After successfully playing through the mini campaign Adventure 6 from Wrath of Ashardalon “Against the Clans” it became crystal clear how easy it is to integrate those campaign rules into any string of adventures you get with the game, or indeed, with Castle Ravenloft. Since we hadn’t yet managed to best Strahd I was determined that we’d play through Castle Ravenloft’s Part 1 and Part 2 of the Hunt for Strahd back to back, which appears to be how they were intended to be played anyway, and we’d also use the WoA campaign rules. The WOTC online scenario Search for the Sunsword leads perfectly into these two adventures – and even instructs you to keep the Sunsword over to Part 1 should you find it, so stick that Adventure at the start as a prologue and there you have another 3-quest campaign using all the official rules. Ace!
There were four of us and we used the WOA heroes to see how they’d fare in Castle Ravenloft: Quinn the Cleric, Keyleth the Paladin, Tarak the Rogue, and I got lumbered with the scaly Dragon Wizard Heskan. I am not a fan of this whole dragonborn malarkey as PC races. And I’m one of the few people who bought the Humanoids Handbook for 2nd edition D&D - I once took a Kobold PC all the way to level 5 for God’s sake! But seriously, they should’ve stuck with the classic races imho. Especially for Ravenloft. Rar rar rar.... Anyway.
We also took this opportunity to use the Barovia Events deck for between adventures that I’ve been working so hard on producing with the help of some other awesome BGGers! My group are a funny bunch – I’m the “biggest geek” amongst them (this includes a guy who spent 18 months of his life, 8 hours a day, addicted to World of Warcraft online) because I have the most board games and spend a lot of time modding said games. So I took a bit of friendly stick about the printed and sleeved Events deck and then we cracked some beers and cracked on.
I spent the quest pretty much sat on the entrance staircase with my wandering wizard eye hunting around the dungeon doing all my legwork whilst the rest of the gang ran around bashing monsters left, right and centre. Occasionally they’d swing by the stairs and wave as they ran past with something in tow. At which point I’d playfully roll my eyes, get slowly to my feet and Arc Lightning or Hypnotise whatever it was that was chasing them.
There was concern at the lack of treasure as we were just drawing bags and bags of coins, and when we did get to draw cards they were invariably blessings or fortunes (we’d shuffled together the decks from CR and WOA) but it made purchasing actual treasures at the end of the adventure all the more rewarding.
The Sunsword proved pretty easy to find and everyone was feeling confident by the endgame. We were a surge down but our Cleric’s first treasure draw was a pearl of power and his Healing Hymn was seeing some serious use. Before long the Sunsword was held aloft and a cheer went up. We’d got what we need and left the dungeon. And tucked into the Events deck! We drew a card for each hero, which is now officially my preferred method, and variously experienced some pick-pocketing (my magic carpet went missing), the Blood Vine tavern where we picked up some extra goodies, a mysterious crow tailed our Rogue, and finally Ismark led the Cleric to his sister Ireena who joined up with us, which I was excited about despite our Cleric begrudgingly taking her under his wing – he didn’t want to part with the treasure, stingy git.
Refreshing our decks and surges and HP and everything else, we immediately set off on the Hunt for Strahd Part 1. Ireena mostly just brainlessly followed our Cleric around for the first half, which our cleric was quick to whine about, but eventually she started showing her value when he sprinted off ahead and left her. At which point she started kicking off with nearby monsters, and due to better rolls than he could manage for his Cleric, she ended up kicking a respectable amount of arse on her own. So, he went back and forth on rooting for her, because when she started taking damage I pointed out how it would be pretty much fatal for us if she were to be Turned into a young vampire. Whereupon he took the time to start healing her rather than using her as a human shield...
We beat Strahd’s bodyguard and chased the Count to his lair as our situation started getting desperate. We had no surges and our healing was all used up by the time we engaged him. The battle was furious and the minions kept coming to back him up. But we focussed all our efforts and Dailies on him and soon enough my lazy wizard staggered off his perch on the entrance stairway tile and rushed in to put lots of fire up the Vampire Lord’s arse. As our heroes began to fall from their wounds Strahd suddenly burst into a cloud of mist. We double-checked the Adventure book and sure enough, that was all that was needed to win. We’d be taking on his more corporeal form in the next adventure.
