Waterdeep Dragon Heist
Dragon Heist session 34: The Yawning Portal
Satisfied that they had found out all they could from the corpses, they left the mortuary smiling and stumbled right into a very familiar, grumpy, 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 attack?” he growled. “What on earth do you think you’re doing?”
Last night was the 34th session in our online Waterdeep Dragon Heist D&D campaign and our group of level four adventurers are investigating a mass murder. And, after a dressing down by Captain Staget, they spent the whole session drinking in a tavern.
We have been playing 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.
Our Dragon Heist party:
Dugg, Earth Genasi Fighter – dungsweeper and estranged son from House Roznar.
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.
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 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. Deciding to investigate the attack, the heroes traveled to the mortuary where the police were using magic to interrogate the deceased. Pretending to be guards, they collected as much info as they could. But as they headed away from the mortuary they ran into Captain Staget, leader of the Dock Ward police.
Captain Staget seemed furious. Perhaps they’d made a mistake pretending to be watchmen, although he had enlisted their help before. Perhaps he would be lenient? “IF I SEE YOU AROUND HERE AGAIN,” he screamed, “I’LL ARREST YOU ALL IN A HEARTBEAT. DO YOU UNDERSTAND?” Mid-yell he leaned over to Arvene, “Well done,” he whispered. “I don’t want anyone to know you’re working for me. Have you found the corruption yet?” He leaned back, “AND IF YOU CAN’T LEARN TO STAY OUT OF POLICE BUSINESS I need you to get arrested YOU’LL ALL HANG FROM THE GALLOWS! You’ll spot the rot easier from inside a cell NOW GET OUT OF MY SIGHT!”
Slightly shell-shocked and confused by the Captain, the party moved away from the mortuary. But only as far as the middle of the road. Here they stood and discussed their options as the traffic built up around them. They didn’t seem to be in a hurry to go anywhere in particular and ignored the shouts of the cart drivers whom they were holding up.
Stopped the Rot
Dugg missed last session and so the team had to make do with him accompanying but—thanks to his recently contracted illness—not doing very much else. So we started this session with constitution saving throws for both Dugg and Joe to see how well they fared against the Sewer Rot. They had both contracted the disease when dealing with wererats in the sewers and so far Dugg had fared the worst by far.
Little Joe rolled 17 and miraculously cured himself of the disease before any ill-effects came to light. Dugg, on the other hand, rolled an 8, failed the save, took an additional point of exhaustion, and threw up.
It was at this moment that Arvene suddenly remembered she had learned Lesser Restoration when she leveled up last (a good few weeks previous) and so cast this on Dugg to remove the disease. He was grateful. Tired and grateful.
Talking in the street
All this happened while the heroes were still standing in the middle of the street. Lots of carts were now backing up the road in both directions and the guards began taking notice of the party once more, ushering them to “Move along,” in the traditional manner. There really was nothing to see here.
They decided that their next port of call should be the Yawning Portal Tavern—they were hoping to gather their thoughts and plan the next course of action. Alan hadn’t rolled any dice at this point so I asked him to roll d100s on the daytime encounters table from the Dragon Heist DM Screen. He rolled 46 and a small child ran into him holding a kite. For once, the party wasn’t unnecessarily aggressive or mean to an unknown child in the street, and Alan even helped him get the kite flying again. He then ruined the moment by suggesting that the best place to fly a kite would be from the top of a very high building and encouraged the kid to climb the nearest one and run as fast as he could towards the edge.
They arrived at the Yawning Portal to find it very busy, but they were able to locate a free table. Pushing past the locals, they noticed a lot of familiar faces in the tavern and were soon distracted noting every single group that sat at each table. Thankfully there is a very detailed picture of the Yawning Portal and its clientele in the campaign book, but I hadn’t anticipated spending 25 minutes of a 2-hour session describing all of the people in a bar.
The first person they spoke to was Bonnie the barmaid. In our very first session we established that Bonnie and Arvene were friendly, so this was a good time to catch up with local gossip and rumor. Bonnie reminded the gang about the Black Viper, Advertence, and some of the other things going on in the city, whilst also name-dropping a few key NPCs that they might have forgotten.
