Starting next Sunday I will be posting a journal of my 5th edition Waterdeep campaign. I will be running the Waterdeep: Dragon Heist hardcover as well as the Adventurer's League modules, a level 2+ adventure from Dmsguild base on the Blue Alley, and some homebrew content. All will run concurrent so it should be a pretty epic urban adventure.
If you plan to play Dragon Heist and don't want the spoilers then I guess stay away from this thread.
If you want to follow along I will be posting this in the vein of my previous adventures with a full log and lots of pictures. To start it off I will share my Yawning Portal Tavern I created. Everything here is made from XPS foam, 3d Printed and all hand painted. This will play a big part in the first encounter and setup for Dragon Heist. The last picture is the "Code Legal" which is the laws of Waterdeep. That will be hanging on the wall for the players to see.
The game room is in order and I am ready to just back in the saddle this weekend. I am really excited about Waterdeep. 3 of my 5 players have submitted backstories for their characters and understand this is going to be a roleplay heavy campaign. Like I said, I cannot wait.
So my new campaign began yesterday. I decided to start them off with the Once in Waterdeep module. It's the first Adventurer's League module for Season 8 and it takes place entirely in the Yawning Portal Tavern. I told them from the get go there was going to be a good mix or roleplaying and combat and last night didn't disappoint.
If you want to play through this adventure then I suggest you stop reading now. This thread is going to be a full campaign journal and loaded with spoilers. You have been warned.
Rhys Rhovandir - Wood Elf Ranger - Lvl 1
Arkhan the Black - Tiefling Warlock - Lvl 1
Tim the Cleric - Aasimar Cleric - Lvl 1
Kaldrake - Human Fighter - Lvl 1
Larson Rhymes - Half Elf Bard - Lvl 1
All of the players wrote up their own backgrounds. They had 2 weeks to do it and shared them on our google drive we setup for the campaign. The nice part about this is that they were able to coordinate and edit which resulted in some really extensive backgrounds and some crossover between them. Most of the characters had valid reasons how the party knew each other and why they were going to adventure together. I have never had a group embrace the roleplaying aspect like this so it's been pretty cool.
Session 1 - Once in Waterdeep
So for our first week we were missing Larson Rhymes. He is usually the most reliable so when something came up mid week he was pretty pissed. I decided rather than launch right into Dragon Heist I would run Once in Waterdeep. That is the first module in Season 8 of Adventurers League. I don't do public AL play at all and the modules need a little tweaking for home play. I did some rewrites to it but I think it came out great. This is the first time in 30 years of DMing that an entire 4 hour session was done inside a bar. It worked surprisingly well and the players had a great time.
The night started with the party agreeing to meet at the Yawning Portal Tavern in the Castle Ward to discuss their plans for locating work. Rhys Rhovandir had chosen Durnan (Barkeep of the Yawning Portal) as his "familiar faces" contact.
Each player chose from a list and that person was just a simple contact but can lead to much more over time. So the party met up in the Tavern and took a table to discuss. Bonnie the Barmaid brought the group a complimentary round of Durnan's Welcome Brew which has the magical property of granting +5 temporary hit points one time. That came in handy as it actually saved 2 players lives. So the part is sitting at the table in discussion when Rhys noticed a small human enter the bar. He stepped in, put his back to the door and scanned the room. He looked a bit disheveled and was dripping sweat. He spotted a table in the opposite corner and made a b-line for it. Along the way he clumsily lifted a cloak from the back of a patrons chair and covered himself up. He sat in the corner and immediately pulled a bundle from his tunic and pulled out what looked to be a list of some sort. The man was Sal from Sal's Threads. Sal was being pushed up on by the Manshoon sect of the Zhentarim and had acquired a list of the City Watch schedule in the South War for the next tenday.
A few moments later the taproom door opened again and 2 thugs entered the bar. These two were Grady and Dwindlejoy, two known hired thugs. They quickly spotted Sal and started across the room to him. The party decided they were going to watch and see how this played out. Suddenly there was a giant crash and a wagon crashed through the front wall of the Yawning Portal. The wagon driver was thrown into the back of the wagon. The lantern that the driver was using was launched forward and shattered on the stage, lighting it on fire! The result of the wagon crashing through the wall sent tables flying and knocked a patron backwards into the well leading 150' down to Undermountain. The wagon was transporting the property of a low level apprentice mage and a bundle of animated brooms was broken loose and 3 brooms began dancing around the taproom and beating on patrons.
This moment was pure joy for me as my party, some of them longtime players, just sat there a second in disbelief after seeing everything that was going on. Tim the Cleric began by saving the patron that was hanging in the bar, Rhys, Kaldrake and Arkhan started attacking the Animated brooms. Over the course of the battle the brooms actually knocked out 2 patrons and Tim the Cleric was busy running around casting Spare the Dying. Grady and Dwindlejoy because roughing up Sal. Arkhan cast Fear on Grady which caused him to shrink back in the corner and keep an eye on Arkhan. Durnan was busy putting out the fireon the stage. Dwindlejoy grabbed the list and tried to walk slip out but the party cornered him, relieved him of the list and sent them both running with their tails between their legs. The City Watch arrived and began pulling the wagon back out into the street. The Carpenters and Plasterers guild arrived to shore up the hole in the wall. The wagon driver relayed the story about a wagon that rolled up on him in the street and pushed him off the road into the bar.
The party was approached by Yagra Stonefist, a Half-Orc Fighter who is a member of the Zhentarim and Jalestar Silvermane, a Human Fighter and member of the Lords Alliance. Yagra is part of the spliter group of Zhentarim interested in taking down Manshoon. They are working with the Lords Alliance to try to locate Manshoon. Impressed with the partys performance they ask for their assistance. When the players entered the Tavern they were given a playbill detailing the night's entertainment.
They explain to the party that a Wizard named Urlon Vhrule (One of Manshoon’s trusted lieutenants) and his mistress had just arrived for tonight's performances. They would like the party to try and lure Urlon outside, kidnap him, and interrogate him about Manshoon's whereabouts. The party is busy preparing while the show begins. First first act is Mattrim Threestrings Mereg and his tale of Bravado and the Baron of Blood. The Marvelous Mouse Orchestra is running late and the Midnight Mummers didn't show so they were replaced last minute with the Circus of Skullport. The party hatched a plan to use the City Watch Schedule to lure Urlon away but as they approached him the Circus act began. A painted goblin on stilts came on the stage dressed up as a hairy orc. 2 more painted goblins entered the scene carrying a giant papier-mache pie.
Once in place the goblins begin singing:
“Sing a song of sixpence, I’m not about to lie,
Got some angry blackbirds baked in my pie,
When the pie is opened, their tempers will be bent,
Maybe they can work it out by murdering this ZHENT?”
Suddenly the pie bursts open and 3 Kenku assassin jump out. They all fire a volley of arrows at Urlon and drop him on the spot! The players are stunned. Tim the Cleric runs right over to spare the dying and save Vhrule, they need info from him. The rest of the party jumps into action to battle the attackers. They battle is iffy but the party prevails. As they get down to the last goblin he drops to his knees and begs for mercy. Rhys the Ranger decides the only mercy is an arrow to the back of the head. Of course with nobody alive they cannot get any info as to who sent the assassins. They party brings Urlon to another room and heals him to interrogate. He was supposed to be grateful that they saved his life, instead they decided to bind him and threaten him so he got a little snarky. They sufficiently threatened him and finally got him talking. He told how the Xanathar guild and Manshoon's Zhents were in a vicious gang war. They had entered into an alliance after finding out about a mysterious "Vault of Dragons" hidden below Waterdeep. The alliance broke when Manshoon believed that Xanathar had found a key to the vault and stolen it for himself. Of course, Manshoon being the mighty Arch Mage that he is had a fail safe in place to protect himself. As Urlon began to give the location of Manshoon, his skin started to boil and burst into green flames. In 30 seconds Urlon was a smoking pile of ash. Jalestar was disappointed that they couldn't secure the location but hoped the night's events were enough to spur the Lords Alliance into action. He thanked the party and told them if they were ever in dire need, the Lords Alliance might be able to help.
The party returned downstairs to find Durnan closing the tavern and kicking people out for the night. He said that he had just got word from one of his contacts that Grady and Dwindlejoy had reported back to Xanathar that the list had been taken by a group of adventurers and was still in the Yawning Portal, so the Xanathar guild was on their way to raid the tavern. The party agreed to help for all the trouble Durnan had seen tonight and they hatched a plan to barricade the door and windows. They players setup the taproom and waited. The Xanathar guild hired Johnny 4-Finger, a notorious thug in Waterdeep. Xanathar also recruited an Alchemist named Malleus Grimehouse to assist Johnny 4-Fingers on this raid. Little did they know that Malleus was secretly working for Jarlaxle Baenre and had orders to secure the list for himself. So the Xanathar had a fortified merchant cart that they decided to use as a battering ram and bash it through the window. When they executed their plan the player's barricade worked enough to only provide a small hole for the enemy to come through. As they filed in, Rhys put an arrow in the first thug through the breach. 3 more thugs, Johnny 4-Fingers and Malleus Grimehouse entered after. Durnan helped in this battle which was needed. Several players almost dropped but in the end they prevailed. The Alchemist had his bag of tricks and first attack he threw a vial that burst into a green noxious gas. Each player made their save preventing them from falling asleep but the gas lingered causing them all to move. Later in the battle the alchemist threw a small enchanted flint that on contact made a small flash and smoke cloud, and teleported Johnny 4-Fingers to that location. Seeing this the party decided that the Alchemist was the biggest threat and Kaldrake decided to grapple with him. Kaldrake failed the first round but on the second round he succeeded in tossing the Alchemist into the well and dropping him 150 feet.
