Dragon Heist session 50: A Cough and a Cuddle
Once the dust settled and the urchins had run off, cheering their very first victory, Dugg and Arvene shot angry glances at Little Joe. This wasn’t the first child he’d given a crossbow to. Why exactly did he feel the need to weaponize the children of Waterdeep? “Well, it paid off didn’t it?” was all he could muster, as they began filling more lobster pots with bits of the Zhentarim mob. Meanwhile, Alan silently pondered their next move. It was time for Alan’s Bureau of Investigators to storm a tower.
Last night was the 50th session in our online Waterdeep: Dragon Heist Dungeons & Dragons campaign and our level 5 heroes were closing in on the Stone of Golorr. They’d traced it to the Yellowspire Tower in the Castle Ward, and hatched a plan to smoke out the bad guys.
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, this was our sixth session using Roll20. We now consider ourselves to be acceptable amateurs of the platform.
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 also bad guys) are desperate for the stone too, and willing to do whatever it takes to get it.
Last session, after tracking down the Stone to a Zhentarim agent called Fouco, they ended up in the Mirtshore district of the Dock Ward, a lawless, run-down, deprived shanty town, neglected by city officials. Here they met a gang of bandit pirates who helped them defeat Fouco, but he didn’t have the stone on his person. A conversation with his taxi driver, Rowan Eventree, revealed he had dropped off his partner, a tall green-haired elven priestess, at a derelict tower in the Castle Ward. That must be where the stone was.
An Unusual Act of Kindness
Before leaving Mirtshore, Alan made a promise to the pirates to use any money they get hold of to restore this derelict part of town. They would renovate all the houses, and create jobs where they could. He even suggested turning the beached pirate ship, the Krakken’s Folley, into a themed bar—an extension of their own TM Bar empire—which was well received. It sounded like Alan was running for mayor and canvassing for votes, which he may well be planning to do.
The session began with the heroes deciding to travel back to their base for a quick rest, before heading to storm the tower. Seeing as Rowan Eventree wouldn’t be needing her carriage anymore, on account of her eviction from the mortal tenement, they decided to travel in style. They hadn’t considered the lack of stabling resources at Trollskull Manor, but that was a problem for future-them. So, taking Rowan’s still warm corpse, they boarded the carriage. A successful animal handling check from Alan (15) meant he mastered the horses and they set off with their ranger at the reins.
Weekend at Rowan’s
They arrived at Trollskull Manor just as a group of street kids was passing by. Eager not to be associated with the carriage and the corpse inside it, they attempted to deceive the kids. Arvene and Joe rolled deception checks as they held up Rowan’s body, waving her arms in greeting. Their performance was good enough to convince the children, and they breathed a sigh of relief.
Now they had to decide what to do with the carriage, no stables or garage meant they had to let it go. So, once they had removed anything valuable—Alan took a rather nice diamond ring—they slapped the horses, causing them to charge off down the street, away from Trollskull. Pleased with themselves, they quickly nipped into their manor before anyone noticed them.
Captain Staget… or is it?
Inside, Trollskull Manor was a hive of activity. The newly re-opened tavern had a number of customers, and the Luskan refugees whom the party had taken in were running around busily serving drinks. There was a familiar figure sitting at the bar as Little Joe poured himself a Cuban.
Captain Staget—head of the Dock Ward police and recently promoted—sat sipping bourbon. “I wondered when you’d all get here.”
Staget had previously tasked the party with a number of missions, none of which they’d completed; he was there to tell them not to bother; everything was sorted. They found this very suspicious. He wasn’t his usual gruff self—he even smiled and thanked them for a job well done. Very unusual.
Rightly, they were suspicious. Dugg rolled an insight check to see if he thought Staget was on the level. He rolled badly (5) and couldn’t get a read on the cigar-chomping captain. Nonetheless, they knew something was up and began postulating: it’s a doppelganger, it’s someone in disguise, it’s magic. But before they solved the mystery, Captain Staget got up and walked away, thanking them again. I made sure to mention the purple felt-lined cloak he was wearing.
I didn’t give them long to consider their options. Within moments, Istrid Horne (Alan’s fake fiancé and current basement lodger) arrived in the tap room. She had a bundle over her shoulder and a sealed envelope in her hand. She was leaving forever.
