Waterdeep Dragon Heist
Dragon Heist session: 47 Cuttle’s Meat Pies
Thrakkus woke up tied to the chair. Blood dripped past his mouth from a cut above his 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. “Okay, okay, please, just put the sausage 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.”
Last night was the 47th session in our online Waterdeep: Dragon Heist Dungeons & Dragons campaign and our level 5 heroes were on the trail of some stone or other.
We began 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, however, we continued our trial of Roll20, a digital tabletop roleplaying game platform. We were using the official Dragon Heist Roll20 conversion and, after a few teething issues, so far we have found it to be very good.
As with most official campaigns, there are a number of unofficial supplements and expansions available on the DMs Guild to help bolster your game. Additional Dragon Heist supplements I’ve been using for this campaign include:
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
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. 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’Earth (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 Arvene was absent as the party made their way to a windmill in the Field Ward. They had tracked the Stone of Golorr to a dragonborn butcher called Thrakkus. After a quick battle they subdued the butcher and discovered he was a Zhentarim operative using the meat-selling business as a cover to get rid of the bodies belonging to the Black Network’s deceased enemies. Thrakkus also told the party that he had sent the stone as part of a special “meat” delivery to Cuttle’s Meat Pies in the Field Ward. Thus the party had their next destination.
Don’t mention the blood
As Alan’s group of investigators left the windmill, wiping blood from their blades, and in Alan’s case his chin, Arvene arrived on the scene, having spent some time gossiping with nuns in the local convent. They quickly brought her up to speed on the events of the last two hours, emitting the parts where Alan dismembered the Dragonborn butcher with his teeth. As they left the Field Ward, Dugg hailed a tram and they made their way down the High Road towards the Trades Ward in the south of the city.
So, the session began with the party regrouping and heading to their next destination. A quick tram ride took them to the entrance of the Trade Ward. From there they would have to work out the location of Cuttle’s Meat Pies. Fortunately, Dugg had connections in this part of the city.
But before that, a brief encounter of the weird kind.
Alighting from the tram, Little Joe noticed two shadowy figures standing across the street watching them. He recognized the Stetson hats and long leather cloaks of Freb and K’rel, the two Bregan D’Earth gunslingers. Friends. Sort of.
Also there was Zardoz Zord, the Sean Connery-inspired chief lieutenant of the drow secret society. He was keen to remind Joe and co. of their latest mission to assassinate a man called Xarl Xibrindas, a prisoner of the Xanathar Guild. “This is your last chance to impress us, Joe. Our leader doesn’t appreciate failure. Jarlaxle expects,” he whispered in my very offensive Scottish accent. “Oh, one more thing: if you do find the Stone of Golorr, do ensure it is turned over to the proper authorities.” He paused for effect. “Me.”
Zardoz and his cronies then melted into the scenery, disappearing in the heavy rain and traffic of the high road. The group now had to decide what they should do first. Find the Stone. Or kill Xarl. Thankfully, they decided to follow the trail of the stone. I wasn’t prepared for the other option and hadn’t worked out what would happen to the stone if they left it to fall into the bad guys hands. I almost regretted shoehorning this encounter into the session just to show off my terrible voice acting skills. Almost.
After Zardoz, they had to find the meat pie shop. First, Dugg rolled an investigation check to see if he could locate a member of the Trade Ward’s Dungsweepers’ Guild. They would know the area and could hopefully give directions. He rolled well (17) and found Cole, the friendly, diminutive halfling, in a bar frequented by the dungsweepers. Cole gave Dugg the directions to Cuttle’s Meat Pies, and Dugg warned Cole not to eat there anymore. Cole was very upset as those were some of the best dang meat pies in the whole of Waterdeep. Dugg didn’t have the heart to tell him the origins of that meat, and exactly why Cole shouldn’t eat there.
With Cole’s directions they arrived in the alley way that housed Cuttle’s Meat Pies. There were six bugbears (a cross between a bear and a goblin) and a Spectator (a floating football with eyes on stalks) waiting in ambush. This was the second encounter in the chapter 4 encounter chain—so I was glad they hadn’t sidestepped it.