Again we stepped into the Barovian Event deck and met Madame Eva who rather helpfully pointed out that in the next adventure Strahd would be dwelling in his Crypt. Which he would’ve been in any case as it turned out! Our Rogue took up the side-quest to try and bury Old Kolyan. And after spending our cash on more loot we marched back through pouring rain and an angry swarm of bats into Strahd’s lair for the final showdown...
It started off so well. We had tooled up, our Cleric was firing off Sacred Flame healing spells left right and centre, and used his Pearl of Power to bring back an early use of Healing Hymn. Our encounter draws were fairly manageable, with some damage but no horrible cards or traps. I actually got off the stairs and helped everyone have a look around for the coffins. We decided to find as many as we could risk before opening the coffins so that if we drew Strahd, he wasn’t going to be chasing us around the whole time and draining us. Good job we did because the first coffin we opened was Strahd, in Strahd’s Crypt! We were all over the map at this point so everyone began double-moving to get to the showdown, abandoning the monsters following them. Ireena got quickly left behind and we watched with amusement as she began nailing straggling Cultists for us (we swapped out the Kobold Skirmishers in CR for the Cultists in WoA as it suits the theme much more), picking them off one by one as we focussed on the vampire lord
As we converged on Mr Von Z our encounter card draws from not exploring took a staggering quality nosedive into ‘Trap City’. We literally drew 6 traps in a row, one of them we could not place because there were already so many traps. Rather than disarm them we were keen to fire off our dailies and try and take Strahd out as quickly as possible before he could benefit from draining our blood and regaining his HP. This proved fatal. Spear traps, dart traps and crossbow traps all repeatedly peppered our party of put upon PCs. They looked like pin cushions and began dropping like flies. Strahd was taking a fair amount of damage too and we came down to being a couple of rolls away from taking him out for good. But as he nipped between the trap markers to feed off each of us individually the traps and his few remaining minions took their toll. One by one we fell, and our healing surges burned out.
The Paladin stood up to take one final desperate swing of her sword, and missed. She looked around at the dead bodies of all her companions (we had literally all been taken out) and dropped her weapon as hopelessness, and Strahd, overcame her. On the brink of defeat a stunned Strahd rose like a phoenix from the ashes and proved once again that he really does kick some serious arse. We hadn’t just run out of healing surges, we had all literally died, not one upturned HP token between us (we use the CR HPs so you can flip them to black to show damage).
It was brilliant! The best adventure yet and the most fun we’ve had playing through Castle Ravenloft or Wrath of Ashardalon. The Event decks went down a treat and the slow build of the Treasure Tokens rather than Treasure Cards scaled nicely to our progress and the difficulty of the adventures. Shuffling the Treasure Decks together from CR and WOA provided a nice mix, and created some nail-biting tension when we needed something good but only drew a Fortune or Blessing. The new heroes mix really well, and the WOA heroes didn’t feel over-powered compared to the CR lot, even though my gut feeling is that they are more powerful on the whole.
It was getting late by now but the guys wanted another bash and a stab at victory before ending the night. So we played through the Rampaging Golem adventure taking in both Fighters from the two games, the Ranger (who drew gauntlets of ogre power, giving her guaranteed 2 damage per turn with Careful Attack = mega hard) and the Dwarf Cleric. There was no hope of collecting the items to try and Calm the Golem because everyone wanted to get in there and leather the poor thing. And with a couple of early Fighter level-ups it didn’t stand a chance. FWIW I think in future I’ll limit our parties to one of each class because 2 fighters, or God forbid 2 clerics, would be too easy I reckon.
Anyway, can’t wait to get started on the next campaign – as a replacement for RPGs (something our gang was into big time as teenagers) we are absolutely loving these D&D coop games!