5E Enhancing "Waterdeep: Dragon Heist"

pukunui

Adventurer
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?
Good points! It would be nice if they disclosed more of their thinking for the DM.

A spectator does seem like a more appropriate challenge for a 3rd level party ... That said, it occurred to me this morning that maybe they were expecting a single 3rd level PC to investigate rather than the whole party. A gazer would still be a ridiculously easy encounter for a single PC but the gazer might at least get the opportunity to actually do something before it dies.
 

pukunui

Adventurer
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.
Oops. The book *does* actually indicate what Istrid's rates are (on page 17, under "Zhentarim support comes in these ways"):

"Istrid offers loans of up to 2,500 gp with an interest rate of 10 percent per tenday."

[MENTION=6757]collin[/MENTION] [MENTION=6801328]Elfcrusher[/MENTION]
 

Elfcrusher

Adventurer
Oops. The book *does* actually indicate what Istrid's rates are (on page 17, under "Zhentarim support comes in these ways"):

"Istrid offers loans of up to 2,500 gp with an interest rate of 10 percent per tenday."

[MENTION=6757]collin[/MENTION] [MENTION=6801328]Elfcrusher[/MENTION]
There we go.
 

robus

Lowcountry Low Roller
Can anyone give me a good reason as to why the doors to G16 in Gralhund Villa have been "thrown open" (page 55)? There's a battle raging just outside in G13. Do Yalah and Hrabbaz want a good look at the carnage? Do they want to know when the right time to close the doors are? Have they forgotten that the kids are cowering in G18? :)

Some things in this adventure really make you scratch your head!
 

pukunui

Adventurer
So during last night's session, two of the PCs joined the Zhentarim and dragged the others along on their nighttime foray to the Dock Ward in search of the elf killer. (The PCs are elf twins, so it's more than just a job. It's personal.)

Since I'd bought the Guild Adept "Waterdeep City Encounters" booklet, I decided to roll for a random encounter while they were out patrolling. I got the "Newsprint Seller" encounter, and went with the Sea Maidens Faire option, since it seemed to make the most sense.

First off, it says the faire is offering a three-for-two discount on entry plus free drinks. OK. The trouble is: the adventure itself never actually specifies if the Sea Maidens Faire is run from the ships. There are no hours of operation and certainly no prices listed anywhere!

I decided on the fly that people could pay to go and see the animals in their cages on the one boat, while they could join in a bit of a party with the performers and such on the other boat. Entry was one shard per person.

So far so good. But then they discovered the crew members' Elvish accents. They bothered one ship's captain about it, then the other, then finally Zardoz himself. The adventure never really offers any suggestions about what to do if the PCs ask about why all these humans have Elvish accents, so I wasn't really prepared for that line of questioning and couldn't come up with an answer. I ended up just having the ship captains - and Zardoz - stonewall/ignore/deflect.

When they were rowing out to see Zardoz, I had Zelifarn show up. He asks them to discretely ask about the submarine. How do you discretely ask about a submarine? They pretended that one of their number had fallen into the water while attempting to board the Eyecatcher and had noticed the submarine for themselves.

I again had Jarlaxle (as Zardoz, complete with Sean Connery accent) be evasive: it was just a "thing" he'd picked up in Lantan. When they asked if it was an underwater craft that for searching the shipwrecks at the bottom of the harbor (an idea that was in the forefront of the players' minds after Zelifarn had mentioned doing so himself), I had him just say "maybe".

As the players felt they weren't really getting anywhere with the Sea Maidens Faire crew, they decided to leave. I felt a bit bad about it, as I would've liked to have let them get somewhere with their questioning, but a) the adventure gives no guidance on this front and b) I couldn't come up with anything on my own on the fly.

In retrospect, I suppose I could have had Jarlaxle truthfully admit that his crew are all disguised male drow and that the reason they are disguised is because they're renegades and don't want their kin finding them. I don't suppose that would've caused any harm.

