• Resources are back! Use the menu in the main navbar. If you own a resource, please check it for formatting, icons, etc.

5E Running DDAL04 Adventures as a Campaign

jayoungr

Explorer
A Trip to the Quivering Forest part 2: DDAL04-01 & DDAL04-06

After a week's break, we returned to our Ravenloft campaign. I made some substantial changes to this part of the module--starting with the fact that the PCs were able to visit Greenhall at all, of course! It enabled me to salvage quite a bit of "Suits of the Mists," however.

Greenhall

The PCs escorted the traumatized young elf--she doesn't have a name in the module, so I named her Londra--back to Greenhall, where they spent the night. I described Greenhall as a small cluster of wooden buildings arranged in a quadrangle. The door of one building hung askew, with splatters of dark liquid around the doorframe. The largest building in the settlement had been turned into a healing hall, where the mad elf scouts from the earlier encounter, as well as eight or ten humans, were being cared for by a harried-looking woman with the help the two elf boys, Earlan and Nim'il. (If I'd thought of it, I should have had one of them be Londra's brother.)

While the PCs rested, Derali explained how Ozzcar had assembled the druids to attempt to heal the curse on the land. Aya told her about the strange things they had seen on the way--the wagon with the tree growing through it and the fire thistles.

Derali: "We thought we were making progress, but the land has betrayed us. The forest grows twisted in form and spirit. The sun always hides behind clouds. Animals are larger and more threatening. That spider's nest was not there before the last storm, yet they had a dozen victims, and some of them seemed to have been there for months. The mists come every two or three days, bringing madness--people run off and either never return or are found without their wits. Some think Jeny Greenteeth is sending the mists; others think Lord Strahd is angry with us. But I think it is the land itself fighting against our efforts to cleanse it."

While they talked, wails were heard from the distant woods. Derali explained that Jeny's part of the forest was said to be haunted.

When morning came, Derali, looking worried, told the PCs that all of the search parties had returned except the one including Ozzcar himself. He had gone out with a young man named Hricu, intending to search up to the border of Jeny Greenteeth's territory, and she feared he might have stepped over the boundary and broken their agreement. "We have pledged not to enter Jeny's part of the woods, but you have made no such bargain," she told the PCs. "Will you search for him and bring him back, if you can?"

She added that the border was guarded by fierce trees, and that they should not take a long rest in Jeny's territory if possible.

Roots, Bloody Roots

I ran the combat pretty much straight from the module. Since I had a weak party, I only used one awakened tree, but I had the PCs find a hole where the roots of another one had been. They followed a trail of crushed and scorched vegetation until they came to a clearing outside a cave. There they found the burnt husk of another awakened tree and some footprints leading into the cave.

Angry Icicles & Shooting Stars

Here I inserted the ice cave encounters from Mission 1 of "Suits of the Mists." Once the PCs rescued Hricu from the fire stirges, he explained that he and Ozzcar had been attacked at the edge of Jeny's territory. Hricu had been able to fight off the awakened tree with the help of his wand of fire, but Ozzcar had been chased across the border by needle blights, and Hricu was afraid of what might have happened after that. The PCs tried to convince him to go with them to find Ozzcar, but he adamantly refused to enter Jeny's domain, saying he would find his way back to Greenhall on his own.

I Dream of Jeny / Haggling with the Hag

Here I blended the Jeny Greenteeth encounters from the two modules. The PCs continued onward and ran across Jeny leading Ozzcar on a leash, as in "Suits of the Mists." When they asked her to release him, she at first refused and then suggested they go back to her house to talk it over. When they arrived, the ghost was flying around the clearing; Jeny chased him off with a broom, and the rest of the scene proceeded as in "The Ghost."

I changed the ghost's identity to that of Talaric Daoranov--the son of a local noble family who had once owned these woods. He had defied Jeny and perished horribly several hundred years earlier. Also, I mentioned that Jeny had come to Barovia from somewhere else in the world, but Strahd seemed content to let her do her thing as long as she didn't interfere with him.

I also mentioned that Ozzcar appeared to be under an enchantment that prevented him from speaking.

Voices of the Past

I ran part 3 of "The Ghost" (the mission to put Talaric's soul to rest) straight from the module. The only difference was that I changed the source of Talaric's concern from Phlan to his family (since he was the last of his line, they had all died out). Jeny kept her word and released Ozzcar, although he has still been unable to speak. The PCs all had the dream with the poem, which has puzzled them greatly, since they haven't encountered any of the artifacts yet. This was one reason I kept the meeting with Jeny, although I toyed with the idea of cutting it.

The PCs reached level 3 this session.

Note: I cut As Red as Blood, the encounter with the polymorphed redcaps. It just seemed too convoluted (how are they supposed to figure out why these ogres are acting so derpy?) and silly. And the bad grammar offended me--"I shall plucketh them," indeed!
 
