5E Enhancing "Waterdeep: Dragon Heist"

pukunui

Adventurer
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.
Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

I do like the idea of a masked ball in Castle Waterdeep. Unfortunately, I don't really have the time to do much homebrewing of this adventure. I'm going to have to run it more or less straight, at least this first time through.

I have warned my players that it's not actually a heist adventure, despite the name, and that it's more about stopping the bad guys from getting the gold than it is about stealing it for themselves. They seem to be OK with that.


At this point, I'm thinking I might leave the timeline kind of vague and then I'll just declare it to be the 3rd of Marpenoth and have the Day of Wonders parade whenever it seems most convenient. None of my players pay particular attention to what day or month it is in-game anyway, so I don't know that it really matters.
 

Elfcrusher

Adventurer
I asked this a while ago, but does anybody have any opinions about a Mace of Disruption (potentially) falling into the hands of level 4-5 characters?
 

pukunui

Adventurer
I asked this a while ago, but does anybody have any opinions about a Mace of Disruption (potentially) falling into the hands of level 4-5 characters?
I can only see it being an issue if your follow-up campaign (be it Dungeon of the Mad Mage or something else) featured a lot of fiends or undead. Otherwise it’s not a big deal at all.
 

lluewhyn

Explorer
I like the idea about putting the keys in the villain lairs. Not sure if I'll try multiple lairs or just 1.

My thoughts upon reading about the keys was that they seem to come in at an annoying time- the players have just gone through what might be considered an annoying chain of "Keep Away/Your Stone is in Another Castle" and finally have the stone in their possession to search for the vault, and now they've got more hassle with collecting three more items? I think I might drop mention of them ahead of time so it makes sense when it gets to that part. That also adds more tension as the PCs are no longer the ones who have autonomy while pursuing the McGuffin, but rather the ones being pursued by other factions as they try to rustle up the last things they need.

I also think I'll seed some of the plot elements like rival Zhentarim groups with Manshoon, and other groups also looking for the Stone. This is a unique situation where the PCs are actively working on their quest, but the Big Bads haven't really taken notice of them yet because everyone and their brother is trying to get the stone too. You can also have members of other factions present so PCs can maybe temporarily team up with some of them to progress further.

In Chapter 2, I'm also thinking of:
1. Monitoring how interested the PCs are with maintaining the tavern. Since the PCs know there's a large sum of money present in the city and that's what the plot is about, they may (rightfully) feel that Chapter 2 is killing time and want to move on to the story?
2. Have the parade with the Nimblewrights, with someone there to explain the connection between the parade and the Hall of Gond. That gives a less clunky flow to going there to search for the Nimblewright Assassin in Chapter 3 than simply "By the way, you know that such creatures are often connected with the local temple...."
3. Minimize the parts in Chapter 2 about learning their neighbors except for those that can possibly assist with the investigations later. While I think running a tavern is neat, I'm not sure if this is the best adventure to do it if the PCs get focused on trying find the Stone shortly afterwards, and then go down into Undermountain right after that.
4. Have the PCs find out more about Neverember and the gnome he entrusted the Stone to. At this point, said gnome is Waterdeep's Most Wanted, and is afraid to go anywhere because so many people are hunting for him and his stone. This makes it so when the Fireball goes off in Chapter 3, the PCs immediately have an idea about what's going on.

Any other basic ideas for improving player agency in this adventure?
 

Elfcrusher

Adventurer
My latest idea:
1) When the PCs move into Trollskull Manor, there's an office and an attick packed with decades of bookkeeping and paperwork and old junk.
2) When they recover the stone, they learn that one of the keys is in...Trollskull Manor!
3) Digging through paperwork and junk hoping to find it, they find clues that lead them to a secret door in the cellar, behind a wine rack.
4) That leads to a short adventure in a dungeon, with a few (undead?) bad guys, traps, etc., eventually leading to the key.

