D&D Waterdeep Dragon Heist Session 24
Dragon Heist session twenty-four: If the Soul is Willing
Dugg stood in the doorway of the Waterdeep Wazoo. His friend Arvene was dead in the foyer, and blood had started to pool out of the other bodies onto the street outside. Then, the distant sound of bells and shouting warned of city guards approaching. They had to get out of here. But how?
Last night was the 24th session in our online Waterdeep Dragon Heist D&D campaign and a second failed faction mission in a row has left our players dealing with an unexpected character death.
We have been playing via Discord and using Trello and D&D Beyond to keep track of characters and share campaign information, and streaming our sessions on Twitch. We’re experiencing a heatwave here in the UK right now, so last night our session was interrupted a couple of times by children struggling to sleep.
Additional Dragon Heist supplements I’m using:
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. DECEASED
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, the heroes suffered a catastrophic communications blunder. A tiefling girl, Advertence, was accidentally killed by Little Joe. They escaped the scene, but right now, only Little Joe and the man who is blackmailing him knows what actually happened.
Last session, on the way to help Captain Staget solve Advertence’s murder, the heroes received a side mission to plant a compromising letter on the desk of ace newspaper reporter Gaxly Rudderbust. While sneaking into the newspaper office, they were accosted by a second group on a clandestine caper of their own, and a battle ensued in which Arvene died.
Bells and panic
Hearing the guard bells caused Little Joe to panic. He simply couldn’t be here when they arrived. Thinking only of himself, he got up and dashed to the door. Dugg pleaded with him to stay and help Arvene. “She’s dead,” said Joe, “We can’t be here.” He ran out of the building and off down the street. The shock of it all was too much for Alan. He dropped to the floor beside Arvene and wouldn’t move, no matter what Dugg said.
Once again we started this Dragon Heist session with a split party. They party remained divided for over the half the game, and I had planned a few surprises for each of them as we went along.
Zardoz Zord, again
First Little Joe and his attempt to flee.
Joe turned a corner as he left the building, jumping over the two dead bodies, and dashed down a dark alley. His passive perception isn’t very high, so it took a couple of minutes before he realized he was being followed. It wasn’t until his pursuer, jogging alongside him, began heavily breathing down his neck that he noticed at all.
Startled, Joe sped up. He could have rolled athletics or constitution to test him stamina; he chose constitution, and rolled poorly (10). Leaning on the side of a wall to catch his breath; his pursuer waited patiently for him to recover.
“Damn Joe. You guys are more useless than I thought.” It was Zardoz Zord, Joe’s seedy patron, his ostentatious hat and mustache combo not the weirdest thing about how he looked. The red rubber thong, knee high leather boots, and crossed PVC bandoleers gave this man away as someone you didn’t want to meet in a large, well-lit room surrounded by a thousand other friendly faces, let alone in a dark alley way whilst running from a crime scene where you were almost certainly the primary suspect. Nonetheless, Joe recognized him, if not from his visage, then from his accent. A dodgy Sean Connery impression I’d been practicing on my son. He didn’t understand it at all, but he’s only a toddler so I don’t hold it against him.
“How could something so simple go so horribly wrong? Can you explain yourself?” Joe couldn’t.
“Lucky for you, your old friend Zardoz is in the business of turning disaster into something special. I like you Joe, and I think your friends could be useful. More importantly, so does Captain Staget. I need him to trust you. You understand?”
Zardoz was in full-on oration mode and his keynote address gave Little Joe clear instructions of what he should do next. He wanted Joe and co. to gain Staget’s favor by clearing out the wererat problem in the Dock Yard. Zardoz told Joe where to find them and then suggested Joe go back to his friends to help them get out of their current situation. He offered the support of Fel and Kred, the two drow gunslingers that Joe had met before, who just happened to be there in the alley, and were absolutely nothing to do whatsoever with the recent gunshots Joe had heard as the Xanathar thugs had fled the Waterdeep Wazoo. Joe accepted their help and set off back down the street to the newspaper office where Alan and Dugg were trying to decide what to do with Arvene’s corpse.