Last edited:

jayoungr

Explorer
As I go through the season, I'm going to try to keep a tally of issues with each adventure.

Problems with "The Beast" (DDAL04-02)

Very few. The main one is the problem of how to sell the storm, as noted upthread: if it's so deadly, why should low-level PCs assume they will fare better than experienced trappers? A potential solution would be for Grigori Wurlbach to suggest that he's worried Alina and Laszlo may have been injured--perhaps attacked by one of the animals they were attempting to trap for fur--and have him ask the PCs to bring them back before the storm if at all possible.

Problems with "The Ghost" (DDAL04-06)

The story hooks are weak. I'm not sure how I would have gotten my PCs to the Quivering Forest if they hadn't met the elves. (This is a good argument in favor of keeping the elves in "The Beast," although if I were running it again I might change them to humans.)

An issue that affects many adventures in this series: weather is inconsistent. In some adventures, Barovia is experiencing a deadly winter, and in others, the weather seems fine. "The Ghost" at least includes the detail that the Quivering Forest is free of snow.

When the PCs meet Derali on page 11, she says she is searching for a family of four elves. However, the PCs find only two elves trapped in the spiderweb on page 13, and it's not explicitly stated that they are the ones Derali was looking for. The others could be among the victims, or they might be still missing (which would explain why Derali parts ways with the PCs after the spider encounter--she needs to continue her search).

The description of the victims in the web on page 13 doesn't make sense. The sight is supposed to be so gruesome that it makes Derali cry out in "disgust and alarm," and the boxed text assumes the PCs are able to see the condition of the bodies in the web. But then it immediately goes on to say, "Most are wrapped entirely in webbing," apart from the young female elf and her father.

At the top of page 14, it says the female elf does not speak, but in the last paragraph of the next section, it says she thanks the party for helping her. She also needs a name in case she survives. (As noted above, I called her Londra.)

On page 14, Derali suggests that the PCs should not take a long rest in the forest, but the adventure includes no negative consequences if they do. It will take them half a day to get from the meeting with Derali to Jeny Greenteeth's cottage, so if they go back to Oraşnou the way they came, they'll risk exhaustion if they don't take a long rest.

If the party is very low level, I suggest replacing the Strahd zombies (page 19) with Mist zombies from "Suits of the Mists."

The adventure does not explain why Jeny still agrees to help the party if they fight Talaric's ghost rather than getting rid of him in a more permanent way.

The poem on page 20 seems to have the Obsessions slightly out of order for how they appear in the campaign: it places Omou as the third and Ivan Randovich as the fourth, while the adventures as written imply that Omou is the last Obsession. Unless I missed some text about when Randovich delivers the comb to Esmae? I haven't found any confirmation about when that actually happens. (ETA: If you play through the adventures in order, Randovich can send the comb no later than just before DDAL04-10, "The Artifact," since the modules as written assume he is killed at the end of that adventure. Omou shows up in DDAL04-13, "The Horseman," so he's still the last Obsession.)

The list of items on page 22 includes a potion of greater healing, but the only healing potions that appear in the adventure are normal potions of healing.
 
Last edited:

jayoungr

Explorer
DDAL04-03: The Executioner

Last session, I got through this notorious module about as well as could be expected. The revised version of the adventure is much clearer than the original, but even the revised version is going to require a lot of manipulation to pull off as written, unless your party reacts in a very specific way. I borrowed from a couple of other sources of suggestions on how to improve the adventure:

For the hook, I used "The Burgomaster Set-Up Job" from the first document, in which Laszlo in disguise approaches the PCs and tries to get them to steal the powderbox from the burgomaster's basement. This was partly because I didn't trust them to go there on their own and partly because I wasn't sure that having them meet him at the Eyes of Midnight would work out properly without me having to do some really inelegant forcing of the story. Unfortunately, the party decided they were too lawful to break into the burgomaster's residence, even after I stressed what an awful person he was. So they don't know that the box at the center of all this once belonged to Tatyana.

One thing I'm quite pleased with is the fact that I managed to set up several plot points for future modules in the introductory portion of the adventure:

  • After the PCs returned from their visit to Jeny Greenteeth, Derali mentioned that another storm was on the way and suggested that they travel back to Oraşnou with a group of Vistani who were going that way. These were the Bogaravs, and I inserted the "Prastonata" challenge from DDAL04-05, "The Seer," on the way back to town. The group also met Donani, who could talk about nothing except his betrothed and how happy he would be to see her soon.
  • When they reached Oraşnou, they were told by Grigori Wurlbach that the burgomaster had returned while they were gone and had been told about their efforts to rescue Alina and Laszlo, but he had gone away again; however, one of his assistant tax collectors, Eugen Adi, was in town and could probably be found at the Seven Tables.
  • Grigori also explained apologetically that he couldn't give the PCs the same rooms they had occupied on their first visit because he had rented them out to some traveling adventurers who had come to town seeking a rumored artifact. The travelers had paid for several days in advance, although Grigori hadn't seen them for a day or two--not since they went out on an expedition with that new fellow in the wolfskin cap.
  • When the PCs found Eugen Adi at the Seven Tables, he told them he had the payment the burgomaster had left for them: five gold pieces. As I hoped, the PCs found that an insultingly small payment.
  • I mentioned the friendly, attractive barmaid at the Seven Tables--Sari, who will be important in DDAL04-07, "The Innocent." I also mentioned that a particular young man (Benedek) was constantly hanging out at the inn and making cow eyes at her.
  • The PCs decided to buy a decoy powderbox and asked where they could find a local woodworker. I grabbed that opportunity to say that the local woodworking studio was run by Benedek and his brother Regold. (They haven't met Regold yet, but I'll try to work him in soon.)
  • A discussion at the Seven Tables got several other plot points out as well:
    On their last visit, a Vistani predicted an extremely harsh winter.
    The burgomaster's taxes are far too high.
    The town owes a tribute of grain and livestock to Lord Strahd.
    The town has has a string of bad luck: bad harvest, losing Alina and Laszlo, bad weather.
    Things were better when the Falinescus were living at the manor. Many townsfolk had jobs as servants there.
    It was rumored that the oldest Falinescu son was marked as a result of their mother's wickedness. (This is setting up my replacement for the half-dragon-half-troll ghost.)
    Lucian was the second son; everyone liked him and was glad when he became the heir. But he drank himself to death after his daughter died.
    His widow now devotes herself to healing at the town hospice.
Also, it bugged me that the Vaduvas' cabin is described as an empty ruin when it has only been vacant for a few days. I had someone at the Seven Tables mention that Alina's people had come in from their camp in the woods--"Strange folk, always keeping to themselves"--and stripped the place bare after news reached them that Alina and Laszlo were both dead. (The PCs actually didn't kill Alina, but they agreed to keep her secret and told the townsfolk that she was dead.)

The showdown at the end of the adventure was a bit anticlimactic: the PCs took their decoy powderbox to meet Laszlo at the Vaduva cabin in broad daylight. He attacked them, along with four zombies--the missing adventurers--but he had disadvantage since it was day, and the PCs made very short work of him.

Lingering question: How do I let the PCs know that they are looking for Tatyana's artifacts?
 
Last edited:

jayoungr

Explorer
Problems with "Suits of the Mists" (DDAL04-01)

If you're not using the plot point of characters (as well as a good chunk of territory) being transported to Barovia by the mists, this whole adventure can safely be cut--or, as I did, plundered for encounters. I only ran Mission 1 and part of Mission 4 from this adventure, and they were heavily modified, as noted above. That said, I do have a few notes on the part I used.

Some of the encounters in Mission 1 are written in rather vague terms, leaving the DM with the need to improvise if the players do not approach the situation exactly as assumed. As I mentioned above, my players wanted to roll in the snow to avoid damage from the flame thistles; the module assumes the only way to avoid damage is for the PC to carefully detach a thistle from his/her clothing.

The XP note says that each character gets 25 XP if "the characters" navigate the slope without taking damage from the flame thistles. Does this mean that everyone gets XP and only if no one takes damage? Does it mean that those who don't take damage get more XP than those who do?

The "Angry Icicles" encounter also was difficult for me to run. The adventure assumes PCs will just walk into the tunnel, but my group paused outside to examine it first. It says that fire-based attacks in the direction of the icicles will scare them, but my group threw a torch into the tunnel as far as possible, and I was fairly stumped as to how the icicles would respond. Would it count as an attack and scare them? Would they be fooled into thinking it was a creature and fall on it?

Then the sequence of checks to get past the icicles is also tricky. So, the PC makes a perception check to notice that the icicles are animated, and if they succeed, they get advantage on saving throws against them. But then it says that if the PC doesn't notice the icicles, they make a save for half damage. The first part assumes that the PC makes a save no matter what, while the second one is written as if the save is only needed if the first check fails. And the whole thing is written on the assumption that the PC is already underneath the icicles when making the check. My group spotted the icicles from outside and then wanted to run under them holding shields over their heads. But as written, even if you make the save, you still take half damage, and my players were kind of salty about that because they felt the shield should have negated 100% of the damage. And in hindsight, I think I agree with them.

There's no XP amount listed for passing the icicle hazard, but the XP list on page 25 says PCs get 25 XP per character if they "survive the icy slope and icicles." Does that mean they get XP if no one dies? Do they get 25 XP for each hazard, or do they only get the XP if they "survive" both of them? I think the intention is that each character gets 25 XP for each hazard, but it's really not written clearly.

For the fire stirges attack, the second wave is supposed to arrive in the third round of combat, but I'd be tempted to move it up to the second if the party is doing well.

Mission 4 seems pretty solid; I didn't have any problems with that.

