After some insane real life drama with my current DnD group, I had become the group’s new DM. Things were going alright (and for the most part still is), but after a while, the stress of running a game with relatively new players and having my own doubts regarding my story telling and vision began to burn me out. One of the other players, who was more experienced then the rest of the group, offered to DM for a big while I recouped the creative juices. He decideds to run us through Curse of Strahd; warning us that it will potentially be a meatgrinder and warns us not to play any evil characters. I roll three stat blocks, but forget to reroll 1s and 2s like the DM suggested. I generally roll 3 stat blocks, with the permission of the DM, and pick my favorite, but today, I was feeling like challenging myself; so I pick the worst stat block that I rolled, giving myself several negatives to start. undaunted, I place my stats, and pick a race to help balance them as I craft myself a rather Unique Warlock; both because of how trashy my stats are, and the fact that my character’s origin came from the homebrew world that I’m running.
Enter, Erlathan Perran; Sun Elf, Warlock, and Charlatan. At age 53, Erlathan was the middle child of a wealthy Water Barron who held a rather lucrative commerical empire in the water trade of the eastern desert regions of a planet called Culara. His tycoon father and socialite mother had six children in total. The eldest son was a high ranking military official, and the eldest daughter the heir to the family business; conducting the majority of the company’s day-to-day affairs along side dear old dad. The middle daughter, who was very business savvy in her own right, was currently managing the family’s largest moister farm in the region. The youngest of the Perran children were still in school, but excelling in their studies. Erlathan was very much the black sheep of the family. A lay-about who would much rather party than work, Erlathan pretty much screwed up every job he was given, since he lacked the initiative to get one on his own. He blew chance after chance, but the last straw was when he got caught red handed, embezzling funds from a bank at which he opperated at a notary. Erlathan’s father used his influence to make the charges, and potentially any “more dire consequences” go away before disinheritting his good for nothing son.
Having been cast out of the family home and made to fend for himself, Erlathan got by the only way he knew how; by scamming and ripping off anyone and everyone who’d fall for it. To do this, he generally used two false identities: 1) Vesstan Zumzana; a bispeced representative of “Perran’s Reseviors Inc.” who wears simple yet expensicd clothes for business, but is always adorned with a rather stylish hat. Vesstan brings the seriousness of “the board’s expectations” with him wherever he goes. I also used a “Marvin the Martian” voice when roleplaying as him. 2) Captain Wistari Genren; a young military soldier who’s expertise and ability have earned him a field promotion to “Independent Operative” by one Major Omalar Perran (the older brother). He is an “Agent on a Secret Mission” for this disguise, Erlathan dons full leather armor and sports a fake moustache ans mutton chops.
Money came as quickly as it went and it wasn’t long until even Erlathan’s aliases had enemies. One day, while traveling on the road, Erlathan wa acosted by a group of bandits who were hired by one of Vesstan’s “dissatisfied clients” who left him bleeding and bloodied on the side of said road. feeling his life ebbing from him and fearing death, Erlathan prayed to any and every god he could think of, and who would hear his pleas. The one who did, was a Celestial known as Vlamenco the Flame; the great purifier. And with that, they struck a pact; Erlathan would yet live as long as he carried Vlamenco’s light to a “certain place”.
And so Session Zero Begins.
Some time passes, and Erlathan, while still trying to keep his word, is also still up to his old tricks. While in a town, Erlathan discovers a race track, and hears that the there is an annual horse race in a few days and decides the make a little money by betting on the races. Unfortunately, Erlathan was unsuccessful in disguising himself as a stable hand and doesn’t have much luck scalping the jockeys and stable hands for info. Not long after, however, he is approached by a man in a red fez named Benny, and Benny has it on good authority as to which horse should be winning which race in the comming days; mostly because he has a plan to fix the race with some rather unique horse stimmulants. All he needed was some capital to generate the gains once the deed was done. With a nat 1 insight check, Erlathan sees absolutely no problem with this what-so-ever and immediately fronts the money.
