Friday, December 23, 2016

Curse of Strand - Death House: our experience

First *spoilers* warning.   I will try not to give it all away but if you are going to be a player in Curse of Strand do not continue reading.

Death house is the optional opening adventure to Curse of Strand.  This gives DMs a place to start
characters at first level, introduce the module, let players organically grow their characters and build some party cohesion so the group is ready for the real deal to begin at third level.

I am a player in this adventure and do not have any DM insight other than observations I can easily make from my long experience as a DM as well.  Overall I thought the module set the tone appropriately though it was populated with some corny dungeon trappings here and there (mimic for example).  The entire module behaves and feels like a trap, which is I suppose the point.  Ideally you barely get out alive with the feeling the house, the world, and most importantly Strahd is against you.

Unfortunately for us near the end of the module we had a huge breakdown in player smarts.  Rather than rest up again for full power and spells we pushed on to the final encounter at less than half strength.  Next, a demonstration of the amount of damage the big bad could do was promptly ignored.  The big bad movement limit was ignored tactically and then inexplicably three of our five characters decided, one by one, they could melee combat it only to be eaten.  This left our wizard character who was down to cantrips only and my warlock character.  The wizards only damage cantrip was resisted by the big bad, so I was basically left kiting the beast with my Eldritch Blast.   By the time I had finally worn down and defeated the creature, death saving throws had long gone by unsuccessfully.

There are decades of D&D experience in this group, and it has been many years since I witnessed such a sorry string of poor decisions.   We cursed ourselves.  This is of course my opinion, and my fellow players and long time friends may not see it the same way.   As we attempted to escape the house, the seriously wounded wizard went unconscious, and only repeated castings of false life thanks to my invocation selection fiendish vigor kept me standing.   We ended the module with my warlock at single digits in hit points holding an unconscious gnome wizard.  We were as close to a total party kill I have ever been without crossing over.

So now we start the real adventure.  Unfortunately most of the goals to know and grow the party we failed.   We do have a story to tell, which is the way of D&D after all.  I will just role play my angst and distrust after Barovia's first attempt to crush me.

Next up: Sandbox vs linear story progression.

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