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D&D 5E I'd really, really like to hear about some fights with Strahd . . !


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His castle is full of minions. Why would he restrict himself to an XP Budget?

What?

Oh OK then. My party hangs out in the forest killing boars till we hit 20th and get a few Epic boons under our belts before the encounter.

XP budgets and challenge ratings exist for a reason. The game is set up for PCs of levels 1-10 so I assumed 5 PCs of level 9 is a fair match for a solo CR 15 legendary (scraping into deadly).
 

dave2008

Legend
Your 'ruling' that attacking a grappled opponent has a chance of hitting an ally.
OK, that is what I thought. IIRC, 5e doesn't have any rule that differentiates whether a target is engaged with an ally or not, but thought I might have misremembered. It has been so long since I actually looked at the rules!
That's neither RAW nor RAI, but you do you.
Always do - it is the only way to play ;)
 



XP budgets and challenge ratings exist for a reason. The game is set up for PCs of levels 1-10 so I assumed 5 PCs of level 9 is a fair match for a solo CR 15 legendary (scraping into deadly).
In theory, your assumption has merit. In practice, I think we run into some issues. The concepts of XP budgets and CR have no allowance for magic items, given that the default assumption of 5e is that the game works fine without said magic items. The party, by the time they face Strahd in the Tarokka divined location, should have one or more powerful items to combat the Count. So, yeah, the XP/CR math gets quite fuzzy.
 

fmacanadaguy

Villager
Both spells wont work at the same time though.

But that's OK - he comes out of a wall with Greater invisibility, and he takes 3 ranged attacks and 2 cantrip attacks (from a party of 5 PCs).


And as soon as he walks through the wall he is subject to (number of PCs) readied actions.


In the above case, teamwork helps. Have one PC grapple him (reducing his speed to zero). He can turn into a mist on his turn the following round, but is otherwise subject to full attacks from every other PC present.

Strahd: Moves out from from Wall, casts spell, receives X number of readied action attacks. Presuming he doesnt walk back through the wall after wards
PC 1: Moves over and Grapples him.
Strahd LA: Cant assume mist form or move.
PCs 2-5: Unload on him.


I'd be happy to run a mock combat with 5 x 9th level PCs (1 rare and 1 uncommon item each, no specials) in your choice of 'final room' from the Taroka deck to fight him in. You can run him and do all the rolls. I trust you.

I back myself to kill him.

No, both spells don't. I am aware. You'd have to choose. I'd go with greater invisibility. You are also assuming everyone has ranged attacks. I have played this campaign 5 times with only twice to completion and the first time the DM was terrible and had us fight him outside the castle where he was a pushover without that lair action. The DM could have had him just retreat with his legendary actions but didn't. But in every game only half the party had ranged abilities and they were cantrips. Any other ranged abilities would only do half damage since there are no magic ranged weapons unless you add them yourself or do a spell like Magic Weapon. So with only half doing ranged cantrips, you will be rolling maybe 3 times if you have a warlock at disadvantage. As Strahd I'd take those odds given I can retreat back into the wall and wait to regen.

I've actually tried grappling him before. Rather than cast a spell if you succeed he can just goes mist form on his turn and retreat into the wall using legendary actions to move. Plus he flies in mist form. I am a barbarian in a party of a fighter, druid, rogue and monk. We burned all our resources chasing him all over the place and managed to pin him down a bit to reduce a large chunk of his HP but now we have nothing left to hold him with and he can regen and I think he has most of his spells still or he should. The DM runs him properly so at this point we are screwed.

I can see why the designers had to make this lair action for the campaign. When you look at all the locations you can find him, if he ends up a small enclosed space and he can't disappear through a wall, he's fried.
 

In theory, your assumption has merit. In practice, I think we run into some issues. The concepts of XP budgets and CR have no allowance for magic items, given that the default assumption of 5e is that the game works fine without said magic items. The party, by the time they face Strahd in the Tarokka divined location, should have one or more powerful items to combat the Count. So, yeah, the XP/CR math gets quite fuzzy.

