Dragon Heist session 53: Purple Feathers
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.
After a four-week hiatus due to life and things, last night was the 53rd session in our online Dragon Heist D&D campaign and our heroes have just leveled up to sixth level; they’re also worried about the consequences of murdering 12 policemen in broad daylight.
Two years ago 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. Two years later and 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 ninth session using Roll20. We now consider ourselves to be passable pupils 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 have been 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 finally getting hold of the Stone, they found themselves in the middle of a four-way frenzy. All four interested factions somehow found their way to the courtyard where Alan and co. had the Stone. During the melee, Zhentarim thugs fought Xanathar bugbears, whilst devils and cultists battled drow gunslingers. It came to a head when the City Watch arrived and Arvene, in a moment of madness, tossed a bead of her necklace of fireballs into the fray. The ensuing blast killed everyone, leaving the “heroes” free to run home.
An offer of Power
Luckily there were no immediate nocturnal repercussions from the previous night. Alan, Dugg, and Little Joe all slept the lackluster sleep of weary adventures before waking in the morning, still emotionally tired but physically refreshed. Arvene, however, had an altogether different experience. Her dreams were filled with the screams of flaming lieutenants and smouldering sergeants. Even in her dreams she couldn’t shake the sight of the fireball engulfing the street. Until her nightmares found another voice. A deep, lyrical baritone that offered power and redemption. Golorr the Aboleth, abyssal resident of the much sought after stone, proposed a pact and Arvene agreed.
So the session began with the players leveling-up to sixth level. For Alan, Little Joe, and Dugg this is a straight-forward process. They each gain a class specific boost, as well as increases to hit points and spell slots. For Arvene this was different. The stone of Golorr had given her a choice, and she accepted. So instead of increasing her cleric skills to sixth level, Arvene decided to multiclass, taking one level in Warlock.
To begin with, her other players didn’t know. I was excited to see how this would pan out.
Breakfast and plans
Having sorted out their level–ups, the party needed to decide on their next course of action. But first: breakfast.
Dugg was greeted by his two young apprentices Louis and Jeffrey. They delivered the paper and told him that Alma Moyes, a benevolent old lady whom they knew well, was staying at the manor. Dugg nodded and read the paper. Luckily I had prepared some headlines:
20 Dead in Second City Fireball!
Black Viper Strikes Again: Mirt’s Mansion Ransacked!
Vigilantes on the Rise—Who is Responsible for the Growing Posse of Self-Appointed Protectors?
Dungsweepers Fined for Using Big-Faced Child as Dustpan
He then turned to Alma who was breakfasting in the tavern. She and Sci-fi (her Luskan bodyguard-come-toy-boy) had fled to Trollskull after receiving a severed hand in the post. They believed it was from the Xanathar Guild, who held Scabbsy (her other bodyguard) hostage. Fearing for their lives and seeking Alan and Co.’s aid, they arrived in the middle of the night. Dugg agreed that something should be done. And he told them so.
Meanwhile, Alan was on the roof. He was worried about some of their enemies assaulting the Manor, so was keeping watch from above. A good perception check (22) revealed a gnome who was clearly casing out Trollkskull Manor, repeatedly walking around the block and watching the building. After a while he passed a burly half-orc with a long bow slung over his back. The gnome and the half-orc nodded in acknowledgment and both looked towards the mansion, neither spotting Alan on the roof. An insight check (18) meant Alan recognized the two as members of the Zhentarim’s Doom Patrol. Villains, likely planning a raid.
While this was happening Little Joe was just happy to be alive. He nearly died in the many battles of the last few days and was happy to be home and rested. At first he accompanied Alan on the roof, before getting bored and heading down to find Arvene and Dugg. To accomplish this he jumped through two glass windows and landed in some snakes. Nothing out of the ordinary for Little Joe though.
Arvene was sitting on the doorstep. She was desperately trying to get the Stone of Golorr to talk to her, but was having no luck. For some reason it didn’t want to impart any information—this was mainly because I couldn’t think of what it wanted to say. Eventually Arvene, Alan, Dugg, and Little Joe re-joined in the tavern room and began planning their next move.
A subtle reminder
Just as they decided what to do next—they were going to head to the Xanathar Guild to carry out an assassination mission for Zardoz Zord (of Bregan D’Earth)—Mirt the Moneylender bounded into the tavern; he was soaking wet from pouring rain outside and clearly very drunk.
