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ESCAPING DEATH HOUSE: A SKILL CHALLENGE

"The manor shivers with rage! The cheated spirits RULES OF A SKILL CHALLENGE
thunder, wailing with wounded pride! The Cult will Follow these rules for a skill challenge:
not be denied. Death House will have its due: you." Players never know the number of successes
necessary to win the challenge, but it is always
FOREWORD weighed against three failures.
If you've ever ran Death House before or peeked at Skills can only be used once per each character. If
the possible ending "The Cult is Denied" then you Rendar the barbarian uses his +8 Athletics to leap a
might already know that to escape the manor is a dull chasm, he cannot use Athletics again to lift a boulder
series of rolls. Every character rolls to avoid being later in the challenge; he must find a different
poisoned by smoke from the various fireplaces, solution with a different skill. Other characters,
ovens, and stoves throughout the house. Every however, can still use Athletics for obstacles.
character rolls to get past a doorway, lest they be Movement doesn't matter; don't bother tracking it.
carved up by scythes. While these are thrilling and Cantrips can be used, but an issue arises in that
terrifying the first few times, it quickly becomes dull. they're infinite. So, like a skill, it can only be used
To repeatedly roll dice against the same obstacle isn't once by that character, and isn't an automatic
fulfilling gameplay. success: have the spellcaster make an ability check
Enter the Skill Challenge. with their spellcasting ability modifier, adding their
proficiency bonus, and comparing it against the DC
of whatever obstacle they're facing.
WHAT'S A SKILL CHALLENGE?
Spells of 1st level or higher are automatic
Skill Challenges were an addition to 4th Edition
successes, so long as they can logically be used to
D&D. They're a series of noncombat solutions to
surpass an obstacle is an instant success.
issues, such as chasing a fleeing thief across rooftops,
Tool checks can be in lieu of skills if a character is
or conniving your way through a nobles' ball. They
proficient in them. Just attach it to the appropriate
rely, as the name suggests, on skill checks. In 5E, we
Ability Score and make the ability check.
have ability checks, but it's the same difference. The
return of skill challenges to 5E has been the talk of
many popular DMs online; you can find some of SKILL CHALLENGE OVERVIEW
their videos and articles for more information. The Cult will not be denied! From the moment the
adventurers refuse to sacrifice a creature on the altar,
ESSENCE OF A SKILL CHALLENGE the spirits rouse Lorghoth the Decayer, the
A skill challenge boils down to these tenets: shambling mound, and the skill challenge begins.
• The characters encounter a series of obstacles that Objective. Escape the Durst Manor alive.
can't be solved solely by combat, but by utilizing (my Difficulty. Escaping the Durst Manor is a "hard"
god, the horror!) their skills. Only one character skill challenge. The characters must reach 5
makes an ability check for an obstacle (i.e., making successes before they attain 3 failures.
a Stealth check to guide the entire party; or making Consequences. On achieving 5 successes, the
an Deception check to beguile the guard). characters ultimately escape the Death House.
• The goal of a challenge (think of it as a montage) is Narrate their thrilling escape through the manor with
to reach X number of successful checks before all other obstacles bypassed.
hitting three failures. X is determined by how After accruing 3 failures, the skill challenge still
difficult the challenge is and is not told to the players. continues! The gates in the courtyard begin to close
• Skill challenge are about collaborative, creative early; once the characters reach the courtyard, have
storytelling. You present the obstacle to your players them roll initiative. At 3 failures, the gates swing shut
and allow them to suggest solutions that utilize skills. before the slowest character can escape. At 5 failures,
• Failure is not a wall; failure is represented by the last two adventurers are too slow. The Mists then
dawdling or struggling, but inevitably, the cloak the Durst Manor, trapping the unlucky
adventurers push past the obstacle to continue adventurer(s)... forever.
onward but at the cost of accruing a failure.
COLLECTIVE VS. PERSONAL SUCCESSES ESCAPING DEATH HOUSE
For the most part, a successful check made by one character The adventurers have several options on which path
counts as a success or failure for the entire group. However, to follow, influenced by their prior exploration of the
self-serving characters might rush off on their own. For Durst Manor before the skill challenge begins.
example, the lone gnome might realize they alone can fit in
the kitchen dumbwaiter, getting farther ahead.
Refer to the "Routes" graph. The goal is to make it
In moments like these, you'll need to record both collective to either Area 12C or 15C and leap to the courtyard,
and personal successes, and use your best judgment. Area 0, for the front doors and windows have all been
bricked up and are impervious to the characters'
CHANGES MADE TO DEATH HOUSE weapons and spells.
For the sake of the skill challenge, the following The skill challenge is designed so that it is virtually
changes have been made to the Durst Manor: impossible* to reach Area 0, the Courtyard, without
• A wrought-iron fence encloses the manor grounds having faced at least 7 obstacles beforehand (i.e.,
to facilitate the final encounter: Rose and Thorn. either having already succeeded five times; or
• Only the doorways to Areas 12 and 15 have the succeeded four times and failed twice).
scythes mentioned in the module. *see "Path D" in the "Paths" section below
• Rooms with ovens and fireplaces do not spew out PATHS OF THE SKILL CHALLENGE
poisonous smoke. We can't predict every solution your players might
• The front doors (Area 1) have been bricked up, just offer, but we can sketch out all four possible paths
like all the windows. The only way out is by leaping starting when the characters reach Area 30:
from the balconies (Areas 12C and 15C). Path A is the expected dungeon path: the players
THINGS TO REMEMBER! venture through Area 29 (having probably learned
• Don't tell the players the number of successes already that Area 26 is trapped) towards 21. Thus,
necessary, or if they even accrue a failure. their skill challenge is top-down.