I factored that in above. I expressly stated 'no special powered items, and 1 rare and 1 uncommon each'.

Just tell me the conditions and rules you want to use.

5 x 9th level PCs (point buy, AL rules, 1 rare, 1 uncommon) take on Strahd in one of the rooms of the Castle (as determined by the Taroka deck).

We can assume the PCs are at full health, having just short rested and expended the last of their HD and few healing potions. Long rest casters will be down 1 spell of each level (other than their highest level, which they've been holding back for this fight), and Barbarians will have raged twice already, and Sorcerers have used half (round down) SP.

For minions, Strahd can be accompanied by 2 x CR 5 Vampire spawn and no more than 4 thematically appropriate mooks with a CR of no higher than 1 each for a total XP budget of 17,000 XP (without multiplication for extra numbers for the monsters) making this a Deadly+ encounter.
 

fmacanadaguy

Villager
Referring to lair actions. Most creatures cannot take the same Lair Action twice in a row:
View attachment 135184

However, Strahd is an exception:
View attachment 135185
Ah. Okay. I was looking more at the general rule on how lair actions work and didn't see anything. I didn't notice how each creature can sometimes have specific restrictions on lair actions like the Sphinx who apparently can only ever use each one only once between rests.

Strahd's lair actions is what makes him nearly impossible to kill when played like I think he should play: to win.

Example. Barbarian, Fighter (has sunsword), Cleric (has symbol), Rogue, & Monk against Strahd in his treasure room. Monk jumps in and hits a bit. Strahd phases through wall. Do not know where he will come out. Some vampire spawn are approaching so turn to face them to avoid being flanked. Strahd phases in, drops fireball in far room to hit several party members who had gone to face vampire spawn. Cleric ends up turning all spawn and they all scatter. Re-focus Strahd. Small hits get done, hurts what hit him back. More party members close in, he phases out. Spread out a bit not sure where he will return from. Several rounds later of waiting and it turns out he has run around the hallways and come back in through the study having regened any HP he lost earlier while party has depleted in HP.

So this back and forth keeps happening. Try to catch up to him, he closes the doors to separate party to divides and conquers. Could the party stick closer together? Maybe. But turn orders don't always allow for it. And then party might chase into a long hallway, he appears from nowhere and just fireballs again anyway so grouping up isn't going to help either. That is just playing smart with the resources he has. No minions really faced at all at this point. This is just him.

Now a different party could have an easier time. A warlock with eldritch blast, a wizard with counterspell, etc. But I can easily see ways you can have Strahd work around that too based on just the first two lair actions. And you won't necessarily have the perfect spells ready to go unless you somehow have perfect knowledge of how Strahd can fight and what he can do which people who haven't played the campaign before won't have knowledge of.

I'm working on changing his abilities now for my campaign. I just don't want to make the players feel powerless because of a stupidly strong lair action. Either I take away the lair action to replace it with a custom spell (like stoneshape but 5th level for that phasing effect) so therefore a limited amount of uses, or I keep it in as the cleric player who died has come back with a phase-like ability that has limited uses (costs a hit die per use) that could chase him through the walls with the holy symbol. Or I could take it out completely and come up with something entirely different. I'm more leaning towards the spell idea. He has spent centuries in Barovia and has studied magic. Why wouldn't he have invented his own spells? My narrative is also slightly different and the campaign expanded. I took things from the old domains of dread material and brought it in from the beginning, and as it turns out they are now coming out with a new ravenloft book. Hah.
 

Savage Wombat

Adventurer
If that's the way you want to go, I'd suggest limiting how often he can use the ability rather than altering it. Once per short rest would be the obvious choice, but something less predictable might be an option.
 

Here's my writeup of CoS which we finished last year.