Mission 3 is probably worth doing if you're going to run "The Raven" (DDAL04-12).

I also considered running Mission 5, perhaps setting it in Oraşnou. But it's a bit unsatisfying in the sense that Sybil makes this dramatic proclamation about how the little boy is important, and then you never see him again. I'm past this point in my game now, but if I were to run this season again, I might put the encounter right after arrival in Oraşnou and use it to introduce Sorina, the little girl in "The Marionette" (DDAL04-04).
 
Last edited:

jayoungr

Explorer
Opening Scene for "The Marionette" (DDAL04-04)

You're sitting at the Seven Tables and enjoying the food--or maybe "enjoying" is the wrong word. There's way too much salt in the soup; something's clearly off here. Still, it's filling and warm, and in weather like this, that's the main thing.

A blast of frigid air blows into the room as the door opens, and two people enter. One is a stout, well-dressed, middle-aged woman walking a very large basset hound on a leash. With her is a large young man in his early to mid-twenties, more simply dressed and bundled up against the cold.

"Come on, Luca," says the woman. "The sheep will be all right for an hour."

"But I watch the sheep," the young man answers, his brow furrowed.

Marku Grelon emerges from the kitchen. "What can I do for you?" he asks before recognizing the woman. "Oh, Scartia! I don't have the payment yet. We've still got some time, right?"

Scartia waves a hand. "Yes, yes, there'll be a few days for that. I've brought Luca. I noticed he didn't have any lunch, so I figure he can eat here, if that's all right."

She hands a silver coin to Marku, who nods and addresses the young man. "Why don't you have lunch, Luca?"

"Papa went away. Boss says he left town. He didn't say goodbye."

Marku and Scartia exchange a worried look over Luca's shoulder. "Come to the kitchen and have some soup," Marku tells Luca, leading him into the back room of the inn.

Scartia pulls on the leash of her basset hound, who has wandered over to your table and started sniffing around. "Come on, Frederick! We've got a lot to do," she says as she leaves.

After a moment, Sari, the barmaid, comes to your table, shaking her head sadly. "Poor Luca. If his father's really missing, that could be bad. I'm sure you've noticed he's a bit simple. A horse kicked him in the head when he was little." She then remembers her duties. "Can I get you anything else? Another drink, maybe?"

Shortly after Sari heads back to the kitchen, Marku reappears. Rubbing his hands nervously, he approaches and addresses you with an apologetic air. "Friends, I'm sorry to bother you. I didn't want to, but my wife insisted. Luca's story has set her off, and she's very worried. Might I have a moment? My nephew Vasile and a friend of his went into Vallaki for supplies a couple of days ago. They were supposed to be back last night, but they haven't returned. With the storm and Luca's father disappearing, my wife is very worried, and I admit, I'm worried too. Would you be willing to go a ways along the road to Vallaki and see if you can find them? We don't have much, but we could try to scrape together some kind of reward, and you're welcome to use our horse and cart."
 

jayoungr

Explorer
DDAL04-04: "The Marionette"

I made very few changes to this adventure. It's very solid overall and doesn't need much tweaking. I ran it in two sessions. The PCs got through parts 1-3 in the first session, and the second session was all part 4 (the manor). The group still has a tiny bit of the manor to finish up in the next session.

My last post shows a scene I added at the beginning, introducing Scartia and Luca and establishing that Luca's father has disappeared. In addition, I also had the burgomaster's guards come into the Seven Tables and demand to search everyone's bags, as per the end of "The Executioner" (DDAL04-03). They mentioned that they were looking for a valuable cup and locket, among other things. I was sort of hoping the PCs would finger Fillar Esven, or at least figure out that he had been helping himself to things in the burgomaster's basement, but I don't think they did.

I restored the encounter with the harpies in part 1. Three of them were hovering around the downed wagon when the PCs found it. They killed one, and I had the other two fly away when reduced to half hitpoints.

Vasile's unfortunate friend needed a name, so I called him Boian (found it on a list of Romanian male names).

For the tarokka reading in part 2, I replaced Sybil Rasia with Sergenna, the raunie of the Bogarav family. The idea is that the Bogaravs have been camped nearby waiting for the Moslavarics to arrive so that Donani and Lela can be married. A roleplaying note: "You barely saw her in the Bogarav camp, where she seemed to defer to her brother in day-to-day matters. Here, she is in her element."

Instead of the random "Oleg," I made Marku Grelon one of the villagers cornered by zombies. The map doesn't make clear why the villagers can't just flee to the north, so I said there was fire in that direction: the villagers were trapped between fire to the north and zombies to the south. This led to an amusing moment where the cleric turned undead and the zombies had nowhere to run except straight into the fire! This broke the turn effect, but then I had the zombies make DC 10 wisdom saves to see if they had the brains (pun intended) to put themselves out when they were on fire. The last burning zombie was buried under a pile of firewood, as suggested in the adventure, with the result that he started a nice little bonfire.