They took Johnny 4-Fingers alive and tried to question him but realized he was just a hired thug. The real info was on the Alchemist who carried a magic casket. When opened it displayed a foot high image of Xanathar and had a voice in the background whispering in an elven dialect. Any elves in the party would have been able to make a perception check to detect a drow elven accent. The message whispered:
“My loyal Grimehouse. An enemy of mine named “Johnny the Blade” is visiting the Yawning Portal tonight. I want you to offer your services to them – they may prove useful in my search for the Vault of Dragons Be aware they have their own rivals inside the tavern: adventurers who could prove to be a thorn in my side. Watch out for them!”
Of course the party lost that item when they threw them into the pit. They immediately regretted throwing him in but it's a lesson learned I guess. The whole session was strange for me playing everything out inside a single location over 4+ hours of game play. The party loved it though. It was seat of their pants most of the night. Next week will be just as eventful but will take place across different locations in Waterdeep
Not really crafting but today I printed new initiative trackers. These have less info than my old ones but the others had a lot of stuff that I didn't need. I dont need character levels, their stats, etc. I only need info on the fly like AC and Passive stats. I laminated these so I can dry erase on them. I think they came out nice.
Week 2 our Bard was here but this week our Warlock was missing. This week was significantly more low key than the first and more along my regular pace. I forgot to take any pictures of the first encounter and only 1 picture on the 2nd, so not many pics this update. A week has passed since the events in the first week and the players decided to meet back at the Yawning Portal Tavern to once again get back to their plans for locating work. The tavern was full tonight and Yagra Stonefist, the Zhent Half Orc from last week was present again. The war between the Zhentarim and Xanathar's Guild is really heating up and a group of 5 Xanathar thugs decided to jump Yagra in the tavern. The PCs decided to sit back and watch as Yagra and the Xanathar group leader, Krentz, began trading blows. The 4 other thugs place themselves around the fight and look like they are ready to jump in so the party begins to make their way over. Yagra knocks out Krentz and the 4 thugs start beating on Yagra. Durnan ends up breaking up the fight and kicking the thugs out of the bar. While the party is tending to Yagra they hear a bunch of loud screams across the bar and everyone's attention turns to the large green monster crawling out of the Yawning Portal. Durnan yells "Troll" and the players jump up ready for battle.
The battle proceeds with Durnan doing the bulk of the damage and the party running around saving the few patrons that the Troll took out. In the end the party took a couple hits but with Durnan's help they prevailed. The Troll fled back down the portal and a well timed natural 20 from the Archer ended up sending the Troll plummeting to the bottom of the portal. After seeing the group's prowess the part is approached by a plump human in fine noble's clothing. The map introduces himself as Volothamp Gheddarm, the great chronicler, wizard, story teller! Volo explains that two nights ago he went out for drinks with a friend in a seedy part of the Dock Ward. He left early and his friend Floon hasn't been seen since. He hires the party to investigate and find Floon. He offers the party 10gp each and another 100gp each after finding Floon. They party cannot resist that kind of money.
The group decides to rest the night and leave at first light for the Skewered Dragon in the Dock Ward to look for clues about Floon. On their way there they pass The Old Xoblob shop and meet the proprietor named Xoblob. He runs a curiousity shop and his favorite item is his stuffed Beholder in the shop window. With a little coaxing (bribing), Xoblob tells them that they saw a man fitting the description of Floon with another man, getting jumped by 5 thugs outside his shop. One of the men had a tattoo of a winged serpent on his neck. After looking around the shop some they continue their way to the Skewered Dragon. This dive bar has smashed windows and mold everywhere, but a small collection of locals that spend their days/evenings there. Again, with a little more coaxing (drinks this time) they find out that Floon met up with another man at the bar before leaving. They were followed out by 5 locals that were recognized as Zhentarim and were known to frequent an old warehouse in the Dock Ward.
The party manages to find their way to this warehouse. It has 2 doors and a blacked out window. It's also in a VERY seedy part of the Dock ward. The street lamps have been smashed and the alley that the warehouse resides in is very dark and barely traveled. After a lot of player discussion they finally decide to pick the locks and enter. They first knock on the door (alerting the residents that they were there) and then pick the lock and enter. Inside there are 4 Kenku hiding and waiting inside the main room. There were also a dozen dead humans around the room. The party prevails but the Fighter ends up using his Second Wind, Extra Attack, and takes healing from the Cleric and the Bard. It was close to going bad for him. After dispatching the Kenku the party searches the warehouse to find a noble tied up in a closet. The man tied up is Renaer Neverember, the son of Dagault Neverember who was the previous Open Lord in charge of Waterdeep. The Zhentarim captured him and Floon looking for information about a hidden cache of Dragons (gold) that Dagault Neverember may have embezzled from the city before being ousted as the Open Lord. The Zhents dragged both of them to this warehouse only to be ambushed by Xanathar guild assassins. Renaer was tied up in a closet so the Xanathar's mistakenly though Floon was Renaer and took him with them.
The Watch Captain of the Dock Ward arrived at the warehouse with about a dozen veteran guards based on a disturbance call. Renaer recognizes the Watch Captain and tells him about how he was captured and how the party rescued him. They mention Floon being taken by the Xanathar guild and the Watch Captain tells them about a sewer entrance to a Xanathar hideout where Floon was most likely taken. He is unwilling to commit any City Watch to any type of assault against the Xanathar guild, but will not stop the players from doing so. As long as they keep clean above the streets, he doesn't care what happens in the sewers. This is where we ended for the night with the party not wanting to start the next part so late in the night. Next week we will pickup with the Warlock back but the Fighter and Cleric both out of town. They decided to have other players running their characters so we will have a full group.
On a side note, I was NOT happy with my game room last week. It was ready start playing but it was much too cluttered for my liking. I ended up moving all of my "project" arcade machines out to the garage to be restored or fixed, and set my game room up how it used to be. On top of the games in this pic I have 2 pinball, 3 arcades, and a dart machine in the other room. I also have 4 project arcades in the garage. I think its time I sell a couple and will use the money to build a LCD gaming table and maybe a couple cases of miniatures.
This week for session 3 the players will be entering on of the Xanathar guilds hideouts in the sewers looking for Floon. I took a scan of the half page map from the book, cropped and enlarged it in photoshop. I printed at 1"=5' scale. I printed it as a poster in Adobe Acrobat, cropped the borders and taped it all together. I think for the cost of 6 pages printed it's perfect. There is a lot of drama about this release because they commissioned Dyson Logos to do all the maps. If you don't know his style then just look at this image below. He goes very minimalist and has a definite old school vibe going on. While the people using Roll20 and Fantasy grounds hate these maps, I love them because they are perfect to print and play at your table.
Next up I decided to make some custom Inspiration tokens. If you don't know what Inspiration is, in 5e the DM can award Inspiration to a player for doing something special such as good roleplaying, having a great idea, overcoming something in a creative way. That Inspiration point can be use to give yourself advantage on an attack roll, saving throw, skill check, etc. Additionally a player can award his inspiration to another player if they do something exceptional also. The way I run inspiration is that a player can never have more than 1 point at any time so they really can't bank them other than save their single point for when they need it. Because they cannot have more than 1, I don't need more than 5 tokens (5 players in the game). I decided since the campaign is Waterdeep: DragonHeist and the story is about a cache of 500,000 Dragons (gold pieces) that having Dragons as the Inspiration token was appropriate. So, here they are.
This week picked up right where we left off with the party headed into one of the Xanathar's Hideouts in the sewers under Waterdeep looking for Volo's friend Floon that had been kidnapped. I am not going to spend a whole lot of time on the recap or the sewers since my players were level 2 already (normally would be level 1) and really walked through this place. I am definitely going to have to change the encounters a little to make them more challenging. There were only a couple encounters in here to start and they were a bit underwhelming to run. The first main encounter was the Bandit Krentz that they encountered in the Yawning Portal the week before and a Duergar. As the party found them they were trying to barricade a door with furniture. The party interrupted them and immediately attacked. The Warlock did some seriously overpowered attack for 14 damage in one hit and killed the Bandit on the first round. The Duergar cast his Enlarge and engaged the party. Of course the party put a whooping on him in one round also so he yanked open the door that he had been barricading and stepped aside, unleashing the Gray Ooze that was inside the closet. Even so the party had little trouble with this encounter.
