In the “domain of dread”
[GM: As these were only meant to be one-shots I wasn’t intending to write them up, but we will have at least one or two more sessions in Barovia, I thought I’d recap briefly]
They arrived at the village of Orasnou and were greeted by Gregori Wurlbach, owner of the General Store and Barbershop “The Hare and Hair”. The village is cut off from the rest of Barovia for the winter (passes should open in 3-4 weeks). The land of Barovia has no magical healing, has only one god and the peasants (everyone except worldy-wise Gregori and Glovia the village healer) are utterly superstitious and fearful of strangers, non-humans, spell-casters.
So, when the half-orcs arrive, “faceless” Mandingo and “eyeless” Revan, Gregori offers to give them free board and lodgings until the passes open. [GM: they were temporarily joined by a couple of other adventurers – “Wiv” the Viking and Thorin the dwarf]
In exchange for his help, he asks them to go and look for his two friends/employees – the Hunters Laslo and Alina. Laslo came here from the Forgotten Realms about 20 years ago (which is why Gregori and Glovia know about other worlds). Laslo’s wife Alina is a barbarian from the Vaduva clan (who live on the far side of the forest). They are the only people in the village who dare to enter the Svalich Woods.
They went out three days ago to fetch a shipment of skins/furs from their hunting base (only half a day along the north-west trail). Gregori and Glovia warned Alina not to go as she was so heavily pregnant, but the woman is unreasonable and stubborn, and flies into a rage quite often. Hopefully having a child will calm her down as she is very soppy with children.
Our heroes went in search of the two hunters (they don’t know enough about the Svalich Woods as the locals so weren’t too terrified to go in).
After a couple of encounters with angry vegetables and poisonous spores, they found the camp site. It appeared that Laslo had been killed by a huge wolf and his pregnant wife had been carried off.
They buried Laslo and tracked the wolf to its lair – a ruined tower, once owned by the Vaduva clan. They were attacked by a huge wolf that they found, licking blood from a roughly-carved baby’s rattle.
During the battle with the wolf, they realised it was a were-wolf and was actually Alina. It was in a terrible rage but they were able to calm it down a bit with the rattle and eventually beat the creature unconscious and it transformed back into a woman. They carried her back to the village but revealed that she was a were-wolf so she was locked-up and was probably going to be executed as son as the Burgomeister got back from his travels.
She was able to tell them how the child birth had gone wrong and Laslo had to cut the baby out of her. Mad with the pain of it, she transformed and killed her husband, and since then she had apparently wandered in a grief-stricken daze. When she learned that a wolf-cub had been found at the edge of the village a couple of nights before, tied to Glovia’s gate, she became desperate to find it, as it might be her son. Unfortunately the cub had escaped and wandered off into the woods. They helped Alina to escape in to the woods to look for it.
- * * * * * * *
A couple of weeks pass in the village. The fearful peasants start to get used to the hideous half-orcs [GM: and the other two players weren’t available]. They take over doing some of the hunting.
The only thing of note that happens is that a stranger arrives out of the mists. A merchant wearing a turban and claiming to be from Calimshan (in the Forgotten Realms). He somehow made it into the valley from the town of Barovia and is searching for relics belonging to the family of Von Zarovich (ancestors of the current Count Strahd Von Zarovich – ruler of Barovia) or of Tatyana Federovich (historical girlfriend of the first Von Zarovich who died tragically just before the wedding).
Glovia (as Laslo’s closest friend) lets the merchant, Arik, stay in Laslo’s House.
Arik does not drink and so doesn’t come into the tavern, and so doesn’t come into contact with the half-orcs for the first few days. He visits most of the other houses, especially the Trinket Shop (pawnbroker/repair/cobblers) “Eyes of Midnight” asking to see relics. Arik is generally regarded as a bit creepy and smelly.
Mandingo gets interested in him and spots that despite appearing to wear curly-toed arabian slippers, he leaves tracks as if wearing heavy boots. The two half-orcs pay him a visit and he tries to turn them away. His Calimshan accent is clearly a fake and he sounds more like a Barovian. The clincher is that they notice his breath is not coming out as steam – he must be undead.
Realising the game is up, Arik invites them in and then he and three zombies hidden in the closet, leap to attack. In a bloody and horrible fight, Arik loses his magical turban of disguise and is revealed as the re-animated corpse of Laslo! He kills Mandingo, but in a fit of brotherly rage, Revan manages to finish him and the zombies off.
Mandingo comes back to life, even more damaged than before and now has the nocturnal ability to become insubstantial and walk through walls!
They visit the trinket shop (because Arik spent a lot of time there) and intimidate the shop keeper into telling them what Arik wanted. Fillar, the nervous shop keeper, knows that the Burgomeister has a relic of Tatyana Federovich in his cellar, but it is locked and guarded. Arik had offered him a considerable sum (100gp) for the trinket but Fillar could not manage to steal it. He grudgingly revealed he had the power to transform into a Raven and there was a ventilation grille leading down to the cellar, but the ancient powder box (cosmetics) was too big to get out through the grille.
They threatened to burn down his shop and extorted his magic Raven Ring (even though it did not work for them) – they promised to give it back once they had stolen the Powder box. They didn’t tell him that they had killed Arik so there wasn’t going to be any 100gp.
Revan distracted the guards at the Burgomeister’s house while Mandingo walked through the walls to steal the Powder box.
The wall-walking proved to not be as easy as they hoped because when Mandingo became insubstantial, his clothes didn’t, so he walked thru naked and could not carry anything (except for magic items like the Raven Ring!). He had to finish the robbery by picking the lock on the cellar door and escaping through a window. Later he found that by wrapping things in a magical cloak, he could carry them through walls.
They went back to Laslo’s house to examine their stolen property and were surprised when Laslo burst in and snatched the box. Horrified by his reappearance they were unable to stop him from transforming into a cloud of ravens and flying away.