Dragon Heist session 52: Suspicious Minds
Manshoon was livid. Casting Misty Step, he teleported to a position where he could catch the three of them with a single Lightning Bolt. The electricity bounded from the end of his staff and struck Alan and Little Joe squarely. Arvene somehow managed to escape, as Little Joe and Alan both lay unconscious on the floor. Now only Arvene stood to face Manshoon. She let out a prayer and a divine bolt from the sky struck the bloodied mage. He yelled as his eyes bulged and melted in their sockets, dripping down his cheeks. The rest of his body followed suit, turning from flesh into snow, leaving a mushy pile on the ground. For a second the toad tangled in his robes looked surprised, sat as it was, on a melting heap of snow. Then, “pop!” Dugg reappeared where the toad once was. “That was odd,” he croaked.
Last night was the 52nd session in our online D&D campaign. We are playing through Waterdeep Dragon Heist, and have reached (potentially) the final chapter of the book.
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 eighth session using Roll20. We now consider ourselves to be tolerable trainees 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 much to-ing and fro-ing, they finally got their hands on the Stone of Golorr only for a mysterious and powerful mage to turn up demanding they hand it over. They didn’t, and so a wizard battle ensued. Manshoon was the mage, a legendary wizard of high repute. So they were surprised to find him turning to a pile of slush and snow after just a few rounds of battle. It turned out, this wasn’t in fact the Manshoon, head of the Zhentarim and powerful arcanist extraordinaire, but a simulacrum, a cloned copy of said wizard sent to collect in his stead. The real Manshoon will not be happy to have been thwarted so. Meanwhile, the party still has the Stone of Golorr, which continues to give terrible renditions of Elvis Presley songs in an offensively bad southern accent.
I Feel My Temperature Rising
Having returned to Dugg-form, the once-toaded fighter rose from the pile of melted snow and uttered the only suitable gesture he could muster. “Uh?”
Alan responded in kind, as did Little Joe. Arvene, however, was occupied with thoughts of betrayal and cowardice. The Stone was singing to her in such a way that sent shivers down her spine. Her knees felt weak and she had the sudden urge to lock herself in her boudoir, light a scented candle and read a very that naughty book she had hidden under the floorboards. For now Tryst or Dare would have to wait.
The session began outside the still smoldering tower from the session before. They had done an excellent job at procuring the Stone of Golorr, and their plan to smoke out the tower causing the inhabitant to flee so they could rush in and grab it had worked really well. However, the longer they stayed there, the more attention the tower would garner as it continued to ferociously billow with smoke.
As the session began, they were enshrouded by smoke, so that both they and the tower were totally obscured. This meant that when the first group of villains arrived on the scene, they might not be noticed.
While they were hidden by the smoke flowing from the tower they heard the sounds of footsteps and confused voices approaching . A band of cultists, accompanied by an imp and two spined devils, arrived on the scene looking for the Stone. Alan and co. rolled stealth checks to avoid detection and succeeded (16, 18, 14, and 21).
The devils immediately headed for the tower and the heroes sidled around the walls until they were totally hidden from view. They recognized the cult members as followers of Asmodeus, villains they had bested previously. They planned to cut and run as soon as their enemies entered the tower.
However, before they had a chance to flee, and as the Stone sang to Arvene: “Take my hand, my whole life too,” a second group of adversaries arrived on the scene.
Just as the cultists were about to uncover Alan, Arvene, Dugg, and Little Joe, a Xanathar Guild warband appeared also looking for the Stone. This group was composed of four wererats, two bugbears, and a gazer, and immediately attracted the attention of the devils and cult members.
More stealth checks for the heroes ensued. Luckily the party remained hidden as the two enemy squads faced off like the beginning of a bad Michael Jackson music video. They immediately started fighting, which should have given plenty of time for Alan’s Bureau of Investigators to escape into the night.
However, Arvene, spurred on by more singing from the Stone, “How can you lose something you never had, I tell myself when I’m feeling sad,” decided to put spanner in the works. She used her cleric ability, invoke duplicity, and created an illusory duplicate of herself. Her plan was to use the duplicate as a distraction to cover their tracks. Sending the duplicate into the fray, Arvene watched as both parties, believing the duplicate to have the Stone, stopped attacking each other and attacked the fake Arvene.