The other encounter was the main encounter of the hideout. The entered a large chamber to find a Half-Orc Wizard magically torturing Floon with a Mindflayer and his pet Intellect Devourer watching. As soon as the party entered, the Mind Flayer told the Half Orc to handle it, released the Intellect Devourer and then glided himself across the room and out a door. The Mindflayer had a stone that activated a portal in the next room porting himself to Xanathar's lair, but none of the party followed so they never found that out. Unfortunately the Half Orc Apprentice Wizard and Intellect Devourer also presented little challenge and the party was able to rescue Floon. Rather than following the Mind Flayer and searching the rest of the dungeon, the party decided that Floon was the main objective so they should get him out safely. They made their way out the same way they came in and got Floon back to Volo at the Yawning Portal Tavern.
Volo had promised them each 100 Dragons (GP) for the return of Floon, but in typical Volo fashion he had overstated his wealth and couldn't afford to pay them. Instead he offered them a much better deal, the deed to a 4 story run down manor in Trollskull Alley. He had heard the manor to be haunted so he purchased it to assist in writing his next book, Volos Guide to Spectres and Ghosts, but that hadn't panned out well. Given the rumors it was haunted he was having troubles selling it and didn't have the money to renovate it, so he unloaded it on the party who gladly took it. So the party went to check out the manor with our Grave Cleric casting Eyes of the Grave to detect undead presences. He was immediately able to detect something as they walked through the manor. The presence followed them but made no actions against them. They weren't able to see it. They decided to send the cleric to his temple to see if there was anyone that might be able to talk to the spirit while the others decided to meet the neighbors.
The party ended up meeting the neighbors which included a carpenter shop, and armor smith, an herbalist, a book store that specializes in a collection of wizard spells, and a private detective. They asked their neighbors and the Dragonborn Sage that owned the book store (Book Wyrm) said that he knew that the last time Trollskull Manor was in use it was owned by a man named Lif who's life dream was to turn the Manor into the best Tavern/Inn in Waterdeep. That never panned out and wracked with debt, Lif ended up taking his lift by hanging himself off one of the upper balconies. With that knowledge the party decided to go back to the manor and try to communicate with Lif. The cleric came back empty handed as the party began trying to speak with Lif. The bard (most charismatic) seemed to have no luck. I skipped checks and had them just roleplay the conversation. The cleric started asking Lif if this bar was his dream and if he wanted to see it succeed. Lif began doing little things like picking up chairs that had been tipped over, straightening glasses, etc. It took a while but the party began to believe that Lif doesn't want to hurt anyone, he just wants to see the tavern restored and brought to glory. This will be interesting to play out over time.
Lastly, the party was visited by a Halfling in charge of the Fellowship of Inns and Taverns. He explained to them what running an Inn meant including the fees due to each guild (Innkeepers, Butchers, Brewers, etc). They also needed to fix the place up so they contacted the Carpenters guild, Locksmiths, Roofers, etc. In the end they were told it was going to cost them 1000 Dragons to renovate over the course of 12 days, 250 Dragons in guild fees, and then another 60 Dragons/Tenday in maintenance,wages, and fees. We ended the night with the party trying to figure out how they would manage to come up with all of that. Their entire treasure consisted of the 10 Dragons each that Volo had initially paid them and the 150 Dragon they made selling the Apprentice Wizards spellbook to the Dragonborn Sage down the street.
Next week they will be referred to Mirt the Moneylender for a loan. Mirt is a member of the Harpers and also a Masked Lord of Waterdeep. He will have a job for them of great importance, in return he will GIVE them the 1250 Dragons they need to get the Tavern up and running. I don't imagine they will be able to refuse.
DISCLAIMER - HUGE WALL OF TEXT INCOMING. This week was heavy roleplay, puzzles, traps, and riddles. There was NO combat at all in a 5 1/2 hour session. It was very different than most adventures.
Also Spoiler warning - This is a very detailed account of the DMSGUILD Adept adventure, Blue Alley. If you intend to play it, don't read this.
After making the decision last week to renovate Troll Skull Manor the party set out this week looking for a way to raise the 1250 GP needed for repairs and guild membership dues. The first thing they did was go speak with Durnan to get his opinion and make sure they weren't being "taken" by Halfling from the Fellowship of Inns & Taverns. They spoke with Durnan about it and he suggested that they speak with a friend of his, Mirt the Moneylender. Durnan setup a meeting for them and the party listened to Mirt's proposal. Mirt told them about a place in the Sea Ward named Blue Alley. It's actually an alley with Blue cobblestones, hence the name. The alley actually leads to a magically protected "dungeon" that was created many years ago by an unknown mage. The dungeon has been a traditional spot for adventurers of all type to test their skills. The rumors say that this mage created Blue Alley for the amusement of him and possibly other rich and influential friends. Valuable items seem to disappear from noble houses all over the realms and find their way into Blue Alley. One such item recently disappeared from Mirt's collection, a Celestite Unicorn statue and he wishes the party to recover it for him. He offers to pay them 900 GP for the return of his statue. He warns them that Blue Alley is filled with puzzles, riddles and traps. The party agrees and decides to set out at first light.
The party makes their way to Ivory Street in the Sea ward which is the entrance to Blue Alley. They find the alley and see it leads to a stone podium with an open book resting on it. There is an invisible wall of force behind the podium, preventing entrance to the dungeon. The book is a list of names. As the party looks at the book they notice that many of the names have been crossed out. They deduce that the crossed out names are adventurers who did not survive Blue Alley but they waste no time signing their names and stepping forward.
Here is the players map of what they managed to explore this past Sunday. They have explored about half of the dungeon so far and are returning next week. The entrance is the alley to the south.
The first thing they encountered is a huge painted mural straight ahead of them depicting all sorts of adventuring parties suffering horrible deaths to all manner of traps. One of the players noticed one of the adventuring parties happened to be their own! Once very observant player also noticed some barely visible text that said;
"50 feet south of the barred window is a secret door".
Above the left and right passages were the words GOLD and SILVER respectively. Not knowing what to make of it they choose the Silver path. The party tried the two doors on the right and found 2 passages leading east, the southern one with a 20 foot long spiked pit, the other with copper rods sticking out of the wall and lightning arcing down the hallway. They chose the southern path with the spikes. The bard searched the pit and found a pressure plate towards the end that extended the full width of the pit. The bard stayed there to guide the other players and they all stepped across the pit. At the end of the 2 halls they found a Silver plated Iron door engraved with different sized circles. The bard and rogue failed to pick the lock, and the Fighter and Ranger assisting each other failed to force the door open, so the party turned around and headed back through the pit.
Across from the 2 doorways was a relief sculpture of a humanoid skeleton with arms outstretched and mouth open in a scream. The party was afraid of it but the cleric finally decided he wanted to get a closer look and noticed a small stone button set in the back of the mouth. The brave cleric decided to push the button which released a secret door to the north. The northern path let up a short stair case to a former reception room with couches and tables but in disrepair. While searching the room one of the players hears a faint voice say "Entertain Me" from the door to the east. The eastern door is stuck shut so the Fighter decides to bust the door open. Inside is a statue of a wizard with a nameplate at the base that reads "Keilier". The statue is protected by a sphere of force. Behind the wizard on the wall are the words "Pure madness, UTTER RUBBISH". The bard party remembers the voice they heard and he decides he is going to try and entertain the statue. He starts singing a song to him and says the wizards name in the song. At the mention of his name the wizard animates and begins talking to the party. The wizard asks the party;
“What might and strength cannot get through, this tool with a soft touch can do.”.
The entire party is baffled and decide they want to go searching for clues except for the cleric. He says he has an idea but the party really wants to continue looking. The cleric finally decides to just ask the wizard "Is it a key" to which the wizard replies "Of course the answer is a key". A wand constructed of low quality emeralds fused together appears at the Cleric's feet. I gave him an inspiration point also for coming up with the answer.
The wand is inscribed with Draconic runes so the bard offers to cast comprehend languages on it as a ritual. He deciphers the inscription that reads "All that is yours is mine, and what is mine cannot be hidden." The phrase is the trigger for the wand. The party doesn't yet know what it does but this is a wand of secrets which can detect secret doors within 60'. It has 3 charges on it which refresh every night at midnight. This is also the first magic item the party has encountered.
Next the party headed further north up another set of stairs to a long hall with 2 eastern, 2 western and a northern door. The first eastern door leads to a "Vault" room. Above the door is the inscription “TAKE ONLY WHAT YOU CAN TRULY AFFORD.”. The room is filled to the brim with all manner of coins. They estimate there are thousands of gold pieces alone in there. The group decides that they think they have figured out the inscription and believe they can take gold equal to or less than what they currently have on them. Each player takes a gold piece value equal to 1 less than what they have, except for the Cleric who decides to take nothing. They decide to move on and investigate the adjoining room to the south which opens into a large empty rectangular room with bars set into the wall at the southern end. As they all enter the room a Magic Mouth appears on the ceiling and says;
“Beyond these gates lies paradise. Enter them as you entered life, and you may yet find it; grasp the jewel and grasp the iron, then be whisked away to the truest of rewards.”
