Dragon Heist: Waterdeep has been out for a little over a month. So, instead of a review, I thought I would offer you a glimpse into the game that I’m running. This is my first time behind the DM screen in at least 10 years, and upon the announcement of Dragon Heist, I told my group that I planned on running this series of adventures because it’s relatively short and is designed for characters of level 1 to 5. Our group is comprised of three new players and two (myself included) who are D&D veterans of 20+ years. A game for low levels set in a single location seemed like a splendid way to keep the game focused and be gentle enough that the new players could learn to play the game as well as how to play a role-playing game and for the vets to familiarize themselves with 5th edition. I would warn you of spoilers ahead but since my party already managed to spoil everything right out of the gate, there seems little point.
So, let me begin with a quick introduction to our central characters…
Brynn, a dwarf paladin
Arilia, a tiefling urban ranger
Wyland, a gnome wizard
Leopaldi, a half-elf bard
An evening of carousing began in the Yawning Portal, a notorious watering hole in the city whose biggest claim to fame is a large well in the common room which leads into the Underdark yet remains unnoticed by the Guild of Occupational Health and Safety. Since there is no better time to meet your friends for drinks in a shady part of town than in the midst of a burgeoning gang war, our heroes met after a brief separation to share stories of their misadventures and gross incompetence – demonstrating to all assembled why these four people have no business adventuring. Upon learning that the one and only Volo is living it up at the tavern, Wyland – an anthropologist by trade, decided to march over to the pompous blowhard to tell him EXACTLY what he thought about ‘Volo’s Guide to Monsters’ followed closely by Leopaldi who for some reason was starstruck and something of an autograph hound. It is at this point that some nogoodniks enter the Yawning Portal and call out Yagraa (a friend of our gnome) and right on que, the 8pm bar fight begins in earnest. Undeterred by the brannigan, our bard follows Volo under the table to persist in his effort for an autograph, followed by the gnome who isn’t finished his scathing, alcohol fuelled “peer review” of ‘Volo’s Guide to Humans and like Five Monsters’. Brynn manages to join them, covering their spirited academic debate with her shield, providing the cowering bookworms with full cover from the maelstrom of hurled empties and errant teeth.
Yagraa was taken to the ground by Xanathar’s thugs and their leader finds his game of ground’n’pound interrupted by a flurry of magic missiles. Wyland, has emerged from the safety of both table and shield to confront this brute with the raw arcane fury that only a first level wizard can wield. However, since a street thug boss tends to have more than 4 hit points, the brute abandoned Yagraa and marched through the crowd towards the gnome and the cowering brain trust. The imposing thug drew a crooked, gore-soaked blade. Leopaldi lept forth armed not with blade or bow but rather a torrent of obscenities that clouded the mind of the tattooed thug. So potent was his magically augmented profanity that the goon was helpless to the crossbow bolt Leo buried into his throat, spraying both himself, Volo and his newly autographed book in still warm blood.
At the sight and sound of this, Volo urinated himself before collapsing in a faint.
Arilia, having failed to find any dark and mysterious quest granting NPC’s skulking in the shadowy corners of a… round room, took note of the building wide melee and came to the aid of her comrades in the form of indiscriminate crossbow fire which managed to hit nothing but the bar’s decor and a single unsuspecting member of Yagraa’s fellow gangsters. This only managed to get the attention of the few bar patrons that weren’t already fighting someone. The fight began to spill into the streets of Waterdeep, embroiling random passersby into the fray. Of course, since the Yawning Portal is not in the best of neighborhoods and the citizenry of Waterdeep are a notoriously excitable lot, the bar fight escalated into a full blown riot. Citizens start looting, lighting fires while the fabled tavern was being torn to pieces.