Just finished Curse Of Strahd...Took us over a year...We spent about 4 months in Beast of Graenseskov. The final session was epic like it should be. My group was 7 players at 9th level. 3 of the players are experienced, the other 4 are pretty new to D&D. (2 males, 5 females including my wife).
So we began the session at the top of the Heart of Sorrow(K60). Pidlwick II didn't like the Druid, who kept threatening to smash him into bits(my wife). So Pidlwick tried to trip her down the stairs and fails. Druid threatens Pidlwick again but Pidlwick gets support from the fighter, who keeps him safe from the Druid and carries him in his backpack.
They go all the way down the tower without incident and take stairs to the Guards Room. They then encounter Strahd in the Hall of Bones(from their Tarot reading). Strahd is ready for them. He has 4 Vampire's Spawn hiding in the Darkness in the hall. Strahd has been upgraded to CR 17(From the Elven Tower suggestions). I made a change to 2nd level spells in adding Darkness and removing Gust of Wind. Darkness lets the vampires have a safe place to regenerate out of harm's way.
Strahd asks the Warlock (who has a Charisma of 22) to become his bride and also tries to charm her. She refuses so Strahd opens the battle with a fireball and then slips into the Darkness. The Vampire Spawns jump out of the darkness and bottle the party in Kingsmen Hall. Strahd harasses the party out of the Darkness by casting Blight on the spell casters. One of the Vampire Spawn falls to overwhelming damage from the Spell Casters and fighter before being able to get to the Darkness. Strahd moves up to the doorway hidden in the darkness and strikes the Paladin multiple times with his blade. During the battle he continues to strike the Paladin with legendary actions, Strahd takes the Paladin down. The 2 healers with Beacon of Hope are able to revive the Paladin and heal the Spell Casters.
One of the Vampire Spawns retreats into the Darkness...The warlock in the party can see through the Darkness and points Strahd's location to the Paladin. Who then rushes past the Vampire Spawn to smite Strahd with the Sun Sword. Another Vampire Spawn retreats into the darkness, extremely hurt. The Warlock is able to destroy this Vampire Spawn. Strahd is smacked by the Paladin even though he was striking Strahd with disadvantage. Strahd then uses a legendary action to run by the Paladin and Fighter (who has moved into the Hall of Bones) and strikes the Druid. The Druid falls to the onslaught. Strahd then uses a Legendary lair action to slam the door shut, locking the Spell Casters in the room with Strahd, and the Melee with the 2 remaining Vampire Spawn. Fear runs through the Spell Casters as they see the Druid easily fall to Strahd.
One of the healers a small gnome has been living in the backpack of the Paladin. He tries to knock the door down with the help of his God. The Fighter and the Paladin join in and knock the door down. Strahd seeing the door-busting open, bolts across the room, and opens the door to his servant Rahadin. The Paladin misty steps next to Strahd and smites him with the Sun Sword and turns Strahd into mist. Rahadin misty steps past the Paladin and attacks the Spell Casters. He attacks the Druid who has been healed and again the Druid is taken down. Strahd in misty form goes through the secret door down to the Dungeon and Catacombs(K79). The Paladin is attacked by the Shadow Demon. One of the healers grabs the fighter and Dimension Doors past the secret door to follow Strahd. The fighter then opens the secret door, Rahadin seeing that his master is in danger misty steps to the Healer and attacks her. She is hurt seriously, but with the help of the fighter, they are able to kill Rahadin. The Paladin destroys the Shadow Demon, the rest of the spell casters destroy the remaining Vampire Spawn.
They follow the mist and then run into the Illusionary Strahd. At first, fear instills in them, but they quickly surmise this is an illusion. They make their way to the Brazier Room, the Paladin wants nothing to do with the Brazier. The warlock uses the Yellow Stone and then touches the flame and disappears. I slowly start counting, letting them see that the sand is falling out of the hourglass. The fighter touches the flame and also disappears. Much discussion from the rest of the group, but no one else touches the flame. The rest of the party leaves the brazier alone and follows the mist.
We then cut over to the Warlock and Fighter in the Tomb of Strahd. The 3 Brides try to seduce the 2, but they don't fall for it. Pidlwick (who has been hiding in the backpack of the fighter) helps the fighter get an advantage against one of the Vampires. The Vampire then turns around and breaks Pidlwick into pieces. A nasty fight begins, the 2 of them easily kill one of the Vampire Spawns but that leaves the Warlock without any spells and heavily damaged. One of the Vampire Spawns takes the Warlock down, Then two of the Vampire Spawn start mauling the fighter. He's not able to kill the second vampire, the gets close but unable to get a killing blow before it's able to regenerate enough to keep her in the fight. He's taken almost down by the 2 Vampire Spawns. Then the tide turns for Vampire Spawn, the Warlock rolls a 20 on her Death Saving Throw. She then Eldritch Blast the almost dead Vampire Spawn and destroys it. The 3rd Vampire Spawn can't hit the fighter(without advantage) and can't reach the Warlock. The fighter and Warlock unleash everything they have(which is just base abilities) taking her out.
After the battle I let the Warlock use Mend to repair Pidlwick from his damage(though he now has a very bad limp). Strahd later shows up in misty form, with the 2 of them waiting for him. They plunge a stake in his heart. Next week we will do a follow-up, I'm thinking of offering the Warlock the kingdom of Barovia. I had Zantras be her patron, I think it would be fitting for him to make her queen and who knows who will be the next Vampire Leader.
Used Fighting Strahd – Tactics and Strategy - Elven Tower Adventures highly recommend the Elven Towers Guide to Curse of Strahd.
 