At this point the party begins their usual discussion and ends up taking 20 minutes of game time trying to work this out. Finally the bard decides he is going to try and grasp the bars and nothing happens. Then he asks to hold the emerald wand thinking it might be the crystal and grabs the bars again, to no result. Lastly he decides to strip completely naked and grasp the bars. When he does that the magic mouth begins to laugh and the Bard is inflicted with Tashas Hideous Laughter and then poofs. The Bard finds himself in an outside alley, laying in a trash pile looking up at the nighttime stars. He goes to the end of the alley to find himself on Ivory street right outside of Blue Alley. He decides to make his way back in and try to get back to the party. Of course I did that dialog with the Bard alone so the other players had no idea. So the Ranger decides he is going to try the same. He poofs, ends up in the same place and catches up to the Bard. The entire group decided they were going to be lemmings and the other 3 stripped down and found themselves in the same alley. So my whole party elected to drop their belongings in a pile and port themselves out. If I was an evil DM I would have locked them out of the dungeon once they had left but I let them back in. It was worth the laughs that we had over the half hour this whole scenario played out. At this point my players really started to question everything in this dungeon.
They checked out the first door on the western wall to find it made of red clay bricks, steaming hot and smelling of fire. In the room was a 20" pit and once the players looked in the pit they saw 2 flaming imp-like creatures at the bottom of the pit. This room was the incinerator room of the dungeon. There are Boggles that roam the dungeon cleaning up debris and adventurers belongings to throw them into the pit. The wizard makes regular trips to the dungeon to retrieve any gems or magic items that survive in the pit. The party wanted nothing to do with this room and left.
Next the went to the second eastern door. It opened to a large room with a path made of yellow tile roaming through the room. The walls have all been decorated with intensely detailed murals depicting Helmite funerary rituals as well as a dozen mages, all holding the holy symbol of Mystra, hiding in the background. On the west wall are the words "GET THROUGH". The party sent one play in and told him to stay on the path. He made it to the door on the other side so the party followed his lead. Had they stepped off the path the mage's holy symbols in the mural would have flared causing the player to save vs Fear. If they failed the would have fled the room, if they succeeded then the mural would have turned into priests of Kelemvor being defeated by Spectral Undead. At the same time 2 of the mages would step out of the mural as Spectres!
The party opens the door to the next room to find a large room completely surrounded on all sides by a single seamless mirror with a pedestal in the center displaying the Celestite Unicorn. The door behind them closes and the words “Everything you see is mine” magically appear on the door. The party doesn't really know what to think about this room but they know the Unicorn is why they are here. The Bard says he is going into the other room to post on the door and as he steps through the door way, all of his possessions, clothing included appear in the center of the room next to the Unicorn. So now the party leads into this whole discussion of how they might try and break the mirrors or if some magic might help them, while the fighter keeps saying "what if we close our eyes". Nobody seems to want to listen to him and after about 10 minutes he finally says to me, I close my eyes and walk out the door. The fighter walks through the door with all of his belongings. Finally the party listens to him and they devise a plan to carry the Unicorn out with their eyes closed. I gave the Fighter an inspiration point for figuring it out.
So now they had what they came for but they were split on whether they should leave or press on. The decided to peek into the other 2 doors before leaving. The second Western door was an old alchemical lab. Lots of broken vials and lots of volatile mixes. The party rolled low on their perception checks and nobody found anything of value. They missed a couple potions of healing but they also passed their checks and didn't knock over any volatile mixes, which would have been bad.
The last room they checked was the northern door. It was a huge rectangular room. 20 feet down was a layer of smoke and they cannot see below it. Suspended from the ceiling are a bunch of steel disks hanging by chains. They only extend about 3/4 of the way through the room and on the opposite side they see a barred window. They really didn't want to risk trying anything with the Unicorn in hand so they decide to leave.
They exit the dungeon and make their way back to the Yawning Portal with the Unicorn. They talk to Durnan who writes a letter to Mirt, folds it up and tosses it in the air. The paper turns into an origami bird and flies out the door. A couple hours later Mirt enters the taproom looking for the party. While they were waiting this Unicorn decides to telepathically reach out to the Bard. She says that she is a real unicorn, trapped by a mage many years ago and asks for help being freed. She says that she doesn't want to return to a life of sitting on display in Mirt's collection. The bard wrestles with himself on this one but ultimately decides he was hired for a job, they needed the money for the renovations and doesn't tell the rest of the party about the Unicorn. When Mirt arrives he privately asks him about the Unicorn. Mirt tells him that it was taken from his collection and he is very happy that they party was able to produce as promised. He also tells the bard that the party has earned a powerful ally. The bard keeps his mouth shut and they accept their payment.
That is where we ended for the night. So this was a really strange session for me. This was my first session ever with NO combat in it. We even started early so we got about 5 1/2 hours in. A LOT of time was spent with the party discussing and basically voting on every decision. At one point someone even suggested a secret ballot to decide on something. This adventure is supposed to last 3 hours, 4 if they do all the side quests. They only got through half of the dungeon. We discussed it in text and the players want to go back to finish the dungeon so we will be back next week. They have decided to appoint a party leader to speak for them. If the leader tells me they are doing something, that's what they are doing. I don't mind the discussion but they took it to the extreme that night. In all they had a good enough time to unanimously want to go back and finish it so I guess it isn't too bad. I am going to rework the rest of the dungeon a little to move things along a little faster. There are 9 total encounters in the dungeon I believe, they haven't seen a single one yet.
The party spent a 6 hour session (Hot Roast Beef Sandwiches included) finishing up Blue Alley. They got first hand experience on just how brutal 5E monsters can be when played properly. Several people I have seen DM 5E have ignored the upgraded abilites of some 5E monsters and played them as if they were the 1E/2E versions. The problem with that is that 5E players have higher hit points, do a lot more damage, and have a lot more abilities. If you ignore the monster abilities then you make the encounters trivial for the players. I do no such thing. While nobody died this week, we had at least 6 instances of party members down and making death saves. Probably more. The cleric almost took enough damage for an instant death. It was a great time watching the players confidence drop and they scramble to use abilities rather than just popping off cantrips. Last week ended with the party turning the Unicorn over to MIrt and collecting their reward. This week they all wanted to go back into the dungeon to trying and secure some treasure. Last week they encountered the room that had the writing “TAKE ONLY WHAT YOU CAN TRULY AFFORD”. 4 of the players took gold with them except for Tim the Cleric. As a result, upon trying to leave the dungeon those players were cursed with Disadvantage on ALL rolls until the curse was removed. Of course none of the players knew that and came into this week cursed. MUhahahah...
This week the party decided to start off by heading down the left path since they cleared out all they could on the right last week.
The first door they came to opened into a small room 10'x20'. The walls were a giant mural depicting treasure chests, all open bearing rows of teeth. Against the South wall was a chest with no visible lock. Of course the party "knows" it's a Mimic and decide to get everyone in position and try to attack it.
Of course as they all get into position, the real Mimic (the ceiling) drops into the center of the party and begins attacking. This was the first fight of the night and the party quickly found out they were at Disadvantage with the exception of two players. They had no idea why yet and assumed it had to do with the Mimic. The 5E Mimic can hit a player with an adhesive attack which functions as a grapple while also restraining. The players need to succeed on a DC13 STR or DEX check to break themselves free. Of course easier said than done when you are disadvantaged! I thoroughly enjoyed this fight. 4 Players were stuck at one point and I took mercy on the rest by NOT attacking with its adhesive attack. One player was knocked unconscious at one point. Overall, the fight really started to wear at their resources. This fight was designed for 5 Level 2 players, they had 6 cocky players. Inside the REAL chest they found some coins as well as a Silver Key wrapped in a velvet cloth.
Next up they came to a large room that was an outdoor garden. Open air with lots of greenery. There were two circular rooms off of it, each with a pedestal with a set of large bull horns mounted on them. The horns had runes across them. The walls were adorned with a repeating pattern that with close inspection happened to be a key. The party decides to inspect the horns and split up between the rooms. They visually search them and then one of them decides to touch the horns. When he does that they hear a loud Moo but nothing happens. Of course they tell the other group to touch their horns. Nothing happens. Finally they decide to touch them both at the same time. As soon as they do that, the garden room changes to dark stone walls, the open air becomes a dank stone ceiling, the runes on the horns glow and a very Angry Minotaur with an Ivory Key around his neck phases into the garden room. The door leading into the garden room also slams magically shut.
The players literally fought for their lives in this room. A single CR3 Minotaur with 76 hit points nearly wiped this party out. They were mostly at disadvantage for this combat and when he hit, it was or 2d12+4 damage. I think my players were going to shit themselves. I rolled almost max damage twice. The cleric was very busy with Spare the Dying and Cure Wounds. When the fight was done the Rogue, Bard, Ranger, and Cleric had all gone down at one point. The Rogue twice. The Cleric, Ranger, and Bard used up their Cure Wounds and they even used one potion during the fight! The party finally won but in the end, they decided they needed to leave the dungeon and try to get their curse removed. They decided to approach the Cleric's church and agreed to return soon for a quest as payment for their services. The Cleric vouched for his party and will be keeping them to their promise.
