Dragon Heist session twenty one: Ghost Cat
As Dugg tried to pick the gazer entrails from his eyebrows, Joe and Alan attempted to catch the frightened feline. Clearly unsettled by the monstrous attack, Catrick Swayze did not want to come quietly. Arvene watched on as the two heroes dashed from bookcase to bookcase, desperately trying to coax the kitty with whatever scraps of food they had in their packs. Eventually, with the aid of a petrified mouse, they were successful. “This cat better be rich,” thought Alan.
Last night was the 21st session in our online Waterdeep Dragon Heist D&D campaign and after progressing to level three, our heroic adventurers had just rescued a cat.
The set up
We have been playing Dragon Heist via Discord and using Trello and D&D Beyond to keep track of characters and share campaign information.
To help with my game prep and to flesh out the city of Waterdeep, I’ve also been using Dragon Heist supplements available from the DMs Guild. So far, we’ve had an adventure with the Dungsweepers Guild (Dung Work), a battle with a gazer in a bookshop (Waterdeep Dragon Heist: Expanded Faction Missions), and a mission from JB Nevercott (Scrying into his handkerchief). This week there was quite a bit of traveling through the city, so I used Waterdeep: City Encounters to roll a couple of interesting events while my players crossed town.
Dugg, Earth Genasi Fighter – dungsweeper and estranged son from House Roznar.
Alan Crabpopper, Human Ranger – a private investigator and member of the Harpers.
Arvene Galanodel, Half-Elf Cleric – priestess of Tymora, ex-city guard, ex-nun, fake harper
Little Joe, Drow Sorcerer – channeling the spirit of John Wayne, secret member of Bregan D’earth.
Previously in Dragon Heist
During a mission from a mysterious haberdasher named J.B Nevercott to deliver a stolen handkerchief, the heroes suffered a catastrophic communications blunder. The handkerchief recipient, a tiefling girl called Advertence, became agitated and started screaming wildly in distress. Little Joe got the impression that Alan—his boss—wanted him to kill the girl, when actually Alan intended for him to cast a sleep spell. So, when Alan told him to “take care of her,” Little Joe was only following orders.
The next day the party received two letters. The first was a distress call from old friend Alma Moyes, and the second a summons from Dock Ward Chief of Police Captain Staget. Answering the first letter, the party encountered a gazer in a bookshop and rescued Alma’s pet, Catrick Swayze. Now, with the cat secured they have to decide what their next move is.
Dugg attempted to calm the feline, but this just angered it. Hissing and spitting at them, the party were worried that having rescued Catrick from the monster they might lose him if not careful. Joe resorted to his favorite trick of casting a sleep spell. The cat immediately fell asleep in Dugg’s arms and began snoring heavily. “Right,” Dugg said. “Now what?”
Thus ensued 10 minutes of my players discussing what to do with an unconscious cat. It was decided that they should return the cat to Alma Moyes and investigate why the gazer had attacked the shop, before answering Captain Staget’s summons.
But not before Little Joe played a trick on his friends, casting minor illusion on the slumbering kitty to make it seem possessed. His deceptions was so good (25) that it made Alan, Arvene, and Dugg quite frightened of the “ghost cat,” each refusing to go near it. Thus, later in the session, when the time came for the party to return the cat, only Little Joe wanted anything to do with it.
Investigating the bookshop
Before leaving the bookshop they wanted to thoroughly investigate why a gazer might attack. They didn’t know very much about gazers, so they tried to research anything they could about them. The party members each rolled investigation checks to see what they could uncover. Alan was looking for any book that when pulled in a certain way opened up a secret passage. He rolled 21. He found no secret passages, but did find a useful book Volo’s Guide to Monsters, which conveniently included an entry on beholderkin:
No bigger than a football, a gazer is the manifestation of a beholder’s dream. When a beholder sleeps, the foul magic that curses through it is concentrated within its central eye. This causes a rift in its subconscious through which a miniature replica of itself is born. Often sharing similar features to its progenitor, each gazer created by a single beholder is almost identical and can usually be traced to its creator through shared appearance and characteristics.
This was the second gazer they had fought, and from what they could remember the two monstrosities looked the same. Alan remembered something about gazers in a shop they visited on their very first mission, so planned to go straight there to find out more.
Little Joe was looking for anything that was locked so he could use his new knock spell which he just learned. He rolled 13 on his investigation check and could only spot the till drawer. When no one was looking he emptied it into his pocket and was 14 silver pieces better off.
Thanks to Little Joe’s ghost cat hijinks, the party now split up. Little Joe went alone to return Catrick to Alma Moyes, while Alan, Arvene, and Dugg went in search of gazers.
When he arrived at Alma’s house, Little Joe was welcomed heartily. Alma was very pleased to have Catrick returned to her, and her friend Gwenda, who was staying with her until her shop was free from the monster, was also very pleased. She gave him a note which promised 20% discount on all potions from the Apothecary and Physicians’ guild, and a spellbook with six brand new spells in it.
The lady had no idea why her shop was attacked by the gazer. Although she did reveal to Joe that both she and Alma were retired members of the Harpers, and so it was possible that someone might have a vendetta.
Once he had spent some time with Gwenda, Alma, and the cats, finished his fourth serving of cocoa and cake, and taken brief nap on the sofa, Little Joe decided to head back to Trollskull Manor, hoping to meet the rest of the crew along the way.
