Running The Alexandrian’s Dragon Heist: Part 4

Part four of our campaign journal for the Alexandrian Remix of Waterdeep: Dragon Heist1

Return to Dragon Heist: Part 1 or Part 3

Spoiler Alert: What follows is a record of our game. It pre-supposes some familiarity with both the original adventure and the remix, but you shouldn’t have any trouble following along even if you haven’t played either. However, if you are planning on playing Dragon Heist in the future you should probably stop reading now.

Session VI: The 4th of Ches, Morning

GM’s Note: Level Advancement without XP

Traditionally, a player character’s (PC) level advancement is “fuelled” by experience points (XP) and combat encounters are Fifth Edition’s default method for gaining XP.

Dead Monsters = XP.

However, the Dungeon Master’s Guide (DMG)2 also gives game masters (GM) the option of awarding XP for non-combat encounters and “significant” adventure milestones.

Alternatively, the DMG proposes eschewing XP altogether. Instead, PCs can either advance, arbitrarily, every 4 to 12 hours of real time play3 or periodically, at key points in the adventure.4

As a player, I know tracking XP can create a sense of anticipation (particularly near level thresholds). On the other hand, converting cadavers into XP clearly privileges ‘corpse making’ over other styles of play… Also, as a novice GM, I am always on the lookout for ways to lighten my prep. So, in the end, I opted not to track XP, instead Hailey and Ellen’s PC gain levels at predetermined points in the adventure:

First Level: Starting the Adventure

Rheis and Qi’da started the adventure at 1st level. I regret this a little bit — throughout the adventure, I have adjusted various encounters to account for our miniature adventuring party. I could have saved myself some work if I had taken Justin’s advice and started Rheis and Qi’da at 3rd level.

Second Level: Finding Floon

Here we are! Session six: Rheis and Qi’da have rescued Floon/Renaer and finally taken possession of the Trollskull Tavern. They wake up bright eyed and bushy tailed, having gained a level overnight.

Third/Fourth Level: Faction Missions

The PC’s will advance to fourth level once they have completed a few faction missions. I had originally capped this at level three but (since their are only two PCs) I want to make sure they reach fourth level before the fireball kicks off the main adventure.

Fifth-Eighth Level: The Stone of Golorr and the Three Eyes

And finally, each time the PC’s capture one of the Stone of Golorr’s three eyes (or the Stone itself), they will gain a level.

Meeting Danel

Once again, Qi’da finds the night has left her unrested and very thirsty.

Also, she hears the sound of water trickling down the inn’s stairs. She wakes Rheis and they follow the water upstairs, eventually finding a leak in the roof.

Qi’da crawls out onto the roof and does her best to patch the hole temporarily. 

The friends agree to make a quick stop at the carpenter’s guildhall before meeting Elra’s masons.

They find the guildhall of the Most Excellent Order of Carpenters’, Roofers’, & Plasterers’ at the southeastern tip of the Trade Ward.

The inside of the expansive main hall is filled with tables — most are empty.

The eastern wall is lined with wickets — one of which is occupied by a sour looking old woman.

The friends pause at the door and dither about who they should talk to.

Seeing their uncertainty, a young man seated at a nearby table jogs over. He introduces himself as Danel — “a journeyman carpenter.”

Qi’da explains their roofing situation and Rheis mentions that the tavern might need a few other repairs.

Danel agrees to come to look at tavern the following morning.

Their business concluded the friends hurry on to their next meeting.

Meeting Dalg, Dalg the Younger & the Peabodys

Two dwarf men are waiting for them. They have set up a temporary hoist and are just finishing lowering their equipment down into the sewer, onto a waiting sewer-cart. The wheels on this purpose built cart straddle the sewer’s central channel.

The two groups exchange handshakes and the older dwarf says, “I’m Dalg. And this is my son, Dalg the Younger. We’ll be glad to have someone watching our backs while we work — the sewers can be a mite dangerous, even at the best of times.”

Having said his piece, Dalg leads the way down into the dark.

As they near the sewer outpost’s entrance Rheis and Qi’da quietly sneak ahead.

Unfortunately, they are spotted by Rhies’ pet gazer.

Still hoping to tame the little monstrosity, Rheis makes little noises like he is calling a cat.

“Liars!” screeches the purplish eyeball and Rheis is thrown down into the wet muck by an invisible blast of magic.

Qi’da looses an arrow which knocks the gazer back against the intersection’s central stone column.

Rheis calls out, “Wait!”

But the gazer loops round the pillar and zooms away down the northern tunnel.

“You folks really know how to make friends,” Dalg quips, as he and his son wheel the cart forward and start setting out their equipment.

As the two Dalgs get to work, Rheis offers to stand guard while Qi’da does a quick sweep of the outpost to make sure it is empty.