Anyone got any thoughts?
 

robus

Lowcountry Low Roller
So during last night's session, two of the PCs joined the Zhentarim and dragged the others along on their nighttime foray to the Dock Ward in search of the elf killer. (The PCs are elf twins, so it's more than just a job. It's personal.)

Since I'd bought the Guild Adept "Waterdeep City Encounters" booklet, I decided to roll for a random encounter while they were out patrolling. I got the "Newsprint Seller" encounter, and went with the Sea Maidens Faire option, since it seemed to make the most sense.

First off, it says the faire is offering a three-for-two discount on entry plus free drinks. OK. The trouble is: the adventure itself never actually specifies if the Sea Maidens Faire is run from the ships. There are no hours of operation and certainly no prices listed anywhere!
I would say that they take over the dock area beside the ship and set up the entertainments there - sort of a forebear of the amusement park piers of modern times:


So far so good. But then they discovered the crew members' Elvish accents. They bothered one ship's captain about it, then the other, then finally Zardoz himself. The adventure never really offers any suggestions about what to do if the PCs ask about why all these humans have Elvish accents, so I wasn't really prepared for that line of questioning and couldn't come up with an answer. I ended up just having the ship captains - and Zardoz - stonewall/ignore/deflect.
I would imagine faking a "human" accent would have to be part of the disguise for exactly the reason you propose. These fair runners are interacting a lot with regular people it would be an instant give away if they didn't disguise their accents. I would say they have really outrageous pirate-style accents. Arrgh! :D

When they were rowing out to see Zardoz, I had Zelifarn show up. He asks them to discretely ask about the submarine. How do you discretely ask about a submarine? They pretended that one of their number had fallen into the water while attempting to board the Eyecatcher and had noticed the submarine for themselves.
Yeah the submarine seems like something that should be left as a surprise discovery if (when?) they explore Jarlaxle flagship. Who is Zelifarn? I've not encountered him yet?
 
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robus

Lowcountry Low Roller
So this adventure continues to puzzle me. I'm doing some in depth analysis (as part of a potential DMs Guild foray) and I see that on their way out of the vault the PCs are meant to be met by the villain's forces. My calculations put these at varying levels of deadly encounters (Jarlaxle's one being particularly deadly given his stats!). There's a good chance the PCs won't make it out of this final encounter (unless the "reinforcements ex machina" option is deployed, which kind of bugs me...) with the gold.

What's the puzzling bit is the Adventure Conclusion section. It suggests that the adventure could play out in several ways, depending on who gets the gold and what's done with the treasure. It then explores the options of the PCs Dying in the Vault or Removing the Gold. The obvious option that the villain beats the PCs and makes off with the gold (that would lead into one of the next 4 chapters!) is not discussed at all. And the next four chapters do nothing to help with smoothly leading the adventure on into retrieving the gold from the villains lair (or exposing the villain as the recipient of the gold)!

In fact the very first part of the Xanathar chapter has the beholder insisting that they help find the Stone of Golorr even though the characters should be level 5 before tackling his lair (and thus the Stone McGuffin already dealt with).

It all feels a bit half-baked...
 
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robus

Lowcountry Low Roller
I would say that they take over the dock area beside the ship and set up the entertainments there - sort of a forebear of the amusement park piers of modern times:
Actually page 132 describes the ships as moored on either side of a pier so I think that it makes sense that the pier becomes part of the entertainment area. Perhaps some entertainments are restricted to being on the decks of the ships but others can be offloaded onto the pier to make an extended entertainment area. I imagine banners being hung between the masts of the two ships across the pier announcing the Sea Maidens Faire.
 

pukunui

Adventurer
I would say that they take over the dock area beside the ship and set up the entertainments there - sort of a forebear of the amusement park piers of modern times
Good thinking! Thanks.

I wish the adventure's authors had thought to include a sentence or two along those lines.

