Waterdeep: Dragon Heist
Dragon Heist session 44: A little bit of admin
The heroes decided their next stop should be the House of Inspired Hands. Perhaps Valetta could shed some light on the nimblewright. Maybe she had a method for retrieving its last instruction? Either way, there was a reward waiting for them and that was enough. So, they headed off up the North Road towards the Sea Ward. Dugg remembered the scraps of paper and uncurled it. It was a map and it had “Thrakkus” written on it with an “X.”
Last night was the 44th session in our online Dungeon & Dragons Waterdeep: Dragon Heist campaign. We began on 4th February 2019, so we’ve now been playing for well over a year and are nearing the end of this campaign—barring any unexpected 20-session detours. The heroes have made it to level five, and are just about to begin the encounter chain that should, in theory, lead them to the Vault of the Dragon.
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 simultaneous viewers is ten. Although it is unclear how many of those ten are actually family members of our drow sorcerer.
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 prepared by drawing out a map of the location I expected them to go to. Naturally this map was never used.
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
Dragon Season: A Waterdeep Dragon Heist DM’s resource
Last night we were without our drow sorcerer Little Joe, as he was isolating himself from his computer for fear of digitally transmitted viruses. He’s still convinced that he caught the millennium bug from a faulty pager, and blames Encarta for an outbreak of Beiber fever in 2005.
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. ABSENT
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, they finally found the missing rogue nimblewright they were hunting, and after some wild magic mayhem they defeated the robot and found a note that potentially pointed them in the direction of the Stone of Golorr (this campaign’s main McGuffin).
The Dragonborn priestess carefully examined the remains of the nimblewright. It was just a pile of cogs, gears, and cables, but these were her elements. She understood systems better than most. There was a logical calmness in mechanisms that you just didn’t find in people. Of course, these cogs and gears would be recycled. But first, she had to find out what data they still held. She unwound a string of black metal tape that linked one jagged disc to another. “This is what we want,” she said. “The last instruction this robot received is imprinted on this tape. Hold on.”
The session began with Valetta sharing the final message with the party. “Take the stone to Thrakkus.” She was even able to ascertain that it was a female that had given the command, likely a noble.
This was what Alan and co. wanted to hear. Lady Gralhund had given the nimblewright the orders to pass on the Stone of Golorr to a man named Thrakkus, and they had a map that led to his house in the Field Ward. You’d think they’d want to go there straight away. Right?
After seeing Valetta, they decided to head back to Trollskull Manor for a long rest. A snooze and a hot cocoa as Dugg put it. Only Arvene thought there was any urgency in heading to Thrakkus, but she was ignored by the rest of the party.
During their long rest they all moved up to fifth level. This is a little earlier than suggested in the campaign, but then have completed a lot of extra credit, so I think it’s only fair.
Level five is the first time in an adventurer’s career that they gain abilities that make them stand out from the average henchman, city watch, or mercenary. Spellcasters gain access to level 3 spells at this level and it can be a real game changer—Fireball is level 3, so is Dispel Magic, and Revivify. Melee-based characters also gain a second attack at fifth level, effectively doubling their damage output. Those wererats don’t stand a chance.
Here’s how the party fared in their level up:
Alan – gained an extra attack and two level 2 spells
Arvene – gained Destroy Undead (CR ½) and two level 3 spells
Dugg – gained an extra attack
Little Joe – now has five Sorcery Points and two level 3 spells
When in doubt: go shopping
When they awoke from their long rest, the party had a brunch meeting to decide what to do next. They had a number of objectives, but didn’t want to start anything major without Little Joe, so they decided to go shopping.
They were in the mood for some armor and asked where the nearest blacksmith or armorer was. I was not prepared for this. I quickly decided that there were three main armorers they might have heard of. The first was right there in Trollskull Alley, but it was closed until after Embric’s funeral later that night, so the party had to go a little further afield. Their choice was between a fancy steelworker in the affluent castle ward—the armor would be of very fine quality and likely exotic, but also expensive—and Salt and Spike in the Trades Ward—this area was much more “earthy,” and any armor purchased here was going to be either of lower quality or second hand. They checked their wallets. They headed to the Trades Ward.
Here they met a burly, surly, slow-talking Minotaur called Arlo (my son and I have been binge watching Disney+ and he’s discovered the Good Dinosaur and so Arlo was the first name that came to mind). He offered them each some new armor, all at reasonable prices and they left happy, better protected and slightly poorer. He was a friend of Avi and Embric’s so would be attending the moonlit service later that night.
I used the Player’s Handbook to guide me on what might be available in an armory and put reasonable prices to them. Alan purchased scale mail pushing his Armor Class (AC) to 16—it was crocodile scale that once belonged to the wererats before Alan and Co. dealt with them. Arvene bought griffon hide armor, making her AC 17. And Dugg acquired some very shiny chain mail, pushing his AC to 17 too.