Down the Wazoo
Alan and Dugg didn’t know what to do. They could hear the guard bells ringing, but did not know how much time they would have before the city watch arrived. They both rolled perception checks to see how far away the ringing was (15 and 16). They thought they might have less than a minute before the guards arrived.
Neither knew what to do or wanted to take charge. Arvene’s body lay on the floor at their feet, they couldn’t just leave her here. Could they?
Finally, and with only seconds remaining of their assumed minute, Dugg grabbed Arvene’s corpse and hoisted her up onto his shoulder. Alan stood up too and they headed out the front door. Neither noticed the fact that the Xanathar thugs’ bodies had disappeared. Both were too preoccupied with getting Arvene to someone who could help.
Listening for the bells, they ran in the other direction, hoping to put as much distance between them and the Wazoo before any guards arrived to investigate the gunshots. They didn’t get very far before a dark shadow loomed overhead. It circled, growing larger and larger, announcing the arrival of a griffon rider. One of the city’s flying patrols had heard the alarm and glided down the street behind them.
“You there, halt!” cried the elf as they dismounted. “What business do you have here? Running from the scene of a disturbance is very suspicious. State your activity and the condition of your friend.” They motioned to Arvene, who by now was being carried, Weekend at Bernie’s style, between Dugg and Alan.
The pair of them desperately tried to convince the rider that they had been out drinking and that Arvene was just “worse-for-wear.” They were heading home and hadn’t seen anything suspicious officer. “A likely story. Can you prove it?”
They tried to convince him once more of their innocence. They rolled deception (5 and 8). They really were not very convincing. But I thought I would give them a chance, so I rolled an insight check for the rider to see if he believed them. Critical fail.
A natural 1 meant they could have told him the truth; that they had broken into the paper to deliver a secret letter, fought some Xanathar thugs who then killed their friend and were now running away for fear of being caught, and he would have laughed it off as a good joke and sent them on their way. Which is essentially what he did. But not before slapping them all on the shoulders, Arvene included and chuckling to himself about late night revelers.
As Alan and Dugg rounded the corner, they heaved a huge sigh of relief. Looking over their shoulders they could see more guards arriving at the Wazoo. The guards met the griffon rider and he directed them inside without a second glance towards Alan and Dugg. Then Joe arrived and they headed home.
Welcome to the afterlif
The last thing Arvene remembered, she was falling down a glass staircase, the huge cut in her side bleeding profusely. Then a desk plummeted down from above, crushing her.
Pain. White light. More pain. A tunnel. More light. A hand. A tuxedo. A bow-tie. Lif.
Arvene was dead. But that didn’t mean she wouldn’t be participating in this session. Previously they had met and not-quite-befriended a poltergeist named Lif. Not long ago, Lif disappeared. The timing coincided with the death of Advertence, but the group hadn’t connected the dots.
Lif took Arvene’s hand and she rose ethereally from her body. A spirit removed from the material plane, she could see everything that was going on in the room around her, but not interact. She saw Little Joe panic and run from the room. Then Alan and Dugg desperately deciding what to do next. Then she saw them comically dragging her body from the building and pretending she was just passed-out to the guards.
Then Lif turned to her and spoke. This was not something he had done before. “She is alive. Let me show you.” Arvene wanted to reply to him, but her wisdom saving throw was not high enough. Each time she tried to speak in this form she would have to test her wisdom; higher than 15 and words might come out.
Lif took her high up into the sky above Waterdeep and they glided out towards the docks hand in hand. They passed the two ships of the Sea Maiden’s Fair, which Arvene had seen before. The Heartbreaker and the Hellraiser. They stopped above the third ship. The Eyecatcher.
Gripping her hand tightly, Lif dove down towards the deck. Arvene braced herself for impact, but they passed straight through. They dove deeper down into the hull and through the other side. Here, instead of endless sea, Arvene saw a metal submarine, hidden beneath the boat. Inside was gloriously decorated with gold and mahogany. Lif took her into a cramped room. Like an office, it had a huge desk in front of a portrait of a mustachioed man wearing very little. In front of the picture sat a tiefling girl drawing on a pad. Arvene recognized Advertence and gasped.
