Waterdeep Dragon Heist
Dragon Heist session 46: Roll20
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 their friend Alan. Although it did explain why he had acted so weird lately. Arvene tied up their unconscious friend and Dugg carried him to back to Trollskull Manor.
Last night was the 46th session in our online Waterdeep: Dragon Heist Dungeons & Dragons campaign and one of the party had been infected with lycanthropy and they were dealing with the fallout. We had also decided to move the campaign over to Roll20, a platform none of us had ever used before.
We had 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. Last night we tried out Roll20, a digital roleplaying game platform. We were using the official Dragon Heist Roll20 conversion and, after a few teething issues, we found it to be really good.
Additional Dragon Heist supplements I’ve been using for this campaign:
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.
Our Half-elf cleric Arvene couldn’t make it last night due to being just too damn romantic, so the party had to make do without its healer. Not that she usually does that much healing.
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. They are searching for the Stone of Golorr. It’s a mysterious object that will potentially lead them to a hoard of embezzled treasure, but they’re not the only ones on the trail. The Zhentarim (bad guys), the Xanathar Guild (also bad guys), Bregan D’earthe (more bad guys), and the Cassalanters (rich folks, and therefore probably bad guys) are desperate for the stone too, and willing to do whatever it takes to get it.
Last session in a brief interlude before heading for the last known location of the stone, the party allowed Istrid Horne, a Zhentarim loan shark to hideout in their basement. They then attended the funeral of a friend, before having to subdue Alan as he turned into a wererat, attacking an amorous couple in an alleyway.
Naked and tied to the bed, Alan woke up groggily. This wasn’t an unusual scenario for the oddball detective, but the memory loss was new. He couldn’t remember anything after the odd sensation of looking at the moon and being filled with fear and anger. Next thing he knows he’s waking up, tied to his bed, with an odd taste of iron and raw meat in his mouth. What happened? Well, he was about to find out, as Dugg and Little Joe knocked loudly on the door.
This session began with Alan totally unaware of the previous night. I decided not to tell him anything, but to let his co-players fill in the details for him. They are unreliable at best. Devious and manipulative at worst. This would be interesting.
Dugg and Little Joe knocked on the door with Istrid Horne following them. She also was unaware of Alan’s wererat tendencies, and so was shocked to see her future fiancé Alan—it’s a long story involving lying to the elderly and a sham engagement—naked and tied to the bed. Deciding it best to leave Dugg and Little Joe to fill in the blanks without her, and that she didn’t really want to know the exact details of why Alan was in the predicament he was, she left them to it.
Dugg and Little Joe told Alan that he was a wererat. At first he didn’t believe them, but then he remembered getting bitten during a battle with wererats in the sewers. Unsure of what to do—especially without their resident cleric—they figured they had until the next full moon to worry about it, and so decided to pretend it never happened. They didn’t tell Alan that they found him gorging on the bodies of two young people. He will find out about that later on.
Joe Banks and Dugg Reads
Deciding to carry on with the mission, they headed off towards the Field Ward. Along the way, Little Joe went to the bank. He cashed in the money he had stolen from Alan the previous night and brushed past Victoro Cassalanter. Victoro is the owner of the bank and someone they’ve bumped into a number of times without having much to do with. Little Joe had a suspicion that Lord Cassalanter was up to no good. He rolled a poor insight check (4) and couldn’t work out what it might be.
Meanwhile, Dugg purchased a newspaper. It worries me whenever this happens as I know they’re just going to ask questions about everything in there, including the names of each of the reporters. Luckily I always have a list names ready for such an occasion. The first article that caught Dugg’s attention had the headline “Black Viper strikes at Gralhund Villa,” and it was written by Sally Mantlepiece.
At this stage of the session we had to pause the action as we tried to work out some of the functions, shortcuts, and commands for Roll20.
Problems we had included:
- Players not being able to take control of their avatars—this was fixed by working out how to give them permission to do so;
- Players not being able to see the maps—it took a while to work out there are multiple layers in the DM view and you need to select a specific layer to allow players to see with the fog of war options operating;
- The DM not having a clue what he was doing—this problem was never really fixed, but I’m hoping it will get easier the more we play. Anyway, my players are used to me not having a clue.
So, once we got some of the teething problem out of the way, we returned to the action. In a way it was lucky that Arvene’s player wasn’t available last night, as they’re the one who streams this to Twitch and our one regular Icelandic viewer would have been very disappointed with the lack of professionalism on our part. Moreso than usual.
