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Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Dice, Camera, Action: Episode 57 - Curse of Strahd

Episode 57: Wrath of Strahd
Lots of preamble stuff.

Animated Intro: You should definitely check out this animated intro right here. It is beyond awesome. They need to dump a truckload of money on the creator so that they can polish it up for season 3. That's Nate's music for the theme, really awesome stuff.
Gutter by Dimas Wahyu

I commissioned some art of Diath's sword, based on the description Chris gave a few weeks ago. Here's the details that we know so far:

Gutter, the Magic Short Sword of Backstabbing:
  • The pommel has a fox head with a dark red gem gripped in its jaws.
  • The sword is light, a good fit for Diath's hand.
  • The red gem lights up when it speaks (?). It said to him, "Hello, Diath. It's so good to be with you." Only Diath can hear the sword's voice.
  • Worked into the hilt is a keyhole.
  • There are designs and patterns that indicate it is from Sigil. (I went with some DiTerlizzi Planescape -style curved blades and the Planescape "verdigris" color scheme)
  • In the blade are abyssal indentations - abyssal glyphs: It spells out: "Gutter".
  • The sword requires attunement.
  • The sword wants to be with the Woodrows.
  • +2d6 damage when backstabbing.
Relatives of Diath:
  • Ashton Woodrow (male), friend of the half-orc/half-dwarf. “We adventured together for years.” Ashton died and gave him the sword to give to Woodrow’s inheritors.
  • Dareth (female).
  • The sword told Diath: "If you'd like to use more about your origins, I suggest you use a key."
  • Note: Diath has a mysterious ring of keys. He's not sure how he got them or what they are for. He used one key a while back. It opened the tome of Strahd.
  • Using a key in the sword: A planar gateway opens. Stepping through the gate is a 6-foot tall robed arcanaloth wearing spectacles. Her immaculate robe is red with designs in black thread. On her head is a wreath of vines with razor-like spines (this is razorvine, see the DMG page 110). Some vines trail down her back and move of their own accord.
  • The nails of her taloned fingers are painted.
  • She did not recognize Diath on sight. She said: “I see the sword has found a new owner. And you are..?”
  • When Strix was in the care of her grandmother, Shemeshka may have tried to buy Strix as a slave.
Three Questions:

Shemshka said, "You have summoned me. I will answer 3 questions, no more than 3, and I will take that key with me. If you wish to summon me again, use another one of your keys."

She also said, “I am a researcher. If it can be learned, I know it."

The questions asked:
  1. Who made this sword? "I did."
  2. For what purpose? "As a gift to an ancestor. You bear a resemblance to her. Her name was Dareth."
  3. Why are we dying? "This type of thing is exactly what might happen if an evil godling was in the world sucking energy to rejuvenate itself, feeding on the lifeforce of puny mortals. What world is this?" (Toril) "I suggest you learn everything you can about Acererak.
When the questions have been asked: She takes the key in her hand, leaps through the portal, and it closes up behind her.

The Half-Orc/Half-Dwarf

This guy is the mysterious friend of Ashton Woodrow. Here's what we saw:
  • When the half-orc guy shows up, he is in a bit of a daze, like he's sleep walking.
  • For a moment, he doesn’t want to give the sword away. He says: “No! The sword is mine! ...forgive me. It's not mine. I was a friend of an adventurer who shares your name.”
  • This NPC doesn't know where Sigil is. So if I heard that right, then Ashton adventured with this guy somewhere other than Sigil.
  • The guy rogueishly disappears into the shadows, suggesting that he is a rogue like Diath. If Ashton was also a rogue, then they could have been members of a thieves guild.
  • There is a half-orc/half-dwarf in "Danger at Darkshelf Quarry", the special prequel adventure to the slavers series written by Skip Williams. Chris Perkins was involved in this project, as he was he one who asked Skip to write it.
  • Brubgrok is a slaver. He is humorless, unkind, somewhat hunchbacks, and has "eyes as red as his coarse hair and beard." This doesn't sound like the NPC Diath met, but maybe this is where the idea to use a half-orc/half-dwarf came from.
The Tarokka Cards

Chris tweeted images of the tarokka cards set up in the alignment that the group found them in last week.