Meanwhile, as the others made their way towards a shop which Alan vaguely remembered, Arvene’s perception roll (17) meant she noticed they were being followed. Something sinister was darting between the shadows behind them.
Then, just as they passed a newspaper seller calling out the latest story about the notorious Black Viper, a fiendish winged creature buzzed across the street and stopped in front of the party. They’d seen a creature like this once before. It was an imp. Red scaly skin, long claws, and fangs, and tiny wings that should have made flight impossible.
It snarled to Arvene in a dirty rasping voice, “You have been marked for greatness. Asmodeous, prince of darkness and our future king, is watching you. He knows your destiny. You are precious to him. I want your soul. Let me buy it.”
At first Arvene was flattered. It’s not often a stranger values your soul enough to come up and try to haggle for it. But she didn’t really feel like parting with it for the 100 dragons the gravelly-voiced imp offered. As soon as she rejected its bargain, it turned to Dugg and repeated the same spiel. Not interested either.
By the time it turned to Alan, the ranger had reached for his crowbar and swatted the miniature devil. The imp took the hint and buzzed off. They watched as it raced across the street and accosted a pair of Victorian looking well-to-do ladies. High pitched shrieks ensued as both women dived off the docks and splashed straight into the harbor. With that, the imp disappeared leaving a crowd of very confused onlookers and the smell of sulfur and brimstone.
Old Xoblob’s Shop
After the imp-cident, they arrived at the shop Alan was looking for. Old Xoblob’s Shop. With its deep purple façade and elaborate letters spelling out the shop’s name, this really was a curiosity shop filled with curiosities. Lavender-scented purple smoke trailed out of the door, and in the center of a window display stuffed with all kinds of purple trinkets sat a life-sized stuffed beholder. This seemed to be the place they were looking for.
Alan and Dugg barged in while Arvene, ever the trickster, cast disguise self and took on the form of a burly seaman she had just past at the docks. Arvene waited a few moments before entering behind the others, attempting to give the impression she was separate from them. Her deception check was rolled with advantage, but that still didn’t really help (11).
As they entered, they each rolled twice on the trinkets table from the Player’s Handbook to see what the saw. There was a silk bag containing 47 humanoid teeth, a pyramid of incense, a doll that gave you unsettling dreams, a pair of old socks, a tiny soapstone octopus, an acorn with “mageek” written on it, and a tiny origami spider. All of the items, without exception, were purple.
The proprietor of the shop was a rock gnome called Xoblob who had Xanathar Guild eye tattoos all over his face. He wasn’t very impressed with Alan as he entered, but as soon as Dugg, the large purple genasi, stepped in, his eyes lit up. Alan and Dugg started pumping him for answers. They recognized the gang markings, but Xoblob didn’t want to talk. “We mustn’t. He’s watching,” he whispered.
Eventually, after some decent persuasion rolls (19, with advantage for Dugg being purple), Xoblob took Dugg into a closet and whispered some sweet information. It was very confusing and didn’t make much sense, but Dugg managed to gather that the gazers are connected to the Xanathar, and that the Xanathar was a beholder. Information gathered, the party went to leave.
“Thank you mister Xoblob,” said Alan. “And remember, if you ever need us to get rid of any rats, just come to Trollskull Manor in Trollskull Alley in the North Ward. We’ll be there. That’s where we live.”
“Ah,” squeaked the gnome, “Now he knows where you live too.” But the adventurers had already left and didn’t hear him.
Finally, the party, still without Little Joe, reached the Dock Ward watch house and Captain Staget. Considering the group’s history with deception checks, it was a good job Little Joe was somewhere else.
The haggard-looking watch captain stared at the three heroes. He was tired. “You guys are my last hope. I need your help. Advertence was killed last night. You were the last ones to see her alive. Her body was found and taken to the Rejviik mortuary. We had our clerics ready to speak with her to find out what happened. But the body went missing. I think I’ve got a leak in my ship and you need to find it. I know I can count on you.” END
Oh, this is going to be so much fun. The party have now been hired to investigate the murder of someone they killed. Only they don’t even know they did it. I’m really enjoying the tension between what the players know and what their characters know. So far, Little Joe hasn’t come clean to the others. And they have now promised Captain Staget to investigate and show no mercy. This could get very messy, very quickly.
It’s also nothing to do with the Dragon Heist campaign as written, but we’ll get back to that eventually, I guess.
I ran two encounters from Waterdeep City Encounters this session. One was the imp who had mistaken Arevene for someone else. The second happened as Little Joe made his way back to Trollskull Manor.
What did we learn?
DM Tip: Expect spellbook questions. I’m always unsure how spellbooks work in 5th edition. When a spellcaster finds a spellbook, can they learn the spells inside it? The way we play, it depends on the class. A wizard probably can learn the spells and use them whenever they like, but a sorcerer like Little Joe can only know a certain amount of spells. So we rule that they can cast the spells from the book, if they pass a skill test, but only once, as the pages burn up once cast. Every group interprets the rules slightly differently, but we feel that this is fair and it makes choosing the right time to cast the spell important as it’s a one-and-done kind of thing.
Next week our Dragon Heist party begins investigating Advertence’s murder. They’ve been given a couple of places to check out, but where will their investigation lead? Will they find out the truth and if they do what will that mean for the party?