Dragon Heist session 64: Dungeons & Dragons
Immediately, as Little Joe cast his illusion, the dwarf’s countenance changed. No longer smiling, cheerful, and slightly confused looking, he glared up at Little Joe and his companions darkly. Alan, Arvene, and Dugg all took a deliberate step back. “Fool! I am no mere bank clerk to be tricked into a false withdrawal,” he bellowed. “I. Am. AURINAX!” And with that, the elderly dwarf’s body began to twist and curl inwards. A blinding light shone out from where he stood and Little Joe covered his eyes. He could hear a deep, primal, steady breathing. Blinking through his fingers, Little Joe let out a tiny whelp. There before him stood an adult gold dragon. The dragon breathed in deeply.
Last night was the 64th session in our online Dragon Heist D&D campaign and the level six heroes had come face-to-face with their very first dragon, in their very first dungeon.
We started playing Dragon Heist nearly two years ago and for the majority of that time have been on the verge of its conclusion. Last night we crested the summit.
We play online using Roll20’s digital tabletop platform, and use Trello and DnDBeyond to keep track of campaign information. We also stream all our sessions live on our Twitch channel: dnd_TPK. To date our record number of simultaneous viewers is equal to the number of hamsters you can fit inside a basketball. 11.
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:
Little Joe, Drow Sorcerer – scourge of the fenêtreman’s guild, member of Bregan D’Earth. Blue.
Alan Crabpopper, Human Ranger – a Harper and private investigator. A wererat in denial.
Arvene Galanodel, Half-Elf Cleric/Warlock – priestess of Tymora, bound to Golorr the aboleth.
Dugg, Earth Genasi Fighter – freelance dungsweeper and estranged son from House Roznar.
Previously in Dragon Heist
Alan, Arvene, Dugg, and Joe have been through the mill. They have also managed to acquire a number of tenants in their tavern; these tenants include two glazier’s apprentices, the ghost of a friendly barman, 40 Luskan refugees, and a kind old lady called Alma Moyes who mistakenly believes Alan is actually her long lost son Cristopher.
The heroes have been searching for the Vault of Dragons, a mysterious treasury that contains hoard of embezzled treasure (500,000gp!), but they’re not the only ones on the trail. The Zhentarim, the Xanathar Guild, Bregan D’Earth, and the Cassalanters are all desperate for the stone too, and willing to do whatever it takes to get it. But currently the heroes have managed to put over half of their enemies out of action due to cunning, guile, and fluke.
Last session, inside the climactic final dungeon, the battered and bruised heroes came face-to-face with Aurinax, the gold dragon charged with ensuring the gold is kept from the wrong hands. They now just have to convince him that theirs are the right hands.
Seeing the frail elderly dwarf transform in a flash of blinding light into an enormous golden dragon, the heroes’ stomachs collectively dropped. Arvene, Dugg, and Alan took another cautious step back. Little Joe, gulping and trembling slightly, drew his rapier. He felt ready to defend himself, but his heart wasn’t fully in it.
“Ha! Fool,” bellowed the dragon, his voice echoing metallically around the cavern. “I do not wish to fight you. An unfair fight does not whet my appetite. Tell me your intentions for this gold or be gone.”
After ending on a cliffhanger last week that left my players fearing they were about to fight a gigantic gold dragon, I began this session with a change of heart. This, after all, was a gold dragon, inherently good and lawful, and not without compassion, so he might not be so desperate to immolate the heroes.
I was quite nervous about this element of the story, as I mentioned in last week’s write-up, I find high stakes dialogue tricky—especially when my players like to smack-talk—so, to help this, I had prepared some lines which the dragon would spew:
- “Neverember entrusted this cache to me alone—it belongs to this city.”
- “Tell me, are you lawful? What good will you do with this gold? Tempt me with your virtuosity.”
- “Tricks and Illusions will not sway me, I see only intention.”
- “I have watched this city from below and know the machinations of others, but you have escaped my view. With whom do you ally? Is Manshoon your master? Or do you follow the beholder?”
- “I see you are drow—does that make you one of Jarlaxle’s men? Or perhaps you follow the bankers to their own ends? Tell me.”
- “Neverember left this city and forfeited his claim to the treasure—are you worthy enough to take up his mantle?”
- “Do you follow the Blackstaff? Is Laeral Silverhand your mistress?”
- “What faction hold you? Are you soldiers? Are you harpers? Thieves? Murderers? Or perhaps you are just fools. Prove yourselves.”
Eventually, with some marginally above-average group charisma checks to convince the dragon of their good intent, the heroes did manage to persuade Aurinax the dragon to let them take the gold—on the proviso they used it to help the city. Now they just had to work out how to get it out of there. 100,000 gold pieces weighs 10,000 lbs.
Having convinced the dragon of their “pure intentions”—on the whole this was true—Aurinax reverted to his old feeble dwarf form (Barok Clanghammer), and began sweeping up the pile of gemstones which Dagult Neverember had left for him as payment.
They then discussed how to get the gold out of the vault and decided to ask the 12 Luskans who were waiting outside the mausoleum to come in and help.
Arvene and Alan headed out of the vault and back up the 300 stone steps to the chasm chamber above. They exited the door and approached the bridge. At this stage, I asked to be reminded of the passive perception score. Something which always worries them.