• Each area has only one obstacle, and thus only one Path B is an alternative dungeon path: the players
failure or one success can be derived from that area. venture through Areas 25 and 24, until they reach 21.
• Some rooms have only traps. Some rooms have Path C is a bottom-up venture: the players, having
only obstacles. Some have neither. discovered the door to Area 32, can take the trapdoor
• Some skill checks can be made regardless of where to Area 3, the Den, and continue upwards.
the characters are (see "Non-Area Checks") Path D involves a Small-sized character taking the
• The challenge continues despite hitting 3 failures. dumbwaiter up to Area 12, the Master Suite,
• Combat does not affect the skill challenge; the bypassing several obstacles. If separated from the
players do not glean successes or failures from it. party, their necessary personal number of successes
• The same cantrip only works once! For everybody! to escape is reduced from 5 to 4 if he or she reaches
Death House wisens up to their tricks! the Courtyard, Area 0.
• Play with it! Your characters might suggest a route STARTING THE SKILL CHALLENGE
or solution that neither you nor I could have The skill challenge begins the moment that the Cult
predicted. So long as it fits the rules above, let 'em is denied and rouses Lorghoth the Decayer, the
try it. shambling mound in the alcove. The adventurers do
• You present the obstacle; the characters suggest the not need to fight Lorghoth; in fact, the portcullis
solutions. Do not jump right into suggestions remains drawn up, suggesting they can flee.
provided to you in this document unless the players Your players first intuition will likely be to fight
absolutely cannot find anything to use. Lorghoth—surely a lethal fight—but they'll soon the
• Your players are only 2nd level, probably wounded, first lesson of Curse of Strahd: fleeing is sometimes
out of spell slots, low on health, and might have the right and only option. To stress this to your
already had one, if not more, party member die. You players, describe in lurid fashion the quaking of the
might need to adjust the necessary number of chamber, the bricks falling from the ceiling, the
successes to escape to keep it realistically possible. teeming, hungering vines of Lorghoth.
• Failure is not a wall, only time wasted. The Once it's clear that the adventurers are fleeing, you
adventurers move on to the next area regardless, need to explain the concepts of the skill challenge to
albeit at the cost of accruing a failure. them, beginning with the goal: escaping the manor.
ORGANIZATION OF THE SKILL CHALLENGE RELEVANT AREAS OF THE SKILL CHALLENGE
The Skill Challenge is organized by stages, starting Area Summary
with the Ritual Chamber. Since they start in the 38. Ritual Chamber Obstacle (DC 11)
dungeon, all areas are listed in descending numerical 30. Stairs Down Fork in the Road
order. Refer to the Death House map (pg. 216) as 29. Ghoulish Enc. Obstacle (DC 12)
well as the Route Graph included in this module. 27. Dining Hall Obstacle (DC 13)
26. Hidden Spiked Pit Trap/Obstacle (DC 15)
NON-AREA CHECKS 25. Well/Cultist Qtrs. Obstacle (DC 13)
The following checks are not dependent on any 21. Secret Stairs Obstacle (DC 14)
specific obstacle, and count as successes or failures; 16. Attic Hall N/A
call for them sparingly and early in the challenge. 15. Nursemaid's Suite Obstacle (DC 15)
A DC 13 Carpenters' Tools or History check can 15C. Nursemaid's Balcony Obstacle (DC 15)
be made can be used to recall the architectural style 12. Master Suite Obstacle (DC 15)
12C. Master Balcony Obstacle (DC 15)
and details of rowhouses: layout, infamous weak
11. Balcony Obstacle (DC 14)
points in the structure, and how best to break or
10. Conservatory Optional (DC 20)
circumvent the house such as utilizing the 7. Servants' Room Dumbwaiter
dumbwaiter or leaping from the balconies. 6. Upper Hall Obstacle (DC 13)
A DC 12 Insight check can be made to recall the 4. Kitchen & Pantry Trap (DC 12), Dumbwaiter
layout of the manor, including the two balconies. 3. Den of Wolves Obstacle (DC 12)
Characters with the Keen Mind feat can 1. Entrance Trap (DC 12)
automatically succeed on this check, at your 0. Courtyard Obstacle (DC 15)
discretion.
A DC 12 Investigation check can be made to Now is the time to explain the concepts of the Skill
rationalize the best means of escape: the front doors Challenge, and read the following:
and (after finding out the entrance is trapped), the As if willed by some vengeful spirit, the portcullis slams
balconies. shut, separating you from your companions! What do you
do to escape from this wretched house of utter death?
