Descent into Avernus 7 – Discussions over Breakfast, Lunch, and Snacks
The heroes collectively held their breaths as the six heavily armed dragon cultists stormed into the bathhouse. “Where’s our treasure?” the lead cultist demanded of the disguised Arvene. Stuttering, she imitated the concierge as best she could and directed him to the massage room with the open door and Alan lying naked on the bed. Behind Alan the secret door was still open from when they came in moments earlier. Taking one last glance at the odd scene behind them, the cultists charged down the stairs. The party heaved a huge sigh of relief.
Last night was the 75th game in our GeekDad Plays D&D campaign, and the seventh session in our online Dungeons & Dragons: Descent into Avernus story. We’re playing Descent as the sequel to our Dragon Heist campaign and, rather than set in Baldur’s Gate, we’re using the more familiar (to us at least) Waterdeep.
The set up
We started playing Dragon Heist over two years ago and recently completed that campaign. My players wanted to continue playing their (now) level seven characters, and so we agreed to continue—although now we’ll play fortnightly instead of weekly, due to life and things.
We’ve recently returned to using Zoom for our sessions, which is a perfectly suitable arrangement as long as you don’t mind ending the session and starting again every 40 minutes—usually just as you’ve gotten into the groove of playing. We also use Trello and DnDBeyond to keep track of NPCs and campaign information and stream all our sessions live on our Twitch channel: dnd_TPK. In fact, if you’re looking to subscribe to a new Twitch-based Dungeons & Dragons show that is neither entertaining nor instructional, then ours is the one for you.
Our Adventurers Are:
Little Joe, Drow Sorcerer – a keen law-breaker, mischief-causer, and scourge of the fenêtreman’s guild. Tricked into joining an evil organization and so now very suspicious of everyone.
Alan Crabpopper, Human Ranger – a Harper, private investigator, and secret wererat in denial. Recently engaged to Istrid Hrone (cleric and ex-Zhentarim agent).
Arvene Galanodel, Half-Elf Cleric/Warlock – a trickster priestess of Tymora, pact-bound to Golorr the aboleth. Still reeling from accidentally murdering 20 policemen.
Dugg, Earth Genasi Fighter – brave, muscly, and prepared to die for his friends. A paid-up member of the Dungsweepers of Waterdeep, and benevolent custodian of Waterdhavian orphans.
Previously in Descent into Avernus…
Alan, Arvene, Dugg, and Joe have been through the mill. Over the course of the last six months three of them have died and been brought back to life, two have accidentally, committed heinous acts of murder, and one has become a snarling wererat once every full moon. Now, having successfully discovered the Vault of Dragons beneath their home in Waterdeep and returned some of the gold therein to the people of the city, they have become embroiled in a new mystery. They headed to Elturel in search of cultists and discovered two separate cults operating in the forest there. They quickly dealt with these low-level cultists, but their victory was soured when they witnessed the city of Elturel sucked into Hell.
In our previous session, the party, having cleared out a cult hideout below a bathhouse in Waterdeep, began to work out what was going on. They had allied with Reya Mantleborn who was convinced that Waterdeep was destined to go the way of Elturel (down to hell) and it looks like the Cassalanters—rich, suspicious nobles and bankers of Waterdeep—were connected to all this. It was a Cassalanter-owned bathhouse where the cultists were all hiding, after all. At the end of the session, they began to head back to Trollskull Manor, their base of operations, to rest.
They waited until the sound of cultists’ footsteps died away and then silently, carefully gathered their things, picked up the chest, put back on their clothes, and exited the bathhouse. For good measure Arvene and Little Joe started a small fire in the entrance and, as they made their way north to Trollskull Manor and the North Ward, plumes of black smoke began to rise up from the Bathhouse.
The session began with a sign of relief, followed quickly by some mindless arson. It’s becoming something of a habit and it’s amazing how long they’ve gotten away with it really.
The travel northward was mostly uneventful. Reya was keen for them to press on and attack the Cassalanters straight away, but Alan and Co. were more wary. Wary enough in fact to check to see if they were being followed—they don’t usually remember to do this.
Perception checks from Alan and Arvene revealed that there were three black ravens who seemed to be following them. An insight check from Dugg revealed that these were in fact similar ravens to ones which had followed them before and that turned out to be devilish imps in disguise sent by mysterious devil-worshipping cultists.
Upon realizing they’d been spotted, the imps dropped their disguises for just a second, waved at the group and became invisible, disappearing in the crowded Waterdeep streets. This was just enough to put my players on edge for the rest of the session.
On the Doorstep
When they arrived at the doorstop of Trollskull Manor, they saw it had been refurbished since they were last here. The handfuls of residents all welcomed them home. I was tempted to have them individually all come and say hello but, as there are now over 50 occupants of Trollskull Manor, this would have taken up the entirety of our two-hour session.
As it was I just reintroduced the key NPCs so that my players might remember who they were. Currently the inhabitants include: 36 Luskan refugees, all employed by Trollskull Manor to tend the bar, keep the rooms clean and tidy, and teach in the school in the basement; Dugg’s two apprentices Louis and Jeffrey; Alan’s mother Alma Moyes; Alan’s fiancé and ex-Zhentarhim moneylender Istrid Horne; a group of vigilante orphans adopted by Little Joe; Lif the poltergeist; and Nim the robot nimbleright butler.
