Session Four: Of Sewers and Sons
Alan and Joe’s good cop/bad cop routine clearly worked. Their avian prisoner shook so hard his false mustache fell from his over-sized beak. The frightened Kenku gave up all he knew. “Tie up the pretty boy in the back room!” it had said. The back room: that must be where Floon was being held. They were one step closer to completing Volo’s quest.
The set up
Our weekly game is played via Skype and we are using Trello and D&D Beyond to keep track of the characters and campaign, which so far is working very well. I have been DMing the campaign and last night there were no technical issues, although the session was nearly cancelled due to a misadventure with a new sofa and a window. What’s more, all of our respective children were on their best behavior and didn’t interrupt the game; the freezing temperatures here in the UK clearly have a welcome strong sedative effect that keeps them asleep.
Alan Crabpopper, Human Ranger – a private investigator and low level thug.
Dugg, Earth Genasi Fighter – estranged son from a noble family.
Little Joe, Drow Sorcerer – channeling the spirit of John Wayne.
Arvene Galanodel, Half-Elf Cleric – priestess of Tymora, ex-city guard, ex-nun.
Previously in Waterdeep
Alan’s Bureau of Investigators (the ABI) are on the trail of Floon Blagmaar, friend of Volo Geddarm who went missing a few nights ago after an evening of heavy drinking. Their investigations have taken them to the Dock Ward district of Waterdeep, a run down and dangerous area, full of gangs and broken taverns.
Here, after helping Captain Staget of the City Watch stop a Zhentarim thug escaping custody, the adventurers found the Skewered Dragon alehouse and met Solomil Silverfingers. He had seen Floon drinking with a companion before the pair were attacked in the street by five Zhentarim gang members. The Zhentarim trail led the ABI to a warehouse in Candle Lane where they fought four Kenku, keeping one alive for interrogation.
Couldn’t escape if he wanted to
Satisfied the frightened Kenku had given up all the information they could, Little Joe and Alan decided to let them go and they dashed for the exit, leaving a cloud of black feathers and glittering sequins behind. Meanwhile, Arvene and Dugg were busy checking out the rest of the warehouse. Dugg was looking for clues as to why there were twelve dead bodies lined up against the wall and Arvene was going through the storage crates, industriously removing the right heel from every boot she could find. Hers was a trickster God, and they would be pleased with her efforts.
So the session began with the party looking around the room. It was filled with wooden crates and boxes of cheaply made black uniforms and rusty weapons, and there was the pile of dead bodies too.
Arvene and Little Joe investigated the bodies to see if they could identify who they were. The corpses belonged to five human Zhentarim thugs and seven human Xanathar thugs. This confused them. While they were aware of the two opposed gangs, they couldn’t figure out why both were present. They had also missed the fact that the Kenku were Xanathar Guild members too, so they assumed that the four Kenku had somehow killed both groups.
Renaer in the closet
After coming to this conclusion, Alan, the defacto leader of the group, remembered that the Kenku had repeated three things: “Xanathar sends his regards;” “Follow the yellow signs in the sewers;” and “Tie up the pretty boy in the back room!”
They investigated the small room at the back; it was a tight, dark closet that smelt of fish and vinegar. Here, behind more stacks of wooden crates, they found a bruised human male in fancy clothes cowering under a tarpaulin. Could this be Floon?
Realizing the party were not a threat, the man stood up, still partially covered by the tarp, offered his hand, and said, “Renaer Neverember at your service.” This drew some blank looks from the party and so he explained that he was the estranged son of Lord Dagult Neverember. He had been ambushed by the Zhentarim while out drinking with his friend, and the Zhentarim had locked him in this cupboard. This was not Floon. But it was the person who had seen him last, and he did look remarkably like the man they were looking for.
Alan asked why Renaer thought they had been targeted. He said, “The Zhentarim think my father embezzled a large amount of gold when he was the Open Lord of Waterdeep, and that he hid it somewhere in the city. They think they can find it by using an artifact called the Stone of Golorr, which was in the hands of the Xanathar Guild until recently. Apparently, somebody stole it. The Zhents thought I knew something about all of this, but I don’t. My father and I haven’t spoken in years.”
Renaer then offered his assistance in helping find Floon; he felt guilty that Floon had been taken by mistake. However, just as the party finished questioning Renaer, there was a crash outside the warehouse, the doors flew open, and in streamed a dozen city watchmen followed by a familiar cigar-smoking Captain.
The City Watch
Alan and Dugg recognized Captain Staget who was not at all pleased to see the ABI here. He had received a report of suspicious activity and was not expecting a pile of dead bodies. His initial conclusion was that Alan and co. were responsible, but once he realized that they were Zhentarim and Xanathar Guild corpses, he concluded something more sinister must have happened. He didn’t think the Kenku were the culprits.