I also put Fillar Esven in the jail instead of a nameless wereraven. The idea was that he'd been arrested on suspicion of robbing the burgomaster's house, although I don't think the PCs put two and two together. I didn't have him reveal his wereraven form at this time. I need to try to work that in somewhere else later.
 
Last edited:

jayoungr

Explorer
Shaping the Second Half of the Campaign

I'll get back to writing up my experiences with "The Marionette" and "The Seer" soon. But I just wanted to make a post about where I am in planning out the second half of the campaign, which is considerably messier than the first.

The biggest issue for me is the presence of beings that don't belong in my group's version of Barovia, since we're not using the "chunk of the Forgotten Realms brought here by the Mists" story hook. I also dislike the large number of seemingly random elements that crop up; I know some of them relate to other seasons of AL, but for my purposes, they might as well be completely random:
  • Random unnamed offstage vampire in "The Seer" (DDAL04-05).
  • Random incubus in "The Innocent" (DDAL04-07) whose motives for causing havoc are never adequately explained.
  • Half-troll-half-dragon ghost (related to DDAL season 1) in "The Innocent."
  • Yuan-ti in "The Innocent" and "The Donjon" (DDAL04-11).
  • Orcs in "The Donjon" and "The Raven" (DDAL04-12).
  • Cult of the Dragon member in "The Raven" and "The Horseman" (DDAL04-13) ... and she is the one who actually knows all about the main villain and her plans?!
So I'm looking for ways to combine, eliminate, or localize these elements. I've already laid the groundwork for some of it. Here's what I'm considering so far:

The Yuan-ti: Replace them with a cult dedicated to the worship of a snake demon/deity (or can I tie this to the Evening Glory somehow?). Devotees of the cult gain certain physical abilities, giving them the same statblocks as Yuan-ti. The trolls in "The Innocent" will be giant serpents instead. This cult has been active near Oraşnou for many years, and the previous Lady Falinescu (Lucian Falinescu's mother) was rumored to be a secret devotee...

The Ghost: The ghost is that of Gyorgi Falinescu, Lucian's older brother. He was born a tiefling--the older style, with more subtle demonic features than the current playable race; I'm thinking his eyes have vertical slits for pupils, like a snake's. His physical form was evidence of his mother's wickedness and unfaithfulness, which led his father to reject him in horror. Thus, we still have the daddy issues and empty heart.

The Incubus: Instead of an incubus, he'll be a vampire--the same one who bit Lela Moslavaric in "The Seer." He is working to stop Esmae for reasons of his own. Maybe it's vampire politics; maybe she rejected him; maybe he wants Strahd too and sees her as his rival. Anyway, if he's deliberately out to stop Esmae, it will add an extra layer of irony to the already ironic fact that when the PCs stop him, they'll actually be helping her. I'm toying with having him tell the PCs the story of Esmae instead of the dragon cultist (allowing me to cut the cultist entirely), but I'm not sure how to work it in. If I could somehow get him to survive the adventure, I could even make him the one to take the PCs to the Amber Temple in "The Artifact," but I'm not sure I can make that work either.

The Orcs: Replace them with the Vaduva clan, the wolf-shifters who live out in the forest. They sounded interesting, and I was disappointed that they didn't play any role in the story. I'll have to come up with a reason for them to get involved at this point in the story now, though.

***

I also really dislike the fact that the Burgomaster's artifact, Tatyana's comb, plays no part in the adventure at all. We just have to assume that he obtains it and delivers it offscreen sometime before "The Artifact" (DDAL04-10). I'd like to find a way to work it into the game somehow, but without setting off alarm bells that will let the PCs keep or destroy it. If I could be sure that the PCs would take the Fidatov treasure in "The Tempter" (DDAL04-09), I'd hint that it was part of that; but my group can be pretty cautious, so I don't think I can count on that. Alternatively, maybe I could find a way to place it in "The Donjon," as the storyline for that module is going to have to be substantially rewritten anyway, and the yuan-ti (snake cult) labyrinth is pretty cool and creepy.

***

And finally, there's the question of what order to run the adventures in. There are some odd bunchings of story beats and themes: back-to-back "the Burgomaster is a jerk to his love interest" storylines in "The Tempter" and "The Artifact," followed by back-to-back rescues in "The Donjon" and "The Raven." Although "The Innocent" is next in sequence for me, I'm thinking of starting the second half of the campaign with "The Broken One" (DDAL04-08) for two reasons. First, it will probably need the least amount of changes, and second, it sets a lot of the second half of the storyline in motion by establishing the urgency about collecting enough for Strahd's taxes.

***

@MerricB, @Jasper, @GlassJaw, or anyone else: do you have any advice or suggestions?
 