Strahd harasses the party out of the Darkness by casting Blight on the spell casters.
How? Strahd cant see in magical Darkness and Blight requires a 'target you can see'.
Strahd is smacked by the Paladin even though he was striking Strahd with disadvantage.
How come? Surely the advantage and disadvantage cancel each other out?

Did you give Strahd the ability to see in magical darkness?
 

How? Strahd cant see in magical Darkness and Blight requires a 'target you can see'.

How come? Surely the advantage and disadvantage cancel each other out?

Did you give Strahd the ability to see in magical darkness?
Yes basically gave him Devilsight...but not to the Spawn...I also took away his ability to walk through walls.

He got disadvantage because Strahd could see him...
 
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no...just hiding in the darkness...not as an action..
So he wasn't actually hidden. He was just in the radius of darkness. He needs to take the Hide action to Hide in darkness like anyone else.

The PCs (other than the Warlock) couldn't see him, target him with most spells, benefit from the Dodge action vs his attacks, or make opportunity attacks against him, but they could attack him (at disadvantage) with ranged and melee attacks just fine.

The Paladin didnt need the Warlock to tell him where Strahd was. He could have just walked over and attacked him (at disadvantage).
 

Nebulous

Legend
To make Strahd even more dangerous there is no reason why he shouldn't have one or more of the dark gifts . . .
In the walkthrough I'm using he has stolen the powers of the three Fanes of Barovia, each granting him huge buffs. The Mountain Fane alone is +4 AC so he's up to 20. I forget the others, but they're equally strong. Trying to debuff him by consecrating the lost Fanes becomes an important side quest.
 

So he wasn't actually hidden. He was just in the radius of darkness. He needs to take the Hide action to Hide in darkness like anyone else.

The PCs (other than the Warlock) couldn't see him, target him with most spells, benefit from the Dodge action vs his attacks, or make opportunity attacks against him, but they could attack him (at disadvantage) with ranged and melee attacks just fine.

The Paladin didnt need the Warlock to tell him where Strahd was. He could have just walked over and attacked him (at disadvantage).
I know...he wasn't hidden per the rules...just per the English language...

In my campaign...I'm stricter on attacking...If you can't see them...even if they haven't hid per the rules, I treat them as hidden and you have to guess as to where they are.
 

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