Drizzt and Artemis and Vs Count Strahd – The Hunt For Strahd Part 2
We have played a LOT of the D&D Adventure System. But I can’t tell you the number of times we’ve lost to this scenario. Actually I can: every time we’ve played it. But this time we were determined to defeat the evil Count. So much so, in fact, that we also agreed to follow the adventure book’s advice for when you’re feeling down and take three healing surges with us instead of two. Two surges is just never enough for this high level scenario. Especially when you start out a player down.
Drizzt: “This shit just got real yo.”
Drizzt: “When we finish this Count Drac-... Strahd off for good, we’re going to go and pummel that stupid red dragon Asharno-Ashnoarad-Ashlonaren-.... Ashley. We will end him.”
Artemis: “You see, this is why you and I are mortal enemies. I just can’t stand even the way you speak. You know, this celebrity team-up is not going to last much longer, I’ll tell you that right now.”
Drizzt: “Shh. Look, a messenger pigeon. It’s from Jarlaxle. It says...
I’m sorry I can’t make it tonight. I know we agreed we’d kill Count Strahd and end his centuries-long evil reign of tyranny, but I have football tonight.
All the best,
Artemis: “I knew that bastard would let us down. I told you he would last time when he kept saying his leg was feeling better.”
Drizzt: “Let’s split his treasure.”
We’ve been playing the campaign rules with treasure tokens, which means actual treasures are few and far between but you get to keep them between adventures. It’s more difficult, but more fun, and kind of balances out in the long term if you can survive. On the last adventure I actually played Jarlaxle, but since the guy playing Drizzt wasn’t with us last night I took up the mantle of the the Realms’ Greatest Ranger instead and we decided to leave Jar-Jar at home. Mmzomba loves Artemis so he stuck with the Realms’ Greatest Assassin, who was currently already level 2.
Assembling our powers and treasures we had a good start. Artemis had some speedy boots which made him run as fast as Drizzt, plus he had a magic sword and a few one shot items. Drizzt was carrying the Sunsword over from the Sunsword Adventure and had his good friend Guen the panther with him and with our pansified third healing surge we were feeling pretty confident.
As well as destroying Strahd for good, you also need to destroy all his coffins in this adventure. This is tricky because if you wait until you’ve beaten Strahd you have to waste 10 turns smashing coffins and continue surviving any encounters and monsters left over. However if you start too early you can have Strahd appear very early on and start munching on you – this is also bad because when you then reveal his lair he heals back to full strength. So we decided to leave the coffins alone until after roughly the halfway mark before tipping them over and smashing them up good.
The brutalising nature of Castle Ravenloft Encounters never fail to surprise me, especially after a few games of Wrath of Ashardalon, or particularly Drizzt, which are almost friendly by comparison. Within a few rounds the passage of time was sapping our strength, and every ounce of monster we defeated got discarded as soon as possible to cancel traps and nasty environments. As usual, whilst beating up the minions we consistently drew “100GP” treasure tokens with nary a treasure card in sight. But it didn’t matter, we had the Sunsword!
Guen made a guest appearance early on and dived onto a wolf for a tussle, which then promptly killed her. I couldn’t roll for crap, so every attack Drizzt made with his paltry +6 to hit was a waste of a roll. Thank goodness for Artemis then, who was plonking drawn monsters down as far away from us as possible.
As we plowed through the blazing skeletons, zombies, rat swarms and human cultists (swapped in from Wrath of Ash for the kobold skirmishers) the attrition kicked in and our hit points dwindled away alarmingly fast. By the time we started kicking over coffins Strahd appeared in his crypt with a maniacal laugh, and a string of encounter cards saw him popping in and out of shadows, whispering in our ears, firing off fireballs at us and generally messing with our heads.
Artemis had set a conga line of monsters up chasing us from as far away as possible, which bought us a few turns to try and bring the pain on the old vampire lord. But Strahd has this nasty healing bite which he does. As quickly as we hacked chunks out of him, he’d heal back up by feeding on our blood. Out with the Dailies! We laid down everything we could on him, some of my attacks even landed – and when they did the Sunsword boiled through him with the +1 damage to Vampires.
