Dragon Heist Session Two: New Kids on the Dock (Ward)
Alan and Arvene headed straight for the bar were Durnan had offered free drinks to all who had assisted in defeating the troll. As they began to discuss the encounter, a tall, thin man with a large floppy hat, curly moustache and puffy purple shirt approached them. “You be adventurers, am I right? I could use your help. My name is Volo Geddarm. Let’s find a table to talk.”
Last night was the second session in our online Dungeons & Dragons Dragon Heist campaign and the party was hired by a famous writer to find a missing person.
For this campaign we are playing via Skype, and using D&D Beyond to keep track of characters, and Trello for campaign information, quests, and NPCs. So far D&D Beyond is proving a real asset; it allows me to view and keep track of character sheets live in game, as well as helping guide us where we are unsure of specific rules or abilities. Trello is also a new utility for us, we’ve not used it quite like this before, but it is perfect for keeping track of NPCs, quests and information that players may not pick up on during the game or may forget in the time between sessions.
Once underway, there were some technical difficulties during last night’s session. First, intermittently throughout the game, my internet connection suffered from stage fright, causing Skype to freeze. This was most frustrating when we were roleplaying conversations with NPCs, but we just about managed to muddle through. Second, my 3-week-old daughter was particularly vocal and so my players had to put up with her derogatory observations and disparaging comments in the background. Nonetheless we all just about coped.
Alan Crabpopper, Human Ranger – a private investigator and low level thug.
Dugg, Earth Genasi Fighter – estranged son from a noble family, House Rasznor.
Little Joe, Drow Sorcerer – a charlatan, channelling the spirit of John Wayne.
Arvene Galanodel, Half-Elf Cleric – avaricious trickery-domain priestess of Tymora.
Previously in Waterdeep
Having spent some time alone in Waterdeep, four wandering souls met, befriended one another and, aiming to do a little good in the world, formed a private investigations company. They called themselves Alan’s Bureau of Investigators and soon set about saving kittens from trees, helping the elderly cross the street, and keeping an eye out for ne’er-do-wells.
Last session, this relentless vigil took them to a table in the Yawning Portal tavern where they witnessed a fracas between a group of thugs dressed like the Backstreet Boys and a half-orc called Yagra. They stepped in to help their half-orc friend, but before the fight was over the tavern was attacked by a Troll, which they helped deal with. In the aftermath of the troll encounter they were approached by a finely dressed man with an offer of work. He was called Volo and he had lost his friend.
Please Find Floon!
Volo’s missing friend was called Floon Blagmaar and he hadn’t been seen for nearly two days. Volo remembered drinking with him in a tavern in the dock ward called the Skewered Dragon, but his memory was hazy after there. “Please, you’ve got to help me find him. I can pay.”
I shouldn’t have been surprised at how hilarious my players found Floon’s name. I don’t know whose job at Wizards of the Coast is it to name NPCs in their D&D campaigns, but they clearly enjoyed themselves working on this campaign book.
Once my players had finally stopped laughing they found out as much as they could about Floon and his disappearance. Volo told them everything he could, but Little Joe and Dugg were convinced he was holding something back. He was. He didn’t have the 100gp (gold pieces) he’d promised each of them for finding his friend. However, neither Little Joe’s nor Dugg’s poor insight checks revealed this information. So they took him at his word and agreed to find Floon.
To the Dock Ward
Before they left the Yawning Portal they needed a quick rest to recoup some lost health after the incident with the Backstreet Boys and the Troll. At first level, characters have 1 hit dice each (either a d6, d8 or d10, depending on their class), which they can roll to regain hit points during a Short Rest once per day.
Sufficiently rested, they left the tavern and hailed a tram to take them to the Dock Ward. I wasn’t expecting them to do this. However, I had given them a copy of Volo’s Enchiridion – a small travel/tourist guide to Waterdeep, which contains information on public transport, including the Waterdeep tram system. So they got on a tram and headed towards to the Dock Ward. I charged them each 3sp (Silver Pieces) to do it. This didn’t put them off.
The Dock Ward is by far the seediest and roughest area in Waterdeep and, as soon as they alighted the tram, the party witnessed the aftermath of a battle between rival gangs. There were 12 corpses lined up along the road with numerous members of the city watch standing guard. They had cordoned off the street and were investigating the scene. There were three thugs being questioned by a senior officer, and some solid perception checks from Alan and Arvene revealed this must have been a clash between the Zhentarim and the Xanathar Guild. Two factions that feature will prominently in the campaign.
Then, after questioning Gregory, a tight-lipped, mustachioed guard, the party headed off following directions to the Skewered Dragon. Suddenly a shout went up behind them, “Stop he’s getting away!” One of the thugs had managed to break free and dashed past the party and along the street. They each had a chance to do one thing to try and stop him from escaping.