STAGE 1. ONE MUST DIE! On a failure, the adventurers wallow in indecision or
Death marches upon the party! The adventurers must struggle to work the gate, but eventually force it
escape the Ritual Chamber before Lorghoth devours open, and escape, but at the cost of accruing 1 failure.
them, or the ceiling comes crashing down! The following skill checks are suggested for
surmounting this obstacle:
38. RITUAL CHAMBER Athletics can be used to force open the portcullis or
(Obstacle (DC 11), pg. 219-220) unjam the wheel.
The manor shivers with rage! Stone and brick drop from Thieves'-, or Tinker's tools can be used to assess
the ceiling like broken dreams, shattering on the dais or
the damage to the wheel and manipulate its gears to
sending up plumes of fetid water. As that mound of utter
death, that abomination, shambles towards you, the blood unjam the portcullis.
pounds in your ears; your heart thunders! Will you fight, Insight or Investigation can be used to recall or
or will you flee? rationalize that the nearby corridor to Area 36, the
The characters start in the Ritual Chamber. They do Prison, might have a secret door.
not need to fight Lorghoth, the shambling mound, Perception can be used to spot the hidden door to
and can flee instead. However, once the first Area 36, the prison, providing another means of
character crosses the portcullis, it slams shut. The escape from the chamber.
wheel that operates the portcullis is jammed, and a
DC 11 ability check must be made to escape the
STAGE 2. WHERE THE HELL TO GO?
chamber. The adventurers thunder upstairs to Area 30 and must
decide their path going forward. Three options are
available, setting the scenes for the entire challenge:
Path A involves Areas 29 and 27.
Path B involves Area 25, either from 26 or 29.
Path C involves Area 3 via the trapdoor in 32.
30. STAIRS DOWN Deception or Persuasion can be used to deceive
(Fork in the Road, pg. 218) the man into calm to help the man.
You come barreling up the stairs. The walls are alive with Medicine can be used to dress his wounds, if the
roaches, centipedes that fall onto your heads, all getting character has a healing kit with 1 action.
twisted in your hair. You come to the fork in the path: Spells that restore hit points (healing word, cure
straight ahead, or to the right. Where will you go? wounds) can be used to heal the screaming man.
There are no traps or obstacles here, but the A success here means that this lone spirit, weak as
adventurers' choice determines the rest of the skill he may be, devotes all his unearthly power to aiding
challenge. Either the characters go through the the adventurers.
dungeon and up the Secret Stairs (Area 21) or they
take the trapdoor (Area 32) to the Den of Wolves 26. HIDDEN SPIKED PIT
(Area 3), if they already found it before. (Trap/Optional Obstacle (DC 15), pg. 218)
There is no mandatory obstacle here, but a trap that
29. GHOULISH ENCOUNTER might not have been previously encountered by the
(Obstacle (DC 12), pg. 219) adventurers. Run it as-is in the Death House module:
The corridors snake about. A rabid snarl echoes off the a DC 15 Wisdom (Perception) check is necessary to
stones of this place. The stench of rot assails your senses. notice the trap. The first character to step on the
One ghoul lurks in this area (even if all before were trapped section falls prone and takes 1d6
dispatched earlier). On a failure, the ghoul attempts bludgeoning damage, plus 2d10 piercing damage
to grapple a character, but inevitably they free the from the spikes. The pit is 10-feet deep.
companion (no further rolls required). That character At your discretion, this can serve as an obstacle. A
can be abandoned, however, by the party if they so player might request—scream out, even—for the
wish. If so, that character and ghoul enter combat chance to stop a character from falling into the pit. If
while the others escape. so, it counts as a success or failure for the skill
Athletics can be used to rush and shove the ghoul challenge; otherwise, treat this area as a non-
to the floor, allowing others to run by. obstacle. Some skill checks suggested by the players
Stealth can be used to lead the party into sneaking might include:
past the ghoul. Carpenter's- or Woodcarver's Tools can be used
Spells can be used to distract the ghoul or block its to notice how rotted the planks are and understand it
vision such as with the minor illusion spell. to be unsafe before all's lost.
27. DINING HALL Insight or Perception might allow a character to
(Obstacle (DC 13), pg. 218) sense that all is not well.
Screams rend the nighted depths. Screams for mercy, for Sleight of Hand can be used to snatch at the falling
help, for a quick end. You come across a man chained to character's belt, or snatch at the edge, preventing
the wooden table, thrashing, screaming. A gash runs the their own fall.
length of his belly, from which blood pulses out to the
beat of his heart! How or where he came from doesn't 25. WELL & CULTIST QTRS.
matter, but in the distance, you hear them: the cultists, (Obstacle (DC 13), pg. 218)
chanting, hungering! Can you silence him before those You rush through the room—your lamplight is thrown
ravenous cannibals come upon you? back by a black mist that boils out from the well in the
A ghost of Death House's red past has been made center of the room. With the wails of the outraged dead
flesh once again, and mad babbling threatens to draw thundering in your ears, you have no choice but to blindly
the ghostly cultists upon the adventurers. He has the navigate the mist.
statistics of a restrained commoner with 1 hit point The room is heavily obscured by an unnatural, black
remaining and is bound by chains. fog. Meanwhile in the well, a skeleton has been
If the characters linger here, five cultists (shadows) roused from his slumber to snatch an adventurer. It
arrive in 2 rounds and descend upon the man if he yet grapples the character of your choice. When the
remains. If freed, he stumbles down the darkened adventurers traverse the room, read:
As you shamble through the darkness, something closes
corridors, babbling madly before fading from being. around your wrist—a hand. You shout but it's already too
If slain, he does not die quietly. late. Wet, bone-fingers wrench you towards the well; you
Athletics can be used with a weapon to break the slam against the lip, yet the creature still seeks to drown
man's chains, while thieves' tools can unlock them. you in those unseen waters.