Sadly, absolutely nothing went as planned. Not only was Benny’s plot discovered mid heist, but in the confusion, Benny drugged the wrong horses. So when Benny and Erlathan- now disguised as Vesstan- sat in the box with pittifully crumpled betting tickets, the forboading voice and heavy foot steps they heard behind them did not set them any more at ease. “Well, well, well. You’ve really managed to screw this one up, Benny.” Both Benny and Erlathan turn to see a heavy set man in lavish clothes standing in the doorway of their viewing box, flanked by two burly looking body guards. “N-now see here, good sir!” says Erlathan with as much courage as he could muster. “I am a representative of Perran Resovoirs. I am here on business and was ensured that this would be a private box-” but before Erlathan could even finish, the man began to chuckle. “Well, Benny, it seems to me as though you’ve made a rather wealthy new friend. You might get out of this yet.”
Now being made responsible for Benny’s debts to his crime boss, Erlathan was escorted to a couple of different banking institutions, desperate to find a bank that would honor his fake notes and not have recieved word from the family bussiness or another bank that the accounts in question had been closed. within a couple of days, Erlathan was able to pay off about half the debt. Erlathan promised that the “rest” of the funds wouls clearn in just a few days. It was enough to secure his own release, but the Crime boss mentioned that Benny would be enjoying his hospitality until the rest od the debt was paid. It was a bargain that Erlathan readily agreed to. Still disguised as Vesstan and claiming to have business else where, Erlathan beat it for the nearest stables, bought himself a camel (because benny had ruined all the good horses in town resulting in the majority of them being put down due to the crippling side effects) and rode for a straight day before changing into Captain Westari Genren.
Having put some distance between him and those unfortunate events, he found himself in an even worse situation. Apparantly, the rumors of the swav and devenair man mystery known as Westari Genren had reached far and wide. In the next city Erlathan visited, he discovered that his cover already had a bounty on its head. The City was ruled by a Pharoh who has a beautiful Queen. However, the Queen was having an afair with the Pharoh’s High Priest, (Yes, its pulled from the 1999 Mummy film, as was Benny, and as a fan of the films, I gleefully approved when the DM informed me of his influences for my episode zero. I even muttered about stupid Benny drugging the horses on the wrong side of the river) but when she was discovered to be unfaithful, lied and claimed that a roguish soldier from the other end of the region charmed and beguiled her. Not even an hour in the city and Erlathan was already a wanted man.
Well, as luck would have it, a gypsy woman was being accosted by a stable keeper for the cost of stabling her horse. He was struggling with the woman in the middle of the street and it was quite the spectacle. Erlathan strode up to the man, whiskers bristled and mock-heroically began to berate the man. “How dare you sir! This woman, traveling on her own, has paid you fairly. Give her the horse or I shall be forced to interviene on her behalf!” With smoothe intimidation roll, and the crowd of onlookers on his side, Erlathan got the stable keeper to relenquish the horse, but did so rather violently, while also denegrading the woman verbally in the process. Erlathan quickly moved to the man and cast booming blade as his struck the stable keeper with what was probably the flimsiest sissy punch in the world. This is because, aside from rolling a 1 on the damage die, Erlathan has a whopping 7 in Strength (a detail that will come into play later). “How dare you treat a lady so! take that you knave!” Erlathan popped back a step, which was all that was needed to enrage the stable keeper. He took a step towards Erlathan and then a resounding crack was heard through the air as he was hit with an audible thunderclap for another whopping 1 damage! Having been thoroughly embarrassed infront of the entire neighborhood, the stablemaster retreates in embarassed defear as the crowd of onlookers cheered. However, there was little time to celebrate; the city guards were investigating the comotion and Erlathan was still dressed like a wanted man. The Gypsy gave him the nod to hop in and after doing so, rode out of town as Erlathan began undressing and then redressing like his life depended on it.
A few miles out of town and Erlathan has settled in for the wagon ride, wherever it would take him, and the gypsy woman offered him some wine, which he happily consumed. as night fell, however, the journey grew strangle. First, he heard the howling of wolves not far off in the distance, but they never seemed to come close enough to be a threat. Then, the fog rolled in. Erlathan has just come up with some sort of logical explanation with which to dismiss the strangeness of the fog, but then it began to wail at them, which made Erlathan question a number of things, including the wine. The Gypsy however, informed him that this was a common occurance on the road to her home. “Welcome to Barovia.”
