Starting this adventure up in my last semester of college proved to mean that I could take a different approach to it than any other adventure I’d run before. Namely, I wouldn’t be in a time crunch to finish things up around particular periods of time (the end of a semester or school year, primarily), since I’m playing it online with an already geographically separated group. With that being the case, I was determined to make this adventure as close to a Breaking Bad-style slow burn as I could, since the players and I all enjoy the roleplaying and storytelling aspect of the game as much as, if not more than, the tactical combat and strategy portions.
Knowing that I’d be taking my sweet time with this one, and that the players were fine with that, I made a concerted effort to familiarize myself with Waterdeep as much as I possibly could, and make sure that the city seemed alive and actually populated with real people. After all, we’re going to be spending a lot of time here, so it seemed appropriate that they actually care about at least some of the sprawling city. I also sought out as much additional content as I could find, given that, if we’re going to be spending a lot of time here, we might as well have some fun doing it. There’s a huge wealth of content that creators have put out for Waterdeep; lots of little side adventures and jaunts through the town as well as expansions on the somewhat lacking faction missions present in chapter two. So I’m throwing as much stuff in here as I reasonably can.
Suffice to say, my attempts at making Dragon Heist a slow burn are paying off so far, as we spent the entirety of session 3, for lack of a better description, playing The Sims.
At this point I humbly request that Wobbles, Gardenia, Jo, and Copper look away, if for some reason you’ve found yourselves on this page, as well as anyone who might play this adventure sometime in the future. Don’t spoil it for yourself!
The PCs (level two):
Wobbles Offund: Rock Gnome Abjuration Wizard
Gardenia Stone: Moon Elf Circle of Plagues Druid
Copernicus “Copper” Cannith: Juggernaut Warforged Craftsman
Jo Raethran: High Elf Life Domain Cleric
We picked up right where we left off last week with the party arriving at Trollskull Manor with Volo, who promptly warned them about Lif, the poltergeist living in its taproom. I had written up descriptions of all the various decay to be found in the various rooms of the massive manor, and combined those with some handy descriptions I found on Reddit of the various repairs that needed to be made to each room. I boosted the repair cost up from 1000 gp to 1500, given that the party makeup allows for some pretty substantial income already and I wanted them to borrow at least some from Mirt so they could owe him a favor and I’d have an excuse to pull out the spectacular Blue Alley mission.
They gave the place a thorough investigation, which in itself took quite some time, while Copper headed back with Volo to the market in order to meet with Celniana, his new teacher of jewelry-making. I came up with some modifications to the “training” downtime activity from XGtE given that, as a Craftsman, Copper already has proficiency with all artisan’s tools. I still ruled that knowing the tools didn’t necessarily mean he could make intricate things with them just yet, so we figured 3 workweeks at 25 gp a week would get him up to snuff. Meanwhile Volo set up a meeting with a magistrate and sent a paper bird off to Mirt to have him come inspect the place for them the following day.
Ultimately, they liked the place despite it being a huge fixer-upper. Lif was a right nuisance, throwing glasses around and hanging up a vulgar painting of an elven woman in the taproom whenever no one was looking. I decided to throw some frogs in one of the bathtubs (which Wobbles immediately latched onto) and a cat in the spare room. Additionally, I introduced the party to neighbor Tally Fellbranch early on by having him call up to them while they broke into the upper floor (every outside door has rusted out locks holding it closed). Then, when Copper returned from his lesson, came the time for some bureaucracy.
When they set down for the night in Wobbles’s shop, Wobbles started taking some notes of what guilds he’d need to contact and in what order, aware of the fact that unsanctioned repairs would be a no-go. This turned out to be a lot more fun than anticipated, as I had already drawn up some NPCs to have as guild representatives (one of whom Jo had some fun interaction with, he sounded like Foghorn Leghorn). They got back to Trollskull Manor the next day to see Mirt playing with the resident cat before noting that repairs would most likely cost upwards of 1000 gp, but that he’d be willing to lend them whatever they needed in return for partial ownership. They talked him down to 2.5% ownership for every 100 gp he lent them, with the promise of being able to buy some of his shares back when it became profitable. Copper also asked him for a small loan of 100 gp to do some experimentation with his armor, which Mirt gave him on the condition that he be allowed to put Copper’s name down on some people’s lists (which gives him a connection to the Gray Hands and possibly the Harpers for later on in the chapter).
Wobbles wrote a bunch of letters to guild halls and sent them through the Zephyr Post, a great optional neighbor I can’t believe they left out of the final copy of the book, and then headed to the Market to buy some spell components. I rolled on my random NPC table and came up with Merric Fastfoot, a former soldier who now operates a small business spelling wizarding supplies (fine inks and paper, components for first level spells, and a couple spell scrolls) who sounds like the Engineer from TF2. Jo met with the Streetworkers’ Guild to organize a trash pickup for all the crap they hauled out, Gardenia went across the street and met Fala, getting a few potted plants out of the deal so she could do some more herablism, and Copper headed to Steam and Steel and met Avi and Embric, arranging a partnership wherein he could use their forge some nights in return for eventually allowing them access to the forge he plans to build into Trollskull Manor’s basement. All fun interactions; I’m also using some of the sidequests from the Valeur RPG guide to flesh out the neighbors further. They also noticed some moving crews setting up further down the alley where Frewn is eventually going to move in.
They finished up with a visit from Cole Clambertop, a steeplejack from the Masons’ Guild and side character from one of the great Leverage side missions I found on DM’s Guild. He offered to lower the price on the considerable repairs needed if they helped him and his wife out with a little something … the party accepted and headed off to bed for the night, agreeing to meet with him the next morning and discuss.
Overall it was a grand time and helped me set up a lot of further interactions and encounters without having any actual combat to speak of. I don’t think I even rolled any dice apart from determining the weather and a few random encounters along the streets that never ended up amounting to much. Next time I plan on running that Leverage mission to its end, introducing the next one, and possibly starting them on the Rats of Waterdeep mission as well. We’ll see what happens, though, we might end up just moving a bunch of furniture around.