in some of my other games. One of my players is a local friend who had never played D&D before, and it’s been a very enjoyable experience teaching her the game I love so much, and to see how the experience is encouraging her.
My friend Erica was an English minor in college, so she obviously has a thing for words. She is often a bit more shy then others in the group, so its tough to gauge how much fun she’s having playing. But more frequently she’s engaging more in the role-play portions of the game, dropping great jokes and ideas in session, and most recently, writing a poem inspired by some of the events that took place!
A little backstory before I share the poem: The group was in a vineyard trying to find a scarecrow that was terrorizing the farm stead. They were hired to dispose of the scarecrow but couldn’t find it. They made camp for the night and the person on watch didn’t see the approaching scare crow. It beat them up pretty bad and even dropped on of the party before they dispatched it! Fun times was had and everyone enjoyed the brief encounter.
Erica wrote an awesome poem that really touched my heart. Not specifically for the words, although they are wonderful as well, but for the fact that my game that I’m running has inspired someone to write something about their character and their experiences in the world I’m building. Pretty cool!
Well enough about me, here is Lunarias “Ode to the Zombie Scarecrow. (That Almost Killed Us)”.
Friends on watch In the dark. Who would take this late shift? Idle talk passes the time and fends off fear of laughable monsters. Scarecrows? Zombie scarecrows. How bad could they be? One slash and they would be Straw on the ground. Doubting that fear has any reasonable basis. As quickly as fear was forgotten, Slash! In the dark. Fallen on the ground and Taken by surprise. In the dark. Allies rally and circle the foe (Who shouldn’t be!) Zombie scarecrow?! It slashes—-they stab! In the field, in the dark. Save the crops— Save your friends! I am useless, on the ground, hoping to survive.
Whose story ends with death by scarecrow?
Luckily, allies prevail! The scarecrow returns to its inanimate state. A shady plot has been revealed. I am revived, my friends are safe. The crops are safe. All is well, the bard will sing! Or is it?
Gloomhaven, Pandemic Legacy, Betrayl Legacy, Charterstone, First Martians. These are just a few in a long list of Legacy games which have been big hits since they first came onto the scene since 2015.
I’ve played a number of them and I really do enjoy the play style of them. As someone who loves campaign style play in TTRPGs, being able to bring that consistency and game style to TTBG’s as well is really fun and exciting! You get to sit at a table with your friends and explore not just a fun game session, but the evolution of a whole story arc that grows and changes as you play the games. It’s a really interesting concept and board game mechanic that I really love.
But what do you do if you do not play board games consistently with your “Legacy Group”? Do you stall the game until you can gather everyone together? Do you continue to play the Legacy game with whomever you can get around the table? Do you try and run a separate “campaign of the legacy game for those other groups? Does playing through the legacy game with your other group spoil the game plot and story for you or others with your other group?
These are all problems I’ve run into myself and I’m not sure how to combat them. Lets look at those questions in order.
1: What do you do if you don’t play board games consistently with your main or prime Legacy group?
This is probably the biggest issue for me with Legacy Games. My normal game group is one I found back in my old home state of Delaware. Until recently they were really the only people I gamed with on a regular basis. Twice a year my friends would come and visit me in the Mountains of Maryland and we’d play my copy of Pandemic Legacy. We were not very good at the game and probably only advanced a few months in. Difficult to get an level of consistency when we played twice a year! I also picked up a copy of Gloomhaven a few years ago, and we added that to our biannual Mountain Cons. It was very enjoyable and we had a blast learning the game but still, same problem.
I was often wary of playing the games with others as I did not want to spoil any of the legacy components in our game nor spoil the plot for myself and my game friends. Which leads us into question 2!
2: Do you continue to play the legacy game with whomever you can get around the table?
As a traditional TTRPG gamer, this is a bit anathema to me. Your campaign is the 5 people you start with. Yes you might have a person or two who drops out, but it is built around the gaming group you start with. Call me a traditionalist, but that is my opinion. It’s also probably why I’ve played a grand total of 3 legacy games about 15 times in total.