Acrobatics or Athletics can be used to break the STAGE 3. GET OUT!
grapple.
The adventurers have made it through the dungeon,
Insight can be used to recall one's steps, if the
but alas, the front doors are trapped.
characters explored this room beforehand.
Path A & B merge together into one and sees the
Perception can be used to navigate the darkness,
adventurers thundering up the stairs to the attic
hear the skeleton before it strikes, or find its victim.
(Areas 21 & 16). They do not encounter the obstacle
On a failure, the adventurer is pulled into the well
in Area 11 if they intend to go to the Entrance (Area
where they struggle against the skeleton that seeks
1); it's only if they attempt to go straight to Areas 12
to drown them; ultimately, the victim escapes, but
or 15 that they face the obstacle. In that case, skip
not worse for wear.
straight to Stage 4: Duped!
3. DEN OF WOLVES Path C sees the adventurers emerging from the
(Obstacle (DC 12), pg. 212-213) Den of Wolves and finding out firsthand the trap
You push open the trapdoor. The den is smothered by awaiting them at the Entrance.
smoke—and in the darkness of this place, you hear the
snarling of wolves. 21. SECRET STAIRCASE
Death House has animated the stuffed wolves in the (Obstacle (DC 14), pg. 217)
den and flooded the room with blinding smoke. The You thunder up the stairs, the wails of the dead all around
wolves have the statistics of a wolf but with you. The mortared walls pulsate with hordes of
spiderlings, all fleeing downward… to mother. Out from
vulnerability to slashing, piercing, and fire damage;
the abyss climbs a spider the size of a boar, all its
their Bite attack deals 1 piercing damage; and they mandibles gnashing. The beast unleashes a glob of web!
do not need to breathe. Unless a marching order was established prior, roll
Animal Handling can be used to subdue the initiative: the slowest player is restrained by the web.
wolves; the long-lost spirits of the beasts still obey The spider has the statistics of a giant spider but
such primal laws of nature. seeks only to drag prey down into the depths, away
Stealth can be used to slip past the wolves from the other adventurers.
undetected. Failure here is interpreted by the time lost
Spells such as minor illusion can be used to distract struggling against the spider, but inevitably the
the wolves; animal friendship can be used to subdue adventurer is freed, and the party books it upstairs.
them. Animal Handling or Intimidation can be used to
scare off the spider, especially if fire is used or an
ROUTE GRAPH attack is made.
LEGEND Athletics can be used to wrench the character out
DUNGEON 1ST FLOOR 2ND FLOOR 3RD FLOOR ATTIC

16 Path A of the web or to keep the spider from dragging the


Path B
Path C character away.
Path D Spells can be cast to burn the web or subdue the
15 11 12 spider (e.g., produce flame and animal friendship).
To 0. Courtyard
To 0. Courtyard

16. ATTIC HALL


(Links Areas 21 to 11, pg. 215)
Dust chokes the attic; where once were windows are now
10 6 7
bricks. Whatever spirit that haunts this wretched house
clearly has no intention of letting you leave.
There is no trap or obstacle here. If the characters use
3 2 4 the stairs to descend to the third floor, they find that
A A the door to the Nursemaid's Suite (Area 15) is
1 bricked up, forcing them into Area 11, the Balcony.
31 29 27
-
38 30 21
26 25
10. CONSERVATORY STAGE 4. DUPED!
(Optional Obstacle (DC 20), pg. 214) Having learned the Entrance is trapped, the
This area is an optional obstacle, and a dead end. It's adventurers have but one choice left: leaping from
probable that one adventurer will think they can lull the balconies upstairs.
Death House by playing the instruments in the Paths A, B & C are now merged into one path:
Conservatory (dollars to donuts, it's the bard). reaching Areas 12 or 15 (the adventurers' choice).
Let them try it. Death House will appreciate the Path D opens up for Small-sized characters. They
music before killing them. Perhaps the music will can utilize the dumbwaiter connecting areas 4, 7, and
even rouse the slain victims of the cult, who might 12 to bypass several obstacles.
devote their unearthly power towards slowing Death
House's onslaught. The sky's the limit, right? 11. BALCONY
Performance or musical instruments can be used (Obstacle (DC 14), pg. 214)
to perform a song. Who knows whether it will help. The door to the bathroom bulges, buckling in its frame!
There comes a crack—the wood splinters! A flood of filth
1. ENTRANCE comes crashing out, threatening to throw you down the
(Trap (DC 12), pg. 212) stairs!