Healed up and curse removed the party decided to head back into the dungeon. Their little exit from the dungeon also gave us time for some Hot Roast Beef Sandwiches with Horse Radish sauce and Au Jus! I think I need to start taking pictures of the food, it's the best part of the night.
The party headed further north in the dungeon and came to a room with a large pedestal with a Gem sitting on it and a Flying sword hovering above it. They searched the room and found 2 secret doors off of it so they decided to check them out first. In one room was a table with a bowl of 9 "Goodberries" and a wooden box. The rogue opened the box and inside was a blue ball of electricity. The table was lined with runes. They decide they are going to take the stuff with them so the Ranger grabs the bowl of Goodberries and the Rogue picks up the box. As soon as the box leaves the table, the runes light up and the "protective magic" releases from the box and the Will O Wisp inside the box gets free! With a +9 Dexterity the party is lucky that it had very low hit points. While this was going on the Bard decides that he is going to grab the Gem off the pedestal. As soon as he does, the Flying Sword begins attacking him. The Warlock happened to be in the other secret room which contained a mounted Crossbow pointed at the door. A single silver bolt was on the crossbow and the string was snapped. He decides to pickup the silver bolt which triggers the switch under it, filling the room with a poison gas. He makes his save and bolts out of the room to see the chaos going on out there. Nobody ended up seriously hurt in this encounter although a few got zapped with electricity. Nobody has tried the Goodberries yet but they are cursed. Each with take away 1Hp and give 1 level of exhaustion. That should be interesting next week.
So the party went all the way north and reached a dead end. They came to a barred window at the end of the hall and saw into the room with the suspended discs from last week. Dangling from the bottom of the last disc was a sword. The last room on this side of the dungeon was a winery. Most of the bottles were broken, empty or spoiled. They searched the round and found 2 potions of healing stashed here as well as a 2 foot door behind a rack of wine. They were unable to pick the exquisite lock and instead of a key hole it had what appeared to be a space for a coin to be inset. They eventually left and decided to hit the other side of the dungeon.
Equipped with the Silver key now they headed back to that Silver plated door that they were unable to pick or break down last week. The key opened it and they saw a large room, 100'x50' with a door off the northern end. The room was completely filled with rubbish. The party immediately decided to split up and search the walls walking through the room. The Bard and the Rogue both managed to step on and set off bear traps that were affixed to the floor. When those triggered it released a secret door on the eastern wall and released 6 skeletons. The cleric was able to turn all but 1 of them so this fight was fairly trivial other than the fact that there were bear traps all over. The Bard and Rogue both had strength too low to release themselves so the Fighter and Ranger had to assist, while trying not to set off any other traps. Eventually they killed the skeletons and decided to find and set off the remaining bear traps. Inside the room was an altar made of skulls and the eye sockets were set with low quality gems. Of course the Rogue wanted to pry them and on his 3rd gem he released the Shadow that was hidden inside the skull. Luckily for the party, nobody was hit by the Shadow since they Strength Drain. They searched the rubbish in this and the Bard decided to cast a Detect Magic ritual. They found a bunch of crap items but the Detect Magic revealed a wand hidden in the rubbish. They don't know yet but it's a Wand of Pyrotechnics.
Wand of Pyrotechnics - "This wand has 7 charges. While holding it, you can use an action to expend 1 of its charges and create a harmless burst of multicolored light at a point you can see up to 60 feet away. The burst of light is accompanied by a crackling noise that can be heard up to 300 feet away. The light is as bright as a torch flame but lasts only a second. The wand regains 1d6 + 1 expended charges daily at dawn. If you expend the wand's last charge, roll a d20. On a 1, the wand erupts in a harmless pyrotechnic display and is destroyed."
The last area they hadn't searched was the door to the North. They opened the door to reveal a 75' long set of stairs with blade traps all the way up. Spinning blades coming from the walls and pendulum blades from the ceiling. I told them to move through the hall would require 2 Dexterity Checks at DC15. If they wanted to Dash they could do it in a single check but a failure meant they failed both checks. They could do half movement in 4 checks and take 1/2 damage for each failure. The Cleric (don't ask me why) says "I am going for it", gives himself guidance and immediately dashes up the stairs. Of course he rolls a (2) on his check and I describe how he gets his with several blades as he charges up the hall. As he stumbles past the traps at the top of the stairs he drops to the ground unconscious and bleeding. I rolled high and he took 18 points of damage!
So now he is bleeding out and the rest of the party is down below. Again, don't ask me why but the Warlock decides he is going to be the hero and dashes up the stairs. He gets hit once but makes it to the other side. He stabilizes the cleric, gives him a healing potion to get him up. In that room is a single pedestal with a bronze coin on it. He examines the coin and things this coin is the key to that door in the winery. The Cleric grabs the key and decides to try and be the hero again. He dashes for the stairs and down. Of course he missed his fails again and slides like a bloody mess across the threshold on the other end. The Warlock makes his run and makes his save this time, making it down safely. So I really have no idea what got into the Cleric in this room but it was good for 10 minutes of good laughs.
They immediately made their way back to the winery and proceeded to open the door to find a small alcove behind it with a lantern inside. The lantern looks nondescript and had no oil in it. Once they identify it they will find it to be a Lantern of Revealing. It operates as a normal lantern but will show invisible creatures.
Lantern of Revealing - "While lit, this hooded lantern burns for 6 hours on 1 pint of oil, shedding bright light in a 30-foot radius and dim light for an additional 30 feet. Invisible creatures and objects are visible as long as they are in the lantern's bright light. You can use an action to lower the hood, reducing the light to dim light in a 5-foot radius."
Lastly the party decided to finish off the dungeon by going to the room with the discs and retrieving the sword. They decided to try and have the fighter go it alone since he needed a DC 12 STR(Athletics) check to jump from disc to disc. Each hop he had a 25% change of 1-4 Smoke Mephits would jump out of the smoke and attack him on the disc. He made it to the 2nd disc before 3 of them attacked. At this point the party tried to assist. The Ranger, Warlock and Cleric range attacked from the hallway. The Rogue tried to jump across, fell for damage and was at 1HP at the bottom of the pit. The bard dropped to heal him and then help as 2 more Smoke Mephits attacked them. In all the eventually killed them all with nobody dropping and retrieved the sword. They haven't identified it yet but it's a Moon-Touched Sword.
Moon-Touched Sword - "In darkness, the unsheathed blade of this sword sheds moonlight, creating bright light in a 15-foot radius and dim light for an additional 15 feet."
In all, out of this dungeon the players have found:
Wand of Secrets (Detect Secret Doors 3x per day)
Wand of Pyrotechnics (Might have it roll to destroy on each use)
Lantern of Revealing
3 Potions of Healing
The just reached level 3. While I have never been big on going overboard with Magic items, I am happy with this progress. None of these items give them combat bonuses but they do help with the mundane parts of dungeon crawls. These should help with the constant light cantrips and the Wand of Secrets will help with them searching everything they see. With 3 charges daily it will help but they can burn those up on nothing in no time. Next week rather than sending several party members on faction quests I think I am going to do a larger homebrew encounter that will fulfill a couple factions at once and get them out of the way. I am hoping to get into Chapter 3 this week and really begin the Dragonheist main story.
This week was a blast. I am going to try and condense these recaps a little since they take so long to write. This I asked my group for a preference of which factions they would join if they had the choice. I had expanded faction quests written up for each choice and after I heard what they wanted I decided to run quests for the Emerald Enclave and the Harpers. We started with the Ranger being visited in the night by a White cat that was cast upon with an Animal Messenger spell. The cat told Rhys the Ranger that the Emerald Enclave was interested in him and if he was interested in joining to me them at Phalkonmere in the South Ward. Phalkonmere is a compound where the Enclave meets. He was also told to bring friends. He told the party about the meeting and they decided to go see what was up. When they arrived they met with Mellanor Fellbranch, the Emerald Enclave contact and he told them about recent reports of a Necromancer raising Skeletons in the City of the Dead. The City of the Dead is a large park/cemetery inside of Waterdeep. While it is the burial grounds for the wealthier citizens, it's also a widely used park (think Central Park). Mellanor tells the party that they will be helping Sir Ambrose Everdawn (Knight of Kelemvor) in searching the City of the Dead at night, cleansing it of Skeletons and hopefully locating the Necromancer. The party agrees to help. They meet Sir Ambrose and he explains how he will patrol the North, they the South. Sir Ambrose Everdawn is an old grizzled veteran and the party realizes he can easily hold his own. Being the untrusting lot they are though, they send the Rogue to follow and spy on him. Fortunately Sir Ambrose fails his perception and doesn't notice the tail. He follows for 2 hours and realizes that Sir Ambrose is doing exactly what he said so the Rogue rejoins his party.
3 Nights pass uneventfully but the party assures Sir Ambrose that they will give him assistance for a Ten Day. On the 4th evening the party realizes that the Grave Cleric in the party is able to detect undead. He can detect some undead presence within 1 mile but not type or direction. They now know there there IS some kind of undead within a mile. After a reminder from me, the Ranger realizes that with Undead as his favored enemy that he might be able to track them. I give it a fairly high DC since its only a handful of skeletons but give him advantage since they are his favored enemy. Low and behold on the 4th night they find the Skeletons. The party of 5 is able to dispatch of the Skeletons without too much trouble. As soon as the last one dies they hear a loud slow clapping from behind them.
