Dragon Heist session thirteen: Wererattus rattus
When the lights came back on Dugg realized he had the intellect devourer cornered. Arvene and Alan stood beside him as he slowly approached the beast, shortsword raised. Still glowing with Tymora’s blessing, Dugg raised his weapon and drove it home into the monster, splitting it in two.
Last night was the 13th session in our online Dragon Heist D&D campaign and the heroes had just defeated an intellect devourer in the cellar of Trollskull Manor.
The set up
We have been playing Dragon Heist via Skype and using Trello and D&D Beyond to keep track of characters and share campaign information among our group. I have also been using a second laptop with its own Skype account so that I can stream battle maps for encounters.
We had planned to test out Discord for running this session—Discord is a messaging service used by over 200 million games around the world that features a game mode for livestreaming, voice chat, and more—but I hadn’t prepared my second account, needed to stream the battlemaps, so we postponed that until next week.
Therefore last night we stuck with what we knew, and I drew out a battlemap and got to show off my badly painted minis.
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 formed a small independent investigations company called Dragonclaw Inc. On their first mission they encountered an intellect devourer that escaped into the sewers. Later, on a job for Mirt “the Moneylender” to recover some owed finances from a half-orc in the field Ward, they stumbled upon a gang of halfling wererats and incinerated the Hart’s Head tavern. However, they didn’t find the missing half-orc or the 300 dragons.
Last session, as they sat contemplating their next move, Alan heard a scratching sound coming from the cellar. He went to investigate and discovered an intellect devourer in the basement.
Plug it, Dugg
Still reeling from the fight, the heroes looked around to take stock. Little Joe’s Dancing Lights gave off just enough illumination to see around the cellar. It was a sorry sight. The water, 10 inches deep in some places, was filthy and stank of rotten alcohol and feces. It appeared to be coming in through a broken grate in the floor. That must have been where monster got in.
As the 13th session in our Dragon Heist campaign got underway, Dugg was worried that more intellect devourers would attack. So he began looting the house for broken wood and masonry to plug the hole. Meanwhile Joe had just finished making tea for everyone, and Alan and Arvene were searching the cellar for more signs of infestation.
Dugg rolled high on his investigation check (19), and so, in spite of interruptions from a not-so-friendly poltergeist, he was quickly able to find some broken brickwork and blocked the entrance to the cellar. He was confident that this should secure it for now.
They then decided to take a long rest. In the morning, once all restored to full health, they headed off to find Mirt and tell him about the wererats in the Field Ward.
What d’you know, Joe
They met Mirt in his mansion over breakfast. The Moneylender had a copy of the local newspaper, the Waterdeep Wazoo, on his desk. The headline read: Trouble in the Field Ward as Historic Tavern burned down. He didn’t look happy. He knew it was Joe who had burned down the tavern, but when they told the story of the wererats, Mirt became slightly more sympathetic.
All the characters had to roll charisma checks to see how well Mirt would treat them. Alan and Arvene did not roll high (9 and 11), so the Moneylender pretty much ignored them. Dugg did OK (14), so Mirt was at least civil toward him when he asked about the Black Viper story on page 4. But Little Joe rolled a natural 20, and with his charisma score of +3, and proficiency in persuasion, his roll came to 25. This meant that Mirt was very impressed with Joe. So much so that he offered to reduce the amount of debt the players owed him by half.
Alan then made an inspiring speech, questioning Mirt’s loyalty to the city and his motivations. “What are you going to do about protecting your city Moneylender? Will you act to rid Waterdeep of this vermin?”
Mirt, who was nervously fiddling with an ornate ring during Alan’s speech (he’s secretly a Masked Lord of Waterdeep and a member of the Harpers—so a good guy), was impressed with the investigator’s passion and paid them 30gp to investigate the wererats and report back. He also loaned them four silver daggers and explained all he knew about wererats and the curse of Lycanthropy.
50 miles to the (G)Alan
They left Mirt’s mansion and headed back to Trollskull Manor, mulling over what Mirt had told them. Mistress Hamshackle had turned up in the morgue that morning, so Mirt wasn’t hoping to get his 300gp back any more. Evidently she was a prolific gambler and had debts all over the city, including to Istrid Horne—financier to the Zhentarim—and the Cassalanter bank. It turns out the wererats had caught up with her and tried to infect her with Lycanthropy, but she didn’t survive the process.
Dragonclaw Inc. now had to decide what to do: follow the trail to Istrid or the Cassalanters, or follow clues of their own? Alan had received a tip previously that there was a recent rat infestation in the North Ward Watch Post, so he convinced the others to join him—posing as rat catchers—to investigate there. He was 99.9% sure they weren’t just normal rats. And he was posing as a semi-professional rat catcher, so he should know.
Alan’s tip came from Regan Clay, the head honcho of the North Ward city watch, however he also mistakenly thought that she had invited him there on a date.
