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’Earthe. 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.
Last night was the 54th session in our online D&D Dragon Heist campaign and the level six heroes are just about to assail their very first villain’s lair.
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. Six months ago we switched to using Roll20 and last night we continued our trial the digital tabletop roleplaying game platform. We were using the official Dragon Heist Roll20 conversion and, this was our eighth session using Roll20. We like it and we now consider ourselves to be decent dilettantes 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
This session in particular made use of Heisting Xanathar’s Lair a supplement that helps develop and keep track of the latter chapters in the campaign.
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/Warlock – priestess of Tymora, fake Harper. Resurrected.
Little Joe, Drow Sorcerer – scourge of the fenêtreman’s guild, member of Bregan D’Earth.
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, now in possession of the Elvis-impersonating Stone, the heroes headed to the Xanathar lair to complete a mission for Bregan D’Earth and perhaps pick up a key to the Vault of Dragons as well. They were joined by four drow mercenaries, Aramis, Athos, Porthos, and D’Artagnan.
A quick plan on the stairs
The eight of them made their way cautiously down the steps into the sewers which would lead to the Xanathar Guild lair. Aramis, the most handsome of the drow, albeit somewhat foppish, led the way having been here before on a reconnaissance mission earlier. Alan and Arvene both had their suspicions of the drows’ true intentions, but both kept these to themselves while they descended. As he reached the foot of the winding stairs Aramis turned to Alan and asked, “So, what exactly is your plan?”
This was a good question. And an amusing way to begin the session. I knew full well that my players hadn’t considered this aspect of their delve into the lair of the Xanathar Guild—merely that they were looking for a man named Nar’l.
So they paused for a moment to discuss their options. It was quickly decided that walking around the lair with the eight of them seemed a bit heavy handed. So Aramis, Porthos, and D’artagnon volunteered to stay by the stairs, keeping watch and waiting to help out with their escape. This left Aramis as their guide through the lair—although he admitted that he couldn’t remember exactly the layout from his previous stint here, as he had been slightly intoxicated at the time.
Their plan was an old favorite. Pretend Dugg and Alan were prisoners being escorted to the cells by a magically disguised Arvene, and Little Joe. Aramis, who could be very stealthy, would follow them from the shadows. What could possibly go wrong?
The Heisting Xanathar’s Lair supplement includes some table which the players can roll on to see what information they have about a lair prior to exploring it. As they freely admitted to not completing any recce before entering the lair, I rolled to see what Aramis might have picked up on.
He shared this information with them as they entered:
Wizards loyal to the Xanathar monitor certain areas of the lair through ghostly eyestalks.
Xanathar has a pet goldfish named Sylgar, which it loves more than anything else.
Xanathar’s majordomo, a dwarf named Ahmaergo, has a weird fascination with minotaurs.
Lots of Eyes
As they entered the lair the first room they came to was a large reception area. The walls were covered in small carvings of eyes. There were hundreds of stone eyes all staring blankly at the entrance. Aramis directed the party southward, through a door which had a ghostly eyestalk protruding from above. They ignored the eyestalk.
As they entered the next room Dugg cast Pass Without a Trace on the group, making them all a lot stealthier. This was a good move.
This room was a long corridor with six ornate columns that ran down the center. There were a number of doors and alcoves that lead off from the main walkway and just as they were debating where to go next, they heard footsteps coming from the south.
Hiding from Footsteps
Immediately they all jumped behind a pillar, attempting to hide from the footsteps. Peeking around the column they saw a dwarf in bright red robes carrying a clipboard. The dwarf was yelling obscenities at a bugbear who had evidently not done a good enough job sweeping the floor.
“How am I supposed to run a disciplined hideout when I’m surrounded by this level of incompetence and idiocy. You call this clean. Look! You can still see the entrails from the last intruder. And as for the cells; if I go in there and it isn’t a marked improvement, I will personally feed you to the Xanathar. He will eat you. And he’d be right to do it.”
