Waterdeep Dragon Heist
Dragon Heist session 37: House of Inspired Hands
The devil lurched forward and dropped his steely fork onto the cobble stones. It jammed in between two stones, standing rigid on the floor, as the devil fell onto it. It was fatally wounded and “bamfed” out of existence, returning to Avernus in the Nine Hells, its mission incomplete. Seeing the devil thus dealt with, the only remaining cultist panicked. They ran to the fading portal on the floor of the house and belly-dived into it, only to realize at the last moment that it wasn’t a portal at all, just a puddle of blue goop on the floor. The impact knocked them out, and Alan, still under the sway of his animal urges, leapt forward and ensured they would never wake up.
Last night was the 37th session in our online Waterdeep Dragon Heist D&D campaign and our group of level four adventurers had just dispatched a devilish ambush on their way to the House of Inspired Hands.
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 and a half.
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. Last night it was just a single laptop, my notebook, and pen.
Additional Dragon Heist supplements I’ve been 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 – 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. ABSENT
Little Joe, Drow Sorcerer – scourge of the fenêtreman’s guid, member of Bregan D’earth.
Arvene, our cheeky cleric couldn’t make it last night, so when the party got eventually got to the temple in question, she just waited outside, trying to entice passing sailors.
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. And one has been enlisted as a reserve dungsweeper.
Last session the party was ambushed by Asmodeus cultists as they set off for the House of Inspired Hands. They were trying to solve the mystery of who set off a fireball outside their house that killed 12 people. But thanks to the cultists and a spined devil they haven’t gotten very far in their investigations just yet.
A quick wipe down
With the devil and the cultists dispatched, the party took a moment to catch their breath and Alan put his clothes back on and wiped off the blood. The magical compulsion to “Abandon” had passed and he tried to act like nothing strange had happened, but his companions would likely have questions later. Dugg was badly hurt from the fray, and so Arvene administered some healing. Meanwhile Little Joe looked around the building; if he found anything interesting he would likely have chosen not to share it, so Alan joined him on his investigation.
The session began inside the building where the cultists had been waiting in ambush. Decent perception checks from Alan (17) and Joe (16) meant that after a few minutes searching they had found 40 silver pieces, a small ornamental dagger, two balls of twine, and a list with names on it.
The list was a twin of one they had discovered previously after clearing out the wererat lair. It appeared to be an assassin’s hit list. There were names on it they recognized, including two of the party, and so they were beginning to understand the need to proceed with caution.
However, their primary goal at this moment was to continue the investigation into the fireball and make their way to the House of Inspired Hands. Conveniently, as if by some dungeon master’s lazy contrivance, the House of Inspired Hands was directly opposite the building they were in. So when they eventually opened the door—this took more time and effort than you might think—they stood facing a tall, thin, gothic-looking building. Lightning struck in the distance as if to highlight that this was a significant moment in the story. Nobody noticed.
The building looked like a cross between a temple and a workshop, and it had the sigil of Gond above the large ornate wooden door. A toothed cog with four spokes, the symbol of Gond marked the House of Inspired Hands as a place of reverence and invention. Not somewhere you would want to let Little Joe, the perennially disrespectful, hyperactive, auto-defenestrating, troublemaker loose.
In through the window
Before I had finished describing the building, Little Joe decided he was going to make an entrance. And when Little Joe decides he’s going to make an entrance, glaziers lament.
First he cast Minor Illusion and created the sound of a crazy heavy metal guitar solo emanating from the one of the two stained glass windows that stood beside the door. Then he ran across the street straight at the temple. He made sure his cloak and hair were flailing wildly behind him as he jumped dramatically and cannonballed himself through the stained glass window. He rolled an athletics (20) check and a dexterity saving throw (19) to do so and landed heavily on the stone paved floor inside the temple amid a shower of brightly colored glass and lead. He took 4 points of damage and angered a lot of dwarves.
This is now the sixth window that Little Joe has spontaneously decided to hurl himself through and it makes me wonder if there’s enough action in this campaign to keep my players entertained. Perhaps more enemies trying to kill them would reduce the number of broken glass?
Nonetheless, I was able to quickly devise a fitting punishment for him. One of the 15 white cloaked dwarves who witnessed his dramatic entrance approached and was intrigued by the odd music Joe had produced. The dwarf, Dern Brewn, then began to show Little Joe his own music instrument—a bagpipe-like creation that sat in a pouch on the dwarfs back. As he blew Little Joe found consciousness drifting and wavering. He had to roll a con save or fall under the Dominate Person spell this dwarven bard was casting. Joe failed the save and felt the magical compulsion to clean up the broken glass with his bare hands.