There is no obstacle here, but a trap. To their horror, The flood comes from Area 13, and crashes down
the characters discover that the front doors are upon the adventurers, twisting unnaturally towards
bricked up—and behind them, the doors to the Main the staircase so as to send them downward. So long
Hall swing shut. Characters can make a DC 12 as one adventurer makes the check, there is hope, for
Dexterity saving throw to hurl themselves into the that character can quickly get his or her companions
Main Hall before the doors swing shut. Otherwise, back on their feet and up the stairs. On a failure, all
characters are trapped in here. Read: characters topple down the stairs, stopping
The mahogany doors slam shut with ominous thunder. somewhere between the first and second floors.
You look about the room, desperate to escape—and when Athletics can be used to stand one's ground and
you look back, the bottom half of the door has been resist the flood; other adventurers can brace
replaced by brick. Defying all logic, the wood has melded themselves against the character or angle themselves
into the rows of moldy brick. You blink—and to your
so that he or she takes the brunt of the flood.
mounting horror, in that span of a second, more of the
door has been converted. You keep your eyes wide open
Nature or Survival can be used to call on past
so as not cast away your chance at breaking down the experiences or knowledge of flash floods, allowing a
door... And that's when a fetid cloud of filth rolls in, character in that split second to take necessary
stinging your eyes and drawing tears. The walls are brittle precautions (hang on the other side of the balcony,
now, rotten. The wallpaper hangs in slivers, and behind leap for a nearby door, et cetera). Characters with the
the plaster, you hear the scurrying of rats. Outlander background have advantage on such a
The characters can break down the door with a DC check.
14 Strength (Athletics) checks if they have Sleight of Hand can be used to snatch at the
appropriate weapons or tools. It does not count as a balcony or the oil lamps mounted on the wall before
success or failure for the skill challenge. being swept away.
For every round the characters are here, they must
succeed on a DC 10 Constitution saving throw as the 7. SERVANT'S ROOM
rats' stench (whether they've been released yet or not) (Links Areas 4 and 12 via dumbwaiter, pg. 213)
causes them to blink. If all characters blink, three- There are no traps or obstacles here; the kitchen
fourths of the doors are replaced by brick, increasing dumbwaiter (from Area 4) leads to here and can
the DC by 4. The second time, the entirety of the continue upward to the Master Suite (Area 12),
doors become brick, raising the DC to 22. bypassing the obstacle to get into the room.
The characters can instead destroy the newly- Alternatively, a character can enter the Upper Hall
rotten, brittle walls (AC 5, 5 hit points, vulnerable to (Area 6), squeezing past the phalanx of animated
a DC 10 Strength (Athletics) check) separating them armor stationed at the top of the stairs. This
from the Main Hall (Area 2), but that causes a swarm positioning can grant advantage to any ability checks
of rats to pour out of the hole. A Medium creature made by the party to thwart the phalanx.
can squeeze through the hole, possibly provoking an
opportunity attack by the swarm.
6. UPPER HALL STAGE 5. THE END DRAWS NIGH
(Obstacle (DC 14), pg. 213) The adventurers now must make their final choice:
Metal footfalls crash against the wood, then ring out on
from which balcony will they leap? Read:
the marble staircase. The four wolf-helmed suits of armor,
The spirit has no intention of letting you leave alive, but
you see, walk with a life of their own, and in that arcane
surely—surely—there must be a way out. You just have
camaraderie they join together, shield with shield,
to find it!
forming a two-rank deep phalanx to block the staircase,
and in one chorus they rasp, "One must die! One must die! 15. NURSEMAID'S SUITE
One must die!" (Obstacle (DC 15), pg. 215)
You pull back just before being impaled on the spears! As you rush towards the door, you a hear woman shout
The suits of armor have been animated by Death out, "Tell me to push, one more time, Inala! One more
House but are not true suits of animated armor. For time, I swear to the Morninglord!" but her curses are
the purposes of potential combat, they have an AC of quickly consumed by cries of pain.
12, 5 hit points each, immunity to poison and psychic You peak into the room: women crowd around a young
damage, and -1 to Strength. Each suit can make a girl laying in the bed, her feet up. Her face twists with pain
spear attack (+2 to hit, 1 piercing damage) against while a midwife says, "The baby's crowning, but… Gods,
targets within 5 feet; these attacks might be made it's ankles first."
with advantage (and melee attacks made against with The balcony—the only way out of this accursed
disadvantage) depending on if any attackers are manor—lies nearby, and with frustrated horror, you see
that the door has been replaced with bloodied scythe-
below them on the staircase. They have the high
blades that seem to spin even quicker whenever the girl's
ground—it's over. contractions rage.
Athletics can be used by a character wielding a The memories of the past have come alive: while
shield or similar protection to charge the ranks, Elisabeth fumes with mute disdain in the Master
hoping to topple the statues. On a failure, he would Suite, the nursemaid is giving birth to the bastard
be speared up to four times. Walter. Several assistants crowd the room while the
Acrobatics can be used to leap to the other end of baby is crowning—but he's coming out ankles-first.
the spiraling staircase. The scythe-blades spin so long as the nursemaid is in
Blacksmith's Tools or Investigation can be used to labor, spinning faster and faster during her
ascertain the formation's weaknesses, for without contractions. To escape the manor, the adventurers
men in behind the armor, they have significantly less must make it through that doorway.
strength. Characters with the Soldier background If the party does not make an ability check for this
have advantage on such a check. obstacle, they accrue a failure, and each creature that
4. KITCHEN & PANTRY passes through the doorway must succeed on a DC
(Trap (DC 12), pg. 213) 15 Dexterity saving throw or take 2d10 slashing
The oven shrieks as you rush towards the dumbwaiter; the damage. Regardless, they pass through the doorway
pipes all groan and bulge—and from the oven erupts a and onto Area 15C, the Nursemaid's Balcony.
gout of flame! If the party attempts an ability check but fails, no
There is no obstacle here, but a trap set by Death Dexterity saving throws are necessary.