Jessail Silventree and Florin Falconhand
With no interest for gossip, Little Joe went off around the tavern trying to find the prettiest person there. He found Jessail Silventree, a very beautiful elf. Unfortunately for Little Joe, she was busy talking to Florin Falconhand, a very large, muscly goliath that looked more than ready for a fight. Little Joe used his Prestidigitation spell to “soil” the goliath’s shirt. This caused Florin to become embarrassed as Jessail laughed and he stormed off unaware that it was Joe who had caused the issue. Thanks to a few good charisma rolls, Little Joe and Jessail hit it off, and as he left to re-join his companions, she asked him to return to see her later. He eagerly agreed.
Durnan, the proprietor of the Yawning Portal, ex-adventurer, and ally of the party, then joined them for a drink and a catch-up. They discussed the party’s own tavern, bank-rolled by Durnan’s old friend Mirt the Moneylender, and the rumors Durnan had heard of a fireball in Trollskull Alley. They told Durnan about their own difficulties with the Brewers’ Guild refusing to resupply them with booze and he agreed to put in a good word for them.
Durnan then left the group to announce two new heroes who were descending into the dungeon below the Yawning Portal. The party watched as two teenage adventures, a young knight clearly wearing his father’s suit of armor, and a skinny mage in a classic long purple rope and oversized floppy wizard hat, nervously clambered into the basket that was then lowered into the pit in the center of the tavern and the whole bar erupted in cheers and laughter at the sight. Again this was just me taking the opportunity to remind my players of some of the lore and history in the campaign. Hopefully they don’t decide to descend into this subterranean dungeon just yet. But if they do, I’ve got my copy of the Dungeon of the Mad Mage on standby.
Just as this spectacle finished, Alan noticed Renaer Neverember—another ally from the past, and someone possibly connected to the fireball incident—enter the tavern. The group talked to Renaer and were able to gather quite a lot of information regarding the fireball. They learned of his connection to the Stone of Gollor—the mcguffin of this campaign—and its connection to his father and the Vault of the Dragon, where a lot of stolen gold has apparently been stashed away. This gave them even more reason to find the missing stone. Renaer suggested they follow the lead of the “puppet man” who was seen at the scene, and advised visiting the House of Inspired Hands where they make such things.
Renaer also told the party that his friend Floon Blagmaar—another old acquaintance of the group—had tried to visit them. But, due to the TM bar being closed after the fireball, he wasn’t able to. Not only that, but as he left, he was enticed over to their rival tavern, Frewn’s Brews, by a man waving a placard that read “Don’t go here, it’s rubbish and closed. Come drink at Frewn’s instead. It’s much better.” Admittedly not a particularly catchy slogan, but it was enough to really anger the party.
Planning their revenge
Little Joe was incensed. He couldn’t believe the gall of Frewn, taking advantage of their misfortune. He decided to do something about it. He approached the meanest looking patron of the Yawning Portal he could see. Ignoring the obvious stain on an otherwise immaculate shirt, he made them an offer. The tall hulking goliath wasn’t interested, but he pointed Little Joe in the direction of someone that might be. A skinny, rat-faced man sitting with two thugs that could easily be mistaken for boulders, Joe laid out his plan and handed over 25 gold pieces. He would give another 25 gold when Frewn’s bar had been thoroughly trashed. END
This was quite a slow-paced session, mostly spent having conversations and drinking in the Yawning Portal. But this meant they could get quite a lot of information and gossip, and so hopefully next session will be able to go out and actually do some things. Unless Little Joe gets sidetracked trying to be a villain. Again.
The Dragon Heist campaign book comes with a map of the Yawning Portal tavern and a helpful key of all the patrons who might be there. This list contains loads of cool nods to adventurers past and well-known D&D lore, so it was a fun opportunity to include a brief chat with the likes of Minsc and Bo, and even Matt Mercer!
What did we learn?
DM Tip: Let NPCs gossip with your players. It’s a great way to remind them of key plot hooks they might have forgotten. You can also give red herrings, although be careful with these. From experience they often lead to weeks of “off-script” adventuring and DM headaches.
Next week the players have to decide which lead to follow first. Will they go to the House of Inspired Hands? Will they head to Gralhund Manor? Or will they do something entirely unrelated and unpredictable…?
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