Dragon Heist Session Fourteen: That’s Imp-possible!
On the roof of the North Ward watch house magical energy burst out from Little Joe and struck the hooded figure in the alley below. They were instantly sent to sleep. Meanwhile, with the caster now dozing, the magical darkness in the prison cell lifted. Alan rubbed his eyes and gasped. Two bodies lay in front of him, locked in the cell. Arvene and the prisoner, both limp and lifeless as the leathery imps buzzed hungrily around their heads.
Last night was the 14th session in our online Waterdeep Dragon Heist D&D campaign and the members of Dragonclaw Inc. had gotten themselves into a tricky situation.
We have been playing via Skype and using Trello and D&D Beyond to keep track of characters and share campaign information. I have also been using a second laptop with its own Skype account so that I can stream battle maps for encounters.
But this week we tested out a new system. Instead of connecting via Skype, which can be temperamental, we each installed and used Discord. We will still use DnD Beyond and Trello, as we find them particularly useful, but for now have replaced Skype.
What is Discord?
Used by over 200 million gamers around the world, Discord is a messaging service that includes features for livestreaming, voice and video chat, and direct messaging. Some of our party have used Discord before and were able to talk us through some of the basic functions as we played. It went really well.
One of the drawbacks for Skype is the lack of options for playing music, so hopefully Discord will let us include this in our weekly game.
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 gold.
Last session they posed as rat catchers and investigated a tip that the Watch House in the North Ward had a rat problem. Alan was convinced these were wererats, and not just ordinary rats, so convinced the others to accompany him. Whilst investigating the cells, the room was plunged into magical darkness and three evil imps got in through a rat hole. A fight ensued and they killed the prisoner in the cell, and knocked Arvene unconscious. Meanwhile, from the roof outside, Little Joe was able to counteract the Darkness spell, but there were still two imps left to deal with.
Blood started to drip from Arvene’s mouth, but there was very little Alan or Dugg could do about that right now. Not until these damned imps were dealt with. They buzzed and zipped about, biting like eager mosquitoes that had seen too many Christopher Lee movies. As the two adventurers swatted around wildly, Herman the young guard fumbled his keys in the lock. Alan and Dugg couldn’t get out, even if they wanted to. They didn’t have time to wonder where Little Joe had gone, or to guess at how the magical darkness had lifted. Their main concern was killing these creatures and getting Arvene to safety.
The session began with Alan and Joe fighting the imps, Little Joe on the roof of the building and Arvene rolling her first death save. She failed (8).
When a character plummets to zero hit points they fall unconscious and have to start rolling dice to stay alive. Three out of five d20 rolls must be 10 or more. Fail to do so and you’ll be creating a new character. Arvene had four more chances to roll well. If she was attacked in the meantime, that would cost her another failure, so Alan and Dugg were very keen to take care of the imps.
Meanwhile, Little Joe was on the roof. He saw the hooded figure he’d charmed to sleep slump in the doorway across the alley. It was three flights of stairs to get down to ground level, so I assumed that it would take at least four rounds of combat to get there (six seconds each round to travel 60 feet if running).
However, he was a spellcaster. He stepped straight off the top of the roof and began plummeting down to the ground. But before he passed halfway he cast a Featherfall spell and gently glided to the ground. I was very impressed with his technique so awarded inspiration.
Inside, it took two rounds of combat to catch the imps. By the time Arvene rolled her third death save (12)—she was now 1 fail to 2 passes—they had caught both imps. Alan had managed to catch one by taking off his jacket and using it as a net, while Dugg showed off some improbable dexterity skills and caught on in his hands.
“We should try to keep them alive,” said Alan, just as Dugg squeezed his imp so hard that its head popped off like a cork. Alan then tried to deliver a non-lethal blow to the imp in his jacket by swinging it against the stone floor of the cell. He rolled an improbably high strength check (18) and there was an ominous crack as black, viscous ooze began dripping from one the sleeves.
Outside, Little Joe found himself alone and surrounded. The slumbering spellcaster had three friends who had circled around Joe without him noticing. They were wererats from the same gang they’d met before and brandished blades, sneering at Joe. “What you going to do, drow,” one snarled.
The only thing he could think of was to cast Burning Hands at the three of them. This hit them all, dealing significant fire damage, but didn’t kill. Unfortunately for Joe. A quick fight ensued and Joe nearly got the better of them, killing one and forcing another to flee. But before he could land the final blow on the third, he took a shortsword to the chest and fell to the floor unconscious. “Stay fresh, cheese bags,” he whimpered as the lights began to fade away.