Conversely, these games take quiet a bit of commitment from your players. That commitment gets more and more difficult to maintain with careers, kids, and when you move 200 miles away. Play with whom you can! The missions themselves tend to be pretty self contained. You should be able to enjoy them as one shots when you can.
3: Do you run separate campaigns for your legacy games?
The legacy games as they are designed, are intended for a single play through. You tear up cards, write on your board, put permanent stickers down. The designers intended this to be a single play through game. That is tough to swallow when you are paying $150 for a game.
On the other hand, Pandemic Legacy, one of the first of these style of games, offered a Red and Blue box that were exactly the same game but in different boxes so you could keep them separate and run separate campaigns. After market products are sold so that the stickers are removable or you track your changes on a different sheet. Perhaps this is a viable option for some?
It seems that both are good choices, for me, i still do not think i can do it. There are moments of reveals and “oh shit” moments in these games that I do not think would be as impactful on your second or third play through. You could meta-game your 2nd play through to take the optimal path for something that is to happen 5 sessions down the line. It’d be like running a published D&D module and knowing whats going to happen. Being able to Roleplay what is going to happen and keep it fresh and new is important to me.
4: Does playing through the legacy game with your other group spoil the game plot and story for you or others with your other group?
I sort of answered this one in the question above, but I’ll follow it up here. Yes. You will spoil your prime group play through by playing ahead with another group. Nothing more to say here.
So in conclusion, I think for me you need to pick your Legacy game group for a specific game, and ride or die that. In hindsight to my experience you need to choose wisely. Do not play a Legacy game with people you see twice a year. It is not fair to anyone in that group.
With that said, I think i need some new people to play Pandemic Legacy and Gloomhaven with. Shoot me an email if you are interested and live in the 301.
For the past few weeks I’ve been prepping a game of Waterdeep Dragon Heist for my regular Wednesday night game. Since we finished off Strahd awhile back, I took a month or so off to prep by reading, taking notes, and building out the roll20 campaign. One of the neat things with Roll20 lately is the ability to create characters very quickly with using the Charactermancer. It’s nice and allows you to build a new usable PC.
I wanted to play around with the Charactermancer the day before our session started, mostly so i could help out one of our newest players with the build process, since it was her first time playing and building a PC.
I ran through it the first time making a Cleric using the name I use for most of my PCs, Alpaca Pepper. I made a cleric since i knew the group was without a healer, and figured if things went south in the opening encounter in the Yawning Portal (a fight against a Troll and a group of Stirges) I could drop a quick heal or two to keep the party up right.
I did a google search for “female cleric image” and probably due to the algorithms in my web browsing traffic I got some scantily clad images of women in armor.
Oh well, i took the first one there and copied the picture over to Roll20. Loading it up to the new character I made took a few seconds and i made a token for it and dropped it on the map as well. I also made a fighter and a wizard as well and made them a similar adventuring group to the PC’s that will probably show up from time to time.
Unfortunately however, this story has a side side. Doug, who is playing Tabby in the game, showed the roll20 interface to his wife. She apparently took offense to my clerics picture and called her “Tit Cleric”. 🙁 So I changed her name in the game to Tit Cleric now and thus she has entered into D&D lore (in my games) as TC.
It’s really a very disturbing trend that makes me sad for the state of the internet RPG gaming. Following a lot of progressive TTRPG players and designers I get to see a lot of different perspectives that have historically not had a voice in gaming. LGBTQ, women and minority gamers are making their presence known in modern TTRPG in podcasts, blogs, and streaming, and it’s wonderful.
With the rise of more diversity in TTRPGs there is the inevitable backlash from Gamergate-esque personas as well as the typical “gatekeepers” that you see all over the internet in nerd culture. I’ve really come to hate social media, gamer culture, these troglodytes who feel encroached upon by women, minorities and the LGBTQ communities playing their games, but really it’s mostly women you get the most hate.