I would imagine faking a "human" accent would have to be part of the disguise for exactly the reason you propose. These fair runners are interacting a lot with regular people it would be an instant give away if they didn't disguise their accents. I would say they have really outrageous pirate-style accents. Arrgh! :D
You would think that, yes, but according to the adventure, they still have slight Elvish accents that the PCs can learn about, either by listening to the sailors themselves or by talking to the carnies. The accent thing is but one of a number of clues that the sailors are not human. But as I said, there doesn't appear to be any real consequence to the PCs finding out that the sailors are not what they appear to be.

They can destroy the figureheads, which causes the drow sailors to all hide belowdecks, in order to somehow hinder Jarlaxle's plans (although it's unclear how this hinders his plans, since even with the figureheads in operation, the drow can't leave the boats without revealing their true identities anyway), but that's about it.

Yeah the submarine seems like something that should be left as a surprise discovery if (when?) they explore Jarlaxle flagship. Who is Zelifarn? I've not encountered him yet?
Zelifarn is the young bronze dragon swimming around in the harbor. He is the subject of one of the Force Grey sidequests. There's also an optional event at the end of Jarlaxle's chapter ("A Friendly Dragon"), in which he meets the PCs as they are rowing out to Jarlaxle's ship and says he'll give them a chest he found in a shipwreck if they discretely find out about the "craft" attached to the underside of the Eyecatcher. That's the bit I ran the other night.

So this adventure continues to puzzle me ... It all feels a bit half-baked...
I'm beginning to regard it as a hot mess that is undeserving of the rave reviews it's been getting. It's got some real pacing issues, especially in chapter 2; the whole "run a tavern" thing seems like a distraction and doesn't really sit well with the overall theme of the adventure; and the ending is about as anticlimactic as it's possible to get.

There are also just tons of gaps where things don't make sense (e.g. Jarlaxle's hat of disguise might let him *look* like Laeral but it sure isn't going to make him *sound* like her ...) or don't quite line up (e.g. the Sea Maidens Faire ... is it an active faire or is everyone just hanging around on the ships waiting for something, like the Day of Wonders parade ...).

Ugh. I gave up on trying to continue my previous campaign because finding a suitable follow-up for 11th level PCs that had conquered the Tomb of Annihilation was looking like too much work, but I think this adventure is actually worse.

I wonder if this is because Perkins et al have been spending so much of time on Twitch that they're not leaving themselves enough time for QA.
 
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robus

Lowcountry Low Roller
I'm beginning to regard it as a hot mess that is undeserving of the rave reviews it's been getting. It's got some real pacing issues, especially in chapter 2; the whole "run a tavern" thing seems like a distraction and doesn't really sit well with the overall theme of the adventure; and the ending is about as anticlimactic as it's possible to get.

There are also just tons of gaps where things don't make sense (e.g. Jarlaxle's hat of disguise might let him *look* like Laeral but it sure isn't going to make him *sound* like her ...) or don't quite line up (e.g. the Sea Maidens Faire ... is it an active faire or is everyone just hanging around on the ships waiting for something, like the Day of Wonders parade ...).

Ugh. I gave up on trying to continue my previous campaign because finding a suitable follow-up for 11th level PCs that had conquered the Tomb of Annihilation was looking like too much work, but I think this adventure is actually worse.

I wonder if this is because Perkins et al have been spending so much of time on Twitch that they're not leaving themselves enough time for QA.
I hear you. I don’t understand why they make such a hash of these adventures? We’re not looking for lots of open ends. If they want to provide that, then fine, just do a campaign setting. But these adventures are way to much work for the reward.

I’ve just done an in-depth study of Xanathar’s Lair and I don’t understand how a level 5 party is expected to survive. The encounters swing wildly from trivial to deadly with no obvious rest locations. Coming back another day is just inviting a TPK! :)
 

robus

Lowcountry Low Roller
Been thinking about this adventure some more and here's my latest high-level remix (with some hand-waving where necessary :) ).