Getting off the wagon, Erlathan found himself in the company of strangers; a mix of elves, men and one dwarf. While each of them seemed capable in their own right, only one of the group- a skittish human fighter- was aware of where they were, and only because he was a local. Still the newly formed group strode down the road, looking for any sign of life. They found it in the form of two children who begged the group for help, claiming that their younger sibling and nanny were stuck inside with a terrible creature they couldn’t identify. Which immediately sent up some red flags for Erlathan. The group adventures on, with little amiss, save the display case Erlathan “accidentally” broke into in order to retrieve some crossbows for the party. However, once the party reached the library, Erlathan’s nosiness paid off. While inadvertantly trying to find a map of the world, firmly believing he was not in Culara any longer, Erlathan triggered a doorway to a secret room. inside he found a dead adventurer and a chest containing, not just loot, but the deeds to the house and a nearby mill and some letters addressed to the head of the household Barron named Strahd. After pocketing the deeds for himself, Erlathan called the party into the room to discuss his findings. The name of Strahd made the human fighter quake with fear as he recounted the cruel nature and vicious rumors of the lord of these lands. And still yet, we discovered the makings of a cult rumored to be operating in the basement, if the bunk necromantic rituals they found in the secret room were to be believed. After excorcising the ghosts from the upper floors of the house, including the children, the pary made their way towards the basement, and it was down here that Erlathan met his end.
The descent was harrowing. The few undead we encountered, as we traveled through the catacombs, nearly tore us limb from limb, and on more than one occasion, Erlathan had to come to the aid of one of his companions, for fear of directly involved in a fight. with half of the party’s spell slots gone, and no one at full HP (save Erlathan himself) we bravely, boldly, and above all foolishly, pressed on without so much as a short rest.
The group had found the cult’s secret lair, an ornate statue reaching to the ceiling in the first room we can identify as such. and it was here where Erlathan discovered the object of his undoing.
Its also here where I change up my narration style! So our DM had told us about the statue and the entire party, including the players in the group with “that guy” tendencies, all recognized it for the trap that it was. That was, until the DM asked for the third and final time, “So no one is going to look at the orb?” He was probably just shocked that absolutely no one pulled a stupid to mess witj the orb. Well, unfortunately, I hate to disappoint people. So its at this moment I pipe up and say, “You know what? I’ll bite. I’m going to go look at the orb.” The party gives me one finaly warning before I go, “relax, it’ll be fine.”
I aproach the orb and roll an arcana check. The DM informs me that the orb is full of dark energy, but my roll only reveals that much. So Erlathan calls out to the group, “Its full of dark energy, but I think its inert.” The Paladin, pauses for a moment before asking, “are you sure?”
Now, we all enjoy jokes around the table. many a session sees a quick 2 to five minute stop after an amazing joke has been made. So I, the player, think it would be hilarious to use this moment for a “used car saleaman” meme refference. So I tell the DM, “I slap the orb,” and before I can even brag about how many souls you could fit in thag bad boy, the DM announces, “You strike the orb hard enough to knock it off the pedestal and it goes rolling across the floor.”
“uh-oh…” I say, realizing that I have, by complete accident, become THAT guy.
“You are surrounded by six shadows; roll me initative.”
At this point I am terrified and mortified at the suddent turn this moment as taken, as I realize I only have one more casting of guiding light left, and it gets even worse when, in a couple of turns, one of our tanks is downed. Now Erlathan isn’t looking so good himself, he’s taken a two good hits, reducing his already low strength score of 7 down to a 3 from the drain damamge. But all I can think to myself is, I have to get the tank up and fix this. And no sooner do I run to assist him, I open myself up to an attack of opportunity. the attack hits. And the DM informs me that the strength drain from that attack draines away four points of strength. And so, with reseserved and controlled dignity, I informed the DM that I am, in fact, stone cold dead. He wasn’t tracking my strength, and would probably have let it slide had I not said anything as he had a grander design for my character’s future and potential death, I let the dice gods have their due, as Erlathan shuddered on the stone floor, rapsing for his last haggered breaths, “N-not… like this…”
The party, thus far, has slain the shade that formed from his corpse, but now, Erlathan faces a different hell; In the fog of Barovia he stands with the other lost souls, crying to the passersby for some solice. “Just two coppers! please! This Thrice damned Devil claims he’ll let me go for just two damned coppers but all my pockets have holes in them!!!!”