Cast of Characters:
Mordecai, a Cleric-5: Adam
Forlorn, an Elf-4: Bo
Mister Moore, Magic User-5: Mike
Soap the Wizard, Magic User-4: Nogal
Barzai, a Cleric-4: Ben
Shy, a Fighter-4: JR
Arden, an Elf-1: Z
Phat Kobra, a Dwarf-4
Zeke, a Fighter-4
Starkweather, a Thief-4
Grumble the Smug, Halfling-4
Serge, a Fighter-4
AD&D 1E, I6 Ravenloft
The road the party was walking along was obscured by a thickening mist, and they came across a pair of ominous columns of stone supporting iron gates across the road, as if traveling into the land beyond the gates would represent entrance to a twilight realm of mist and fog. Familiar with the set up of the future Ravenloft setting, and not ones to meta game too much, the characters strode purposefully forward. Within the hour, they emerged from the woods and came upon the town of Barovia, still obscured by light mists. Somewhere high above the town, they got the sense of an ominous castle perched high on a cliff.
As described in the recent campaign recap, they wandered the empty cobblestone streets, passing numerous houses and cottages with doors and shutters hanging loosely, no sign of the people. A few appeared to be inhabited, but no owners came to answer their doors. In the town square, smoke came from a large tavern building, the Blood on the Vine tavern, and the group entered.
I'll skip a bunch of faux dialogue and get to the gist of what they learned after speaking with the bar keep, some gypsies at the tavern, and the village priest. First, the villagers referred to the lord of the castle as The Evil One, and he returned after a long absence - a century or more - and began abducting villagers in the night. Since before the winter, literally thousands of people went missing, but with the return of the lord of the castle, no one may leave the valley once they've breathed in the mists. (The players are thinking they may be trapped too). Only a dozen families are left in a town that once boasted a few thousand people. The lord of the castle is an ancient vampire called Strahd Von Zarovich.
No one they met knew the details of Ismark's quest to return the magic long sword from Death Mountain, so no one could direct the players on where to take the sword. Maybe Ismark's surviving sister would know? So they went to the house of her father, who was also the mayor. The stench of death pervaded the house, and they learned the mayor had died a week ago and his corpse was lying in a side room unburied. His (gorgeous) daughter Ireena was living sequestered upstairs in the mansion. They convinced her they were trustworthy, knew her brother, and would help her bury her father in the family plot. There hadn't been enough able bodied villagers willing to help.
She pointed out that the vampire had visited (and bit her) twice before, and many now shunned her as marked by the vampire… she seemed grateful for any company.
That night, the characters on guard duty were startled when a huge snarling animal slammed into the front door, to be followed by another. A pair of massive dire wolves were taking runs at battering it down. Other characters spilled out of bed and trundled down stairs with weapons, and the group opened the door to let the wolves in before the door hinges were smashed beyond repair - front line fighters engaged them with swords, while the back ranks threw magic missiles or shot arrows. During the battle with the wolves, an ominous figure stood beyond the iron gate to the mansion, classic vampire cape and collar, demanding to be invited into the residence.
Strahd remained on the scene long enough to cast a spell, mocked Ireena by telling her that her new friends wouldn't protect her for long, and that it was her fate to join him as his bride. He was also leaving her a present. He then flitted off into the night in the shape of a bat. The taste of things to come.
Just as the battle with the dire wolves winded down, the animated corpses of the family dead, with the zombie mayor in the lead, shuffled from around the corner to continue the attack. The echoes of Ireena's scream lingered in the night air long after the party quickly dispatched Strahd's "present".
*Picture is the cover of TSR's I6 Ravenloft, by Clifton Caldwell