He told the party that his mansion had been burgled by the Black Viper and offered a reward should anyone discover her and bring her to justice. He wasn’t concerned with the jewels and valuables that had been reported missing, but he had lost his notebook with his ledger in, a record of everyone who owed him money. Without it he was ruined. Or so he claimed.
He was clearly very agitated and making a scene, so the party were relieved as he ran out of the tavern “looking for clues.” But before he left he sidled up to Alan and asked, “I heard someone might have found the Stone last night?” Alan played ignorant and Mirt seemingly believed him.
As he exited the tavern, a purple feather from Mirt’s wide-brimmed hat and drifted to the ground. I made a pint of mentioning this, but I don’t think anyone noticed.
Another subtle reminder
Still stunned from Mirt’s sudden entrance and disappearance, the party had no time to catch their breaths before another caller arrived. JB Nevercott is the portly haberdasher contact from whom Little Joe receives his Bregan D’Earth missions. He wanted to remind Little Joe of his obligation to infiltrate the Xanathar lair and terminate the Bregan D’Earth turncoat Nar’l Xibrindas.
He, like Mirt, had heard that someone had discovered the Stone of Golorr last night and asked Little Joe if he knew where it was. Little Joe lied, rolling 15 on his deception check, which was just enough to convince JB.
Happy that the party was on the right track, the Haberdasher left, dropping a purple feather from his boa as he did. Again I mentioned it, but don’t think anyone noticed.
A blatant push in the right direction
Remalia Haventree was the third visitor. The party were starting to get a bit suspicious of these last minute guests, but didn’t play too much into their suspicions.
Remalia is a tall, beautiful elf, and the leader of the Harpers—a benevolent organization of which Alan is a member and Arvene is pretending to be a member. She had also heard that the Stone changed hands last night and was convinced it was the party who were now in possession. This time it was Alan’s turn to lie about it and he did so convincingly (deception 17).
As she left, she mentioned that anyone looking for help would find it by sending a message to the Harpers and naming her. Naturally they shrugged off the offer of aid and didn’t notice the purple feathers dropped from her headband as she left.
Once more into the sewers
So, having ignored or dismissed any coincidences that may or may not have perfectly reasonable explanations, the party made their move towards the Xanathar Lair, crossing the city to get there. A quick d100 roll on the Waterdeep City encounters table from the Dragon Heist DM Screen delivered a fun 15-minute interlude with a crate of snakes and two people carrying a plane of glass (mostly to appease Little Joe), before they arrived at the specified location.
Bale Street had to be one of the Castle Ward’s most fragrant locations. And not in a good way. The smell of melting cheese, rotting sardines, and pickling vinegar was so strong that Alan nearly missed the concealed entrance to the Xanathar hideout as he wiped away the tears streaming down his cheeks. Just as the group recovered and began their descent into the sewers, four shadowy figures lurched out from the shadows behind them. Their grey skin, ponchos, and Stetson hats gave them away as Drow members of Bregan D’Earth. Allies. Each also had a purple feather in their cap, but Alan, Arvene, Dugg, and Joe were too busy reeling from the stench to notice. END
A fun session, although I did feel a bit guilty about pushing an evil patron onto our cleric; but then she did kill a lot of city guards last session, so fair is fair. This felt like a catch-up session, where, after many sessions in a row chasing the Stone, I was able to remind my players of outstanding plot hooks and see which one they pull on. Luckily for me they ended up in a place where I can just run a fairly straight forward dungeon crawl for a couple of weeks, thus reducing any preparation time down to a minimum.
What did we learn?
DM Tip: Don’t try to be too subtle. You’re not writing a murder suspense novel where the vicar is murdered in a windowless room but the secret trap door was revealed at the start and nobody realizes until the surly detective spills red wine on the carpet that the cleaner said hadn’t been moved in decades. That just won’t work in your average D&D game where your players are only half paying attention. In most cases it’s really hard to plan a satisfying “Ah ha!” moment, especially if the only clues you give your players are based on features which they’ve already forgotten by the time you finish your terrible Spanish accent. You might think you’re being obvious about something, but your players might not notice that all of the NPCs they’re talking to have purple feathers dropping from their cloaks, until they read about it in the online DM report you post after each session. The point is if you’ve got an NPC who uses illusions to disguise themselves, don’t be surprised or disappointed if your players never realize the truth. Just take delight in the knowledge that you got one over on them, and that makes you a better human being.
Next week we’ll delve deep into the Xanathar lair looking for a drow turncoat. Will the party come face-to-face with the many-eyed crime boss and live to regret it? Maybe…
WE ARE AMAZON ASSOCIATES