In the Curse of Strahd adventure, it explains how to read them (like a fortune teller). I’m going to dust off my guide to Curse of Strahd and see if we can glean any clues from these cards. I went overboard and looked up the 2nd edition version of reading the cards, too.

1. Rogue
  • 5e Meaning: Location of the Tome of Strahd is the Blue Water Inn, home base of the wereravens.
  • 2e Meaning: This is the focus card, representing the person the reading deals with. So, the rogue... Diath. "Are his intentions noble or corrupt? The answer cannot be easily told."
2. Raven
  • 5e Meaning: The Holy Symbol of Ravenkind is with Davian Martikov - the old wereraven who owns the winery.
  • 2e Meaning: This card represents the past and a hidden source of good - often a new ally or item. The Morninglord aka Lathander aka Butthander! He is watching over Diath!
3. Elementalist
  • 5e Meaning: The sunsword is in the amber temple.
  • 2e Meaning: This card represents things that oppose the focus (Diath). What's opposing him? The natural forces of the cosmos, this generally represents an elemental force coming into play. This could refer to the fact that he is dying thanks to Acererak's soulmonger.
4. Paladin
  • 5e Meaning: Strahd's enemy - this doesn't match up exactly, but is easy to interpret. Sergei's tomb, aka Sergei. That works!
  • 2e Meaning: This card represents the future - the triumph of good over evil! Wow, spoiler alert.
5. Healer
  • 5e Meaning: This is where Strahd can always be found. The Shrine of the White Sun in Krezk, which has a statue of... the Morninglord! See Curse of Strahd page 146.
  • 2e Meaning: This one indicates "the beneficial things that will speed the object of the casting along to his or her ultimate goal." It mainly represents good and holy clerics/entities such as... the Morninglord! It also warns of illness and disease like... the Soulmonger! Woo!
In 5e, there is only 5 cards in a tarokka reading, so all I can say is who or what the card represents.

What's interesting is that there actually is a 2e tarokka pattern that almost accounts for 8 total cards. The way Chris set them up nearly matches a pattern known as “the tower.” It goes like this:

9 10 11  (so, uh, if there's three cards on the ceiling, jackpot.)
   4         (rogue)
2 1 3      (raven, elementalist, paladin)
   5         (healer)
6 7 8      (executioner, marionette, tempter)

6. Executioner
  • 5e Meaning: The brother of the devil's bride, Sergei or Ismark.
  • 2e Meaning: This is the hangman in 2e. This card in this position means that someone will be caught doing something wrong and are punished, even if they are falsely accused. This marks aspects of the past that have informed the future. Like when Diath got hanged! Hung? Hanged.
7. Marionette
  • 5e Meaning: Murderbot aka Simon aka Pidlwick II.
  • 2e Meaning: This card indicates the presence of a traitor or a minion of some greater power as well as an aspects of the past that has informed the future. Welp.. that's Murderbot! His parents don't treat him like a traitor, but he keeps trying to kill nice people.
8. Tempter
  • 5e Meaning: Vasilka the flesh golem bride.
  • 2e Meaning: A person not aware that their values have been compromised and aspects of the past that have informed the future. That could be Diath's sword. Using the sword might/will lead to bad things in the future.
9, 10 and 11 would indicate the future - one of these will occur depending on the actions of the focus (Diath).

Time Travel

I looked up timelines to see how far in the past the group went: 
  • 2e: Looking at an old Ravenloft timeline, Barovia appeared in the demiplane of dread in the year 351. The year 740 is when the 2e adventures take place.
  • 5e: On page 26 of Curse of Strahd, it says that in 346, Strahd inherited the land. He died and became a vampire in 351. The current year is 735.
It matches up! Curse of Strahd is a retelling of the original Ravenloft adventure, so this actually takes place before the wonky 2e “Conjunction cycle”.
This means the group traveled 389 years into the past. I don't think time passes the same in comparison to the Forgotten Realms.

The year is around 1491 in the Realms. 389 years ago is 1102, which is actually before the events of 1st edition and part of the insanely detailed history of Toril.

