Waterdeep Dragon Heist
Dragon Heist session 35: Technical Difficulties
Little Joe was incensed. He couldn’t believe the gall of Frewn, taking advantage of their misfortune like that. So he decided to do something about it. He approached a skinny, rat-faced man sitting with two thugs that could easily me mistaken for mossy boulders. Joe laid out his plan and handed over 25 gold pieces. He would give another 25 gold pieces when Frewn’s bar had been thoroughly trashed.
Last night was the 35th session in our online Waterdeep Dragon Heist D&D campaign and our group of level four adventurers is investigating a fireball and trying to ensure their business doesn’t go down the plug hole at the same time.
We have been playing Dragon Heist online via Skype, using Discord, Trello, and D&D Beyond to keep track of campaign information, all whilst streaming our sessions live on Twitch. To date our record number of viewers is eight.
My DM setup ranges from a single laptop when I’m not anticipating any combat or have forgotten to prepare anything, to two laptops, a webcam, some photography lights, my Dwarven Forge terrain tiles, and a handful of badly painted minis.
Additional Dragon Heist supplements I’ve been using for this campaign:
Residents of Trollskull Alley
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.
Waterdeep: City Encounters
Dugg, Earth Genasi Fighter – freelance dungsweeper and estranged son from House Roznar.
Alan Crabpopper, Human Ranger – a harper and private investigator. A 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 drow secret society. One has been enlisted as a reserve dungsweeper. And one has a really bad stomach ache. Like really bad.
Last session, after beginning investigations into a fireball that killed 12 people outside their home, they spent the whole time in the Yawning Portal, a famous tavern where everybody knows your name. They managed to acquire some information about those involved in the blast, and Joe almost got lucky. By the end of the day they had a rough plan of what to do next and headed home to sleep off the day’s drink.
A well-deserved (long) rest
They arrived back at the manor, still full of off-duty officers making the most of the closed bar, and headed straight to their rooms. Arvene offered a prayer to Tymora and slept the best sleep since being resurrected five days earlier. Alan made a few notes in his journal, subconsciously drew some rats in the margins, and drifted off to a troubled sleep plagued by dreams of sewers, sharp fangs, and a fearsome full-moon. Dugg, still exhausted, barely made it to his room, but Jeffrey and Louis took care of him, rolling him onto his pallet once he’d passed out and tucking him in for the night. Joe, being a drow, didn’t need as much sleep as the rest of the party. He had an errand to complete first. He made his way to the back door to the manor and enlisted the help of Shekesta, one of the 40 Luskan refugees they employed to run the bar. She was tasked with waiting for a rat-faced man whom she was to give 25 gold pieces to. Joe couldn’t remember the exact details of the agreement, so she may be there for some time.
We began the session having completed a long rest. The first time the party had all been at full health for a very long time. Arvene was completely recovered from her resurrection (she had suffered a penalty to all dice rolls conversely equal to the number of days since she had died: day one was -5, day two was -4, day three was -3, etc.); Alan was keeping a close eye on the phases of the moon—it was five days until the next full moon, and he wasn’t sure what effect his rat-lycanthropy would have at that time; Dugg was fully recovered from Sewer Plague, which he had caught fighting the wererats a week earlier; and Joe, as always, was fine.
They spent a while working out their next move. They had three main objectives following their investigations into the fireball. They could head to the House of Inspired Hands to follow up on the “puppet man” that had been seen at the scene of the crime. They could head to Gralhund Manor, where they believed the Zhentarim were hiding out. Or they could get themselves arrested, as requested by Captain Staget, so they could infiltrate the corrupt watchmen. After much discussion, some confusion, and a small amount of getting things totally wrong, they decided to leave for the House of Inspired Hands, also known as the Temple of Grond.
Inevitably, however, they had a couple of things to complete first. This is my fault. I should have learned by now not to say, “Is there anything you want to do before you leave?” There always is. It’s always pointless. And it always takes the party on a detour that derails the session and leaves any plans I had left on the cutting room floor. But in a way, that is what this game is all about: upsetting Dungeon Masters.
I’m not that upset, really
First, Little Joe went to find Shorval, the leader of the 40 Luskan refugees and the designated manager of the TM bar, to see how much money they’d made this week. Now, there is a complicated formula in the Dungeon Master’s Guide for working this out, but I didn’t have this to hand so I asked Joe to roll a d100 and add 2d6gp for every day that the bar had been closed since the Fireball. An average roll for this would have been 68. Joe rolled 114. So that’s how much gold they made. If I’d have used the official rules it would, have been more like 40gp. I worry slightly that they’re making too much money and the campaign will turn into a tavern-keeping simulator and they’ll forget about the Dragon they’re supposed to be Heisting.
