So for the past year and a half i've been dming for a small group of friends, most were new to the game, so i wanted to introduce them to the world of dnd, little did i expect that their actions would shape the story creating a fight we will always remember.
My players entered the land of barovia, under the pretence of helping someone with their werewolf issue, but soon realised after they encountered Strahd who in their first meeting, politely asked them to hand over ireena, never once raising his voice, always talking in a polite demaner. The players of course refused this and a battle insued with a zombie troll smashing the doors to the church, strahd then able to see the tiefling warlock, charmed his way in, tossing ismark at the party when he was the only one brave enough to confront him, leaving with ireena now charmed.
I was orignally going down the damsel in distress route but what my players did to the first visanti camp they came across would set things into motion no one would expect. With Ismark who the party have named mark, they set down the road, and came across a camp holding a certain fortune teller, Madam eva, she explained how certain items were in a swamp, a ruin, as well as one in the very camp they were in, so my players as diplomatic as they are, charged out of the tent, this was in the middle of night, and demanded the entires camps presence, and very shortly after one of my players, a dragon born paladin charged and proceeded to end the lives of many visanti, some only managing to escape with barely a couple hit points between them.
This was all for a book, revealing a bit about strahds past, which everyone found amusing as to imagine a vampire sat writing in what can be described as a girls diary about his past, but quickly learning from it Strahd is seeking a way to bring back his dead wife, a bit information which will be crucial for the campaign going forward. Not long after the event in the camp, the players coming out of a dungeon, discovered a theme i was implicating to the campaign, that what they do in the world has consequences, and the world around then will react to what they do, this being them killing many visansti for no other reason than a prediction they heard, meaning the survivors would run up to the castle scared for their lives, strahd appears for the second time, this time wanting to teach the players a lesson, he demands they hand his book back to him, and instructs a werewolf holding onto one of the players to bite one of the players. A fight erupts between the players and the newly transformed player with everyone piling on him so he can be restrained. This became a theme where the player would get hurt and till he managed to gain full control would attack everything and everyone. A bit of time went by a saga occupied with the hags putting them in cages and getting them to go the town and sell pies, which they did by selling them at what outlookers would percieve as cost to themselves.
They meet with the baron, who ask their assistance with a group of visanti camping outside his town, like the true heroes they are they go to have a talk with the Visanti, well, you could say they demanded they leave, and with a poor charisma check simply irritated them thinking the nerve of this group to come up to them and threaten them to leave or die a fight insues, in a similar fashion one managed to just about get away, and my players head back to town to tell the baron the good news about his visanti problem, pleased with this he pays them for their troubles.
Now this was the second time theyve walked into a camp and just killed everyone for again no reason, and again would learn what they do in the world will come back to bite them(pun intended). A couple days pass with the players helping in the town, and the big day comes, the festival of the sun arrives, the baron on the stand welcomes everyone in the town for another year to celebrate, one of my players decided he wanted to get close to the stage, i described as smoke began to rise from the underneath of the stage and who would appear but Strahd, his three wives, and newly turned ireena close to him, The dragonborn close to the stage snatched up the baron and took him to safety encounraging him to run in a heroic fashion, only to find members of the town were disguised zombies waiting for the command to strike, which they did, killing many townsfolk infront of the players, then strahd enquired "Who killed the visanti outside of the town, come forward and i will spare this town."
The dragonborn which at this point had been slaying everything in barovia with ease, confronted strahd admitting to killing the visanti, and i want to say it was a fight, but strahd made quick work of him, without once drawing his sword, and instead of ending his life there and then, tore out his heart, infusing it with necrotic energy, cursing him with undeath, also breaking his oath, cutting any connection to his deity he had left. The rest of the party with ismark now on his knees in complete disbelief that they were too late and his sister was now lost, were then given a final ultimatum by Strahd, who asked them a favour for their lives in return for a simple ring, he tells them of a vampire under his control who escaped and has been hiding in the sewers outside of town, they bring him the ring he will forgive them and not straight up kill them, good deal right, get this deadly vampire a ring and he wont murderfy you, well thats what i thought, but what the players did next shocked me to my very core.
So the player's went down to the sewers with their newly cursed team mate in hand to confront a vampire in the sewers, i describes when they eventually made it to him in the sewers, as he was essentially hanging a civilian up and drinking the blood from him, This is the point you'd expect the murder happy party to burst in and kill this creature of the sewers, but what they did instead i did not expect, they spoke to this unamed vampire, and made a pact with him to start a war on strahd, in return they simply wanted the ring he had took and would be in touch later on, with a few amazing charisma checks he was convinced.
With the the ring in hand they all headed back to town, and to see the baron to formulate a plan, little did they know the baron had a house guest, Strahd was in the barons living room sat drinking the blood out of a glass with a servant laid across the floor like a rug with the baron scared out of his mind on the other opposite him. Strahd again never once raising his voice calmly asked if they had returned with his ring, to this day i still do not quite understand why they did this but told him no they killed him but discovered it was in the town of Kresk, with a good deception check, managed to persuade strahd to give them a week to go to Kresk and recover it, seemed reasonable enough even though they had the ring on their persons which i can only assume was an attempt to buy time.
So the players left town, and if the swamp in search of one of the items Mandam eva told them they required to defeat strahd, which is the opposite directions to Kresk, a couple days went buy, a fight with a swamp dragon and finding the sun sword in baba yagas hut everything seemed to be going well for the players, bar the Dragonborn who attuned to the blade learning the sun from the blade is begining to burn his hands, as if he is coming partly vampiric.
With the sword now in hand and a bargain made with the wereraven to breaker peace with the werewolves for their assistance in the fight, they began to head out of the swamp, and rested up as they got off the swamp. This is where things were about to hit the fan, two players stayed up to keep watch, and a figure was beginning to approach, the dragonborn on patrol demanded they reveal who they were, which again in a calm voice, they heard in the voice had been using for strahd, "You know me very well, little dragon." Both players faces were frozen in horror, as i desribed skeletons rising from the ground completely surrounding everyone, but not once being asked to roll for initiative.
Strahd approached the Dragonborn, and demanded to know why they were coming back from the swamp, when they were meant to be going to Kresk. The player with a poor persuasion check said they got lost, which Strahd did not believe for a second, and said these words the first time, ever in a anger drawing his sword which i described as having a face with snakes coming out of it, "You are going to give me my ring and die' Which the player responded, "Don't you mean or die?" Which strahd responded, in a snarl, "Did i stutter?" with that line i ended the session there.