@Dr. Bwaa: Thanks for the comments, and glad you liked it. I liked your snippet as well, though I'm unsure why it required a spoiler alert. Is it from something I should know about?
@Winds: I allowed the water thing because it seemed creative enough to not give it the DM Boot of Disapproval. However, there's no way that Strahd Von Zarovich would be permanently destroyed by level 0 spells, hence his return
@Tavar: Well written and I liked the story behind it as well. It almost seems like the backstory behind The Red Hand of Doom
@Rallicus: I know the feeling all too well. Players rarely (if ever) view NPCs as anything more than talking chunks of exp.
The snippet that I bring today comes from a short adventure completely unrelated to the Ravenloft goings-on. Whats more, I'm not the DM for once!
Film Noir D&D
The Blue Beacon was your average sort of tavern: smokey, dimly lit, and always with something going on. It was a cesspool to some and a haven to others. I had been asked down to this place by an anonymous letter claiming that my help was needed. It was a gamble to trust a strange letter, but the prospect of paying work was too good an offer to turn down.
Maybe I should have.
Mac, the bartender, gave me a nod as I came in and sat sat down at the bar. My back was to the room, but Mac had a mirror hanging behind the counter for his waitresses to spruce up with, so I could watch the whole bar without anyone being the wiser. The barmaids stood in a flock chattering. A couple of rough-looking gents were at the back of the room arguing about paladins. Down at the other end of the bar were a couple of dames that looked none too happy. When they got up and started toward me, I had a feeling I was about to find out why.
"Mr. Faber?" one of them asked.
I turned around, pretending to be surprised by them. The one that talked was a wisp of a woman, hair in a bun, glasses. A cute doll, if you liked bookworms. The other woman ... well, let's just say I've seen street corner harlots with less obvious intentions and more clothing.
"That's right," I answered. "Horst Faber. Is there something you need?"
"I sent you a letter ..." the mousy girl said, her voice trailing off.
"I got it," I told her as I pulled it out of the pocket of my trench coat.
"Will you help me? Please?"
"Why don't you tell me what it is you need help with?"
"Well," she replied, "I think my husband has been kidnapped ..."
Missing person. Husband. Swell.
"What makes you think that?" I asked.
"He went down to the temple of Mystra a few days ago, but he hasn't come back. Do you know anything about the temple?"
"I can't say that I do," I answered.
Of course I did. It was more of a fortress than a temple, with high walls, iron gates, and guards patrolling the place night and day. I was a man of faith, but not that faith, and I couldn't say that I agreed with Mystra's dealings. I listened to what she had to say, but she knew even less about it than I did.
"Before I agree to help you," I said, "what's the pay?"
"I don't really have much money ..." the dame started to say.
I didn't like where this was going.
"I'm sure we can work something out," the whore said seductively.
"Not with you," I replied stiffly.
"I'll give you whatever money I have," the girl said quickly. "Just please bring my husband home."
"Fine," I muttered. "I'll see what I can do."
"Thank you so much Mr. Faber," the mousy girl said delightedly. "I've already got someone to help you."
I didn't like the sound of that. I liked it even less when the two men at the back of the bar waved at me.
"Are you ready for adventure?" the burly man asked. "Let's destroy the evil! For righteousness!"
"I hope you rolled up something more useful than a paladin," the scrawny man beside him grumbled.
I should have turned down the job.