Waterdeep: Dragon Heist
Dragon Heist session 42: Unintended Consequences
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 adventurers away. They were all pretty beaten up, but at least now they had a plan.
Last night was the 42nd session in our online Waterdeep Dragon Heist D&D campaign and the level 4 heroes were reeling from a big fight at Gralhund Villa. They had to decide on their next move, and the choices they made would bring about some unintended consequences.
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 three point one four one five nine.
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 I had prepared for a couple of scenarios—two battlemaps and lots of minis. Naturally, as I had spent time doing this, none of the preparation was actually used because my players decided to do something else entirely.
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
Fireball – A Waterdeep: Dragon Heist DM’s resource.
Waterdeep: City Encounters
Dragon Season: 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.
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, after sneaking into Gralhund Villa to search for a robotic puppet man that set off a fireball outside their house, the heroes became embroiled in a fracas between the Gralhunds and the Zhentarim. Ultimately the Gralhunds won, but not before Lord Gralhund was killed. The robotic nimblewright escaped however, and now the party must pick up the pieces of the investigation and decide what to do next.
More flying snakes
It was way past midnight as the four heroes made their way back to Trollskull Manor. Thankfully Gralhund Villa was close by, so the walk didn’t take long. They passed the still smouldering remains of Frewn’s Brews as they entered the alley. A stark reminder of what can happen if you make a deal with a stranger in a bar. Unintended consequences seemed to follow this band of heroes, Joe hadn’t meant for their competition to be banished to Avernus, but he wasn’t all that upset about it either. Frewn had it coming to him. Kind of. As they approached the doorstep of the TM bar, Dugg realized they were being followed.
The session began with a summons. This would be the first of a number of plot hooks they would be given last night, and by the end of this chapter these should all be cleared up. Although I admit that does sound naively optimistic given our group’s playing history.
The summons came in the form of a letter delivered by a flying snake. Dugg had noticed it and drew his sword. But the snake did not attack. Instead it uncurled its tail and dropped the letter into a puddle at Dugg’s feet.
The letter was from Istrid Horne, well-known loan shark, Zhentarim affiliate, and someone who also happened to be on an assassination hit list that had come into Arvene’s possession.
“I would like to know more about what happened at Gralhund Villa. If you can spare the time, meet me at Ahgairon’s Statue in the city of the Dead at Highsun tomorrow. You’ll be paid generously for your time and trouble. —Istrid Horne.”
Dugg took the letter and read it to the rest of the team as they made their way up the steps to their house. Inside, everyone was asleep. There was no sound from the 45 plus residents of Trollskull Manor, which included 40 rescued Luksan refugees. There was, however, a very large man wearing a flamboyant feather hat sitting at the bar. Seemingly waiting for them.
Joe recognized J.B. Nevercott. He was their contact with the secret drow society Bregan D’earthe, and he had a new mission for them. In spite of their miserable failures on previous missions.
They were tasked with assassinating a drow mage called Nar’l Xibrindas. He is currently deep undercover in the lair of the Xanathar—one of the big baddies of this campaign. My players greedily accepted the mission, especially once Joe rolled a natural 20 on his persuasion charisma check and successfully negotiated a 600gp payment for it. J.B. was canny though; he agreed to pay on completion, knowing full well that they are certain to mess it up.
Once Nevercott left, the team all took their leave and a long rest. In the morning they met for breakfast to discuss their next move. For their benefit I recounted all of the current objectives on their slate:
Meet Istrid Horne – Zhentarim mission
Evidence of corruption in the police force – Captain Staget mission
Assassinate Nar’l – Bregan D’Earthe mission
Find and destroy the nimblewright – For the House of Inspired Hands
Discover the location of 6 dopplegangers – Harpers mission
Find the Stone of Golorr – Main campaign objective
They decided to meet Istrid first and see where that lead them on to.
An unexpected decision
They met Istrid at the specified location. She was a surly dwarf with a superiority complex. They liked her. Even though she was clearly affiliated with the Zhentarim. She was also rich, so I think that helped.
She was able to give some information and they agreed to help protect her. Since the events at Gralhund Villa the day before, all the known Zhentarim were being rounded up by the city watch, and she feared that lots of other factions could be seeking her out too. She asked to go back to Trollskull Manor and hide out. I didn’t anticipate that may players would have other plans. I should have.
They suggested that rather than house her at the TM bar, they could take her to a safe place. Alma Moyes’ house. Alma Moyes is a sweet old lady, whom they have repeatedly tricked and lied to, but who, for some reason believes Alan to be her long-lost son. It’s a long story, but it’s by far the highlight so far of this campaign. Their suggestion to take her there was not expected. I had planned that they would go back to the manor, and in the night it would be attacked by forces that wanted to get Istrid. I had to quickly reassess.