The Hall of Exemplary Items
Moments later, and definitely pretending not to be companions of Little Joe, Alan and Dugg entered the temple—Arvene’s player couldn’t make the session last night due to a bout of sudden onset fabulousness, so she waited patiently outside the temple.
After making enquiries regarding the “puppet man,” the main suspect in the fireball, Alan and Dugg were lead to the Hall of Exemplary Items and told to wait for Prioress Valetta.
As they looked around they saw a grand space, much like the central atrium to a national museum. There were tall marble pillars holding up a grand domed ceiling and a balcony that ran around the entire room. A strange animal skeleton hung from the ceiling and there were a number of interesting mechanical objects of various shapes and sizes set on plinths around the hall.
Alan and Joe took the time to inspect each one, and were particularly keen on the miniature model of a submarine call the “Scarlet Morpenoth”—if Arvene was here she would have recognized this as she’d been on the actual submarine this is a model of—and a four-foot-tall working model of a clock tower made of brass, gold, and glass.
Dugg was convinced the clock tower had some significance to the story (it didn’t), but as he fixated on it he noticed an ominous figure stood on the balcony. A silhouette of a humanoid shape was perched up there and hidden in shadow. As he looked, it extended an arm, releasing a tiny metal sparrow into the sky. The bird made a few loops in the air, then veered straight towards him with menace.
Dug wasn’t really sure what to do. I had him roll initiative in case he wanted to try to dodge out of the way or obstruct the metal bird, but he didn’t. So in two rounds the bird flew directly at him. At the last second, Alan pushed Dugg out of the way and the bird slammed into the ornate four-foot clock tower, smashing the glass and creating a lot of noise. The sound of smashing glass got Little Joe’s attention and he ran into the room to see what was going on.
Just as Joe arrived, and before they could really work out what had just happened, a tall, svelte, Dragonborn priestess entered the hall and approached them. “I see you’re making a mess of some my very finest, precious artifacts. Who are you and what do you want?”
After some terse introductions, Valetta invited the party to join her in her study to discuss their investigation. It soon became clear that she did not want to be overheard mentioning a rogue nimblewright in public.
Valetta and Nim
The party explained that they were looking for a puppet man whom they believed caused the fireball in Trollskull Alley. They had been told that nimblewrights were magical automatons that fit that description and that they could find out more at the Temple of Gond. Valetta was not impressed.
But it soon transpired that there was a rogue nimblewright in the Temple; he was called Nim and had been a gift to the temple many years ago. But Nim could not be the suspect as he was magically prevented from leaving the premises.
She decided they better meet Nim for themselves.
As they entered the small attic room above Valetta’s office, they heard a metal clicking sound coming from the darkness. Two bright eyes peered at them from the shadows and Dugg recognized the silhouette from the balcony earlier. Nim couldn’t talk, so Valetta translated his odd hand signs. His weird mechanical limbs and gaunt metal face gave him a sorrowful look. It turned out he was lonely. So he created a friend. But that friend had escaped and was likely the cause of all their troubles. END
This was a short session, but one that hopefully has set my players along the right tracks. My players all felt sorry for Nim, being locked up in the attic alone, and they wanted to take him home to Trollskull Manor to work in the bar. They will have to find and destroy this rogue nimblewright first though in order to get Valetta’s trust. Thankfully, Nim handed them a device that might help them to track him down.
You have to do quite a lot of work as the dungeon master in situations like this to flesh out the locales your players go to. While the House of Inspired Hands is given some space in the campaign book, it’s only half a page of notes, some dialogue, and a handful of impressive items for the Hall of Exemplary Items. Aside from Nim, only one NPC is mentioned (Valetta) and so it was a test of my improvisational skills. And I was tired. And I hadn’t planned very much. However, I think it got away with it.
What did we learn?
DM Tip: If you give them an opening don’t be surprised if somebody jumps through it. I hadn’t even began to describe the fascia of the building before Little Joe decided he was going to jump through the window. The whole of the next ten minutes was me trying to work out how to have Nim’s metal bird attack the party from the inside of the building. It’s supposed to happen as they approach; Nim is watching from the roof and sends the bird over. Obviously that couldn’t happen once Little Joe was already inside, so I improvised a balcony and nobody was any the wiser.
Next week our adventure continues as the party tries to work out how to use the nimblewright detector they’ve been given. They’re searching for the rogue automaton, but are likely to stumble upon much more than they bargained for.
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