Neither of them had a strong enough passive perception to notice the tall pony-tailed man leaning against the wall as they walked towards the bridge. So when he spoke in his thick Scottish accent (one last chance to practice my appalling Sean Connery impression), they were surprised to see Zardoz Zord standing there. “I’m impressed. I never thought your little team could achieve so much. Tell me, where is Little Joe? Or did he not survive your escapade? I must thank him for finding the vault and helping me deal with the Xanathar. Although I would have rather not lost my fleet in the process.”
They turned to see Zardoz in all his mustachioed, red-leather-wearing glory. He appeared tired, bruised, and covered in smoke stains and char marks—presumably from the battle with the Xanathar (the beholder crime boss) whom Alan and Co. had sent his way in order to distract attention away from their heist. He smiled at their confusion, and revealed his secret: “It’s about time I came clean, now we are at the conclusion of all this,” he said as his body flickered and faded, the air shimmering with illusory magic.
To Alan and Arvene’s amazement, he then cycled through a number of personas whom he had taken up over the course of the campaign. First J.B. Nevercott (Little Joe’s handler), then Captain Stageat, then Remalia Haventree (leader of the Harpers), Mirt the Moneylender, and Jebediah Catflap (their double-demin touting postman). He ended this parade of characters with a purple-suited drow, wearing a wide brimmed hat with a purple roc’s feather nestled in it. Jarlaxle Beanre, the true leader of Bregan D’Earth. This was the big reveal of the session; every one of those personas had been keeping tabs on the party, giving them missions and generally sowing confusion and mistrust throughout the campaign.
After revealing his secret, he began to push past the bewildered heroes not believing them at all that there was a dragon guarding the gold. Alan, in a moment of resolve and certainty, dived straight at the purple clad drow.
A contested athletics roll-off between Jarlaxle and Alan ensued, Alan rolling with advantage for surprising the bouffant drow. Alan rolled higher and so, when they both plummeted off the narrow ledge 60 feet towards the ground, Alan landed on top of his combatant, leaving Jarlaxle to take the brunt of the fall.
Now, under normal circumstances Jarlaxle would have put up more of a fight, but as he had just come from a tussle with a beholder and the burning of his boats, he was badly hurt and out of resources. So, he took 12d6 bludgeoning damage, plus the impact of Alan falling the same height and landing on his chest, and laid on his back panting. He was conscious, but badly hurt and with blood oozing from his mouth. Alan landed on top of him, also dazed, but alive.
Arvene was left on the platform 60 feet above the cavern and had to make a choice: run to Alan’s rescue, or run for reinforcements. As she looked down, she could see both Alan and Jarlaxle barely moving, so she took the decision to get help.
Meanwhile, Alan and Jarlaxle both came around simultaneously. Alan was on top and tried to attack with his shortsword, but missed. Jarlaxle’s armor class is very high thanks to some handy magical items. Jarlaxle retaliated with his rapier and thrust it into Alan’s chest. Alan gasped and fell unconscious. Jarlaxle shrugged him off his body.
By the time Dugg, Arvene, and Little Joe arrived back on the platform, Alan had failed his second death save 60 feet below. One more d20 roll lower than a 10 and he would die. The stakes really were high.
Little Joe’s Defining Moment
Little Joe didn’t spot Jarlaxle hunched against the wall behind him until it was too late. Jarlaxle dived at the drow and tried to knock him off the platform, but Little Joe dodged just in time. Dugg and Arvene gasped as Little Joe raised his hands. Smoke starting to build up. ”Now is the time, Joe,” hissed Jarlaxle. “Show them your true colors.”
Little Joe smiled and released two jets of fierce blue flame at his would-be master. Jarlaxle screamed as he plummeted once more down the 60 feet drop. He was dead before he hit the ground. END
Wow, so that’s almost it. This is essentially the end of the campaign, we will have a wrap-up session next week, where we’ll work out how they get the gold back to Trollskull Manor and tie up a few loose ends, and hopefully Alan won’t die. But ultimately, this is where the campaign book concludes the adventure.
We’ve really enjoyed our play through of Dragon Heist and has become quite attached to the characters, so we’ll likely try to find a way to segue into another campaign to continue the story of Alan’s Bureau of Investigators.
What did we learn?
DM Tip: Just because a book says that “X” is the big bad villain of the story and that there should be a momentous final confrontation, it doesn’t mean that’s how you HAVE to do it. Jarlaxle is one of four potential big bad bosses of this campaign. At the beginning you choose which villain will be your heroes’ nemesis by selecting a season: spring, summer, autumn, or winter. We have been playing the campaign during summer which is not Jarlaxle’s season, however, throughout the campaign he has been the more interesting villain and one which my players gravitated to the most, so I had him be the final villain rather than the one suggested by the campaign. I also wanted to reward my players for their clever planning, so having him arrive hurt and alone, rather than with his entourage was the best way to do this. I was worried that this might be a bit of an anti-climax, but instead my players felt all the better for having out-smarted the story.
Next week they’ll have to work out how to get the gold out of the vault and back to Trollskull and determine exactly what they want to do with it all. I’m sure there’ll be some other interested parties who mysteriously show up once they realize how rich the heroes now are.
WE ARE AMAZON ASSOCIATES