5E Enhancing "Waterdeep: Dragon Heist"

pukunui

Adventurer
Rereading the autumn quest chain and a few things have popped out:

1) When the PCs first meet Jarlaxle masquerading as Laeral, the book says that if they see through the disguise, the drow tells them honestly that he will be giving the money back to Waterdeep. While that's not the whole truth, he isn't lying either, so what if the PCs take him at his word and decide to help him? That kind of puts an end to most of the quest chain right there.

Yes, they'd still have to go interrogate Fenerus and find out where the real stone is, but they wouldn't end up chasing drow gunslingers across the rooftops, which is a big part of the fun of that chain. I suppose I could do what the book suggests at that point and switch the main villain without switching the season.

As an aside, it appears that Jarlaxle is relying on his hat of disguise to make him look like Laeral. But the hat only lets you alter your physical appearance, as per the disguise self spell, so how is Jarlaxle disguising his voice? I guess he's just really good at making himself sound like a woman ... ;)

2) Later in the quest chain, when the PCs are supposed to be finding a way to talk to Fenerus at the courthouse, it gives the option of having the PCs gain an audience with the real Laeral. Since the PCs will think they've already been dealing with her, surely that will come up, and she'll discover that someone has been impersonating her. Yet no mention of this possibility is made in the text. I'd imagine she'd be pretty miffed and/or angry and at the very least ask the PCs to find out who it is (if she's too busy to do it herself).
 
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robus

Lowcountry Low Roller
I've been continuing to think about how to remix this adventure to have a heist finale and this is my current thoughts:

The adventure plays out as written (with whatever tweaks as necessary to enhance/streamline the plot), until the adventurers reach the vault of dragons. There, once they think victory is at hand, the villain that has also been searching for the dragons appears (they've been spying on the adventurers in some way so that they'll lead the way - it would be cool if there is some item the adventurers were given early in the adventure that was actually a spying device :) ). Anyway, the adventurers are captured and the loot stolen. They are released, bruised but otherwise mostly unharmed once the loot has been secured by the villain (it takes a little while to transport the ill-gotten gains). Perhaps they've been left with a dragon apiece for their trouble?

Once the adventurers return to their base an NPC (Laeral Silverhand?) seeks them out offering them a way to get revenge on the villain (and retrieve the hoard). The plan is for the adventurers to take a Portable Hole provided by the NPC into the villains lair and transfer the gold to Castle Waterdeep's treasury (where the other end of the hole is connected). The PCs can also jump through the hole to effect their escape.

For Xanathar, the loot has been stashed in the Secret Room (X36). (And of course Xanathar knows about it :) , your choice if the explosives are still there...)

For the Cassalantars, the loot is either in the Secret Vault (C29) in the cellar, or if you want a bigger challenge ( :) ) in the Secret Vestry, (room A6) in the Temple of Asmodeus

For Jarlaxle, it has to be on the Marpenoth, but there's no obvious location. My suggestion, the table in Dining Room (room U9) lifts up to reveal stairs down into a tight storage hold where the loot has been laid as ballast in the submarine.

For Manshoon, it also has no obvious place so I suggest a secret room hidden behind a bookcase in the Library, room E9.

If anyone has a better suggestion for extracting the weighty hoard from these lairs I'm all ears. I think the PCs should also have some scroll that will create an illusion that the loot is untouched so that the villain (if they check) believe that everything is OK.