It's in the Age of Humans. 1102 is the "Year of the Chaste Maiden". Hmm! Nothing of note happened that year. The year before, the abbey and temple to Lathander became part of Waterdeep as the city expanded. There's also some covenant that lures the Red Wizards into a "series of portals."

 The Party

(Anna) Evelyn - Human Paladin of Lathander
(ProJared) Diath - Human Rogue
(Nathan) Paultin - Human Bard
(Holly) Strix - Tiefling Sorcerer

The group was pulled into Barovia by Paultin's Shadow, which was possessed by a fragment of Strahd. Paultin stabbed his shadow with his sunsword and somehow the waffle crew got shunted back in time. They are at the wedding where Strahd will kill his brother out of jealousy. Tatyana, the bride, jumps to her death. Strahd’s actions here attract the Dark Powers and they make a pact with him, giving him tremendous power and transforming him into a vampire.

So far, this wedding is playing out differently. The waffle crew meddlers are poking around. They found a wedding gift and they unwrapped it. It was Simon, aka Murderbot. A fresh version! It shot poison darts into Tatyana's neck and she would have died if Evelyn hadn't healed her.

At one point last session, Strix snatched some poisonous plants from the garden.

Strix saw some tarokka cards. Chris points out that the 5th card was the healer. Three more cards were on the floor: The tempter, the marionette and the executioner.

These cards might refer to the Duchess and Simon. Paultin has a new mandolin, obtained from a guy named Jesper, who might be an ancestor of Paultin.

Lots of backstory! Here we go.

1e Tatyana

Jesper, the bard of Berez, is going to perform. The group has been mistaken for the wedding staff. The group ends up going with it, sort of. Strix casts death ward on Sergei.

Diath can sense that Sergei and Tatyana might flee if they get the chance.

The group prepares to infiltrate the wedding dinner. Diath disguises himself as a servant. Strix decides to be in gas cloud form. Paultin will be the performing bard and Evelyn will be his robot dancer.

Diath sees the duchess talking to one of the guards. She’s talking to Leo.. ohh sweet jaysus.

The duchess is his mother. A reader pointed out to me that this is Duchess Dorfinya Dilisnya. Her son is (possible spoilers in this link) a well-established NPC.

In Curse of Strahd, the group can find his severed head. I forgot.. I wrote about him in this old article about the Ravenloft/Strahd "prequel" adventures (also spoiler-y).

Diath hears her saying that she has made arrangements to leave the present in the room but if things go wrong, Leo should bring the guards in to take them out. "This marriage can not be allowed to survive."

Time for the dinner! Simon is disguised, too. He's got a pumpkin head now and a wig. The Duchess doesn't recognize him.

The group is basically alone in the room with the couple, Strahd, the Duchess and a few servants.

Strahd is slumped in his chair, obviously miserable. Strix un-clouds under the table. She uses her mage hand and slips a poisonous plant and drops it into Strahd's soup. I did not expect that! She’s being very proactive here.

The group is really excited and fired up. They are being very amusing.

Paultin gives her bardic inspiration. Nice! Nate is really sharp today. Strix rolls a 22 on her stealth... did Strahd notice the poison sprig?

Strahd picks up the bowl, dumps it on the floor, and puts it back on the table. Servants come to clean it up. One of them sees Strix under the table. Strix screams and turns into a cloud.

Strix seeps through a door crack. On the other side of that door is Strahd’s evil flunky, Rahadin. He grabs his sword. Strix leads him on a chase up the stairs.

Strahd has gifts for the couple! A tapestry of their father, King Barov, wielding the sunsword. Sergei is a man of peace, a servant of the Morninglord who never understood his father. This tapestry is a message to Sergei: This is who we are, this is who we have to be.

Here comes another gift. A gigantic painting of Tatyana. Strahd notes that the painter did not survive the experience. The painting is taller than she is and it captures her in an almost doll-like way. There's no life in her eyes.

Meanwhile, Strix loses Rahadin and sees Jesper (a bard apparently related to Paultin) creeping around. It looks like he's trying to quietly leave. Strix de-clouds and casts a spell so that she looks like Rahadin. Stirx/Rahadin demands to know what he’s doing and threatens him.