Now they have a HQ with a poltergeist and a secret dungeon.
 

pukunui

Adventurer
I'm prepping for my next session, and I've been thinking about how, as written, there's really no way for the PCs to afford to get Trollskull Manor up and running as a fully-renovated and licensed tavern *before* they get their share of 500,000 gold coins in the Vault of Dragons.

Unless they take out a loan from somebody. Conveniently, the adventure establishes at least four people/groups who are in the moneylending business: Mirt, the Cassalanters, the Irlingstars, and Istrid Horn.

Unfortunately, the subject of how to go about securing a loan is never broached.

Although Istrid's description talks about her rates being comparable to those of the Cassalanters, it doesn't specify what any of their rates actually are.

Anyone got any thoughts on the matter?
 
I'm prepping for my next session, and I've been thinking about how, as written, there's really no way for the PCs to afford to get Trollskull Manor up and running as a fully-renovated and licensed tavern *before* they get their share of 500,000 gold coins in the Vault of Dragons.

Unless they take out a loan from somebody. Conveniently, the adventure establishes at least four people/groups who are in the moneylending business: Mirt, the Cassalanters, the Irlingstars, and Istrid Horn.

Unfortunately, the subject of how to go about securing a loan is never broached.

Although Istrid's description talks about her rates being comparable to those of the Cassalanters, it doesn't specify what any of their rates actually are.

Anyone got any thoughts on the matter?
Maybe Mirt's rate is based on the renown of the characters with the Harpers... the higher your renown, lower is the interest rate. I think it would be interesting to make the Cassalanters the most tempting offer, paint them in a nice tone and low rates, make the characters like them. Then, even if they're not your main villains, they can affect the story latter.
 
Ohh... OHHH... just got an idea.

The Cassalanters pay for the renovations, but in return, they ask the PCs to serve the drinks and catering in their charity ball (if they are not the villains)... that's a way to include this encounter in the Adventure if you don't set it in the summer. Make one of the factions discover the Cassalanters plot and ask the players to stop it from the inside.
 

pukunui

Adventurer
Maybe Mirt's rate is based on the renown of the characters with the Harpers... the higher your renown, lower is the interest rate. I think it would be interesting to make the Cassalanters the most tempting offer, paint them in a nice tone and low rates, make the characters like them. Then, even if they're not your main villains, they can affect the story latter.
Good ideas. Thanks.

Any ideas on specific interest rates?
 

collin

Explorer
Good ideas. Thanks.

Any ideas on specific interest rates?
Whatever the market will bear. ;)

Seriously, if you want the moneylenders to be more on the generous side, I think 10% would be reasonable. If you want them to be more greedy, I would shoot for 25%.
 

pukunui

Adventurer
???

Per what?

Makes all the difference.
Good point.



On a different note, I feel like chapter 2 has some issues, particularly in terms of the faction missions.

The biggest issue is one of timing. I suppose they can tackle their 3rd level missions while they're following up on the fireball clues but before they go to Gralhund Villa, but once they get there, it's pretty much straight on the plot train through to the big finale in the Vault of Dragons. When are they supposed to have a chance to do their 4th and 5th level faction missions?

Another issue with the timing relates specifically to the Zhent missions. After the PCs complete the first two, Tashlyn takes over from Davil, who's been arrested. So their first mission from her would be the 4th level mission. If they are curious about their new handler and seek to meet her, the book says she's able to reveal quite a bit about Urstul Floxin ... but by 4th level, the PCs should have already dealt with him at Gralhund Villa!

Lastly, not all of the missions are level appropriate. Take the second Harpers mission, for instance: A single gazer is holed up in some lady's shop. My party wasted the gazer in the sewer. It never even got to fire off a single eye ray. They were 1st level then. This sidequest is aimed at 3rd level PCs. What a joke!


As a result, I am thinking I will ignore the whole "one per level" faction mission limit and just let them complete several missions before the fireball goes off.