Passing by the goblin’s guard post, Qi’da notes the congealed blood pooled on the floor — obviously, the goblin had put up a fight.

The rest of the outpost is also empty although she does find a small stash of coins in (what she assumes) is ‘Flame-fist’s’ bedroom.

In the centre of the chamber the mind flayer had entered is a stone pillar. A circle with ten radiating lines (the same symbol that had been chalked on the sewer walls) has been carved into the pillar. A fist sized indentation marks the centre of the circle — Qi’da is reminded of the stone the mind flayer had palmed when it came into this room.

Nevertheless, she isn’t quite sure what to make of the pillar. Exploring the rest of the room, she finds a secret door. Opening the door, she finds Rheis chatting with the two Dalgs and waves her friend into the room.

Studying the pillar, Rheis concludes that it is magical in nature, but cannot discern its exact purpose.

Giving up, he and Qi’da explore the outpost’s remaining rooms and, to their delight, find a second secret door. This one leads to a basement filled with brewer’s supplies.

Climbing the stairs they burst in on a halfling family having a late breakfast. Flashing their Force Grey badges mollifies the alarmed halflings. The father introduces himself as Mr. Brun Peabody; Brewmaster. 

Rheis wonders aloud if he could sample some of the brewmasters wares and Mr. Peabody enthusiastically agrees to give him a tour and a taste.

Qi’da, meanwhile returns to check on the masons. While she is letting them know about the third secret doorway that will need to be bricked up, Qi’da is interrupted by the sound of high pitched laughter moving quickly toward her from the northern tunnel.

She peers into the dark tunnels and her eyes narrow when she recognizes Rheis’ gazer careening toward her. She looses an arrow at the little purple beastie, but her shot goes wide. 

Instead of retaliating, the gazer abruptly swings into the eastern tunnel. As it blasts by Qi’da it blows a loud, wet, raspberry at her. And as it disappears down the tunnel, the gazer cackles madly, but its laughter is quickly drowned out by the sound of something very large coming down the northern tunnel.

The dwarves waste no time scrambling over their half finished wall and Qi’da leaps through the secret door, slamming it shut behind her.

Whatever was chasing the gazer rushes by the door and down the southern tunnel.

Rheis, meanwhile has finished sampling the halfling beer and is, leisurely, making his way back.

In her haste, Qi’da nearly slams into Rheis — a hasty explanation tumbles out of her and the two of them rush back through the outpost to make sure the Dalgs are safe.

Happily they find Dalgs hunkered down in the goblin’s guard station and send them up to the Peabody’s to get a squad of the City Watch.

After a quick debate, Rheis and Qi’da decide to separate in order to cover as much ground as possible. Qi’da backtracks the gazer up the northern tunnel. Eventually she finds another three-way intersection. After a cursory inspection she decides to turn back rather than risk getting lost in the tunnels.

Rheis attempts to track the gazer eastward. After a fruitless search, he also returns to the outpost.

Session VII: The 4th of Ches, Late Morning

GM’s Note: Map

I think I’ve mentioned before that we are not using miniatures for this game. We are however, using the occasional map for reference. Waterdeep: Dragon Heist includes quite a few maps and I have supplemented these with a few more as the need arrises.

This particular tunnel map started its life as Dyson Logos’ Hollowstone Bandit Camp.

Battling the Worm

Meeting back at the outpost’s intersection for a short conference, Rheis and Qi’da decide to take a second look at Qi’da’s intersection.

Rheis notices that the northwestern branch has significantly less sewage flowing from it and they decide to investigate a little further.

Not too far down this tunnel they discover a breach in the wall. The entire lower section of the wall has been destroyed . Most of the sewage is flowing into this hole. There are also several smaller (gazer sized) holes in the upper section of the tunnel wall.

Rheis points out that the debris has scattered inside the sewer, “It looks like something big broke into the sewer.”

Qi’da nods her head, “but did it come back? Or is it still in the sewer?”

Rheis leans through the rupture — a sizeable grotto spreads out beneath him. A miniature waterfall of sewage cascades down to the floor beneath. A natural slope spirals down to the left. Several stalagmites are huddled together in the shadow of the ramp. Curiously, there are no corresponding stalactites. A substantial heap of rubbish is mounded along the right side of the cavern. Three good sized tunnels line the wall on the far side of the cave.

The friends carefully make their way down the spiral ramp. As they reach the bottom, they realize that the stalagmites are pulsating ever so slightly.

Before they can decide what to do next, they hear something large moving in the sewer above them.

Qi’da quickly spider climbs up the wall and hides just above the broken sewer entrance.

Rheis looks around for a place to hide and — seeing no other option — dives into the pile of trash.

Just as Rheis is getting settled, a massive arthropod’s head fills the sewer entrance; its tentacular whiskers probing in air for a moment.

“Carrion crawler,” Rheis thinks to himself.

