**Caution this post contains spoilers for WDH!**

My players (9-year-old children, my wife and her 70+-year-old mother) just completed Waterdeep: Dragon Heist, and there follows my write up of the adventure.

The piplins!

I changed quite a lot in this campaign, after finding the book didn’t actually contain a heist in it! Thanks to the folks at the DMs Guild I was able to flesh out the important points.

What I changed/DM notes for this campaign:

  1. We did the Xanathar route.
  2. I combined Floon and Threestrings into one person. This meant I could have Threestrings as a tag-along NPC in the following missions and play him myself or have a guest play him.
  3. I used the “Waterdeep: Dragon Heist Complete DM’s Bundle” from the DM Guild to help. 
  4. I also read Sly Flourish, and “Waterdeep: City Encounters“.
  5. I had the ghostly spirit in the Manor have a sub-quest for his bones to be put to rest, mixed in with the “saving Meloon Wardragon” quest.
  6. As my two of my players had secret backgrounds, I worked them into the finale as last-minute reveals. One was an undercover policeman, which meant that the team were very lucky not to break the law and end up in prison. As much as I gave clues away to this identity (policemen winking to him, always letting them go, etc) no-one guessed it and my player was able to dump a plastic police badge on the gaming table during the reveal. Worked a treat.
  7. I put in a better chase scene using the rules “How to Build F$&%ing Awesome Encounters!“. I had used these before and they work really well. I also used: “Urban Chase Events.”
  8. I put the vault under the theatre and the Xanathar’s final key to the stone in the room before the vault. Much simpler. A small puzzle was which item on the table was the key? Answer: the fish!
  9. I put a proper heist in using the rules “Here’s To Crime: A Guide to Capers and Heists“. This meant a planning stage and rules for fumbles during the job. Also, the players dressed up for the theatre in their finest (in real life) – really added to the fun.
  10. I changed the dragon’s other form to a dog. I was thinking of the talking dog from Skyrim.
  11. The Blackstaff was my Deus Ex-Machina when things look dicey. I was DM’ing children remember!

All in all, this was a fantastic campaign, and it was brilliant having Grandma play the bard. We set up the game so that our third player was joining via laptop and I had a camera pointed at the map so she could see what was happening.

So, here is the tale:

The man entered the bar so quietly it was as though a light wind had gently rocked the doors. He wasn’t inside, then he was. He stood there silently. Observing the room from the shadows. The room housed a collection of dark tables and booths deep in shadow. To his right, a bar ran the gamut of the room until ending in a kitchen door, and to his left dark and distorted windows lined the wall, displaying the street outside. At the far end of the room, a roaring fire flickered and sent out the warmth bathing the room. Various patrons sat at tables, ignored him and drank their drinks in silence.

Suddenly a sound jerked his head around to the bar, and he saw as the bottles appeared to move on their own, tilted, poured a drink into a glass and sent it down the bar to a waiting serving girl: a ghostly barman, no concern.

Apparently satisfied, he walked directly to a table and sat down. From the shadows, a women came to join him. He kept his right hand below the tabletop, gripping his nearest knife as she sat.

“I see you’re pleased to see me,” she said, noting the hand.

“Heard about a job, big shot gangster, putting together a crew.”

She arched an eyebrow, “Yes?”

He squinted at her, “What do you think?”

She sat back and folded her arms, saying nothing.

“Yeah, what do you know?” He asked.

“You look good,” she replied, “a little rough around the edges…”

“I’ve been up north”.

“With your dwarves?”

He nodded.

The city of Waterdeep

Volo, begins the adventure

Our characters

“I’m was in the employ of the Champion of Fellbar. He sent me to Waterdeep to find this crew”.

“Employ?” She asked, “Are you looking to join them or stop them?”

“It’s complicated. It involves the Dragon’s Bane and the recovery of… an item.”

“What kind of-” she began.

“The well-guarded kind,” he said, interrupting her.

She rubbed her chin, “Hmmm, dragons involved?”

He nodded, looking around.

“I have just the crew, they have experience with dragons”.

“Tell me about them”.

“Buy me a drink?”

He signalled the bar server to come over.

“It all started,” she said, “with a heist…”

Waterdeep had a crime problem, a serious crime problem, organised by the insane beholder, leader off the Xanathar group. Recently a treasure of 500,000 gold pieces had been stolen and secreted somewhere in the city. Every criminal was on the prowl for it.

Our heroes knew nothing of this, of course, they were gathered together in the Yawning portal bar by an acquaintance for a simple investigation. But little were they to know, that this would drag them deep into the dark heart of the criminal world and bring them face to stalks with the cause of it all.

It all started with this friend in need; the traveller Volo. He asked four adventurers to join him that first night to find his missing friend, “Threestrings” the bard. Although the first time that they had ever met, Volo chose well for their skill complimented them perfectly.

Firstly, there was the stalwart dwarven cleric, “Frida Hillstone”. A veteran officer from the campaigns in the southern hills, a famous goblin fighter, who carried a dwarven hammer as her relic and connection to her god.

