Session Eight: Blood, Sweat, and Cats
With the burly halfling’s shouts still echoing through the empty Dock Ward street behind them, the heroes made their way to the only safe place they could think of at 4am. Alan knocked on the door of Alma Moyes’ house and watched as the net curtains twitched. He was breathing heavily. She still believed he was her long-lost son and he hated to take advantage of a lonely old lady. But they were badly hurt and needed someplace to rest until they could get Floon back to Volo at the Yawning Portal. “Christopher. Is that you again?” “Yes, mother.”
Last night was the eighth session in our Dragon Heist D&D campaign. It began with the heroes leveling up and ended with a tour of their new home.
We are playing via Skype and using Trello and D&D Beyond to keep track of characters and share campaign information. Last week I set up a second webcam to show a battle map with minis, but didn’t anticipate combat this session, so was just using one Skype account.
We were a little late beginning the session—I now understand what the term “terrible twos” means, and why parents of toddlers always seemed so happy when they were at work—but once we were under way, the session suffered no technical setbacks. This is far better than last week, when I forgot to charge either laptop I was using, and they both lost charge at the same time.
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, Dugg, Joe, and Arvene met in Waterdeep and there formed a small independent investigations company called the ABI (Alan’s Bureau of Investigators). After a couple of small jobs dealing with goblins, they were hired by Volothamp Goddarm to find a missing person. His friend Floon Blagmaar had (first) been kidnapped by the Zhentarim and then subsequently by the Xanathar Guild, and Volo was keen for him to be returned safely.
Both the Zhents and Xants had confused Floon for Renaer Neverember, estranged son of the former Open Lord of Waterdeep, and were trying find clues to his missing treasure cache. The heroes discovered all of this and eventually, with the help of the real Renaer Neverember, rescued Floon. Now they just need to get him back to Volo, but first have to appease a kind old lady who is convinced Alan is her beloved son Christopher.
More cookies and cocoa
Alan and Dugg were the first to wake. The cramped sitting room they’d all slept in smelled of blood, sweat, and cats. They could hear the snores of Floon, Renear, and Arvene reverberating through Alma’s fancy china. Little Joe was a Drow, so didn’t snore. He stared vacantly at the artex-embossed walls, lost in meditation. From the kitchen there was the sound of clinking mugs and spoon-stirring, followed by the familiar shuffling of Alma Moyes’ fluffy unicorn slippers. “More cocoa for my boys?”
So that’s where the session started. My players’ new favorite place. Alma Moyes’ house.
Alma made them all cookies and cocoa and asked them what happened. She recognized Renear Neverember and gushed about how amazing his father was, “It was terrible the way he was treated,” she exposited. “Poor Dagult, he should have never of been deposed. He might have been corrupt, but he had a lovely smile. A real man man’s smile.” Renaer looked uncomfortable talking about his estranged father and quickly tried to change the subject. Meanwhile Dugg, Alan, and Joe went upstairs to Christopher’s room and explored the house. Because why not challenge your DM to improvise wholly new and irrelevant spaces without any warning?
The Bostonian cat is more than a feline
Whilst the others were breaking things in the bedrooms, Arvene talked to Alma. She discovered that of Alma’s three cats—Catrick Swayze, Fuzz Aldrin, and Dagult Neverember—Catrick had gone missing. Alma blamed Jean, her equally elderly next door neighbor, claiming that, “She was one of those Emeralds,” meaning she was a member of the Emerald Enclave. Arvene didn’t know what this meant so she ignored my overt hinting at one of the major factions in Waterdeep.
Eventually, after smashing a window and jumping from a second story window for no reason, the party left Alma Moyes’ house. The old lady was still under the impression that Alan is her missing son Christopher, but was five gold pieces richer, due to his guilt over the window.
Floon and Volo reunited
From the Dock Ward the players caught a tram to the Castle Ward and the Yawning Portal tavern. Because they were rude to the driver, this cost them five silver pieces each.
They entered the Yawning Portal where they saw Volo, slumped over in a booth on his own. He soon became animated when they reunited him with Floon. The two men hugged and Volo brought a round of ales and spiced meats for everyone.
My players wouldn’t be distracted by breakfast, however, and insisted he pay them for saving Floon.
“I confess that I have but few coins to spare. But never let it be said that Volo reneges on a promise. Allow me to present something much more valuable.” He holds out a scroll tube. “The deed to a remarkable property here in Waterdeep! We’ll need a magistrate to witness the transfer of ownership. I’ll arrange a meeting with one after you’ve inspected the estate and deemed it satisfactory.”