There was a recent twitter thread by @bluejay_712 where some gamers bragged about gate keeping women out of their RPG games. They pointed to a few bad experiences they had with women who they had in their games (significant others of some of their fellow gamers) who made them “change their style of game to suit them”, whatever that means. Through some of the discussion, which I admittedly didn’t follow too closely as it was just too depressing, it sounds like they asked to take out some violent game play content (read rape) and make it more open to others who don’t appreciate sexual or violent (or both) content. Is this really a problem in peoples games? Not having that content, because depending on the game or tone that MIGHT creep in, but why is it such a problem to NOT have it in? You are not eliminating any sense of realism by not including that but instead banning some disgusting material that some players might try and include to work out some bizzare fetish.
Some point to inclusion of the “X Card” mechanic in TTRPGs to flag offensive, sensitive, any content that makes one of the players feel uncomfortable as a solution to these problems. They can play the X card to stop the discussion or content, with no questions ask. I dont think I’ve ever had this problem in my games, but if I ever were to play with people I didnt know personally I think it would be a great mechanic to call in to help others feel comfortable.
This backlash on the internet for not just RPGs really makes me feel like the internet was a mistake. Yeah it’s great we can have the entire breadth of human knowledge at the tips of our finger tips, but the sheer volume of negativity and disgusting behavior that anonymity breeds on the platform is almost not worth it. I just hope that these types of behaviors and opinions just stay on their side of the internet and dont intrude on mine. That would be ideal.
Hello Internet Friends! (Probably just Friend. Thanks for reading my Blog Mrs Dan Sucks at Gaming). Welcome back to another installment of my awful blog.
Today I wanted to talk about a new Table Top Role Playing Game I’ve started with some friends. It’s called “Scum and Villainy” by Stras Scimovic and John Leboeuf-Little, from Evil Hat Games. Its a fanatasic sci-fi It’s based on the Blades in the Dark game by John Harper, also published by Evil Hat Games.
We’ve played a few sessions so far, and I’ve liked it so much I started a second game with some more friends so I can play it even more.
The system is just so different from other games I’ve played in the past. While I cut my RPG teeth on TMNT & Other Strangeness and it’s percentile based dice system, I’ve mostly played Dungeons and Dragons over the years. I’ve mostly been a D20 or D100 system TTRPG player. Games like Dungeons and Dragons or Call of Cthulhu, or even Old School RPG’s like Dungeon Crawl Classics. I’ve played a few other games which I would label as non-traditional or maybe new wave like the Fate based Dresden Files RPG and Fiasco, but I’ve certainly been more into the traditional TTRPGs. And even games that are just trying to be different like the Fantasy Flight Star Wars system. I had played the West End Games version in my youth (so many d6’s) but havnt played that in years.
I’ve run D&D campaigns for 3.5, 4e and 5e with 4e being the game I’ve probably played the most in my history. My favorite system right now is absolutely 5e and I run a regular game of the on roll20.
Scum and Villainy, and it’s predecessor Forged in the Dark game, Blades in the Dark, is just so much fun. It’s narrative driven and much less crunchy then the other games I’ve played in the past outside of maybe Fate. It uses d6’s for all the skill roles, but relatively sparingly. There some really neat mechanics that I’ve never run into before with gaming such as the use of Position and Effect, and structured downtime activities and the Faction portion.
By far my favorite part of the system has to be the use of the flashback mechanic in play. I came across the flashback mechanic for the first time in Dusk City Outlaws from Scratchpad Publishing. Scratchpad is led by an amazing game designer Rodney Thompson who was part of the Wizards team that built D&D, the Lords of Waterdeep board game, Star Wars Saga edition and currently works for Bungie. I was in love with DCO when I found it on kickstarter and over the summer of 2018 I watched tons of actual play videos of the game in action. The Leverage style heist games really evoked the feel of one of my favorite series of novels, The Gentleman Bastards series (Lies of Locke Lamoa) from Scott Lynch.