Second, came from the woods, a svelt elf druid called, “Flamewulf”. The name being a clue to her true identity as a shapeshifter and an incredibly imaginative one too. Known for shifting into many forms, rather than relying on just the bear common to the moon druids.

Third, there stood tall and imperious, the high elf wizard “Legend Saphire”. She had the eye of someone who used intelligence and charm to get her way and fire spells to back up her sharp tongue.

Finally, came the Dragonborn fighter, “Iroh”. He was a native of Waterdeep, also having served in some unknown regiment. Big and imposing and prone to breathing flame on his enemies.

They met amongst friends, which served as a warning, as no sooner had they formed before a troll rose from the portal and attacked the bar area. Thinking very quickly, the team reacted and fought back with Legend leaping to hang from a chandelier and conjuring flames to drive the monster back into the void.

Volo bid them investigate the disappearance of his friend, and the team soon learned from investigations in The Skewered Dragon and docks that the man looked just alike the son of the Open Lord of Waterdeep, Renaer Neverember. Threestrings and Renaer were drinking, Sure enough, and they tracked the Zhentarim kidnappers to a warehouse on Candle Lane with a winged snake symbol on the door. Inside it contained dead bodies of one gang and the kenku culprits of another. Dispatching the enemy, the team found Renaer trussed up for the killing and saved his life. The kenku directed them to search the local sewers, and sure enough, they came across a Xanathar Guild hideout protected by all sorts of foul beasts. Fighting their way inside, they faced a Gazer, which they quickly killed. Venturing deeper, they came across the horrifying sight of the mind flayer, Nihiloor, servant to the Xanathar, together with his crew about to suck the brains out of poor Threestrings thinking him Renaer. A fight ensued, and the squid faced one ported away, leaving his companions to die and the bard to be rescued.

This it would seem should have been the end of the adventure; but, upon return to the explorer, he only had payment in the form of the deeds to Trollskull Manor; a tumbledown bar in a northern street.

They took the dead as payment, and set up their base in the manor, enjoining a local gang of youths to stay in the attic. Making friends of the local ghost by fixing up the place, they were approached with the potential of work by the Blackstaff herself, Vaja Safahr. She tasked them with first speaking with a dragon swimming in the bay and paying them in the treasure that they found, which they used to complete the restoration of the manor and enabled them to set up a grand opening night. On this night, Vaja gave them a far more challenging mission. One of her Grey Hand mercenaries was acting strange, could they find out what was up. Little did anyone know that this man, Meloon Wardragon, was up to no good. He convinced the team to join him in the sewers, looking for the remains of the manor’s ghost. Instead, he led them directly into a pitched battle with a Hezrou demon. Azuredge, his holy axe, counted for a lot in the battle; but, as he planned to turn on them, it fell from his hands, its charm not allowing any to wield it who intend harm to the city. Drawing it up, the Dragonborn seemingly slay the man, only to find the demonic forces inside his head break out. Luckily the Blackstaff arrived and forced the Intellect Devourer to leave his body and be destroyed. Very happy with the team, the Blackstaff made them members of team Grey and left them to enjoy their rest.

Trollskull Manor

The Hezrou demon!

Fireball!

Police investigation

Tracking the Nimblewright

A few weeks later, a sudden explosion rocked the area, killing several locals and injuring more. Rushing to investigate, the team quickly worked out what had happened and that this was a botched robbery. They tracked down that a Niblewright must have been responsible and ventured to the nearby Grond temple to talk with one of the robotic fold there. He turned out to be innocent; but, gave them a detector, which could lead them to the culprit. Searching the city, the team discovered a signal coming from Gralhund Villa. Breaking in they were violently accosted by the groundsman, who mistook them for reinforcements for the murderous bandits already infesting the grounds. Fighting through the bandits, they made their way up to the master bedrooms where they saved Orond Gralhund from the assassin Urstul Floxin. He confessed that he and his wife had ordered the Niblewright to steal a “key”, which unlocked a treasure trove containing 500,000 stolen gold pieces. Overhearing this, the lady of the house, Yalah Gralhund and her bodyguard Hrabazz attempted to kill our heroes to remove witnesses; but, they proved too formidable. The lady was left just breathing, the orc not so much, for the police.

Taking up the detector again, they soon found a signal for the missing robot and a chase across the entire city ensued. Barreling through markets, alleyways, up and under carts and eventually through the city park they caught the Niblewright who confessed he was taking the key stone of Golorr back to his master, The Xanathar, in his secret lair under the theatre. Investigating the theatre, our crew found several ways to potentially infiltrate including the Dragonborn impersonating the star of that night’s show! Convincing the actor to let him take his place, they dressed up in their finery and made their way inside. The ladies snuck around the proceedings, while the Dragonborn was thrust upon the stage and gave a fantastic rousing performance of Henry the Fifth!

Joining back together, they snuck into the Xanathar’s back room, while the monster watched the remaining performance from his private box with the curtains pulled. Here they quickly determined that the goldfish swimming in a bowl was the missing key fragment and uniting this with the key stone opened a portal.