Last month we played the final session of a campaign that our Dungeon Master, Juan, had adapted from the official Curse of Strahd adventure published by Wizards of the Coast, especially for The Hipsters.
This was my first time playing an official D&D adventure and I really loved it. From my perspective it seemed like it gave the DM the perfect backdrop for running the campaign, giving him lots of great material and scenarios to work with, and the way he adapted it to our existing storyline worked really well.
In our storyline, after Suzail, the capital of Cormyr (in the Forgotten Realms setting), was destroyed by the Demon Lord Orcus, a letter arrived from a mysterious lord called Edgar Markov (Count Strahd in the official version of the story), who claimed to have defeated Orcus and only wanted the hand of the Princess Silva in marriage as reward. This all sounded pretty suspicious so The Shadowdale Allstars (as I like to refer to our group of adventurers) went to check out wtf was going on. The ever reckless Nada, a 10 year old fighter/rogue/warlock, decided to smuggle the Princess into our party as she was desperate to sneak a peak at this Lord who she may or may not be marrying. Bad idea, as pretty much the first thing that happened when we entered the cursed, fog-drenched land of Barovia, was that Markov appeared and used his considerable Vampiric powers to steal the poor Princess from us…
one of our first episodes was an encounter with a fortune teller who divined our futures with the help of some tarot cards – the results of which gave us each a destiny to fulfil within Barovia, and a perfect excuse to explore this evil land
An open assault on Castle Ravenloft, Markov’s haunted home, would have been reckless, whereas the magical and nefarious fog meant that was no way of returning home for reinforcements. We were trapped in Barovia, in what was to be “a sandbox adventure”. A sandbox campaign is one in which players are dropped into an environment and given a free run of what to do, without much prodding or leading by the nose from the DM (as opposed to a railroad adventure, when players are led by cause and effect from one encounter to another, with little room for deviating off track… I’ll discuss the pros and cons of these two styles in another post!). The Achilles Heel of any sandbox campaign is that the players can lack any motivation or goals, but one of our first episodes was an encounter with a fortune teller who divined our futures with the help of some tarot cards – the results of which gave us each a destiny to fulfil within Barovia, and a perfect excuse to explore this evil land. Whether it was to find a magical item, enlist an ally, or discover the Count’s personal secrets, we had plenty to do, and it was up to us how we went about doing this and in what order – with the overall goal of powering up enough to take on and defeat Markov and rescue the princess (if she wasn’t [un]dead already).
This made the game very satisfying from a playing point of view, and one reason why purchasing an adventure like Curse of Strahd can be money well spent. As a DM usually its hard enough to create all the details of three or four encounters that will make up a gaming session, let alone plan for the possibility of dozens more that giving the players a free rein could entail. But with an entire region mapped out in detail, the DM could give us a huge amount of freedom to explore, and if we didn’t happen on a particular episode as planned then it’s not the DM’s own work that goes to waste (which trust me is very painful!), it’s Chris Perkins‘ and hey we paid 50 dollars for the book so that’s fine.
On top of having all this material ready to go in any given session, the quality of the material is first class, with evocative descriptions, well-fleshed out NPCs and, best of all, really engaging encounters – aside from the aforementioned tarot readings, playing regional politics with werewolves, squabbling with gypsies and deciding whether or not to accept “dark gifts” in the Lich’s library were all really satisfying. I’ll no doubt buy the book myself and review it from a DM’s point of view at a future date, but as a player it gets two thumbs up.
the quality of the material is first class, with evocative descriptions, well-fleshed out NPCs and, best of all, really engaging encounters
Anyway I decided to film The Hipsters as we played what turned out to be our final gaming session in Barovia. We had actually met and defeated Markov the session before, killing him in an intense battle in the village, but, having discovered and read his diary, we knew we would have to journey to Castle Ravenloft and find the coffin where he regenerates after death, and finish him off for good. And that’s where these videos start…
As the session was nearly 9 hours long (including some downtime), I split the recording as I went along into five parts. I’ve never filmed anything before, so there’s some gaps, and mistakes, but overall you can get a good picture of how we play and hopefully it’s some fun footage to have in the background if you’re a fellow D&D addict like me.