Last edited:

jayoungr

Explorer
Further Notes on "The Marionette" (DDAL04-04): The Manor

This part of the adventure was quite solid and hardly needed any modification. The main thing that struck me is that there is heavy snow in the first part of the adventure, but they want a DC 15 Perception check for the PCs to figure out that Glovia probably went in the kitchen door? There should be clear footprints in the snow. I also made sure to mention that clouds of smoke were clearly visible hanging over the town, since there should be a panoramic view from up on the cliff where the manor is located.

Apart from that, the manor itself ran very smoothly. My group went in through the basement and got pretty torn up by the rat swarms, but they also missed the gibbering mouther on the first floor, so that probably evened out the amount of damage they started the second floor with. They also chose to brew the cider, which gave them the benefit of a short rest. I meant to have them encounter Fillar Esven, in raven form, taking things from the workshop--he had clearly been there if he had the key to the soldiers' control panel--but forgot.

The Glovia boss fight is a very complicated encounter, with a lot for the DM to keep track of:
  • Glovia's spellcasting abilities
  • Glovia's legendary actions
  • Lair actions
  • Glovia's undead bodyguards
  • Isabella's actions
  • The guardian portrait
  • Potentially, the gibbering mouther below
I ran this over Roll20, and I found it helped to set up the lair as an NPC and give it its own initiative. Isabella also wasn't really a factor when I ran this fight because the cleric opened up with turn undead, so she spent the whole time cowering against a back wall and couldn't try to possess anyone. (I ruled that the ritual in progress kept her from leaving the room.)

By the way, this could have been a classic example of a doorway fight, of the type that I complained about in a recent thread. I had Glovia use her smoke bomb on the doorway and step outside the radius of it; this forced a couple of the PCs to enter the room to target her, since they were basically ignoring the bodyguards and going straight for the boss. Otherwise, this would have been a classic "stand in the doorway and make ranged attacks" combat due to the layout of the room, and I could tell the players were a little peeved at not being able to use that tactic. (This adventure was one of the things that led me start that thread, in fact.)

Speaking of Isabella, she really backfired on my group, unfortunately. They were only interested in her if she would lead them straight to her mother and help them bypass the rest of the house, which, of course, is not the point. I had her say, "I'm not sure where my mother is right now. She's in the house somewhere. Don't you want to play with me?" Once she introduced them to her "friends" the ghouls, they decided they hated her, so I cut out her playful scares in an attempt to keep from irritating them further. When she tried to get them to come see the puppet theater, they shouted, "NO! We're not following her anywhere! We go to the opposite end of the house!"--which, of course, meant they went straight to the boss encounter. I'm sad because this means they missed out on the playroom encounter with the swarms of animated dolls, which is IMO one of the most atmospheric scenes in the adventure. They never even opened the door to Isabella's room, even after they had defeated Glovia, when all they would have had to do was walk in and pick up Boris (since logically, with Glovia dead and Isabella having moved on, the dolls should have gone inert). They were convinced that Boris was (un)dead and they'd just have to fight him, and they were pretty low on hitpoints after the Glovia fight, so they just left with Sorina. I had Boris stumble into town next morning telling some crazy stories about what had happened to him up at the manor house, and the PCs didn't get the experience for rescuing him.

Anyway, I mention this just to give future DMs a heads-up to consider how your party will respond to Isabella. (Come to think of it, I had a similar problem with Jamna Gleamsilver when I ran Tyranny of Dragons for this group. Maybe it's something about the way I play them, I dunno ... sigh.)

The PCs reached level 4 at the end of this adventure.
 
Last edited:

jayoungr

Explorer
Problems with "The Marionette" (DDAL04-04)

1. Page 8 mentions "scavenging harpies" in the adventure overview, and there is a stat block for them on page 32, but they do not appear in the adventure itself. It's pretty clear that they were meant to be hanging around the wagon where the PCs will find Vasile and the body of his friend.

2. The contents of the wagon are a little confusing. As far as I can figure it, the wagon never actually made it to Vallaki, so they weren't able to pick up any supplies. Presumably the jewelry in the box was what they were supposed to sell or trade to pay for the supplies. But in that case, it's odd that Marku never asks about it, especially if he can only afford to give the PCs 10 gp for a reward.

3. Glovia dropping Laszlo's name will raise a lot of questions from groups that have played through DDAL04-02 and DDAL04-03. In my opinion, it's not worth keeping, but if you decide to keep it, be prepared for the follow-up questions.

4. Page 12 says the Burgomaster's residence is on the south side of the town, but the map shows it in the northwest.

5. Ivan Randovich is first introduced in this adventure, but detailed notes on roleplaying him are in DDAL04-08, "The Broken One."

6. Page 13 says Isabella is playing a "haunting, childlike melody" on the harpsichord when first seen, but page 14 says she is playing a "fast-paced waltz."

7. The description of Isabella on pages 14-15 puts a lot of emphasis on her dress, but there's no payoff to this. It is not mentioned whether the body in Glovia's lab is wearing the same dress (p. 25), but it seems implied.