In a fantastic moment of roleplay, Alan knelt down and gave Istrid the diamond ring he stole earlier. A tear formed in Istrid’s eye as she accepted the ring. “I will,” she said, sealing the marriage proposal.
She handed Alan the letter which he read out loud as soon as she left the tavern. It was a love letter, revealing Istrid’s true feelings for Alan alongside a promise to return in one month when the dust settles. Arvene and Dugg both cried. Little Joe laughed. Alan screwed up the letter and threw it to the floor.
Their next stop was Yellowspire Tower; they were going to scope it out to determine their plan of action. They rolled stealth, boosted by Arvene’s Pass Without a Trace spell, as they considered their options. It was an old, seemingly abandoned tower with scaffolding around the sides and smoke rising from the chimney.
They came up with a plan: Alan would climb the scaffolding and block the chimney forcing anyone inside to exit the tower. It was a good plan.
As Alan got to the top of the scaffolding (having removed his armor to ease the climb; he often finds himself without his clothes) he could hear voices inside. A good perception check (19) meant he discerned six separate voices, chanting some kind of ritual. He glimpsed the tall green-haired elf he was looking for though an arrow slot. She was surrounded by five others in black robes. The flying snake tattoos over their hands showed them to belong to the Zhentarim, so Alan knew what to do. Racing to the top of the tower, he began shoving straw and cloth down the chimney to block it. They were going to smoke them out.
Smokes get in your eye
Within moments smoke started filling the tower and the sounds of coughing and scrabbling could be heard from within. Two of the Zhents ran down to the ground floor and were caught by Dugg and Joe who were waiting for them. They quickly dealt with the Zhents, just before two more ran out of the front door and were silenced by Arvene. This left just two people in the tower.
Alan decided to try his luck and snuck into the tower through one of the arrow slots on the top floor. The room had filled with smoke, so he had his underpants over his face as a make-shift face mask to help him breathe. He could just about see Amnath Sercent and a Zhentarim martial arts expert in karate-style robes on the far side of the room.
Without noticing Alan, Amnath called to the Zhent, “You take care of them,” pointing towards a humanoid figure tied up on the floor. “Manshoon will be here soon. Then I can get rid of this wretched stone.” She then descended the spiral staircase leaving just Alan and the Zhent in the room.
Alan, wearing his underpants over his face, tried to surprise the ninja. They were certainly surprised, and falteringly fought back as Alan tried to stab them repeatedly.
Meanwhile, Dugg decided to go in through the front door and came face to face with Amnath. He raised his silver hammer and attacked. “You fool!” she cried. “You’re too late. Manshoon is on his way. You’re doomed.” She waved her hands and called down a pillar of radiant light, but Dugg just managed to dodge out of the way in time. He smiled. If he’s going down, he thought, he’s taking this green-haired wench with him. END
I’m amazed that for what can only be the second or third time at most, my players came up with a plan, stuck to it, and it worked. I think that’s the best I’ve ever seen anyone play Dungeons & Dragons.
I wasn’t expecting the group to return to Trollskull Manor, so I had to improvise all of the interactions there, including a love letter to Alan from Istrid. Luckily the internet exists and Napoleon’s letter to Josephine seemed to do the job.
What did we learn?
DM Tip: Let your players decide who they should and shouldn’t trust. It makes it easier for you in the long run. As I was improvising the interactions in Trollskull Manor, I hadn’t thought through exactly why Captain Staget was there, other than to tell them not to worry about getting arrested anymore—this was a plot point I gave them over 20 sessions ago and doesn’t really need to be resolved anymore. But, as it turns out, they immediately distrusted this version of Staget and thought he must be an imposter. This fits in really well with the story, as there are a number of doppelgangers, or NPCs with access to Hats of Disguise, or transfiguration spells that could mask their identity. I think I’ve since decided who it was that was impersonating Staget and why (the purple felt-lined cloak is a clue), but it wasn’t until my players voiced their distrust that I even thought about this as a possibility. So make sure you let your players shape the narrative direction too, and it will be all the more fun for them once they discover they were right all along. And you weren’t just making the whole thing up on the spot…
Next week Alan’s Bureau of Investigators will attempt to finish their mission and retrieve the Stone of Golorr from Amnath Sercent. Let’s just hope they do it quickly, before Manshoon appears and slaughters them all.
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