The fracas over, it was clear neither Mistress Hamshackle nor Mirt’s 300 dragons would be found this night. It would be long walk back to Trollskull Manor. As they passed through the gates back into the city, thick plumes of black smoke rose from the Field Ward behind them.
Last night was the 11th session in our online Dragon Heist D&D campaign and our heroes found themselves at a bit of a loose end.
The set up
We are playing WotC’s latest D&D campaign via Skype and using Trello and D&D Beyond to keep track of characters and campaign information. Last night’s session involved some city exploration so I was thankful to have The Residents of Trollskull Alley close by as this helps to flesh out some of the local shopkeepers and artisans of Trollskull Alley. This is a super useful reference document from Donna and Hal Howard that sets out a load of usable NPCs and locations along Trollskull Alley that aren’t included in the campaign book, and I know for sure that I’ll be relying on this in sessions to come.
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
Last week, after seeking out Mirt “the Moneylender” for some financial assistance, the party took a job collecting a debt from a tavern owner in the Field Ward. Naturally things escalated and it ended in a fight between them and a gang of halfling wererats, and the tavern burning down. Needless to say, the party did not manage to secure Mirt’s 300 gold pieces.
Mirt and laughter
As they headed back to Trollskull Manor, the heroes regretted upsetting the local tram drivers. It was a long way back to the North Ward and the sun had started to rise by the time they reached the Alley. Alan couldn’t stop thinking about those weird halflings. He’d never seen someone turn into a rat before, and he was worried about the bite on his arm. Arvene checked it out. She didn’t think it was septic. But he didn’t really trust the opinion of a medic who also carried a mace and a good luck charm. Right now they needed some rest, then they’d head back to Mirt and tell him the bad news.
The session started with some clarification on the deal that Mirt was offering. He wanted shares in the business profits and was willing to put up as much capital as they needed. But for every 100GP he staked, he wanted 5%. This seemed like a lot.
We then discussed the mechanics of determining how successful a business was and what the regular expenses of running a tavern were. These rules are alluded to Dragon Heist and elaborated on in the Dungeon Master’s Guide. Essentially it comes down to rolling a d100 and consulting a table. A good roll could see them earn 150GP in a week, but poor rolls could mean they make no money and have to fork out to cover their expenses.
On arrival back at their manor Arvene, Alan, and Little Joe recounted their adventure to Dugg, and the earth genasi told them of his new apprenticeship with the Dungsweepers Guild. At this point my players were at a bit of a loose end. They wanted to complete their mission from Mirt, but also couldn’t decide if they trusted him or not. At one stage they were even discussing planning a heist and robbing him, which I am thankful that they’ve shelved for now. He’s a very rich and powerful man who would make life very difficult for the PCs if they got on his bad side at this stage. But this could be an interesting avenue to pursue later in the campaign.
In the morning, after a long rest, they were again discussing their next move, when there was a knock at the of Trollskull Manor. Enter Fletch Peterson, a Master Surveyor from the Surveyors’, Map-, and Chart-Makers Guild, with his terrible faux-Welsh accent.
“Hullo. It’s Fletch ‘ere. I was asked to pop in and pay you a visit by Mister Mirt. He said you might be in need of some Surveyance-ing, on the grounds that this place is rather fallin’ apart and you’ve got no idea ‘ow to fix it. I must say: he wasn’t wrong was he.” As he talks he flails a loose door handle that had detached in his hand as he entered the building. “Well, I shall have a look around, see. It will take an hour or so and then we’ll have a full quotation for you.”
It was at this point that my plans for the session rather unraveled. What I should have done is said: “It takes Fletch just over two hours to complete the survey while you go about your morning routines and plan your day. He then gathers you together and tells you the quote.”
What I actually said was: “It will take Fletch a couple of hours to complete the survey. What would you like to do in that time?”
Thus what followed took up the whole session, as the adventurers all went on their own personal errands around Trollskull Alley and beyond, just to fill the time. These were complete with multiple interactions and distractions, and didn’t actually achieve very much. While this was fun, and totally in the spirit of this chapter in the campaign, it wasn’t what I had planned to do. And so I spent two hours improvising situations, some of which just complicated and even contradicted the main narrative. In short I hadn’t planned very well for this scenario.
Little Joe and Dugg
Joe had thought of a way to ingratiate himself towards Lif. He wanted to find a bow-tie for the poltergeist. He thought that this simple gift might stop the aggrieved specter repeatedly painting the phrase, “Drows go home!” in black paint all over the manor. Dugg thought this might be fun, so agreed to come along. They had seen there was a tailor in Trollskull Alley so they headed there.
Here they met Murgo Bumbleblast, an elegant Halfling couturier who was happy to see some new faces. He explained that anyone who was anyone in the city was wearing one of his suits or dresses and began to show Dugg and Joe his full range of formal ties and bow-ties.