An unanticipated action
But before they could act out their plan, Little Joe had an idea of his own. He cast Disguise Self and transformed in Istrid. Now there were two surly female dwarfs. Then he told Istrid to transform herself. She did this using a disguise kit and now looked like a fatter male dwarf, still surly though.
Next, Joe started running as fast as he could away from the alley where they stood. He rolled a performance check to see if he could deceive any onlookers into believing he was Istrid. His plan was to misdirect anyone who was keeping an eye on Istrid into thinking she had run one way, when in actual fact the real Istrid was calmly walking the other way with Alan and co. Unusually for my group, this was a decent plan, and some good skill checks meant Little Joe was able to pull it off. I hadn’t anticipated this course of action, but I enjoyed it nonetheless.
An unintended consequence
After Joe’s escapade, the group reconvened and arrived at Alma’s House in the North Ward. She eagerly greeted Alan—although she still thinks he is her long-lost son Chris—and he introduced Istrid, now looking like herself again. When Alma saw her, she was excited that her boy was bringing home a girlfriend for the first time. Arvene and Dugg added to the mayhem by insisting that “Chris” and “Rosario” were engaged, and that she would be staying with Alma until the wedding to ensure no impropriety.
Alma was over the moon and instantly began planning what she and her three cats—Catrick Swayze, Fuzz Aldrin, and Dagult Neverember—would wear. Alan was not amused, but played along to keep up the ruse. Meanwhile Dugg sent a message back to Trollskull Manor instructing the two “most mafioso” members of their staff—Scabbsy and Sonny-G—to join Istrid at Alma’s house as protection.
Needless to say, this is not what I had planned for this session.
Eventually, after convincing Istrid she was safe with Alma and the mafioso twins, and that the house was magically protected—it wasn’t—they left and headed off to try to find the missing nimblewright.
A quick detour to the Dock Ward proved unfruitful and they found themselves in the trade ward at the Court of the White Bull. The thing about the Court of the White Bull that my players did know, although they’d forgotten they knew it, was that as a result of an infamous spell battle between two long-dead wizards all magic cast here goes awry. In game that means consulting the Wild Magic table. Apart from my immediate family, the Wild Magic table is my favorite thing in the entire world.
The Court of the White Bull
As they stalked through the courtyard, Dugg could feel the nimblewright detector buzzing and whirling wildly. The robot was close. It directed them to an alleyway. Little Joe pushed his way forward. He saw amongst a pile of garbage a hunched over figure covered in a well-worn cloak. Casting Mage Hand he reached out to grab and lift the cloak. As he did, he suddenly remembered why you don’t cast magic in the Court of the White Bull. Wild Magic surged around him and he felt himself magically lifted from the ground. As he began to fly upward, his body duplicated, once, then twice, and again a third time, until there were four floating Little Joes. They hovered in the alley just as the hunched over figure leapt up. It was the nimblewright they were after. And he had two swords. ROLL INITIATIVE! END
Well, of all the things I was planning on this session, preparing for a wedding was not one of them. Waterdeep: Dragon Heist has a relatively clear and straightforward plan in terms of the progression from the beginning, middle, and end of the campaign, including what the key story points are. None of those story points involve a sham wedding to appease a confused, kind old lady. Alma Moyes was a character I created on the fly in one of our very first sessions, and she has become one of our group’s absolute favorite NPCs. It’s going to be such a shame when the thugs that were supposed to attack Istrid in Trollskull Manor instead choose to do this at Alma’s house. I may never be forgiven.
At this stage of the campaign, when there are so many objectives and plot hooks, using a platform like Trello is extremely useful. It lets you keep track of NPCs, locations, and the progress of missions in a really simple and easy way.
What did we learn?
DM Tip Just because you’ve read and re-read the Dungeon Master’s Guide and Player’s Handbook over and over, don’t expect that your players have too. They might not know that the Waterdavian calendar works in tendays and not seven-day weeks. They might not know that a dragon is another term for one gold piece, and they might not realize that Highsun and dawn are not the same thing. It took a good five minutes of discussion during last night’s session to clarify that, when Istrid Horne said “meet me at highsun,” she meant midday and not breakfast time. For added confusion Highsun is also another name for the month Eleasis in the Forgotten Realms. In short, don‘t be surprised if your players have no idea what you’re talking about most of the time.
Next week we pick up exactly where we left off. The nimblewright will fight to the death, but will he have the stone of Golorr? There’s only one way to find out…
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