Waterdeep: Dragon Heist
Dragon Heist session 41: Chaos in Gralhund Villa –part 2
“Who are you? What are you doing here?” the lead guard yelled at Dugg, wiping blood from his sword.
“We’re here to help. We heard the fracas from the street and thought you might need assistance. Lucky we did, really,” replied Dugg, still panting from the battle. The guard didn’t believe him. Dugg’s attempts at deception never ended well.
“Speak truthfully if you want to live.”
Last night was the 41st session in our online Waterdeep Dragon Heist D&D campaign and, having infiltrated a noble’s villa looking for a robot, the party were facing off against villa’s guards.
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 I used some 3D printed terrain tiles to replicate the splendid Gralhund Villa.
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
Shard Shunners: a Zhentarim Faction Mission and DM’s Resource
Fireball – A Waterdeep: Dragon Heist DM’s resource
Waterdeep: City Encounters
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.
Little Joe, Drow Sorcerer – scourge of the fenêtreman’s guild, 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. And one has been enlisted as a reserve dungsweeper.
Last session, the heroes snuck into Gralhund Villa, hoping to find a mysterious robotic “puppet man.” Instead, however, they stumbled upon a fight that had broken out between the inhabitants of the villa and the Zhentarim thugs that had been using it as a base of operations. Seemingly, Lady Gralhund had fallen out with the leader of the thugs and a brawl had erupted. The party, having fought the Zhentarim before, sided with the Gralhunds, but once some of the thugs had been dealt with, the villa’s guards had some questions for Alan and co.
The three gnarled veterans stood facing Dugg, blocking the large oak doors behind them. Alan, Joe, and Arvene held their breaths as Dugg attempted to negotiate his way out of a bad situation. The guards were resolute; Dugg wasn’t going anywhere. Banging and shouting could be heard from an adjacent room. But the stand-off continued. It was Gary the veteran versus Dugg. Neither was willing to back down.
Door Number 1
The session began with a charisma roll from Dugg to see if the guards would believe his lie that they were just there to help. He did not roll well, but they didn’t attack immediately. Instead they were all distracted by the banging and shouting from the adjacent room. So Dugg opened the door to see what was going on. He immediately shut it again.
Inside the room was a man with a scarred face, desperately trying to break down a barricade. He had two flying snakes circling his head. As soon as Dugg opened to door, the man stopped and directed the flying snakes to attack. Dugg managed to shut the door just in time to hear the two snakes thud into the woodwork. “Never mind,” he said. “Nothing of interest in there.”
The man in the room was Urstil Floxin, a Zhentarim general and the man whom Lady Gralhund had fallen out with. Moments after Dugg slammed the door shut, Urstil burst in holding a dagger to the throat of another man. This second man was Lord Gralhund. “Give me the stone or Earland gets it,” he said.
Now the three veterans didn’t know what to do. They stood with their swords unsheathed, ready to fight Alan and co., but now had to deal with Urstil threatening to kill their boss. They didn’t know what the stone was that Urstil was after so couldn’t hand it over and had been given clear instructions not to disturb Lady Gralhund. So they decided to attack Urstil, as did Alan and co.
It was a very confusing combat encounter. The guards were fighting Urstil and Alan and co. Urstil was fighting the guards whilst holding Lord Gralhund hostage. Alan and co. were fighting the guards and Urstil. A lot of dice were rolled by me.
In the first round, Urstil killed Lord Gralhund. This caused all the guards to focus on him. He then died by the end of the second round—he ended up being tossed down the stairs by Alan who had given into his lycanthropic instincts. Then the guards turned on the adventurers and by the end of the third round there was quite the pile of bodies at the foot of the stairs.
Door Number 2
After the fight was over Joe, Alan, Dugg, and Arvene stood in the hallway catching their breaths. There was a pile of bodies at the foot of the stairs and three closed doors. One of the doors led to where Urstil had come from and there was nothing of interest there. One was locked so they ignored it for now. And the third was the door that was guarded by Gary and the veterans. This was the one they wanted to go through.
For once they paused and thought about what to do next. They came up with a great plan. Arvene cast Disguise Self and caused herself to appear like Gary. Like Gary before he was part of a pile of mutilated bodies at the foot of the stairs.
Arranging themselves in the hallway with Dugg and Little Joe lying on the floor pretending to be dead and Alan hiding around a corner, Arvene confidently opened the door.
“My lady, the attackers are dead. So is your husband,” she said.
“Ah, well, Gary,” came the reply. “I guess that saves me a job later.”
