Waterdeep: Dragon Heist
Dragon Heist session 45: Fun and Funerals
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. Alan placed his hand on the brass handle of the door and felt the hair on the back of his arms 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 wail and, panicked, dashed inside, leaving the others on the doorstep in wonder. He raced upstairs to his room and howled wildly as he looked into the mirror.
Last night was the 45th session in our online Waterdeep Dragon Heist Dungeons & Dragons campaign and our level five characters were about to find out what happens when one of the team turns into a wererat. But first, a funeral. Aren’t RPGs fun.
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.
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 3-D printed minis.
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
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. ABSENT
Arvene Galanodel, Half-Elf Cleric – priestess of Tymora, fake harper. Resurrected.
Little Joe, Drow Sorcerer – scourge of the fenêtreman’s guid, member of Bregan D’earth.
Alan, our human ranger was unable to play last night due to having a bunion removed from his soul, so the plans I had for the session were immediately de-railed. I was DMing by the nook of my nethers, but that’s the way I like it.
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 an incident with a nimblewright in an alleyway, the players discovered the location of the mysterious Stone of Golorr. The thing they’ve spent 44 sessions searching for. But instead of heading straight there they decided to go shopping, eat churros, and visit an old friend. Finally, they returned to Trollskull Alley at midnight. Just in time to attend a moonlit ceremony in honor of their fallen friend.
“That was odd”
Stunned by Alan’s more than usually odd behavior, Arvene and Dugg led Istrid into the main tap room of their mansion. “That was strange,” she said. “Does he always do that?”
“Nope,” said Dugg. “First time.”
“He’s never been particularly normal though.” Little Joe was sitting at the table in the main room, a flagon of mead floating in front of him. Only the gently spinning bow-tie hovering behind the bar indicated the presence of Lif, their occasionally friendly poltergeist. “So, who wants to go to a funeral then?”
To be honest, not my favorite phrase to begin a session with. However, Since Embric’s funeral was mentioned in an earlier session, and the players had suggested their characters would like to attend, I decided to give them the opportunity. I thought this could be a good chance the provide some exposition, and gather a bit of information from some of the locals, while I frantically worked out what to do with a now fully “were-ratted” Alan.
Steam and Steel
The service of thanksgiving for Embric was held on the rooftop garden of the forge he shared with Avi, his partner. In total there were 10 guests at the ceremony:
- Floon Blagmaar, the posh human whom the parry rescued from the Zhentarim at the beginning of the campaign
- Victoro Cassalanter, the head of the Cassalanter noble family, and owner of the Cassalanter bank (I described him as being a bit like Vincent D’onofrio’s Kingpin from Daredevil)
- Vincent Trench, a private Investigator that also lives in Trollskull Alley
- Esvele Roznar, Dugg’s cousin who hides a secret alter-ego
- Mungo Bumbleblast, the gnome tailor from across the street
- A chicken wearing a tuxedo (this was the Conga Chicken from a previous episode where they went to a party held by Avi and Embric)
All of the other guests were NPCs from the campaign that could each share specific information with the heroes if they decided to interact with them. They didn’t.
How do you make small talk at a funeral?
After Avi gave an emotional eulogy for his lost beloved, he lit a candle in the center of the roof garden and asked the attendees to stay and share stories of Embric. Each of my players picked one NPC to talk to, but first, they insisted on all talking to the Conga Chicken. The chicken was too sad and nowhere near as fun as they remembered.
Dugg talked with his cousin Esvele. She asked him to help her, but was very mysterious as to how. She indicated that she would be going to the Cassalanter’s Founder’s Day party in a week’s time and said that it would be cool if Dugg and his friends were there as backup. “It’s time for some good old fashioned Roznar revenge, cuz.” Dugg nodded, confused.
Arvene spoke to Vincent Trench. He had heard a lot about Alan’s Bureau of Investigators. ”There are lots of folk interested in what you guys are up to. Especially that Mirt and the Lady Gralhund.” They both asked me to watch you, but said nothing about keeping it a secret.
Meanwhile Little Joe, not exactly in his element, was bored and looking for an excuse not to talk to anyone. And to be honest this whole funeral scene had gone on a little longer than I expected and wasn’t as fun as I’d imagined a funeral scene would be.
