Session Six: Just a warning shot
While Dugg and Renaer dealt with one goblin, taking it in turns to optimistically poke their short swords through the arrow slits, Alan was occupied with the other. He had stuffed his bedroll into the hole to block it, and wedged it stuck with a crowbar. Then, once he felt the goblin tugging on the other end, he set it alight with his tinderbox. Within seconds he could hear the goblin’s feral squeals as the smell of freshly seared meat drifted through the arrow slit. “I’m claiming that on expenses,” he said, as the crowbar clattered to the floor.
Last night was the sixth session in our online Dragon Heist campaign and my level one players had only just defeated two sleeping goblins. They were about to learn the hard way that at such low levels they needed to be much more careful, as they delved deeper into the Xanathar hideout.
The set up
We are playing our Dragon Heist sessions via Skype and using D&D Beyond and Trello to keep track of player characters and campaign notes. Last night, for the first session in a long time, technology didn’t let us down at all.
If you’ve never used Trello before I highly recommend it for keeping track of all the details and tidbits of information your players might forget. It’s a web-based project management system that allows you to create “boards” and lists which you can then share with whomever you like. Each session I add important NPCs, quests, and locations to the board and my players can add their own comments and objectives. This will be especially useful later on in the campaign, and if anyone misses a session, or we don’t play for a while.
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 in Waterdeep and on the trail of Floon Blagmaar. The trail has led them through various destinations and they have discovered much. Including the fact that Floon has been kidnapped. Twice. First he was abducted by Zhentarim thugs. Then, in a case of mistaken identity, he was taken again, this time by Xanathar Guild members who believed he was Renaer Neverember, estranged son of the ex-Open Lord of Waterdeep.
Last week, after rescuing the real Renaer, the party spent some time resting in the cellar of the Spouting Fish tavern. Then they descended into the sewers and followed some mysterious symbols which led to a stone door. But before they could enter, they were attacked by two goblin sentries. Now, having defeated the goblins, they prepare to enter the Xanathar hideout, and hopefully rescue Floon.
As his crowbar clattered to the floor, Alan looked round in time to see Little Joe disappear through a wooden door that had been obscured in the darkness. Wanting to keep an eye on the maverick Drow Sorcerer, Alan followed, although unlike Joe, he wasn’t able to see in the dark. Arvene, Dugg, and Renaer were composing themselves after the fracas when they heard Alan stub his toe and squeal loudly. They decided to stay put and wait for their companions to return.
So the first thing the party did after narrowly beating the goblins was to split up and wander off into an unknown enemy lair. Whilst not surprised by this, I knew it probably wouldn’t end well.
Alan and Joe weren’t exactly being stealthy as they investigated the dark corridors of the Xanathar hideout. They were shouting to each other and making quite a lot of noise, but thankfully the immediate vicinity housed no lurking threats. This didn’t stop me asking them to roll stealth checks, with disadvantage, hoping that at some point they might realize they would have to take a little more care. They didn’t take the hint.
Whilst exploring, they came to a guard-room that had an arrowslit that looked on to the sewers. They could hear Arvene, Dugg, and Renaer on the other side. There was also the charred remains of Alan’s bedroll and a freshly sautéed goblin carcass. In the room they also found a small satchel belonging to the goblin. As well as a few coins it had a severed human hand that had been mutilated to look like a lizard’s claw. Little Joe kept the claw-hand.
Voices in the dark
The party regrouped in the guard-room, and decided to carry on investigating the corridors. There were Xanathar hideout symbols around the halls and Renaer was sure this must be where they were keeping Floon.
They continued to explore. As it was pitch black, Little Joe cast Dancing Lights and gave everyone a small light that acted as a head torch. Or target, depending on your perspective. They found a larger room that seemed to be sleeping quarters. It was empty but investigation checks from Arvene and Dugg revealed that it had been slept in fairly recently.
On the far side of the room was a closed wooden door. Dugg stood by the door and listened. He rolled a natural 20 in his perception check to see what might be behind the door. He heard two male voices arguing. One deep, low and guttural, the other high-pitched with a panicked tone. They were discussing something that was behind another door. The low voice was keen to barricade it, whilst the other wanted to, “Wait for the boss.”
Dugg slowly opened the door to see inside; neither of the room’s two occupants noticed. There was a Duergar (a type of underground dwarf) and a Xanathar Thug with their backs to Dugg, both staring at a door on the opposite wall. Impulsively, Little Joe jumped into the room and shouted, “Everyone put your hands in the air!”