They even procured a gift for Little Joe; it was an Echo Pearl in a beautiful felt-lined box. It has the property that when thrown at something it will accelerate until it reaches 1mm away from its destination where it will magically stop in mid air and then slow fall to the floor. It’s essentially useless, but they were happy to pay 50gp of Little Joe’s money for it.
Attack at Alma’s
As they were in the Trades Ward they decided to check in at Alma Moyes’ house to see how Istrid and Alma were getting along. Alma is an old lady whom they met in one of the first sessions. She believes that Alan is her long-lost son Christopher; Alan has done nothing to shed her of this belief. In fact, the party occasionally stops in and sees how she’s doing, and has developed a sweet familial bond with her, and she is by far one of everyone’s favorite NPCs.
Alma’s terraced residence is currently acting as a safe house for a dwarf money lender called Istrid Horn. She is a Zhentarim agent wanted by the police, and by the Xanathar Guild, and probably by the Zhentarim too. Alma mistakenly believes that Istrid is her son Christopher’s (really Alan’s) fiancé, but in truth this was just a ruse to convince Alma to let Istrid stay. It’s a very byzantine situation, and every session another twisted layer of complexity is added.
So they went there to see if everything was OK.
Earlier that day, three Bugbears working for the Xanathar Guild had tried to infiltrate Alma’s house and had killed Scabbsy, one of the two guards Alan had set watching the house, before being chased away by Istrid’s powerful magic, and Alma’s rolling pin.
Convinced there was going to be another attack, Istrid implored the heroes to take her back to Trollskull Manor. They reluctantly agreed and, after making sure Alma was OK and leaving Sonny-G to protect her, Alan, Arvene, and Dugg set off for home with a paranoid Istrid Horne disguised as old and frail Alma Moyes. In our minds this was very much a Mrs. Doubtfire moment. Istrid wearing a large fake white wig with curlers, a long pink dressing robe, fluffy unicorn slippers, and grumbling annoyance the whole way home.
It was getting late by the time they arrived back in the North Ward. Dugg noticed they were being followed by two drow and determined it was probably the two Bragan D’Earthe operatives, Fel and Kreb, who had been shadowing them for a while and keeping them safe. Right now he wasn’t too worried, they were all more concerned with getting back in time for Embric’s midnight ceremony of thanksgiving above the forge.
As the clouds cleared, they could see the full moon in the sky. This was the first full moon since Alan had contracted lycanthropy fighting wererats in the sewers. He was getting nervous. Alan rolled a wisdom saving throw. He rolled 19 and for now did not turn into his wererat form. However, he was paranoid, and they were still a mile or so away from the manor. Arvene, Dugg, and Istrid were all none the wiser.
Just before midnight they arrived at the front door to Trollskull Manor. The TM bar was still closed following the fireball investigation, so the lights were off and no one was up. As Alan placed his hand on then brass handle of the door, he felt the hair on the back of his arms, neck, and back stand up. A shiver ran right through his body and he looked up and saw the full moon sneering back at him. He let out a wild howl and dashed inside, leaving the others on the doorstep in wonder. Alan raced up the stairs and bounded into his room and looked into the mirror. A hairy snarling face, with jagged teeth, pointed snout, and whiskers stared back. Alan howled again. END
This was a quick session, mostly admin, but it had still some fun moments. Dressing Istrid Horne as Alma Moyes was a stroke of genius, and I really enjoyed the interactions with Arlo the muscly minotaur blacksmith. The attack at Alma’s house was never supposed to happen. In the campaign as written Istrid asks to go to Trollskull Manor and hides out there. Of course, my players had other ideas.
I was in two minds over whether I should just let them buy the armor they wanted, but in the end decided that if that’s what they want, why should I stand in the way? I’ll just have to make sure the enemies also get the chance to upgrade their armor. And firepower.
What did we learn?
DM Tip: If you’re not sure how to handle one of your players contracting lycanthropy, ask them what they think should happen. If you want it to be a meaningful curse, you could do what I’m planning and have them gain all the benefits of it—shapechanging, dexterity bonuses, and a boost to perception checks—but also lose agency whenever there’s a full moon. This has been a long time coming and I’ve been not very subtly mentioning the phases of the moon whenever I can, so it won’t be a surprise when this happens. Alternatively, you cannot do this and just have the benefits, or even have them lose control of the player as soon as they get bitten. Whichever way you do it, make sure to involve your players in the decision-making, as it will affect their character, and you want to make sure they still enjoy the process.
Next week we’ll get to see what wererat-Alan does once he fully transforms into his beastly-self. There’s a funeral he could disrupt, or perhaps he’ll make a trip to a favorite NPC…
WE ARE AMAZON ASSOCIATES