Obviously, district wide riots are noisy affairs so it should come as no surprise that the bar patrons failed to hear the broom hitting the floor below them. From the depths of the Underdark a troll emerged in a halo of stirges, covered in detritus and reeking of unspeakable foulness. The beast clawed its way into the center of the inn, growling and snarling at the pathetics creatures who dared disturb it. Creatures so engaged in fighting one another that not a single one of them noticed the appearance of a troll. Now one does not need to be an anthropologist nor have a copy of ‘Volo’s Guide to Monsters’ handy to know that trolls are not known to be self conscious. However, even the most grizzled troll would feel ill at ease while being completely ignored by dozens of people. The poor creature stood helpless as the patrons of the Yawning Portal brutalized one another with such savage brutality that it forced upon the troll an existential crisis. The stirges even landed to behold the spectacle, as though even their vial nature had seen its limits. Disgusted with the nature of surface dwellers, the troll lumbered to the well in defeat, turning back to regard the crowd one last time as a single tear born of sorrow and perhaps pity ran down his cheek. The chaos soon demanded the attention of the city guard and the fire marshals who were quick to arrive in force to put down the riot and put out the fires. Fortunately, no one with a stat card or character sheet was seriously injured and our heroes returned to the Yawning Portal to survey the damage that would as it turned out, force the closing of the establishment for several months. Brynn found Volo where he had fallen and managed to revive the poor chap who took stock of the carnage they had indirectly wrought and determined that they may be interested in earning a few pieces of gold to find a missing friend who he managed to lose track of in an even shadier bar in a substantially shadier district. They couldn’t be sure if Volo did indeed have a missing friend or if the gold offered was in truth some manner of bribe to keep this people as far from him as possible. But adventurers will be adventurers – they were left wanting for money as well as a tavern to demolish, so they cheerfully agreed to find Volo’s friend, Floon.
Arilia knew the city of Waterdeep like no other and knew of the tavern where Volo had lost track of Floon. It wasn’t too far away from the portal and considering the activity of the city watch had mysteriously spiked that evening and their names were being mentioned with some troubling frequency they quite wisely decided to leave the area for the time being. Upon locating the tavern, Brynn, ever the stalwart paladin, took one look around the area, the front of the tavern and bravely asked aloud if they could all just go home instead. The tiefling gently reminded the paladin that there was a good man was missing, possibly caught up in some nasty business and that they had promised to find him. The dwarf quitely weighed her oaths against the idea of taking the money and running. The hard stares from her fellows solidified her commitment to her vows and that neither seedy bar or bad neighborhood would thwart her heroic, goodly nature. They entered the dive and were greeted by the scent of stale beer and unwashed bodies. The handful of reprobates who frequented the dive bar regarded our heroes with all the unmasked malevolence of one who is about to take from the rich and give to himself. Arilia, unsurprised by such a welcome warned her companions of the dangers herein. It would be best to try to keep a low profile as this place was dangerous and they’re about to ask a lot of questions about a missing rich kid. Brynn, ignored this entirely. In full paladin regalia, she stalked Arilia who moved about the common room questioning the patrons. In an attempt to “help”, she decided to go through her inventory trying to find some way to ingratiate herself to the cutthroats. Obviously, the best way was to produce a brand new set of bagpipes and play the only tune she knew – a funeral dirge. Any attempts at the clandestine gathering of information ended when two patrons slid up behind Brynn and Arilia, knives drawn, demanding money.
Wyland and Leopaldi once more came to the rescue with the power of illusions and profanity. Unfortunately, there weren’t enough patrons for a satisfactorily sized brawl but just enough of them to scare off or stun with elven swear words that the barkeep offered them the necessary information as well as money if they would just leave. Reputations dwindling, the heroes left to follow the path of Floon and the Zhentarum thugs who followed him. In true paladin fashion, Brynn lamented the attempted theft of her bagpipes and pined to go home. Once more, her friends reminded her that she was a paladin and ought not feel quite so daunted by bad neighborhoods, gangsters and muggers. An innocent life was at stake afterall and her goddess may not look favorably upon her in the morning if she abandoned her mission.
Join us next week when the gang explores a Zhentarim warehouse, loses all of the loot to the city watch, holds Raenar for ransom, follows a bunch of rats fleeing a fire and gets locked in a basement – twice!