Ravenloft Ironsworn, part 1 – The Old Svalich Road

So now I envision my character’s recent history – Brigitte doing the farwarden thing, which boils down to the Unappreciated Rangers of the North Job ™ – helping small communities with beasts and monsters, informal roadway patrols, whatever – but all the while she’s got her ear to the ground for word of farwardens who’ve gone missing over the years. She takes these more seriously since one of the missing farwardens is her mentor, Reinhardt. There’s whispers and rumors about these disappearances within the order, many of which are obviously fantasy, superstition, or guesswork, but a few threads float the surface. A letter. A summons.

Barovia. A barony that’s little more than fog and mountain valleys no one seems to know how to find – at least, no one Brig’s talked to seems to know how to get to the blasted place.

That’s recent past. This is reliving a classic old DnD module for me, though, so let’s actually start in a tavern.

To a far warden, this is just another dull tavern in another drab town in a province whose name I can’t remember; just passing time between the challenges of the road.

Outside the Inn, a bone-chilling fog lies over the town this evening, draping everything in a clammy blanket. The damp dirt of the street shines dully in the light of street lanterns. It’s no time to be outside.

But inside, the food is hearty and the ale is surprisingly passable. A fire crackles in the hearth and the tavern is alive with the tumbling voices of country folk.

Suddenly, the tavern door swings open. A hush falls. Heavy, booted footfalls and the jingle of spurs wind through the silence. His brightly colored clothes are draped in loose folds about him and his hat hangs askew, hiding his eyes in shadows.

Without hesitation, he walks directly up to my table and assumes a wide stance with folded arms. He speaks with a heavy accent, “I hevv been sent to you to deliver this message: If you be honorable, you will come to my master’s aid at first light. It is not advisable to travel the Svalich woods at night!” He pulls from his tunic a sealed letter, addressed to you in beautiful flowing script. He drops the letter on the table. “Take the west road from here to the Svalich Forest, at the edge of the mountains. The road there splits; the one leading into the forest will, in time, bring you to mountain passes. There you will find my master, in Barovia.”

Brigitte’s heart thumps at the name, but she manages (she thinks) to remain outwardly expressionless and cool. She says nothing, and does not immediately make any move to pick up the letter.

Amid the continued silent stares of the patronage, the Vistani (a roaming trading clan) turns and strides to the bar and says to the barkeeper, “Fill the glasses, one and all. Their throats are obviously parched.” He drops a purse heavy with coin on the bar. With that, he leaves. The babble of tavern voices resumes, although somewhat subdued. The letter is lying before you. It is dated yesterday, and the parchment is crisp. The seal is a crest you don’t recognize.

[I open the letter and call for more ale.]

Hail to thee of might and valor:

I, a lowly servant of the township of Barovia, send honor to thee. We plead for thy so desperately needed assistance within our community.

The love of my life, Ireena Kolyana, has been afflicted by an evil so deadly that even the good people of our town cannot protect her. She languishes, and I would have her saved from this menace.

There is much wealth in this community. I offer all that might be had to thee and thy fellows if thou shall but answer my desperate plea.

Come quickly for her time is at hand! All that I have shall be thine!

Kolyan Indrirovich,

Okay, so… this is exactly the kind of lead Brigitte has been looking for in her personal vow, but at the same time, this letter meets all the requirements of a formal request for aid from the freewardens. “Hail to thee of might and valor” and so forth… aside from what I want, I pretty much have to at least go and meet whoever sent the letter and see if I can help.

So. I lay my hand to iron and Swear an Iron Vow to help the village, if I can. Time to roll.


My roll (4, plus my Heart of 3), gets me a 7. I compare that to my Challenge Dice. I beat one of the two, which gives me a mixed success, the results of which are indicated at the bottom of image. I’ve got more questions than answers (true!), but I get +1 momentum (3, now).

And at least I know which way to go.

Okay, so I’m going to Barovia, and while I don’t think it’s going to be a particularly horrible journey, I DO think there could be complications, so I’m going Undertake a Journey. I’m only going to make it Troublesome, to open the door to complications without making the whole game about just GETTING to the main action. Since the journey is only troublesome, every success on the Undertake a Journey will tick three boxes on my progress bar.



Black pools of water stand like dark mirrors along the muddy roadway. Thick, cold mists spread a pallor over the road. Tree trunks stand on both sides of the road, their branches reaching up into the mists. In every direction the mists grow thicker and the forest grows more oppressive.

Let see how things go.


Man! A roll of 5 +2 for Wits is really solid, but nothing’s going to beat that 10 on the challenge die. Luckily the other die is a 2, which still means a weak hit, and means no major complications except -1 to my Supply. I envision Brigitte pushing herself on the road, not taking the time to hunt or forage as she goes, and using up some of her preserved trail food instead. That’s fine. I mark progress, tighten my belt, and march on.




Jutting from the impenetrable woods on both sides of the road, high stone buttresses loom up gray in the fog. Huge gates hang from the stonework. Two statues of armed guardians silently flank the gate. Their heads, missing from their shoulders, now lie among the weeds at their feet. They greet you only with silence.

Lovely vibe. Brigitte passes the gates and enters the lands of Barovia itself. The fog is somehow colder. Denser. The sun seems robbed of its warmth. Let’s roll that move…


OUCH. Goddammit. Not only do I miss on the move (even with a nigh-perfect 6+2), but the doubles on the challenge dice means things go bad and introduce an unwelcome unforeseen twist.

I don’t know what Price I should Pay, so for that I consult the Pay the Price oracle…

(I’m going to switch to Roll20 eventually, but I did all of this gaming in the airport, using my phone and an Android app that’s apparently been discontinued in the last couple weeks. In case anyone’s wondering.)


And THAT seems to double down on the “unexpected something happens and things get complicated.” I’m going to go with “Horribly complicated,” since this is coming off a full Fail on the Journey roll as well. Now, normally, in Ironsworn, I’d consult the Oracle for some ideas on what should happen, but I actually have a scene I never used in the original version of this I ran with Kaylee that should fit the bill just fine.