Lady Gralhund stood on the other side of the door, impressive in her full brad body armor and wielding a mace. Her long brunette hair cascaded down framing the star sigil on her breast plate. Next to her, with fists raised ready to pounce, stood Hrabbaz, her burly half-orc bodyguard.
Arvene, disguised as Gary, entered slowly. She then attempted to convince Lady Gralhund that the threats had now all been dealt with and that the area was safe. She was trying to find out information regarding the missing nimblewright robot, but Lady Gralhund was not forthcoming. Arvene’s deception was very good. She rolled 22 and a natural 20 on subsequent rolls, so there was no chance Lady Gralhund or Hrabbaz would doubt she was Gary.
However, this didn’t necessarily work in Arvene’s favor. Not when Lady Gralhund decided that the only way to save face with the City Watch when they arrived was if only she and Hrabbaz had survived. Arvene’s fate was in the balance. Lady Gralhund was on the verge of commanding Hrabbaz to deal with her, when a sound from the other room alerted them to the arrival of the Watch. Really it was Alan rolling a very good performance check (18). Arvene was saved, and now they knew how ruthless and deceitful Lady Gralhund really was.
The Guards Arrive
Arvene (as Gary) was sent off to meet the Watch while Lady Gralhund “prepared” herself.
When the four City Watchmen arrived in the hallway they were met by Alan, Dugg, Little Joe, and Arvene (still disguised as Gary). There was also an almighty pile of dead Zhentarim and Gralhund guards. Once again Arvene convinced them of her story and three of the Watch went into the room with Lady Gralhund.
The remaining watchman was a short halfling called Darren. It soon became clear that he and Gary knew each other and were both aware of the Gralhund’s allegiance with the Zhentarim. Gary soon became known as crooked Gary and Alan made a note of remembering him—Captain Staget has previously asked the group to find any crooked cops they could and report back to him.
They managed to get quite a lot of information from Darren and they leaned on his and Gary’s acquaintance to make their excuses and leave.
Lady of Lies
Just as they were leaving, they could hear Lady Gralhund talking to the watchmen in the other room. She was sobbing loudly and wailing for her lost husband. “Oh, Earland! How will I ever replace you? This is a tragedy, the worst to befall House Gralhund. I will avenge you!”
The watchmen appeared to fall for her deception and were consoling her as the adventurers left Gralhund Villa.
John from the John
As Alan, Arvene, Dugg, and Little Joe made their egress from Gralhund Villa, a voice called out behind them. “Hey Gary! Gary! Wait up. It’s me. John.”
The party turned around ready to fight. But Arvene (disguised as Gary) intervened. “Oh, hey John. We’ve you been? Did you hear what happened?”
John was not aware of what had transpired in Gralhund Villa. He, like Gary, was one of the veteran guards that protected the mansion. He was using the facilities when the fighting kicked off and had fallen asleep, totally unaware of the massacre inside. When Arvene (as Gary) explained what had happened, John was shocked. He asked if the nimblewright managed to flee with the stone as Lady Gralhund had ordered. BINGO. This was the vital piece of information they were looking for.
Arvene, still disguised as Gary, tried to hide her excitement. Now they knew that the nimblewright had escaped and had the stone. They just had to find out where he’d gone. Luckily they still had the detector. Making their excuses to a rather confused John, Arvene led the ragtag band of adventures away. They were all pretty beaten up, but at least now they had a plan. END
This was a very complicated session. At some stages, I think not one of us really knew what was going on. The fighting all happened so fast and decisions were made so that a lot of vital information and exploration was missed.
For instance, the party never found out that Lady Gralhund was a secret Asmodeus cult fanatic. They never found the teleportation portal to the Zhentarim lair. They didn’t discover Lord Gralhund’s connection to the bracelet of fireballs that set this whole thing in motion. And they didn’t find any of the cool loot. But they did meet some entirely improvised characters for whom I’ve already forgotten which accents I used.
What did we learn?
DM Tip: If your players miss out on finding information that you think is essential, there will always be ways which you can help them out. And don’t worry too much if it seems a little forced. In this session the party really needed to know that the nimblewright they’ve been chasing—the actual reason they were in the manor in the first place—had escaped and had the Stone of Golorr. So when they exited the manor without this crucial detail, I had a dozy guard appear and fill them in. I was lucky that Arvene was discussed as a guard too otherwise it wouldn’t have worked so well, but I’m sure there would have been other ways I could have done this.
Next week the adventurers return to their search for the rogue nimblewright and we start chapter four—the final chapter—in Waterdeep: Dragon Heist.
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