What do you do when you get an invitation to go to dinner with a vampire? You totally accept, of course!
Count/Baron/Mr. Strahd wants to rope me into whatever sick game he’s playing as master of this land. Sure, I’m game for a delicious feast with a guy who thinks that fine dining is eating blood.
It was probably a good sign that I was greeted at the door by a mysterious tarot card reader who talked a lot about death and necromancers and how the only hope I have of surviving is to find a treasure and an ally before the night is through. Maybe this is a theme dinner? I am so underdressed.
Baron Kissyface here fulfills his vampire union duties by greeting me while playing the organ, acting like an arrogant tool, and then vanishing while I’m left to survive with only my wits, a machine gun crossbow, a mechanical dog, a pocket healer, and a wiki guide to protect me.
The castle is — and I am not engaging in hyperbole here — absolutely huge. This is a “very long” mission, and it earns every minute of it. Probably took me an hour and a half to fully explore, although it was definitely an enjoyable hour and a half. I just loved this place. If you like classic gothic haunted houses, this is your dream vacation right here. Secret passages, dungeons, weird figures, an undead lady in a blood bath, the works.
There aren’t many NPCs hanging around, however. One of the very few is the Count’s accountant (cough), a poor guy who’s doing his job in chains because he got all asky one day. He seems rather fine with his situation and even hooks me up with a key to that treasure chest (hilariously, he then writes off its contents as I loot it) (seriously).
The castle is so dark and moody and full of odd environmental storytelling that doesn’t always deliver full explanations. Like this wedding cake… with the groom knocked off of it. I replaced him and the game told me I felt foreboding. WHAT DID I DOOOO.
Screenshots really do not do this place justice. Between the design of this castle and the really engrossing writing, I have to tip my hat to SSG for some incredibly well-done work on this module. I am absolutely hooked.
The toughest room in the castle was this one, where a portrait of Strahd comes to life and starts attacking you. He moves between them because he saw Harry Potter that one time and thought Hogwarts was the bomb. I was insta-killed a couple of times in this fight for reasons that are beyond me.
The coolest locale? The room of bones. Just a huge dining hall where everything is made out of bones. There are even bone paintings on the wall. Wonder if they eat bones?
Then there’s Cyrus, and we do not know what he is. Monkey-lizard-man cook? He tells a whole lot of puns involving skeletons, but if you humor him, he gladly gives you a key to a treasure chest. I wanted to adopt him.
While the castle really was a blast to explore and probably worthy of a repeat, it took soooo long because of the somewhat confusing layout. I finally found this vampire hunter who gave me some great career advice (“escape”) and I took it. I was sporting something like 7 negative levels thanks to wraiths, but I finally made my exit out of the top of the castle. Where, apparently, I rappelled down? The game wasn’t clear on that point.