Having thus announced their arrival, the party forwent any chance of a surprise round and the two foes instantly turned to see them and raised their weapons to attack.
In the first round of combat, Arvene cast a Guidance spell on Dugg, who then attacked the Duergar with his short swords. Then Renaer ran in and attacked the Xanathar Thug. Little Joe hung back and cast a Firebolt spell from the doorway, but it missed. “That was just a warning shot!” he called. Both enemies hit back and dealt damage to Dugg and Renaer. And Alan stayed in the sleeping quarters and made a fort out of mattresses. His plan was to snipe at the enemies from a safe distance, but he slightly misjudged the angles.
Two more combat rounds later and the Duergar used his Enlarge ability to double in size and knocked Dugg unconscious. Little Joe, after two more “warning shots,” finally hit the enlarged Duergar (the big-little-guy) with a Firebolt, and Renaer took a near death-blow from the Xanathar Thug, before taking him out. Arvene wasn’t having any luck with her Sacred Flame spell so had begun attacking the Duergar with her hammer. Meanwhile Alan continued to hide under Fort Mattress.
First and second wind
By round four it was everyone versus the enlarged Duergar as Renaer had dealt with the thug, Alan had left Fort Mattress, and Dugg had miraculously jumped back to life. A solid hit from Arvene’s hammer was followed by a very rude deflating sound as the big-little-guy became a little-big-little-guy and fell to the floor defeated.
Now that both enemies were dead, it was time to see how everyone was doing health-wise. Both Renaer and Dugg had 1HP remaining but at level one Arvene can only cast very few healing spells, so they have to be really careful with managing this resource. Thankfully Dugg is a fighter and has the Second Wind ability, which means that he can use a bonus action to regain 1d10+1 hit points. This is potentially an extra 11HP, which would put him back to full health. He rolled a one. But Arvene had already healed Renaer, so Dugg would have to cope with only having 3HP for now.
A tiger in the closet?
Immediately the party’s attention turned to the two doors leading away from the room. One was partially barricaded, the other was not. They had overheard the Duergar and the Xanathar Thug discussing keeping something dangerous locked behind the barricaded door, but rather than warning them away, it only served to pique their interest. Thus Little Joe tried to kick down the door. He is a weak sorcerer and the door opens inward. Nothing happened. “That was just a warning kick!” he shouted, rubbing his bruised feet. Arvene pulled the door towards her and it opened easily.
As Arvene’s eyes adjusted to the darkness, she made out a small room, likely housing the toilet. She noticed something wobbling in the air. It looked like small bones hovering in the air and faintly shimmering and glistening in the light from Joe’s spell. Suddenly, the air around the bones shivered and tightened and a gelatinous shape formed in front of her like an aggressive blancmange. “Ooze!” she yelled and frantically slammed the door shut. END
No matter how much you warn players or sign post potential threats to them, they always seem to take the least desirable choice with the most painful likely outcome. Even though it was in the campaign book, I hadn’t prepared the stat block for the Ooze that lurked behind the barricaded door. I had foolishly assumed they would choose the safe option of the unlocked wooden door, rather than the one which the Duergar and Zhentarim thug were clearly barricading and reinforcing. My players’ first thoughts: they must be safe-guarding treasure. By trapping it in a room. So it can’t escape.
For the third time this campaign, Dugg, our Earth Genasi fighter, fell to zero hit points and nearly died. Clearly more used to playing higher level characters, he keeps forgetting he only has a 12 hit point maximum. What’s really amazing is that for the second time out of three he rolled a natural 20 on his first death save and jumped straight back to life. If it wasn’t for the fact that we can see his dice rolls, I would be highly suspicious of his uncanny knack for critical successes just when he needs them the most.
What did we learn?
DM Tip: If there’s a monster present in your game, make sure you are prepared for your players to fight it. Occasionally you might set up a session that includes threats or encounters that you don’t envisage having a combat element. Perhaps a lonely knight meets the party on a dusty road and offers advice on a good place to rest. Or your heroes pass a herd of innocently wandering elephants. You might not consider either of these to be potential combat encounters. But players always have a way of surprising you. And all it takes is for them to say something rude about the knight’s dubious parentage, or for the druid to cast Talk with Beasts and insult the chief elephant’s big-nosed mistress, and all hell breaks loose. If you had prepared the monster stats in advance, it would just save you the hassle in-game, even if you’re sure it will never come to a fight.
Next week the adventurers continue to explore the Xanathar hideout and hopefully escape the ooze hiding in the closet. Will they get to Floon in time to save him? At this rate, probably not.