8. We are not told whose voice is shouting to Laszlo on page 15. It's probably Glovia, but it could conceivably be Esmae.

9. On page 16, the description of encounters A-D sounds like each one is intended to be accomplished by a single PC, but encounter D (the butler ghast) seems balanced for a full group, especially with the skeleton adds. Could a fifth encounter have been cut, like the harpies?

10. Since there is snow on the ground in the first part of the adventure, no perception check should be required to discern that the back door of the manor has been used recently while the front door has not. This should be clear from footprints in the snow.

11. Information on light, doors, etc., in the house is only given for the second floor (p. 23). Is this intended to apply to the whole manor? Also, this description says "the more important rooms" are lit by a few candles. Which rooms are these?

12. The map key for the manor does not include an explanation of the dotted lines--probably intended as railings, since they appear on the balconies. Possibly for this reason, the high-definition maps by Brian McCray that are available on the DM's guild include a mistake: they only have a balcony on the second floor, but there should be one on the first floor as well.

13. Smoke over the village should be visible from the manor balconies (A13 and C6).

14. A pile of bones is mentioned in room B5 (p. 22), but no further details are given. Remains of the ghouls' previous victims, presumably? Also, the description for B5 says that the ghouls will hide in the "servant's room that shares a wall with area B9," but there are three rooms (all numbered B6) that meet this description. Why do the ghouls move from B6 through B9 to attack B5 instead of just opening the doors directly onto B5?
 
Last edited:

jayoungr

Explorer
Opening Scene for "The Seer" (DDAL04-05)

A couple of days later, you're having breakfast in the Seven Tables again. The weather has warmed up somewhat; the snow, while not gone, is thinning a bit. You've gotten to know some of the regulars here. Luca has come in every day for lunch since Scartia first brought him. Benedek, the woodworker, comes in often to talk to Sari. Benedek's older brother and business partner, Regold, also comes in regularly--usually to bark at Benedek to stop wasting time and get back to the shop.

On this particular day, Benedek has brought a gift for Sari which he bought at the Eyes of Midnight, partly with the money that you paid him for that carved box. The shop was closed for a time while the proprieter, Fillar Esven, was detained on suspicion of having stolen some items from the burgomaster's house. Nothing could be proven, so he was eventually released with a stern warning.

Sari exclaims with delight as she opens the box to find an exquisite pair of lace gloves. She kisses Benedek to thank him and then immediately tries the gloves on, showing them to you and the other customers as Benedek beams.

Meanwhile, the door opens and an unexpected visitor enters: a young Vistani man named Donani, whom you met when you traveled with his family on the way back from the Quivering Forest. When he sees you, he joins you at your table. Sari comes to show off her new gloves and take his order.

"I saw that one in the shop," Donani tells you in a low voice, nodding toward Benedek, after Sari returns to the kitchen. "I have been in town to buy a gift my betrothed--my Lela. He did well, but I found the real prize. Look at this!" He takes a long, narrow box out of his coat pocket and shows you its contents: a beautiful fan made of delicate wood and parchment. As he waves it, a warm breeze scented with blossoms washes over you.

"I have heard that my Lela's family, the Moslavarics, have been here for two days already," Donani continues, looking troubled. "I thought there would be a message from her. I fear something is wrong. I cannot go there, because it is too close to our wedding--our traditions forbid it--but I thought I would send her this gift to reassure her of my love. Perhaps you would take it to her?"
 
Last edited:

jayoungr

Explorer
I'm behind in writing up my thoughts on modules I've run, but I just wanted to post a quick update about how I decided to handle some of my problems with the second half of the campaign. I'm creating a blend of DDAL04-07 ("The Innocent") and DDAL04-11 ("The Donjon"), similar to the way I remixed DDAL04-01 ("Suits of the Mists") and DDAL04-06 ("The Ghost") earlier in the run. I'm completely cutting Larga Bloodhand, the orc leader, and also the archeological dig; instead, the PCs are trying to track down the vampire/incubus, and I'll use the Tower of the Chained Man as his headquarters, with the final rooms of DDAL04-07 being underneath the maze.
 

jayoungr

Explorer
Opening Scene for "The Broken One" (DDAL04-08)

Note: This scene could happen at any time before "The Innocent" (DDAL04-07). In my campaign, I ran "The Broken One" before "The Innocent."

The tax for Lord Strahd is due soon, and it seems the town can talk of nothing else. It's the second topic that comes up in conversations, right after observations on the harsh weather, and everyone says the taxes are much higher this year than before. The livestock farmers, in particular, are grumbling that they've sent twice as many sheep for the tribute as usual.

At midday, on your way to the Seven Tables, you meet up with Luca Barbu, the simple-minded shepherd, who has been having lunch there every day since Scartia Krutz first brought him in. As you open the door to enter, you see Sari with Regold, Benedek's brother. They are face to face, eyes locked, Regold's burning with intensity and Sari's tinged with fear. He grips her wrists, holding up her lace-gloved hands between them, as she struggles to pull away.