The dwarf was so incensed and focused on berating the poor bugbear that he didn’t notice the five pairs of eyes leering around the edge of the column. The two of them made their way across the room and though a door on the west side of the room marked “cells.”
“Shall we go the other way?” asked Arvene.
Dugg was clearly shaken at seeing the bugbear rebuked so harshly. “I shall be having words with the Dungsweepers Guild,” he announced to Little Joe. “They should know how badly these criminals treat the help.”
An Audience with the Xanathar
They continued their exploration of the subterranean lair, with Aramis temporarily departing the group to explore on his own. The four remaining heroes soon came across a locked room with a small circular window. Looking through the window Dugg was shocked to see fireworks, smoke, and lasers filling the room, like a Cirque du Soleil Las Vegas show. Once accustomed to the lights, Dugg was even more surprised to see a large spherical monster, with eight tentacles, each with eyes on the end giving some kind of speech to a crowd of 30 or so enraptured onlookers. The monster had one large central eye in the middle of its floating body above a gnarled mouth filled with jagged teeth.
They had heard rumors that the Xanathar—mysterious leader of the guild—was a beholder, and this seemed to prove the point.
“Shall we go the other way?” asked Arvene, as Dugg slunk away from the door.
Heading deeper into the Lair, still searching for Nar’l Xibrindas, they once again heard the voice of the angry dwarf berating another poor bugbear. This time they were too slow to react and the dwarf, Ahmeargo, spotted them and demanded to know what they were doing.
The party tried to convince Ahmeargo of their ruse, but he had a clipboard with the names and descriptions of all Xanathar crew members, so this would be a hard task. Little Joe rolled deception (17). Ahmeargo paused and consulted his clipboard and was just about to let them go, until Dugg questioned him about his treatment of the bugbears.
This enraged the Xanathar Guild majordomo, and Ahmeargo attacked.
It didn’t take too long before the newly level 6 heroes overwhelmed Ahmeargo. In just two rounds, Alan scored two critical hits with his shortswords and had somehow managed to handcuff himself to the dwarf. Add to this Little Joe’s Burning Hands spell, Dugg’s silver hammer, and Arvene’s divine empowered mace, and Ahmeargo the surly dwarf was soon begging for mercy.
In an unusual turn of events, Alan and Co. decided to listen to his pleas. After all, who better to show them around the lair?
Arvene politely explained to Ahmeargo that they were looking for a drow named Nar’l Xibrindas. The dour dwarf, clearly upset at being bested, but desperate for his failure to remain a secret from the Guild agreed to take them to Nar’l’s quarters. They arrived in the dark, sparse room. It was empty besides a bed and locked chest. As they waited for Nar’l to return Little Joe turned to Alan, still cuffed to Ahmeargo, and asked, “So, now that we’re where we want to be, do we kill this dwarf?” END
Using the Heisting Xanathar’s Lair supplement from the DMs Guild was really useful in preparing this session. It gives some very helpful tips of what to consider when setting up a heist and how to play that out in your sessions. It breaks it into three phases: planning the heist and reconnoitering the locations, infiltrating and performing the heist proper, and finally making your exit from the location. This session focused on the first two phases—we’ll deal with the escape next week. The in-game planning was completed on the fly, with the Drow asking “What exactly are we doing here?” and “What exactly is our plan?” It was a good thing I did this as I’m pretty sure my players were just blindly going into the lair without considering this at all, and had probably forgotten why they were even there.
DM Tip: Your players will always surprise you. Lean into it and don’t try too hard to guess how they’ll react to certain things. In this session I was convinced that they wouldn’t listen to Ahmeargo’s pleas to parley, but they did. I also had completely forgotten that Alan had a pair of handcuffs. This totally changed the dynamic of the fight, making it more fun and memorable than if I had fudged the rolls to let Ahmeargo escape the shackles.
Next week they will have to decide what to do when Nar’l enters his chamber. Not only are they deep in enemy territory, but their drow guide is also AWOL, things could get messy if they’re not clever…
WE ARE AMAZON ASSOCIATES
This post was last modified on October 26, 2020 8:48 pm
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