Not the type of DM to miss any kind of dramatic introduction and setup I decided to add some flair to this quest. The Skeletons are dead but the Necromancer is nowhere to be found. By the book, the Necromancer isn't around and the players never learn his fate. I did some reading this week about the City of the Dead and the history of Waterdeep. I decided to introduce the players to one of Waterdeep's oldest and most powerful residents, Altor Morlin, also known as the Baron of Blood. In the first session the players heard Mattrim "Threestrings" Mereg (Bard) recite a story about the Baron of Blood. Artor Morlin is a great Vampire Lord that has inhabited a dungeon beneath the City of the Dead for over 500 years. Artor has kept an uneasy peace with the Lord of Waterdeep by restricting his hunting while keeping other Vampires or powerful undead out of Waterdeep. He is one of their dirty little secrets.
So the party kills the last Skeleton and then hears this slow clapping to turn around and find Artor Morlin standing behind them. They don't know who he is. He also has 2 bats swirling around him as he speaks. He is standing there holding his signature 2 bladed sword with a purplish poison visibly dripping from the blade. He introduces himself as the Baron of Blood and the party Bard passes his History check, immediately recognizing the name from the story. The Baron thanks the party for a most enjoyable time watching them dispatch the Skeletons. The bard asks him if he knows anything about the Necromancer and the Baron explains that the Necromancer will be no more trouble. The Bard asks if he has any kind of proof that the Necro is gone. At that, the 2 bats fly to his sides and transform into 2 Vampire spawns. He tells them that his "friends" found the Necro quite tasty and reiterates that he will be no more trouble. At this point the party wants nothing more to do with this encounter and ask for permission to leave. The Baron grants their leave, goes ethereal himself and flies off. At some point in the next couple weeks the party may find those 2 spawns dead at the hand of their own master. Artor cannot abide any other Vampires long, that's how he has lived over 1000 years.
The party returns to the Sir Ambrose and then the Emerald Enclave, report their findings and are rewarded appropriately. The Ranger and Cleric also decide to join the Emerald Enclave as members.
When the party returns to Trollskull Alley they find that a Paper Bird has arrived with a message saying that the Harpers would like to meet them. They are told that there are tickets to the Theater tonight for The Fall of Tiamat, an opera sung in Giant. They are to meet Mirt at intermission in a private box. They need formal attire so off they go without rest looking for a tailor to acquire some clothing. They meet with Mirt at intermission that night and he tells them that Renaer recommended them after they rescued him from the Zhentarim hideout. He also personally recommended them because of the task they performed for him in Blue Alley. The Harpers were interested in recruiting them. He said they had an immediate situation that had just arrived and told him about a shopkeeper named Uza Solizeph that the Harpers owed a favor. Uza said her cat was chased into the shop and hiding from 2 floating orbs with many eyes. She fled the shop and locked them all in but was fearing for her cat. The party agrees to help her and she gives them the keys to her shop. When they arrive the bookstore is in disarray. The basement door is open and they can hear a cat meowing on the 2nd floor. They decide to proceed upstairs with the ranger covering the stairs in case something tries to some up them behind them.
The party moves to the 2nd floor and into her bedroom. Off her bedroom is a study room that has a curtain over the door. They hear the cat meowing in the study. The Fighter decides he is going to fling the curtain aside and stroll into the study. As he flings it open, inside the room is a Gazer that was mimicing the Cat's meow. It immediately first 2 eye beams at the Fighter hitting him for Ice damage and then throwing him telekineticly against the back wall. At the same time, the second Gazer attacks from down the stairs, hitting the Ranger. Battle ensues and the players had quite the fight on their hands with 2 Gazers. Fortunately for them they each only had 13 hit points but the combination of Telekinetic attacks, cold, and charm they were able to give the party a good run for their money. In the end the party succeeded and was able to find and rescue the cat who was hiding in the basement. The party returned the cat to Uza who offered the party a spell book that she had in her store. The Bard and Rogue decided that the Harpers were a good fit for them and decided to join.
The only one left without a faction is the Fighter. I might throw in a quest for the Order of the Gauntlet next week for him.
Chapter 3: Fireball
Finally the Dragon Heist main story begins. The party is at Trollskull alley the next morning. The Bard and Cleric decide to take the spell book to "Book Wyrm's Treasure" just down the street from Trollskull Manor and see if he was interested in buying it. He agreed to buy it and as the players were finishing up that transaction the big "Event" happened.
While they were selling the book, the Ranger and Rogue decided to hit Corellon's Crown (the herbalist and apothecary) on Trollskull Alley to see if Fala was interested in buying the 2 dead Gazers for any type of concoctions. Unfortunately she doesn't have a use for them so they leave and she returns up stairs to water plants in the 2nd story greenhouse.
As they leave and are headed back to Trollskull and the other 2 are finishing up in the Book store, Trollskull Alley is rocked with an explosion! A huge ball of flame explodes in the street. They witness several bodies fly through the air. The 4 members in the shops and the Fighter still back in Trollskull Manor all rush into the street and begin to assess the situation. The cleric starts helping peopled, the Bard is talking to witnesses, the Rogue is trying to loot the dead without being seen. The Fighter overhears a kid talking about how someone threw something off a roof, the place exploded, and then the guy dropped something which he picked up. The Fighter questions the kids and he shows him a necklace with 2 beads on it that he found. The Fighter tells the kid to hand it over but fails his intimidation. He offers to buy it for 10 shards (sliver). The kid tells him 5 Gold. He starts to threaten the kid with calling the guard, which is arriving in the street at this time. The kids says he will take 2 gold and the Fighter still refuses. He tries to take it and the kid starts yelling for the guard.
The funny part about this whole encounter is how smug the Fighter was about it. He refused to pay the kid 2 gold and instead ended up in an encounter with the guards, who ended up confiscating the necklace. So in the end, the level 3 Fighter just gave up a necklace of Fireballs with 2 charges that he could have pocketed for the low cost of 2 gold. His loss.
The party questioned some witnesses as well as were questioned by the guards. They were able to piece together that a Gnome was being pursued by 2 Zhentarim thugs and a cloaked man. The Gnome was headed for Trollskull Manor when a "Wooden Puppet without Strings" launched a fireball (necklace bead) from a nearby rooftop, killing the Gnome and the 2 Zhents. The cloaked man was injured but survived. He was seen taking an object off the Gnome and fleeing down the street towards the main street. The witness said the "Wooden Puppet" is like one of those Automatons that is part of the "Day of Wonders" parade that the Temple of Gond puts on each Fall. This is where the party is now. The lead detective while questioning the party told them that he was taking the corpses to the morgue and going to try and find someone to speak with dead. If the party is smart enough to petition the Harpers or Emerald Enclave for assistance then they can get someone to speak with dead. If they do that they will learn a LOT about the story, if not they still have the lead about the "wooden man" and should investigate the Temple of Gond. We will see how much the players can piece together and what I have to spoon feed them. Next week they will end up at Grahlund Villa which is the first real "dungeon" of this adventure. It's a manor for the Grahlund noble family which happen to be worshipers of Asmodeus and part of the plot to steal the Stone of Golor to deliver to the Cassalanter's (My main Villain). Should be a fun session.
I did a little prep for this weeks game. The party will be entering Gralhund Villa following the cloaked figure that stole something off the dead Gnome after the fireball. Unfortunately they will be too late as the item will be gone but they will have the Gralhund family to contend with. As Waterdavian nobles and also worshipers of Asmodeus they will have to figure out how to handle this situation and not end up in prison. Noble families have a lot of clout. Rather than lay out 3d printed terrain I decided to just print out a full scale battlemat. If they don't get to it this weekend then I will reprint it in color on glossy media paper. I think it came out nice though for a simple B&W laser print.
Not sure where this campaign is going after this week. It may end up with the players dangling from the gallows. Guess we will see...
So this week began with the party heading to the House of Inspired Hands (Temple of Gond) to inquire about the Nimblewright that they saw fleeing the scene of the Fireball. Nimblewrights are those mechanical men that they marched in the Day of Wonders parade. When they arrived they spotted a nimblewright on the roof of the temple playing with a mechanical bird. The bird malfunctioned and crashed into the ground near the players. They took the bird inside and spoke with Valetta, the Dragonborn Priestess that runs the temple. They explain to her what happened with the explosion and that they are looking for a nimblewright. She tells them that "Nim" resides in the temple and has been confined to the temple because he cannot stay out of trouble. She takes the players to the attic to speak with Nim. Nim cannot speak but does communicate with Valetta through sign language. He has been confined to the temple but they gave him a full workshop to create his inventions, such as the malfunctioning mechanical bird. After some arguing, Nim finally fesses up to Valetta that tried to create his own companion. He made a Niblewright but it wasn't quite as benevolent as Nim and ended up running away. He gives the party a Nimblewright detector that will beep and whirl when it comes within 500ft of a nimblewright and gets faster, the closer it gets.
