Dragon Heist Session Seventeen: Dungsweepers & Dragons – part 2
Alan was the last one in the room. He secured the ties around the sleeping man and moved towards the window. This had been a very confusing night for him, and he wasn’t even sure exactly what they’d just done. However, he had recognized the pin Arvene had found. A Harper’s pin. He had a very similar one which he’d been given that morning. He hoped Brian wasn’t a Harper too. That would cause all sorts of trouble.
Last night was the 17th session in our online Waterdeep Dragon Heist D&D campaign and our heroes had just completed a heist, and in the morning they had some rather unglamorous business to attend to.
The set up
We have been playing via Discord 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 Discord account so that I can stream battle maps for combat encounters.
To help me with my DM prep I’ve been exploring some of the Dragon Heist supplements available on the DMs Guild—there are lots!—and the last two weeks have been based on Dung Work, an adventure for heroes with a connection to the Dungsweepers Guild. It’s loosely based on one of the faction missions from Dragon Heist Chapter 2, but goes into way more detail and has all sorts of options for playing it in different styles. I’ve been using some of the ideas from that and working it into a narrative of my own that suits my group.
This week Arvene, our mischievous cleric, couldn’t join us as they’ve headed off to Australia for a fortnight. So instead of combating deadly creatures and enduring nightmarish landscapes, the rest of us will be staying at home playing Dungeons & Dragons.
Alan Crabpopper, Human Ranger – a private investigator and member of the Harpers.
Dugg, Earth Genasi Fighter – dungsweeper and 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. ABSENT
Previously in Waterdeep
Alan, Dugg, Joe, and Arvene met in Waterdeep and formed a small independent private eye company called Dragonclaw Inc. Their first few jobs were dangerous and almost got them killed several times over. But they did have some success, including saving Renear Neverember, and investigating wererats in the Field Ward.
Meanwhile, Dugg had found a little side hustle to bring in some extra coin. He had signed up to join the Dungsweepers Guild as a reserve sweeper. Last session, after the first of two days paid work sweeping the streets, the party pulled off a heist in a tavern and returned a stolen sword to Felzoun Thar. Now they have day two of sweeping the streets to contend with.
Breakfast in the bar
Bleary eyed from their late-night adventure, the heroes joined Jasper and the other Dungsweepers as they prepared for another day’s work. They needed a hearty breakfast after pulling off that heist, and Felzour Thar showed his gratitude by providing a feast fit for a masked lord. It was all fresh pastries, dried meats, and exotic sauces; it was so good that Alan, Joe, and Dugg had nearly finished their second course before they even noticed Arvene was missing. “Oh yeah,” said the elf lady serving them, “She said something about heading off for a couple of days to discover herself.” Dugg knew what that meant—she was making the most of the travel ticket she’d stolen last night and was off riding the trams.
The session started with a reminder of the crew they’d be working with that day. Jasper, the foreman, was a dusty blonde human in his late forties who whistled through his teeth. Cole, a young Halfling male, was 5th generation dungsweeper and very proud of his heritage. Faith was the heavily tattooed tefling teenager, whose inkings were all linked to different deities of the forgotten realms. And finally, Kamlann, a human male with greying hair who didn’t speak very much. Those were the four dungsweepers they would be working with; as my players aren’t prolific note-takers I knew I’d be repeating these facts to them a lot throughout the proceedings.
The dungsweepers remarked on the absence of Arvene and the arrival of Alan, which was explained away flippantly—“Arvene’s off riding the rails and this is Alan, Dugg’s emotional support human.” So then, once they were all re-acquainted the group left the tavern, loaded their dung wagon, put on their hi-vis doublets and tunics, and started sweeping the streets.
Handling their equipment
As they began their rounds, following the wagon and sweeping the debris and detritus from the streets, I offered each of them the choice of shovel or brush and, as before, I required a skill check from each of them.
Alan picked the broom and choose to roll dexterity (19); Dugg choose the shovel again and applied his performance skills (also 19); and Joe picked a shovel too and rolled deception (11).
With their rolls Alan and Dugg were able to keep up with their duties and convincingly pull their weight as professional dungsweepers. Joe on the other hand was not. Not only was he pretending to shovel the dirt, he wasn’t do a very good job at that. Faith and Cole noticed his poor efforts and showed their disapproval throughout the day.
The first stop was Rejviik’s Mortuary. The last time they were here a Mummy escaped from an embalming table and, although they were able to defeat it, Dugg became unnaturally scared. As they approached again, Dugg’s apprehension was clear to see. Jasper saw his fearful expression and laughed, “Don’t worry newbie, that kind of stuff doesn’t happen every day.”
“Maybe not to you,” Dugg replied.
Today, fortunately, there were no undead incidents at the mortuary. There was, however, much more refuse and larger piles of garbage than usual. Joe made a particularly successful perception check (16) and discovered an amulet worth at least 75gp.
As Joe was pawing through the trash, Dugg noticed the usually reserved Kamlann sneak off, and signaled to Alan to follow. Alan followed, trying to be as stealthy as possible (stealth 23) and managed to trail Kamlann down an alley without being noticed.
You work for me now
Down the alley Alan saw Kamlann leaning against the wall, clearly stressed. He was sweating and looked as if he’d been arguing with someone. For a split second it looked like his body flickered and shifted into a grey featureless humanoid shape and then back to Kamlann.
Confused, Alan didn’t know how to react; his insight check wasn’t good enough to reveal anything concrete (10), so he decided to bide his time. Kamlann turned around and noticed Alan at the end of the Alley, Alan quickly feigned relieving himself and Kamlann walked past gingerly. As he did, Alan whispered so that Kamlann could hear, “I know what you are. You work for me now.” The color drained from Kamlann’s face and he nodded silently.