House. As a character makes his way to the Acrobatics or Investigation can be used to make it
dumbwaiter (which only Small-sized characters can through the doorway unscathed; the adventurer
fit into), the oven spits fire. Any characters in the making the check takes a leadership role in guiding
room must make a DC 12 Dexterity saving throw to his or her companions through the blades. This check
clamber into the dumbwaiter, working the rope-and- is made only once for all characters present.
pulley before being scorched. On a failure, a creature Insight can be used to gauge when the nursemaid's
takes 1d6 fire damage, but continues upward. The contractions are about to begin or end.
explosion shakes the entirety of the manor. Medicine can be used to assist in the birth: Walter
The dumbwaiter leads upward to Areas 7 and 15. is coming out ankles-first, posing significant risk to
the him and the mother. The scythe-blades stop
spinning altogether if this ability check succeeds.
15C. NURSEMAID'S BALCONY Read the following:
(Obstacle (DC 15), pg. 215) The master suite has grown deadly cold: a well-dressed
You escape onto the balcony—a sharp wind blows, and man paces the room while a woman stares at herself in the
the world itself falls to misty depths a thousand feet vanity, her eyes scornful as if to wonder why she wasn't
below. With the wails of the damned and depraved behind enough for her husband. You recognize the Dursts alive
you, and the cliff dropping into the void below, what do and in the flesh—how or why doesn't matter. The two fall
you do? between bouts of silence and explosive rage, arguing over
Death House has put all its remaining energy to Gustav's infidelity.
afflict its prey with a powerful phantasmal force You look to the corner of the room, to the balcony, that
sweet, sweet balcony, the gate to getting the hell out of
spell (no saving throws required). The balcony has this accursed manor—and in the doorway spin rusted
grown into a cliff that drops to a thousand feet below scythe-blades. You look back: Elisabeth is glaring at you,
(an eerily accurate representation of the Tser Falls of and she snarls, "Servant! Get out! Get out! Come back
Barovia). Only with courage, skill, or acuity can the only when the bastard's been born!"
adventurers conquer the illusory cliff without You notice with mounting frustration that while
destroying their minds in the process. Elisabeth snarls at you, the scythe-blades spin pick up
If no skills or spells are applied, the characters speed, spinning ever quicker.
accrue a failure and each creature that simply leaped If the party does not make an ability check for this
must make a DC 15 Wisdom saving throw or take obstacle, they accrue a failure, and each creature
2d6 psychic damage and wakes to find itself mewling that passes through the doorway must succeed on a
at the foot of the Durst Manor an unknown amount DC 15 Dexterity saving throw or take 2d10 slashing
of time later. On a success, a creature takes half damage. Regardless, they pass through the doorway
damage. No matter the check made, scaling the cliffs and onto Area 12C, the Master Balcony.
takes less than a minute, but feels as if it took an hour. If the party attempts an ability check but fails, no
Acrobatics, Athletics or Survival can be combined Dexterity saving throws are necessary.
with tools such as rope or a climbing kit to scale the Acrobatics or Investigation can be used to make
cliff, leading others down. it through the doorway unscathed; the adventurer
Arcana can be used to understand the powerful making the check takes a leadership role in guiding
phantasmal force spell at work, that their psyches his or her companions through the blades. This
stand to be torn apart if caution is thrown to the wind; check is made only once for all characters present.
that perhaps the best way to survive is to play along. Insight can be used to gauge Elisabeth or Gustav's
Investigation can be used to shatter the illusion by emotions, finding the best possible moment to make
harnessing the strength of the mind. the leap.
Spells that slow or affect flying, such as feather Persuasion can be used to calm the Dursts, even
fall; or that would imbue creatures with courage, if for a moment.
such as heroism can be used to conquer the illusion;
both put the characters' psyches at rest, tricking their
12C. MASTER BALCONY
subconsciousness believing all will be well. (Obstacle (DC 15), pg. 214)
You escape onto the balcony—a sharp wind blows, and
12. MASTER SUITE the world itself falls to misty depths a thousand feet
(Obstacle (DC 15), pg. 214) below. With the wails of the damned and depraved behind
you, and the cliff dropping into the void below, what do
The memories of the past have come alive; on the
you do?
eve of Walter's birth, the Dursts are engaged in a
Like the Nursemaid's Balcony, Death House has put
cold war. The suite is as cold and unforgiving as
all its remaining energy to afflict its prey with a
their marriage; while Gustav paces the room,
powerful phantasmal force spell (no saving throws
Elisabeth fumes in mute disdain at her vanity. Every
required). The balcony has grown into a cliff that
so often the two burst into a new round of
drops to a thousand feet below (an eerily accurate
arguments—and the scythes spin ever faster.
representation of the Tser Falls of Barovia). Only
Not quite ghosts, yet not quite illusions, the
with courage, skill, or acuity can the adventurers
Dursts are representative of the emotional carnage
conquer the illusory cliff without destroying their
of the manor. The scythes on the doorway are
minds in the process.
connected to the two's temperament. And to escape,
the party must make it through those scythes.