Little Jo tried to cast a Firebolt, but missed and it shot off wildly into the night sky. Then Alan and Dugg, acting simultaneously, dived at him and tackled the thug to the ground. As they did, Arvene leant over and cast a Charm spell. His eyes lit up and he began to swoon over the half-elf cleric, charmed. Before they could question him, however, a brusque officer in Captain’s uniform stormed over, thanked them for restraining the thug and told them to be off.
Naturally they wanted to interrogate him themselves. They believed he had something to do with the missing Floon, but Captain Staget would not allow them to quiz his prisoner. So the thug was taken, still swooning over Arvene. Still under the effect of her Charm spell, he called out to her as he was dragged away, “Come and find me in the sewers my darling. We can elope together. It will be wonderful.”
The Skewered Dragon
After that excitement, and with minds swimming with conspiracies of Zhentarim and Xanathar thugs, the party made their way to the Skewered Dragon. They passed an odd looking shop full of purple trinkets and smelling of lavender, The Old Xoblob Shop, but they decided not to go in – it’s a good job I hadn’t spent a long time preparing fun anything in there!
The Skewered Dragon was an old ruined tavern; all smashed windows and broken doors. It had a ship’s anchor lodged in the roof, and the locals looked the sort to start fights with ogres. Alan and Little Jo went in first while the others waited outside. Within seconds Little Jo was being man-handled by a burly, oily, drunk dwarf called Solomil Silverfingers.
Solomil had seen Floon and Volo here on the day Floon went missing, but refused to give any more information unless one of the party beat him at a game of Sava (a gambling game, a bit like chess) or in a fist fight. Little Jo loves to gamble, so it wasn’t a hard choice. Three contested D20 rolls later, (intelligence, deception and insight) and Little Jo had won 5gp and the information he was looking for.
But, just as Solomil was explaining that Floon had been followed and attacked by five Zhentarim thugs who spent their time in a warehouse in the Dock Ward, one of the patrons at the bar with a neck tattoo of a winged snake stood up and ran out of the tavern.
Deciding he’d heard enough and that this fleeing thug was surely embroiled in the Floon conspiracy, Jo and Alan raced out of the tavern to catch him. But he was too fast and well away by the time they met Arevene and Dugg outside. Alan, however, is a ranger, and an expert at tracking and following creatures. And humans are his favored enemy, so he began tracking the thug.
He rolled a natural 20 (best possible roll) on a survival check to find the thug’s trail and they followed him around a corner into the dark Dock Ward streets.
As they turned another corner, Alan noticed a door slam just at the end of the twisted street. Alan approached the door stealthily and pushed gently. It didn’t budge.
Motioning to the others to hang back Alan raised a fist and knocked loudly on the old wooden door. There was a shuffling of feet from inside. Then a frail, elderly, female voice called out, “Hello?” Who’s there? It’s very late.”
“Err, it’s me.” Said Alan.
“Cristopher? Is that you?” The old voice wobbled with emotion as the door swung open. “Christopher, it IS you. After all this time, you’ve returned. I knew you would. When I got that letter; I couldn’t believe. I knew you’d come back.”
“Yes,” said Alan. “It is I Christopher. Returned from the War.”
“Oh, come in.” The old lady standing in her nightgown, robe and fluffy unicorn slippers squinted into the darkness as Alan sheepishly entered the house. She clamped her arms around in him a mother’s embrace and tears dripped into his matted hair. “Ooops,” he thought. END
This was the first game of D&D I’ve ever DM’d that didn’t feature any fighting. Although I had prepared a combat encounter, I didn’t get to say “Roll initiative!” I still really enjoyed it though, and I think my players did too.
To help with my DM preparation I’ve been using a downloadable DM’s resource available on the DMsguild from ValeurRPG. This session featured some of the aspects of the supplement, including the encounter in the Skewered Dragon. If you’re a DM looking to run a Dragon Heist campaign I would really recommend this as a great way of padding out the narrative.
There was no XP earned during the session – we’re using the milestone method for leveling up, so the party won’t get to level two until the end of the chapter. Little Jo did win 5gp from Solomil the greasy dwarf though – so not all bad.
What did we learn?
DM Tip: Be prepared to improvise. A lot. And don’t be afraid to let go of the narrative for a while. Especially if everyone is clearly enjoying something you’ve just made up, no matter how ridiculous it is. To be fair, for the most part this session went as planned, but it certainly took a sharp unexpected left turn at the end. My intention with the final scene was for the party to realize they had got the wrong house and try to see if they could find the thug some other way. Instead a whole improvised interaction with an old lady in pink fluffy unicorn slippers who thought Alan was her long lost son occurred, and now I have to figure out a way of getting them back on track. But that’s next week’s problem.
Next week the party will (hopefully) continue to search for Floon and (hopefully) not upset a lonely old lady. Although, knowing my players, neither is guaranteed.