They heard the Bugbears call out, “There they are! We’s gonna get yous. Where’s our dwarf, you Zhentarim scum?”
Thus followed a quick fight—once I remembered how to share permissions for my players to control characters, that is! The bugbears were clearly confused about the identity of the party; accusing them of being Zhentarim and of kidnapping a dwarf. Neither was true, but as with most things, the accusations went unnoticed by my players.
During the battle, Dugg dived straight into the melee and got stuck into brawling with the bugbears; Little Joe cast a couple of devastating Burning Hands spells; Alan got a critical hit with his crossbow and felt very smug; and Arvene tried to run away, rolled a critical failure, and fell face first in the dirt.
After two rounds, the fight was over, the bugbears were dead, and the spectator fled via an alleyway to the south. They decided not to give chase, so it almost certainly returned to the Xanathar hideout to alert the guild what the party was up to.
After the fight, Dugg was feeling peckish, so he found the entrance to Cuttle’s Meat Pies and spoke with Sora Cuttle, the proprietor. A solid insight check (16) from Dugg revealed that Sora didn’t know the origin the of the meat from her pies, but she was able to give information on her neighbors whom she felt were “untrustworthy” and likely “criminal.”
Dugg trusted the kind old lady who ran the pie shop, so he left her alone and the party went to investigate the neighbors.
Little Joe led the way to the house next door, which it turned out was a Zhentarim hideout. On the way he saw a mysterious person climbing a drainpipe before disappearing in the rain and fog. If he’d followed this person it would have led to the next encounter in the campaign’s encounter chain, a cool rooftop chase. However, this didn’t happen, so I’ll have to fudge the next portion.
Inside the Zhentarim hideout, Arvene and Little Joe discovered a prisoner tied and gagged to a chair. They dispatched the two Zhentarim operatives guarding him before Alan and Dugg entered. They pretended to Alan and Dugg that the Zhentarim attacked first and that they didn’t just kill them in cold blood. This was a lie.
Tied to the chair, blindfolded, and gagged was Ott Steeltoes. Clearly crazy, this old dwarf wore a leather skullcap adorned with rubber tentacles resembling beholder eye-stalks. He gibbered and moaned as Dugg and Joe interrogated him, revealing a connection to the Xanathar Guild and the dispatched bugbears, as well as the fact that he was captured while purchasing fish food. They were just about to give up on him revealing anything useful, and then he managed to grab hold of lucidity for long enough to divulge the destination of the Stone of Golorr: the theater. It was time to go see a show. END
This was a fun, albeit quick session, that would have run a lot smoother if I’d taken the time to get to know how to use the Roll20 platform before we played. In the space of a week since our last session, I had apparently forgotten all the commands and shortcuts needed to run a game here, and it took twice as long as it should have to do the simplest of things.
Roll20 is a really useful resource and we’re going to stick with it for the rest of the campaign, but you do need to put in some time to acclimatize to the controls. Once you’ve mastered the basics, the preparation time for a session is reduced significantly, so it will be well worth putting the hours in.
Of course, I’m not going to do that. Instead, next week when we play, we’ll undoubtedly have to spend 20 minutes again trying to work out why the fog of war function isn’t working properly, and which button you press to stop the animated explosions taking over the map.
What did we learn?
DM Tip: Don’t try to put too much into a session. I foolishly began last night’s game with a quick encounter with Zardoz Zord, which almost totally hijacked the evening. He was just there to remind the party of a side mission, something to do in a later session. Instead, they almost decided not to follow the trail of the Stone of Golorr and go straight to the Xanathar hideout. This would have derailed the entirety of chapter 4, and only happened because I wanted to feature a bit of roleplay before the bugbear encounter. So, once I realized their intention, I had to have Zardoz suggest they might want go to the Xanathar hideout later. Luckily, they agreed, otherwise I was going to have to improvise a whole session that would have no doubt spiraled out of control and ended up 30 hours of gameplay later with the party escaping with the circus disguised as a troop of belly-dancing polar bears.
Next week we continue on the trail of the Stone of Golorr and take a trip to the theater. I’ll have to remember not to add any extraneous encounters, and I might have even practiced with Roll20 before we play. Although that does sound unlikely.
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