If no skills or spells are applied, the characters VARIANT: THE CHILDREN AT REST
accrue a failure and each creature that simply leaped If Rose and Thorn's bodies were laid to rest in their
must make a DC 15 Wisdom saving throw or take crypts, their souls are at peace. The Death House,
2d6 psychic damage and wakes to find itself mewling however, still uses illusions of the two as a last-ditch
at the foot of the Durst Manor an unknown amount effort to entrap the characters as the gates swing shut.
of time later. On a success, a creature takes half Insight can be used to recall the difference in
damage. No matter the check made, scaling the cliffs mannerisms between these children and the ones met
takes less than a minute, but feels as if it took an hour. before.
Acrobatics, Athletics or Survival can be combined Investigation can be used to discern that the
with tools such as rope or a climbing kit to scale the illusions are just that: illusions.
cliff, leading others down. Religion can be used to ascertain, by a character
Arcana can be used to understand the powerful versed in religious rites, that the spirits certainly have
illusion magic at work, and that their psyches stand been lain to rest.
to be torn apart if caution is thrown to the wind; that Spells such as detect magic can reveal that the
the perhaps the best way to survive is to play along. children are but illusions.
Investigation can be used to shatter the illusion by
harnessing the strength of the mind. ENDINGS
Spells that slow or affect flying, such as feather By now, the adventurers should have either
fall; or that would imbue creatures with courage, succeeded against 5 obstacles, or failed 3. Roll
such as heroism can be used to conquer the illusion; initiative; on 3 failures, the slowest adventurer is left
both put the characters' psyches at rest, tricking their behind (see "Doomed to the Death House" below).
subconsciousness believing all will be well. On 5 failures, the slowest two adventurers are
trapped while their companions make it to safety.
0. COURTYARD If the characters achieved 5 successes before 3
(Obstacle (DC 15)) failures, all make it out—worse for wear, and forced
The mists cling to your every stride. In the moaning wind,
to carry in their hearts this hellish night forevermore.
you hear the squealing of metal: the gate is closing shut,
and with it, your only chance of salvation! As you rush SURVIVAL!
through the courtyard, two figures appear—Rose and
Thorn. The girl shouts out, "You can't leave us! You For any adventurers that make it out, read:
can't!" You dash through the mist, the manic shrieks and
Even after the characters finally emerge from that demands of the dead thundering across the gloom. With
accursed manor, they still face one last hurdle: the one final push, you hurl yourself through the gates,
landing on the gravel streets outside. You're bleeding,
true ghosts of Rose and Thorn await them in the
aching. Your heart feels as if it's about to burst, and you
mists. The children desperately don't want their new taste bile at the back of your throat—but you're alive! By
companions to leave. On a failure, Rose or Thorn all the Gods, you're alive! You look back at that house of
attempts to possess a character, bringing them back utter death and shiver, putting as much distance between
into the manor. Any character already possessed by you and it as you can... though on the sleepless nights
the children from earlier refuse to leave the manor ahead you'll come to find that no amount of distance will
grounds. ever rid you of that nightmare.
Deception or Persuasion can be used to beguile or
persuade the children (although any parent can tell DOOMED TO THE DEATH HOUSE
you that logical arguments are useless on children). After accruing 3 failures, the slowest character in the
Intimidation can be used to convince the children initiative fails to escape before the gates shut. After
to relent, or, if a ghost successfully possessed any 5, the slowest two are trapped.
character, they can force them out of that body. The Mists of Ravenloft slip into the courtyard;
Performance can be used by a character equipped creatures that remain outdoors (but not those that
with a musical instrument or a talent for singing to escaped) must make a DC 20 Constitution saving
lull the ghosts with a lullaby, giving their throw every round, gaining a level of exhaustion (see
companions a chance to slip by. Appendix A of the Player's Handbook). This
Spells such as protection from evil and good can be exhaustion cannot be removed while the creature is
used to prevent the children from possessing a in the mist, forcing them to either die outside or
character or freeing a character from possession. venture back into that house of horrors.
Ultimately, Death House torments its prey until CURSE OF STRAHD AIDES
their undignified death, and their spirits join the
Death House Script marks the third campaign aide
legion of souls trapped in the manor.
I've released for Curse of Strahd. If you're looking
To the adventurers left behind, read the following:
for other ways to make the campaign easier, you can
The gates are closing—closing! You push yourself into a
sprint, but it's too late. You begin to flag; your wounds, find my other work on DMs Guild or follow me on
your aches, they're just too much. There wasn't enough Twitter at @Wyatt_Trull; or contact me via
time. There's never enough time. wyattwalker.trull@gmail.com.
