Guest Post: DDO Mists of Ravenloft review (part 3)

Today’s guest post is from DDOCentral’s Matt, who wanted to give Bio Break’s readership a deeper look into Dungeons and Dragons Online’s newest expansion. Thanks Matt!

Dungeons and Dragons Online (DDO) released its third paid expansion on December 6th, 2017 titled Mists of Ravenloft. The two previous paid expansions for DDO are Shadowfell Conspiracy, released on August 19th, 2013, and Menace of the Underdark, released on June 25th, 2012. These earlier expansions are placed in tabletop Dungeons and Dragons’ most famous campaign setting, Ed Greenwood’s Forgotten Realms.

Mists of Ravenloft explores the popular Gothic horror-themed Ravenloft D&D campaign world created by Tracy and Laura Hickman and the vampire Count Strahd von Zarovich’s domain Barovia on the Demiplane of Dread within that world.

This article is the third in a series of three articles on Mists of Ravenloft, the most recent addition to DDO’s growing multiverse. The article reviews the two Legendary-level raids, the first raid placing the party against Strahd von Zarovich’s surrogate “mother” Baba Lysaga, and the second raid pitting the party against Strahd himself at Castle Ravenloft.

Old Baba’s Hut

Adrian Martikov at the Blue Water Inn in the Town of Vallaki is the quest-giver for the ‘Old Baba’s Hut’ raid. Unlike the second Ravenloft raid, ‘The Curse of Strahd,’ this raid requires no flagging quest completion before being attempted by the party.

The party has already visited the witch Baba Lysaga’s magical Hut during the story arc quest ‘Ravens’ Bane’ which takes place deep in the swamps surrounding the Ruins of Berez. Baba Lysaga’s Hut is in its own pocket dimension, being much larger and more expansive within its rudimentary walls than the Hut appears from the outside. The Hut is also “alive” and can attack hostile intruders such as the party.

The bramble growth that once surrounded the Hut as a protective barrier was dispelled by the party upon the completion of the Ravens’ Bane quest, so the party is now free to enter the Hut and deal with the second most dangerous character in the Land of Barovia as a prelude to the final assault on Castle Ravenloft. Baba Lysaga still holds the last of the three charmed gems taken from the Wizard of Wines vineyard, two of which were recovered by the party during the Mists of Ravenloft quest story arc.

Once the party again enters the Ruins of Berez’s marshy enclave and locates the Hut, Baba Lysaga appears before them floating upon the enchanted skull of a Giant. Baba Lysaga cackles, and addresses the party in her thick Barovian accent, “I knew it! I knew you’d come running after the gem if I dangled it in front of you. Just like a fly to a dungheap. Now I just need something to swat you with.” With that, the Hut stands on the spidery legs folded beneath its foundation and attacks the party at Baba Lysaga’s behest, aided by Baba Lysaga. The defeat of the Hut only returns the animated object to its resting place in the swamp, allowing the party to enter the Hut’s front doorway and search for the missing gem. The party must enter the Hut quickly as the droning hum of a gathering swarm of insects can be heard close by…

The party finds a veritable labyrinth within the interior of the Hut and must bypass a series of bone-constructed gates, glowing rune puzzles, Scarecrow guardians, and thaumaturgical force fields to reach the blood-purple gem’s resting place at the center of the Hut. The hallways and rooms of the Hut are actually an elaborate trap, intended to lure the party to their deaths. Baba Lysaga’s speech enters the minds of the party members and she says, “You won’t just hand this gem over to those poxy ravens. I’ve protected it, yes I have, with a good strong spell!” As soon as the magical shield encircling the pulsating gem begins to buckle under the party’s sustained blows, Baba Lysaga suddenly teleports the party back into the swampy grounds at the Hut’s periphery.

Now the party must engage in a second battle with the Hut, but this time with Scarecrow minions, Will-o’-Wisps, and a vast, buzzing insect swarm added to the fray. A second defeat of Baba Lysaga’s assembled forces will teleport the party yet again into the interior of the Hut, now with the opportunity to bring down the blood gem’s shielding and seize the article of the raid’s intent.

With the gem in hand, the party is teleported back outside one last time to face Baba Lysaga, more Scarecrow minions and Will-o’-Wisps, as well as two massive Shambling Mounds. As the party wears her down, the witch cries, “Mother Night, give me strength. I will pay any price!” Once Baba Lysaga is dropped from her floating skull perch and defeated, the raid ends, leaving Count Strahd von Zarovich as the party’s only nemesis.