They were not impressed by Volo’s failure to pay, but were excited by the prospect of owning property. So they agreed to inspect it. But not before Little Joe tried to intimidate and extort Volo. He rolled quite high on his charisma check (19), but forgot that both Renaer and Floon were Volo’s friends. He soon found two sharp dagger points poking into his back, “I’m willing to overlook this transgression because you must be very tired,” whispered Renaer, “but if you ever threaten my friend again it won’t end well for you or your friends.” I then reminded my players of the need to stay within the confines of the law and what the consequences of breaking the Code Legal would be. I have a feeling this won’t be the last time an NPC gives them a similar reminder.
They then scooted off to the North Ward where Volo said their new home was. They hailed a cab, but were rude to the driver again, so she refused to take them, and the party had to walk. This took three hours. By the time they got there they each received a point of exhaustion (disadvantage on ability checks).
Volo took them straight to Trollskull Alley and they found it to be a nice affluent area, much nicer than the Dock Ward. There was a mixture of shops and housing and they could see lots of smartly dressed folk. Dugg, who was brought up by one of the noble families, caught sight of Victoro Cassalanter angrily leaving the Cassalanter Bank, and he then bumped into his cousin Esvele Roznar who was out shopping with her family.
They carried on looking eagerly around Trollskull Alley and eventually turned a corner. Their hopes dropped as they saw a ruined, abandoned building, “Welcome to Trollskull Manor,” said Volo.
Closer inspection revealed it not to be as bad as they thought. It was four stories tall, with balconies, a turret, and four broken chimneys. It was certainly in a state of disrepair, boards covered the windows and the roof needed some work, but there was potential. So, without inspecting further they agreed to accept Volo’s offer. They therefore did not meet Lif, the resident poltergeist, whom I’m certain will cause some commotion in the sessions to come.
Magistar Kylynne Silverhelme
Before they officially owned the property, they needed to see a magistrate to have it signed over. Luckily Volo had already arranged a meeting with the North Ward’s resident magistrate, Kylynne Silverhelme.
He took them to a grand building that looked like a town house and there they met Magistar Silverhelme. Technically the campaign book puts this meeting in the Castle Ward and doesn’t go into very much detail of the interaction, but after a little internet digging I found out more information on Kylynne Silverhelme and embellished slightly.
The stern tiefling woman sat behind the mahogany desk surveyed the party frowning. If they found the curly black wig or giant hammer amusing they didn’t let it on. Somehow this lady exuded authority. For once they showed some respect. In a few minutes the transaction was all over; it had cost them 35 dragons, but that was a price they could pay. They were now officially on the housing ladder and they were ready to start climbing. Trollskull Manor awaits. END
Another session without any combat, and very few dice rolls. I’m still getting the hang of a mostly roleplay-focused game and find it hard to judge how much content to throw at my players or just let them take the lead and do whatever they want, but I think that everyone still enjoyed it. In this session, because it was mostly tying up the loose ends of chapter one, before we start chapter two next week, I had a clear linear path I wanted to follow, and thankfully my players didn’t go too far off piste.
I did have to reinforce the fact that openly breaking the law is not a good idea though, and that they should remember to be respectful of authority figures. When Joe threatened Volo, I felt that unless Renear stuck up for him and reminded Joe of the Code Legal, and that the City Guards would definitely be involved, it could set a precedent of my players going on a rampage through Waterdeep that might derail the campaign entirely. It was also a handy way of name-dropping Captain Staget, the recurring City Watch Captain.
What did we learn?
DM Tip: Be prepared for your players to pick up on the smallest, most insignificant aspects of your game and latch onto them and never let go. Like limpets clinging to a rusty hull, my players cannot get enough of Alma Moyes; they are already talking about her becoming their new housemaid and getting her a makeover. Not at all in the campaign book, she is a spur of the moment creation at the end of one our first Dragon Heist games where I just needed someone to be on the other side of a door to an anonymous house. So I created an old, confused lady who had lost her son, and Alan immediately pretended to be him. Because why not? So not only do I now have to think about who she is and what her backstory is, I also have to try to predict what my players will do with her next. Hers was the first house they wanted to go to after rescuing Floon—not back to the tavern where they were supposed to. And she was the first person they thought of when they received the deeds to a new house. I feel like if I don’t somehow make her the secret main nemesis for this whole campaign I am missing a trick.
Next week my players get to explore their new manor properly, and will meet Lif, the poltergeist barman that currently lives there. Will it be Ghostbusters or Cheers? Who knows.