The PCs can learn of the outrage when the ruse is discovered as a little postscript to the adventure, where some gossip regales the bar with a hilarious tale of the villain trying to use an illusory hoard to curry favor with the city elites. If your PCs have adopted a name perhaps the villain was heard to curse them by name? :)

Anyway, that seems like it could work.
 

pukunui

Adventurer
Anyway, the adventurers are captured and the loot stolen.
How do you pull this off in a way that doesn't upset the players? In my experience, players hate having their agency taken away like this. (Mine grumbled when I read the bit at the beginning of the book about handwaving their PCs getting arrested.)
 

robus

Lowcountry Low Roller
How do you pull this off in a way that doesn't upset the players? In my experience, players hate having their agency taken away like this. (Mine grumbled when I read the bit at the beginning of the book about handwaving their PCs getting arrested.)
I agree that it would be tricky to pull off smoothly, but the world doesn’t stop functioning around the PCs. These villains are tough so I think it could be foreshadowed that their ability to beat the villains to the loot *and* get away with would be pretty amazing. Of course they could desire to fight to the death, so it would be best to indicate that the odds are overwhelming, and if they fight they are quickly reduced to 0 hp and captured by the overwhelming force brought by the villain.

Fortunately the vault itself is not much of a challenge, so the players are probably going to be thinking that was a bit easy for the finale?
 

robus

Lowcountry Low Roller
What if the PCs have a powerful ally like Laeral with them when they go to the vault?
She’s the villain’s accomplice and they’re going to split the loot? :) So now it’s not only stealing the loot back but also proving that she’s a baddie? This is one scenario where Volo might come in handy...
 

pukunui

Adventurer
Maybe? I'd be hesitant to do that with Laeral specifically, but it could potentially work with somebody else.
 

Elfcrusher

Adventurer
How do you pull this off in a way that doesn't upset the players? In my experience, players hate having their agency taken away like this. (Mine grumbled when I read the bit at the beginning of the book about handwaving their PCs getting arrested.)
Beat them in combat, but instead of a TPK they eventually wake up. Captive.
 

robus

Lowcountry Low Roller
Maybe? I'd be hesitant to do that with Laeral specifically, but it could potentially work with somebody else.
Yeah, I’m not sure what exactly would happen there, but, really, you have to hold these ideas loosely :) if it turns out the original ending concept isn’t going to fly then fine. But it’s nice to have some surprises conceptualized...
 

robus

Lowcountry Low Roller
Updated the collection of DMs Guild publications related to Dragon Heist. Now with review stars! (where applicable :) )

Edit: And added the DND Beyond posts that are related

Edit, edit: And if you've downloaded something from DMs Guild and see it has no stars (or the star rating seems off), go and give it at least a star rating and hopefully a review too!
 
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collin

Explorer
"Somebody" should write up an adventure supplement that:
1) Modify the final stage of each of the 4 season sequences in chapter 4 to give the heroes the clue that it's under Castle Waterdeep
2) Make up a new table of keys, so that each key is a physical object, with a random location in the villain lairs
3) Build out a Masked Ball at Waterdeep Castle event, that would include:
- A way for the characters to get an invitation
- Some kind of social intrigue that must be resolved/addressed before the vault can be entered

If it were done well I would definitely pay for that on DMs Guild.
I think this definitely has promise. Nice work!
 

Sithikurro

Visitor
I have an adventure for 7th Sea 2ed that uses a ball for a similar purpose (learning the location of villain's hq. The villain is also present at the ball). I just might think how to convert into DnD...
 

robus

Lowcountry Low Roller
Played some Zombicide Black Plague over the weekend and the tiles seemed like they could work well for an urban campaign (if you’re happy going gridless :) ). I could imagine representing Trollskull Alley and perhaps some other locations with the tiles?

BP_gametiles.png
 

pukunui

Adventurer
According to Volo's, a gazer "resembles the beholder who dreamed it into existence."

I had a go at recoloring the gazer to look like the Xanathar had spawned it:

Gazer [Xanathar].jpg
 
When/if they release it, you should definitely add Power Score RPG’s “A Guide to Waterdeep: Dragon Heist”. Their “A Guide to...” releases have been great.
 
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pukunui

Adventurer
When/if they release it, you should definitely add Power Score RPG’s “A Guide to Waterdeep: Dragon Heist”. Their “A Guide to...” releases have been great.
Sean's steadily working through it on his website.