Having dealt with the imps, Dugg and Alan still had a lot to sort out. The situation didn’t look good. Arvene had passed her fifth death save, meaning she was alive, but still unconscious, and there was also the dead body of the prisoner to contend with.
Regan, the watch officer who had employed Alan and co. as genuine rat catchers, was looking worried. There was a dead prisoner in her cell and she was getting impatient with Alan’s very poor excuses, but she had to admit—after a miraculously good charisma check from Alan (17)—they DID kill some rats, albeit she hadn’t accounted for them being wererats or devilish imps. Eventually she sent them on their way, after offering medical aid to Arvene and insisting they come back to see her tomorrow to sort out what had happened. So they left the watch house to look for Little Joe, with Dugg carrying the unconscious Arvene over his shoulder.
When Alan and Dugg eventually found their drow friend—it took a few minutes of searching thanks to two poor investigation checks (8 and 12)—he had been stripped and left naked in the street except for his hat and a vial of purple liquid that hung around his neck (his arcane focus, the pilfered blood of a dragonborn warlock). There was no sign of anyone else, just some scorch marks on the ground.
At this stage we’re over one-and-a-half hours into the session and Arvene has been unconscious for the whole time. However, her player was still enjoying themselves, and they weren’t totally impassive—they were offering suggestions, joking, and occasionally rolling attacks for monsters and NPCs. Which I think they enjoyed a little too much—especially when Little Joe became knocked out too.
Eventually, however, Alan and Dugg returned to Trollskull Manor and the first thing they did was have a long rest. This meant both Little Joe and Arvene were able to regain hit points and thus take part in the session once more.
Naturally Little Joe was upset by his loss of all worldly possessions, until he remembered secreting half of his gold and some other precious items under a loose floorboard upstairs in the house. This is possibly the luckiest thing he has ever done, and up until now it had never occurred to anyone to do similar. Needless to say, each of the other PCs were now looking for clever ways to hide or preserve their things in case a comparable thing happened to them in the future. I was so proud of my players. Learning things.
Once she had recovered from her near death experience, the ever-benevolent Arvene set out to find Joe some clothes. She headed to the Trollskull Tailors and was quickly reminded that Joe owes Mungo Bumbleblast for 300 bowties. She made her excuses and left, but not before selecting a bright yellow “Kill Bill” jumpsuit for him from the spare gym clothes box behind Mungo’s counter.
Little Joe was not happy with the outfit, but used it to return to the shop to say he’d been mugged and could no longer honor the debt. A very decent persuasion check (21) left Mungo feeling sorry for Little Joe and so he let him off the 300 bowties, but still wanted payment for the four he had already taken. Joe agreed and headed back to the manor.
Joe turned to leave and heard Mungo’s voice shout down the stairs behind him, “Rebecca, tell little Annie and Jojo they won’t be going to college after all.” He paused for a second and heard fabric being roughly torn and an old man gently sobbing. Joe grinned and headed home with a spring in step.
As he reached the doorstep to Trollskull Manor, Joe heard footsteps behind him and spun round, ready to attack. The mail man, in his blue shirt, cap, and short shorts, was not fazed by the steam rising from Joe’s clenched fist. “A letter for Mister Dugg Duggson,” he said, and handed over a folded parchment sealed with the Dungsweepers crest. Joe took it. It was an offer of work. He considered burning it, but then remembered they could really do with some extra cash. END
This was a relatively short session that focused on rounding off Alan’s goal to investigate the wererats. I had initially planned for this encounter to be over much quicker and for the session to then move onto Dugg’s letter and what followed, but due to my players being more unpredictable than guessing what a two-year-old might confess to the mail man, we’ll have to wait for next week for Dugg to take the spotlight.
I really enjoyed Little Joe’s encounter in the alley with the three thugs and definitely was not expecting his inventive use of Featherfall to quickly get from the roof of the Watch Building to the sleeping spellcaster below. However, I did feel a bit guilty that they took all of his belongings, but at least they didn’t outright kill him. Perhaps now he’ll recognize a situation that he should run from rather than stay and fight even when grossly outnumbered.
What did we learn?
DM Tip: How do you handle a player being unconscious for so long in a session? There are lots of ways of doing this, but it’s important not to forget about them and ignore the player altogether; they still need to have fun or why else would they play? Their player can still be a part of the game even if their character isn’t. Some might have them play an NPC for a while, especially if there’s a fight, or perhaps have them roll the dice for any monsters the party is facing.
Next week we get to see how the party acts as more useful members of society. The Dungsweepers are some of the most essential and well-connected people in Waterdeep, so if they play their cards right, they might be able to heal a few wounds and build a few bridges, and hopefully begin to create a good reputation in the city. Unless they accidentally burn more of it to the ground.