Thrakkus and the Field Ward
They arrived at the Field Ward and Alan took the lead. The last time the party was here they accidentally burnt down a large section of the Ward before running away. The destruction was still visible.
Alan led the way and directed them to the Windmill they were looking for. It was here that they expected to find the mysterious Thrakkus whom the Nimblewright delivered the Stone of Golorr to. Using Roll20 was great as it meant I could show my players the layout of the windmill as they approached. Although it did take 10 minutes to work out how to do this.
The windmill was partially ruined and being used as a squat by the local unfortunates. There was a butchers’ guild sign hanging above the door. They investigated the first two rooms and found some homeless commoners sleeping there. The third room they came to was clearly used as some sort of meat storage; there was blood on the floor and cadavers under a tarpaulin. They didn’t investigate the tarp, so didn’t find out until later on that the cadavers belonged to people and not livestock. This butcher was selling man-meat.
Their investigation led them upstairs to another locked room. Little Joe cast Knock. The door flew revealing a large, angry, dragonborn man with a blood-stained apron and a hatchet. Thrakkus was not happy to see the party. They tried to convince him that they were the food inspectors and that he had failed an inspection. At first, Little Joe’s charisma was good enough to convince him, but he soon lost his temper and a fight broke out.
It was a quick fight that ended after two rounds. First, Thrakkus breathed his dragon breath, scorching the party. Then Alan and Dugg dived in with their fists. Eventually, Little Joe successfully cast Sleep. He isn’t normally successful when he tries this, but has learnt to wait until some of the enemy’s health is depleted before trying.
See, they do learn.
Thrakkus woke up tied to the chair. Blood dripped past his mouth from a deep cut above his right eye. Alan stepped forward, taking charge of the interrogation. It took a while, and a lot of unpleasant threats including some very obscure butchery equipment, but Alan eventually got the information he was after. “OK, OK, please, just put the mincer down,” pleaded the butcher. “I stashed the stone in the last meat delivery headed for Cuttle’s Meat Pies in the Trade Ward. Now please, give me back my ears.” END
Roll20 looks really good for this stage of our Dragon Heist campaign. And a potential game-changer for future D&D games. I was a bit unsure to begin with, but having the encounter maps all there and ready to play made the combat sequence far smoother, and my players were able to more clearly envisage exactly what was going on. There is so much more functionality that we haven’t used yet. We didn’t even upload any of our existing characters on there—that’s this week’s homework for my players—instead we just used some hastily made avatars and moved them around the map while we worked out how it all works. It’s clearly going to take some time to get to grips with the features that we like, but I can see this being a platform we use more often in the future, especially if we continue onto Dungeon of the Mad Mage after this campaign.
One thing I would say is that if, like me, you end up making a lot of the content of your campaign up on the fly, using an official conversion of a D&D product won’t always work so well for you. It will require you to put in a lot of additional preparation hours, as you pre-build those improvised NPCs, and then find suitable encounter maps etc. However, if you want to play a campaign straight from the source material, then this is a godsend and will really help you do that in a quick and easy way.
I’m going to be going for something of a middle ground. I’ve already developed quite a backlog of improvised NPCs, and at this stage in the campaign, all of the non-official side quests have pretty much been completed, so we can now run the rest of the campaign straight from the module. Whatever you play, you’ll have to find your own happy medium, but Roll20 is definitely something that I will keep in my arsenal for future games.
What did we learn?
DM Tip: If you’re using a new platform for a session midway through a campaign, then you need to spend at least a couple of hours familiarizing yourself with the content beforehand. I didn’t do this. So, when it came to the encounter at the Windmill, I just expected the Roll20 module to have all the text and descriptions readily available, and so I didn’t have my hard copy of the campaign to hand. This was not wise. While the official Roll20 Dragon Heist conversion does have all the information and content you’ll need to play the campaign, if you’ve never used the system before it might not be in the first place you look. This will slow down the pace of the session quite dramatically, as you desperately try to search through a whole campaign book’s worth of content until you find the part that says, “You approach a windmill, this two-story stone building was a windmill long before the city rose up around it.”
Next week they follow the trail of the Stone of Golorr and hopefully end up at Cuttle’s Meat Pies; where they go after that is anyone’s guess.
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