Jesper tells her he's a vistani and Strahd won't allow harm to come to him. Strix admits who she is. She wants Jesper to help the waffle crew. Jesper tells Strix that he's preparing a coach for the couple to escape with. Jesper says he is their only hope. Apparently the tarokka cards say so.

Back at the awkward dinner, Strahd tells Paultin to stop playing. Strahd starts playing the organ – a haunting tune that moves Evelyn deeply.

Diath makes a sweet stealth maneuver and crawls under the table. He snatches Strahd's sword. Somewhere in here, Rahadin re-enters the room.

Cloud Strix floats into the room and becomes solid behind the tapestry. She sets it on fire!

Strahd stops playing and looks at the burning tapestry. He tells Rahadin to get Sergei and Tatyana to safety. He sees that his sword is gone, and pulls a sword out of a secret compartment in a chair. He points the sword at the throat of the duchess and says, "Your treachery is revealed."

Evelyn decides to stand in front of and protect one of the couple. She chooses Tatyana! Oh no... Sergei's the one who's going to be killed. He’s wide open now.

Wait… Sergei grabs Tatyana and flees! Evelyn runs with them. Paultin and Simon run that way too.. but the exit is blocked by Rahadin.

Strix runs over and casts a cone of cold. It's a cone, is that going to hit the others? Nope. Chris says something about it coming down from above him. I must have missed something? That cone is massive (60 feet!). In theory, Strix could hit everyone and probably kill Sergei and Tatyana, just like Strix killed Ireena back at the Abbey of St. Markovia.

45 points of damage. Rahadin is hurt but still up.

Diath dramatically removes his servant clothes in a single sweeping motion. He describes this in a really hilarious way.

The Duchess throws herself at Strahd's feet and says this was all her son's idea and that she begged him not to do it. Wow, she threw her son under the bus. Not cool, lady.

The only image of Sergei I can find
Sergei and Tatyana head outside and get in the carriage. Jesper’s there, driving. They’re leaving! Rahadin stands in their way. Rahadin gets trampled by horses... he's still alive, but half of his face is missing. His sword is broken. He limps after the coach.

Strahd comes outside and calls his horse, Beucephalus. The group is quite amused at the horse’s name. It’s right out of the 1e Ravenloft adventure, if I remember right.

Strahd is going to chase the carriage! Strix stands in front of Strahd to block him from mounting Beucephalus. He stabs Strix with his back-up sword, doing does a total of 32 damage with most of it being necrotic.

Maybe the dark powers are already infusing him with power? Or maybe Strahd has a lot of cool items around.

Paultin tells Simon to dart the horse. Ha, great idea. He does! The horse is still up.

Diath draws Gutter! I think we just entered the danger zone. Diath stabs Strahd between his shoulders. Strahd is in pain, but still up.

It’s about time to stop. Earlier, the group glimpsed Strahd talking with Katarina/Madame Eva. Chris shares it with us, the viewers:

Katarina: “The gods have taken her from you. They mock you.”

Strahd: “What do these powers offer me?”

Katarina: “They can defeat time. They can make can make you immortal. They exist only to serve you, my master.”

Eva setting Strahd up with the Dark Powers! Yikes.


The group was so sharp this week, I don’t know what got into them. All of them were extremely pumped up. It was very fun to watch.

I really feel like DCA took a step up in the past few weeks in terms of popularity. The subreddit is getting more active, the view counts of the videos keep creeping up and up and up, and there are truckloads of fan art each week. 

If you’re not on the bandwagon, you should definitely get on now! Season 3 is going to be really great.


glados131 said...

Cone of cold only hit Rahadin because Strix used Careful Spell. She always uses that for fireball.

Pedro Obliziner said...

it's getting weird and interesting. Looking forward to what will happen after the wedding and origin of Strahd are resolved.

Anonymous said...

Great write up. I don't always get to listen, watch and appreciate your recaps - sometimes little faster!

As a side note, how's litany path coming along? Your info sheet seems a little ... Ambitious? Not to be a jerk, really like what I've seen so far but little dubious and hope it's not going to be along the line of other things that are never finished (books by GRRM , Rothfuss etc).