There was also a huge pile of letters, newspapers, and correspondence for the party, most of which Little Joe set on fire for a joke during breakfast, after realizing that all of his mail was invoices and statements for his share of the Dragon Heist gold that he’d deposited in the local bank. The local Cassalanter bank. Joe was keen not to remind his companions of this due to the recent revelation that the Cassalanters might in fact be evil.
They kept the Luskans busy by ordering as many individual and overly complicated breakfasts as they could—Arvene’s vegetarian haggis with deviled eggs, square sausages, and wilted pak choi was the best. Meanwhile, Louis and Jeffrey appraised Dugg of the progress on the Trollskull school in the basement, and Istrid—still suffering from the effects of evil wizard Manshoon’s curse—updated Alan on the progress of the dockside development project they’d begun with his share of the Dragon Heist gold.
An investigation and a long rest
After breakfast they decided it was time for a long rest. It had been a while since they last fully rested and their hit points and spell slots could do with being refilled. Reya, however, was keen not to sleep, but to do some investigating instead, so Little Joe volunteered her and Schemee (one of the Luskans) to do exactly that.
So, while the heroes slept for eight hours, Reya and Shemee snooped around and looked for clues and rumors. When Alan, Arvene, Dugg, and Little Joe awoke, they gave them the lowdown.
To see how well their investigating went, I had my players each roll an investigation check for Reya and Schemee; handily, they rolled really well (16, 19, 21, and 16).
They found out lots and discussed their findings over lunch.
Lunch was equally as complicated as breakfast—this time Dugg’s dairy-free Eggs Benedict with a side of plantain chips was the winner.
Reya had learned the following and shared it with the party:
The Cassalanters were an ancient noble family in Waterdeep, but had in recent years lost money and favor with the higher classes. However, nine months ago they suddenly rose back into power and had been influencing other noble families and bank-rolling local government. They were headed by Amelia and Victoro. The party had met Victoro in the previous campaign but he was often not in the city due to his work as part of the Waterdeep embassy. Amelia was a power-hungry, forceful matriarch, whom many were scared of. Amelia and Victoro have three sons: Mortlock—whom the party knew was dead—Amrik, and Thurstwell. Amrik has a money-lending business from a boat in the Dock Ward and Thurstwell never leaves the Cassalanter Villa.
In their investigations, Reya and Schemee also learned that there were rumors that the Cassalanters were part of a devil-worshiping sect, but couldn’t determine the source of these rumors or their validity. There was also some connection between the Cassalanter and Thavius Kreeg—the high Overseer of Elturel—but Reya didn’t believe this could be true. Being a native from Elturel, she adored Kreeg and believed his honor to be unimpeachable.
Little Joe nearly spat out his chilled avocado soup upon hearing about the Cassalanter devil worshiping, and immediately begin trying to work out a way of releasing his money from the bank.
After lunch, the party began planning their next move. Reya was keen on storming into the Cassalanter Villa, Arvene wanted to head to the Dock Ward to visit Amrik, Little Joe wanted to go to the bank and withdraw a 100,000 gold pieces, and Alan was hungry for bao buns.
Eventually they formulated a plan. They decided their best option was to hire an assassin to attack Amrik. Then, when the assassin was close, they would foil the attempt, thus winning Amrik’s trust and convince him to take them to the Cassalanter Villa.
Not a bad plan for once. Kind of.
Back to the Dock Ward
Having made their plan and finished their snacks, the group resisted the urge to nap—having full stomachs always makes them sleepy—and headed out of the North Ward, down the High Road to Yawning Portal. It was getting late as they arrived in the Trade Ward and the clouds parted to reveal a glowing full moon. Suddenly Alan remembered what day it was. Too late. His skin began to bristle and sprout clumps of sticky, matted fur. His body bent over. His ears and nose elongated, twisting his features into a rat-like monster. Finally, agonizingly, the long leathery tail erupted from behind him. He yelled through his sharpened teeth and snarled at his friends. They looked surprised to see a wererat standing where moments earlier Alan has stood. “Ah,” said Arvene. “Not good.” End
This was a long session where not a lot happened. It was mostly my players roleplaying eating breakfast, eating lunch, and then eating snacks after lunch. In between all the eating they did manage to come up with a pretty solid plan, and they do seem to be on roughly the right tracks. Although it might be slightly derailed now Alan has turned.
For this campaign I’ve swapped out Baldur’s Gate for Waterdeep. My players don’t really know the difference, and we spent two years building relationships and ties here. So it made sense for continuity to set it here. The changes required to do this are fairly minimal. One significant change, however, is that I’ve replaced the Valthampurs (Baldur’s Gate nobles) with the Cassalanters (Waterdeep nobles). The Cassalanters were set up as potential villains in Dragon Heist, but that story thread never came to fruition, so I’m recycling them here. As well as swapping out Baldur’s Gate-based nobles for the Casalanters, I’ve also changed it so that Laearal Silverhand—the open lord of Waterdeep, and the party’s patron—is the leader who was in Elturel at the time of the Descent rather than Ulder Ravengard—the Grand Duke of Baldur’s Gate.
What did we learn?
Player Tip: Similar to how you shouldn’t go to the supermarket on an empty stomach, you definitely shouldn’t play a roleplaying game when hungry. All you’ll want your players to do is eat, but you’ll get none of the actual satisfaction of sating your own hunger. I think possibly one of the most frustrating things to do is to pretend to eat food when you haven’t had supper. So, today’s pro-tip: If you don’t want to antagonize your dungeon master with constant mealtime roleplay, eat before you play.
Next week they’ll meet Amrik and attempt to find out exactly how evil those Cassalanters really are.
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