The perfect opportunity to run was upended, however, when Alan, filled with rage and hatred of the wererats sent an arrow into the fray, thus giving away their position.
All this smoke and sound of battle was destined to attract unwanted attention. And sure enough, as the party of heroes made a mad dash for the alley way to the south, 10 city guards arrived on the scene, led by two familiar faces. Sergeants Seath Cromley and Barnibus Blastwind immediately recognized Little Joe and Dugg from their previous investigation into the fireball that started off this whole mess. But, miraculously, Little Joe, with a natural 20 on his charisma check to deceive them, convinced the guards that they were merely innocent bystanders.
The Stone continued to sing: “We’re caught in a trap and we can’t get out.” It had a point. Arvene and Alan were now stuck in the middle of the melee as Dugg and Little Joe tried to get away. Suddenly a loud bang from the rooftops echoed around the courtyard. It was followed by a second blast as two wererats fell to their deaths. Alan looked up to see two drow gunslingers, Fel and Kreb (their “kind of” allies and members of Bregan D’Earthe), reloading their pistols.
There was now so much simultaneously going on that I had to have them roll initiative. It wasn’t supposed to be this way. They were supposed to just leave.
During the first round of combat the PCs (player characters) were largely ignored by the four factions. The Cultists fought the Xanathar Guild, the guards fought them both, and the gunslingers took pot shots at anyone threatening Little Joe or Dugg.
By the second round it was clear that the city watch were in over their heads. Their number was depleting quickly as wererats took out two, bugbears fought them, and the devils scared them. Arvene could have just run away with the others.
Instead she made another decision, spurred on by the Stone. “We can’t go on together with suspicious minds,” it sang to her. She agreed, and reaching to her necklace of fireballs—the same necklace she recovered from the aforementioned fireball—she tossed a bead into the melee. Instant devastation.
Fireball No. 2
The was an enormous boom as the fireball set off. “A little less fight, a little more spark,” sang the Stone, as bodies lay strewn across the street. The fireball was so placed that it took out nearly all of the remaining Xanathar Guild combatants and cultists. The devils, being immune to fire, were unharmed; the city watchmen, being highly flammable and made of flesh were not. They all died. This would not go unnoticed.
Now all that remained were the two spined devils and the two drow gunslingers. Fel and Kreb called out to Alan to run. He thought this was a good idea, so ordered Arvene, Dugg, and Little Joe to follow suit.
They were all on single digit hit points as they ran away. They didn’t stop running until they reached Trollskull Manor, all the while Arvene, wracked with guilt, was tormented by the Stone as it sang: “I’m Just a hunk, a hunk of burning love.”
Slamming the door behind them, they all collapsed onto the tap room floor of Trollskull Manor. It was just after midnight and thankfully quiet in the tavern. Arvene began sobbing, aghast at what she had done. The Stone tried to soothe her with a love song. It didn’t work. Alan and Little Joe were badly hurt, so decided to rest. Dugg, meanwhile, still had some sense, so set the team of Luskan refugees about fortifying the manor in case of nocturnal repercussions. END
OK, so this is what happens when you don’t really plan a session and just end up throwing a load of possible enemies and NPCs at your players. One big brawl, where everyone dies and the “heroes” of the story end up murdering lots of people. I hadn’t foreseen this. Now Arvene not only has the problem of dealing with the Elvis-impersonating Stone of Golorr, but she now has the deaths of ten policemen, including two named NPCs to deal with. I don’t see how I can let there be no consequences to this. Although, they did manage to get rid of all witnesses, so maybe, just maybe they’ll get away with it…
Also, I decided that having found the Stone and survived Manshoon, it would only be fair to have them reach the next level. They’re now level six, which is higher than they should be in this campaign. I’ll just have to scale up the encounters and make the bad guys even badder.
What did we learn?
DM Tip: I’m not too sure that I learned anything this session, except how not to round off a campaign to a nice, easy, satisfying conclusion. Before this session began, I had imagined the end was in sight. Now, I’m not so sure. Perhaps, therefore, the lesson is: it’s not over until everyone is dead. And even then, there are probably going to be repercussions.
Next week I have no idea what’s going to happen. It’ll start in Trollskull Manor with four level six player characters. Hopefully they won’t kill a whole load of innocent NPCs. I won’t hold my breath.
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