The gates shut with ominous thunder—and that's when If you like what I've provided, please leave a rating
the mists roll in. Gone is the gate, the village, and any or a comment like "This is great" or "Wyatt, you're
hope you may have sheltered in your heart. The mist slips handsome!" for these make it easier for me to pump
down your throat like a lover's tongue. Pain blooms in out more tools for your campaign.
your lungs.
You can't breathe. These blighted mists are choking the
very life from you—and with no other choice, you look ARTWORK
back to the manor, knowing full well in your heart that Credit goes to Enrique Meseguer's Haunted House,
you'll never leave again. released under the Creative Commons license on
Pixabay.com.
WHAT'S NEXT?
With the Death House behind them, the adventurers
will seek solace in that one universal panacea: wine.
The party stumbles through the eerily silent streets
until they find the Blood of the Vine Tavern, and in
it, Ismark Kolyana. And with pity in his eyes, he will
tell them the nightmare is yet to be over. Ismark
Kolyana will tell them, "Welcome to Barovia."

DUNGEONS & DRAGONS, D&D, Wizards of the Coast, Forgotten Realms, the dragon ampersand, Player’s Handbook, Monster Manual, Dungeon
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Coast in the USA and other countries. All characters and their distinctive likenesses are property of Wizards of the Coast. This material is protected
under the copyright laws of the United States of America. Any reproduction or unauthorized use of the material or artwork contained herein is
prohibited without the express written permission of Wizards of the Coast.

©2016 Wizards of the Coast LLC, PO Box 707, Renton, WA 98057-0707, USA. Manufactured by Hasbro SA, Rue Emile-Boéchat 31, 2800 Delémont,
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FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS My players failed horribly early in the skill
challenge. What do I do?
My players have never done a skill challenge. How Keep going. Attaining 3 failures means that the
can I explain this concept to them quickly? slowest person in the initiative order, when they
Here are some bullet points to mention: reach the courtyard, is left behind—the gates shut
• It's a montage. Use skills, not swords, to solve before they can make it, trapping them in the Mist.
obstacles. One character can't use the same skill At 5 failures, the two slowest are left behind.
twice because dem's da rules.
My players achieved 5 successes very early in the
• You need an unknown number of successes before
skill challenge. What now?
you accrue 3 failures. You aren't told when you fail,
There are plenty of traps along the way that might
and the DCs vary on the obstacle in front of you.
harry your players. Narrate the adventurers' thrilling
• Spells of 1st level of higher are automatic
escape through the decaying nightmare that is Death
successes. Cantrips are rolled (your spellcasting
House, removing any further obstacles (not
ability score + your proficiency bonus) and can only
necessarily traps). When they reach the courtyard,
be used once—across all spellcasters—in this
still present them with Rose and Thorn. If the
challenge. Death House wisens up to your tricks!
children haven't been laid to rest, then the ghosts
• Tool proficiencies are legal
might try to possess characters who dare to leave the
*unless the DM abandons that optional rule prior
manor grounds; treat that encounter as a trap, rather
What if the characters can do nothing? than obstacle. Essentially, play around with it!
This is a montage, all right? It's an action sequence.
The party is split! What now?
When a character does nothing, you can rationalize
Weigh collective successes and failures against
it as hesitation or indecision—things that get any
personal. For example, if the party had accrued 2
character killed in a horror movie. So, in short, if the
successes and 1 failure before splitting up, and the
characters have nothing to offer, it counts as a failure,
only Small-sized character bails to load up in the
but remember: none of these challenges are walls.
dumbwaiter, he starts with 2S/1F; his subsequent
Even if they fail, after a few moments spent dawdling
successes or failures do not affect the other
or struggling, they eventually push past the obstacle.
characters, and vice versa.
If the players cannot come up with a solution, but
still have resources left, now is the time to make During a trap, a player suggested a skill check!
suggestions to them, as outlined by each obstacle. Should I allow it?
If the players can suggest appropriate skill checks
What does failure mean?
(i.e., logical, working solutions), let them make a
In this skill challenge, no obstacles are written as
check. Since they opted for it, count it as either a
walls. Even if the characters fail their ability check,
success or failure for the skill challenge.
they continue past—by some method, narrated by the
DM, they struggle, fail, struggle, then succeed. Time My player wants to use magic to solve an obstacle!
is of the essence. Thus, only one ability check is ever If the spell is 1st level or higher, allow an automatic
made against one obstacle. success so long as it would logically solve an
obstacle. If it's a cantrip, have the character make an
The route my players are expected to take doesn't
ability check with their spellcasting ability, adding
add up to 7 obstacles for [some reason]!
their proficiency, comparing it to the obstacle's DC.
Throw in a Non-Area check early in the skill
Once one particular cantrip is used, Death House
challenge, such as Insight to recall the layout of the
wisens up to that trick and that cantrip can no longer
manor; a failure is rationalized as, in their panic, the
be used by any of the characters.
party dawdles or argues for a few precious moments
before setting down the path again. Why isn't [insert skill] suggested as often?
Look, man. I was hard-pressed to figure out how
History or Nature could apply to these mainly
physical challenges. If your characters can figure out
a logical way to use it, go for it. This is about
collaborative storytelling, so don't just go by what
I've written. Your players will surprise you.