Leading up to the adventure PCs have established a reputation of being a useful team of urban adventurers, taking on odd-jobs for various citizens (and the city guard where necessary). Players should roll up characters with backgrounds and attributes that lend themselves to that end.

Level 1: As a reward for their most recent job they've been given the title to Trollskull manor but as it's known to be (at least) haunted they'll have to clear it out in order to make use of it. So level 1 is simply moving into Trollskull manor and basically setting up shop. I'd have the PCs start in Trollskull Alley staring at the ramshackle building they now possess.

Level 2: They'll get a few other jobs that introduce the players to life in the city (see the various excellent supplements on DMs Guild) and perhaps gather a few useful contacts that will come into play later in the adventure.

Level 3: They are visited by Renaer Neverember and asked to retrieve a stolen family heirloom (the Stone of Golorr - he makes up some story about how it was found when construction started on the City of Neverwinter by some ancient relative, it's been in the family ever since but was recently stolen as part of a general robbery.) Really it's as in the book, the Stone contains the location of the dragon hoard and Neverember wants it back without making a big fuss. This part of the adventure remix requires delving into the underworld of Waterdeep and tracking down the Stone - this can end with one of the chase scenes if desired, but it's not connected to the villain. Simply a black marketeer who thinks some other ne'er-do-wells want to steal from him/her). In the middle of this adventure occurring the news comes out of a great robbery of the city coffers.

Level 4: When they complete the job they find Renaer distraught. His father has disappeared and no-one knows what's happened to him. (In reality your chosen villain in the adventure rightly believes that Neverember has something to do with the theft of the dragons and have abducted him to find out where they are. This section of the adventure is to rescue Neverember and recover the stolen dragons. Rescuing Neverember is somewhat straightforward as the villain has discovered that Neverember doesn't know the whereabouts (thanks to the mind wipe) so they want to release him and then spy on him anticipating that he (or one of his agents) eventually leads them to the vault. This ends Level 4 with the PCs finding the vault and then having the villain take the gold instead (thanks to bringing overwhelming force). The journey through the vault will need to be beefed up quite a bit to make it challenging for level 4 PCs.

Level 5: Neverember commissions the PCs to recover the gold from the villain and return it to the city coffers via a magical portal (that he had originally used to steal the dragons in the first place...). If they choose to tell the city watch that the villain has the trove, then (off camera) the city watch attempts to retrieve it but of course the villain denies it and deflects back to Neverember (who is starting to be sweated by the city so really needs the dragons returned!). The city watch of course isn't able to find the hidden dragons. So the mission becomes find where the dragons are being kept in the villains lair and return them to the city vault without the villain knowing (until it's over). I.e. a proper heist. :)
 

Hussar

Legend
I'm just starting this.

A really cool adventure for embedding the group into a setting. And, it's going to be a springboard for DotMM, so, I'm going to drop all sorts of hints and goodies.

So far, haven't gotten much further than planning out renovating Trollskull manor. There's some fantastic stuff over on Reddit on this, so, I'm going to ... erm... use that for inspiration (ie steal and plageurize). :D

One thing for those playing this on Fantasy Grounds. The city maps that come with FG are garbage. The overall map is far too low resolution to be readable, and the split up maps aren't actually tagged, making finding any location a bloody great problem. I spent far, far too long trying to find where Old Xobblob's shop actually is.

Has anyone tagged all the locations from the module on a jpeg so I don't have to do the work? Or should I do it and share?
 

pukunui

Adventurer
Jarlaxle

Jarlaxle's Master Attuner trait lets him attune to five magic items. However, he has *seven* magic items on his person that require attunement: bracer of flying daggers, cloak of invisibility, feather of diatryma summoning, hat of diguise, knave's eye patch, ring of truth telling, wand of web.