"Why him, Sari?" Regold is saying in an urgent, pained tone. "Why him and not me?"

Luca strides into the inn, shouting, "Leave Sari alone! She's nice!"

Regold turns in surprise, and Sari seizes the opportunity to twist out of his grasp. She steps back, rubbing her wrists as if they hurt. "This is why him and not you," she tells Regold. Then, bursting into tears, she runs into the kitchen.

Snarling under his breath, Regold pushes past you out the door and into the village.
 

jayoungr

Explorer
As I ran this over Roll20, I made a title screen that I changed each time we started a new adventure, adding the Tarokka card image for the new adventure. Here's the final image, with an "absent heart" in the middle.
 

Attachments

jayoungr

Explorer
DDAL04-05: "The Seer"

This adventure is short and straightforward, made shorter in my campaign by various cuts. This was just as well for me, as my players were very squirrely and unfocused on the evening we played this adventure.

As noted above, I had already run the "Prastonata" challenge considerably earlier in the campaign, just before "The Executioner." Our bard was the one to dance with Annika, and he did very well, so I kept up the theme of her interest in him when the group returned to the Bogarav camp. She was sharing a vardo with several relatives, so she wasn't able to get out at night to see him, and she just gave him a rueful look as she was hustled off to bed. This was partly meant to hint that Lela Moslavaric was unusual in having her own private vardo, but I should have been more explicit about that, because my players didn't pick up on it.

I also cut the opening encounter with the brown bears, for two reasons: first, because I substituted Donani's invitation (see above) for the standard opening of the adventure and second, because I decided to reinstate the fight with the wolves as the PCs traveled between the Bogarav and Moslavaric camps. I felt this improved the pacing of the adventure by alternating social encounters and combat. The PCs were attacked by one winter wolf and two dire wolves, which ran off when the winter wolf was defeated.

I liked the contrast between the two Vistani families, and I'd play that up even more if I were running this again. I'd also explicitly ask the players if they wanted to investigate Lela's vardo. My players didn't even realize it was an option, so they missed a chance to find some clues and get a little more XP.

I had intended to run "Shambling Dead," the undead encounter that happens while the PCs track Lela, but time was getting short, so I cut it.

Note that Lela (CR 4) is weaker than a standard vampire spawn (CR 5).

My players were very confused about why the fan underwent a change when they got near Lela. For a while, they were convinced it meant that Donani was the vampire who had bitten her! It does bug me that the vampire is unnamed and never appears. As written, this adventure does not connect at all to the larger storyline, except that Lela's jewelry can be used as a focus item in the final adventure. My solution was to link the vampire to the incubus in "The Innocent" (DDAL04-07), but that involved extensive rewriting.

This adventure has no maps. There is a digital map pack by Brian Mccray available on the DM's Guild. I also found these free winter woods maps, which are useful for lots of encounters in the season:


Problems with "The Seer"

1. It seems clear that the adventure originally contained a fight with wolves (dire and/or winter) that was cut, probably for time. It may have originally been at the beginning of part 3, as wolf tracks in the snow are mentioned there. As noted above, I chose to insert it between parts 1 and 2.

2. Similarly, there is an owlbear stat block in the monster list at the end of the adventure. It's not clear where this encounter was originally intended to go.

3. If you have a weak party and use zombies in part 3, I recommend using mist zombies from DDAL04-01 instead of the standard zombie. They're CR 1/2 instead of 1/4, but they're much more flavorful.

4. There is a mistake in Lela's stat block under "Vampire Weaknesses": the text for Forbiddance says she can't enter a residence with an invitation. Should be "without an invitation."

5. Part of the winter wolf stat block has been moved to the end of the owlbear stat block. Everything from "Snow Camouflage" to the end of the stat block properly belongs under the winter wolf.
 
Last edited:

jayoungr

Explorer
Free maps for DDAL04-04, "The Marionette"

Maps of Falinescu Manor created by a Reddit user who goes by "emptyjerrycan":

https://www.reddit.com/r/DnD/comments/79a4up
(A funny comment on the Reddit post: "My players loved going through this module. 'Death House II: more death' was their loving nickname for it." :LOL: )

For the encounter with the harpies and the downed wagon, I used this free map from "2minutetabletop" and added some free assets from the web to get this (size: 25x16). See the attached file.
 

Attachments

Last edited:

jayoungr

Explorer
YouTube Resources

I always like to check out other people's play-throughs of adventures before running them, if possible. Here are some actual play sessions from YouTube:

D20Play:
(Complete Season 4. As a side note, I really want to know how to find some of the maps they use!)

James McKay:
(DDAL04-08 "The Broken One," DDAL04-12 "The Raven," and DDAL04-14 "The Dark Lord" only.)
 

Advertisement

Top