Due to the layout we couldn’t effectively kite Strahd, and the monster conga was catching up. Artemis fell into a sliding walls trap and was knocked unconscious. I hammered away at Strahd and when he reached 5HP I smited him into mist on his own crypt tile. This meant his next villain phase he merely reformed instead of fighting back. I thought this meant I’d have a breather but a blazing skeleton rounded the corner and wiped me out with a ball of fire.
Artemis popped back up to his feet with a surge and some more precious HP before running over to Strahd, using his magic longsword to whittle away at the seething count. The approaching monster horde included a ghoul, a wolf, a spider swarm, and the dreaded grey hag but we couldn’t afford to take our attention away from the count, who was fighting back valiantly. With another nasty nip he brought Artemis down to 1HP. I stood up after spending our second surge and redoubled my attacks.
After rolling like a n00b the entire game I cranked out a strong hit followed by a natural 20 which saw Strahd’s arm lopped off shortly followed by his head and a comforting musical chord as Drizzt levelled up. Slaying villains always gives you a treasure card in our games because there’s nothing like killing a centuries-old vampire and getting a bag of copper pieces. So I excitedly drew my reward from the combined treasure deck of LoD/Cr/WoA.
A scrimshaw charm – “reroll one die”. Yay. It was Strahd’s last laugh.
But then we realised we still needed to destroy 4 coffins, all blocked by an army of incoming minions who were really unhappy to see their landlord obliterated in front of them. “But we’ve FREED you!” I cried. To no avail.
We had 1 hit point each and that precious third healing surge between us.
Artemis used his cloak of the bat to race right across the dungeon, through the line of monsters, eviscerating a ghoul en route and landing next to a coffin which he promptly threw open. A trap! The poison dart shot out and knocked Artemis unconscious. Despair set in. We’d come all this way, killed Strahd, and now we were going to die because of a bunch of trapped sarcophagi??
I seemingly had nowhere to run and was seriously contemplating charging into the middle of the monster swarm to go down in a blaze of glory when Mmzomba pointed out a corridor tile equidistant between monsters which would leave Drizzt unreachable to monster attacks this turn.
Leaping across the monsters in the way I bravely went and hid in the corridor. Since Artemis was down the monsters started moving towards me instead, and the encounter card for not exploring turned out to be a crippling miasma which slows movement.
Artemis spent our last third surge, stood up and raced to the next coffin, flipping it over and discovering some holy water! His encounter revealed a gargoyle, which he cleverly placed miles away from anywhere so it would not affect us. The monsters nearest to him had headed towards me last turn and would slowly but steadily start making their way back towards Artemis now.
Which meant I’d have to charge through them to reach the coffins. If I ran with a double move I’d reach a tile with two monsters on it, and automatically die from their attacks, so instead I walked over and attacked the spider swarm. The scrimshaw charm turned my two pathetic misses into one successful hit and the spider swarm went down. I opened the nearest coffin: empty. The blazing skeleton and grey hag reached Artemis and laid into him brutally bringing him down to 1 measly hit point. Again.
Recovering from the attacks, Artemis turned to the monsters with revenge in his eyes and Mmzomba picked up the die to roll.
“No! Leave them! Get that last coffin!” I cried, happily risking waking the baby and thus potentially bringing the wife charging downstairs in a fume.
Reluctantly leaving his quarry, Artemis raced over to the final resting place of Strahd and smashed it up with an angry pair of Boots of Speed, probably destroying the Wooden Stake that was hidden in there.
Victory at last – Strahd was defeated and our heroes were all well and healthy!! Well. We had two hit points between us anyway.
We’ d also accrued over 2,000GP so the shopkeeper in Barovia was very happy to see us and Artemis bought a shiny new ring which fired shooting stars.
“Save it for Ashardalon,” Drizzt winked...