Shorval offered to take the gold and set up a business account at the Cassalanter Bank, where Little Joe already had an account. This was considered a good idea by all. They don’t know it yet, but this is the beginning of me getting my revenge. They’ll see.
Alan wanted to check out their competition at Frewn Brews. They’d recently heard about this bar, which was just around the corner from Trollskull Manor, because its owner, Frewn, had been collecting the TM Bar’s patrons, who couldn’t drink at Trollskull Manor until it reopened after the investigation, and was ushering them to his tavern. They’d even seen a man in a sandwich board sign offering free drinks to TM bar locals, and it made them mad.
Meanwhile, Arvene wanted to go to the nearby Temple of Tymora to repay the debt of one large diamond, used in her resurrection. The others weren’t sure this was strictly necessary, but Arvene is a proud ex-nun and didn’t want to upset the clergy any more than she already had.
Dugg was just tired, and so decided to eat second and then third breakfast while the others ran their errands.
Stealth and safety gone mad
Shorval, Arvene, and Alan left the bar within 30 seconds of each other. Each not realizing that the next person was closely following them. Arvene decided to stealthily shadow Shorval, just to make sure the money made it to the bank. Alan decided to sneakily trail Arvene, because he didn’t trust her or the clergy. Thus ensued a rather complex episode of Who’s following whom?
First, I determined Shorval’s passive perception—this is the stat that indicates how well you might notice being followed and is contested against a pursuer’s stealth check. Shorval’s was 11. Arvene’s stealth was a natural 1. Shorval knew. He just didn’t care.
Then it was Arvene’s turn to see if she would notice Alan. Her passive perception is 13. Alan rolled a 16. Arvene did not know. Alan felt smug.
Finally, I asked Alan what his passive perception is. It is 15. His pursuers rolled 17. Alan did not notice them. They also felt smug. Alan would come to regret not questioning this later.
Shorval was quickly able to set up a bank account for the TM bar. He nodded to Arvene as he passed her on his way back to the manor. Arvene successfully repaid the expensive diamond to the nuns at the temple of Tymora and they rewarded her with advantage on wisdom saves for the next 24 hours. Alan was waiting for Arvene as she exited the temple and together they went to check out Frewn’s Brews. It wasn’t open. But they did manage to alter the sign above the door, so it now reads: “Frewn’s Brews: WORSE than all the local bars—especially the TM Bar.”
The session proper
Having completed the silly side quests it was now time to begin the session proper. An hour and a half after we began. They left Trollskull Manor and headed for the Temple of Grond in the Sea Ward. Along the way I asked for the group’s passive perception again, but none of them noticed the four robed figures clearly following them. Alan did, however, notice a blue kite flying in the sky that seemed to keep pace with them as they crossed the city.
On two occasions after first noticing the kite, Alan caught glimpses of hooded figures loitering by alleyway entrances, but he didn’t mention it to the others and kept on going. Then Arvene had a run-in with a familiar imp whom she had met at the dock ward weeks earlier. This time he upped the price for her soul to 400gp and she was almost tempted. She eventually tricked the imp into leaving but after that none of them could shake the feeling that they were being followed.
They definitely were being followed. In fact, I was desperately trying to entice them away from the main street to play out an encounter that could only occur in an alleyway. They just weren’t taking the bait.
As they neared the temple of Grond, Alan noticed the blue kite flying above them once more. But his attention was quickly channeled to the large roadblock that obstructed their path. Four city watch officials stood before a ream of red and white tape that stretched across the entire street. Behind it, two large upturned carts with more officers holding clipboards surrounding it. “Move along,” said one of the guards as Alan gaped. “Nothing to see here. You never seen 50 liters of spilled custard before?”
Joe stepped forward, “Excuse me officer, we’re trying to get to the House of Inspired Hands?”
“Oh, you’ll have to take that dark, ominous alleyway there,” he said pointing across the street. END
This was not where the session was due to end. In fact, it wasn’t quite where it actually ended. Seconds after this, the party headed down the dark, ominous alleyway and were ambushed by a group of cultists is hooded robes. Seconds after that, my laptop died and we had to stop the session.
Nonetheless, it was a fun session and there was some stuff that happened. Just none of the stuff I wanted to happen. After five years of playing D&D, this should not be a surprise.
What did we learn?
DM Tip: If you can’t find your power cable prior to playing a session and decide to play anyway, don’t be surprised if you have to abandon the game when your laptop dies.
Next week we will try to pick up where we left off. There will be a skirmish in an alleyway, which may require some further exposition, and hopefully a visit to the House of Inspired Hands.
WE ARE AMAZON ASSOCIATES