Waterdeep Dragon Heist
Dragon Heist session 33: Speak with Jeff
Barnibus took a deep breath and began to sum up the crime scene. “It seems there are three conclusions to draw from what I have discovered so far. First, the gnome was running from armed pursuers, of which there were three. The third person who was chasing the gnome is not among the dead. Second, the gnome and his pursuers were moving towards the tavern when the fireball went off. Third, neither the gnome nor the pursuers saw the blast coming.” He took another breath. “I think. It’s all a bit confusing to be honest.”
Last night was the 33rd session in our online Waterdeep Dragon Heist D&D campaign and, after a break for Christmas, our group has finally begun Chapter 3: Fireball!
We have been playing Dragon Heist via Discord and using Trello and D&D Beyond to keep track of characters and share campaign information, all whilst streaming our sessions on Twitch. However, after a few recent issues with Discord involving microphones not working, leading to a player character death, we returned to our old friend Skype.
Additional Dragon Heist supplements I’m using for this campaign:
Residents of Trollskull Alley
Waterdeep: Expanded Faction Missions
Scrying into his handkerchief
The Press of Waterdeep
Dragon Heist: Expanded Faction Missions
Shard Shunners: a Zhentarim Faction Mission and DM’s ResourceShard Shunners: a Zhentarim Faction Mission and DM’s Resource
Fireball – A Waterdeep: Dragon Heist DM’s resource.
The Dragon Heist party:
Dugg, Earth Genasi Fighter – dungsweeper and estranged son from House Roznar. ABSENT
Alan Crabpopper, Human Ranger – a Harper and private investigator, secret Wererat in denial.
Arvene Galanodel, Half-Elf Cleric – priestess of Tymora, fake Harper. Resurrected.
Little Joe, Drow Sorcerer – channeling the spirit of John Wayne, member of Bregan D’earth.
Unfortunately Dugg, our genasi fighter, couldn’t play last night as he was stuck up a telephone pole. He was being held hostage by an enormous spider, angry that his broadband speed wasn’t as fast as the national average. There was nothing Dugg could do.
Previously in Dragon Heist
Alan, Arvene, Dugg, and Joe have been through the mill. Two of them have died and been brought back. One is a secret wererat. One is being blackmailed by the leader of a secret drow society. One has been enlisted as a reserve dungsweeper. And one has a really bad stomach ache. Like really bad.
Last session they began to deal with the aftereffects of a fireball that exploded in the street outside their tavern killing 12 people. The Watch quickly got involved as Sgt. Seath Cromley and Magist Barnibus Blastwind began their investigation.
Meanwhile at the Bar…
As the four of them left Joe’s room, which the Guards had commandeered as their interrogation space, they noticed the long line of witnesses snaking down the stairs. The line included Fala Lefalir, Jezrynne Hornraven, and Martrem Trec, as well as various members of the TM Bar’s staff who claimed to have witnessed the explosion. This meant lots of conflicting accounts for the sergeants to work through. As Arvene passed Fala on the stairs, she felt the half-elf tug on her sleeve. “Arvene, I think I remember something else about that puppet man on the roof.” Arvene leaned in conspiratorially. “He was wearing a hat.”
The session began with the party congregating in the main tavern room of the bar. It had been a while since the group had a long rest so Arvene and Joe were both low on spells and hit points, Alan was doing OK, but Dugg was still suffering from sewer plague. He would join them on their adventure, but only in the background. He was too busy being sick and trying to keep his eyes from falling out to interact with any NPCs this session.
The town guards had decided to use the bar as their base of operations while the investigation continued, which might have had something to do with Dugg’s offer of reduced prices on beer and mead. However, having the guards around, and on their side, would be a good way of getting information. Albeit of dubious reliability.
Somehow, with a natural 20 on his persuasion roll, Alan managed to convince one of the guards, Craig, whom they had met last session, that Sgt. Cromley had asked them to undertake their own investigation. Craig then proceeded to tell them everything he knew, some of it entirely untrue, and offered the assistance of his friend Earn. He pointed to a very fat guard who was sitting on his own by the bar. He had a thin pencil mustache, a fringe that looked like it had been cut with a ruler, and brown eyes that looked in opposite directions.
Sometimes, as a Dungeon Master, you invent characters on the spot. You pick the oddest features and characteristics so that your players might remember them. You might even give them an unusual accent. And then, later, when you reflect upon your improvisation, you just have to hope that you didn’t cause too much offense. For some reason I decided to play Earn as a fat, stupid Forrest Gump.
Joe made friends with Earn by casting a Minor Illusion of a mouse, which Earn then chased around the tavern, giggling until the illusion ended and Earn returned to Joe to ask him to do it again. After Joe repeated the spell Earn came back and exclaimed that the heroes were his new “bestest friends” and that they could come back to his house for a sleep over. This was particularly convenient for them for, as Earn explained, he lived in the mortuary where the bodies were due to be taken for interrogation. Once at the mortuary, one of the morturists (my one year old hasn’t been sleeping so I was making up words at this point) would cast Gentle Repose on the bodies, so that when the constable clerics arrived they could perform the Speak with Dead rituals needed. Earn, being simple, referred to the spell as Speak with Jeff.
