The fall of Count Strahd von Zarovich

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

We’ll wrap up next week! So excited!

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