The flashback mechanic in that game really helped to drive the fast pace of the game and give it a neat feel you don’t find in many other games. One of the most painful parts of d&d adventures can be the 30 minutes the group spends planning out how they are going to break into the villains compound. With a flashback mechanic you can skip those parts and still feel as if your characters are competent and planned for everything.
For example, in our game this past weekend, the crew was using a Deception Plan to get on board an asteroid scientific outpost to steal a prototype shuttle with a cloaking field. They used a sway roll to convince a group of guards and a technician to plug a coax cable for their music performance into a jack near an airlock. They flash backed to rigging the air lock to vent when the guards approached, allowing them to dispose of the guards effortlessly, all for some meager stress!
The mechanic is alot of fun and leads to some interesting interaction and ideas via game play.
This game is quickly turning into one of my favorites! Catch one of our streams when we play on www.twitch.com/danthehut !
Last night was the final session of a Curse of Strahd campaign that I’ve been running since October 2016.
This is probably the longest single campaign I’ve ever run and I’m a bit amazed it’s lasted this long. There were a few moments when I expected the game to fall apart. A few months in one of the most engaged players got swamped at work and dropped from the game. This was incredibly disappointing as I had mostly started the game for him. One of the players he had also brought in stopped attending as well. Luckily we were able to push through this drop of players and bring in a few more!
This unfortunately happened a few times. Overall the game had 12 different Players over the course of the 2 years that we played. Some of them played for 6 months. Some for over a year. a few played for only a hot minute. Either way they all participated in the overthrow of Strahd, and I’m grateful for the time they spent playing with us every (ok.. most) wednesdays for 2 years.
We’re going to have one more session with the crew to do recaps of what happened to them after they left. Perhaps they will show up again in future adventures?
I didn’t go into last night with the plan that it would be the last session. The party had already had the main final encounter with Strahd and I had been using him to pop in and out of the rooms they were in while exploring the castle, and harass them. Get a few hits, make them spend some of their spells. My goal was to have them low on spell slots and hit dice, and then have them engage in a big battle. I was just waiting for the opportunity to show up.
When they found Gertruda in Strahd’s bed chamber I played her as if she was a pouty 20 something refusing to go with them. Nicks character Dawnlord was so focused on having her returned to her mother in Barovia and couldnt drop it, even at the behest of the others in the group. With him so set on having her returned, and Strahd knowing this, I decided to kill her off. While the party was finishing up a random encounter of wights, I had Strahd pop in through the wall and bite her, killing her. However the stubborn PCs of course resurrected her! Her resurrection insanity however made her unstable and more focused on loving Strahd and would have her refuse to follow the group, setting up the next encounter.
I decided to have Strahd bring her mother to the castle from Barovia, along with a bunch of charmed villagers, and convince Gertruda to leave. Instead of letting her go the group rolled initiative and the final fight began.
I tried to stack the combat a bit to make it difficult for them. They had been breezing through the last few encounters and were making it hard to give them a real challenge. Sitting at level 9, having looted Srtahds crypt for armor and the Staff of Power, AND getting the AC bonus from having returned the skull of Argynvostholt to his tomb, the group were sitting on 20 + AC each, making the minions Strahd normally brings with him incapable of hitting them. Strahd of course with his +15 to hit with his longsword was still able to do some real damage and I almost dropped the parties Paladin in the first round. Things were not looking good for the group and a lucky poor roll by Strahd saved the Paladin, and maybe a TPW.
Shasta’s character then pulled off an amazing spell, using the Staff of Power to cast Wall of Force, and trapping Strahd alone with the party and none of his minions. Strah had already used his Lair Power so needed to wait a round to escape. He couldnt get out with his move and I had him use his legendary actions to attack Linkosa (Shasta’s Warlock) to try and break her concentration and lower the Wall of force. A poor damage roll from Strahd and a good Concentration check on her part kept the wall up and I knew Strahd was in some trouble. I had broken the connection to the Heart of Sorrow the turn before after he took almost 35 points of damage on the first attack from the group, good thing as Dawnlord (Nicks character) did 70 points of damage on his turn.