Would you allow him to cheat and attune to all of them at once, or would you actually bother to choose two that he isn't attuned to on any given day?

If the latter, I would probably have him not be attuned to the feather most of the time and probably the wand as well. I could see him swapping out the ring for the feather in preparation for the Day of Wonders parade. He might also swap out the bracer or ring for the wand if he thinks it would be more useful.

I can't see him ever de-attuning to the hat or the eye patch. Maybe the cloak.



EDIT: As an aside, I decided to give Jarlaxle the Actor feat (mainly to put my mind at ease about him impersonating Laeral) and also the Fancy Footwork swashbuckler feature, plus the Parry reaction. Just to make him even more of a dashing rogue!
 
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Krudler

Visitor
I am really intrigued by Robus' remix of Dragon Heist. I'm a new DM (and a first time poster).

ROBUS, have you fleshed out these ideas at all or thought of any plot holes that might need attention. Just curious before I start my planning. Thanks, Krudler.
 
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pukunui

Adventurer
In my campaign, the Day of Wonders parade has already been and gone. So when the PCs cleared out the Xanathar Guild hideout in the sewers during the chapter 4 encounter chain, they decided to retrieve the mechanical beholder and take it to the temple of Gond.

Not knowing how big or heavy it was meant to be, we all agreed that it couldn't be life-size, as making it Large would mean it couldn't fit through any of the narrow doorways leading in and out of the cellar complex. I forget how they managed to get it out of the sewers, but they hired a cart to transport it across town.

I also have no idea how much it might be worth, so I said I'd get back to them on that. They've left it with the Gondar for now. They're not necessarily going to sell it, but they want to at least know a) what it's worth and b) what it does. (They were too nervous to test it, so they disabled it and thus don't know that it's essentially a glorified disco ball ... which could make for a fun addition to Trollskull Manor!)

Anyone got any thoughts they'd like to share on the subject?

EDIT: I think I will forego assigning a monetary value and have the Gondar offer a trade: either they keep the construct and owe the PCs a favor, or they repair it and give it back to the PCs, who will then owe the Gondar a favor.
 
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Digital M@

Explorer
If you are not staying in the city, I would get rid of Chapter 2 all together. With Mad Mage mega dungeon as the follow up adventure, Wizard's did the opposite of what they intended in awarding Trollskull Manor. It becomes totally irrelevant if you are following it up with Wizard's next Waterdeep adventure. So much of DH is about getting money to renovate that damned tavern but then who cares, it will never be key to them again. Wizard's ended up showing what a waste of energy it is creating a base if you don't know where you are going next.

I would have the PC's get an anonymous note saying something to the point of "I will be visiting you tomorrow, I have something I want you to keep safe. Meet me at "x" tomorrow AM. Then, kaboom, Fireball Chapter 3.
 

Hussar

Legend
I dunno. My players have really glommed onto the manor. It's really focused their interest. And the notion that they have to gather up some cash to make a home really appeals to them. And, when it comes time to do Mad Mage, well, they are going to need somewhere to rest between adventures no? Sure, it's not the center of the campaign. It's not supposed to be.

But, what it is is a FANTASTIC way to ground the group into the setting. Meeting a bajillion NPC's, connecting to all sorts of information groups that sort of thing. I mean, imagine the PC's, going through Mad Mage, want to find other adventurers who have made the trip. What better way than to talk to their Innkeeper's Association buddies and find them?

Granted, it appears that my group wants to turn the manor into a ... ummm... well the Waterdavian term is Festhall. So, well, there's that. :D
 

Henry

Autoexreginated
Granted, it appears that my group wants to turn the manor into a ... ummm... well the Waterdavian term is Festhall. So, well, there's that. :D
Would that be one of those Festhalls with the red lamps out front?...

I don't know if my players are going to go all in on chapter 2, but I did inform them to be thinking in their backstory about a reason that each of their characters want to make a name for themselves or become established in the city, so they're primed for it. :)
 

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