EDIT: As an aside, I just noticed that it's "Force Grey" and the "Gray Hands". What's up with that?!
 
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collin

Explorer
???

Per what?

Makes all the difference.
5000 gp. Pick a number.

"I'm a role-player, not a realtor, Spock!" :)

And if you want the moneylenders to be real jerks about it, you could have the interest compounded on a weekly or daily basis.;)
 

collin

Explorer
As an added fun bonus, you could have the group hire a contractor who practically lives at the place, having to make constant repairs and never finishes or leaves (the ghost, perhaps?). Sort of like the Eldin Bernecky character from the original Murphy Brown TV series.
 

robus

Lowcountry Low Roller
Lastly, not all of the missions are level appropriate. Take the second Harpers mission, for instance: A single gazer is holed up in some lady's shop. My party wasted the gazer in the sewer. It never even got to fire off a single eye ray. They were 1st level then. This sidequest is aimed at 3rd level PCs. What a joke!
This is starting to really bug me about WotC's adventures. They never reveal what an encounter was actually designed for (making one start to think that there was little to no consideration made, just went for what seemed cool... it can't really be that, but the fact that they're not willing to document the challenge, i.e. Easy, Medium, Hard, Deadly for 4 PCs at Level X, makes it appear that way).

Of course this encounter doesn't even fit into that range! So swap it out for a Spectator for a more appropriate challenge. But really what were they thinking?
 

lluewhyn

Explorer
This is starting to really bug me about WotC's adventures. They never reveal what an encounter was actually designed for (making one start to think that there was little to no consideration made, just went for what seemed cool... it can't really be that, but the fact that they're not willing to document the challenge, i.e. Easy, Medium, Hard, Deadly for 4 PCs at Level X, makes it appear that way).
This is a big issue with me. I think a simple fix (one that would at least give a head's up to the DM) would be to include the CR of the NPCs after their type. "Inside the room are six thieves (treat as Bandits, CR 1/2, led by a Half-Orc mob enforcer named Grunk (treat as Veteran, CR 2. (I'm writing from work so don't know the actual CRs)

I ran into this several times with Curse of Strahd, where there never is any acknowledgement about the general intent of the encounter, such as the infamous Hag fight that would mop the floor with the players if played correctly, or the encounter with two Iron Golems in a sealed room. I guess the assumption is that you're going through the adventure with the Monster Manual in one hand, your PC character sheets in the other, double-checking the math the whole time and making copious notes on sticky notes and pasting them all around the adventure, and know exactly what the writer was going for.

My issue isn't with the deadliness (or lack thereof) as much as lack of disclosure. If it was marked that said encounter was supposed to be easy/difficult/lethal/etc., it would serve as a head's up for me to take a second look and make my own determination if I wanted to leave that way or make any further preparations.

I ran into this with the Dragon Heist session before last where the PCs tackled the sewer hideout at the end of Chapter One. The Gazer is such an obviously pathetic fight, but I left him in (PCs deserve some easy wins sometimes), but I didn't realize the full lethality of the Intellect Devourer until after the session where the Fighter was stunned by Devour Intellect and asked "How is this cured?".

Would have been nice for the adventure to note that any PCs afflicted with the Devour Intellect ability can only be restored with a Greater Restoration spell. Said spell could be found at X temple for the cost of Y, Renaer Neverember can pull some strings to get someone to cast it once Floon is rescued, etc. Obviously, anyone afflicted by Body Thief is toast.

Instead, the adventure omits discussing the entire tactical strategy of the creature and the DM (in this case, me) has to come up with something on the fly if they've never used these monsters before. Of course, this is exasperated by the fact that the MM description is somewhat coy about how difficult it is to cure the condition.

This is a longer rant than originally intended and I know I'll just have to be more careful about reviewing all fights ahead of time, but dang, it wouldn't kill the designers to add a line or two discussing the intended difficulty and concerns for some fights.
 
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