The Curse of Strahd

The entire Mists of Ravenloft story arc encompassing eleven quests in three acts – In the Shadow of the Castle, The Vampire Hunters, and The Light of the Land – must be completed to attempt ‘The Curse of Strahd’ raid. The party meets the vampire hunter Rudolph Van Richten from earlier in the Ravenloft story at the Blood on the Vine Tavern in the Village of Barovia. Van Richten tells them, “Quickly, my friend. We must return to the Crypts of Castle Ravenloft and put an end to Strahd!”

The party has a rendezvous with Van Richten in the Castle Ravenloft crypts, where he disburses the Icon of Ravenloft, the Holy Symbol of Ravenkind, and the Sunsword – all artifacts obtained during the Ravenloft story arc – among the party members to be used against Strahd. Madam Eva is also waiting nearby, ready to tell the fortune of the party and determine the ultimate fate of those who would oppose Strahd’s eternal rule over the Land of Barovia.

The party enters the Crypts and is greeted by Strahd’s chamberlain, the malicious dusk elf Rahadin. Rahadin bows low and growls, “Welcome once again to Ravenloft. We have some unfinished business between us, I believe. And Lord Strahd says I need not spare your lives this time. For his power now grows…while your time comes to an end.” Rahadin and his Greater Shadow summons must be beaten before the party moves forward, deeper into the Crypts and closer to Strahd, the essence of evil permeating the very air.

The party comes upon Count Strahd at the bottom of a long flight of descending stairs, standing over a tomb of dark stone. Strahd murmurs to himself, mentioning the name of his murdered brother, Sergei Von Zarovich. The vampire lord then notices the party, breaking from his reverie, “There you are. But surely you did not think you could defeat me here?

Perhaps I have vastly overestimated you. Do you not know that I hold true power here? That as long as the Heart beats in this castle, I shall never know defeat?” With that, Strahd disappears in a cloud of mist.

The party returns to Van Richten and he councils them: “So, Strahd mentioned the Heart as a protective ward, yes? I suspect it guards both him and many other aspects of the castle…I believe I may be able to get you close to it, but then you’ll be on your own to destroy the Heart. Are you prepared?” The party then steps through a Dimension Door portal conjured by Van Richten, emerging into the tallest tower of Castle Ravenloft. High above is a great, glowing crystal Heart.

The party must transverse many obstacles on the winding path upward the obsidian steps, included animated guardian suits of armor, Greater Shadows, clustered spikes, gusts of wind, and deadly spell wards. At the top, the party member with Sunsword must interact with the Heart to proceed to the next phase. Strahd is there waiting for the party, prepared to fight! The might of the Sunsword shatters the Heart during this altercation, its unholy blood raining down on the tower.

Strahd hisses loudly and disappears. The portal out of the Heart leads the party back to the haunted Crypts and to Strahd once more. Here the party must light the Crypt’s five bracketed torches in the correct sequence, which then dispels the magical wards protecting Strahd’s tomb. Strahd awaits the party in his final resting place, attended by three decaying, elegant figures.

Strahd’s undead brides will fight by their master’s side and must be felled with him. When all three brides are defeated, the wards enringing Strahd’s coffin dissipate. A party member must hastily plunge the Sunsword through Strahd’s chest while he lies vulnerable in this sarcophagus. Strahd’s centuries-long grip on the Land of Barovia has come to an end.

Castle Ravenloft shakes with fury, debris falling from its ancient walls and vaulted ceiling. Strahd’s inert body decays before the very eyes of the party, returning to dust and his soul going to its everlasting rest.

More Expansions to Come

The Mists of Ravenloft expansion was an unqualified success, both financial and artistic, for Dungeons and Dragons Online. The community’s response to the Ravenloft campaign setting merited yet another paid expansion soon after, so Standing Stone Games went to work almost immediately producing a fourth expansion 7for DDO.

Masterminds of Sharn will be released on Tuesday, May 14th, 2019 and will be DDO’s first expansion featured for the Eberron campaign setting. Sharn is the most populous city on the continent of Khorvaire in the world of Eberron, and is a place of high adventure and intrigue. The noble Dragonmarked Houses vie for power here, along with Sharn’s rulers and more shadowy actors behind the scenes. But that is an article for another day…

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