In other news, the Xanathar Guild claimed its first scalp last night. The monk tried going toe-to-toe with an enlarged (and enraged) duergar and was given a new ventilation hole in his skull for his troubles.

The surviving PCs + Renaer went on to defeat the half-orc wizard and intellect devourer and rescue Floon, however. They want to hunt down the mind flayer. (To that end, I'm going to see if I can get them to join the Gray Hands so they can eventually get the quest to do just that!)
 
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pukunui

Adventurer
On a different note, I have chosen to run the adventure in the autumn. The Day of Wonders is on the 3rd of Marpenoth. I'm having trouble deciding how far ahead of that date to start the adventure. A tenday? Two tendays? I feel like I ought to have the Day of Wonders occur *before* the fireball, as there's not much time for it to happen afterwards.

Basically, how much time should I allow for chapter 2?
 
On a different note, I have chosen to run the adventure in the autumn. The Day of Wonders is on the 3rd of Marpenoth. I'm having trouble deciding how far ahead of that date to start the adventure. A tenday? Two tendays? I feel like I ought to have the Day of Wonders occur *before* the fireball, as there's not much time for it to happen afterwards.

Basically, how much time should I allow for chapter 2?
I have been trying to plot out the timeline on a calendar as well. I will have my PCs complete a few sandboxy quests (utilizing a notice board format/rumors) first before Dragon Heist formally begins, but here is the Dragon Heist timeline I have so far:

10th of Eleint - The Stone of Golorr is stolen
12th of Eleint - Gang war erupts between Zhents and Xanathar
14th of Eleint - Floon goes missing
16th of Eleint - Volo hires the PCs (Missing notice is also posted for Renaer on their board at the beginning of this session)
23rd of Eleint - the Sea Maiden's Faire arrives (PCs will see a flyer on their notice board advertising the upcoming parade and opening of the faire). I chose to have this occur after Chapter 1 because Bregan D'aerthe is not directly involved in those events. However any spies Jaraxle has in the city may be communicating him and hurrying him on his way to Waterdeep.
26th of Eleint - Once in Waterdeep AL adventure occurs tweaked to my own campaign. The McGuffin is a stone eye, one of three that fits into the blinded Stone of Golorr, and act as vault keys. The other eyes will probably be in villain lairs (1 in Sylgar's fishbowl in the Xanathar's lair, the last is undecided). This event will occur as a free-for-all with several faction agents (the villains' underlings plus the PCs who are working for a custom faction of my own) vying to acquire the stone eye during the midst of Bighat's show.
3rd of Marpenoth - Day of Wonder. I will have events occur around this. Maybe some haywire creations, the escaped bear, and the opening of the Sea Maiden's Faire (carnival games, etc.)
15th of Marpenoth - God's Day. I am thinking of having the fireball hit on this day. It might be all the more shocking since magic is frowned upon on this reverent holiday. Before and/or after this date the PCs will have to acquire the Stone and the other two eyes (assuming they acquired the first eye at Bighat's show).
30th of Marpenoth - Liar's Night. Using someone else's suggestion, I am relocating the Vault to Castle Waterdeep and staging a Masquerade Ball on Liar's Night. PCs will have to acquire an invitation and infiltrate, and then find and access the Vault while duping other villains (primarily Jaraxle) and the Watch.

My PCs (one of whom is a dwarf) should have the ultimate goal of acquiring the gold for their own faction (the 'deep Delvers - a disenfranchised group of Dwarves and other small folk who have suffered in the slums of Undercliff since the Warrens collapsed and left them bereft of their subterranean home. Their dwarven leader, a mafia style crime boss called the Thane, wants to use the gold to become a Masked Lord and give the smallfolk a voice in Waterdeep).

This timeline gives the PCs about a month and a half between the events of Chapter 1 and the culmination of the adventure. It gives them roughly 15 days between the fireball and the Masquerade Ball. I am trying to minimize the McGuffin hunt and maximize the heist elements of the adventure.
 

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