The campaign ended this week with an appropriately brutal finale, which I will write up later.
We started on 20th November 2019, before the pandemic, and ended on 15 March 2023. We started off with a session every two weeks and then a one to two month break between seasons, but accelerated for the last few seasons to mostly weekly, adopting the rule that we would run if three of the four players were available.
We had four players make it all the way through; Paul (Ser Adon), Tom (Ser Alys), Graham (Kelwarin) and Alex (Gaddock). Jag (Roscoe) played in the early campaign and his character returned for a cameo at the Amber Temple towards the end.
We ran using Roll20 as the VTT throughout (as I bought the module) but used Discord for the audio for the first few seasons (and ironically for the last session as audio was flaky).
I clocked 345 hours on the VTT, as there was a fair bit of prep work that I did. By the end of the campaign I'd upgraded to a paid for Roll20 membership and had started using scripts. I'd also picked up most of the core Dungeons and Dragons 5E books on the platform (except Tasha's which had very poor reviews). Roll20's core engine was solid and there were continuous improvements throughout. It's not my favourite VTT but it does the job well. I used two different Chromebooks and later a MacBook Pro for running.
I used the Beast of Graenseskov as an introduction to take the characters from Level 1 to 3 and enter Barovia. I also drew upon The Stygian Library when the characters visited the Abbey of St Markova. When they returned, I also worked in The Carnival using a modern reinterpretation and the original AD&D2e book as references. I also drew heavily upon the MandyMod and DragnaCarta remixes for Curse of Strahd from the r/CurseofStrahd Subreddit and they added a depth and flavour beyond the core book. If anything, I followed MandyMod for the treatment of the Fanes and leaned into DragnaCarta for some of the set-pieces. The subreddit was an invaluable source of ideas and maps for the VTT.
I ended up buying the campaign on DNDBeyond (along with core books) as it was an easier way to reference it when travelling with work. I was generally happy with that, until Wizards started the whole OGL shenanigans and that kind of put me off fifth edition for a bit (it delayed our restart by about six weeks after Christmas).
I went into the campaign owning the core D&D books, Curse of Strahd and Tomb of Annihilation, and by the end of it I had ended up buying a lifetime worth of books for the pace that I run. I may well want to revisit some of these campaigns, perhaps the shorter ones.
The final combat was full on; Alex recorded Strahd (and his armour) taking around 542 hit points damage. But how is that the case? The first 100+ hit points damage went into the armour which they full on attacked assuming it was Strahd. The Heart of Sorrow absorbed another 100 hit points (yes, that’s upgraded from the core book). Strahd himself had 161 hit points (again, using the CR27 version). However, he could regenerate 30 hit points per round if he didn’t get hit by sunlight or radiant damage, which I made liberal use of. In some ways, forcing the battle to the larger outdoor space of an island gave Strahd the opportunity to disengage. The lake wasn’t enough to be running water, and he didn’t need to breathe, and there was plenty of mist around, even before you consider the potential for greater invisibility. In honesty, I’m confident I could have engineered an escape from the island (easy enough when the villain can summon a huge cone of bats and transform into one) but I’d realised the players wanted to end this. Redoing it at the Castle would have been frustrating. The ending, with a ennui laden Strahd challenging Ser Adon to a fight felt very apt. He didn’t expect the Paladin to try to cheat.
Several of the characters went down, and were on death saves, but the others brought them back and generally made it difficult for Strahd to take them out via massive damage (despite the significant levels of necrotic damage they’d taken) by being in the way. Luck played a part, but that’s a good thing.
It was a strange feeling when they took Strahd down, but I enjoyed that they way that they did it left a hint of ambiguity. More on that when I write up.
Last screenshot from the campaign is below… mostly all smiles.
I’m sure I’ll think of more as I write this up.
18 March 2023