At this point Renaer was still half-covered by the tarpaulin, and looking like a sad Pac-Man ghost. But, once Captain Staget began to get angry with the ABI’s questions, he revealed himself fully. The captain recognized Renaer and his attitude soon sweetened. He was willing to overlook any crimes the adventurers had committed but insisted they left the scene and stayed out of trouble.
As they went he gave them three pieces of advice: “Best not to meddle in criminal matters. Leave this dirty business to the City Watch. And keep the blood off the streets, okay?” He also handed them a copy of the Code Legal, a folded parchment with the laws and punishments for criminal activity in Waterdeep, and a healing potion that Little Joe immediately downed.
Into the sewers
Outside Arvene began questioning Renaer about where they might have taken Floon. He maintained that he didn’t know, but she didn’t believe him—really this was just an excuse to keep talking to him; he was very handsome. Meanwhile, Alan and Dugg were discussing the Code Legal: “Don’t throw it on the floor Alan. Look. Littering could cost you 2 gold pieces. I’m guessing it’s double if you litter with the law.”
Little Joe was thinking about where to go next. The sewers seemed like the best bet. An investigation check revealed a sewer cover on that street, so he went over and tried to pry it open. Being a weak and squishy spellcaster, his strength failed him. Dugg the fighter was able to lend a hand. And a crowbar.
They descended into the sewer and immediately saw a small symbol in yellow chalk. It looked like how a child might draw the sun. Remembering the Kenku, they followed the symbol. The sewer was wet, smelly, and disgusting. After an hour of dredging through muck, following the crude chalk symbols they approached an intersection where three tunnels joined.
The intersection marked the beginning of a Xanathar Guild hideout and was guarded by a Gazer (like a beholder, only the size of a grapefruit).
The gazer was floating four feet about the ground at the center of the sewer cross-section when the adventurers approached. They weren’t being stealthy, so it was not surprised when they rounded the corner. It hissed at them and hurled a Ray of Frost from one of its four eye stalks at the first one it saw. Luckily the Gazer didn’t beat Alan’s armor class (AC) of 14, so the ice beam missed.
Dugg went first in initiative. He tried to talk to the Gazer, but the creature could only hiss and snarl in return, so Dugg ran across the passageway and shouted to draw its attention away from the others. Arvene was next and, still trying to impress Renaer, cast Guidance on him. This would give him a +4 to his next attack.
Then Alan ran at the Gazer, sloshing through the sewage and muck, and hit twice with his shortswords, dealing 9 damage. Last to go, Little Joe rolled a nature check to see what, if anything, he knew about Gazers. He rolled well and knew that a Gazer is a manifestation of a Beholder’s dreams; its four eye stalks can randomly shoot magical rays at its targets, but unlike a full-sized Beholder its central eye had no antimagic properties. Joe shared the information with the others and threw a dart at the monster. It missed and splashed into the muck.
The Gazer was hissing and buzzing around the adventurers’ heads like a filthy sewer piñata. There was a gash below one of its eye stalks from Alan’s swords and it turned to face its attacker. Arvene called down a mote of holy radiant light, burning its skin. Now confused, it started spinning wildly, sending dazzling eye beams in all directions. Amidst the chaos there was a yelp from Dugg as he took a Frost Ray directly to the chest. His eyes rolled back and he fell to the floor, his hands clutching his cold unbeating heart. END
Even though it was mostly exploration and roleplay, this session still ended with one of the characters very close to death. Still right at the beginning of the campaign, the party are only level one, which means they will probably nearly die every time they get in a fight. Therefore they’ll have to be very careful if they continue exploring the Xanathar hideout.
At the start of the session they took so long dealing with Renaer and searching the first room of the warehouse that they didn’t get to explore the rest of the building before the City Watch arrived. This meant they missed out on some loot and a cool new magic item, the Paper Bird. This is a really interesting item that looks like a normal piece of paper, but when you write a message on it it turns in to a bird and flies directly to the recipient. I really like this item so I’ll give them another chance to find it at a later date.
What did we learn?
DM Tip: It’s OK to sometimes let your players decide their own limitations or that of the environment. In this session they thought that fire would be dangerous in the sewers due to the methane and gases that might be present. I let them go with this as a fun bit of RP, but it did mean that Little Joe was scared to use his fire magic in case of explosions. This isn’t in the campaign guide or the rules as such, but I might stick with it and see what happens when they do create a flame or light a match down here.
Next week our adventurers will have to deal with the Gazer and might begin exploring the Xanathar Guild hideout. However, they are all very low on HP, so they will have to be very careful it they want to survive to reach level two.