The party decides to set out and search the city looking for this missing nimblewright. They hire a Dray Coach for the day and start searching ward by ward. They end up on Dock street in the Dock Ward when the detector starts going off pointing towards a group of 3 ships in the harbor. They contact the harbormaster and find out that those ships below to Zardoz Zord, owner of the Sea Maiden's Faire. The Sea Maiden's Faire is a travelling circus that puts on grand street parades in the cities it stops at. They decided to use their paper bird and send a message to Zardoz Zord asking him to meet with them at some seedy inn at the Dock Ward. Instead Zardoz Zord sends a small crew to shore and invites the party to dine with Zardoz as his guests upon his flagship, Eyecatcher. With no other choice the party decides to join him. The party meets Zardoz in his dining hall and is greeted with the largest banquet of food they have ever seen. Zardoz is very flamboyant. Dressed in fine silk clothing of purples and gold, heavy perfume, lots of chest hair, and very well spoken. They ask Zardoz about Nimblewrights and explain that their detector was going off while pointed at his ship. He explains that he has 4 of them between his 3 ships, snaps his fingers and one of them walks in the room with a decanter of wine. He explains that they march in his parades, are harmless, and are most definitely not the ones he is looking for. He remains very cordial with the party but they get the impression that there is more to him than meets the eye. While Zardoz and crew are all humans, one of the players notices an occasional elvish accent that pops out once in a while. With this lead a dead end and not wanting to push their luck, the party thanks him for dinner and they are taken back to shore.
What the party doesn't know is that Zardoz Zord is Jarlaxle Baenrae in disguise. His crew are Drow Elite Warriors and his Captains Drow Elite Mages. Jarlaxle is in Waterdeep himself because he is hunting the Vault of Dragons, same as the party although they don't know it yet. Jarlaxle invited the party to trying and see what they know and has decided they are worth keeping an eye on. They have no idea of the danger they were in and they are now on Jarlaxle's radar.
The party decides to get back to using the Nimblewright Detector and they get on with their search. Eventually their search ends them up just a few blocks from Trollskull manor in a residential area of the North Ward. They are standing in front of a Noble Family Home called Gralhund Villa. It's very late at night and decide to investigate the grounds. The bard decides to use a knock spell on the front gates and enter the compound with the Ranger. The Fighter and Cleric decide to move down the street a little and make some noise as a distraction while the others enter.
The Bard decides to move across the lawn and head towards the stable house. What the party doesn't know is that the Gralhund's are part of the Noble class in Waterdeep that are worshipers of Asmodeus. The Assassin from the fireball that was spotted retrieving the Stone of Golor from the dead Gnome delivered it here. He is a Zhentarim Assassin that was hired by the Gralhund's to do the job but Lady Gralhund wasn't confident in their ability so she sent the Nimblewright to kill the gnome. In the process he kill the Zhent and injured the Assassin. Of course this created huge problems with the Zhentarim and as the players are making their way into the Villa, the Zhentarim are already inside battling with the house guards.
Shit really hit the fan here tonight and this is where the whole night begins to really get strange. I am going to quickly go through most of the combat because the end scenes are where this gets really interesting. The Bard crosses the yard and end up running into 3 shadows which are the nighttime "guards" in the outer area of the compound. A natural 20 by me almost drops the bard in a single hit and he also loses 4 of his 8 strength points in that hit. The Cleric and Warrior have to scale the wall and rush to get into combat after they hear the Bard screaming. The Fighter also takes a hit losing Strength before the party is able to take down the shadows. They party gets into the stable house and hold up for an hour for a short rest to heal and regain their strength.
The party moves into the house and begins to move room by room. They find dead servants and a couple dead house guards, before running into 2 Zhentarim Thugs who attack the party. They are able to kill the Thugs and then decide to move upstairs when they hear combat up there.
They move upstairs to find Zhent Thugs and House Guards fighting in a sitting room, hear banging coming from a close door off that room, and hear a female yelling from the open doors in another room off this main room. They party jumps in and decides to attack the Zhents. As the last Zhent died there was a single House Guard left alive but hurthing. The party goes inside the open room to find Lady Gralhund inside wielding a Rapier as well as her personal bodyguard, a HalfOrc. This is where it all begins to devolve. There are several ways this could go and the party has been reminded from day 1 about the Code Legal (laws of Waterdeep). Crimes against the Lords and Nobles of the city are some of the worst crimes you can commit. Lady Gralhund demands to know who the party is and what they are doing in their house. They try and deceive her by telling her that they heard the commotion from the street and came to help. She doesn't buy it. Then they pull out the Nimblewright detector and tell her that their device detected a NIm in her Villa. With everything she has done including facilitating the Fireball in Trollskull that killed 12 people, she immediately goes on the offensive as soon as they say they know there is/was a Nim here. She orders her bodyguard to attack. Now this HalfOrc is no joke. He has a low AC but he wields a Morningstar, does extra damage each hit if he is above half of his hit points, attacks 3 times per round, and has 112 hit points. The party was in real trouble here. Much to his credit the Cleric decided to try a Hold Person on the HalfOrc and it succeeds. The party decides to throw the kitchen sink at this guy. They burn all of their abilities and try to do all they can while he is held. He fails his save the 2nd round and they get another full round of attacks. In 5E if a creature is held they get advantage on all attacks and any hit is an automatic critical. They manage to pull off 112 points of damage by the 3rd round (2 of them being held) and kill the Half Orc. They got really lucky. Lady Grahlund immediately tries to bargain with the party and tells them that she will forget they were here is they did the same. The party isn't having it. The Bard and Ranger kick in the other door and find Lord Grahlund being held by the Zhentarim Assassin. They convince the Assassin that his only hope of living is to surrender which he does. They question him and he tells them how he was hired by the Lord to retrieve the stone but the Lady sent the Nim which caused the Fireball. The Bard decides the Assassin is being truthful and lets him leave. They bring the Lord into the room with the Lady. They find out their kids (2 young boys) are locked in the room off the bedroom.
Everything went to shit at this point. I should probably not allow my players to spend 30 minutes arguing among themselves on what they are going to do in game. They couldn't decide what to do with the Lord, Lady and Children. The Good Bard, Ranger, and Cleric all decide that they would rather leave and make a deal with the nobles. The Fighter believes that no witnesses are better. I remind him of the laws of Waterdeep and the other players tell him its a bad idea. After more discussion, the 3 players decide they are leaving and the Fighter stays. As they are slipping out the back door of the Villa the Fighter tells me that he is going to kill the Lady. As he runs her through with his sword, the Lord bolts down the stairs. At the bottom of the stairs is the main entrance door which is unlocked because the Zhents entered there and it places him at the front gates. The gates have a magical lock on them, hence the need for the knock spell but the magical lock is set to open to a command uttered by any of the Grahlund family. He runs out the door, through the gates into the streets and starts screaming for the Watch. At this the Fighter decides to run out the back and into the dark alleys.
That is where the night ended. I really don't know where I am going to go with this now. The party has already met Captain Staget of the Watch when they were involved in protecting the Yawning Portal from the Xanathar invastion as well as when they were found in the Zhentarim hideout with all the dead Zhents and Kenku. Last week they met Sgt Cromley (City Watch) and Barnibus Blastwind (Watchful Order) the other night after the Fireball blast killing 12 people in front of their tavern. Cromley and Barnibus are also going to be the ones investigating at Grahlund Villa. While Lord Grahlund doesn't know the names of the party, he will surely describe them to the Watch will undoubtedly put it together. They also left a house guard alive, both children who saw them, and they let the assassin go. That is a lot of loose ends.
The party could easily end up on the gallows. It will be hard for them to operate unless they can secure some high ranking assistance. They do have contacts in the Harpers and Emerald Enclave. They also met Jarlaxle who might decide to use them as pawns in his game. My main villains are the Cassalanter's who are probably the riches Noble family in Waterdeep. They are bankers, philanthropists, and highly influential. They are also worshipers of Asmodeus who sold their first born Son's soul in exchange for their wealth. They also promised the souls of their other 2 children and that debt is about to come due. They have arranged a deal with Asmodeus to proved half a million dragons and 100 innocent souls in exchange for their childrens. Their plan is to find the Vault of Dragons, secure the money and then host a party where they will poison all of the guests.
All that said, I might find a way to have the Cassalanter's save the party with their influence in exchange for their service in securing the gold. In the end if the party follows through they will be empty handed and the Cassalanter's will have their sacrifice. Of course I will make sure the party knows what they were complicit in. If the party robs the Cassalanters of the money then their children will end up sacrifices to Asmodeus and they will have some very powerful enemies after them. That doesn't even take into account what Jarlaxle, Xanathar, Manshoon, and Larael Silverhand might do once the find out the party has half a million dragons which were embezzled from the city. I think it will be more fun to help them live so they can die a more spectacular way than on a noose!
First off, very complex situation for the players... Wonderful, my Friend!!! Wonderful!" I love these kinds of situations for my players to sort through, and try to survive. The best part about this mess?... They created it, themselves, without much input from the DM! I love it when they create a mess themselves, and then the step in it, up to their hips. "Ohhh!... That's gonna leave a mark."