A cart ride to forget
At this stage Earn announced that the mortuary cart was leaving very soon, so the party had five minutes to gather what they wanted before setting off. During the ride Arvene took a short rest, as Alan and Joe, worried they were sitting ducks, argued over the best way to protect themselves. Meanwhile, Dugg, still very sick, sat in the cabin, clutching his stomach and occasionally emptying it over the side.
They arrived at Rekvijjk’s Mortuary and recognized it from their time helping the dungsweepers. They saw Rekvijjk himself, in his white coat scurrying around the front, and remembered Jemma, his elf assistant.
They decided to help the guards unload the bodies, which put them in good standing with the rest of the watchmen there. This was very important as it meant that later, when they were just hanging around the corpses, nobody really questioned them. I gave them advantage on their deception rolls and they all rolled really high, so everyone else just thought they were meant to be there.
A sneak peak
Arvene took the opportunity to gossip with some watchmen who were outside having a smoke. She discovered that Regan Clay, friendly captain of the North Ward watch house, has been stripped of her rank due to an incident that involved Alan’s Bureau of Investigators, a wererat, two devils, and a dead prisoner. For a moment it looked like Arvene was going to show some remorse for her part in the event, but that moment passed without any regret.
Meanwhile, Alan and Joe were left to guard the fireball victims, while Rekvijjk and Gemma prepared to complete the autopsies. They both rolled investigation checks (11 and 16). They learned that the two cloaked, heavily tattooed humans were definitely Zhentarim agents. The gnome was wearing fine clothes and had an amulet around his neck with the sign of Tyr, and had the remnants of letter from Renear clasped in his hand. Only a couple of words could be deciphered, but Alan, who rolled the higher investigation, recognized Renear’s handwriting.
Dansfz and Strydpe
Two constable clerics arrived once Alan and Joe had finished investigating the bodies. The clerics were both Firbolgs—creatures not often seen in Waterdeep, and they had very different personalities. The female was called Strydpe (pronounced stride) and she was friendly and courteous and lovely. The male was called Dansfz (pronounced dance) and he was not.
Strydpe would begin sentences only for Dansfz interrupt and contradict her. She started to calmly perform a cleansing ritual, only for him to push her out of the way, “They’re clean enough. Let’s get this over with.”
My players quickly grew to like Strydpe and hated Dansfz. Apart from Little Joe, but he’s a horrible person anyway.
I cast Speak With Jeff
Dansfz was apparently the more senior of the two clerics so he performed the Speak with Dead ritual. He was so irritable and keen to get it over with that he didn’t wait for any other members of the Watch to arrive, so Alan and co. took the lead with the questions.
First, they interrogated the body of the dead gnome, then one of the Zhentarim humans. In each case they asked five questions and received five answers. Some were more useful than others.
They asked the gnome: Do you know of any reason someone would want to immolate you? Yes. Who pursued you at the time of your death? The Zhentarim. Who were you when you were alive? My name was Jeff Dalakar. Why were you outside Trollskull Manor? I was bringing the Stone of Golor to the adventurers who live there. What is the stone of Golor? I don’t know.
Then they interrogated the Zhentarim: Who cast the fireball that killed you? I don’t know. Where is the Zhentarim hideout? There are many. Which Zhentarim hideout did you use? I used many. Where did you sleep last night? Gralhund Manor. Why were you chasing the gnome? Ustril Floxin told me to. How do we join the Zhentarim? You must be selected by Davil Starsong.
They would have continued to interrogate more, but Dansfz got bored and told them that was it for the day, they would have to come back tomorrow if they wanted to find out more. Fortunately, they got all the answers they were looking for, so decided not to return.
Satisfied that they had found out all they could from the corpses they left the mortuary smiling, and stumbled right into a very familiar, cigar-smoking man. Captain Staget. Angry. “Imagine my surprise when I discover that the ‘officers’ performing this interrogation are the same ones who are the lead suspects in the fireball attack?” he growled. “What on earth do you think you’re doing?” END
This was a fun session, pure roleplay and not much dice rolling, but they still managed to progress the investigation onto the right tracks—a miracle you’d recognize if you’ve been following their exploits until now.
I enjoyed playing a number of different NPCs this session and dropped quite a lot of hints and story reminders and rumors throughout the interactions to try to keep my players on their toes. I also put in a couple of deliberate red herrings—this could have been a mistake given that the last time I did that it took 30 sessions to resolve!
What did we learn?
DM Tip: Don’t be scared of using divination spells. Magic that lets players know more about the world can only be a good thing, but it can be daunting as you can’t know in advance what answers they will be looking for. In particular Speak with Dead is a really fun spell that can deliver a lot of useful campaign information, but it also has the potential to derail certain situations if your players aren’t given a little bit of guidance. Before the session I made sure I had familiarized myself with the mechanics of the spell so that I was confident I would be able to use it properly, and before casting I made sure my players also understood the rules of the spell so that they didn’t miss an opportunity—at least not through any fault of their Dungeon Master.
What you need to remember about Speak with Dead is that the players are only talking to a reflection of the passed NPC. The reflection can’t know how they died; can’t speculate on the future; and can’t learn anything new. The answers given are brief, often cryptic, repetitive, and not necessarily truthful.
Next week the investigation continues. They’ve got some leads to follow and I’m interested to see which thread they pull on first. It’s almost certainly not going to be one I expect, so I don’t think I’ll bother planning anything. What’s the worst that can happen?
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