So did the rest of my players.
Advertence looked up. Arvene thought she couldn’t be seen by the living, but Advertence looked straight at her. “Hello Arvene,” she said. “It’s OK. He saved me. I’m alright.”
Arvene tried to speak. Wisdom saving throw (18). “How? What? Who? Ahh!”
Advertence told Arvene of how Zardoz Zord had found her, raised her willing soul from the dead, and brought her here. He looked after her in return for the viewings she had. She had a talent and could foretell the future about certain things.
Then, just as Arvene was asking more questions, she felt a tug. Like her soul was being pulled back to her body. Which it kind of was.
Back in the habit
Little Joe and the drow had found the alleyway where Alan and Dugg were, just as the griffon rider was interrogating them. “You want me to take care of him?” asked the drow, pointing a gun at the rider.
“No,” said Joe. “Probably best not to.” The rider then turned and walked away from Alan and Dugg and Joe ran to them. The drow took this opportunity to leave. Returning to the shadows.
Reunited Alan, Joe, and Dugg decided to try to get Arvene resurrected. They didn’t know what this would take or cost, but they thought taking her to the Temple of Tymora, where she had been a nun previously, might be a good start.
They crossed the city, dodged a couple of risky encounters and arrived at the temple in the North Ward. Not far from Trollskull Alley.
Here they had to persuade the sisters to help. Arvene had been kicked out of the temple for not being a very good nun, so they had a lot of work to do to convince them.
Eventually they managed and they sisters agreed to a Raise Dead ritual. They said this would cost 1,000 gp, but the party could pay later. Dugg and Joe agreed. Alan was furious. He’s a socialist. How could these nun extort the innocent and helpless so?
If the soul is willing
In the cold, dark room, the nuns began the ceremony to bring back Arvene. Like kids at the dentist, Alan, Dugg, and Joe sat in the foyer waiting anxiously, and reading out-of-date property magazines. Occasionally sounds could be heard, and flickering bright light escaped through the gaps in the door frame. In another place, Arvene’s spirit was being pulled away mid-conversation. If the soul was willing she would return to the living. Was the soul willing? Sure. Why not?
Arvene gasped back to life. “I have to tell Staget, she squealed,” before passing out from the strain of reanimation. END
I really enjoyed DMing this session of our Dragon Heist campaign. It contained elements of roleplaying, investigation, and there was even a brief combat between Alan and nun, which could have escalated quickly if his friends didn’t step in.
The resurrection rules in 5th edition are quite broad, so I felt that if Arvene’s player wanted to carry on playing as Arvene I should find a way to make that happen, and the Dragon Heist campaign book does suggest some way in which you can do this, although it was entirely up to the rest of the party if they decided to have her returned or not. Raise Dead is an interesting spell. You return a creature to life, provided it has been dead no longer than 10 days. If the creature’s soul is both willing and at liberty to rejoin the body, the creature returns to life. However, this does come with a cost, which Arvene will find out next week.
What did we learn?
DM Tip: Last night was a real test of how to keep a player invested in the game, when their character is dead, and therefore their participation options are limited. I was quite pleased with the solution I came up with. By having Arvene act as a ghost, caught between planes, and chaperoned around the city by Lif, I was simultaneously able to keep that player interested in the session, while the other players decided if they wanted to resurrect her or not, and reveal some aspects of the story that would otherwise be impossible to show. You won’t always get an opportunity like this, but when you do, you should make the most of it. By also including skill challenges based on Wisdom, I was able to give the impression that should she roll high enough Arvene could interact with the real world, thus empowering her more and, once more, keeping her invested in the session.
Next week we’ll pick up our Dragon Heist from the party arriving back at Trollskull Manor. It’s 3AM, they are in desperate need of sleep, but will their night continue to throw up surprises? Sure, why not.