Apparently satisfied that it is alone, the aberration makes its undulating way down the ramp and curls itself around the stalagmite cocoons.

Hoping the giant centipede won’t hear him, Rheis crawls out of the trash and waves Qi’da down to help him up.

With Qi’da’s help, Rheis manages to scramble up the sewage slicked wall. Unfortunately, he knocks a little rubble loose during his ascent and the carrion crawler catapults upright and gives chase.

Rheis and Qi’da sprint back to the Xantharian outpost — the great worm hard on their heels — and tumble through the secret entrance.

Enraged, the crawler batters at the doorway. Finally, the lintel cracks under the onslaught and the aberration lurches into the room.

With a desperate prayer, Rheis brandishes Tymora’s amulet and a flash of light strikes the creature.

The light seems to cling to it and, shrieking with pain and furry, it lashes out at Qi’da.

Rolling under the creature’s attack, Qi’da grabs ahold of its tentacles; pulling herself closer in order to bite it.

However, before she can sink her teeth into the monster, Rheis unleashes another bold of divine light. And, with one more great shriek, the carrion crawler crashes to the ground. Dead.

Frustrated, Qi’da bites into the great worm’s corpse. However, she quickly spits out a mouthful of ichor in disgust. Bug juice will not satisfy her craving for blood.

Qi’da is wiping still the ichor from her face when four officers of the Watch carefully enter the room — truncheons at the ready. Their marvelling gazes travel back and forth between the two friends and the crawler’s still-smoking carapace.

One of them chuckles under his breath, ”I guess Staget was wrong about you two.”

The remainder of the day passes without event. The two dwarves manage to finish walling up all three entrances — entombing the colossal centipede inside the outpost.

The 4th of Ches, Evening:

Meeting Sir Ambrose

It is not quite dusk when Rheis and Qi’da climb out of the sewer and they hurry to the City of the Dead.

A dragonborn stands just inside the gate, chatting with two Watch officers. His green scales are tinged a tarnished silver with age and his well used armour marks him as an experienced knight.

Both Rheis and Qi’da note the death emblem — a sigil of Anerius, god of wine, night, and death — worked into his shield and subsequently defaced with deep grooves (an clear attempt to ward off death’s power).

GM’s Note: Show, Don’t Tell

I know exactly nothing about the pantheon of the Forgotten Realms. However, since Hailey chose to play a cleric we needed at least one or two gods for the game.

Hailey chose the trickery domain and the goddess, Tymora, from the Player’s Handbook (PHB) list of suggested gods. Officially, Tymora is the goddess of good fortune5 but I figured that Tymora’s portfolio probably included bad luck as well.

This sparked the idea that every deity has a dual nature. Celestials draw their power from one aspect of a god(ess) and the dark powers6 syphon power from another facet of the same divinity. People also attempt to curry favour with (or avoid the attention of) the different sides of a deity.

All of this is mildly interesting (to me), but nobody wants to listen to me drone on about my homemade religion. So, I let Sir Ambrose’s shield do the talking for me.

The dragonborn knight greets them cheerfully, “Well met comrades, our mutual friend described you well. I am Sir Ambrose.”

He motions them inside and nods to the two guards, who close, and lock, the gates behind them; The Watch does not patrol the City of the Dead at night.

Sir Ambrose chuckles softly at their slight alarm. “No doubt Myrtle told you that there have been rumours of skeletons roaming the cemetery of late. I’ve not seen any myself, but if we split up we will be able to cover a lot more ground.”

Rheis and Qi’da are a little uneasy at the thought of separating. Nevertheless, they agree to divide the graveyard into thirds — one section for each of them…

Despite their initial disquiet, the night passes without event.

The 5th of Ches, Early Morning:

Starting Renovations

By the time they return home to the Trollskull, the sun has crested over the city’s skyline.

Danel is waiting for them outside the derelict building.

“This place certainly has seen better days,” he says cheerfully, by way of greeting.

After Danel looks the interior over and the three do a bit of haggling, they settle on a price of 300 gold dragons for the structural work with a further 100 dragons to complete the finer finishing work.

Qi’da fishes the 100 dragon deposit out of her purse and Danel leaves — pledges to be back by the afternoon to begin work on the roof.

He also promises to bring a glacier and a mason the next morning — to replace the broken window and inspect the basement’s stonework.

Go To Dragon Heist: Part 5

Notes

  1. The image at the top of the page can be found on page 12 of Waterdeep: Dragon Heist, 2018.
  2. Dungeon Master’s Guide (DMG), 2014.
  3. See “Session-Based Advancement” on page 261 of the Dungeon Master’s Guide (DMG).
  4. See “Story-Based Advancement” on page 261 of the DMG.
  5. See page 294 of the Player’s Handbook (PHB) for a list of deities of the Forgotten Realms.
  6. AKA: fiends.