Secondly... LOVE the idea of blowing up the dungeon map to one-inch squares! Office Max and Staples, US office supply stores, for example, offer large format photocopying services (these large format copiers feature enlargement options, as well...). I recently took some large format Judge's Guild City-State maps to them, to have them enlarged, and laminated, for use in my games. It never occurred to me to take a dungeon map into them, to have it enlarged for mini's to travel across, as opposed to drawing it out on my Chessex Battlemat... I may just do that. Thank you for sharing! Cheers!
So we have been roleplaying this out over Discord this week so we can be at a much better place come Sunday. I told them if they wanted to run their problems weren't going to go away and this adventure within Waterdeep would be over. They didn't want that because they said they really are enjoying it so I asked them each individually where they were going and they decided to turn over control of the story to me. My plan is that they have to get arrested in order for me to get them through this and they agreed to go along. So this is a bit of a railroad but I decided to make it interesting and even heavily drew on one of the player's backgrounds. He is an Aasimar who have visions through their life from a "guide" that leads them on the path of eliminating evil. So anyways, we went through 3 of them tonight so I will share those. The last 2 are the Aasimar and the Fighter so I will share those once they get online and we finish them. This wont be in the usual recap format, I am just going to copy and paste it from Discord.
Shawn is Larson Rhymes the Bard
Dave is Rhys Rhovandir the Ranger
Tim is Tim the Cleric (go figure)
Ed is Kaldrake the Fighter
Big E is Hung Lo the Rogue
Ok so you guys head to your respective places to try and lay low. Shawn is in an Inn in the dock ward where nobody knows him. Tim is in his temple. Dave is in the Yawning Portal and told Durnan he is keeping low. Ed headed Northwest which would put him either in the Sea Ward or the Field Ward. Since you are changing to your Fine Clothes then I am going to say Sea Ward. So the morning after the incident the city is abuzz with rumors. You guys immediately notice in the streets that Watch patrols are up and the Mounted Griffon Calvary is patrolling the skies.
The Waterdeep Wazoo has a special edition broadsheet out that morning and the events of the night before take up the entire page. It talks about the murder of Lady Grahlund, an influential noble. The Watch is working on identifying the perpetrator based on a description from Lord Grahlund and a house guard. Sgt Cromley is quoted as saying that the Watch will have their men. It says that they know that the Black Network raided the villa last night killing most of the staff. They also believe the Black Network was also involved in the explosion at Trollskull alley and two of their own were even killed in the blast. It mentions a possible link and maybe retaliation for the murder of a dozen Black Network agents a couple weeks ago at Candlestick Lane. While these events are all linked they haven't quite yet identified the link and/or leaders.
Dave, late on the 2nd day Durnan tells you that the Watch has been in twice that day asking if he had seen any suspicious people coming in, but he says he sent them on their way.
Shawn, you heard a LOT of chatter in the Dock Ward about a major crackdown on the Black Network underway by the City Watch. You hear stories about a Zhentarim recruiter named Davil Starsong being rounded up with many other known Zhentarim.
On the 3rd Day the broadsheets have dubbed this the "Gralhund Villa Bloodbath" and thanks to the descriptions from Lord Gralhund and a House Guard, as well as investigations from Sgt Cromley, Barnibus from the Watchful Order, and Captain Hystus Staget that investigated the Zhentarim Hideout murders they have identified the leaders of this attack as the new owners of Trollskull Manor. They said between their involvements at the Yawining Portal with the attempted assassination, the Zhent murders at Candlestick lane, the explosion at Trollskull Alley, and now the Bloodbath at Gralhund Villa...their fine detective skills have identified their suspects and a city wide manhunt is underway.
Big E.....not knowing what went on you are blissfully unaware when the watch storms Trollskull and takes you into custody.
Shawn, you try and keep a low profile by staying at the Inn hoping things will die down in time. You take your dinner in a dark corner of the common room and then head upstairs for the night. You enter your room and at the last minute you feel something is wrong. You go to reach for your dagger on to quickly find a dagger to your throat from behind. A gravely voice says "You let me live and that's the only reason you get this courtesy tonight, but Davil's locked up and you are one of the few with the key to his release. Sorry pal." and that is the last you remember before blackness as you are struck in the back of the head.
You wake up sometime later to find yourself bound up, hands and feet, laying on the steps to Castle Waterdeep with the watch standing over you.
Dave, you wake up in the middle of the 3rd night to Durnan banging on your door. He throws your gear at you and says that you need to go NOW, the Watch is on their way. He tells you there is a gate in the Field Ward that isn't manned by the Watch and would be your best bet if you want to get out of the city for a while. You decide it might be best to get out for a while and even have a brief thought of returning to the Elves, but you decide you can't leave your friends behind.
You decide to head for the Field Ward gate, scope out the situation, and then start tracking your friends to see if you can help them get out. You move through the night streets hiding in shadows and make your way from the Castle ward, travel up Shield Street that runs between the Sea Ward and the North Ward. As you approach the top of the High Road which leads to the Upper Gate you see the Watch tower looming above you. The main gates are closed at this hour but the man gate is still open and staffed by a single guard. You have your story all made up and ready to bluff your way through. You keep your head low as you pass the Guard Barracks on the East side of the street.
Almost there you pickup the pace just a little. You look up and don't see the tower guards paying you any attention. A thin smile crosses your face just as you feel your muscles tighten. Your entire body goes stiff and you are unable to move at all. You see movement from your sides and then you see 2 Watchful order mages step out from the sides of the 2 buildings as several City Guards rush you and slap some magical shackles on your hands and legs.
For the second time that night you find yourself back in the Castle Ward, this time being escorted into Castle Waterdeep.
So that is where we are at. I have 2 more to post and I should have them up no later than tomorrow. Sunday's session will begin with the party being escorted from their cells in front of a Masked Lord with Lord Gralhund as the primary witness. I am not going to give up details though, you can read them Sunday. So look for the last 2 updates by tomorrow and I guarantee one of them will be well beyond your wildest imaginations!
erho: Too many minis, not enough time... Am I right?
Oct 29, 2019 21:28:01 GMT
sgtslag: If we could just do away with this whole "work" thing, and supporting ourselves, financially, and otherwise... Life always seems to get in the way of gaming. AHHH!!!...
Nov 6, 2019 18:32:16 GMT
erho: I will once again rise above Lurker status if I ever get back to painting, Real life work transitions... Adulting
Jan 31, 2020 16:23:29 GMT
factoriatabletop: sgtslag...oh man! you are right about it...
Mar 3, 2020 10:13:15 GMT
Draklith: Hey everyone just a quick stop by to see if anyone is still here, hope everyone is doing ok
May 26, 2020 18:27:20 GMT
sgtslag: This forum seems to be slowing down. I hope everyone is still crafting, safely! I will be here until they turn off the power... Cheers!
May 27, 2020 13:46:43 GMT
factoriatabletop: maybe we should try to make a contest here, between us
Jun 2, 2020 8:40:08 GMT
factoriatabletop: no prizes, just proud....dont know, anyone else?
Jun 2, 2020 8:40:40 GMT
sgtslag: Still unpacking after moving in October... Too much stuff, crafting materials are mostly still in boxes. Weekends are busy with life, so little progress made. Getting the urge to push through, though, soon. I have several projects waiting...
Jun 2, 2020 20:14:39 GMT
erho: Yeah I'm down for a painting contect
Jun 8, 2020 14:28:59 GMT
sgtslag: Started working on making hills, which match my Tee-Time carpet I use for my "grass mat," on my gaming table, for big battles. Got two long chunks of open-cell foam, from a friend. Used my Proxxon Hot Wire Cutter to make terrain hills out of them.
Jul 26, 2020 20:12:40 GMT
sgtslag: Came up with around 80 hills. Covering them with the same carpet, from scraps. They will match the tabletop, perfectly. Contact Cement, is my friend. Will post on it, when I get the pictures uploaded. Some prototypes done, as proof-of-concept...
Jul 26, 2020 20:14:06 GMT
randywest: does anyone know more manufacturers for 1/72 fantasy minis besides Dark Alliance, Caesar and Elhiem?
Sept 14, 2020 14:16:19 GMT
sgtslag: 50 Hills completed, 24 left to cover the sides on. Hoping to finish this project within the week. Then I'll post a build description. For war gaming, but it can cross over to RPG sessions... They match the ground 'cloth', perfectly.
Sept 19, 2020 19:03:09 GMT
sgtslag: Sorry, randywest, the listed makers are the only ones I know.
Sept 19, 2020 19:03:34 GMT
sgtslag: Ran out of Hot Glue, with only five hills left to add a skirt to the sides of. Wal-Mart closes at 8:00 PM, thanks to COVID. GRRRrrr! Another 30 minutes of work, and I would have been done: ~77 hills, modular, perfectly matching my table's ground cloth!
Sept 23, 2020 2:50:39 GMT
sgtslag: Will post a write-up soon, or after next week's vacation. Cheers!
Sept 23, 2020 2:51:57 GMT