He introduced the team to Regan and she showed them around the watch house. Alan rolled a charisma check to charm his would-be inamorata. He rolled very badly (4) and trod on her foot, accidentally insulted her grandma, and told her he loved the smell of beetles in the morning. She wasn’t impressed.
Come clean, Arvene
Exploring the watch house was the perfect opportunity to dig deeper into Arvene’s backstory too. As an ex-city guard, she was based in the North Ward, and was soon recognized by both Godfrey and Herman, two of the constables there. “Surprised to see your face here Arvene, after what you did.”
This piqued the interest of her companions; they wanted to know what secrets she was hiding. But for now at least, she remained tight-lipped and kept her secrets to herself, but took every opportunity to scowl and frown towards Godfrey and Herman.
There were four prisoners in the cells: a drunk gnome bard, a sleeping Kenku, a tribal warrior, and a human female with a shaved head. Alan was keen to interrogate each of the prisoners, but Regan thought this was beyond what was expected of a rat catcher. Deception rolls ensued and amazingly no one rolled badly enough to give the game away.
Returning to his rouse, Alan rolled some survival checks to see if he could find any evidence of rats. As a Ranger, survival is his specialty, so it didn’t take long to trace the rats back to the cell of the shaven-headed prisoner. Regan explained that she had been arrested just over a week ago—only one day before the rats turned up—for devil worshiping and was due to go on trial tomorrow under a Zone of Truth spell. Now it was Alan who was suspicious.
Somehow he convinced the watch captain to let him into the cell to investigate the rat hole in the wall. As he and Arvene entered the cell, Arvene cast Charm Person on the prisoner and they became friends, and talked about boys.
From inside the cell Alan could see the rat hole, but just as he was preparing to block it, a magical darkness erupted around him and the whole room became pitch black. From within the darkness, Alan and Arvene both felt something leathery shoot through the hole and there was a shriek of pain from the prisoner. “Ah! It bit me, save me Arvene!”
Plunged into darkness, no one could see what was going on. The guards ran to the cell and immediately locked the door to prevent the prisoner escaping. There was another scream as whatever had flown in bit the prisoner once more.
Alan and Arvene, both now locked in the magically dark cell with the prisoner and two flying leathery things, did not know what to do. Alan tried to plug the hole and stabbed into something at the same time, while Arvene held onto her new friend and tried to heal her.
Meanwhile Joe and Dugg were outside the cell. Dugg was desperately trying to help his friends, and Little Joe ran out of the room and tried to get upstairs onto the roof. He had a hunch the magical darkness was coming from outside.
It took a couple of rounds for Joe to get to the roof, which gave the three Imps locked in the cell plenty of time to bite and claw at Alan, Arvene, and the prisoner. The imps could see in the dark, giving them a significant advantage, and each time their attacks hit they did additional poison damage. Soon Alan was the only one left standing.
Little Joe dashed up the two flights of stairs and made his way onto the roof. From here he surveyed the surrounding area and his gaze was drawn to the coal bunker that caught his suspicion earlier. A hooded figure could be seen in a doorway, clearly casting some kind of spell. Joe knew he was pushing the boundaries of what he could do, as he too began casting. Magical energy burst from his hands and struck the hooded figure, instantly sending her to sleep. Inside the cells the magical darkness lifted and Alan rubbed is eyes and gasped. Two bodies lay in front of him, locked in the cell. Arevene and the prisoner, both limp and lifeless as the leathery imps buzzed around their heads. END
I really enjoyed this session of or Dragon Heist campaign. It was mostly just a homebrewed side quest I came up with after some improvisation lead us down a confusing path in a previous session. However, it really feels like this is what this stage of the Dragon Heist is all about—letting DMs and players create their own stories within Waterdeep, before the real fun in Chapter 3 kicks off.
I also got to use some of my Deck of Many monster cards, which is always nice.
What did we learn?
DM Tip: If you are struggling to work out what the direction of your next session should be, it’s OK to focus on just one Player Character’s (PC’s) story per session. Think about which PC might be the focus of the session before you start your game preparation. This way you can try to build the story beats around them.
Since we started Chapter 2 of Dragon Heist I have found it difficult, because of the open world nature of this chapter, to figure out what the structure and narrative of each two-hour session should be. This means we sometimes spend the first hour of each session working out what the characters want to do, before anything actually happens. To counteract this, my preparation for last night involved working out what each of the four PCs wanted to do, and planning a short session each around that. This session Alan was the focus character. He had previously shown interest in finding out more information on the wererats, so I created a mini adventure that tied up the loose ends of the improvised story from session 10 and foreshadowed some of the later elements of the campaign—Devil worshippers and Imps are a big hint to anyone who knows a bit about the villains of Dragon Heist. This mini adventure will run over a little into the next session, but the majority of that one, hopefully, will be focused on Dugg and his recent recruitment into the Dungsweepers Guild. Or that’s the plan, at least.
Next week we’ll pick up exactly where we ended this session; Alan is locked in, Arevene is knocked out, Dugg is confused, and Little Joe is on the roof feeling very smug.