Then Joe had the great idea of trying to con the tailor out of some items. He told Murgo that his name was Glen and he was man-servant for Lord Vacanvire of Binden Bow (entirely made-up). Murgo had never heard of this place, but a deception roll of 23 from Joe convinced him he was telling the truth. Dugg stood back from the interaction, silent and confused. Joe explained that his master was looking to purchase 300 of the finest silk bow-ties for a formal event at the end of the month, but would need to see some samples before committing to the outlay. Another impressive deception roll from Joe (22), and Murgo agreed to hand over four very fine silk ties, worth 15gp each. For a second Joe was very smug.
However, much to his dismay, Murgo then proceeded to write out a receipt for the four bow-ties. Which read: Fee of 60gp due in one week, to be waived upon receipt of an order of 300 bow-ties. The receipt was signed and counter-signed by Joe and stamped with the stamp of the Order of Master Tailors, Mercers, and Glovers. Joe wasn’t expecting this and backed away sheepishly with his four bow-ties and no idea how to pay for them.
As he and Dugg left the building with the bow-ties, Joe suddenly remembered that he had forgotten to disguise himself, other than giving a fake name, and that he lived just round the corner from the tailor and that this was therefore a very bad plan.
Meanwhile Arvene wanted to check out the local Temple to Tymora. She was also keen to find a way to appease Lif. She wanted to have him exorcised, but was conflicted because she is a trickery domain cleric and so naturally enjoys anything or anyone who causes mischief.
So she paid the temple a visit, but was immediately mistaken for a homeless person. They fed her soup and bathed her and kindly looked after her. She played along with their confusion, and they even gave her some suggestions for removing a poltergeist. They also gave her a tip of where she might get some work. “The Sea Maiden’s Fair has just docked in the harbor in the Dock Ward and we heard they were looking for people with certain skills who could help them.”
On her way back to the Manor, she paid a visit to the bakery, Pain du Pierre, and experienced another terrible attempt at a French accent as the chef Pierre shouted at her about the quality of his bread.
Alan had plans of his own too. He wanted to investigate the wererats/disappearance of Madam Hamshackle. So he headed back to the Field Ward to see what he could discover.
He arrived at the remains of the Hart’s Head tavern, still smouldering from the fire he was partly responsible for, and dodged past the many city watch officers who were combing the scene for clues. He followed one officer who was questioning bystanders. A strong investigation roll (18) meant a man who was avoiding answering the watch’s questions caught Alan’s eye. He approached after the guard had left and introduced himself. The man’s name was also Alan and he was a tiefling with facial tattoos and dreadlocks. Alan befriended Alan and took him to a nearby squalid bar called the Last Refuge to buy him a drink. He wasn’t able to garner very much from Alan, except where he had seen the gang of Halfling Wererats appear from before the fight.
Alan left Alan and headed off on the trail. He was following rat prints in the dirt, and rolling survival checks as he went. Eventually, after a very poor dice roll (6) the trail went cold, but Alan did bump into a female watch officer, Ragan Clay. Alan claimed he was a rat-catcher and she told him of an infestation at the watch house in the North Ward. Somehow sensing a potential romantic connection which was certainly not there, he offered his services to extricate the rats the next day. The female watch officer did not share his romantic insight, but she accepted his offer nonetheless. Feeling pleased with himself, Alan returned home.
Eventually, all of the characters made it back to the Manor. Here Fletch Peterson told them the scale of the problem. They needed 1,250gp to renovate Trollskull Manor. Between them they had 58gp and a bill for 60gp for four fine silk bow-ties.
Not sure what to do next, and with no clear way to raise the funds they needed, the four adventurers slumped into the debris of the tap room in Trollskull Manor. Lif could be heard upstairs smashing more furniture, Arvene was just about to go up and give him a piece of her mind when she heard a scratching below the floorboards. “If Lif’s up there,” she said, “Who’s down there?” Alan went down in the cellar to check. Moments later they heard him called up urgently, “Argh! It’s back! The brain with legs!” END
Whilst fun, this was an odd session, with no real direction. In total there were seven different accents and now I have the problem of remembering which NPC has which voice.
Even though it was meandering, there were still some important things learnt this session:
There’s a group of ships called the Sea Madien’s Voyage recently docked in the harbor
The Manor will cost 1,250gp to renovate
Two Drow thugs appear to be following Little Joe
There are rats in the basement of the North Ward Watch house
What did we learn?
DM Tip: Too much freedom can be a bad thing. I wanted to make sure my players had the option of doing whatever they felt their characters wanted to this session, but it slightly backfired as none of them really knew what that was. This meant they ended up not really knowing what to do and spending longer on silly, irrelevant encounters than they might have otherwise. Hence Little Joe is now likely to get into trouble with the local tailor, and Arvene had a lovely bath. Having an open world situation is a great way of setting up a campaign and world-building, but there still needs to be quests and missions and narrative to drive the action forward. Luckily I remembered there was an intellect devourer on the loose…
Next week we start with an encounter with an Intellect Devourer in the basement, then the heroes will have to think about how they’re going to raise the money needed to renovate the manor. My players almost decided to plan a heist and rob Mirt—they don’t like his offer and think he’s a parasite on the working class of Waterdeep. Has anyone else had to deal with players turning against powerful friendly NPCs that they weren’t expecting?