Bloodied and at the start of his next round I had Strahd use his lair ability and fall through the floor and move back to his bedchamber by flying. This got him out of the fight, allowed him to reconnect to the Heart of Sorrow briefly to regain some HP and get away. But with the group still blocked off and surrounded I thought that Strahd arrogance and vindictiveness wouldnt want to let Gertruda get away and still wound Dawnlord, who had evolved to become Strahd real main opponent throughout the campaign. I had Strahd use one of his legendary actions to move into the room, then after a wight ineffectively banged on the Wall of Force some more, used the last 2 legendary actions to Bite and kill kill Gertruda. A great moment in the game, Strahd looking up at Dawnlord and the party, his fangs dripping with blood, behind 2 ranks of his minions and the other side of the wall, and gloating in this petty little victory of destroying something beautiful and again toying with the party.
BUT… i didnt account for Shasta being willing to drop the Wall of Force so quickly. Her selfless act, being alone in a corridor on one side of wall with 4 wights and 2 Strahd Zombies, while Dawnlord and Thaco were in the study with Strahd, the commoners and the Druids, allowed Dawnlord and Thac0 to get into range of strahd before his move and his legendary actions AND his Lair ability recharged.
Strahds minions were too low level to really effect the crew at this point. And they were. After a quick recharge of HP from Thac0, Dawnlord, with his 23 AC braved the opportunity attacks from the commoners and the Druids and rushed Strahd, pinning him in spot with his abilities. The sunsword forced strahd to havedisadvantage and he couldn’t use his hp regen. After Linkosa dropped the wall, she did get beat up a bit by the wights that she had blocked in the hallway, but it let Dawnlord and Thaco get to strahd and pin him down. Thaco threw up his doom circle (spiritual guardians).
At this point I’m still thinking it was going to be ok. Strahd would get a few hits in then use a legendary action to bounce again waiting for his lair power to recharge to he could just drop through the floor. But then Thac0 crit on his spiritual weapon (24 damage!) and hit hard with his spiritual Guardians (17 Damage!)! This could be it!
BUT a lucky roll from Strahd on his wisdom save saved him, for now.
With 18 hit points, and Thac0’s Spirtual Weapon Strahd suddenly only had 8hp left!
The crit catches me off guard and unexpected destroys the heart of sorrow. Strahd is also stuck in sunlight so if he’s dropped he cant transform to mist to escape and regenerate. His only chance was to wait till the top of the round when the lair power regened and he could pass through walls and floors again. He did that and used a legendary move after one of the wights to drop through the floor to escape Dawnlord, but Dawnlord got an attack of opportunity.
I’m sitting here looking at 8 Hit Points for Strahd, and Dawnlord about to roll a melee basic attack with the Sun Blade.
Luckily Strahd’s AC is 21. The Sun Blade just misses the Counts head as he falls through the floor to safety.
Strahd is distraught from the destruction of the Heart of Sorrow and his recent defeats. He rushes to the Heart and screams in despair when its obvious its destroyed. He then limps to the tower roof and is found by the group looking out over his demense.
The party decided to go investigate and went up the tower stairs. There they found rubble and shards of a large red crystal and the echoing emanations of some evil dark energy(the destroyed heart of sorrow)a line of indented scratched stone led out to the tower roof where Strahd stood, blood dripping from his wounds, standing in the pouring rain looking out over barovia. He monologues for a bit and Thaco and his Spiritual Guards move closer to bring Strahd into his spiritual guardians aura Strahd casts invulnerability while Thacos spiritual guardians danced around Strahd trying to attack him. Strahd smiled and said “fine. you have defeated me”and dropped his invulnerability and the spiritual guardians killed him