On returning to the wagon, Kamlann remained quiet and reserved, only occasionally shooting nervous glances towards Alan. When he got the chance, Alan passed Joe and Dugg and whispered, “I think Kamlann’s using magic.” Joe followed this up with an arcana check (4) which revealed nothing. “Nope,” he said, “I don’t think so.”
Dungsweeping & Dragons
Over the course of the rest of day, they followed the dungsweepers’ wagon across the Trades Ward, stopping first at the Court of the White Bull, then moving on to the Golden Horn gambling hall, before finishing up at Spendthrift Alley.
At the Court of the White Bull they met and befriended a troupe of gnome cowboys who had lost a rope up a tree. Dugg rescued the rope and fell out of the tree and the cowboys shared some throatburn whiskey and discussed the latest news of the Black Viper.
Then, at the Golden Horn Gambling Hall, Joe spent some time scouting the area to see if he could plan a heist, before purchasing magical dice from a drunk. Meanwhile Dugg requisitioned a nice wooden bench that he thought would look great in the taproom at Trollskull Manor.
The last stop on their working tour of the Trades Ward was Spendthrift Alley. This was a bustling market with street vendors and stalls that were selling a wide array of merchandise of varying degrees of quality. The dung wagon stopped abruptly in the middle of the street as a barrel-topped wagon with flamboyant humans was causing a stir in the road. They were travelers and fortune-tellers and sold wolf-pelts, ointments, and Red Dragon Crush wine.
Having just played through Curse of Strahd, everyone recognized this as a Vistani group—although I couldn’t pull off the accent quite as well as our last DM. In the middle of the group of Vistani was an old lady sitting on a stool, shuffling a deck of wooden Tarokka cards; she proceeded to give a reading to the group. Dugg, Jasper, and Kamlann refused the reading, but Faith, Cole, Alan, and Joe had their fortunes read.
Alan: “The five of coins, the Guild Member – no surprises for you – this is why you are here no?”
Faith: “The two of glyphs, the Missionary – you are favored by goodness to share the message with others.”
Jasper: “The two of swords, the Paladin – your diligence in this work spans generations does it not?”
Joe: “The one of stars, the Transmuter – you are blind to the chaos to come.”
Everyone was intrigued by the reading and at first didn’t notice her turn to Kamlann, “You require an additional reading perhaps?” She pulled a card, “Oh, the illusionist – you are not what you appear to be.”
Alan then noticed Kamlann looking very nervous and the fortune-teller continued to pull out another card. She looked at the card and the color fell from her face. She screamed, “Ahh. A being of great power! A spy amongst you! Beware the seven of stars! Begone from my family.”
Kamlann now looked panicked and, cursing the old woman for revealing his true nature, his human visage dropped and for a second he looked like a grey, featureless humanoid (a doppleganger), before turning into an Aarakora (a bird-person) and unveiling large wings before jumping into the sky to escape.
Everyone wanted to do something at once, so rolling initiative seemed like the most efficient and fair way of capturing that. First to act was Joe. He tried to cast sleep on the doppleganger, but his spell failed and the bird-person moved farther away. Then both Alan and Dugg had the same idea, and having rolled the same initiative got to act at the same time. A shovel and spade simultaneously flew through the air towards the fleeing creature. Neither struck the target, both clanged onto the cobbles loudly.
Round two saw the bird-person manage to put even more distance between itself and the party. None of the other dungsweepers knew what to do and only Joe had any ranged attacks. So, not wanting to expend any valuable spell slots, they decided to let the doppleganger get away. This left everyone a little confused, asking, “What just happened?” especially once they realized the Vistani group had disappeared during the melee.
Back to the Folly
The encounter in Spendthrift Alley concluded their day’s work as dungsweepers, and so they returned to the Folzoun Folly to collect their wages and drink with their new colleagues. They were all relieved to hear that the Russo brothers would be returning to work tomorrow, so their services would not be required for dungsweeping tomorrow and the three party members returned to Trollskull Alley, complete with Dugg’s new second-hand love seat.
As night fell, Joe was pacing the taproom in the manor, trying to drown out the slow rumble of Dugg’s snores vibrating through the floorboards. As he turned to face bar for the fifteenth time that night he was shocked to see a shadowy figure seated on a stool. “What! Who are you?” he said. “Hi Joe, I believe you’ve got something of mine. The name’s Nevercroft. Call me JB.” END
This was a much shorter session than most, and it wasn’t until half way through that Joe’s player paused for a moment, after making a performance check to see how well he was sweeping the dirt off the streets, and said, “Hold on. I’ve just got home from a hard day’s work and how do I spend my evening? By pretending to go to work? I’m not fighting dragons or exploring dungeons. I’m pretending to be a garbage man. I love this game.”
I really enjoyed running Dung Work, and think that it was a great way of simultaneously introducing the party to a new area of the Trades Ward, and giving them a chance to make a positive impression on the city.
What did we learn?
DM Tip: Using supplements and homebrew material in your own campaigns is great. Although make sure that if you use more than one source, they don’t contradict each other and that you know what some of the consequences of these might be. In this session we met a doppleganger who had infiltrated the dungsweepers and now my players want to pull on that thread to investigate where he came from and what happened to the original Kamlann. I hadn’t thought about this prior to the session, so now I’ve got to work out even more backstory. Thankfully, this all ties in quite neatly with one of the faction missions in the campaign proper. But it probably won’t work out that way in real life.
Next week we’ll be taking a week off due to scheduling conflicts, but when we return we’ll find out a little more about who JB Nevercroft is, and he might even have a mission for Dragonclaw Inc.