Saved by the screams of the innocent
Thankfully, as Little Joe sulked in the corner, a shrill scream went out into the night, followed by another, and then a howl. It came from the south, away from Trollskull Alley and this was the excuse Little Joe was looking for. He called out to Arvene and Dugg, who glanced apologetically at the folks they were talking to, and they all leapt from the side of the building as Little Joe cast Featherfall on the trio and they slowly glided to the ground outside the forge.
Dugg took point as they headed towards the screams. He rolled three good survival checks and they were able to find the incident quickly and easily. The moon was still high when they arrived at the end of an enclosed alleyway off Suldour Street.
At the end of the alleyway, a hunched over figure in a long, hooded, traveling cloak was oblivious to their arrival. Dugg quickly realized it was a wererat that had cornered a couple leaving a tavern and was gorging on their bodies. Dugg dashed forward to rescue the couple and immediately attacked the wererat.
Dugg quickly managed to grapple the wererat and called to Arvene and Little Joe. All three were surprised to see a wererat in the city, as they believed they had previously gotten rid of them all. At this stage, none of them knew it was Alan.
The wererat tried to bite and claw at Dugg while grappled. Even with disadvantage he made two solid hits and dealt 12 points of damage. Meanwhile, Arvene and Little Joe tended to the wounded couple. They managed to stabilize both, and delivered enough medicine to keep them alive, but they remained unconscious and badly hurt from the wererat attack.
But is it Alan?
The second round of combat began with Dugg noticing the wererat was wearing Alan’s clothes. The wererat Alan has totally lost all control and was acting on animal instinct, searching for fresh flesh. Dugg’s flesh was the freshest. Still grappled, he attacked again. Two more hits for Dugg left him hurt and angry. He returned blows, hoping to knock out the wererat. He called out to Arvene and Little Joe once more, “Hey guys. I think this is Alan.”
“No, it’s a wererat. Alan’s not a wererat.”
With that, both Little Joe and Arvene attacked the rampaging wererat, hoping to free Dugg from its clutches.
Yes, it is
A couple more rounds of combat and it became evidently clear that this really was Alan. Little Joe managed a wild Sleight of Hand check (24) and pick-pocketed some ABI business cards from the wererat’s coat. “OK, perhaps it is Alan. No one would bother stealing those.”
Eventually Little Joe managed to cast a decent sleep spell on the writhing, snarling wererat. As he passed out, Alan reverted out of his wererat-form and back into gross-hairy-man-form. The heroes couldn’t believe this really was Alan. Although it did explain why he was acting so weird lately. Arvene tied up their unconscious friend and Dugg carried him to back to Trollskull Manor. It wasn’t until they got home that they realized they’d left the unconscious couple alone in the street. Thankfully, Waterdeep is a safe city at night. END
Tonally, this was an odd session. It began with an existential question regarding small talk at funerals and ended with one of the characters naked and tied up to their own bed with no memory of how they got there. Not bad for less than two hours of game play.
What did we learn?
DM Tip: Whatever your plans, there will inevitably be times when players miss sessions. It happens. And most gaming groups come up with ways of getting around this. For some, each session is played in its own pocket reality which runs parallel to all the other sessions, therefore if a player misses out one session, he can just be there the next session and act like he was there the whole time. Because in a way he was. Just don’t get too caught up in the science of it, it’s likely to get a bit “quantum.”
I’ve run campaigns in the past where the absence of players from session to session became a plot point in the narrative, a mystery to be solved. It turned out that this mystery was actually the heroes from the future going back to rectify the mistakes of the past and creating infinite timelines that popped in an out of existence, conveniently whenever a player couldn’t make it.
In some campaigns, players not being there doesn’t matter at all; you just ignore it and continue playing. Whatever the case, it’s important to acknowledge that this will happen, even when (or especially when) you’re planning a session based around that specific character. If you accept this from the start you won’t be so disappointed when your exciting wererat episode that you spent weeks planning doesn’t happen and instead you have to roleplay a funeral because you can’t think of what else to do. On the plus side, you’ll get in some good eulogy practice, which is always handy.
Next week might just get back on track with Chapter Four of Dragon Heist and begin the encounter chain. Alternatively, we might spend four sessions trying to “un-wererat” Alan.
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